The early 2000s were an embarrassment of riches for the WWE. They had no real competition, having bought out WCW and ECW in 2001. TNA and Ring of Honor were fledgling. The usually strong Japanese scene was still recovering from its downturn of the late '90s. The result was that the WWE roster was swollen with talent, many of whom were under-utilized. The first brand split in 2002 was designed to address the issue by creating two distinct shows within one company in order to give exposure and opportunities to this massive roster. The idea has been the backbone of the WWE for most of the last fifteen years.
Despite the split, it was not possible for the WWE to use all of the talent it had amassed by 2001. The matter was exacerbated by the rise in popularity of the UFC, and increase in entertainment options in the age of the Internet, and the slowdown in business that occurred after the end of the Monday Night War. These factors necessitated substantial talent cuts. WWE fans fondly remember many of the wrestlers released during this period. Some of those wrestlers took their skills to other promotions while many more found life outside of the squared circle. Here are 15 stars who were released in the early 2000s, what they did afterwards, and where they are now.
15 Nathan Jones
Nathan Jones legitimately served seven years for armed robbery in his native Australia in the late '80s / early '90s. He discovered powerlifting while incarcerated, which lead to a career in strongman competitions and feat-of-strength exhibitions. He broke into professional wrestling through the short-lived World Wrestling All-Stars the early 2000s. He signed with WWE in late 2002, at a time when the company was expanding its Australian footprint. Jones looked big and bad, but he was too green to take advantage of the opportunity. He was briefly an ally of The Undertaker (he was pulled from their tag match at WrestleMania XIX) before turning heel as an enforcer in the service of Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar on SmackDown. Jones quit the WWE after only a year.
Since leaving the WWE, Jones has carved out a respectable acting career. He has played large and imposing characters in projects such as Troy (2004), the WWE Films’ The Condemned, and the critically acclaimed mega-hit Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).
14 Jackie Gayda
Jackie Gayda co-won the women’s section of the second season of Tough Enough in 2002, and was rushed to the main roster with disastrous results. In a well-remembered moment of infamy, she sold a second rope bulldog by Trish Stratus far too late (and in the wrong direction) on the July 8, 2002 episode of Raw. Gayda received nearly two years of much-needed training in OVW before returning to WWE TV, teaming with Stacy Keibler against Sable and Torrie Wilson in an evening gown match at WrestleMania XX. She was drafted to SmackDown where she managed Rico and real-life fiancé Charlie Haas. Dawn Marie tried to break up the couple, leading to a series of matches involving a variety of holiday-themed costumes. With this kind of exposure, it’s easy to see that Jackie didn’t have much of a chance. She was released from WWE in 2005.
Gayda and Haas married in 2005. She made a few appearances in TNA in early 2006 before leaving to have their first child. Since then she and Haas briefly owned a nutritional store and smoothie shop. Gayda now focuses on raising her four children in the Dallas metroplex, though she still appears at conventions and on podcasts.
13 Kenzo Suzuki and Hiroko
Kenzo Suzuki was one of the last Japanese wrestlers to be portrayed as an evil foreigner instead of a hard-striking technical master. Suzuki was managed by his actual wife Hiroko, who wore full geisha attire. The gimmick was dated in 2004, but Suzuki and resident anti-American Rene Dupree still won the tag team titles on SmackDown. Failing to connect with audiences, Suzuki tweaked his character in the mold of The Rougeau Brothers, being anti-American by embracing an over-the-top and obnoxious pro-American persona. He wore an American flag vest and top hat, and would sing popular songs very badly while being cheered on by Hiroko. The new characters worked as comedic mid-card filler, but both Suzuki and Hiroko were released from the WWE in the summer of 2005.
Kenzo and Hiroko returned to Japan to work for the comedic promotion Hustle, where she became the onscreen General Manager. Kenzo next competed in Mexico, first teaming with fellow WWE-alum Mark Jindrak in Mexico’s CMLL and then for rival AAA. He settled down in All Japan in 2010, where he still competes, under the name of Kenso. He has won the All Japan Tag Team Title with The Great Muta, and held the Gaora TV Title last year. He continues in All Japan today. Hiroko left wrestling for politics. She was elected to the Funabashi City Council in 2015.
12 Luther Reigns
The first WWE wrestler named Reigns did not enjoy the same push as Roman. Luther Reigns first appeared in the WWE on SmackDown as the bodyguard of General Manager Kurt Angle. Reigns, along with Angle and Mark Jindrak, shaved the head of The Big Show in September 2004, resulting in the look that the Show has had ever since. Reigns helped out was generally an enforcer and goon, helping out Angle against Show, The Undertaker, and Eddie Guerrero. He teamed regularly with Mark Jindrak. Although he was large (6’6”, 285 lbs.) Reigns was one of many wrestlers brought to the WWE at the same time with a similar look and style (Matt Morgan, Heidenreich, Snitsky, Tomko). Reigns never found his footing and was gone after little more than a year.
Since leaving the WWE in 2005, Reigns appeared in a number of TV shows and films, including Heroes, CSI, and Let’s Be Cops. He suffered a stroke in 2010, but used it as an opportunity to refocus his life. He returned to acting a few years later. He has also worked as a bodyguard, most notably for the band Saliva.
Jazz won two WWE Women’s Championships in 2002 and 2003, feuding with Trish Stratus, Lita, and Victoria. She won her first championship from Stratus in February 2002 on Raw and then retained the title over Trish and Lita at WrestleMania X8. She returned to the title match the following year at WrestleMania XIX in an unsuccessful effort against Stratus and Victoria. Jazz took on Teddy Long as her manager and began her second reign as Women’s Champion at Backlash 2003 by once again defeating Trish. Jazz was a tough and real wrestler during an era where the company was emphasizing looks and sex appeal over athletic ability. She was also injury-prone, suffering knee and shoulder problems that ended both of her title reigns prematurely. These issues factored into her departure from the WWE in 2004 along with husband Rodney Mack.
Jazz and Mack had twin girls in 2008, but that has not ended her in ring career. Jazz continues to compete on the independent circuit, most notably for Women Superstars Uncensored and Chikara. In 2016 she won the NWA Women’s Championship, which she continues to defend today. She and Mack also run a wrestling school called The Dog Pound near Lafayette, LA.
10 Shawn Stasiak
Second-generation star Shawn Stasiak – son of former WWE Champion Stan Stasiak – enjoyed his greatest wrestling success in WCW, bookended by runs in the WWE. His first stint in the company was as Meat, the man-toy of Terri and Jacqueline in PMS. His most notable match of this run was a loss to Kurt Angle at the 1999 Survivor Series in the latter’s televised debut. Stasiak then jumped to WCW, where he struck tag team gold three times with Chuck Palumbo as part of The Natural Born Thrillers stable. When WWE bought WCW, Stasiak found himself as a low-card member of The Alliance. He was used for comic relief in his attempts to impress Stone Cold Steve Austin. Stasiak would attempt to attack top WWE stars, but he would run into walls, crates, tables, and other backstage accouterments instead of hitting his target. He retired in 2002.
Stasiak may have retired from the ring, but he still physically manipulates the bodies of others as Dr. Shawn Stipich, a successful chiropractor with the Advanced Comprehensive Medical Team in Plano, Texas. He is also a certified personal trainer, and uses nutrition and exercise to create a holistic wellness approach to chiropractic care.
Nidia Guenard won the women’s portion of the first Tough Enough, training in OVW before being paired with Jamie Noble as a trailer trash couple on SmackDown. Nidia’s frequent interference bore fruit early, as Noble captured the Cruiserweight Championship, and successfully defended it for five months. Nidia also feuded with Torrie Wilson, who employed a variety of partners in mixed tag matches against the couple. Nidia and Noble bickered throughout their relationship, which lasted almost two years – an eternity for a pairing in the early 2000s. Nidia was supposedly blinded by Tajiri’s rare black mist in late 2003. She wore sunglasses upon her return and claimed to have impaired vision, which Noble exploited by pushing her in front of opponents. This turned Nidia face, culminating in an intergender blindfold match at No Way Out 2004 which Noble cheated to win. Nidia then had a short run on Raw, changing her character to emphasize her Puerto Rican heritage, but was released by the end of the year.
Today Nidia is worlds removed from the WWE. She spends most of her time raising her two children, attending PTA, leading a Girl Scout Troop, and packing lunches. Those lunches are probably pretty good, too, because she graduated from Culinary School in Houston and is a legitimate chef.
When Rico first appeared on WWE TV in 2002 as the stylist of Billy and Chuck, few fans realized that he was 40 years old. Those fans also didn’t realize that he had been a paramedic and a SWAT team officer in his native Las Vegas before an appearance on American Gladiators opened the door into entertainment. After Billy and Chuck fizzled out, Rico became the manager of 3-Minute Warning. In 2004 Rico was drafted to SmackDown and paired with Charlie Haas. He had developed from manager to wrestler by this point, and expanded upon his exotic gimmick. He actually worked with the originator of the style, Exotic Adrian Street, on how to develop the character. Managed by Miss Jackie (Gayda), Rico was a mid-card act for the rest of 2004 until being released at the end of the year.
Rico made a few independent appearances, but soon returned to law enforcement as a sergeant with the Nevada State Taxicab Authority in Las Vegas. It may not sound dangerous, but taxi drivers have the highest homicide rate of any profession in the US (according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics). Sadly, in 2016 Rico revealed that he was suffering from life-threatening health issues, including leaking heart valves, blood clots in his lungs, and brain injuries. A GoFundMe page was established to help with his bills (as of this posting it has reached $7,000 of its $10,000 goal).
Ivory began her career in the late '80s as Tina Ferrari in the original G.L.O.W., where she was the company’s champion. She honed her skills throughout the '90s in a variety of women’s promotions before joining the WWE in 1999. She won the Women’s Championship at a time when the division featured few actual wrestlers, making it nearly impossible to have a passable match. Her bout with a 76-year-old Fabulous Moolah at No Mercy 1999 is regarded as one of the worst matches ever put to film. She finally found her niche in WWE when she joined the Right To Censor faction in mid-2000. She once again won the Women’s Championship and had a great match against Lita at Survivor Series 2000, showing what she could do if allowed to wrestle. She also feuded with Chyna, coming out on the losing end at WrestleMania X-Seven. Ivory went on to serve as a trainer for Tough Enough and co-host of WWE Experience before leaving in 2005.
Ivory transitioned into her next phase of life a few months later when she helped rescue displaced animals from Hurricane Katrina. Since then has been active in animal rescue groups. She co-owned a dog daycare, training, and boarding facility. Today she has her own dog and cat grooming business in Washington state.
6 Mark Jindrak
Mark Jindrak looked like a star in the making in the last days of WCW. Power Plant trained, he was pushed straight out of the gate in the company’s dying days. Jindrak was acquired by the WWE and, unlike many other young WCW talents, they also appeared to have major plans for him. Jindrak was supposed to be part of Evolution – vignettes were shot with him in the group – but for unspecified reasons his spot was given to Batista. Jindrak then became the “Reflection of Perfection,” a gimmick that saw him employ Rick Rude-esque hip swivels. He joined Kurt Angle and Luther Reigns in late 2004 feuds with The Big Show, The Undertaker, and Eddie Guerrero. He could have been pushed at any time, but in the summer of 2005 he was released.
Jindrak did not leave wrestling, however. He joined Mexico’s CMLL in 2006 under the name of Marco Corleone, a stereotypical Italian gimmick. He was a heel at first, but audience reactions were so positive that he became an anti-hero. He jumped to rival AAA in 2009 and then MTV’s Lucha Libre USA in 2010, before returning to CMLL the following year. He won the CMLL World Title in the summer of 2017.
Besides his in-ring accomplishments, Jindrak has appeared in a number of Mexican soap operas and TV shows. He is a fixture in magazines in Mexico, and has written a children’s book on how to deal with bullying. Jindrak has shown that there are viable alternatives to GFW and the US indie scene for wrestlers released by WWE.
5 Too Cool
Too Cool were one of the most memorable WWE tag teams of the early 2000s. Grandmaster Sexay (Brian Christopher) and Scotty 2 Hotty (Scott Taylor) were hip-hop loving dancing fools whose delivery and presentation was ridiculous enough to get over. Sexay’s be-goggled Hip Hop Drop and Scotty’s The Worm became staples of WWE programming in the red-hot year of 2000, as were their post-match dances with ally Rikishi. Too Cool won the WWE Tag Team Titles from Edge and Christian on the May 29, 2000 edition of Raw with help from Kid Rock’s sidekick Joe C. The team cooled off by the end of 2000, and Sexay was released in 2001 after a drug possession charge on the US-Canadian border. Scotty stuck around, winning the tag team titles again with Rikishi. He left in 2007.
Too Cool have reunited many times on the independent circuit. They also have made occasional appearances on WWE programming. Christopher was a fixture in the early days of TNA under his given name of Brian Lawler, and continues to make the rounds on the independent circuit. He is also a regular in the Memphis-based promotions and shows run by his father, Jerry Lawler. Scott Taylor became a firefighter and EMT but things got too hotty, so he moved on to his current career as a real estate broker in Orlando.
Maven Huffman won the men’s competition on the first Tough Enough. He made his main roster debut in late 2001, and stunned almost everyone by eliminating The Undertaker from the 2002 Royal Rumble. He received a first-rate beat down from The Big Red Devil for his efforts. A few weeks later Maven – with help from The Rock – defeated The Undertaker for the Hardcore Championship. He went on to lose and regain the title at WrestleMania X8. He spent most of the next two years in the mid-card or recuperating from injury. He received a second push at the end of 2004, feuding with Evolution, but ultimately little came of the storyline. Maven was released from the WWE in the major talent purge of the summer of 2005.
Maven wrestled on the independent circuit for two years before retiring. He then had a short career in television, appearing on the VH1 reality show The Surreal Life, co-hosting The BET J List, and serving as a fitness expert on the Home Shopping Network’s HSN Today. In 2012 he was arrested in connection to a pain killer addiction. He received help under the WWE Former Talent Rehabilitation program. Maven then worked for several years as a bouncer in New York City. In August 2017 he announced through Twitter that he has begun to work in dental sales.
3 Molly Holly
Molly Holly spent the first five years of the 2000s competing for the WWE, where she won the Women’s Championship twice as well as the Hardcore Championship. She began her run as a Holly cousin and had a middle school-like romance with Spike Dudley. She donned a cape as Molly Holly, the sidekick of The Hurricane. She feuded with both Trish Stratus and Lita over the WWE Women’s Championship. Her most memorable WWE moment may have been losing her hair to Victoria at WrestleMania XX. She then departed the company in 2005.
Molly has been very active in the decade-and-half since leaving the WWE. She served as a missionary in Guatemala, and prior to that, she received a license in massage therapy. She currently works for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation service in her native Minnesota as well as a trainer at Shawn Daivari and Mr. Kennedy’s wrestling school. In 2016 she appeared on two episodes of the WWE Network’s Table For 3, with fellow Alundra Blayze and Ivory, and Candice Michelle and Michelle McCool.
2 D’Lo Brown
The greatest Certified Public Accountant to ever step into a wrestling ring, D’Lo Brown was a mid-card fixture of the Attitude Era. He started out in the Nation of Domination and broke out in 1998 when he won the European Title from Triple H. His head shake and chest protector became signatures. D’Lo was a major factor in the DX-Nation war of 1998, and had great singles battles with X-Pac over the European Title. All and all he collected four European Championships and one Intercontinental Title. Sadly, many fans remember Brown for the 1999 Darren Drozdov accident, where he botched a running powerbomb that left Droz a quadriplegic.
D’Lo left the WWE 2003. He next wrestled for TNA and All Japan. He made a return to the WWE in 2008, but he was rarely used on TV and was released after six months. He returned to TNA as an agent in 2009, and then as a wrestler to All Japan in 2013. Today he spends most of his time running the D’Lo Brown Proving Ground wrestling school in Las Vegas. He still competes on the independent scene, particularly in the UK. He also is very active on Twitter.
1 Perry Saturn
Perry Saturn enjoyed success in ECW (as one half of The Eliminators) and in WCW before entering the WWE in early 2000 with Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and Dean Malenko as The Radicalz. The group was a major part of WWE programming that year, and Saturn won the European Championship. That would be the highlight of his WWE tenure. He was paired with Terri Runnels for a while, before becoming infatuated with a mop (named “Moppy”) in 2001. The gimmick was a knock-off of the Wilson soccer ball used in the movie Castaway (which was a major hit at the time) and is considered one of the worst ideas in WWE history. Saturn’s character never recovered and, though he would have been a logical choice for a major role in the Invasion angle, he was not used. He left the WWE in 2002 after suffering a knee injury.
Saturn worked on the independent circuit until 2004. That year he made headlines by stopping a sexual assault in progress in Atlanta. During the ensuing altercation with the assailants he was shot in the neck. He then disappeared for the next six years, with many speculating that he had died. Saturn became addicted to methamphetamine as a result of his wound, and was homeless for two years. He managed to beat his addiction and returned to wrestling in 2011. Sadly, in September 2016 Saturn revealed that he is battling a serious brain injury caused by his years in the ring. In January 2017 he launched a GoFundMe page to help defer his medical expenses. As of this posting it has reached nearly $40,000 of its $100,000 goal.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!