The WWE is in a very odd place at the moment, as their overall match quality is at an all-time high, but their weekly shows are just boring and lack any kind of excitement or unpredictability. According to Dave Meltzer, the company is looking to equal last year's profits but is way, way behind, and that is leading to some cost-cutting measures being taken, which already include cutting pyro for wrestlers at the beginning of the show. That has also led to rumors that the company will be cutting some performers very soon, and there are many candidates to be released, but what happens to those spots when such performers are released?
This list will look at 8 wrestlers that the WWE could, and probably should be released before the end of this calendar year, and 7 they should look to hire to fill those spots, and with the rumored Superstar Shake-up also happening, the WWE could look completely different by the beginning of 2018.
15 Fire – Alicia Fox
Ever since the rise of NXT’s Four Horsewomen, the WWE has been looking to push the women’s revolution, but on Monday Night RAW, the company have unfortunately failed to push more than four women over the past three years which has left performers like Emma and Alicia Fox being wasted. With WWE currently cutting costs, it’s time to let go of the veteran Fox. She was briefly pushed this year in a rivalry with Sasha Banks, as well as being the focal point of a rivalry between Cedric Alexander and Noam Dar on 205 Live, but unfortunately for Fox as she is quite talented, she just isn’t needed on Monday Night RAW anymore, and it wouldn’t bother too many people if she was released.
14 Hire – MCMG
At the moment, NXT is on fire heading into NXT Takeover: Brooklyn 3, but the one division that is certainly struggling is the tag team division, and despite adding Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly (aka reDRagon), they still need some help, and we know the Young Bucks aren’t coming to WWE anytime soon, so why not bring in one of their best rivals in history, The Motor City Machine Guns? In Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin, WWE would be getting two of the most experienced and talented wrestlers in the entire wrestling world, and if they were allowed to perform all of their fluid tag team moves, they could shock a wider WWE audience. It’s unlikely that this will happen, as TM61 are returning soon, and it’s unknown whether any teams will be brought up to the main roster in the upcoming Superstar Shake-up, but they certainly would be a welcome addition to NXT’s tag team division.
13 Fire – Darren Young
Simply put, the WWE doesn’t know how to book tag teams in today’s wrestling landscape, and despite having gold in The Prime Time Players, the company decided to break them up. After a long, arduous journey that almost saw him get fired, Titus O’Neil has finally struck gold (albeit in a mostly non-wrestling role) with his "Titus Brand," but as for his partner Darren Young, he just hasn’t found anything, and there’s no place for him in today’s WWE. Despite attempts to “Make Darren Young Great Again”, it just hasn’t worked, and with so many talented performers over all three WWE rosters, there couldn’t be a spot for Young to succeed, especially as he has shown how limited he is as a character. So don’t be surprised if Young is released this year (if you even realized he was still with the WWE at this point).
12 Hire – Toni Storm
While WWE has just completed the Mae Young Classic, it won’t be uploaded until the end of August, but when it is released, WWE fans will see just how incredible the Australian Toni Storm is. While Kairi Sane might be the biggest name in the tournament, Storm will be the one on everyone’s lips following it. She is currently the Progress Women’s Champion (and first-ever), and has been having fantastic matches all over the world for a while now, and would be a fantastic fit in NXT following her reportedly fantastic showing in the MYC. This one is hard to predict, as the WWE will no doubt be keen on bringing Storm in, but with her credentials in the U.K. independent scene, she may not want to sign now. Either way, the WWE should push to bring her in as hard as they can.
11 Fire – David Otunga
There are wrestlers around the world who would love to be with the WWE, and who are more than capable of it, but because of the cliché Vince McMahon love for body builders, David Otunga has been with the company for eight years. While he was quite effective with the original Nexus, he hasn’t provided anything of note for the company since that point. He is currently on hiatus from his job behind the commentary desk, but so many fans have begged the company not to bring him back in that role, as he is truly horrible and lacks any energy, which genuinely takes away from the broadcast. If he can’t do that properly, the WWE should have nothing for him, and therefore should certainly look at letting him go.
10 Hire – Jay Lethal
There are many great independent wrestlers in the world today that are doing great things, but many of them aren’t a fit for WWE’s style. That couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to the former Ring of Honor World Champion Jay Lethal, who has been a standout for many years, and finally deserves to get a shot on the big stage. He may not stand out because of his look or his in ring ability, but there are few who can perform as consistently as the former Black Machismo. Although the NXT roster is currently stacked, adding Lethal would continue the legitimacy of the promotion for a while to come. It’s hard to say whether this one will happen, but either way, Lethal is one of the best wrestlers in the world, and you need to be watching his matches whichever promotion he works for.
9 Fire – Sin Cara
Triple H is currently doing some fantastic things in the WWE, from NXT to the Cruiserweight Classic, U.K Tournament and Mae Young Classic, but one thing he definitely wants you to forget is his first pet project, and that was Sin Cara, who flopped mightily his first time around. Whether it was the botches, the weird lighting that appeared with his matches or the poor reputation backstage, Sin Cara, played by Luis Urive just failed. He was revived, played by the former Hunico in NXT, and with Kalisto formed the Lucha Dragons, who later enjoyed some success. Since their breakup, he has been doing nothing of note, and would save a lot of money to just simply let him go.
8 Hire – Matt Riddle
This one is a no-brainer for the WWE, and while it’s highly unlikely that the former UFC standout will join the WWE this year, it just makes too much sense to not happen within the next few years, so the company should certainly push to bring him in as soon as they can, because he would slot in perfectly in the main even scene of any of their three brands. It’s very understandable why Riddle wouldn’t want to come to the WWE, as he is one of the hottest stars in the business, and he still hasn’t worked for companies like ROH or New Japan. It’s likely those are goals for him before the WWE, but Triple H would be wise to push for the King of Bros.
7 Fire – The Ascension
Unfortunately with Vince McMahon still in charge of the main roster, we have seen so many promising, popular stars come up from NXT only to be wasted, and the biggest example of that is perhaps the case of The Ascension, who were the longest reigning NXT Tag Team Champions. Since their arrival on the main roster, they have been treated as nothing more than a joke. This isn’t all on the company, as The Ascension weren’t the most talented team, but when booked well they were capable of great things, but as we’ve mentioned already, tag team wrestling on the main roster, unfortunately just isn’t a priority. It wouldn’t be ideal to lose yet another tag team, but with reDRagon now in NXT and a TM61 return not far away, there is more than enough depth there to promote one of two teams to replace Konor and Viktor, because no one cares about them right now.
6 Hire – Joe Hendry
There are plenty of big time stars on the independent scene, and they’re always written about in articles like this, but one who is severely underrated and undervalued is Joe Hendry, the Scottish performer that wrestles in ICW and WCPW. With his talents in performing as a likeable babyface, “The Local Hero” or the evil villain “The Prestigious One”, he would fit perfectly in NXT. With WWE’s recent ventures into the U.K, it’s likely that Triple H has his eyes on Hendry, and with the recent emphasis on wrestling over personalities in NXT, he would be the perfect fit to change that. Hendry has outlined his dreams of competing in WWE, and with matches against the likes of Kurt Angle already under his belt, it’s likely that he will only improve and will become a worldwide sensation in the WWE.
5 Fire – R-Truth
R-Truth has had a very long career, spanning the WWF during the Attitude Era as K-Kwik, as well as TNA, but when he returned to the WWE in the early 2010s, he was actually quite a great performer. Over time, he has become nothing more than a joke, and despite his recent story with Goldust, fans just don’t care about him anymore, and it’s time to move on. He doesn’t appear much on TV anymore, and as he is getting up there in age, the money they pay him could be used to develop some younger stars for the future. While some fans still enjoy the jokes that he played on screen over the last few years, it’s just time to move on.
4 Hire – War Machine
The WWE have proven that outside of NXT, they still struggle mightily to book solid tag teams, but in NXT, they have thrived over the last year, and with the Authors of Pain, Sanity and Heavy Machinery all being quite green, adding a team like War Machine would be a perfect fit, especially if they also bring together Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish to reform reDRagon. The team of Hanson and Raymond Rowe are currently tearing it up all over the world, having great matches for Progress, WCPW, ROH and New Japan, where they are former ROH World Tag Team Champions as well as the current IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, and their unique style would make them a hit with the wider WWE audience. There have been rumors that War Machine are close to signing a deal, but with such success on the indy scene, it may not happen anytime soon, but the WWE should definitely push to bring these two monsters to NXT.
3 Fire – Paige
The WWE have plenty of female talent (despite the fact that they struggle to use them all), and plenty more on the way hopefully, depending on the success of the Mae Young Classic, and despite the fact that many fans want to see Paige return to the WWE, it would just be easier for the company to let her go. Most people on this list don’t have much potential beyond the WWE, but Paige would be a star in any promotion she works for, and despite the fact there are rumors she will be returning soon, it’s probably best for both sides to just move on. It’s unlikely that this will happen, especially with Paige being played in a movie coming up soon, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Paige wanted to move on, as it may be best for everyone involved.
2 Hire – Adam Cole
The rumors are that Adam Cole is already on his way to the WWE starting September, but unlike Lio Rush and Donovan Dijak, he hasn’t signed his contract yet, and while it’s all but a certainty that he does, stranger things have happened (example: the recent report that states Io Shirai is now no longer headed to the WWE), he still deserves a spot on this list. The Panama City Playboy may not excel in the ring like other performers on the independent scene, but he is fantastic with his promos and is very well liked, so despite the stacked singles division in NXT at the moment, he will be a perfect fit. With guys like Aleister Black, Drew McIntyre and Hideo Itami on the current roster that he hasn’t had big time matches with, his run should be one of the best in NXT, especially if he is handled correctly.
1 Fire – Curt Hawkins
When the WWE announced it’s newest brand split in 2016, there were rumors flying everywhere about returns of guys like Carlito, Shelton Benjamin and the debut of many indie stars, but instead we got Jinder Mahal and Curt Hawkins. While Jinder is currently WWE Champion and the head of WWE’s campaign to tap into the Indian market, Hawkins isn’t doing so well, as he recently just brought up his 100-match losing streak, which isn’t very good. This isn’t all Curt’s fault, as he was saddled with a horrible gimmick from the beginning, but at this point in time with so many glorified enhancement talents on the roster, Hawkins just isn’t needed. No one can blame him for returning, but it’s likely the WWE will let him go with their current run of cost cutting, and hopefully he can find a home in GFW or some other top promotion in the wrestling world.