The wrestling world is currently witnessing stars change homes quite often. Independent promotions and the self-marketing of wrestlers have combined for new alternatives to the WWE. The highest paid stars will always be in WWE due to the significantly large lead it has over every other wrestling promotion combined. However, wrestlers that hustle hard enough can make more money than the average WWE Superstar. The Young Bucks, Colt Cabana and numerous others have proven the power of betting on yourself rather than relying on the machine.
Many WWE stars have either been fired, witnessed their contracts run out with no extension or flat out chose to leave on their own. Some find success in new homes and others struggle to even remain in the industry. Promotions with contracts like TNA, Ring of Honor and Lucha Underground all witness similar turnover with wrestlers coming in and out. Talent get released everywhere and have the chance to branch out following the bad news.
We'll take a look at some interesting names to either get fired or see their contract expire without any extension from their employer in recent years. Find out which stars thrived and which flopped as we provide updates for twenty recently released wrestling stars.
20 Simon Gotch
The most recent release in WWE came when the company announced Simon Gotch’s contract was being terminated. Gotch was one half of The Vaudevillains with tag team partner Aiden English. WWE did not like the attitude of Gotch and let him go to end the failed team. Rumors originally suggested that Gotch requested his release, but he has confirmed it was WWE’s call.
Gotch revealed he plans to continue wrestling on the independent circuit and believes he has a lot to offer to the wrestling business. The comments of Gotch following his release indicated he was very unhappy in WWE due to his artistic creativity being stifled. Well, the independent scene is the perfect place to show just how good your ideas are and Gotch will have that opportunity.
19 Mia Yim
TNA showcased Mia Yim under the name of Jade as the new breakout star of the Knockouts Division in recent years. The talent of Yim got her over as one of the best women’s wrestlers in the world. TNA used her well with memorable matches against Gail Kim, Rosemary and Sienna. The recent change in management to start 2017 saw her time there end.
Jeff Jarrett being named the new person in charge led to many established stars with contracts expiring seeing their time end in TNA. The rumors suggest the wrestlers were given low-ball offers and turned it down to hit the free agent market. Yim is continuing her career on the independent scene most weekends and is a rumored name for the WWE women’s tournament coming later in the year.
18 Cody Rhodes
The shocking news of Cody Rhodes requesting his release from WWE in 2016 saw him hit the independent circuit. Rhodes was celebrated for betting on his talent instead of taking the easy money while remaining unhappy as Stardust. Cody found instant success wrestling for all the top promotions outside of WWE. Within a few months, Rhodes worked for Ring of Honor, TNA, PWG, Evolve and New Japan.
The success of Rhodes is overwhelming and he has stated he's looking to settle down by signing a contract. Cody is one of the top members of the Bullet Club in both New Japan and Ring of Honor making that his likely home. WWE could always come back into play but the safe bet is Rhodes being a member of NJPW and ROH for the next year or two.
17 Brandi Rhodes
If you haven't checked out One Night Only Knockouts Knockdown I hope that you do! My match against @santanagarrett is being talked about as one of the best of the night! I'm excited for people to see that there is more to me than mixed tag matches. I'm glad to see nay-Sayers finding nothing bad to say about the match except "must have been luck". Yeah my first TV singles. Maybe it was luck. Or maybe you were wrong to judge me so hard off of my first ever 2 tag matches in the first place 🤷🏽♀️ Either way, I had a great time going toe to toe with such a fierce competitor! Hope there's a next time! 💪🏾 Glad to have done my fans proud in this outing. There's a lot of talent out there but you guys stand by me because you're true. Love you all! More to come! Remember that BIG thing I keep teasing??? My contract still has me sworn to secrecy but the news will be out SOON and I hope you guys will be super excited for MORE BRANDI 😘🤗💪🏾🍾🥂💋 (📸 @bobmulreninphotos )
Brandi Rhodes left WWE along with her husband Cody within the same week. WWE never viewed her as anything more than a ring announcer but she had aspirations for more. Brandi has started wrestling regularly since her requested release. The main home of Mrs. Rhodes is TNA as a member of the Knockouts Division frequently involved in storylines.
It isn’t the exclusive home for Brandi with her career also taking her to the independent circuit. Brandi sometimes appears with Cody but mostly wrestlers in smaller promotions to progress and improve. The genre of inter-gender matches has seen Brandi added to the mix with matches against Joey Ryan among others. Both members of the Rhodes household appear to be enjoying life after being released by WWE.
16 The Hardys
Matt and Jeff Hardy were content to continue working for TNA after adding relevance to the promotion with their “Broken” characters. Various interviews revealed that Matt actually expected to stay in TNA until the management change. Jeff Jarrett and the other traditional minds were not happy with the unique characters straying away from the old school fundamentals of wrestling.
The Hardys were unofficially let go when it was made clear TNA would not negotiate a fair deal with them. It ended up being the best thing for both men and multiple promotions. Matt and Jeff ended up in Ring of Honor a few months with a short but memorable ROH Tag Team Championship reign. They then returned to WWE at WrestleMania 32 to become the Raw Tag Team Champions. The Hardys are officially members of the WWE roster and among the hottest aspects in wrestling again.
The controversy surrounding Hernandez’s time in TNA and Lucha Underground a few years ago ended up leading to a release from both companies. Hernandez claimed he was no longer under contract with Lucha Underground and started working for TNA. Lucha Underground had proof he was still their employee and TNA was forced to remove all segments taped with him for future episodes.
TNA got rid of Hernandez when realizing the legal troubles and have yet to do business with him again since then. Lucha Underground also was upset with him for breaking contract and they stopped using him. Hernandez essentially was let go from both companies after trying to work for them at the same time. The career of the talented big man has not been the same. Hernandez wrestlers on very small independent shows with little hope of a relevant role unless TNA or Lucha Underground forgives him and one of them decides to bring him back.
14 Truth Martini
Many pundits considered Truth Martini among the best managers in the wrestling industry during his time in Ring of Honor. Martini helped Jay Lethal become one of the top heels in the company leading to his ROH World Championship reign. Other credible names like Roderick Strong, Michael Elgin and Matt Taven were managed by him leading to great results for each at that time in their careers.
ROH stopped using Martini and essentially fired him after he was written off television with a scripted injury. The personality of Truth is definitely missed from the wrestling television landscape. Martini runs his own wrestling school aptly named, The House of Truth. Respected performers like Jimmy Jacobs, Chris Sabin and Alex Shelley all give their approval to the school. Still, the wrestling business definitely misses him on screen as a manager.
13 Alex Riley
The disappointing wrestling career of Alex Riley ended in 2016 following his last chance as an in-ring performer. WWE wanted Riley to spend the rest of his time in the company as a broadcaster. Riley wanted to wrestle and was given the chance in NXT. The results showed he didn’t improve at all from his earlier days. Riley also appeared very bitter about the likes of Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura and other world travelers jumping ahead of him in the pecking order.
It all culminated in WWE getting rid of Riley and ending his wrestling career. Riley has left the wrestling business altogether and is attempting to get a career in acting off the ground. A small role in the upcoming Neftlix series G.L.O.W is the only gig we know Riley has been able to secure.
12 Rich Brennan
Rich Brennan showed great potential as a play-by-play commentator in NXT. The best days of NXT commentary definitely featured the team of Brennan, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton. Brennan appeared to be on a fast track to the main roster at some point, but WWE fired him out of the blue. Tom Phillips took over for him on NXT and eventually moved up to call SmackDown Live.
Brennan has used his background and experience in broadcasting to continue his career calling sports games in the National Pro Grid League along with voice over work, according to his website. The passion for wrestling still exists for Brennan as he worked for Pro Wrestling Revolver and Wrestle Circus during WrestleMania weekend. It's a shame WWE ditched Brennan but a great play-by-play announcer is still on the market for a plethora of wrestling promotions that could use one.
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WWE wanted to turn Cameron into a future star of the Women’s Division. A combination of being a bore on the reality show Total Divas and delivering awful matches in the ring on WWE TV made her flop and a big one at that. Cameron attempted to improve at the Performance Center, but WWE eventually cut bait when she agreed with controversial comments from Ryback criticizing the company.
The wrestling days of Cameron are over today. Cameron is looking to advance her modeling and acting careers. She recently picked up the gig of hosting Two on Where on Extra TV. All of these seem like more realistic goals than returning to the ring for any promotion. We’re all better off for Cameron leaving the wrestling business.
10 Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger made headlines when he was released by WWE back in March of 2017. The request was made by Swagger and WWE agreed to terminate his contract. Swagger apparently realized his career was going nowhere. The bold move saw him want to rebuild his career outside of the WWE. Swagger has yet to wrestle since leaving WWE.
WWE contracts typically allow wrestlers to work for untelevised promotions instantly. There is a 90 day clause that prevents the talent from appearing on television or IPPV. Swagger has made it clear he plans to return to the ring. It's interesting to see if he’s specifically waiting until the 90 days end so he can debut for a television promotion. Regardless, Swagger is keeping it quiet about where he'll show up next.
WWE used Hornswoggle in comedic segments for many years to add variety to the shows. Wrestling used to have an entire genre of little performers in the old days, but that no longer exists. Aside from El Torito for a few years, Hornswoggle was the only primary little person on WWE television. The WWE tenure saw him work with the likes of Finlay, Shawn Michaels, Triple H and Vince McMahon.
Hornswoggle failing a drug test to violate the Wellness Policy putting him in the doghouse before WWE ultimately released him. The wrestling career of Hornswoggle has continued outside of the WWE with frequent appearances on TNA. Hornswoggle has wrestled Rockstar Spud among others on television for the company. You can also catch him working on various independent shows each weekend as he travels the world.
8 Bubba Ray Dudley
The return of Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley to WWE back in 2015 lacked in comparison to Matt and Jeff Hardy today. People enjoyed the nostalgia of the Dudleys but that’s all it was. No one necessarily cared to see them wrestle the current stars like fans do with the Hardys right now. As a result, WWE decided to end the run after a year.
D-Von moved into a producer role for WWE backstage helping put together the matches. Bubba was essentially let go with his contract being up. The hardcore legend continued wrestling on the independent circuit following the end of his WWE time. Ring of Honor signed him to a one-year contract back in March. Bubba is currently one of the ROH Six-Man Tag Team Champions along with Jay and Mark Briscoe.
7 Mark Andrews
TNA completely dropped the ball with the highly talented Mark Andrews. The reality series British Boot Camp landed Andrews a job in TNA by winning the competition. Unfortunately, TNA went on to do nothing with him aside from placing him in multi-man X-Division matches. Andrews clearly had the talent and youth to be a future star but they never invested time in him.
It came as a shock to everyone when Andrews was announced as a competitor in WWE’s tournament to crown a United Kingdom Championship. Andrews’ TNA contract expired and the company didn’t care enough to extend him ahead of time. WWE is currently still in the process of revealing their UK plans and Andrews is expected to be a part of it. Andrews is still wrestling full-time on the independent circuit.
6 Joey Styles
WWE stopped using Joey Styles on television back in 2008 but kept him in the company running the website. Styles remained the Vice President of Digital Media for WWE over the last eight years of his time in the company. WWE eventually fired him in 2016 sending him back to the free agent market. Styles started working for independent promotions Evolve, Beyond Wrestling and Chikara.
The poor judgment of Styles to make a controversial joke about sexual harassment towards a female ring announcer in Evolve led to him losing his job in all three promotions due to negative publicity. Styles has basically left the wrestling business to land a normal job. The new life of Styles sees him selling digital advertising online for various companies.
5 Damien Sandow
The career of Damien Sandow will always be sad to think about due to the unfulfilled potential we saw. Sandow looked like an absolute star at various points of time on WWE television. His work as a heel was amazing during his time as the arrogant villain talking down to the fans. The character change to the comedic face role as Miz’s stunt double made him the most popular guy for a few months.
All of this amounted to very little success in moving up the card. Sandow would get released from WWE in 2016 after spending months on the inactive list. TNA signed Sandow shortly after and he looked like a different person in the worst of ways. Sandow failed miserably looking out of shape and delivering weak performances consistently. The run of Sandow in TNA is over now as well with the future of his career up in the air.
4 Adam Rose
Adam Rose is one of the few NXT stars to completely tank on the WWE main roster. The current Raw and SmackDown Live rosters show just how successful NXT has been in developing new stars. Rose is the biggest name on the negative side. Fans in NXT loved him as the party king leading his Exotic Express to the ring. It did not translate to the bigger crowds with no one caring about him in the slightest.
Rose violating the Wellness Policy resulted in a suspension that he claimed was unfair. The fact that Rose spoke out is likely what made WWE release him. Rose is still wrestling in very lower tier independent promotions but struggling to stand out. None of the relevant companies have interest in him. Rose has revealed he plans to retire at the end of 2017 if nothing changes.
3 Drew Galloway
The addition of Drew Galloway helped TNA add a credible main event star to the roster. Galloway was a rare bright spot during his time there. Everyone assumed TNA would go out of their way to re-sign him and make him a fixture in the future of the company. Galloway instead saw his contract expire with no offers to extend beforehand under the new regime of Jeff Jarrett.
The name value of Galloway went up during his time in TNA and on the independent circuit. It helped him return to WWE in 2017 as a big star in NXT. Galloway is expected to be one of the faces of NXT with a track to the main roster sooner or later. TNA failing to offer him a new deal and letting him go will end up being viewed one of the worst wrestling decisions of the year.
WWE gave Ryback every chance to succeed from an undefeated streak as a face to a feud with John Cena as a heel. Ryback could never get over to the level needed for his role in WWE. The heavily pushed star saw his momentum end with his final years in the company being completely lackluster. Ryback’s frustration grew and he ranted online in a blog completely ripping WWE for treating their performers poorly.
The rant of Ryback would be the last thing he did in WWE. They let his contract expire and announced they would be parting ways with him. Ryback claimed he would prove WWE misused him by finding new promotions to show off his talent. Instead, he has become one of the most irrelevant names in the industry. Ryback wrestles on lower tier independent shows and mostly just rants on his podcast.
1 Alberto Del Rio
The second tenure of Alberto Del Rio in WWE ended just as poorly as the first one. Del Rio got on WWE’s bad side by dating Paige in a relationship the company did not approve of. Things got worse when he violated the WWE Wellness Policy by failing a drug test. Del Rio was not happy with this and requested his release from WWE.
Following his wish being granted, Del Rio has continued both his relationship with Paige and his wrestling career. Alberto is currently wrestling for TNA in the main event picture as the company looks to rebuild around him among others. Del Rio also works on independent shows and has been named the President of a Mexican MMA promotion. The recently released WWE talent is however most known for trashing Triple H every chance he gets in interviews.