The expiry date on the life span of a WWE star’s career varies. Some have taxed their bodies beyond repair. Others have lost touch with their audience. Many struggle to balance their social responsibility as global entertainers and their behavioral conduct off camera. A few have outgrown their passions and gravitated towards new endeavors. While some have etched out plans for life beyond the ropes, others have found themselves dumbfounded when their time in the WWE came to an end. Many athletes will test their fortunes with rival promotions. A few have managed to sustain their careers following their service with the WWE. Others could never reproduce the hype while performing on competing circuits.
The bottom line remains: some wrestler call it quits on their own terms, while others are not as fortunate. What happens to these performers, who are actually human beings like you and I, once they must part ways with a career many can only dream of? Like any other work environment, real emotions are involved when contracts are not renewed, terminated or resigned from.
As fans of pro wrestling, we become emotionally attached to the characters we watch on television week to week. We are enamored and grow naturally curious to what happens once they move on from the WWE. Here are some of the stories of what the latest series of cuts are up to today!
15 Daniel Bryan: Retired
A serious injury forced Daniel Bryan into early retirement. His star had been rising and was at its peak before several issues with his head and neck permanently forced doctors to shut him down for good. On February 8th, Bryan said goodbye to the WWE Universe on RAW, officially announcing his retirement. Bryan had three years remaining on his current contract and has been asked by the WWE to join on in a different capacity. He remains a central figure on the reality series Total Divas and served as a judge on the WWE reality show Tough Enough. Though, since officially retiring, Bryan has stated how he needs time to emotionally heal before committing to any type of WWE related career outside of the ring. General consensus would figure it is not long before we see Daniel again in some type of role.
14 Rich Brennan: Just Released
Rich Brennan spent considerable time as the color commentator for NXT alongside Corey Graves. He quickly worked his way up to the SmackDown announce table, though he had recently been demoted to backstage interviewing following the recent hiring of renowned broadcaster Mauro Ranallo. Brennan quickly found himself out of place as Tom Phillips is doing a masterful job alongside Corey Graves in NXT and the backstage interviewers on the main roster are fresher faces with the likes of Renee Young, Kyle Edwards and forthcoming Kathy Kelley, who is enjoying an immediate push. As the odd man out with a cluttered cast of commentators and backstage broadcasters, Brennan was recently released and only time will tell what the future holds for Rich.
13 Solomon Crowe: Independent Circuit
Once destined for stardom, Crowe's career remained rather listless for the better part of three years following his signing in 2012. During his three years in NXT, he failed to generate any significant momentum which could have propelled him to prominence with the company. Unsatisfied with his development, Solomon estimated that he could be better served working elsewhere and asked for his release in November of 2015. Following his release, Crowe has tested his luck with several different promotions including All American Wrestling, Combat Zone Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Guerilla. Needless to say, it seems like he has yet to find his niche given the number of attempts in a short period of time following his fallout with the WWE.
12 Jim Duggan: Global Force Wrestling
Clearly passed his prime, Hacksaw remains a valuable asset in the world of professional wrestling today. At the ripe age of 61, Duggan has been a part of the cast of the WWE Network original series Legends House. From there, he signed on as an ambassador with Global Force Wrestling, assisting with promotional efforts in order to help grow the brand. His decorated career and experience with the WWE can prove to be invaluable in the long run with this promotion and we wish nothing but the best to the Hall of Famer.
11 AJ Lee (Brooks): Author
At only 28 years old, many believe that AJ Lee had many good years ahead of her before her shocking retirement a few days after scoring a victory at WrestleMania 31. Following her time in the squared circle, Brooks took the time to put her thoughts and experiences in a book entitled Crazy Is My Superpower, scheduled for a release in 2017. The piece is slated to tell all about her time in professional wrestling, and what led her to call it quits prematurely. The former Divas Champion also made an appearance in the promotional short film for the Madden NFL 16 video game, keeping her quite busy following her in-ring career.
10 Ricardo Rodriguez: Trainer at The Great Khali`s Wrestling School
Things began to sour with Rodriguez and the WWE following the release of Alberto Del Rio. The situation forced Rodriguez out of the active story lines and on to the Spanish announce table during pay-per-views. He was then released in July of 2014, where he would cross paths again with Del Rio in Mexico with AAA Wrestling. Del Rio has since made his way back to the WWE, but Rodriguez would not follow suit. Instead, he has joined the team of trainers at The Great Khali`s wrestling school in India. The promotion`s first live event was held in December of 2015.
9 Billy Gunn: Independent Circuit
Billy Gunn was released twice by the WWE, once in 2005 and again in November of 2015. He served as a trainer for the WWE's developmental program NXT during his second stint with the company. However, he was released yet again after failing a drug test earlier that year at a powerlifting meet, testing positive for performance enhancing substances. As a trainer of the future of the company, one can understand how this situation poses conflict. There is a clear disconnect in the message attempted to be transmitted to the next wave of talent when your trainer is using PEDs. Gunn has since returned to the independent circuits with nondescript appearances with Maryland Championship Wrestling promotion and Preston City Wrestling.
8 Zahra Schreiber: Dreamwave Wrestling
Zahra Schreiber's release from the WWE came amidst controversy, as the events surrounding her infamous break up with Seth Rollins forced her out the door. A controversial Instagram picture sealed her faith with the company. She has not since given up on her dreams of becoming a wrestling star and quickly relocated to Dreamwave Wrestling, an up and coming circuit based in LaSalle, Illinois. She currently serves as the manager to a heel faction. She has since made her in ring debut, though reviews of her matches have not been positive. Nonetheless, she continues to strive to better her craft with a promotion on the rise where guest appearances for the up coming year are set to include Bret Hart and Rob Van Dam.
7 Bull Dempsey: Combat Zone Wrestling
Bull Dempsey burst on to the NXT scene with loads of momentum and clear plans by WWE creative team to turn him into a super heel. After several feuds with upper card talent such as Samoa Joe and Baron Corbin, things suddenly began to sour for Dempsey. With a constant influx of new talent, Bull gradually dove into the lower half of the cards, to eventually being sporadically used on television. In attempts to salvage his career, Dempsey debuted a new gimmick as an overweight wrestler attempting to get fit, which saw him turn face in the process. However, the "Bull-Fit" angle fizzled very quickly and Dempsey was released in February. Dempsey took to Twitter to announce both his release from NXT and the selling of his ring gear on eBay. Since, he has joined former NXT star Solomon Crowe in Combat Zone Wrestling.
6 Bill DeMott: Podcast Host
Bill DeMott was rumored to having many issues related to apprehensive conduct while serving as a trainer to the NXT brand and their up and comers. Accusations included assault, bullying and commanding several dangerous stunts to be performed without proper authority. Following a brief silence following the termination of his contract, DeMott took to radio waves to discuss his side of the story. From there, he has launched a weekly podcast entitled The Bill DeMott Experiences, where guests include former professional wrestling figures, as they discuss the current state of affairs in the world of professional wrestling.
5 Layla: Retired
The WWE and Layla parted ways amicably, contrary to most of the entries found on this list. During an interview with WWE.com, the former Diva expressed her desire to spend time away from the ring in order to start a family with fellow wrestler Richard Young. She officially retired in July and married in November in Glendale, Arizona, where she is currently enjoying her new life as a mother and wife.
4 Justin Gabriel: Lucha Underground
Justin Gabriel has claimed that he requested a release from the company, following a disagreement over character direction with Triple H. A talent clearly misused by the company, his final service to the WWE was spent playing Adam Rose's bunny. He has since bounced around from promotion to promotion with stops at Global Force Wrestling before settling on his current employer Lucha Underground. This one might come back to bite the WWE in the rear end.
3 Cal Bishop: Recovering From Injury
The Former NCAA All-American heavyweight wrestler was signed with all the intentions of making him into a superstar. Physically gifted though still raw in his craft, Bishop never managed to gain enough momentum and experience, as several injuries hampered his development. In fact, the issues were so intense that he was released by NXT before ever really getting a fair shot. He has since been rehabbing his injuries and vows to return better than ever. He may have to opt for the independent circuits and prove his worth there for a while before the WWE takes another gamble on the promising youngster.
2 Sting: Retired
The icon was performing at a relatively high level given his age up until an unfortunate occurrence during a match with Seth Rollins back in October 2015. It took years for Sting to actually compete in the WWE, having carried WCW on his back for years and then opting for other companies following McMahon's buyout in 2001. Nonetheless, Sting deservedly found his place in the WWE Hall of Fame and took the opportunity to officially announce his retirement during his acceptance speech. For the time being, Sting is recovering from surgery he had in March to repair the problems in his neck. With a career as illustrious as his, it would not surprise many if he just sat on his millions for the rest of his days. He has yet to commit to any plans following his retirement.
1 Hulk Hogan: $150 Million Settlement
Arguably the face of professional wrestling, Hulk Hogan's legacy and influence are well documented. His most recent service to the WWE found him in the judges chair for the company's reality TV series Tough Enough. When evidenced surfaced of controversial racist remarks Hulk made a while back, he was not only released from the WWE, he was virtually wiped clean from their archives. Hogan was shattered and spent time away from wrestling. During his downtime, Hogan was involved with the promotion of the fantasy sports website Fan Picks. Earlier in 2016, Hulkamania was awarded a $150 million dollar settlement following his lawsuit against tabloid company Gawker for the illegal release of his sex tape. It has been a whirlwind year for The Hulkster and it remains to be seen if he will ever find peace with the WWE.