Keith Lee, Bray Wyatt, Hit Row and WWE Superstars Who Got Screwed in 2021

Anthony Mango@@ToeKneeManGoFeatured ColumnistDecember 15, 2021

Keith Lee, Bray Wyatt, Hit Row and WWE Superstars Who Got Screwed in 2021

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    After a tumultuous 2020, WWE Superstars likely entered 2021 feeling as though this year would mark a return to stability with positive things ahead. Unfortunately, there were further low points over the past 12 months that proved such optimism was misguided.

    By circumstance or decisions out of their control, many wrestlers found themselves getting screwed over the past 12 months. Their characters were booked terribly, they saw their pushes get derailed, and several were even fired on top of that.

    While it's not great to dwell on negatives, it's important to call attention to them so others can learn from past mistakes. At the very least, it's good to acknowledge those who had a rough ride, if only to note that their struggles were seen.

    Let's look back on 2021 in WWE and discuss some of the wrestlers who were treated abysmally this year.

Generally Speaking: All WWE Releases

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    Bronson Reed seemed destined for the main roster before being released.
    Bronson Reed seemed destined for the main roster before being released.Credit:

    It would be unreasonable to think any major company could go an entire year without letting at least one employee go. Particularly after the coronavirus pandemic, this was going to be a certainty.

    However, when WWE regularly reports record numbers each quarter and continues to fire entire departments behind the scenes as well as on-screen performers, citing "budget cuts" as the reason, it comes off like a raised finger to those who were let go.

    Rarely is there any official reason for why anyone was released, meaning wrestlers are left wondering what they did wrong.

    Many of them were blindsided, too, as WWE was touting some as big players for the future. Then, out of nowhere, a 180-degree turn took them from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.

    Generally speaking, everyone who saw themselves in this position got screwed this year. Some specific ones will be broken down further on this list, but all 85 (so far) who were released deserve a nod of appreciation.

Keith Lee and Mia Yim

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    In February, Keith Lee and Mia Yim announced their real-life engagement. With both on the main roster and looking forward to their wedding, this surely felt like the start of a very good year.

    Fast-forward a few months and neither had been seen on television for quite some time. Their absence was shrouded in mystery and they were asked on social media for explanations but could provide only vague responses.

    Eventually, it was revealed that Lee's five-month absence was due to a heart inflammation by proxy of COVID-19. However, instead of coming back to a massive push, he worked mostly on Main Event.

    He was given a name change to become "Bearcat" on his return to Raw in September, which left the WWE Universe confused.

    Yim continued to be absent from action, though, after a disappointing time as Reckoning in Retribution. Instead of being given a chance to take the main roster by storm, she sat on the sidelines even after being drafted.

    However, Lee and Yim were released by WWE on Nov. 4.

    Both were more than capable of being figurehead champions on the main roster, but they were squandered for almost the entirety of the year.

Karrion Kross and Scarlett

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    Like Lee and Yim, real-life couple Karrion Kross and Scarlett started the year with high hopes that 2021 could be their time to shine.

    Kross was back on top in NXT as a dominant champion and was being groomed for a move to Raw. But he was beaten by Jeff Hardy in less than two minutes on his debut for the red brand, which immediately ended much of his mystique.

    Soon after, he dropped the NXT Championship to Samoa Joe before fully transitioning to the Raw roster but without Scarlett by his side.

    For whatever reason, Scarlett never appeared with him on the red brand. Instead of keeping what was working in NXT, WWE gave some terrible new ring attire. His entrance was gone, his valet was missing, he looked foolish and his win-loss record was tarnished.

    On November 4, both Kross and Scarlett were released. She never had a chance to wrestle in WWE and he went from being the most protected person on NXT to suffering a series of downgrades until being let go.

Tegan Nox

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    Tegan Nox had one of the most depressing careers in WWE. For someone as bright-eyed, passionate and talented as she is, her entire run from 2017 until her release in November felt snakebit.

    After signing for WWE in April 2017, she was plagued by injuries in her first two years with the company. And it took until June 2019 before she started to find her feet.

    After teaming with Dakota Kai and then feuding with her, she started to gain traction. Despite the troubles of performing during the pandemic in 2020, she continued to prove what she was capable of. But the injury curse struck again in September of that year, and she spent 10 months on the shelf.

    Finally, it seemed she was on track with her SmackDown debut in July. She and Shotzi Blackheart even became the No. 1 contenders to the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship.

    Strangely, WWE just kept dangling that carrot and then split the team in the draft in October. Nox was sent to Raw but never appeared on the show before being released in November.

The IIconics

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    When The IIconics were split in 2020, many fans knew what was going to happen. All too often, WWE breaks up tag teams in an apparent intent to push both as singles stars but then falls into the same repetitive patterns of failure.

    Billie Kay and Peyton Royce saw the same thing happen to them.

    By the start of 2021, Kay's comedic niche was shelved, and she was paired with Carmella for a losing effort at WrestleMania 37, which would be her final appearance for WWE.

    Meanwhile, Royce was paired with Lacey Evans in a team that wasn't working at all until the latter took pregnancy leave. Royce then lost to Asuka in a singles match in March, and both IIconics were released a month later.

    Clearly, WWE never should have broken up the Australian tandem in the first place.

Hit Row

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    Among the releases from this year that are beyond confusing is the ordeal Hit Row went through, as they exemplify the chaos and lack of communication going on in WWE these days.

    This group forged itself over the past year in NXT, and group leader Isaiah "Swerve" Scott managed to dethrone Bronson Reed to capture the NXT North American Championship in June.

    WWE must have considered them a fast success, and they were called up to the main roster in the draft in October. However, that stamp of approval was more like a death knell.

    After only a few vignettes teasing their arrival on SmackDown, they made their debut on Oct. 22 and then saw B-Fab released on Nov. 4. Scott, Top Dolla and Ashante "Thee" Adonis were also gone 14 days later.

    Within the span of seven months, this group was formed, won a title, got a promotion, signed new contracts for SmackDown, made their debut on the blue brand and were fired.

    They never even had a chance to sink or swim on the main roster.

Bray Wyatt

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    Bray Wyatt was a legacy Superstar and someone who advanced from his Husky Harris NXT days to reinventing himself as an entirely different gimmick to become this generation's Undertaker.

    For years, he was spoken of as someone foundational for the future of WWE. Now, it's a discussion on what could have been, rather than what was realized.

    WWE had decided to do a rerun of the Wyatt vs. Randy Orton feud that had gone on for months in the past. That was in November 2020 and immediately gave off a feel this would be dragged out until WrestleMania 37.

    But while that should have given the creative team more than enough time to take interesting twists and turns to create something epic for The Grandest Stage of Them All, nothing could be further from the truth.

    Week after week, it went nowhere, only to culminate in another awful match, wherein Alexa Bliss randomly caused The Fiend to lose.

    None of it made any sense and WWE clearly had no idea what to do. There was no endgame plan in mind. Creative simply thought it would figure it out, put it on the back burner, ran out of time and gave up rather than pulling the plug and doing something else.

    Bliss was given Wyatt's character for the next few months, showing WWE did have interest in The Fiend as a concept but not necessarily in Wyatt carrying it on. That was made apparent when Wyatt was released in July.

    He was a leading figure for merchandise sales and WWE continues to sell products based on his character, yet "budget cuts" were cited for his departure.

Mei Ying

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    The tale of Tian Sha was building steam at the end of 2020, leading to the redebut of Karen Q under the moniker Mei Ying at the beginning of 2021.

    Now an ethereal character with a powerful presence, she looked poised to be a major player in the NXT women's division going forward and could have been heading toward the NXT Women's Championship.

    Instead, she didn't wrestle a single match until after Xia Li was taken from the group as part of the WWE draft.

    Ying had also lost considerable momentum before beating an enhancement talent (Virginia Ferry) in August. But she lost her next match, against Indi Hartwell, two months later.

    All the magic was gone and with Li heading to the blue brand, the Ying character was dropped.

    Since then, Boa has been given the remnants of her power in storyline, while Karen Q has been repackaged as Wendy Choo, who has done nothing but taken naps during backstage segments.

    In January, Ying was unstoppable; now, Choo is annoyed by people talking too loudly and disrupting her nap. How is that going to lead to a title run in 2022?


    Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.