In the first week of July 2017, wrestling fans were stunned to learn that Austin Aries would be leaving the WWE. It was a blindsided move that nobody saw coming, as there were no rumors whatsoever that the former TNA star and cruiserweight division challenger was unhappy with his time at the WWE. It turned out that Aries felt pigeonholed into being a cruiserweight and thought that he should be higher up the card.
At 39 years old, a load of talent and an impressive resume behind him, it’s hard not to agree with Aries on his position. Not every wrestler just leaves the WWE out of the blue, though. There are some that have been rumored to be on the company’s badside, want to explore other options or are getting burned out by the pro wrestling scene.
Every year there seems to be a purge of talent that typically comes after WrestleMania, but we haven’t seen it yet this year. Perhaps there’s a flood of talent on the way out, and we just have to keep our ears to the ground. With that said, is your favorite wrestler going to be on the chopping block? Let’s take a look at 15 wrestlers that have been surrounded by rumors that have predicted their departure in 2017.
One of the strongest rumors that’s been going around the WWE dirtsheets lately is that Maryse’s time returning to be her husband’s (The Miz, of course) valet is coming to an end. Recently, The Miz enlisted the help of two lower card wrestlers (Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel) to be his lackeys, with Maryse not around after a promo where she became upset with his paranoid ways around Dean Ambrose.
Even those that are in the know like Wrestling Observer Radio’s Dave Meltzer has said that he fully expects Maryse to be gone. Maryse didn’t participate in any wrestling matches during her return, instead acting as a valet. The rumors also say that Maryse will be around until SummerSlam before heading back to her normal life, and most of it is to make way for Mike and Maria Kanellis, who have a similar gimmick to Maryse and The Miz.
14 Brock Lesnar
There are always going to be questions about whether or not Brock Lesnar stays with the WWE. As it is now, he’s the Universal Champion, but only appears on a part time basis. There’s no secret that Lesnar’s only interested in money, and the WWE has been giving it to him hand over first for several years. Then again, Lesnar seems to change interest at the drop of a hat if the price is right.
Lesnar is currently on contract with the WWE, but is soon due for a re-up. It’s unlikely that Lesnar will pursue another foray into the UFC as he was tabbed for PED use last time he fought, but you never know. Lesnar is a man that beats to his own drum, and though most rumors say he’ll be around in 2018, you can never fully expect him to stay.
13 Dolph Ziggler
If there’s one wrestler that’s really blurred the line between kayfabe and reality, it’s Dolph Ziggler. Part of Ziggler’s persona for more than half a decade has been that of the underdog who constantly harps on management for not giving him the chance to prove that he can get over with the crowd. It’s a gimmick that’s been done before, so it’s not exactly a fresh concept unless he actually means it.
Ziggler is one of those mid-level guys that gets paid quite well (just under $1 million per year, reportedly), but could be a bigger name. Even in June 2017, Shinsuke Nakamura hinted that ZIggler might end up leaving the WWE, saying that “He’s such a good wrestler. If he (goes) to Japan...probably soon.” Does that mean an NJPW tenure incoming for Ziggler?
12 Dana Brooke
Late in 2016, there were some massively spread rumors that Dana Brooke was getting a lot of heat backstage. The allegations said that Brooke was getting romantically involved with somebody from the creative team, and that there were plans for a big push leading into WrestleMania in 2017 before they were called off. Since then, Brooke has been toiling at the bottom of the ladder in a crowder Raw women’s division.
With a lot of talented women in NXT, reports that she’s unlike backstage and not many impressive things to say about her in-ring talent, Brooke could be gone by the end of 2017. Brooke is also on a year-to-year contract that doesn’t have an automatic renewal, so she could be one of the people that simply doesn’t get re-signed by the WWE.
Rumors about R-Truth leaving the WWE started up a few years ago as the wrestler that was once known as K-Kwik passed the 40 year old mark. At 45 years old, R-Truth is now one of the oldest active wrestlers on the roster and has been relegated to the lower part of the midcard and a comedy act for an extended period of time. Though he has been involved in a feud with Goldust (more on him later), it might be a final hurrah.
R-Truth is making less than a quarter million each year and doesn’t move much merchandise, making him expendable to the WWE. Throw in the fact that James Ellsworth has emerged as the premiere goofy comedy act on the roster and R-Truth could be heading for retirement sooner rather than later.
10 Nikki Bella
Nikki Bella has achieved mainstream success with her twin sister Brie, but there’s not much left for her to do in the wrestling ring. There are other talented women making their way up the ladder, and Nikki Bella has to be thinking about starting a family now that her sister has married and had a child with Daniel Bryan. It took Nikki a while to get John Cena to propose marriage, and she took some extended time off after the WrestleMania proposal.
The fact that Nikki has stuck around after her sister left is already a surprise as it is, so don’t be shocked if she finally follows suit. Obviously, the WWE wants everything to do with the Bella Twins, so they won’t be gone forever, just in terms of full-time wrestling. With “Total Bellas” being a popular show on the E! Network, the WWE likely has an ambassador contract written up for the moment Nikki decides to quit wrestling.
9 The Colons
Primo and Epico have had several chances to get over as a tag team, and it simply hasn’t happened, no matter how many repackages there are. You might recall that in 2011, they were simply Primo and Epico for two years before becoming Los Matadores until 2015. After taking a short break, they were repackaged again as the Shining Stars and this year have been renamed as The Colons.
WIthout being able to move up the ladder, rumors are that The Colons not only want out of the WWE, but they have asked for their release. These haven’t been confirmed just yet as The Colons are still booked at some of the upcoming house shows, but it could be just a matter of weeks before they’re gone. To be honest, they’ll likely find better success elsewhere.
8 Hideo Itami
Before heading stateside to join the WWE as part of the developmental NXT, Hideo Itami already had a very long and established career. Since making his debut back in 2014, however, he hasn’t had much of the success that other big names such as Kevin Owens and Samoa Joe. Itami has suffered several injuries, which have killed his momentum every time he starts to build any of it up.
Rumors started swirling this summer about Itami possibly leaving the WWE after his contract comes to an end this year. Dave Meltzer was one of those people that said he could see Itami going back to Japan to achieve more fame and be closer to his family. Itami has denied these rumors so far, but we’re not far away from a final decision being made.
7 Eva Marie
There was a time that fans were going gaga over Eva Marie despite the fact that she didn’t have much in the in-ring talent department. The red haired bombshell drew a lot of attention, though, mainly because of her ability to market the WWE and appear on the reality series “Total Divas.” Many have tried to train Eva Marie to become a better wrestler, but we haven’t seen much improvement.
Eva Marie was drafted in the 2016 brand split, but was involved in a gimmick where she backed out of matches at the last moment. She then violated the Wellness Policy and hasn’t been seen since August of last year. Without any mention that she’s even on the roster and the fact that she’s not going to be on “Total Divas” next season, expect her to be released. Eva Marie has said that she wants to come back, but the novelty has worn off with many.
At one point just a couple of years ago, the sky was the limit for the young Paige, who came up and won the Divas Championship on her first night as a main roster talent. Over the past year, however, Paige has really rubbed some people the wrong way at WWE. In the second half of 2016, Paige was suspended twice for violating the Wellness Policy, and then started dating scorned former WWE wrestler Alberto Del Rio.
There have been allegations of a pregnancy and further drug use from Paige since then, and we haven’t seen her in a wrestling ring. Rumors say the only thing keeping her around is the movie that WWE is partnering with about her life. Once the movie is released and has left the mainstream attention, you can bet on Paige hitting the bricks in terms of her WWE career.
5 Mark Henry
Back in 2013, Mark Henry had one of the most memorable promos of the past decade when he donned a fancy suit and had everyone convinced in the Grand Rapids, Michigan crowd that he would be retiring. John Cena even came out to congratulate him on a career well done before Henry attacked Cena, saying “I got a lot left in the tank!” The two then had a feud, but we haven’t seen much of Henry since then.
As it sits right now, Henry is under contract with the WWE (and making a lot of money), but hasn’t been used on television in a significant capacity in a long, long time. With that said, it’s only a matter of when Henry’s contract runs out that he won’t be re-signed, allowing the World’s Strongest Man to finally enter and enjoy retirement (for real this time).
As the oldest active full-time wrestler on the WWE roster at 48 years old (Kane would be the only one older if he were back to full-time) and the fact that his brother left the WWE with no plans to return anytime soon, you have to wonder why Goldust hasn’t retired yet. There were some turbulent times in the life of Dustin Runnels, though he appears to be in much better shape than he was in most of his 30’s.
Despite being in better health, you can only do so much in the ring when you get close to 50 years old and have been going full-time for multiple decades. Some have expected that once Goldust has ended his feud with R-Truth that he’ll call it a career, perhaps going to the independent circuit to wrestle either with or against his brother one last time before leaving wrestling for good.
3 Big Show
The Big Show has been hinting at retiring for several years now, and the rumors seem to be getting more and more serious as time goes on. Because of that, you can expect 2017 to be the year where Big Show finally calls it quits. Big Show said that “My career is winding down,” earlier in 2017. “I didn’t mind being 480, 500 pounds when I was full-time as the Big Show. I liked being the monster that was bigger than everybody around me.”
Big Show added that there are other large men making their way to the roster such as Braun Strowman and Big Cass that will be able to replace him and that “my time is done.” Because Big Show can still go in the ring, expect him to put a couple of those monstrous men over on his way out and ends his long and illustrious career.
2 Daniel Bryan
In 2016 at just 34 years old, Daniel Bryan stood in the middle of the ring on Monday Night Raw and told the fans that he would be ending his time as a WWE wrestler. However, he has stuck around the company as a General Manager for SmackDown Live. Bryan has made it very clear that even though doctors in the WWE won’t clear him for competition, he’s too young and hungry to have already has his last wrestling match.
Part of the rumors have said that once Bryan’s contract with WWE runs out, it means he will no longer have a no-compete clause and can wrestle wherever he wants. Some reports have said that Bryan’s contract doesn’t run out until 2018, but nothing is concrete yet. Even if it is next year, Bryan might be able to talk his way out of getting out early to get back into wrestling.
1 John Cena
There’s no company man quite like John Cena, who has been extremely loyal to Vince McMahon and the WWE for more than a decade. Cena is also signed for a few more years, and his company is rewarding him handsomely for his work. Still, that doesn’t mean that Cena can’t decide to leave the company just like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson did before him back in the early 2000s.
Cena has become popular in the mainstream, and that means he won’t have to work so many days every year and travel as much. Life as an actor is a bit more illustrious, and if you add in the fact that Cena is already 40 years old and is planning a wedding with Nikki Bella, he might not be around as long as you think. Being loyal the way he is, though, count on Cena returning part-time at some point if he does decide to leave.