After nine years under the WWE umbrella, Rowan's time with the company came to an end in April as he was part of the COVID budget cuts. Some of those cuts were expected while others came as a complete surprise – both to the fans and to the talent themselves.
"It was blindsided for everybody, especially when they're signing contracts for all these people, and then for me I was used every week. I was used to whether it was bad creative or good creative – I had opportunities when my opportunities were good and I had opportunities when they weren't good. You keep digging away and you keep hoping for better opportunities," said Rowan.
"I was there for this last run I had which was the best solo run I had and the worst solo run I had all over the course of the year. You stick with it because you love the business and you hope they listen to your ideas and something happens. Something does happen and then it doesn't work out the way you want it because you're told one thing and they have a way of slowing people down, getting what they want out of something and it's just the way it is."
Rowan then talked about his relationship with Vince McMahon and the creative team towards the end of his last run.
"I mean with Vince, it was fine. We had our conversations and whatnot about what he wanted for something, but it was weird. The whole course I got back from my last injury being told, 'Hey, you're not going to be in The Bludgeons anymore.' Then, 'Hey, you're going to be with Daniel Bryan.' Okay, that's kind of a step back for me, but Daniel's great obviously and you learn something from everybody and to be thrust into a different spotlight than that, it was cool. They let me talk finally for the first time since I was with the company and it turned people's heads," stated Rowan.
"You're giving me the chance to talk and kind of voice out my frustrations because it ended up being a character that was being disrespected by the company and overlooked. That's what I was feeling; it was great. It hit home to me and then, they brought Luke [Brodie Lee] back and those were genuine feelings at the pay per view when he came back and, 'Yes this was great. This was a story!'"
But it ended up being a short story as Rowan and Harper would only team for two matches before being split up at the draft. Shortly thereafter Harper would be released while Rowan had a program with Seth Rollins that ultimately didn't lead to much afterwards.
"It was weird because you had all this energy invested in me and finally have a character that spoke, was going somewhere and I think I debut on RAW a few weeks later versus Seth who was champion at the time. They had me in a Falls Count Anywhere Match; it was a fun match," recalled Rowan. "They tried to protect me by doing a forklift finish where they put a forklift on me. It was a recycled thing, but it was like, okay, well they got to have some sort of platform for me to have me strong over the champion. Then, I think I was in the UK a few weeks later because I was doing all of the house shows and everything – main events and the house shows. So I was, 'Okay, they had plans for me.' They trusted me to do these things because they wouldn't have me in that position and then, 'Oh, here's a cage' and 'Hey, you're not going to talk' or 'Hey, you're going to do baby talk.' Okay."
During this time Rowan was vocal about the direction of his character and what the ultimate plans were for him and the cage he was carrying around.
"This is the time I was most vocal about things and I was professional. 'Okay, well what's the plan for the cage? Why am I doing this?' And I was told a reason – because it's going to be something that's going to get killed and it's going to get killed by a babyface and it's going to set up a good feud. Okay, it's going somewhere and then I'm waiting and waiting and that never happened," stated Rowan. "And it's like, 'Okay, well you have strung this apart for so long, let me send something else.' And I would send them a pitch."
The night that Rowan's cage was destroyed by Drew McIntyre ended up being not only the end of the cage storyline, but the end of Rowan's WWE tenure. That was his final match with the company before being released a month later.
He talked about what he envisioned for his WWE character and what his inspiration was for that character.
"The closest I ever got to what I wanted to be was the Roman Reigns angle and the Daniel Bryan angle and that's when I wore just metal shirts, kicked ass and did horrible things. But in my head, I was justified for those horrible things because with any heel you're psychotic," stated Rowan. "He thinks he's doing the right thing, but he's obviously off his rocker. I was a huge fan – I would watch old serial killer interviews in prison and they're off their rockers. You watch all the Netflix true crime shows, these people talk like they know exactly their motives and everything sick and twisted. But in their heads, they're tormented people and they have a lot of a backstory and to me, I would just think about every gimmick I had as Erick Rowan, you can go back to the genius stuff and the rubrics.
"So, my guy is in a coma and regresses back to his childhood and then gets slapped in the face by Brodie to perform The Bludgeon Brothers and then I end up being a psychotic killer again and then I turned vegan with Bryan – very political in the world until I realized that he's just using me as a pawn in his game to get his own agenda over. So, who was the heel from that standpoint? Because I just wanted to get attention and that was the character I wanted to be and we then just regressed back to some craziness because that's what the Erick Rowan character was, I guess. Just a guy who did goofy gimmicks."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit The Ryback Show with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.