James Ellsworth said that the timing of his release from WWE last fall caught him completely off guard.
Ellsworth noted that he had just returned home from a 16-day tour of the United Kingdom, which included a match with Becky Lynch for Smackdown, when he got the call from Mark Carano, WWE's head of talent relations.
"He's like, 'Hey, got some news for you.' As soon as he said that my heart dropped," Ellworth recalled, noting that Carano told him that WWE felt Ellsworth's character "ran its course for now."
Ellsworth tried to lobby for him to stay on, pitching a slew of concepts to Carano.
"I start spitting out ideas [saying] 'Well, can't I get to 205 Live?' and like, 'She [Carmella] still has the briefcase.' That's my first initial reaction, there's so much more left I can do, and I still feel that way. I still feel like there was so much more I had left to do. I 'm not bitter about it. Like, I'm so appreciative of the run. Again, I had so much fun. I got to do stuff I never thought I would ever do in my life."
Trying to identify the exact reason he was released, Ellsworth theorized that it may have been because he got too comfortable in his role.
Ellsworth's last run of shows with WWE, during the international tour, included him getting beat down at nearly every stop by the entire Smackdown women's division.