Backstage Updates On Tonight’s WWE NXT Releases

As noted, 12 WWE NXT talents were released late tonight while WWE aired the SmackDown on FOX broadcast. The following names were released – Bronson Reed, Tyler Rust, Bobby Fish, Leon Ruff, Mercedes Martinez, Jake Atlas, Ari Sterling, Asher Hale, Zechariah Smith, Giant Zanjeer, Kona Reeves, and referee Stephon Smith.

11:15pm ET UPDATE: Desmond Troy has also been released, as announced on his Twitter. That makes 13 releases tonight. You can click here for the report.

It was reported by PWInsider that this is the complete list of cuts made this week, and no other releases were made tonight. Fightful reports that all of the releases were announced to the rest of the company via a message from WWE Talent Relations head John Laurinaitis.

Regarding non-compete clauses, the majority of the 12 talents released tonight are under 30-day non-competes, as is typical with the NXT brand, according to Fightful Select. This would make them free agents on Sunday, September 5. It was not confirmed that all 12 releases are under 30-day non-compete clauses, but we will keep you updated.

Reed signed with WWE in January 2019. He won the NXT North American Title back on May 18, but dropped it to Isaiah "Swerve" Scott on June 29. He had been rumored for a main roster call-up. Reed's last match came on the July 21 NXT show, a main event loss to Adam Cole.

Rust signed with WWE in December 2020. His release was a surprise as he was a member of the new Diamond Mine stable with Roderick Strong, Malcolm Bivens and Hachiman. Rust last wrestled on the July 20 NXT show as he and Strong lost to Fish and NXT Cruiserweight Champion Kushida.

Fish is another surprising release. The 44 year old former Undisputed Era member signed with WWE in June 2017. His last match came on this week's NXT show, a loss to Strong.

Ruff signed with WWE in October 2020 after making several appearances the year before. He had been away from NXT since his May 11 loss to Pete Dunne, but made his return to action on tonight's WWE 205 Live episode, which was taped last week, defeating Grayson Waller.

Martinez is another veteran talent that comes as a bit of a surprise. The 40 year old signed with WWE in January 2020 after working the Mae Young Classic in 2017 and 2018, and making other appearances for the company. Martinez last wrestled on the June 29 NXT show when she and Atlas lost to Xia Li and Boa in a mixed tag team bout. Martinez suffered a reported concussion during that match, and has been away since then.

Atlas signed with WWE in October 2019 after appearing on a 2018 episode of Celebrity Undercover Boss with WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon, as an indie wrestler. He was hired as a WWE Ambassador on the show, and made some "Be A Star" appearances. Atlas' last match came on last week's 205 Live show, a win over Sterling.

Sterling's last appearance came on tonight's 205 Live show, which was taped last week. He lost a non-title match to NXT Cruiserweight Champion Kushida. Sterling signed with WWE in December 2020.

Hale signed with WWE in January of this year. His last match came on 205 Live last Friday, a loss to Drake Maverick.

The 7 foot, 300 pound Smith signed with WWE in January 2020 after a successful college basketball run. He never got the chance to make his debut.

The 7 foot 2 inch, 340 pound Zanjeer was signed by WWE in January 2020, and played basketball and cricket before that. His only match came at the WWE Superstar Spectacle event in January, teaming with Shanky, Ricochet and Rey Mysterio for a win over Dolph Ziggler, Cesaro, Baron Corbin and King Shinsuke Nakamura.

Reeves signed with WWE back in May 2014. He has not wrestled since the February 19, 2020 NXT show, where he took a loss to Keith Lee.

Smith, a former wrestler, was signed to work as a referee in October 2019. He had worked full-time for the brand.

Stay tuned for updates.