WWE’s rotating roster doesn’t always leave you time to be sentimental. You might have a personal favorite superstar, but all it takes is a string of bad matches, some backstage issues, or even just one of Vince McMahon’s whims, and they will be out of the company the next day. This is just the way that business works and WWE is a business. Still, there have been plenty of employees that WWE have parted ways with who should still be with the company today. Granted, some of these stars didn’t really come into their own until they left WWE, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t incredible pieces of talent who could help make WWE better.
On the other end of that are superstars that need to be shown the door. Firing employees may sometimes be an awkward subject, but sometimes, there is just no getting around the fact that there are rostered WWE stars who are occupying a position that another wrestler - such as some wrestlers who were unfairly let go - could very well be using to entertain fans everywhere. It’s a tricky dynamic, but when you get right down to it, these are the top eight recent wrestlers WWE should have released and seven they should have kept.
15 Release - Fandango
This one is a bit tougher to suggest than it would have been just weeks ago due to Fandango’s brilliant performance in Southpaw Regional Wrestling as drunken announcer Chett Chetterfield. That performance shows that Fandango has character talent that goes well beyond the ballroom dancing persona he has been saddled with. Even still, Fandango just isn’t doing much with his valuable roster spot. Actually, he really hasn’t been doing much since the weeks following his debut when the fans got behind him in a huge way and began dancing to his theme song in the aisles. Some suggested that Fandango had accomplished everything he was going to accomplish with his character back then and those fears have only been validated recently as WWE have simply run out of things to do with him.
14 Kept - Brodus Clay
CM Punk hit the nail on the head during one of his famous shoot promos when he called out WWE for turning one of the most fearsome potential monster heels they’ve had on the roster in recent years into a dancing, smiling, kid hugging babyface. You would have to be a fly on the wall of the WWE creative meeting room to understand why that decision was made. Clay - real name George Murdoch - was mistreated by WWE from the day he joined the main roster. WWE should have turned him heel and taken advantage of his unique power wrestling capabilities, but preferred to keep him as a comedy character. While Murdoch if 44 now, WWE could have still gotten a few great years out of him had they played to his strengths.
13 Release - Sin Cara
The saga of Sin Cara has been one of the most darkly amusing stories in recent WWE history. When Sin Cara first debuted in WWE, the company hoped he was going to be the next Rey Mysterio. Instead, he botched his first match and spent weeks botching subsequent matches. WWE replaced the performer behind the Sin Cara mask, but the results weren’t much better. At a certain point, you have to wonder what it is about this character that fascinates them so much. There is so much lucha talent in the wrestling world today that would be more than happy to sign a lucrative WWE contract. The most Sin Cara has ever done is contribute to a “pretty good” Lucha Dragons tag-team. With that team now split up, it feels like Sin Cara’s time in WWE is at an end.
12 Kept - Solomon Crowe
Admittedly, the release of Solomon Crowe was perfectly understandable. Crowe never really caught on to the WWE style of promos or matches. He got a decent run in NXT, but it was clear he wasn’t going to be a WWE kind of guy. The thing about that, though, is that maybe it’s ok that Crowe wasn’t going to be that guy. In Crowe, WWE had a piece of talent that was capable of working as a monster heel or unique babyface thanks to his unorthodox in-ring style and unhinged promos. The more you look at Crowe, the more you see a guy that WWE simply didn’t know what to do with in the long run. He’s a perfect example of a performer that WWE should just let be themselves.
11 Release - Darren Young
If you want to be positive about Darren Young’s WWE run thus far, you could say that he’s proven to be an excellent team player. Young’s run in the original incarnation of The Nexus as well as his time in the Prime Time Players shows that he is capable of contributing to a team or group with his personality and serviceable in-ring skills. That’s nice, but WWE isn’t a company that really emphasizes tag teams and stables. The problem there is that Darren Young is about as generic of a singles competitor as you could ever hope to see in a major wrestling promotion. While far from awful, Young brings nothing to the table that a hundred other guys couldn’t offer. It’s a real mystery why he has lasted this long.
10 Kept - Damien Sandow
Damien Sandow has been referred to as the internet’s favorite wrestler. While that’s a bold - mostly false - claim, it does speak to the kind of performer that he is. Sandow didn’t have the typical WWE look, even if he also wasn’t that far removed from the ideal build. He did, however, showcase a promo and in-ring style that was all about personality. Sandow instilled his character into every little thing that he did, which is something that you really just don’t see much these days. Despite his old-school approach to wrestling, WWE seemingly never believed that Sandow was going to be anything more than a glorified jobber. They spent years treating him as such and then let him go without much fanfare. He deserved more opportunities.
9 Release - Curt Hawkins
Does Curt Hawkins have nude photos of someone that he threatens to release should WWE ever decide to release him again? If not, then you really have to ask yourself what it is about this guy that has inspired WWE to keep him around. Actually, the better question is why WWE decided to let him go and then bring him back into the company when they clearly had nothing in store for him other than some forgettable backstage segments and a string of losses. Hawkins isn’t awful if you’re willing to accept that WWE likes to keep veteran jobbers on the roster, but is it really necessary to turn full-time losers into full-time employees? Hawkins is one of the few guys that hasn’t even benefited from the increased screen time the brand split has afforded him.
8 Kept - Wade Barrett
To be fair, Wade Barrett’s departure seems to have been based on Barrett’s preferences as much as it was based on WWE’s choice. Still, given the way that WWE treated Barrett over the years, is it really that surprising that he wanted out of the company? It was clear that WWE felt Barrett was the standout star of the Nexus movement, but they seemed to have abandoned that mindset along the way. The funny thing there is that Barrett actually just kept getting better and better as his career advanced. Sure, he had more injury problems than the average star, but WWE never even took advantage of Barrett’s incredible run as Bad News Barrett nor his general talent level even when he was on the roster.
7 Release - Eva Marie
We see what WWE sees in Eva Marie, which is really just another way of saying that we see that Eva Marie is an incredibly attractive woman who has mass market potential. We’ll also admit that Eva Marie’s brief run as the ultimate coward heel on SmackDown who found a way to avoid every match was incredibly entertaining. However, she managed to ruin even that because of a wellness policy violation that has kept her out of in-ring action for some time.
Eva’s career thus far has been a series of shortcomings perpetuated by WWE’s belief that she can still be a star. We respect the company’s effort, but Eva is never going to be anything more than she is now and what she is now is a limited performer whose best years are behind her. Reports have now surfaced that WWE will not re-sign Eva when her current contract expires, which makes you wonder what that push was all for.
6 Kept - Alberto Del Rio
You knew that Del Rio’s comeback was on the wrong track the moment that he was aligned with racist character Zeb Coulter for no apparent reason. In other words, you knew that Del Rio’s comeback was on the wrong track pretty much right away. WWE spent a small fortune to get Del Rio back on the roster, but it’s not entirely clear what they were hoping to get with their money. Del Rio had gone from enjoying long world championship runs to suffering through meaningless angles and mid-card matches. What’s strange about that transition is that Del Rio never stopped being an exceptional in-ring wrestler and all-around great in-ring talent. It’s not clear why WWE couldn’t let him occasionally flirt with the main event or at least enjoy a long mid-card title run.
5 Release - Curtis Axel
Curtis Axel’s WWE career began with what some might classify as impossibly high expectations. As the son of Mr. Perfect, some people expected Axel to immediately be the otherworldly talent that his father was. Apparently, WWE's creative staff were among this group of people. They tried to keep Axel in the forefront as much as possible dating back to his days in The Nexus, but they never really gave him the chance to discover what it was that made him special. As a result, he never really got the chance to evolve and become anything other than Mr. Perfect’s son. Axel has since had time to show the world what makes him stand out but has elected to use that time to just kind of go with the flow and collect a paycheck.
4 Kept - Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes is another guy who technically voluntarily left WWE but really wasn’t given a choice once you take into account how he was treated during his later years in the company. Cody Rhodes was one of the guys that you think WWE would keep around forever. He came from a famous wrestling family, had a good look, was great on the mic, great in the ring, and helped create some memorable moments over the years. At some point, though, WWE decided that Rhodes was going to be a comic book character known as Stardust. Rhodes really didn’t want to be Stardust, but WWE insisted that he stick with the character even when Rhodes came up with several better ideas. Eventually, they forced one of the better pieces of talents they had on the roster to move on.
3 Release - Bo Dallas
Was Bo Dallas ever really good? Some said that he was a brilliant heel during his time in NXT, but when you look back at that time, it’s hard not to look at Dallas as a guy that drew heat from the fans simply because he held the title and wasn’t really that good. Whatever helped Dallas stand out while he was in NXT, it’s hard to deny that it did not survive his transition to the main roster. WWE gave up on Dallas pretty much right away and decided that they were only going to use him whenever they needed another wrestler to beat the hell out of someone the fans were vaguely familiar with. WWE clearly doesn’t have faith in Dallas, and it’s really not hard to fault them for that.
2 Kept - Drew McIntyre
When Drew McIntyre was released in 2014, there weren’t too many fans shedding tears. Despite debuting in WWE with a good gimmick and a great theme song, McIntyre hadn’t really done anything notable during his later years in WWE. Despite his late career slump, it was generally agreed that McIntyre was a talented overall worker who could probably do better if WWE would give him another chance to shine. Since McIntyre left WWE, he has been validating the suspicions of those that felt that he could have been great. As it stands, McIntyre is one of the best wrestlers not in WWE. He’s put on a few pounds of muscle, adopted more of a power style, and is finally starting to figure out how to cut a truly intimidating promo. WWE could turn him into a world champion in a heartbeat if they hired him again.
1 Release - Dolph Ziggler
Here’s a tough one. If Dolph Ziggler left WWE tomorrow, what would his legacy be? You’d like to think that he’d be remembered as a former world champion who put on a series of classic matches, but the truth of the matter is that Ziggler would likely be best remembered as that guy that kept falling on his face reaching for the brass ring. Ziggler’s never really lost his in-ring skills over the years, but he’s never found the perfect character and still struggles to cut a good promo. To be honest, WWE would have been better off either letting him go or bouncing him down to NXT a few years ago in order to let him find his character. As it stands, he’s an expensive piece of midcard talent.