For many being a part of the WWE roster is a sign that you have finally made it to the top of the mountain. Regardless of being a main event star, a mid-card wrestler or a jobber, being a part of the biggest wrestling organization in the world should be the ultimate goal and eternal happiness. For others, not so much.
With more opportunity for exposure and the ability to name their asking price and have creative freedom with their characters, more and more wrestlers are finding success outside of the WWE. Impact/GFW, ROH, NJPW and Lucha Underground have all picked up a number of former WWE stars to be part of their events and for most of the players involved a smile has been found on their faces. While some have found the independent programs and alternative promotions to be more lucrative, others have floundered in their opportunity to earn a paycheck similar to that of what they were making in the WWE regardless of their storyline.
The following is a list of ten wrestlers that deserve the, "you still got it...clap clap clappity clap....you still got it..." chant and five that have proven that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side and biting the hand that feeds you is never a good thing.
15 Got It - Davey Boy Smith Jr.
While only on the WWE primetime broadcasts for what seemed like a short five years, fans bought into the team of Smith and Tyson Kidd (dubbed The Hart Dynasty), but in typical WWE fashion the tag team broke up a short time later, eventually sending Smith down to the minor leagues of WWE Superstars. After being released from his contract in 2011, Smith would hit the road for a while before settling into a permanent placement with NJPW.
As a member of the Killer Elite Squad, Smith along with other wrestlers from NJPW recently came over for a North American tour against star from Ring Of Honor. Teaming with Lance Archer (a former WWE wrestler himself), Smith and his partner are the current NJPW Tag Team Champions. With his success overseas and in ROH, chances of seeing the British Bulldog's son in a WWE ring again are pretty slim and that might not be a bad thing for the indie wrestler.
14 Got It - Joey Mercury
While MNM was a memorable tag team for many reasons, unfortunately for Mercury, the one moment that stands out during his time in the WWE was related more to the gruesome broken nose and orbital bone he received during a Fatal Four Way Ladder Match against The Hardy Boyz, Paul London & Brian Kendrick and William Regal & Dave Taylor. After returning from the injury, Mercury would be sent packing three months later.
Following a cup of coffee on the indie scene, Mercury walked away from the squared circle as injuries were taking a toll. While he would return to the WWE in 2010 as a bit part to storylines and dark matches, Mercury would again find a spotlight role as part of the ill-fated J&J Security team for Seth Rollins and The Authority. Unfortunately again, real life injuries would mount and Mercury would once again be let go by the WWE. Returning back to where he found his greatest solo successes, Mercury (now once again going by Joey Matthews) is the MCW Heavyweight Champion. From a comfortable backstage role with the WWE to an indie champion, we applaud his courage in making this transition.
13 Lost It - Jack Swagger
During his early years with the WWE, Swagger (for whatever reason) was given the honors of holding the ECW Heavyweight Championship, the World Heavyweight Belt and the United States Title, fighting a lengthy list of WWE stars in the process. Aside from a short run with Cesaro as part of the Real Americans tag team, Swaggers solo career went from a slow fizzle to a complete burnout as he got into pointless feuds with the likes of Rusev and Baron Corbin.
Whether you want to believe that Swagger was granted his release or the company just let him go, either way his last day with the company was March 13, 2017. After the sanctioned non-compete expired, Swagger has made the rounds of the independent rings, but has come nowhere close to the success that he was granted during his time with the WWE.
12 Got It - Gail Kim
While getting let go may have hurt the pride (and bank account) of Gail, it may have been the best thing to happen to as she would turn that negativity into positivity when she joined TNA and was given more time under the spotlight. Not only did she win the first ever TNA Knockouts Title, but she was given the opportunity to participate in such events as a Cage Match, a Street Fight and a Ladder Match, all types of matches that the WWE was against before the Women's Revolution era. Although she had more success at TNA, Kim decided to make another go with the WWE when her contract with Dixie Carter expired and Vince showed her the money.
Although the "grass may have been greener", the lack of actual wrestling time and opportunity wasn't what Kim had hoped for and her disappointment showed when she eliminated herself from a Battle Royal on Raw. Vince's loss proved to be Impact's gain as Kim returned to TNA/IMPACT/Global Force and turned herself into a Hall Of Fame wrestler with multiple titles to her name.
11 Got It - John Morrison
"You're only as good as your last match" First ever Triple Crown Triple A champion- Congratulations to @hijodelfantasma the new Latino Americano Triple A Champion 🙌🏼 Congratulations to Lancelot the new Crucero Mundial Triple A Champion 🙌🏼 & Congratulations to @JohnHennigan for taking Dr Wagner Jr to SlamTown & RETAINING the Triple A Mega Campeonata 😈 Soy el chingonsisimo, el #Mexicutioner & STILL Triple A Mega Champion 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼
Nowadays, you can call him Johnny Mundo or Johnny Impact, but most fans know him as John Morrison during his time with the WWE. As a multi-time Tag Team Champion (four times) and a former Intercontinental Champion, Morrison was a popular wrestler in the WWE during his seven year stint (okay, some of that fanfare was related to Melina's entrance). Unfortunately for mainstream wrestling fans, Morrison decided against renewing his contract with the WWE at the end of 2011 and became the darling of the independent wrestling circuit.
After two years of wrestling around the world on a smaller scale, Morrison would join Lucha Underground, where his "parkour" style of wrestling was more widely accepted than it was by Vince McMahon and the WWE, despite fans approval. Recently Morrison, now known as Mundo (in Lucha Underground) or Impact, has joined the roster of Global Force Wrestling and had found himself in the hunt for the GFW Heavyweight Championship despite joining the promotion just a few short months ago. Considering his level of popularity and the fact that he can still deliver in the ring, seeing Morrison return to the WWE wouldn't be that much of a surprise.
10 Lost It - Chris Masters
Although he was given plenty of opportunities to fight with and against the biggest names on the roster and at the biggest PPVs on the calendar, Masters failed to capture a single championship during his two years with the company. After being released due to multiple Wellness Violations, Masters hit the road for two years wrestling in various gyms, bingo halls and small arenas around the world. Apparently, Vince felt that two years punishment was enough and welcomed Masters back into the fold for another go around.
Unfortunately, for Masters being off the PED's was quite obvious as the Masterpiece appeared to be a shell of his former self. Over the past couple of years after being handed his WWE pink slip once again, Masters has been part of Impact/GFW under the name Chris Adonis, playing off of the Masterpiece moniker. Currently taking the role of sidekick to GFW Champion Eli Drake, Masters has continued to be just a lackey with muscles rather than talent in the ring.
9 Got It - Matt Sydal
Whatever Vince and the WWE didn't see in Evan Bourne, everyone else has seen in Matt Sydal. With one of the most impressive repertoires of moves, Sydal had everything that fans were looking for as a wrestler during his run with the WWE. His only problem was outside of the ring. Suspended twice for Wellness Policy violations during his six year span with the company, Sydal managed to wear the Tag Team Belts only once (with Kofi Kingston) during a time in which he could have and should have been a great IC Champion.
After being released by the WWE in 2014, Sydal has fought pretty much a who's who on the independent circuit, including stops with ROH, NJPW and recently with Global Force Wrestling. Currently in a battle for the X-Division Title along with Sonjay Dutt, Petey Williams, Garza Jr. and Dezmond Xavier - Sydal will have a chance to showcase his talents and attempt to capture his first Impact/GFW Title at Bound For Glory in an Ultimate X match.
8 Got It - Melina
Some of you may think that the former five-time WWE Women's Champ (three Women's, two Divas) made this list based completely on her ring entrance alone. Such is not the case. It's only 49% of the reason. After six years with the WWE in which Melina grew from a ringside piece of eye-candy into a certifiable wrestler and head of the female roster, Melina would be handed the dreaded pink slip based heavily on the heat that she was receiving backstage for her "Diva like" attitude. Shortly after her final match with the WWE, Melina would hit the indie rings for a year before taking a self inflicted hiatus.
Three years later, Melina would find herself back in various rings around the world, wrestling against former WWE talent like Mickie James and TNA Knockout, Havok, as well as joining forces once again with former boyfriend John Morrison. While she may not wrestle on a full-time basis, when she does hit the ring, she continues to prove that she is more than just a sexy ring entrance. For the past year, Melina has held the MCW (Maryland Championship Wrestling) Women's Championship, adding another belt to her impressive resume.
7 Lost It - Brodus Clay
There was once a time in which Brodus Clay was thought to be a dominating force coming to the WWE. Despite being well over 300lbs, Clay had the agility and size to be a player on the main roster. Then came the whole "Funkasaurus" gimmick, which was only good for checking out Naomi and Cameron's booty shaking (of which not a single complaint can be made). Let us forever forget the horrid Tons of Funk tag team that Clay was saddled with alongside Tensai (Albert).
After being released in 2014, Clay, now going by the name of Tyrus joined TNA as a sidekick to the villainous Ethan Carter and then Eli Drake, both alignments that failed badly to get Clay over with the crowd, regardless of playing a new heel role. This past summer, Tyrus figured he may have found greener pastures outside of the wrestling ring (it couldn't get worse) as he requested his release from his TNA contract to pursue contributions on Fox News and The Greg Gutfeld Show. At least fans don't have to worry about him shaking the junk in his trunk anymore.
6 Got It - Juice Robinson
He has yet to win a championship belt as part of the New Japan Pro Wrestling roster, but C.J. Parker (aka Juice Robinson) is one of the hottest young wrestlers on the card. After a number of failed personas during his time in the NXT locker room, Parker asked for his release when he was omitted from NXT TakeOver: Revival. Despite being on NXT broadcasts week after week, Parker's absence from the PPV was the last straw for the Illinois native.
Considering that during his time in NXT was filled with defeats to both veteran WWE stars and newcomers, Parker's achievements in NJPW have him among the list of top wrestlers in the world not employed by Vince McMahon. Victories over names such as Hirooki Goto, Tetsuya Naito and indie darling Kenny Omega have the former disgruntled NXT wrestler enjoying the most successful stint of his wrestling career. While he would fall short of defeating Omega in the Destruction In Kobe event just over a month ago, the fact that Parker has his name on the card is reason enough to have his name on the list of former WWE stars that" still got it".
5 Got It - Bobby Lashley
How Bobby Lashley lasted only a shade over two years in the WWE is beyond many peoples comprehension. Also keep in mind that half of that time was spent as part of the failed ECW revamp. Sure he had a pair of runs with the ECW Heavyweight Championship, but at that time being in that ECW was just a branch of the WWE, it was similar to kissing your sister. How is it that a man with Lashley's build did not succeed in the WWE doesn't make much sense, considering Vince's preference for big muscled wrestlers, especially relatively agile ones at that. Okay, maybe his talent on the mic didn't match his talent in the ring, but that was nothing a manager couldn't fix (see Brock Lesnar). Imagine the feuds he could have and should have had. Batista, HHH, John Cena (yes they had two matches, but nothing longstanding), Edge and Randy Orton just to name a few.
Oh, well, on to bigger and better things for the Kansas native, including a MMA career as part of the Strikeforce and Bellator events. Mix in a run with the independents and two stops with TNA, the latest in which Lashley captured (and unfortunately lost this past summer) his fourth TNA/Impact/Global Force Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship and Lashley continues to prove Vince wrong.
4 Lost It - Wade Barrett
From Nexus to The Corre to Bad News to King, now General Manager. The wrestling world hasn't been all that kind to Wade Barrett as of late, whether it has been self imposed or not. A former five-time Intercontinental Champion, Barrett was given his fair share of the WWE spotlight during his ten year tenure with the company. Whether he was the leader of a faction or as part of a mid-card story, Barrett found a way to be relevant in the ring. Who can forget his Bad News persona that had much of the crowd chanting his catchphrase.
While he was justifiably unhappy with his lack of direction in the WWE during his last couple of years and decided against resigning a new contract, one has to wonder if Barrett is happy with his new gig. After leaving the WWE, Barrett took some time away from the ring in order to pursue opportunities in Hollywood, none of which appear to have prospered. So instead of joining the ranks of TNA or ROH or even NJPW, Barrett has now become the General Manager of Defiant Wrestling, an internet broadcasted independent program. Talk about "Bad News"...
3 Got It - Cody Rhodes
Apparently Vince McMahon didn't really see what everyone else in the wrestling world has seen when it comes to the star from the Rhodes family name. Sure, he may have won the Tag Titles half a dozen times and also had the honor of wearing the Intercontinental Belt twice, but other than during his time with the Legacy faction, it seemed like Cody Rhodes was floundering. So even though fans (not to mention both Cody and his wife) were hoping for more, Vince gave everyone less as he saddled the Dusty's son with a horrid Stardust gimmick.
Ever the professional, Cody made chicken soup out of chicken poop, but was never rewarded for it. While the mainstream recognition wouldn't be the same, Rhodes decision to ask for his release from the WWE was the best move he could have made. After leaving the WWE in the late spring of 2016, Rhodes would run the gauntlet of the independent circuit, pleasing fans around the world in gymnasiums and small arenas. During his time with the small promotions, Rhodes and his lovely wife Brandi would make their presence felt in both TNA and ROH, he would eventually sign a contract with ROH later and become their World Heavyweight Champion, which would be the first time in his ten year plus career that he would finally be the main focus of a show.
2 Got It - Rey Mysterio
Even at 42 years old, one of the most popular Luchador wrestlers to ever don a mask still has the ability to bring the crowd to its feet. Currently a member of the Lucha Underground lineup and a fixture on the independent circuit, Mysterio has been heavily rumored to be returning to the WWE for some time now. The "Master of the 619" spent well over a decade with the WWE in which the high flying Cruiserweight captured a number of championship belts, including the World Heavyweight title (2x), WWE Title, Intercontinental Title (2x), Cruiserweight Championship (3x) and Tag Titles (4x each with a different partner). Despite his diminutive stature, Mysterio has made a career of being the David that defeats the Goliath regardless of where he hangs his mask.
After leaving the WWE in 2015, Mysterio has bounced around the world, but with the recent push to showcase the talent of 205 Live, there would be nobody better than Mysterio to help bring even more awareness and fan support to the brand.
1 Lost It - Ryback
Ryback would find himself inserted into the main event programming for a few months, including a story with Heavyweight Champion CM Punk at Hell In The Cell, Survivor Series and TLC. After turning heel and engaging in a battle with John Cena, it was the beginning of the end for Ryback as he would fall into a series of horrible storylines as an individual and a tag team performer. Now why Ryback was never resigned is up for debate and depending on who you talk to, but either way the Shell Shock hasn't been performed in a WWE ring since the summer of 2016.
While Ryback has been taking bookings with the independent programs, his thoughts of becoming a bigger performer and making more money outside of the WWE than he did in it becomes a bit baffling. Add into the fact that there were many stories about being raw and sloppy in the ring and one can see how he fell out of favor with the WWE head honchos. Interesting fact, Ryback will be performing at the upcoming Wrestlecade in a match against Jeff Jarrett during the same weekend that the WWE is holding Starrcade, both shows taking place in North Carolina. Which would you rather attend?