While some people secretly enjoy the art of firing employees, others view it as one of the cruelest parts of the working world. While there are many people in the world who have been fired for just cause, there are likely even more people who have lost their jobs due to no good reason at all. The situation is no different in WWE. On a roster loaded with some of the highest-paid wrestling talents in the world, there are some wrestlers that will get the boot. Some outright deserve it and others are best described as victims of circumstance.
If the thought of WWE firings is a little too unpleasant to dwell on, instead think of what comes after the firings. Think of the wrestlers who will take the recently fired performer’s place and how they just might be able to do everything that they did, but do it better. Yes, there are some pieces of talent on the WWE roster that are pale imitations of other performers out there. Others are merely taking the spot of a greater piece of talent that deserves their opportunity. Either way, these are the 15 WWE wrestlers who should be released and the 10 indie talents that can replace them.
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20 Release - The Big Show
The Big Show has stated in the past that he’s going to retire when he’s ready to retire. In other words, nobody is going to push him out the door. While that may be true from a physical standpoint, it really is time for WWE to consider giving Big Show his well-deserved legends contract if he doesn’t willingly leave. With the exception of Kane, Big Show has been WWE’s steadiest big man for over a decade. The years, however, have not been kind to his physical abilities. Even if Show was still able to go in the ring, the fact that WWE has been trying to book him as a dominating physical presence for years now means that the well on fresh ideas has run dry.
19 Replacement - Michael Elgin
Sadly, there isn’t really a flourishing market for big man wrestlers these days. While this does mean that we have to endure far fewer matches involving big dudes who can’t wrestle to save their life, it’s still a shame that a new generation of dominating big wrestlers with a few moves to their name never really emerged. In other words, this isn’t likely to be another Big Show anytime soon from a physical standpoint. Michael Elgin is the most compelling alternative, however.
He’s similar to Big Van Vader in his prime which is to say that he’s the kind of wrestler who is more than able to hold his own in the ring while also being a pure terror. He may not be readily available, but he is one of the best out there.
18 Release - Alicia Fox
Say what you will about the “Women's Revolution,” but if there’s one thing that WWE’s efforts to rebuild their women’s division has done, it’s greatly improved the overall talent of their female roster. While names like Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Charlotte are obviously among the most talented female wrestlers on the roster, even performers such as Nikki Bella have been able to adapt to the new style and find a place. The same cannot be said of Alicia Fox. She’s not that great in the ring, she has no real character, and WWE doesn’t seem to know what to do with her unless they need to fill a spot in a match. She’s had some time now to progress, but she just can’t seem to get it together.
17 Replacement - Candice LaRae
Currently, the NXT crew seem to be in the process of rebuilding their women’s division brand. While NXT once boasted arguably the greatest roster of female wrestlers in the world, a series of call-ups have deprived them of some of their biggest names. Many big names have been acquired in the process, but for some reason, Candice LaRae has yet to sign a contract. If you aren’t familiar with Candice…well, there’s nobody that you can easily compare her to. She’s certainly got talent in the ring (she’s even put on some of the best intergender matches ever), but what really makes her special is her personality. Candice has the ability to be the bouncy, happy, smiling babyface, but her true gift to the wrestling world is her ability to be violent when called upon.
16 Release - The Hype Bros
Mojo Rawley and Zack Ryder (aka The Hype Bros) are on the WWE main roster. That might seem like a strange way to start this entry off, but it feels like it’s important to remind everyone that these two are actually active WWE competitors. Once upon a time, WWE could have turned Zack Ryder into a mid-card star. Perhaps in another life, Mojo Rawley could have been a kid-friendly babyface. None of those things have come to pass, and pairing these two together hasn’t resulted in any rekindled magic for either. At best, these two are a pair of glorified jobbers with a little personality. If WWE wants to have a jobber tag team on the roster, they could probably find someone much cheaper than the Hype Bros.
15 Replacement - reDRagon
The team of Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly (better known as reDRagon) are certainly not jobbers. They’re the kind of team that WWE fans haven’t seen in a long time, actually. They have no real gimmick, no real defining look, and no catchphrases to speak of. All these guys do is consistently have one of the top three matches on every card that they are on. While Fish and O’Reilly are good enough wrestlers on their own to ensure that neither necessarily needs the other, when the two do work together, they produce some of the most jaw-dropping displays of tag team ability the wrestling world has ever known. Even if WWE doesn’t see them as long-term tag team champion material, these guys could make everyone they work with look like the absolute best.
14 Release - Curt Hawkins
There’s actually an interesting argument to be had regarding whether a guy like Curt Hawkins should always be kept on the roster. By “guy like Curt Hawkins,” what we mean is someone who is able to provide a veteran presence, but is at a point in their career where they have no illusions of ever reaching the top-tier of the company. As valuable as that role can be, it does seem strange that it is Curt Hawkins who has been assigned to it. Hawkins never really established himself as anybody truly memorable during his initial WWE run, and he’s mostly cruising by at the moment on the strength of being pretty reliable. He’s not the worst thing to ever happen to WWE, but they can do better.
13 Replacement - Jay Lethal
If Jay Lethal ever had a chance to become WWE Champion, the opportunity passed by some years ago. Early on in his career, Lethal was mostly seen as a technical wrestling wizard with a couple of high-flying moves to his name. In TNA, he was more of a comedy act who displayed tremendous performance range. Lately, though, Lethal has been able to put those two sides together in order to form a complete entertainer. He’s not the prototypical WWE Champion, but he is a veteran worker that is able to put on great matches and entertaining promos at will. Unlike Curt Hawkins, he could actually threaten the people that he faces every now and then while remaining someone that fans want to see. Is he getting up there in age? Sure. But Lethal is a fantastic all-around performer and would be a great fit in the WWE.
12 Release - Sin Cara
WWE signed Sin Cara in the hopes that he would become the next Rey Mysterio. They never officially said as much, but his similar look and similar in-ring style made it clear that he was brought in to replace the veteran high-flyer at some point. That didn’t happen. WWE tried everything they could to get Sin Cara over, but his style just never translated to a WWE ring. The original Sin Cara, Mistico, was released after several injuries and attitude problems made officials sour on him. Hunico has now taken the Sin Cara gimmick, but it still hasn't gone anywhere.
Despite this, he has remained an active competitor for years now. Sin Cara actually had a brief career turnaround as a member of the Lucha Dragons, but he’s still not able to deliver as a singles competitor even when he works with fellow cruiserweights. The Sin Cara experiment has officially failed, and it’s time to move on.
11 Replacement - Fénix
It’s actually very tempting to suggest that WWE shouldn’t try to replace Sin Cara with a traditional luchador in the same way that they tried to replace Rey Mysterio with one. If that is going to be their strategy, then their best option would have to be Ricochet (aka Prince Puma) who might just be the best indie talent in the world. However, if they are looking for a masked wrestler, then the obvious name is Fénix. While he’s not quite the same high-flying spectacle that Rey Mysterio was, you’d have to look pretty hard to find a better all-around luchador wrestler. At just 25 years of age, it’s possible that Fénix hasn’t even hit his prime yet. WWE would be smart to ensure that he hits it north of the Mexican border.
10 Release - Fandango
Remember Fandango? Remember that time a few years ago when everyone was chanting in rhythm to Fandango’s song and dancing as he made his way to the ring? Man, what a great time to be Fandango. What a great time to be a fan of Fandango. Honestly, though, what has he done since then? Many people suspected that Fandango’s ride at the top was going to be brief, but nobody could have anticipated just how hard the performer would fall. Whatever mileage WWE was going to get from the Fandango character, they exhausted it within about two months of his debut. After that, we were all left to endure a dancing fool that lacks ring skills, true personality, and a substantial character. He may be in a decent tag team with Tyler Breeze nowadays, but they're going nowhere fast.
9 Replacement - Dalton Castle
If you don’t know who Dalton Castle is…well, we can’t really blame you for not knowing who Dalton Castle is. He’s a regular on the Ring of Honor scene and occasionally makes appearances in other indie promotions, but he’s not one of those indie names that you always hear whenever people are talking about the best indie talents working the scene today. While Castle isn’t one of the best pure wrestlers in the world (even though he is talented in the ring), he is certainly one of the most unique. Castle’s character is best described as a wrestling Liberace. He’s flamboyant, strange, and often times, hard to define. Unlike Fandango who was never able to really discover what his character could contribute, Castle continues to explore the depths of his creation.
8 Release - Curtis Axel
Curtis Axel is the son of Mr. Perfect, in case you didn’t know. Of course, it would be hard for most fans to not know this given how many times we were reminded of this fact during Axel’s early days in the WWE. Axel is far from the worst second or third generational star out there, but he has never found his own identity. He was serviceable on the microphone, okay in the ring, but pretty hard to truly care about no matter what he was doing. After several attempts to set Axel apart as someone that could develop into one of the very best, it’s becoming clear that WWE has exhausted all of their options in terms of what Curtis Axel brings to the table that no other wrestler does.
7 Replacement - Drew Galloway
Drew Galloway had a chance to succeed in WWE. He was not only given a spot on the main roster, he was given the kind of push that every wrestling talent swears they need in order to become a household name. While Galloway’s initial WWE run wasn’t awful, it wasn’t enough to seal his future as a star. Since being released, however, Galloway has found what it was that separates him. He has morphed into the exact kind of wrestler that WWE was looking for. He’s physically impressive, good looking, and is able to work the kind of big move in-ring style that has come to define the company’s culture. Nobody is entirely sure if there is ill-will between WWE and Galloway but, if there isn’t, he’s an obvious acquisition.
6 Release - Hideo Itami
It feels awful to ever suggest that WWE should release Hideo Itami. Once upon a time, Itami (then known as KENTA) was arguably the most talented wrestler in the world. As a product of the old NJPW style and the new era, Itami was one of the few wrestlers that seemed capable of doing great things with any kind of wrestler. What happened since then? Injuries are the obvious culprit. Itami has been plagued with injuries since coming to WWE. These medical maladies have prevented him from ever finding a way to really develop that fabled WWE in-ring style. Now, it doesn’t look like he’ll ever get the chance. Itami can still contribute to WWE in some way, but his time to do so as an in-ring star is done.
5 Replacement - Tetsuya Naito
Tetsuya Naito is no Hideo Itami. He’s not Shinsuke Nakamura, Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Triple H, Tyler Breeze, Erick Rowan, or anyone else for that matter. Because of this, he’s impossible to explain to someone that has never really seen him work. He is, however, arguably the best heel in the world today. Naito is the kind of guy that won’t tag his partner if he doesn’t feel like it. He’ll break up a pin by suplexing the ref. He’ll refuse to enter the ring until the crowd is boiling. He will do whatever necessary to make sure that people never stop hating him. When called upon, however, he is also one of the best pure wrestlers in the world today. This man deserves to be praised by a global audience.
4 Release - The Ascension
It’s not The Ascension’s fault that their main roster run has been a disaster. Truly, it’s not. In NXT, The Ascension became the kind of tag team that you thought WWE would never again develop. They had a team identity, a team name, and they worked together as a unit. They were a kind of modern day Legion of Doom with a slight Ministry of Darkness twist. It seems that WWE just never had a home for them on the main roster, however. They quickly fell between the cracks of the company’s tag division and seemingly lost their talents along with their confidence. It’s truly a shame that WWE couldn’t find a better use for these two, but that doesn’t mean that they should be occupying a roster slot.
3 Replacement - War Machine
Consider War Machine to be The Ascension 2.0, if you must. They too are a power team with a team gimmick, team moves, and a team name. They’re a throwback squad to a different era. They may also be better than The Ascension in terms of in-ring abilities. Brothers Hanson and Raymond Rowe are two big dudes that have a look which suggests that they are not afraid to break you in half just for fun. Their wrestling style echoes that sentiment as they typically prefer to destroy their opponents rather than simply pin them. WWE has tried in the past to organically grow this kind of team (they continue to try to this day), but nobody they’ve produced has really come close to what War Machine can bring to the table.
2 Release - Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger was a great amateur wrestler. Jack Swagger is a great professional wrestler in the ring. If you’re drafting the top wrestling talents in order to form a new professional wrestling organization that emphasizes wrestling ability, you would want to have Jack Swagger on the roster. Swagger was never a WWE star, however. He has come close to achieving that status by participating in some fairly memorable angles, but he always stopped well short of the finish line. Jack Swagger was supposed to be the kind of cocky heel who was better than everyone else in the ring, kind of like Ric Flair was in his prime. Instead, he never really ascended beyond the status of a low-rent Kurt Angle. At this point, it doesn't seem like he has a future in WWE.
1 Replacement - Adam Cole
Some things are obvious for a reason. The reason you keep seeing Adam Cole’s name appear near the top of any list of indie wrestlers that WWE should sign is simply because he is that good. Cole looks like a professional wrestling star with his long hair and defined features, and he sure acts like a professional wrestling star. His style is a mix of prime heel Chris Jericho and prime heel Shawn Michaels. He’s unbelievably cocky and shockingly good in the ring. His character has developed over the years into a finely tuned villain that you almost can’t help but root for because you recognize that he is the best thing out there. He’s not just what WWE wanted Jack Swagger to be, he’s what they want every wrestler to be.
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