Since Jesse Sorensen announced on Monday that he had been released from his TNA contract, there's been a lot of outrage and resentment towards TNA for releasing someone who had suffered a broken neck working for the company. That negative response to Sorensen's release certainly amplified the #askdixie Twitter madness that took place over the course of the week when TNA President Dixie Carter began requesting questions from fans for her to answer. That request, obviously, came with the worst possible timing for the online audience.
Over the course of the last week, we've heard from a number of people within TNA about the circumstances leading to the decision to release Sorensen, so here is what we have confirmed from the TNA side of things.
As previously noted, Sorensen's release was made from a financial perspective, as the company is re-evaluating just about every employee and seeing where they can streamline things financially to better reflect the financial realities of taking TNA and turning Impact Wrestling into a full-time touring road show, instead of something based out of one location.
As we wrote earlier this week, Sorensen was being paid a wage much higher than someone in his usual position as a production assistant would have received. This was TNA trying to help Sorensen as he recovered from his broken neck. At the time of the injury, he was on a TNA deal that paid him per appearance. TNA later signed him to a monthly guarantee where he paid no matter what and he was paid during his recovery period without being asked to do anything.
When TNA went on the road, the decision was made that Sorensen would then put to work as a PA, basically making sure everyone who was needed for the taping had signed in and confirmed they were present, then bringing talents to different areas they were needed for filming of promos, vignettes, etc. So, he was being paid a good salary for 2-3 days' work a month. The mindset behind that, we were told, was to give Sorensen the chance to learn some additional production skills that he could take elsewhere and have some additional work under him.
When the financial cutbacks began, TNA found themselves in a position where they began cutting staff - wrestlers and otherwise It is an across the board situation - wrestlers, office, production, etc. are all in the process of being reviewed with some being let go and others being given more responsibility.
Sources indicate that when Sorensen came up for review, he was in a position where he was making more than the average TNA staffer that could also handle the responsibilities, but wasn't working full-time. So, it was a case of the company being stuck with a choice of cutting someone who could handle more for less or someone who was being paid a lot more to do very little. From a bottom line perspective, TNA's hands were tied. They were not in a position where they could afford, right not, to keep anyone who they couldn't prove was pulling his weight. In his position, Sorensen wasn't, not in comparison to others who would be cut in his place.
Now, some, including myself, have asked why Sorensen wasn't just given a different deal or asked to do more. We are told that Sorensen wanting to return to the ring was another factor that strongly worked against him while the company was reviewing him. There was a feeling within the company that despite the fact they were assisting him and helping him move on to whatever the next stage of his life would be, Sorensen was still pushing TNA to allow him to take independent wrestling dates and even let him back in a TNA ring. So, the company was trying to help him and assist him and he was more interested in getting back in the ring and potentially hurting himself, as opposed to learning more about the production aspect of the company.
It should be noted that Sorensen's recovery is nothing short of miraculous as he was initially expected to be a permanent quadriplegic. Within days, however, he began being able to walk again and all accounts are that he can do anything he wants physically - but cannot take the physical punishment that comes with contact sports or an activity like pro wrestling. Sorensen, however, has pushed himself to return to the ring and has, at times, trained to return inside the ring we are told. This led to issues with TNA. There were numerous occasions where Sorensen was told he could not take dates without getting himself medically cleared, which just wasn't going to happen given the reality his circumstances. We are told that Sorensen pushing to be allowed to wrestle during the same time that he was being paid higher than normal rates to do very little certainly worked against him.
TNA sources also noted that when Sorensen was first injured, the company did everything in their power to assist him financially and with his medical bills, as well as flying in and paying for his mother to remain with him as he recovered, then signed him to a guaranteed deal in order to make sure he had money coming in.
The Sorensen release, by all accounts, was one that TNA did struggle with, especially considering the circumstances. He was well liked personally and TNA sources indicate that they wanted to help him all they could, but they were in a situation where they had to make hard choices, and one of those choices was that Sorensen needed to be released from his contract - especially when he was pushing for things the company wasn't willing to allow him to do.
It should be noted that Sorensen has been soliciting bookings on his Twitter account, so it would appear he is still planning to pursue a return to the ring. So, while he has not publicly stated he would be wrestling, he is certainly looking to make appearances, something that a few people in TNA have expressed concern about privately.
Note from Mike: The TNA side of things certainly provides a greater insight into why Sorensen was let go, but the bottom line is the Sorensen release sucks. It sucks for Sorensen. It sucks for TNA's public relations. It just sucks, period, but unfortunately, sometimes that is life. Companies have to make cuts that upset those that work there. It's not like they are slicing contracts apart with glee. They are in a position where they have to make their bottom line work or it's the beginning of the end. They aren't WWE where they have the infrastructure to take care of Sorensen. I don't like that he was released but after speaking to those in the company, I have a better understanding of the situation - but the reality is, it still sucks and I don't think even Dixie Carter would argue that.