There are numerous superstars in the WWE Universe, and several of them have overstayed their welcome. With five hours of live television a week and monthly pay per views (or “events” in the network era) there should be more than enough room to develop dozens of characters that the audience cares about. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The WWE don’t do most of their stars any favors when it comes to getting them over with the crowd. Vince McMahon himself will say they need to step up and “grab that brass ring.”
But with the prevalence of 50/50 booking and pushes being pulled out from under people, gaining any sort of momentum can seem impossible. Some have succeeded with their indie cred, or charisma, or size, or by being Roman Reigns, but there are a number of superstars that just can’t seem to get over the hump to the next level. Some were once popular stars whose potential has been surpassed by younger NXT superstars. Some just can’t stay healthy. Some have gone through multiple gimmick changes and nothing has connected with the audience. And some are just plain horrible, pathetic human beings who should have been fired a long time ago for their dumb carny bullying tactics (*cough* JBL*cough*). The one thing every single one of these superstars has in common is that they and the WWE would be better off if they were just given the pink slip already. Tell Vince McMahon to start warming up his “You’re fired!” voice, because these 15 superstars are way past the point of needing to be future endeavoured.
WWE needs to be a star and fire JBL. The hypocrisy of WWE partnering with an anti-bullying organization and keeping the ultimate bully on the payroll is mind-boggling. WWE likes to present themselves as having a modern, sleek, corporate image; they are a publicly traded company after all. But no other major wrestling promotion in the world allows the old school carny mentality that JBL embodies. His bullying resume is lengthy, but the incident that could do him in is the current episode involving Mauro Ranallo. Supposedly, JBL was hot at Mauro for tweeting about his Announcer of The Year Award, while JBL was on the worst list. He continuously picked on Mauro, knowing that Mauro suffers publicly with bipolar disorder, until Mauro took a leave of absence and is essentially done with the company. Other JBL lowlights include having his minions hide ring announcer Justin Roberts’ passport while in Europe, forcing the young Hardy Boyz to change in front of him, and sneaking into the shower and soaping up Edge’s rear-end. Word around the locker room is that JBL’s job is always safe, because he serves as a proxy for Vince McMahon, whose philosophy is “If they can’t take it, they need to leave.”
14. Dolph Ziggler
This is a tough one. At one time, Dolph Ziggler was one of the most famous wrestlers in the company. With a Shawn Michaels flair and Mr. Perfect’s over the top selling style, you could always count on a fun match with Ziggler involved. Ziggler received one the biggest crowd pops in WWE history when he cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase and defeated Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight title on the Raw after WrestleMania 27. Then Ziggler suffered a concussion and had to drop the title. Creatively, he still hasn’t’ recovered. He was labeled “injury-prone” by the front office and never got a full-fledged push again. There was his brief love affair with Lana that led to Ziggler adopting an embarrassing 1980s rocker persona, followed by multiple heel and face turns, leading to his current role on Smackdown Live as “the guy who gives a stilted speech about needing to win, then immediately loses.” Hopefully a demotion to NXT or getting let go altogether and dipping his toes into NJPW, ROH, and PWG would light a fire under Dolph Ziggler and help him return to the Dolph of old.
You may be surprised at this, but yes, Paige is still officially under contract with the WWE. Since being taken off the air several months ago, Paige has displayed increasingly bizarre public behavior, which could potentially embarrass the WWE. It is not Paige’s fault that her phone got hacked and nude photos and sex tapes wound up all over the Internet, and it would be hypocritical of the WWE to punish her and not Xavier Woods, but there is enough erratic behavior besides this to justify a release.
Paige’s family blames her troubles on her relationship with Alberto Del Rio. Alberto, since being released form WWE, has no-showed several bookings, blaming a car crash and a stabbing on his failure to show, and Paige has been by his side the whole time. Most recently, Del Rio has gone on drunken Periscope tirades, insulting Triple H as having a big nose and a tiny “manhood.” Paige appears in the background of those videos. Also, Paige’s father, Ricky Knight, has attacked Vince McMahon in the British press, accusing McMahon of poaching the British indie wrestling scene. The only thing that may be keeping Paige employed is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson producing a film about her and her career. The WWE doesn’t want to upset The Great One.
12. Zack Ryder
The time has come for Zack Ryder to officially “Woo Woo” his way out of the WWE. It seemed that Ryder was never meant for greatness from day one. But the likeable personality and catchphrases he displayed on his YouTube show eventually garnered him a cult following and he began to hear increasing cheers in the ring. Despite the WWE being in the business of creating new stars, sometimes it seems they don’t appreciate the stars they don’t have any plans for getting over on their own. This was the case with Zack Ryder, as he was repeatedly put in a position where it seemed he would be put over, only to have his legs cut out from under him. This phenomenon came to a head when, at what could have been the peak of Ryder’s popularity, Eva Torres dumped him for John Cena and Kane threw a wheelchair bound Ryder down the stairs. If you portray someone as a loser long enough, the crowd will just see them as a loser. Eventually, Ryder went down to NXT where he formed a tag team with Mojo Rawley. Mojo Rawley is now involved in a high profile storyline on Smackdown Live. Sorry Zack, but when you’re overshadowed by Mojo Rawley, it’s time to just give up.
11. The Shining Stars
Primo and Epico made their WWE debut way back in 2011. They had a decent, if unremarkable, run, eventually defeating Air Boom, Evan Bourne, and Kofi Kingston, for the WWE Tag Team Championship. They soon lost those titles to Kofi Kingston and R-Truth and disappeared for a brief period time. Disappearing for a brief period of time is required if you lose a title to R-Truth. They re-debuted in 2013 as Los Matadores. Evidently the Puerto Rican superstars discovered their love of the Spanish sport of bullfighting during their time off. Or, more likely, someone in the office looked at their list of gimmicks for brown people, and bullfighters was up next!
Los Matadors were overshadowed by their mascot, a little person in a bull costume called El Torito. Being overshadowed by your little person mascot falls in the same category as losing a belt to R-Truth, so they took some time off. Finally, Primo and Epico re-re-debuted in 2016 as The Shining Stars. This time their gimmick was… arrogant travel agents from Puerto Rico? The third time wasn’t a charm and this new gimmick is obviously not working. It’s time for WWE to just give up and send the Shining Stars packing.
10. Apollo Crews
WWE doesn’t have the best record of not being racist. They’ve come a long way since the days of Saba Simba, but they still only have a few gimmicks that they seem to think works with African-American superstars. Some have been able to overcome being put in a box, and let their real personalities shine through, such as The New Day. Others just can’t break out of their limited gimmick as an athletic African American superstar that smiles a lot, like Apollo Crews. Even the name reeks of laziness. Apollo Crews. It’s as if Vince McMahon had just learned who Terry Crews was and then he thought, “Hey, this Terry Crews fella should play Apollo Creed. Wait a minute! I’ve got the perfect black guy name!” Crews is actually a very talented wrestler, with an impressive indie resume under the name Uhaa Nation. But if WWE can’t be bothered to give him a gimmick beyond a name and a smile, they should just let him go back to the indies.
9. The Ascension
Konnor and Viktor, The Ascension, were one of the most dominant tag teams in NXT history. Then they got called up to the big leagues, got an evil goober makeover at Hot Topic, and became a couple of geeks who spend their time jobbing to the stars. In their Raw debut, Konnor and Viktor made the mistake of saying they were better than The Legion Of Doom and Demolition. This led to JBL, the heel announcer at the time, ridiculing these heels for comparing themselves to wrestling royalty. All this accomplished was exposing Konnor and Viktor as being way out of their league. No one takes them seriously anymore (although it’s questionable if anyone ever did) and they are beyond the point of rehabilitation. The time has come for the WWE to do both Konnor and Viktor a favor and fire them. Best vase scenario: the blonde surfer tag team from Southpaw Regional Wrestling replaces The Ascension.
8. Titus O’Neal
Oof. Titus O’Neal, the big dog. The audience always seems to feel a little embarrassed for Titus every time he comes through that curtain. After all, he has to be Titus O’Neal. Titus O’Neal does a lot of charity work and holds himself up as a model father, which is good. But on the flipside, Titus O’Neal is Titus O’Neal, which is bad. After the hundredth time he looked to the audience during a match and made a barking sound and no one barked backed, someone should have pulled him aside and said, “Hey Titus, let’s try something else, okay?” Titus O’Neal has never been what insiders in the industry call “good” or “entertaining” but his current slump is downright painful. It all started during the emotional, heartfelt Daniel Bryan retirement ceremony. As Vince McMahon made his way up the aisle, Titus grabbed at Vince, to “play around with him.” This was hardly the time or place to play around with the boss-man and Titus was immediately suspended. He should have been fired, but if there is one thing Vince McMahon loves more than firing people, it’s keeping people employed just so he can humiliate them.
7. James Ellsworth
You know that candy that you tried once as a kid that you had never tried before and you loved it? It was so new, different, and refreshing so you kept eating it and eating it until you ate too much and it got you sick. Now you can’t look at that candy without having to throw up? Well, those banana Laffy Taffys are James Ellsworth. When Raw was re-launched and they started having old school squash matches, it was a breath of fresh air. There was some scrawny indie geek named James Ellsworth taking on Braun Strowman and it was hilarious. Then a few weeks later James Ellsworth showed up again. It was still hilarious. Then, James Ellsworth never went away. It’s a lot less funny now. Fortunately for the viewing public, James Ellsworth seems to be on his way out the door. His meteoric rise up the card peaked with several matches against AJ Styles, but his stock has fallen recently. He is at a much more suitable spot on the card now as Carmella’s valet.
6. Jinder Mahal
Hey, remember Jinder Mahal? A few years ago, he was one third of Three Man Band, a delightfully goofy wrestling faction, along with Heath Slater and Drew McIntyre. Now, only a few short years later, Jinder Mahal is not goofy, and far from delightful. These days, Jinder Mahal looks like an acne covered, overly veiny, ‘roid freak that injures every wrestler he steps into the ring with. So, of course, Jinder Mahal is receiving a push. Look, if people want to inject themselves with illegal substances, it’s their body and it’s their business. But, the WWE claims to have a wellness policy. It may be seen as a joke when compared to other sports testing policies, but WWE insists it is legit. If the WWE wants people to take their wellness policy seriously, then they might want to do something about the guys with back acne, a noticeably enlarged forehead, gross veins, and who put on 80 pounds of pure muscle in one year.
5. Finn Balor
Sorry everybody, this one is going to hurt. Finn Balor has no business on the WWE main roster. It’s only a matter of time until Vince McMahon realizes this and poor Finn is reduced to a leprechaun demon dragon gimmick. First off, Finn is tiny. AJ Styles is small, but he’s managed to succeed. Unfortunately, Finn looks like AJ’s 12 year-old son. As soon as Vince accidentally mistakes Finn for a ring rat, his push is over. Secondly, he is way too injury prone. This is a flaw in the WWE training system. In the eyes of the WWE, how much better is Finn Balor now than he was when he made his NXT debut? Why waste a year of his career taking bumps in front of 200 people? Third, his move-set reeks of indie geek foolishness. The Coupe De Gras is one of the dumbest finishers to come through the WWE pipeline in years. Finn Balor is a great wrestler, but the WWE doesn’t need him and he doesn’t need the WWE. Anything WWE wanted to do with Finn, they can do with AJ. Finn needs to go back to NJPW and lead the Bullet Club. His WWE career will best be remembered by his overly long ring entrance, a catchy theme song, and injuries. Finn, get out now before your reputation is tarnished completely.
4. Bo Dallas
Bo Dallas has tried so hard to turn us into Bo-lievers, but he is just straight up Bo-ring. The creepy motivational speaker gimmick worked well in NXT, but character subtlety seems to always get lost on Vinny Mac. It was only a few months after his big league call up that he joined the joke clique, The Social Outcasts. Anytime a wrestling stable is formed because every member in that stable keeps losing, it is not a good thing. Bo had a brief resurgence when he started to showcase a vicious streak on Raw, but, like most things involving Bo Dallas, it was soon forgotten about. Bo Dallas comes from wrestling royalty. His dad is Mike “IRS” Rotundo, his grandfather is Blackjack Mulligan, Barry Windham is his uncle, and his brother is Bray Wyatt. Bo Dallas deserves better, but he seems to have never been able to grab that brass ring in the eyes of the office.
3. Erick Rowan
If you completely forgot that Erick Rowan existed, you might be Vince McMahon. When Erick Rowan debuted on the WWE main roster, he was immediately exposed as the greenest member of The Wyatt family. He had a few decent big guy moves and an admirable intensity, but lacked the wrestling chops of Luke Harper and the control of character demonstrated by Bray Wyatt. His character could be summed up as a bald guy with a red beard who likes wearing coveralls and a sheep mask. Despite this, the WWE universe briefly embraced him. But as The Wyatt family broke up, then reformed, then broke up again, Rowan has always been on the short end of the stick. He just hasn’t been able to recapture that spark he had in his debut. At this point, Erick Rowan owes his entire WWE career to sheep mask sales at house shows. Once the masks stop selling, Rowan will stop working.
2. Sin Cara
It’s time to admit that the Sin Cara gimmick is cursed and anyone who portrays it will be bad, sloppy, and boring. Sin Cara is the most glaring embarrassment in the Triple H portfolio of recruiting wrestlers. Luis Urive, known in Mexico as Místico, originally portrayed Sin Cara. Urive was soon released because he was sloppy, kept getting injured, whined, and just plain sucked at American style professional wrestling. Next, Jorge Arias, formerly known as Hunico in Mexico, took over the Sin Cara mask. The Arias version of Sin Cara is slightly less sloppy, injury prone, whiney, and terrible, but not by much. The current Sin Cara is best known these days as being an asshole backstage and starting fights. It is time for WWE to put their chips behind another luchador in the hopes of selling souvenir masks. No matter who is playing Sin Cara, they will never come close to repeating the success of Rey Mysterio.
1. The McMahon Family
Okay, let’s be honest, the McMahon family is not going to get fired, they own the company. But, they all need to be fired from their on-air roles as soon as possible. This may come as a surprise to younger wrestling fans, but professional wrestling does not require an on screen authority figure in order to function! Think back to your favorite wrestling storylines. How many of those involve an authority figure? Most likely, you said “one” and that one was Austin vs. Vince. At this point though, Vince is a caricature of his former self. In storylines, who is he? Still owner? Owner, but he answers to the board of directors? Whatever he decides to be seconds before he walks out on Raw? As the Superstar Shakeup showed, he’s just an old guy who makes crazy decisions then disappears. Shane can now evidently chain wrestle and be a legitimate threat to AJ Styles, the best wrestler in the company. Stephanie can’t decide if she’s a face or a heel, and it doesn’t seem to matter because she’ll just put herself over everyone and never receive any comeuppance. Triple H is fine as long as he stays down in NXT, but he insists on attaching himself to a hot act every WrestleMania, giving himself an over the top entrance, and a 30 minute snooze fest, all in the hopes of making himself seem like an all-time great instead of the most boring part of the Attitude era.