When it comes to the WWE, roster turnover is inevitable. With talent bursting at the seams at an all-time high, the need for back-end talents aren’t as necessary as they once were.
Take Jack Swagger, for example. When it comes to in-ring ability, he had a good amount of talent — but his lack of character and inconsistent booking was the downfall of his character, which is why no one was surprised he asked for his release just recently.
It’s always around post-WrestleMania season where WWE holds their “cut day” — a time when they release a handful of talents on the same day. In recent years, names like Wade Barrett, Damien Sandow, and Ryback have all been released despite being prominent members of both Raw and SmackDown. As the roster keeps expanding every year, older talents will soon be tossed to the side. The WWE already has trouble finding enough storylines and feuds for their talent as it is. They can’t really bring in a lot of new names without some old ones suffering the consequences.
While all of these cuts won’t come the day after ‘Mania, they will happen before the year is over. Let’s take a look at 15 WWE superstars who will be let go in 2017.
From his first run as the sexually explicit character that began in 1996 up until his fourth return to the WWE which ended in 2010, Goldust was always a great hand to have on the roster. But while he was one of the most entertaining characters on the roster, he was never the greatest in-ring technician that the company has seen. That changed, however, when he returned for his fifth stint back in 2013. In the best shape of his career and his head on straight, the veteran took the WWE audience by storm as he was a part of an emotional and fan-favorite program with his brother Cody Rhodes and his father Dusty Rhodes. Between that, his feud with his brother as Stardust, and currently as a member of The Golden Truth, Goldust has been nothing but tremendous in his most recent run.
But as the WWE focuses more and more on the future, he’s an easy pick to be let go to make room for younger talents.
There are a ton of different WWE superstars that can claim they’ve been given a raw deal by management. If you’ve been paying attention in recent months, Emma is obviously a part of that list. From her original run in NXT to her first call-up to the main roster, there was no denying that Emma was one of the most talented women inside of the squared circle. Unfortunately, however, her booking once called up was subpar at best, which resulted in a demotion.
To Emma’s credit, she completely reinvented herself from a goof-ball to a tremendous heel and put herself back on the map. She was called up for the second time, but the run was brief — after finding herself in secondary feuds from March to May, she was sidelined with a back injury that required surgery. Unfortunately, the WWE has squandered her return; while she could be a top player on the Raw brand, the creative team has instead booked her in confusing vignettes as Emmalina, which was even furthered with her odd promo. Because it doesn’t look like they know what to do with her, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Emma is released at some point in 2017.
13. Darren Young
When it comes to Darren Young, he’s been given a ton of chances to separate himself from the pack. While he’s been a viable options in groups and tag teams as a part of The Nexus and in two stints with Titus O’Neil as the Prime Time Players, poor booking and injuries have halted any and all single’s runs. When he first broke up with O’Neil, the creative team pushed him as a solo act before he tore his ACL. In 2016, they decided to, once again, give him a shot by himself, as he worked with Bob Backlund as his mentor. While he received a Intercontinental Championship match out of it, he suffered an arm injury a couple of months later, one that required surgery.
Sure, Young has been an advocate of many programs that the WWE does outside of the ring — but since they can’t rely on him inside of it, he could be on the chopping block this year.
12. Jinder Mahal
When the WWE decided to bring back the brand split, they brought in a bunch of former mid-level talents to help fill out the Raw and SmackDown Live rosters. One of which was Jinder Mahal, someone who never made an impact in his initial run but knows the WWE style and is a reliable hand. But like his first stint with the company, where he was a member of 3MB, amongst other things, Mahal has yet to do much of anything since he returned. Outside of the recent tag team and feud with Rusev, Mahal has only been featured on television in battle royals or squash matches. While his physique is better than ever, Mahal won’t be making any noise when it comes to matches — that, in and of itself, warrants a release before the year ends.
11. Dana Brooke
It’s safe to say Dana Brooke didn’t deserve the promotion to the main roster when she did. Sure, the former fitness model was improving down in NXT but was still ways away from being a legitimate talent to feature week in and week out on WWE television. The move, of course, didn’t work out as originally intended — Brooke was initially called up to be paired with Emma, who worked with her down in developmental. But when Emma went down with the aforementioned back injury, Brooke was put with Charlotte, a duo that never seemed to click. Ever since, she’s been put in throwaway matches and has been relegated to a manager-like role instead of growing in the ring. The WWE’s best bet would be to put Brooke back in NXT; unfortunately for her, it seems like she won’t last much longer with the company.
There aren’t many people that have joined the WWE’s main roster with more fanfare than Fandango. After months of vignettes, the character found himself in a confrontation with future Hall of Famer Chris Jericho, one that set up a match between the two wrestlers at WrestleMania XXIX. In what was even more surprising, Jericho did the honors that night, all but cementing Fandango as a star on the rise. While his music and dancing came with much fanfare, the WWE never got behind him as he was relegated to a comedic act and jobber status. Nowadays, Fandango is teaming with Tyler Breeze as Breezango, a team that has potential but doesn’t get much time on television. While Breeze still has upside, it’s hard to see what more Fandango can do in the WWE. Because of that, it wouldn’t shock anyone to see him released in 2017.
Like the previously mentioned Jinder Mahal, Rhyno was also brought to the main roster after the brand split. The move, however, wasn’t as farfetched as bringing Mahal back as Rhyno was a part of the NXT roster for months prior to his SmackDown Live promotion. The former ECW World Heavyweight Champion was a key contributor over the summer as his odd-couple tag team with Heath Slater was a bright spot of the program, as the duo even became the first tandem to hold the Smackdown Tag Team Championships. But once Rhyno and Slater lost their titles, they’ve been put on the backburner. Rhyno’s run was impressive for what it was — but at this point, his spot would be better off going to a younger wrestler that’s on the cusp of being called up.
8. Apollo Crews
When taking a glance at Apollo Crews, he clearly has the look that the WWE wants. Furthermore, he’s one of the most talented wrestlers when it comes to an in-ring standpoint. Unfortunately, however, his character has lacked for the duration of his time with the company.
Signed to NXT after starring on the independent circuit, Crews was expected to be the next great NXT star. But once Vince McMahon laid his eyes on him, the youngster was selected during the brand split draft, despite the fact that he struggles mightily on the microphone. Because it has persisted, Crews has floundered on the main roster as he’s been relegated to secondary feuds. While a demotion is definitely possible, don’t be surprised if Crews is let go altogether, with the hopes that he can improve elsewhere and find his way back to the WWE.
7. Eva Marie
If you’re a fan of the WWE, you know that the company had (and by all accounts, still have) huge plans for Eva Marie. Arguably the most stunning woman in the company, she began as the face of Total Divas before realizing that she couldn’t do much of anything inside of the ring. Once put in NXT, Eva Marie recognized the hatred she received from the audience and played it into her favor, as she acted better than everyone when she was performing. Her notoriety prompted a promotion during the brand split — and while there were plenty of women ahead of her on the depth chart, it was no surprise to see her called up. On SmackDown Live, the creative team did a good job in having her come up with excuses so she didn’t have to wrestle. Unfortunately, however, a Wellness Policy suspension halted her push and she hasn’t been seen since.
With a number of endeavors outside of the company taking shape, it wouldn’t be a shock to see her focus on that instead of wrestling, which could result in a release.
6. Hideo Itami
When Hideo Itami was brought to NXT from Japan, he — along with Finn Balor and Kevin Owens — were positioned to be the future stars of the WWE. And while both Balor and Owens are stars on the main roster, Itami has yet to make his mark with the company. And it’s not to say the WWE hasn’t pushed him — in fact, it looked as though he was going to become the next big star in NXT but a long-term injury halted those plans. In addition to his injury woes, Itami doesn’t quite seem to have that it factor WWE looks for in talents. With Nakamura looking like he’ll be a long-term star to appeal to the Japanese audience, it kind of makes Itami expendable.
5. Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
When the WWE raided New Japan Pro Wrestling back in January of 2016, it was a coup for the ages. Not only did they pluck one of Japan’s top stars in Shinsuke Nakamura and a household name in AJ Styles, but they also were able to acquire Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, arguably the top tag team in NJPW and two mainstays of Bullet Club, the hottest act in professional wrestling at the time. But from their debut up until today, Gallows and Anderson have largely underwhelmed during their time with the company. Sure, that can be blamed on poor booking — but the WWE will never admit their faults, and the unsuccessful tenure of the tag team will be placed on their shoulders, not the company’s.
While there is still time for them to gain steam, the fans appear to be uninterested in the duo. By the time 2017 comes to a close, don’t be shocked if Gallows and Anderson are back overseas and donning Bullet Club merchandise once again.
4. Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler has long been rumored to be on his way out of the WWE. Why, you ask? It’s simple: despite being one of the best talents they have on their entire roster, the company doesn’t have a ton of faith in Ziggler after injuries derailed his main event push. His heel turn on SmackDown Live was intended to revitalize his character; but instead, Ziggler is the same wrestler doing the same thing, except he’s supposed to get booed and not cheered. Ziggler could — and should — be a main event player, no matter if he’s on Raw or SmackDown. But at this point, it doesn’t seem likely that he sniffs championship gold ever again. This will finally be the year that Ziggler has enough, and he’ll take a page out of Cody Rhodes’s book and become a star across independent promotions all across the globe.
3. Mick Foley
When the WWE decided to bring Mick Foley back as the General Manager of Raw, many realized it was intended to promote the WWE Network show Holy Foley. At the same time, however, Foley is one of the most beloved superstars of all time and fans love when he’s appearing on television. Unfortunately, his run as GM has been nothing but sad, as the signs of head trauma are clearly visible. Whether it’s forgetting lines or simply looking lost, Foley struggles mightily on the microphone, and the seeds have been planted that he will be replaced at some point down the line. With Foley set for hip surgery, his removal of television is imminent — but when he goes away, it’ll be for good. Don’t expect Foley to return to television once he leaves.
For Goldberg, his current WWE run couldn’t have gone any better. From the positive crowd reaction all the way to his WWE Universal Championship win at the Fastlane event, the former WCW star is having a more successful time now than he did in his initial run with the company. But with that being said, Goldberg won’t — and shouldn’t — be around past WrestleMania 33. He’s wrestled in two matches (and a Royal Rumble appearance) that have seen him use two moves a combined five times. He’s yet to take a bump in a match or have a match that goes on longer than two minutes. He simply doesn’t have what it takes to be a long-term draw. Sure, nostalgia acts are fun — but Goldberg’s tenure with the WWE will end in April.
1. Chris Jericho
This won’t be a firing, but rather a mutual parting of ways, at least until Jericho is ready for another stint where he will again attempt to re-invent himself.
At this point, it’s hard to argue that Chris Jericho is one of the greatest superstars in professional wrestling history. His ability to be a fantastic in-ring worker while always reinventing his character to be relevant is something that’s impressive each and every time he does it. His most recent return has been his most impressive, as Jericho has been a comedic genius while putting on fantastic matches with up-and-coming wrestlers.
But with his terrific program with Kevin Owens coming to a head at WrestleMania 33, what better way to leave than on the grandest stage of them all? Once again, Jericho will ride into the sunset on a high note.
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