Nothing lasts forever.
That sentiment definitely applies to the career of a WWE Superstar. At some point, your favorite wrestler meets their end within the company due to retirement or release. The signature line attached to that release treatment is known to wrestling fans far and wide – “WWE wishes *insert name here* in all of his/her future endeavors.”
2019 brings with it a new batch of WWE personalities who will no longer appear on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday nights. With so many wrestling companies in existence (Impact Wrestling, ROH, NJPW, AEW, etc.), these former wrestlers will have no problem looking for work elsewhere.
So without further ado, we now present to you the WWE talent releases of 2019 that you need to know.
Yes, it’s true folks…Hideo Itami has reverted back to his former ring name. KENTA has returned and Hideo Itami is no more. Hideo’s WWE run was hampered by a few things – the injuries that kept him on the shelf, him being overshadowed by the other big indy/international stars signed to NXT, and his shoddy booking.
Itami certainly had his moments, such as his underrated NXT Championship match against Bobby Roode, his battle royal appearance at WrestleMania 31, and the massive crowd pop he got after landing a GTS on Tyler Breeze. Plenty of fans will be sad to see him go, but I reckon he’ll prosper once again in his home base of Japan. NOAH or NJPW would be happy to take him in, I’m guessing.
This one came out of left field! Arn Anderson has been working with WWE as a backstage agent since 2001. If there’s an amazing match you look back fondly on from that year until now, “Double A” probably had a hand in producing it.
The company recently added a ton of agents to their roster (Chris “Abyss” Parks, Jeff Jarrett, Sonjay Dutt, Shane Helms, and Shawn Daivari), so I guess it was time to make room for their arrival. It’s pretty sad to see such a brilliant wrestling mind be let go from WWE, but I’m sure he’ll bounce back in no time. Cody must have a special place in his heart for the men who came up with his father back in the ’80s. Arn would fit right in alongside the rest of AEW’s burgeoning backstage talent.
It was only a matter of time before this release got finalized. Tye Dillinger recently posted a tweet explaining how he requested his release from the company. This came as a surprise to no one since we all saw how underutilized he was since getting called up to the main roster. He showed a ton of promise during his early battles with AJ Styles and Baron Corbin.
But shortly after those feuds ran their course, Tye was relegated to “jobber to the stars” status and placed in front of the camera to do lame skits with R-Truth. His NXT run and his 2017 Royal Rumble appearance gave me hope that he’d do big things as a part of SD Live’s midcard roster. But it’s quite evident that WWE had no real plans for the “Perfect 10.” Mark my words, folks – Tye Dillinger will become the Juice Robinson of 2019. And if you know who I’m alluding to, you know big things are in store for Tye’s post-WWE career.
TJP should consider himself a lucky man. During the first-ever Cruiserweight Classic, it looked as if Kota Ibushi and Zack Sabre Jr. would be the ones battling in the finals. Since both men opted to not sign a WWE contract, TJP and Gran Metalik took their spots. And at the end of their battle, TJP emerged as the first man to wear WWE’s new purple strap.
But ever since the Cruiserweights got promoted to Raw, TJP has been treated as an afterthought. Even when he was champion, he succumbed to bad booking and non-reactions to his work with Brian Kendrick. TJP’s release isn’t exactly a big hit to the division, though. With ACH and Trevor Lee being brought into the fold and rumors of NJPW’s Kushida also starting with WWE, TJP’s spot can easily be filled. Here’s hoping that he finds his way back to the indies and builds his stock up all over again.
I had no clue that “Good Ol’ JR” was an active member of WWE for the past two years. Jim Ross must have been a behind-the-scenes guy for a long while now. He’s been enjoying a rewarding run as a podcaster and even lent his play-by-play talents to NJPW on AXS TV. Now that his time with Vinnie Mac’s company is up, JR has opted to ply his commentating trade with any company that looks to employ his services. I’d think he’d make a great fit for All Elite Wrestling, Ring of Honor, or even Major League Wrestling.
This one hurts. Dean Ambrose did the unthinkable – he graduated from the independent hardcore wrestling scene to stand tall as one of the pillars of WWE’s greatest modern-day stable. After his stint with The Shield, Dean became a super-hot babyface who chased down his former Shield brother Seth Rollins and got embroiled in a pretty amazing feud. Since coming back from injury, Dean flip-flopped from babyface to bad guy all the way back to babyface all over again. Throughout his entire WWE career, Dean has been saddled with some silly gimmick traits and a lackluster WWE Championship run that didn’t do the many any favors.
Dean’s recent run of “you fans are dirty!” promos are another example of horrible segments that he was, unfortunately, a part of. It’s easy to see that he’s tired of the stuff he’s been involved in and is ready to take a much-deserved break from WWE’s grueling tour schedule. Dean’s done it all and practically won ’em all, so at least he gets to leave with a huge list of accomplishments on his WWE resume. God speed, Dean! Hope to see you back in a few years or so…
Dustin Rhodes, the man formerly known as the enigmatic “Goldust,” has finally ended his long tenure with WWE in 2019. Known for being a wealth of knowledge to the young batch of talent, Dustin made his stay within the company as both an in-ring competitor and an important backstage presence.
Goldust made it clear that he requested his release in order to combat the rumors reporting that his contract simply expired. Now that Goldust has transformed back into his regular self as Dustin, he’s ready to show the world that he’s still got a lot left in the tank. At All Elite Wrestling’s first major PPV event, Dustin will take on his brother Cody in one of the more unexpected matches of the year. Dustin sure found work quickly, didn’t he?
Here’s another case of a WWE backstage agent leaving his duties behind for good. Unlike the release of Arn Anderson, it’s being reported that “The Man of 1,000 Holds” came to a mutual understanding with WWE on his permanent leave of absence.
A bunch of new agents has come into the fold lately, so this release seems to be the perfect opportunity for Dean to give his role to one of those new backstage hire’s. Mr. Malenko will certainly be missed – as someone who grew up during the Monday Night Wars, I became a huge fan of his back during his WCW heyday (his feud with Chris Jericho is legendary!). Even when he became an awkward ladies man in WWE, he still put on amazing matches as a member of the Cruiserweight division. I hope I’m alive to see him eventually get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Rhyno’s return to WWE in 2015 was something I didn’t even know I wanted. He gave NXT some extra star power, plus his strange yet lovable partnership with Heath Slater was a definite highlight. In 2019, he quietly waited out his WWE contract and transitioned right back to his former home of Impact Wrestling. Rhyno can still go, so I’m ecstatic at the prospect of him going head to head with Michael Elgin in the foreseeable future. Rhyno and WWE’s split was amicable, so I’m sure he’ll pop back up for some special “extreme” appearances.
Grand opening, grand closing. Eric Bischoff’s latest WWE stint as executive director for SmackDown never seemed to get going. Paul Heyman seems to have taken to his role as the man behind the creative direction of Raw quite nicely, while Eric’s comparable work on the blue brand didn’t really amount to much of anything in the long run. Eric made it clear that he still has a ton of respect for his former role, but is still disappointed in how it all came to an end. Bruce Prichard has been pushed into Eric’s former position. Let’s all hope SmackDown’s new tenure on FOX doesn’t have another major backstage disruption to deal with.
To go from NXT Breakout Tournament winner to former WWE superstar is quite the career change, huh? Jordan Myles aka “ACH” experienced a promising run during his time spent on NXT. It appeared that his career was on the up and up after winning that aforementioned tournament and putting on a great NXT Championship match with Adam Cole. Then…that dreaded t-shirt controversy reared its ugly head. Jordan was more than unpleased with a t-shirt designed for him that he deemed racist. That wasn’t his only complaint about his employer, though – he accused WWE of even more blatant racism and went on a Twitter tirade that further lambasted the company. Now that Jordan has been released, he’s back to ruling the indies under his former moniker of ACH.
The Ascension (Konnor and Viktor)
As an NXT fan, it pained my heart to see The Ascenion’s fall into jobber territory once they got called up to the main roster. Konnor and Viktor made the most of their gimmick while in NXT and showed the fans there that they have the capacity to become major players on WWE’s main brands. Unfortunately, they were treated as nothing more than WWE Main Event talent that took more losses than anything else. Now that they’re free of WWE, I could see them plying their trade around various indie promotions and possibly pop up for a stay in the reinvigorated NWA.
The second coming of Rey Mysterio was a total bust from the word go. The original Sin Cara was released several years beforehand, which led to Hunico stepping up to adopt the luchador gimmick. He did great work alongside Kalisto while in NXT, but his main roster work saw him on his back staring up at the lights more often than not. He put in some good performances against Andrade on Raw recently, but it didn’t push up him up the card in any way. It’s no surprise that he requested his release after such a long and uneventful tenure in WWE. Hunico would be better off wrestling overseas, more specifically in Mexican wrestling promotions like CMLL or AAA.
FREE AT LAST! Luke Harper’s another sad example of WWE not using a talented big man to their fullest potential. Luke was great in everything he did – he excelled during his time spent as a stable member of The Wyatt Family, had an underrated singles run as Interconential Champion while feuding with Dolph Ziggler and got hot enough to the point where fans wanted to see him get added to the WWE Championship match between Bray Wyatt and Randy Orton at WrestleMania 33. Luke put in awesome performances at all times, but it seemed like the powers that be never really pushed him hard enough. It’s crazy to see how many chances Rowan has gotten over his much more talented bearded brethren. I can totally see Luke adopting his Brodie Lee gimmick once again and hopping over to AEW.
NXT Talent & WWE Broadcasting Talent That Have Also Been Released