In some surprising and unfortunate bit of news, Shelton Benjamin has revealed that he is currently not under contract to WWE. Not only that, but he wasn’t signed with them during the brand split in the first place, even when they were promoting his impending return on TV!
This news comes from Benjamin himself who took to Twitter to answer a fan’s question about his status in the company.
The initial announcement of his return was a bit of a surprise, but this latest chapter just makes the whole ordeal stranger. It’s also a depressing development for Benjamin and his fans due to the timing of everything.
On the July 26, 2016 episode of SmackDown, a vignette aired hyping Benjamin’s impending arrival. He was getting set to make his big return to the company for the first time since 2010, and would be joining fellow formerly released talent in Rhyno and Curt Hawkins on the blue brand. For many, it was the most exciting return of the group due to their fondness of the athletically gifted wrestler from years ago. But for Benjamin, it was not meant to be.
Just a few weeks later, on Aug. 7, Benjamin found out that he had a torn rotator cuff while undergoing a WWE physical, and was told he’d have to miss a considerable amount of ring time. Originally, though, it was expected to be 4-to-6 months of recovery, but he’s gone well past that timeframe, which led to many wondering what his status was.
Some fans still assumed he would debut on SmackDown after he was cleared to return, thinking he must have originally signed a deal with the company over the summer. However, over eight months after he revealed his injury, he still hadn’t shown up on TV. Someone had to break the news as to what was going on, so Benjamin took it upon himself.
It’s now hard to say if Benjamin will ever show up on either SmackDown or Raw (or even NXT) in the near future, which is unfortunate. WWE would have to reach out again, negotiate, give him another physical, and most importantly, find a place that he fits in on the show. Due to his age (41), if WWE is going to bring him back, they should probably get to it soon.
Benjamin originally debuted in WWE in late 2002, as a part of Team Angle. He found success with Charlie Haas and Kurt Angle, then later went out on his own and nearly broke through to the main event scene. In a classic match on Raw, Benjamin pinned Triple H right after being drafted to the show in 2004. He looked poised to become a big star, but it never panned out for him. After being paired with his “Momma,” his career was sunk and never came close to reaching its past heights.
The last we saw of Benjamin in WWE, he was on the ECW brand, and was mainly used to put younger talent over. Perhaps one more run could help him reach some of his unfulfilled potential.
Despite being over 40, Benjamin is still in fantastic shape and has kept himself busy post-WWE by competing in Japan and Ring of Honor. If he joined SmackDown, he would have great matches to look forward to with Sami Zayn, A.J. Styles, Kevin Owens and more. He’s a reliable hand in the ring and has a ton of experience around the globe. There’s a lot of good reasons for the company to bring him in, but it’s no longer a sure thing that it’s going to happen.
The entire situation is a shame, as SmackDown was so close to having a feel-good story in the return of Benjamin. Hopefully, WWE realizes that any of their brands could still use his talent and that The Gold Standard will get to end his wrestling career on a high note.
[Featured Image by WWE]