On Friday morning, Drew Hankinson was on the phone with WWE Creative, talking about a new direction for his Luke Gallows character over the coming weeks. On Friday afternoon, while on the way to a funeral, John Laurinaitis, head of WWE Talent Relations, called to say he was released.
Under most circumstances, it would be a devastating blow for a young star.
But not to Hankinson.
“I don’t have a big ego, but I don’t feel like I suck. I’m still getting better. I feel that as a big guy, I’m a really good athlete. I think the sky’s the limit, man. Why not?” he told SLAM! Wrestling one day after his release. “I’ve not gotten to really break out, I’ve not gotten any good mic time. I think that if I do that, and I present myself as a character that people can sink their teeth into, there’s no reason that I can’t be right back in the mainstream and on national television, in the next six months or a year. I feel very strongly about that; you can call me back and tell me I was dumb for saying that, but I’m positive about it.”
As Luke Gallows, Hankinson was a member of the Straight Edge Society, until it started to splinter as Serena was released and CM Punk on his way — eventually — to Monday Night Raw.
“I really felt we were going to capitalize on it. The agents always acted like they were into it. The creative people, I don’t know if it was a Vince [McMahon] thing or Johnny [Laurinaitis], not to go for it,” Hankinson theorized. “I had the match with Punk and then we were supposed to start the Roughneck babyface thing next week, and it never got off the ground. We kept talking about it. They brought Freddie Prinze in, and Freddie and I had some really good ideas.”
He said that he was going to be a babyface “doing all kinds of cool stuff that I think people would have really dug.”
Being unemployed is a new experience for the 26-year-old Hankinson, who has been under contract to the WWE since he was 21.
“I’ve never been fired before. When I was working indies, I was lucky to get $50 or $75. This is a whole new realm for me,” he said of taking bookings on his own.
“I kind of settled on a price and shot it out there. Nobody’s been surprised by it. I’m a networker. Just from the time I was released yesterday, I’ve got 12 bookings, a convention, and I’ve agreed to do maybe 20 interviews.”
The marketing aspect is a little more difficult, as he isn’t allowed to be Luke Gallows or Festus, even if all his wrestling gear identifies him as such. For now, he’s Big L.G. “No one wants to book Drew Hankinson or Dorian Deville from the indy circuit six years ago,” he joked.
Hankinson is under the standard 90-day no compete clause from his WWE contract, which allows him to work independents, but not on television. He is fortunate to have been made into action figures and to be in the WWE video games, so will continue to receive royalty cheques from those aspects of his past.
Others released on Friday include Jillian Hall, Tiffany, Shad Gaspard of Cryme Tyme, Vance Archer and Caylen Croft.
He didn’t know Archer too well, but they are already booked together for a 10-date tour of Europe in February. “I’ve got big man love for him,” Hankinson joked. Traveling is a goal. “I’ve always wanted to wrestle in Japan, but I’ve never gotten to.”
His real buddy of the bunch was Croft. “He really didn’t get any time at all [on TV]. We’re like best friends. He used to be my neighbour in Louisville. We’ve been friends forever. I don’t know how much he’s wanting to get out there. I just called him up. ‘Hey, man, I’m taking these bookings. If you want to do any with me, jump on board.'”
Hankinson is also open to bookings with Serena and even Ray Gordy, who was Jesse when he was Festus. They recently had a few beers together, along with Jimmy Wang Yang.
Released in April, Gordy is a sheriff’s deputy in Cobb County, Georgia now. “He kind of wanted to get away from the wrestling thing a little bit because he’s been around it his whole life, in a different light, not from a fan’s perspective, but growing up with his dad, and the things that went on with that, I think he had a tough road to hoe. I think he misses being around the guys. I think we’re going to go out and do some shows together.”
It’s not just in-ring action for Hankinson, either.
“I’m having a lot of fun booking these things, doing a couple of interviews, and all that. I’ll go hit the conventions too, because I’m a fan too. I just like being around it.”
Promoters looking to book Drew Hankinson can email [email protected].