At 9:08 p.m. on Friday night, Sean Ross Sapp of Fightful tweeted out that Bronson Reed had been released by WWE. What followed was another half hour of “release” tweets and online confusion as seemingly every minute, a new roster cut was announced until 13 men and women were let go by WWE.
A lot of names came up last night, so we here at AIPT hope to consolidate all of the wrestlers who were released on Aug. 6, 2021, and give a quick run-down of who each of these performers is and what they were doing prior to their release.
- Asher Hale: Perhaps better known for his time in EVOLVE as Anthony Henry, Hale was a mainstay of 205 Live throughout 2021. His final appearance for WWE was on the July 30, 2021 episode of 205 Live, where he lost to a returning Drake Maverick.
- Ari Sterling: Sterling made a name for himself in the indies and on NJPW Strong as Alex Zayne. Sterling debuted on 205 Live in May 2021 and stayed consistently around the top of the card until the end, making his final appearance for WWE in a losing effort against Cruiserweight Champion KUSHIDA on the Aug. 6, 2021 edition of 205 Live an hour after his release was announced.
- Bobby Fish: Fish was one-third of the original Undisputed Era trio and remained a part of the later four-man faction until its disbanding in early 2021. Though Fish’s run was plagued by injuries, he remained a big-time figure on NXT TV while healthy and was most recently featured in a feud with former stablemate Roderick Strong’s Diamond Mine. His final WWE appearance was on the Aug. 3, 2021 episode of NXT, where he lost to Roderick Strong.
- Bronson Reed: The former Jonah Rock made his televised debut in the original NXT Breakout Tournament, where he made it to the quarterfinals. From there, Reed went on a tear and eventually became the first Australian and first non-American to hold the NXT North American championship, which he held for 42 days. While champion, he was also rumored to be debuting on the main roster soon alongside Karrion Kross, and though he did debut on Main Event, that would be his only televised main roster match. Reed’s final WWE appearance was on the July 27, 2021 edition of NXT, where he lost to Adam Cole.
- Desmond Troy: Signing with WWE in 2018, the real-life Denzel Dejournette was a collegiate wrestler who became a Performance Center project. He appeared on both WWE and NXT TV multiple times, mostly in losing efforts against the likes of Seth Rollins and Cameron Grimes. His final WWE appearance was on the July 2, 2021 edition of 205 Live, where he lost an NXT Breakout Tournament qualifying match to Joe Gacy.
- Giant Zanjeer: The 7’2” Giant Zanjeer was a trainee of the Great Khali. A former actor and basketball player, Zanjeer only had one WWE match to his name — a tag team win at Jan. 2021’s WWE Superstar Spectacle, where he, Rey Mysterio, Ricochet, and Dilsher Shanky defeated Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler, King Corbin, and Shinsuke Nakamura.
- Jake Atlas: After making a name for himself in the California indie scene, Atlas signed with WWE in 2019 and made his NXT debut in 2020. After being named as a participant in the Interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship round-robin tournament (where he made it to the block finals), Atlas became a cruiserweight mainstay, splitting his time between NXT and 205 Live. His final WWE appearance was a win over Ari Sterling on the July 23, 2021 edition of 205 Live.
- Kona Reeves: A known peruser of “the finest things,” Reeves was a house show mainstay for NXT early on, only making sporadic televised appearances even after he developed a playboy gimmick. Still, the little screentime he did get earned him a small cult following online. His final WWE appearance was on the Feb. 19, 2021 edition of NXT, where he lost to Keith Lee.
- Leon Ruff: Ruff was brought in alongside a wave of his fellow EVOLVE stars in early 2020 and popped up a lot throughout the pandemic era of WWE. Despite starting off on a losing streak, Ruff benefited from Johnny Gargano’s “no title defenses” streak when he beat Gargano for the NXT North American Championship in November 2021, and he held the championship for 25 days. Ruff hovered around the North American championship scene for the remainder of his NXT days, including a lengthy feud with Isaiah “Swerve” Scott. Ruff’s final appearance on WWE TV was a win over Grayson Waller on the Aug. 6, 2021 edition of 205 Live, hours after his debut.
- Mercedes Martinez: After a brush with WWE in the original Mae Young Classic, Martinez finally signed with the company in late 2019. Martinez was treated with reverence in NXT and even made an appearance in the 2020 Women’s Royal Rumble. Though she did debut as part of the original Retribution line-up as “Retaliation,” she quietly requested a return to NXT, where she immediately feuded with then-NXT Women’s Champion, Io Shirai. Martinez’s final WWE appearance was a scary one as her mixed tag match with Jake Atlas against Xia Li and Boa of Tien Sha ended via referee stoppage when Martinez was knocked out by a kick from Li.
- Stephon Smith: A trainee of DJ Hyde and a regular performer in IWA Mid-South during his wrestling days as Rump Thump, Smith signed on with WWE to be a referee and mostly worked within NXT.
- Tyler Rust: The former Rust Taylor (kayfabe brother of Chuck Taylor), Rust debuted as both a trainee of Timothy Thatcher and as the client of manager Malcolm Bivens, proving himself to be a thorn in the side of Tommaso Ciampa in Rust’s first match. When Bivens returned to NXT as the voice of Roderick Strong’s Diamond Mine in June, 2021. Rust’s final WWE appearance was as part of Diamond Mine, losing a tag match to Bobby Fish and KUSHIDA alongside partner Strong.
- Zechariah Smith: A 7-foot-tall former basketball player, Smith signed with WWE in early 2020 and did not get to perform on any house shows. As far as we can tell, Zechariah Smith has no matches or credited WWE appearances to his name.
WWE have released 52 wrestlers in 2021 and have released over 100 wrestlers since the first pandemic releases in April 2020. These numbers do not include backstage employees like Canyon Ceman and legends like Ric Flair, who have also been released.
We here at AIPT wish all 13 of these performers the best of luck wherever they land next.
Like what we do here at AIPT? Consider supporting us and independent comics journalism by becoming a patron today! In addition to our sincere thanks, you can browse AIPT ad-free, gain access to our vibrant Discord community of patrons and staff members, get trade paperbacks sent to your house every month, and a lot more. Click the button below to get started!