2017 is shaping up to be a special year for the entire wrestling business. WWE has loaded rosters for all of their brands. The Royal Rumble will feature a mix of legends and current stars fighting in a dream battle royal heading into WrestleMania season. WWE continues to aggressively pursuit the best talents on the free agent market and that hasn’t hurt the rest of the industry. New Japan continues to grow as the second biggest promotion in the world. Anyone not in the WWE is looking to get work there, along with their United States partner Ring of Honor.
ROH has been a fixture in wrestling for quite some time now. The company has its strengths and flaws, but they do offer very competitive contracts to top talent. TNA and Lucha Underground are also in play to smaller extents. Wrestlers that are okay with short term contracts and uncertainty in the workplace could find happiness there. Lucha Underground’s schedule leaves a lot to be desired, with no one truly knowing how often they’ll get work.
The best factor about multiple promotions being viable options to sign contracts means wrestlers can move around. A few names are in rumors or have shown enough evidence to be ready for a change. We’ll look at fifteen wrestlers that will find a new promotion at some point this year.
15. Kyle O’Reilly: WWE
Kyle O’Reilly winning the ROH World Championship at the biggest show of the year would make one think he’s sticking around with the company for the long run. That doesn’t appear to be true as rumors have been buzzing that O’Reilly is refusing to sign a new contract. O’Reilly is apparently hoping for a spot in NXT to progress his desires of getting to the WWE.
Aside from the relationship with New Japan, ROH severely lacks interest right now. WWE giving talented performers a fair chance to get over has made it an even more appealing scenario for wrestlers whose contracts are ending. O’Reilly will be the biggest loss for ROH as they hoped to build around him this year. NXT badly needs new credible stars and O’Reilly is a perfect fit that will land a WWE contract.
14. Bobby Fish: TNA
Bobby Fish is Kyle O’Reilly’s tag team partner and he’s also a free agent. If O’Reilly decides to leave Ring of Honor, Fish is not far behind, as his future as a singles star will be up in the air. WWE may not have the same interest in Fish due to his older age nearing his 40s. Fish is still a great performer that delivers impressive matches and charismatic promos on a consistent basis.
TNA desperately needs to add new talent with their smaller roster likely shrinking with contracts expiring. Mike Bennett, Maria Kanellis and Moose all received big contracts from TNA in 2016 when leaving ROH. Fish is someone that would be a good fit for TNA. ROH going through changes and O’Reilly not being there with him should make Fish search for a new home.
13. Tyler Breeze: ROH
It would be a mistake for the WWE to give up on a talented young wrestler, but that has happened many times before. Vince McMahon reportedly dislikes Tyler Breeze and doesn’t see anything special in him. The main reason for Breeze’s inconsistent television time is McMahon not believing in him. WWE currently has Breeze in a comedic tag team with Fandango that is going nowhere.
Breeze is likely going to be on the chopping block when more talent gets called up and the WWE looks to cut the roster down. Unless he can get sent back down to NXT where he flourished, Breeze doesn’t have a role in the WWE. Ring of Honor is going to have to find noteworthy talent all year to keep up with the talents leaving them. Breeze would be a great fit for both parties if he was forced out of the WWE.
12. Sin Cara: Lucha Underground
A few backstage incidents involving Sin Cara will soon end his time in the WWE. The high-flying wrestler allegedly got the better of Simon Gotch in a fight backstage. A more high profile incident occurred months later with Sin Cara getting into yet another fight, this time with Chris Jericho on a tour bus in the United Kingdom. Jericho stepped up to Sin Cara for making noise and annoying others on the bus, leading to a physical confrontation.
It led to WWE punishing Sin Cara by removing him from the Cruiserweight Division. At one point, the other wrestlers forced him to leave the locker room and dress with the extras. Sin Cara is definitely on the way out of the WWE before the year ends. The gimmick will belong to the company, but Hunico will be able to wrestle the luchadore style in Lucha Underground. LU loves picking up former WWE talent and this seems to be a perfect fit.
11. Lio Rush: WWE
The 22 year old Lio Rush shows as much potential as any wrestler you’ll find today. Rush has only been doing it for a little over a year and is already delivering outstanding performances on a regular basis. Ring of Honor signed him to a contract following a tryout camp. Everyone to watch Lio can easily spot the talent he has, which will likely only improve through the years.
As mentioned earlier, many of the ROH contracts for current talent are expiring in the first few months of the year. Rush’s potential will land him in the WWE sooner or later. The Performance Center having the tools to mold a talented, young performer will make him a perfect recruit to join the roster for NXT. Rush landing a WWE contract will happen before the year ends, unless something goes very wrong for him.
10. Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis: ROH
TNA snagged the couple of Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis away from ROH to start 2016 on a one-year contract. They were both spotlighted in noteworthy positions, but the lack of certainty in TNA’s future has appeared to frustrate them. Bennett expressed disappointment when Billy Corgan was unable to get ownership of TNA by stating the company would return to ‘bad business as usual.’
Kanellis talked about retirement when the bad news about TNA continued to leak towards the end of last year. Both performers still work well together, bringing their real life chemistry to their act. Bennett and Kanellis departed ROH on good terms and have made hints online about returning. ROH’s Kingdom stable currently lacks a fourth wrestler and Bennett returning to his family, along with Kanellis as the manager, appears to make the most sense.
9. The Vaudevillains: TNA
WWE has already lost all faith in pushing The Vaudevillains as a tag team. Simon Gotch and Aiden English made up one of the better tag teams in NXT for quite some time before coming up to the main roster following WrestleMania 32. Unlike most of the wrestlers to make their call up from NXT, The Vaudevillains instantly flopped with Vince McMahon hating their characters.
Gotch’s fight backstage with Sin Cara also hurt his standing in the company. Reports suggested Gotch took the blame for that specific incident, as he was in the wrong. WWE clearly has no interest in The Vaudevillains being a major tag team, which has caused them to do nothing on the main roster and will lead to an eventual release. TNA desperately needs new tag teams. Don’t be surprised to see Gotch and English make the move to TNA when getting let go by the WWE.
8. Drew Galloway: NJPW
Drew Galloway’s ascension following his WWE release has been among the best stories of a wrestler saving his career. Galloway became a top name on the independent circuit by showing us the WWE never used his talent properly. TNA took note of Galloway making waves and signed him to become a big part of the show. Galloway won the TNA Championship in 2016 to become one of the top players in the company.
At any other time period, Galloway would probably stick with them long term for giving him such a huge push. Sadly, TNA is all over the place right now and are asking a lot of the wrestlers to show faith in them. Galloway’s bitter ending with the WWE could see him avoid risking another disappointing run to harm his momentum. New Japan has acquired some of the best wrestlers from all over the world who have various styles. Galloway would be a huge star there due to his size and ability to keep up with the smaller wrestlers.
7. Sienna: WWE
The WWE continues to scout with the hopes of building a strong women’s division on Raw, SmackDown Live and NXT. They need many new talents to develop in order for the women’s revolution to continue thriving in the brand split era. TNA has brought a few new female stars to the television screen. Sienna was a breakout star in 2016 winning the Knockouts Champion.
With a strong background on the independent circuit, the former Allysin Kay was among the best female wrestlers on the free agent market for years. TNA will try their best to keep Sienna, but WWE is obviously a better situation for her. There are rumors of Triple H wanting to have a tournament consisting of all the best female independent wrestlers from all over the world. Sienna coming to the WWE for the tournament and earning a contract may just be her destiny.
6. Ricochet: WWE
Ricochet has become a hot commodity in wrestling thanks to his impressive runs in both Lucha Undergroud and New Japan. His character of Prince Puma in Lucha Underground sees him wear a mask, but still put together some of the greatest moves you’ll ever witness in a wrestling ring. New Japan uses him as a top name in the Junior Heavyweight Division.
WWE passed on Ricochet a few years ago and he used it to fuel his fire even more by becoming one of the best in the world. The time is right for Ricochet to finally make the move to the WWE. He might be able to skip NXT by becoming a top name in the Cruiserweight Division. There’s no doubt Ricochet would get over in the current WWE culture by just continuing to do what he’s been doing for years.
5. Eddie Edwards: ROH
The current TNA World Champion Eddie Edwards seems to be happy with his current place of employment. However, there are big changes coming to TNA with new owners and a lot of mystery surrounding what comes next. Edwards is definitely valued in TNA, but Ring of Honor was the place he first made his name. ROH will have to fill top spots with many of their own stars leaving in 2017.
Edwards is the prototypical ROH wrestler. His title reign has not shown that TNA’s management doesn’t gave much faith in him. It’s more than likely that he loses it early in 2017. It would be tough for Edwards to move down the card after tasting the main event spotlight. ROH may also be in a position to offer more money and a bigger spotlight to bring a former top star home.
4. Adam Cole: WWE
One of the biggest ROH stars that will see his contract expire soon is Adam Cole. The talented young star is the face of the company and has been for a couple of years now. Cole will officially hit free agency in April. Many believe the WWE will strongly go after him with their desire to scoop up the best talent available this year.
Cole has publicly discussed his goals of going to the WWE. Unlike some wrestlers that don’t mind avoiding WWE, Cole is adamant that his goal is to eventually main event a WrestleMania event. That won’t happen until he officially joins the WWE, which is the safest bet to happen on this list. Cole is already an established name at just 27 years old and will be a great fit for the big company in any way they choose to use him.
3. Dolph Ziggler: TNA
The clock is ticking on Dolph Ziggler in the WWE. We have reached the point where he will never be able to be a legitimate main eventer. Ziggler once appeared to be among the brightest stars in the company. WWE never gave him the ball when he was ready and now he has started to regress. Ziggler can still give you a solid performance in the mid-card as seen against The Miz, but he’s never going to be a World Champion again.
Recent years have seen Ziggler start to branch out in other areas like comedy and television gigs. WWE typically doesn’t like their wrestlers finding work in other forms of entertainment without their own branding. Ziggler is someone that has to be frustrated with his surroundings. TNA tends to go after former WWE stars with big contract offers. Ziggler is the type of performer they would offer a sweet deal to and it may just come in 2017.
2. The Hardys: WWE
Matt and Jeff Hardy are going to be the biggest names on the free agent market to start off the year. The Hardys are expected to have their TNA contracts expire in early March. Every wrestling promotion will want them after the huge success of the Broken Matt and Brother Nero characters in 2017. If the WWE is serious about truly acquiring the best talents on the market, they will make the Hardys a huge priority.
Jeff would be a massive signing regardless if he’s playing the Brother Nero character teaming with Matt or being a singles star like he was before leaving the WWE. Matt could finally match Jeff in star power as well, with his character change making him arguably the hottest thing in wrestling. WWE will add strong depth to the roster by signing Matt and Jeff to have their final run with the company that made them.
1. Cesaro: NJPW
The most under-utilized wrestler in the WWE has been Cesaro over the past few years. WWE currently has him slotted with Sheamus as the Raw Tag Team Champions. At the end of the day, this is just another makeshift team that is preventing Cesaro from moving into the main event picture before his prime years end. Cesaro has expressed frustration on Twitter about how his career is going and that has to be a sign for things to come.
New Japan offers great money and more artistic freedom for their top stars. Cesaro leaving the WWE would not see him take a financial hit with his stock higher than ever. His name value would see him become a huge star in New Japan, Ring of Honor and any other promotion he chooses to work for. NJPW is the main company that could tempt him to leave the WWE for a world of his potential being fulfilled before it’s too late.