No matter what profession a person works in, the day will inevitably come when they have to hang up their boots and call it quits. For professional athletes, this comes even earlier than average folk working less physical provocations. The WWE Universe and sports entertainment in general might have one of the lowest retirement ages around, with certain former superstars needing to leave the ring permanently before they were in their 40s or younger. This can be a bit of a problem considering some wrestlers don’t reach the spotlight until they hit 30, leaving little time for them to flourish on top.
To combat these industry trends, many wrestlers are trying to work safer and stay in the ring for longer. The downside is that newer and younger wrestlers are getting less of a chance to stand out since the old stars from yesterday are still sticking around. It could be argued the WWE roster is reaching critical mass at this point, and some main event or top level talents will have to step out of the way for the next generation to take over once more. Keep reading to discover 8 current WWE midcarders who will be stars in five years or less, and 7 main eventers who will probably retire by then.
15 MIDCARD TO MAIN EVENT: Baron Corbin
From the moment he debuted in WWE by winning the third annual André The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32, it was clear Baron Corbin was ready to make an impact. More than that, chances were the win meant Vince McMahon was going to let the Lone Wolf spread his wings and fly straight to the main event. Surprisingly, the year and a half or so since Corbin won the trophy hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire. Fans of his shouldn’t fret just yet, however, because rumor has it McMahon and others are still very keen on the idea of making Corbin a dominant monster heel for a long time to come. All that’s missing for Corbin to break through in earnest is a few key victories, hopefully with championships on the line, and he’ll be in the main event almost instantly.
14 RETIRED IN FIVE YEARS: Big Show
Most of this list is admittedly speculation, yet we can state for certain at least one of the names we’re predicting will retire is getting ready to do just that. The largest athlete in WWE, multiple time World Champion Big Show, has already announced he will be stepping away from the ring for good when his contract runs out in February 2018. This will mean approximately 18 years of destruction for Show, and there’s really nothing left for him to accomplish in the industry. In his mid-40s, Show might be young enough to keep going for a few more years, but his trademark size has put an additional toll on his body that probably means he’s making the right decision. There are also a significant number of new monsters making their way through WWE, and in order for the next giant to rise, the last one needs to go away for good.
13 MIDCARD TO MAIN EVENT: Big Cass
There’s a reason tag teams are such a rare animal in the WWE Universe despite the existence of two Tag Team Championships. Whenever a wrestler gets saddled with a partner early in their career, it can be hard for them to break out on their own later down the line. It doesn’t look like Big Cass is going to have this problem, though, as insiders are already predicting he could be ready to lose Enzo Amore and hit the main event. Not too long ago, it looked like WWE was already going to try just that, when Amore was injured with a concussion and Cass started receiving multiple shots at singles gold. Cass still needs a little help on the microphone, which is why he went back to teaming with Amore as soon as possible, but if he learns to work the microphone, Enzo might be a little too "sawft" for him.
12 RETIRED IN FIVE YEARS: Matt Hardy
Having only returned to the WWE Universe less than two months ago at WrestleMania 33, it probably feels a little early for us to predict Matt Hardy will be retiring in the near future. It might also seem a little inaccurate to call him a main event talent, although he definitely ascended to that status at Impact Wrestling and various other promotions smaller than WWE. Keeping in mind those points of contention, Hardy’s age and career path of late nonetheless make him a lock for this list. Think about the things that brought him back into the spotlight of late—it wasn’t Hardy’s in-ring skills that got him and his brother their jobs back, it was his brilliant originality in creating the Broken gimmick. As such, Hardy’s real value to WWE is behind the scenes, and it probably won’t take very long for Vince McMahon to convince him of that fact.
11 MIDCARD TO MAIN EVENT: Cesaro
Truth be told, critics are running out of ways to explain how the heck Cesaro has been kept out of the main event for so long. The Swiss Sensation has been referred to as the most underrated wrestler in the game today by so many insiders, co-workers, and industry legends that it would take too long to list them here. The point is, everyone thinks Cesaro should be a star, with the sole exception of the one man whose opinion matters—Vince McMahon. The upside for Cesaro is that Triple H reportedly is a fan, and that means his day in the sun could still happen sometime soon. On the downside, given Cesaro’s age (he turns 37 in December), it might come too little too late for him, as he isn’t that far away from the other half of this list, either.
10 RETIRED IN FIVE YEARS: Sheamus
Of all the main eventers who will probably be retiring soon, Sheamus probably has the longest shelf life—possibly even a little bit past five years. However, we still feel pretty confident in assuming the Celtic Warrior probably doesn’t have much time left in the ring, and he’ll almost definitely be gone within the decade. While he’s a bit younger than some of the other names this list has mentioned, Sheamus is still very near 40, and his career started a bit later than average, meaning the damage he put on his body when competing in the main event was more long-lasting in comparison to other athletes who went wild at a younger age. There’s also the issue that Sheamus’ career has experienced some harshly diminishing returns as of late, and the only way to end his downward spiral might be to leave wrestling behind.
9 MIDCARD TO MAIN EVENT: Big E
When people talk about WWE’s most popular three-person tag team sensation The New Day, it’s usually Kofi Kingston who gets singled out for his potential to one day become a solo star. Even fellow member Xavier Woods seems to agree, having once stated his goal in the company was to make Kingston a WWE Champion one day. Given Vince McMahon’s tendencies to rely on size over substance, however, it might be a better bet to go with the group’s monster, Big E. Now that New Day has absolutely nothing left to accomplish, it’s almost inevitable that the group will split up, and whoever gets to be the bad guy should infuriate crowds all the way to the top. It’s not hard to picture Big E beating up Woods and Kingston and becoming a vicious villain for it, and in fact doing that could make him a main eventer.
8 RETIRED IN FIVE YEARS: Brock Lesnar
Based on how often he actually has to go to work, one might argue Brock Lesnar is virtually retired already. Sure, he’s the reigning WWE Universal Champion, a title he won at WrestleMania 33, but he hasn’t stepped inside a ring since then and doesn’t intend to put that title on the line for a few weeks yet. With how hard it is to force Lesnar out of the woods and into an arena already, one has to imagine it will be almost impossible to do so in five years, when he has even more money. On the other hand, Lesnar’s unique work schedule and status as the living, breathing Beast Incarnate might allow him to keep this pace up forever, making brief appearances for much longer than anyone expects. Either way, he’ll probably wrestle less matches over the next five years than anyone else on this list.
7 MIDCARD TO MAIN EVENT: Chad Gable
Unlike what was contested earlier about Big Cass being the obvious breakout star of his team with Enzo Amore, it’s harder to predict which member of American Alpha has the higher chance of becoming a solo star. Chad Gable and Jason Jordan are both phenomenal technical athletes with natural charisma in and out of the ring, and the future of the WWE Universe looks bright to have either one of them in it. The one small edge Gable has over Jordan is his background, having competed in the 2012 Olympics. Although he didn’t manage to take home any medals, this technical prowess alone means Gable has considerable chances of success in the industry, and will make it easy for him to branch out on his own once American Alpha has run its course.
6 RETIRED IN FIVE YEARS: Mark Henry
Taking more than ten years to truly find himself as a performer, the chances of Mark Henry staying on top for long were rather slim. In fact, it might be an exaggeration to still view him as a main event talent, although he certainly was at one point when he reigned as World Heavyweight Champion. Less than six years removed from that success might be a sign he should retire already, and with things hardly looking up, there’s really nothing to stop him from making the move. Henry is also yet another performer already in his mid-to late-40s, and given his size and style, his body won’t be able to keep body slamming chumps and breaking steel pipes in half for much longer. At his age, the only person he can send to the Hall of Pain is himself, so it’s probably better to put the idea behind him.
5 MIDCARD TO MAIN EVENT: Karl Anderson
When The Club made their debut in the WWE Universe as friends and lackeys to AJ Styles, it added another layer on the problem modern-day tag teams have at turning members into solo stars. Not only are Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows reliant on one another, but they also never got a chance at proving they were on the same level as Styles, leaving them lackeys for all eternity until they get a chance. This seems a bit unlikely considering they aren’t on the same brand anymore, but the good news is it’s not entirely essential for either of them to become a solo star. All they need to do is turn on one another and act like both the team and Styles were holding them back, and Anderson possesses good charisma, making him perfectly cocky for that sort of job.
4 RETIRED IN FIVE YEARS: John Cena
As the biggest superstar in sports entertainment today and the so-called Face of WWE, the imminent retirement of John Cena is almost certainly the one that will hurt the company the most. Cena himself is aware of this, and the knowledge coupled with his love of all things pro wrestling probably means he’ll hold off truly retiring for as long as he possibly can. Unfortunately for all involved parties, it’s increasingly becoming a difficult task for Cena to do this, with Hollywood calling for him to follow in The Rock’s path and become a crossover movie star. While there’s a good chance he’ll be making appearances for a long time to come, five years doesn’t feel like a bad guess for when he’ll officially be a part-timer, with no chance of ever coming back at his old level.
3 MIDCARD TO MAIN EVENT: Scott Dawson
This list has just one last well-known tag team wrestler to cover, and his jump from NXT to the main WWE roster happened recently enough that he might be the biggest long shot yet. In their name alone, it should be obvious The Revival are traditionalists in the most literal sense of the word, hearkening back to classic tag teams from the 1980s like the Anderson family. Scott Dawson especially calls to mind Arn Anderson, who had everything it took to be a main eventer, and probably would have been one without his best friend Ric Flair overshadowing him. Unlike Double A, there’s not much chance of Dash Wilder completing blocking out Dawson’s potential, and in fact trying to keep their team together might be the only thing holding him back from shooting up the card.
2 RETIRED IN FIVE YEARS: Chris Jericho
All right, we know—even suggesting that the Ayatollah of Rock and Rollah would ever consider leaving the fans behind makes us stupid idiots worthy of placement on the List. On the other hand, five years from now, Chris Jericho will be 52 years old. Should this come as a surprise, don’t feel too bad. Given the high quality of Jericho’s performances lately, it would be easy to mistake him for a much younger man. Even with part of his shtick being his hipster dad appearance, Jericho’s ring presence remains youthful and fluid, truly an amazing sight, and yet definitely not something he can keep up forever. Each passing return, Jericho talks about how it might be his last, only to get reinvigorated by a fun character or feud. This, too, must have a critical mass, and it could easily be reached in five years or less.
1 MIDCARD TO MAIN EVENT: Luke Harper
There’s a reasonable chance that if WWE officials were asked, they would tell fans Luke Harper is already a main event star. He’s definitely been on his way from the midcard to the top for some time now, but the truth is he just isn’t there yet. The good news for Harper and all his fans is that these repeat attempts means the McMahon family aren’t going to give up on him. Regardless of how badly the entire program between the Wyatt Family breaking up and their subsequent issues with Randy Orton has been received, Harper still has above average ring skills for his size, and a look that could make him a monster or friendly giant upon first glance. Now that Harper looks to have split from Bray and the rest for good, his career should only flourish from here.