Although the television product might not be the best in terms of storylines, the WWE is currently booming in terms of dollar signs. The company just signed a mega deal with Fox worth a billion dollars. With all that money, you can expect the company to invest some of it back into the business with the acquisition of new talent. However, these days, that’s a lot easier said than done with the booming atmosphere of the independent scene. Performers are now making a living outside of the WWE and the likes of Cody and Rey Mysterio seem to be making even more out of Vince’s company while maintaining their creative freedoms and literally making their own schedules.
In this article, we take a look at 15 interesting names the WWE can possibly pursue. However, signing some might be difficult. We divide the list up showcasing ten names that would turn down a WWE contract in 2018. On the flip side, we examine five names that would agree to a contract in this calendar year. Enjoy the article folks and like always be sure to share it with a friend. We start with a familiar face that we’ll likely see in 2019, but 2018 might be a long shot. Let’s get started!
15 Reject – Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio leaving the WWE was the right decision. Not only was he burnt out from life on the road but dare we say at the time, his act started to grow a little stale. Mysterio maintained his name on the indie scene and he continues to profit. It is said that booking Rey is no cheap task, however given his talent and popularity he continues to get booked regularly. It also helps that he’s working a lighter schedule; some would assume he’s making just as much these days outside of the WWE and working limited dates as well.
Despite the benefits, Rey has admitted that he’ll return to the WWE. However, that return seems to be more so for 2019 at this point. Rey has some big matches coming in New Japan against the likes of Will Ospreay and Marty Scurll. He’s also confirmed for the All In event.
However, with SmackDown signing with Fox, you can expect the talent to return in 2019. He even confirmed his future with the WWE in a recent interview;
"But there is definitely a positive feedback on behalf of the fans, on behalf of the WWE staff and behalf of myself man. I think we're possibly going to sit down and negotiate something where we can both work together and have a good time and enjoy.”
14 Reject – Matt Riddle
With a background in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, it was obvious early on that Riddle was made for pro wrestling. He’s yet another example of a performer thriving without the WWE these days. Riddle gets booked regularly both in North America and overseas in Japan. He’s discussed a move to the WWE in the past and although it seems like he’s open to joining, his demands might be too steep for the WWE to meet. However, signing a billion dollar deal with Fox, perhaps money doesn’t really matter all that much these days?
Nonetheless, Riddle has some big demands and we believe it’ll keep him from the WWE in 2018. Here’s what he had to say on what it would take to jump ship;
“If the money was right with [WWE] and they said you have to quit smoking, I’d quit smoking. If New Japan was down, I wouldn’t bring w**d to Japan—I’m not an idiot,” he says. “I know [the Japanese] drink, so I’d still enjoy myself. Honestly, right now I make six figures. I make my own merch. I’m the main or co-main event of every show I’m on. I get to be me and I get to wrestle like I want to. Can they promise me that? If not, why would I go to WWE to probably make less money and be gone more? By the time they do pick me up, if they decide to, I’ll be worth so much more.”
13 Accept – Ryback
Ryback predicted big things for his career following the surprising WWE exit. However, as we’ve seen with countless wrestlers in the past, that’s a lot easier said than done. The reality thus far? Ryback hasn’t had a single memorable match since leaving the WWE, not to mention his only work is with lower scale indie promotions. He seems more focussed on his nutrition brand than wrestling at the moment.
Surely, with such results, Ryback would welcome a return to the WWE with open arms. In a recent interview, he discussed a possible return to the company and he certainly did not close the door on the possibility;
"I still have a little ways to go, but still, like I said, never say never, but it is just not in my radar right now," he continued. "I have not had any discussions; not from my end or their end. It is just not even in my mind right now. Not to say years from now it won't be, I just don't know. I am focused on growing my brand and my business right now. I look forward on going back into the Independence and having some matches and getting out there, and putting in some time in the ring on that end and seeing how I feel, but for me it is growing my brand where I wouldn't have to use my body for later in life to make money, which is something I feel very fortunate to be able to do that."
12 Reject – Jack Swagger
Timing is everything and when it comes to a WWE return, it just isn’t the time for Jack Swagger. Not only is he getting booked regularly on the indie scene but he’s also prepping for a career in MMA with Bellator. Oh, and he’s also getting to travel around with his wife who’s playing the role of his manager these days. So yeah, a return at the moment doesn’t seem very likely.
Swagger opened up to the possibility of a return, he didn’t completely reject the notion, however as of now, he has other things on his mind;
“For me, right now, me being on my exit very freshly, it’s not something that I’m thinking about. I want to focus on wrestling in other markets and learning other styles and other crowds. And, growing as a pro wrestler. I was fortunate of going right to [WWE], so that’s the only style I know. There’s a lot of pro wrestling out there, and I want to be a part of it and adapt to it… Towards the end of my run at WWE, I stopped trying to learn, and I got frustrated with other things that I shouldn’t have been focusing on. Now, it’s very exciting, and I definitely have a chip on my shoulder, so I’m ready to prove.”
11 Reject - Tetsuya Naito
Looking at the talent in New Japan, you can argue that the most over act in the promotion is none other than Naito. Not only is he great in the ring but he also oozes with charisma similar to WWE’s Nakamura. Getting older in age at 35, many would assume he’s thinking about a contract with the WWE. Nakamura made the jump given the miles on his body working for New Japan. With WWE, the style is a lot easier and that makes the jump a lot more desirable. However, when asked about the possibility of taking on the likes of Cena and Lesnar, this is what Naito had to say during an interview with Sports Illustrated;
“Of course, I know of them, but, unfortunately, I have no interest,” said Naito. “To me, New Japan is the foremost pro wrestling in the world. Entering the ring here means you are the world’s best, so to be a New Japan wrestler speaks for itself.”
It seems like a no for now, however who knows what the future has in store for the popular act? As of this writing, his main focus in an upcoming bout against Chris Jericho, one that’ll have the wrestling world talking.
10 Accept – Batista
Batista flat out has said he would love to return to the WWE, even as early as 2018. The Animal was recently contacted by the company to play a potential role as the partner of Ronda Rousey heading into WrestleMania 34. Everything seemed so positive according to Dave, however the conversation just stopped out of nowhere and he was never spoken to again. He opened up about the situation most recently;
“This is all insider stuff, and I usually don’t share. I’m really an old-school kayfabe guy. But they reached out to me earlier this year to possibly come back and do that thing with Ronda. And I said that I would be willing to do it only if we teased something for me and Hunter to go to ‘Mania next year. And they said, ‘Yeah, that would be great. I love that idea.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s great. I’ll come back a few times during the year, and we’ll tease it, and we’ll work it and we’ll milk it. And we’ll go to ‘Mania, me and Hunter, next year.’ Oh, I love that idea. Let’s do it!' And so we literally talked for about like three weeks and then they just stopped calling me.”
Despite the snub we hope to see Dave back with the WWE at some point in 2018.
9 Reject – Rosemary
In terms of the most over female act outside of the WWE, Rosemary is the name that comes to mind. She’s just so different and unique compared to the other women, without a doubt she would have an instant impact on the main roster or down in NXT.
She’s been asked about a possible debut on the regular. She was even linked as possibly being Sister Abigail, though we all know how that one turned out... Nonetheless, she’s still sought after (joining the WWE) but the timing might not be right at this point.
Rosemary is having the time of her life with Impact and she’s enjoying the perks of getting her own creative freedom, something that won’t happen with the WWE. She discussed the matter;
“I was always coming up with stories and creating characters. I’m a very creative person and I love being part of a process where we say ‘let’s dive in, let’s get in-depth and figure out who this character is’. I’ve done six years of theatre and a lot of theatre is about figuring out who your character is and how you will portray them. When I think about Rosemary, I think about things that not necessarily will ever be reflected on screen, but I think about because it gets me into her head better. It makes me able to portray her in a more full and thought out matter that is going to allow me to bring a fuller and completely fleshed out character to your screens and make her more believable.”
8 Reject – Zack Sabre Jr.
Sabre Jr. recently signed a deal with New Japan and one that is on a full-time basis. He was a popular act during the Cruiserweight Classic, though it seems like he has interest elsewhere. Some would say that his decision to leave was a wise one. Sabre recently stated that he’s currently living his lifelong dream during an interview with ESPN;
"My dream when I was 14 was to wrestle full-time in Japan, for New Japan," Sabre said. "But if in 2018, that wasn't a company that was right for me, then I wouldn't go. I'm not just there for the idea. This is where I want to be. It's kind of a double reward, in that it's something I set out to do, I achieved it, but then also I just feel so at home in the company."
So he seems content with his future and a WWE return seems highly unlikely. However, as opposed to what most fans assume, he was positive about his WWE experience;
"I think people might presume that because I'm not with WWE now that my experience was negative with them," said Sabre. "Far from it -- it was very positive -- but I had envisioned how my career would go as a kid and it didn't involve WWE. Having that taste of it, even though it was very, very enjoyable and I think I would learn a lot from that environment. ... I really think the presentation of indie wrestling, and New Japan [in particular], that's best suited to me.”
7 Accept – Kaitlyn
Kaitlyn, a former Divas Champion, decided to retire young. Alongside her ex-husband, the two entered the world of fitness selling their brands. It got off to a great start, however behind the scenes, Kaitlyn began to struggle with her new lifestyle and it led to a downward spiral. She hit rock bottom and it caused a divorce between her and her ex, PJ Braun. However, she’s now back on her feet and one of her first decisions was to return to wrestling. She discussed the comeback and what her current goals are;
“The short term goal is to have a really great match and get a bunch of people there [at the show]. Because it's not just a match, it's more of this story of a mess of a year, and then [getting] to a point to where I feel good and come here to escape. ... I don't know what the long-term goal is, it's a possibility that I will wrestle after this. I know I'm going to keep training here [The Main Event Training Center], but there's no big long-term goal for it."
Still only 31 years of age, Celeste has time on her side. We believe that without a doubt if the WWE comes calling, she’ll take that deal in a heartbeat.
6 Reject - Kazuchika Okada
Being the face of New Japan, it is only natural that Okada defends his brand calling it superior to the WWE’s. The promotion has put all their eggs in his basket; he’s currently the longest serving IWGP Champion ever shattering the mark back in October which was 489 days with the title. He still holds the belt and his future seems to be with the company for the time being.
Now, he was asked about a future with the WWE and we can't tell if his answer was sarcastic or not, however we’ll let you guys decide. Here’s what he had to say about jumping ship last summer;
"There's really no telling what could happen. But just as much as I might feel the desire and the drive to be in a match against Jinder or something at that level at SummerSlam, just like Nakamura did, I might also want to jump into UFC. I might also want to go to Hollywood and try my luck there—maybe as the next James Bond. Also, I might desire to focus on the next challenge against Kenny or whoever here. So, to be honest with you, I simply don't know."
Given his current run and the fact that he’s at his prime (at the age of 30) - seeing him in a WWE ring soon just won’t happen.
5 Reject – Enzo Amore
The most shocking release of 2018 has to be the departure of Enzo Amore. Just prior to Raw 25, some serious allegations linked Amore to an assault charge. Even though he held the Cruiserweight Championship he was immediately released. He’s kept quiet since the court proceedings; however he’s now a free man and starting to let his voice be heard once again. He’s set to meet fans next Monday in Time Square and he has also revealed that he plans to open up about the recent controversies.
A WWE return just doesn’t seem likely at all given the controversy surrounding his name. Maybe we’ll see him again at some point, just not in 2018. A new rumor does involve Amore coming back to wrestling and Impact is linked to hiring the former WWE star. Don Callis opened up about the matter and he didn’t reject the headline;
“I guess you say never say never, and you evaluate talent based on need and what you're looking to do," Callis said. "We have a long-term plan for how we engage with talent in terms of who's gonna be on the roster, what roster spots we need filled, etc. It's not as much of a random thing. So as with any other talent, time will tell."
4 Accept – Chris Jericho
Y2J once again pulled the old swerve on wrestling fans. Many thought his New Japan days were done, in large part because Jericho himself expressed the sentiment. However, given his recent attack on Naito, he’s clearly sticking around with the overseas promotion. His recent appearance at the Saudi Arabia event was done as a solid to Vince. Jericho admitted that he’ll always be willing to return when his boss needs him, meaning we’ll see Chris in a WWE ring once again in the near future;
"Whether they want me to be part of the Royal Rumble or work against The Undertaker or work against Funaki in a lingerie match — whatever needs to be done, I'm happy to do it," Jericho said. "That's the good thing about kind of my legacy and where I am at this point in my career is I can come and do whatever needs to be done — opening match, main event, whatever it is — and it's going to be good. Things change, this is part of the world of WWE and happens all the time. For me, until I actually walk into the ring, sometimes you never know what is going to happen. Things get changed during the show sometimes. I think sometimes fans get a little bit too excited about certain things that happened."
3 Reject – Young Bucks
The most over duo outside of the WWE are the Young Bucks. They’re killing it inside of the ring and they’ve also become marketing machines bringing in non-WWE merch to Hot Topic. Yes, the two are revolutionizing what it means to be a wrestler outside of the WWE.
Of course, with their popularity growing comes the connection to a possible WWE deal. The two recently admitted that AJ Styles wanted them to join the company;
"We had just signed a contract with ROH at the time in November because AJ pulled us aside and was like, 'tell me you guys don't have any contracts now please,' and we were like, 'we just signed.' And he was like, 'argh!' because he wanted to bring us over too. And I don't know if that would've happened, but that was his idea. And we were like, 'naw, man. We just signed for two years' or whatever it was."
However, both also admitted that joining the WWE at this point would make no sense given the boom going on outside of the WWE. And the two are a major reason for that;
"If we left right now [for WWE], it would be kind of dumb of us because they couldn't pay us what we're making right now, not with the schedule we're on too. There's no way. Of course they could [afford the pay]! Do you know what I mean? I just don't think they would!"
We’ll see them in a WWE ring surely in the future but for the time being, it isn’t happening.
2 Reject – Cody
Even with the upcoming All In event, Cody is still answering questions pertaining to a possible WWE return; he commented on the matter a couple of times via Twitter and here is what he had to say;
“I had a great run. Met my wife. Made the Mania' walk a bunch of times. Got a chance to see Dad's last elbow. Won a bunch of titles. Made millions without a college education. But I'm happy where I'm at and where this is going. 2018 will be the most important year of my career.”
He was asked the same question just months ago as well, and his answer remains the same;
“Unlikely. They have a huge place in my heart. They raised me. But my music is my music and I play it how I want, I am literally incapable of taking direction.”
It really shouldn’t shock anyone but for the time being, Cody has shut the door on a WWE return and seriously, why wouldn’t he? Putting the money factor aside and that he’s making more on the indie scene, Cody now has the creative freedom with his character and it has turned him into an upper card name, something the WWE was unwilling to do. That in itself is going to keep Cody away from the company for the time being.
1 Accept – Hulk Hogan
When TMZ cameras caught up with Hulk, he confirmed that he would not be a part of WrestleMania 34 but instead, he stated “maybe someday”. His daughter Brooke also confirmed negotiations between the two sides; Hulk rejoining the WWE seems inevitable and without a doubt, he’d take that deal really fast, no matter what the terms and conditions would be like. Hulk has a lot of wrongs to rewrite and doing so on a platform like the WWE’s would only help resurface his name value.
As for when, that remains to be seen. The WWE has issued lots of statements most recently discussing that both sides are in talks, though nothing is official and Hulk isn’t an employee. With WWE recently signing a deal with Fox, the last thing they’ll want is controversy associated to their brand.
Perhaps the return might have to wait a little longer, though the likes of Triple H remain positive that Hulk will return down the road. The two were even caught exchanging pleasantries during the Andre the Giant screening.
Whether it’s in 2018 or WrestleMania 35 next year, Hulk joining the company in some capacity is to be expected. Look for him to likely reprise his 2015 role as a company ambassador.