There’s more info out about Luke Harper asking for his WWE release on April 16 and Vince McMahon refusing to let him go. As you may recall, Harper went on social media to say that he asked for WWE for a release. He noted he was 39 years old and wanted to move on while thanking the company for his time there. Shortly after, it was revealed that WWE denied his release request. They also added on several months to his contract due to the time he missed with a wrist injury, so Harper won’t be free until early 2020.
In this week’s Wrestling Observer, Dave Meltzer provided some interesting details about WWE’s plans for Harper and the way Vince McMahon dealt with the situation.
Harper was scheduled to work a program with Sami Zayn after WrestleMania, but that decision was changed. Apparently, Vince changed his mind because of how Harper looked in his return to action recently.
Apparently, Vince doesn’t “get him” as far as Harper’s look and has complained about how Harper doesn’t have a southern accent. Vince wanted him to do some southern accent gimmick four years ago. Harper is from Rochester, New York, so he doesn’t have that kind of accent.
While Harper was out with the wrist injury that required surgery, he would regularly pitch ideas for his return with WWE turning down his ideas every time.
When Harper was cleared to return earlier this year, he was only booked for Axxess in a great match with Donovan Dijak (I would rate it at four stars out of five).
When WWE set up the WrestleMania card, Vince made the call to put Harper in the battle royal on the Kickoff Show. During that match, Braun Strowman messed up a spot where he was supposed to eliminate Harper and Ali during a suplex spot. Harper and Ali had to stand on the apron for about 30 seconds. At one point, Harper had to yell at Strowman to do the spot. Apparently, Strowman hasn’t done much since WrestleMania due to forgetting spots in the battle royal.
After WrestleMania, when WWE told Harper the feud with Zayn wasn’t happening, Harper was brought to a Smackdown taping for a dark match against EC3 with Drake Maverick managing EC3. This took place on April 10 in Brooklyn, two days after WrestleMania and you can see a clip below.
Harper was used an opponent to test the EC3/Maverick pairing as wrestler/manager according to Meltzer. There were several manager spots with Maverick getting involved. Vince watched the match and apparently hated the manager spots. That’s why EC3/Maverick haven’t been on TV together.
When WWE was doing the Superstar Shake-up on April 15 and 16, Harper’s name was brought up. According to Meltzer’s report, Vince ripped on Harper for not being able to do a southern accent, the match with EC3 was bad in Vince’s eyes and because of those things, Harper wasn’t assigned to Raw or Smackdown.
On a final note from the Observer about this story, apparently Vince McMahon told Harper he wouldn’t release him and Vince gave that to him in writing.
TJR Thoughts: After reading all of that in the Observer and writing about it here, I can understand Harper’s frustration if he pitched ideas they didn’t like and they seem to have no interest in utilizing him. He was right to ask for a release. Based on the way Meltzer wrote this story, it’s possible he got some of this info from Harper himself or somebody close to him because it’s pretty detailed. Meltzer isn’t going to name names, but there are a lot of specifics in here.
The southern accent thing is ridiculous to me. If the guy is from New York, why should he have a southern accent? Vince must have it in his head to make Harper some kind of southern character, but that’s not who he is.
This is such a weird year in WWE. The roster is so big leading to some unhappy wrestlers asking for releases, then they aren’t being granted and people are being paid to sit at home to wait out their contract. There are others that are refusing to re-sign for big money because of how frustrated they are. I’m glad wrestlers have options like AEW, but clearly, WWE is going to make it difficult for wrestlers to leave the company. Luke Harper is an example of that.