Good decisions are hard to come by in WWE these days. There have been so many times that the company has pushed someone or done something that left fans completely confused and extremely unhappy. Roman Reigns and elements of the brand split are current examples that display just how oblivious they can get. However, those are also examples of decisions that we can tolerate and try to make the best of. What we can't deal with is when WWE brings in wrestlers that have an undeniable amount of potential only to end up screwing them over and kicking them to the curb.
Within WWE, there are quite a few reasons that a wrestler can be fired: Violating the Wellness Policy, unprofessional conduct, cost-related reasons, and a lack of popularity with the WWE Universe. While these all seem like pretty normal and understandable reasons for an employee to be let go, there are also a few illogical reasons that Superstars tend to get that pink slip. Those reasons include poor storylines and gimmick decisions made by the company, the crowd favoring someone over the guy that WWE wants to be at the top, pissing off the guys who are at the top, and refusing to kiss Vince McMahon's butt.
It's pretty common knowledge that if Vince McMahon doesn't like you, it's only a matter of time until you're sitting in that unemployment line with the words "best of luck in your future endeavors" stamped all over your name.
While some of these wrestlers have made their way back into the company and others are rumored for a potential return, it doesn't take away the fact that these 15 firings had us heated enough to put one Vincent Kennedy McMahon at the very top of our hit lists.
15 Mickie James
It's definitely a good thing that the Women's Division doesn't see too many cuts that make us question the sanity of the WWE (more so than we already do, that is). However, that can usually be explained by the company bringing in and holding onto women wrestlers who wouldn't make it in a backyard promotion, let alone WWE, for anything more than their sex appeal. Times are changing, though. The Women's Division is strong and for the sake of keeping it that way, we need to not see anymore female releases that are undeserving; much like Mickie James' was.
Now, the circumstances revolving around her release are hearsay from an ex (she apparently cheated on her then-fiancé Kenny Dykstra with John Cena). However, the story we were given not only seems plausible, but the timelines seem to match up pretty well. Regardless of if the alleged relationship with John Cena led to James' demise with the company, or if it was simply because WWE did want to go in a different direction with the Divas, it was a stupid move for the WWE to make. The crowd loved Mickie. Mickie could perform in the ring and she brought a light to the Women's Division that all the moody model-like Divas did not. She also wasn't afraid to work the ridiculous angles that WWE slapped on her. For example, there was that awful "Piggie" James angle that was obviously a direct jab at the fact that she wasn't built like a ten-year-old boy. She offered fans and the WWE so much, so when we heard of her termination, it ticked a lot of people off. If not for her terrible treatment, she might still be with the company today.
14 Brian Kendrick
The first of many high flying mid-carders on this list, Brian Kendrick was one of the most underrated wrestlers on the WWE's payroll. There is no denying that this man has an incredible talent that leads to great matches. He also has mic skills and was hilarious both in and out of the ring. He was, and is, meant to be a performer and WWE seriously dropped the ball with him.
As a talent, he was never utilized the way he should have been. The end of his career contained a large majority of squash matches that felt very obviously designed to completely humiliate him (losing to Jerry Lawler? Really?) and then WWE released him in 2009. The reason? He was failing too many drug tests for marijuana and WWE apparently only punished those with $1,000 fines at the time. It's said they got fed up with him failing and decided to humiliate him for a few weeks before releasing him.
So instead of taking action by suspending him, they publicly embarrassed him, then released him so that WWE could use him as an example to the rest of the talent who thought they couldn't get away with failing the drug tests. It's ridiculous and a complete joke. He definitely deserved to be punished, but it could have been handled in a much better way that didn't result in losing a talent that actually gave us a reason to watch the mid-card matches.
Luckily for us, Kendrick is back thanks to Triple H and the new Cruiserweight Division. But WWE needs to actually do something good with him this time around.
13 Alberto Del Rio
Recently we saw Alberto Del Rio's release — one that none of us were all that surprised or even upset about, to be honest. However, it was the incident in 2014 when WWE let Del Rio go that had fans feeling the fury.
At the time, the crowds were all for him. The previous year saw him defeat Dolph Ziggler for the World Heavyweight Championship and the win was met by an eruption of cheers. Following that, WWE fans loved him and hated him — but always reacted strongly to him. He was a great competitor. He was a great heel. But when he was fired for unprofessional conduct over an incident, where he slapped a coworker who said a racial slur to him, that would have led most of us to do way worse than Del Rio did, fans were livid.
The main reaction expressed anger over the fact that Del Rio was fired, but the other person involved in the incident was not. Violence in the workplace is wrong, yes. But racist remarks towards an individual are also unacceptable. It didn't make any sense to let Del Rio go, but keep the other party; especially when you consider the fact that Del Rio is a lot harder to replace than someone who works as a social media manager.
12 Evan Bourne
Evan Bourne was a huge draw. Kids, teens, and adults alike all loved what he brought to the show and especially when he was tagging with Kofi Kingston, the matches he was involved in always kept our attention.
He was a great high-flyer, but things were just not on his side during the last few years of his career. He ended up with two drug-related suspensions back-to-back and during the end of his second suspension, Bourne was involved in a car crash that completely destroyed his foot. The injury put him out "indefinitely," but we were confident that as soon as he was healed, he would be back on our television screens. Which we did not! We saw him in one match (in NXT) after his injury before he just disappeared completely for another year. Then WWE announced his release.
There was no rhyme or reason given or spoken about. All we could assume was that because he'd been gone so long, they didn't know what to do with him. Well, whose fault is that? That would be WWE's creative team. There were many things WWE could have done with Evan Bourne after he was cleared from his injury. Instead they decided to make him sit at home while completely wasting the talent he possessed.
11 Shelton Benjamin
The only thing that Shelton Benjamin was not good at during his time with the WWE was performing a promo. His mic skills were not all that fantastic, but Benjamin definitely made up for that with his wrestling skills. He's a pure athlete. When he performed in a match, he did so in a way that was graceful, memorable, and impressive. It wasn't until the WWE gave him an awful gimmick in the form of a "Momma's Boy" character that Benjamin became anything less than entertaining. After that, seeing him appear in a good quality match became a bit touch and go. We got some really good ones where Shelton really got the chance to shine, but there were also plenty of times where he was pushed to the sidelines and forced to perform as if he was a lower mid-card talent.
Then he was released. It always sucks when the WWE takes a strong upper mid-card performer and groups them in with wrestlers who are not on their level. However, it's ten times worse when that strong performer is let go simply because the company makes poor booking decisions.
10 Paul London
If Vince McMahon doesn't like you, you're done for. This was the case for Paul London, who was the other half of a tag team with Brian Kendrick. Another crowd favorite mid-card wrestler (or as Paul London refers to it, "reoccurring character"), London showed an incredible amount of athleticism in the ring. He matched his partner in terms of his hilarity and there wasn't a match they were in that we didn't want to see. He offered a high-paced and sometimes even breathtaking performance that a lot of competitors can't pull off for any long length of time. He was also one of those guys that fans could just get behind without any hesitation. The bottom line? We loved him.
But according to London, he managed to piss off the one guy in the company that you should never piss off. Vince McMahon. During the segment when Vince was walking out to get into a limo that would explode, London had a very wide and cheesy smile set on his face. Vince didn't like this and it only took a year and a half for him to give London the boot. 'Cause, you know, it doesn't matter if someone is good or not. Nope, all that matters is Vince McMahon's personal opinion of them.
9 Mr. Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy was one of those wrestlers that people either loved or hated. If they hated him, then they more than likely loved to hate him. Whether you agree with that statement or not, the one thing you can't deny is the level of potential that not only he had as a wrestler, but that his promo skills had for any and all gimmicks he could have been given.
So when we found out he'd been released due to a botched move performed on Randy Orton being "the last straw," we were not happy. He had all the tools needed in order to succeed within the WWE, but a bunch of backstage politics took everything he offered away from us when they ended up releasing him. Kennedy has made it clear that he holds himself and his actions responsible for the release, which we can appreciate. It takes a lot to openly admit something like that. But if things really went down the way we've been told they have, then things should have been handled in a much different way.
8 Drew McIntyre
If we see Vince McMahon publicly announce someone as his "chosen one," we expect to see them around and at the top for a long time to come. Well, as it turns out, Drew McIntyre ended up being proof that even if Vince really likes you, you're not safe. For someone who was supposed to be a future World Heavyweight Champion and complete badass (Vince's words), he sure as hell did not live up to the expectations.
WWE let him go before he could reach that championship level. So once again, the WWE didn't live up to their own words. But that's what happens when you take someone great and shove them into a joke of a gimmick. What's even crazier is that the 3-Man Band still managed to get over with the crowd, but McIntyre was still released. Why? Because WWE doesn't operate with logic when it comes to their stars. Look at everything McIntyre — now known as Drew Galloway — has accomplished within TNA and try to explain why that couldn't have happened while he was in the WWE. There was no reason.
It's hard to believe that Carlito's career in the WWE was only seven years long considering the impact he had while he was there. Throughout his time with the company, people have compared him to some high-profile legends in the company such as The Rock and Rowdy Roddy Piper. He had one of the best heel presences that we had seen in a while and Carlito managed to cut some seriously entertaining promos. He also had that element of comedy, especially when he was spitting chunks of apple in the face of people who don't want to be cool. Bringing comedy to a gimmick that has a serious heel side to it is not an easy feat, but Carlito did it without a hiccup.
While we understood the circumstances behind Carlito's release, as he refused to attend rehab, it didn't ease the blow at all. Anger wasn't so much a factor when we received the news — we were sad and we knew that his presence would be missed. But at the same time, we still held a grudge about the entire situation for a while.
6 Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy's in-ring abilities were outstanding. There were many things this guy could do in the ring that other wrestlers could only dream of. He was athletic, entertaining, and ultimately one of the greatest risk-takers that the world of wrestling had ever seen. When he was in the ring, it was a thing of beauty. Nothing he did looked forced or awkward. It all came so naturally to him and it is obvious that this was the career path he was meant to go down.
During his time in WWE, he did get the shots that a lot of these other guys should have had as well. We appreciated that so much and it was nice to see WWE capitalizing on someone who WWE doesn't typically like to capitalize on. He worked hard and was rewarded for it. That is (obviously) until he was fired.
It's not a secret that Hardy has a past rich with drug abuse. Even people who aren't wrestling fans know about the incidents he's been involved in, but that doesn't change the fact that we weren't happy to see him go. Jeff was a crowd favorite. He likely always will be as well. And when you fire a crowd favorite, it doesn't matter what the reason was — we're still going to be highly upset by the action.
5 Jim Ross
Okay, so technically he's not a wrestler, but Jim Ross is one of the most iconic names within the business of professional wrestling. He is, hands down, the greatest commentator of all time and the fans absolutely loved hearing his voice every week.
We were devastated when we found out that Jim Ross was retiring in 2013. It wasn't until new information started surfacing that we ended up pissed off instead. Apparently there was an incident during the WWE 2k14 Symposium where Ric Flair was intoxicated and talking about things he should not have been talking about. It has been said that because Ross was unable to control what Flair was saying, WWE released him and covered it up with a false claim of "retirement."
Vince disputed the claims in one of Stone Cold's podcasts, stating that Ross had made the decision to leave on his own, but Good Ol' JR officially confirmed in an interview that the whole ordeal at the 2k14 panel was the reason he was fired. That's low, even for the WWE.
4 Cody Rhodes
Although he wasn't technically fired, it felt wrong to leave Cody Rhodes off this list. He requested his release from the company because he was so unhappy that he didn't have any another choice. As far as we're concerned, that's just as bad (if not worse) than being fired.
Rhodes accomplished so much within the company and fans were so outraged at his release that he felt compelled to let us know it was his decision. He'd wanted to get out of that Stardust character for months and continuously pitched new ideas, only for WWE creative to ignore them. He fought as hard as he could to enjoy what he did, but because Vince McMahon loved the Stardust character so much, he wouldn't let it go. So creative couldn't let it go either. There's no reason for someone like Cody to be stuck in a role that he's not happy with and that the crowd is no longer excited about. All it does is bury the Superstar. So Cody had the option to stick around and be miserable until a time came where the WWE would have let him go anyway or he had the chance to leave before he lost all love he had for the sport. He made the smart decision. The WWE did not.
3 Kurt Angle
Our Olympic hero was one of the biggest stars that rose to the top of the WWE in the late 90s. His release is one of those circumstances where we still are not 100% sure what happened. Kurt claims that he was the instigator by requesting his release so he could take time to heal while we've heard conflicting reports from Vince and the WWE that Angle refused to take time off to heal and was addicted to pain pills because of it.
Considering he jumped right into a deal with TNA after the release, it's easier to believe the latter. But regardless, we were not all that happy to see Kurt Angle go. He was a great talent. He gave his all in every match he wrestled in and was one of the greatest athletes that WWE had. He got some of the biggest reactions from the crowd and you'll still hear people talking about how great he was in the WWE to this day. He's another one that is rumored for a potential return to the WWE, but given the fact that there are so many conflicting reports about it, we cannot hold our breath. However, we can hope for it because we know that his presence will greatly improve any show.
2 Damien Sandow
Wrestlers like Damien Sandow are few and far in-between. He was the full package. He could wrestle, he was charismatic, he had impressive mic skills, he could pull off every ridiculous gimmick you could possibly think of (and they sure did give those to him), and the crowd absolutely adored him.
Towards the end of his WWE career, it was becoming obvious that the WWE was losing interest in doing anything with Sandow. Eventually they ended up releasing him, even though we still wanted to see him more than a lot of the wrestlers we were seeing on a regular basis. We were shocked and we became angry when we found out that there was no real reason for his release. What logical reason did you have for releasing him, WWE? Because if you want to mix up the roster, it's better to release some Superstars that people have no interest in, not someone that had a connection with the crowd.
He deserved better and we deserved to see him performing every week. Even after being fired like that, Sandow handled it in such an admirable way by saying he was "grateful" for everything WWE gave him and that he understood the decision, even if he wasn't told exactly why. This reaction made us favor Sandow even more and solidified the fact that it would be extremely satisfying to inflict some serious pain on the person responsible for letting him go.
1 CM Punk
It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone to see CM Punk coming in at number one. The guy was fired on his wedding day at a time where he was the only wrestler that everyone in the WWE Universe wanted to see. It's approaching three years since we've seen him in a WWE ring and there are still CM Punk chants.
There are still fans who get loud and angry when thinking about the fact that Punk isn't a part of the company anymore. There hasn't been many wrestlers who could pull of the promos he could. And anyone who ever came close didn't have ring abilities to match. CM Punk did. He received some of the biggest pops in the PG Era because fans loved him so much that they were emotionally invested in him. They admired him. He was everything that the top guy needed to be, but the WWE never let him be that top guy. And when he outwardly pointed that out and spoke his mind, the treatment only got worse. Even during his run as WWE Champion, he rarely ever appeared in the main event at Pay-Per-Views. His matches always came second or even third to ones that featured people like John Cena and The Rock.
He grew tired of it and took it upon himself to take a sabbatical while Vince McMahon sent him the gift of termination on his wedding day. We can't blame Punk for wanting to get away for a while. However, we can and do blame McMahon for firing someone just because the performer was tired of being treated like crap.
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