One of the most fun and entertaining parts of the WWE Network is the amount of behind the scenes programming available to watch on demand. In addition to the extensive pay-per-view and TV taping libraries, there is a wide variety of different shows to watch when you are wishing to delve more into the personalities surrounding the wrestling ring than the in-ring spectacle itself. Through such programs as Breaking Ground, WWE 24, and even the irreverent sketches on The Edge and Christian Show, one becomes familiar with some recurring faces from the other side of the stage curtain.
WWE is a well-oiled, multinational machine, and so there are hundreds of people working for them at any given time. Still, it’s easy to forget the sheer scope of the corporation’s daily operations: the traveling shows of RAW, Smackdown, and NXT; the live weekly television production; the Performance Center in Orlando; the world headquarters in Stamford CT; the list goes on and on.
Due to the size of the company, it’s easy (if not inevitable) to lose track of people who work there, even if at one time or another they appeared regularly on one of these programs. The following fifteen people are, as of writing, still on the WWE payroll, and we’re willing to bet that you forgot all about that fact.
15 D-Von Dudley
One half of our favorite table-trashing tag team, D-Von Dudley has transitioned into retirement from wrestling. Rather than go softly into that good night, he has taken on a backstage role of producer, in which he helps the active roster members put together and perfect the pacing and psychology of their matches.
D-Von and Bubba Ray have won tag team gold in such varied promotions as New Japan Pro Wrestling, TNA, ECW, and of course WWE. One can imagine that with his impressive tag team pedigree that he has a lot of match-crafting wisdom to share with young upstarts like American Alpha, The New Day, and even more seasoned guys like The Usos.
Although he has retired from performing himself, he still travels with the roster to put together the shows every night. In D-Von’s case, it appears that he loves the business enough to stick around.
14 Tamina Snuka
Tamina has not appeared on any WWE programming since last May, due to an ankle injury. She was undrafted in the brand split and has not been seen nor heard from in almost a year. This, despite Pro Wrestling Illustrated reporting that she could have returned in December.
It was unclear what direction WWE creative had for the second generation superstar, even when she was appearing regularly as part of Team B.A.D. That angle is long over, and Nia Jax has ascended from NXT to fill the brute force role in the women’s division that Tamina had previously been occupying; perhaps there could be room for her on Smackdown?
Nevertheless, it is understandable that Tamina has been missing in action, considering the recent death of her father, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. Especially considering the controversial circumstances surrounding his September 2015 arrest, under suspicion that he murdered his girlfriend in 1983, one has to wonder how much WWE would like to distance themselves from the blemish on Superfly’s record—even though he never technically faced trial.
13 Summer Rae
Summer Rae silently disappeared from T.V. after WrestleMania 32. She was drafted to RAW in July, but did not appear on the show for several weeks. Despite not being a huge presence in any feuds or angles for most of 2016, fans began to wonder where she went. The silence was broken when in November she revealed in a confessional Instagram post that she had been recovering from injuries, including damage to her neck, back, and elbow.
“In this business you just go go go [and] putting your body on the line every night becomes second nature [and] you don't think much of it,” she wrote. “But that isn't a normal thing. Our bodies aren't made to do this.”
This post had prescient timing, due to the recent news that Summer’s fellow women’s rostermate Nikki Bella has announced she will begin slowing down after WrestleMania due to the neck injury that kept her out of action for a good chunk of last year. We hope to see Summer’s recovery continue smoothly, and to see her back in the ring or managing again soon.
12 Shelton Benjamin
Injuries are an unfortunate reality in any athlete's career. They are particularly irksome to behold when they occur at the start or smack in the middle of a wrestler gaining some momentum. No such thing exists as an opportune time to get sidelined, but in the case of Shelton Benjamin in 2016, this is perhaps the worst timing for an injury in recent memory.
After making waves in WWE throughout the mid-2000s by combining a high-flying arsenal with impeccable technical skills, Benjamin departed the company in 2010 with three Intercontinental Championship and two Tag Team Championship reigns to his name. He ventured to try his luck on the independent circuit, amassing a great deal of momentum in Ring of Honor and Japan.
It seemed like the ideal sequence of events: a hot talent leaves WWE, goes out into the world only to become even hotter and well-refined, and begins to show signs of returning to WWE during one of its best years in recent memory. Unfortunately, just after signing a new deal with the company, he discovered he had a rotator cuff injury. Fortunately for us fans, he is still with the company; we just wish he could have arrived by now!
11 Gene Okerlund
Mean Gene Okerlund proved his mettle everywhere he went. His ten years in at the American Wrestling Association, nine years at WWE, and eight years at World Championship Wrestling (from 1993 until the company shut its doors) show that he was an investment each company felt worth making. With good reason too; he was the gold standard for backstage interviewers to follow for decades. He was one of the most recognizable voices and faces of wrestling for close to 30 years before he began to retreat from the spotlight.
Nowadays, Okerlund still lends his voice to WWE Network programs such as WWE Story Time and occasional appearances on The Edge and Christian Show. He was also a main cast member on Legends' House, one of the Network's earliest original series. He appears to have graduated into the "Legends" role, having carved a legacy that befits special appearances. And he's earned it; Mean Gene is pushing 80 years old, a far cry from the young kid who started in AWA in the '70s.
10 Norman Smiley
Norman Smiley found his way into the professional wrestling business through adoration for the English grapplers native to his Northampton upbringing and, when he moved across the pond, of the ultra-charismatic Dusty Rhodes. Having trained as an amateur wrestler throughout his schooling, Smiley learned his way around a wrestling mat and through his fair share of submission holds. Later, he would become probably best-known for his entertaining stint in WCW's otherwise ill-fated hardcore division; he was a two-time champion.
But his career did not end at the demise of WCW. Smiley struck out on the independents for a few years after his former employer folded, but eventually returned to WWE to become a trainer of new talent at Florida Championship Wrestling. There, he was part of the team that helped transition the former developmental territory unto the NXT banner, where he still trains students at the Performance Center to this day.
9 Howard Finkel
Howard Finkel was the voice of wrestling for decades, filling arenas and stadiums with the glorious cadence of his introductions. To hear him in your mind reciting "the following contest is set for one fall," is to evoke images of packed houses waiting for the main event on a letter-boxed T.V. screen. Like Mean Gene for the backstage announcers, The Fink was an early-era standard of perfection for ring announcers that followed him to innovate from.
Currently, Finkel is still an employee of WWE, having been on the payroll since 1977—longer than any other employee, including Vince McMahon. He now serves as an interviewer for content on WWE.com, as well as writing statistics-based articles for the website. It's difficult to think of the Fink being anywhere besides WWE, no matter what the role.
8 Scotty 2 Hotty
The master of the worm himself, Scotty 2 Hotty danced his way into our hearts through the Attitude Era as one third of Too Cool. Alongside Rikishi and Grandmaster Sexay, they became reliable fixtures of the midcard, including some memorable Royal Rumble moments between Scotty and The Undertaker, as well as the heartbreak in 2000 when Rikishi betrayed his teammates in the Rumble match.
After leaving WWE, the pair of Scotty and Grandmaster Sexay would go on to compete in various independent promotions around the world, but never achieving quite the same success as their multiple title wins in the big leagues. They briefly united as a trio on Old School Raw and at NXT to take on The Ascension in 2014.
Scotty returned to WWE in late 2016 to become a trainer at the Performance Center. A solid worker, one can imagine that he has a lot of knowledge of the more theatrical and silly side of wrestling to help impart onto the younger generation.
7 Rosa Mendes
Rosa Mendes has had a surprisingly long tenure in WWE, having entered the company via the Diva Search in 2006. She has been all over the promotion, working both as a wrestler and as a valet, for Primo & Epico, Fandango, and Glamarella—the team of Beth Phoenix and Santino Marella. She has also had a recurring role on Total Divas, spinning her appearances into a main cast credit for two seasons.
In August of 2015, Mendes announced that she was expecting a child. After having a short transitional period of working as a member of Smackdown’s broadcast team, she took maternity leave that October and has not been back on WWE television since, except for the occasional pop-up on Total Divas.
On February 13, 2016, she gave birth to her daughter, Jordan. Scrolling through Mendes’s Instagram feed, one intuits that she is adjusting nicely to motherhood; it may be a while yet before we see her back on RAW or SmackDown.
6 Tyson Kidd
Tyson Kidd will most likely never wrestle again. In fact, he is lucky to be alive and even luckier to be able to walk. The spinal injury he sustained in a freak accident during a dark match against Samoa Joe, according to the information Kidd shared with his Twitter followers, kills about 95% of the people who sustain it; Kidd was among the lucky 5% who survive. After extensive surgery and rehab, including many screws, staples, and rods to repair the injury, Kidd has been out of action for close two years. His odds of ever returning to a ring are virtually nonexistent.
But he is still on a WWE contract, as is his wife Natalya. They have continued to appear in Total Divas, until this upcoming season when WWE has announced that Kidd will not be appearing on the show. There are rumors and allegations flying around that the company is attempting to underplay or cover up his injury, none of which can be said for certain.
The entire immediate future of Tyson Kidd seems to be up in the air: he is no longer wrestling and no longer appearing on Total Divas. He’s still on a WWE contract, but where does he go from here?
5 Jamie Noble
Jamie Noble might be one of the most interesting guys to lace up a pair of boots. He was a consistently solid performer in WWE’s cruiserweight division throughout the mid-2000s, where he showed he could mix his athleticism with the raunchy, pseudo-incestual comedy storyline with his girlfriend Nidia. He would foray out into New Japan and Ring of Honor for a few years before returning to WWE in 2005 as one half of the Pitbulls with Kid Kash.
Eventually, Noble injured his back in a match against Sheamus on RAW, deciding as he recovered that it was time to retire from a fulltime ring career. Almost immediately, WWE hired him on as a producer, a position he still holds. He occasionally appears on screen too as one half of J&J Security with Joey Mercury (who also works as a producer), having infamously helped Seth Rollins cheat his way through his first world championship reign.
4 Lex Luger
Coming to WWE via the short-lived World Bodybuilding Federation, where he was a broadcast host, Lex Luger was also a chiseled adonis of a man, an impressive specimen of muscle definition more than an interesting wrestler. Although it sometimes seemed he could barely work a match, Lex at least looked like a wrestler. That was all one needed in most cases back then, and still to this day.
Having made so much of his career in both WWE and WCW based on his physique, it’s no surprise that Luger still works with the company today as a consultant for their wellness policy programs. In an interview with Pro Wrestling Torch, he described his new role as one that helps young wrestlers with nutrition, wellness, exercise, and caring for their bodies.
3 Eva Marie
In many ways the female equivalent of the hulking musclehead flexing his way to a wrestling career, Eva Marie’s primary appeal, in the absence of any notable ring skills, is in her look. She is super model gorgeous. Not all fans have been receptive to her, showering every promo, match, and angle in which she appeared with avalanches of boos.
Starting in NXT, the creative team decided to use Eva Marie’s natural heat to their advantage, embracing the fact that audiences disliked her so much, and turned her into a delusional heel. They planted the seeds for this trend to continue on SmackDown after last year’s brand split, in a hilarious series of segments where she kept finding new reasons not to wrestle Becky Lynch, but then Eva just… Disappeared.
Due to a Wellness Policy violation, she was suspended for a month around the same time as Paige and Alberto Del Rio, but has yet to reappear on T.V. Rumors were circulating online that Eva was looking to get out of her WWE contract, but they appear to be completely unsubstantiated. As far as we know now, she is still signed to her contract, but missing in action all the same.
Having come from a widely regarded British wrestling family, Paige seemed bound for utter greatness in WWE. She was the first NXT Women’s Champion and, until just recently, the longest reigning. While the Four Horsewomen of NXT were still rising through the ranks, Paige was on the main roster holding down passable matches with the Bella Twins and Natalya, helping revitalize a division that had gone extraordinarily cold the preceding few years.
And all of her momentum crashed into a brick wall when she was suspended for two consecutive Wellness Policy violations, an accumulative 90 days, at the same time as Alberto del Rio. During this time, she began speaking publicly about needing time off to heal from injuries. At only 24 years of age, it seems like a harbinger of bad things to come that Paige is already reeling so heavily from the toll wrestling has taken on her body.
One wonders how long she will be kept on contract but off of television, and where she might fit into the division that has rapidly expanded in her stead.
It was only his fourth match in WWE ever when Sting’s professional wrestling career crashed to an end at Night of Champions in 2015. Although he would not officially retire until giving his Hall of Fame speech the following April, it was apparent almost the moment Sting collapsed in the ring that he would never work another match again. Then 56 years old, he had already outpaced the career expectations of virtually any average wrestler, having had a prolific run in NWA, WCW, TNA, and then briefly in WWE.
And yet, he remains on a Legends Contract with WWE. While it’s hard to imagine the former “Franchise of WCW” ever again stepping foot into the ring after the neck injury he sustained against Rollins, it is still interesting to imagine all the scenarios in which they could use him for a special appearance—perhaps especially now that WrestleMania season is upon us?