Rewind a decade ago; the WWE was traumatized by the idea of bringing in a wrestler with an extensive indie background. Today, with the need to fill up three rosters, the company now welcomes the experience and thus the indie guys have been embraced with open arms by the company. It’s a different time in the WWE, and one that wrestling fans are excited for.
However, with all this talent comes the darker side of things: those that don’t make it. We love to discuss the good, but we need to touch base on the tougher side as well. This article will take a look at recently released talent and what they’ve been up to since their release. Most are still in the wrestling business while others, have completely changed career paths. Even a certain beloved former WWE star is now dipping his toes into the acting world. Scroll down to number three to see who that person is.
Enough of the talk let’s get started with these updates. Here is an update on 15 recently released WWE stars. Enjoy the article and like always, be sure to share the link with a friend! We begin with a wrestler that most recently parted ways with the WWE, this man is former World Heavyweight Champion Jack Swagger!
15 Jack Swagger: Indie Wrestler
An All-American amateur wrestler, the WWE salivated when they first locked eyes with Jack Swagger. He had the look to be great and was signed to a WWE deal back in 2006. It was obvious based on the way he was being booked down in developmental, the guy was going to be a big deal. He was booked as such early on, winning the ECW Title and later, becoming World Heavyweight Champion. Unfortunately, he could not sustain that type of success throughout his career and his card status would fall lower and lower as his WWE career continued. The company tried one last time to salvage his career over on SmackDown, but it ended up having the same results, with fans losing interest quickly.
Nowadays, Swagger is using his WWE name on the indie scene. He’s already been involved with promotions such as, House of Hardcore, Federacion De Lucha Libre (taking on Alberto Del Rio) and All American Wrestling. His wife Catalina, is also serving as his manager nowadays.
14 Tajiri: Back To Japan
A huge surprise for the CWC Tournament, fans were in awe when Tajiri returned after an extended hiatus from the WWE. Despite his older age, Tajiri showed that he still had the “it” factor in the ring and the WWE would sign him to a deal following the tournament.
This time, his WWE run was not a success. A knee injury derailed his momentum and he’d only have one match in the 205 Live program which was a win at the very least. The Japanese Buzzsaw announced he was leaving the WWE via Twitter, claiming he was heading back to his homeland. His contract recently expired, and it was said the WWE chose to let him go because of his older age. He was mostly used as a trainer with the company, something he’s expected to pursue back at home.
13 Rosa Mendes: Fitness Entrepreneur
Going by the name of Milena Roucka nowadays (her real name), Mendes recently announced her retirement from the WWE in February of 2017, after the birth of her first child. During the end of her career, Rosa was more so known as a reality star than a WWE wrestler. Mendes appeared on the main cast of Total Divas during seasons three and five. Her contributions were actually quite noteworthy as she provided the show with great entertainment. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for her in-ring career, as she really didn’t do anything of note during her decade long run.
Today, the Canadian has set her sights on a new market and one we’ve seen many others pursue in the past, and that’s the fitness industry. Mendes has a website dedicated to the well being of mothers around the world. Total Fit Mama is dedicated to moms that can perform workouts easily, in the comfort of their own homes. You can visit her new project at tfmama.com.
12 Simon Gotch: Indie Wrestler
Going under the name of Simon Grimm, the former WWE Superstar is currently working the indie scene. Wrestling Revolver seems to be his new interest, as he’s been heavily promoting the indie promotion via his social media accounts. Gotch has also partaken in several shoot interviews since leaving the WWE, discussing his experiences in the company.
For the 34 year old, his better days happened earlier on down in NXT. Gotch is yet another example of NXT success not guaranteeing anything on the main roster. His status as a tag wrestler fell apart in the big leagues, and he was never able to recover. However, many believe his backstage attitude really sealed his fate as he was involved in several backstage disputes. We wish the former Vaudevillain the very best, as his counterpart Aiden English remains to fend for himself on SmackDown Live.
11 Sprit Squad’s Kenny: Indie Wrestler
WWE fans really didn’t foresee this return, but yes, SmackDown Live decided to bring back the Spirit Squad during an angle with Dolph Ziggler, which actually wasn’t all that bad. Kenny helped with the nostalgia act as he was proven to be in great shape, along with maintaining a decent amount of skill inside of the squared circle. After sporadic appearances with the company, the duo was finally released in March of 2017.
Since leaving, Kenny has remained active on the indie scene and one of his gigs was actually pretty darn cool as he appeared on ROH as a part of an open challenge to The Young Bucks. Doane remains active, with an upcoming indie appearance in July, as he’s scheduled to attend an event for Strong Style Wrestling (other former WWE alums attending the event include The Hurricane and Gillberg).
10 Chris Atkins: TBA
Signed to the WWE in 2015, Atkins inked a WWE deal after a successful tryout. He was a towering man who had some decent potential based off of his look. However, his WWE impact wasn’t all that spectacular as he appeared in one televised match which was a squash loss to Eric Young.
His other bouts took place during NXT live events, and it was usually in the tag team nature. His final bout took place on April 15th, 2017 as he was defeated by Oney Lorcan at a live event. Atkins was released shortly after towards the end of April. His release clearly shows that not everyone makes it out of NXT.
At this point, we still await an announcement for what’s next in the career of Chris Atkins. In all likelihood, he’ll either hit the indie scene to improve his skills and gain some experience, or, explore another career (non-wrestling related).
9 Zeb Colter: Impact Wrestling
Young wrestling fans probably aren’t aware, nor do they likely even give a damn, but Colter has been in the wrestling business for what seems like forever, making his debut back in the territory days in the early 70s. The modern day wrestling fan remembers the manager for his WWE run alongside Jack Swagger. His work with the All American was actually well received, although he couldn’t duplicate the same magic alongside Alberto Del Rio during his final run.
After his contract expired, Dutch Mantel joined Global Force Wrestling and later, Impact Wrestling as the head of creative. Mantel recently made headlines for his Twitter war against Reby Sky and Matt Hardy, as he proudly claimed Impact Wrestling owned the rights to the gimmick. Colter was actually the cooler head in the situation as he seemed to back down once Reby responded to his comments.
8 Hornswoggle: Impact Wrestling/Indie Wrestler
The WWE’s main “little man”, ‘Swoggle managed to have quite the career with the company, even joining forces with DX at one point. He was finally let go by the WWE last year in May of 2016, due to reoccurring failures of the Wellness Policy.
To his credit, Hornswoggle has stayed insanely active since leaving the WWE. From wrestling conventions to numerous indie shows, Hornswoggle seems to be booked on the regular. He’s even working with Impact Wrestling, recently shooting an angle alongside Rockstar Spud. You can follow the former WWE Superstar via Twitter to see what he’s currently up to in terms of show dates. His most recent gig took place for AIW, an Ohio based indie promotion as he took on another former WWE star, Mordekai. Still only 30, we can expect to see Hornswoggle active on the indie scene for quite some time.
7 Cameron: YouTube Channel/Co-Host
You have to feel a little bad for Cameron who experienced a lot more bad than good during her days in the WWE. Who can forget her Tough Enough statement, telling Stone Cold the best match she’d ever witnessed was a bout between Melina and Alicia Fox... Ouch.
Despite that, she still earned herself a WWE contract, which really went nowhere. It was all so bad and it included many blunders, like the time she pinned an opponent the opposite way. She was eventually released for agreeing with Ryback in a statement made about pay equality in the WWE.
Today, she has wisely decided to step out of the pro wrestling business, serving as a co-host on Extra TV. Known as Ariane Andrew nowadays, she’s also known for promoting fitness related topics via her Instagram and YouTube channel. For those of you that don’t know, Cameron recently uploaded a video to her YouTube channel explaining what went down during her WWE release, which was revealed to have been done by phone.
6 Santino Marella: Battle Arts Academy/SportsNet
The Milan Miracle, Santino Marella endured a gimmick that wasn’t supposed to be as successful as it was. Developmental coaches thought Santino was terrible, but he always managed to make those around him smile despite the harsh critiques. It seems like that would transfer over to the WWE’s main roster as he enjoyed a tremendous run as a comedic character. Unfortunately, after a third neck injury, Marella decided to call it a career, ending his run as an active performer in the summer of 2014. The company kept him on in an ambassador role but finally released him in May of 2016, along with seven others.
Don’t feel too bad however, as Marella is doing great in his post-WWE life as the owner of Battle Arts Academy, along with earning himself a role with the Canadian sports television company, SportsNet.
5 Bull Dempsey: Indie Wrestler
Wrestling since 2005, Bull had loads of experience along with having the youth to back it up. The WWE took interest in the big man and he joined NXT in 2013. He had big time potential, although that was quickly floundered once the Bull Fit persona was launched. The comedic approach failed miserably, and he was released in February of 2016 after he decided against the gimmick. The WWE was unwilling to change his persona so he was released ultimately.
Since leaving, the newly named Bull James has been busy on the indie scene, competing in promotions like ROH. Most of his work nowadays comes from Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore promotion. The two were most recently booked in a match against one another that was set for New York Wrestling Connection’s Spring Slam. Along with his lengthy indie bookings, James is also featured at several North American wrestling conventions.
4 CJ Parker: New Japan Pro Wrestling
Regarded as one of the originals down in NXT, many wrestling pundits predicted big things for Parker. However, that would not manifest itself as Parker’s NXT run slowly subsided. With age on his side, Parker requested a release from the company in order to find himself on the indie scene and resurface his value. It was an admirable decision.
He’s delivered on his promise since leaving, working the indie scene. His most notable gig is taking place with New Japan, signing with the company back in the summer of 2015. Under his new name of Juice Robinson, the former NXT star was recently involved in a high profile match overseas taking on IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito. His title pursuit wasn’t meant to be as he lost the match, but it’s still something to be involved in such a title bout.
3 Damien Sandow: Acting
The WWE’s release of Damien Sandow angered fans as he was actually an over act with the audience. However, that angle subsided fairly quickly due to his lackluster work with TNA Wrestling. Under his new alias of Aron Rex, the one-time popular WWE star lost his touch with the company. His run was disastrous and he thankfully announced his departure from Impact in early April of 2017.
His newest project is set to take place outside of the wrestling world as he was cast into a Lion’s Gate Film, Public Disturbance. Sandow auditioned for the film and was on set the next day after getting the green-light for the gig. He remains unsure about his wrestling career at this point as he enjoys his new life in the world of acting, away from the pro wrestling business.
2 Cody Rhodes: ROH & New Japan
With a bloodline in the WWE and what seemed like a lifelong contract, Cody Rhodes shocked the world when he announced his departure from the company. Cody saw himself as something more, while the WWE wasn’t willing to push him up the card. For the betterment of his career, Cody left and man, has he ever proved the decision to be the right one.
Since leaving, Rhodes has been all over the indie wrestling scene. His most notable pitstops took place with Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling and New Japan. In late December, Cody made headlines being announced as the newest member of the Bullet Club. At this point, his future looks insanely bright. Rhodes is expected to make a decision soon pertaining to his future. The rumor mill believes he’ll sign a duo deal with both ROH and New Japan.
1 Alberto Del Rio: Impact Wrestling/Restaurant Owner
Del Rio’s WWE return was a big time bust, and things got even worse off-screen when it was revealed that he was dating WWE’s gem Paige. He left in September and immediately returned to Mexico, taking on indie bookings and owning his own restaurant/bar.
Since his departure, Del Rio or should we say, Patron, has made the headlines more so for his antics out of the ring than in it. Patron has blasted the WWE in several videos, particularly Triple H (who he’s most critical of, to put it nicely). He’s also still romantically involved with Paige as the couple continues to promote their love for one another.
In the ring, Patron is working with Impact Wrestling, recently becoming the GFW Global Champion. Alberto has continuously praised Impact for their treatment of the wrestlers. So what do you guys think, does Del Rio sound bitter? Lol.