The nature of WWE and most other major wrestling promotions dictates that the company will have a high turnover rate, particularly for its on air talent. It’s an entertainment business, and a business like that demands fresh faces and personalities to keep storytelling vital and engage fans. For each new face that arrives, there typically has to be one that goes to make room for someone else to have TV time and to earn that salary.
There are those performers who leave of their own will. Take Cody Rhodes who appeared to feel underutilized and a bit creatively stifled in WWE, and thus broke out on his own and has since succeeded in quite a few smaller venues and internationally. There are also, however, those who do not leave willingly, whether it’s because WWE creative doesn’t have anything left for them, or because the company feels they have run their course.
In some more dramatic cases, there are other reasons for someone to be released. Sometimes it’s a very good reason, like successive Wellness Policy suspensions or involvement in behaviors the company doesn’t want to be associated with. Other times the choices are more political or more arbitrary in nature.
The arbitrary nature of hiring and firing decisions extends to the female roster in particular, where WWE has a tradition of hiring based less on talent or drawing power than collecting pretty faces with the hopes they’ll appeal to the predominantly male fan base. While the company has grown more egalitarian in that regard with more of a focus on women’s wrestling, there remain some women fired for ridiculous reasons, and there’s reason to speculate that some current roster members could be next.
15 Fired: Jillian Hall
From 2005 to 2010, Jillian Hall was quietly one of the best female wrestlers WWE had.
OK, maybe quietly isn’t the right word.
Hall is best remembered for her singing Diva gimmick that may or may not have been a rib on Brooke Hogan. Regardless, over her five years on the main roster, she proved an ability to get whatever gimmick WWE gave her over by committing to the bit and by remaining a legitimately excellent in ring worker within the character she was assigned.
In 2010, Hall transitioned to helping train up and coming talents in WWE’s developmental territory, only for WWE to let her contract run out and opt not to renew it.
While Hall had a good run, she was extremely talented and hard working, and clearly had more to give the women’s roster, particularly during that period that wasn’t exactly known for great in ring work from female talents. It’s a shame WWE squandered what it had in this talent.
14 Next: Emma
Emma looked like a future star working with Paige in NXT, as their rivalry was a bit of a prototype for what feuds like Bayley vs. Sasha Banks and Banks vs. Charlotte Flair would become, featuring hard hitting, technical action that was light years ahead of the women’s wrestling on the main roster at the time. Emma would even get bumped up to the main roster ahead of Paige, where unfortunately her silly face character didn’t really get over. She succeeded in reinventing herself after getting shunted back down to NXT though, this time as a sexy, cool heel.
Unfortunately, injuries and poor timing added up and Emma is now largely lost in the shuffle on Raw, struggling to get any TV time at all. She recently took to social media to vent about it, complaining about everyone else getting opportunities over her. It’s arguable that was an in-character post, selling her as a jealous heel, but if we take it literally, which we could, speaking out publicly will likely only add to whatever poor feelings management has toward her and could lead to her release rather than more opportunities.
13 Fired: Mickie James
Mickie James was widely considered heir apparent to Trish Stratus’s throne as the top female performer in WWE. Like Stratus, James was talented in the ring and easy on the eyes. On top of that, her early work in a crazy gimmick demonstrated immediately that she had the acting chops to take her character in a variety of directions.
After a successful run as a face and weathering the demeaning Piggy James angle, James was unceremoniously released five years into her WWE tenure. According to James, the only explanation she was given was that WWE was going in a different direction with its female roster. While a different vision is understandable enough, it’s much harder to understand releasing one of the most talented and most over female performers of the day for little concrete reason. She was precisely the sort of talent WWE should have been building around rather than dismissing.
For what it was worth, the company seemed to see the error in its ways six years later when they brought James back into the fold, after the women’s product had evolved into a more serious, athletic division.
12 Next: Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch was a star in NXT, particularly for her outstanding work opposite Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s Championship. From there, she was a featured player on the main roster, arriving at the same time as Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks. Lynch was featured, in particular, as an early foil for Flair in her run as a heel champion. Finally, Lynch got the opportunity to shine as champion after the brands split, and Lynch was the de facto female face of SmackDown.
Things have taken a turn for Lynch, however. She was largely shunted aside in favor of Alexa Bliss as a budding heel star. From there, Naomi did the unlikely and supplanted Lynch as the top face on SmackDown. With Flair now on the blue brand as well as a face, and Carmella getting the Money in the Bank push, Lynch finds herself largely lost in the shuffle. While she’s arguably the most proficient in the ring of any of the group, WWE doesn’t seem to see money in her, and there’s reason to believe she might not be a part of the roster in a year’s time.
11 Fired: Alundra Blayze
WWE let Alundra Blayze go when the company was in financial straits and opted to eliminate its women’s division. While the decision is understandable, Blayze was a special talent who was not only a great in ring performer (as she’d proven in WWE as the center of the women’s division) but also had a proven track record as a manger from WCW that could have made her something of an updated Sensational Sherri.
For whatever reasons, WWE didn’t see the value in keeping Blayze. The choice was not only bad from the perspective of Blayze helping the company, but in that they all but pushed her into the arms of WCW where she infamously dropped her WWE Women’s Championship in a trash can on live TV. It was a key moment in the Monday Night War, and some argue it laid the foundation for the Montreal Screwjob, and WWE not trusting Bret Hart not to disrespect their men’s championship in a similar way.
10 Next: Summer Rae
When you see Summer Rae’s name on this countdown, your first reaction might be to question if she’s really still on the WWE roster.
Yes, Summer Rae is still there, though you wouldn’t know it from her minimal appearances in recent months. To be fair, she did miss some time for injuries, but even before that wasn’t exactly a vital part of WWE programming.
To be fair, Summer Rae falls in that anachronistic camp of stunningly attractive women signed for their looks, only to start right around the time WWE shifted to taking its women’s division more seriously. However, Summer Rae has show good intensity and aggression in the ring—the beginnings of being a respectable, legitimate wrestler in her own right. WWE seems to be squandering a potentially valuable asset, and if we don’t see her on TV again soon, you have to wonder how long it might be before WWE lets her go altogether.
9 Fired: Brooke Hogan
The 2010 calendar year saw TNA bring in Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff in backstage consulting positions, and on-air authority roles. The reasoning was understandable given the degree to which the two were successful in WCW, and Hogan’s broader notoriety in the wrestling world. In the stretch to follow, the company tried to launch its own Monday Night War against Raw, and brought in or brought back marquee players like Ric Flair and Jeff Hardy. And before long, they brought in Brooke Hogan.
Brooke was cast as her father’s counterpart for the Knockouts women’s division, as a matchmaker and general authority figure. To be fair, she made little sense in the role given she had absolutely no credibility of her own in wrestling, but there was always the potential for TNA to outwardly address the nepotism and go all in on Brooke courageously proving herself as a face, or owning her privilege and becoming a heel.
Later, Brooke would become the subject of intrigue with a kayfabe romance with Bubba Ray in the early stages of the Aces & Eights angle, which may have been her best on screen work for the company.
TNA ultimately let Brooke go for budgetary reasons. This entry has less to do with a company being wrong to fire someone, than wrong to hire her in the first place. If they were going to hire her, though, it seemed like there were a lot more opportunities to ride it out and make good use of Hulk Hogan’s daughter.
8 Next: Dana Brooke
Dana Brooke is an objectively talented athlete, with tremendous physical strength and athleticism. The trouble is, she’s not really a very good wrestler.
Mind you, far lesser wrestling talents have had longer runs on the WWE main roster, but in the current era, WWE has a lot of truly tremendous talents to stock the women’s championship picture on both brands. For her limitations as a performer, someone like Nia Jax will keep her spot on the roster for her unique size, and a performer like Lana will likely get a pardon on account of her looks. Brooke had her moments in the sun as Charlotte Flair’s sidekick and then rival, but without The Queen to work with, she’s an unspectacular performer with looks that don’t particularly stand out either, and there’s not much reason to foresee much a future for her in WWE.
7 Fired: Missy Hyatt
Before there was Sunny and before there was Sable, there was Missy Hyatt as the definitive sex symbol of WCW (well, at least she was definitive before Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler showed up in the Monday Night War era). Hyatt was a bombshell who had also traveled widely enough in the wrestling world to develop into a solid working manager.
Things took a turn, however. In a widely rumored series of events, Hyatt had a wardrobe malfunction in which her breast popped out of her top. When she visited WCW’s offices, she was appalled to find a blown photo of the moment on display and complained to Eric Bischoff. When he didn’t take action, she took the mater over his head, which Bischoff didn’t appreciate and which led to her dismissal.
Other rumors cite that Hyatt behaved unprofessionally out of jealousy after Sherri Martel was signed to the company. Regardless, her dismissal seems to have been more about a personality clash than any wrongdoing or Hyatt’s performance on air.
6 Next: Natalya
Natalya is certainly one of the most proficient wrestlers, male or female, in WWE, and has the longest consecutive tenure of any woman on the roster at this point. For all of her talents and durability, Natalya has stretched past her physical prime, and WWE doesn’t seem particularly interested in doing much of interest with her character at this point. She got one small push coming out of the brand split by launching a backstage attack on Nikki Bella to lead to some good hard hitting matches between the two. Since then, she’s mostly been a background player and foundational piece around which other women work larger matches.
It may be Natalya’s lineage alone that keeps her employed at this point, as a member of the Hart clan, niece of Bret Hart, and daughter of Jim Neidhart. Despite that legacy, you have to imagine there will be some point when WWE lets Natalya go, or at least redistributes her to more of a trainer role.
5 Fired: Sherri Martel
Sherri is one of the most iconic women in wrestling history. She was an excellent wrestler who went on to become, particularly in WWE, one of the greatest managers of all time. Sherri was associated with top acts like Randy Savage, Ted Dibiase, and Shawn Michaels, and held fast to the Bobby Heenan mantra of managing like a wrestler, never afraid to get fully involved.
Sherri found her way to WCW where she was associated with Ric Flair and with Harlem Heat at different times. It’s widely reported that she had a drug problem at the time, and Sherri has claimed in shoot interviews that Eric Bischoff did confront her about it. When she passed out in his office, he felt the need to can her.
While firing someone for a drug problem isn’t exactly unreasonable, it also represented a lack of compassion for trying to help her get back on her feet. It’s not as though Sherri were some flash in the pan rookie either—she was a Hall of Fame-bound legend whom it would have been nice to see WCW give another chance.
4 Next: Tamina
Tamina is a powerful and athletic star, who has been a part of the main roster for over seven years now. The thing is that, for her talents, Tamina has also largely seen the division pass her by, with a proliferation of women with similar talents and more technical acumen and charisma to go along with it. Even in her role as the woman who wrestles a big style, Nia Jax has largely supplanted her in what would be the “monster heel” role.
Tamina’s saving grace may have been that she was a legacy—the daughter of WWE legend Jimmy Snuka. That lineage is doing her less favors now given that, in his last days, the controversy of whether Snuka was responsible for the death of his girlfriend in the 1980s resurfaced. While WWE hasn’t removed Snuka from its website and went so far as to air a tribute video after his death, he remains a figure the company isn’t exactly eager to associate itself with now, which is not very good news for Tamina’s long term prospects.
3 Fired: The Kat
The Kat was one of the most provocative female performers of the Attitude Era, who in particular drew attention based on sexualized moments, performing in matches that revolved around stripping an opponent or giving her a stinkface. The character looked to take a turn when she was, against her will, indoctrinated into the Right To Censor faction after her real life husband and on screen beau Jerry Lawler lost a match to Steven Richards.
According to Lawler, WWE shifted creative plans, cutting off The Kat’s storyline with Right To Censor, and moving toward bringing the stable’s story to a close altogether. Consequently, they decided to let The Kat go for lack of other plans. The decision seems a bit arbitrary and short-sighted for a performer who was reasonably over with the fans, though others have claimed the release had more to do with her bad attitude backstage. Regardless, WWE would end up losing not just The Kat, but Lawler too, who temporarily walked form WWE out of solidarity.
2 Next: Paige
Few wrestlers before or since have suffered a fall from grace on the scale of Paige in WWE. She started as something of a chosen one as the top female star of NXT who paved the way for stars like Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks to take things to the next level. She won the Divas Championship her first night on the main roster and went on to be featured in the women’s division for years to follow.
From there, things took a turn. Paige’s real life relationship with Alberto Del Rio put her on the outs with management. She ran into neck issues and substance issues that controversially put on her on Wellness Policy suspension. Then there were the leaked sex videos and photos, followed by her most recent domestic violence scandal with Del Rio.
In all likelihood, WWE would have cut ties with Paige already were it not for WWE Studios’ commitment to a biopic of her life, produced by The Rock. As issues mount, however, one would have to assume she’ll be released or at least that her contract won’t be renewed.
1 Fired: Serena Deeb
Serena Deeb was a core member of CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society, a cult like little faction that centered on following Punk’s straight edge lifestyle. As a female member, Deeb added a different dimension to the group, and with her buzz cut and punk rock sensibilities, brought something different to the women’s roster of the day as well.
Deeb purportedly end up released from WWE for drinking in public, and thus going against her gimmick. In the 1980s or earlier, this sort of reaction from a wrestling company would more or less make sense. In 2010, however, when WWE was already well into its days of releasing shoot documentaries, releasing a wrestler for not living her gimmick felt arbitrary and anachronistic.
Deeb wouldn’t really get another shot at the national spotlight until WWE brought her back, at least in the short term, for the Mae Young Classic.