WWE Releases Where Are They Now?
For the video on this topic & more: (297) WWE Releases (One Year Later) - YouTube
In April 2020, came a dark day for WWE, when they decided to slimline their over-endulged roster and end the contracts of some of the companies beloved talent.
Since then, these entertaining men and women have branched out from the sometimes overshadowing world of WWE and, to varying degrees of success, changed up their personas, switched up their looks and headed to the wider world of pro wrestling to try and make a go of it on their own two wrestling feet.
In April 2021, just like remembering a bad dream, came the release of the likes of Samoa Joe, the Iiconics and many others. With it got us to thinking about last years haul of briefly out of work performers, how we felt at the time and what they’ve been up to since. Which will be the topic for this video.
The first release I want to look at, is also probably the most unusual.
When Drake Maverick was let go by WWE in April 2020, he was understandably devastated. The man from the midlands had made a name for himself with TNA and made his dream move to WWE where he became a host and general manager figure.
His passion for in-ring action was never really sated and the news informing him of his contract termination broke him emotionally. Maverick posted a heated and deeply heartfelt message about his release on the internet, which, because this is pro wrestling after all, was then worked into a storyline that lead to his rehiring. Maverick has since been working in NXT teaming with Killian Dain.
The 2020 edition of Impact’s yearly show saw several of the recently released WWE stars make the switch and sign contracts almost immediately. A night which was billed full of surprise returns and fan-favourite debuts was sure to excite and at the time, I was thankful that a handful of out of work wrestlers were given a second chance on a massive stage.
When they arrived on the scene in WWE, Gallows and Anderson were fresh of a run as one of the most popular tag-teams on the planet. Their pairing with AJ Styles on WWE programming attempted to rekindle the spark which saw Bullet Club take over Japan and then the world. Unfortunately, it proved to be like catching lighting in a bottle for the two men and since then Gallows and Anderson have never really hit their stride in WWE.
Karl Anderson is an in-ring general and had some of the most entertaining matches outside of WWE in the past. Gallows is a huge lump of a man with years of experience and one of the funniest real-life personalities in the industry.
When Gallows & Anderson returned to Impact Wrestling in July at Slammiversary it felt like a pretty big deal and a fresh start for two talented individuals. The pair went on to win the Tag Tiltes from the North in November. By March of 2021, Gallows & Anderson had dropped the Impact tag belts to Finjuice and began to appear of AEW television, alongside Kenny Omega, Don Callis and now the Young Bucks, forming the Super Elite.
Curt Hawkins perhaps never had the internet backing that his friend benefitted from, never the less Hawkins spent years with WWE and never earned the spot on the card he would have hoped for. In the time that has passed, Curt Hawkins has also returned to Impact Wrestling in July of 2020, where he is still currently employed under the name Brian Myers.
Sometimes, pro wrestling needs characters who are there to eat a pin and take a loss. Often times built up to make the hottest new baby face look better. Nobody has filled this roll in WWE over the last decade better than Heath Slater. A man who dabbled with a move towards the higher end of the card never made much success outside of some tag-team runs.
Slater left WWE in April 2020 and also debuted for Impact in July at Slammiversary as just ‘Heath’. He soon reunited with Rhino after, in what looked like an excellent pairing until, unfortunately, he was injured in October and has yet to return.
Eric Young was an internet wrestling darling when he made his initial move away from TNA to sign for WWE. And as I looked back over his matches at the time, I could see why. Intense, hilarious and seemingly beloved by the wrestling industry, Eric Young’s career in WWE is almost completely forgettable.
A world champion in other companies, Eric Young went from failed debuts, to poorly presented faction, through injury and then release in April 2020.
Eric Young-returned to Impact In July at Slammiversary in a Fatal Five way for the vacant Imapct World Title, which he lost. At the beginning of September Eric Young beat then World Champion Eddie Edwards to win the title and he would successfully defend against Eddie at Impact’s Victory Road show.
In October 2020 Young lost the Title to Rich Swann, afterwards he created the group Violent by Design, which first included Young and the debuting Joe Doering. The Group would then add Cody Deaner (now just going by Deaner) and Rhino, however in March 2021 Eric would suffer a torn ACL and is set to be out for 6-9 Months.
Deonna Purrazzo was also on the list of WWE talent to be released in April 2020 and head the way of the company formerly known as TNA. She debuted for Impact a month later in May. At Slammiversary Deonna defeated then champion Jordynne Grace for the Impact Knockouts Championship. By October she had officially signed with Impact Wrestling.
She then went on to lose the women’s title to Su Young but won the title back not long after and is still the current Knockouts Champion.
The last of the WWE superstars to make the transition to Impact is a real head scratcher.
An almost unbelievably muscular physique. Handsome good looks. In-ring ability and style. The ability to entertain and captivate on the microphone. EC3 has it all. But seemingly every time he steps on to the big stage, he takes a step backwards through no fault of his own.
His initial run in WWE although sporadically spread with humorous moments, saw him fizzle out and head to TNA. Then when he grew in confidence and experience, returned to WWE’s NXT brand before re-debuting on the main roster, where, again, he fizzled out.
EC3- EC3 Returned to Impact at Slammiversary in July 2020 in a pre-taped Promo at the end of the show, he went on to feud with Moose. In October EC3 debuted for Ring Of Honor but tested positive for a Covid soon after, he did go on to sign a contract with ROH in February, he’s also worked with other Indie promotions as well during this period.
Rusev. When I heard that Alexander Rusev would drop his first name and be known as Rusev, I wasn’t surprised. When I heard of Rusev’s release from WWE last year, I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t surprised, because throughout his entire WWE run, Rusev was never given the opportunity which his hard work and popularity deserved.
For me, as soon as he debuted as an absolute monster on NXT I had my eyes on Rusev. When he made his way to the main roster, I couldn’t have been more pumped. Rusev is a brilliant example of a man who can use his natural ability to make himself known to the WWE fans, but fall short due to bad storylines and terrible booking.
Since leaving WWE, Rusev has reinvented himself as Miro and debuted on AEW as Kip Sabian’s Best Man. He’s since feuded with the Best Friends And Orange Cassidy, which has been met with mixed reception as his booking has been criticized by a lot of fans.
The lesser name of the Wyatt family in WWE, Erik Rowan has been wrestling on the indies ever since his release and 90 Days were up. He’s been putting his size to good use in the meantime having matches for GCW and even made an appearance for AEW honouring the Late Brodie Lee at his tribute show. Who knows what the future holds for the man now known as Redbeard.
Vince McMahon often times speaks about his desire for WWE talent to elevate themselves and seize opportunities given to them in order to succeed. The owner of the WWE calls this phenomena Grabbing the brass rings.
However, there have been times where a pro wrestler has worked their way up from pre-show curtain jerker, to Wrestlemania title winner, the likes of Zack Ryder was another performer released by WWE in 2020. The man created a persona, an internet show before they were popular and worked as hard as anyone in that company in order to succeed. Someone on the decision making team clearly had other ideas and seemingly Zack Ryder never made it to the top of a company which he professed to hold such a life-long passion for.
Since leaving, Ryder has made a few appearances for AEW in 2020 from July to September. He’s since been working for Impact Wrestling debuting at Hard to Kill in January, Now going by the name Matt Cardona.
Not a wrestler, but famed match official Mike Chioda also left the WWE in 2020 and has since made appearances for AEW refereeing several TNT Title Matches.
Taynara Conti left WWE and debuted for AEW as Tay Conti and part of the Deadly Draw tournament in August 2020 teaming with Anna Jay. In September 2020 she officially signed a contract with AEW. She has yet to accept the offer to join the dark order which she got in back in August.
A pro wrestler since 2005, Serena Deeb has the wealth of experience needed to lead the new generation of female wrestlers. Since leaving WWE in 2020 Deeb has worked for AEW and is the current NWA women’s Champion.
Cesar Bononi debuted in AEW as part of tag match on AEW Dark in September. Since then he’s made multiple appearances for AEW and is a part of Peter Avalon’s Stable.
Nick Ogarelli debuted for AEW in October and soon aligned himself with the Nightmare Family. In March 2021 he and other Nightmare students turned on the Nightmare family and now he goes by the name Nick Comoroto.
MJ Jenkins has made several appearances for AEW in the time since leaving WWE, but his future with the company is not yet set in contract.
Primo and Epico, The Colons had a long, yet sadly mainly forgettable run in WWE. A pair of talented wrestlers from Porto Rico, with flair and in-ring ability to spare. Two handsome, athletic men with years working as a tag-team under their belts, The Colon’s never really lived up to their iconic family name inside of WWE.
Since being released in 2020, Epico and Primo have worked several dates on the indy wrestling circuit, something which they spoke of doing around the time of their release and I’m glad they managed to achieve one of their goals.
Since his release from WWE, Lio Rush been a very busy man. Alongside igniting his music career he has worked for pro wrestling companies MLW,New Japan,GCW and AAA, showing that his mix of lightweight high flying and cocky persona really are a draw.
Rush is the current MLW World Middleweight Champion, as well as the AAA World Cruiserweight Champion, and with his young age and the experience he has already gained, the sky really is the limit.
Mike and Maria Kanellis, Since their Release and 90 Days were up, Mike has made appearances for NWA challenging Nick Aldis for the World title. Both Mike and Maria are currently signed to Ring Of Honor. With Mike going back to his name of Mike Bennett while Maria has changed hers to Maria Bennett.
Somewhat of an oddball, No Way Jose was never really to my tastes. That said, I can certainly see how this sort of act can be entertaining for the children watching. However, this sort of comedy act usually has a fairly short life span as was seen when No Way Jose was released from WWE back in 2020.
In the time since, he has worked on the indies under the name Levy Valenz.
Aiden English more known as a mouthpiece than a wrestler since he left NXT for WWE’s main roster, this creative and talented man has been entertaining fans on the indy circuit since his release.
Mixed martial arts legend Cain Velasquez shocked a lot of wrestling fans when he seamlessly made the transition from the octagon to the squared circle on the independent circuit in the US. WWE picked up on the hype and this led to a few notable big money PPV matches.
Since leaving WWE Cain hasn’t really done anything since in the pro wrestling world but we will keep our eyes peeled.
After spending so many years on the road, Curtis Axel, since his release, is said to be taking some time away from pro wrestling and hasn’t wrestled since 2020.
Noy long after her release Sarah Logan and her husband(Raymond Rowe aka Erik of the Viking Raiders) announced that she was pregnant with their first child, she gave birth to a son in February 2021.
Kurt Angle was only back for one more run with WWE and his release in 2020 was no shock, he was even given a retirement match and lots of on screen segments over the years prior. Kurt Angle has made appearances for WWE and is currently focusing on his health and personal business since amicably parting ways with the company.
Kassius Ohno is as well respected by other wrestlers as any performer can be, he is also rather guarded as to his personal life and hasn’t released many details of his future wrestling plans. Now known once again as Chris hero, hasn’t worked for any company since his release. He has however started a podcast.
OUT OF THE WRESTLING WORLD
This is a list of performers who were also released by WWE in April 2020 and have since moved away from the pro wrestling world. As to respect their collective privacy, I won’t be looking for further details on these individuals:
Ace Steel Aleksandar Jaksic Dan Matha Edgar Lopez Faisal Kurdi Hussain Aldagal Josiah Williams Kendo Kashin Marcos Gomes Mars Wang Mohamed Fahim Tino Sabbatelli Yifeng
It seems like April is the month to turn your phones and emails off for WWE talent who haven’t been featured on television much, if you want to avoid that unwanted “best of luck in your future endeavors”.
It must be rather anxiety inducing for the wrestlers int eh company, now that WWE have seemingly set a president and will perhaps be looking to cut contracts for budgetary reasons in April 2022.
It shows that in a pro wrestling world where WWE once owned it all, now in 2021, there are so many viable options for athletes to go and make a career from, that the overwhelming feeling I get is one of hope.
Hope that pro wrestlers can have more power to negotiate terms of their contacts. Hope that one day pro wrestlers can unionise and not be seen as merely independent contractors. And, I hope that these alternatives, such as wrestling in Japan, Mexico, in Impact or AEW shows wrestling fans that the industry is thriving, growing and only looking set to get better.
Co-written by Marcus Faze
For the video on this topic & more: (297) WWE Releases (One Year Later) - YouTube