The argument could be made that the current World Wrestling Entertainment roster is the most talented, from top to bottom, in the history of the promotion. Some of the best wrestlers in the world, names like A.J. Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura, currently work on SmackDown shows, while Samoa Joe, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor and others are parts of the Raw brand. John Cena and Brock Lesnar remain huge stars who are over among audiences all around the world even if they are part-timers these days, and Roman Reigns is either the top heel or top babyface wrestling for the WWE depending on how you view the “Big Dog” as of the spring of 2017. Regardless, Reigns does deserve credit for generating reactions from fans whenever he emerges from behind the curtain.
With that said, those running the WWE will, in the future, have decisions to make regarding the futures of numerous stars and performers, some of whom have not made major impacts working on the main roster. In some cases, the decision will be a no-brainer for the WWE for one reason or another. Others, however, are not quite as clear as of the posting of this piece. What is important for all to remember is that the WWE choosing to not re-sign any of the wrestlers mentioned in this piece would only open up roster spots for individuals currently not working for the promotion. Somebody may have to go if names such as Adam Cole, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks are to join the company before WrestleMania 34.
15 Won’t: The Brian Kendrick
The Brian Kendrick deserves plenty of credit for retooling his character for the current WWE product, for remaining a talented worker inside and outside of the ring and for all that he contributed to the company as a trainer. Still, Kendrick has more than served his purpose as an active wrestler, and it does feel as if it will only be a matter of time before the WWE gives his spot to a younger performer.
We do hope Kendrick will remain working for the WWE, as he still has a lot to offer as a trainer and an agent. Truth be told, we think Kendrick could probably do a better job booking the Cruiserweight Division, but that’s a different topic for a different post.
14 Will: Mickie James
There will one day come a time when Mickie James will be a veteran who is surplus to requirements because of emerging talent from the NXT brand. That day shouldn’t happen at any point in 2017, however, as the bulk of the female portion of NXT still needs plenty of seasoning before those wrestlers are ready to work underneath the bright lights of Raw and SmackDown shows.
Those who have watched James during her latest WWE comeback have to be impressed with her ring work, as she's currently one of the best women on the main roster. Numerous women on Raw, SmackDown and in NXT could learn from working programs with James, which is another reason why we envision the WWE will re-sign her when the times comes.
13 Won’t: Titus O’Neil
The negatives of keeping Titus O’Neil seem to outweigh the positives as of May 2017. O’Neil does deserve plenty of credit for the charity work he does behind the scenes, but the harsh reality is that there is no sign he is going to get over among fans as a wrestler.
To make things worse as it pertains to his position with the company, it was reported in early May that he's being sued by a camera operator because of an alleged incident that apparently occurred during a taping of the WWE Network show “Swerved.” If the allegations made about O’Neil are accurate and he legitimately attacked a cameraman, the WWE may decide that keeping him around makes little sense because of the attention such a case would attract from media outlets.
12 Will: Darren Young
Odds are that Darren Young will never be a massive Superstar competing for the WWE Championship during his tenure with the company. The world needs carpenters, as the industry saying goes, and Young nevertheless remains a solid hand who can work on live shows and can put other wrestlers over.
Young is an experienced worker who isn’t dangerous and who could have an entertaining character if given the proper push by the WWE. In fact, we’d like to see a performer such as Young be awarded an opportunity to show what he can do in NXT. If nothing else, Young could be a tutor for younger performers working their way through the promotion’s developmental system. He’d likely have a lot to offer, while at the same time potentially rebooting his career.
11 Won’t: The Ascension
Sometimes, it’s just not meant to be for a performer or an act, and that has been the case for the Ascension even before they were called up from NXT to the main roster. Fans never took the duo seriously from their first night on the main roster, and the team is now essentially one that jobs to babyface duos on episodes of SmackDown.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the WWE already has replacements for the Ascension signed in the NXT Tag Team Champions the Authors of Pain. We wouldn’t be all that surprised if A.O.P. even squashed The Ascension upon being called up to the SmackDown brand. Perhaps The Ascension would have been better off with Paul Ellering as their manager; probably not, though.
10 Will: Bo Dallas
We are not ready to give up on Bo Dallas as a worker and as a performer, and we believe the WWE also isn't for one reason, in particular: Dallas, as you likely know if you’re reading this sentence, is the real-life brother of Bray Wyatt, and the WWE recently moved Wyatt from SmackDown to Raw where Dallas is currently a member.
It only makes sense that Dallas, who has flopped since being called up from NXT, would go through a character change en route to becoming a “follower” of his brother’s character. That could actually do both Dallas and Wyatt some good, as the Wyatt gimmick has been stale for some time. Let’s see what these brothers can do working together, WWE.
9 Won’t: Paige
We don’t blame you one bit if you actually forgot Paige is still technically a WWE star who is currently signed to the Raw brand. Paige has been inactive since the summer of 2016 because of an injury, and she was suspended in the fall for an alleged second violation of the company Wellness Policy.
She's also romantically involved with the wrestler who was known as Alberto Del Rio during his time with the WWE. Del Rio and the WWE have parted ways on bad terms multiple times, and he recently debuted as a member of Impact Wrestling. While the WWE may not go out of the way to cut Paige, it seems unlikely the company would re-sign her once her contract expires.
8 Will: Zack Ryder
One has to feel at least a little sorry for Zack Ryder. Ryder did well to get himself over as a babyface via his Internet show years ago, and yet the company never gave him any real push outside of a brief run as United States Champion. He then experienced somewhat of a career resurrection when he moved down to NXT to begin teaming up with Mojo Rawley.
The duo, known as the “Hype Bros,” appeared on their way to competing for the SmackDown Tag Team Titles in late 2016 when Ryder suffered a legitimate knee injury. That setback has sidelined him for all of 2016, to date, but we believe the WWE will keep Ryder on the roster moving forward because he can still generate pops and positive reactions from fans.
7 Won’t: Eva Marie
As of the typing of this sentence, Eva Marie is essentially a WWE star in name only. We have not seen “All Red Everything” work on a WWE show since she was suspended for allegedly violating the company’s Wellness Policy in the summer of 2016, and there is no sign she is headed back to the promotion anytime soon.
While it makes sense that the promotion would want to keep her because of her involvement with the Total Divas program, the reality of the situation is that she failed to improve as an in-ring worker. The WWE could easily replace her with one of several women currently wrestling in NXT or with somebody who is not a member of the roster at this time.
6 Will: Asuka
It really shouldn’t be a question if the WWE will re-sign Asuka whenever her contract comes due. In this case, it’s a matter of when the promotion will change direction regarding her career course. While it’s understandable the WWE would want to keep Asuka as part of that touring brand because she is one of its top stars and one of its best performers, she has clearly outgrown being part of that portion of the WWE roster.
Asuka will be the best woman on the main roster the second she is called up, and the company may even want to consider making her a floating champion who dominates wrestlers on Raw and SmackDown. She should be the Women’s Division version of Brock Lesnar.
5 Won’t: Percy Watson
It’s understood that NXT is a touring brand, a weekly television product and also a developmental territory for more than just the performers who have matches and who cut promos in front of small audiences. Announcers such as Percy Watson are also meant to learn and, ideally, improve while working on NXT shows.
Watson may, in time, silence critics and evolve into a solid commentator, but he is nowhere near where Corey Graves was at this time of his announcing career. Some people have “it” and are naturals, and others simply do not. It’s possible Watson will find a home working in the WWE as a heel manager or behind the scenes, but it’s hard to envision the WWE re-signing him as a commentator at the moment.
4 Will: Jeff Hardy
It would be an understatement to say the WWE re-signing Jeff Hardy and Matt Hardy in the spring of 2017 has been a success for all involved. While the two have done well to get over as a babyface tag team and the Tag Team Champions of the Raw brand, there is still so much more the WWE can get out of this relationship.
Remember that it was Jeff, not Matt, who found more success working as a solo act during the 2000s, and the WWE could decide to offer Jeff one final opportunity to pursue a championship via a feud with Brock Lesnar. Of course, the story of “Brother Nero” needs to be told underneath the WWE umbrella once the company is legally able to travel down that road.
3 Won’t: Kassius Ohno
The WWE has been better about signing wrestlers with different looks and different body types, and also about acquiring talented performers who don’t look like superheroes or bodybuilders. It is, nevertheless, realistic to assume that WWE will not re-sign Kassius Ohno past NXT if he doesn’t make it onto the main roster before 2017 comes to an end.
The WWE already has a K.O. in Kevin Owens, and Kassius Ohno has, thus far, done little of note on NXT programming. Ohno has already lost to Bobby Roode, and it looks like the promotion is interested in making Roderick Strong the next top babyface of that brand. Hopefully we are wrong about this one, because Ohno could help create fun matches with numerous wrestlers on the main roster.
2 Will: Matt Hardy
In a way, it’s almost a blessing and a gift that the WWE was not able to run with the “Broken” Matt Hardy storyline once Matt and Jeff re-signed with the company. After all, the two are generating pops as a nostalgia act that won the Raw Tag Team Titles, and there’s nothing wrong with building anticipation via teases that Matt will soon be broken once again.
The WWE could do so much with the character and with the storyline beyond just a feud featuring Matt versus Jeff, which is why it seems a given the promotion will re-sign both sooner rather than later. We just hope the WWE allows Matt to be the mastermind behind what should be entertaining portions of television.
1 Won’t: Dolph Ziggler
We can’t help but wonder if the WWE electing not to re-sign Dolph Ziggler when his contract comes up would be what’s best for all involved. It’s clear Ziggler is not going to receive a run as the top guy on either Raw or SmackDown in 2017, and the talented worker making a move to the independent scene and maybe even to Japan for a period of time could do him some good and help inject new life into his career.
The Ziggler character is currently running in place on the main roster, and the hope here is that some time away from the WWE would allow him to return as an even better wrestler a year or two down the road.