2014 was a great year for WWE. It was a turning point for the company which saw Vince McMahon finally put his ego aside to give the fans what they want to see. Added emphasis was put on in-ring ability and NXT evolved from a simple developmental territory to a whole brand of its own. Individual performers had career making years. Brock Lesnar ended The Undertaker’s WrestleMania winning streak, Sting finally stepped foot in a WWE ring and Daniel Bryan captured the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of WrestleMania XXX, though his jubilation was admittedly short-lived.
However, not all WWE superstars had such a great 2014, and some weren’t even employed by the company by the time January 1st, 2015 rolled around. Over 30 wrestlers were released from WWE in 2014, which is excessive even for the company’s notoriously fickle talent relations department. People of all ranks were given their marching orders during the year, from those yet to debut on TV to former world champions. Since then, some have continued their wrestling careers with other companies, while a few have closed the book on their wrestling careers.
Here are 15 WWE superstars who were released in 2014 and where they are now.
15. Yoshi Tatsu
Much of Yoshi Tatsu’s time in WWE was spent floundering in the mid-card. His release from the company in 2014 took nobody by surprise, nor did his almost immediate return to New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Back in NJPW, Yoshi began a gimmick which saw him hunting down members of The Bullet Club one by one, intent on ridding the wrestling world of the stable once and for all. In a showdown with Bullet Club member AJ Styles, Tatsu’s career nearly came to an end. While taking a Styles Clash, an infamously tricky move, Tatsu made the mistake of tucking his chin, which resulted in his head being driven into the mat.
The accident left Yoshi Tatsu with a broken neck and put him out of action for well over a year. Thankfully, he was able to recover from the injury and returned to the ring early this year to reprise his Bullet Hunter gimmick.
14. Teddy Long
Teddy Long spent a total of six years as the general manager of SmackDown, and had a short tenure as General Manager of WWE’s ill-fated ECW reboot. However, all the tag team matches in the world couldn’t have saved him in 2014, when WWE management decided he had overstayed his welcome and sent him packing.
After his release from WWE, Teddy Long hit the independent circuit for signings and shoot interviews. Booker T, a close friend of Long, announced that the experienced GM had been hired as the General Manager of his Reality of Wrestling promotion.
Long returned to WWE earlier this year to campaign for the recently reintroduced position of SmackDown GM. Long’s mic skills weren’t what they used to be during this appearance and he muddled his words while addressing the WWE Universe.
13. Brodus Clay
Brodus Clay’s Funkasaurus character was one of the most cringeworthy in the history of modern day WWE and was symbolic of everything wrong with the PG Era. For that reason, fans breathed a sigh of relief when he was released from the company in June of 2014.
Shortly after being cut from WWE, Clay signed with TNA and began appearing on weekly additions of Impact. To this day, Clay performs as Tyrus on Impact, a character far closer to his natural personality than a pre-historic disco fanatic.
The one-time Funkasaurus is an unlikely fan of American politics. When not competing in TNA’s six-sided ring, he can be seen on Fox News, discussing the 2016 presidential election and his baffling love of Republican nominee Donald Trump.
12. Curt Hawkins
Anybody who has seen Curt Hawkins perform in the ring is aware that he is an immensely talented wrestler. The guy has the potential to be a major star in WWE, so you can understand why both fans and wrestlers alike were outraged when he was released from his contract in 2014.
Following his WWE departure, Hawkins hit the indie scene and got back to doing what he does best: wrestling. With no ridiculous gimmicks to hold him back, Hawkins established himself as one of the top indie stars in the world. In 2015, he made his way to TNA, where he became one-half the TNA World Tag team Champions.
Anybody who is up to date with WWE television is aware that Curt recently returned to the company with a gimmick which sees him recite stale Chuck Norris “facts”, only with his name in place of Norris’s. No, it isn’t Vince McMahon’s brightest idea and it probably won’t be long before Hawkins is back on the independent scene.
11. Evan Bourne
With High School Musical good looks and the ability to do things never before seen in a WWE ring, Evan Bourne was set for a great career in the company. However, all plans for a Bourne push were derailed when he was sidelined with a broken foot. Bourne was kept off TV for what seemed like an eternity while his foot healed up and never got back to regular competition. He was released from WWE in the summer of 2014.
After his release, Bourne began competing on the independent circuit under the name Matt Sydal. Under his new identity, Bourne has competed for EVOLVE, PWG, ROH, and NJPW.
Bourne/Sydal found himself in an unenviable position on September23rd, 2016 when he was found to be in possession of cannabis in a Japanese airport, which could conceivably spell the end of his wrestling career in Japan.
JTG’s ability to remain under a WWE contract despite the fact he was rarely used became a running joke among hardcore wrestling fans. However, not even JTG could survive WWE’s 2014 firing rampage.
Unlike a lot of guys on this list, JTG didn’t head to the indies after his release and has since explained that he trained to be a WWE superstar, not an independent wrestler.
Since leaving WWE, JTG has tried his hand at a number of different jobs. Most notably, he attempted to break into the writing business with his autobiography Damn! Why Did I Write This Book? There has been talk of JTG, along with his former tag team partner Shad Gaspard, returning to WWE to beef out the post-brand split roster, but the man himself insists there is nothing to the rumors.
9. Raquel Diaz
A lot of readers might not recognize Raquel Diaz as she never made it to the main roster. Many, however, are likely to know her by her birth name: Shaul Guerrero.
The daughter of WWE Hall of Famer Eddie Guerrero, Shaul started out her WWE career in FCW, where she captured the FCW Diva’s Championship under the Diaz monicker. She also spent some time in NXT, but requested and was granted her release from the company in 2014 due to an eating disorder.
After leaving the company, Guerrero focused on getting herself healthy again and, by all accounts, has succeeded in overcoming her personal problems. Earlier this year, she became ShaulRehwoldt when she married Matt Rehwoldt, who is known to WWE fans as Aiden English.
8. Ezekiel Jackson
Ezekiel Jackson received a massive push from the moment he entered WWE, which most people attribute to his gargantuan size. It certainly wasn’t due to in-ring ability (of which he had none), or an affable personality, as he is noted as having numerous problems with other WWE superstars. Jackson was released from his WWE contract in 2014, after spending months sidelined with an injury to his upper-body.
Since leaving WWE, Jackson has competed on the independent scene with a degree of success. He spent some time working with TNA, but the most notable run of his post-WWE career came in late 2014, when he signed with Lucha Underground.
A major star of the first season of Lucha Underground, Jackson, competing as Big Ryck, feuded with the likes of Johnny Mundo, Sexy Star, and Texano. He left the promotion in 2015 under mysterious circumstances and has scarcely been seen since.
7. Mason Ryan
From the night he was introduced to the WWE Universe, Mason Ryan had to deal with a never-ending stream of comparisons to former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Batistia. Unfortunately for Ryan, he was never able to recreate the success of The Animal and, after being sent down to NXT for retooling, was released from WWE on April 30th, 2014.
The Welsh superstar spent a period working the independents after leaving WWE, which included an appearance on TNA, but decided to leave the wrestling business in favor of a role in the world renowned Cirque du Soleil.
On June 30th, 2014, WWE superstar Emma was arrested for shoplifting in Hartford, Connecticut. Of course, she maintained her innocence and swore that she had simply forgotten to pay for the iPad case which she was charged with stealing.
Following the news of her arrest, Emma was released by the ever image conscious WWE, though the announcement resulted in extremely negative publicity for the company. Fans were steadfast in their support of Emma and demanded the company reinstate her.
It was eventually decided that the charges would be dismissed after Emma had performed a certain amount of community service, which resulted in WWE overturning her release and welcoming her back with open arms. Today, Emma is preparing to return from a back injury with a new name and gimmick.
5. Drew McIntyre
When Drew McIntyre first signed with WWE, Vince McMahon was rumored to have big plans for him. He was dubbed “The Chosen One” shortly after debuting on the main roster and received a massive push to go with the title. However, McMahon and other WWE officials cooled down on McIntyre over time and his last major storyline came when he was placed in Three Man Band alongside Jinder Mahal and Heath Slater. He was released from his WWE contract on the 12th of June, 2014.
Shortly after his WWE release, McIntyre signed a contract with TNA and made his first appearance for the company on the 29th of January, 2015. Competing under his real name, Drew Galloway, the former WWE superstar went on to defeat Matt Hardy for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, cementing himself as a major player in the company.
4. The Great Khali
Contrary to his name, The Great Khali was not all that great. He lacked any charisma and his in-ring work was dire, and fans were more than willing to let him know it. However, his massive size ensured he stayed employed by WWE from 2006 to 2014.
After making his exit from WWE, The Great Khali returned to his home country of India, where he received a hero’s welcome. Treated as a god, Khali opened Continental Wrestling Entertainment, his own wrestling training school (yes, he actually teaches people to wrestle). The promotion held it’s first live event in December of last year.
The Great Khali has discussed a possible return to WWE in the past and at one point even stated his re-signing with the company was a sure thing. However, those in the know shot down Khali’s claims, saying WWE officials were against the idea of brining him back.
3. Josh Matthews
A one time in-ring competitor, Josh Matthews was assigned to commentary duties when it became clear he wasn’t bound for the main event in WWE (though he did commentate on WWE Main Event for a while). During his time with WWE, Matthews hosted a number of WWE’s inconsequential shows and was involved in a storyline or two, but he failed to have any real impact on the company and was released from his WWE contract in 2014.
Matthews was quickly snapped up by TNA, which was in desperate need of new commentators, and was made the company’s number one play-by-play announcer. Matthews can be found behind the Impact announce table to this day, though with the way the company is going he might not be there much longer.
In interviews since leaving WWE, Josh Matthews has candidly discussed his struggles adapting to the world outside WWE. As a commentator with WWE, he was forbidden from using certain words on air, such as “wrestler”, and is still trying to overcome his tendency to say “superstar” in its place.
2. Alberto Del Rio
In the summer of 2014, rumors began to swirl about Alberto Del Rio wanting out of his WWE contract. Multiple sources stated that he was tired of the way he was being booked and intended to leave the company the moment his contract was up. However, he didn’t have to wait that long as he was released in August of that year for hitting a member of WWE’s social media team (who totally deserved it).
After a bitter court battle with WWE, Del Rio was granted the right to compete for whatever company he wanted, which took him back to Mexico, to Europe, and, most notably, to Lucha Underground. As Alberto El Patron, Del Rio was involved in a brutal feud with Johnny Mundo, before leaving the company and returning to WWE at the 2015 Hell in a Cell event. And they all lived happily ever after.
Only they didn’t.
Del Rio left WWE again this past September, fed up with the company’s lack of direction for his character. Since Exodus Dos, Del Rio has hit the independent scene and recently became engaged to current WWE superstar (though probably not for long), Paige.
1. CM Punk
CM Punk walked out of WWE the night after the 2014 Royal Rumble but remained under contract for a number of months. He was finally released from WWE on June 13th, 2014, which also happened to be his wedding day.
Later that year, it was announced that Punk had signed a multi-fight deal with UFC, despite a complete lack of professional fighting experience. Punk disappeared for the next two years in order to train for his UFC debut but popped up occasionally to give the media a progress report.
Punk’s UFC debut came in September of this year and saw him handily defeated in the fist round by Mickey Gall. Since the fight, UFC President Dana White has stated that CM Punk is unlikely to ever fight in UFC again. Despite this, Punk is reported to still be hitting the gym every day in preparation for another bout.