Some wrestlers work for years, often decades, in order to get to WWE. It’s the be all and end all of sports entertainment and has been since the 1980s, so who wouldn’t want to go there? Of course, once you get to WWE, there’s no guarantee that you’re there to stay. Vince McMahon has a long history of releasing stars, sometimes with good reason, but sometimes with no reason at all. Over the past couple of years, fans have been outraged by certain releases and infuriated by the fact that other, less talented stars are kept on the roster.
WWE’s current stars can take some comfort in the fact that WWE really isn’t in a position to fire anybody right now. Since the brand split, the rosters of both Raw and SmackDown have been wafer thin, so the company needs all the talent it can get. Of course, that will come as little consolation to the stars who were released prior to the split. They may someday get hired back (if that’s what they want), but until that day, they must keep on doing whatever they’re doing now. But what are they doing now? Let’s find out.
Here are 15 recently released WWE superstars and what they’re up to now.
15 CM Punk
CM Punk’s feud with WWE goes back to long before his contract was terminated on the day of his wedding. Punk walked out of the company the night after the 2014 Royal Rumble, claiming he was sick and tired of all the travel, as well as being sick, and tired, in general. Eventually, Punk was faxed his official walking papers.
Punk shocked the world in late 2014 when he signed a multi-fight deal with UFC. People doubted him from the get-go, but it cannot be denied that Punk gave his all to the UFC in the lead up to his first fight. He trained for two straight years, with some claiming he was going to fall on his face and others claiming he was going to murder his opponent. Unfortunately for Punk, it was the former who were proven right.
Punk made his UFC debut on the 10th of September, 2016, and was handily defeated in two minutes by the far more experienced Mickey Gall. Despite the loss, Punk has said that he plans to continue his MMA career, though maybe not in UFC.
Cameron was incredibly athletic and extremely attractive, the two things WWE looked for in a female star at the time of her hiring. Sure, she knew absolutely nothing about pro wrestling – she once declared her favorite match to be Alicia Fox vs. Melina –but that didn’t matter. Unfortunately for Cameron, things started to change shortly after her debut on the main roster. Fans wanted to see women’s wrestling, not a model getting confused over how to pin somebody.
She got lost in the shuffle during the Divas Revolution, often times relegated to being a special guest referee at live events. She just couldn’t keep up with the more talented women who had been training all their lives to be WWE superstars, so it came as no surprise when she was released earlier this year.
These days, Cameron busies herself with the job of being famous, which is all she ever really wanted. She frequently appears at signings and Z-lister events. She even started her own anti-bullying campaign, because everybody knows that's the best way to get famous.
13 Bull Dempsey
Bull Dempsey showed a lot of promise when he was first brought into NXT. He was pushed as a monster heel and breezed through smaller opponents. The only problem was the brand was also pushing Baron Corbin as a monster heel, and there was only room for one on the roster. When the pair met, Dempsey was defeated and slid down the ladder before becoming a comedy act who adhered to a “Bull-Fit” lifestyle.
After he was released by WWE, Dempsey returned to the independent scene, now able to request a much higher price for his appearances. He dropped the Bull-Fit gimmick and returned to something a little more respectable.
Only recently, Dempsey made his debut with Ring of Honor, a promotion known for its emphasis of wrestling over zany antics. He now competes under the name “Bull James.”
When JTG first debuted as a member of CrymeTyme, he was the standout performer of the team. Shad Gaspard was big and intimidating, but JTG had the mic skills and in-ring ability necessary to become a star. Unfortunately, that never happened. After Shad’s release, JTG floundered in the lower card and the fact that he was still on the company payroll became a running joke among the internet wrestling fans.
JTG has made only a few appearances at independent shows since his release. He has stated that when he trained, he trained to be a WWE superstar and had little to no interest in traveling the country to perform in high school gyms. He has kept himself busy, however. He is a frequent guest on wrestling themed podcasts and has been involved in a couple of theatre productions.
Shortly after being released, JTG published Damn! Why Did I Write This Book?, a memoir detailing his time with WWE.
Hornswoggle is another guy who managed to avoid release for far longer than anybody would have expected. He spent the majority of his career in WWE as a comedy act, and by the time he was released earlier this year, the joke had been stale for a while.
After being released from the company where he had spent ten years, Hornswoggle began taking independent bookings. Like most recently released WWE superstars, his calendar filled up fairly fast and he took to wrestling podcasts in order to promote his upcoming appearances. He also announced that he would be going by the name Swoggle from now on, as WWE own the rights to his former monicker.
Since hitting the independents, Swoggle has competed for some of the biggest indie wrestling companies in the Untied States including Global Force Wrestling and CHIKARA.
10 Solomon Crowe
Solomon Crowe’s stint in NXT was far less impressive than most fans had been expecting. Those who were familiar with his work on the independents knew Crowe as a talented in-ring performer and many believed he was destined for the same path as Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and Finn Bálor. For whatever reason, that never happened and Solomon Crowe’s NXT career failed to get off the ground.
After leaving the company in November of last year, Crowe returned to the independent scene as Sami Callihan, the name he had been using before WWE snapped him up. Though he was already a major indie star before signing with WWE, Callihan was able to command a higher per appearance fee than ever before, so he faces no money problems these days. He recently signed with Lucha Underground, but I won’t go into detail on that because the show tapes in advance and I don’t want to spoil it on you.
Callihan has not ruled out a return to WWE, and has stated that the two sides parted on good terms with the door open for him to come back when the time is right.
9 Zahra Schreiber
Zahra Schreiber’s WWE career was hounded by controversy. She first came into the spotlight after it was revealed she and Seth Rollins had been having an affair, news which was leaked by Rollins’ then-fiancee. Things went from bad to worse for Schreiber in 2015 when it was discovered that she had been posting anti-Semitic pictures on her Instagram account.
WWE wisely released Schreiber from her contract shortly after and she was forced to hit the independent wrestling scene, something that, as a model, she had never experienced. Schreiber’s time on the indies was lackluster at best and she failed to do anything even remotely memorable beyond using her boyfriend’s Curb Stomp finisher.
Not long ago, it was announced that Schreiber had left the wrestling business, although she did not go into detail about her retirement.
8 Adam Rose
Adam Rose is another performer who was released by WWE amid much controversy. After being suspended in April 2016, Rose was arrested for domestic violence and tampering with a witness, he was subsequently suspended indefinitely. Rose and WWE parted ways for good shortly after.
In an attempt to support his family, Rose hit the independent scene as soon as he was able, competing under the name Aldo Rose in order to capitalize on his WWE fame. He even released a T-shirt bearing a picture of his mug shot, a parody of the Vince McMahon mug shot T-Shirt, which Rose claimed his wife fully supported.
Today, Rose makes a nice living on the independent circuit, portraying a distinctly more adult version of the original Adam Rose character.
7 Eden Stiles
Eden Stiles, the wife of Cody Rhodes, left WWE with her husband earlier this year, although she claims that she had been planning to leave long before he requested his release.
Eden did not compete inside the ring during her time with WWE. Instead, she served as a ring announcer, though she managed to carve out a nice fan base for herself. Many fans expressed their sorrow at her leaving, as she had one of the more memorable voices in recent years. Her announcing was sorely missed a couple of weeks ago when Kevin Owens captured his first WWE Universal Championship.
Stiles has been laying low since leaving WWE, occasionally appearing in her husband’s corner at independent wrestling shows. According to celebrity “news” website TMZ, Stiles recently signed on to work for TNA in some capacity.
6 Cody Rhodes
As long as we’re on the subject, let’s talk about Cody Rhodes. The son of “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, Cody Rhodes was considered by many to be a surefire world champion in WWE. However, things started to go down hill for Rhodes when he adopted the Stardust gimmick. Unable to get out of the funk created by the character, Cody left WWE in may of 2016 to pursue a career on the independents.
Cody has not been idle since leaving WWE. Immediately after his release, he created a list of all the top independent wrestlers whom he wanted to face and instructed his people to make the matches happen. To date, Cody has had dream encounters with Kurt Angle, Zack Sabre Jr., and Chris Hero. He is said to have signed a unique non-exclusive deal with both Ring of Honor and TNA.
As well as wrestling, Cody Rhodes has also appeared as a guest star in the television series Arrow, alongside his former rival Stephen Amell.
Some fans have heavily criticized Ryback for the manner in which he left WWE a couple of months ago. According to The Big Guy, he demanded travel for all talents be paid for and that the winners and losers of each match be compensated equally. It’s a nice idea, but it just doesn’t work. You can’t have a squash match in which the squahee earns the same as the squasher.
Regardless of your feelings toward Ryback, you can’t deny that he has been working hard since leaving the company. He has been taking independent bookings with the same ferocity as Cody Rhodes and has talked about releasing his own self-help book, as well as a fashion line.
He recently announced that he was in the process of legally changing his name to Ryback Allen Reeves so he can use his WWE name going forward.
4 Joey Styles
Joey Styles is without a doubt one of the greatest wrestling commentators of all time. Unfortunately, Vince McMahon did not recognize that and Styles spent his final years with WWE working as a member of the website staff. He was let go earlier this year after making some negative comments about Roman Reigns and his never-ending push.
Since leaving WWE, Styles, like many former WWE superstars, has been busy with independent shows.In his earliest statements after his release, Styles said that while he was open to taking indie bookings, he would not entertaining any offers to do podcasts, shoot interviews, or announcing work, presumably because he did not want to damage his relationship with WWE any further.
Despite his insistence that he would not be taking any work as a commentator, Styles ended up lending his voice to CHIKARA’s 2016 King of the Trios tournament.
3 Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio is the most recent entry on this list. Although his departure is still fresh in minds of many, it was pretty clear that he would be leaving the company many months before his exit transpired. According to rumors, Del Rio was unhappy with the way he was being treated by WWE and planned to make use of the out clause he had put into his contract when he resigned with the company in 2015.
Since leaving WWE, Del Rio has stated that he plans to begin winding down his in-ring career and be finished with wrestling entirely by 2018 or so. He plans to work with the family of his girlfriend, WWE superstar Paige, to perform at some shows in England toward the end of this year.
Although he has repeatedly stated that he does not plan to wrestle more than 60 shows a year, Del Rio is reportedly in talks with CMLL, Lucha Underground, Ring of Honor, and TNA. However, it is unlikely that he will sign an exclusive deal with any promotion.
2 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan was released from his WWE contract in the summer of 2015 after the transcript of a racist rant he had embarked on during the breakdown of his marriage became public. Although Hogan claimed he didn’t mean anything he said and that he had been recorded at the lowest point in his life, he accepted his punishment and didn’t dispute his release.
Shortly after leaving WWE, Hogan began making the talk show rounds, candidly discussing the situation and apologizing over and over again for his mistake. Some took pity on Hogan, others didn’t.
Earlier this year, The Hulkster took Gawker to court for leaking his sex tape back in 2012 and subsequently ran wild all over the company. Hogan was awarded an astonishing $140 million in damages, driving Gawker out of business and adding another win to his already impressive record.
There are rumors of WWE wanting to gradually reintroduce Hulk Hogan on company television, though it isn’t like he needs it.
1 Damien Sandow
The release of Damien Sandow was arguably the most shocking release in the history of WWE, or at least in recent years. Sandow was one of the most over guys on the roster on a number of occasions and was able to make whatever he was given by creative work for him. His work as The Miz’s stunt double saw him become one of the most popular stars in the company, despite the odds being stacked against him.
Although there was public outcry when Sandow was released, the former intellectual savior of the masses told his fans not to worry for him as he was excited to be moving on to the next stage of his career. Although he booked a number of independent dates and podcast appearances, Sandow said he would be focusing more on establishing himself as an actor and entertainer.
Of course, it wasn’t long before he was sucked in by professional wrestling once again. He made his TNA impact debut just a couple of weeks ago, and, after the anti-WWE promo now commonplace for former WWE guys who sign with TNA, the ex-Sandow declared he would be henceforth known as Aron Rex.
Sources: Bustle, Cageside Seats, Wrestling Inc., 411Mania
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