The WWE roster is currently loaded with talent from all different backgrounds. There are independent wrestling legends that found their way to the top of the company like Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens and A.J. Styles. Some wrestlers came from other sports and are thriving now such as Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman. WWE is constantly looking to improve their talent by consistently hiring people. This means a lot of talent get pushed to the side and eventually fade away. Some wrestlers just can’t keep up with the new stars and will either get released or lose their spot on the road.
We'll look at both sides of the roster changes as we approach 2018. Many wrestlers currently outside of WWE are thriving, including talent that used to work there. The wrestlers that could end up back in WWE in a great storyline will be viewed as to what they bring to the table. Other stars currently on the roster that will in turn fade away with the addition of new talent will also be part of the equation here. Find out which of your favorites is on the rise and which are trending downwards. These are eight former WWE stars that can return in a storyline soon along with seven that will fade away.
15 Return: Batista as Brock Lesnar’s Next Dream Match
Batista is one of the biggest former WWE stars following his success in the movie industry. The dream role of playing Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy will see him appear in the highly anticipated Avengers movie in 2018. Batista revealed on Jim Ross’ podcast that he has been talking to WWE about a return and has strong interest in one final run to end his career on a high note. WWE would be fools to turn this down.
The best use of Batista would be the next attraction match for Brock Lesnar. Fans are still annoyed with the dull Lesnar Universal Championship reign going on Raw. Brock just works better against top names outside of the title picture. A dream match between two legends that joined WWE around the same time in 2002 would be the right build for Batista’s return. It could also give him the final classic singles match he desires.
14 Fade Away: Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler’s career is in terrible shape right now. The fact that he was added to the United States Championship picture in a feud with Bobby Roode and Baron Corbin annoyed fans. Ziggler would have been considered the most exciting person in the match here many years ago, but now he is just someone that fans don’t want to see at all.
This will only continue with the call-ups from NXT and new signings all providing more interest than Ziggler. A recent appearance on Edge and Christian’s podcast saw Ziggler admit that he indeed “hates” his role in WWE. There have been rumors of him wanting to leave the company. Ziggler will fade away in 2018, and the only mystery is regarding if he leaves the company or just gets taken off television.
13 Return: The Bella Twins as Royal Rumble Surprises
Brie Bella and Nikki Bella have both been off WWE television for quite some time. Nikki’s final appearance came at WrestleMania 33 when John Cena proposed to her after their win over The Miz and Maryse. Brie’s last match took place one year prior at WrestleMania 32 when she led her team to victory in another feel-good moment.
Both women have admitted that they want to return to the ring at some point and are training hard in their free time. WWE currently has 18 women on the main roster if you remove the champions from the equation. That would open up two mystery spots for surprises. Brie and Nikki both being surprise entrants would give them each a great return with the chance of a tag match at WrestleMania 34.
12 Fade Away: Zack Ryder
The recent heel turn by Mojo Rawley ending the Hype Brothers tag team is not a good sign for Zack Ryder. Both men were irrelevant in the tag, but the potential of Mojo is clearly WWE’s biggest motive here. The company views Rawley as a potential future star due to his background in football and the friendship with Rob Gronkowski.
Ryder has struggled to get consistent television time over the past few years and losing his spot in one of the few SmackDown tag teams isn’t going to help things get better. Ryder’s inconsistent television time will likely turn into no television time and a potential release. Most fans forget he even exists and WWE management doesn’t have any belief in him being a major player on the current roster.
11 Return: Ethan Carter III as A New Member of Undisputed Era
One rumor currently going around focuses on the future of Ethan Carter III. The former WWE talent made his name in Impact Wrestling as a rare success story from the promotion in recent years. Carter’s momentum has dwindled over the last year or two due to the lack of viewers for Impact. The contract of EC3 is reportedly coming to an end at some point in the next few months.
Impact is trying to rebuild with new management, but Carter is rumored to want to leave to try get his name relevant again. A WWE return could be in the cards given the improvement he made in his time away. EC3 seems best suited for a role in NXT to start given the reintroduction process that Drew McIntyre went through. Undisputed Era needs another member to join Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish after Roderick Strong turned them down. Carter would be the perfect heel to join their act.
10 Fade Away: Rusev
The career of Rusev has gone downhill consistently over the past few years. Many experts expected him to become the next top heel after a dominant first year in WWE. However, things changed fast when WWE split him and Lana up. Rusev fell from a potential main eventer to a lower card act. Even though they reunited, Rusev never rebounded and is still struggling.
The current role of Rusev sees him in a tag team with Aiden English in the second tier of the division. Rusev has fallen behind quite a few new stars and will need a lot of help to get back to his prior spot of relevance in WWE. It remains unlikely that will happen and Rusev will continue to see his WWE career fall lower and lower.
9 Return: Carlito, Leader of Family Stable
Primo and Epico are currently on the SmackDown brand doing absolutely nothing. WWE loves them and has tried to give them many different character changes over the past few years. Unfortunately, nothing has worked, and they're struggling immensely to even get television time. Carlito is on the free agent market years after WWE released him for not wanting to go to rehab after violating the Wellness Policy.
As the brother of Primo and cousin of Epico, Carlito would be perfect as their leader giving them direction. The obvious thing that would most help them is Carlito’s ability to talk. Despite being related, he is the only one of the three that is regarded as a good promo worker. The return of Carlito leading them could save their careers and give them fun matches against the likes of New Day.
8 Fade Away: Big Show
The career of Big Show is starting to fade away already, but it is going to take the next step soon. Big Show appeared in a handful of relevant feuds this year against young stars. WWE tried to use the legend to help get over Braun Strowman and Big Cass. The work with Strowman was viewed as a success, but the Cass stuff was a complete disaster.
Big Show’s part time status still allows him to have some big moments each year. That is going to fade away with television time being tougher than ever to get. Big Show will likely either retire or get transitioned out by WWE as they try to build the future. It will be a surprise if Big Show gets any relevant moments in 2018 outside of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania.
7 Return: Michelle McCool Facing Charlotte Flair in One More Match
Michelle McCool and Charlotte Flair recently had an interest interaction on social media that teased a potential match. The retired McCool has a great relationship with WWE considering she is the wife of Vince McMahon’s most trusted wrestler The Undertaker. McCool revealed on Twitter that she does want to have one more match as she never had a true retirement.
Charlotte showed interest in being the opponent of McCool. Both ladies are highly respected by WWE and this could become a reality in 2018. McCool is forgotten despite being one of the most successful women’s wrestlers of the past decade. That could be part of the angle as she tries to prove she is as good as the best woman today. Flair and McCool could get their wish soon.
6 Fade Away: Mickie James
One women’s wrestling legend to return in late 2015 for a run in 2016 was Mickie James. The return of James saw her wrestle in the SmackDown Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania 33 and get in a Raw Women’s Championship feud with Alexa Bliss towards the end of the year. James however is clearly at the latter stage of her career while most of her peers are just now entering their prime.
Raw has a lot of top players with Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks, Asuka, Bayley and Paige all needing major roles in the division. Nia Jax, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville will have higher priority as well. It will be a surprise if James lasts the entire year, let alone gets consistent television time. Mickie getting another strong year to add her legacy is at least a great aspect of her run no matter when it ends.
5 Return: John Morrison For World Title Redemption
John Morrison was one of the most talented wrestlers to leave WWE after an impressive run. The work of Morrison saw him win the Intercontinental Championship a few times. Morrison even impressed in a few main event opportunities against The Miz and Sheamus. However, he wanted to leave when it was obvious he wouldn’t make it to the top of the card.
The time away saw him become a top guy for both Lucha Underground and Impact Wrestling along with starting a career in acting. Morrison returning would have him instantly become a bigger player than his prior time in WWE. The return story would be perfect as he wants redemption of finally winning the WWE Champion after failing to accomplish this goal last time. WWE would benefit from having Morrison on the roster more now than ever, especially due to the fact that he called Roman Reigns out publicly in the past.
4 Fade Away: Big Cass
One wrestler to have a horrible year for WWE in 2017 was Big Cass. WWE split up the popular tag team of Big Cass and Enzo Amore to try to push Cass as a singles star. The company expected Cass to become a major player and a main eventer at some point in the near future. Enzo was planned to be a forgotten man, but things have gone in the opposite direction.
Cass had an atrocious feud with Big Show and Enzo making him look like one of the worst wrestlers on the roster. An injury ended his year early in the summer and he has been forgotten about. The singles run of Cass hurt him both in the short and long term. Braun Strowman getting over as such an impressive big man will also hurt Cass now that the expectations have changed for the bigger wrestlers.
3 Return: Lashley as the Balor Club Enforcer
This one will need a lot of things to go right, but it could be a genius move to help four wrestlers. Vince McMahon has reportedly given up on Finn Balor as a main event face. Both Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows have become absolute jokes in the worst possible way. It makes too much sense for WWE to unite them as the Balor Club soon.
Now let’s talk about how great Bobby Lashley has been in Impact Wrestling over the past few years. Lashley is finally showing the potential WWE saw in him a decade ago. The contract of Lashley is ending soon and he reportedly wants another crack at joining WWE. It is unlikely he gets a main event push right away after his disappointing end. Lashley would be most efficiently used as an enforcer for a top wrestler such as Balor if he does finally start Balor Club - similar to Michaels and Nash back in the day.
2 Fade Away: Natalya
The SmackDown Women’s Championship run of Natalya was rather disappointing given the hype behind the moment of her getting the big win. Natalya held the title for about three months before dropping it to Charlotte Flair on an episode of SmackDown. The landscape changed after the PPV with the call-up of Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan as the Riott Squad.
Charlotte, Naomi, Carmella and a returning Becky Lynch will all have stronger momentum than Natalya in 2018. The Riott Squad being new and fresh gives them an advantage over her as well. We can’t forget about the potential of the Bella Twins returning as well. Natalya will once again get lost in the shuffle shortly after her big title reign unless something noteworthy changes.
1 Return: Rey Mysterio as the Cruiserweight Savior
The Cruiserweight division is failing miserably right now with WWE looking to Enzo Amore and Hideo Itami to save. As talented as Itami is and as over as Enzo used to be, they won't be enough to make fans tune into 205 Live after SmackDown. WWE badly needs someone with star power to join the division and carry it until there’s finally interest in it.
Rey Mysterio is a free agent right now after his Lucha Underground contract expired and Impact Wrestling failed to offer him a deal he liked. Following his departure from WWE, Mysterio has remained insistent there’s no drama between the two sides and he would like to return one day. This is the perfect situation where Mysterio could only work Raw and 205 Live with a limited schedule while doing WWE a favor by putting the Cruiserweight division on the map like he did in his prime.