The WWE may have just had a roster shake-up a few months ago, yet its roster is constantly changing with new additions and departures. The independent wrestling scene is being noticed more than ever before, and some wrestlers on the WWE's payroll are beginning to realize that other opportunities await them in life.
New blood is important for the WWE, especially as it tries to keep its product fresh and in-touch with what fans want. More fans want to see the hard-hitting, intense style that has been on the independent scene for years. In response to that, the WWE has picked up many high-profile names from the independent scene, including Finn Balor, Kevin Owens and Asuka. If the talent on this list do join WWE, you can very much expect this trend to continue.
But in order to make room for these aspiring WWE Superstars, some employees have to either leave the company or be let go. There are a few wrestlers on the WWE's main roster who are set to leave when their contracts expire. Others are being held off of television, despite being cleared to return to in-ring competition. And then, in some cases, some WWE Superstars are beginning to pursue an increased number of opportunities outside of the WWE. Could they be preparing for the next chapter of their lives? Time will tell.
So, who's rumored to be joining (or departing) the big leagues? Here are eight wrestlers we hear could leave the WWE and seven others that could be making their WWE debuts very soon.
13 LEAVING: Summer Rae
Once upon a time, Summer Rae was said to be the future of the WWE's Women's Division. After taking some time off last summer to heal up some neck and back issues, Summer Rae has not been seen since. It doesn't help that Mick Foley trashed her wrestling abilities in a Twitter conversation with a fan that leaked shortly after her leave of absence began.
Summer Rae has been backstage at a couple of wrestling events from time to time, but she is not on the road full-time. She's more likely to be seen vacationing on Instagram or Snapchat than she is at a WWE live event. The sad thing about all of this? She's reportedly been cleared by WWE doctors to return to the ring since at least May of this year, if not earlier. While some have speculated that she may join forces with Goldust in the near future, it doesn't seem likely that Summer Rae has much of a spot in the company's women's division as of right now.
12 JOINING: Shayna Baszler
If you're familiar with Ronda Rousey, this name should ring a bell to you. One of MMA's four horsewomen (alongside Rousey, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir), Shayna has ventured from MMA to professional wrestling and has become one of the most in-demand female names on the independent circuit. She's one of the participant's in the company's Mae Young Classic. While the company has not yet acknowledged that Baszler has signed a contract, she has recently begun working NXT live events.
Signing Baszler would be an interesting move by the WWE. She's older than all of the current women on the WWE's main roster (except for Tamina), and she doesn't have nearly as much experience as other people on this list. However, her unique style - inspired by her MMA days - would likely produce some incredible contests with a unique flavor.
13. LEAVING: Big Show
The Big Show has already stated that he has no plans to continue wrestling once his contract expires in the beginning months of 2018. Keeping this in mind, it's possible that the WWE could phase him out on television even earlier.
The Big Show has had a wrestling career that has spanned more than two decades. For anyone - especially someone of his size - that is relatively uncommon. Yet The Big Show has also arguably been long past his peak as a performer for a while now. There are plenty of other so-called "big men" that the WWE is more than capable of pushing (*cough cough* Big Cass *cough cough*). This isn't to say that Big Show is worthless for the company. He's a definite lock for the company's Hall of Fame in the future, and he has accomplished more than anyone ever expected him to. In this case, it's just time for Big Show to pass on the torch.
11 LEAVING: Rusev
When Rusev first made his debut onto the WWE's main roster, he was unstoppable. Rumor has it that he was also supposed to be involved in Smackdown's World Title picture until he was replaced with Jinder Mahal. In recent days, rumors came about that Rusev was unhappy with his role in the WWE and asked for his release.
It's hard to blame Rusev for feeling the way that he does, especially considering how hard the WWE dropped the ball on him. Formerly regarded as a force to be reckoned with, Rusev was make into scraps at SummerSlam in 10 seconds by Randy Orton. His gimmick also has not had nearly as much spark since his wife, Lana, moved on as a single’s competitor as part of the WWE’s Women’s Revolution.
10 LEAVING: Hideo Itami
Rumors began to surface this summer that Hideo Itami was planning to leave the WWE. Itami would shoot down those rumors, but he has also said that his run with the company has not gone as planned. To be honest, he's extremely right.
Once seen as one of the best wrestlers in the world, Itami's NXT run has been damped down with terrible injuries and even more terrible luck. Itami deserves much better than he has received. It's even more saddening to realize that Itami is not at fault for his circumstances in the company. While these rumors may have been temporarily knocked down, we at the Sportster would not be surprised to see Itami return to Japan, regain some momentum and return to NXT a la Drew McIntyre or Kassius Ohno.
9 JOINING: Angelina Love
In July, the WWE sent out a survey to fans asking what they thought about top names on the independent circuit. Two GFW/Impact Wrestling Knockouts were present on that list - Sienna and Angelina Love. While Sienna remains the GFW/Impact Wrestling Knockouts Champion, Love recently requested (and was granted) her release from GFW/Impact.
While Love's husband, Davey Richards, also asked (and was granted) his release, Love's appearance on WWE's list is something to take note of. She admitted that she was interested in participating in the Mae Young Classic before turning to GFW/Impact. She was also signed by WWE more than a decade ago, but was released from the company around the same time as fellow former Knockout, Taylor Wilde. Love would go on to be one of the most iconic Knockouts in the company's Knockouts division. In 2017, Love has shown no signs of slowing down in the ring, despite being married and starting a family of her own. This is a now or never chance that the WWE should very much capitalize on.
8 LEAVING: Dolph Ziggler
When you ask fans who is the best all-around performer in the WWE today, a decent amount of them would likely say Dolph Ziggler. Yet a career dampened with injuries and concussions has significantly hurt his momentum.
Ziggler can play any character that is given to him, whether it's Mr. Stealing The Show or as a terrible cheerleader in the Spirit Squad. Yet what Ziggler needs is a repackaging. Since he hasn't been on WWE television in a few weeks, this is the best time for the company to do it. They could make his character a bit edgier, or revamp it altogether. Ziggler needs something fresh to make him stand out. Let's just hope that, if he is repackaged, that his gimmick is nothing like Emmalina.
7 JOINING: Candice LeRae
The WWE has a history of picking up indie darlings and making them into megastars. In the last two years, the WWE has picked up notable indie names and transformed them into the likes of Ember Moon, Asuka, Petyon Royce and Billie Kay. And it would not be surprising for Candice LeRae to be on that list.
Prior to appearing as a part of the company's Mae Young Classic, Candice LeRae had the opportunity to partake in a battle royal on NXT. Fans heavily booed when she was eliminated - more so than any other performer in the match. Fans across the country adore her, and she is one of the most in-demand women in the entire sport. Candice's husband is also an NXT Superstar himself - Johnny Gargano. Gargano began making appearances with WWE, took park in the Cruiserweight Classic and was then signed a contract. Could LeRae follow in her husband's footsteps? We sure hope she does!
6 LEAVING: Kane
It's been a long while since we have seen our favorite Big Red Machine on WWE television. He hasn't been seen on any WWE programming since November of 2016! He's been busy though, working on his mayoral campaign for Knox County, Tennessee.
It's no secret that Kane, whose real name is Glenn Jacobs, is a huge political pundit. He's been heavily working on this campaign throughout the entire year and appears to take it very seriously. If he were to be elected to office in November, it's likely that he would only make *very limited* part-time appearances with the company. Wrestlers do not have the best of luck with running for office (unless your name is Jesse Ventura). At 50 years of age, Kane's body is likely nearing its limits with wrestling, anyway.
5 LEAVING: Lana
The Ravishing Russian is known for not holding her tongue and for being boldly opinionated. She’s been one of the most gossiped about women on wrestling dirt sheets since Melina, all for unfortunate reasons. When rumors of Rusev asking for his release from WWE arose, Lana was quick to deny them, although her credibility may be questionable.
Lana has made it clear that she wants to wrestle and create her own legacy. While Lana is not the worst in-ring competitor on the WWE’s main roster, she does have a way to go before she reaches the likes of Charlotte Flair. She was made to look like an absolute fool in her matches with Flair and Naomi. Whether this is smart booking or creative punishment remains to be seen.
Yet if Rusev is truly as unhappy as rumors state he is (and if he wants to leave), it wouldn’t be surprising to see his wife leave alongside him. It’s happened before with Steve Austin and Debra, and it could easily happen again 15 years later.
4 LEAVING: Paige
Paige has had one hell of a year, to say the least. She's been suspended twice, been the victim of a very violating leak and has received a tremendous amount of backlash from fans online. While she has said that she will be returning to the company soon, there are also rumors that indicate otherwise.
In Paige's favor are a variety of different factors. She remains one of the most popular Divas, and despite a year-long absence, she is still more than capable of selling merchandise. There is also a WWE Studios movie coming out next year that's based on her life-story. Yet, rumors continue to say that the WWE is hesitant to put her back on-screen due to the bad press she has received. Paige is more than capable of putting on a good show, and we sure as hell hope that she makes a dramatic comeback.
3 JOINING: Ronda Rousey
Ever since her unexpected loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 207, it seems clear that Ronda Rousey will not be returning to the Octagon. However, Rousey has long been a fan of professional wrestling and has been on the radar of Triple H and company for years. Rousey has also reportedly begun wrestling training in California. Could this be setting up a potential dream match between her and Stephanie McMahon? What about Rousey vs. Charlotte, Natalya or Becky Lynch? The possibilities are endless.
Rousey has also made additional appearances at WWE events, including the Mae Young Classic. While Rousey didn't wrestle, she was in the crowd to show support for her fellow MMA horsewoman, Shayna Baszler. Despite her inactivity, Rousey remains one of the most popular women in sports. If Rousey wants to make an impact in professional wrestling, it's likely the WWE would take her in a heartbeat.
2 LEAVING: Nikki Bella
Nikki Bella has improved leaps and bounds in the ring throughout her second run with the company. However, injuries have not been her best friend. Including right now, she has been out of the ring at least three times with career-threatening injuries. Currently, she is recovering from neck issues, as it was discovered that her neck had not fully fused prior to her return.
Nikki has stated she remains hopeful for a return to the ring. It's no secret - and Nikki has even said this herself - that she will never return to the ring full-time again. That may be for the best, as Nikki's neck injuries are nothing to play around with. Nikki has also been pursuing a variety of business opportunities outside of WWE, including a wine and a clothing company. It's possible that she could be preparing for the next stage of her life.
1 JOINING: Richochet
The WWE has already tapped into major promotions this year and recently they signed one of the New Japan's top prizes in Adam Cole. Now it's time they look south of the border and bring on a big name who could actually give their 205 Live division a big boost and that man would be Ricochet. Ricochet commented a while ago that the reason he's not signed with a major promotion is that "underground fighting company holding [him] back". Perhaps by the end of the year, that issue could be resolved and you have to believe WWE will be all over him once he's available. Even if if he's not signed exactly before the end of the year, it's only a matter of time before WWE snatches him up.
1. LEAVING: Brock Lesnar
In recent weeks, rumors have popped up on dirt sheets suggesting that Brock Lesnar is set to leave the WWE in the near future. Multiple dates have been thrown out for when this could happen, ranging from as late as WrestleMania 34 to as early as this fall. Some rumors are even suggesting that Lesnar could be returning to the UFC, although that return would likely not happen for months due to testing regulations.
Lesnar's deal isn't scheduled to end until WrestleMania 34. The last time Lesnar fought for UFC (while under WWE contract, nonetheless), the company received negative publicity regarding its wellness policy after Lesnar failed a USADA drug screening. As a part-timer with WWE, Lesnar did not have to meet the WWE's drug testing requirements, which raised many eyebrows. The WWE likely does not want to be in such a situation again (and rightfully so).