A wrestler’s shelf life is ridiculously short. Only those who has what it takes to constantly reinvent themselves have been able to enjoy a long career. The Undertaker, Matt Hardy, Kane and Big Show comes to the mind. We’ve seen numerous wrestlers with a lot of promise become irrelevant in a very short time. Alex Riley, Chris Harris, Shane Douglas, Terry Taylor and Shane Douglas come to mind.
A few wrestlers manage to stomach the fact that they’re no longer relevant, and move on to other endeavors. Wade Barrett and Vladimir Kozlov come to mind. A good number of wrestlers have managed to cash in on the power of social media to not just stay relevant but be personages. Rip Rogers is a good case in point; despite retiring in 2002 and being irrelevant for years, he managed to grab the attention of the wrestling world when he used Twitter to criticize indie wrestlers’ style. With a single tweet, he rose to fame (well, sort of) again, with many notable wrestlers such as Baron Corbin and Randy Orton constantly retweeting him.
However, he isn’t the first to adopt the ‘indie wrestling hater’ gimmick, as Jim Cornette has been doing that to perfection for years now. No wonder that he has managed to become relevant in the eyes of more mainstream wrestling fans again recently when he fired Bruce Prichard. Virgil and Iron Sheik have found different ways to be relevant years after retirement, but they definitely seem aware of the fact that they aren’t relevant in the traditional sense.
There are a few wrestlers who just don’t seem to digest the fact that the limelight is off them. They seem to go on Twitter rants and make ridiculous claims during interviews. Of course, they’re also trying to stay relevant, but they’re failing at it big-time as they’re only X-Pac Heat relevant. The following article lists 15 such wrestlers.
15 Chris Masters
Most wrestlers I’ve discussed in this article have been in the limelight, albeit for all the wrong reasons since their WWE departure. Chris Masters, however, gave the IWC no reason whatsoever to remember him until his recent WWE return. He rose to fame as a 27-year-old nine-year veteran when WWE made his Masters Lock easily one of the most powerful submission moves in 2006. However, a Wellness Policy violation in 2007 saw his stocks plummet steadily until he was released.
The WWE then brought him back a few years later and although he's shown improvement
He has largely been working for obscure wrestling promotions since but, he can still revive his career as he’s still only 34 years old. He might need to be much better than he currently is, as failing to do would ensure his languishing in the bottom of the food chain forever.
14 Josh Mathews
Josh Mathews has been working GFW fans into believing he’s as abominable as the character he portrays. Working fans into a shoot is an art that only a few have been able to master, but the former WWE commentator has managed to do so only in front of a very small audience, as GFW has few religious followers than ROH or NJPW. He’s been lucky enough to meet his lady love, Madison Rayne, and work with her; however, his chances of becoming as relevant as a WWE commentator is now slim. With Corey Graves and Mauro Ranallo raising the bar and his former commentary partner Tom Philips cementing himself as the next Michael Cole, he’s not getting any close to a WWE commentary booth, and other indie show don’t seem interested in his services. Perhaps, by adding him to this list, the writer is working myself into shoot as well.
13 Trent Barreta
Trent Barreta is the first former NXT wrestler on this list but isn’t the last. He was with WWE for six years, between 2007 and 2013 and was released as he could impress the head honchos nor the fans. After his release, though, thanks to his working for PWG, ROH, GFW and NJPW, he has earned numerous fans, who have been lambasting WWE for letting him slip through their fingers. Four years after his release, though, it seems as though WWE hasn’t made a mistake. He hasn’t managed to win any major title with the companies he’s worked with, as he’s only won IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. The New York native still has plenty of time to gain relevancy and perhaps, a WWE contract, as he’s only 30.
While those who breathe pro-wrestling still remember numerous little person wrestlers from Mexico in addition to El Torito, only Hornswoggle that comes to a casual’s mind. He’ll surely be inducted into Hall of Fame thanks to his 10-year WWE career. Thanks to his close association with Jeff Jarrett, he has been able to find employment soon after being released from GFW. His stocks, however, have plummeted so much that he could only make surprise appearances for WWE in the future. Even the GFW writers don’t seem to have long-term plans laid out for the former WWE Cruiserweight Champion, as he’s only worked with 5ft 4in wrestler Rockstar Spud since his arrival. He has been working for numerous indie promotions as well, but it won’t be long before he inevitably loses his charm. He should, maybe, capitalize on his dwindling relevancy, as he may be forced to retire in his 30s.
11 Ethan Carter III
Ethan Carter III is easily one of the major beneficiaries of the existence of GFW. After being chucked out of WWE as a 30-year-old novice in 2013, he’s managed to make a name for himself in the business. He hasn’t just made a name for himself as he’s won two world titles with GFW; he also holds GFW’s mid-card title, Grand Championship now. However, he isn’t as relevant as he’d want to be and, with a return to WWE proving a distant dream, he’s likely in for a long spell at Impact Zone. Even if he does end up returning to WWE, he’ll only be billed as Derrick Bateman, as he hasn’t built a brand big enough as EC3 to convince the company to let him retain his indie name.
10 Gail Kim
WWE has had numerous former stars hurling abuse at the company’s booking decisions, system and backstage politics, and Gail Kim is just another detractor. Before Japanese wrestling earned a decent following, Asian wrestlers were only used as comic wrestlers in every American promotion, but WWE handed her the Women’s Championship title on her debut. Thanks to her inability to woo the casual fans, however, she languished at the bottom of the card until her release. She’s since had a decorated career with GFW, even becoming the first female wrestler to be induced into GFW Hall of Fame. Having come out of retirement to wrestle for GFW again, she’s proved she could still go at the age of 40, but she’s no where near as relevant as she’d want to be.
9 Damien Sandow
Upon being released from WWE, Damien Sandow cut an impassioned face promo in GFW that had Internet Wrestling Community foreseeing the rise of a new indie darling. However, his push dwindled as the GFW head honchos found him nothing but a entertaining low-carder. He then became Velveteen Dream before being a Veleteen Dream in wrestling was cool. When compared to the rest of the wrestlers I’ll be discussing in this article, he knows his time as a top-level wrestling talent is over and doesn’t really bash easy targets such as Will Ospreay, Kenny Omega or Ricochet although he endorses the opinions of the radical veteran, Rip Rogers. He retired earlier this year, after deciding to work on his acting career. Here’s hoping his acting career helps him pay the bills.
8 Jack Swagger
Many fans raised their eyebrows when WWE released Jack Swagger, one-time World Heavyweight Champion. WWE has managed to replace him with Jason Jordan, who’s already drawing solid reaction from fans, but The All-American American has largely been floundering, as he hasn’t worked for any major indie promotion since his release in March 2017. We don’t often see a wrestler, who has won three different singles titles and Money in the Bank leave WWE how he left, but we now understand why the McMahons did what they did, as he’s somewhat fallen off the face of the earth.
His only way back to the gain relevancy again is to boost his popularity, earn the love of the internet fans by working with the likes of Joe Hendry, Cody Rhodes and Jay Lethal and perhaps, return to the company that built him.
7 Rey Mysterio
Many reputed pro-wrestling news outlets reported in July that Rey Msyterio was closing in on a return to WWE, with the luchador discussing terms with both WWE and GFW at the same time. He chose the wrong representative in Konnan, though, as his stained relationship with Vince McMahon ensured WWE passed on their Triple Crown Champion. Although he’s been working for numerous indie promotions in England, Mexico and America, he seems keen on a move to GFW.
Should his move to GFW come to fruition, he’d definitely replace his unreliable compatriot Alberto El Patron. He may even win Unified GFW World Heavyweight Championship on his first night, but he ought to realize that his days as a top talent are probably over, especially since he, a 42-year-old wrestler, has regressed a lot since his WWE Championship reign in July 2011.
6 Bobby Lashley
WWE definitely had high hopes on Bobby Lashley. Making him become the first wrestler to break Master Lock and assist Donald Trump in defeating Vince McMahon, they looked to create another Brock Lesnar. Halfway through his monster push, they realized he’s no Brock Lesnar. Two ECW World Championship reigns didn’t help him as well, as he proved inept on the microphone, and he was ultimately released. An underwhelming career on the indies followed, but he’s been able to revive his career, as he now comes off as one of the better wrestlers at GFW. A four-time world champion with GFW, he remains the poor man’s Brock Lesnar, as evidenced by his success with the second-best wrestling and MMA promotions. His chances of performing for WWE or UFC now looks thin.
A few successful indie wrestlers have reportedly passed up the opportunity to join 205 Live. Even a washed-up Sonjay Dutt was offered a WWE contract, but Low-Ki wasn’t. Many insiders claim that Low-Ki isn’t the best person to work with, as he has earned a reputation as a stiff wrestler. A good number of stiff wrestlers have gone on to make history, but Low-Ki doesn’t boast the credibility or looks to hurt his co-workers. He was also called out on his lying about radiation levels in Fukushima, a city in Japan in which he was asked to wrestle. At 37, his popularity is at its ebb, and odds of his becoming as relevant as he thinks he is is high, with his burning bridges with ROH, CZW, AJPW and NJPW. With his biggest hater in Jim Cornette signing for GFW, one can expect him to be buried.
With most early Attitude Era wrestlers now living off wrestling conventions, Sunny has chosen to tread a path only a very few have dared to. With substance abuse, relationship problems and fitness issues making her unemployable, she discovered unorthodox ways to make ends meet, as she embarked on a cam girl career that didn’t really go anywhere. Having now turned to adult entertainment, she’s now doing better financially. However, that’s not stopping her from trying to get the attention of wrestling fans via Twitter. Her tweets have been largely bot-esque as she has been trying to rip off fans by charging them $30 per month – three times as much as WWE Network’s monthly charge – for what she brands exclusive content; apparently, it’s just pictures and videos of the washed-up diva.
3 Vince Russo
While his foe Jim Cornette, as discussed above, has managed to stay relevant, Vince Russo has been failing miserably in his attempts to stay relevant. The former WCW World Heavyweight Champion (yes, look it up!) only caught the attention of the wrestling fans when he was embroiled in a internet feud with his foe himself. He has been trying to actively seek employment as a writer with WWE, but even GFW, who are known to be on employing any former WWE employee with an ounce of relevance, aren’t very keen on bringing him on board. He has invented ways to stay afloat, though, as he now runs a podcast alongside Vito, two-time WCW Hardcore Champion, besides offering his services as a booking consultant for obscure indie promotions. Luckily, he seems more self aware than most other persons on this list.
Ryback has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons since his WWE departure. With the internet wrestling fans learning to hate him, dirt sheets have been having field days every time he sits with an interviewer. His making outstanding claims on his newly-launched podcast Conversations with The Big Guy doesn’t help matters. Additionally, his social media activity makes him seem a joker as he has been tweeting out links to his Amazon merchandise. His short-lived indie career also fell face first, thus making him a meme. Despite his becoming a parody of his former self – when his former self wasn’t great to begin with – he seems to think high of himself as he felt the need for penning an autobiography. For those who want a sneak peek of what it’s like to be The Big Guy, here’s the link.
1 Austin Aries
Many wrestling purists claim that a talented in-ring technician becomes a successful wrestler if his real life persona mirrors his gimmick. For most wrestlers, living the gimmick has worked wonders. For an unfortunate few, doing so has curtailed their career growth. One would claim that Austin Aries’ living his gimmick has cost him his WWE job, but he seems happy to leave WWE, as evidenced by his social media activity. He’s also shortly returning to the indie circuit as he’s expected to face off against ROH World Champion Cody Rhodes in the near future. His decision to snub big WWE paychecks in favor of being a big fish in a small pond and win titles looks a bad move as of now but, with many indie wrestlers making more than a few WWE wrestlers do, he may vindicate his decision.