2005 was a strange year for Rhyno. After floundering around the main roster without a pay-per-view match in months, he was harshly released from WWE after an incident involving a flower pot WrestleMania 21 weekend. Despite it all, he found a way to turn things around and make 2005 his year.
2005: The Year of the Rhyno
The year was 2005. John Cena and Batista were breaking into the main event scene. CM Punk was becoming the guy to keep an eye on. Jeff Jarrett welcomed all challengers that stepped foot in the Impact Zone. But there was a rumbling in the jungle from a brick powerhouse who rose up to reclaim his top throne in an act of courage and a moment of redemption. Even though the Alpha Male Monty Brown was pouncing anyone in his path throughout the Serengeti, it was one Rhyno that would have his moment in the sun.
At the start of 2005, Rhyno was in a tag team with the Japanese Buzzsaw Tajiri. The tandem had unsuccessfully challenged for the World Tag Team Championship on several occasions and was a bit of a change from when the Man Beast was competing for the United States Championship on Smackdown a year prior. Rhyno was always counted on to get a guaranteed pop, generally at the start of the show, with his signature entrance music and charge to the ring. Fans would stand up out of their seat as the former ECW Champion would signal for the Gore. Rhyno split his time between Monday Night RAW and Sunday Night Heat with an increasing amount of appearances on the latter.
As the road to WrestleMania 21 continued, Rhyno didn’t find a spot on the card and hadn’t had a match on pay-per-view in months. He traveled with the WWE roster to be in Los Angeles for WrestleMania weekend which included the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, WrestleMania, and the following RAW and Smackdown events. WrestleMania came and went but there was a rather surprising piece of news that broke later in the week. PWInsider had reported “The WWE informed Rhyno this afternoon that he was being released due to an incident at WrestleMania 21 with his wife in the hotel lobby. We will see if WWE makes an announcement on their website however it is confirmed that Rhyno is finished with WWE as of this afternoon.”
It came as a big surprise even though talent releases were far more common during this time period. The Wrestling Observer newsletter would add more detail with the following: “Reportedly, Rhyno and his wife are undergoing a nasty separation, with his wife planning to take their daughter to Germany. His wife showed up at the pay-per-view without Rhyno’s daughter, prompting him to express his discontent with the fact that he would not get to see his child. An argument broke out and Rhyno picked up an extremely heavy flower pot, smashing it in frustration. Hotel security actually stepped in, and Tommy Dreamer was dispatched to bring Rhyno upstairs. Upon getting off the elevator, Johnny Ace met the duo, but Rhyno snapped and tried to go back down. He made it clear that he had nothing left to lose and didn’t care if he was fired.”
“I was very irresponsible. As a man, you have to take responsibility for your actions.”
I had asked Rhyno about the release when I sat down with him for Journey of a Frontman. “Well, I was released from WWE for a little incident, but it’s not a secret,” Rhyno began. “It involved alcohol and I was going through a difficult time in my life. Alcohol wasn’t an issue, I just happened to be drinking. And I was very irresponsible. As a man, you have to take responsibility for your actions. Every action. There was no physicality, I just threw a flower pot. I laugh at it now and my ex-wife laughs at it now. But like I said, you have to be a man and stand up. No matter what was said or done, there is no excuse for the behavior. And when you behave, you have to be responsible. I understand what I had to do, I had to work hard and work towards the indies.”
How Rhyno found a spot on WWE’s inaugural ECW One Night Stand pay-per-view despite being released two months before
When WWE brought back ECW with the inaugural One Night Stand event, a collection of ECW stars appeared on RAW and Smackdown in the week leading up to the show. The tribe ranged from familiar faces like the Dudley Boyz and Tommy Dreamer to surprises including the Sandman and Balls Mahoney but perhaps the most interesting appearance was from Rhyno who had been released from WWE and hadn’t been on programming for two months. There was a feeling of surrealism seeing Rhyno back on WWE television, if only for one night. It was up there with Christian returning to the Impact Zone for one night only as the Intercontinental Champion in 2012, Rick Rude appearing on RAW and Nitro television on the same night, and as Rob Van Dam appearing on July 22, 2019’s RAW Reunion show despite his recent multiple appearances with Impact Wrestling.
Rhyno remembers the scene well and recalled what was going on at the time.
“We already had the One Night Stand booked and I fulfilled my commitment with that. They wanted me to honor that commitment and we did good business. We professionally parted ways. They were good on their part and did everything as far as they were contractually obligated to, they did not try to mess around or anything.”
This was in no way a full-fledged return to the company. Following that night at the Hammerstein Ballroom, the WWE landscape remained the same.
The following month, TNA mentioned a big acquisition for the company. At the end of No Surrender 2005, Rhyno had arrived in the Impact Zone by goring the NWA World Champion Raven. The War Machine had found his new home with TNA and was primed to be one of the top faces with the company debuting on Spike TV that fall. Just a week before the big premiere, Rhyno captured the NWA Championship from Jeff Jarrett at the very first Bound for Glory. It was undoubtedly a feel-good moment and even though his title reign quickly came to an end, Rhyno was in a much better position on the card than he had been with WWE. He was heavily featured in main event storylines and matches with Abyss, Christian Cage, AJ Styles and many more. Rhyno was able to successfully revitalize his career in TNA and come out rejuvenated much like EC3, Matt Hardy and Bully Ray have in recent years.
Rhyno looks back on this time period and said on Journey of a Frontman, “It was just one of those things where it was a very good learning experience. But it was a good situation for me. I made it a good situation by learning from the mistake and that mistake becomes an error, then I move forward in my career. I put my nose to the grindstone and worked to keep my career going. I moved forward, there’s no dispute about it. I began to create some good memories.”
Rhyno would find his way back to WWE in 2015 working with the stars of tomorrow on NXT and eventually ended up in a beloved tag team with Heath Slater where they will always be known as the first-ever Smackdown Tag Team Champions. The former NWA Champion would make a surprising return to Impact Wrestling by appearing at Slammiversary on July 7, 2019. At forty-three years old, Rhyno shows no signs of slowing down and looks to continue to engage audiences and capture further championships. In 2005, Rhyno was given a chance at redemption. In 2019, Rhyno will once again make an impact.