With rosters on Raw, SmackDown Live, NXT and 205 Live, the WWE is constantly searching for new talent. Vince McMahon and Triple H tend to have different mind-sets when it comes to signing wrestlers. McMahon is all about familiarity and image. Triple H is instead more in tune with the times searching for best in-ring acts from around the world. Before Triple H started to recruit, McMahon wanted to know nothing about acts from TNA. The likes of AJ Styles and Samoa Joe helped to change Vince’s mind.
In this article, we take a look at wrestlers outside of the WWE, and we look at which ones can possibly join the company. We’ll divide the list up into two parts; one, looking at performers Vince might have interest in and two, we'll be featuring wrestlers that Triple H might recruit for NXT. Fans might have mixed feelings when it comes to some of the names on this list.
From returning stars like Batista and Alberto Del Rio to new acts such as Rosemary and Marty Scurll, we feature eight rumored names Vince McMahon might consider hiring, while also taking a look at seven Triple H might sign for NXT. Let’s get started, folks!
15 Vince – Batista
Batista played a massive role in shaping the company’s Ruthless Aggression Era. He was pushed as a prominent star alongside Triple H and later, he would become a top tier babyface for the company over on SmackDown. His return to the company didn’t go as planned, as fans turned on 'The Animal' due to Daniel Bryan’s rise in fame. It hurt his draw value a little bit and we haven’t seen Dave inside a WWE ring since. For the last couple of years, rumors have been swirling around pertaining to a Batista return.
In fact, Dave himself confirmed the speculation claiming he was in discussion with both Hunter and Vince just prior to WrestleMania. Batista was seriously considered to serve as the partner for Ronda Rousey.
However, Dave wanted to build towards a follow-up match against Hunter at WrestleMania 35, something the company might not have been interested in. Batista was ultimately left in the dark and he never received a call back.
Although things appear to be rocky between the two sides, McMahon is no fool when it comes to Dave. Particularly with his recent film success; it’s highly likely McMahon pulls the trigger on a Batista signing during the fall building up towards Survivor Series.
14 Triple H – Emma
One of the most talked about releases in 2017 featured the dismissal of Tenille Dashwood, aka Emma. She got her start with the company way back in 2011 with FCW. The first part of her main roster journey was serving as a comedic act alongside Santino Marella. She really got a strong gimmick going later on alongside Dana Brooke with NXT. It was a duo that should have received the call up together, however that ultimately was not the case.
The train went completely off the tracks during Emma’s gimmick re-launch under the moniker of Emmalina. It was an idea that Vince McMahon was all over, though the only problem was the fact that Emma wasn’t entirely comfortable with the role. It completely sunk her WWE career and she was never able to recover.
Don’t feel too bad though, as Emma’s getting booked a lot on the indie scene. She’s also a regular with the Women Of Honor division. She’ll only improve her in-ring skills while away from the WWE, without a doubt Triple H has an eye on her current development.
Similarly to Drew McIntyre, perhaps hitting the indies will result in a boost in confidence and later, another WWE deal. It also helps that she’s shown no ill will against the company since the departure.
13 Vince – Alberto Del Rio
Del Rio’s first WWE run was a success. He captured the World Heavyweight Title along with being crowned as the winner of the 2011 Royal Rumble. Fans forget that due to his downward spiral as of late but the guy was a pretty big deal at one point and a wrestler Vince McMahon really liked.
Oh, how things would change in such a short amount of time! You can argue that Del Rio destroyed his WWE legacy with his most recent run. He returned in 2015 and once again, the company booked Alberto with the utmost confidence allowing him to defeat the hottest US Champion at the time, John Cena. The title reached its peak in terms of importance with Cena putting the championship on the line weekly with a US Open. Following Alberto’s win however, the title lost a lot of its momentum. A feud with Kalisto sunk both the championship and the Mexican wrestler. He requested a release and completely burned bridges with the company, bad mouthing Triple H in particular.
He has since apologized and with the WWE looking to expand in the Mexican market, leave it to Vince to put things in the past
and welcome the wrestler back to the company.
12 Triple H – Jay Lethal
Yes, NXT is all about pushing younger talent, however veterans still serve an important purpose on the show. Just ask Bobby Roode who was crowned as the NXT Champion. For a guy who started training in the late 90s, winning such a championship was a tremendous moment and one that was quite merited. Hunter respects wrestlers who put in the miles and for that reason, Jay Lethal must, at the very least, spark his interest.
Similar to Roode, Lethal’s a veteran wrestling since the early 2000s, however he’s still surprisingly young at the age of 33. A championship push with ROH completely changed his trajectory; he became an upper card act on the indie scene due to the push.
We’re not the first ones to link Lethal to a WWE signing. Just a month ago, Lethal spoke about being fed up about being asked such a question and his answer wasn’t the most positive either. Lethal stated;
“One funky thing that I do get tired of is when people say 'Hey man, quit wasting your time, go to WWE already.' First of all, I'm not wasting my time. I love what I do. I love Ring of Honor and I'm not interested in going anywhere right now. Second of all, I think some of the people that say that, they think you just go and knock on their door and say you're ready to go. It doesn't work like that either. Other than that, I don't get tired of it because that's wrestling fans and the main product that they watch is WWE and that's where they want to see all their favorite wrestlers."
11 Vince - Keith Lee
A plethora of success and failure in NOLA. Honorable and dishonorable experiences. Painful moments. Educational moments. This...was the highest of honors. The respect I have for this man is at a zenith. To go into *that* house...and make history with him, unprecedented regardless of the outcome. Now, I feel as though #TheGrind has just begun. Time to heal, reflect, and refocus. What else can I do? Only time will tell. #BaskInMyGlory #iAmLimitless
WrestleMania is a unique event that attracts companies from around the world. WrestleMania isn’t the only show to take place though, as various promotions also run events on the Friday and Saturday. For indie wrestler Keith Lee, the weekend was particularly memorable due to the fact that he got to work with the WWE for the first time in his young career.
One of the most promising prospects out there, the PWG star got to work against NXT’s Kassius Ohno. Many saw the opportunity as a possible audition. McMahon loves big men and it wouldn’t surprise us one bit if he pulled out the cheque book for the independent talent.
The rumors recently intensified with Lee dropping the PWG Championship most recently to rival Walter. The title change sparked discussion online that Lee might be jumping ship immediately. Wrestling Observer’s Bryan Alvarez confirmed the story stating;
“I mean I presume Keith Lee is going to WWE, the other thing is and this may not have anything to do with it. I mean I haven’t seen any of his matches since WrestleMania weekend but he was in a car accident in WrestleMania Weekend. He was kind of banged up. I mean maybe he has some injuries and he’s taking some time off. He could be that but my gut is he’s probably going to WWE. But I don’t know so don’t report that.”
10 Triple H - Will Ospreay
Triple H loves to recruit the top talent from around the world and for that reason, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he attempted to recruit one of the hottest indie acts out there, Will Ospreay. Still only 24, the talent oozes with charisma, not to mention his insane acrobatics inside of the squared circle. He made mainstream news for a match against Ricochet, one that all modern-day wrestling fans need to watch.
Will can instantly serve a purpose on any of the brands, whether it be NXT, 205 Live or heck, either of the main rosters. However, for the time being he seems to be content with his current schedule. During Talk Is Jericho, Will admitted that he isn’t a huge fan of travelling and for that reason, working a WWE schedule just doesn't match his current lifestyle. Will also stated that he likes booking his own dates and basically, working a schedule around himself and not around others.
We assume this is a 'no for now' type of ordeal. When asked about why he turned down a WWE deal he had this to say;
"As a kid you'd always want your WrestleMania, you always wanted to be like yourself (Jericho), John Cena or any of those guys. It's always been in the back of my mind but as I've come here (NJPW) I've grown up more. I had a phone call the other day actually asking about my contacts and stuff like that. I appreciate it but I'm happy here and I love being a part of Japan."
9 Vince – Rey Mysterio
The 2018 Royal Rumble was supposed to be all about Ronda Rousey’s WWE debut, however you can argue that Rey Mysterio’s return completely stole all of the spotlight. Fans absolutely popped, as Rey’s WWE return was by far the most watched Royal Rumble clip. Rey always had a huge fanbase and for that reason, the WWE was quite reluctant to let such a talent go.
Vince has always kept the door open; Rey was even featured during the Greatest Royal Rumble event.
He was recently asked about a permanent deal with the company and here’s what he had to say;
"Right now, it's just a matter of if there is an interest, I really think there is on both ends, as much as from WWE and myself, to eventually go back and do some work with them. I would love to eventually sit down and see if we can come up with a gameplan. I don't see why that couldn't happen, so I'm up for it and looking forward to it, to actually sit down and [converse] about some potential work with the company." Mysterio added, "I'm excited to be able to sit down and come up with a gameplan. And hopefully that will happen."
8 Triple H – Toni Storm
When it comes to recruiting female talent, Triple H has a great eye and one far better than his father-in-law. Triple H is the mastermind behind the Women’s Revolution. We’re seeing the result of his work on both main roster shows: Raw and SmackDown Live; not to mention NXT, which continues to push the women as prominent acts.
The Mae Young Classic was another tremendous pipeline to showcase all female talents from around the world. The tournament had several notable standouts, one of the most impressive performers however, was a young 22 year old by the name of Toni Storm. She seemed like a true veteran in the ring which is absurd given her age.
The WWE was high on the talent. She made it to the semi finals losing out to Kairi Sane.
She’s back on the indie travelling around the world. Her goal to make it to the WWE one day is still intact despite getting a taste of it;
"My goal from the very beginning has been WWE—it's what I've wanted since I was 10. I know that I'll get there because I'm putting my whole life into this, (and) I have to go there because if I don't ... this is my only option. There's no back-up, but I'm enjoying the journey.”
7 Vince – Tessa Blanchard
When it comes to recruiting and pushing talent, Vince considers a Superstar's image as an important factor. We have seen this mentality with both the male and female Superstars. Who can forget the story that Jim Ross shared explaining that despite Gail Kim’s obvious talent, Vince wouldn’t push her because men might not have found the Asian talent attractive. Yup, Vince has no ordinary mind.
Tessa Blanchard is the complete package. Like Charlotte, she has the blood line, look and skills to thrive with the WWE. Still only 22, Blanchard continues to work her craft out on the independent scene. She was recently announced as the first woman to be booked for the All-In show. That just shows her draw value at this point.
We got a sniff of the talent briefly during the Mae Young Classic. Although she was ousted quickly in the first round, Blanchard put on a 'match of the tournament' candidate early on against the eventual winner, Kairi Sane. Blanchard additionally worked a dark match for the company. Speculation in early 2018 linked Blanchard to the WWE. However, those rumors weren’t true as she continues to take indie bookings for the year. Though in truth, she’ll join the company at some point, likely in 2019.
6 Triple H - Tetsuya Naito
Just a couple of years ago, Vince had no interest (nor the desire) in signing wrestlers from TNA or, with a prominent resume as a big star over in Japan. Enter Triple H and that mind-set has completely shifted. Samoa Joe and AJ Styles became two massive catalysts for the change, enjoying huge success with the company. Asuka and Nakamura also opened the door for massive Japanese stars. However, we still get the feeling that McMahon would rather push a homegrown talent, especially given the fact that Asuka and Nakamura haven’t won a major main roster championship at this point.
Unlike his father-in-law, we expect Hunter to pursue new Japanese talent for NXT. It’s hard to find a better act that Testuya Naito, a wrestler that oozes with charisma.
He was asked about joining the company and taking on prominent WWE names during an interview with SI and here’s what he has to say; “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.”
Like Nakamura, this likely means a 'no for now' and when his body starts to give out, he’ll opt for a WWE run due to the easier style.
5 Vince – Chris Jericho
A wrestler forever linked to the WWE is Chris Jericho. Even though he worked a match with Kenny Omega outside of the company, he still maintains a close relationship with Vince McMahon. Chris recently helped out his former boss appearing at the Greatest Royal Rumble event. It was another example of the two sides maintaining a positive relationship – the veteran travelled around the world just to show up for a small appearance in the 50-men Royal Rumble match.
In terms of a permanent return, one doesn’t seem likely for the time being, however once he decides to return, we have no doubt the door will be wide open.
For now he continues on with his band Fozzy along with his cruise coming up in the next couple of months. As for another match with New Japan, Chris recently spoke about the matter and his answer wasn’t the most optimistic, though he could be swerving us. Nonetheless, here’s what he had to say;
“Things change. That’s how it goes. Sometimes things seem like a good idea at the time, and then when you look at it a little bit deeper and a little bit further, you realize it’s not going to go the way you want it to go.”
4 Triple H - Rosemary
In terms of popular female talents outside of the WWE, it doesn’t get any better and more unique than Rosemary. From her dark gimmick to face-painted look, Rosemary’s something we haven’t seen in the division for quite some time.
Given her skill-set, she looks like a perfect fit for NXT. Just imagine a feud between Nikki Cross and Rosemary...
Rumors discussed Rosemary as possibly being the one revealed as Bray Wyatt’s Sister Abigail. Rosemary herself commented on the speculation claiming she was sick of answering the false rumors. Her future for now remains outside of the WWE and she’s enjoying the creative freedom that comes with it;
"I really love the amount of trust Impact’s Creative has in me, to bring this character to life since they don't really tell me what to say. They tell me what point needs to come across in the promo. They tell me to say it like I would. They don't give me any lines. And that kind of trust is huge in that they know that I know my character best and how it will come across organically. If you try to force the way Rosemary talks, it's going to come across as very fake. ... I would say 95% [of the lines are from me]. I definitely ask for advice and ask for help, if there's something maybe I can't figure out how to say. I never feel like I can't approach somebody in Creative for a suggestion. That's the openness of communication. You can ask for advice but they trust you to do it the way you would."
3 Vince - Marty Scurll
No, Scurll might not be the first name you would associate with Vince having an interest in. Yes, he’s an indie darling and in truth, a smaller sized wrestler. However, McMahon is no fool when it comes to facts.
Scurll has one of the highest selling merchandise numbers outside of the WWE. His t-shirts sellout quicker than WWE talent. With all those dollar signs, McMahon is surely willing to put certain feelings aside.
The Villain continues to enjoy success outside of the WWE, making a great living. However, he has discussed the possibility of making a WWE move and his answer was more of a 'no for now, but yes in the future'. Here’s what he had to say about the matter:
"Right now, I love what I'm doing. I want to conquer ROH and New Japan. I want to continue to push the boundaries and break the mold of what a wrestler without the machine behind them can do. In terms of 'The Villain' and WWE, I'm pretty sure if they saw opportunity in me to make money, I'm sure they'd let me have a lot of creative freedom. But who knows if they do. I do see a lot of Villain shirts on their programming though. I would love to pick the brain of Vince McMahon. 'The Villain' and the 'Evil Genius' discussing the business over a steak dinner sounds divine."
2 Triple H - Matt Riddle
Vince McMahon might not be the biggest fan of Matt Riddle due to his controversial ways outside of the ring. He’s a big advocate of cannabis, something McMahon likely doesn’t want associated with his company.
You can’t deny talent though, and that’s where Triple H steps in. He’s always willing to look past these types of things and if anyone can get Riddle on board, it’s The Game. He’s an obvious talent with 'WWE Star' written all over him.
However, Riddle hasn’t been the most positive when discussing a future with the company. Her recently stated;
“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 weed 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.”
1 Vince – Enzo Amore
In 2018, the most shocking release was the departure of Cruiserweight Champion Enzo Amore. Despite the fact that he held the championship, Amore was nonetheless instantly released due to some serious allegations. With Raw 25 on the horizon, the company was none too pleased that they were fielding questions about the matter.
Ultimately, the issue the company had was that Amore didn’t let them know of the charges. He was already walking a fine line and the allegations served as a final strike. Fast forward to now and those same charges have been completely dropped by the alleged victim.
Does this open up the door for a possible return? Perhaps.
Despite his controversial past, McMahon took a liking for Enzo and even made him the face of 205 Live. Not only could Amore talk but he was also one heck of a draw in terms of merch sales. We’ve seen stranger things take place in the past and we wouldn’t be all that surprised if McMahon decided to pick up the phone and give Enzo a call, if only to stir things up a little bit. Have we seen the last of Enzo inside of a WWE ring? That remains to be seen...