WWE is a huge organization. With so many employees at any given time, it’s no wonder there’s a constantly revolving door of wrestlers being signed to new deals, while others are being let go from their contracts. Now, WWE’s roster is bigger than ever, hence the modern brand extension which was put into place so that the plethora of wrestling talent would have more opportunities to shine and not have to compete just to get a couple of minutes on television.
Still, there will always be releases and there will always be new signees to replace them. That’s the way the wrestling business works everywhere, not just in WWE. Wrestlers are suspended or even fired all year long due to violations of WWE’s wellness program or inappropriate behavior, while others request to be let go due to differences of opinion or because they want to change career paths.
WWE contracts are set for periods of time, although the company seems fairly understanding in the sense that if an employee decides they would prefer to be released, they usually are granted that release. However, other times a wrestler is required to sit out the rest of the contract until it expires. Either way, despite WWE being seen as the place every wrestler in the world should want to be, the company is no stranger to employees requesting that they be able to get the hell out of there. Here are 15 WWE Superstars who you may not have been aware asked to be let go.
In 2006 the WWE Universe was introduced to a charismatic new Superstar who arrogantly called himself Montel Vontavious Porter, shortened as “MVP.” He had a catchy theme song and an elaborate entrance, but more importantly he was a fantastic wrestler and could talk on the microphone with the best of them. He was SmackDown’s fastest rising star and one of the show’s top heels, having one of the most impressive runs with the United States Championship in years and a very memorable, lengthy rivalry with Matt Hardy.
For whatever reason, WWE eventually drafted him to Raw and started burying him by having him lose match after match, even making a storyline out of his excessive losing streak. This baffled viewers, many of whom once considered MVP to be one of the company’s top five stars. Eventually, MVP got fed up with the nonsense and knowing his career wasn’t going to recover, decided to leave WWE in 2010.
Often, WWE fans refer to the early 2000s as the “golden era” of women’s wrestling in WWE. Lisa Marie Varon, known by viewers as Victoria, was one of the key elements of this era alongside women like Trish Stratus, Lita, Molly Holly, Jazz and more. The “Divas” division was full of women deeply devoted to making the women’s segments as impressive and memorable as they could be and across her WWE career she had two memorable runs as the Women’s Champion.
The latter years of her WWE stint, though, saw her used mostly as just there to further along other careers. Victoria was frequently losing to make other Divas look better, many of whom were hired for their looks instead of their in-ring talents. In 2009, Victoria retired from WWE and many thought this meant she was retiring from wrestling as a whole, but she soon found her way to TNA. As a TNA Knockout named Tara, she was used more to her abilities and became a five-time Knockouts Champion.
13. Ted DiBiase, Jr.
Being the son of one of the faces of late ‘80s and early ‘90s WWE, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DeBiase, you’d think Ted DiBiase, Jr., would have been destined to be a top player in WWE. He certainly had an initial rush of success teaming with Cody Rhodes and Randy Orton in the team known as The Legacy. The group tore through WWE and DiBiase and Rhodes left their mark as Tag Team Champions. DiBiase also found some success as a singles star with Maryse at his side, carrying around his father’s old Million Dollar Championship belt.
Eventually, though, DiBiase’s career hit a rough patch and he was barely used before leaving WWE in 2013. DiBiase has said that he left WWE to spend more time with family and that he had grown into a person he didn’t like anymore, stating that he had drifted too far from his Christian religion.
12. Eve Torres
Most of the time the WWE Universe looks down upon the Diva Search competition which resulted in many women being hired for the company’s women’s division based on their looks instead of their wrestling abilities. While that’s fair, some of the women from that competition actually became quite successful and one of the most respected winners was Eve Torres. Eve captured the Divas Championship several times, growing into an incredibly talented wrestler in just a few years. She also had many memorable on-screen roles outside the ring, including that of an authority figure for both Raw and SmackDown.
But come 2013, Eve was ready to retire from professional wrestling. She did just that, “quitting” on live television after losing her Divas Championship to fellow Diva Kaitlyn. Following her WWE departure, Eve focused on her role in self-defense training and working with her husband Rener Gracie. The couple had a child together in 2015.
11. Michelle McCool
Another former WWE Diva to come out of the WWE Diva Search, Michelle McCool didn’t actually win that competition, but she received a contract with the company for her impressive athleticism and charisma. Michelle became the first ever Divas Champion and held that title, along with the Women’s Championship, several times. Michelle and Layla formed the team LayCool, which became one of the most popular Diva acts of all time as they became thorns in the sides of the women’s division’s heroes.
In 2011, just when McCool was in the middle of the peak of her wrestling career, she decided to call it quits and retired from the wrestling industry. McCool had apparently suffered many injuries over the years, so she left WWE while she was still in once piece and started a quieter life with her husband Mark Calaway, known better as the Undertaker. The couple now has a child, born in 2012.
10. Bill DeMott
The man named Bill DeMott wasn’t really known for making his mark in a WWE ring. Instead, he was a very popular face in World Championship Wrestling before WWE purchased the company. DeMott wrestled under the ring name Hugh Morris, initially a somewhat psychotic wrestler who would cackle uncontrollably. Later, DeMott was also a member of the stable known as Misfits in Action and temporarily went by the suggestive name of General Hugh G. Rection.
Bill DeMott did have an in-ring career with WWE following WCW’s closing, but didn’t go very far. He eventually became a trainer for WWE’s upcoming stars in NXT and would see a lot of controversy in 2015 when allegations arose from some of his former trainees that DeMott had abused his position. DeMott denied those accusations and WWE stated that they found no evidence of his guilt. Nonetheless, DeMott requested his release and it was granted.
9. Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy has had one of the most decorated and illustrious careers of anyone who ever got his start as one half of a tag team. He and his brother Jeff, known collectively as the Hardy Boyz, along with The Dudley Boyz and Edge & Christian, revolutionized the WWE tag team division in the late ‘90s and early 2000s with their various ladder matches and TLC matches. Matt’s also had a separate singles career which has been nearly as impressive, including a run with the Cruiserweight and United States Championships and unforgettable rivalries with his brother in both WWE and TNA.
In 2010, Matt’s career had been stalling. He had apparently grown frustrated with the WWE product and was sent home by WWE from a European tour after acting out, which Matt would later state was his attempt at getting fired. He would go on YouTube to express his desire to be released from his WWE contract and eventually it would be granted, ending Matt’s long tenure with the company.
8. Cody Rhodes
The Rhodes family has made a major impact on WWE’s history. Hall of Famer “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes had a legendary career, though not with WWE. Instead, his two sons, Goldust and Cody Rhodes, have carried on his legacy in Vince McMahon’s global wrestling organization. The brothers held the WWE Tag Team Championship together and have both been Intercontinental Champions during their separate, successful singles runs, but Cody’s lackluster stint under face paint as Stardust led to him growing sour on WWE.
In 2016, after a couple years of floating around the lower to middle portions of the show as Stardust, Cody Rhodes began to grow creatively frustrated and asked to be let go from the company. Cody released a statement stating that he didn’t want his father’s legacy to be Stardust, and mere weeks later Cody’s wife, Brandi, who also worked with WWE requested her release as well.
7. Gail Kim
Gail Kim is one of the world’s greatest female professional wrestlers, but unless you’ve watched TNA at some point over the past decade you may not know that. Kim has made a legendary career for herself in that company, becoming the TNA Knockouts Champion on many occasions and earning an induction into the TNA Hall of Fame in 2016. However, she did have a couple of runs with WWE, the first being back in the early 2000s when she was initially released because the company was taking its women’s division in another direction.
Her second run with WWE came years later but ended pretty tumultuously. When Gail grew frustrated with the misuse and objectification of women wrestlers in WWE, she bailed in the middle of a match on live television and left the company for good. In interviews, Gail has stated that, while she’s been criticized for being unprofessional, she doesn’t regret her decision.
6. Ultimate Warrior
If you were to construct a list of the top five most iconic wrestlers of the first ten WrestleManias, the Ultimate Warrior would easily rank among them for his classic matches with Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage over the WWE Championship. Warrior’s energy and colorful personality made him a hero to children and adults alike, but his ego may have cost him an even greater career than he actually had.
His time with WWE came to an end when his extensive demands led to extreme tension between himself and Chairman Vince McMahon. When McMahon refused to let Warrior push him any further, Warrior decided he would not compete for WWE anymore and left the company under the worst of terms. Bitter feelings between both parties lasted until the former WWE and Intercontinental Champion was finally inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014, only days before his death.
5. Booker T
As one of the most decorated champions in the long, storied past of professional wrestling, Booker T is one of the leaders in the fight to bring black wrestlers into prominence. Traditionally a white man’s world, for many decades wrestling promoters were hesitant to book black World Champions, and although many men and women have paved the way, Booker T has certainly done his part to change the course of history with his six World Heavyweight Championship reigns and his plethora of other title wins, including the Intercontinental, United States and Tag Team Championships.
Booker T not only managed to be one of WCW’s defining roster members, but also made a career in WWE that could have stood alone as one worthy of the Hall of Fame, which is why it was so surprising when Booker suddenly left WWE in 2007. When Booker was linked to a pharmacy accused of distributing performance-enhancing substances, he was suspended from WWE. He denied the accusations that he may have used such medication and eventually requested his release from the company.
4. CM Punk
From the moment he stepped foot in WWE, CM Punk was breaking stereotypes of what it meant to be a WWE Superstar. With all his tattoos, he certainly had a unique look for the part, but his attitude also set him apart as he was never one to sacrifice his pride to satisfy the company, not to mention the fact that he kept the ring name he had used for so many years on the independent scene, a rarity at that time. WWE was hesitant to get behind Punk for a long time, but when they finally let him loose he became one of the most popular WWE Superstars of all time.
After several World Championship reigns and establishing a legendary career in a short time, years of having his creativity stifled had snuffed out the fire that once burned in CM Punk for professional wrestling and in 2014 he requested his release and went home. Vince McMahon reportedly tried for months to work something out with Punk, to no avail. Punk has since publicly spoke out against the company for their improper health practices.
3. Bret “The Hitman” Hart
Every wrestling fan in the world knows the term “Montreal Screwjob” and most of the WWE Universe knows the general story about how Bret Hart didn’t want to lose the WWE Championship on that night in 1997, so Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels legitimately swerved him and stole the belt on live pay-per-view. The entire situation got started, however, when Bret Hart decided he was leaving WWE for its competition, World Championship Wrestling, a decision so many of Vince’s employees had made in the years prior.
Bret Hart was already one of the most respected WWE Champions of all time, so Vince McMahon was open to his suggestions for how he should leave the company. According to Bret, he didn’t want to lose the title to his long time rival, Michaels, in Bret’s home country of Canada, but McMahon had his idea of what should go down and he was sticking to it, so he hatched a plan to make it appear as though Bret tapped out to a submission move when he really didn’t. Needless to say, even though Bret had already requested his leave from the company, he was certainly done with Vince McMahon and WWE that night.
2. Kurt Angle
Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle saw one of the fastest rises to main event status of any WWE Superstar in history. Upon arriving in the company he quickly snagged both the European and Intercontinental Championships, holding both titles at the same time, and soon had captured the coveted WWE Championship. He would go on to be a World Champion many more times during his WWE tenure, having classic battles with some of wrestling’s biggest legends and wrestling some of the most memorable WrestleMania matches to ever take place.
In 2006, however, Angle had had enough. Angle had seen so much success and had traveled full time for so long for WWE that he felt he needed a reduced schedule for the good of his health, but Vince McMahon would have none of that. McMahon expected Kurt to keep the same schedule as most everyone else on the roster, so Angle decided it was time to go. He left WWE and wound up in TNA, where he is now a member of the Hall of Fame.
1. Shane McMahon
In 2016 Shane McMahon has been one of WWE’s most valuable on-screen characters. His surprise appearance on the road to WrestleMania 32 might end up as one of the wildest moments of the year and his death-defying leap from the top of Hell in a Cell at the biggest show of the year will make highlight reels for the rest of time. Newer viewers might think Shane’s career was just getting started, but in fact, as the son of Vince McMahon, he’s been involved with wrestling for most of his adult life and has always been known for his crazy stunts.
In 2009, Shane took his leave from WWE, not to be seen until his return seven years later. Shane voluntarily left the company, stating in a recent interview with Mick Foley on the WWE Network that he felt his relationship with his father was becoming strained because, creatively, the two were not seeing eye to eye. Shane went off on his own and became a successful businessman, but seems to be back on television for the foreseeable future in a strictly on-air role.