WrestleMania season will soon be upon us, and even though pro wrestling's most important event is flourishing with glitz and glamour, the weeks and months that follow aren't exactly as pleasant.
We're not talking about the downtime WWE usually spirals into following the mega PPV until SummerSlam but more so the fate of WWE's roster is put into question. Around May, WWE dips into its financial info and decides to let a number of superstars go, wishing them well in their “future endeavours.” We saw this last year when on May 6, popular names like Damien Sandow, Wade Barrett (who was quitting anyway), Alex Riley and Zeb Colter, to name a few, were released by WWE all in the same day. The biggest surprise, of course, was Sandow, who was quite over with the fans. It just goes to show when WWE doesn't have a plan for said superstar, not even a popular babyface is safe.
This could help wrestlers, like Sandow, who find homes elsewhere, and in this case, Sandow won a championship in TNA and is doing well under the moniker of Aron Rex. However, the pay days won't be as big, and TNA – or any other promotion – can't really compete with the WWE.
These releases happen every year, which is a trend that started in 2005. While wrestlers are definitely going to be handed pink slips this year, it's hard to say which ones are safe and which are in the red zone. Here are 15 possible candidates who may be losing their job once WrestleMania season is over:
15 The Shining Stars
Not even a gimmick change can help these two at the moment, as The Shining Stars have proven to be a failure with the WWE Universe again and again. While Primo and Epico were satisfactory along with Rosa Mendes, Los Matadores fizzled out quickly, and it's safe to say the Puerto Rican air miles shtick is wearing thin fast.
While the team definitely has talent, it's just not going to work for them in WWE. The company could always use tag teams, yet as we've seen before, sometimes a team is just left to rot on house shows, and that's probably what's going to happen to The Shining Stars before they take their talents elsewhere. Perhaps they'd find more success in AAA or Lucha Underground.
14 Curtis Axel
Not only is he the son of a legend, and the grandson of another legend, he was a Paul Heyman guy – and not even that worked out. Curtis Axel is just a waste of space in WWE at the moment. His Hulkamania gimmick was pretty funny a while back, but ever since Hogan's racist tirade was caught on an unfortunate tape, it's almost as if we could do without seeing imitations of him for the foreseeable future. Axel was an Intercontinental champion in WWE and a member of the pivotal group Nexus, yet there's nothing left for him to do in WWE now that his partner Damien Sandow is gone. Luckily for him, he's got enough credibility to at least work in some top indies or even TNA.
13 Titus O'Neil
Former World Heavyweight champion Batista has always been critical of Titus O'Neil's mishandling in WWE, saying he should move on and find work elsewhere. The thing is O'Neil isn't young, and while he looked like an underrated talent as part of the Prime Time Players - serving as the muscle of the group who worked well with the hot tag - his singles work isn't always consistent, and his mic skills are atrocious. Not to mention, his suspension before last year's WrestleMania was truly mind-boggling, almost getting into a shoving match with Vince McMahon during Daniel Bryan's retirement segment.
You can say he was buried time and time again when he came back, and the future doesn't look too bright for him. He should probably take his friend Batista's advice if he isn't released.
12 Jinder Mahal
Why on earth did WWE bring back Jinder Mahal? When the promotion severed ties with Mahal, the wrestler didn't pop up too often, except for the odd indie appearance here and there. Now, he's helping Rusev on RAW for some strange reason, and looks to be more of an enhancement talent for others, eating the pin more often than not. WWE did make it clear to Mahal that he would be working house shows, and that he could be of use with their venture in two full rosters, but his re-signing is just strange. It's almost as if he peaked with 3MB, and since that's over, there really isn't much for him to do anymore than to catch a beating. Could they not have found someone better?
11 Sin Cara
With Kalisto being better used as a sinlges competitor, Sin Cara doesn't really have much to do anymore – except for take anger management classes here and there. After a fight with Simon Gotch last year, news broke of a fight with Chris Jericho and our wrestler in question, who apparently snapped at the Canadian and threw a punch at him after a little argument. WWE ordered Sin Cara to take anger management classes, and while the two wrestlers remain friends, you've got to wonder how long WWE will keep him on board for.
He's not exactly a top draw, and he could be used to put other guys over, but why even bother if he's just going to be a problem backstage? It's almost certain he'll be on the May cuts.
10 Bob Backlund
It seems as if Darren Young's gimmick, which gave us “Make Darren Young Great Again,” has been ditched. Is it a coincidence, seeing that the controversial Donald Trump is now the President of the U.S. and maybe WWE wants to distance themselves? (After all, Linda McMahon is in his cabinet, so you be the judge...) There is literally no need for Bob Backlund to be on WWE TV anymore, even though he's energetic and typically insane for his age. Backlund probably has a legends deal, and that should expire soon.
He always comes up here and there on WWE TV, but he's not really of any use without Darren Young, who has been working shows without his somewhat failed gimmick. It was worth an experiment, but it hasn't worked out.
9 Mustafa Ali
Mustafa Ali is a wrestler in WWE's Cruiserweight division, which has been failing to catch on with fans. His match against Lince Dorado in the tournament turned some heads, but apart from that, he really hasn't been special. It's going to be hard for WWE to cut some Cruiserweights, and even though they could use all the help they could get in that department, Ali's vignettes haven't done much to separate him from the pack.
It seems unlikely that he'll ever be on the same page as guys like Rich Swann, Brian Kendrick, Neville or TJ Perkins, so maybe it's best to keep him on 205 Live until it's time to part ways. There could be quite a bit of roster turnover in the next few months in the division.
8 Charly Caruso
Charly Caruso is new to the broadcast team, working as a backstage interviewer. Now, it may be early in her WWE career, but her acting comes off as weak, and a little fake, to be honest. She isn't really as seasoned as Renee Young, and maybe nobody will be, but she's lacking in the skill department. If anything, she's like a soap opera star, looking for extra work.
The bad news is for broadcasters in WWE is that you may not even have three strikes before you're out. The WWE typically doesn't keep their broadcasters for long if they start skipping a beat, and with Caruso, even though she hasn't made monumental mistakes, she better step it up a notch. Perhaps WrestleMania weekend could be her time to really prove herself.
7 Angelo Dawkins
Talk about someone who just isn't going to get it. Angelo Dawkins isn't that skilled on the mic, he's nothing special in the ring, and to top it all off, his gimmick is a rip-off of rapper Lil B. The NXT crowd, though, doesn't really get his shtick, and to be honest, neither do we. Dawkins looks like he's attending a basketball game instead of actually wrestling a match, and to think this guy's been there for years is a little embarrassing. Sometimes these types of gimmicks work, but this clearly hasn't been the case with Dawkins.
Nobody cares about Angelo Dawkins, unfortunately, and the guy does have potential – but now is nowhere near his time. He should be on the NXT cuts some time this spring.
6 The Ascension
Some WWE fans don't watch NXT, and even though they're missing out, it's OK, considering the amount of wrestling one needs to keep up with these days. But if you didn't watch NXT a couple of years ago, you'd be shocked to find out that Viktor and Konnor of the Ascension, were actually...well, good. They didn't do the whole Road Warriors gimmick, and they didn't really mention Demolition, either.
Instead, they were two wrecking balls, and it's really hard to see why Vince McMahon buried them the way he did. Now, they've got no confidence, they botch all the time, and are met with nuclear heat when their music hits (and not in a good way). Unfortunately, not even the most faithful WWE fans will miss them when they're gone.
Considering how little Fandango has done the last couple of years, it's a little surprising to still see him on the roster. Fandango's rise to fame was beating Chris Jericho at WrestleMania, and apart from that, he's been on Total Divas and he's over when the WWE goes overseas. His pairing with Tyler Breeze worked for a while, and although the team was handled poorly by bookers, Fandango doesn't have much left to offer WWE at this present time. But the guy known as Johnny Curtis just doesn't cut it in the eyes of WWE, as he's been passed up time and time again. There's not much you can do with a ballroom dancer, and unless WWE is willing to change Fandango's shtick altogether, it's only a matter of time before he's gone for good.
4 Jack Swagger
How many chances can you give Jack Swagger? When he returned to SmackDown Live, he said he was going to be a big problem for everyone, but unfortunately, he was anything of the sort. He immediately lost a feud to Baron Corbin, and he's been nothing but a problem ever since. As a former World Heavyweight champion over half a decade ago, you've got to wonder what's left for him to do other than serve as a glorified jobber.
When he was paired up with Cesaro and Zeb Colter, he was tolerable, but now, there's literally nothing left for Jack Swagger. It's a shame, because he could have been a hell of a talent. Odds are, he would find a lot of success on the indie circuit if he were to leave the WWE.
3 Wesley Blake
Blake and Murphy had X-Pac heat as the NXT tag champs, and while Buddy Murphy, who is engaged to Alexa Bliss, has a little more charisma, Wesley Blake just looks like he doesn't really belong in NXT. With a face only a mother could love, you've got to ask yourself why he's sticking around when the NXT crowd hates him. With that said, there are lots of upcoming talents on NXT that deserve the spotlight, and Wesley Blake just isn't one of them. It just seems like it's not going to click for him, and every time his music hits (which doesn't match his character), it's a bore. If WWE doesn't release him, he'll be in NXT forever. That's not something the WWE wants, as NXT is supposed to be a developmental brand, not the minor leagues.
You've got to hear us out on this one, because you may think it's a little harsh. Tamina's father, Jimmy Snuka just passed away a few weeks ago. While Snuka might have been a legend in WWE, he had just been acquitted of murder for the second time in the death of Nancy Argentino, who was rumored to be his girlfriend in the 80s while he was still married. It's unlikely WWE would release Tamina in the wake of her father's death, but she's literally been doing nothing for WWE ever since the breakup of Team B.A.D. She's older, slower, and to be fair, she never really looked all that great in the ring during her entire career.
She's been inactive on the roster, and it's hard to see where she'd fit on both RAW and SmackDown. For WWE, though, it's a matter of how they will move forward with her career.
Once a golden girl who stood apart from the rest in the Divas division as the anti-Diva, Paige's days are surely numbered. She's failed two wellness policy tests in one year, and to make matters worse, the brass (most notably Triple H), weren't too pleased with Paige when news surfaced that she and her future husband, Alberto Del Rio, were party animals on the road. Hunter didn't like the influence Del Rio had on her, and it's no surprise considering her physique has changed while she's been away. (Seriously, who gets skinnier with time off?)
It's sad for Paige, who was once NXT's main star, and a big draw in the women's division for WWE, not to mention being a successful champion on both rosters. And while the women on RAW and SmackDown are thriving, does WWE even need Paige right now?