It’s no secret that Vince McMahon is merciless when it comes to hiring and firing. Over the past couple of years, WWE have created a tradition of releasing unwanted superstars in spades, often doing a bit of “spring cleaning” before beginning the build to SummerSlam, the big summer pay-per-view. While McMahon and the HR department have on occasion made questionable decisions and released superstars who the fans were crazy about (think Damien Sandow), they usually just release those who failed to prove themselves as an asset to the company. Most released superstars spend the months leading up to their firing performing on Main Event or Superstars or whatever other unimportant show the company airs in order to fulfill their commitments to their sponsors.
In those cases, which are copious, WWE releases usually come as no surprise. However, Vince McMahon has shocked fans in the past by terminating the contracts of top stars or young superstars who seemed bound for the main event.There is usually a lot more to such releases than WWE trying to cut down on expenditure. Do a little bit of digging into some of the more surprising releases over the past couple of years and you will likely find a number of controversial rumors and theories as to why certain stars were let go. Some explanations are shocking, some are infuriating, and some are just plain silly. In this article, we’re going to be looking at a couple of them.
15 Abraham Washington
Many fans felt WWE were on to a winning combination when they paired Abraham Washington (now called A.W) with Darren Young and Titus O’Neil in The Prime Time Players. A.W’s words of encouragement, usually boomed into a live mic while his team where competing in the ring, were frequently the most entertaining part of Monday Night Raw. A.W seemed like he was set to become one of the greatest managers of the modern era.
Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way. A.W was released in 2012 after a joke he made during a Titus O’Neil match on Raw brought much unwanted attention to WWE. While Titus was destroying his opponent, A.W declared “Titus O’Neil is like Kobe Bryant in a hotel room in Colorado. He’s unstoppable!” This was in reference to the sexual assault scandal which Kobe Bryant faced back in 2003. Because jokes about sexual assault rarely result in anything positive, A.W’s release is a little bit more understandable than some of the other entries which will appear on this list.
14 Isis The Amazon
Standing at six feet and nine inches, Isis the Amazon was the largest diva to ever appear on WWE television when she debuted on NXT season three as Aloisia. Isis had been making waves on the independent scene and her height and power had made her one of the most popular female wrestlers in the world. She was considered by many to be the favorite heading into the third season of what would eventually become the hottest wrestling show around.
However, Isis was released from her WWE contract during filming and was replaced by Kaitlyn, who ultimately won the competition and went on to become WWE Diva’s Champion.
In interviews after her WWE departure, Isis claimed that she was never given a reason for being let go, but the general consensus is that the company soured on her after they discovered some risqué photos of her online. While she did indeed pose as part of an erotic photoshoot, Isis did nothing which WWE divas hadn’t done in the past.
13 Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio is arguably one of the most successful wrestlers of the modern era. Having held the WWE Championship and the WWE World Heavyweight Championship on multiple occasions, he is a surefire Hall of Famer. However, these accomplishments did little to sway WWE when they released him from his contract in the summer of 2014.
At the time, WWE claimed that they had terminated Del Rio’s contract due to unprofessional conduct on his part. However, it later came out that Del Rio had slapped a member of the company’s social media team for making a racist joke about him and refusing to apologize. Many believed the former World Heavyweight Champion was justified in his retaliation, but when the employee in question threatened to sue WWE, Triple H and Vince McMahon sent Del Rio packing.
The social media employee left WWE a little later on and Alberto Del Rio returned at the Hell in a Cell event last year, but neither helped ease the allegations of racism WWE received after letting Alberto go in 2014.
12 Chris Hero
When Chris Hero signed with WWE to perform on their NXT developmental brand, independent wrestling fans everywhere had reason to rejoice. Hero was one of the most beloved indy stars in the business and the idea of him competing in a WWE ring seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, it was.
It seemed like WWE were determined to keep Chris Hero from succeeding from the get go, as he was given the ridiculous monicker Kassius Ohno. Hero, now Ohno, managed to overcome the name and had some fantastic matches in spite of it, but his performances did little to impress management. CM Punk requested Ohno be part of the original lineup of The Shield, but WWE rejected him in favor of “their guy,” Roman Reigns.
Chris Hero was released from WWE in November 2013 after letting his weight get out of control. He resumed his career as an independent wrestler immediately after leaving the company, but recent pictures show he is still struggling to get back into shape, so it is unlikely we will see Chris Hero return to WWE any time soon.
Fit Finlay had already spent much time working as a backstage producer for WWE when he returned to in-ring competition in 2006. He had a pretty impressive run as an upper-mid-carder on the SmackDown brand, which saw him join King Booker’s Court and compete for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Finlay’s career in the ring kind of fizzled out after a couple of years and he returned to his role as a full-time producer in 2010.
In 2011, after a decade of working for the company, Finlay was released from WWE after okaying a live show segment which saw The Miz interrupt the American national anthem. Finlay explained that he was trying to get as much heat on The Miz as possible, and since members of the National Guard were in attendance that night, having him interrupt the national attempt seemed like a perfect idea. In fairness to Finlay, it was a pretty good way to draw a negative reaction from the crowd, but WWE didn’t see it that way and released him from his contract. After spending some time on the independent circuit, Finlay returned to WWE in 2012 and resumed his role as a producer.
10 Dawn Marie
WWE fans may remember Dawn Marie as the woman who (kayfabe) became engaged to Torrie Wilson’s father but promised to call the wedding off if Torrie would spend the night in a hotel room with her. Vince McMahon, however, likely remembers Dawn Marie as the woman who cost him a whole lot of money.
In 2005, Dawn Marie did something which no WWE diva ever had the nerve to do before her; she became pregnant. WWE initially seemed as though they were going to support Marie during her pregnancy and allowed her to go out on maternity leave, assuring her that her job would be waiting when she was ready to return. While she was away, however, the decision was made to terminate her contract.
Understandably, Marie was furious to be let go under such circumstances and accused WWE of wrongful termination. McMahon, knowing there was no way he would win if the case went to court, agreed to settle and paid his former employee an undisclosed, but likely astronomical amount of money.
9 Curt Hennig
Most members of the Internet Wrestling Community have read about the infamous “Plane Ride From Hell.” For those who haven’t, let’s run through it quickly.
During a flight back from the United Kingdom to the United States of America, alcohol got the better of a number of superstars and chaos ensued. Kurt Angle and Vince McMahon became embroiled in a playful but competitive wrestling match, which woke up a sleeping Undertaker, who then choked Angle unconscious. Ric Flair, wearing nothing but an open robe, sexually harassed a flight attendant, and “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig tried his hardest to make Brock Lesnar tap out.
The Hennig/Lesnar encounter quickly became heated and the pair ended up battling in the aisle, injuring other superstars and very nearly knocking the plane door off its hinges. Because WWE had such big things in store for Brock Lesnar, he was let off with a warning. Curt Hennig, who was the aggressor, was released from his contract and would never compete for the company again.
8 Mr. Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy was considered by many to be a future world heavyweight champion early into his time on WWE television. He was great in the ring, even better on the mic, and had a look which set him aside from the rest of the roster. He had a number of memorable encounters with top stars such as Eddie Guerrero and The Undertaker, and was originally planned to be revealed as Vince McMahon’s illegitimate son during that ridiculous storyline in 2007.
After establishing himself as a top competitor on the SmackDown brand, Mr. Kennedy was drafted to Raw. According to Kennedy, the Raw locker room was filled with guys who were just looking out for themselves, and some of the veterans seemed jealous of the push he was receiving. Even Triple H, who was beginning to transition to a more prominent role behind the scenes, was frequently in Vince’s ear to bury Kennedy.
It seems that all the negative talk eventually got to McMahon, who Mr. Kennedy believes began looking for an excuse to fire him. After a match with Kennedy on Raw, Randy Orton complained to the office that his opponent had dropped him on his head and was unsafe in the ring. This was the incidentVince McMahon and Triple H had been waiting for, and Kennedy was released from his contract shortly after.
Anybody who is only familiar with his work in WCW and TNA can be forgiven for not realizing Konnan is one of the biggest stars in the history of lucha libre. Konnan’s popularity was such that he was referred to as the “Mexican Hulk Hogan” by some, in an attempt to explain the extent of his stardom to American fans.
Konnan had a brief stint in WWE during the early nineties, and portrayed the character of Max Moon, who was like the intergalactic Hulk Hogan. Konnan’s time in the then World Wrestling Federation was plagued by disagreements with management and he was released from his contract for what was described as “bad attitude.” Konnan himself believes the incident which lead to his release was a heated encounter with Vince McMahon. According to Konnan, McMahon claimed he did not know who Jushin Thunder Liger was. Konnan disputed this as he remembered seeing a picture of Vince and Liger together in a wrestling magazine several years prior. For anybody else, this would be a minor incident, but knowing the temper of both Vince McMahon and Konnan, it likely got out of hand fast.
Konnan had missed a number of appearances prior to this argument, so McMahon was able to release him safe in the knowledge that he would not face a wrongful termination lawsuit.
6 Highlander Robbie
WWE invested a lot into The Highlanders, a tag team who debuted on Monday Night Raw in 2006. For weeks leading up to their debut, fans were treated to a number of video packages showing The Highlanders struggling to adapt to American culture, some of which were actually pretty funny. However, the creative team quickly forgot about The Highlanders and they became just another tag team.
In March 2008, just a couple of days before WrestleMania XXIV, Highlander Robbie was shown in the audience during a live episode of TNA Impact. Robbie immediately received a call from a WWE producer telling him to leave the audience right away, which he did. As punishment for appearing for the rival company, Robbie lost his WrestleMania pay check, which was worth $5,000, and was released from WWE shortly after.
Reflecting upon the ordeal several years later, Robbie explained that he was very unhappy with his position in WWE and admitted that he was probably trying to get himself fired by appearing on TNA television.
Australian native Emma has had an odd time in WWE. She was perhaps the most popular performer in NXT’s Women’s division during her time as the quirky girl next door, but the character didn’t catch on when she was brought up to the main roster and she found herself floundering in an odd pairing with Santino Marella before returning to developmental. In NXT once again, Emma reinvented herself as a heel and sided with Dana Brooke before being brought back to Raw with her updated personality. After appearing at WrestleMania for the first time earlier this year, Emma suffered a back injury which still has her on the sidelines as of this writing.
It’s been stop/start for Emma, there’s no doubt about that, but her WWE career very nearly came to an end altogether in 2014, when she was released from her contract after being arrested for shoplifting.
Emma was jailed in Connecticut after she was caught not paying for an iPad case and was freed only after agreeing to appear at the community court. Emma’s defense explained that she had simply forgotten to pay for an iPad case when using a self-checkout, and questioned why somebody signed to WWE would have to steal such an inexpensive, trivial item.
WWE released Emma after learning of her arrest, but reversed the decision several hours later after fan backlash. Some believe the incident may have contributed to Emma’s poor booking during her first main roster run, but it is unlikely to affect her going forward.
4 Muhammad Hassan
Muhammad Hassan debuted in WWE as the classic foreign heel. He was portrayed as an American Muslim who had been driven insane after experiencing discrimination following the 9/11 attacks, which for some reason made him the bad guy.
Hassan immediately received a main event push and entered into a feud with The Undertaker which was supposed to prepare him for a run as the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. However, WWE found themselves in the middle of a controversy after they had The Undertaker attacked by masked men while Hassan prayed to Allah.
The segment would have been pushing it regardless of when it was aired, but it wound up being shown the same week as the London Bombings. SmackDown was a pre-taped show at the time and that week’s edition had been filmed before the attacks, but that did little to save WWE from an onslaught of offended parents and outraged veterans.
Muhammad Hassan appeared a final time at The Great American only to be handily defeated by The Undertaker. He was taken off television after the defeat and was released soon after.
3 Jim Ross
“Good Ol’ Jr” Jim Ross is without a doubt the greatest wrestling commentator of all time. After leaving WCW in the early nineties, he joined the World Wrestling Federation and quickly became the voice of the company. Ross’ calls heightened some of the most iconic moments in professional wrestling history and are even considered to be pretty groundbreaking independent of the action in the ring.
However, this meant precious little after Jim Ross failed to control an inebriated Ric Flair at a discussion panel held to promote WWE 2K14. Ross was also suspected to be intoxicated, though he denied the reports. Whether he was drunk or not, Ross joined Flair in making a number of inappropriate comments which landed him in hot water with management.
Several weeks after the incident, Ross announced his retirement from WWE, though it was rumored he had been released due to the chaos which occurred at the video game panel. Ric Flair, who was mourning the death of his son at the time of the incident, did not experience any known repercussions, but Ross has continuously stated that he is not bitter about the way the situation was handled.
2 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan was hurting inside around this time last year after racist comments he made a number of years ago were leaked onto the internet. The Hulkster had returned to the company a little over a year before after spending a couple of years running TNA into the ground. He had appeared at both WrestleMania 30 and 31, and seemed to be on the ball when it came to promos and interacting with fans. Hogan could have conceivably spent the rest of his life under WWE contract, but when his racist rant found its way onto the world wide web, there was no way the company could just ignore it.
Hogan was released from his contract with WWE (although he claimed he stepped down) and his life subsequently fell into disarray. Determined to re-establish himself as a squeaky clean good guy and a friend to all, Hogan appeared on a number of talk shows to discuss and apologize for the comments.
According to recent reports, WWE are satisfied with the work Hogan did to restore the public’s faith in him and are just waiting for the right time to bring him back to the company.
1 Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan became the WWE World Heavyweight Champion in the main event of the biggest WrestleMania of all time, which is something most people believed would never happen. Owing to his small size and unconventional ring style, many fans of professional wrestling were sure Bryan would never make it to the big leagues. They were more sure than ever on June 11, 2010, when WWE released him from his contract.
Although Bryan impressed in the first season of NXT, he had failed to be victorious and became one of many henchmen for Wade Barrett, the inaugural winner of the show. Alongside other competitors from NXT, Daniel Bryan debuted in the main event of Monday Night Raw on June 7 as a member of The Nexus.
Upon their first appearance in WWE, The Nexus attacked John Cena and anybody else they could get their hands on. The gang of rookies proceeded to destroy the ringside area and Bryan made it his business to strangle announcer Justin Roberts with his tie. While this no doubt added to the drama, WWE saw the act as far too violent for their PG show and released Bryan from his contract a couple of days after the event.
Daniel Bryan returned to WWE at SummerSlam that year to join Team WWE in their battle against The Nexus. Bryan went on to win the WWE United States Championship, the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and the WWE Championship, all before he was forced to retire from in-ring competition at the age of 35.