WWE is the largest wrestling company in the world. It measures its business in millions of viewers and in billions of dollars between wrestler salaries, television deals, advertising income, merchandise, live ticket sales, and Network subscriptions. For a company of this magnitude, it’s understandable that there would have to be firings and hirings at different times to employ the most effective people for the jobs available, to keep the product relevant, to represent the company well, and to drive the bottom line.
It’s not just WWE that sees turnover at a regular rate, though. In a recent podcast interview with Chris Jericho, Jim Cornette discussed that running a wrestling promotion of any size necessitated movement, to have better established top stars, up and comers, and guys putting over others on their way out the door at any given time. The scale only increases for a company like WWE with an audience of its size and an enormous pool of individuals all too eager to work with them if given the opportunity.
While the choice may be controversial, it’s nonetheless understandable why WWE would cut a talent like Darren Young whom they hadn’t done much with for months and who hadn’t grown enough as a performer to justify more opportunities. It’s all the more clear why someone like 1990s star Nailz would be exiled, for purportedly physically assaulting Vince McMahon. WWE simply doesn’t need to do business with someone who carries that kind of baggage.
There are other dismissals, however, that make less obvious sense, and that we can reduce to a more arbitrary rationale. This article looks at 15 people WWE won’t work with for petty reasons.
15 Emma - Personal Issues
In NXT, Emma was something of a pioneer. She worked hard hitting, four star women’s matches opposite Paige before it was en vogue to celebrate female stars. She was quite arguably at the vanguard of the so-called Women’s Revolution that launched Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss, Asuka, and others to a higher status than women had ever enjoyed in WWE.
Emma was not without her baggage, though. The powers that be were dissatisfied with her level of commitment to the sexed up Emmalina gimmick. When she didn’t get featured spots, she took to social media to complain. Intertwined with all of this, she reportedly had beef with at least one significant contributor to the WWE writing team.
It’s not entirely clear which of these factors led to her release from WWE, but the departure did seem abrupt for a bright talent who had been given opportunities in relatively high profile spots in the weeks leading up to the announcement. The general consensus is that it wasn’t fair for WWE to let her go, and it came down less to her job performance than to petty personal issues.
14 Manu - His Look
Manu briefly earned a featured role for himself in WWE, playing Randy Orton’s protégé alongside Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase in the second (or third) generation Legacy stable. This son of Wild Samoan Afa had the size and fundamental skills to succeed, not to mention that he was wrapped up in a pretty hot featured storyline for that period in WWE programming.
Then he was gone.
In kayfabe, Orton ousted the less committed member of his posse, and Manu didn’t even get a proper revenge angle seeking revenge, but rather was beaten down when he tried to stand up for himself, and disappeared from WWE television a short bit later. While WWE never said anything officially, the consensus from those in the know seems to be that Manu was marginalized and then released almost entirely for his look. In simpler terms, management thought he was ugly, and that cost him his job.
13 Aloisia - Her Not So PG Past
Before it became a wildly popular developmental brand, the letters NXT represented a strange hybrid show for WWE, featuring new signees, paired with WWE mainstay “mentors.” The show saw the supposed rookies perform in a mix of traditional wrestling matches and mock reality TV challenges, all conducted over kayfabe.
The third season of the show featured an all female cast, and in the build up to it, few stars had as much buzz as Aloisia. Cited for her tremendous height, and paired with Vickie Guerrero for a mouthpiece, she was an early favorite to win the season and become a meaningful part of the WWE main roster.
Aloisia would never actually appear on WWE television. WWE offered the kayfabe explanation that she and Guerrero had a falling out. The generally accepted real reason is that WWE discovered she had been involved in adult videos in the past. While it’s understandable that WWE, particularly in this PG period, wouldn’t want to associate with someone from the world of adult entertainment, the general understanding is that Aloisia’s projects were on the tame side, and no worse than ones that other WWE Superstars have appeared in.
12 Ken Shamrock - Triple H's Jealousy And Not Putting Him Over
Ken Shamrock was a pretty big star during the Attitude Era who consistently worked at the upper mid card to main event level. Add in his legit MMA background and he seems like the kind of star whom WWE would want to go out of its way to celebrate. However, he’s mostly gotten the cold shoulder since the late 90s.
There are some logical reasons why Shamrock might be blackballed. They include that he’s widely regarded to have over-valued himself in wrestling, demanding booking fees akin to a star like Randy Savage that priced him out of a number of prospective bookings. Similarly, there are suggestions that he has an ego commensurate with his asking price.
Shamrock has claimed in more recent interviews, though, that there’s a far pettier reason why he was pushed out of WWE and never brought back. He claims that Triple H was jealous of him, and particularly upset about having had to put him over when they were both up and comers in the business. While, at this point, there’s only Shamrock’s word to go on, if it were true, that would be an awfully petty reason for WWE not to employ someone.
11 Chyna - Her Past Relationship With Triple H
Chyna was a truly groundbreaking performer during the Attitude Era. She was the first legitimate female heater in mainstream wrestling, as she played Triple H’s bodyguard. From there, she became the first female performer to wrestle men on a regular basis in WWE, and then the first woman to capture the Intercontinental Championship, and even appear in the Royal Rumble.
To be fair, when Chyna left WWE, sources close to the situation including Jim Ross have claimed that she made exorbitant, unrealistic salary demands, which she may not have expected the company to take seriously. The prevailing logic is that she was unhappy in WWE by that point, due in no small part to Triple H breaking off their real life relationship in favor of dating the boss’s daughter, Stephanie McMahon. WWE understandably kept its distance in the years to follow, when Chyna bad mouthed the company, got into trouble with substance abuse, and made forays into adult films. The fact is that the company turned down meetings with her when she tried reconcile toward the end of her life, though, and since her death has remained reticent to make much of her legacy.
Triple H has held firm on public forums that it comes down to Chyna’s shady extracurriculars and what young fans might find if they Googled her. Rumors persist, however, that, WWE’s rejection of Chyna is mostly concerned with her being Hunter's ex, and The Game or Stephanie McMahon wanting to brush her story beneath the rug.
10 Buff Bagwell - Jim Ross Didn't Like Him
Buff Bagwell was never a top in ring talent, but he was one of the more recognizable and charismatic stars of WCW’s latter days, and many fans suspected that his big personality and physique would help him make an easy transition into WWE. While he did work the first and only true WCW-branded match on WWE television opposite Booker T, it’s widely theorized that he was booked to fail. The match aired a week before the company was returning to a WCW hotbed, featuring talents with no storyline and from different places in the card. The guys were reportedly given little guidance and proceeded to put on an memorably awful stinker.
Bagwell has been chief among those who think WWE set him up to fail, and has gone beyond that to suggest that for whatever combination of reasons, Jim Ross—an executive at the time—didn’t like him personally. He claims Ross invented the widely circulated story that Bagwell had his mom call in sick for him to miss a show, and orchestrated subsequent miscommunications that kept Bagwell on the outs with WWE permanently. While Ross’s rationale remains unclear, if Bagwell is correct, this was a petty way for a man in power to keep a star approaching his prime from building a WWE career.
9 Jeff Jarrett - Starting His Own Promotion
Jeff Jarrett was a successful mid card wrestler for WWE who played the company against WCW in the Monday Night War to better his position on the card and his paydays. Flip-flopping, including two stints a piece with each company, may have been enough to turn Vince McMahon against working with Jarrett again. Jarrett also reportedly held up McMahon for money to drop the Intercontinental Championship to Chyna on his last night, too, which was an unforgivable sin.
The money issue may come across as a bit petty, but not unreasonable. Of further interest, Jarrett tried to start a WWE competitor TNA (and later GFW) which seem to have further cemented that Jarrett will never work for WWE again. Again, it’s understandable why WWE wouldn’t want to employ a competitor, but given he couldn’t making a living with one of the biggest wrestling companies in the world, was it so unforgivable for him to start his own promotion to star in? The answer seems to be yes.
8 Zahra Schreiber - Old Social Media Posts Or The Seth Rollins Leak?
Zahra Schreiber was a developmental talent who may be best remembered for a scandal with Seth Rollins. Rollins’s Twitter account posted a nude picture of Schreiber—he later claimed that it was without his consent, and it’s unclear if it were his user error, he was hacked, or someone else used his account. Regardless, Rollins’s fiancée at the time responded by tweeting a nude picture of him, creating a public relations party for WWE and all of the individuals involved, besides the turmoil in Rollins’s personal life.
While it’s widely rumored that this whole situation—and particularly the fact that it went down during the Architect’s Money in the Bank push—got heat on Schreiber, she was officially fired for old photos of her with swastika imagery. On one hand, hate speech is a pretty justifiable reason for WWE to terminate its relationship with a performer. Schreiber seems to have had a broader context, though, that included reclaiming the symbol and actively combating Nazism. In short, it seems WWE rushed to terminate an employee it already wanted off the payroll, without regard to the full context of her actions.
7 Paul London - Smiling At An Inopportune Time
There’s a pretty fair argument to be made that Paul London never was and never would be a great fit for WWE’s culture. While he has more than sufficient chops in the ring—particularly as an aerial artist in his prime—he’s known be eccentric and live an alternative lifestyle that doesn’t jive well with WWE’s more mainstream image. Rumors abounded regarding culture clashes between London and the powers that be, throughout his time as a cruiserweight and his greatest successes teaming with Brian Kendrick.
Interestingly, a variety of sources report that the final straw for London’s WWE career was misplaying his facial cues on an episode of Raw. A summer 2007 episode saw Mr. McMahon pay tribute to himself, only for everything to go wrong. The episode reached its climax with McMahon walking backstage and into its limo, only for it to explode.
According to rumor, as McMahon walked to the back everyone was supposed to look somber to sell how badly the night had gone for the boss, and perhaps foretell the kayfabe tragedy ahead. London bucked orders and smiled as McMahon walked past him. This was reportedly enough for WWE to exile him once and for all.
6 Matt Morgan - Couldn't Make An Offensive Gimmick Work
When you look at Matt Morgan he seems to have WWE written all over him. He’s big. He’s jacked. He was a reasonable in ring talent and had perfectly reasonable charisma. Give him the right gimmick and storylines, and he could easily have been a WWE main event talent.
Morgan stalled out in his WWE run, however, and his most memorable gimmick saw him play a monster with a speech impediment. The character was, at best, ill-conceived, and arguably offensive. To the surprise of just about no one, Morgan struggled to get over with the odd choice in character tic that seemed all but designed to undermine his monster look. WWE ultimately let him go because he couldn’t make the oddball gimmick work.
To be fair, Morgan’s lack of success in WWE probably also had to do with poor timing as got lost in a cluster along with guys like Nathan Jones and Luther Reigns—big guys who couldn’t really compare to Brock Lesnar at the time. Nonetheless, if WWE had given Morgan more time and focused more creative energy on him, you have to wonder what he might have accomplished in a WWE ring.
5 Kharma - Not Returning Fast Enough After A Miscarriage
Kharma looked to be a game changer for WWE. When she arrived on the scene in 2011, she looked to be that rare talent WWE built a division around. Everything seemed to pivot to her and the angle of her coming to the ring to destroy other female competitors, only to stop short with Kelly Kelly and offer a special brand of psychological torture to WWE’s top damsel in distress.
This monster push came to an abrupt end when Kharma got pregnant.
WWE opted to acknowledge the pregnancy openly on air with Kharma breaking into tears, explaining the situation, and seeming to turn face in a two week span. In a very sad turn of events, she would end up losing the child. She would make one more live appearance for WWE, entering the 2012 Royal Rumble.
Rumors at the time suggested that WWE wanted her back in the ring full time in the months to follow, but Kharma said she wasn’t ready. After sitting at an impasse for some time, the company released her in what came across as a petty, if not callous, move toward a woman who had endured personal tragedy.
4 Serena Deeb - Breaking Kayfabe, In An Era Of Reality
Serena Deeb was a highly touted prospect coming out of the WWE developmental system, and looked as though she’d have some unique opportunities to shine. Upon her debut on the main roster, she was indoctrinated into CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society faction and given a unique look when Punk shaved her head on TV. Her push came to an abrupt end, however, when she was observed drinking in public, and thus going against her Straight Edge gimmick. WWE released her for the infraction, with Punk even citing the real reasons for her dismissal as a kayfabe justification for kicking her out of his stable.
While this dismissal may have come across sensibly enough in an earlier era when kayfabe was protected more fiercely, the reality era was well in place at this point, including WWE regularly releasing shoot documentaries on DVD. It seemed particularly silly to end a promising young talent’s WWE career when she may well not have realized she was doing anything wrong.
3 Alex Riley - Not Taking A Cena Rib Lightly
Alex Riley was paired with The Miz during the second run of the mock-reality NXT series. Riley was portrayed a jerk hotshot, well fit to The Miz’s heel mentorship. The partnership would extend beyond the confines of the show, with Riley playing The Miz’s sidekick on Raw and even for the main event of WrestleMania 27. Things broke down after a period of months, though, with Riley tiring of Miz’s jerk behavior and turning face to rise up against him. In what looked as though it could have been a career making win, Riley even beat The Miz the first time they squared off one on one.
Riley would see his time in the sun cut short however. With little explanation offered, he sunk down the card and wound up doing commentary for NXT broadcasts on the WWE Network, before making a brief return to the ring in developmental. Not long after, he was released altogether. WWE has never offered an official explanation for Riley’s career tanking, but rumors abound about him running afoul of John Cena. Ryback has offered the most insight, suggesting that Riley responded poorly to a rib Cena played on him, and Cena consequently politicked him into oblivion.
2 Jim Ross - Not Controlling Ric Flair
Play by play men don’t get much more iconic than Jim Ross. Ross has faced a rocky road in WWE, however, as Vince McMahon in particular was purportedly never entirely on board with Good Ol’ JR. At various stages, Ross faced demotion, or even temporary dismissal because McMahon didn’t think this southern drawl would appeal to the company’s mainstream audience, or because his face wasn’t camera friendly after suffering a stroke due to Bell’s Palsy.
Ross’s last dismissal may have been the most petty of all, however, as Ross has openly admitted he was let go because of his failure to rein in Ric Flair during a panel discussion. The conversation happened during SummerSlam 2013 in a public event promoting the WWE 2k14 video game. Flair was reportedly inebriated and rather than getting him under control, Ross either sat by and let it happen, or actively contributed to the chaos, depending on whom you listen to. While Ross and WWE would mend fences years later, and Ross is working for the company on a part time basis again, his final full time tenure seems to have to a close for little fault of Ross’s own, but rather him taking the heat for Flair.
1 Wendi Richter - Asking For A Raise
There are few female wrestlers more iconic than Wendi Richter. In WWE lore, she unseated The Fabulous Moolah for the Women’s Championship after a 28 year reign. Richter would go on to spend the next year and a half as a deceptively over act, quite arguably ranking behind only Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, and Roddy Piper as the most popular WWE star at the time.
Richter would butt heads with Vince McMahon when she demanded money commensurate with her star power at the time. McMahon’s response was to coordinate the original Screwjob, which saw Moolah wrestle her to the mat and hold her down for a fast count. Richter reportedly stormed out of the arena afterward and the two sides wouldn’t work together again until Richter’s Hall of Fame induction in 2010. Unlike other talents WWE reconciled with to bring into the Hall, Richter didn’t become a recurrent presence on WWE programming, but has rather disappeared again.
McMahon notoriously holds a grudge against talents who create trouble over money—infamously replacing Sgt. Slaughter with Corporal Kirchner, letting The Ultimate Warrior go, and blackballing Jeff Jarrett for similar reasons. Just the same, Richter seems to have been that rare talent who was actually right, given her popularity at the time and the way the women’s division on the whole largely floundered in her absence. Particularly with increasing prominence of women in WWE programming it’s a bit odd that WWE hasn’t made an effort to do more with Richter.