Every wrestler has a shelf life with WWE. Whether it be through retirement, injuries, or being released, everyone will have to bid adieu to the largest wrestling promotion. While everyone would obviously wish to be able to walk out of WWE on their own terms, this is not the case for the majority of the roster. True retirements in WWE are usually afforded to the top stars (Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, to name a few). Pretty much everyone else will have to experience the dreaded “We wish you the best in all your future endeavors” press release on WWE.com.
2014 saw a large number of WWE releases, way more than any other year in recent memory. Just because WWE trimmed the roster down considerably in 2014, doesn’t mean WWE didn’t continue the firings when the calendar flipped to 2015. We will be taking a look at 15 WWE superstars who were released from WWE two years ago, and seeing what each of them have been up to since then.
Eager to find out which 2015 releases fell flat and haven’t had success elsewhere? What about those who have proven that you don’t need WWE to be successful? Read ahead to find out!
15 HULK HOGAN
Hulk Hogan was by far the most significant WWE release of 2015. He had just returned to the company as an ambassador and as a Tough Enough before WWE made the decision they had to make and release Hulk Hogan immediately. An audio tape had leaked where Hogan infamously spewed various racial obscenities and slurs. His actions were inexcusable and being inebriated does not affect his culpability. Nobody would fault WWE for releasing Hogan after the tape came to light.
Hulk Hogan has kept a low profile in recent years. That’s probably a good thing for him too, as he tries to move past his scandals of a few years back and regain favour. Hogan did, however, win a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Gawker over an intimate tape that depicted him in some compromising positions.
His son recently said that Hogan is in shape for a WWE return, and reports have popped up that WWE is open to bringing Hogan back when the time's right.
14 BRAD MADDOX
Brad Maddox briefly spent time as a wrestler in WWE developmental, before retiring and becoming a referee. In 2013, Maddox was promoted to the position of Raw General Manager. He held that position until 2015 when he was relieved of his duties by The Authority. He competed in a few dark matches and on live events. WWE released Maddox on November 25 2015 because he used a phrase that WWE considered inappropriate in a PG setting.
Brad Maddox announced that he would be accepting wrestling bookings under the ring name “Mad Braddox”. The terrible rip-off of his WWE ring name aside, all we’ve heard is crickets from Maddox. Of course, unless you count a certain leaked video that also ‘featured’ Xavier Woods and Paige. There is that, I guess.
13 REY MYSTERIO
Fue un placer aver pasado la tarde en casa del señorón de la banda @juliopreciado_ Gracias por la humildad y el placer de poder platicar de Lucha y Música después de una gran Mariscada! #Bendiciones #Exito @rootsoffight @jcchavez115 #CamisaNueva #Chavez #T.J #Sinaloa #Mazatlan #TonyMontana #ScarFace #TM
It seems like forever ago that WWE fans last got to see Rey Mysterio appear in a WWE ring. Many of us, myself included, would like to see him have one last stint with WWE before retiring. The future WWE Hall of Famer had a significantly diminished role in the company during the last few years before his departure. Injuries and suspensions unfortunately played a big part in this.
There is some confusion over the circumstances leading to his departure. It appears as though, on February 26, his contract wasn’t renewed which could mean he was released in a way. Either way, he has remained active. He returned to AAA where he was treated as a main attraction, where he formed the “Dream Team” alongside El Patron Alberto (Alberto Del Rio) and Myzteziz. More recently, Mysterio has appeared on Lucha Underground. He seems to be really enjoying his time there and his high-flying abilities fit in perfectly with the promotion.
12 AJ LEE
AJ Lee was one of the best female wrestlers in WWE for pretty all of her wrestling career. Though she was involved in many romantic storylines, she was also a very talented in-ring performer with good mic skills. In case you haven’t heard, she is married to some guy named CM Punk who just so happens to not be on the friendliest of terms with WWE. While Punk left the company in January 2014 and they got married in June 2014, AJ Lee kept performing with WWE until April 2015.
Days after WrestleMania 31, WWE and Lee went their separate ways. It was actually quite surprising Lee lasted that long considering who her husband is, and how Lee has been outspoken about how WWE portrays their female talents. Lee has retired from wrestling (for now at least). She is currently enjoying life with CM Punk and released her best-selling book “Crazy Is My Superpower” earlier this year.
Layla was signed by WWE after taking part in the 2006 Divas Search. Layla had a pretty successful decade-long run with WWE, which saw her win the WWE Women’s Championship and WWE Divas Championship once each. In fact, Layla was the last Divas Champion until the belt was retired in 2010. Layla effectively wrestled as a heel and a face and got (at least somewhat) over with the crowd despite not being the most gifted wrestler.
Layla’s run with WWE ended in July 2015. Later that year, she married her husband Adam. Since that time, she has pursued other interests, such as modeling. In what seems to be a trend for WWE female wrestlers, Layla has also become a real estate agent – at least according to her Twitter bio.
10 JUSTIN GABRIEL
Justin Gabriel’s most prominent role was during his time with Nexus, but was used primarily as low card talent who was there to put over the other wrestlers. Heading into 2015, Gabriel started to regain some momentum when he was placed in a tag team with Tyson Kidd. Though they were wrestling on NXT, it was something meaningful nonetheless. I mean, that has to be better than being Adam Rose’s bunny, right?
After requesting it, Gabriel was released from WWE on January 25 2015. This came as a bit of a surprise since he had been announced as a participant in the Royal Rumble. Since being granted creative freedom elsewhere, Gabriel has experienced success in TNA and Lucha Underground as PJ Black. He has competed for World Heavyweight Championships and was involved in the TNA/GFW invasion angle. After being underutilized in WWE, Gabriel has gone to have good success for other promotions!
9 BILLY GUNN
Former WWE Intercontinental and WWE Tag Team Champion Billy Gunn made his return to WWE in 2012 alongside Road Dogg as the reformed New Age Outlaws. They had a reign as WWE Tag Team Champions before putting over The Shield at WrestleMania 30. After that, Gunn had served as a coach on Tough Enough. WWE released Gunn in November 2015 after he failed a Wellness Test (he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone).
A month later, Gunn made his return to the indie circuit. He won a few championships on the smaller promotions and even teamed up with X-Pac on a few instances. In November 2016, Gunn signed with New Japan Pro Wrestling as the member of Yoshitatsu’s Hunter Club stable. The 54-year-old has kept really busy!
8 ZAHRA SCHREIBER
Zahra Schreiber was an NXT talent whose release in 2015 did not surprise anyone. Early on in 2015, nude photos exchanged between herself and then WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins were leaked on his Twitter account. Rollins apologized, and it was embarrassing situation for all involved. Schreiber survived that incident, but found herself under fire yet again when pro-Nazi photos and messages came to light. That is the type of thing WWE, and any other company, simply cannot endorse at all. WWE did the right thing and cut ties with Schreiber.
Schreiber has picked up a few gigs on the indies despite her controversies. She made her debut as a manager with DreamWave Wrestling, a LaSalle, IL wrestling company. She wrestled in a few multi-person matches, though in a very limited capacity. In January 2017, she made her debut with REAL Pro Wrestling. Though she apparently hasn’t wrestled much there either, she is frequently spotted as a manager/valet.
7 CJ PARKER
CJ Parker was a special talent but the powers that be in WWE apparently never saw anything in him. He had a very unique character that allowed him to standout from the rest, and seemed to get a good reaction as a heel. The experienced wrestler, best known for busting open Kevin Owens, never received much of a chance with NXT. Parker was released from his contract on April 3, 2015.
The talented wrestler returned to the indie scene, where be experienced some success (sound familiar yet?). Wrestling under the ring name Juice Robinson, he has wrestled for New Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Noah. He has wrestled the Bullet Club as well as challenged for several singles championships. Though he hasn’t won any major championships, he is certainly in a much better position than he was with WWE!
6 DEVIN TAYLOR
Devin Taylor was mostly used as a backstage interviewer with NXT. Though she was quite good as an interviewer, WWE Network’s program Breaking Ground revealed she was training to become a wrestler. It was heavily rumoured that she was preparing for a match with Dana Brooke, since Brooke had repeatedly embarrassed Taylor during interviews. That unfortunately never came to fruition as Taylor was handed her release on October 9, 2015. Taylor’s training was unable to progress because of some injury concerns.
Since then, Taylor has retired from the wrestling world. She has appeared on the 19th season of The Bachelor, but was eliminated in the first episode. According to her Instagram bio, she received her MBA from the University of Miami and is the co-founder and CEO of Special Needs Social Independence App.
5 SOLOMON CROWE
Solomon Crowe is yet another NXT wrestler whose talents were underutilized by WWE, who apparently didn’t see him becoming a star on the main roster. He was given a questionable gimmick of being a hacker able to control the audio/visual system on NXT. Apart from that, Crowe mostly just wrestled dark matches. After three uneventful years with WWE, Crowe was released on November 23rd 2015.
Since that time, Crowe triumphantly returned to the indies under his previous ring name, “Sami Callihan”. He has proved that you can be successful outside WWE, as he has wrestled for Lucha Underground, Impact Wrestling, and New Japan Pro Wrestling all since his late-2015 release. He has also been very successful with Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW), a Philadelphia-based promotion where Crowe is also head of creative.
4 TONY BRIGGS
Tony Briggs looks like the type of wrestler WWE (aka Vince McMahon) tends to love – tall, muscular build, you get the idea. When he signed with WWE in January 2014, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that WWE saw Briggs as a main event type talent. He has their typical look and that’s just who they seem to push. After wrestling eleven matches in NXT, WWE obviously didn’t see anything in Briggs and he was released in early 2015.
It didn’t take long for Briggs to find a wrestling gig elsewhere, as he returned to Supreme Pro Wrestling (SPW) in July 2015. He competed in the PWB Warrior’s Way Tournament unsuccessfully, but has regularly been involved in the main event picture. Briggs, wrestling as Brian Tannen in SPW, is currently the SPW Heavyweight Champion.
3 BLUE PANTS
Blue Pants – one of the oddest nicknames WWE has come up with recently – also spent around a year with WWE. Strangely, she was named “Blue Pants” on TV quite literally because she was wearing blue ring attire. She was mostly used as enhancement talent, having lost to future main roster stars Sasha Banks, Emma, Alexa Bliss, and Carmella. Blue Pants was released in December 2015.
Almost a year later, Blue Pants debuted with WrestleCircus in October 2016. In an incredibly fresh and unique gimmick, she performs as a different character each month she appears. For instance, in her debut she was “Broken” Leva Bates – based on Matt Hardy. She has also performed as “The List of Leva” (Chris Jericho), “Shinsuke Levamura” (Shinsuke Nakamura), and “Stone Cold LevAustin” (Stone Cold Steve Austin), among others.
Maybe WrestleCircus’ Queen of Cosplay will someday return to WWE to take on WWE’s resident female cosplay artist, Alexa Bliss.
2 LEYVONNA ZAKARI
Leyvonna Zakari is probably not a name you’d recognize, and for good reason. On paper, her resume looked perfect. She was a model (WWE loves attractive women) and an actress (entertainment value), but was never quite able to put it together to make it as a wrestler. Instead, Zakari was mostly relegated to doing ring announcing at the non-televised NXT events. She was released in April 2015, which was not surprising.
Not much is known about what Zakari has been up to since her release from WWE. Even her IMDB page only lists a single movie she was in, but it was released prior to her brief WWE stint. She is fairly active on Instagram and is frequently seen travelling and going to resorts with friends. A caption on one of her Instagram photos, taken in September 2016, suggests Zakari is, or at least was, working as a flight attendant.
1 THE BUNNY
You couldn’t seriously think we’d forget about The Bunny! The future WWE Hall of Famer was mysteriously released from his contract in 2015. For some reason, WWE never issued a formal press release indicating The Bunny had been released. While this might mean The Bunny is still lurking around backstage at WWE events, his profile was moved to the Alumni section on WWE.com in 2015.
The Bunny had a good run in WWE, though! He got to be a main attraction of the Exotic Express with Adam Rose and even got in some action, such as attacking Titus O’Neil. He even picked up the pinfall at Survivor Series 2014 when he teamed with Adam Rose to defeat Slater-Gator (Titus O’Neil and Heath Slater).