Wrestlers come and go in the world of WWE. As the famous saying goes, the wrestlers are just simple spokes in the wheel of the company. Some superstars choose to walk away from Vince McMahon’s crazy world while others are let go because their time is up. Others may be pushed to the moon, but the success levels over time can vary, When Superstars use their WWE fame in the right way, they can be elevated to tremendous heights.
On the other hand, there are many wrestlers currently stuck in the company with all the talent it takes to become a huge star. Sadly, either the creative team or the fans have just given up on them. Some superstars may need to take that leap of faith, trust in their abilities and try to walk away. After all, the possibilities outside of WWE right now are growing more than ever before. If there was ever a time to test the waters, it’s right now. Fans have more access than ever to other promotions and watch any wrestlers who cross over intently to see how they do in comparison to the WWE.
In this list, we will look at eight former WWE stars who have moved on from the company, some to other wrestling organizations and others to totally different projects, as well as seven who need to break away from the McMahon chain and find a new home.
15. Moved On: Batista
The Animal had a brilliant wrestling career and is a guaranteed Hall of Fame superstar at some point in the future, but Batista made the decision to walk away from wrestling, not just once but twice. Falling out of love with the direction that WWE was headed with its PG content, Batista decided to call it quits and try his hand at MMA. While he didn’t become the next Brock Lesnar, he at least gave it a go.
But it was during his second departure after his brief return where he really began to flourish, becoming a Hollywood megastar after the success of Guardians of the Galaxy and his involvement in the James Bond franchise. Batista now looks set for a great career as an actor and it appears WWE is firmly in the rearview mirror.
14. Should Move On: Daniel Bryan
The story of Daniel Bryan’s rise and unfortunate fall is one of the most emotional in wrestling history, the connection he has with the WWE Universe is one that few others can come close to. With the news of Bryan’s misdiagnosis, it appears that he is very likely to compete once again and seeing this happen in a WWE ring would be an incredible moment. However, no matter what the doctors say, the chances of WWE letting him wrestle and risk any serious injury is very slim.
It’s clear Bryan believes he can wrestle again and therefore if he wants to do that he will need to move on from the company that has made him a megastar and go back to his independent roots for his final match in what will certainly be one of the biggest moments in independent wrestling history.
13. Moved On: Bobby Lashley
At one point it seemed like Bobby Lashley was destined to become the next big thing in WWE and even though he had a good run with the company, he never fully reached his potential on the main event scene. Away from WWE, Lashley has managed to live up to that potential, becoming one of Impact Wrestling’s biggest stars, he has dominated the World Heavyweight Championship picture during his run with the company and has even had a successful MMA career alongside it.
Lashley has proven himself as a legitimate fighter and a genuine top level wrestler who can sell tickets and he has made a very good career for himself outside of WWE. But a return and potential match with Brock Lesnar is still something the former ECW Champion is interested in.
12. Should Move On: Brock Lesnar
There is no denying that Brock Lesnar is a massive draw for the WWE anytime he participates in a match. At the height of the “Suplex City” craze he was absolutely unstoppable and fans couldn’t get enough of his destruction. Fast forward to the present day and while fans still go crazy for Lesnar, many are frustrated that he makes very few appearances but carries so much weight in storylines. Lesnar leaving wouldn’t be a case of WWE misusing his talent, it’s a case of relying on him too much.
With little left to prove in WWE and with fans wanting to see championships defended more frequently, it may be best for Brock Lesnar to hang them up. His legacy is already worthy of the hall of fame, and with clear plans for other names like Strowman and Reigns as the future of the business now may be a good time for Lesnar to step back into the Octagon and pick his fights in UFC.
11. Moved On: Sami Callihan
When he signed with WWE, Sami Callihan had already made a big name for himself on the independent scene and he had many fans excited about what he could do on the big stage. Sadly, he was given a hacker gimmick along with little support in NXT and his career with WWE wound down to simple disappointment.
Thankfully, Callihan decided to move on from WWE and go back to what he knew best, putting on incredible wrestling matches and his star power is once again on the rise, despite a poor run in NXT. Callihan has popped up in many different places since his departure, putting himself in front of new fans for companies such as Impact Wrestling and Lucha Underground as he continues to develop as a performer.
10. Should Move On: Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson
The “Good Brothers” Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson joined the WWE fresh out of the Bullet Club and as one of the greatest tag teams in the world. How have they been treated in WWE? Well, like a couple of nerds! Instead of dominating the tag division and putting on classic matches with the likes of New Day or The Usos, they have been made to job out to most teams and struggled to make an impact in the company at all, having their talents totally wasted.
The Bullet Club is arguably stronger than ever right now and the return of Gallows and Anderson would be a major boost to the group and would certainly see the pair be treated how they deserve to be, as world class wrestlers.
9. Moved On: CJ Parker
The former NXT star CJ Parker (now known as Juice Robinson) struggled to make a major name for himself in WWE’s developmental brand and was eventually let go without much noise from the WWE Universe. There are two ways a wrestler can react to that decision, one would be to continue the downward spiral and not make a career out of wrestling, and the other would be to do exactly what Robinson has done. Leaving to Japan, Robinson has gradually improved as every match goes by and has shown WWE what they are missing out on. Every time he steps into the ring Robinson appears to be getting better. Working with the best talents in New Japan, he is quickly becoming a wrestler to keep an eye on and a return to WWE in the future wouldn’t be a major surprise, although he doesn’t need it just yet.
8. Should Move On: Neville
Out of everybody on this list, the ‘King of the Cruiserweights’ is the most likely to actually leave and move on from his WWE career. Having walked out on a broadcast of Raw, Neville hasn’t been seen on WWE television in over a month as he seemingly is desperate to get away and wrestle outside the company.
While there have been rumblings that he and WWE have reached an agreement for his return, it would be a huge waste as Neville is too talented to be wasting away on 205 Live against the likes of Enzo Amore. As one of the best wrestlers in the world, Neville could make a major impact on the independent scene, with dream matches against the likes of Will Ospreay and Kenny Omega waiting for him, the chance to become the main event talent that he deserves to be is almost in grasp if he can escape the clutches of WWE.
7. Moved On: The Rock
Despite the fact The Rock proclaims that he has ‘come home’ to WWE, the reality is that the former WWE Superstar has moved on from wrestling and is now firmly cemented in the world of Hollywood. He might make the occasional appearance, but even those are becoming rarer as the years go by, but The Rock has become a global megastar with people knowing his name everywhere he goes, regardless of if they like wrestling.
You can’t exactly blame Dwayne Johnson for not coming back to the squared circle as often. He is arguably the most popular male actor in Hollywood and is incredibly well-liked, being granted amazing opportunity after opportunity. While all his films might not be major hits (I am looking at you Baywatch), he is certainly a bigger name now than he ever was.
6. Should Move On: Hideo Itami
At one point it seemed like Hideo Itami was destined to become NXT Champion and follow the route that every other former champion has done and made the transition to the main roster. Yet here we are, nearing the end of 2017 and Itami is still in NXT. He is now no longer one of the top featured stars on the show which is a real shame.
While there are a lot of rumours right now that the master of the Go To Sleep is heading to 205 Live to bulk up the cruiserweight division, the fact that someone of his ability who was once considered a major star in NXT’s main event scene is going to be wasted on a show that is struggling so badly is a real crime. Given the current rise of New Japan Pro Wrestling and the popularity of the strong style that Itami is so good at, he could easily return to the elite level outside of WWE.
5. Moved On: Eve Torres
Eve Torres made quite the name for herself during her stint with WWE but ultimately made the decision to walk away from the company to focus on being an instructor for the Gracie Women Empowered program.
Despite never being given the same attention as someone such as Nikki Bella or Beth Pheonix, outside of WWE, Torres has grown her business and become an established instructor in MMA. While she still has a relationship with WWE (working as an ambassador and making occasional appearances at Axxess or on Table For 3) Torres has made a name for herself away from the company and she continues to grow her brand.
4. Should Move On: Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler has all the talent in the world. He has a great look, charisma and he can back up everything he says in the ring because he is also a great wrestler. Despite the fact he has almost always managed to get over as a face and a heel, WWE has never given him the push he deserved.
Ziggler is one of those talents who deserved a lot more than what he has been given and with the current landscape of WWE, it doesn’t look like things will be improving for the Showoff. With his comedy career doing well and his naturally entertaining personality, Ziggler could do well moving into the acting world if he wanted to. Given his ability between the ropes, he really should try the Cody Rhodes approach and bank on himself to be a star outside of the WWE.
3. Moved On: CM Punk
The Best in the World is one of the most famous cases of somebody walking away from WWE. With CM Punk not liking the way he was being booked and frustrated that he wouldn’t be main eventing WrestleMania, he simply went home. While this was a shame for wrestling fans as Punk was in the prime of his career doing amazing work, he had enough self-confidence that he felt he was owed more than what WWE was giving him and instead followed his passion for MMA.
Because of his fame he was given the chance to jump straight into the UFC and even though his debut fight didn’t exactly go to plan he earned a lot of respect from the fighting world for stepping into the octagon. Nobody is sure what the future holds for Punk, but whatever he does it won’t be inside a WWE ring.
2. Should Move On: Zack Ryder
One of the hardest workers in WWE was also at one time one of the most popular wrestlers on the planet. Way ahead of his time, Ryder utilized YouTube years before it was cool and used by the likes of Xavier Woods or the Bullet Club. He got himself over with his own hard work and could have easily climbed up the card and it would have felt right. Instead, WWE destroyed him and his popularity. Despite this, the man still works himself to the bone. Just look at the shape he has got himself in lately, as he looks brilliant.
Ryder loves wrestling and WWE. His collection of toys and action figures would tell you he is still just a mega-fan, but he deserves so much more. Imagine the buzz that he could create for himself using his own ideas on the independent scene. He would surely be a major star once again.
1. Moved On: Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes has managed to do something that nobody else has ever done before, choosing to leave WWE on his own terms, trust himself and go and become one of the independent’s biggest stars. While many wrestlers have done well after WWE the fact that Cody went from a mid-card talent to become one of the biggest names in wrestling shows that sometimes you don’t need the machine behind you to make an impact.
Cody took a gamble on himself by leaving a guaranteed contract and what would’ve been a job for life due to his family legacy to become a bigger star than ever before and now a member of the Bullet Club. It seems that the future is brighter than ever for him. He is now the poster child for walking away from WWE.
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