One thing wrestling fans look forward to year after year is the amount of signings that could take place in WWE. The promotion is the biggest wrestling company in the world, and it is generally perceived that if one makes it to WWE, they've made the big time.
A crop of great wrestlers have found success outside of WWE, but the days of having a strong competitor that could rival WWE is over in the western world, with NJPW being the greatest rival these days. Still, Japan has its own style, so it's almost a world apart considering many Japan's puroresu legends are relatively unknown to wrestling fans in North America. We've seen many WWE stars come and go, and wrestling is thriving on the independent scene these past couple of years. WWE has also rehired a number of wrestlers who they once had under its banner, placing them in NXT before reintroducing them to the main roster. With the amount of rising stars in smaller companies, the remainder of 2018 and 2019 could be two very interesting years.
With the addition of the Mae Young Classic, 205 Live, and NXT UK, the WWE is on the hunt for more entertainers from past and present. It's no secret that WWE wants to expand the roster, and become the biggest wrestling company one could work for. Since there have been many rumors floating around when it comes to WWE's next signings, we should take a look at 10 stars who could soon make their debut, and 10 that are on the cusp of returning:
20 Debut - Adam Page
For those unfamiliar with Adam Page, he is a Ring of Honor and New Japan star who is part of the infamous Bullet Club stable. Page's stock is definitely on the rise, and he's got the looks and skills that WWE NXT looks for when it comes to hiring new talent.
Over the past year, Hangman Page has turned heads with some really good matches against top opponents, becoming one of the most improved wrestlers on the independent scene.
He hasn't won world championships on the independent scene yet, but his potential can be reached in full force should he join NXT. It is rumored that Triple H is keen on bringing him to Full Sail once his contractual obligations are up with ROH.
19 Return - Davey Boy Smith Jr.
As a member of the Hart Dynasty, Davey Boy Smith Jr. wasn't exactly a top draw in WWE. The booking wasn't all that great with him and Tyson Kidd as a tag team, but to be fair, neither was WWE around that time. With Kidd all but retired due to a neck injury that has sidelined him for years, Smith Jr. has been working his trade alongside Lance Archer in the Killer Elite Squad, a top tag team in Japan. However, Smith Jr. has also been featured as a singles wrestler on MLW Fusion, a newer wrestling program. This could lead to the second-generation wrestler testing the waters as an individual rather than a team player - which could pave the way for an anticipated WWE return. He is also good friends with SmackDown's Shelton Benjamin, so there could be a new team forming there, too.
18 Debut - Bandido
He isn't a household name yet, however, lucha libre sensation Bandido is very close to signing with WWE. The NXT hopeful is a featured competitor for PWG, Dragon Gate, and AAA, among other promotions primarily in Mexico.
The 23-year-old star is reminiscent of Hayabusa, sporting a similar look and has a daredevil approach when it comes to the squared circle.
He's already travelled far and wide in the game, which is something WWE likes in terms of ring experience and getting used to the hefty schedule. As it stands, Bandido is believed to be finishing up his engagements in both Mexico and on the independent circuit, and a deal may already be in place for him down in Florida. We will have to wait and see, but he does have a pair of scintillating fantasy matches over at NXT waiting for him.
17 Return - Emma
Emma was a name many felt was badly misused in her first WWE tenure and she was unceremoniously released in 2017 after putting Asuka over in the Empress's first WWE PPV match. Since then, Emma has gone by Tenille Dashwood on the indies and has had a lot of success as a heel, proving that the WWE could've done a lot more with her. (They certainly could've avoided that whole Emmalina fiasco). We've seen the company realize their mistakes and bring back certain wrestlers before and when Emma is contractually eligible for a return, it wouldn't be a huge surprise to see WWE reach out to her.
16 Debut - Mia Yim
Mia Yim has been putting forth some great performances in WWE's Mae Young Classic this year, yet that isn't all that surprising for TNA fans. Yim was a mainstay at TNA for several years, part of the Dollhouse faction where she was known as Jade. She held the Knockouts title, and even found success in all women's promotion Shine wrestling as a tag team and world champion. The 29-year-old wrestler has almost a decade of experience under her belt, and she's going to be a healthy addition to NXT's roster in the upcoming year. She works well as both a face and heel, so it is going to be interesting to see where she lands among other talents like Shayna Bazler, Kairi Sane and Nikki Cross.
15 Return - The Rock
While he was supposed to come back for SmackDown 1000 in some way, shape or form, The Rock did not appear. But where there is smoke, there is fire, which means rummages of a Rock return have been surfacing in WWE quarters. The Great One is one of Hollywood's top earning stars, having been featured in numerous movies and his own TV show on HBO titled Ballers.
The plan was for The Rock to return to face Roman Reigns at WrestleMania, but now that the match is up in the air with Reigns taking time off.
We should at least expect The Rock to be featured on the show to either be part of the Hall of Fame ceremony or have one last match in WWE's Attitude Era resurgence as of late.
14 Debut - Fenix
Drawing comparisons to Rey Mysterio, Fenix is a lucha libre and independent wrestling star who is taking the lighter weight classes by storm with his aerial assault and innovative move set. He recently defeated WWE Hall of Famer and former WCW champ Jeff Jarrett at AAA TripleMania to win the AAA Mega championship, and he has also been seen on Lucha Underground, Impact Wrestling and PWG, where he is loved by fans and took part in some of the best tag team matches of last year.
As it stands, WWE would like to secure his services in a package deal with his brother (we'll get to him later), but it seems he is contractually tied up for the time being. Expect to see him down the line in 2019, though.
13 Return - Batista
During the Evolution promo that took place at SmackDown 1,000 last month, Guardians of the Galaxy star Batista dampened the reunion celebrations by claiming Triple H did everything there is to do in the wrestling business - except for beating Batista. The current actor hasn't wrestled in approximately four years, but if that standoff was an indication of anything, it means Batista and Triple H are setting up a program to face one another sometime soon.
All fingers point to WrestleMania 35, where Batista could come back in a part-time role and put on the blue trunks for another go at the Cerebral Assassin. There have been rumors of Batista coming back full-time, yet his star power is also on the rise in Hollywood.
12 Debut - Brody King
We know that WWE loves their big men...well, we should say Vince McMahon does. Brody King, who is eerily reminiscent of Brodie Lee (fans know him as Luke Harper), has been in talks with WWE for a move that would make him a big name among the WWE faithful.
First off, he's a beast who wrestles well for his size, and possesses the same speed and agility as someone in the cruiserweight division.
On top of that, his rugged, barbaric look is a hybrid between a smaller Braun Strowman and Alistair Black. He's in his early 30s, so it's not too late for a good run in WWE. It turns out William Regal was scouting King at PWG's yearly Battle of Los Angeles tournament this past September and came back with a strong rating for the straight-edge wrestler. King also fronts a hardcore music band in his off-time.
11 Return - Chris Jericho
There has been talk of Chris Jericho starting his own wrestling promotion with a billionaire sports team owner and Jim Ross, not to mention other independent superstars having their name thrown around the rumor mill, too. But if there's one thing we know about Chris Jericho, it's that he's capable of doing anything, and more specifically, capable of wrestling everywhere. The current IWGP Intercontinental Champion will presumably be working for New Japan for a little longer should he keep that title come January 2019, yet he may be the only wrestler who is able to pop up at various places without signing a full-time deal for one company.
WWE will be bringing out many legends for next year's WrestleMania, and you have to believe that Jericho will be part of the festivities, in some way.
10 Debut - Taya Valkyrie
Taya Valkyrie has proven her worth around the world, as she's been a top female star in both Impact and Lucha Underground. Not only is Valkyrie capable of wrestling an amazing match on any given night, but she also has a character to build around, which is something the WWE loves to see in their talents. She certainly would be a valuable asset to NXT initially, as the WWE's third brand has lost quite a bit of talent to the main roster in recent months. Fans can bet that Triple H is keeping a close eye on her and her contract status.
9 Return - Cody Rhodes
It's wishful thinking to believe Cody Rhodes would be interested in coming back to WWE, yet the former NWA World champion set the record straight and proved he was a main event star that WWE was overlooking for quite some time. After selling out the Allstate Arena in Chicago for All In, Cody became a bit of a threat to WWE, and all of a sudden, the brass was interested in bringing him back to the fold alongside four of his Bullet Club stablemates.
Rhodes will cost WWE a hefty price, yet considering his family lineage, Cody could come back on his own terms.
He could demand to be put into the main event scene and not just a gimmick costume. On top of that, he's going to cost WWE a lot of money - and that isn't including Brandi Rhodes, since they seem to come as a package deal.
8 Debut - Chelsea Green
It's unclear if Chelsea Green has already signed a WWE contract, or if she's just allowed to use the performance center. If you're wondering why she gets a special privilege, it's because Green is connected to WWE Superstar Zack Ryder. Green is better known as Laurel Van Ness, who worked at Impact Wrestling for the better part of three years. She's also been featured on Lucha Underground, albeit for only a short period of time.
Green possesses quite the look for a WWE competitor. She's also a fierce competitor who also works well in the acting department of wrestling. Green will undoubtedly join the next class of recruits and she's expected to be featured on NXT television in the coming months.
7 Return - Juice Robinson
The annoying hippie didn't quite make for a good gimmick in NXT, where Juice Robinson worked as CJ Parker. While he showed promise at times, he was best remembered for breaking Kevin Owens' nose on the superstar's debut match.
He requested his release and ventured off to Japan to start over as a young lion, which is essentially a rookie for NJPW's developmental system.
WWE has reportedly shown great interest in bringing him back, as he has excelled in matches against Jay White, Cody Rhodes, Hirooki Goto and Adam Page under the New Japan banner. He's also reinvented himself into a flamboyant superstar, somewhat reminiscent of Shawn Michaels. The New Japan fans have come to adore Juice, so it's really up to him if he wants to come back to the United States or keep honing his craft on the other side of the world.
6 Debut - Pentagon Jr.
He's got the best gimmick going in wrestling today, and if you're unfamiliar with Pentagon, then you should try watching some of his matches as soon as possible. The Impact and MLW luchadore is going to be in WWE in 2019, presumably joining with his brother Fenix, who we also mentioned on this list. His hybrid style of high flyer-meets-brawler makes him one of the most unique stars today, and he's going to make heads turn - and roll - WWE once he makes the move. He has wrestled a who's-who list of names, which includes Zack Sabre Jr., Matt Sydal and Sami Callahan, formerly known as Solomon Crowe in NXT.
It's no secret that WWE wants to feature as many Latino stars as they can to appeal to the demographic in the United States, so it's almost a lock that Pentagon will soon make the transition.
5 Return - Austin Aries
Austin Aries has turned the wrestling world upside down these past few weeks, considering his feud against current Impact Champion John Morrison was more of a shoot than a work. You'd have to think that Aries burned some bridges in WWE, yet there aren't many more options for him at this point in his career. He could go to Japan. He could also work the indies a little longer. But Aries would be wise to cut his losses and rejoin WWE as either an NXT star or even go back to 205 Live, where he felt he was underutilized.
Aries didn't want to be working as a broadcaster and losing to Neville more so than he already did, yet the division looks much better these days with a crop of young talents making it arguably WWE's best weekly show. You may think it's unlikely, but Aries could be a big surprise addition to the roster in 2019.
4 Debut - The Young Bucks
The masters of the Superkick Party and Bullet Club elites Matt and Nick Jackson have been on the WWE radar for quite some time. In a few months time though, the tag team is expected to jump ship to the promotion after their ROH contracts are up, slated to join former friends, foes and stable mates like Adam Cole, Ricochet, Kevin Owens and Tommaso Ciampa.
The Young Bucks have rejuvenated independent wrestling with huge sales of merch and even signed a contract with Hot Topic.
They've done everything there is to do outside a WWE ring.
It's only a matter of time before they make the move to WWE, but it's not yet known if their Elite or All In stable mates will come with them as a group.
3 Return - Hulk Hogan
The Hulkster is poised for a return to WWE, and there has been talk of forming the NWO with the Outsiders so that fans will give the group a good reaction once Hogan returns.
Hogan was recently reinstated to the WWE Hall of Fame, leaving many fans to wonder exactly when he's going to show up on television once again.
There's no reason for Hogan to even come back, but Vince McMahon is obsessed with his company generating interest and money, and Hogan is a cash cow, no matter how you slice it. Expect him to be back in some sort of capacity.
2 Debut - Kenny Omega
Now that Roman Reigns' wrestling future looks uncertain, the WWE needs another top babyface on its roster. We saw face turns for the likes of Elias and Braun Strowman, meaning the WWE will try and see if those two guys are people that can take the ball and run with it. However, the name of Kenny Omega has been coming up more and more often, and the current NJPW Heavyweight champion could be on his way to help the WWE should the company need a top star with the same drawing power.
Omega has been at WWE developmental before, and once his storyline with Kota Ibushi comes to an end in Japan, the wrestling superstar may be just what the doctor ordered for WWE. He's arguably the best wrestler in the world, and it all depends what WWE is willing to offer to secure his services.
1 Return - The Outsiders
They haven't been on WWE television in years, and the last appearance by Scott Hall and Kevin Nash was to help out Sting against Triple H at WrestleMania 31. They do show up here and there for interviews and programming on the WWE Network, but that could change as Hall and Nash are believed to be at the forefront of an nWo revival in the promotion. Furthermore, the two veterans are expected to be back to take the steam off a certain someone who got into huge trouble and was kicked out of the WWE Hall of Fame until months ago, among other things.
It's unclear if we'll see the Outsiders lace up the boots once more, or if they will be cutting promos and dishing out finishers on anniversary shows instead.