World Wrestling Entertainment is easily the biggest promotion in professional wrestling. There are other promotions like Total Nonstop Action, Ring of Honor and others outside of the United States, but the WWE is the place where most wrestlers want to go. There are also so many spots available at any given time.
Most years, the WWE usually makes a round of cuts where they release a number of superstars who haven’t quite lived up to their potential. Many of them spent a lot of time on the main roster and just didn’t get over with the fans. There are also superstars that the WWE had in their developmental system who just couldn’t put all of the pieces together.
There are also a number of established superstars who know they are worthy of more opportunities. They have the skills, the charisma and even the fan support, but with the crowd of superstars who are trying to compete for main event status, they can be lost in the shuffle. This leads to some of them requesting their release from the company to find opportunities elsewhere.
Every year, fans read stories about several superstars who are let go from the WWE – whether voluntarily or involuntarily. It’s part of the rotation of talents the WWE sees on a consistent basis. Room has to be made for many of the independent wrestling stars they have already signed or are currently scouting.
The following are 15 WWE superstars who were released from the WWE – one way or another – and what they are up to currently.
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Ryback had a messy departure from WWE. He was initially sent home in May due to a contract dispute. After not appearing as advertised for an event, Ryback posted on his Tumblr page that he had made the decision to go home, citing a lack of equal pay and creative frustration.
In early August, the WWE made it official, when they announced they were releasing Ryback. Since his departure, Ryan Allen Reeves kept himself busy. Just a month after leaving WWE, Reeves got his name changed legally to Ryback Allen Reeves, which allowes him to bill himself as Ryback.
He's taken many bookings on the independent circuit since then, even winning the WrestlePro Tag Team Titles with Pat Buck.
15 Sara Lee
Tough Enough produced a few superstars who found some success in the WWE -- not many, but things did work out for John Hennigan (a.k.a. John Morrison). Carolyn “CJ” Dunning, known as Sara Lee, was the female winner of Tough Enough in 2015 after a time in the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and competing in bodybuilding competitions. While she spent nearly a year in NXT, she never wrestled on television or at any live events before being released in October. There were reports that she was interested in working for TNA Wrestling, but she has yet to appear on Impact Wrestling.
According to her LinkedIn account, Dunning has worked as an account executive for Randstad USA with a focus on accounting and finance. It was her position before she left for the WWE Performance Center. She recently announced that she was having a baby girl on Twitter, meaning her return to the ring may be delayed.
14 Zamariah “ZZ” Loupe
Josh Bredl was the man who eventually won the male title of WWE’s Tough Enough in 2015. Since then, he competed in NXT under the name Bronson Matthews. He was the man the fans kept voting out of elimination, despite not being viewed as a potential superstar by WWE officials. Zamariah “ZZ” Loupe was given a developmental contract of his own. ZZ didn’t have the look of a superstar and he also received criticism for his work. Just ask Oney Lorcan.
The story would end with ZZ being released from his NXT contract in July after having mostly live event wins. He was released with reports saying he was lazy and not dropping weight fast enough. In October, ZZ was announced to be training with Wildkat Sports and Entertainment in New Orleans. There have also been some positive reviews of his work ethic recently.
13 Sylvester LeFort and Marcus Louis
One day after his release from NXT in February, Sylvester LeFort would post a statement on his Twitter account where he borrowed an analogy from his NXT tag team partner, Marcus Louis, about someone being able to play the role in NXT better than him. With all of the incoming talent to the NXT roster, LeFort became one of those names who became expendable by the WWE. The French gimmick didn’t work out for Louis and LeFort.
He did tell fans that they didn’t hear the last from him. Since his departure from the WWE, he now competes under the name Tom LaRuffa for various promotions in Europe. He also spent a brief period of time in TNA Wrestling teaming with the former Marcus Louis (Baron Dax) as part of Al Snow’s faction called The Tribunal.
12 Bull Dempsey
Bull Dempsey was a monstrous man who was placed in a more comedic role shortly after the arrival of independent superstars like Kevin Owens. However, his Bull-Fit character was definitely an entertaining one to watch before he was eventually released from his NXT contract in February. He said he didn’t notice any writing on the wall with coaches, saying the news of his departure was a surprise.
However, he’s been able to find consistent work back in the independent circuit. Competing under the name Bull James, he’s competed in the northeast part of the United States for promotions like House of Hardcore and Ring of Honor. He has certainly taken the bad news as motivation to improve himself for a potential return to the WWE.
11 El Torito
With Primo and Epico receiving a character update from Los Matadores, the man who competed as El Torito would be released from his WWE contract in May. There were some funny moments with a tiny bull, which included a good match with Hornswoggle in a “WeeLC” match that got some positive reviews. However, no one complained when he was released from the WWE.
But the smaller wrestler has continued to work in Mexico as Mascarita Dorada. That’s where he first worked before the WWE signed him to a contract. Mascarita Dorada managed to win championship gold in Mexico, including the AAA Mascot Tag Team Championship with his brother Mascarita Segrada, who has recently appeared on Lucha Underground. Dorada also held the Mexican National Mini-Estrella Championship on two occasions.
There were not a lot of WWE fans who were saddened by Cameron’s release from the WWE. She was just one name among several in May, but she had gotten a lot of heat for some comments she made on social media. The person behind the character, Ariane Andrew, said in an interview on Steve Austin’s podcast that it was just part of a pile of bad news – including a breakup with her boyfriend.
Since the departure, Andrew has retired from professional wrestling. She’s also been able to improve her physical shape by being able to spend more time on workouts and different activities. She claims she’s in the best shape of her life and is better off not doing hundreds of shows per year.
9 Adam Rose
Working as Leo Kruger in Florida Championship Wrestling and NXT for years wasn’t working out for Ray Leppan, but a character change to the fun-loving, party enthusiast Adam Rose led to a quick rise to the WWE main roster in 2014. However, his status in the WWE continued to decline as he had multiple violations of the WWE Talent Wellness Policy, though Rose would contest the second violation and 60-day suspension, claiming that he was taking prescribed medicines.
In May, Rose requested to be released by the WWE and the company obliged. He’s changed his look by shaving his head and he’s kept the party gimmick as Aldo Rose, but it’s a much edgier character than the PG-friendly Rose in WWE. Since his release, Rose has competed for various independent promotions, mostly in the northeast region.
8 Alex Riley
A tremendous afternoon with Felicia Davis at NBC Universal HeadQuarters. I promise we will one day finish the "Tampa Elbow" story or at the very least use it for an episode of Blood Drive ;) Thanks again for your extremely valuable time. Hope to see you soon!A photo posted by Kevin Kiley Jr. (Alex Riley) (@kileyjrwwe) on
After years of barely being on WWE television and even in NXT, the WWE finally decided to release Alex Riley in May. They might not have said it to his face (like his entrance theme demands), but it ended a long run of being in WWE obscurity. There was a point in which he was built for a feud with The Miz after being his apprentice of sorts. Riley attempted to get back on TV multiple times with not-so-subtle social media posts.
Since leaving the WWE, it looks as if Kevin Kiley, Jr. is moving on from professional wrestling and getting involved in television projects. He has teased a project involving Netflix earlier this month. The Internet Movie Database also lists that he’s currently on the set of a TV series called G.L.O.W., based on professional wrestling in California.
Hornswoggle had a pretty long run in the WWE that first started as Finlay’s “Little Bastard” in 2006. His career had multiple high points as comic relief, including when he tried to become the official mascot for D-Generation X. Then there were the not-so-high points, like being named Vince McMahon’s illegitimate son. His run ended in May as part of the mass firings, which he said was due to cost-cutting.
Hornswoggle knew it was a matter of time, after not being on WWE television for more than a year. It was still an impressive feat to stay in WWE for a decade. Since his WWE departure, he’s appeared for various independent promotions, including Global Force Wrestling, under the name Swoggle. He also made a brief appearance teaming with Rockstar Spud in Total Nonstop Deletion.
6 Zeb Colter
Older wrestling fans know him better by the name Dirty Dutch Mantel, but younger members of the WWE Universe will always know him as Zeb Colter. In 2013, he debuted as the manager for Jack Swagger with the “Real American” gimmick. It drew a lot of mainstream attention that led to Swagger getting a World Heavyweight Championship match with Alberto Del Rio at WrestleMania XXIX.
But the WWE made a poor decision to put Colter with Del Rio in October 2015. Mantel would state his attempts to be paired with Swagger again failed and he was part of the large group of released superstars in May. Mantel has been pretty quiet in wrestling overall. He hasn’t been on television or worked with any promotions. He was last advertised for a Global Force Wrestling show in June.
5 Santino Marella
In 2014, Santino Marella came out to announce his retirement from professional wrestling during a WWE live event. The decision to quit in-ring action was due to a third neck injury. He had some great moments as a mid-card superstar for the WWE, highlighted by the Milan Miracle win over Umaga for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. But in May of this year, the WWE decided to release Marella from his WWE contract.
Since his departure from the WWE, he’s focused his time on the Battle Arts Academy he helped open in 2013 in his hometown of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. The 13,000-square-foot complex offers classes and programs for various types of martial arts and athletic workouts. The academy offers judo, boxing, Muay Thai and professional wrestling. So far, his post-WWE life seems to be going well.
4 Damien Sandow
There were plenty of wrestlers who were released by the WWE in May, but one name that might have surprised many fans was Damien Sandow. After they decided to end his run as the “Intellectual Savior of the Masses,” the WWE misused him with a number of silly comedy gimmicks. Their attempts to make him a stunt double for The Miz backfired as his antics got him over with the crowd.
Sandow could have been bitter, but he seemed at peace and was grateful for the opportunity. He also appreciated the feedback from fans afterwards. Since then, he’s made the jump to TNA Wrestling. He would win the TNA Grand Championship at Bound for Glory in October. While many criticize TNA, Sandow has been used better there than he when he was with the WWE.
3 Wade Barrett
In May, Wade Barrett’s name was among the long list of WWE superstars who were released from the company. However, Barrett was already going to leave the WWE when his contract expired that year, and fans couldn’t blame him. Barrett was another one of those well-rounded superstars who never got that main event push. The WWE was close when The Nexus was strong around 2010.
But Barrett was a decorated mid-tier superstar (five reigns as WWE Intercontinental Champion) who had a bad string of injuries. Fans were hoping to see what was next for Stu Bennett outside of the Barrett character. Sadly, he might be moving away from wrestling as he was announced for a lead role in Evolutionary Films’ Vengeance. Some still believe the door is open for WWE to bring back Barrett.
2 Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio drew a lot of negative attention during his second return with the WWE in 2016. After plenty of rumors involving his relationship with female superstar Paige and a violation of the Talent Wellness Policy, Del Rio was released by WWE in September. He held a press conference in Mexico saying he wasn’t happy in WWE and felt he had accomplished everything he could in the company.
Del Rio isn’t certainly struggling to find work. Plenty of independent wrestling promoters are willing to pay top dollar to acquire him. He’s likely going to have work waiting for him in Mexico. He’s also acting as president of MMA promotion Combate Americas. Del Rio probably won’t be signing any contracts with companies like Ring of Honor or TNA Wrestling.
1 Cody Rhodes
The Stardust gimmick had become tiresome for the WWE Universe, as well as Cody Rhodes. The man once known as “Dashing” was certainly tired of portraying a ripoff gimmick of his brother, Goldust. Less than a month after letting several superstars go, the WWE announced they were releasing Cody Rhodes from his WWE contract on May 22. It was Rhodes who requested to be released and it was due to the Stardust character.
After leaving the WWE, he posted a picture of a checklist on social media with the names of several wrestlers. He included names like Dalton Castle, Adam Cole and Kurt Angle. Since leaving the WWE, Rhodes has competed for several top-tier independent promotions. He’s also worked out deals to wrestle for both Ring of Honor and TNA Wrestling. He will likely cross of all the names off his list by this time next year.
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