It’s a pretty wild time in WWE right now, both in the world of kayfabe and backstage. The on-screen Raw vs Smackdown brand war structure heading into Survivor Series produced unlikely (and, frankly, implausible) rivalries and alliances that – for a time – turned most storylines upside down. Then you have the behind the scenes happenings, which have recently come to include pink slips, the abrupt end of the Jinder Mahal championship experiment, the mysterious Nia Jax walkout, behaviour issues related to Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn and plenty of mumps madness.
In the fast-paced world of WWE, there can sometimes be just as many storylines taking place off-screen as there are on it. With two brands and over 40 wrestlers on each (not including 205 Live or NXT) some roster members who reside outside of the main event can tend to get lost in the shuffle. So much so in fact that fans might even fail to notice if a guy suddenly disappeared from TV after being a mainstay. That’s what happens when WWE throws seven hours of sports entertainment programming at us on a weekly basis, not to mention pay-per-views.
Those sudden disappearances seem to be happening quite a lot lately. If you read insider blogs and rumour-based websites, which most of you reading this list probably do, then some of these may not be news to you. However, even for the most ardent WWE watcher, some of these wrestlers who have recently vanished from TV may have flown under the radar.
At 45 years of age, R-Truth is what he is: a useful veteran utility player who can be brought in sporadically to elevate an up-and-coming star. The “What’s Up?” rapper probably isn’t due for another singles push, but given his decade of loyalty to WWE, he should have the freedom to retire on his own terms and perhaps even move into a backstage role.
So what’s left for him in WWE? Glorified jobber status is pretty much all there is. He will pop up in the odd battle royal and serve as fodder for an emerging heel, that is if he even has enough legitimacy left for a win over him to even mean anything. At least with his rapping-to-the-ring routine, Truth won’t often be subject to the old ‘already in the ring’ treatment that really defines down a superstar.
14. Matt And Jeff Hardy
Some members of the WWE Universe would surely have heard about the serious shoulder injury sustained by Jeff Hardy back in September, but you could be forgiven if you missed it amidst the wave of other industry news of late. The injury – and subsequent surgery – is a major blow to not just the Charismatic Enigma, but also to his ‘Broken’ brother, Matt. The recovery time will likely keep Jeff out through WrestleMania season, but it has also severely limited Matt’s prospects.
Matt was briefly paired with Jason Jordan for a handful of Raw matches, but the team was quickly scrapped when Jordan was placed in a feud with Elias prior to joining his brand’s Survivor Series team. The elder Hardy now occupies a weird space in that he isn’t being set up for a singles push, leaving the writing staff reluctant to give him a storyline absent of his brother.
One key member of the Miztourage has been missing lately, and with good reason. Maryse, the on-screen and off-screen love interest of The Miz, is pregnant with the couple’s first child. By adding supporting Miztourage members Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel to the mix shortly before Maryse disappeared from television, it has served to re-frame the stable from A-List couple to making Miz the centrepiece.
Interestingly, Maryse appears to have been taken off WWE TV long before her actual due date. The couple announced their forthcoming baby girl in late September and the former model was removed soon thereafter, even with the baby likely not arriving until the new year. While it probably serves Maryse well to not be in a professional wrestling environment while expecting, WWE probably wasn’t too keen on the idea of a female valet showcasing a baby bump, not to mention how hard it is to boo expectant parents.
12. Curt Hawkins
Back in the summer of 2016, Curt Hawkins returned to WWE after a two-year hiatus to provide roster depth in the midst of another brand split. Over one year later, it’s hard to see why he even bothered. The former Edgehead’s talents on the mic actually helped him establish something of a persona, first with a ‘Chuck Norris Facts’-themed gimmick and then with his losing streak gimmick. But as the losing streak gimmick would indicate, the mic opportunities didn’t exactly breed much in-ring success.
By unofficial count, Hawkins has won all of one match since re-debuting, an upset over Apollo Crews. Prior to making a cameo appearance as a victim of Smackdown’s “Under Siege” backstage attack on Raw superstars, he was last seen being fed to Braun Strowman. I suppose there’s not as much need for a designated jobber to pop up on WWE programming anymore!
11. Hype Bros
Vince McMahon and WWE have long been known to run hot and cold on certain superstars and storylines, resulting in maddening start and stop pushes. Few current roster members have found themselves at the mercy of McMahon’s whims quite like the Hype Bros tandem of Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley. At various times, we’ve seen WWE start to get behind Rawley as a breakout singles star and tease dissension among the duo, with Ryder veering towards heel territory.
These pushes haven’t lasted long for the pair. While it’s clear that something needs to change in order to inject life into their act, WWE has simply shifted the focus of Smackdown’s tag division away to the likes of the Usos, New Day, Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, the Fashion Police and the debuting Bludgeon Brothers. The Hype Bros are currently waiting in the wings for another shot.
10. Big Show
As long as Big Show stays healthy (and by recent accounts, he seems to be in the best shape of his life) there will always be a use for “the World’s Largest Athlete” in a WWE ring. Although he’s probably had his last meaningful singles run and title reign, the 45-year-old remains a physical marvel and has been protected enough as a special attraction to still carry value.
Take his recent feud against Braun Strowman, for example. The ‘Monster Among Men’ came away looking extremely formidable after throwing the seven-footer through the cage wall during a Raw main event. Show’s stature ensures that, even at a somewhat advanced age, he can be believed as a physically imposing presence fully capable of knocking somebody out. It only stands to preserve his aura to keep him off of weekly TV and help him stay healthy for his next feud.
The release of Emma was easily the most surprising among a trio of WWE cuts on October 29 that also included Darren Young and Summer Rae. Not only was the Aussie the only member of the three still getting regular TV time, but she had actually gotten her fair share of offence against the much-hyped Asuka during her debut match at the TLC PPV. It remains puzzling as to why Emma was protected during the PPV match and subsequent Raw rematch, only to be cut loose one week later.
The surprise release of the self-proclaimed starter of the women’s revolution might have had to do with her frosty relationship with the writing staff. Sports Illustrated’s Justin Barrasso reported that some WWE writers felt that her use of the #GiveEmmaAChance hashtag on Twitter served to show them up. Regardless, it does seem that the door remains open for her return somewhere down the line.
8. Tye Dillinger
The ‘Perfect 10′ has found a spot on this list, even if his stint on the main roster has been more of a three or four. Not far removed from being a wild NXT fan favourite, Tye Dillinger has been greeted by tepid receptions on Smackdown, save for fans going along with his popular ’10!’ chant. In this sense, Dillinger has experienced a similar struggle to former NXT rival Bobby Roode.
The big difference between Dillinger and Roode is that Roode remains a weekly mainstay on Tuesday nights. As recently as October’s Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, the former Gavin Spears was involved in a US title program. Dillinger unsurprisingly took the pinfall in the triple threat match and hasn’t done anything of note since. Curiously, there have been house show reports of Dillinger and Rusev testing out a potential double-turn, suggesting that WWE may still have plans for him yet.
7. Big Cass
The torn ACL suffered by Big Cass during a Raw match against former partner Enzo Amore back in August came at a fascinating time. For the big man, it couldn’t have been much worse, serving to undercut a burgeoning heel turn that a) gave his character something of a recharge and b) offered a much-needed shift away from Amore. Cass, must now re-establish the momentum he had built up when he returns to action sometime next spring.
With Cass on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, the injury also had some interesting ramifications as pertaining to current WWE storylines. The seven-footer will no doubt be ready to restart his singles run once he recovers, but will the writing staff, sure to be tempted by a Cass/Amore heel reunion, make it happen?
The electrifying and dab-happy TJP has been a fixture of the cruiserweight division since becoming its first champion during the WWE Network tournament. Until now, that is. Even after dropping the belt to Neville a year ago, the high flyer who had his name shortened from TJ Perkins had stayed in the main event mix on 205 Live, being featured in storylines with the likes of Austin Aries and Rich Swann.
Nowadays? The Enzo Amore-dominated 205 Live hasn’t featured TJP of late, mostly on account of time constraints. His feud with Swann having apparently wrapped up, Perkins is now waiting on the sidelines for an opportunity as Amore feuds with Kalisto, Brian Kendrick and Jack Gallagher feud with Swann and Cedric Alexander and Drew Gulak feuds with Akira Tozawa. The wrestler formerly known as Puma will likely get another direction soon, but not being in WWE’s present plans doesn’t bode well for the one-time centrepiece of the division.
5. The Revival
A central component to the NXT success of The Revival came from their no frills in-ring style. Their great feud with American Alpha certainly helped legitimize them. Even though The Revival made their main roster debut on Raw following Wrestlemania this year, it remains too soon to determine how well they’ll do outside of NXT. That’s because some terrible injury luck has cut short any potential run they’ve had on Raw. Days after defeating New Day for the second consecutive week, Wilder fractured his jaw at an NXT Live event and was sidelined for two months. Returning as part of the Big Cass / Enzo Amore storyline, the team began feuding with the Hardys and Anderson and Gallows, only for Dawson to rupture his bicep. He’s currently on the shelf for five months and it remains to be seen if the writing staff will still remember them.
Closing in on his 50th birthday, Goldust seems to fit the mold of one of those trusted, veteran hands who can be brought out on occasion to elevate a young star. What makes the case of Goldust interesting, however, is that it wasn’t that long ago that he seemed to be getting a new direction.
Back in May, Goldust turned on long-time Golden Truth partner R-Truth and began appearing in vignettes that harkened back to his character’s original Hollywood theme. He got the best of a short feud with Truth and, while he wasn’t a Monday night fixture, plans for a renewed push seemed to be in the works. Then, nothing. He briefly became a pawn in the feud between Bray Wyatt and Finn Balor, but vague promises of a new “Golden Age” have remained non-existent to date, as has the bizarre one.
3. Mike And Maria Kanellis
Even as the duo of Mike and Maria Kanellis ventured through ROH and then Impact Wrestling, there was always the lingering sense that they belonged in a WWE ring. After all, Maria had enjoyed some success over a six-year run with the company following her debut in the Diva Search contest and Mike boasts a look, build and persona that screams WWE. Earlier this year, the real-life married couple debuted on Smackdown Live – and promptly fizzled out.
The Kanellis’ heel act simply didn’t catch on with fans. It didn’t help matters when Mike’s in-ring performance underwhelmed early on. In eerie symmetry with The Miz and Maryse, the Kanellis duo recently announced that they were expecting their first child. The pregnancy helps explain Maria’s absence from WWE programming, but it seems as though Mike just doesn’t generate enough interest on his own to be a featured player on SD.
2. Tom Phillips
Amidst all of the various reasons for disappearances represented on this list, one thing you don’t see is anyone drifting off of WWE TV for a positive reason. Smackdown Live play-by-play announcer Tom Phillips was recently off for consecutive Tuesday night broadcasts, with Michael Cole jumping over from Raw to fill in. Speculation over his whereabouts circled back to reports earlier in the year that Phillips had been involved in a texting scandal.
The real reason was in fact much happier and far less controversial. The newly married Phillips had asked for – and was granted – time off for his honeymoon. Though WWE rarely shows its benevolent side, the fact that Phillips returned to his usual spot at the broadcast table without incident showed that there was no heat on him for the request. As for the texting scandal, we may never know what happened there.
Fans of 205 Live – yes, both of them – were the biggest losers in the aftermath of Neville’s decision to walk out on WWE over his disenchantment with the company. Reports on the cruiserweight star’s apparent decision to quit while backstage at Raw on October 9th ranged from him being unhappy being relegated to the WrestleMania pre-show to objecting to the major push for Enzo Amore to realizing he could make more money on the indie scene.
Whatever the real reason, Neville had clearly reached his breaking point regarding his displeasure with WWE. The Raw and 205 Live writing staffs were reportedly instructed to keep the master of the Red Arrow out of any future storyline plans, suggesting that an imminent reunion was highly unlikely. Of course, “never say never” has long been a popular axiom in WWE, and there are already reports that the two sides are working towards a potential reconciliation.
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