The world of sports was shaken up by the pandemic that began in late 2019. One of the most affected was wrestling, which saw many promotions and companies continue without crowds or virtual arenas as we saw with WWE. Like many sports teams and organizations, WWE had to find ways to continue and save as much money as possible. In early 2020, the company made a number of shocking releases and they continued later on. The story has been almost the same this year, with the company releasing even more talent. The long list of releases, which are reportedly due to budget cuts, could probably be enough to make a new roster.
The releases continued last week, with the company releasing a lot of talent that had been part of NXT over the years. The list also included talent that had been on the main roster for a while now. The list of releases over the last two years is so long that several sites have been keeping up and counting all the talent that is now out of the roster. Among the sites is Republic World, which says the company has released more than 120 so far. Here is all the talent that has been released by WWE in 2020 and 2021:
Zelina Vega, Akam and Rezar, Rusev, Cain Velasquez, Zack Ryder, Mike and Maria Kanellis, Primo and Epico, Erick Rowan, Sarah Logan, Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows, Ethan Carter III, Lio Rush, Curt Hawkins, Renee Young, Heath Slater, Eric Young, Curtis Axel, No Way Jose, MJ Jenkins, Deonna Purrazzo, Kassius Ohno, Aleksandar Jaksic, Kurt Angle, Aiden English, Gerald Brisco, Mike Rotunda, Mike Chioda, Cathy Kelley.
Early 2020 saw a number of releases that nobody was expecting. Among them was Kurt Angle, who had made numerous appearances for the company since returning a few years back. Several tag teams were also released during the year, including Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows and Akam and Rezar.
One of the most surprising was Rusev, who had been with the company for some years. He later returned to wrestling but with AEW, a company that’s signed several former WWE superstars since entering the business just a couple of years ago.
Zelina Vega was released but later brought back. She currently competes in the women’s division and recently won the Queen’s Crown tournament.
Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Samoa Joe, Kalisto, Mickie James, Chelsea Green, Tucker, Bo Dallas, Mojo Rawley, Wesley Blake, Lars Sullivan, The Big Show, Steve Cutler, Andrade, Kavita Devi, Jessamyn Duke, Venessa Borne, Skyler Story, Ezra Judge, Alexander Wolfe, Velveteen Dream, Braun Strowman, Lana, Buddy Murphy, Aleister Black, Ruby Riott, Santana Garrett, Fandango, Tyler Breeze, Tony Nese, Ariya Daivari, Samir Singh, Sunil Singh, Curt Stallion, Arturo Ruas, Marina Shafir, Killian Dain, Matt Martel, Chase Parker, Bray Wyatt, Ric Flair, Bobby Fish, Bronson Reed, Jake Atlas, Ari Sterling, Kona Reeves, Leon Ruff, Stephon Smith, Tyler Rust, Zechariah Smith, Asher Hale, Giant Zanjeer, Mercedes Martinez, B Fab, Ember Moon, Eva Marie, Franky Monet, Gran Metalik, Jeet Rama, Jessi Kamea, Karrion Kross, Katrina Cortez, Keith Lee, Mia Yim, Nia Jax, Oney Lorcan, Scarlett Bordeaux, Trey Baxter, Zayda Ramier.
2021 has even more shocking releases, with numerous champions being cut from the roster shortly after successful title reigns or title opportunities. The tag team divisions were the most affected, so much that one division was left with just a few teams. Among the teams released were the IIconics and Fandango and Tyler Breeze. The IIconics won the tag titles at a WrestleMania just a few years back so a lot of fans were not expecting this. Fandango and Tyler Breeze were on the main roster for a while but were moved to NXT some time before the announcement.
Among the most shocking is probably the release of Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman. Wyatt had been the WWE Universal Champion months before the announcement while Strowman had held titles and main evented matches for a few years now. The release of Samoa Joe also shocked some fans. But the former WWE NXT Champion returned to the company just weeks later. He returned as an NXT official but later entered the ring for a match against the NXT Champion. He won the title but was forced to vacate due to injury.
The latest releases by the company involved talent from NXT and some that had just moved to the main roster. Scarlett and Kross were let go after a run in which he held the NXT Championship. Kross made just a few main roster appearances before the release. Keith Lee was let go after returning to the main roster. Lee held two WWE NXT titles at one point.
Aleister Black appeared to be getting ready for a big return but that was cut short by his release. Black was on the NXT roster for a while but was later moved to the main roster. He has appeared on podcasts explaining what some of the plans were for his character before the company decided to release him. He is now part of the AEW roster along with other released stars such as Andrade.