|Mickie James at Fan Axxess at WrestleMania 26 in Phoenix. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
Just prior to Monday night's draft, WWE announced today that it has released seven superstars -- two divas and five male wrestlers, including a multiple-time champion.
As per usual, the announcement came for six superstars via WWE.com: "WWE has come to terms on the release of WWE Divas Mickie James and Katie Lea Burchill as well as Superstars Shelton Benjamin, Kung Fu Naki, Slam Master J and Jimmy Wang Yang as of today, April 22, 2010. We wish them the best in all future endeavors."
Later on Thursday, a seventh name was added to the cut list. "WWE has come to terms on the release of Mike Knox as of today, April 22, 2010. We wish him the best in all future endeavors," WWE announced late Thursday.
Two of the names released stand out for their championship pedigree with the company.
Mickie James, who had been on the Smackdown brand, is a multi-time women's champion and was probably the biggest name left of the divas.
The other big name, also from Smackdown, is Shelton Benjamin, who has held numerous titles for the company, including the tag team titles and Intercontinental title.
Three of the other names -- Kung Fu Naki, Slam Master J, and Jimmy Wang Yang -- are less surprising, and all were assigned to the Smackdown brand.
Jimmy Wang Yang took to his Twitter account with a cryptic message: "Three strikes and your out...I hear Florida is a nice place to visit."
WHAT YOU THINK
Which of today's WWE releases is the biggest surprise?
Mickie James - 54%
Shelton Benjamin - 41%
Kung Fu Naki - 3%
Katie Lea Burchill - 1%
Jimmy Wang Yang - 1%
Slam Master J - 0%
The former Women's champ also took to Twitter to express her thoughts:
"Awe... Thank you James Gang! I just want to say its been a beautiful journey... Wwe has been a childhood dream come true & I have loved every step... There is not a moment I would change for the world... It breaks my heart but the world doesn't stop turning.. I'm grateful for all my friends, family, loved ones, and fans who have supported me along this wonderful ride. To all the guys and gals I've had the pleasure of sharing the ring with... We made some magic! History... Memories to last a lifetime... Thank you... I love you all with all my heart! Every chapter has its close... The next one Is only gonna get better... I promise you that! =) One truly never knows what tomorrow may hold... That's why we embrace every moment... In love & joy! The James Gang Rides! Even stronger than before.... To Victory! Haha.... On ward & upward! Much Love.... Muah! JG4L...... MJ"
Katie Lea Burchill was the only announced release from the Raw brand.
Shelton Benjamin bio and story archive
Shelton Benjamin Photo Gallery
Mickie James bio and story archive
Mickie James Photo Gallery
-- SLAM! Wrestling