These WWE Superstars Were Quietly Released Over The Last Two Years
WWE has been the revolutionary force in sports entertainment for as long as most fans can remember. As any aspiring pro wrestler will tell you, making it to WWE means finally landing in the “big time”. When AEW showed up on the scene in a big way back in 2019, WWE took notice, and began to make hires, seemingly with the intent of preventing new talent from joining AEW.
With over-hiring often comes over-firing. Since the start of 2020, WWE has cut more than 80 members of its talent roster, including many high-profile superstars, with even more releases likely still to come. While budgetary concerns have often been cited as the reason, a quick look at the company’s impressive quarterly earnings tells a different, and potentially far more control-driven story.
Smart marks have noticed that much of the talent who’ve been released were signed by Executive Vice President Triple H (Paul Levesque). There’s definitely more to this story, which will undoubtedly unfold over the coming months. But there have been so many releases, that it’s easy to lose track of some of the mega-stars who’ve been let go. Some of the names on this list might cause your eyes to bulge…
William Regal – Released January 2022
William Regal found himself cut as well just a day before his enforcer Samoa Joe was cut in January 2022. One of the most respected and beloved wrestlers in WWE locker room, William Regal would have two long runs with WWE, initially starting out as an in-ring performer before transitioning into a backstage and supporting role following his final match in 2013.
Regal served as an on-screen General Manager and commentator, while behind the cameras he would work as a coach, trainer, and recruit for the company. Promoted to WWE Director of Talent Development and Global Recruiting, Regal would spend over twenty-two years with WWE in various capacities before his release.
Scarlett Bordeaux – Released November 2021
Following years of wrestling for Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling and Lucha Libre and various independent programs, Scarlett Bordeaux would return to WWE as a more experienced in-ring competitor. After being part of Adam Rose’s Rosebud crew in from 2014 to 2015 and making a one-off appearance in a squash match against Nia Jax, Bordeaux’s return in 2019 was met with hope for success.
As the valet for her real-life boyfriend Karrion Kross, many believed that the couple would become the next big thing for the company. Although Bordeaux and Kross were popular as a duo, she would never actually see any in-ring action as a wrestler, and would not join Kross when he was called up to the main roster, despite their characters working better together than apart.
Karrion Kross – Released November 2021
Following a long line of successful NXT stars turned main roster failures, Karrion Kross would be released from WWE just four months after making his main roster debut. Upon signing with WWE in February 2020, Kross wasted little time becoming one of the biggest names on NXT, twice winning the NXT Championship title.
Upon his call up to the Monday night show, Kross, who was still NXT Champion at the time, would lose to Jeff Hardy in a match that lasted less that two minutes. With a watered-down character change, Kross would lose all momentum and eventually become another member of the “future endeavors” list.
Brian “Road Dogg” Jesse James – Released January 2022
Hall of Fame member and seven-time tag team champion Brian “Road Dogg” James was one of the most popular characters during his WWE career, which started in 1994. After he initially parted ways with the organization in 2001, James would end up returning in 2011.
He’d work behind the curtain as a producer, making the occasional special in-ring appearance, including one short final tag team title reign in 2014. Known for his crowd-pleasing promos, he’d work with talent at the Performance Center on their character development. James found himself being one of the releases WWE made in January of 2022.
Eva Marie – Released November 2021
A pretty face and body can only carry one so far in today’s wrestling business, as Eva Marie has found out. After signing with WWE in 2013, Marie would join E!’s Total Divas reality show prior to making her first appearance in a wrestling ring.
Following an ongoing circus centered around her character’s inability to perform in the ring for various reasons, Marie would be sent down to NXT and the Performance Center for more training. After parting ways with WWE in 2017, Marie would return in 2020 with hopes of proving naysayers wrong, but clearly, she was meant more for the entertainment industry, not necessarily the sports entertainment industry and would be released from her contract following a terrible storyline with Doudrop.
Braun Strowman – Released June 2021
From the time he joined the main roster in 2015 as a member of The Wyatt Family, Braun Strowman proved to be one of the biggest and most dominant wrestlers in WWE. At a massive 6’8″ and 385s, the former Strongman competitor would become a main event star for the company.
Winner of the Universal Championship, Intercontinental Championship, Raw Tag Team Championships, and Money in The Bank, Strowman was given multiple opportunities to be one of the biggest names on both Raw and Smackdown, but it was always short lived. After competing in the main event for WWE Championship at WrestleMania Backlash in May 2021, Strowman would surprisingly be released just three weeks later.
Ruby Riott (Soho) – Released June 2021
After six years of honing her craft on the independent circuit, Ruby Riot (not yet Riott) finally signed with WWE. Three months after inking her contract, Riot made her television debut in March 2017 with the NXT brand where despite not winning a title, she became one of the biggest names on the female roster.
Less than a year later, Riott, who now had an extra “t” on her name, was called up to the Smackdown roster, joining Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan to form the Riott Squad. Although she would spend four years on the main roster, Riott’s time there would never amount to much, receiving few title opportunities or main storylines before her eventual release in 2021. She later landed in AEW as Ruby Soho.
Ric Flair – Released August 2021
If you don’t know the story of Ric Flair, the sixteen-time world champion, chances are you aren’t a real wrestling fan. A triple-crown WWE champion, Flair started wrestling in 1972 and would have his first run with the then-WWF from 1991 to 1993. Flair would return to the new WWE in from 2001-2009 and then for a final stint from 2012-2021.
A two-time member of WWE Hall of Fame, Flair wrestled his final WWE match at WrestleMania 24 against Shawn Michaels. After being used for special guest appearances and a failed storyline with Lacey Evans against his own daughter Charlotte, The Nature Boy would ask for and be granted his release from the company.
Lana – Released June 2021
For years wrestling fans knew her as the “Ravishing Russian,” the “social ambassador” and valet to one of the most dangerous men on WWE roster, Rusev. After making her television debut in 2013 just four months after signing her contract, Lana would become one of the most loved and hated women in wrestling.
Unfortunately, all good things would come to an end as management would split up the on-screen duo. Although she would attempt a solo in-ring career, a much-needed reunion with Rusev helped revitalize Lana’s career, until they were separated once again. Despite taking doing what she was asked, including taking multiple table spots, Lana would wrestle her last match for WWE on May 31 of 2021 and be released three days later.
Bray Wyatt – Released July 2021
His release may have been the most shocking of all the talent that WWE has parted ways with over the past year. In the midst of his best character work as The Fiend, Bray Wyatt, who was a former WWE Champion, Universal Champion (2x) and multiple time Tag Team Champion, was arguably one of the biggest draws for WWE.
After signing with WWE in 2009, Wyatt had worked his way up through all of the development programs and a failed run as part of The Nexus to create a new persona, first as the diabolical cult leader of The Wyatt Family and then later as the demonic Fiend. As one of the most unique minds and talents in the industry, Wyatt’s release baffled the entire wrestling world.
Drake Maverick – Released November 2021
Prior to his arrival in WWE, Drake Maverick was best known for his tenure with TNA under the name Rockstar Spud. Although he signed with WWE in the fall of 2017, Maverick would have to wait until January 2018 to make his debut due to having visa issues.
Early in his WWE career, Maverick would alter between being the General Manager of 205 Live and the manager of AOP on Monday Night Raw before chasing the 24/7 championship. In the spring of 2020, Maverick would relocate to the NXT brand forming a tag team with Killian Dain before being drafted to Raw to finish out his time with WWE.
Rusev (Miro) – Released April 2020
There was a point in his career in which Rusev was arguably considered the most dominant wrestler in all of WWE. Some have certainly felt that he should have been treated as such. A three-time United States Champion, the man made his WrestleMania debut in a tank!
Rusev was given a number of failed story lines before his “Rusev Day” gimmick became one of the most naturally successful gimmicks in history. Rather than capitalizing on it, WWE put Rusev and his wife Lana in another failed storyline prior to his release in April of 2020. He would eventually land in AEW under his real name, Miro.
Maria and Mike Kanellis – Released April 2020
With a certain level of hype and expectation surrounding real-life couple Maria and Mike Kanellis when they signed with WWE in 2017, the husband and wife duo failed to grasp any connection with fans or management. During Maria’s second run with the company and Mike’s first, the couple joined the main roster right away.
They were eventually given an unpopular storyline that played off of Maria’s real-life pregnancy. Although they would sign a four-year contract with WWE in 2019, Maria and Mike would soon ask for their release, unhappy with the direction that WWE had for the couple. Six months later, the pair would be granted their release.
Samoa Joe – Released January 2022
Three-time NXT Champion Samoa Joe is at the top of the list as WWE ended up releasing him twice in one year. Following his initial April 2021 release, Joe would return to NXT as Triple H tried to right the wrong, as he vocally expressed his displeasure that the company had given Joe his pink slip.
Taking up the part of William Regal’s enforcer, Samoa Joe would eventually find himself in a match against Karrion Kross for the NXT World Championship, which Joe would win at NXT Takeover 36, claiming his third NXT title. Just weeks after winning, Joe would once again suffer yet another untimely injury in his career, forcing him to give up the title and eventually leading to another release.
Gentleman Jack Gallagher – Released June 2020
Making his wrestling debut in 2006 at the very young age of sixteen, Gentleman Jack Gallagher would end up traveling, making his way through the independent circuit for more than a decade before eventually landing a spot as part of WWE Cruiserweight Classic in 2016.
With the Cruiserweight division gaining popularity, Gallagher would find time on both Raw and 205 Live over the next four years. Following a short run with NXT UK, Gallagher would be released after reports of several previous sexual assault cases during the “Speaking Out Movement.”
Lars Sullivan – Released January 2021
Lars Sullivan was projected by WWE management to be the next big monster, and someone who would dominate any opponent he came across. Unfortunately for Lars Sullivan, his dominance over the WWE roster was short lived. After joining WWE in 2014, Sullivan would be part of the development program and NXT until the summer of 2018.
Following months of vignettes, Sullivan made his main roster debut in 2019, but a history of repeated injuries, anxiety attacks, and controversial comments would derail his career. He would quietly be released by the company without much fanfare at the beginning of 2021.
Kairi Sane – Released July 2020
Upon joining WWE in 2017, Kairi Sane would capture the title at the Mae Young Classic, launching her into becoming one of the biggest names of the NXT brand. Wrestling since 2011 in Japan, Sane would become one of the most popular wrestlers on the female roster as she would defeat Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV.
Sane would move up to the main roster, teaming with Asuka to become WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions before eventually being written out of WWE storylines in order to return to Japan. While she would continue to work with WWE as an ambassador and trainer, Sane officially cut ties with WWE in 2021.
Zack Ryder (Matt Cardona) – Released April 2020
Many fans once referred to Zack Ryder as WWE Internet Champion based on his massive social media following. As the host of Z! True Long Island Story, Ryder, who had signed a contract with WWE in 2005, made more of a name for himself online than in the ring.
While he would go on to win WWE Tag Team Championship twice and would have a WrestleMania moment capturing the Intercontinental title in a Ladder Match, Ryder spent fifteen years with WWE before being released as part of the 2020 round of budget cuts.
Andrade – Released March 2021
Known as Andrade “Cien” Almas during his time as part of WWE, he was the former NXT Champion and WWE United States Champion. Having signed with the company in the year 2015, Andrade quickly rose to become one of the biggest names in the NXT brand.
Unfortunately for Andrade, not only was his ring name cut down, but he would never really reach the same level of success on the main roster as he did in NXT. Following a short lived and underwhelming tag team with Angel Garza, Andrade unlike many others on this list, would ask for his release, which was initially denied, but was finally granted in 2021.
Jeff Hardy – Released December 2021
As a Grand Slam WWE Champion, Jeff Hardy has done almost everything that could be done in the world of WWE wrestling short of winning the Royal Rumble and Money in the Bank. He made a surprise return at WrestleMania 33 alongside his brother Matt Hardy where they would capture their first WWE Raw Tag Team Championships and their first WrestleMania victory.
After going out on his own in 2020, Hardy would win his fifth Intercontinental Championship, which he’d retain for just two months. As a result of his popularity and history, Hardy found himself in several high-profile matches and stories before walking out of a live event mid-match. Five days later, Hardy, who has a long-running battle with substance addiction, would be released from his contract.
Chelsea Green – Released April 2021
Chelsea Green has made more of a name for herself on the independent circuit and as the wife of former WWE star Zack Ryder (Matt Cordona) than she ever did while under contract with WWE. Following a segment appearance in 2014 and as a contestant in the sixth season of Tough Enough, Green would eventually earn a development contract in 2018.
Unfortunately, Green’s time with WWE was filled with injuries, limiting her ability to prove her worth to management. During her Smackdown debut in November 2020, Green would break her wrist during a match that she was scheduled to win, that would’ve elevated her into the spotlight. This would be the second broken wrist in a two-year span and after months of being on the sideline, Green would be released from her contract.
Keith Lee – Released November 2021
He was well on his way to being the next big thing on the WWE main roster, but between injuries and lack of a proper push once he was called up, Keith Lee would soon fall by the wayside. After signing with WWE in 2018 would soon make his presence known on the development brand, becoming the first wrestler to wear both the NXT Championship and the NXT North American Championship at the same time.
Despite a strong start to his main roster career on Raw, Lee would quickly become an afterthought as a lengthy absence due to health complications that put him on the sideline. Following a five-month absence and a failed gimmick change, Lee would be released in the fall of 2021.
Mickie James – Released April 2021
As a six-time WWE Champion, Mickie James is one of the most decorated wrestlers in history. After initially joining WWE Raw roster in 2005, James found herself sharing the main-event spotlight with Trish Stratus. She would go on to do battle with the biggest names in the company over the course of the next five years.
After initially being released in 2010, James would return in 2016, where she would find herself in a familiar spot of major storylines. Following a nine-month absence to rehab a torn ACL in 2019, James would make headlines when her 2021 release came with some controversy involving WWE senior employees, and how her belongings were delivered to her. She would go on to become Impact Knockouts champion, and compete for one night only as the champion, in the 2022 WWE Royal Rumble- a seminal moment.
EC3 – Released April 2020
One of the most anticipated arrivals to the WWE roster would wind up being very underwhelming and disappointing. Ethan Carter III (EC3) signed a development contract in 2018, making his NXT debut just two months later. With all of the required in-ring talent, looks and promo work on the mic, it remains a mystery as to why EC3 failed to make a bigger splash on the main roster than he did.
Rather than competing for the Intercontinental or United States Championships, EC3 was regulated to chasing the 24/7 Title, which he managed to win four times. Released as part of the April 2020 releases, moving on from WWE may have been in the best interest of EC3.
Mia Yim – Released November 2021
A former TNA Knockouts Champion, Mia Yim would join WWE in 2018 as part of the NXT brand following two successful showings during the Mae Young Classic. While she would fail to win gold during her time with NXT, Yim found herself in several high profile matches before being called up to the Raw brand.
Unfortunately, the call-up proved to be more of a demotion than a promotion as Yim was cast as part of the failed Retribution stable. It turned out for Yim, or Reckoning as she would become known as, her final year in WWE would be a waste regardless of being on Raw or Smackdown as she was used very little prior to her release.
John Morrison – Released November 2021
A former ECW World Champion, three-time Intercontinental Champion and six time Tag Team Champion, John Morrison was one of the most decorated wrestlers in WWE. Unfortunately for the man who was once dubbed “The Shaman of Sexy,” most of his success would come during his first run with the company from 2002 through 2011, and not after.
Following a much-anticipated return to the company in 2020, Morrison would unfortunately fail to grasp a spot on the main event roster, hovering in mid-card status with his long-time tag team partner The Miz. After the duo fell apart, Morrison would find his name on the chopping block as a result of the pandemic budget cuts.
Franky Monet – Released November 2021
Wrestling fans will recognize Franky Monet as being the same person behind the persona Taya Valkyrie, the longest reigning Impact Knockouts Champion of all time. After holding the title for 377 days, wrestling fans would clamor for Valkyrie to move on to the bigger stage.
Signing with WWE in February 2021 and taking up the name Franky Monet, the former champion would join NXT would quickly make a strong impression and quickly enter into a feud with Raquel Gonzalez for the NXT Women’s Championship as a member of The Robert Stone Brand. Monet, who is married to John Morrison, would soon find her name among the many released at the end of 2021.
Matt Hardy – Released March 2020
While he wasn’t exactly released, Matt Hardy’s contract with WWE would not be renewed once it expired in 2020 despite being one of the most decorated wrestlers in company history. A multi-time tag team and singles champion, Hardy and his brother Jeff made a surprising return to the company at WrestleMania 33.
After three years of various storylines, the company failed to capture the same energy that “Broken” Matt Hardy once had when it came to the popularity with fans. Although Jeff would remain with the company for the next year and a half, Matt left to explore other ventures with AEW.
Bo Dallas – Released April 2021
Despite coming from an illustrious heritage of wrestlers, Bo Dallas struggled for over seven years to make a main roster character work for him. As son of Mike Rotunda and nephew of Barry Windham, Dallas had wrestling in his blood, joining WWE in 2008 as part of their FCW development roster.
Four years later, Dallas would make his NXT debut and would go on to win the NXT Heavyweight Championship within a year of his first match. Unfortunately, the same success couldn’t be mirrored on the main roster. While he would win the Raw Tag Team Championships with Curtis Axel, he was mostly seen as a comedic wrestler. Injuries and lack of any real storyline sidelined Dallas from December 2019 until his release in April of 2021.
Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder – Released April 2020
A throwback to old school tag team wrestling, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder made up the duo known as The Revival. They had championship success in WWE on various levels in tag team competitions, but ultimately would fall short of becoming a big name on the roster.
Two-time NXT Tag Team Champions, two-time Raw Tag Team Champions, and Smackdown Tag Team Champions, became the first Triple Crown Tag Team Champions in WWE history. Sadly, embarrassing storylines would be given to the duo, which led to their obvious displeasure and request for release multiple times from WWE.
Billie Kay – Released April 2021
As with many young wrestlers, it took Billie Kay a while to find her footing after earning a tryout with WWE and signing a development contract. After bouncing back and forth as a face and heel solo wrestler, Kay would eventually find her way once she teamed up with Peyton Royce to form the Iconic Duo.
Moving up to the main roster, the pair would become known as The IIconics and eventually capture the Women’s Tag Team Championship belts at WrestleMania 35. Like many other successful tag teams, WWE figured it would be best to split the ladies up, leaving Kay to become a comedic heel following the 2020 Draft, with her final match at WrestleMania 37.
Aleister Black – Released June 2021
Following a fourteen-year career on the independent circuit as “Tommy End,” Aleister Black would sign with WWE in the summer of 2016 and make his NXT television debut the following year. Combining a unique character set with an equally impressive move-set, Black became one of the biggest names on NXT, winning the brand’s biggest prize.
As with many of the NXT call-ups, Black would struggle to repeat any previous success when he joined the Raw and Smackdown rosters from 2019 until his release in 2021, even though he was constantly one of the more popular stars with the WWE universe.
Peyton Royce – Released April 2021
On May 15, 2015, Peyton Royce made her WWE television debut, wrestling under the name KC Cassidy in an NXT match against Diva Sasha Banks. It wouldn’t be long after that Royce received a character makeover, complete with a new look, attitude, and name.
Teaming with Billie Kay, Royce was the more talented of the two Australian wrestlers, although both brought their own unique flavor to The IIconics. After the duo parted ways as a result of the 2020 WWE Draft, Royce struggled to make her way as a singles performer on Raw and would wrestle her final match with the company on March 22, 2021.
Aiden English – Released April 2020
Aiden English joined WWE development program in 2012. Teaming up with Simon Gotch and adopting the name “The Vaudevillians,” the duo would capture the NXT Tag Team Championships in 2014. Two years later, the tag team would be elevated to the main roster but fail to grasp any real following from fans.
English would eventually find a successful role in a partnership with Rusev, creating one of the most popular entrances in modern wrestling. Unfortunately, the duo wouldn’t gain much traction aside for that, leaving English to join the 205 Live broadcast team. After wrestling his final match at WrestleMania Axxess, English would be released in April of 2020.
Jessamyn Duke – Released May 2021
After six years of battling in the octagon as an MMA fighter, Jessamyn Duke altered her style of fighting and signed with WWE in 2018. Teaming up with fellow MMA fighter Marina Shafir, Duke would help Shayna Baszler capture the NXT Women’s Championship.
Making her in-ring wrestling debut seven months after signing with the company, Duke would team up with Shafir against Dakota Kai and Io Sharai. After several forgettable matches on NXT, Duke would be brought up to the Raw roster as part of the short lived Raw Underground program, before eventually being released in May of 2021.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson – Released April 2020
As members of the famed Bullet Club, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson made their WWE debut on April 11, 2016. While Gallows had a previously underwhelming run with WWE, it would be Anderson’s first contract with the company. Reuniting with fellow Bullet Club member AJ Styles, the group would undertake the name “The Club.”
The duo also went by the name “The Good Brothers,” and despite winning WWE Raw Tag Team Championships twice, their impact was not as expected, failing to be as dominant as they were in New Japan and Ring of Honor. After being regulated to a run-in appearance at WrestleMania 36, Gallows and Anderson would be released in April of 2020.
Santana Garrett – Released June 2021
Although she has many championships on her resume from her various stops along the independent circuit, Santana Garrett has found little success on the main wrestling stage. Between 2013 to 2018, Garrett would make numerous short-term appearances on the NXT brand before eventually signing a contract in 2019.
Although she finished her time with WWE sporting a record with 1 win and 17 losses when it came to televised matches, Garrett did have the chance to compete in the 2021 Women’s Royal Rumble, lasting over four minutes before eventually being eliminated by Rhea Ripley.
Buddy Murphy – Released June 2021
Although he had all of the talent and ability to become one of the best wrestlers on the roster, Buddy Murphy would never end up as anything more than a mid-card performer, though he did win the NXT Tag Team Championships, becoming WWE’s first Australian champion.
He also would win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship and the WWE Raw Tag Team Championships, but it still always seemed as though something was missing during Murphy’s six years with WWE. Unfortunately, Murphy’s final major storyline with WWE was a forgettable one involving Seth Rollins, Rey Mysterio and Mysterio’s real life daughter.
Renee Paquette – Released August 2020
With her colorful personality and knowledge of the industry, Renee Paquette would quickly become one of the top backstage personalities and commentators for WWE. After working for The Score television network as host of their wrestling shows, Paquette would sign with WWE in the fall of 2012.
Eventually moving up with the company, Paquette, who is married to former WWE star Jon Moxley, would become the first full time female commentator on Raw in addition to being the host of Talking Smack and WWE Backstage. Young would request her release following SummerSlam 2020.
Eric Young – Released April 2020
Before joining WWE in 2016, Eric Young was one of the biggest names on TNA/Impact Wrestling. He would become the TNA World Heavyweight Champion in 2014. As the leader of SAnitY, Young joined forces with Alexander Wolfe, Killian Dain and Nikki Cross.
Young and Wolfe would capture the NXT Tag Team Championships at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn III, holding onto the belts for 123 days before being promoted to the main roster. Unfortunately, the promotion did not help most of the members of the faction other than Cross. With little to do other than chase the gimmick 24/7 title, Young would be released from his contract during the pandemic budget cuts.
Sarah Logan – Released April 2020
After spending the first three years of her WWE career with NXT, Sarah Logan would make her main roster debut as part of The Riott Squad with Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan. Although she had the size and talent to be an impact in the Women’s division, Logan failed to impress WWE management.
Although she would be featured in several high-profile matches, Logan struggled to connect with WWE universe, whether she was part of a stable or as a singles competitor. Married to Erik of The Viking Raiders, Logan wrestled her final match on April 13, 2020, before being released and eventually stepping away from the wrestling industry.
Heath Slater – Released April 2020
For fourteen years, Heath Slater was a part of WWE in some fashion. After spending four years in development, Slater would make a splash during his Raw debut as The Nexus. When that faction was split, Slater would join up with The Corre before moving on to become the leader of 3MB and The Social Outkasts.
While his role with the company would go from a serious one to more of a humorous gimmick, Slater made the most of the roles he was given, becoming a fan favorite. A four-time tag team champion (three time WWE Tag Team Champion, one time Smackdown Tag Team Champion), Slater would be released in April of 2020.
Zelina Vega – Released November 2020
Despite being one of the focal points for the Raw brand during the 2020 shows in WWE Thunderdome, Zelina Vega would be released by WWE in the fall of 2020. As both an in-ring competitor and the manager for both Andrade and Angel Garza, Vega proved to be one of the most popular characters during her time with both NXT and Raw.
Initially beginning her WWE career in 2017, Vega, who is married to former WWE star Aleister Black, was said to be released due to a conflict with WWE over third-party platforms and making money off of personal branding / intellectual property. Vega would surprisingly return to WWE less than a year later, and has since become the first Queen of the Ring, and also a WWE Women’s Tag Team Champion.
Lio Rush – Released April 2020
His WWE career began with a rocky start in 2017 after comments about another wrestler’s release, but Lio Rush would bounce back to find himself competing for the Cruiserweight title on NXT and 205 Live. In 2018, Rush would become Bobby Lashley’s hype man, finding a place for himself on the main roster.
Unfortunately, the promotion would eventually come to an end as the result of some controversial comments he’d make towards his peers. After returning to NXT, Rush would actually become the youngest NXT Cruiserweight Champion before his April 2020 release.
Marina Shafir – Released June 2021
As a former mixed-martial artist, Marina Shafir would enter WWE in the year 2018 alongside fellow MMA fighter Jessamyn Duke. They were both given roles to be sidekicks to Shayna Baszler, but Shafir wasn’t given too much more of a role beyond that.
Despite being part of a potential storyline that also included Ronda Rousey, Shafir basically fell by the wayside and was limited in her in-ring appearances over the course of her three-year tenure with WWE. Shafir’s biggest moment would come when she joined the Raw Underground roster winning her only televised WWE match.
Erick Rowan – Released April 2020
Although he would win the NXT Tag Team Championships and twice capture the Smackdown Tag Team titles, Erick Rowan’s run with WWE was never really very impactful. Joining the company in 2011, Roan would eventually find himself a member of The Wyatt Family faction.
While all wrestlers hope for a WrestleMania moment, Rowan’s would come in the form of losing to The Rock in the quickest WrestleMania match of all time, being pinned in six seconds. A second run with Wyatt Family member Luke Harper would be underwhelming despite the size and talent of both men. Following a failed singles run, Rowan would be released in 2020.
Mercedes Martinez – Released August 2021
For seventeen years prior to her 2017 debut on the WWE stage, Mercedes Martinez first was a wrestler all over the world. As part of the Mae Young Classic, Martinez would manage to actually reach the semi-final round before eventually submitting to Shayna Baszler.
After wrestling in the second Mae Young Classic, Martinez would once again hit the independent circuit before returning to the NXT brand in 2020. While she would fail to capture championship gold, Martinez would find herself in several high profile matches before an injury in the summer of 2021 sidelined her, which would be followed by her eventual release.
Curt Hawkins – Released April 2020
Initially signing with WWE in 2006, Hawkins was part of the Deep South and OVW Southern development programing before moving up to compete on ECW and Smackdown in 2007. Over the next six years, Hawkins would bounce around various WWE programming, performing as a tag-team with Zack Ryder, whom he would win the Raw Tag Team Championship with and also as an individual wrestler.
After leaving WWE in 2014, Hawkins would return in 2016 taking up a losing streak gimmick. He would have a short reunion with Ryder, which would lead to winning the Tag Team belts for a second time before eventually being his release in the spring of 2020.
Ember Moon – Released November 2021
With nearly a decade of experience on the independent circuit, Ember Moon would sign a contract with WWE in the fall of 2015 as part of the NXT brand. Following her television debut at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn II in which she defeated Billie Kay, Moon would put together a lengthy winning streak, making her one of the more popular female wrestlers on any of the WWE rosters.
After winning the NXT Women’s Championship in 2017, Moon would receive a call up to the Raw roster in the spring of 2018. Although there were high expectations for Moon on the main roster, she would not have the same success as in NXT, where she would return in the fall of 2020. Despite winning the NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship with Shotzi Blackheart, Moon’s time with NXT would come to an end shortly after her final match against Mandy Rose following the rebranding of the NXT show.
Harry Smith – Released November 2021
As the son of the late Davey Boy Smith and with direct ties to the famed Hart family, life as a professional wrestler was inevitable for Harry Smith. Wrestling since he was a child, Smith would make his professional debut at the age of fifteen and eventually found his name on a WWE developmental contract in 2006.
After wrestling for various WWE brands and several years on the main roster, in which he would capture the WWE Tag Team Championships and the World Tag Team Championships, both with Tyson Kidd, Smith would be released in the summer of 2011. In 2020, Smith would return to WWE for a dark match, but despite being under contract it would amount to nothing further, being released just months later.
Nia Jax – Released November 2021
While she was one of the more dominant female wrestlers on any of the WWE rosters, many felt that Nia Jax was also one of the most unsafe wrestlers to work with. Signing with the company in 2014, Jax debuted with the NXT brand where she would stay until being drafted to Raw in 2016.
A former Raw Women’s Champion and two-time WWE Woman’s Tag Team Champion, Nia Jax might be best remembered for breaking Becky Lynch’s face prior to Survivor Series and for being the first person to compete in both the Women’s and Men’s Royal Rumble matches on the same night. After requesting to take time off for mental health reasons, Jax would be released in the fall of 2021.
Kassius Ohno – Released April 2020
Although he was a major name as part of the independent wrestling circuit, Kassius Ohno would quickly become a small fish in the big pond that was WWE. Initially joining the WWE development program in 2011, Ohno made his debut with NXT on July 4, 2012.
Just over a year later, Ohno would be released from his contract and return to another successful run with the indies. In 2016, Ohno returned to NXT and NXT UK where he would spend time helping put over younger talent. Operating as a wrestler and coach, Ohno would be released less than a month after his final match on NXT.
Zayda Ramier – Released November 2021
Being an avid wrestling fan since she was a kid, Zayda Ramier would end up attending Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling program in Texas prior to her beginning working as a professional wrestler. She signed with WWE in February 2021 and made her television debut a month later.
As part of her NXT in-ring start, she’d team up with Gigi Dolin in a match against two of the biggest names on the NXT Women’s roster in Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell. While she would only have a handful of matches, it would be fitting that her final match would be a repeat of her first, once again facing the ladies of The Way. She would be released in November 2021 after having some medical issues.
No Way Jose – Released April 2020
As one of eleven new signees to the WWE Performance Center in April 2015, No Way Jose spent the first three years with WWE as part of the NXT brand. As a talented and athletic wrestler, No Way Jose was relegated to dancing and being more of a comedic gimmick.
He found himself usually performing in squash matches and being part of the ongoing 24/7 title chases, rather than main storylines. Other than being eliminated within two seconds of the 2019 Royal Rumble match, No Way Jose’s time with WWE was not very noteworthy before his release.
Jessi Kamea – Released November 2021
A talented multi-sport athlete growing up, Jessi Kamea would be recruited to join the WWE Performance Center in 2017 and appear at NXT house shows, battling names such as Shayna Baszler and Liv Morgan, as well as competing in multiple Battle Royal events.
Kamea would make her televised wrestling debut at the 2018 Mae Young Classic where she would lose to Taynara Conti in the first round. While she would make numerous individual and tag team appearances at house shows it wouldn’t be until 2019 at the WWE Worlds Collide: Brands Collide events that Kamea would be seen on television again. Kamea would join The Robert Stone Brand stable, but would find her air time limited before her eventual release.
Fandango – Released June 2021
After spending four years in Deep South Wrestling and Florida Championship Wrestling, the man who would later become known simply as Fandango would join the NXT roster in 2010. Despite having one of the goofier gimmicks, that of a villainous ballroom dancer, Fandango was granted a match against Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 29, where he shocked many by coming out victorious.
While his overall character would never amount to much with fans, his entrance theme became one of the most popular things about Fandango, bringing the live crowd to their feet. After a failed mid-card solo career, Fandango would team with Tyler Breeze for the final five years of his WWE career, capturing the NXT Tag Team Championship before being released.
B-Fab – Released November 2021
Prior to her first tryout with WWE in 2017, B-Fab spent time in the music industry working with some of the top names in hip hop such as Juicy J, Too $hort and Kurupt. After failing to sign a contract following her initial tryout, B-Fab would sign a development deal in the summer of 2019.
Teaming up with Taynara Conti for her debut live event match for NXT, B-Fab make her first television appearance on May 18 as a member of Hit Row but would be limited to her in-ring action due to the pandemic. With only one singles victory to her credit, B-Fab was initially said to be released from the company due to budget cuts, but it seems that it was that WWE Creative team believed that B-Fab had little to contribute to the Hit Row stable.
Mauro Ranallo – Released August 2020
As a long-time wrestling commentator whose career started out in Canada, Mauro Ranallo transitioned from starting out in the squared circle before moving to the octagon of MMA. In December 2015, Ranallo would sign a contract with WWE to do play-by-play for Smackdown and 205 Live.
After taking a leave in 2017 to deal with some personal health issues, Ranallo would return later that year to join the NXT announcers table, in addition to continuing his work with Bellator MMA. Ranallo would remain with WWE until the summer of 2020.
Timothy Thatcher – Released January 2022
A former NXT Tag Team Champion with Matt Riddle, Timothy Thatcher signed a developmental contract with WWE in February 2020. After turning on his tag team partner, Thatcher would find himself battling many of the big-name faces on NXT in Damian Priest, Finn Balor, and Tommaso Ciampa.
Following a “Fight Pit” match against Ciampa, Matt Riddle and Thatcher would team up to compete in The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. In August of 2021, Thatcher suffered a serious injury from a Ridge Holland attack. Thatcher would transition into an off-screen role as a coach at WWE Performance Center, a position he would hold for five months before his release in 2022.
Tegan Nox – Released November 2021
After signing a contract with WWE in 2017, Tegan Nox suffered a setback in the form of a torn ACL prior to the Mae Young Classic. Almost a year later, Nox would make her in-ring debut with the development brand. Confirmed to compete in the second year of the tournament, Nox would again suffer major injuries to her knee, this time during her quarter-final match with Rhea Ripley.
Following her second return to health, Nox would take part in many high-profile matches and contend for the NXT Women’s Championship until her main roster call-up in the summer of 2021. Teaming with Shotzi Blackheart the two seemed to be primed for a run with WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships, before the storyline, and eventually, their contracts were dropped.
Danny Burch – Released January 2022
Danny Burch was no stranger to WWE, making his Performance Center debut in 2011 and wrestling sporadic matches as an enhancement talent until 2014. A year after being let go from his first contract, Burch would return to the NXT brand and would compete in WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament.
Following a brief feud with Oney Lorcan, the two would team up and eventually defeat Breezango to become the NXT Tag Team Champions. Burch would be another of the releases that came at the beginning of 2022, just a short 2 months after Oney Lorcan’s release in November 2021.
Katrina Cortez – Released November 4, 2021
After four years of training, mainly at the Revolution Lucha Libre Academy, Katrina Cortez would join a crew of nine other WWE hopefuls in 2019. Three months after signing her contract, Cortez would be featured in a mix tag team match on Monday Night Raw with Sin Cara, battling Andrade and Zelina Vega.
Following a year of continued development and various appearances on WWE Main Event, Cortez would later end up being a part of the NXT roster, where she would wrestle under a variety of different identities before her ultimate release in the fall of 2021.
Oney Lorcan – Released November 2021
After several one-off appearances as an enhancement talent, Oney Lorcan would eventually sign a developmental contract with WWE in 2015 as part of the NXT brand. Making his in-ring debut during the Halloween Costume Battle Royal at a house show, Lorcan would not appear on television until January 2016.
For the next four years, Lorcan would split time between NXT and 205 Live competing for the Cruiserweight Championship, teaming up with Danny Burch in pursuit of the NXT Tag Team Championships. In October 2020, Lorcan’s title dreams would come true, defeating Breezango for the belts. After Burch suffered an injury, Lorcan and Burch would have to relinquish the titles and Lorcan eventually would ask for his release from the company.
The Colons – Released April 2020
The Colons were known by many names such as Primo and Epico, Los Matadores, and The Shining Stars. The Puetro Rican cousins struggled to reach the main event level for WWE tag teams after joining WWE in the year 2011, despite having the talent and charisma to be one of the top tag teams.
Aside from a short three-month-run with WWE Tag Team Championships, which they won during a house show, they were regulated to storyline fillers. As members of the famed Colon family, the cousins would reunite with their father Carlos to work with the World Wrestling Council following their WWE release.
Simon Musk (El Ligero) – Released June 2020
For sixteen years prior to his WWE debut, Simon Musk, known by the nickname of El Ligero, would compete on the independent circuit before taking part in WWE United Kingdom Championship. Following the tournament, El Ligero would announce that he signed a contract to remain with NXT UK.
El Ligero would find action with 205 Live and NXT before being let go from the company. After being accused of inappropriate conduct and assault during the “Speaking Out” movement, the man with the in-ring Mexican persona of El Ligero would be released from his WWE contract.
Travis Banks – Released June 2020
After his first appearance with WWE in 2017 at WrestleMania Axxess, Travis Banks would then wind up returning a year later as a participant in the WWE United Kingdom Championship Tournament. As part of the NXT UK brand, Banks would find himself in numerous battles with some of the top names on the overseas roster.
Like some other names on this list, he was also named and accused of inappropriate conduct as part of the “Speaking Out Movement.” Banks was accused of emotional abuse towards other wrestlers and would quietly be released from WWE in the summer of 2020.
Akam And Rezar (The Authors of Pain) – Released September 2020
Akam and Rezar, better known as the tag team “The Authors of Pain” or the AOP, are former Raw Tag Team Champions and NXT Tag Team Champions. With bodies and in-ring talent similar to that of the Road Warriors, the AOP made their NXT debut in June 2016 during NXT TakeOver: The End.
After dominating the development brand, the duo, along with manager Paul Ellering moved up to the Raw brand in April 2018. Although they would win the Raw titles, their time on the main roster seemed to fall short of expectations, as they would move on to become henchmen for Seth Rollins. Following an injury to Rezar, the duo would eventually be released from their contracts.
Steve Cutler – Released February 2021
For seven years, Steve Cutler was grinding out a career in WWE, with six of those years being spent in the company’s development programs. As part of the trio “The Forgotten Sons,” he fought alongside Jaxson Ryder and Wesley Blake, before they disbanded in 2020 over some controversial issues.
Cutler found himself as part of numerous failed tag team championship opportunities in both NXT and on Smackdown. Cutler and Blake would later be part of the short-lived duo The Knights of the Lone Wolf, working alongside King Corbin. Less than two months later, Cutler would be released.
Wesley Blake – Released April 2021
After making his debut with NXT in the summer of 2013, Wesley Blake would find tag team success in the development brand, winning the NXT Tag Team titles in 2015 with Blake Murphy. Following a 200+ day title reign, the pair would drop the belts and go their separate ways.
In 2017, Blake would find himself with new tag team partners Steve Cutler and Jaxson Ryker, and the trio would be known as The Forgotten Sons. After receiving a call up to the Smackdown brand in April 2020, the three would find themselves under fire for certain political comments made by Ryker on social media.
Kalisto – Released April 2021
As a member of the high-flying Lucha House Party, Kalisto was the most decorated member of the trio of Luchador wrestlers. Since joining WWE in 2013, Kalisto would capture the NXT Tag Team titles as well as become a two-time United States Champion and a Cruiserweight Champion.
After seven years of wrestling around the world on the independent circuit, Kalisto would make his NXT debut as a tag team wrestler. Kalisto would join the main roster in 2015, eventually finding individual success, before teaming up with Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado in 2018. The group would split during the 2021 WWE Draft, with Kalisto wrestling only one match on Smackdown before being released from the company.
Tucker Knight – Released April 2021
Despite having the backing of the WWE universe, the WWE management felt that it was better to split Tucker Knight and Otis Dozovic. After joining WWE in 2013, it wouldn’t be until 2015 that Knight would make his NXT debut, starting his career as a solo wrestler. In the summer of 2016, Knight and Dozovic would partner up, forming Heavy Machinery.
The duo would become one of the more popular tag teams in the development program. In 2019, Heavy Machinery would make their main roster debut as part of the Raw brand. After Otis captured the 2020 Money In The Bank contract, Knight would turn on his partner, signaling the end of their tag team relationship and essentially Knight’s WWE career. Although he would twice win the 24/7 Championship, Knight would become nothing more than a jobber until his release in 2021.
Matt Lee and Jeff Parker (Ever-Rise) – Released June 2021
If you are a fan of independent circuit wrestling or have ever tuned in to AEW, you are likely familiar with the names Matt Lee and Jeff Parker. However, for WWE fans, they may not recognize the duo, who were known solely by their tag-team name, Ever-Rise.
After fifteen years of traveling the globe, Lee and Parker signed a contract with WWE, working with the NXT brand and 205 Live and making one Raw appearance in a squash match. Unfortunately, their time with WWE was limited to only a couple of years, as the duo was released in the summer of 2021.
Ariya Daivari – Released June 2021
Following in the footsteps of his brother Shawn, who was a former WWE wrestler and now turned producer, Ariya Daivari signed with the company in 2016 as part of the Cruiserweight division. He would compete on both Raw and 205 Live, Daivari would never win the Cruiserweight championship, however.
Nevertheless, he was still able to impress audiences and management with his appearances on pay-per-view event pre-shows. After being released in 2021, Daivari would return to the independent circuit where he happened to spend the first decade of his career.
Tony Nese – Released June 2021
After honing his craft on the independent market for over a decade, Tony Nese finally signed a deal with WWE in 2016. First appearing as part of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic tournament, Nese would make it to the second round before being eliminated by Brian Kendrick.
A mainstay on 205 Live, Nese would win his only WWE Cruiserweight Championship during the WrestleMania 35 pre-show. Known for his chiseled physique, Nese seemed to be exactly someone that fit the mold of a Vince McMahon wrestler, so his release in June 2021 came as a surprise.
Arturo Ruas – Released June 2021
Before Arturo Ruas joined WWE in 2015, he was an amateur wrestler, as well as a champion freestyle wrestler with an unblemished record. After making his WWE in-ring debut in 2016, it wouldn’t be until two years later that Ruas would make his first televised appearance on NXT.
After a year on the development roster, Ruas would make his Raw debut as part of the Raw Underground segment and then would be officially drafted by the Raw brand in the 2020 Draft. However, not much would be made of his main roster tenure as he was moved back to NXT without much fanfare before his summer 2021 release.
Tyler Breeze – Released June 2021
From the time Tyler Breeze started his career with WWE in 2010 until his NXT debut in 2013, he had changed his character at least four times. Eventually his “pretty boy” persona caught on during both his initial NXT run and his call-up to the Smackdown roster.
After struggling once again to remain relevant as a singles wrestler, Breeze would find new life as a tag team competitor alongside Fandango, known collectively as “Breezango.” While they were mostly a comedic gimmick, fans appreciated their work. The pair would be sent back to NXT in 2018 where they would win the NXT Tag Team Championships before being released.
The Singh Brothers – Released June 2021
Born just three years apart, bothers Sunil and Samir Singh were best known for their time in WWE as Jinder Mahal’s lackies. After making their debut as individual wrestlers during WWE Cruiserweight Classic, the brothers reunited on NXT and eventually moved up to the main roster together.
Mainly used to cause outside interference on Mahal’s behalf, The Singh Brothers would eventually be sent to 205 Live during the 2019 Superstar Shake-Up. For the next two years, the brothers would return to tag team competition and also find their own individual championship success, winning WWE 24/7 Championship a combined nine times before their release.
August Grey – Released June 2021
Diehard independent wrestling fans will almost certainly recognize August Grey, who previously worked under his given name Anthony Greene. After eight years working on the smaller markets, Grey would then sign a development contract with WWE in 2020.
Working primarily on 205 Live, Grey would also team up with Curt Stallion to compete in the 2021 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic on NXT. There, his team would lose in the first round to Drake Maverick and Killian Dain. Grey would wrestle his final match on June 25, 2021 against Grayson Waller before being released the next day.
Curt Stallion – Released June 2021
Wrestling under his given name, Curt Stallion spent many years wrestling on the independent circuit before eventually landing a WWE contract in the fall of 2020. During his 205 Live debut, Stallion would gain some prominence winning a gauntlet match defeating Ariya Daivari.
After having moderate success on the cruiserweight focused show, Stallion would compete for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship and also take part in the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic before returning to 205 Live for his final match on March 12, 2021. He would be released three months later.
Killian Dain – Released June 2021
At one point, there were bigger hopes that Killian Dain would see a lot of success during his time with WWE. After a dozen years of performing on the independent circuit, Dain would finally sign a WWE contract, making his NXT debut in the fall of 2016.
After a few weeks of figuring out his character on live events, Dain made his television debut as a member of the group SAnitY. Following a failed run on the main roster as part of the Smackdown brand, Dain returned to NXT as a solo wrestler in 2019 before having a short-lived tag team run with Drake Maverick prior to his release in June of 2021.
Bobby Fish – Released August 2021
Already having a following from his time with Ring of Honor and New Japan, Bobby Fish’s release came as a surprise to many in August of 2021. A three-time ROH Tag Team Champion, alongside Kyle O’Reilly, the duo would reunite in WWE in 2017 as part of the NXT heel group The Undisputed Era.
After winning the NXT Tag Team Championships two separate times with his reDRagon partner, Fish and O’Reilly would eventually end up separating as a duo. Fish would ultimately end up being released three days after his final match, while O’Reilly would become a free agent at the end of 2021.
Bronson Reed – Released August 2021
At the beginning of 2019, Bronson Reed would sign his name to a WWE contract, as part of the NXT brand. Standing at a large 6 feet tall and weighing 330lbs, Reed’s presence and abilities in the ring instantly made him a fan favorite, despite losing many of his big matches.
2020 was a much better year for the big man as he would become the first non-American wrestler to capture the NXT North American Championship, though the reign would last only forty-two days. Less than two weeks after wrestling his final WWE match, Reed would be released.
Tyler Rust – Released August 2021
Tyler Rust would make multiple appearances in WWE between the years 2008 and 2019, but he would mainly serve as a squash victim. Finally in 2020, Tyler Rust he would become an NXT recruit, originally set as part of a storyline with Timothy Thatcher.
Rust would quickly become part of The Diamond Mine faction with Roderick Strong and Hachiman. Unfortunately, the stable was quite short lived as Rust would be released just weeks after the group was formed, returning to a familiar place for him, the Ring of Honor.
Kona Reeves – Released August 2021
While he is not a family member, Kona Reeves was once trained by Afa Anoa’i of the famed Samoan wrestling family. From 2014 through 2017, Reeves would make sporadic appearances on the NXT brand, including taking part in the very first Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
After performing as a fan favorite during his first run with WWE, Reeves would make some changes to his character, becoming more of a heel from the years 2017-2020. His career would continue to fluctuate before his eventual release in the summer of 2021.
Leon Ruff – Released August 2021
After making his wrestling debut in 2018 on the independent market, Ruff would find himself in a WWE ring on numerous occasions mainly as a squash competitor. In the fall of 2020, Ruff would end up signing a contract with WWE as part of the NXT brand.
Clearly no longer seen as a “jobber,” Ruff would defeat Johnny Gargano for the NXT North American Championship just one month into his contract. After just a month as a singles competitor, Ruff would team up with Kushida for a short-lived tag-team, before returning to singles action prior to his release.
Jake Atlas – Released August 2021
Although at one point towards the end of 2021, he would announce that he was stepping away from wrestling due to personal mental health reasons, Jake Atlas was seen as part of competitor AEW programming, which could explain part of the reason for his release.
Prior to his announcement, Atlas had spent the better part of three years working various roles for WWE including a run with NXT. Competing for both the NXT Cruiserweight Championship and the 205 Live Cruiserweight title, Atlas would fail to capture either belt, but created a following for himself with his in-ring abilities.
Ari Sterling – Released August 2021
Since 2020, even with the cuts that were made, WWE was still attempting to bring in young talent to help build their future. The addition of Ari Sterling, better known on the independent circuit as Alex Zayne, was one of those who had hopes of a lengthy WWE career.
Working with both NXT and 205 Live, Sterling was signed to a contact in December 2020, but would see his dreams come to an end less than a year later. Following his release, Sterling would make a return to the independent circuit, armed with the experience of working on a bigger stage.
Desmond Troy – Released August 2021
Signing with nine other recruits in the summer of 2018, Desmond Troy made his NXT debut three months later as part of a Battle Royal for the NXT North American Championship. If that wasn’t a big enough debut, Troy’s second appearance would be part of a number one contender’s Battle Royal for the NXT Championship.
As both of those matches came during house shows, Troy’s television debut would have to wait until the spring of 2020. In addition to his time on NXT, Troy would make three appearances on WWE’s main broadcast, twice on Raw and once on Smackdown as a squash competitor.
Zechariah Smith – Released August 2021
Standing at a towering 7 feet tall and weighing 300lbs, it should come to no real surprise that Zechariah Smith was a basketball player prior to his time in the squared circle of wrestling. He had a two-year college basketball career and had a stint with the Washington Generals before changing gears.
Smith would wind up signing a Performance Center contract with WWE in 2020. Unfortunately, although being signed in January of 2020, he would not make any televised appearances on WWE programming before he was given his release in August of 2021.
Asher Hale – Released August 2021
A multiple-time champion on the independent circuit, Asher Hale signed a WWE Performance Center contract at the beginning of 2021. Five months after inking the deal, Hale would appear on both NXT and 205 Live where he would capture upset victories over Ariya Daivari and Tony Nese.
Despite the moderate success that he would have during his stint with WWE, Hale would eventually be released from his contract in the summer of 2021. It would be just a week after what would be his final match, a loss on 205 Live to Drake Maverick.
Giant Zanjeer – Released August 2021
Being 7’2”, 340lbs and of Indian descent, it comes as no surprise that the young wrestling hopeful was trained by The Great Khali. A former basketball player, Giant Zanjeer, like many raw wrestlers, was limited in his WWE appearances, except for the WWE Superstar Spectacle.
That event took place in January 2021 as part of the company’s attempt to connect with the Indian community. Sharing the ring with Dilsher Shanky, Rey Mysterio and Ricochet, Giant Zanjeer’s team defeated Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler, King Corbin and Shinsuke Nakamura in an eight-man tag match.
Lince Dorado – Released November 2021
Following a decade of wrestling around the world, Lince Dorado made his presence felt during the 2016 Cruiserweight Classic Tournament before officially signing a contract that would place him in the Cruiserweight Division on Raw. With little success as an individual competitor, Dorado would join together with Kalisto and Gran Metalik to form Lucha House Party.
While their high-flying luchador abilities made them fan favorites, the trio did not amount to much in any fashion, and after Dorado and Metalik were drafted to Smackdown in 2020, it was only a matter of time before they would all inevtiably be released, which happened at the end of 2021.
Gran Metalik – Released November 2021
While still a full-time member of the Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre organization, Gran Metalik participated in the 2016 WWE Cruiserweight Classic. Upon completion of the tournament, Metalik would sign a contract with WWE to continue working with the cruiserweight division on the Raw and 205 Live shows. In 2018, Metalik, Lince Dorado and Kalisto would bond together to create the cruiserweight trio, Lucha House Party.
Despite having opportunities to compete for the WWE Tag Team titles, the Intercontinental title and the Cruiserweight belt, the only title that Gran Metalik would wear during his time in WWE was the 24/7 championship. Prior to his release, Metalik would approach management asking to be let go from his contract due to lack of professional opportunities.
Jeet Rama – November 2021
In 2015, Rama would enter into the WWE Performance Center after signing a contract with the organization in June. Three months later, Rama would make his in-ring debut in a battle royal event for the NXT brand and record his first victory at a live show, pinning Chad Gable in January 2016.
It would be during the WWE Superstar Spectacle event that Rama would make his first televised appearance and then would proceed to work with the 205 Live brand. After wrestling a match for the revamped NXT 2.0, on November 2, 2021, Rama would be released a mere two days later.
Trey Baxter – Released: November 2021
While he had several high profile matches in Impact Wrestling, Trey Baxter spent his short time with WWE bouncing between the Performance Center, NXT and 205 Live. While rumors of his signing would start in the fall of 2020, Baxter would not make it official until February 2021.
Despite signing in February, he would not make his in-ring debut until June of that year. While he would compete for the NXT Cruiserweight title and appear in the NXT Breakout Tournament, Baxter would eventually be released less than a month after wrestling his final match on October 8th against Grayson Waller.
Stephon Smith – Released August 2021
It turns out that wrestlers were not the only members of WWE talent that ended up being put on the chopping block during the summer of 2021. NXT referee Stephon Smith would be given his walking papers just a short couple of years after signing with the company.
Prior to his time working with the development brand, Smith was at actually first an active in-ring competitor, wrestling for Fusion Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling. Upon his release, Smith issued a statement thanking Triple H and the team at NXT for the opportunity.
Jaxson Ryker – Released November 2021
Following a successful five-year run with Impact Wrestling where he was known as Gunner, Jaxson Ryker would join the NXT roster in the summer of 2017. After seven months of performing as a solo wrestler, Ryker would join forces with Steve Cutler and Wesley Blake as The Forgotten Sons.
Following a two-year stint in NXT, the trio would be brought up to the Smackdown roster where the team would eventually be split following controversial comments made by Ryker on social media. Moved to the Raw brand, Ryker would settle into a short-lived alliance with Elias before being relocated to the Main Event roster and eventually being released from the company.
Isaiah “Swerve” Scott – Released November 2021
After making an impact on the independent circuit, Isaiah “Swerve” Scott would sign a contract with the WWE Performance Center and make his NXT debut as part of the NXT Breakout Tournament. Flipping between NXT and 205 Live, Scott would find himself competing for the NXT Cruiserweight Championship.
Scott would eventually team up with Top Dolla, Ashante “Thee” Adonis, and B-Fab as part of the faction Hit Row. On June 29, he would win his first and only WWE title, defeating Bronson Reed for the NXT North American Championship, a belt he would hold on to for 105 days. Shortly after being called up to join the Smackdown roster, Scott would find that he and the rest of his faction were part of the mass talent release.
Shane Thorne – Released November 2021
Taking part in a WWE tryout camp in 2015 would lead to Shane Thorne signing a Performance Center contract a year later. Alongside his long-time tag team partner Nick Miller, the pair would become known as TM-61 and compete in The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, losing in the finals to The Authors of Pain.
After a lengthy absence due to a knee injury, Thorne would return to tag team action before his partner would be released in December 2018. As an individual wrestler, Thorne would spend most of his time wrestling live events. Following a brief stint alongside MVP on the main roster, Thorne would be repackaged as a member of the much hyped and failed faction Retribution. Thorne would eventually find himself removed from the group and return to solo action before his release.
Ahante Adonis – Released November 2021
Following aa year of working with independent programs and Ring of Honor, Ashante Adonis would find his name among nearly forty candidates invited to the WWE Performance Center. After getting demolished in a 2-1 handicap match against Braun Strowman, Adonis would spend time as part of the 205 Live programming until he returned to the main roster in 2020 as part of the Smackdown brand.
When he wasn’t wrestling with the main roster, Adonis would continue to fine tune his skills as part of NXT, eventually becoming packaged as part of the fan-friendly stable Hit Row. After only five matches, the group would be elevated to Smackdown, but would make limited appearances before being released.
A.J. Francis (Top Dolla) – Released November 2021
The man that wrestling fans know as Top Dolla is likely more known in the football world than he is for his work in the wrestling ring. After going undrafted coming out of the University of Maryland, A.J. Francis spent the better part of six years on seven different NFL rosters.
Following his final stop with the New York Giants, Francis, or Top Dolla, would sign with WWE in 2020 and team up with Isaiah “Swerve” Scott in his NXT television debut. During the 2021 WWE Draft, Top Dolla would be assigned to the Smackdown roster, but would be released shortly after.