We wish them all the best in their future endeavors.
That is a line that no WWE wrestler hopes to wake up and hear. Unfortunately, any one on the WWE or NXT roster could get the call to be released from the company one day out of the blue. While some wrestlers are incredibly secure in their role - meaning that John Cena will likely not be getting a call like this any time soon - others are known to walk on eggshells out of fear of being released.
Each year, WWE goes through the motions of trimming talent from their rosters to make way for new talent coming in from NXT. They also look closely at their developmental roster to ensure that they have the proper talent waiting in the wings to be called up. In doing so, WWE Management is effectively ending the dreams of some wrestlers who worked very hard to make it there. Other times, the talent themselves requests their release in hopes of finding success with another promotion.
Whatever the case is, wrestling fans usually just have one question - what are those wrestlers up to now?
Some wrestlers maintain (or even grow) their success when they leave WWE and become more popular than when they were under contract. Others flounder on the independent scene and wish that WWE would call them back. And some even decide to leave the professional wrestling business all together.
Let's check in with them - here is An Update On The 20 Most Recent WWE Releases:
Neville's run at the top of the Cruiserweight division in 2016 revitalized his disappointing career in WWE. He stayed on top of the division for over a year, and was positioned to maintain a highly visible spot on the roster. Then suddenly in September of 2017, Neville stopped appearing on WWE programming despite being in a feud with the reigning champion.
Based on various reports, Neville walked out of WWE during an episode of RAW after being asked to lose to Enzo Amore. After over a year of inactivity, WWE finally released Neville officially from his contract after keeping him "frozen" for a very long period of time.
Now that he is finally released from WWE, Neville has returned to his home promotion - using his former ring name PAC - Dragon Gate where he is a multi-time title holder.
19 Big Cass
It may not be possible to teach someone how to be seven-feet-tall, but it is also impossible to teach someone how to be successful in WWE.
Big Cass was released for both disobeying Vince's orders during a segment on SmackDown and misbehaving during a European tour. Both issues are things that WWE management takes very seriously. Despite being in the midst of a high profile feud with Daniel Bryan, WWE did not think twice about letting the big man go.
Now that his 90-day No Compete clause ran out, Cass changed his name. He is now known on the independent circuit as both Big Cazz and Big C. Like some other former WWE wrestlers, his independent circuit bookings are not as plentiful as he would have hoped.
18 Enzo Amore
How you doin'? Well, WWE fans have been much better since Enzo Amore stopped gracing their televisions.
Following legal issues, Amore was released by WWE. Despite being the reigning Cruiserweight Champion at the time, WWE has a no tolerance policy regarding these matters, so Amore was released without hesitation.
Even though the heat surrounding Amore was thick enough to cut with a knife, he was instantly booked for a wrestling event in New York for the House of Glory promotion. Following a brief appearance, Enzo vehemently stated in an interview with TMZ that he would not return to professional wrestling "in a million years". So far he has stuck to his word, and not a single wrestling fan has complained about it.
17 Rich Swann
Rich Swann is another wrestler whose career was affected by matters outside of wrestling.
During his short stint with WWE, Swann became Cruiserweight Champion and was featured heavily on 205 Live. His charisma and athleticism made him a highlight of the show, but it was no match for his troubles outside the ring in WWE's eyes.
After leaving WWE, Swann actually toyed with the idea of retirement. After leaving this idea behind, he signed a multi-year deal with Impact Wrestling. So far he has been a fixture of the X-Division, including a months-long feud with Matt Sydal. Most recently, he challenged current Champion Brian Cage for the X-Division Championship.
16 James Ellsworth
Who would have thought that a small squash match would turn in to a great career for James Ellsworth?
Ellsworth's WWE stint included matches with Braun Strowman, two WWE Championship opportunities against AJ Styles, and a continued spot alongside Carmella on SmackDown Live.
To put things in to context, Cesaro has only had two World Championship matches in his career - the exact same as James Ellsworth.
After a Cinderella run that lasted over a year, and another appearance in 2018 that lasted several weeks, Ellsworth returned to the independent circuit. In fact, his newfound fame garnered him more bookings than he had previously. Most recently, he began making appearances for Impact Wrestling. He will not state whether or not he has signed a contract, however.
Zeda represented China in the first annual Mae Young Classic, and then went on to work on the NXT roster for several months afterwards. When comparing her to other wrestlers on the roster at the time like Bianca Belair, Ruby Riott and Shayna Baszler, Zeda was not performing on the same level as them.
Since being released from WWE in June 2018, she returned to the independent circuit. At this time, she has not accomplished much of note besides appearances throughout the United States. However, with more notable women being called in to WWE, it leaves an open spot for her to progress on the independent circuit.
Did WWE miss the boat on Zeda?
14 Josh Bredl
Was Josh Bredl Tough Enough to work in WWE? Apparently not, as the reality contest winner was released only two years following his first live event appearance with NXT.
Unfortunately for Bredl, he talked himself right in to a short career with WWE. With less than a year in to his career, he broke the cardinal rule of professional wrestling - he disrespected fellow wrestlers. While tweeting during an episode of RAW, he renamed the Social Outcasts group as Social Jobbers.
This instantly put a target on Bredl's back and was likely part of the reason for his eventual release. Since then, Bredl has completely removed himself from professional wrestling - without so much as a Twitter account to keep track of him, so no one knows what has become of him.
13 Summer Rae
With so many talented women on the roster, WWE had to make some room for new and upcoming talent. When looking at the roster at the time, it made the most sense to release the woman with the least wrestling experience and ability.
Summer Rae's career lasted four years, and she was used in a valet capacity for the majority of it. There was a genuine sense that Summer was trying to improve her wrestling ability through her time with WWE, but she was never on the same level as some of the other ladies.
Since her release, Summer has remained busy in the wrestling scene through appearances and autograph signings, but has done very little actual wrestling. When not appearing at events like Starcast, she is modelling extensively. This is fully on par with her wrestling career, so perhaps it makes the most sense.
12 Darren Young
Unfortunately there was very little that could be done to "make Darren Young great again".
Despite being filled with all the positivity in the world, Young's WWE career did not survive being positioned as a singles star. As a member of the Prime Time Players alongside Titus O'Neil, Young was a valuable member of the roster. However, once he was placed alongside Bob Backlund as a singles wrestler, he faded in to the background and was released in the fall of 2017.
Young remained an active wrestler following his release, and accepts bookings often. His most notable wrestling appearance has been in Chikara's annual King of Trios tournament alongside other former Nexus members. Young has been most active in facilitating motivational speeches for the LGBTQ community, which seems to be his greatest passion since leaving WWE.
It is not hyperbolic to say that Emma has become one of the most successful women to leave WWE in recent memory.
Following a start-and-stop career in WWE that lasted five years, Emma was released in 2017. While it was likely very disappointing, there must have been a part of her that was relieved to be out of her contract.
Once she was released by WWE, it finally gave Emma the ability to break out and show off what she could do.
Following her release, Emma began wrestling under her real name Tenille Dashwood, and began appearing on independent wrestling cards across the UK and United States. Most impressively, she gained a spot in Ring of Honor's new Women of Honor division, and has been a mainstay in the promotion since. Thankfully, ROH has given Dashwood the platform she deserves to perform, which WWE unquestionably never did.
10 Eva Marie
Having transitioned to WWE by way of the Total Divas cast, being a professional wrestler was not Eva Marie's first career choice. Knowing this, to say that her inexperience was visible would be an understatement.
Despite her four year career with the company, Eva's in-ring ability never really developed. It was only during the latter part of her career on SmackDown Live as a heel that she began to gain traction with the fans. Unfortunately, this also coincided with a suspension for violating the company's Wellness Policy. Ultimately, this resulted in her parting ways with the company.
Since her departure, she has maintained distance from professional wrestling and has focused mainly on modeling and acting. However, there have been recent rumblings about Eva Marie wanting to return to WWE. The real question is - will she be welcomed back?
9 Ho Ho Lun
Ho Ho Lun's time in WWE could accurately be depicted as a "cup of coffee". After being announced for the Cruiserweight Classic tournament in 2016, Lun experienced the most exposure he had encountered before.
Unfortunately, his career was not entirely plentiful in WWE - he was eliminated second in the CWC, lost quickly in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic and only had a handful of matches on television. Thankfully, this did mean that there was plenty of upside for his career, but he would never be able to capitalize on it.
During an overseas tour in 2017, Lun made the announcement to WWE officials that he would not be returning stateside. Instead, he was requesting that he return to China to take care of his ailing mother. Since leaving WWE, he has returned to various promotions in Asia, such as King of Pro Wrestling and Dragon Gate.
8 Austin Aries
There are few wrestlers that have bounced back from their time in WWE as well as Austin Aries. His post-WWE career has been both incredibly successful and question marks.
Following his departure from WWE (which was not without its ripples as well), he landed directly back in Impact Wrestling. Along the way he also captured championships with Defiant Wrestling, IPW and Defy Wrestling, but not before winning the Impact World Championship for a third time.
While his championship reigns have been impressive, he is still creating headlines. Following the finish of his Impact Championship loss at Bound for Glory, Aries apparently went off script and no-sold the finish of the match. Everyone at ringside looked incredibly confused, and Aries has not been seen with the promotion since.
When Tajiri was announced as a participant in the Cruiserweight Classic tournament, many fans were excited to see the Buzzsaw compete on a big stage again. Unfortunately, many fans also knew that the arrangement would never last.
When Tajiri first joined WWE in 2001, he was at the prime of his career and coming off a great run in ECW. When he rejoined in 2017, he was nearing fifty years old. While he still looks great in the ring, he stuck out like a sore thumb. Following a knee injury, he was released by WWE.
Thankfully, Tajiri has not stopped performing and returned to his home base at All-Japan Pro Wrestling, where he was the recent winner of their Junior Tag Battle of Glory tournament.
6 Simon Gotch
While his partner is still ranting about Rusev Day, Simon Gotch was "future endeavored".
Following The Vaudevillains' call-up to the main roster following WrestleMania 32, their main roster run did not go as planned. Many fans said that they wrestling style and persona did not work as well on a large stage, and they began to flounder. Couple this with Gotch's attitude, which got him in trouble backstage, and it was only a matter of time before one of them was released.
Upon Gotch's return to the independent circuit, he became Simon Grimm and began to make his rounds though various promotions. Thankfully, Grimm has fully embraced the independent wrestling lifestyle, and has settled in to travelling around. Since his release, he has become a mainstay in the U.S, including a short stint for Ring of Honor.
5 Rosa Mendes
Believe it or not, there was a time where Rosa Mendes was the longest tenured woman on the WWE roster, having spent over 10 years with the company. It seems that the second someone in WWE Management realized that, they tried to get her out of the company.
In those 11 years spent with WWE, Rosa accomplished little in the way of wrestling. In fact, her last televised match was over two years before her release. Used primarily as a manager for wrestlers like Fandango and Adam Rose, she was not well known for her wrestling ability. So when she came to terms with WWE for her release in 2017, not many fans shed a tear.
However, Rosa surprised everyone when she decided to make her independent wrestling debut teaming with Adam Rose in Maryland. She has said she still intends on wrestling.
4 Jack Swagger
We the people continue to wish Jack Swagger nothing but the best as he continues his sports career.
Swagger is yet another talent from WWE that did not feel as though he was being utilized in the best way. Following several start-and-stop pushes that were hindered by his own Wellness Policy violations, he decided to seek success elsewhere.
Since being released in the spring of 2017, Swagger has been healthily competing on the independent circuit. Making appearances wrestling alongside former WWE wrestlers MVP and John Morrison, he has been trying to make a living performing. Most recently, he appeared on Lucha Underground under the name "The Savage" Jake Strong.
On a larger note, Swagger also signed with Bellator MMA to begin fighting in 2018. While there has not been a date announced yet, he is training hard and fans are eagerly waiting to see how he performs.
3 Damien Sandow
And the award for the most stunning WWE release of 2016 goes to..
After the ultimate disappointing career in WWE which left every wrestling fan wanting more, Sandow was unceremoniously released alongside other talents. The only difference between him and the other talents released that day - including Santino Marella and Hornswoggle - is that Sandow had serious main event potential. Unfortunately, no one else in WWE Management saw things the same way.
Following his release, Sandow did what most former WWE talent does and wound up taking limited independent dates. Ultimately, he spent five months with Impact Wrestling, but the stint was not well received. Following this disappointing run, he decided to take a break from wrestling. He has since been focusing on acting, which has supplied him with some small roles. He has started dipping his toes back in to wrestling, hosting a wrestling podcast called Fired Up.
2 Cody Rhodes
If there is a prototype for how a wrestler's career should go following their WWE release, it would be Cody Rhodes's since 2016.
Following a disgruntled run as Stardust during the latter half of his WWE run, he requested his release from the company. Since then, Cody has been on a whirlwind on the independent wrestling circuit. He has since worked for every major promotion outside of WWE, including PWG, Impact, Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Furthermore, he also held the ROH World Championship and IWGP United States Championship.
In the past two years, Cody has become more of a star on the independent circuit than he was with WWE.
For any wrestling fan who has been living under a rock, Rhodes also co-produced the largest independent wrestling show alongside The Young Bucks when they promoted All In.
Ryback seems to be waiting for someone to feed him some more independent wrestling dates to work.
Following a very public split from WWE in 2016, Ryback sought to find greener pastures outside of WWE. Citing disappointment with the WWE creative process as his reason for requesting his release, he felt that he would get his just deserts on the independent wrestling circuit. Unfortunately for him, his calendar is not very full of bookings. For instance, Ryback was only booked on 13 shows in 2018, with none of them being incredibly noteworthy performances.
Some wrestlers are incredibly in demand once they leave WWE, but The Big Guy is not one of them.