Even though it wasn't a surprise, the name on WWE's "Black Friday" 2016 cut list which fans were most upset about was Damien Sandow.
In his first interview since being released, Damien Sandow told Aaron Oster of Rolling Stone his reaction was similar. He wasn't surprised, and the response from fans helped him keep his whole career in perspective:
Look at the reaction I got this week, out of all the guys who were released. Look at the reaction I got from the crowd when I was there. It was because I put everything I had into my performance, and it always showed. I did in four years what it takes some people ten years to do. I took the audience through the whole spectrum of emotions in four years. If that's my legacy, as far as the WWE is concerned, I'm grateful, and I'm grateful for them for giving me the platform to do that. I had fun. I think the fans had a lot of fun.
WWE fans, they know their stuff. They know what's good. Do I have regrets? Absolutely not. I'm trying to think if there's one thing I would have done differently. Not really. I can't think of one. I maximized my time. I had a great time doing it. And it's presenting me with new opportunities that I'm going to look to take advantage of now.
Sandow, who, according to the Rolling Stone article, will now be going by Aaron Stevens for the bookings he's currently taking as part of "Thank You" tour for fans, repeatedly says he has no issues with WWE.
Even when discussing his Money in the Bank cash-in against John Cena, where he says, "I absolutely did think I was going to take that big step", or the booking of WrestleMania 31's Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, which served as the blow-off for his angle as Miz's stunt double, Sandow considers those stories - and his performance within them - a success because of how we as fans responded to them.
He repeatedly empathizes with both the company for the creative decisions they have to make and fellow wrestlers who may benefit from time that was no longer going to him in discussing times where the fans think he should have been pushed, and even his release.
Probably because he's got a lot of interests and ideas for how to satisfy his desire to perform for an audience. To hear him tell it, the independent bookings he's taking now are only to give something back to the fans who've supported him. After that, it's on to acting - probably in film, but he says he's studying Shakespeare and may even pursue theater.
He's not closing the door on a return to the ring, though, even if it sounds like he's not jonesing for another WWE run:
When you say full-time, full-time in the WWE is very different than full-time elsewhere. I am not going to rule out anything. I don't want to limit myself. It's not like when I finish up my "Thank You Tour," I'm going to be burning my boots. It is an aspect of performance, and if I can use whatever avenue to perform. If the fans want it, and they're digging it, if it coincides with whatever project I decide to take, then I'm open to anything. It's a very exciting time, and I'm not opposed to performing in a wrestling ring. You never know.
Check out the whole interview for more on these topics, and also how he and Miz developed the stunt double act, non-wrestling roles he pitched to WWE for himself and more.