January 9, 2009
Talent cuts tell the tale of WWE's red Friday
By JON WALDMAN -- SLAM! Wrestling
After reports that surfaced earlier in the week that WWE would be making cuts to its staff, on-screen talent felt the pain of the Fed's cutbacks on Friday.
The cuts included Canadian Val Venis, one of the longest-serving members of the roster, recent returnee D'Lo Brown and relative newcomer Bam Neely. All three releases were announced today, when WWE stated through its website that, "World Wrestling Entertainment has come to terms on the release of Raw Superstars D-Lo Brown and Val Venis, and ECW Superstar Bam Neely as of Jan. 9, 2009. WWE wishes them the best in all future endeavors."
Venis, real name Sean Morley, came to WWE in 1998 after years on the independent and international circuits. Given a gimmick of being a porn star, Venis debuted as a heel but was quickly turned babyface. Quickly, Venis gained a loyal following amidst WWE's Attitude Era, and was soon wearing gold around his waist in the form of the Intercontinental Title. Down the road, he would also hold the European title.
Venis's babyface run would see him take on the likes of Ken Shamrock and Goldust among others. Eventually, he would turn heel and align himself with Albert and fellow Canadians Trish Stratus and Test. It was during this run that his secured his second IC title run. Eventually, Venis would align himself with Steven Richards, Bull Buchanan, Ivory and The Goodfather (whom he had previously teamed with) in Right To Censor. Once the group dissolved, Venis would return to his roots, albeit under the once nicknamed moniker of "The Big Valbowski".
After being sidelined with an injury, Venis would return under his real name. As Sean Morley, the former Val Venis became Eric Bischoff's second-in-command on Raw. While he would initially stay away from the ring, Morley would eventually make a full return and tag with Lance Storm to win the WWE Tag Team Titles, his last run with gold in the Fed. Eventually, he would be fired from this position and return to WWE action as Val Venis, a role that he would hold through the end of his WWE tenure, which has been marred with various times on the injured list. He would appear intermittently on Raw and Heat during this period, at one point teaming with Viscera.
Neely, known outside the ring as Justin LaRouche, debuted in WWE in 2008 after a run in Ohio Valley Wrestling. He was immediately given the position of being Chavo Guerrero's bodyguard, a role he held for virtually his entire WWE run. Neely was also a prominent individual in La Familia, though close to the end of his run he showed signs of breaking away from the group and Chavo.
Brown returned to WWE in 2008 after being away from the Fed for several years. He was largely not part of Raw broadcasts, being used sparingly after returning amid much fanfare. Brown, also a former TNA roster member, had multiple title runs in WWE during the late-90s and early 00s.
Jon Waldman has been with SLAM! since 2000.