Famous for coining the phrase, "YOU'RE FFFIIIRRREEEDDD", WWE's resident head honcho Vince McMahon has seen quite the array of talent enter and depart his company. There have been wrestlers such as Scott Hall and Kevin Nash who left for greener financial pastures when they made the jump to WCW. Other wrestlers such as Cody Rhodes and Jack Swagger have asked for their release due to being dissatisfied with the lack of direction of their character (Rhodes) and because of being valued at less than what they feel they deserve (Swagger).
The forenamed wrestlers were the ones to eventually carve their own path and leave McMahon, but McMahon has given many talents the future endeavored stamp as well. Some of these talents (hey, Hornswoggle), deserved their release, while others did not. Here, we look at fifteen times a WWE superstar should not have been fired.
Prior to Nia Jax playing the role of the large imposing female force (and Tamina Snuka playing the same role to a lesser degree), TNA's imposing force known as Awesome Kong made the jump from the Nashville, Tennessee based promotion to the WWE. Having debuted on May 1st, 2011, Kharma would lay waste to the company's former WWE Divas Champions in order to make a name for herself. Kharma looked like she was well on her way to establishing herself as the dominant female force in WWE just as she had been in TNA. However, in a bittersweet turn of events, Kharma had to take a leave of absence on May 23rd, 2011 (less than a month after her debut), as she revealed she was pregnant. Kharma returned at the 2012 Royal Rumble and was released in July of the same year after not appearing after the over the top battle royal. Kharma never received a fair shake in WWE and there would be no better time than the present for her to return as the WWE Women's Division is shining brighter than ever.
15 Damien Sandow
Given the ludicrous gimmick of being an impersonator for the likes of Bret Hart, Sherlock Holmes, Vince McMahon, Paul Revere and a number of other prominent figures, it's nothing short of miraculous to imagine that Damien Sandow was one of the most over superstars on the roster during this tenure, despite being given a gimmick that set him up for failure. The impersonation angle came full circle when Sandow became The Miz's stunt double and received chants of "We Want Mizdow" any and every time he was participating in a match of The Miz's or was at ringside, in Miz's corner. While Sandow was made to look like a fool, he ultimately ended up looking like a movie star (kinda like The Miz!). Sandow was then given another ridiculous gimmick of portraying the Mega Powers tag team duo of Hulk Hogan and the Macho Man with Curtis Axel as the "Meta Powers". Sandow was an impersonator for two plus years and was as over as he could be, yet the WWE still released him.
14 Mr. Kennedy
The winner of the Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 23, Ken Kennedy, looked to have the potential of being a main event talent for the company for years to come. However, his injury history was one thing that severely held him back from ever "grabbing the brass ring" and establishing himself as a main event talent. Yet, injuries weren't Kennedy's ultimate downfall; Randy Orton was. After dropping Orton on his head and neck during a match, Orton complained to the higher ups backstage that Kennedy was a hazard to work with in the ring. When compiling Orton's complaint along with Kennedy's injury history, WWE's higher ups decided it was time to serve Kennedy his walking papers. Not just the "legend killer, but a career killer as well, Mr. Orton.
13 Zeb Colter
The lack of managers in today's WWE landscape is razor thin. While arguably the G.O.A.T. among managers, Paul Heyman, is technically with the company, he makes the occasional appearance as he is intertwined with his client "BRRROOOCCKKKK LLLEESSSNNNAAARRR" (his words, not mine). At the time of Colter's release, May 6th, 2016, he was one of the only managers that had the capability of being an onscreen manager on a weekly basis. To make matters worse, Colter hadn't appeared on television since December of 2015- five months before his release. Colter was able to do great things with Jack Swagger and even elevated Swagger back into the main event picture. Let's not forget, had Swagger been able to avoid the cannabis, he just may have been able to have become a main even talent once again!
11 John Morrison
As gifted a wrestler as their is inside the squared circle, John Morrison's lack of charisma never matched his diverse move set. Nonetheless, Morrison was a talent who was able to wow crowds (especially with his Shooting Star Press finisher). While offering Morrison a three-year deal, the WWE was taken aback when Morrison stated that he was unwilling to sign the particular deal because of its length. Moreover, Morrison had let WWE that he wished to remain with the company but coveted a deal that wasn't as lengthy because he wished to take a look at outside opportunities as well- particularly acting. WWE decided that if Morrison wanted to look at acting opportunities, they would let him, just not on their watch. Morrison was let go from WWE in November of 2011.
10 Jim Ross
For many, "Good 'Ol" Jim Ross is the best of the best when it comes to commentators that have stepped foot in the WWE. Nonetheless, Ross was not immune to being served a pink slip in August of 2013. Serving as the moderator of the WWE 2K14 video game panel on August 16th, 2013, Ross was unable to keep fellow panel member, Ric Flair, under control. Flair, who was visibly inebriated was totally off his rocker during the panel and made comments such as John Cena being a hell of a drinker when he referred to the fellow sixteen-time WWE Champion as a "hardcore drinker". While Flair was in the wrong, Ross ate the brunt of the punishment as he was given his walking papers.
9 Wade Barrett
The leader of the original Nexus, Wade Barrett was heralded as a future World Champion from the minute he stepped foot in the WWE on June 7th, 2010. Barrett never ended up becoming a World Champion, however, but he did enjoy success during his six years with the company. Barrett held the Intercontinental Championship on five separate occasions and also won the 2015 King of the Ring. Barrett was not only successful as the the original leader of the Nexus, but as the deliverer of "Bad News". Barrett had great mic skills, was a solid in ring worker and brought international flavor to the company as he hailed from the United Kingdom. Barrett's staying busy as he has now shifted his focus towards an acting career.
8 Santino Marella
Primarily used as a comedic character throughout his WWE career, Santino Marella was one that was hard to be perceived as a legitimate threat despite the fact that he was a 2x Intercontinental Champion, a 1x United States Champion and a 1x Tag Team Champion. What Marella lacked in the department of being a credible foe, he easily made up for with his comedic wit definition. Arguably the funniest character of the "Ruthless Aggression" era, Marella provided fans with a number of hysterical moments such as having a tea party with Sheamus, being eliminated in a record 1.9 seconds in the 2009 Royal Rumble, becoming Miss WrestleMania (despite clearly being a male) and creating the Honk-a-Tonk meter which counted the days he had left to surpass the Honky Tonk Man's record reign as Intercontinental Champion. Always good for a laugh, Mr. Marella, always good for a laugh!
7 Mickie James
Looking as good as ever, Mickie James recently returned to the WWE in the final quarter of 2016. James has been aligned herself with Smackdown Women's Champion Alexa Bliss as the blonde bombshell and the former five-time women's champion play the role of top heels on the blue brand. The Women's division is absolutely stacked with talent today and is as talented as its ever been. However, this was not the story in 2010 when James was released. On the contrary, the Women's division was razor then back then. Moreover, James was the cream of the crop back then. Yet, WWE released her. Their reasoning? James claimed WWE told her they wanted "to move in a new direction with their women's division". Guess that's why Kelly Kelly held the Diva's Championship shortly after!
6 Kassius Ohno
While Kassius Ohno has once again been recently rehired by WWE, his release in 2013 was unwarranted. With WWE officials concerned with Ohno's weight, they relayed that had Ohno not dropped the love handles he would be released. Ohno ultimately ended up not shedding the weight and to make matters worse ballooned even more after the WWE had released him. Ohno isn't exactly the most aesthetically pleasing superstar, but is Kevin Owens? Is Bray Wyatt? Is Samoa Joe? Kevin Owens is WWE Universal Champion! Bray Wyatt is WWE Champion! Samoa Joe is a two-time NXT Champion! It would've been one thing to release Ohno based on his in ring work being lackluster, but this was never the case. Ohno should've never been released in the first place.
5 Drew McIntyre
Upon stepping foot in the WWE it looked like Drew McIntyre was destined for big things and big things fast. In less than a month after his debut, Vince McMahon referred to McIntyre as "a future world champion". In less than four months he had become Intercontinental Champion. McIntyre held the belt for just over five months at 161 days. A few months later, McIntyre became a Tag Team Champion with Cody Rhodes. The duo only held the belts for a month and it was immediately all downhill for McIntyre after. He would frequently lose and was put in an odd pairing with Kelly Kelly that was the equivalent of awkward as Maryse and Ted DiBiase's pairing. But, it got worse. Remember 3MB? Yeah, it doesn't get much worse than that! Was it shocking to see McIntyre released? No, it was shocking to see the company lose faith in McIntyre when he looked to possess all the tools to be a main event player.
4 Kurt Angle
Addicted to painkillers, Kurt Angle had asked the WWE for his release in August of 2005. Angle had asked for time off in order to recuperate from nagging injuries, but was not granted time off. As a result, Angle asked for and was granted his release in 2005. WWE Chairman Vince McMahon commented at the time of Angles's release, "it's unfortunate that Kurt was released, and it's really unfortunate for the WWE fans who, for a while at least, won't see Angle in action". The fact that Angle asked for time off and was not granted it and was then handed his walking papers was a poor move by WWE. Moreover, considering Angle was addicted to painkillers, WWE should've at least presented him with the opportunity to attend rehab as opposed to releasing him.
3 Alberto Del Rio
Before returning to the WWE in 2015, Alberto Del Rio was axed on August 7th, 2014. WWE even sent out tweets defending themselves which read, "@VivaDelRio is responsible for his own actions. If you’re angry at anyone, be angry at Alberto. There’s no excuse for a pro athlete not to conduct themselves in a professional manner." So, how exactly did Del Rio behave unprofessionally? Well, upon hearing that WWE Social Media Manager Cody Barbieri had made a racist joke about him. A catering employee had asked Barbieri to clean off his plate to which Barbieri replied that was Del Rio's job. Catching wind of Barbieri's dig, Del Rio confronted Barbieri and demanded an apology. Barbieri refused and smiled at Del Rio. Taking this as a sign of blatant disrespect, Del Rio slapped Barbieri. Del Rio was fired while Barbieri held onto his job.
2 Shelton Benjamin
May 6th, 2016 is remembered for the releases of King Barrett and Damien Sandow; April 22nd, 2010 is remembered for the releases of Shelton Benjamin and Mickie James. The former "Gold Standard" was not only one of WWE's best workers at the time being, but he is one of the best workers to step foot in the company. A staple in the mid card, Benjamin held the Intercontinental Championship on three occasions, the United States Championship once and was a two-time Tag Team Champion as part of the "World's Greatest Tag Team" with Charlie Haas. Not only did Benjamin have the tools to be a pivotal player in the mid card, he had the wrestling acumen and charisma to be a main event talent despite never getting the opportunity. Benjamin recently inked a deal with the WWE in 2016 and is nursing a rotator cuff injury at the moment. Hopefully, the E utilizes Benjamin better than they did in his first run with the company.
1 Daniel Bryan
Debuting on June 7th, 2011 alongside Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel, Skip Sheffield (aka Ryback), David Otunga, Heath Slater, Michael Tarver, and Darren Young, Daniel Bryan and his Nexus stable caught the wrestling world by storm when they absolutely decimated the likes of John Cena, CM Punk and Justin Roberts. Yes, Justin Roberts. Bryan's actions were deemed to be too graphic for the PG-13 WWE demographic. Bryan not only spit on Cena, but he choked out Roberts with his own tie. While spitting on Cena was certainly edgy, it was choking out Roberts that ended up being what did Bryan in. Let's not forget, Roberts was aware of this and wasn't opposed to the idea. Bryan's actions made the initial impression of the Nexus as a badass threat in the WWE that more credible. Not to forget, he was likely the most notable name of the group. Bryan only made the Nexus look stronger and shouldn't have been fired for his actions.