With the WWE’s post WrestleMania mentality putting a huge emphasis on a New Era, changing the product was absolutely essential. One of the biggest changes that needed to be made was the involvement of SmackDown. Numbers continue to decline, and for various reasons, fans just stopped caring about the show. Daniel Bryan tried to save SmackDown during his final days wanting to compete exclusively on the show. His thinking was right, and the WWE is now recreating a brand extension having wrestlers exclusively on separate brands; not to mention the show will air live.
Aiding SmackDown was essential, but pushing young stars was also a hot topic. With too many cooks in the kitchen, new era stars were getting lost in the shuffle. Having separate brands will finally give them their time to shine. But this raises the question: who will put them over? The WWE acknowledged this issue by reaching out to several former employees. The company wants huge rosters on each brand, both with a mix of new era talent and well established veteran faces.
The following article will take a look at who these established stars are rumored to be. Each will make an impact in their own way, and this article will explain how and in what regard. Enjoy this list of 15 rumored names likely to return during the WWE’s brand extension!
15 Trish Stratus
Her career in women’s wrestling remains unmatched to this day. Her fine resume includes a seven-time Women’s Championship Title holder, the prestigious award for Diva of the Decade and perhaps her most impressive accomplishment of all, a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame, class of 2013. What made all these accomplishments so remarkable is the fact that she was able to do all of this before hitting the age of 40.
14 John Morrison
Creative differences eventually ended the career of John Morrison on a WWE stage. On the heels of signing a new deal with the company, he tried to gain creative control while moving up the card sheet. Despite his obvious in-ring talents and genetic superiority over most of the others, the company just didn’t see Morrison in the same light. The company loved his work but just not as a prominent fixture for the show.
13 Daniel Bryan
Much to everyone’s surprise, Daniel Bryan’s name is slowly resurfacing online as a rumored name set to return during a hyped brand extension. His market value is unmatched on a WWE surface; including Bryan in anything involving a brand split would be a major plus. An in-ring role seems extremely unlikely, although rumors have been floating around that he will return to action at some point, just not in a WWE ring.
12 Carlito Cool
His WWE debut was memorable to say the least. Not many wrestlers succeed in making an early impact as Carlito did when he won the United States Championship on his first night. What made the accomplishment even more impressive was the fact that he beat this up and comer guy, John Cena. I wonder how that Cena guy would go on to fair following that loss? Carlito’s victory would start a great rivalry between the two and in doing so, Cool would cement a spot as a prominent mid-card wrestler for the company. With so much potential, the company ultimately lost him in the shuffle relegating him to a Tag Team wrestler. He was later released after turning down a rehabilitation stint for an apparent addiction to pain killers.
11 Shelton Benjamin
Speaking of a talented, veteran-like, mid-card presence, Shelton Benjamin is another useful name that can add some serious value to a brand. Benjamin can thrive in both a heel or face gimmick; either way the former Tag Team Champion can excel at putting talent over. Something he was notorious for during his run with the WWE.
10 Paul Heyman
We have thus far taken a look at wrestlers outside of the company that are due for a return. Now, we will take a different angle by pointing the figure at an iconic wrestling personality that is still very much a member of the company, but has been limited to an off-screen role in the last couple of months. That man is Paul Heyman. Depth is what the company desperately needs during a brand split, and I'm not sure anyone does this better in terms of promo quality than Paul Heyman. The guy can add a different dimension to any show.
9 Steven Richards
Some curious names surfaced online when it was revealed which former WWE stars were contacted. Steven Richards was one of them. Not because of his talents, but rather his age, which is closing in on 45. If you follow Richards, you know that age is just a number, as the former WWE veteran is in the best shape of his life. I recently did a "Where Are They Now" piece on Richards, and it’s safe to say he’s still in wrestling condition today. Some actually believe he looks better today than he did back in the 90s.
His gimmick and WWE involvement was very present during his WWE run. MVP was a great addition to the SmackDown brand and thrived in a role as a prominent upper/ mid-card wrestler for the show. He managed two stints with the United States Championship, along with an improbable Tag Team Championship run alongside former WWE alumni, Matt Hardy.
7 Cryme Tyme
With a need for veteran singles talent, also comes the discussion for experienced teams in a Tag Division that looks to have a strong future because of NXT’s proper developmental methods. With so many great teams nearing the cusp of excellence, you need a strong supporting cast around them to properly put the younger teams over. That’s where Shad Gaspard and JTG come in.
6 Gail Kim
This return seems to be the most farfetched on the list, when you consider Gail said she’d never return to the WWE after the way she was treated during her run. Despite being the best female wrestler, the company failed to push Kim when it mattered, and rumors surfaced that Vince McMahon did not like Gail and ultimately this cost her her position, despite her obvious in-ring abilities.
5 Jeff Hardy
His name value is still immense. Wrestling fans adore Jeff Hardy, who brought in such a unique style during the early 2000s, paving the way for a tremendous Tag Team division which hasn’t been the same since. Hardy’s career was unfortunately plagued by his heart and compete level, being in the wrong place at times. This eventually hurt him and cost him a future with the WWE, a company that is always looking at things in a long term perspective. Now older and wiser, it may be the proper time for Jeff to make his long awaited return. Looking at it from a distance, it just seems to be the right time.
4 Rey Mysterio
Rey’s name was one of the first to be linked to a possible return after it was revealed that the WWE would be going back to separate brands. Rightfully so, Mysterio was one of the best overachieving stars during the last brand split, and his market value with the SmackDown brand reached new heights. He became the unofficial ambassador for the brand.
When the list of possible returnees surfaced online, Goldberg was one of the most talked about names that was featured on the list. With his recent involvement marketing the next WWE 2K17 game, his relationship with the WWE brand once again resurfaced, despite a bitter ending between the two parties. Now older and wiser, Goldberg admits he would be interested in making a part-time appearance for the WWE product in some capacity.
2 Randy Orton
With all the recent buzz generated from possible returns during the brand split, WWE Superstar Randy Orton, seems to be the forgotten one since his shoulder injury that put him on the sidelines way back in September of 2015. According to recent news, Orton is set to return very soon and will in fact play a pivotal role in the brand extension storyline in some manner. Orton is rumored to join the Raw brand due to his obvious draw value, stemming from years and years in an upper-card role with the company. Though his actual in-ring return may be pushed back until later August, according to recent speculation The Viper is set to return at SummerSlam.
1 Kurt Angle
There is no name in the world of pro wrestling that has started more conversations recently than Kurt Angle. When the brand split was made official, his name was the first to appear online as a rumored returnee. Not surprising when you consider Angle put SmackDown on his back helping it to become must-see television during its prime.
Rumors further intensified when it was revealed that Angle and Triple H met while both were attending the same event. After the meeting, Kurt went public saying a WWE return was a matter of “when” and not “if”. This sent shockwaves around the WWE universe. His involvement is assured, leaving us to speculate what he will do. The potential list includes a run as General Manager, teammate with American Alpha, part timer or what we all want, a full time butt kicker. You can expect the rumors to further intensify as the weeks go by and we get closer to the draft day.
Sources: inquisitr.com, forbes.com, givemesport.com
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