When Shawn Spears, known as Tye Dillinger during his time in WWE, asked for his release from the company, it was expected that he’d land on his feet. While he was used sparingly during his time in WWE despite finding success in NXT that included admiration from the fans, he has still proven to be a more than capable talent in the ring who has a strong work ethic and drive to strive.
When he made his appearance at AEW’s Double or Nothing event in the Casino Battle Royale match, it was his first major appearance since leaving the company. Quite frankly, it was his first major appearance in a while as he was injured prior to the release and even when healthy, was hardly used as mentioned.
The timing of his release from the company worked out perfectly for the Perfect 10, however, as his 90-day no-compete clause expired just one night before Double or Nothing took place. This was incredibly fortuitous, especially considering the timing of when he asked for release and when he was officially granted the release.
In an interview with Chris Van Vliet, Spears would talk about how it’s possible WWE was doing him a solid in their final goodbye.
“I asked for my release on my birthday, February 19th. I was verbally granted it on Friday, which was the 22nd or something but I needed the paperwork officially and I didn’t get that until the following week. Had they waited an extra 24 hours, I would not have been able to do Double or Nothing so I think WWE was being gracious.
They knew what was going on. I think they allowed me to be out at that time to do whatever I wanted to do, including Double or Nothing. I could be completely wrong and it might have slipped their minds, I don’t know but I like to think that I had earned that mutual respect.”
Dillinger, of course, is far from the only superstar on WWE’s roster to have asked for a release in recent months. Even before AEW was announced to be in the works, many wrestlers have publicly (and some privately) voiced their displeasure with their role or direction in WWE and have looked to become free agents.
While this isn’t a rare case, Dillinger actually being granted his release is the exception rather than the rule. This is something he’d mention when Van Vliet asked about his release being granted versus others’ whose requests were not.
“That’s tough to answer because no one else was granted their release. And it’s one of three things, maybe it was a mutual respect that I had built up with them. I was with them for eight and a half years total including my first time around. I did things right, I never got into any trouble. I was professional and I carried myself well and always did what I was asked to do.
So that was one thing, the other thing is that statement that I put out later that evening on February 19th kind of handcuffed them a little bit. If they would have kept me, that might have made a lot of people unhappy. If they would have kept me and utilized me in a negative way or have me get killed on TV every week that would have made people upset. I think it put me in the best position possible to get what I was looking for.
And the third possible reason is maybe they didn’t see anything in me and they go ‘You know what? We don’t see any value. It is time to go, so go ahead and to be honest with you I really hope it’s that one. I really, really do because that just fuels a little more fire.”
It may seem weird to turn down a significant contract offer with a substantial raise when the alternative option is an independent circuit that offers very little in terms of guarantees. For Spears, though, the decision to turn down the substantial raise offer and ultimately ask for his release came down to fear of regret.
“Because I’m scared [expletive] of regret. It’s going to matter to me when I’m 70 and I’m not mobile and I can’t do much else with my life except think, I’m going to think about three things: whether I was a good person, whether I was a good father and whether or not I lived a life worth living and that includes what I did with my career.
So did I settle for money that I could no longer use. It might support my family, that’s great, but it’s no use to me selfishly. Or am I going to, when all I can do is think, think back and smile and go ‘I did it on my terms.’ I finished the matches the way I wanted to. I went out of my in-ring career the way I wanted to. Those things later on in life are all that I’m going to be able to think about.
That was the deciding factor when asking to leave. I didn’t let them get the number out. They told me they were going to give me a substantial raise and I just went it’s not going to change how I feel tomorrow morning when I wake up.”
Spears would also talk about his feelings about debuting in AEW, how his situation affects Peyton Royce, his real-life fiance and WWE Women’s Tag Team Champion as well as many other topics. The full interview can be found here.