If you think the drama you see every week on Monday Night Raw and Smackdown Live is intense, just wait until you get backstage. Over the years, countless stories have been leaked by former wrestlers and other personnel that paint behind the scenes life with the sports entertainment phenomenon as a roller coaster ride of emotions, full of betrayal, bitter grudges and salacious scandals. If it wasn’t already painfully clear, the WWE isn’t your average company, run by people who are notorious for making last minute, sometimes impulsive decisions. Wrestlers often work their entire lives to sign along the dotted line with the wrestling giant. However, as many have found out the hard way, keeping your job once you’re there is perhaps an even bigger challenge.
The turnover rate with the promotion can be an extreme one, wrestlers fired for a multitude of reasons from performance-issues and attitude, to public scandal and an inability to control personal demons. These are just a few of the reasons wrestlers have received their walking papers over the years; reasons like not conducting themselves like professionals, getting arrested or bashing the chairman Vince McMahon himself in a public forum are valid reasons. However, for every justified termination, there’s one that doesn’t quite add up.
In 2006, WWE Diva Dawn Marie filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the company after she was fired for revealing to them that she was pregnant. This is just one of many examples of the wrestling powerhouse letting talent go for illogical reasons. The following list examines ten WWE employees who were let go for ridiculous reasons as well as five more that could be joining them soon.
15 Fired: Daniel Bryan - Reason: Doing His Job Too Well?
Anyone who eagerly tuned into WWE programming each week during the 90s and early 2000s could probably tell you that Monday Night Raw, could often be a violent show. Their main events ended countless times with a bloodied, mangled wrestler, barely able to make it to their feet after being battered in a street fight, ladder match or even inside a steel cage. So the idea of a wrestler being fired for being too violent seems a little like an oxymoron, however, as Daniel Bryan can tell you, the wrestling company takes its current PG era seriously. In 2010, during a storyline which saw Bryan invade the WWE as a member of The Nexus, the “Yes!” chant originator was scripted to attack ring announcer Justin Roberts, strangling him with his own necktie.
However, it appears Bryan sold the act of violence a little too well, making WWE executives uncomfortable, as they quickly fired him for the brutality he brought to the segment. As you can probably guess, the termination didn’t stick and the sports entertainment giant would re-sign him just two months later, apologizing for handing him his pink slip by explaining they had “sponsors to deal with.” Bryan would go on to become one of the most popular performers of the modern age, a multi-time WWE Champion who currently serves as the General Manager of SmackDown Live.
14 Need To Go: Paige
This next entry isn’t so much someone who “needs to go” as much as it is someone who shockingly hasn’t been let go by the promotion yet. There was a time when it seemed like all but a given that Paige would be remembered as one of the greatest women to step into a WWE ring. She was an insanely popular performer who changed the way that fans looked at women’s wrestling the way Trish Stratus, Lita and AJ Lee did before her. The Norwich-native is often credited with jumpstarting the women’s revolution thanks to her trailblazing run as the inaugural NXT Women’s Champion. However, if you read about the two-time Divas Champion over the past year, you probably wouldn’t know it.
Paige has found herself constantly barraged by negative press, mostly stemming from her tumultuous relationship with fellow wrestler Alberto Del Rio. In 2016, the celebrated grappler was arrested at the WWE pay-per-view Money In The Bank due to a reported domestic dispute with Del Rio and the star was suspended on two separate occasions that year due to violations of the organization’s Wellness Policy. While we hope that this next year sees Paige make a Cinderella story-like return to the top, given how little the WWE has fired other performers for, it’s quite a feat the Total Divas star is still under contract.
13 Fired: Alberto Del Rio - Reason: Standing Up To Racist Employee
As shown above, Alberto Del Rio is certainly a controversial figure within the walls of the WWE. Despite experiencing great success during his time with the world-renown promotion, it appears that his controversies have been his most enduring legacy. However, when the Mexican-born superstar was unceremoniously fired by the WWE in 2014, fans were understandably thrown for a loop. The former WWE Champion was reportedly let go after slapping a WWE employee during a heated backstage altercation after said employee made a racist joke to the decorated wrestler.
While any kind of physical harassment towards WWE staff certainly qualifies as grounds for dismissal, given the circumstances of the situation, it’s hard to feel like there wasn’t another way to handle it. Del Rio would eventually be welcomed back to the company in 2015 before exiting once again the following year in a similarly tense fashion.
12 Fired: Emma - Reason: Mistakingly Taking iPad Case
Of all of the whirlwind WWE firings, this one has got to be the fastest as Emma found herself fired and re-hired by the promotion all within the span of a few hours. It all started in July 2014 when the Australia-native reportedly walked out of a Wal-Mart in Hartford, Connecticut without paying for an iPad mini case worth approximately $21.14. The acclaimed women’s wrestler said that the whole thing was a misunderstanding, having mistakenly forgotten to pay for it while trying to work a self-check out in the store.
However, Emma was nonetheless taken into custody and made to serve one day of community service and when word got out that the situation could interfere with her visa and thus her ability to travel, the WWE announced her release from the company. It’s a decision they would quickly reverse just hours later, likely seeing the impulsiveness (and ridiculousness) of firing such a talented wrestler over something so insignificant.
11 Need To Go: James Ellsworth
When James Ellsworth made his WWE debut in 2016, he was hard guy not to root for. Between his meek (chinless) frame, unwavering optimism and stirring battle cry of, “Anyone with two hands has a fighting chance!” he was the ultimate underdog. A guy who not only consistently found himself against the odds but was quite often steamrolled over by them and yet still refused to give up. However, a year into his run and the novelty has most certainly worn off.
And while his current position as Carmella’s obnoxious mouth piece has been extremely fun to watch, even that is starting to feel stale, the chinless warrior having to up the ante on a regular basis just to keep his character fresh, as evidenced by his current gimmick which sees him being walked to the ring by Carmella on a leash like a dog. We’re not saying there’s no room for him on SmackDown Live at this very moment but it’s hard to see a novelty wrestler such as himself having any kind of longevity and it might be best for everyone involved if he made his stay in the WWE, an abbreviated one.
10 Fired: Jim Ross - Reason: Not Controlling Ric Flair
Jim Ross is undoubtedly one of the greatest announcers to ever call a WWE match and is certainly the greatest of the modern era. His name belongs up there with the all-time greats like Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Gorilla Monsoon and Gordon Solie. So you wouldn’t think the WWE would fire such an iconic and respected commentator if they didn’t have a good reason right? Well, if you put money on that bet, you would surely lose. In 2013, while hosting an event for the WWE 2K14 video game, Ross began to slur his words, leading many to believe he was intoxicated. At the same event, legendary wrestler Ric Flair, who had just lost his son months prior, was visibly distressed and went on a number of rants during the appearance, making a series of off-color remarks in the process.
The bulk of the responsibility for this was placed on Ross who should have intervened as host. Ross would later confirm that he was not intoxicated during the show but that his slurred speech was actually the result of fatigue brought on by his Bell’s palsy. Shortly afterwards his contract would not be renewed, the reason for this said to have been due to resentment over his poor performance as host at the event. It’s a shame that such a legendary figure in sports entertainment’s career had to come to an end because of a dispute over an event for a video game.
9 Fired: Matt Hardy - Reason: Revealing Edge & Lita's Affair
If you were a WWE fan in 2005 then you most definitely remember the Matt Hardy, Edge and Lita saga. In a scandal that would inevitably inspire the most heated feud of the year, the three found themselves enlocked in an affair more scandalous than any soap opera. For years, Hardy and Lita were wrestling’s golden couple. Fans followed their union from the early days of their courtship throughout their highs and lows so when Hardy went on a series of rants on his personal blog in 2005, accusing his girlfriend of cheating on him with his best friend (and fellow wrestler), Edge, a volatile feud emerged.
Fans almost immediately turned on Edge and Lita, who had previously been extremely over with the WWE Universe, angering executives as Hardy’s personal problems had begun to affect the live product.
The Team Extreme member would continue to air the dirty laundry online and when the tires of Edge’s rental car were allegedly slashed by a fan during a live event, Hardy took the brunt of the blame in what was evidently the final straw. Shortly afterwards, he was released from the company. However, thankfully for Hardy, fans revolted, launching a petition to have him re-instated. Two months later, he would make his return to the WWE, igniting what would become the feud of the year between himself and Edge. However, it’s safe to say none of their careers would ever be the same.
8 Need To Go: Baron Corbin
When Baron Corbin won the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal during his main roster debut at WrestleMania 32, many took it as a sign of big things to come in the future of the up-and-coming superstar. Corbin had a distinct and identifiable look, an intimidating demeanor and undeniable screen presence however, nothing ever seemed to come from the great promise he showed during his WWE debut. Despite being given numerous major pushes in the title scene over the past year, Corbin has struggled to get over with fans and each of his major pay-per-view matches, including this year’s bouts against John Cena and Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam and WrestleMania 33 respectively, have been disappointments.
While this wouldn’t necessarily be cause to give up on him outright, Corbin has also found himself embattled in a controversy off-camera that makes his case a much tougher sell. Earlier this year, Corbin received major backstage heat after sparring with a WWE doctor during a presentation about concussions (Corbin is currently involved in a lawsuit with the NFL over their treatment of the head injury), and has found himself in the dog house on more than one occasion due to his Twitter tirades, including the time he called out a respected wrestling journalist and insulted a military veteran online. If Corbin can’t turn things around soon, the negatives may start to outweigh the positives of keeping him around.
7 Fired: Buff Bagwell - Reason: An Overbearing Mother?
When the WWE took over WCW in 2001, one of the more anticipated acquisitions was that of Buff Bagwell. In fact, it’s been said that they only reason he was signed at all was because he received the biggest reaction from teen girls while polling the audience during a show. However, Bagwell also came with a lot of baggage that suggested his partnership with the world’s largest wrestling promotion might not be a long-term one. He immediately received complaints about his attitude and when Bagwell faced Booker T for the WCW Championship in what was being billed as the “first ever WCW match to take place on Monday Night Raw,” the Georgia-native failed to impress.
In fact, the match was so bad, many credited him with ruining the WCW invasion storyline before it even began. However, that’s not necessarily the story behind his termination. It’s been said that Bagwell was shown the door for exaggerating an injury after he was powerbombed by the APA during an episode of SmackDown. As the story goes, Bagwell’s mother reportedly called WWE offices, complaining about his travel schedule and asking for her son to be given time off to heal his injuries. It’s that call that’s said to have been the final nail in the coffin of his WWE career.
6 Fired: Serena Deeb - Reason: Breaking Kayfabe (Like Everyone Does)
You probably recognize Serena Deeb from her fantastic showing at this summer’s Mae Young Classic. The wrestling veteran won over a slew of new fans after performing in celebrated matches against Piper Niven and Vanessa Borne. During her appearance, Deeb even touched on her previous run with the WWE, briefly mentioning her swift exit from the company. However, the version of events shown on the WWE Network special were not the full story. Deeb first debuted with the WWE in 2010 where she served as the sole female member of CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society, a stable made up of performers who shared Punk’s straight-edge beliefs, not wanting to pollute their bodies with substances like drugs and alcohol.
Deeb’s character was supposed to be so committed to the lifestyle, she had her head shaved for it on national television. So when the WWE announced that she was being released just months later, many fans were caught off-guard. It’s been reported, Deeb was fired after she was caught drinking in public while off-the-clock, effectively shattering the illusion that she was “straight edge.”
While this may have been cause for firing 20 years ago when protecting kayfabe was considered a performer’s prime directive, in an age when everyone is well aware that wrestling is scripted, it seems a little outdated.
5 Need To Go: Zack Ryder
Look, Zack Ryder is a hard wrestler not to root for. The WWE mainstay has spent more than 10 years, working tirelessly and doing everything that was asked of him while getting few genuine opportunities in return. Despite exhibiting exemplary in-ring skills and proving that he can get over with fans thanks to his endearing online persona, Ryder didn’t experience what was arguably the highlight of his career thus-far until last year’s WrestleMania where the New York-native won the Intercontinental Championship in a ladder match.
A championship Ryder would lose not even 24 hours later on Monday Night Raw in what was possibly the greatest showing of his place in the company. While he’s worked extremely hard throughout his decade-long career, Ryder has simply never taken off as a main event performer and frankly, is unlikely to at this point in his run. This puts him in a situation where moving on to a place that will use him to the best of his abilities, might be best for everyone in the long run.
4 Fired: Paul London - Reason: Smiling During Vince's Limo Segment
There was a time when many would have singled Paul London out as a future star within the WWE. During his tag team days with Brian Kendrick, he was one of the most exciting pure athletes to watch each week on SmackDown. However, his career never really took off the way it should have and it’s all because of a smile. One of the most memorable episodes of Raw from 2007 saw Vince McMahon climb into a limo that would explode seconds later, presumably killing the WWE boss to kickstart a storyline that would deal with the death of the authority figure. And while the angle was ultimately nixed due to the real-life death of Chris Benoit’s family, it did spell the end of London’s career with the WWE.
The segment began with McMahon walking down a long hallway backstage, passing the entire roster as he made his way to his limo. The wrestlers were reportedly told to look somber to match the tone of the segment. However, when McMahon passed London, it was hard not to notice that the wrestler was sporting a goofy grin on his face. It’s a move the powers that be were apparently not pleased with as the high flying superstar spent the rest of his WWE run essentially in the dog house and it’s widely believed that his release from the company a year later was due to lingering resentment over the incident.
3 Fired: Highlander Robbie - Reason: Attending TNA Event
Let this be a lesson, if you’re going to go a competitor’s show, make sure you don’t get caught. Robbie McAllister was never destined for great success with the WWE, his greatest contribution to the company being his stint as one-half of the Highlanders, a novelty tag team that were essentially a mix of every offensive Scottish stereotype you can think of. It’s a harsh reality McAllister likely felt as he risked it all just days before WrestleMania XXIV in order to attend the taping of a rival promotion.
In 2008, McAllister was shown on camera sitting in the audience at a taping of TNA Impact. The response was immediate as McAllister received a call from a WWE producer telling him to leave the venue immediately. The Highlander would lose his WrestleMania paycheck allegedly worth $5,000 due to the ordeal and was released from the company shortly afterwards. In a later interview, McAllister admitted that he was unhappy with his position in the WWE and that part of him probably went to the TNA taping because he wanted to be fired.
2 Need To Go: Dana Brooke
If you look closely at the WWE’s women’s roster, you’ll notice that it’s largely made up of two types of women. Exceptional wrestlers like Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair and women who make up for their limited technical abilities with superior character work like Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax. And then, there’s Dana Brooke. Since her call up to the main roster in 2016, Brooke has failed to impress in either category, performing in disjointed and sloppy matches while lacking any confidence whenever she was tasked with speaking on camera.
Things didn’t always look bad for the NXT recruit however. In fact, when Brooke was partnered with Charlotte Flair last year, it seemed like the company was giving her a real show of faith. Unfortunately, it’s a gesture that never amounted to much, Brooke being transformed into a glorified jobber following her split from the four-time Raw Women’s Champion earlier this year. These days it’s hard to think of a woman in a worse place in the company than Brooke and with the influx of new women coming into the WWE thanks to the Mae Young Classic, moving on to a place like Impact Wrestling, may be in her best interest.
1 Fired: Finlay - Reason: Garnering Heat At The Wrong Time
While WWE fans probably best remember Fit Finlay for his time as the fighting Irishman in the mid-2000s, partnered with the unforgettable Hornswoggle, the wrestling veteran has actually played an integral role in the company behind the scenes for more than 15 years. As a trainer, Finlay was one of the strongest influences in shaping the wrestling styles of celebrated women’s wrestlers like Trish Stratus, Lita, Molly Holly and Victoria. It’s a position that gave him a lot freedom in the company. However, as he learned the hard way in 2011, it also came with a lot of responsibility.
While running a house show in the lead up to WrestleMania XXVII, Finlay authorized a stunt meant to maximize heat on The Miz who was going into the event as WWE Champion. While playing the national anthem at the top of the show, Finlay instructed The Miz to interrupt it, his music cutting off the anthem halfway through. The stunt worked like a charm, garnering the champ a cacophony of boos, however, it worked a little too well. As it turns out several members of the National Guard were in attendance who didn’t take too kindly to seeing the anthem being disrespected. Finlay was dismissed shortly afterwards but would return in a producing role a year later.