As long as fans can remember, WWE has held a notorious tradition of following the high of WrestleMania with wishing a bunch of superstars luck in their future endeavors. It makes perfect sense, as the Grandest Stage of Them All is supposed to set the tone for the following year of sports entertainment. More importantly, the show decides which wrestlers will be leading the way, and inversely, who might not be so necessary to the company’s continued success. There are already a handful of rumors floating around about who might not make the cut this year, and anyone paying enough attention could probably guess a few more superstars who may find themselves on the chopping block.
It could be one by one, in large clusters, or even all in a single go, but the point is WWE is almost definitely about to release a handful of wrestlers within the next month or two. While this could be considered a good thing or a bad thing to their fans, either way, the plus side is that WWE does this to make way for future superstars to take the dead weight’s spots. Also, the chance is always present that these wrestlers may find better success elsewhere. For better or worse, keep reading to discover 15 superstars who should be worried about the company doing some spring cleaning.
15 Darren Young
With all due respect to Mr. Backlund, we’re sorry—his efforts at making Darren Young great again have been a misguided failure from day one. The problem is mostly that WWE has completely forgotten how a manager is supposed to work, and all this angle has achieve is getting senior citizen Bob Backlund a strange mixture of ironic and genuinely respectful cheers. Either way, the former WWE Champion and Hall of Famer shouldn’t be the focus; his client should. Unfortunately, that just hasn’t happened, because Backlund is an infinitely more entertaining character than Young. In any event, the result is that the audience doesn’t care about Young based on his personality, and his in-ring work isn’t good enough to make up for the fact he’s plain boring. Frankly, Young has been in a downward spiral since the Prime Time Players broke up, and they weren’t even that great while they were together. On that note…
14 Titus O’Neil
Aside from Titus O’Neil vaguely acting like a heel (fans don’t care about), the only thing differentiating him from the face (fans don’t care about) Darren Young is the absence of a legend as his manager. O’Neil is arguably as free of charisma, personality, and special wrestling skills as his former partner, and with no one to speak for him, its a wonder WWE sees any value to him at all. In recent weeks, his main purpose has been losing to bigger names and getting mocked for daring to try his hand against them, pretty much nullifying any chances the Titus Brand had at ever making a comeback. The one thing O’Neil has going for him is his high profile charity work, which may actually be enough for WWE to keep him around forever. The company also surely remembers the backlash received when they even suspended him, which may save him from further trouble, at least for now.
13 Eva Marie
Truth be told, there was some hesitation in placing Eva Marie on this list, and chances are people who keep an eye on the rumor will already know the reason why. No, its not that WWE loves Eva too darn much to lose her. In fact, it’s the exact opposite, as speculation has been running wild for about a month now that she’s already been fired and/or asked for her release. Outside of management, the WWE Universe has never been kind to Eva Marie, loudly booing her and jeeringly chanting “You Can’t Wrestle” any time she made an attempt to do so. What’s worse, whatever ties she had with executives have now been dwindling thanks to repeated Wellness Policy violations. Topping it all off, Eva has been posting on Instagram hinting a return to acting and modeling, dying her trademark red hair black in defiance of her WWE brand. WWE won’t even need to fire her, as her contract is reportedly running out in a few weeks regardless.
A mere two or three years back when Kalisto signed with WWE, he genuinely had something special to offer the company. At the time, high-flying, cruiserweight, lucha libre style wrestling was on the way out if not completely dying, and as half of the Lucha Dragons and a two time US Champion, Kalisto was one of the few people breaking that trend. And then WWE revived the cruiserweight division, suddenly brining in no less than a dozen younger, more talented Kalisto’s into the fold. When tasked with facing the best of the new brand, Kalisto lost his first title shot and has yet to even try again. The fact this wasn’t a problem for Neville confirms how dangerous it could be for Kalisto’s job security, since it proves others could adapt where he couldn’t. In fact, since 205 Live has become a thing, Kalisto has gradually faded out to a smaller and smaller role, and it may not be long before he disappears entirely from the WWE Universe.
11 Alicia Fox
Has there ever been a wrestler to work for WWE more than a full decade and accomplish less than Alicia Fox? Yes, you read that right: Fox has been working for the company since July of 2006 when she signed with the developmental Ohio Valley Wrestling, then was reassigned to Florida Championship Wrestling before getting called up to SmackDown in 2008. That’s nearing nine years on the main roster, and all Fox has to show for it is two short months as Divas Champion—and that was seven years ago. From then on, Fox has been little more than a background character who added almost nothing beyond scenery, the few times she stepped into the ring doing nothing to change that. Her latest turn as the love interest/manager on 205 Live probably won’t be enough to save her, unless WWE decides that brand is in need of some eye candy, which actually might explain how she has a job today.
10 The Vaudevillains
Some ideas simply work better on a smaller scale than a large one, and The Vaudevillains have been living proof of this concept since getting called up from NXT to the main WWE roster. While still in developmental, Aiden English and Simon Gotch were considered quirky, unique, and creative by the fans willing to try and understand their gimmick. When they were called up to WWE, however, it was mere weeks before reports hit that Vince McMahon thought they were “stupid.” Throwback personas can only work if the audience is willing to learn a little about the era and understand what they’re trying to do, and neither the WWE fans nor executives seem to have interest in doing that. English has ties to the Guerrero family that might save him, but Gotch has been getting in fights backstage that could easily cancel that out and cost Vince to pull the plug on the team altogether.
9 Tamina Snuka
Anyone familiar with sports knows the pros and cons of becoming a second-generation athlete, and Tamina Snuka has the added problem of half the world believing her father was a murderer. Despite the jury permanently being out on Jimmy Snuka’s alleged crimes due to his death, his family can still suffer from his misdeeds, at least in theory. Thus far, WWE had remained supportive of Snuka throughout his life and continued to do so with a tribute after his death, albeit with the asterisk that a good number of the fans in attendance could be heard booing when they did so. In any event, Tamina shouldn’t be fired or get to keep her job based on whether or not her deceased father committed any crimes thirty years ago. The thing that matters is her job performance, and she’s yet to show any promise in that category. With public perception increasingly turning on her family now that Jimmy is gone, Tamina might not have much left keeping her in the McMahon’s good graces.
8 Mojo Rawley
Considering the way WWE typically treats Zack Ryder, it’s nothing short of a miracle they’d bother hiring him a tag team partner/character clone. It would be one thing if Mojo Rawley brought something particularly special to the role, but that he’s just another bro screaming woo woo you know it five years after that was a thing vastly furthers his uselessness. Things haven’t got any better for Rawley since Ryder was injured and the Hype Bros were forced to temporarily break up, as these days he’s serving more of a placeholder role than anything else. When a wrestler needs to win without actually winning anything, Rawley gets the call, and the same goes if a true jobber is needed, with nothing to lose. This might be acceptable if Rawley had a unique character, but the fact he’s mimicking someone better, who WWE also doesn’t care about, makes it a mystery why he was hired at all.
7 Curt Hawkins
Before there was Mojo Rawley, there was also Curt Hawkins, the first tag team partner of Zack Ryder and initially a clone of him, as well. Granted, Hawkins has evolved a lot from his days as half of The Major Brothers, and there’s nothing left in his character that aspires to the days he and Ryder were teaming. That said, the change was out of necessity, as calling him the Marty Jannetty of the duo doesn’t really cover it—people remember who Marty Jannetty was. Hawkins floated around the midcard for a few months before getting fired in 2014, and very little had changed when he made his return two years later. Nine months into that return and Hawkins still hasn’t done anything whatsoever to justify it, and unless he finds something to do make him standout in the near future, he’ll probably get fired all over again.
6 The Ascension
Similar to the Vaudevillains, the problem with the Ascension is simply that they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, the difference is the emphasis on wrong time, as Konnor and Viktor could have easily dominated the WWE Universe some twenty, thirty years ago, back when monster tag teams were all the rage. Though a throwback team of that nature can work in NXT, the general focus of WWE has shifted towards smaller, faster, better in-ring workers over the years, especially with the tag team division. Plenty of monster teams still come along and dominate for a month or two, but fans and the WWE writers always lose interest fast, and that time was already quite some time ago for the Ascension. As if that weren’t bad enough, Konnor also has two Wellness Policy violations to his name, and one more mistake for him or his partner could easily spell the end for them both.
5 The Shining Stars
It’s been five years since Primo and Epico were a successful enough unit to hold the WWE Tag Team Championships, and all two gimmick overhauls has accomplished is confusing fans who pay attention. After going by their own names and actually winning some gold, the Colón cousins also went by Los Matadores before adopting their current Shining Stars moniker, using increasingly stupid and offensive “comedy” gimmicks only funny to Vince McMahon. Tag team wrestling has been making a mild resurgence of late on both Raw and SmackDown, and yet instead of getting revitalized by new competition, Primo and Epico keep falling into the background and getting forgotten about. Granted, Vinnie Mac’s opinion is the only one that matters, so maybe the Shining Stars have some time left, but even Vince has to be getting bored now that they’ve been feuding over timeshares.
4 Curtis Axel
If the best manager of the modern era couldn’t save Curtis Axel, one has to assume that nothing would. Truth be told, earning the new nickname “Mr. Irrelevant” more than three years after becoming a Paul Heyman guy might be a fate worse than getting fired, and somehow it feels like Axel will only go down from here. Despite his fantastic lineage as the son of Mr. Perfect and grandson of Larry “The Axe” Hennig, the third-generation superstar simply doesn’t have either of his predecessor’s work ethic on the mic or in the ring. His most recent nickname is without a doubt the most accurate, as its mere months after Axel was publically branded as irrelevant, and he’s pretty much nowhere to be seen on television. The one thing saving him is a big role in the upcoming film The Marine 5, but once that press tour is said and done, so may be Axel’s time in the WWE Universe.
All right, technically speaking, Goldberg doesn’t necessarily belong on this list. As the WWE Universal Champion, it’s pretty clear the company still sees something worthwhile in him, and there’s also no denying large portions of the audience agrees each time they chant his name. On the other hand, Goldberg himself has reportedly been unhappy with his time in WWE, telling Edge and Christian he was “miserable” during a recent episode of their podcast, E&C’s Pod Of Awesomeness. It would also be fair to say the portion WWE’s audience that doesn’t like Goldberg outright hates everything about him, including the mere fact he’s on the WWE roster aged 50. Add to it all that there’s virtually nothing else for Goldberg to do when his program with Brock Lesnar is over, and whether or not WWE fires him, we have to say it looks like Da Man is not long for sports entertainment in general.
2 Mauro Ranallo
In barely over a year, Mauro Ranallo has managed to make his name synonymous with WWE SmackDown Live. Sure, the company still relies on Michael Cole and an ever growing band of randos for special events and Pay-Per-Views, but Ranallo has been the man on SmackDown, and plenty of fans even prefer him over Cole and the others. Unfortunately, despite all his success, Ranallo suffers from bipolar disorder and depression, and his conditions have recently caused him to miss three full weeks of the show. Based on a recent tweet, he might not be at WrestleMania, either, and it should go without saying things don’t look great from there. Unlike most of this list, Ranallo’s absence has been a voluntary choice related to his mental illness, but that doesn’t change how WWE could react. Hopefully, the company will understand and try to help him in whatever way they can, and firing him over his mental condition is dicey legal territory. On the other hand, Ranallo could very well decide to walk away on his own will, and all fans can do is hope he recovers soon.
Believe it or not, the best thing Paige has going for her in terms of staying employed with WWE is the leaked sexual pictures and videos of her with Xavier Woods. As it stands right now, Paige can’t be fired without people assuming the pictures were the reason why, and WWE can’t fire her without also firing Woods lest they get accused of blatant sexism. Before the scandal, Paige was on the fast track to getting let go already, with repeat Wellness Policy violations and a relationship with the canned Alberto Del Rio putting her on the McMahon’s bad sides. On the other hand, WWE Studios and The Rock are also involved in the production of a film about Paige’s life, so she could be safe regardless. Still, her relationship with Del Rio is about to progress into a marriage, and there’s always a chance they could do or say something together that could cause yet another scandal.