The WWE is the top promotion in the world, and the place where most wrestlers aspire to go. But for some of these stars, it doesn’t always work out, and they are released from their contracts. Those affected are wrestlers who are at odds with management, ask for their release, have health issues, have done things outside the ring that contributed to their dismissal, or have shown a lack of improvement in their development. These are all factors that will often lead to someone being released. This year a number of notable names left the WWE. For some, they could probably see it coming, for others it was a chain of events that contributed to their dismissal.
Does a release in 2015 mean that there is no chance for a return to the company in the coming years? Not at all, as the WWE often boasts that we can “never say never” and that “anything is possible.” In compiling the list of ten men and women below, we didn’t simply identify releases from the main roster, but notable ones from the company’s NXT brand as well. No one in development is truly safe from being released, as there are no guarantees. But some from the NXT roster have asked for a release because it just isn’t the right fit for them. The most notable dismissal was someone who is significant to the promotion’s history , and it is shocking to see that he is no longer with them. Here are the 10 most notable WWE and NXT wrestlers released in 2015.
10. Cal Bishop
While a number of fans may not be aware of Bishop’s release, which took place on October 9th, it became a focal point recently on Breaking Ground. In Bishop’s case, his training and early development were plagued by injury. He appeared to be well liked by his peers and coaches, so releasing him was a difficult decision. He seemed to have a very convincing and engaging character that resonated with the management team. The problem for Bishop was that three separate shoulder operations contributed to his falling behind in his development in comparison to others that were in training to be a part of NXT. NXT management didn’t close the door on a return for Bishop. However, as it stands his ongoing shoulder concerns are what primarily contributed to his release.
9. Devin Taylor
The announcement of Taylor’s release came on October 9th. Taylor had earned recognition as a backstage interviewer with NXT. Her work with the promotion was featured as part of the WWE Network’s program Breaking Ground, which showed that, even though she was being used as a backstage announcer, she was training to become a wrestler. The problem, as the documentary has shown, has been her inability to improve and develop, while remaining healthy in the process. Prior to her release, she was regularly seen interviewing Dana Brooke, which led fans to believe that the two would eventually come to blows since she was consistently being embarrassed by Brooke. After being released from the show, Taylor stated that her departure doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the end of her career. It is, however, the end of her tenure as part of the WWE.
8. CJ Parker
One of the most disappointing departures from the company took place when CJ Parker of the WWE’s NXT brand asked for and was granted his release on March 31st. It’s disappointing because his character was unique and fresh, and managed to make fans despise hippies! Parker is known as the man that busted Kevin Owens’ nose in Owens’ debut during the final NXT Takeover event of 2014. During his time under the WWE’s regime, Parker has not just been a part of NXT but also spent time with FCW. He spent a considerable amount of time with the company, so to see him leave is unfortunate. As one of the more experienced members of the roster, his experience and knowledge will be a loss for the young developing talent with the company.
7. Zahra Schreiber
On August 31, the inevitable happened for former WWE NXT talent Schreiber. A year that featured a great deal of turmoil surrounding her ultimately culminated in her release. Earlier in the year, Schreiber was the focal point of a Twitter fiasco. Nude photos that had been exchanged between herself and former WWE World Heavyweight champion Seth Rollins posted to his Twitter account, and subsequently appeared on his WWE profile, as the feed is connected. The situation was quite embarrassing for Rollins, who apologized afterward. Later in the year, Schreiber was under fire once again for pro-Nazi photos and messages that she posted to her Instagram account prior to her time with the WWE; the release came on the heels of these photos receiving public scrutiny. Schreiber has an interesting look, and one that could certainly be used in another promotion. Unfortunately for her, Schreiber’s opportunity with the WWE has come to an end.
6. Solomon Crowe
As of November 23rd, WWE NXT wrestler Solomon Crowe was released after asking to be let go by the company. Crowe’s initial gimmick was as a hacker that was able to control the main audio/visual system of the NXT production, but nothing more was fleshed out with the character. Crowe competed on the independent circuit as Sami Callihan, where he worked with other notable WWE talent such as Dean Ambrose. After he signed with WWE, Crowe’s on-screen debut was held off for a while as they waited until an NXT Takeover event to promote his debut. He was recently a part of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team classic alongside Neville. Crowe has returned to the independent circuit and is in demand all over North America. As the “Callihan Death Machine” appears to once again be in full force, fans can anticipate seeing him more regularly.
5. Brad Maddox
On Nov 24th former Raw general manager Brad Maddox was released by the company. Maddox hadn’t been seen on camera for a while. After being fired as the Raw GM character, Maddox had been appearing on house shows with a number of different looks or characters, in the hopes that one of them would resonate with the audience. Sadly, they didn’t, which was a shame because he was fairly articulate and was an effective smarmy heel when he was on camera. Maddox was recently seen dressed as a turkey and receiving a Tombstone piledriver at the hands of The Undertaker. The release wasn’t seen as much of a surprise, as he wasn’t being used and there were no plans to have him elevated back to the main roster. Maddox can now be seen actively competing as Mad Braddox, a tongue in cheek name based on his time with the WWE
4. Justin Gabriel
January 25th was the day former WWE tag team champion Justin Gabriel asked for his release from the promotion. His departure came on the heels of a fairly significant run alongside Tyson Kidd in the NXT promotion. It was a little odd how it came about. At this year’s Royal Rumble. Gabriel’s role wasn’t what he wanted, and thus he asked for his release, allowing him to compete for any promotion he chose. Since departing the WWE, Gabriel has changed his name, appeared in a number of independent promotions and even captured the Global Force Wrestling GEN-NEXT title. Gabriel has had a very busy year, despite leaving the WWE. Competing under the name PJ Black, Gabriel is no longer with GFW and has signed on with the El Rey Network’s Lucha Underground. It appears to be the right fit for both parties involved.
3. Rey Mysterio
On February 26, Rey Mysterio‘s contract wasn’t “renewed.” Does that mean he was actually released? That is the confusing part, as the failed renewal could be considered a release. Whether he chose not to re-sign, or wasn’t offered a new contract, is where the confusion tends to lie. Mysterio is a former WWE World and WWE Heavyweight Champion, and was a Tag Team Champion as well. Mysterio’s role with the company had diminished over the years, as injuries and a failed direction had contributed to him not being an active competitor with the company. Mysterio’s notoriety and name alone will not make it difficult for him to continue to work in various independent promotions all over the world. At 40 years of age, Mysterio didn’t appear to be in the long-term plans of the company, but he is still capable of being a significant contributor to wrestling today.
2. Billy Gunn
On November 13th, former WWE Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion Billy Gunn was released by the WWE. Gunn had been in the role as a trainer with NXT, as part of their developmental system. Gunn had also recently been seen on television during the Tough Enough competition as one of the trainers, along with Booker T and Lita. Gunn’s role with the company had also seen him appear this past year as part of WrestleMania as a member of Degeneration X who came out in support of Triple H during his match against Sting. The story surrounding Gunn’s release related to his testing positive for a performing enhancing substance. During his active wrestling days, Gunn was a multi-time tag team partner as part of The Smoking Gunns, The New Age Outlaws, and Billy and Chuck.
1. Hulk Hogan
The most significant and biggest dismissal came on July 29th of this past year. After an audio tape was leaked with an inebriated Hogan spewing racial obscenities, the WWE acted quickly and dismissed Hogan from his role as one of the judges of this past year’s Tough Enough competition. Considering that the WWE has continued to be an active partner in campaigns to promote equality, their reaction reflected company policy. Since his release, Hogan has stated that he wasn’t necessarily fired, but rather asked to resign. He has appeared on shows such as Good Morning America stating how sorry he is for his actions. The company has not decided to rehire Hogan presently, but one tends to wonder about a potential return to the WWE in one capacity or another. As it stands right now, Hogan continues to rebuild his tarnished image after these events.