As the years move along, it’s something to see how much the WWE has grown professionally. Now, more so than ever before, the company holds all their employees with high regard whether it be in terms of health related issues or contracts. Today, the WWE rarely releases a wrestler and instead chooses to play out a Superstars contract until it’s time to renew.
A contract expiring makes it easier for a wrestler to walk away with their own freedom while honoring the WWE and their contract. Cody Rhodes and Wade Barrett are a perfect example of that, as the two refused to ink new deals and instead left the company gracefully once their contracts expired. The same cannot be said for someone like Alberto Del Rio, who wanted out and was given the green light by the WWE.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some wrestlers that might want out of the WWE once their contract expires, even if the WWE wants to keep them around. Don’t get it confused, the company might not want to release these wrestlers, but ultimately, it’s up to them whether they decided to stick around or not. Those on this list might elect to leave the company for a variety of reasons which include; repackaging their characters on the indie scene, changing career paths, retirement and various other reasons. Whatever the case might be, these 15 might elect to walk out of the company whether the WWE likes it or not. Here are the 15 rumored names that can potentially leave the WWE once their contracts expire, enjoy!
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14 Shane McMahon
Changing career paths, Shane McMahon left the WWE years ago, trying to find a new career outside of his father’s empire. His succeeded becoming a partner in a business that invested in bringing PPV television to those in China.
With his sister and brother-in-law gaining more and more control behind the scenes, no one expected Shane to return. However, with WrestleMania looming and The Undertaker needing an opponent, Vince gave his son a call and he was booked for Raw after a seven year hiatus. His return was triumphant to say the least as the crowd when bonkers. This caused Shane to stay on board and work as the permanent Commissioner for SmackDown Live.
Despite his new position, many believe there is some real tension between Shane and his sister Stephanie. Even Bret Hart made the claim that the tension was obvious when he attended a live show. As Triple H and Stephanie receive more power, you might expect Shane’s role to diminish, causing the WWE’s favorite son to once again leave the company once his contract expires.
13 Nikki Bella
Whether you like The Bella Twins or not, you can’t discredit their success in the wrestling business, as they've taken the women’s division to new heights. Outside of the ring, Nikki contributed with the popularity of the product by being the star of the show Total Divas. Nikki and her sister were so entertaining that it caused the WWE to give the two a spin-off, Total Bellas.
Along with Nikki’s popularity, she has also improved immensely inside the squared circle. Even the highly coveted Pro Wrestling Illustrated took note, awarding Nikki the number one spot in the top 50 female wrestler rankings of 2015.
With all this success, along with over five million followers on Instagram, you can bet Nikki will generate some interest outside of the WWE in the world of entertainment. Nikki has expressed her desire to keep several doors open for a potential acting career or several other business ventures she has interest in. Nikki was unsure when signing her previous contract and you can expect that to only intensify once her current deal expires, especially since he's just coming back from a serious neck injury.
12 Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
Their debut following WrestleMania was met with some serious excitement. With A.J. Styles by their side, the duo was quickly performing in the upper echelon of the company. Once Styles left for SmackDown, however, their momentum all came crashing down.
Since they joined Raw, the creative team has dropped the ball with the duo. They’ve worked corny segments, along with suffering repeated loses to The New Day, which only hurt the team’s credibility. Their current status on the show is playing the role of lower card bullies feuding with the likes of Goldust and R-Truth. At this point, all the momentum and allure they built seems to be lost. When their contracts expire, look for the duo to seriously think about leaving the WWE and heading back to Japan, where they enjoyed plenty of success.
11 Andrade "Cien" Almas
NXT has done a brilliant job building Superstars, especially those with huge in-ring upside. This rare instance has seen the company drop the ball with an immense talent in Andrade "Cien" Almas. According to the rumor mill, the wrestler is furious with his current role and regrets signing a deal with the WWE.
Known as La Sombra before, Almas was a big deal on the indie scene wrestling with Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Almas wrestled under a mask and his talent was undeniable. When the WWE lured the Mexican to the company, WWE officials were very excited about his potential.
As we stated, that hasn’t come to fruition and instead the wrestler has suffered repeated losses in high profile matches. Even his gimmick seems lazily booked and fans don’t understand what the Mexican is trying to portray. Once his contract expires, look for Almas to leave the company and get back on the indie scene again.
10 Paul Heyman
Paul Heyman has done it all with the WWE since they purchased ECW. His most important job came as a writer for SmackDown at a time where the show enjoyed its biggest success back in 2002-03.
Despite his great success, Heyman has clashed with the McMahons several times. Paul has been fired and even walked out of the company at one point in time because creative differences with the boss. His relationship with the company has been bumpy to say the least.
Nowadays, Heyman is strictly working as a talent for the company, appearing alongside Brock Lesnar. His main job is running an agency company in his hometown of New York. At the age of 51, you can believe that both parties are slowly moving away from one another as Heyman’s role continues to be reduced. Once his contract expires, you can expect Paul to potentially leave the company once again.
Frustrated with her status in the company, Paige claims she was ready to leave the WWE and head back home at one point. Since those comments were made, the situation has only worsened for Paige and the company.
With the Divas Revolution taking place, booking-wise, Paige became an afterthought. This caused some frustration for the former Divas Champion. Things would only worsen when Alberto Del Rio and Paige started a real life relationship behind the scenes. That infuriated the WWE and it led them to separating the two.
Del Rio would end up leaving the company while Paige faced numerous health concerns, along with a suspension which came from the Wellness Policy. She’s still away from the WWE following Del Rio on the indie scene, something the WWE surely hates. With so many options at her disposal and with age on her side, look for the Norwich native to potentially walk away from the WWE once her deal expires.
9. Apollo Crews
Like in pro sports, calling up a player, or a wrestler in this case, can have a detrimental effect on their career. Case in point, Apollo Crews has all the in-ring talent in the world, just wasn’t ready for the main roster.
As documented on the WWE reality show Breaking Ground, Crews struggled with his persona on the microphone, as he was lacking the charisma needed by a WWE Superstar. Something like that takes lots of practice to perfect. However, the company looked passed that and chose to look at his skill as a focal point for the call up.
At the moment, Apollo has struggled to sustain any momentum and he’s typically an afterthought on the show, which is very unfortunate given his potential. Look for Crews to possibly rekindle his passion for wrestling by leaving the company and improving on the indie scene. A departure looks like a real possibility once his contract expires.
8 Tyler Breeze
Speaking of wasted potential, let's discuss Tyler Breeze. Unlike Apollo Crews, Breeze was actually more than ready for the main roster.
Despite his tremendous body work down in NXT, the WWE thought otherwise and butchered Breeze’s push from the get go by making him lose to Dolph Ziggler, who was cold as ice at the time. According to speculation, Vince McMahon just wasn’t into Breeze and it just showed how differently Triple H and McMahon view the product. Others believe Kevin Dunn had a hand in the failed push, given the animosity he has with Trips.
Regardless of what happened internally, the company dropped the ball with a fantastic worker who is now a comedic lower card pushover for the SmackDown brand. It won’t be too surprising if Breeze’s elects to leave the company once his deal expires in an attempt to increase his brand value elsewhere.
7 Dolph Ziggler
A member of the WWE family for more than a decade, 2016 saw the rumor mill run rampant with the possibility of Dolph Ziggler leaving the company.
Before the brand split, it looked like his days were numbered in the WWE as the Superstar seemed to be wasting away. Not only was the 36 year old constantly losing matches, but his interests seemed to be elsewhere, as he started doing some gigs in the world of comedy as a stand up comedian. Dolph has also expressed interest in working as an actor.
All those departure possibilities went away once the SmackDown brand drafted Ziggler. He was pushed on several instances, winning the IC Championship and even competing in a main event program against the WWE Champion at the time, Dean Ambrose. With those moments behind him, you can expect those talks to once again resurface going into 2017. Once his contract expires, the probabilities of Dolph leaving are high.
In this day and age, the WWE has no tolerance for backstage dust-ups between the talents. Lana, however, has been involved in more than one altercation since joining the company. She has feuded with the likes Paige and Dana Brooke on social media. She even ruined a storyline by leaking a picture of her engagement to Rusev, despite the two working as foes on the air. Some would say she’s been more of a liability than an asset throughout her WWE career.
With all this being said, the rumor mills suggest that Lana isn’t interested in working for the WWE and only cares about fame. It’s years that she’s training to be a wrestler, yet she only has one match to show for it thus far. With interests in other fields, Lana might elect to leave the company once her WWE deal expires.
5 Summer Rae
Speaking of underused WWE Divas, we now turn our attention to the 33 year old talent, Summer Rae. She’s currently out with an injury, but her body of work since joining the company back in 2011 isn't filled with memorable moments. Her most noticeable victory came against Paige and her push was later squandered following the huge victory.
Looking at Summer’s social media pages, you’d think she was a model and not a wrestler given the content on the page. At the moment, Summer is receiving checks from the WWE, but doing photoshoots outside of the company more than anything else. Once her deal expires, look for Summer to put her WWE career on the backburner and pursue a full-time career in modelling.
4 Curtis Axel
With excellence running through his blood as the son of the late, great Mr. Perfect, Curtis Axel seemed destined to be something special in the wrestling industry. Early on, he was booked as such, winning the IC Championship like his late father under the watchful eye of Paul Heyman. Eventually, his heat would run out and the company would start booking the second generation star poorly.
At the age of 37, Axel is barely on television nowadays, finding it difficult to stay relevant. Some even forget which brand he’s on and for those of you that are unsure, he’s on Raw.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for Axel, but with a stacked Raw roster, we find it hard to believe that the company will push the 37 year old veteran at any point. Look for his departure to be a real possibility once his contract expires.
3 Daniel Bryan
The decision to bring back Daniel Bryan was certainly a popular one with the WWE fanbase. The crowd was heartbroken in 2016 when Bryan made his official announcement to retire as an active wrestler. Shortly after, Bryan was back in a WWE ring, taking his new non-wrestling role as the General Manager of SmackDown Live.
As great as Daniel is in the position, he’s a wrestler at heart and that passion undoubtedly still burns inside. The WWE won’t give Bryan the green light to wrestle, however, other doctors have told Bryan he’s cleared to get back in the ring. With that in mind, and with a burning desire to return, we can see Bryan possibly walking away from the WWE once his contract expires. This would take Bryan to the indie scene, giving him a chance to flourish at what he does best; wrestle.
2 Dean Ambrose
Nobody has had as many ups and downs as Dean Ambrose in 2016. His year got off to a tremendous start when he was feuding with Triple H. The two had an epic encounter at Roadblock for the WWE Championship. His momentum was then squandered after a lackluster bout against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32. But don’t worry Ambrose fans, the Nevada resident would bounce back, becoming the last WWE Champion before the brand split.
It seemed like things would only go up from there, however, that wasn’t the case. Some criticized Ambrose for his title run, with Stone Cold Steve Austin calling out Dean during an interview on the Steve Austin Podcast. Things would only get worse once A.J. Styles feuded with Ambrose, causing the fans to turn on Dean. He ultimately lost the title and his credibility has taken somewhat of a hit since then.
Many blame the WWE for Ambrose's drop off. He’s an edgy character, but the WWE has taken that aspect away from his character. Ambrose has admitted he's frustrated about having to try to dance around what he can and can’t do. With Dean being unhappy, he may leave the company once his contract expires and use his creativity on the indie scene. If he continues to get pushed down the card, look for this to be a real possibility.
1 Brock Lesnar
At first, Brock Lesnar's whole part-time thing seemed pretty cool. He was a rarity, a beast and a once in a lifetime attraction. The WWE booked everything Lesnar did perfectly and he seemed to be the face of a new era in 2015.
Recently, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Looking back at his work in 2016, Brock seems to be lazy and uninterested in what’s been given to him. He chose a passive route against Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 32 and continues to just stand there while Heyman does most of the work on the microphone. His most notable moment of the year was an 86 second squash match against Goldberg.
Looking at his ridiculous salary of $6 million per year, we believe the WWE won’t renew his deal due to his recent performances. With that in mind, you can expect Lesnar to walk away from the company given his need for higher wages and fewer dates. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Lesnar’s WWE deal expires.
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