5 Major WWE Releases in 2020 That Shocked The Fans

Published 12/24/2020, 7:00 AM EST
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – OCTOBER 11: A WWE logo is shown on a screen before a WWE news conference at T-Mobile Arena on October 11, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was announced that WWE wrestler Braun Strowman will face heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury and WWE champion Brock Lesnar will take on former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez at the WWE’s Crown Jewel event at Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 31. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

In 2020, the world stopped for a while due to the pandemic, and WWE was no different. As the company tries to recover within the new normal, some were unfortunate enough to not get through.


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In the wake of the pandemic, WWE released a plethora of wrestlers due to its budget cuts. Through the year, various Superstars and authoritative figures were let go of. Here we look back at the top 5 shocking WWE firings of 2020.

#1 Rusev (WWE)


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When WWE first announced they are letting go of its Superstars, no one thought Rusev will be a part of it. Hence, when the announcement came, it shocked the sports entertainment industry.

Rusev, a three-time United States Champion, was one of the top heels for the company. However, in his last days, he felt he was let down. The Bulgarian Brute was involved in a love-triangle storyline with Bobby Lashley and real-life wife Lana.

NASHVILLE, TN – JUNE 06: WWE superstars Rusev and Lana attend the 2018 CMT Music Awards at Bridgestone Arena on June 6, 2018, in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for CMT)

Now, he works in AEW as Miro. When asked about the departure, Rusev said he was happy when he was let go.

“If I was not there I would have never met CJ. That alone just gives me good feelings thinking about that. If nothing else, just that I know my wife that’s more than enough and on top of that, living my dream and traveling the world.”

#2 Kurt Angle

After his in-ring retirement, Kurt Angle became an integral part of the backstage production after his retirement. Although he wanted a title run, Angle’s glorious career ended rather badly. However, he thanked his fans after his release.


Kurt Angle, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)

Anyway, he was also let go as a part of WWE budget cuts but was offered some new roles such as SmackDown star Riddle’s manager. He even got an offer for the Performance Centre coach position. Angle declined all of them and decided to focus on his health supplements business.

#3 Zelina Vega

This is the latest inclusion in the list of firings. Mere hours before the November 14 SmackDown, WWE released a statement about Zelina Vega. Surprisingly, she was given a title opportunity a few weeks before this.

The true reason behind the sudden release was never specified but many believe Vega defied WWE’s Third-party rules with apps like Twitch. Although none of the parties confirmed anything, Vega posted an emotional message following her release.

“I want to say thank you all very much for the last 3-4 years, it was incredible. I would have never have been able to say “this is for you dad” if certain people did not believe in me, I love you all and I couldn’t have done it without your support.”

#4 Matt Hardy

WWE let the multi-time champion and legendary tag-team star go in March after his contract expired. Hardy’s last tenure in WWE started in 2017 when he returned at WrestleMania 33 along with his brother Jeff. They won the tag team titles 0n their return. In the official statement, WWE wrote,


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“From a gravity-defying daredevil willing to take any and all risks to become one of the most eccentric personas ever seen as “Woken” Matt Hardy, all incarnations had one thing in common — the adoration of WWE fans. WWE thanks Matt Hardy for his contributions to sports-entertainment and the WWE Universe and wishes him the best in his future endeavors.”

Jeff hardy is still with WWE and has signed a new contract. However, Matt joined All Elite Wrestling under his ‘broken’ gimmick shortly after his WWE release.


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#5 Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson

Despite getting featured in the Boneyard match at WrestleMania in March, Gallows and Anderson were shockingly released in April. The duo had recently signed long-term deals with the company after declining offers to AEW in 2019.

Both the stars expressed their displeasure after their release, and even their friend and O.C. leader, AJ Styles, voiced his opinions. The duo won the Tag Team Championships twice.

TOKYO, JAPAN – JUNE 29: Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson enter the ring during the WWE Live Tokyo at Ryogoku Kokugikan on June 29, 2019, in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

Since then, Gallows and Anderson joined Impact Wrestling, and have also signed deals with their former employers, NJPW. Now known as the Good Brothers, they won the Impact Tag titles in November.

Apart from these five Superstars, many employees like Renee Young, Gerald Brisco, Primo and Epico, and Heath Slater were released. Which was the most shocking release of 2020? Let us know your opinions in the comments below.


Angana Roy

916 articles

Angana Roy is a WWE and AEW author for EssentiallySports, having published more than 800 professional wrestling articles. She is currently pursuing higher studies in English language and literature from the University of Calcutta and has over three years of experience in journalism. As a life-long fan of the sports entertainment brand of pro-wrestling, her work consists of live coverage of weekly shows, PPVs, speculating the future course of storylines and everything in between.