Not long after WWE released a bevy of its least-used Superstars, those wrestlers are already finding new stages on which to perform that strange, violent dance that is pro wrestling.
The independent circuit was quick to pounce on the discharged talent. For Drew McIntyre, Brodus Clay, Curt Hawkins and others, the end of their WWE runs doesn't signal the end of their time in the ring.
For many, the news was a form of liberation, a means to go from sitting on WWE's bench to starring elsewhere. For one man, it allows him to venture to Japan in hopes of protecting dolphins.
WWE let go of a total of nine wrestlers (manager Teddy Long and referee Marc Harris were on that list as well) on June 12.
These were mostly the company's lower-level competitors. JTG hadn't been on TV in months. Clay and Yoshi Tatsu had recently only appeared a few times on NXT. Evan Bourne had been medically cleared after a foot injury but never made it onscreen again.
Now free to find work with other promotions, those men won't have to suffer the frustrations of atrophying on the sidelines.
An imposingly large wrestler with tattoo-covered shoulders isn't the type of person one typically pictures when imagining what an advocate for dolphins looks like.
Clay's Twitter followers know, though, that he is a vocal critic of keeping dolphins in captivity and the mass dolphin slaughter that was the subject of the documentary The Cove. After WWE showed him the door, he is apparently going to spend at least some of his newfound free time speaking up for those animals.
TMZ reported that Clay has booked a trip to Japan this summer to protest dolphin hunting, writing that "his main focus is 'bringing awareness to the cause' of the dolphins."
He's not done with wrestling, though. He already appeared for Great Lakes Championship Pro Wrestling on June 20 at an event in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.
Pro Wrestling Syndicate welcomed signed Clay as well. The promotion posted on its website that Clay will be taking on Homicide on Sept. 20 in Rahway, New Jersey, at its "All Fired Up" show.
Clay has also been busy on the interview circuit, speaking with Wrestling 365, The RCWR Show and The Roman Show, telling the latter, "I'm going to move on and do my thing and I'm actually excited about the opportunity."
That attitude appears to be shared by many of the released wrestlers. They all mostly seem content to look forward and keep writing their story rather than fret over what didn't go right in previous chapters.
Many predicted that Tastu's first move after his release would be to head back to Japan. In addition to it being his home country, he had begun his career with New Japan Pro Wrestling, so trying to work for them again seemed a natural fit.
Even with interest from other Japanese promotions coming in, though, Tatsu has apparently decided to stay in America for now.
According to Wrestling Observer Newsletter, via Nick Paglino of Wrestle Zone, "Tatsu might be staying in the United States despite receiving offers from All Japan and The Great Muta's Wrestle-1 promotion immediately following his WWE release." The report notes that Tatsu believes that he is more popular in the U.S., one of the reasons for him wanting to stick around.
There has been no word of him scoring any booking with U.S. promotions yet.
Getting released surprised McIntyre. When he spoke with Chris Jericho on his Talk is Jericho podcast about it, he said, "The last thing I expected was that, to be honest. You know, I don't know. I don't know how I feel right now. I'm nervous but I'm so excited about the future."
As he embarks on that future, McIntyre will do so under his real name—Drew Galloway.
After working as one-third of WWE's version of The Three Stooges in 3MB, he has a future waiting for him that likely doesn't involve him getting gored by miniature bulls or getting cracked in the onions by a little person. He can instead return to being a wrestler and a warrior.
His first chance to do that will come at home.
Galloway will compete for British Championship Wrestling in Scotland at the Kilmarnock Grand Hall. He stares out intensely from the poster for the Aug. 29 event.
Then on Oct. 3 and 4 in Brooklyn, New York, Galloway will make his debut for the Family Wrestling Entertainment promotion. The show dubbed "The Return" will also feature Tommy Dreamer, Maria Kanellis, Christopher Daniels and Kazarian.
There are sure to be more appearances like these in the near future. Talent agent Bill Behrens issued a press release, via PWInsider, noting that Galloway, Hernandez and Bourne were all available for bookings.
Bourne is sure to receive some calls from various indy promotions, but there are a few signs that his next move may be to go back to Ring of Honor.
As Matt Sydal, Bourne composed many of his career highlights with that company, including a 2007 match against The Briscoe Brothers with Claudio Castagnoli as his partner.
Fans thought that they would see Bourne return to his roots this past Sunday. Bourne teased that he might show up at ROH's Best of the World pay-per-view in Nashville, Tennessee.
According to ProWrestling.net, he was there, just not in front of the camera, acknowledging that Bourne "was backstage at the Ring of Honor 'Best in the World' pay-per-view in Nashville, Tennessee on Sunday."
Typically, a 90-day no-compete clause prevents a former WWE talent from appearing on TV and pay-per-view; however, the same restrictions don't apply with indy promotions. It could be that Bourne has a deal worked out with ROH where he comes back to the promotion once that 90-day window expires.
Whether he waits for that or goes the indy-circuit route, it won't be long before we see Bourne lift off again.
JTG was a ghost while under contract for WWE. It was easy to forget he worked for that company with as little as he stepped in the ring. Now set free, JTG is not only ready to have fun but is already highly sought after.
F4WOnline, via Marc Middleton of Wrestling Inc, reports that "Out of the recently released WWE Superstars, it's said that Evan Bourne, Curt Hawkins and JTG, because of the Cryme Tyme reunion with Shad Gaspard, are getting the most inquiries for indie bookings."
He and Shad Gaspard told TMZ that the duo are going on a world tour and reuniting their old tag team, although they'll be going by "Crime Time" rather than "Cryme Tyme" to avoid copyright infringement.
A group some WWE fans had pined to see reform will do so outside of the company where it became famous. There has been no word of any companies officially signing Gaspard and JTG yet. They'll be able to pick and choose which appearances to agree to now, though, rather than be confined by the WWE schedule.
Hawkins will join Clay in Brooklyn, New York, this fall. He'll be competing for Pro Wrestling Syndicate on Sept. 20 as well, where he will take on Kevin Matthews.
He won't have to wait until then to experience the intimacy and energy of an indy crowd, though. Hawkins (as Brian Myers) competed at Beyond Wrestling's Uncomfortable event on June 22. He lost to A.R. Fox after hitting a nasty move to his foe in the ring apron.
The former tag team champion can now take gigs like these as often as they come in or focus on training new talent at his Create A Pro wrestling school.
It's opportunities like these opening up to him that likely led to him having such a positive outlook on WWE ending his run there.
When Hawkins spoke with Live Audio Wrestling on his recent release, he sounded relieved. He said, "It's been like a weight has been lifted. It was just going nowhere, and I sensed that, and I'm thrilled to be back being my own boss and actively wrestling every weekend, which is really just what I want to do."
That's a sentiment that Clay, JTG, McIntyre and the rest of the budget-cut casualties can certainly understand.