Each and every year, World Wrestling Entertainment has to come to grips with the fact that some of their talents just aren’t worth keeping around anymore.
Due to an unexpected release or an amicable split, fans’ favorite wrestlers end up on the chopping block and given their well wishes by WWE. Most of those released personalities tend to rebuild their credibility on the indies and parlay that into a major comeback with another wrestling fed. Be it All Elite Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, the National Wrestling Alliance, etc., newly released WWE talents have a wealth of working options to choose from nowadays. It’s about time that we remember the wrestlers who have brought their WWE careers to an end in 2020 and are now heading into the next stage of their storied careers.
These are the WWE talent releases you need to know about from 2020.
The “Woken” one has left the building that was formerly known as Titan Towers. Matt Hardy has chosen to leave WWE on good terms and go on to greener pastures. What started out as a memorable comeback at WrestleMania 33 alongside his brother Jeff eventually transitioned into a letdown of a run the longer it went on.
Once Jeff went down with an injury, Matt was subjected to a sanitized version of his zany “Woken” antics and worthless matches that saw him take more losses than victories. He certainly enjoyed some tag team championship successes during his last WWE stint, but it just didn’t measure up to his hilarious “Woken” universe gimmick back in Impact Wrestling. Now that Matt is a free agent, it’d be pretty cool to see him pop up in AEW and be revealed as The Dark Order’s “Exalted One” or just work there as a trusted agent. No matter where he goes, Matt will always be regarded as a huge commodity.
The Revival (Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson)
This release could be seen coming from a mile away. WWE doesn’t seem to care all that much about building meaningful storylines for their tag team divisions and give them ample time to produce great matches on a weekly basis. Even NXT’s tag ranks these days seem to be a bit more depleted than past iterations. The talented old school duo of Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson seemed like they were destined for greatness once they vanquished The New Day the night after WrestleMania 33. The crowd pop that erupted once “SAY YEAH!” came over the loudspeakers was deafening and it was clear that The Revival had a lot going for them.
But sadly, their WWE tenure has come to a disappointing end. Injuries derailed their early push no doubt, but terrible booking decisions and an unfocused tag team division in WWE also led to their downfall. Since their release comes without a no-compete clause, they are free to go wherever they please as soon as possible. Them signing to All Elite Wrestling to finally take on the Young Bucks and further build out their tag team ranks is inevitable at this point. But I’d love to see them spend a few months in the NWA before they embark on their next big-time wrestling fed journey.
Zack Ryder’s tag-team compadre is no longer with the company. After experiencing such a career-defining moment with Ryder at WrestleMania 35 by winning the Raw Tag Team Championship, Curt Hawkins didn’t get to do anything of note afterward as a solo guy and alongside Ryder. This release doesn’t come as much of a surprise since his re-hiring a few years back seemed like an attempt by WWE to just add extra bodies to the roster to fill out their brand-specific shows.
Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows
Now this one’s a shocker! Didn’t they just sign a new WWE deal last year or so? And they just appeared in the main event slot during the first night of WrestleMania 36 when AJ Styles battled The Undertaker in a Boneyard Match. Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows seemed like they’d be safe for a few years longer due to their affiliation with AJ Styles in The O.C. Now, they’ve been released by WWE and have left their “good brother” to fend for himself. Once things pick back up, I could see them returning to NJPW to freshen up their tag ranks and eventually pay a visit to the NWA and AEW.
EC3’s WWE run started off with so much promise. He enjoyed a decent run in NXT and was a part of that amazing NXT North American Championship Ladder Match at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans. Then he got randomly bunched up with a few other NXT call-ups to freshen up the Monday Night Raw scene and proceeded to do absolutely nothing of note soon after. A talent like EC3 who has amazing promo skills, a huge dosage of charisma and a great body build should have gone so much farther in WWE. He’s practically Vince McMahon’s wet dream! But for some reason, EC3 was given lame 24/7 Championship skits and matches of little importance on Main Event. EC3 would do well to hit up the NWA or AEW in the near future.
This release is quite puzzling. I figured he’d be on the chopping block last year when rumors of him being a backstage nuisance began to spread across the wrestling dirt sheets. Once he got sent to NXT, Lio Rush seemed to have gotten a new lease on life and enjoy a more fulfilling run as a part of that brand’s strong Cruiserweight division. I was left scratching my head when his name wasn’t announced for the interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship tournament – his inclusion seemed like a forgone conclusion. But now we won’t get to see Lio work his high-flying magic in WWE for the remainder of the year or possibly ever again. Lio’s an asset wherever he goes, so his talents could be used at so many other indy companies or larger wrestling feds.
BUT HE’S GOT KIDS TO FEED! Heath Slater’s time as one of the funniest and most easily likable WWE Superstars of all time has come to a disappointing end. His two 3MB brothers found great success, plus Heath had his moments in the spotlight as a tag team champion that put him in a prominent position at one point in time. Seeing him get a hold of the WWE Championship may sound like nothing more than a fever dream, but his boy Jinder Mahal got a run with the title. Crazier things have happened in WWE these past few years is all I’m saying. But alas, we just won’t get to see if WWE would have ever pulled the trigger on a random Heath Slater WWE Championship run to complete the 3MB comeback story…
How crazy is it that out of all of the Sanity members to thrive on the main roster, it was Nikki Cross? Now don’t get me wrong – I adore Nikki and her unhinged bestie of Alexa Bliss act. But I figured the rest of her stablemates were going to be a force to be reckoned with during their initial run on SmackDown. Once Sanity as a whole got jobbed out to The Miz of all people, I knew there were dark days ahead for one of NXT’s best factions. Eric Young got sent off to Raw to take on the role of a jobber to the stars, which was a position he truly didn’t deserve. Mr. Young is a slept-on guy who had more to offer to WWE, but the company never gave him something decent to work with once that main roster call-up came his way.
WOW! Kurt Angle’s been given his walking papers? After retiring as an in-ring competitor, I figured he’d be a WWE lifer from that point forward and tend to the company’s backstage agent duties. Angle’s years of in-ring experience and knowledge could have been relied upon to help mold the future of the company. Plus he’d make for a great representative for the company whenever WWE needed someone to make the rounds for interviews and other PR opportunities. I totally understand WWE being forced to make budget cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic. But saving money by releasing Angle from their backstage producer ranks makes little to no sense to me.
Speaking of newly released backstage producers (and even a long-tenured referee!), here’s a list of several other individuals who are no longer with the company:
• Billy Kidman (Producer)
• Shawn Daivari (Producer)
• Sarah Stock (Producer)
• Shane Helms (Producer)
• Dave Finlay (Producer)
• Lance Storm (Producer)
• Mike Rotunda (Producer)
• Mike Chioda (Referee)
• Gerald Brisco (Talent Scout)
I’m not all that surprised by this one. Aiden English seemed to fit quite nicely into his role as a commentator for the 205 Live show. But his importance to the company as a whole seemed to be on the lower end of the spectrum. I still look back fondly on his run alongside Simon Gotch as The Vaudevillains in NXT (good times those were, good times). Aiden can commentate, sing and wrestle quite well, so he’d be a great asset to any other wrestling company as either an in-ring talent or a ringside commentator.
Primo and Epico
I gotta keep it a stack with you, guys – I had no clue Primo and Epico were still signed to WWE. They should be okay if they decide to go back to their native Puerto Rico and work their tag team magic in World Wrestling Council.
To be honest, Sarah Logan was far too green to make any type of headway on WWE’s main roster. With a longer run in NXT, she could have improved dramatically and developed a connection with the fans down in Winter Park, Florida. But she got plucked out of NXT and put in the forgettable stable of The Riott Squad alongside Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan. Since Ruby’s gone MIA and Liv’s a whole different beast these days, it was clear to me that Sarah was going to be left to do nothing of importance in the coming months. But now that she’s been released, Sarah will have to further refine her skills on the indy wrestling scene.
I’ve always been puzzled by WWE’s fascination with Rowan. I get that he’s a massive brute with a look that Vince adores, but his skills always paled in comparison to Harper. Rowan got a million and one chances to do something meaningful on the main roster, while Harper was more talented but not as lucky as his partner when it came to getting put into worthwhile storylines. Rowan sure did last a long amount of time in the company, but he’s someone that wasn’t major enough to stay on WWE’s roster.
Mike and Maria Kanellis
Mike Kanellis made it pretty clear that he wanted to be let go from his WWE contract last year. Then in a shock announcement, he and his wife decided to resign with the company anyway. After doing nothing of note (except that horrible cuckolding angle…ugh) since his arrival, Mike and Maria Kanellis have now been let go from their WWE contracts. And to be quite honest, WWE’s signing of these two just spoke to the belief that the company does way too much talent hoarding with wrestlers they barely use.
I was scared that this release was coming after news of Curt Hawkins being let go came across my timeline. And sadly, those fears have been confirmed. You gotta feel for Zack Ryder. He’s one of the rare cases of a talent who got over on his own and got shafted by the company that could have greatly benefited from his popularity. And why, you ask? Simply because he wasn’t in their original plans in the first place. All that “glass ceiling” talk was utter BS from the jump. And it was confirmed by the way WWE cut off Ryder’s legs from under him during the hottest point of his career. I’m gonna miss you, Ryder. You deserve so much better, my friend.
No Way Jose
No Way Jose wasn’t good nor great in NXT and on the main roster, so his release from the company doesn’t come as a shock to me whatsoever.
I knew this one was coming sooner or later. Rusev’s dissatisfaction with WWE was clearly evident by his tweets and rumors of him not agreeing to a new contract with the company. Ever since he took that devastating loss to John Cena at WrestleMania 31, it’s all been downhill for the “Bulgarian Brute.” Sure, that whole “Rusev Day” movement was big. But WWE didn’t do enough to push him to a higher level during that hot period of Rusev’s career. What sense did it make for WWE to break up Rusev and Aiden English? And why not push him to the moon when the crowd is so behind him? WWE’s non-sensical decisions hamper their talent so much. And Rusev is another sad example of that fact…
Well, this was a complete waste of time. I had high hopes for Cain Velasquez after watching him work in the Mexican wrestling promotion AAA, but I now realize that was because of the great workers that surrounded him in that Lucha Libre environment. Cain’s WWE run didn’t come off nearly as good due to him being injured coming in, a less than stellar body build, and a lackluster match performance against Brock Lesnar. Ever since that devastating loss, Cain has been off TV and really hasn’t been missed in any way, shape, or form. Cain’s hiring and firing isn’t surprising in the least.
I figured this release was coming since Curtis Axel hadn’t been seen on TV in a very long time. His stint alongside Bo Dallas as The B-Team was mildly entertaining, but they were nothing more than a lower card act that people stopped caring about the longer it went on. Curtis was pretty unremarkable during his entire WWE run, in my opinion – his infamous “Genesis of McGillicutty” promo was super cringe-worthy, he did nothing of note when he was gifted with the IC Championship and Paul Heyman as a manager and he never really put on any noteworthy matches. Even his Hulk Hogan impersonator shtick was nothing special! So yeah, Curtis Axel will need to completely revamp himself on the indies or the NWA in order to wipe away the stink of his uneventful WWE run.
Thank the good lord that Rob Gronkowski is finally gone! His entire WWE run encapsulated the extreme cringe associated with celebrity outsiders who attempt to make an impact on the company. His WrestleMania 36 hosting duties were awful and his “humor” left a lot to be desired. I was elated when R-Truth found a way to roll him up and reclaim the 24/7 Championship because it meant we’d never have to see Rob on WWE shows ever again. Now that he’s transitioned to playing as a tight end for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his brand of awfulness shall be quickly forgotten amongst the WWE Universe.
June 18, 2020, will go down in wrestling infamy and most likely get a whole season of Dark Side of the Ring dedicated to it. On that day, a large number of wrestling talents were outed by their victims due to mass sexual abuse/misconduct allegations. A good number of those accused wrestlers belong to NXT UK, while many of the other names that popped up due to their problematic behavior include talents from other major feds. Even notable indie talents such as David Starr had sexual assault allegations brought against them. All of this news came courtesy of the Twitter hashtag #SpeakingOut.
WWE’s very own Jack Gallagher is one of the names that has been impacted greatly by the shocking allegations being thrown around. So much so that he’s been released by the company without any mention of good luck being thrown his way for future endeavors. According to 411Mania, a woman accused Jack of intoxicating her by adding more liquor to her glass without her noticing. That same woman went on to allege that her denial of Jack’s sexual advances led to him getting violent and forcing her into a room where he proceeded to pull on her skirt. Luckily, she managed to escape and tell her harrowing story later on.
It’s so hard to say goodbye. Kairi Sane, the current holder of the best flying elbow drop in professional wrestling today, made the tough decision to move on from WWE and return to her native Japan. Seeing her leave the States (and possibly retire from the sport she loves so much for good) pains me, but I’m content with the fact that she’s going back home to be with her loving husband. Her NXT run was amazing, but her main roster run was disappointing (as is the case with most NXT callups). Turning her heel was nonsensical, but she still took everything WWE threw at her in stride. Here’s to another amazing voyage, Miss Sane! At least she gets to stay far away from Nia Jax now…
Here’s another well-liked WWE talent that’s moving on to greener pastures. Renee Young, one of the company’s most talented backstage interviewers and commentators, has decided to step away from Vinnie Mac and Co. Now she’s someone that I’m definitely going to miss as well – her bubbly personality and amazing run as the host of Talking Smack made her such a commodity towards the WWE Universe. Her sports commentary talents are top-notch, which makes me think a future Fox Sports gig is her best bet. I hope Renee pops up on our TV’s again for a huge sports network that’s willing to bless her pockets. She certainly deserves that much.
One of WWE’s best ringside commentators has mutually agreed with the company to part ways. In a statement given to F4WOnline, Mauro provided a respectful and heartfelt farewell to his fans and colleagues – “I appreciate the opportunity I had to realize my childhood dream of working in sports entertainment, and I wish WWE well in the future. Now I want to direct my focus and devote my time to my other projects and to my mental health charitable activities and the well-being of my mother and myself.” Mauro’s priorities are bigger than wrestling at the moment since he’s been taking care of his sick mother in British Columbia, so him walking away from WWE at this point makes sense. I’m definitely gonna miss Mauro’s pop culture callouts and over-the-top calls on NXT.
The Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar)
This one hardly comes as a surprise. Both men had a ton of promise during their strong NXT run and their initial callup to RAW. But repeated injuries hampered their many runs on the main roster and kept them from doing anything truly substantial when they were both healthy. I had high hopes for Akam and Rezar once Seth Rollins added them to his new group of “believers,” but that newfound partnership also came to an end due to injuries. I’m sad to see them go, but I think they have a bright future ahead of them. They seem perfect for a strong run in NJPW. Alongside Bad Luck Fale and the rest of the Bullet Club, perhaps? Or as the replacements for Killer Elite Squad in Suzuki-Gun? I’m fine with either scenario.
Here’s a list of NXT/developmental talents, Performance Center coaches, and commentators who’ve also been released from their WWE contracts:
• Kassius Ohno
• Yifeng aka “Rocky”
• Mohamed Fahim
• Marcos Gomes
• Faisal Kurdi
• Edgar Lopez
• Hussain Aldagal
• Dan Matha
• Jon Quasto
• Nick Ogarelli
• Tino Sabbatelli
• Aleksandar Jaksic
• Mars Wang
• Cezar Bononi
• Alyssa Miles
• Deonna Purrazzo
• Rachael Ellering
• MJ Jenkins
• Taynara Conti
• Norman Smiley
• Sarena Deeb
• Sarah Stock
• Chris Guy aka “Ace Steel”
• Kendo Kashin
• Josiah Wiliams
• El Ligero
• Travis Banks