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8 Wrestlers Who Will Leave WWE When Their Contract Is Up (And 7 Who Will Stay)

The WWE is the biggest wrestling company in the world, so you would assume that to work there would be absolute bliss for wrestlers who have worked their entire careers to make it to the biggest stage possible, but as we all know, sometimes dreams turn into nightmares when Vince McMahon is in charge, as he often changes his mind at the drop of a hat over the silliest things, and it gets so bad sometimes that those people who are living their dreams would rather leave the WWE. We’ve seen this with the likes of Cody Rhodes, Jack Swagger and even CM Punk, and sometimes it works out great (Cody is now part of Bullet Club who have their own merch deal with Hot Topic, and he's also the ROH World Champion), and sometimes it doesn’t, but those performers took a risk and bet on themselves being able to succeed outside of Vince McMahon’s world, and that’s to be admired.

So who should take a page out of Cody’s book, bet on themselves and see what they can do outside of the WWE, and who should play it safe and stick with Vince McMahon’s company? Well, read on and find out for yourself!

15 Leave – Mike And Maria Kanellis

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This one seems crazy to write, as the duo of Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis only just arrived in the WWE, but their “power of love” gimmick hasn’t been booked correctly, and it already looks like they have managed to get on WWE’s bad side. For a gimmick with the ceiling of theirs, there might not be any coming back. Before they made the trip to the WWE, “The Miracle” worked really well in GFW and ROH, so a return there would no doubt be welcomed, but with the extra attention they got from their WWE run, Bennett could become an even bigger star. It would suck to see these two go, especially since the WWE never gave them much of a chance, but it would likely be better for his career to be able to work all around the world instead of not even getting booked on SmackDown Live.

14 Stay – Jinder Mahal

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Jinder Mahal was released by the WWE just a few short years ago, and after completely transforming his body, he was brought back to help with the brand split. Despite still being seen as nothing more than enhancement talent at the time, he has now become the WWE Champion to help WWE’s venture into the Indian market, so why on earth would he leave? In other promotions, Mahal would be nothing, because he really isn’t that good of a worker, but Vince McMahon and WWE management insist on keeping him around at the top for those marketing reasons, so there’s no reason for him to leave. Seeing how he does after he loses the WWE title will be interesting, as his character is already severely running out of steam, but one thing's for sure, he is treated better in the WWE than he ever would be out on the indie scene.

13 Leave – Daniel Bryan

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Daniel Bryan became one of the biggest stars in wrestling, but unfortunately his health issues prevented him from defending the Championships he won at WrestleMania, and ever since that point, his status within the WWE has been a massive story with one big unanswered question – will he, or won't he return to the ring? When his contract expires in late 2018, we may finally get some answers. He has already began teasing a battle with Cody Rhodes for the ROH title, even this early, and with Brie Bella speculating that he will wrestle again, it’s almost a forgone conclusion that he will be leaving the WWE. The WWE may let him wrestle for them again, but knowing how cautious they have become about injuries, it’s highly unlikely, meaning that we will again see The American Dragon, Bryan Danielson wrestling for ROH and other independent promotions again.

12 Stay – Finn Balor

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Finn Balor came to the WWE after years and years wrestling in the U.K. and Japan where he became a huge star as Prince Devitt, and despite not being too relevant in RAW’s main event scene since his return from injury, Balor is still going to be a major part of WWE’s plans going forward. The WWE putting the first-ever Universal Championship around his waist was a big sign of how much they value him, but with Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman battling for that title at the moment, he has to be doing something, and although they’re giving him nothing, he needs to stick it out. Whether he battles for the Intercontinental title soon, or he gets put back into the main event scene, Balor is going to be a big star for the company, as he is already a top merchandise seller, and despite the fact that he’d succeed back in Japan and the U.K., that part of his career is over, and he needs to stick it out with the WWE.

11 Leave – Dolph Ziggler

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Despite the entire wrestling industry becoming more in-ring skill-based over the last 10 years, the ultra-talented Dolph Ziggler is still struggling to make it in the WWE, and with the changing gimmick shtick he is currently going through, he has no future in the company, and him leaving and joining ROH or New Japan would be a huge splash. There have been rumors making the rounds for quite some time that Ziggler was considering retirement or a move away from WWE when his contract comes up in 2018, and getting to see Ziggler battle the likes of Will Ospreay, Marty Scurll, Ricochet and others would be incredible. This is probably the most likely one to occur out of anyone on this list, and while he may opt to leave wrestling all together, it’s easy to assume he won’t be in WWE following that time.

10 Stay – Shinsuke Nakamura

via WWE.com

Shinsuke Nakamura is one of the biggest stars in the history of Japanese wrestling, and alongside Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada, he is credited for rebuilding New Japan Pro Wrestling and taking it to the heights it’s at today. He has succeeded for the most part in the WWE, but there are still some doubts about the way he is going to be booked in the long term on the main roster. He has another shot at the WWE Championship at Hell in a Cell, and he should certainly win the title that night, but if he doesn’t, that will raise further questions about how he is being booked, and will raise doubts about his future in the WWE. Even if he doesn’t win it so soon, he should stick it out in the WWE, because they are yet to have a true Japanese superstar, and Nakamura is certainly a superstar if booked properly, and I have faith that the WWE will see this and do right by “The King of Strong Style”.

9 Leave – Jack Gallagher

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After the success of the WWE Cruiserweight Classic in 2016, it looked like the Cruiserweight Division would be a massive hit, but under the control of Vince McMahon on the main roster it has flunked, and left world class talent like Jack Gallagher to waste away on 205 Live. If you’ve ever seen "The Extraordinary Gentleman" perform in Progress, you will know that he is not only an incredible performer, but also very over with the crowd and very charismatic. After losing his shot at Neville’s Cruiserweight Championship early in 2017, it’s unlikely he’ll do anything important for the rest of the year. If the Cruiserweight Division doesn’t improve anytime soon, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if a few of the performers opted out of their WWE contracts, but out of that group that may leave, Gallagher has the most potential out on the independent scene.

8 Stay – Seth Rollins

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The WWE and their 50/50 booking have hurt many stars over the past few years, but one of the biggest victims on the current roster is Seth Rollins, who should be far and away the biggest star on today’s roster. Yet the WWE have been unsure on how to book him, and they’re beginning to get it right now alongside Dean Ambrose. Nonetheless, there have still been rumors that Rollins might be a little unhappy with his booking. If Seth Rollins were to be that unhappy with the WWE that he went back to the independent scene, he would be the biggest star easily, along with the likes of Okada and Kenny Omega, and it would certainly be an exciting time for fans. But the WWE has put too much time into his character, and he realizes that, so don’t expect to see the return of Tyler Black anytime soon.

7 Leave – Tye Dillinger

via wwe.com

Tye Dillinger is one of many cases over the past few years where a performer gets over big-time in NXT, but fails to be pushed on the main roster (through no fault of his own), and following his promotion the night after WrestleMania 33, The Perfect 10 hasn’t been given anything genuine to sink his teeth into. Simply put, he is too talented and too popular to be in that position. While competing full-time on the main roster is most certainly a lifelong dream for the Canadian, it’s turning into a nightmare, as he is struggling to work anything but the pre-show, so while it may be a huge risk to turn his back on the WWE, it could just pay off. Seeing Dillinger battle the likes of Dalton Castle, Cody Rhodes, Marty Scurll, Will Ospreay and any number of other performers would be a delight for the fans, and with the catchy “10” chant that follows him around, he could make some serious merchandise money.

6 Stay – Baron Corbin

via wwe.com

Baron Corbin is one of many WWE stars over the years who have transitioned from the NFL into the world of professional wrestling, and some, like Moose can make it on the indie scene, but others just aren’t cut out for that, and Corbin is one of those people. So if he wants to stay relevant in wrestling, despite all the recent heat he has been getting, then the WWE is the only place for The Lone Wolf. Up until a few months back, it looked like Baron Corbin had a rocket strapped to his back and he was going all the way to the top of SmackDown Live, but ever since winning the Money in the Bank briefcase, he has struggled and obviously been punished on screen. But no matter how bad the treatment, Corbin just isn’t appealing enough to do well on the independent scene, so he needs to ride this out and get back in WWE’s good books.

5 Leave – Rusev

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Most of the people on this list are former independent standouts, and while Rusev doesn’t have the extensive history of those performers, he certainly has the talent and the charisma to succeed outside of the WWE. And after two years of horrible booking following his loss to John Cena at WrestleMania 31, it might be time he takes his talents elsewhere. With his wife Lana intact, Rusev would be perfect wrestling for some of the bigger independent promotions around the world, and if allowed to be a genuine heel, he could get over as a big star the way he should have in the WWE following his gigantic win streak. His in-ring ability isn’t as good as the likes of others on this list, but he certainly has the charisma and charm to be a big star, so while ROH or PWG may not be the perfect spot, we could certainly see him wrestling for the likes of New Japan, WCPW or even GFW (assuming they still exist when his contract expires).

4 Stay – Bobby Roode

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Bobby Roode was a mainstay in TNA for over 10 years, but with guys like AJ Styles and Samoa Joe entering and succeeding in the WWE, Roode made the decision to leave and join the WWE, and from his very first night in the company, everyone knew he was a star. Despite being a 40-year-old main roster rookie, he is likely going to be one of SmackDown Live’s biggest and best performers for the next several years. His in-ring work won’t wow anyone, especially when you compare him to other top stars on the main roster and NXT, but he is a great character with a great look, and his theme song is one of the best in WWE history, giving him all the tools he needs to succeed. While there would be no reason for him to leave, he’s worth putting on this list, but there’s absolutely no way Roode would leave, as he was on the indies for way too long, so this is his future for the time being.

3 Leave – Cesaro

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When Cesaro came to the WWE, fans were expecting him to become a huge star, because under his real name of Claudio Castagnoli in ROH, he was a fantastic performer. But the WWE hasn’t been willing to give him the ball, even though fans have been clamoring for it for the better part of the last three years. In 2014, he became the winner of the first ever Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, and it looked like they were finally preparing to push him, but Vince McMahon showed again how out of touch he was by claiming the Swiss Superman didn’t have “it factor,” and he has been booked poorly ever since. As a more polished performer, Cesaro could return to ROH and even venture into New Japan, and could be given the World Title pushes he’s deserved for quite some time, and could help prove that you can succeed outside of Vince McMahon’s company.

2 Stay – Drew McIntyre

via sportingnews.com

Just like Jinder Mahal, Drew McIntyre was released from the WWE after his terrible run as a member of 3MB, but after tearing up TNA and the U.K. indie scene, he returned to the company and is now the NXT Champion, and although memories of his mistreatment the first time around must be fresh in his mind, he is a different performer now. Once he gets to the main roster, it’s likely he will be treated like the superstar he is. Although his in-ring game isn’t too different to what it was last time he was in the WWE, he has a new attitude and he looks much more like a prototypical WWE star, and he should be considered one of the WWE’s top stars. The first release did absolute wonders for Drew’s career, and it would be silly for him to move on again, so this time he is staying for good, and WWE better do him right.

1 Leave – Sami Zayn

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Sami Zayn was the heart and soul of NXT, and he helped build that developmental program to what it is today, and it looked like he was poised to become the next Daniel Bryan; a top star who the fans couldn’t help but rally behind. Despite having great matches every time he steps into the ring, the WWE has just had no interest in pushing him on the main roster. Since his move to SmackDown Live, "The Land of Opportunity", fans were expecting to see Zayn in some more meaningful storylines where he could shine, but that hasn’t been the case, and that doesn’t look like it's changing anytime soon. The WWE unfortunately has a habit lately of forgetting to book enough meaningful stories for the fans to care about, and Zayn, along with the likes of Rusev and Tye Dillinger haven’t featured at all. With his extensive history on the indie scene, Zayn would return to the likes of ROH, PWG, and maybe even the likes of Progress and New Japan as a huge star.

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