It’s always bound to happen on an annual basis – WWE offloads many of its talents and wishes them well in all their future endeavors.
Last year, Vince McMahon’s wrestling empire quite possibly cut the biggest array of on-camera and backstage personnel they’ve ever had. The impact of the pandemic is said to have played a major part in the company’s decision to let so many superstars, producers, and referees go (even though WWE made record profits in 2020). Now that we’ve arrived in 2021, a whole new batch of WWE personalities has been given their walking papers. With so many other wrestling feds on the scene, it’s not unusual for one or even all of those released talents to pop on a whole ‘nother network under a brand new guise.
But sadly, the negative stigma attached to some of these WWE firings prevents some of them from prospering elsewhere. Without further ado, let’s talk about the WWE talent releases of 2021.
This firing has been a long time coming. And seeing as how WWE didn’t put out their usual PR statement where they wish the newly released talent well in whatever they do next, it seems like the company wants to wipe their hands completely free of Lars Sullivan. There’s a ton of factors that went into getting rid of someone that’s pretty much everything Vince wants in a massive brute – a proven past of hateful sentiments that were found within chatroom discussions, the presence of a homosexual porn tape, and struggles with anxiety all led to the cause of Sullivan’s fall from grace. There’s a ton more info related to Sullivan’s backstage troubles and the mental anguish he experienced outside the ring, which you can read up on here.
Steve Cutler went from a Forgotten Son to a lackey for Baron Corbin after his stablemates’ hate-filled opinions became public and broke up the trio. Jaxson Ryker is the stablemate in question, while Wesley Blake is the tag team partner that got to join Cutler alongside SmackDown’s cocky king. To be quite honest, Cutler has never been outright good or bad – he’s just always toed the line of just being passable at best. I figured he and Blake would hold on for a little while longer since falling under Corbin’s royal rule, but it turns out WWE gave up on trying to keep the former NXT duo alive. Can’t say I’ll really miss Cutler, to be honest…
Man, what could have been. To see what the man that once dominated the Lucha Libre scene as La Sombra produced in NXT alongside Zelina Vega was impressive. That original stripper getup he donned did him no favors, but he eventually recovered and enjoyed an entertaining stint down at WWE’s third brand. Then he got called up to the main roster and the trouble soon began.
While he enjoyed some good matches with Rey Mysterio, he never really got to shine with some other equally talented wrestlers. Splitting him up from Vega was pretty much his death sentence and the writing was clearly on the wall for his impending release. I’m happy to see him free from the confines of WWE and would love to see him pop up in ROH to join his Lucha brethren and possibly return to NJPW all at the same time. AEW is pretty stuffed at the moment, but I wouldn’t be mad if he went there to reform his power duo shtick with Miss Vega.
“YOU GOTTA BE JOKIN’ ME?” Shout out Miss Billy Kay, for real. When she got split up from her IIconics partner Peyton Royce, she made the best of her newfound singles run on SmackDown by being one of its most humorous stars. Even though she didn’t amount too much in the ring, I figured she’d stick around and eventually get partnered up with a new lady on the Blue Brand. That actually happened once she started teaming with Carmella, but now we’ll never know if that tandem would have gone any farther past their WrestleMania 36 performance. I’m a fan, Miss Kay! Hope to see you pop up on an indie show soon.
Crazy to fathom that Mickie James’s most significant contribution to WWE during her second run there was her fire match with Asuka from NXT TakeOver: Toronto 2016. After moving back up to the main roster, she did little of note and pretty much played the part of jobber to the stars. I definitely wasn’t a fan of such a lame treatment towards one of WWE’s better in-ring women’s talents. Mickie still has a lot left in the tank, so I’d love to see her pop up in the NWA of today and give the ladies in that revived fed a run for their money.
I figured big things were in store for Chelsea Green once she made her main roster debut. But after getting injured during her first match on SmackDown, I got the feeling that the powers that be would quickly deem her “injury prone.” While I don’t know if that’s actually the case, it’s still a little troubling to find out that she’ll no longer be working for WWE so soon after fully recovering. So that return match of her’s I was kind of looking forward to will never come to fruition. Chelsea’s a fine worker, so it’d make sense for her to showcase her skills in the NWA or on AEW.
We all knew Tucker’s time was up as soon as they had him turn heel on his former Heavy Machinery partner in Tucker. After he delivered his insipid reasoning for screwing his former bestie, he popped up on an episode on Raw while donning some “I’m clearly here to lose” attire. I’m pretty sad to see the big guy go – he was shockingly agile for his size and could go airborne from time to time. With all that big man talent in tow, you’d think WWE would find something interesting for Tucker to do. But sadly, they left him to rot backstage in catering. Tucker’s free from the confines of WWE now and would make for a great talent on the indies, Impact Wrestling, and in the NWA.
So Kalisto got split up from his Lucha House Party stablemates last year and became a singles luchador over on the Blue Brand. Once that breakup came to pass, however, something told me that Kalisto would be nothing more than an extra warm body for WWE now that he was on his own again. And sadly, I was right. Kalisto had himself a good run in WWE – he’s a former NXT Tag Team Champion, WWE Cruiserweight Champion, and two-time United States Champion. So he has the credentials needed to easily get booked now that he’s no longer a part of WWE. Kalisto seems like the perfect fit for NJPW’s US division in NJPW Strong and MLW’s (Major League Wrestling) Middleweight Division.
And now the other Forgotten Son is no more. Wesley Blake enjoyed some decent success in NXT alongside Murphy but really couldn’t get anything good going once he partnered up with Steve Cutler and Jaxson Ryker. After Jaxson made his controversial comments on social media, Wesley and Murphy got repackaged as King Corbin’s royal lackeys. Then all of a sudden, Steve got cut out of nowhere. So seeing that Wesley got the very same treatment right after doesn’t shock me one bit. Them’s the breaks, I guess…
“All you have to do…IS BO-LIEVE!” How WWE managed to screw up such a cheesy yet awesome gimmick like the one Bo Dallas once had is beyond me, but I should be used to that sort of development by now. So now that Curtis Axel and Bo are both gone from WWE, I get the feeling that we’ll be seeing a random B-Team reunion in the near future. I thought Bo would join “The Fiend” in some capacity since they’re real-life brothers, but I was clearly mistaken. Bo’s a decent wrestler, so I’m sure he’ll find some work on the indies and most likely prosper in the NWA.
WWE really fumbled the bag with one of these best women’s tag teams in recent memory. Y’all remember when they won the Women’s Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania 35? And then went on to do absolutely nothing with the belts until they dropped ’em to Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross? Yeah, that whole title run hurt to watch.
Peyton Royce was another favorite of mine and I figured Vinnie Mac was setting her up for a huge push on Raw. But alas, Miss Royce didn’t really get the chance to make an impact on Monday nights. So what was the point of breaking up The IIconics again? Nothing, exactly. Count me all the way in for a reunion in the near future. Plus I’d love to see Peyton pop up in AEW to strengthen their women’s division even more and run with her real-life boyfriend Shawn Spears as the valet for Pinnacle.
The living, breathing embodiment of hype is now gone from WWE. I’m sure everyone and their grandmother figured this release was coming once Mojo’s buddy Rob Gronkowski moved onto the greener pastures of the NFL. That moment tipped me off to the fact that the powers that be had no use for Mojo anymore since his previous role as “Gronk’s” onscreen partner in crime had been abandoned. Mojo’s a super positive guy with hella energy and a mouth full of wild quotables, so I’m sure he’ll thrive in the next wrestling fed he chooses to compete for. Mojo definitely gives me “next Impact Wrestling star” vibes. More power to him.
Do you guys want to talk about wasted potential? Then look no further than this guy. Velveteen Dream was earmarked for superstardom and most folks couldn’t wait to see what he could do on the main roster. He shined on NXT and got its following of smart fans to get behind him, which is definitely a tall feat unto itself. It seemed like everything was building to Dream eventually claiming the NXT Championship and continuing to build his legacy from there…until the underage sexual harassment allegations became public.
Once that happened, Dream went from a bonafide star to the type of onscreen presence that made viewers feel uneasy. WWE noted that they did an investigation into the matter and ended up found nothing, but the damage had already been done. With so much uncertainty surrounding Dream’s innocence and fans getting a front-row seat to his sharp decline as an NXT performer, his release amounted to a foregone conclusion. Sigh…
Didn’t this man just compete at WrestleMania 37 against Shane McMahon and compete in a WWE Championship match the month after on PPV? How someone of Bruan Strowman’s stature and position within the company got his walking papers is beyond me. He definitely lost a lot of his luster and fan support due to horrible booking, though – compare the Strowman of 2017 to the one we have now and its complete night & day. Even still, Strowman was always kept in a high position on the card so it’s so strange seeing him get the boot this year. Strowman has the body build and in-ring experience needed to get him a job anywhere, so I’m sure he’ll find himself in another wrestling promotion sooner rather than later.
A week before Aleister Black’s release, he returned on Smackdown and literally kicked off a new feud with Big E. And now…he’s gone. The complete bungling of Black once he transitioned over to the main roster is SO confounding to me. He tagged with Ricochet for some odd reason, locked himself in a closet for far too long, and didn’t really do much of note thereafter. A series of vignettes marked Black’s revival on the blue brand, but that was seemingly a complete waste of time too. Black…well, Tommy End has all the makings of a star and can reach his full potential anywhere else in the wrestling world. AEW and NJPW need to work out a joint deal with this man ASAP! Black as the new leader of The Dark Order, perhaps? Hey, it could work…
Lana went through the Raw announce table countless times and this is the thanks she gets? You hate to see it. I was never the biggest fan of Lana, but I always recognized how much she tried to get better at her craft. Once she lost the accent and became a dancer though, it was hard for anybody to truly care about anything she did from that point forward. Don’t be surprised to see her pop up in AEW to manage Miro and become her natural self all over again.
WOW! They let my guy Murphy go? That act should be considered criminal. The dude quickly morphed into one of the best in-ring workers on the roster thanks to his Cruiserweight division work and everything he did soon after. Murphy could always be counted on to produce an in-ring gem against anyone and everyone he was pitted against. Even when he was a part of that horrid beef between Seth Rollins and the Mysterio family, he did his best to stand out and continue putting on good to great matches. But I guess all that hard work was for naught. I hope to see Murphy go on a wrestling world tour that sees him competing against the very best of Japan, Mexico, and the States. Murphy vs. Kenny Omega is a must!
Aw man…this one hurts, too. Ruby Riott had so much going for her – she has a unique look, plenty of in-ring talent, and had a likable stable of equally likable ladies by her side. But Riott never got a whole lot of opportunities to show everyone just how good she was on the main roster. Watching her get jobbed out in seconds to Ronda Rousey back at the 2019 Elimination Chamber event truly hurt my soul. And seeing Ruby and Liv Morgan not really amount to anything on SmackDown was also quite the letdown. Ruby’s a talented gal, so I think she’d make for a great addition to the IMPACT Wrestling or AEW roster if given the chance.
WWE’s resident Fashionista is now gone. Tyler Breeze certainly had a good run – he quickly became one of my favorites during the start of the WWE Network era of NXT. And I always got a good laugh out of him and Fandango’s antics during their Fashion Police run on SmackDown. The pair’s return to NXT worked out pretty well since they enjoyed a short run with the tag team titles. I figured they’d stay down there permanently and play the gatekeeper role for the tag team division. But sadly, Breeze is no longer under contract. Do you know where I think he’d fit right in, though? Impact Wrestling’s renewed X-Division.
Just like his boy Breeze, Fandango sadly got his walking papers. To see WWE fail in really capitalizing on the man during his 2013 upsurge in popularity thanks to his catchy theme and a big win over Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 29 is mind-boggling. If they stayed the course, Fandango could have become a long-lasting midcard act that could have held onto some singles gold. But alas, that just wasn’t the case. It’s sad to see him leave WWE/NXT behind – here’s hoping Fandango can find a spot in Impact Wrestling and blossom thanks to a fresh start.
I enjoyed these guys as 3.0 in CHIKARA and I loved ’em even more once they migrated to NXT to become Ever-Rise. Chase Parker and Matt Martel added an extra bit of hilarity to the black and yellow brand, which made them stick out in a hugely positive way. Their win-loss record wasn’t setting the world on fire, but I always enjoyed them and their outlandish personalities onscreen. These guys would make for a great pair of extra hands if they ended up joining the Impact Wrestling roster.
And now we’re going to delve into a bunch of released 205 Live talent. Tony Nese is a pretty underrated guy – he has a great body build but is able to pull off a bunch of impressive high-flying maneuvers despite his stature. The only thing that worked against him was his lack of charisma, sadly. Nese has a ton of mileage left in his career – don’t be surprised if he pops up in IMPACT Wrestling, MLW, or NJPW Strong.
I was never much of a fan of this guy, honestly. He just screamed “Generic Cruiserweight Wrestler #432” to me due to his uninspired moveset and non-existent personality. His brother Shawn Daivari is currently a member of the MLW roster. If I were Ariya, I’d pull up to that same fed and link up with my sibling to get in on all the Contra Unit shenanigans.
Remember the guy that took issue with Timothy Thatcher’s brutal “lessons?” Yeah, that was August Grey. He ended up transitioning over to 205 Live and prospering as a super colorful throwback sex symbol. The dude definitely went under the radar as he produced some good outings on the rarely watched 205 Live. I could see August prospering in IMPACT Wrestling as the newest member of their X-Division or popping on an episode of AEW Dark here & there.
The Bollywood Boyz (Sunil Singh and Samir Singh)
Jinder Mahal’s past goons that took insane amounts of abuse from Randy Orton will no longer be seen performing on 205 Live. And to be quite honest, that’s perfectly fine by me. The Bollywood Boyz’s whole shtick never appealed to me and I could never find it in myself to care about their matches. Jinder’s got two larger and far more formidable brutes by his side now, plus there are better cruiserweight superstars that can easily fill their roles on 205 Live. The Singh Brothers seem like the perfect fit for the NWA if you ask me.
Curt Stallion always seemed so unremarkable to me. There’s just nothing about him that was able to grab my attention or care enough to follow his 205 Live exploits. Here’s hoping he can develop more of a personality away from the WWE and possibly step his in-ring game up with Ring of Honor. Curt seems like the perfect fit for ROH’s return to focusing on pure wrestling and less buffoonery.
So Nikki Cross is the last surviving member of Sanity. How depressing is that sobering fact? The man formerly known as Big Damo enjoyed a decent run in NXT alongside the rest of Sanity and paved the way for a successful main roster run with the group. But their main roster call-up ended up being all for naught. Killian returned to NXT and held onto his spot as an anarchist for a while until he started life anew within a comedy tag team. Drake Maverick annoys me to no end, so I wasn’t all that interested in watching him and Killian fully embrace their new strange bedfellows storyline. Now that Killian is gone from WWE, I’d love to see him rebuild his killer big man stature in IMPACT Wrestling or MLW.
Fam…WHAT IS GOING ON IN WWE IN 2021? They let go of one of the most creative talents on its roster? In all honesty, I’m not too surprised at the announcement of Wyatt’s release. Here’s a guy that was given a strong push right out of the gate with The Wyatt Family…then he ran into the brick wall known as John Cena at WrestleMania 30. Afterward, we were treated to start and stop pushes that were continually hampered by odd booking decisions. Having him win the WWE Championship, then drop it to Randy Orton in a short amount of time at WrestleMania 33 was unfortunate.
He came back as “The Fiend” and did some awesome work during his reintroduction at SummerSlam 2019. Then just a few months later, he got cut in half by a senior citizen in Goldberg and lost his WWE Universal Championship. Then he gets hot again by bringing Alexa Bliss into the fold and wreaking havoc on Raw. Then at WrestleMania 37, he loses clean to one RKO from Randy Orton and is made to look like a weak doofus while Bliss practically takes over his whole shtick. WWE creative just completely dropped the ball with a man that had it in him to become a company mainstay for years to come. And now, the modern-day version of The Undertaker is gone. Hope you find greener pastures and remain physically & mentally healthy from this point forward, Bray!
Here’s a list of NXT/developmental talents, Performance Center coaches, referees, and commentators who’ve also been released from their WWE contracts:
• Drake Wuertz
• Jake Clemons
• Alexander Wolfe
• Skyler Story
• Ezra Judge
• Kavita Devi
• Jessamyn Duke
• Vanessa Borne
• Adnan Virk
• Tom Phillips
• Josiah Williams
• Santana Garrett
• Arturo Ruas
• Tino Sabbatelli
• Marina Shafir
• Jeff Jarrett