5 Superstars who appeared for rival promotions while still under contract with WWE

Several WWE stars have appeared for rival promotions over the years
Several WWE stars have appeared for rival promotions over the years

WWE superstars are considered to be independent contractors. But when they are signed to WWE, they are only allowed to perform for shows that are under the company's umbrella. Occasionally, WWE grants special permission for their wrestlers to appear elsewhere.

In recent years, there have been several WWE stars who have been able to work for other promotions. Usually, these occasions are the results of WWE's working relationships with various companies.

Of course, this pattern isn't always the case. Several stars contracted to WWE have appeared for rival promotions without permission.

#5. Former WWE star Rhyno - IMPACT Slammiversary 2019


Rhyno is one of WWE's cult legends. He came through the ranks in ECW and later found a home in WWE. In recent years, Rhyno returned to the company and won the WWE SmackDown Tag Team Championships with Heath Slater.

Rhyno was part of some interesting storylines for a while. But his career started to fade into obscurity. Naturally, Rhyno made plans to move elsewhere, as his WWE deal expired in July 2019. But the former star decided to move over to IMPACT Wrestling before his contract expired.

In an interview with Sporting News last year, Rhyno admitted that he was still under contract with WWE when he appeared at Slammiversary:

I cannot confirm or deny. But I will go on the record of saying I was still under contract no matter who I worked for. Whether it's my word or a contract, I will do it justice. But with that being said, Rob Van Dam was also under contract when he appeared on Monday Night Raw for the Reunion show.

WWE didn't go on to take any action against Rhyno. His contract was already coming to an end, and they couldn't fire a star that no longer worked for them.

#4. Former WWE star CM Punk - Ring of Honor 2006


CM Punk initially came to WWE from Ring of Honor after he became one of the company's most popular stars. With "The Summer of Punk," he had an incredible farewell when he finally left the company.

Though Punk signed with WWE in 2005, Ring Of Honor found themselves in something of a dilemma the following year. There was a snowstorm in Long Island, New York, in February 2006. As a result, several of the roster's top stars were unable to make the show. The promotion put out a message for help from anyone who was available

They needed all the help they could get. Thankfully, Punk was one star who answered the call. The newly-signed WWE star asked permission to appear at the Ring of Honor show. WWE accepted the request, and Punk went on to make a surprise appearance at the event. Punk's return delighted fans, and it was one of the most shocking moments of 2006.

CM Punk in Ring of Honor
CM Punk in Ring of Honor

#3. Former WWE Champion AJ Styles - NWA Wildside 2017


NWA Wildside was one of the promotions where current WWE star AJ Styles kicked off his wrestling career. During his time there, he first adopted the ring name that's now known around the world.

The company officially closed down back in 2005, but Styles had some fond memories of his time in the company. When he found out that NWA Wildside was holding a reunion in 2017, "The Phenomenal One" wanted to be part of it.

Styles was contracted to WWE at the time. He made his official debut as part of the 2016 WWE Royal Rumble. He was even the WWE United States Champion at the time. WWE allowed Styles to attend the NWA Wildside event, where he didn't actually wrestle. Instead, he appeared with his WWE United States Championship.

Styles, now a former WWE Champion, cut a promo at the show. He thanked fans for supporting him over the years. Styles then signed autographs and posed with the WWE United States Championship for the fans in attendance.

#2. The Hardy Boyz - House of Hardcore 2017


The Hardy Boyz returned to WWE at WWE WrestleMania 33. There, they won the WWE RAW Tag Team Championships. But when The Hardy Boyz initially signed their new WWE contract, they informed the company that they still had several independent dates to fulfill.

One of these dates was the House of Hardcore show in Philadelphia in April 2017. The Hardy Boyz were scheduled to face Bully Ray and Tommy Dreamer. But WWE officials originally refused to allow them to be part of the show. Eventually, as reported by PWInsider, WWE compromised during a meeting with the brothers. The Hardy Boyz were allowed to attend the event, though they couldn't wrestle.

Dreamer then reached out to The Young Bucks. There was an angle planned between the two teams. But when one of The Young Bucks fell ill on the day of the show, Dreamer reached out to The Hardy Boyz again.

This time, the request went to the top of the ladder. Triple H and Vince McMahon finally signed off on the WWE RAW Tag Team Champions wrestling at the event.

The Hardy Boyz in WWE
The Hardy Boyz in WWE

#1. Robbie (The Highlanders) - TNA Live 2008


The Highlanders are a mostly forgettable tag team. They were on WWE TV from 2006 to 2008. Robbie and Rory McAllister were seen as cousins, and they were featured on the WWE RAW roster.

When Rory suffered an injury in February 2008, Robbie was left in a position where he wasn't needed on WWE TV for several months. He made sparse appearances on WWE RAW, so it was obvious that his career was going downhill. Robbie decided to take matters into his own hands and do something drastic.

During a TNA event in March 2008, Robbie was seen in the audience. He was also verbally recognized on camera, though it was by his real name. Apparently, a WWE official called Robbie and told him to immediately leave the building. He was later released from the company in August 2008.

The following year, Robbie admitted in an interview that he wished he could take it back. The appearance accelerated the downfall of his WWE career, as WWE likely felt betrayed by his actions.

It could have been a subconscious thing that I did it because (WWE) weren't using us. Stuff like that. But it was just a dumb thing on my part. I wish I could take it back, but you never can. So now I just have to look and go, 'Oh well."

Robbie Highlander was seemingly seen as an example to any other wrestlers who thought about making this kind of decision, it appears to have worked.

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Edited by Colin Tessier
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