Former WWE Superstar Tye Dillinger, now going by Shawn Spears, made headlines on Tuesday afternoon when All Elite Wrestling announced that he'd be competing in the 21-man Casino Battle Royale at the Double or Nothing pay-per-view event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Dillinger formally announced his release request from the WWE back in February, and the 90-day no-compete clause in his contract will have expired by the time he appears on the show. Shortly after the announcement, Dillinger gave an interview with Sports Illustrated where he explained why he's joining the new promotion.
"I'm coming to AEW because I believe in what they are doing," Dillinger said. "I believe in providing an alternative for fans, and I really believe that the audience has wanted an alternative for quite some time. This is now the platform to give people exactly what they want, and I am really looking forward to proving myself in AEW."
"I'm able to bring a great deal of experience to a company that is looking to build young talent, which is vital to the future of professional wrestling," he later added. "I've known Cody [Rhodes] for a very long time, and in terms of this endeavor, there are no better four guys than Cody, the Young Bucks and Kenny Omega that I would trust to put this together. AEW is history-making. When the chance presented itself to be a part of something so groundbreaking, I wasn't going to wait around any longer."
Dillinger's second stint with the WWE lasted from 2013-19. He spent the first four years of that run in NXT, morphing from a midcard heel into a fan-favorite underdog babyface with his "Perfect 10" persona. After struggling on the main card after getting called up to SmackDown Live in 2017, Dillinger requested his release back on Feb. 19.
In an interview with Edge and Christian on the E&C Pod of Awesomeness in May, he explained what drove him to asking to leave the company.0comments
"I was dreading it," he said while describing the final months of his time on the main roster. "I was back there going, 'Please respond; please make noise; please cheer.' I was pleading, not to the audience, but whoever would hear me. I was praying, essentially, that they would still acknowledge that I existed. I was spiralling. And when your performance is suffering, and when you're not giving it your all, they see it and they can feel it. And it's not fair to them. So I couldn't place myself in that position anymore. I would take it home with me. Instead of enjoying the two days I had off, I was dreading the third day when I'd have to leave already. It was time to go. I was probably late in leaving, actually."
The Casino Battle Royale will air for free as part of "The Buy In" kickoff show on AEW's YouTube page.