Heath Slater has an encore coming, but this 14-year tour was unforgettable

Impact Wrestling, Heath (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images)
Impact Wrestling, Heath (Photo by Moses Robinson/Getty Images) /

Heath Slater was one of many WWE Superstars released on Wednesday, and he’s already looking forward to the encore after an unforgettable WWE career.

By the end of April 15, what many started to refer to as “Black Wednesday,” dozens of WWE Superstars, talents, producers, and staff were either furloughed or outright released from their contracts. One of those many names was Heath Slater, who has given us over a decade of performances worthy of the encore he’s told us to get ready for.

Originally signed by WWE in 2006, Heath Slater has had an incredible 14 years with the company. While some might feel it wasn’t the best run, Slater’s tenure reached through multiple eras and left a lasting impact on the company.

Just two years after making his in-ring debut, Slater was signed to WWE’s then-developmental territory Deep South Wrestling. The partnership between DSW and WWE ended in the spring of 2007, leading Slater to be one of the original group of wrestlers moved to Florida Championship Wrestling when it was established as the company’s new developmental territory.

After three years of hard work in the developmental system, Heath Slater made his way to the first season of NXT in early 2010 with Christian as his “mentor.” A far cry from the NXT we see today, the brand’s original incarnation was more like a reality show poorly meshed with a wrestling show.

Heath Slater was on the inaugural episode of NXT, teaming with Christian against Carlito and Michael Tarver. During his NXT tenure, Slater even secured landmark victories over Carlito and Chris Jericho in separate singles matches.

On June 7, 2010, Heath Slater made his debut on the main roster during an episode of WWE Raw. Slater, along with fellow NXT “rookies” Wade Barrett, Daniel Bryan, Darren Young, Skip Sheffield (Ryback), Michael Tarver, Justin Gabriel, and David Otunga, interrupted a main event match between John Cena and CM Punk.

The interruption led to a vicious assault on not only Cena and Punk, but also ringside personnel like Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler, and Justin Roberts. The group, who were later identified as The Nexus, also demolished most of the equipment around the ring.

Just four months after debuting on the main roster, Slater and fellow Nexus member Justin Gabriel captured the WWE Tag Team Titles for the first time. Their first reign only lasted 42 days, but it wouldn’t be their last.

When CM Punk took over The Nexus and ousted leader Wade Barrett, it was Heath Slater and Justin Gabriel who were the lone members to refuse Punk’s demanded “initiation” to stay with the group. Forming a new faction, Slater joined up with Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel, and Ezekiel Jackson as The Corre.

While The Corre were together for less than six months, during that time Slater and Gabriel captured the WWE Tag Team Titles two more times and even competed at WrestleMania 27, though it didn’t take long for them to fall short against Big Show, Kane, Kofi Kingston, and Santino Marella in eight-man tag team action. The Corre only lasted a few more months, and Slater continued to partner with Gabriel before branching out on his own in June of 2012.

On June 11, 2012, Heath Slater began calling out “the so-called legends” or “any former WWE Champion” on episode of WWE Raw, leading to moments with Vader, Sycho Sid, Roddy Piper, Wendi Richter, Cyndi Lauper, Doink the Clown, Diamond Dallas Page, Bob Backlund, Scotty 2 Hotty, Rikishi, Road Warrior Animal, Lita, Bradshaw, and Farooq.

While Slater was on the losing end of almost all of these moments, you have to understand the faith the company had in him to work with all of these legendary names, most of whom were in their twilight years. On top of that, it must have been a dream come true for Slater to mix it up with them.

In September of 2012, we saw the creation of one of the most underrated and underappreciated factions in WWE history: 3MB. The trio of Heath Slater and future WWE Champions Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal was nothing short of captivating, despite their inability to curry significant success as a group.

Yet another moment of Heath Slater having an impact in so many levels of WWE over these past 14 years, Slater and McIntyre represented 3MB in early 2013 as part of the tournament to crown the inaugural NXT Tag Team Champions.

By this time, NXT had transitioned from being an odd reality show into WWE’s primary developmental brand. 3MB came up short in the first round against British Ambition (Adrian Neville and Oliver Grey), who went on to defeat Kassius Ohno and Leo Kruger and The Wyatt Family to become the eventual winners of the tournament and inaugural NXT Tag Team Champions.

Unfortunately, the group did not get a chance to have a lasting existence as Mahal and McIntyre were released by WWE in June of 2014. Over the next few years, an alliance with Titus O’Neil and dubbed Slater-Gator and eventual faction with Curtis Axel, Adam Rose, and Bo Dallas called The Social Outcasts failed to net Slater any significant success.

When WWE brought back the brand split in 2016, Heath Slater ended up being the only active superstar to go undrafted. It seemed at first to be a bad omen for Slater, just one week later he cut arguably the best promo of his career before an attack by Rhyno set up one of the most unlikely and entertaining teams in recent WWE history.

While struggling in the following weeks to earn a spot on either brand’s roster, Slater began making an impassioned plea that he needed the job because, as Slater put it, “I got kids.” Ultimately, he would form a tag team with Rhyno and set his sights on the SmackDown Tag Team Titles and a shot at a SmackDown contract.

At Backlash 2016, Slater and Rhyno defeated The Usos in the finals of a tournament to crown the inaugural WWE SmackDown Tag Team Champions. On top of that, by virtue of his victory, Slater had finally earned a SmackDown contract.

With their reign going strong, Slater and Rhyno even represented Team SmackDown as the captains in that year’s 10-on-10 Survivor Series Tag Team Elimination match. While they lost the titles at TLC 2016, Slater and Rhyno continued to team together until December of 2018.

During the final year and change of his WWE career, Heath Slater captured his first singles championship, and ultimately his last title before being released by WWE. On June 24, 2019, Slater defeated R-Truth to become the WWE 24/7 Champion, but almost immediately lost the title back to R-Truth.

The One Man Band sang his last song in WWE in a losing effort against Daniel Bryan on February 21, 2020 at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, AZ. On April 15, 2020, we saw this amazing 14-year tour come to an end when Heath Slater was released from his WWE contract.

After understandably taking a day to process everything, Heath Slater took to Instagram to speak from the heart about the career he’s had in WWE and his renewed hunger.

"“Man, what a ride. I’ve literally been everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I guess you guys want to hear the bullshit, right? I’m kidding. WWE has provided me and my family with income, so we’ll be okay, and experiences, opportunities, and relationships that never would have happened if I didn’t work there. We all have our ups and downs, but ultimately, WWE built a dream for me, that some saw not even a reality. I am met with gratitude for that. I know that my WWE family, my wife, my kids, the WWE universe, could see that my fire was fading. That’s all on me. Putting everyone else over, all the damn time, can take a toll on me. The outpouring of love from the locker room, staff, and WWE universe has been extremely overwhelming. I’m seeing now, something your accomplishments aren’t what you do in the ring, but what you do behind the scenes. I had no idea how much love I had until yesterday. And that’s the hardest part of letting go of this chapter of my life. I want to say thank you to the WWE family. It wouldn’t work without the people behind the scenes. You gave me 14 years. And now, come July 17, I can spread my wings and fly a little bit. I feel that fire again that I didn’t have. I’m ready to get in shape, legit. I feel hungry again. Very hungry. I haven’t felt that in a long time. No bullshit, get ready for the encore. I’m going to comeback better than ever. That’s a fact,” he said. [H/T Fightful for the transcript]"

Heath Slater was only 22 years old when he was originally signed by WWE. Now, the 36-year-old departs the company having left an indelible mark on fans who gave an outpouring of love and support when news hit of his release.

As difficult as it was to hear that Slater’s time in WWE was over, he has already turned his attention to the future. Parodying his iconic “I Got Kids” t-shirt, Heath Slater has already released an “I Got Fired” shirt on Pro Wrestling Tees.

It’s been an amazing ride for Slater, but the encore may be like nothing anyone could have seen coming. His in-ring talent and charisma have been on display in losing efforts and overlooked factions for the better part of the last decade, but now Slater will get an opportunity to push himself when independent wrestling returns to normalcy.

Personally, I am beyond excited to see what we see from Slater outside of WWE. The dream matches on the horizon with names like EFFY, Danhausen, and so many others were ones we couldn’t have even imagined just a few weeks ago.

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Whatever the future holds for Heath Slater, his fans aren’t going anywhere. The One Man Band will continue to be loved and appreciated by those who have seen him grow and show his abilities, and maybe one day we’ll even see him follow the path traveled by Jinder Mahal and Drew McIntyre and the 3MB prophecy will finally be fulfilled.