10 Shocking Releases By the WWE in 2021

Last updated on May 12th, 2022 at 09:31 am

For the WWE, 2021 was a year of multitudinous releases. Picking up where they left in 2020, the WWE has continued its high number of releases. They attributed the huge number in 2020 to budget cuts resulting from COVID-19.

Similarly, this year saw a release of over 80 superstars for various reasons. Some reasons cited by the WWE include budgetary cuts for the majority, disciplinary reasons, and some talents who resigned and requested to be released.

There have been some rather shocking releases, such as ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman, both huge fan favorites. November featured the highest releases, with 26 superstars released from the WWE.

Although the WWE released many stars in 2021, this list features 10 of the notable superstars released last year.

10. Keith Lee

Keith Lee is an American pro wrestler who signed to the WWE in May 2018. The WWE drafted him to the NXT, where he won the NXT Championship and NXT North American Championship. He was the 2019 NXT Year-End Breakout Star of the Year and became the first person to hold both titles simultaneously.

Lee faced AJ Styles, and Drew McIntyre in RAW Championship matches for the WWE Heavyweight Championship. He was absent for five months and returned in July 2021 as Bearcat Lee, but the WWE ultimately released him four months down the line.

It was later revealed that his five-month absence was because of a COVID-19 diagnosis, followed by heart inflammation. The exact reason for his release is not clear, but it is most traceable to budgetary cuts.

9. Samoa Joe

The WWE released Nuufolau Joel Seanoa, who fights under the name “Samoa Joe,” during a round of cuts in April 2021. However, shortly after firing him, Paul Levesque (Triple H) contacted him about returning to WWE for a position in NXT.

Joe returned and worked as an on-screen personality and a talent scout for WWE.

He initially had the role of an authority figure in NXT before returning to the ring for an NXT Championship match against Karrion Kross at TakeOver 36 last August. To win the NXT Championship, he defeated Karrion Kross to become the NXT Champion. A title he has won twice previously.

He also won the United States Championship back in 2019. After his return to the NXT in June, the WWE released him twice in the space of one year.

8. Big Show

Born as Paul Wight, the Big Show began his professional career as a wrestler with WCW in 1995 as The Giant. He spent four years in WCW, winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship twice and the WCW World Tag Team Championships three times.

He left the WCW in 1999 and made a surprise debut in the WWE at St. Valentine’s Day, achieving success in the WWE and becoming one of the longest-serving superstars in the history of the WWE.

He has won two WWE Championships, two World Heavyweight Championships, eight Tag Team Championships, and the Intercontinental and United States Championships. Banking on his successful career in wrestling, Big Show has appeared in many feature films and television series.

These include Jingle All the Way, The Waterboy, Star Trek: Enterprise, and two USA Network’s comedy-drama Royal Pains, Psych, and the action-drama Burn Notice.

He had lead roles in the WWE Studios comedy film Knucklehead and the Netflix sitcom, The Big Show. The All Elite Wrestling (AEW) signed Big Show as an in-ring performer and a commentator for its web television show, AEW Dark: Elevation.

7. Nia Jax

Savelina Fanene fighting under the name “Nia Jax” is an Australian-born American professional wrestler who won the Raw Women’s Championship and the Women’s Tag Team Championship two times with Shayna Baszler.

Jax is of German and Samoan ancestry and is a relative of Dwayne Johnson (The Rock).

In November, the WWE parted ways with Nia Jax following the company’s dismall Q3 earnings. Jax’s release from the company came as a shocker to fans. Arguably one of the biggest female superstars in the company, Nia Jax signed to the NXT in 2014 and made her debut in May 2015.

In 2016, the WWE promoted Nia Jax to Raw. Nia Jax worked her way up to winning the WWE Raw Women’s Championship.

Her release was for more personal reasons as she took a temporary leave of absence from WWE for a mental health break. In a statement released by her, she reportedly said she is working through so much and has taken some time, with the company’s full support, to take care of herself. 

6. Jeff Hardy

Jeff Hardy is a household name in the WWE and one of the greatest WWE wrestlers of all time. With his elder brother Matt Hardy, they both have had different successful stints in the WWE.

They formed a tag team known as the Hardy Boyz in a duo widely regarded as one of the best tag teams in the history of WWE.

Jeff Hardy signed to the WWE in 1994 and enjoyed a successful career before they released him in 2003 due to drug abuse, refusal to attend rehab, tardiness, among others. He returned to the WWE and left after three years for reasons cited as recovery from his injuries.

After eight years of being away, he returned to the WWE in 2017.

Hardy is a WWE champion and three-time World Heavyweight Champion. He is the youngest person to win the Intercontinental Championship, a title he won at just 23 years, and he has won several Tag-team Championships with his brother.

In November, the WWE released him for the third time for drug-use related reasons.

5. Hit Row

In November, WWE released multiple superstars, including SmackDown’s Hit Row, as part of the company’s latest round of budgetary cuts. The famous stable from NXT made their main roster debut in October after being drafted to SmackDown.

The WWE previously released Hit Row’s former member B-Fab, and after two weeks, Isaiah “Swerve” Scott, Ashante “Thee” Adonis, and Top Dolla followed. The group mainly competed in the NXT before being called up to SmackDown.

This team held much promise and fans tipped them to go far in the WWE SmackDown, where the WWE drafted them. However, since the release of B-Fab, it was only a matter of time before the entire team got the boot. 

4. The IIconics 

Despite being with the WWE for close to 6 years, the IIconics had already become a household name in the women’s tag team division. Despite their impressive run, The WWE had to release the duo of Cassie Lee (Peyton Royce) and Jessica McKay (Billie Kay) from their WWE contracts earlier this year because of COVID-19 related budget cuts.

Since these two were bright talents, the release of the former champion duo shocked the professional wrestling industry.

In April 2015, they both signed to the WWE and spent almost six years with the company before getting released on April 15 of 2021, along with other COVID-19 budget cuts. They are currently free agents, and their 90-day non-compete clauses expired on July 14.

They have rebranded and officially go by The Inspiration on the indie scene. Impact Wrestling signed the IIconics in October 2021, where they are currently the Impact Knockouts Tag Team Champions. They are also previous WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, having defeated Bayley and Sasha Banks’ team, The Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection.

3. Braun Strowman

Born Adam Scherr, Braun Strowman is a one-time Universal Champion, a one-time Intercontinental Champion, and a two-time Raw Tag Team. Strowman was a member of the Wyatt Family, all of whom have now been released from the WWE. The WWE released Strowman from the WWE on June 2, 2021, alongside five other wrestlers.

The Monster Among Men was undeniably a major act on WWE TV during his run and one of the biggest names in the company. Thus his release came as a major surprise for many wrestling fans.

At WrestleMania 36, Strowman defeated Goldberg to win his first and his only Universal Championship.

Strowman would hold the belt for several months before relinquishing it to The Fiend at SummerSlam 2020. Before his release, he was in contention for the WWE Championship.

In May 2021, Strowman failed to win the title from Bobby Lashley in a triple threat match also involving Drew McIntyre. This proved to be his last match in the WWE.

2. John Morrison

Widely known for his death-defying stunts, John Morrison made his WWE debut in 2005. He is a three-time WWE Intercontinental Champion, a six-time Tag Team Champion, and a one-time ECW Heavyweight Champion.

Earlier in the year, Morrison partnered with The Miz, who was in a feud with Bad Bunny .

His last appearance in the ring was during the WWE main event on November 15, 2021, where Jinder Mahal defeated him. His release came as a big shock to the pro-wrestling fans world.

The WWE included him in the late November round of cuts, despite releasing several superstars earlier in the month as part of layoffs due to budget cuts from COVID-19.

He had returned to the WWE in September 2019 after an eight-year hiatus which had seen him away. He has since signed to the Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide and will face El Hijo del Vikingo for the AAA Mega Championship. Apart from wrestling, Morrison has also made appearances in various films and television series.

1. Bray Wyatt

The release of Windham Lawrence Rotunda, professionally known as Bray Wyatt, is perhaps the most shocking release of 2021. Wyatt is an American professional wrestler best known for his time in WWE, where he was the leader of The Wyatt Family and played the Fiend.

The WWE officially parted ways with Wyatt on July 31, 2021. Wyatt has had many iterations in WWE, from NXT rookie Husky Harris to The Fiend. A third-generation professional wrestler, he is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, father, and uncles.

His younger brother is also a wrestler and fights under Bo Dallas.

Wyatt is a big-time fan favourite and is one of the most creative superstars constantly adopting new rebrands. Previously, he has held the WWE Championship, Raw, and SmackDown Tag Team Championships.

He has also won the WWE Universal Championship twice and the Male Wrestler of the Year in 2019.