No one ever likes losing their job. Sometimes, employees might willingly quit their jobs and head on to other endeavors. When you're under contract, especially with a company like the WWE, quitting and getting fired both fall under the enigmatic term, “released.”
For plenty of wrestling fans, whether their favorites asked for their pink slips or unceremoniously got the axe, it's pretty hard to say goodbye. Most of the guys will be just fine, finding spots for themselves on the ever-burgeoning indie circuit, or they already have. But with no real, clear definitive number two company to head to, wrestlers have no choice but to hustle for themselves and hope the cream rises to the top. This year alone, several names were surprisingly let go when just a couple of years ago, they seemed destined to be major players in WWE. But it's not always doom and gloom when someone gets released. In fact, sometimes it can be a blessing in disguise. Some take the opportunity to hone their craft elsewhere and return to the company as bigger stars.
Some guys might want to aspire to be like Drew McIntyre or Jinder Mahal - guys who got released, worked hard, and returned in higher spots than they were in way back when. Perhaps, you'll want to be like one of the guys on this list and ask for your release to make it on your own. No matter the reason for a superstar’s release, here are 10 Recent WWE Releases Who Deserve A 2nd Chance With The Company And 10 Who Don't.
20 2nd Chance - Austin Aries
It must be a pretty cool feeling to be A-Double. Pretty much every promotion, Austin Aries has gone to doesn't just give him gold, they shower him with it. Why not? He certainly has the pedigree, being a Minnesota boy and being trained by the world-famous Eddie Sharkey. Aries wins so many titles that it has inspired his current run as the Belt Collector in Impact.
Depending on whom you believe, he was either released because he was incredibly frustrated with creative or the WWE brass was incredibly frustrated with him.
But if anyone deserves a second shot at some sort of WWE glory, both sides should be able to agree that they can still get a ton of mileage out of a gimmick like “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived.”
19 Doesn't - Eva Marie
In another time, during another era, Eva Marie’s “all red everything” routine would have been smeared all over the WWE like that elevator from The Shining. She would have been heralded alongside other bombshells like Sable, Sunny, and Terri. That was then and this is now. The ladies need to be a lot more than just bombshells in order to get ahead.
In fact, Eva Marie was booed out of Full Sail instead of the NXT faithful applauding her desire to try and become a fully functional wrestler. She even worked with Brian Kendrick to learn. But her in-ring skill was never up to snuff, and in all likelihood, it wasn't going to be - once her release came, it was probably the last we’d see from her.
18 2nd Chance - Big Cass
It's pretty surprsing that one of the most popular trios in NXT history has been reduced to just Carmella now, and she's the most successful attraction of the bunch. Her old running mate, Big Cass was certainly seen as a long-term prospect and with his height and intelligence. Vince McMahon most certainly was looking forward to molding the kid.
Depending on what reports you choose to believe, his release earlier this year boiled down to tension with certain coworkers behind the scenes, or for not following orders of his superiors. But none of those wrongs can't be righted. Perhaps a year or so working on the indies will be something that helps Cass hold his tongue and hands to himself and get words better in the ring.
17 Doesn't - Enzo Amore
Luckily, Enzo Amore was cleared of any wrongdoing in his personal life. But his release was still a long time coming. He might have had the sauce, but Enzo’s mouth was writing checks he couldn't cash.
He was not acting professional, was getting heaved off tour buses and disrespected his supposed best friend for not being able to finish a match while he was injured.
Enzo has since gotten more vocal on social media and from the looks of things, his in-ring career is done.
That's probably for the best, as it's unlike the WWE would ever bring him back anyway. Suffice to say, Enzo is not welcome back.
16 2nd Chance - Emma
Bruce Prichard has explained several times on Something To Wrestle With that Vince can often times make decisions based on if he ate well and if he's had enough sleep. If that's true, then the chairman must have had no sleep and food poisoning when he decided to let Emma go late last year.
With a burgeoning women’s division that's going to need more and more experienced stars, and someone with Emma’s looks and skillset should have been primed for a top spot. But for whatever the reason, she wasn't. So let's get a new hashtag started now #EmmaForMaeYoungIII. It's ridiculous that someone as talented as her wasn't used properly in WWE.
15 Doesn't - Ryback
You name the negative connotation, Ryback has received it.
While his reasons for leaving seem pure (he wanted equal pay for talent and creative frustration), The Big Guy had his moment and couldn't make due. Ryback has also been very outspoken against the company since leaving. The roster itself now is loaded with names, both who have the size and in-ring ability. There just doesn't seem to be a place on the roster for Ryback anymore.
While other wrestlers came to his defense about CM Punk's derogatory comments, sometimes if something feels a little off, then something is a little off.
14 2nd Chance - Bronson Matthews
Speaking of big guys, Tough Enough VI had several big guys on the playing field. But none more willing to work and be molded than Josh Bredl, aka the Yeti and the show’s eventual male winner.
He won the big 250K contract and at least one year working in the Performance Center.
But an NXT debut isn’t always guaranteed and injuries began to creep up on the aspiring football player and wrestler. Bredl did get to make a few NXT live shots and was being packaged as Bronson Matthews. He was released in 2017, and according to Dave Meltzer the cut was inevitable, due to some serious head injuries he sustained.
Perhaps if he gives himself time to heal up and WWE doctors approve his return, the Yeti will get a chance to shine.
13 Doesn't - Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger was given just about every change a guy of his athletic caliber could have. The big Okie was seemingly pushed as a Kurt Angle-type of technical, patriot brawler. He quickly became the ECW champion and received several pushes, including a World Championship match at WrestleMania XXIX. But he wound up getting into trouble at the worst possible time.
Floundering around for several more years after, Swagger finally asked for his released and was finally granted it last year. He has since signed up with both Bellator and now Lucha Underground. It’s easy to see why he wanted to leave. So good for him, but how many chances do you think he should be given in WWE?
12 2nd Chance - Cody Rhodes
As the son of Dusty Rhodes, Cody deserved a much better WWE career than he was afforded. If you need proof, just take a look at what the kid has done since asking for his release. ROH Champion, member of the esteemed Bullet Club, and now big-time Indy promotor and the brand-new NWA Heavyweight champion.
Cody in the WWE, along with Dustin gave the company a few emotional moments, and now on his own, Cody is doing the same. If and when he returns to the company it needs to be treated as a big deal considering the huge star he has become and Rhodes should finally get the WWE push that he deserves, although at this point he is the leading example that wrestlers don’t need to head up north to make a big name for themselves.
11 Doesn't – Darren Young
As the WWE’s first out superstar, Darren Young would be able to do a lot of goodwill work for some of the WWE’s charities.
In the ring, he was a capable performer and along with Titus O’Neil was able to pull off both an old-school style heel or babyface tag team.
The Prime Time Players had moderate success, and now that the tag team scene is heating up again, a resurgence might be something worth watching especially with the crowd shots of fans of doing the PTP dance, now mixed with Titus Worldwide. But Young was given every chance to get over huge and had a hard time capitalizing on it.
10 2nd Chance - Jim Johnston
If you’ve been a fan of WWE since the '80s, there is certainly a constant playlist of music running through your head. Austin, Hogan, Rock, Undertaker, Kane, you name the theme, and Jim Johnston certainly had a hand in creating it, if not coming up with the whole theme by himself.
But back in 2014, the WWE’s music company asked that the CFO$ take over the creation of the wrestler’s themes, which greatly reduced Jim Johnston’s contributions. He was let go back in 2017 after 32 years with the company.
Hopefully, someone in Vince’s ear was smart enough to suggest that Johnston be compensated heavily for all of his contributions, otherwise music on the WWE network is going to change drastically, leaving a bad taste in all of our mouths.
9 Doesn't- Simon Gotch
Didn't the Vaudevillian, Simon Gotch just look like a heel? Which is what the tag team was, but apparently, Gotch was also a heel backstage. Reports kept surfacing of Gotch getting into some trouble backstage. While some of that is generally tolerated by WWE if it's a top star, Gotch was simply not a big enough name to survive the reputation he had built.
True, there's a little bit of leniency in WWE, but Gotch wasn't that popular among the boys to begin with, so away he went with a release. There wouldn't be much point in bringing him back to WWE for a reunion with Aiden English, as his former tag partner has gotten over serving as Rusev's mouthpiece.
8 2nd Chance – Wade Barrett
There are so few spots at the top of the card, and if you're a dedicated wrestler then you're clawing and scratching to get there. Once you're there, you're kicking and screaming to stay there. Wade Barrett was seemingly doing both all at the same time. He was given the chance of a lifetime being Y2J’s rookie during the first season of NXT.
While always making the most of what was given to him and having the crowd want to be behind him, the powers that be for whatever reason wouldn't hand Barrett the ball.
They even told to stop using the Bad News gimmick because he was getting too many cheers.
Perhaps if he chooses to come back and WWE wants him back, he'll be able to do what he already did - get over and the WWE will help him stay over instead of telling him to stop.
7 Doesn't - Alberto Del Rio
Originally heralded and pushed as a new top heel, the guy had and still has tremendous potential, but he just can't seem to keep his personal life in check and thoughts away from the business. Since leaving WWE, Alberto Del Rio hasn't garnered the best reputation for himself on the indies and on top of that, has burned some bridges with WWE by repeatedly calling out Triple H. Vince McMahon has reportedly always been a fan of Del Rio and it can't be ruled out that he'd want to give him another chance, but it really isn't worth the trouble for WWE at this point.
6 2nd Chance - Zeda
Sometimes releases seem like they're abrupt and the company wasn't willing to give time to see how much a talent can blossom. Sometimes the WWE just got impatient, sometimes the coaches might think talent will get better with some time away from WWE but traversing the company. Either way, it's no skin off the company’s nose.
So when an MMA athlete/model is picked to join the Performance Center and then asked to be a part of the inaugural Mae Young Classic, one would assume the company would invest some time in you before giving you a release. But here we are, reading about the recently released Zeda. It remains to be seen what her next move will be, but if she does get to return to the company, fans will certainly know her name.
5 Doesn't - Sara Lee
If the WWE ever needs a reminder that if they bring back Tough Enough, it needs to be significantly retooled, then look no further than season six female winner, Sara Lee. For more than half of the competition she was on the brink of going home, but somehow kept making it through.
She was timid and every judge and every one of her competitors knew it.
Whether past accusations against her were true or not, Lee being released a little over a year after after winning the competition for not progressing enough. Basically, she wound up being a huge waste of precious TV time and company time.
4 2nd Chance - Summer Rae
There were not a lot or memorable storylines for Summer Rae during her tenure in WWE, just a godawful and painful-to-watch soap opera with Ziggler, Rusev, and Lana. But that doesn't and shouldn't fall on her. That should fall on creative. But she still was always animated on-screen, and by all accounts, wonderful to fans outside of the ring.
Just because more and more ladies want to grapple, doesn't mean there isn't a place for someone who simply acts as a valet. Let Summer Rae play THAT role. Pair her up with Breezango or Dana Brooke and let fans once again connect with her.
3 Doesn't - James Ellsworth
James Ellsworth is somewhat back with WWE, but albeit in a reducedrole and isn't the constant on-screen presence he was a year ago.
Seldom has a wrestler done more with as little as James Ellsworth has done. Take one look at him and he is certainly not main roster material. That's not to disparage the guy. In another era, Ellsworth is a supreme journeyman.
But in this time, Ellsworth, while entertaining, doesn't bring a whole lot to the table. Unless he's going to consistently be part of Carmella’s act, then just leave him off TV permanently. You can also keep him on as a trainer or an agent if you like him that much. But you don’t need to take a roster spot away from someone else that could fill his role.
2 2nd Chance - Jimmy Jacobs
Jimmy Jacobs's absent presence behind the scenes in WWE has already been felt. Jacobs was the head writer on SmackDown and the show was undoubtedly the better of WWE's two flagship brands in his time there. Jacobs was released after posing for some pictures with his buddies who were 'invading' a WWE show.
Jacobs has since moved on to Impact and has been helping that brand improve dramatically.
At 34 years old, Jacobs still wants to wrestle for the time being, but WWE should eventually let bygones be bygones and bring Jacobs back to their writing team.
1 Doesn't - Rosa Mendes
In the WWE these days, it takes more than it used to for superstars to get a chance on top, particularly in the women's division. Try as she might, Rosa Mendes couldn't really ascend in terms of in-ring ability.
Mendes seemed like a decent person who always did what she was asked. But in the entertainment business, if you're not entertaining, then being nice only counts in Mean Gene’s horseshoes and hand grenades, and there's no point to bringing her back.
Rosa has made her intentions clear that she wants to return to the ring, but WWE shouldn't entertain the idea of bringing her back.