Since most fans can remember, WWE has been a disruptive force in sports entertainment. Making it to WWE means finally making it to the “big time,” as any aspiring pro wrestler will tell you. WWE took notice when AEW made a significant entrance onto the scene back in 2019 and started making hires, ostensibly with the goal of keeping new talent from defecting to AEW.
Overfiring frequently follows overhiring. WWE has released fired than 80 of its talent roster, including many well-known superstars, since the year 2020 began, and there are probably still more to come. Budgetary issues are frequently cited as the cause, but a glance at the company’s impressive quarterly earnings paints a different picture.
A lot of the talent that has been fired was signed by Executive Vice President Triple H, as smart marks have noted (Paul Levesque). There is undoubtedly more to this story, and it will inevitably come to light over the ensuing months. Some of the names here might make your eyes water.
William Regal – Released January 2022
In January 2022, William Regal was fired a day before his enforcer Samoa Joe was let go. William Regal, one of the most admired and respected wrestlers in the WWE, would have two lengthy tenures with the company, beginning as an in-ring performer before switching to a supporting role after his final match in 2013.
Regal worked for the company as a coach, trainer, and recruiter in addition to serving as the general manager and commentator on-screen. After being elevated to the position of WWE Director of Talent Development and Global Recruiting, Regal worked for the company for more than 22 years in a variety of roles before being let go.
Scarlett Bordeaux – Released November 2021
Scarlett Bordeaux would return to WWE as a more skilled in-ring competitor after spending years competing for independent projects like Lucha Libre, Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and other wrestling organizations. Bordeaux’s return in 2019 was greeted with optimism for success after she participated in Adam Rose’s Rosebud team from 2014 to 2015 and made a one-off appearance in a squash match against Nia Jax.
Many people anticipated that she and Karrion Kross, her boyfriend, would become the next big thing for the business. Despite Bordeaux and Kross’s popularity as a team, she would never actually compete as a wrestler and would not accompany Kross when he was promoted to the main roster, despite the fact that their characters were stronger when they were together than when they were apart.
Karrion Kross – Released November 2021
Karrion Kross would be fired from WWE four months after making his main roster debut, continuing a long line of successful NXT stars who failed on the main roster. Following his signing with WWE in February 2020, Kross quickly rose to prominence on NXT and won the NXT Championship twice.
In a match that lasted less than two minutes, Kross, who was still the NXT Champion at the time of his call-up to the Monday night show, fell to Jeff Hardy. Kross would eventually lose all momentum after a watered-down character change and join the list of “future endeavors.”
Brian “Road Dogg” Jesse James – Released January 2022
One of the most well-known characters during his WWE career, which began in 1994, was Brian “Road Dogg” James, a member of the Hall of Fame and seven-time tag team champion. James would eventually rejoin the group in 2011 after initially leaving in 2001.
He would work as a producer behind the scenes while making the occasional special appearance in the ring, including one brief final tag team title reign in 2014. He would work with talent at the Performance Center on the development of their characters. He was known for his entertaining promos. In January 2022, James discovered that he was one of the releases made by WWE.
Eva Marie – Released November 2021
As Eva Marie has discovered, having an attractive face and body will only get you so far in the modern wrestling industry. Prior to debuting in a wrestling ring, Marie joined ETotal !’s Divas reality series after signing with WWE in 2013.
Marie would be sent down to NXT and the Performance Center for more training after an ongoing circus centered around her character’s inability to perform in the ring for a variety of reasons. After leaving WWE in 2017, Marie would make a comeback in 2020 hoping to disprove doubters. However, it was obvious that she belonged in the entertainment business more than the sports entertainment business, and she would be released from her contract after a disastrous storyline involving Doudrop.
Braun Strowman – Released June 2021
Braun Strowman established himself as one of the biggest and most powerful wrestlers in the WWE from the moment he joined the main roster in 2015 as a member of The Wyatt Family. The former Strongman competitor would emerge as the company’s main event star at a towering 6’8″ and 385 pounds.
Strowman won the Universal Championship, the Intercontinental Championship, the Raw Tag Team Championships, and Money in the Bank. Despite numerous chances, his prominence on both Raw and Smackdown was always fleeting. The main event for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania Backlash in May 2021 saw Strowman compete, but he would unexpectedly be let go just three weeks later.
Ruby Riott (Soho) – Released June 2021
Ruby Riot (then known as Riott), who spent six years honing her craft on the independent circuit, finally signed with WWE. Riot made her television debut with the NXT brand in March 2017, three months after signing her contract, and despite the fact that she didn’t take home a title, she quickly rose to the top of the female roster.
Riott was called up to the Smackdown roster less than a year later, adding a second “t” to her name. She joined Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan to form the Riott Squad. Riott spent four years on the main roster, but despite that, she didn’t accomplish much during that time, receiving few title opportunities or major storylines before her release in 2021. Later, she was hired by AEW as Ruby Soho.
Ric Flair – Released August 2021
If you aren’t familiar with the life of sixteen-time world champion Ric Flair, you probably aren’t a true wrestling fan. Flair, a three-time WWE champion, began competing in the sport in 1972 and had his debut run with the then-WWF from 1991 to 1993. From 2001 to 2009, Flair would make a comeback to the new WWE. From 2012 to 2021, he would make one final appearance.
Flair, a two-time inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame, competed against Shawn Michaels in his final match for the company at WrestleMania 24. The Nature Boy would request and be granted his release from the company after being used for special guest appearances and a failed plot with Lacey Evans against his own daughter Charlotte.
Lana – Released June 2021
She served as Rusev’s valet and was known to wrestling fans for years as the “Ravishing Russian,” a “social ambassador,” and one of the most dangerous women on the WWE roster. Just four months after signing her contract, in 2013, Lana made her television debut, going on to become one of the most adored and despised women in professional wrestling.
Unfortunately, the management decided to split up the on-screen couple, putting an end to all good things. Despite her attempts at a solo in-ring career, Lana’s career was greatly boosted by a long-overdue reunion with Rusev, which lasted until their reunification. The last match Lana would ever wrestle for the WWE would be on May 31, 2021, and she would be fired three days later despite doing everything that was asked of her, including taking multiple table spots.
Bray Wyatt – Released July 2021
Of all the talent WWE has let go over the past year, his release may have been the most unexpected. Bray Wyatt, a former WWE Champion, Universal Champion (2 times), and multiple-time Tag Team Champion, was arguably one of the biggest draws for WWE while he was in the midst of his best character work as The Fiend.
Wyatt developed a new persona after joining WWE in 2009, first as the evil cult leader of The Wyatt Family and later as the demonic Fiend, by working his way up through all of the development programs and a failed stint as a member of The Nexus. The entire wrestling community was perplexed by Wyatt’s release because he has one of the most original minds and talents in the business.
Drake Maverick – Released November 2021
Drake Maverick’s time with TNA as Rockstar Spud is what made him most well-known before joining WWE. Maverick joined WWE in the fall of 2017, but because of visa complications, he couldn’t make his WWE debut until January 2018.
Early in his WWE career, Maverick alternated between managing AOP on Monday Night Raw and 205 Live before going after the 24/7 championship. Maverick moved to the NXT brand in the spring of 2020, where he formed a tag team with Killian Dain before being chosen to join Raw to complete his tenure with the company.
Rusev (Miro) – Released April 2020
Rusev was arguably the most dominant wrestler in the entire WWE at one point in his career. He should have been treated as such, according to some. The man, a three-time US Champion, debuted at WrestleMania in a tank!
Before his “Rusev Day” gimmick became one of the most successful gimmicks in history, Rusev was given a number of unsuccessful story lines. Rusev and his wife Lana were involved in another unsuccessful storyline by WWE before his release in April 2020, choosing not to capitalize on the opportunity. Later, he would join AEW using his real name, Miro.
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Maria and Mike Kanellis – Released April 2020
When real-life couple Maria and Mike Kanellis signed with WWE in 2017, there was a certain amount of hype and expectation surrounding them. However, the couple struggled to connect with fans or management. The couple immediately joined the main roster during Mike and Maria’s first and second stints with the business, respectively.
They eventually received a controversial plot that was based on Maria’s pregnancy. Maria and Mike would sign a four-year contract with WWE in 2019, but they would soon request to be released because they didn’t like the plans the company had for the couple. The two would receive their release six months later.
Samoa Joe – Released January 2022
Samoa Joe, a three-time NXT Champion, is at the top of the list because WWE had to let him go twice in a single year. Following his initial release in April 2021, Joe would return to NXT as Triple H made an effort to make things right by vocally criticizing the company for issuing Joe his pink slip.
Samoa Joe assumed the role of William Regal’s enforcer and eventually found himself in a match for the NXT World Championship against Karrion Kross, which Joe would win at NXT Takeover 36, claiming his third NXT title. Just a few weeks after winning, Joe would experience yet another career-ending injury, forcing him to forfeit the title and ultimately leading to a new release.
Gentleman Jack Gallagher – Released June 2020
Gentleman Jack Gallagher made his professional wrestling debut in 2006 at the tender age of sixteen. He would go on to tour for more than a decade on the independent circuit before being selected to compete in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic in 2016.
Over the following four years, Gallagher would appear on both Raw and 205 Live as the cruiserweight division grew in popularity. After a brief stint with NXT UK, Gallagher would be fired following revelations of several prior instances of sexual assault during the “Speaking Out Movement.”