WWE is the end game for the majority of wrestlers in the industry today. Every young talent entering the business grew up watching WWE, considering the changes in the business. WCW and ECW went out of business in 2001, making WWE the only mainstream promotion of the time to have a strong presence in cultivating new fans. The absolute truth of the matter is that WWE also provides the biggest opportunity to achieve the most fame and make the most money as a wrestler. Both personal and professional success at the highest level in wrestling comes from being a top WWE Superstar.
Despite all of these facts, not everyone wants to work for WWE. Some wrestlers have worked there in the past and did not find personal happiness. A move outside of the company opened their eyes. Others just have better situations making good money in smaller promotions or as free agents on the open market. The boom period of international and independent wrestling success have contributed to wrestlers not having to join WWE to be happy. We'll take a look at both sides of the story when it comes to wrestlers today with eight that want to join WWE and seven that just don’t.
16 Wants To Join WWE: Melina
The brand split in 2016 made it clear that WWE was looking for talent more than ever before. If you factor in the rise of the Women’s Division, there has never been a better time to be a women’s wrestler in WWE. This has influenced many free agents to try even harder to get noticed by WWE. Former talent Mickie James returned in 2016 proving WWE will bring back capable names.
Melina has resurfaced on the independent circuit recently and has revealed she's working on a comeback. The timing makes it obvious that she's hoping to get back on WWE’s radar. There were rumors last year that WWE would be open to welcoming the former star if they believe she's a good fit. Melina appears to be working hard in hopes of getting back on the big stage for one final run.
15 Does Not: Gail Kim
Gail Kim is one of the greatest female wrestlers of all time. Sadly, WWE never realized it during her two tenures with the company and it led to a bitter falling out. Kim left the company the second time after requesting her release to return to TNA. The recent years have seen TNA fall to new lows and WWE finally start treating women’s wrestling with respect.
WWE bringing back Gail would be tremendous for either the main roster or NXT. However, Kim has stated that she has no interest in returning to WWE after how she was treated. The disrespect she felt specifically from Vince McMahon makes it a difficult decision to make. Time will tell if she stays true to this belief but Gail says she does not want to join WWE ever again.
14 Wants To Join WWE: Ricochet
Ricochet attended a WWE tryout a few years ago but did not get signed. Many fans were shocked at such a talent being snubbed. WWE just didn’t think he was ready for the big stage and they may have been right. Ricochet has improved dramatically over the past few years from just a freakishly talented high-flyer into one of the most entertaining wrestlers in the industry.
Various interviews have revealed Ricochet still has a desire to end up in WWE when the timing is right. Sadly, Lucha Underground still has him under contract despite not running shows and he will likely have to wait until all taped episodes have aired. Ricochet currently makes New Japan his home along with PWG and other high profile independent promotions. You have to believe WWE will sign him for NXT whenever he's finally free.
13 Does Not: The Young Bucks
The Young Bucks may very well be the best tag team in the world right now looking at their track record. Matt and Nick Jackson were snubbed from WWE after having a horrible TNA run. It could have been a career killer but the talented brothers decided to find inspiration. The Young Bucks started to take their game to another level and found huge success.
New Japan brought them in to join The Bullet Club during the era of Finn Balor. Everything skyrocketed from then leading to them becoming massive stars. Matt and Nick get paid extremely well from Ring of Honor and New Japan along with the income of incredible merchandise sales. The fact that they're able to make a great living has led to them stating WWE is not a priority to them. Both Jackson brothers have families at home that also make it difficult to sign with WWE given the hectic schedule.
12 Wants To Join WWE: Batista
The success outside of WWE in the movie industry has made Batista an even bigger star than his wrestling days. Batista’s role as Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise for Marvel has helped him become a credible actor in Hollywood. Despite not needing wrestling at all, Batista has admitted to wanting to sign with WWE for one final run before his official retirement.
The problem is Batista only has one idea in mind and refuses to come back for anything else. Batista’s dream retirement angle features him and Triple H having one more match to end his career. On a recent Talk is Jericho podcast appearance, Batista admits he has pitched his return plan to WWE multiple times with the hopes of returning for a few shows. WWE however has never seemed to be down for having him wrestle Triple H.
11 Does Not: Colt Cabana
Independent wrestling stand out Colt Cabana likely would have achieved more success in WWE if he signed today. A prior run saw him fail badly with a short stint on the main roster as Scotty Goldman. WWE did not see his value and released him. The chances of Cabana returning to WWE took a hit when his former best friend CM Punk walked out of the company on poor terms.
Before that even happened, Colt was adamant that he did not want to return to WWE again. The freedom and ability to rely on your own desire makes the independent circuit the right fit for Cabana. Similar to the Young Bucks and other top independent names, Colt makes a good living on his own thanks to merchandise and his overall hustle. The weekly Art of Wrestling podcast adds another dynamic that allows him to be happy without WWE.
10 Wants To Join WWE: Shelton Benjamin
The horrible luck of a badly timed injury ended the verbal agreement WWE made with Shelton Benjamin. WWE signed Benjamin to join the SmackDown Live brand following the brand split in the summer of 2016. Benjamin realized he needed surgery from an injury suffered in Japan to take him off the schedule. WWE did not make any guarantees to sign him back, but Benjamin badly wants to return.
Benjamin did well in Japan and could have remained there for the rest of his career. His goal however is come back to WWE for another run. The better pay in WWE and ability to live in the United States full-time are the main keys for his desire to sign. WWE will likely wait to make sure he's healthy and performing at a high level before reaching out again.
9 Does Not: Davey Richards
Davey Richards is currently one of the top stars in TNA after many years of success in Ring of Honor and various independent promotions. The technical wrestling skills of Richards made him stand out enough to get noticed by WWE at one point. Richards and tag team partner Eddie Edwards of the American Wolves were a top tier team on the free agent market.
WWE brought them in for a tryout match in NXT. The Wolves did not get signed and Richards spoke out how much he disliked the WWE atmosphere. Richards has stated that he has no plans to ever work for WWE again. The recent news of Richards planning to retire at the end of the year to become a full-time paramedic gives more credence to his desire to never sign with WWE.
8 Wants To Join WWE: Kyle O'Reilly
Ring of Honor was in for a huge shock when Kyle O'Reilly decided to leave the company a few weeks after winning the ROH World Championship on the biggest show of the year Final Battle 2016. O’Reilly would lose the title back to Adam Cole in his first defense at NJPW Wrestle Kingdom. The decision of O’Reilly leave ROH after his contract expired came at the desire of wanting to join WWE.
Rumor has it that WWE is interest in bringing in O’Reilly for NXT but there remains a timetable following his ROH contract ending. There have been some legal worries about signing him and getting sued. O’Reilly is apparently just waiting until he's able to sign the WWE contract. The dream of working for the biggest company in the world is likely coming sooner than later.
7 Does Not: Cody Rhodes
One former WWE Superstar that has no interest in joining the company once again is Cody Rhodes. The request of his release ended up being the best wrestling decision of Cody’s career. Fan momentum started to grow on his side after he chose to leave a great contract in favor of showing his talent without restriction.
Rhodes has become one of the most successful independent stars wrestling for just about every major promotion such as NJPW, ROH, TNA, Impact Wrestling, PWG and Evolve. Rumors are circulating that Cody has verbally agreed to a contract specifically with ROH and New Japan for the foreseeable future. Both companies want to build around him. Rhodes has revealed he's making more money outside of WWE and is much happier.
5 Wants To Join WWE: Kelly Kelly
One former women’s wrestler that benefited from the prior approach to women’s wrestling was Kelly Kelly. WWE pushed her at a young age due to her good looks and marketed her through sex appeal rather than in-ring talent. Kelly had a strong career before making the decision to step away from the ring. The past few months have seen Kelly get back in touch with the WWE world.
Kelly has appeared at multiple WWE shows to visit friends and teased the potential of a comeback in a WWE online interview. The same time frame featured rumors of her wrestling at WrestleMania and posting social media videos showing a rise in the intensity of her workouts. Kelly did not return but it's clear she is open to coming back if offered a deal. The fact that WWE didn’t go all the way with whatever prior plans they had is not a good sign.
4 Does Not: Zack Sabre Jr.
The presence of Zack Sabre Jr. in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic made fans assume he would get signed to a long term contract. Sabre did well in the tournament but was one of the few standout names to not agree to a deal to join the Cruiserweight Division. It ended up being the best decision considering how badly the division has gone and how successful Sabre has been since the tournament.
Sabre has stated WWE isn’t the end goal for him and he's enjoying making a living on his own traveling the world. As the current PWG Champion and Evolve Champion, Sabre is the face of the two biggest promotions not on television. New Japan also brought him in to become part of the company going forward. Sabre appearing for WWE in a non-contracted role and not wanting to sign helped his career more than signing would have.
3 Wants To Join WWE: Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan appeared to finally be on good terms with WWE for the rest of his life back in 2014-2015. The signing of Hogan to become an ambassador for the company saw him return to television occasionally in non-wrestling roles along with other promotional work representing WWE. Things went awry once again for Hogan when a sex tape leaked featuring him unleashing a racist tirade.
Hogan made headlines for all the wrong reasons and WWE instantly released him from the company. They wanted nothing to do with the racist claims. Hogan is still hoping to get another chance as time goes on. There have been rumors of WWE bringing back Hogan after people have forgotten about the negative story but it has not happened yet. Hogan does not hold back in interviews that he wants to join WWE again.
2 Does Not: Kenny Omega
The biggest star in the wrestling industry today outside of WWE that has no desire to sign with the company is Kenny Omega. A recent star-making performance against Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 2017 made Omega the hottest name in the wrestling business. Rumors were out that Omega’s contract expired right after the match and he would sign with WWE to enter the Royal Rumble.
Omega ended up signing with NJPW and made it clear he would not sign with WWE. Various interviews have revealed that Omega does not like many of the negative aspects attached with working for WWE and often badmouths the company in general. Omega is likely one of the few top North American stars that would rather spend the prime of his career in Japan rather than WWE.
1 Wants To Join WWE: Adam Cole
One former Bullet Club member that does want to join WWE is Adam Cole. The 27 year old star made history as the only three-time ROH World Champion in company history. That is a huge accomplishment given the number of legends that have worked for ROH and the young age of Cole. Despite being only 27, Cole has achieved just about everything one could outside of WWE becoming a huge name.
Cole was recently written out of ROH and PWG as he became a free agent. The likelihood is he will sign with WWE in the upcoming months. Every interview Cole has done in his career with questions about WWE revealed his ultimate goals are to one day win the WWE Championship and have a WrestleMania moment. Cole is the ideal WWE wrestler with his combination of storytelling, talent and in-ring work. There is no doubt WWE will eventually bring Cole to the company and this is what he has always dreamed of.