Harper's WWE status is currently up in the air but WWE had plans for him to return to the ring and work a program with Zayn, according to Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio. There's no word yet on why they changed direction, but the Zayn - Harper feud was nixed.
After undergoing double ligament reconstruction surgery on October 2, 2018, Harper was cleared to return to the ring on February 6 of this year. For one reason or another, WWE never brought him back to the storylines and he worked just a few non-televised matches. He was brought to just one TV taping since the surgery in October. At 39 years old, Harper reportedly felt like it was time to move on from WWE so he could continue his pro wrestling career, because they apparently had nothing for him. This is why he requested his release earlier this month. Meltzer noted that one source close to the situation said leaving WWE would be best for Harper.
As noted earlier this week, via the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Harper won't be able to leave WWE until around WrestleMania 36 time in 2020 because WWE has decided to add another 6 months to his contract to make up for the time he missed for wrist surgery. The contract was to end in November of this year, but WWE has added to it because it was "frozen" while he was on the shelf with the injury. It remains to be seen if WWE plans on bringing him back to TV before the contract expires. He is currently listed on the SmackDown roster.
There's no word yet on if Harper was trying to get released so he could go work for All Elite Wrestling, but he indicated he was ready to continue his career and AEW was rumored. Harper is good friends with AEW's Vice President of Business Strategy, Chris Harrington.
The former WWE Intercontinental Champion and SmackDown Tag Team Champion took to Twitter back on April 16 to announce that he had requested his release from the company. Before that, going into his Worlds Collide match with Dominik Dijakovic at the WrestleMania 35 Axxess tapings, Harper had tweeted about being unhappy with his position in the company and being concerned with his future. Harper won that match over Dijakovic, which was his first WWE TV match since late summer 2018. He then appeared in the 6th Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal on the WrestleMania 35 Kickoff pre-show, but was eliminated by winner Braun Strowman. WrestleMania 35 could end up being Harper's final WWE appearance.
Stay tuned for updates on Harper's WWE status and future. His release request was no surprise due to the previous comments on Twitter. For those who missed it, you can see his release statement below:
"As of this evening, I have requested a release from WWE. The past 6 years have been a simply, amazing journey around the world and back with lifelong friends and family. I am proud of it all and proud to say I shared the ring with my co workers.
This decision, as difficult as it was, feels right for myself and WWE. My goal in the future is to continue to grow as a performer and person and continue to make my family proud.
Thank you. From the top to the bottom of WWE. Thank you to the fans for your undying support. Thank you everyone."
Below is the original statement from late March:
I'm 39 years old.
I've been cleared since February 6th. I haven't been brought to one television taping since I left to have double ligament reconstruction surgery on October 2nd, 2018.
6 years ago, I wrestled multiple matches at Axxess as part of FCW and was involved in Undertakers entrance. 5 years ago, I had a front row seat to watch Bray Wyatt wrestle John Cena. 4 years ago, I competed for the Intercontinental Championship in my first Wrestlemania singles match. 3 years ago, I wrestled Brock Lesnar in Toronto on a network special. 2 years ago, I came within inches of competing for the WWE Championship in the very math AJ Styles won his first and within inches of being part of the WWE championship match at Wrestlemania with Bray and Randy. 1 year ago, I won the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Championships with Rowan while my wife and 2 sons watched from the front row.
Next Thursday I will be wrestling Donovan Dijak at Axxess.
I read all the texts I got that said, "you're back on axxess???" I was kind to all the people at the gym asking if I'm retired. I swallowed my pride when agents and writers aasked me if I was still hurt when completely healthy. And now here we are. April 4th, 2019 "When Worlds Collide" at Axxess. Luke Harper vs. Donovan Dijak. How will I respond? How will I change things? Well to all of you this may just be a throwaway Axxess match, but I can assure you to me it is much, much more. This is test. No one has to be happy with the results except me. That's the true test. Do I still have it? Can I compete with a young, up and coming, incredibly talented, nxt prospect? Am I too old? Has the game passed me by? Am I as good as I really think I am? It brings me near tears to write this because I truly believe I have so f--king much to offer this industry. I believe I will be a World Heavyweight Champion someday. I believe that, but these are the doubts I live with daily. These are the doubts that creep in your head during rehab. These are the thoughts you think when you watch your left side atrophy. Being ignored and left home for months exasperated these thoughts and it sucked.
I have so much to prove to myself, to WWE, to the industry of professional wrestling, to my wife and it is my responsibility to show my kids how to handle adversity. Next Thursday is the answer. Are the doubts real or is this the first step of the climb?
I promise you I will come prepared and you will get my very best that night Mr. Dijak. Just know, be careful thinking of this as just an axxess match because to me, this is Wrestlemania. I'm not throwing away my shot.