WWE employs a lot of wrestlers so naturally not all of them are going to end up staying with the company. For one reason or another sometimes things just don’t work out between WWE and their talent so the working relationship must be ended. Nowadays it’s a much kinder, gentler WWE but not too long ago they used to have a yearly talent purge as opposed to what they do now which is just let the talent’s contract run out.
Every year that talent purge would see WWE let go of wrestlers they weren’t doing much with but sometimes they ended up releasing some of their most valuable superstars. This list will take a look at 5 wrestlers WWE released that we really don’t think they should have.
#5 – Elijah Burke
When Elijah Burke first debuted on Smackdown in July of 2006 his future looked pretty promising. He worked alongside Sylvester Terkay and the two were then sent to the ECW brand in November of 2006. After a few months of working as a tag team Terkay was released in January of 2007 leaving Burke to fend for himself.
Burke was quickly dubbed “The Future of ECW” by Vince McMahon himself and he became the leader of a group known as The New Breed. The New Breed feuded with the ECW Originals and their feud culminated in a match at WrestleMania 23. Burke would go on to have a few high profile singles feuds with wrestlers such as CM Punk and Batista before he disappeared in November of 2007.
Elijah Burke resurfaced at the 2008 Royal Rumble and then went on to work a battle royal at WrestleMania 24. He worked a few matches on Smackdown after that but was then taken off of television in May 2008 and then quietly released from his contract in November of that same year.
Why was this a mistake on WWE’s part? Because like a lot of wrestlers that make it to the main roster Burke had untapped potential that WWE just couldn’t see at the time. Elijah Burke eventually made his way to TNA (surprise surprise) where he debuted as “The Pope” D’angelo Dinero. As D’angelo Dinero he was able to cut loose and show wrestling fans that he has an abundance of charisma that could have taken him far in WWE. With a little more time to develop, a few opportunities and a little luck Elijah Burke could have been one of WWE’s most outspoken personalities.
#4 – Mickie James
Mickie James is one of the most beloved WWE Divas of all time. After debuting on the WWE main roster in 2005 Mickie went on to become a 5 time WWE Women’s Champion and a 1 time WWE Divas Champion. She had a great career in WWE for the first few years but things obviously got sour during the end of her run there.
During the later stages of her time in WWE the writers created a storyline that saw Team Lay-Cool poke fun at Mickie James’ weight (despite the fact that she’s gorgeous) because she wasn’t the typical thin as a tree branch WWE Diva the company was promoting at the time. Michelle and Layla would constantly call her “Piggy James” on TV and the whole thing was just generally degrading towards Mickie and quite classless for a company that heavily promotes an anti bullying campaign.
Had this been just part of a storyline it would have been one thing but according to former Spirit Squad member Ken Doane (known as Kenny Dykstra in WWE) the whole thing was done to break Mickie down emotionally. Ken used to date Mickie and according to him (he goes into detail in this interview HERE) Mickie was having an affair with John Cena which obviously ended their partnership. The story goes that Mickie and John continued their affair for a while until John broke it off. Mickie apparently didn’t take the breakup with John Cena too well and she acted out backstage. This caused her relationship with the company to go south and eventually they released her in 2010.
It’s a shame that personal relationships got in the way but Mickie and WWE seem to have reconciled as she recently helped train some of the NXT Divas at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando. The problem here is that the company let Mickie go at a time when WWE desperately needed veterans in the Divas division. The division isn’t in great shape at the moment, but it was in even worse shape between 2010 to 2012 and Mickie can still wrestle circles around any woman currently on the WWE roster.
#3 – Colt Cabana
If you had blinked at any time between the fall of 2008 and the winter of 2009 then you probably missed Colt Cabana’s run as Scotty Goldman in WWE. After signing with WWE in 2007 Colt spent a little over a year in OVW before he made his debut on the main roster in August of 2008 where he lost a match to Brian Kendrick on Smackdown. He would work a few more matches on Smackdown before disappearing without a trace.
Five months later he appeared on Smackdown once again on the February 9th 2009 episode. His final match with WWE would air on the February 20th episode of Smackdown which was the same day the company released him.
Colt Cabana is actually a great fit for WWE at the moment and the fact that he’s primarily a comedy wrestler it would have made a lot of sense for them to feature him in the PG Era. Although he wouldn’t have been turning too many heads with his wrestling skills he certainly would have been an asset to the company based on his personality. All this relationship really needed was a little more time for it to work. Rumors that WWE was considering hiring him as a commentator were going around a few months ago but any major developments on that front have yet to take place.
#2 – Kaval/Low Ki
Talk about missing the boat. This release was seemingly a mutual decision but WWE let go of one of the most talented wrestlers this generations has to offer when they let Low Ki walk out the door. After winning the second season of NXT Low Ki (who was dubbed Kaval by WWE) was drafted to the Smackdown brand where he was featured sparingly. His WWE career peaked when he challenged Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Championship at Survivor Series in 2010.
After losing to Drew McIntyre on the December 21 live Smackdown broadcast Low Ki was released on December 23. As we mentioned before Low Ki departing the company was a mutual decision as he didn’t feel he would be used right and we certainly don’t condone WWE attempting to chase after anyone that wants to leave. But considering how talented the guy is they probably should have made an effort.
Low Ki went on to explain to Monday Night Mayhem in an interview a few years ago what exactly went wrong with his WWE career:
“It’s simple: I’m a professional wrestler. They’re looking for entertainers. They’re looking for people who are going to make fools out of themselves in order to entertain people. That’s not me. I’ve performed for nearly 15 years, because I wanted to become a professional wrestler. I wanted to earn the respect of the audience, people who paid their hard-earned money to see professional wrestling and not insult their intelligence. Unfortunately, that’s not what the WWE presents. This is not an instance of me being bitter & angry at them, I knew what I getting into when I got there.”
#1 – Shelton Benjamin
Shelton Benjamin is without a doubt one of the best pure athletes to ever step foot into a WWE ring. There’s nothing Shelton couldn’t do when it came to in ring competition. Benjamin could brawl, he could work a technical style and he could even pull off high flying moves. When this talented superstar made the move to singles competition both fans and WWE officials alike assumed that one day he would make it to the top of the company. For one reason or another it just never happened.
After being drafted to Raw back in 2004, Benjamin defeated Triple H three separate times and then went on to feud with other Evolution members Ric Flair and Randy Orton. He held the Intercontinental Title, the US Title, the WWE Tag Team Titles and was usually the most fun person to watch during the money in the bank ladder match. After years of impressing the fans Shelton’s career became stagnant and he just couldn’t reach the next level.
WWE released him in 2010 which in retrospect wasn’t a good move on their part. Even if Shelton never became the top star everyone assumed he would, he was still a valuable asset to any company and managed to put on quality matches every time he stepped in the ring. Since being released from WWE Shelton has made his mark in ROH and NJPW while rumors of a WWE return pop up every now and then.