Tye Dillinger requests release from WWE

Tye Dillinger announced Wednesday that he had requested his release from WWE. He last appeared on WWE TV in September 2018. Vaughn Ridley for ESPN

Tye Dillinger -- real name Ronald Arneill -- announced Wednesday at midnight that he had requested his release from WWE.

"Before rumors begin to spread, let me set things straight ahead of time: This evening, I requested my release from WWE," Dillinger said in a statement released on Twitter. "In the past 5 and a half years with them, I have seen and done some wonderful things. Things I am very proud of and will never forget. I have met and have worked with unquestionably, some of the greatest talent on this earth and the pleasure has been all mine.

"I feel at this time this decision, as extremely difficult as it was, is what is best for myself and WWE. I wish to continue to grow as a performer and offer those paying hard earned money to watch a show I'm performing on, a little more of myself," the statement continued. "To the male and female locker rooms, coaches and producers, to the production/ring crew, all the way up to the very top of WWE and most of all the fans... I wish you all the very best and thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything."

On Friday, WWE officially announced that Dillinger had been granted his release.

Dillinger, 38, spent two different stretches of his career with WWE. He first signed with WWE and performed under the name Shawn Spears at their then-developmental partner Ohio Valley Wrestling. He'd later move on to Florida Championship Wrestling, and then debuted for WWE's reimagined version of ECW as Gavin Spears. He lost a handful of televised matches, and was ultimately released in early 2009.

After spending more than four years performing independently, Dillinger resigned with WWE and reported to NXT in 2013. As the character of Tye Dillinger evolved, he eventually took on the persona of "The Perfect 10" -- and the NXT crowd got behind Dillinger with a groundswell of organic support. Dillinger performed on a number of NXT TakeOver specials, peaking with an eight-person tag team match that also featured Roderick Strong, Kassius Ohno, Ruby Riott and SAnitY.

Dillinger appeared in the 2017 Royal Rumble match -- appropriately enough, at No. 10 -- and fans continued to embrace the "10" chant. He was set to be No. 10 again in 2018, until he was taken out of that match backstage by Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Highlights of his main roster run include United States championship opportunities against AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura; that title shot against Nakamura on Sept. 25 was his last televised WWE appearance to date.

After dealing with an injury in October, Dillinger returned to action on WWE live events in early February.

Speculation about Dillinger's future is likely to turn toward upstart promotion All Elite Wrestling, with one of the Executive Vice Presidents being Cody Rhodes -- one of Dillinger's longtime friends dating back to their time in OVW.

In a reply on Twitter, Rhodes said, "Fearless. I can't wait to see what you do next. I wish you all the happiness in the world old friend. Don't settle."