As sick as it may be, one of the favorite pastimes for pro wrestling fans is seeing some poor soul get the axe from his or her given wrestling organization. WWE, in particular, makes it quite public when the company lets an employee go and the phrase “we wish them well in their future endeavors” has become somewhat of a running joke at this point. Forget all that sad baggage that comes with recognizing someone has just lost their job; wrestling fans are a cruel breed and we love the next bit of juicy news about a WWE Superstar being told to hit the old dusty trail.
In 2016 fans have had the pleasure of basking in the misfortune of many a former WWE Superstar. Ryback, Wade Barrett, Cameron, and Alex Riley were all released from their WWE contracts, and that’s just to name a few. Ryback’s case was one of creative frustration and the two parties couldn’t come to terms, while Cameron reportedly got into some hot water for publicly supporting Ryback’s criticisms of the company. Then, there was Cody Rhodes, who asked for his release from WWE and didn’t look back. Instead, he hit the independent scene and is enjoying something of a career renaissance.
While the year is quickly coming to a close, there’s no doubt we’ll still see a few wrestlers fired before the New Year. But, then we’ve got a whole new year full of delicious WWE releases to look forward to, and not all of them will be entirely unpredictable. Often, a canning is years in the making and we know certain stars are on borrowed time. Here are fifteen of those wrestlers who might just be on the chopping block for 2017.
15 Tye Dillinger
It makes sense that NXT would see a high ratio of releases in comparison to the main roster. NXT is, after all, the developmental program for the company and therefore the system used to determine which wrestlers have what it takes to make the cut. Tye Dillinger is a man who has managed to make a whole new career in NXT. The man known as the “Perfect 10” has been working between the yellow ropes for several years without a call-up to the main roster, and continues to be used regularly on television.
Unfortunately, it would seem that everyone’s time in NXT has an expiration date. The nature of developmental sees to it that wrestlers are constantly cycled through the program in preparation for Raw and SmackDown, but if Tye Dillinger isn’t ready yet then the question begs to be asked: will he ever be? If something doesn’t click soon for Dillinger, he may very well be on his way out in 2017.
14 Rosa Mendes
As one of WWE’s longest tenured female employees, Rosa Mendes would be expected to have put together quite the pro wrestling resume. However, that is not the case by a long shot. Somehow, Mendes is still under contract with WWE despite a decade of never managing to have single memorable moment with the company. Rosa got her start in the Diva Search competition and eventually moved on to manage several male stars, such as Fandango and the team of Primo and Epico.
As for Rosa’s career as an actual pro wrestler, she’s got one of the worst wins to losses ratios of any competitor in the history of the sport, including the Brooklyn Brawler. That makes sense, as she has never been able to hold her own in the ring despite years of training. Rosa recently gave birth to her first child, which has kept her off of television for a very long time, but don’t expect the new mom to make a triumphant return. Even if she does, Rosa’s days as a WWE Superstar are numbered.
13 Curtis Axel
As the son of the late WWE Hall of Famer Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, Joe Hennig had some pretty big shoes to fill. Unfortunately, it’s hard to walk in those shoes when you start your WWE career as Michael McGillicutty. Though he was a part of the famous stable known as The Nexus, Michael McGillicuttyproved to be a name that just wasn’t winning with the WWE Universe. Eventually, he was repackaged as Curtis Axel to much fanfare, and picked up a win over Triple H in his first match using the new name.
And then WWE let him die a slow, painful death, falling to the absolute bottom of the card over a period of years. Despite an early run with the Intercontinental Championship and pairings with several other Superstars on different occasions, Curtis Axel has failed in just about every way imaginable. Don’t expect this Superstar to be around too much longer; in fact, he may not make it past 2017.
12 Tamina Snuka
Speaking of WWE Divas who have been around the company for a lengthy period of time, Tamina Snuka has seen plenty of women come and go, most of them taking the spots she most probably deserved for half the work she’s put in. Her name value, being the daughter of WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, has done Tamina absolutely no favors during her time between the ropes for WWE, as the company has constantly used her as backup muscle for other female Superstars and never given her anything meaningful to do on her own.
That’s unfortunate, because Tamina is a consistently good worker who never gets the opportunity to show just how good she is. The woman is a powerhouse, but is destined to always be used by WWE as the jobber who puts other women over. Tamina Snuka’s presence in the ring has been tarnished far too many times to be useful, so her stay in the company isn’t likely to last much longer.
11 Bo Dallas
Bo Dallas was one of the longest reigning NXT Champions of all time. He’s the brother of fellow WWE Superstar Bray Wyatt and the son of WWE legend Irwin R. Shyster, or IRS, so he’s got a family name that’s well respected in the business. Unfortunately, WWE doesn’t seem too keen on using that in order to increase Dallas’ appeal to the fans and ever since being called up to the main roster, his talents have been sadly wasted.
Bo Dallas is a great professional wrestler and has plenty of charisma, but his “inspirational” gimmick failed long ago and WWE doesn’t seem to want to give up on it. A Superstar can only sink so low in the eyes of the fans before irrevocable damage has been done and he can never be seen as a legitimate threat ever again, and Bo Dallas passed that mark a while back. Bo Dallas might just be seeking employment someplace else if something drastic doesn’t change.
10 Alicia Fox
In yet another case of a woman who has wrestled for WWE for what seems like forever, Alicia Fox has been around for every stage of the evolution of women’s wrestling over the past decade. Alicia is crazy athletic, but that wasn’t valued at the time she was a fresh face in the company and, as a result, she doesn’t have much to show for it except for a brief stint with the Divas Championship years ago. By the time the women’s revolution in WWE kicked off, fans were ready for new names in the division and Alicia Fox was anything but new.
Sadly, Alicia’s also got the charisma and acting skills to pull off some very creative things as a character, but the only times she got to flex her muscles was when the fans still used the Diva segments as bathroom breaks. At this point, Alicia’s only got so much left to contribute and will probably be getting the pink slip before too long.
9 Darren Young
Darren Young was a member of The Nexus years ago, a stable that became one of the more entertaining parts of the show during an era of wrestling when the program was less than stellar. Later, he was paired with Titus O’Neil as the team known as the Prime Time Players, and they gained quite a following and eventually won the WWE Tag Team Championship together. And then the Prime Time Players ran their course together and it was time for each of them to branch out into singles careers.
Neither man has flourished on his own, despite WWE jumping headfirst into a wacky storyline that saw WWE Hall of Famer Bob Backlund become Young’s crazy coach and attempt to “make Darren Young great again.” While O’Neil hasn’t seen much success, either, WWE has always had a thing for big men and Darren Young seems to have gone as far as he can go with the company, so if one of them is on his way out in 2017 it will most likely be Darren Young.
8 Jack Swagger
It didn’t always look as if Jack Swagger would end up in swimming in mediocrity. Early in his career, he won the Money in the Bank contract and cashed it in to become the World Heavyweight Champion. Unfortunately for Jack, it turned out to be a bad case of a WWE Superstar peaking too early and he had nowhere to go but down. The real kicker was that Swagger was never that over with the WWE Universe to begin with, so his World Championship reign was quite puzzling.
Aside from a couple of lengthy and uncomfortable rivalries with Alberto Del Rio and Rusev, Jack Swagger has largely remained in the background of WWE programming. It would seem that every time the company attempts to rejuvenate him, all attempts fall flat, and his time is most likely running out. It wouldn’t be surprising if 2017 turns out to be the year WWE and Jack Swagger finally part ways.
7 Summer Rae
As far as WWE Divas go, Summer Rae was once ideal. In an era when WWE’s female roster consisted mostly of former models and failed actresses who really had no business attempting to compete inside a wrestling ring, Summer Rae fit the bill to a tee. Summer’s got the looks and charisma, but has never seemed able to put a decent match together despite now having years of experience and training behind her.
Summer Rae came along at an awkward time, though, when the term “Diva” was on its way to extinction and women’s wrestling was about to finally make a triumphant return to WWE. Summer never had enough time to truly shine in the Divas division and, aside from several failed programs which saw her manage wrestlers such as Rusev, Fandango and Tyler Breeze, she’s rarely contributed anything to the company. Divas like Summer Rae are a dying breed in WWE and she might not be a WWE Superstar for much longer.
Upon his arrival on the main roster, Neville was billed by WWE as “the new sensation,” and that’s truly what he was in NXT. As the NXT Champion, Neville had some amazing matches with Superstars like Bo Dallas and Sami Zayn, but with his obvious lack of skills on the microphone and new clear cut character to work on, it was obvious this small but explosive Superstar would go majorly underappreciated when he was called up to Raw and SmackDown.
That’s exactly what happened, too. WWE failed to see the value in Neville, who offered nothing but the occasional high spot to a wrestling show which focuses so heavily on drama and character development. One would have thought the newly minted Cruiserweight division would have suited Neville nicely, but WWE doesn’t seem too keen on making anymore use out of him. Could 2017 be the year WWE sends Neville packing?
The former ECW World Heavyweight Champion known as Rhyno has had a lucrative career in WWE as well. Rhyno’s been competing between the ropes for a very long time and, while many wrestling fans likely thought his successful days in WWE were behind him, he has managed to make a comeback to the company and revitalize his wrestling career by teaming with Heath Slater on SmackDown Live to become the first ever SmackDown Tag Team Champions.
But all of that seems to have an expiration date with someone like Rhyno, who has no need for WWE once he’s out of useful material to contribute. His recent interest in a political career has been widely reported, running for office as a Republican in Michigan. His new endeavors make it seem unlikely that he’s in WWE for the long haul and he may not still be under contract at the end of next year.
4 Mark Henry
Known as the “World’s Strongest Man,” Mark Henry has been one of WWE’s most consistent monsters over the past two decades. During the Attitude era, Henry referred to himself as “Sexual Chocolate,” but soon became a serious and legitimate force to be reckoned with. For many years Mark Henry served as the worst nightmare for wrestlers on the midcard, but it seemed he might never be given the ball by WWE and allowed to run with the big one. He finally did, though, becoming a very popular World Heavyweight Champion. However, that would prove to be the peak of his career as he hasn’t been taken too seriously in the years following his reign at the top.
Recently, Henry has barely been seen on television except to make other wrestlers look better. That’s okay, because as long as he’s been around fans aren’t too excited to see him dominating younger stars, but he has publicly stated that he won’t likely be around the wrestling game much longer and is looking to retire.
3 Big Show
Few would have expected a monster like Paul Wight to have the success he’s had, given the fact that WWE tends to push monsters as a threat only to have them lose when it matters most in order to put other stars over. That wasn’t the case for Wight throughout most of his career, though. As The Giant in WCW, he was a dominant force in the WCW World Heavyweight Championship picture, and as the Big Show in WWE, he has racked up a slew of additional World Championship reigns. Big Show has won just about every title to be active throughout his reign of terror, proving to be one of the most decorated big men in WWE history.
But in recent years, Big Show has been mostly used as enhancement. So many Superstars have made a fool of him that no one takes him seriously anymore and WWE audiences frequently chant “please retire” at him. Big Show has actually stated he plans to retire in 2017, and while wrestlers tend to jump the gun when it comes to retirement announcements, this one seems likely.
2 Chris Jericho
Respect and championships have littered Chris Jericho’s career, one inarguably worthy of a future induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. He rose to mainstream fame in World Championship Wrestling, but it wasn’t until he debuted for the World Wrestling Federation in 1999 that Jericho’s career really skyrocketed and he quickly started winning Championships left and right. He’s seen by many as the greatest Intercontinental Champion of all time, holding the title more than anyone else in history, and has been the WWE World Champion on several occasions, winning the title for the first time by defeating The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on the same night.
Jericho is one of the most legendary WrestleMania performers ever, and is revered for his ability to recreate himself in order to stay relevant long after he probably should have. Though he remains one of the company’s most valuable assets, Jericho tends to come and go as he pleases in WWE and he’s been around for a while now, so it might just be time for another hiatus in 2017.
It’s a sad fact that Paige’s real life drama seems to have overshadowed her accomplishments inside a wrestling ring. She’s been the Divas Champion on two occasions, winning the title in her first main roster match by defeating the infamous AJ Lee. Paige was also the first NXT Women’s Champion, winning the title at the end of a tournament against Emma, a match that is credited by some as igniting the fire under the evolution of women’s wrestling in WWE. She’s one of the company’s best female performers, but recently she’s more known for her violations of the WWE wellness policy.
After her second consecutive suspension, Paige was publicly critical of the company for not accepting doctor’s notes regarding a prescription she received which caused the violation. She also complained that the company didn’t properly treat a neck injury of hers, so she went to an outside doctor for surgery. Considering all the bitterness and the fact that she can only be suspended once more before being fired, Paige may not make it past 2017 as a WWE Superstar.