The rotating doors at WWE sees talent come in and out all the time. Recent years have shown that nothing is out of the realm of possibility in the current landscape. No one would have predicted that AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, and Shinsuke Nakamura would be top stars in WWE but here we are. Triple H has made it clear that WWE is looking to sign the best talent in the world and he doesn’t care what their background is. There are numerous top tier performers currently working outside of WWE. On the other side, there are names that could see their time come to an end in the near future.
We will take a look at both sides of the roster changes that will likely be coming to WWE soon. The names that WWE will likely sign over the next year are rumored or educated guesses bases on contracts expiring. Talents that are expected to be gone have their contracts with WWE expiring and seem to be unhappy with their position in the company right now. WWE could see major changes on the roster and this list should be a forecast of the future. These are eight names that will WWE in the next year and seven that will join.
15. Leave: Dolph Ziggler
The career of Dolph Ziggler will go down as one of the most disappointing in WWE history when he leaves. Ziggler’s departure date appears to be sooner rather than later following a few rumors regarding his future. It is no secret that Ziggler has been working towards setting up a future outside of WWE when it comes to his standup comedy work and appearances on political talk shows.
Shinsuke Nakamura recently slipped that Ziggler was looking to go to Japan during a recent episode of Talking Smack. The potential of Ziggler leaving WWE would open it up for him to join New Japan Pro Wrestling. Despite being located in Japan, the promotion is growing in popularity here in the United States. Ziggler would make good money wrestling outside of WWE and could have the freedom to truly take his comedic career seriously without the hectic schedule. Look for him to make the move as he is doing absolutely nothing in WWE these days.
14. Sign: Rey Mysterio
Recent rumors have indicated Rey Mysterio is officially done with Lucha Underground and is looking for a new wrestling home. The two promotions who are reportedly in talks with Mysterio for his services are WWE and Global Force Wrestling. One is the biggest promotion in the world that would allow him to end his career in grand fashion and the other is a complete joke that fans aren’t sure of the name.
The best decision will be for Mysterio to join WWE and have one more run before hanging up the boots. Mysterio has made it clear on multiple occasions that he left WWE on good terms and was open to returning one day. Between the cruiserweight division badly needing help and the company needing familiar faces in general, it is a perfect fit. Unless Lucha Underground steps in, Rey should sign the contract for a final WWE run to end his career there on a better note.
13. Leave: Big Show
The career of Big Show is winding down. We barely ever see him on television with his rare feuds coming every few months. Currently positioned against Big Cass, Big Show is only being used to put over younger talent before getting phased out. WWE still has Big Show appear at all of the live events for the fun moment of the live audience seeing the legend. The work of Big Show is usually limited to a knockout punch and nothing else.
A recent podcast interview exposed that he is unhappy with the television days at WWE calling it a “waste of time” waiting all day to read the horrible booking from the writers. Between WWE not having much for him to do and Big Show clearly not being happy with how he’s being used, the relationship is reaching the end. Big Show claims he has two years left in him but the safe bet is on him leaving to his next career path sooner.
12. Sign: Lio Rush
Independent wrestler Lio Rush is currently no longer taking bookings following the month of August. At the age of 22, Rush is one of the youngest wrestlers on the market. Lio has made a name in a very short time period, wrestling for top independent promotions like Ring of Honor, Evolve, and PWG. The matches of Rush have frequently been the standout performances on shows he performs on, proving he’s already at a high level.
Given his schedule ending in August, it is likely that he already has a verbal agreement with WWE. There is a lot of testing that goes into signing a WWE contract and he will have to pass those physicals first. However, it appears Rush is WWE bound in the next couple of months and should be starting off in NXT. WWE getting such a young wrestler that is already great and has the potential to get better is a great signing if it becomes official.
11. Leave: James Ellsworth
The shocking signing of James Ellsworth is still one of the most improbable signings in WWE history. Ellsworth was originally only brought in as one of the local jobbers to lose to Braun Strowman. The expression and selling of Ellsworth convinced WWE to bring him back a few more times. Fans developed an interest in the underdog story of rooting for him leading to a contract being offered.
WWE turned Ellsworth heel late last year and he has remained entertaining as the lackey of Carmella. Ellsworth is productive in his role, but there’s a definitely a shelf life on his pairing with Mrs. Money in the Bank. It is hard to envision them still together at the end of 2017. Ellsworth is unable to serve as a full-time wrestler on the roster since he’s just not at that talent level. Expect his fairy tale story to end by the summer of 2018 unless he can find incredible luck one more time for a new role.
10. Sign: Shelton Benjamin
Shelton Benjamin lost out on a WWE contract at the beginning of the brand split last summer. SmackDown Live aired ads a few weeks in a row teasing Benjamin returning to WWE soon. Unfortunately, an injury was discovered in his physicals that forced him to have surgery and see his contract removed. Benjamin is rumored to be in discussions to join WWE once again now that he is healed and working at 100%.
The athletic talent of Shelton made him one of the most impressive performers on the WWE roster during the original brand split. Now that the rosters are cut in half once again, Benjamin has a chance to stand out and make an impact. Fans have grown to appreciate him even more over the years with his talent being celebrated on WWE Network. Benjamin will likely be back on WWE television at some point in the near future to add to his legacy.
9. Leave: The Colons
WWE has struggled at building competent tag team divisions following the brand split. Enzo Amore and Cass and American Alpha have split up recently. The Hype Brothers appear to be on the way to a breakup as well. That has to bode well for Primo and Epico Colon to continue working together, right? Well, that would be true if there was proof WWE cares about the tag team divisions at all.
The lack of importance makes the teams that can’t get over even more expendable. WWE has tried to give the Colons opportunities for years now and nothing ever works out. Their most recent move to SmackDown Live saw them get a few wins to absolutely zero reaction. You figure WWE will stop trying something that just isn’t happening. Whether it is one or both of them, there will be a release to end the tag team.
8. Sign: Marty Scurll
The 28-year-old Marty Scurll has become one of the top independent wrestlers in the world today after joining the Bullet Club. Scurll was already a big name before joining the popular faction thanks to his Villain character. The visual of a fur coat, mask, hat, and umbrella make him stand out unlike anyone else in the wrestling industry. Scurll has the in-ring talent to back it up, as well as being one of the better technical wrestlers on the planet today.
WWE reportedly had Finn Balor discuss potential deals with NJPW talent when visiting Japan and his friends at the promotion. Scurll is one of the names that were rumored to be on WWE’s list to sign in the near future. It makes sense that he would be on WWE’s radar given his young age and established reputation. They are always looking for great characters and Scurll’s Villain will likely be a hit. His one year contract with ROH is expected to end in early 2018. WWE will be the favorites to land him.
7. Leave: Apollo Crews
This would be a depressing result if it does come true but Apollo Crews has failed to get over on WWE television. Crews is one of the more talented wrestlers on the roster when it comes to natural athleticism. Sadly, he just doesn’t show any personality and has very little purpose on the main roster since getting called up. It feels like Crews was irrelevant just months after his call-up and has yet to fix this.
The current position on Raw as part of the Titus Worldwide group is a great improvement over having nothing to do, but it isn’t a long term fix. Crews will have to work on developing his own character and hope WWE gives him another chance. The safest bet is WWE giving up on Crews within the next year. There are more great wrestlers today than ever before and spots have to open up. Crews could reinvent himself out side of WWE but no one wants to leave their dream job.
6. Sign: Ricochet
Ricochet is currently one of the most popular wrestlers outside of WWE. After missing out on a WWE contract after a tryout, Ricochet worked harder at developing his game in other promotions. New Japan, Lucha Underground, PWG and Evolve are just a few of the companies Ricochet has done a great job for. The moves pulled off by Ricochet are absolutely mind-boggling and almost impossible to imagine unless you witness it.
Many people view Ricochet as the top high-flying wrestler in the world. WWE is rumored to be interested in him and vice versa. The problem is his Lucha Underground contract is still running out. Some reports have indicated that Ricochet will be an official free agent eligible to sign with WWE in 2018. It is more than likely he will end up in WWE by then. Ricochet could instantly improve the cruiserweight division, become a NXT main eventer, or make a name on the main roster.
5. Leave: Paige
The controversy surrounding Paige continues to add negativity to her name. Her relationship with Alberto Del Rio was already viewed as something WWE was strongly against going back to last year. The fact that her boyfriend continues to publicly badmouth the company and threaten their employees is not a good look. Paige’s sex tape leak also hurt her in WWE’s standing as they are rumored to be looking at letting her contract expire next year.
Things have escalated in a terrifying manner lately with the recent news of Alberto being accused of domestic abuse. Paige has shut down the claims and appears to be dating Del Rio for the long run. All of the controversy that comes from dating him will prevent her from returning to WWE as she recovers from an injury. Unless she ditches Del Rio and changes her approach to business, WWE likely will not be re-signing her next year.
4. Sign: Adam Cole
The top independent wrestling free agent on the market right now is Adam Cole. After an eight year run in Ring of Honor as a top star, Cole allowed his contract to expire. It is obvious that he wants to join WWE as he has never held back on his ultimate dream being to main event a WrestleMania. The young age of 28 and the experience of being the top guy in a high pressure situation make him a dream signing for WWE.
Cole has all of the tools to succeed in WWE and has been viewed as a future WWE star for the entirety of his ROH career. The speculation is that Cole will be officially signed by August. WWE loves to have a new star debut in NXT as the TakeOver specials and Cole has a fan base in New York. This is one of the signings that is happening unless something insane happens to prevent it.
3. Leave: Cesaro
Cesaro remains the perennial underrated star in WWE that should be doing more. Fans have supported him based on his tremendous in-ring work over the years but nothing has helped him rise into a main event position. Currently one half of the Raw Tag Team Championship with Sheamus, Cesaro has a good role on the show but his dreams are to be a great singles star.
Vince McMahon being in charge likely means we will never see Cesaro move up the card. The boss just doesn’t view him as someone capable of performing at a main event level. Cesaro has been on the rumor mill for years as someone considering a change. It is no secret that Cesaro is a fan of the New Japan Pro Wrestling style and they are making a big movement upwards in the United States market. Cesaro could make a great living and help be a part of something special if he does leave WWE this time.
2. Sign: Ronda Rousey
The biggest name likely to join WWE in the next year isn’t even someone that is a wrestler. Ronda Rousey’s MMA career appears to be over after becoming arguably the biggest name in UFC history. Everyone knows about her love of professional wrestling, given the Four Horsewomen nickname and her role at WrestleMania 31. Rousey recently attended the Mae Young Classic to watch friend Shayna Baszler compete in a WWE ring.
Rumors indicated that there were talks between Rousey and Triple H regarding a future match. Baszler engaged in trash talk following her match with three of the former NXT Four Horsewomen of Charlotte Flair, Bayley and Becky Lynch. The current rumor is the MMA Four Horsewomen will face off with the WWE Four Horsewomen at WrestleMania 33 to give Rousey her first WWE match. Regardless of what it is, we would bet on Rousey wrestling a match for WWE within the next year.
1. Leave: Daniel Bryan
Most wrestlers would take the job of appearing once per week in backstage segments for WWE over wrestling in small arenas on the independent circuit every week. Daniel Bryan is just not like most wrestlers. Bryan has remained adamant that he is considering coming out of retirement once his WWE contract ends at some point between the late spring and early summer of 2018.
The social media activity of Bryan features him discussing other promotions more than WWE at this point. Bryan keeps his eye on Ring of Honor, New Japan, and Evolve Wrestling. A post on Twitter implied he was hoping to wrestle Cody Rhodes for the ROH World Championship next year. Bryan keeps his plans secret so we can’t be 100% sure but every other sign indicates he wants to wrestle again and wrestle outside of WWE. Look for one of WWE’s biggest names to willingly leave the company for his artistic freedom in the squared circle.
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