James Ellsworth Shares The Story Behind His Canceled WWE Debut


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We’re currently a little over two months into a WWE without James Ellsworth, and frankly, we at With Spandex miss him every day. Ellsworth was released last November, but he had a solid 16-month run with the biggest sports entertainment company in the world, and had plenty of memorable moments to add to his personal highlight reel.

With his non-compete clause expiring soon, it’s a safe bet we’ll see Ellsworth hitting the indie circuit hard (he’s already teased his “wish list” of opponents). But even though he can’t get back in the ring quite yet, he can still make the rounds on podcasts.

Case in point: Ellsworth is the latest guest on Chris Jericho’s Talk Is Jericho podcast, and the two discuss his entire run in WWE, from being squashed by Braun Strowman to being enslaved by Carmella.

It’s a great listen, especially for this never-before-heard nugget: James Ellsworth was originally supposed to return roughly a month after he got wrecked by Strowman and roughly a month before he popped back up on Smackdown Live, at WWE’s second-biggest event of the year, SummerSlam 2016. As Ellsworth tells it:

I get an email that says, ‘Hey, there’s an idea for you for SummerSlam. It’s Barclays Center; you could drive there from Baltimore.’ I’m thinking I’m gonna be a part of SummerSlam for two weeks. The Friday before SummerSlam, they’re like, ‘Hey, creative changed, we don’t have anything for you, hopefully we’ll have something soon.’

I found out months after that what the SummerSlam thing was supposed to be. When Heath Slater didn’t get drafted by Raw or Smackdown, and he was a free agent. He was trying to get a contract out of them both, he was supposed to come out at SummerSlam, demanding, ‘Daniel Bryan, I want a contract!’ Daniel Bryan’s trying to make it easy for him. ‘All right, I’ll give you a Smackdown contract, all you have to do is beat this guy,’ and it was me! The idea was I was supposed to go over and I was supposed to win the contract. But what happened was Slater winded up getting babyface reactions before then, he was getting over as a babyface doing that angle. If they ever did anything with me, at first, they wanted me to be a babyface. But I was like, ‘Man, I almost had a SummerSlam match with Heath Slater!’ That would’ve been fun.”

Of course, it all worked out for Ellsworth; he went on to have a great run on Smackdown Live, including a feud with AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. And according to Ellsworth, when he had his championship match, he wasn’t even under contract. That’s gotta be the first time Vince McMahon has ever let that happen. The whole episode is worth a listen, so fire it up and settle in:

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