Every year, fans in WWE know that the post-WrestleMania period has a major shift: The wave of pink slips. The brutal fact is that wrestling is a business which means laying off talent is just a way of life. Everyone knows it, as unless you’re a mega-star and really bring in the merchandising bucks, you’re likely to get cut. Even some stars aren’t immune to suddenly being fired and forced to find new work. Some make their way to Impact, others to the indies and some hope that down the road, WWE can change their minds. After all, the company has shown a great habit of bringing back workers most thought would never get another shot again. Vince McMahon may be a cold but he can also have a surprising habit for giving second chances.
However, some workers don’t deserve that second chance. Their firing from the company was a smart move by WWE, often caused by backstage issues or personal problems. The way a wrestler acts since can confirm it with them trashing WWE or getting even worse in behavior. Some guys fans may want to be back in the company but frankly don’t really deserve it. Meanwhile, other workers do deserve another shot to prove themselves and maybe close out their careers better. Here 10 wrestlers WWE released in the last year or two who do deserve a new chance with the company and 10 who are better off cut to show how even a popular figure may not earn a second shot with WWE.
20 Deserving: Tessa Blanchard
As the daughter of Four Horsemen icon Tully Blanchard, Tessa had wrestling in her blood. She was already rising up on the indies with her tough attitude and promising skills. She had a tryout in 2014 and another in 2016. She also competed in the first Mae Young Classic and most thought a WWE contract was inevitable. Instead, they passed on her so Tessa has continued to show her stuff in Japan. Currently, she’s dominating the Knockouts division in TNA, holding the title and proving herself as a top-notch heel worker. This proves she could work great in WWE and Tessa deserves to prove there’s more than one Blanchard who can be a mega-star in wrestling.
19 Doesn't: Simon Gotch
Many a successful NXT act has failed on the main roster. The Vaudevillains are a prime example. Fans enjoyed Simon Gotch and Aiden English as a pair of hipsters rocking a 1900s vibe in their act and a good team. On the main roster, they were pushed as believing they were from that time which hurt their standing. The team just drifted around before Gotch was released in 2017.
English has found success thanks to the “Rusev Day” act but Gotch just hasn’t found the same success in the indies.
He’s been exposed as a rough worker and his gimmick is not catching on well without English. Add in the ways he’s slammed WWE and it doesn’t seem a return to the company is in the cards for Gotch.
18 Deserving: Jimmy Jacobs
Jimmy Jacobs was one of WWE's top writers and many credit him for the brilliant work Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens did last year when they were teaming up on SmackDown. Unfortunately, Jacobs was let go after posing for pictures with rival promotion wrestlers. However, given the contributions Jacobs made, he's more than deserving of getting another shot. Since his release, he's done some phenomenal work with Impact and he's even proven to be a good in-ring worker. There's surely a way he could contribute to WWE. Vince has given second chances before and Jacobs is worthy of getting one.
17 Doesn't: James Ellsworth
This guy was always about his goofy “wimp” gimmick. The idea of this skinny guy with no chin feuding with AJ Styles was nutty but it managed to work out. Ellsworth was fun with his comedy stuff but it soon got worse. That included his allegiance with Carmella where Ellsworth ruined the first female Money in the Bank match by getting the briefcase himself. It looked like WWE finally got the hint by cutting him in 2017. However, Ellsworth returned this June to help Carmella retain her title against Asuka in a move fans hated. He made a few more appearances before leaving again. Now in TNA, Ellsworth was just a jokey character fans ended up hating and shouldn’t get another shot at the big time.
16 Deserving: James Storm
You can’t fault his loyalty to the company that made him a star but James Storm really deserves another WWE shot. He and Chris Harris clicked as America’s Most Wanted, TNA’s first star tag team who had several runs as champions. Storm and Bobby Roode then formed Beer Money, another highly successful championship team. Storm had a brief run as TNA champion before feuding with Roode and continues to work with the company.
In 2015, Storm showed up in NXT to attend some tapings and work some matches.
Instead of signing on, however, he headed back to TNA. Now in the indies, Storm should consider joining a lot of TNA guys to NXT and close out his career in the big time at last.
15 Doesn't: Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger wasn’t a bad worker in the ring. He was athletic and had skills and could fit well in the mid-card. The issue was WWE putting him in the main event as ECW and World champion, a role Swagger just wasn’t cut out for. The topper had to be how he got in some trouble just weeks before WrestleMania, where he was originally booked to beat Alberto Del Rio for the world title. Combine that with his underwhelming work on the indies before pursuing an MMA career and it's pretty clear that there's no need, or demand, for WWE to look into bringing Swagger back.
14 Deserving: Damien Sandow
One of the last stars of OVW, Sandow clicked on the main roster thanks to his intellectual heel gimmick. He and the Miz were a stellar tag team, bouncing off each other nicely in promos and in the ring.
Sandow himself was coming into his own with his hilarious impersonations of other wrestlers and his “stunt double” act was gold.
That’s why fans were rocked at him cut in 2016 on the idea of creative having nothing for him. Sandow popped up in TNA for a terrible run as Aaron Rex. He basically quit wrestling after that for acting. However, with his skills in the ring and especially on the mic, Sandow deserves a shot in WWE once more to show them the star he could have been but ignored.
13 Doesn't: CM Punk
Here is a major case of a guy fans would love to have back in WWE but doesn’t really deserve it (nor does he want it). Yes, Punk is a major presence, a great worker and a genius on the mic. Given how he walked out on WWE over creative issues, having him return would be a huge deal. But Punk has criticized WWE at every opportunity, with nothing but bitter memories. It’s not just WWE as Punk has bad-mouthed a lot of guys big time. His failed UFC run doesn’t make him any more intriguing. Fans would pop at a Punk return but the truth is the guy shouldn't be back with the company he’s spent the last three years fighting at every turn.
12 Deserving: Wade Barrett
Luck, both good and bad, followed Wade Barrett’s WWE career. He was going to be just a lackey in the Nexus with Daniel Bryan the leader. When Bryan was surprisingly released, Barrett stepped up as leader. He soon took off with his great promos and was a top-notch heel. Sadly, whenever it looked like Barrett was about to take the next big step, he’d get hit by the injury bug and that hindered his progress. He was IC champion, a King of the Ring, was great at his “Bad News” gimmick, but something always seemed to happen to curtailed his progress. He left on his own terms in 2016, claiming he didn’t feel the passion anymore. He has returned recently in the indies and given all his promise, it looks like he deserves another shot with WWE to finally pay off on all the promise he showed.
11 Doesn't: Hornswoggle
To his credit, he did a lot better job with the act than fans expected. Originally, the sidekick for Finlay, Hornswoggle somehow won fans over with his leprechaun gimmick. This led to him actually winning the Cruiserweight title. That was followed by him being chosen to be “Vince’s secret son.”
From working with DX to other bits, the guy was a reliable source for comedy.
However, he also had issues behind the scenes including breaking the wellness policy. This led him to be fired, which led to a brief run in TNA. He’s bounced around the indies and has shared some harsh words for WWE. He did pop up at the Greatest Royal Rumble, but given he was just a comedy act, and a played out one at that, he may not be deserving of another WWE run.
10 Deserving: Darren Young
After breaking out with the Nexus, Darren Young was a bit lost despite some good talents. He found a niche when he and Titus formed the Prime Time Players. A terrific team, they were nicely over and had a few reigns as tag team champions. In 2016, Young was paired with Bob Backlund with the rather stupid “make Darren Young great again” gimmick that was not a winner with fans. Young was cut in 2017 while rehabbing an injury. A good worker and good on the mic, Young does deserve another shot in WWE. Even if there’s no Players reunion, he can still be a good mid-card guy and get a shot fans would have wanted for him in the first place.
9 Doesn't: Big Cass
Cass is clearly one of those guys who WWE favored. Tall and imposing, he was good on the mic and he and Enzo clicked nicely on the main roster. They split with Cass turning heel but more plans were derailed when he was injured. He later returned and another push was planned. However, word came of Cass acting up majorly backstage. The biggest issue would have to be when he made the major mistake of crossing Vince McMahon and disobeying him. This led to him being fired and he is now on the indie circuit. It seems unlikely Cass is changing his attitude at all and fans weren't exactly thrilled with his in-ring work. Thus, for now, he doesn’t deserve another shot.
8 Deserving: Neville
“The Man That Gravity Forgot” was one of the first stars for NXT. His work with his high-flying made him a great champion and fans adored his good promo work as well.
On the main roster, he had it rougher but grew more thanks to becoming Cruiserweight champion.
However, WWE didn’t do many favors for him by constantly demoting him, often ignoring his good work and then shoving him aside to give the belt to Enzo. This led to Neville basically going on hiatus before finally being released. Given how the Enzo mess went down, Neville’s treatment by the company looks even worse. He more than deserves another shot to prove himself and show up WWE for not letting him fly as high as he should have.
7 Doesn't: Enzo Amore
A classic case of a guy whose mic skills made up for his lack of in-ring skills, Enzo clicked with NXT fans. His promos got fans going and made him a huge favorite. On the main roster, he and Cass did well as a team and then Enzo became a singles guy. WWE even gave him the Cruiserweight title in hopes he’d spark up the ratings for 205 Live. However, Enzo was not very popular backstage. When legal troubles arose, that was the last straw to cut him.
Since then, fans have turned on him big time as he shows no signs of improving himself. He also seems to have given up on wrestling. In no way should he get another shot given how many people he ticked off before in the company.
6 Deserving: Carlito
The son of Carlos Colon had a good run in WWE as US, IC and tag team champion. He was a cool heel with his own interview segment and did well with various opponents. However, Carlito’s personal issues became a major problem as, after failing some tests, he was finally cut. Carlito is up front today on how WWE was totally right to do it. His firing was the wake-up call Carlito needed to get himself cleaned up. He’s done well in his Puerto Rico home and improving his personal life. Carlito still has good relations with WWE and could land another shot with the company. Even a brief run would be good as Carlito should prove he can still be cool for WWE fans.
5 Doesn't: Austin Aries
Another case of a guy fans may want to have back but hasn’t done as much to deserve it. Aries has always had an attitude and that’s led to huge success in ROH and TNA. When he joined NXT, it was a big deal and most thought he’d be champ in no time. But Aries had clashes with management, unhappy about his creative direction and was shifted to 205 Live.
It’s still up in the air whether he was fired or quit but it was under a cloud.
Aries had a good run in Impact as champion but that ended when he lost the title to Johnny Impact and then walked out in a huff. Word is that he’s pulling a Brian Pillman-like act but it also shows how Aries’ ego offsets his talent and given his bad beef with WWE before, he may not deserve another shot with the company.
4 Deserving: Emma
In NXT, Emma took off with her goofy dancing to become a crowd favorite. That didn’t translate well to the main roster so she was sent back to NXT for more training. This led to Emma turning into a good worker who could hold her own with stars like Asuka. Plans were for her to take on the persona of the arrogant Emmalina and really take off. But after weeks of build, WWE just dropped the whole thing and cut Emma shortly after.
Now in ROH as Tenille Dashwood, she’s showing her stuff and making WWE regret their move. Whether as Emma or Tenille, she’s more than ready to get another shot at WWE and deserves to be the star the company should have pushed before.
3 Doesn't: Ryback
After a forgettable run as Skip Sheffield, Ryback was repackaged into a monster worker meant to be the new 'big guy' of the company. Obviously, he was intended to be a clone of Goldberg with his look, crushing opponents and his “feed me more” catchphrase. Ryback wasn’t too bad a worker, although fans didn’t take to him as hoped. After some failed runs, he was finally cut and since then, seems to be intent on burning bridges. Considering how things have gone since then, it doesn't look like there's any interest in a reunion from either side, and there shouldn't be.
2 Deserving: Cody Rhodes
Cody had been a favorite for fans for several years in WWE. He was rising up as a heel only to be struck when he got hit by the stupid Stardust gimmick. Cody clearly hated the whole thing and how it was lowering his standing. Thus, he asked for his release and figured he’d be better off proving himself elsewhere.
He had a solid run in Impact that led to huge success in ROH.
Cody dominated as champion and also NWA champ as well as helping create the successful All In PPV event. Cody has proven WWE made a huge mistake by letting him go and he deserves another shot. NXT can work well for him but even on the main roster, Cody can be a true star as he deserves and win WWE over massively.
1 Doesn't: Rich Swann
Maybe this will change down the line but for right now, Swann isn’t exactly deserving of another WWE shot. A star on the indies with his high-flying and cool promos, Swann joined NXT in 2015. The next year he was moved to 205 Live and did a great job, including a run as Cruiserweight champion. Just as things were looking up for Swann, got into legal trouble. Naturally, WWE fired him with Swann moving to the indies. He even claimed to be ready for retirement but instead signed a contract with Impact. Given the current climate, WWE hiring him back so soon isn’t a smart move. Maybe if he proves he’s changed, it can be explored down the line, but for now, WWE is smart to distance themselves.