The history of women’s wrestling in WWE has been a long and inconsistent story. Though WWE has its roots at least as far back as 1963 when the WWE World Championship was first instated, many perceive the company as really getting its start in 1985 when WrestleMania was introduced and professional wrestling started to take over the world.
It was at the inaugural WrestleMania where the future of women’s wrestling under Vince McMahon certainly appeared bright enough; the Women’s Championship match between the incumbent champion Leilani Kai and the challenger Wendi Richter, accompanied by rising rock star Cyndi Lauper, was billed as a pretty big deal. But as the years went on women had less and less of a presence and throughout the 1990s the Women’s Championship was completely abandoned on more than one occasion despite the popularity of some incredibly talented women such as Bull Nakano and WWE Hall of Famer Alundra Blayze.
Female WWE stars have been fighting a war for many years to be recognized as an asset to the company – as valuable as any man – and today we have women in the main event of some of WWE’s biggest shows. It is easy to credit younger women like Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks for the long-awaited rise of women’s wrestling, but everyone who participated in the struggle deserves to be commended. Let’s take a look at fifteen former WWE “Divas” who were released from the company over the past ten years and see what they’re doing today.
You may remember a tag team known as Deuce ‘n Domino who had a pretty impressive run back in 2007 on SmackDown as the WWE Tag Team Champions. You may also remember that their shtick didn’t last too long, but when they were enjoying their moment in the sun they were often overshadowed by their manager Cherry. Together the trio was a blast from the past, like something straight out of Grease, with Deuce ‘n Domino wearing leather jackets and slicking their hair back. Cherry was particularly memorable for always wearing roller skates and she even wrestled a few times in the ring before the company released her from her contract in 2008.
Cherry – whose real name is Kara Drew – has long been out of the professional wrestling spotlight. However, she remains a fan of the business and keeps up with WWE television. She stays in touch with her fans through social media and one look at her Twitter account shows just how often she still talks about the business she was once a part of.
For wrestling fans who don’t follow NXT, the name Maxine will likely not ring any bells. Maxine was quite active, however, in the all-female season of NXT and later NXT Redemption, feuding with Divas who would later go on to be quite successful on WWE’s main roster such as former Divas Champions Kaitlyn and AJ Lee. Maxine was also involved in storylines with several of the men in NXT such as Titus O’Neil and Johnny Curtis, who is better known by fans today as Fandango.
In 2012, however, Maxine asked for a release from her WWE contract and it was granted. She stated that she wanted to seek other opportunities and has actually done quite well for herself following her departure from the company. She made an appearance for TNA Wrestling before moving on to the ever-popular cult phenomenon Lucha Underground, where she still performs today as an on-air personality named Catrina.
Few might remember that former WWE Diva Cameron actually got her start on the company’s competition show, Tough Enough. Cameron didn’t win that competition, but she did earn a contract with the company and despite not making major waves in the Divas division she certainly stuck around for a while. Her biggest claim to fame is likely that she was one-half of the Funkadactyls alongside Naomi as the two danced their way to the ring with former WWE Superstar Brodus Clay. Once the Funkadactyls split, however, Cameron quickly faded into the background and was sparingly used.
Cameron did have one memorable match with Asuka in NXT shortly before her WWE release, but she left the company on bad terms following her public support of comments made by Ryback regarding unfair pay issues. Today she works to fight bullying and is looking to get into acting, having recently auditioned for a role in an upcoming wrestling-related Netflix series.
Tiffany who? Unless you’re really a stickler for your wrestling trivia you might have forgotten that this former WWE Diva Search contestant once served as the General Manager for ECW for a period of time. Of course, this was WWE’s revived version of ECW which practically no one was watching anyway, so it would be understandable. Tiffany was beautiful and had buckets of charisma, but her stint in ECW was not going to be helping anyone build a career worthy of the WWE Hall of Fame and was largely forgettable.
Luckily for Tiffany, she was released from the company in 2010 and eventually found her way to TNA Wrestling where she would really make a name for herself when given the opportunity to compete in the Knockouts division. Now going by her real name, Taryn Terrell won the Knockouts Championship before retiring from the company in 2016. She is currently expecting her second child as revealed by her appearance at TNA’s 2016 Bound for Glory event.
In a time when WWE Divas were at their peak of their usage as eye candy and when the company was absolutely refusing to recognize that a woman can be athletic, Kaitlyn came along during the all-female season of NXT and dominated, winning that competition and earning herself a WWE contract. Kaitlyn was beautiful and ripped, and she was an amazing athlete to boot. She was very popular among the WWE Universe and found herself winning the Divas Championship on the main roster, often wrestling real life friend AJ Lee for the title during a memorable rivalry that never got the credit it was due from the company.
Once Kaitlyn’s title reign was behind her she slowly started fading into the background and was used less and less, until she decided it was time to move on from professional wrestling as a whole and take her career into her own hands. After being released from WWE she started her own fitness clothing line called Celestial Bodiez and owns a smoothie bar in Florida with her husband.
10. Eve Torres
Having won the WWE Diva Search competition, there weren’t a lot of expectations of Eve Torres. The Diva Search got a reputation for bringing to WWE a whole lot of women who were useful for their looks more than their athletic capabilities, and therefore fans saw the competition as contributing to the lackluster nature of the Divas division for years. But when Eve earned her WWE contract and slowly made her transition into the role of an in-ring performer she surprised everyone by actually taking to the wrestling part of the job quite naturally.
Eve was one of the most successful of all the participants in the history of the Diva Search, winning the Divas Championship on numerous occasions before she retired from the business in early 2013. She now is a mother and teaches self-defense classes for women. Even has also taken to acting and had a guest role on the TV program Supergirl in 2016.
Kharma’s time in WWE was brief, which was a major letdown for fans of the Divas division who had hoped that her large frame and vicious demeanor would inject some much-needed intensity and personality into a division that was, at the time, severely lacking in anything that could be considered truly meaningful on a professional wrestling program. However, she did have a couple of memorable moments, such as being only one of three women in history to participate in the annual Royal Rumble match.
An ill-timed pregnancy would crush Kharma’s momentum and eventually she was released from the company reportedly due to not being in well enough shape. She, of course, is better known for her time in TNA Wrestling as Awesome Kong and on the independent circuit as Amazing Kong, both of which were options she successfully fell back on after WWE. It was reported in 2016 that she has a role in the upcoming Netflix series GLOW, which is inspired by an actual defunct wrestling organization known as Glamorous Ladies of Wrestling.
8. Brandi Rhodes
Known for her time as Eden in WWE, Brandi Rhodes is actually a trained professional wrestler even though you’d never have known it. The company positioned her as a ring announcer, a job which she was very good at and it seemed as though she would be the next Lilian Garcia. That was until her husband Cody Rhodes started having troubles with the company related to a disagreement over creative vision and he packed his bags and walked away. Brandi soon followed suit, heading for greener pastures elsewhere when she requested her own release in 2016.
After leaving WWE Brandi and Cody hit the independent wrestling scene and quickly found their way to Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. While Cody travels the world wrestling everyone on his “bucket list,” Brandi is now competing as a regular in the TNA Knockouts division as she looks to finally make use of her in-ring skills.
7. Candice Michelle
While it can be said that few of the women to have come out of the formerly annual Diva Search competition added anything of value to the product inside the wrestling ring, some of them were certainly popular for other reasons. Many of these women were coming into WWE as models who had little in the way of athletic ability and didn’t show a particular knack for learning the ropes, but they were smoking hot and that’s really all that mattered in an era when Vince McMahon refused to believe a woman could actually wrestle.
Candice Michelle was one such example of this type of WWE Diva. Though she did enjoy a reign as the Women’s Champion, her real talents obviously lied in the looks and charisma departments and that was what she will be remembered for. Today she is a mother to three children and keeps in touch with her fans via Twitter as well as with her fellow former WWE Divas such as Victoria and Torrie Wilson.
The first taste of fame for Melina Perez came as the manager for Joey Mercury and Melina’s real life boyfriend at the time, Johnny Nitro. Together the trio was known as MNM and they enjoyed a great run in the tag team division on SmackDown with Mercury and Nitro winning the WWE Tag Team Championship. Melina soon broke out on her own and became a fantastically gifted professional wrestler in her own right, winning the Divas and Women’s Championships on numerous occasions and feuding with the biggest names of her era.
Unfortunately, Melina also brought along more than her fair share of drama as she reportedly had run-ins with many of her fellow WWE Divas and caused a lot of problems related to Johnny Nitro when the two were dating on and off. Melina’s release was rumored to be a result of this, though she seems to have done just fine for herself as she has returned to competing on the independent circuit and even made an appearance for the popular Lucha Underground promotion.
5. Maria Kanellis
Another woman to come out of the dreaded Diva Search competition, Maria Kanellis actually became insanely popular in the pro wrestling world. Her innocent demeanor and good looks won over the WWE Universe easily and she transitioned into a decent in ring performer after a stint as a backstage interviewer. After a few years of consistent television time, however, WWE released Maria from her contract.
Following WWE Maria’s career has only grown and she has built quite a wrestling career for herself. She spent years performing for Ring of Honor as the “First Lady of Professional Wrestling” alongside her eventual real-life husband Mike Bennett and the pair is now one of the hottest acts in all of Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Long removed from her days as an unassuming WWE interviewer, Maria is now one of the most hated heels in wrestling, though she has stated she has plans to retire from the business for good soon.
4. Michelle McCool
To speak of just one more former WWE Diva Search contestant, Michelle McCool was a rarity in that she actually came out of that competition as a natural inside the wrestling ring. It took McCool a little while to find her footing as a decent character on television, but the inaugural Divas Champion actually made quite an impact on the women’s division with her innate athleticism. Her pairing with Layla El was classic, as the pair is known as “LayCool” practically defined an entire era for the Divas, winning several titles between them.
McCool retired from WWE in 2011 but her life has been anything but uneventful. Since then she has married perhaps the most respected professional wrestler of all time, Mark Calaway, better known as the Undertaker, and the two have become parents. She has largely stayed out of the public eye but in 2016 she was diagnosed with skin cancer for which she is currently being treated.
3. Kelly Kelly
When WWE revived ECW under its own umbrella the company was looking to inject some sexuality into the brand. That’s where Kelly Kelly came in – she was hired and brought to television as an exhibitionist character who had a fondness for taking off her clothes on live television during her own segment. Eventually, Kelly transitioned into an actual in ring performer and for a newcomer, she wasn’t half bad. She had a run with the Divas Championship and had many matches involving some of the biggest names of the era such as Beth Phoenix, Melina and Mickie James.
In 2012 Kelly was released from her WWE contract and she left the wrestling business as a whole. Now going by her real name, Barbie Blank, she stars in the E! reality series known as WAGS (wives and girlfriends of sportsmen). In 2016 she was married to former ice hockey player Sheldon Souray.
2. Beth Phoenix
Beth Phoenix was one of the most gifted women to have ever been considered a WWE Diva. She was the total package; she was gorgeous and built to kick ass at the same time. Her power was unmatched in the Divas division and saw her to a reign with the Divas Championship and three runs as the WWE Women’s Champion. Phoenix also had a very memorable run alongside Santino Marella as the duo known to the WWE Universe as Glamarella.
In 2012 Beth Phoenix left WWE and retired from the sport of professional wrestling to focus more on her family life. In 2016 she married her longtime boyfriend and fellow former WWE Superstar and Hall of Famer Adam “Edge” Copeland. The couple now has two daughters named Lyric and Ruby, and although Beth stays out of the public eye these days she does remain in contact with her fans via social media.
1. AJ Lee
From her humble beginning in the all-female season of NXT, you would never have assumed that AJ Lee would go on to a five-year career with WWE as one of the most popular Divas of all time. AJ’s story was one of a girl who had a big dream to become a WWE Superstar and she achieved it, which is always a good way to warm up to wrestling fans because many of them can relate to the notion of wanting to be a pro wrestler. Additionally, AJ Lee shunned what it meant to be a “Diva,” something that resonated with an audience long tired of the lack of athleticism in the division.
Three reigns as the Divas Champion later, AJ Lee decided to retire from the sport in 2015. Since then she has gone on to work for animal rights and has written an autobiography titled “Crazy is My Superpower,” which is due out in 2017. In 2014 she married her outspoken fellow former WWE Superstar CM Punk.