The number of wrestlers employed by the WWE is staggering. We tend to only notice the performers on television. Obviously, they also have a crew of hundreds doing work to make the company run efficiently from the live events to the offices. The wrestlers on the roster are continuing to grow with Raw, SmackDown Live, NXT and 205 Live all requiring different names. Aside from the on-screen talent, there are people under contract that you aren’t aware of or forgot existed. WWE rarely releases injured wrestlers and will take care of them during their time on the injury list.
Producers are usually former wrestlers hired to help add to the matches. The competitors in the match will work with the producer in planning how they set up the action and story they want told. WWE also created the ambassador role for wrestlers leaving the company. These specific names will do promotional work for the WWE and earn a paycheck for it. Older stars have a legends contract option to have their merchandise sold while getting a cut. That makes it easy to have it fly under the radar and realize that some names are still a part of WWE. We’ll look at those wrestlers you forgot were still signed to a WWE contract.
15. Gene Okerlund
Legendary wrestling broadcaster “Mean” Gene Okerlund is known for his interviews with Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and other top names in both WWE and WCW. Okerlund is retired from the interviewing game, but WWE still has him signed to a contract. The memorable voice of Okerlund is used for voiceover work in various projects for the company.
Okerlund is the host of the new WWE Network show Story Time. He also does studio work for a few other projects that are relevant for his presence. Okerlund’s legends contract allows him to take outside bookings at conventions, but the 74 year old still has a place in the WWE. We also get to see him appear on WWE television once in a while when he’s needed for a nostalgia segment. Okerlund is an older veteran that still remains on the WWE employee list.
14. Billy Kidman
— John Layfield (@JCLayfield) November 20, 2016
The cruiserweight run of Billy Kidman in the WWE and WCW made him stand out as an exciting in-ring competitor. Everyone remembers Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko among the top cruiserweights in WCW, but Kidman was right there with them for many years. Kidman made the move to WWE when WCW was sold to Vince McMahon.
WWE used Kidman as a role player primarily in the tag team and cruiserweight divisions. Kidman had solid matches but wasn’t viewed as a special talent for the company. Luckily, he didn’t burn any bridges and continued to work hard. Kidman now has a job in the WWE under contract to be a producer. His main job at Raw and SmackDown shows is to make sure the shows runs smoothly and everyone hits their time limit.
13. Bronson Matthews
The most recent season of Tough Enough saw the WWE invest a lot of money into the reality show with hopes of finally finding a star out of it. Vince McMahon and Triple H both loved the look and athletic background of Josh who eventually won the contract. Josh joined the Performance Center and is now working under the name of Bronson Matthews.
After winning the contract on national television, he was forced to start at the bottom learning the basics. Matthews got into hot water when making a joke on social media mocking The Social Outcasts for being “jobbers.” Many wrestlers on the main roster took exception and called him out. That was the last we’ve really heard out of him. Bronson has yet to make an appearance on NXT while many of the Tough Enough losers have become part of the show. The Tough Enough winner is still on the roster enjoying his contract though.
One of the more impressive talents in the Cruiserweight Classic was Akira Tozawa. The Japanese star had a couple of great matches, but has not been involved in any of the cruiserweight matches since the division moved to Raw. Tozawa is currently under contract and has been getting situated with his move from Japan to the United States.
WWE has him listed on the roster for the new 205 Live show, which displays the talents of the cruiserweights. Tozawa may not be one of the spotlighted names yet, but he is bound to make a big impact sooner or later. The cruiserweight division badly needs depth to succeed. A talent like Tozawa making such a drastic career move means WWE won’t waste him away. Expect him to thrive in the cruiserweight division and NXT come 2017.
11. Gerald Brisco
Gerald Brisco is most remembered by current fans for his time as a “stooge” for Vince McMahon. Along with Pat Patterson, Brisco played McMahon’s lackey during the Attitude Era by doing his bidding. Brisco had a strong career as a wrestler and is using that in his current role for the WWE. Triple H has Brisco scout talent in helping to find new assets for the Performance Center.
WWE is trying to find the best possible talent to build the future of the company around. There are many scouts suggesting talent and Brisco is one of the bigger names. Former UFC fighter Matt Riddle was a name Brisco suggested and Riddle has progressed into a top independent wrestler. Brisco definitely has an eye for talent, even if the WWE doesn’t always sign his suggested performers.
Paige’s controversial year has left many wondering what her status is. Paige started to date Alberto Del Rio and it completely went against WWE wishes. The company tried to split them up in the draft until both failed drug tests to violate the Wellness Policy. Paige got into a war of words with the WWE and Del Rio successfully requested his release from the company.
The Wellness Policy suspensions and Del Rio’s departure from the WWE made it seem clear Paige would be fired. WWE did not cut bait and still has her under contract with the hope of a return once her suspension ends and her neck injury is cleared up. More controversy could end this, but for the time being, Paige is still a member of the WWE roster.
Longtime wrestling fans have a soft spot in their heart for Funaki. The Japanese wrestler was a member of Kai En Tai alongside Taka Michinoku. Both men were talented but used their comedic side to connect with the WWE fans. Funaki continued his wrestling career in the WWE for many years and eventually become a comedic broadcaster with the moniker “SmackDown’s #1 announcer.”
Art has become reality with Funaki, who is now actually working for the WWE as a commentator. WWE’s presence as a global brand has led to them having commentary teams for many different languages. Funaki provides Japanese commentary for fans back in his home country. The company also trusted him to help get Japanese wrestlers coming to the company acclimated with their new life, such as Hideo Itami and Shinsuke Nakamura.
Tamina has not been on WWE television since early May. As the daughter of Jimmy Snuka, Tamina is a second generation performer that has struggled to find the right role in WWE. Tamina flopped as a singles performer on multiple occasions. Her best runs have come as a bodyguard/enforcer for better wrestlers like AJ Lee and Naomi. The lack of presence on television has made many assume she’s done with the WWE.
Tamina still remains under contract as a member of the main roster. The reason for her time off television is torn ligaments needing to be repaired through knee surgery. Tamina is still recovering from the surgery and should be back on the road soon. The problem is finding a role for her. Tamina may not have much time left, but for now, she’s a part of the WWE.
7. Scotty 2 Hotty
Fresh off a 14 hour flight from Australia.. What's the first thing we do?
— Johnny Gargano (@JohnnyGargano) December 14, 2016
Attitude Era fans instinctively want to spell out the letters for ‘worm’ when Scotty 2 Hotty is mentioned. The most entertaining member of the Too Cool tag team saw his biggest success come from doing the worm dance in the ring as the crowd spelled W-O-R-M before he hit a chop on his opponent. Scotty had great all around talent as a very good worker without the dancing.
WWE recently signed him to become a trainer in the Performance Center. The aspiring wrestlers and NXT stars currently learn under the tutelage of Scotty. Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa and Oney Lorcan recently tweeted out photos of a trip to Disneyland with Scotty. WWE wrestlers are clearly enjoying spending time with and learning from the retired star. Hopefully, Scotty still has it in him to deliver the worm if ever needed in an on-air role.
6. Gran Metalik
The finals of the Cruiserweight Classic saw T.J. Perkins defeat Gran Metalik to win the tournament and the Cruiserweight Championship. Many viewers would argue Metalik was more impressive and the standout star of the entire tournament. We have only seen Metalik appear on Raw once with the other members of the cruiserweight division. Have no fear fans of lucha libre, because he is still under contract.
Metalik has been working on NXT house shows likely to familiarize himself with the WWE style. As much as the WWE wants to give the wrestlers freedom to showcase their individual styles, there’s a huge difference when Superstars join the company after runs in Mexico. Mistico failed as Sin Cara due to coming to the main roster right away. Metalik is getting his WWE experience on the smaller shows with big plans coming for him in the cruiserweight division next year.
5. Bob Backlund
Bob Backlund confuses everyone watching him. We have no idea if he’s this amazing at playing a character or if he has really lost his mind. The former WWE Champion is one of the few names still in touch with the company that worked there back in the 70s. Backlund has been under an ambassador contract for a few years doing promotional work for the WWE.
2016 saw Backlund get a talent contract to play Darren Young’s mentor. With the horrible catch phrase of “Make Darren Young Great Again,” WWE tried to play off the Donald Trump slogan in the weirdest of ways. Backlund trying to get Young into a top spot in the WWE failed within a couple of weeks. The legend has not been fired and is still scheduled to work at live events at Young’s side.
4. Eve Torres
An underrated name in recent WWE women’s wrestling history would have to be Eve Torres. The retired Eve won the Divas Championship on three occasions and came into her own in the final run. Torres adopting a conceited heel character, showboating following her wins, finally allowed her to become a hated heel. She chose to leave WWE in early 2013 for a new job as the lead instructor for the Gracie Women Empowered Self-Defense Program.
As the wife of Rener Gracie, Eve used Brazilian jiu-jitsu to help teach self-defense. WWE signed her to an ambassador contract to keep her in the family. Both parties actually came together by having Stephanie McMahon attend one of Torres’ self-defense classes. You won’t see her on television, but Eve is still signed to a WWE contract.
3. D-Von Dudley
The Dudleyz recent lackluster WWE run disappointed fans looking for a kick of nostalgia. Bubba Ray and D-Von returned after nearly a decade away from the company. They just no longer had it in them to keep up with the younger talents today. The Dudleyz did their best to put over the likes of New Day and Big Cass and Enzo Amore.
Bubba and D-Von said goodbye to the WWE Universe on the Raw after SummerSlam. D-Von actually stuck around, signing a new contract to be a road agent. The years of experience that he accumulated allows him to help pass on knowledge and insight to the current stars. D-Von helps put the matches together for the wrestlers and pitches ideas. WWE even lets him wrestle outside of the company on the side apparently, as he is booked to team with Bubba at House of Glory against The Hardy Boyz.
2. Brie Bella
Brie Bella decided to step away from the ring for the time being. Her final match came at WrestleMania 32 leading her team to victory in a ten-woman match. Brie using the “Yes Lock” to get the win as her friends raised her in the air was a pretty incredible farewell. She decided to retire in an attempt to have a child with Daniel Bryan. They succeeded and Brie is currently pregnant and expecting the birth in the spring.
WWE immediately signed her to an ambassador contract. Brie does a lot of promotion work for the WWE and is still a star of Total Divas. This doesn’t mean she’ll never return to the ring. Various interviews have seen Brie say her goal is to give birth in the spring and wrestle her first match back at SummerSlam 2017.
1. Shawn Michaels
Any discussion about the greatest wrestler of all-time has to include Shawn Michaels. His library of classic matches is as deep as just about anyone else in the world of wrestling. Michaels retired from the WWE back in 2010 following a classic match against The Undertaker. WWE has tried to get him out of retirement, but Michaels remains insistent that he’ll never wrestle again.
We still get to see him quite a bit with various appearances on television. Michaels is signed to an ambassador contract and WWE will occasionally write him into an episode of Raw. In recent months, Michaels has started to work as a trainer at the Performance Center. Michaels moved from Texas to Orlando for the new gig. WWE not only has Michaels under an ambassador contract, but he will help them mold the future stars of the business.