According to a recent episode of Chris Jericho’s Talk is Jericho podcast, the average wrestler spends less than five years in WWE. That’s a little disheartening when you consider the fact that a lot of them work their entire careers to get there. After leaving WWE, wrestlers really only have one of two options they can choose from. They can hit the ground running and use their fame to make money on the indy circuit, and if things go well, they might find their way to NJPW, Ring of Honor, or even back to WWE. Or, if the sports entertainment world doesn’t appeal to them anymore, they can cut their losses with this wrestling thing and give a real job a try.
Most young guys will take the first option and revert to the name they used prior to their signing, or a very slightly altered version of their WWE name. Older performers tend to go with the latter, as the chances of them getting back to WWE are slim to none.
On this list, we’re going to be looking at guys from both of those categories. While some of the superstars on this list were very clearly a passing thing, there are some who were pegged to be the next big star in WWE. One week they were on top of the world, wrestling on Monday Night Raw or SmackDown, and the next week, they just weren’t there anymore.
Here are 15 former WWE superstars who seemed to completely disappear.
15 Spike Dudley
For several years prior to his wrestling career, Spike Dudley worked as a third grade teacher. Somehow, this led him to ECW, where he performed as Little Spike Dudley (LSD) and exhibited many of the mannerisms of a person on a particularly freaky trip.
After the closure of ECW, Spike travelled to WWE, where he aligned himself with his kayfabe brothers Devon and Bubba Ray. While the larger two Dudleys went on to establish themselves as one of the most dominant tag teams in the history of professional wrestling, Spike Dudley struggled to find his footing and left the company in 2005 with few people noticing.
He spent the next couple of years drifting around the independent scene – along with a stint in TNA – before finally deciding to hang up his boots. In 2012, after becoming more Mike Hyson than Spike Dudley, Hyson entered the world of financial planning. Working with the MassMutual financial group, Hyson helps people plan for college, mortgages, and retirement.
14 Shawn Stasiak
The son of former WWWF World Champion Stan Stasiak, many believed Shawn Stasiak to be a lock for professional wrestling stardom. After training with Dory Funk Jr. and some time on the independent scene, Stasiak signed his first deal with the then WWF. However, he was let go when he thought it would be funny to record a conversation between Davey Boy Smith and Steve Blackman without their permission.
After WWF, Stasiak made his way to WCW and was on board the ship when it went down. He was brought back to Vince McMahon’s now undisputed number one wrestling promotion as part of The Alliance.
Stasiak’s time in WWF was interrupted by an injury, and when he came back he was given a gimmick which saw him insist he was from “Planet Stasiak,” among other silly things. He requested his release in September 2002 after an underwhelming career.
After leaving wrestling, Shawn Stasiak returned to college, where he trained as a chiropractor. He has since gone on to establish himself as one of the best in his field, and is currently working with the Texas based Advanced Comprehensive Medical. Last year, a video surfaced of Stasiak, in which he declared his intentions to return to pro-wrestling and become WWE Champion, in honor of his father.
13 Candice Michelle
In 2004, Candice Michelle took part in WWE’s Diva Search, a competition where Vince McMahon and company chose the next big women’s star through a rigorous series of strip teases, screaming matches, and wet t-shirt contests.
Though Candice did not make it to the final 10 of the Diva Search, she went on to have as successful a career as a woman could have in mid-2000s WWE. At Vengeance 2007, Michelle defeated Melina to become the first Diva Search contestant to win the WWE Women’s Championship.
Candice was released from her contract in June 2009 and posted a lengthy blog online in order to thank her fans and WWE for the experiences they gave her. Since leaving professional wrestling, Candice Michelle has given birth to three children - one born in 2010, shortly after her WWE release, one born in 2012, and the youngest born in 2015.
She has also been involved in wrestling related matters ever now and then, such as an appearance in Lillian Garcia’s 2011 “U Drive Me Loca” music video and a spot on the WWE Network’s Table For Three.
12 Mason Ryan
Prior to debuting on the main roster, Mason Ryan was a pretty big name in WWE’s developmental territory FCW. While there, Ryan held the FCW Florida Heavyweight Championship, which he took from Alex Reily in a triple threat match.
Ryan debuted on Monday Night Raw by interfering in a match between John Cena and CM Punk; it was on this night that he became a member of “The New Nexus.” Like many who joined the group, it was all down hill from there for Mason Ryan.
After returning from an injury, Ryan only made sporadic appearances on WWE television before heading back to their developmental system, which had been rebranded as NXT. Though NXT is known for creating new stars and helping struggling superstars find themselves, it did little for the former FCW Champion, and he was released in the spring of 2014.
In what can only be described as a classy move, WWE later helped Mason Ryan score a gig with Cirque du Soleil, where he went on to work as part of their “KA” production. Ryan has said that at the time working with Cirque du Soleil seemed like “the most random thing in the world,” but he has since come to love the job.
After spending more than a decade toiling away on the independents, Vito finally found his way back to the WWE in 2004. He had worked for the company for a brief period in the early nineties, but had little success. Now a member of the Full Blooded Italians, it looked like Vito and his buddies might be in for a little bit of a push.
Then Vince McMahon put him in a dress.
In 2006, Vito entered into a storyline in which he admitted to a passion for cross dressing (although he really just donned a tacky dress and nothing else a woman might wear). For the next several months, Vito would wrestle while decked-out in a sundresses and a pair of sandals. As with most gimmicks like this, he racked up a couple of wins before Vince went back on his meds and released him.
Since his departure from WWE, Vito has been performing at indy shows all across America, generally saving his cross dressing for outside the ring. Oh, he has also tried to topple the WWE empire by bringing a class-action lawsuit against them. According to Vito, he now suffers from hearing loss, memory loss, and migraines due to WWE’s failure (and often reluctance) to diagnose concussions.
JTG first arrived in WWE as one half of “Cryme Tyme,” his tag team with Shad Gaspard. Despite their main roster debut being hyped with multiple vignettes in the weeks leading up to it, both men were released in September 2007.
The pair returned to the company less than a year later and spent time feuding with various other teams without ever winning either of WWE’s tag team championships. When Shad Gaspard was sent back to developmental in order to improve his in-ring skills, JTG had a chance to prove himself as a singles competitor.
However, he wound up rarely being used on television and his ability to avoid being released despite his inactivity became a running joke in the Internet Wrestling Community. He was finally let go in the summer of 2014.
Since then, he and Shad have made sporadic appearances on the independent circuit, but JTG has said he does not plan to wrestle regularly. Instead, he has been keeping himself busy by writing books and returning to the theatre, which he had been involved in prior to his signing with WWE. Recently there have been rumors about Cryme Tyme returning to WWE ahead of the brand split, but JTG has denied having any contact with the company.
Dennis Knight has gone through a number of transformations in his life. For a while there, he was one half of The Godwinns, a pair of Arkansas hog farmers who also wrestled for some reason. After that, he performed under his own name, but that came to an end when he was kidnapped by The Undertaker and brainwashed into joining The Ministry of Darkness.
Once he was deprogrammed, Mideon took to running around the ring without a stitch of clothing on, preserving his modesty only with a fanny pack. During this period, he became known as “Naked Mideon” (at least he didn’t have to wear a dress).
After leaving WWE in 2001, Knight remained in the wrestling business for several more years. He finally called it quits in 2006 and set about building a new life for himself.
During an interview for WWE’s Where Are They Now? feature, Knight revealed that he had trained as a chef and is now running his own catering company. As part of his new career, Mideon visits couples around Clearwater, Florida and personally prepares a romantic meal for them. It is unclear if he wears an apron.
8 Orlando Jordan
Orlando Jordan first gained recognition in WWE as a member of JBL’s Cabinet during his lengthy reign as WWE Champion. After parting ways with John “Bradshaw” Layfield, Jordan went on to carve out a nice career, during which he captured the United States Championship and feuded with Chris Benoit.
After leaving WWE in 2006 and doing the rounds on the indy scene, Jordan found his way to TNA, where he began a bi-sexual gimmick, which he inexplicably played to a tee.
Jordan said his goodbyes to TNA in 2011 and began winding down his in-ring career shortly after. He is still involved in professional wrestling and operates two wrestling schools. The first of which, WildKat Sports and Entertainment, is located near Louisiana and doubles as a promotion.
Jordan is far more involved in his second wrestling school, which he opened in Melbourne, Australia, where he has been living for the past couple of years.
"The Ugandan Giant" Kamala had a number of stints in the WWE, with the first beginning in 1984 and coming to an end when he left the company in 1987 (not including a break during these years).
Kamala’s final appearance for WWE occurred in June 2006, when he and a number of other legends accompanied Eugene to the ring for his match with “The Samoan Bulldozer”Umaga.
He spent the final years of his wrestling career appearing on independent shows, where health issues rendered his performances increasingly lacklustre. In 2012, Kamala lost his left leg due to complications from diabetes, his right leg followed the proceeding year. Since losing his legs and livelihood, the Giant has been struggling financially. He has said that he relies on his disability check, as well as what little income he can generate by selling handmade wooden furniture.
He has also released a book about his life, in which he details his time in the wrestling business and his experiences of pay inequality in the WWE.
Rico Constantino was fairly flamboyant when he first appeared on our screens as the stylist of Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo. Constantino, as well as Billy and Chuck, grew more and more colorful every week, as the sexual tension between his clients continued to build.
When Billy and Chuck’s relationship woes caused Rico to go into business for himself, the Las Vegas native abandoned his leopard print trousers and slim fitting t-shirts in favor of pink tights and butterfly face paint. Rico stuck to this exótico gimmick for the remainder of his time in WWE and left the company in 2004.
After his WWE departure, Rico decided to put his professional wrestling career on hold and entered the world of law enforcement. He graduated at the top of his class in Boulder City and is now Sergeant Inspector for the Nevada Taxicab Authority.
Rico found himself in a spot of bother several years ago when a video surfaced of him performing at an independent wrestling show when he was on light duty due to an injury to his knee. Rico was released from his job at the Taxicab Authority, but appealed the decision and was later reinstated.
5 Simon Dean
Mike Bucci first rose to prominence when competing for Extreme Championship Wrestling as Nova. He made his WWE debut in 2004 as Simon Dean, a fitness guru, not unlike Richard Simmons, who was hellbent on getting the Raw roster and audience into shape.
Dean took his patented “Simon System” to Smackdown in 2006, but retired from in-ring competition shortly after. He spent some time working with WWE’s developmental talents, but left the company altogether in 2007.
After leaving the WWE, Bucci started a new career as a mortgage broker. His first post-wrestling job was with Diversified Mortgage Services, where he was employed as a senior loan officer. As of last year, he is working as a branch manager with Chase Financial Services.
Bucci has said in interviews that he enjoys getting back into the ring every now and then, but is more focused on his new career and family.
This list is surprisingly male heavy, especially when you take into account the fact that women generally have shorter careers in WWE and wrestling in general. The WWE career of Ivory, however, stretched from 1999-2005, beating that average Chris Jericho gave on his podcast.
The former Women’s Champion left the company when her contract expired and she chose not to renew it. Having had a career many male wrestlers would be jealous of, it was time for her to take her life in a new direction. This direction led her to the world of landscaping. While working her new job, the animal lover Ivory began volunteering at a no-kill shelter for cats and dogs.
She ultimately gave up her landscaping career in 2007 to open Downtown Dog, which she describes as “a daycare for cats and dogs”. Ivory now spends her days surrounded by dozens of cats and dogs, which she gets paid to play with. Earlier this year, she appeared on the WWE Network’s Table for Three, alongside Molly Holly and Madusa.
Gene Snitsky first arrived on the scene in 2004, shaking hands and killing babies. In a storyline which resulted in much controversy, he inadvertently caused the death of the child Lita was carrying. This led to a feud with Kane, the baby’s father.
Other than causing a miscarriage, Snitsky failed to make any real impact during his first run on the main roster. He debuted on WWE’s version of ECW in 2007 with a drastically different appearance and character. Sporting discolored teeth and not a single hair on his face (including his eyebrows), Snitsky was presented as a literal monster heel. He made his return to Monday Night Raw a little later on, but requested his release from the company in 2008.
Since then, Snitsky has worked a number of odd jobs, one of which saw him selling pressure cookers in a series of online videos. He has also been in demand as a security guard, having served as part of the protection team for baseball star Alex Rodriguez.
2 Christopher Nowinski
Those who have found success in professional wrestling often advise others who are considering entering the business to finish college first. Because injuries are so frequent and can have devastating affects on your career, it is a good idea to have something which you can fall back on. There probably hasn’t been anybody with a better backup than Harvard graduate Christopher Nowinski.
Nowinski managed to make it to the final three on the first season of Tough Enough and made his debut for WWE in 2002. He used his Harvard education as part of his gimmick and quickly established himself as one of the most hatable guys on the roster. His career in professional wrestling came to an end in 2003, however, after problems with concussions forced him into retirement.
Since then, Nowinski has used his degree and experience with concussions to research sports-related head injuries. In 2007, he founded the Concussion Legacy Foundation, which seeks to educate people about the severity of concussions and ensure proper treatment for concussions sustained in sports.
1 Muhammad Hassan
Muhammad Hassan may just be the most controversial character the WWE has ever created. Portrayed by Mark Copani – an Italian guy from Syracuse – Muhammad Hassan was an American-Muslim who had been driven insane by the racism he experienced after 9/11. There were a number of problems with the gimmick from the get go, including the fact a guy who just wanted to remind everyone that not all Muslims are terrorists was being portrayed as a villain.
Hassan received a pretty big push early on in his career and competed in several high profile matches before entering into a feud with The Undertaker in the lead up to The Great American Bash. While this should have been the biggest match of Hassan’s career, it wound up being his last.
Bad timing meant a pre-recorded episode of SmackDown, during which The Undertaker was attacked by balaclava-clad men while Hassan prayed, was aired the same week as the London bombings. Obviously, public outcry ensued and the decision was made to write Hassan off TV ASAP. He was handily defeated by The Undertaker at The Great American Bash and that was that.
Now retired from professional wrestling, Mark Copani is living a quiet life as a high school vice principal. He works at G Ray Bodley High School, in Fulton, New York, and has no plans to return to the ring. Among Copani’s motives for staying out of the wrestling business is the fact he wrestled his last match against The Undertaker, something which he feels can’t be topped.