The 2000s was a time of great change in the World Wrestling Federation. For starters, it became World Wrestling Entertainment, and then a little later on, became known simply as WWE. At the beginning of the new millennium, Vince McMahon finally managed to win the Monday Night Wars and WCW folded, leaving him as the single most important figure in professional wrestling. From the moment McMahon appeared on WCW television for that now infamous simulcast, things began to change. New business ventures were embarked upon. New concepts were introduced. And, most of all, new stars were created. From the ashes of the Attitude Era rose guys like Brock Lesnar, John Cena, and Randy Orton.
As great as it was to see some new faces on WWE television, it meant there was less and less room for superstars who had been part of the WWE army during the Monday Night Wars. Many former soldiers were released during the 2000s, as were younger wrestlers who had simply failed to convince WWE management that they were main event players. The aforementioned closure of WCW meant there was really nowhere else for these released wrestlers to go, at least not somewhere they could enjoy the fame and fortune they had experienced in WWE. A lot of young guys hit the indies, where they still work to this day, while many older performers got out of the wrestling business when they still had the chance to retrain in another field. But who went where and why?
Here are 15 WWE Superstars who were released in the 2000s and what they’re up to now.
Believe it or not, Gene Snitsky was actually a pretty interesting character when he first appeared on WWE television. Upon his main roster debut, fans were led to believe that he was just another jobber about to be destroyed by Kane, who was in the middle of a storyline with Lita, who, for her part, was pregnant with his literal demon spawn. However, shenanigans transpired during the match and Snitsky wound up inadvertently killing Lita’s unborn child, leading to his catchphrase “It wasn’t my fault.”
Interest wained in Snitsky after a while and he was taken off WWE television for repackaging. In 2007, he reemerged as a monster heel on the ECW brand and began breezing through the competition as monster heels tend to do. This never caught on, however, and he was released from WWE in December of 2008.
Since leaving WWE, Snitsky has attempted to establish himself as an actor but hasn’t had a whole lot of success. His most notable role has been as the “celebrity” pitchman for the Power Pressure Cooker from Tristar Products. A quick YouTube search will yield multiple videos of Snitsky using the pressure cooker to prepare chicken wings and a low country boil, among other things.
Heidenreich’s on-screen character was actually pretty similar to the on-screen character of Snitsky. While Snitsky debuted in a feud with Kane, Heidenreich’s first (and only) major rivalry was with Kane’s kayfabe half-brother, The Undertaker. After getting the better of The Undertaker on a number of occasions, Heidenreich was handily defeated by the Deadman and, like all monster heels defeated by ‘Taker, quickly fell down the card.
He experienced a brief career resurrection as a member of the new Legion of Doom alongside original LOD member Animal. Teaming with Animal, Heidenreich captured the WWE Tag Team Championships, though this only provided him with a stay of execution and he was released from the company in 2006.
After his release, Heidenreich hit the independents, using his WWE fame to command high prices per appearance. He wrestled for the World Wrestling Council from 2006 to 2007 and also spent some time with All-American Wrestling. He retired from professional wrestling before the end of the decade.
Heidenreich was absent from the pro wrestling world for a number of years but his name began appearing on the dirt sheets once again in the summer of 2016 when he joined the multiple former WWE Superstars suing the company for head injuries. Heidenreich cites his time with WWE and the company’s failure to properly treat head injuries as the cause for depression and memory loss which he has experienced in recent years.
13. Spike Dudley
Weighing it at less than 150 pounds, Matthew Hyson had the odds stacked against him when he decided to try his hand at professional wrestling. Luckily, there was a plucky underdog promotion willing to give shots to plucky underdog wrestlers, and so he was signed to Paul Heyman’s Extreme Championship Wrestling in 1996.
Wrestling as Spike Dudley, Hyson stayed in ECW until it folded in 2001, at which point he joined Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley in the then WWF. He spent a period teaming with his kayfabe brothers before being drafted to the SmackDown brand, where he competed in the Cruiserweight division. Dudley was a successful cruiserweight, but in WWE even the most popular cruiserweight is expendable and he was released from his contract in the summer of 2005.
After his WWE release, Dudley spent some time on the independents and even enjoyed a reunion with Bubba and D-Von in TNA. However, he was never able to attain any great level of success and he eventually stepped away from the wrestling business in favor of a “real job”. These days, the former Dudley Boy can be found working with Merrill Edge as a Financial Transition Specialist. It isn’t as glamorous as working with WWE, but it pays the bills and helps him support the two children he is raising alongside his wife, Vikki.
12. Billy Kidman
Billy Kidman is without a doubt one of the greatest cruiserweight performers of all time. He first made a name for himself in World Championship Wrestling before being picked up by WWE, where he went on to hold both the WWE Cruiserweight Championship and the WWE Tag Team Championships. In 2003, he wed former WWE Diva Torrie Wilson, so life was pretty good for him for a while. Of course, it wasn’t long before life got the upper hand.
Kidman was released from WWE in 2005 after a series of disagreements with management and was forced to hit the independents, a drastic change for a guy who had grown used to the WCW and WWE locker rooms. During this period, his marriage with Torrie Wilson suffered and the couple parted ways in 2006.
Thankfully, the tide turned in Kidman’s favor in 2007 when he was rehired by WWE to train up and coming talent for Florida Championship Wrestling. After completing his duties there, he was given a role as a road agent and producer, which he has held ever since. While most of Billy Kidman’s business in modern day pro wrestling is carried out behind the scenes, he can occasionally be seen on television, breaking up a brawl or tending to an injured performer.
11. Kevin Thorn
Kevin Thorn holds the dubious distinction of being released from WWE twice during the 2000s. His first release came in 2005 after his first main roster run – during which he competed as zany moral cleanser Mordecai – proved a failure. He was brought back to WWE in 2006 and placed in the ECW brand under the Kevin Thorn name with a vampire gimmick because nothing says ECW like Twilight.
Thorn’s run in ECW was unsurprisingly underwhelming and after a couple of attempts to retool his character, he was taken off television and placed back in developmental. After a stint in Florida Championship Wrestling, Thorn was released from his contract in 2009.
Like so many wrestlers before him, Thorn looked at his release as a positive and used his WWE fame to gain high-price bookings on the independent circuit. Unlike so many before him, however, Thorn has actually been pretty successful on the indies. He has competed all over the world and in famous wrestling territories such as Mexico and Puerto Rico. He remains active in the wrestling business today and regularly appears at indie wrestling events, as well as on shoot interviews and podcasts.
When WWE first began airing Kizarny vignettes in October of 2008, nobody expected the gimmick to last very long. However, even the most cynical of WWE fans were surprised when the Kizarny character was taken off television pretty much immediately after his debut. On March 9th, 2009, WWE announced that Nicholas Cvjetkovich, the man who portrayed Kizarny, had been released from his contract.
After leaving WWE, Cvjetkovich returned to the indies, though he didn’t have a whole lot of name power given the short duration of his stint on WWE’s main roster. Still, he made the best of the situation and went on to work for indie juggernauts like PWG and CHIKARA. He remains active on the independents today, despite looking all of his 43 years, and also maintains a career as a tattoo artist in Las Vegas.
In 2010, Cvjetkovich married former WWE Diva Stacy Carter in a beachside ceremony attended by many pro wrestling figures. “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart gave Carter away while WWE Hall of Famer Edge served as joint-best man alongside the groom’s brother.
9. Simon Dean
Former member of the BWO Mike Bucci made his WWE main roster debut in 2004 as Simon Dean, a camp, lisping, zegway riding fitness guru there to sell his “Simon System” to overweight WWE fans. Somehow, the gimmick didn’t last. After a career of being squashed by larger athletes who weren’t too interested in decreasing in size, Dean retired from the ring and was given as position as a trainer in WWE’s developmental system. In August of 2007, Bucci was released from his WWE contract.
After leaving WWE, Bucci announced that he would not be seeking to work for other promotions and would instead be focusing his energies on his family. To support himself and his family without wrestling, Bucci got involved in real estate and carved out a nice live for himself as a mortgage broker. However, his retirement didn’t last long and he returned to the ring in 2009.
Since his return, Bucci has been reprising many of his past gimmicks, including Simon Dean, and has competed for independent promotions around the world. His last notable match came in 2015 when he appeared alongside his former BWO teammates in a losing effort in the first round of CHIKARA’s King of Trios tournament.
8. Hade Vansen
Do you remember Hade Vansen? I didn’t think so. Towards the end of 2008, WWE began to plan for WrestleMania. Management was concerned about the lack of credible threats to The Undertaker’s WreslteMania undefeated streak and so decided to introduce Hade Vansen, a Wyatt-esque heel who they would spend several months building up before the big event. A single Hade Vansen promo aired on SmackDown on December 13th, 2008 and he was never heard from again.
Vansen was informed by WWE management that they had decided not to move ahead with the storyline and that his character would be taken off TV until the time was right for him to debut. That time never came and Vansen was released from his WWE contract shortly after Christmas of 2008.
After his release, Vansen decided to step away from the wrestling business to focus on building his acting career. He relocated to Los Angeles, where he resides to this day, living the American dream. As an actor, Hade has appeared in a number of commercials and small films. Daytime TV watchers may also recall him making an appearance on Days of our Lives.
Rico Constantino was introduced to the WWE Universe as the camp stylist of Billy and Chuck, but found his greatest success as a tag team competitor. Alongside Charlie Hass, Rico held the WWE Tag Team Championships and provided some of the most memorable moments of the brand split. Okay, they weren’t exactly memorable, but they were pretty funny at the time.
Rico was given his marching orders towards the end of 2004, which took a lot of wrestling fans by surprise as he was coming off his best year. After his WWE release, Rico embarked on a career in law enforcement and in 2006 joined the Nevada Taxi Cab Authority.
In mid-2016, a close friend of Constantino’s took to Facebook to reveal that the former WWE Superstar was battling some major health issues and was struggling to make ends meet. While it wasn’t made clear just what Rico was suffering from, it was noted that it involved his heart and his head. A crowdfunding campaign was started to help Rico pay his medical bills, with WWE veteran Chris Jericho donating several thousand dollars to the cause.
Having worked with ECW, WCW, and TNA, Vito was a pretty well-respected wrestler by the time he arrived in WWE in 2005. Don’t worry though, Vince McMahon saw to that. Shortly after his WWE debut, Vito was stuck with a gimmick which saw him cross-dressing, first in secret, then out in the open. Vito would come to the ring clad in the most hideous sundresses WWE wardrobe could find and pretty much sexually harass his opponent until the match came to a close.
Vito was, unsurprisingly, vetoed in 2007 and returned to the independent scene to attempt to rebuild his reputation. The former WWE Superstar embarked on a tour across Europe, working with a variety of promotions including Irish Whip Wrestling. In 2013, he founded his own wrestling school, which operates out of Clearwater, Florida.
At the beginning of 2015, Vito filed a class action lawsuit against WWE, claiming the company is responsible for his many neurological issues. Vito claims that WWE’s failure to detect and treat concussions he sustained while working for the company is to blame for a loss of hearing which he has experienced in recent years.
5. Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley, known simply by his surname for much of his time in WWE, seemed like he would be a star to match the level of John Cena. He received a major push from the moment he debuted in WWE and went on to hold the WWE United States and ECW Championships, he also competed for Donald Trump in the infamous “Battle of the Billionaires”, which resulted in Vince McMahon having his head shaved on live pay-per-view. However, an injury derailed Lashley’s career in 2007 and put him out of action for six months. During this period of inactivity, he was released by WWE.
After his release and rehabilitation, Lashley resumed his wrestling career and made his TNA debut in 2009, though it didn’t last very long. He left the company in 2010 to focus on his MMA career, which was just beginning to take off. Unlike a number of former WWE Superstars, Lashley’s foray into mixed martial arts has paid off big time and he currently holds a record of five wins and zero loses with Bellator MMA.
Confident he could handle both pro wrestling and MMA, Lashley returned to TNA in 2014. Since his return, he has held the TNA World Heavyweight Championship on three separate occasions. He has expressed a desire to return to WWE for a battle with Brock Lesnar, though reports claim that is unlikely to happen.
4. Paul London
Teaming with Brian Kendrick, Paul London became one half of the longest reigning WWE Tag Team Champions of all time (though The New Day eventually broke that record). London and Kendrick really gelled together as a team and their real life friendship transitioned perfectly to their in-ring work. However, it seemed WWE management was more interested in his tag team partner than London himself. WWE split the team in 2008 before giving Kendrick a main event push and London a pink slip.
After leaving WWE, London hit the independent scene. Here, he benefitted from the perfect combination of name recognition and in-ring skill and quickly became one of the most valuable wrestlers on the circuit. He performed for companies like PWG, Dragon Gate USA, and ICW. He even had several reunions with his former partner Brian Kendrick after he too was released from WWE.
3. Brian Kendrick
Speaking of Brian Kendrick…
After being separated from Paul London, Kendrick received his first notable singles run in WWE. He was drafted to the SmackDown brand and paired up with Ezekiel Jackson, a burly bodybuilder who served as his bodyguard. Competing as “The” Brian Kendrick, the former Tag Team Champion worked his way up to the main event and even briefly but unofficially held the WWE Championship, which he captured during a Championship Scramble match. Unfortunately, Kendrick let his success (and probably a variety of drugs) go to his head and he was released from WWE in 2009 due to behavioral issues.
Somehow, Kendrick managed to make it out of WWE with his love of professional wrestling intact and he hit the indies as soon as he was able to. As mentioned already, he reunited with Paul London for a series of tag team events and continued to establish himself as a serious singles competitor. London and Kendrick even recorded a number of shoot interviews together which have gone on to become cult classics.
Kendrick was rehired by WWE in 2015 to train Eva Marie, a model the company put a great deal of money into despite the fact she had no in-ring experience. WWE officials felt Kendrick did a satisfactory job with their investment and he was granted a place in the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic, which eventually led to a full-time return to the main roster. Since his return to Monday Night Raw, Kendrick has competed in some of the most memorable matches of the brand split and has even managed to capture the WWE Cruiserweight Championship, his first singles title in the company.
2. Chris Masters
When Chris Masters first began appearing regularly on WWE television in 2005, he had little to no in-ring experience. He was one of those guys WWE hires because they’re big and muscly and, predictably, fans hated him for it. Masters’ lack of wrestling ability was masked for a brief time through squash matches, but as soon as that main event push began to happen, it was clear he was not comfortable between the ropes.
As the weeks and months went by, Masters slipped down the card and developed a drug habit. He was released from his contract in November of 2007 for multiple failures of WWE’s wellness policy. After his release, Masters decided to improve his in-ring skills and hit the indies not to make as much money as possible but to learn as much as possible. He cleaned up his ring work and himself and was welcomed back to WWE in 2009. That would have been a happy ending, but he was let go a second time in 2011 and has been on the independent scene ever since.
Masters went off the rails for a period following his second release and in 2012 posted a picture to Twitter which showed him holding a gun to his head. He later apologized for worrying fans and denied reports that he was suicidal. He managed to redeem himself the following year when he saved his mother from a burning house by pulling a ten-foot tree from the ground with his bare hands and using it to break a window, thereby giving his mother an escape route.
1. Muhammad Hassan
Muhammad Hassan was probably the most controversial character of the 2000s, if not in the entire history of WWE. He was introduced in 2004 as a Muslim American driven mad by the abuse and racism he experienced following the events of September 11th, 2001. For some reason, Hassan was portrayed as a heel despite the fact he was fully justified in his anger, so the character was pretty much doomed from the start.
Muhammad Hassan was taken off television after a stunt which saw him have The undertaker attacked by a group of men clad in balaclavas while he prayed atop the ramp. The media was outraged and so Hassan was handily defeated by ‘Taker at The Great American Bash and never spoken of again. Marc Copani, the man who portrayed Hassan on television, was released by WWE shortly after this event.
Since the ugliness of his WWE run, Copani has crafted a nice life for himself out of the spotlight. He is long retired from professional wrestling and works as the vice-principal of Fulton City High School. He has pretty much dropped off the radar completely, but in July of this year, he made headlines (at least on the dirt sheets) when he joined that blasted class action lawsuit which seeks to hold WWE responsible for in-ring injuries.