As the year begins to wind down in the wrestling world, we can begin to expect some notable cuts coming from the WWE roster early in 2018. As any wrestling fan knows, these cuts tend to come in waves, and ordinarily there needs to be some room cleared up on the roster during the beginning of every year. The fact is, WWE signs a lot of different talent, and they know that not all of them are going to work out. Combine this with veterans who are nearing the end of their rope with the company, and personnel releases are one of the most important aspects of any given year in WWE.
Just who will be on the chopping block for 2018 remains to be seen, but for many of them we can render a pretty good guess. While some seem to be obvious, there are also a few that will come out of nowhere, to prominent members of the roster. Let's take a look at some cuts that will be expected, and some that could come out of left field, and shock the wrestling world.
Ranked below are 10 WWE releases in 2018 that will shock us, and five that are way too obvious.
15 Samoa Joe (Shock)
Currently out with a knee injury, one has to wonder just how much WWE wants to give Joe any kind of a push at all. He's one of the most identifiable and unique wrestlers in the world, but he's being used as de facto enhancement talent right now, and losing to Brock Lesnar and others isn't the best use of his skills. When the wrestler he's losing to is already established, it means nothing.
It's difficult to see Joe wanting to stay when he's really not getting anything in return from it. He'd be a better fit in NJPW anyway, as he'll never see a push from WWE, and doesn't wrestle in a style that's conducive to success there. This one seems to be coming down the pike sooner rather than later, even if some people may be caught off guard by it.
14 Enzo Amore (Shock)
Some would say that as soon as he left the tag team division, Enzo was bound for failure. However, many others would say that he's one of the most entertaining talents int he company right now, and that WWE's M.O. has always been entertainment. He isn't a very good wrestler in comparison with many others in the cruiserweight division, but his mic skills are undeniable, and it's not necessarily a surprise that Enzo has ascended the ranks very quickly.
Still, it doesn't seem to be the most stable situation. Enzo could be gone sooner than we think, and for a wrestler that seems to fit the WWE mold in every way imaginable, it's going be one of the more notable wrestling headlines of next year, if the release comes to fruition.
13 R-Truth (Obvious)
Still somehow under a WWE contract, Ron Killings is nearing the end of his rope with the company. He's simply past his prime, and is only used sparingly anymore in any kind of observable storyline. It's time to move on for WWE, and when they do, there won't be anybody that didn't see this release coming a mile away.
That's not a knock on Killings, who in his prime was one of the more exciting wrestlers in the United States, but he's over the hill now, and will soon be gone from WWE. He'll likely continue some kind of a wrestling career on the Indy scene, but his days of being the focal point in a company like WWE are going to be over.
12 The Big Show (Shock)
Perhaps this could turn out to be more of mutual agreement of separation than an outright release, but the Big Show clearly isn't the same as he once was, and could be out the door soon. Injury-prone in recent years and struggling to hang on to a consistent main event spot in the company, we can expect some kind of release, or a reduced schedule at least, be applied to him in the near future.
Someone with such gargantuan size and increasing age is never going to be a surefire lock to stay healthy, and unfortunately this is the case for The Big Show at this point in his career. Because he's such a name, many will be surprised by this, but an upcoming release, or at the least retirement from in-ring activity, is probably for the best.
11 Dolph Ziggler (Shock)
Ziggler's recent gimmick of impersonating the gimmicks of other wrestlers signifies that he's reached the end of the line in WWE. It's a cheap lower mid-card gimmick that has no ability to elevate Ziggler to the spotlight once again, and at its worst is just silly. He's such a name that it almost seems ridiculous to put him in such a comprised position.
Many fans will likely be surprised, but there's no point in keeping Ziggler on the roster if this is how they're going to use him. Best to just move on and get a younger talent up from NXT to take his place. Ziggler had a good run, but there's just no intrigue surrounding him, and management clearly sees this.
10 Sami Zayn (Obvious)
It's become abundantly clear that WWE doesn't view Zayn as a top-flight talent, and that he'll always have a cap on the amount of success he can have in the company. With one of the most accomplished resumes of any wrestler on the roster, you would think he'd be getting a chance for some more high-profile matches. A recent heel turn just isn't going to be enough to sustain interest.
Zayn just isn't the type that is going to succeed in WWE. It's been a fine run for him simply because it was pretty much the last thing he needed to do before retiring, but you can expect to see him back on the indy scene or in Japan within the next year. This one is clear-cut; Zayn just isn't going to get a big push in the WWE ranks.
9 Becky Lynch (Shock)
A quality in-ring talent, Lynch has been surpassed in the Women's Division by numerous others, and has fallen considerably lower on the roster than she was at this time last year. Now being used mainly as a fill-in for tag matches, or as a garden-variety jobber to put over others. The trajectory for Lynch doesn't look to be on the upswing, and she could be gone soon.
She has a sizable fanbase though, and here potential release could throw some people for a loop. There was certainly a time when WWE was adamant about marketing her, and increasing the size of her brand, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside. A release in 2018 seems to be the most likely outcome.
8 Brock Lesnar (Shock)
At some point, there has to be a cap on how much WWE is willing to keep featuring Lesnar in the main event scene. Whether you think his shtick is played out or not, it's getting to the point where he's hindering the creation of new stars, which is bad news for any wrestling promotion. Lesnar is past his prime and not as interesting as he once was, and should be on the chopping block next year.
Naturally, it's going to shock some people, but it's ultimately the right move. You wouldn't think that WWE would just release a wrestler they've invested so much time in, but Lesnar just doesn't have the same appeal that he once did. There's little point in keeping him on the roster.
7 Neville (Obvious)
It's been well-documented that Neville is having a contract dispute with management at the moment, and you can imagine how this may impact his status going forward. He was rumored to have left the company all together, but that apparently hasn't been the case. Still, WWE has a history of moving on from wrestlers who lawyer for a better contract, and Neville could be another in a long line of them.
So it shouldn't be a shocker that this is a release that is likely to happen sometime next year. Even if Neville does return to a WWE ring, these things have a way of snowballing as time goes on. He's probably not going to remain in good standing with the company, and that will lead to his inevitable release early next year.
6 Bobby Roode (Shock)
There's been several precedents for WWE picking up a notable wrestler from another company, and having the entire situation fall apart very early on. It's not quite at that point with Roode, and he just made his main roster debut, but it could get to that point relatively quickly. Having been in TNA for so long, and at the age of 40, how much does Roode really have left in the tank?
There's a good chance that this isn't going to work out, and it would be unusual to see a wrestler released so close to their signing date. But Roode and WWE may not be compatible, and even though it would be a bit out of left field, a release could happen within the next year.
5 K0fi Kingston (Shock)
Here's another company veteran that WWE may be looking to move on from. Kingston has seen a variety of gimmicks and situations during his tenure, and it's pretty clear that his involvement with the The New Day is going to be his last notable character. But Kingston is getting a bit long in the tooth, and could be part of the next major roster shakeup that we see in the next year.
Reducing The New Day to just two members wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. The group isn't at their apex to begin with, and Kingston isn't adding to it as much as Xavier Woods and Big E. Many view Kingston as a WWE lifer, so this could come as a shock, but Kingston has hit his ceiling, and could be viewed as just taking up roster space.
4 Goldust (Obvious)
Dustin Rhodes has always made sure to revive the Goldust character whenever he's needed a boost in his career, but that could be coming to an end soon. As one of the most noteworthy gimmicks in WWE history, it's already made its mark on the wrestling world, and Rhodes has accomplished far more than most initially expected with such an odd gimmick.
But it's really time to hang it up. Obviously, he's not involved in any important storylines anymore, but it's still a waste of a roster spot, and WWE clearly has no plans in developing the character further (and they can't, really). This is nothing more than an expected veteran cut that's coming soon.
3 A.J. Styles (Shock)
Everyone was excited when Styles signed with WWE, and rightfully so. Some considered him to be the best wrestler in the world, and the only thing missing from his illustrious resume was a run in the world's biggest promotion. He's succeeded no doubt, and done everything that has been asked of him since his WWE debut. What could be the problem here?
Styles just isn't the prototypical WWE wrestler. He's not good enough on the mic, and relies on his amazing in-ring work to get the job done on a regular basis. Nothing wrong with that of course, and some fans will prefer it be that way, but Styles is a candidate to hit up some other promotions before he finally retires. His time in WWE will have a cap on it. If it happens, it will be odd to see such a dynamic talent get the axe.
2 Jinder Mahal (Shock)
Mahal's WWE Title reign has attracted a lot of negative attention, and from a booking standpoint, rightfully so. It's pretty clear that this unprecedented title reign has been a divisive one, and that Mahal has been the subject of much ridicule since the beginning of it. It would be a shocker to see him released in the near future, but once he's had his run with one of the main titles in the company, what is there left for him to do?
Mahal is not a very nuance wrestler. He's not going to provide great matches night after night for years to come. Holding the WWE Title is going to be the single biggest thing he accomplishes in his career, and once he drops it, he's not the kind of wrestler who's going to have several years worth of notable feuds in an attempt to regain it. It may be a reach, but Mahal could be shown the door sometime during 2018.
1 Shinsuke Nakamura (Obvious)
Yet another international talent that has been mishandled in WWE, Nakamura is likely never going to get the title-reign that he deserves as one of the world's best wrestlers. He'll be in contention for one no doubt, but all of the booking surrounding his character in WWE has been haphazard and senseless. His matches aren't given enough time, and they've pigeonholed him with a generic character.
While it would be encouraging to see WWE hang on to Nakamura and develop him into the star that he deserves to be, that's putting too much faith in a company that has typically failed to elevate international talent when given the opportunity. Nakamura will likely remain a wrestler used to get others over, until his eventual release from the company.
Given WWE's track record with this kind of situation, nobody should be surprised when they eventually cut ties here.