It happens all too often in the world of professional wrestling, specifically the WWE. One moment, you’ve got a wrestler who’s got good potential, and has won a few big matches. The next moment, they’re counting the lights in consecutive weeks. Finally, they virtually disappear from television, and the next you hear of them is when WWE is wishing them the best in their future endeavors. Whether it’s through their own fault or not, that amounts to said wrestler getting buried, or losing their push.
The same could also apply to older wrestlers. as they transition from being active, full-time roster members to occasional wrestlers to full-blown retired. Wrestlers’ bodies age over time, and likewise, their push often erodes in lockstep, though there are some very notable exceptions to the rule, most of which are in the WWE Hall of Fame or bound to get there someday. So who are the 15 wrestlers who may likely get buried in the remaining months of 2017?
When determining who makes this list of potentially buried wrestlers, we should set our criteria beforehand. First of all, the wrestler must have even a sliver of a push at the moment; that means no Curt Hawkins on the male side, and no Alicia Fox on the female side. Secondly, the wrestler must at least make semi-regular appearances on RAW or SmackDown, if not injured. (Likewise, no Bo Dallas or Summer Rae!) It’s as simple as that, because after all, you can’t be buried if you don’t have a midcard-or-better push and TV visibility to begin with.
Oh, and if you insist on one more item for our criteria? Wrestlers in the list should not, in any case, be named Leati Joseph Anoa’i in real life. Because #RomanReignsWinsLOL.
15. Elias Samson
We did establish some criteria for our predictions of which wrestlers may find themselves getting buried in 2017, but then again, we didn’t say anything about actually competing in matches. Elias Samson has yet to wrestle in the main roster as of this writing, and we’ve only seen him drift in and out, pun intended, of backstage segments, strumming his guitar nonchalantly as locker room vets look on in bemusement.
But being that he was one of WWE’s post-WrestleMania call-ups this year, one can make the argument that Samson is getting buried even before he could make his main roster debut in earnest. The gimmick of an inept Bob Dylan wannabe who fancies himself as a “drifter” may have worked in the glory days of occupational gimmicks, but not in present day, where main event talents are oftentimes just like you and me, only turned up to 11.
14. Luke Harper
When Luke Harper turned babyface earlier this year, it was seen as a long time coming for one of the most skilled big men on WWE’s roster. He came within a hair of becoming the number one contender for the WWE Championship, and was part of an intriguing storyline as The Wyatt Family imploded on SmackDown Live. Then the Superstar Shakeup happened, and now we’re seeing Harper losing to former stablemate Erick Rowan on SmackDown. Does Creative have anything for this guy?
Like some other wrestlers in this list, Harper is no spring chicken. He turns 38 this December, and whether we want to admit it or not, his window of opportunity is fast closing. And loathe as I am to admit it, Harper and Rowan deserve better than being two hairy guys feuding with each other for no reason or rhyme – they probably would be better off on the red brand, returning to their old duties as Bray Wyatt’s lackeys.
13. The Welcoming Committee
Ugh, that name. Couldn’t WWE have come up with something better for the new SmackDown Live women’s stable featuring Natalya, Carmella, and Tamina, and managed by James Ellsworth? To be fair to this new faction, they are getting booked quite well as a united coalition of female heels, but once Naomi, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch put their differences aside and work together to beat them, they’re likely to be just that – a “welcoming committee” for the likes of NXT women such as Asuka who may see the main roster sooner rather than later.
Think of it this way – Natalya is turning 35 at the end of the month, Tamina turned 39 earlier this year. Carmella is only 29, but nothing about her has screamed “future Women’s Champion” since her 2016 main roster debut. James Ellsworth is James Ellsworth. A stable of two aging veterans, one midcarder, and token male comic relief as manager simply doesn’t have a lot of upside, and it might not be long before they become the distaff equivalent of The League of Nations. (Because becoming a female 3MB is just too cruel a fate for these ladies.)
12. American Alpha
Poor American Alpha. Few WWE Superstars are as talented in the ring as Chad Gable and Jason Jordan, and their amateur wrestling records as Chas Betts and Nathan Everhart respectively speak for themselves. And while they were among the first NXT call-ups selected in WWE’s 2016 brand draft, they’ve essentially become WWE equivalents to, I don’t know, maybe the NBA’s Michael Carter-Williams or the NFL’s Trent Richardson – good rookie season, then downhill all the way.
There’s hardly a complaint about Alpha in terms of in-ring skills, but like many on this list, they’re not big enough for a certain Vincent Kennedy McMahon, nor that good on the mic or colorful in the ring. Technical wrestling is the name of their game, and unless they get a radical reinvention instead of being booked as bland babyfaces, they’re probably doomed to become the latest big busts to come out of the NXT tag team scene, joining the likes of The Ascension and The Vaudevillains.
You could almost swear that Paige’s contract, which is reportedly due to expire in 2019, is the epitome of albatross for WWE. Not to mention her in-the-works family biopic, which has the backing of WWE Studios and The Rock. If not for those two things, WWE probably would have fired Paige long ago, but for the meantime, she’s still close to returning from injury, and probably close to paying for the various anti-WWE rants her boyfriend Alberto El Patron (ex-Del Rio) recorded on social media. (Which were, incidentally, reposted by Paige on her own Twitter.)
As WWE’s vindictiveness often shows itself in some of the most tasteless and/or career-killing storylines out there (e.g. Piggy James, Moppy), we fear what the company has in store for the Anti-Diva’s return to the ring.
Oh, don’t worry – you’ll see Sheamus’ tag teammate and perennial staple of “buried wrestlers” lists, Cesaro, elsewhere in here. But for now, let’s focus on the Celtic Warrior and see why Sheasaro’s ongoing feud with The Hardy Boyz is probably as good as it gets for him this year. As of this writing, Sheamus is just a few months away from turning 40, and once Sheasaro runs their course (which they might, later this year), they’ll likely disband, feud with each other, and return to singles competition.
Sheamus isn’t as old as other WWE graybeards such as Mark Henry, Big Show, and Kane. But once they retire or further slow down, and as Creative hopefully finds something for Monday Night RAW‘s deserving lower-carders and midcarders, Sheamus will likely be asked to play the part of the savvy veteran, putting them over and making them look better.
9. Rusev And Lana
It would seem that the real-life husband-and-wife duo of Rusev and Lana can’t run out of ways to piss off Vincent Almighty. First, there was TMZ breaking their engagement, which mercy-killed 2015’s “love quadrangle,” a storyline that fans hated but Vince McMahon apparently loved. Then you had numerous Lana backstage heat stories. And shortly before Rusev was injured, he reportedly annoyed WWE officials by getting a haircut. It’s been an uphill struggle for the Bulgarian Brute and the Ravishing Russian for a couple years already, so when will it end?
Probably not soon, we’d say. Rusev’s due to return from injury soon, but we don’t think his championship match demand storyline is going to end well. (Especially since this writer genuinely fears Cena vs. Orton Part 56,383 at SummerSlam.) Lana, on the other hand, appears stuck in an Emmalina-esque repackaging – we know she can dance for real, but hasn’t WWE learned enough from Fandango and the much-forgotten DJ Gabriel? Dancing gimmicks, far more often than not, just don’t work.
8. Luke Gallows And Karl Anderson
The Club. The Good Brothers. Sex/Tex Ferguson and Chad 2 Badd. Or maybe just plain old Gallows and Anderson. Much was expected from these former Bullet Club mainstays when they debuted in WWE last year (re-debuted in Gallows’ case), but aside from a short-lived run with the RAW Tag Team Championships, they’ve pretty much achieved diddly squat since their arrival. What’s keeping them from living up to their immense potential?
On one end, it could be Vince McMahon being out of touch as usual with what the “smart” fans want. But given that every hardcore fan and their cousin knows that Gallows and Anderson experienced their greatest success as part of NJPW’s Bullet Club, it could also be a case of WWE trolling the smarks. Okay, we’ve brought these two bald dudes you’re crazy about back home from Japan, now watch them beat Enzo and Cass for the gazillionth time, only to get their butts kicked when it matters the most!
7. Jinder Mahal
We’re still as surprised as you are with Jinder Mahal’s rocket-like ascension (no, not THE Ascension, who have no push whatsoever) from glorified enhancement talent to main event title contender with brand-new stable. As it seems, Mahal’s push is WWE’s attempt to gain favor with the large Indian market, and in all fairness, we’d say better a guy like Jinder than a guy like Great Khali. But what happens when his WWE Championship dreams most likely end at Backlash with an RKO out of nowhere?
Why, it’s back to WWE hindering Jinder, we’d say. Oh, he’d probably still be in the midcard by then, perhaps putting over the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura or even Tye Dillinger. By the end of the year, no one should be surprised if the self-proclaimed Maharaja is right back where he started, or pretty close to it – at the bottom of his brand’s totem pole.
It shouldn’t be any more of a surprise that Cesaro just isn’t getting a fair shake in the WWE. Though his and Sheamus’ recent heel turn on The Hardy Boyz gave their tag team push a shot in the arm, it won’t be long before WWE moves on to another set of challengers for Matt and Jeff’s RAW Tag Team Championships (The Revival, perhaps?), and when they do, Sheasaro will be another pair of aging midcarders sent to the back of the line, and probably split apart before the year is over.
Pound-for-pound, Cesaro is an extremely strong individual, and his mat wrestling skills are matched by few in the company. But it still seems impossible to sell Vince McMahon on the virtues of a Cesaro main event push, and we’re guessing WWE continues using him to get good matches out of, and lose to younger wrestlers in the coming months.
5. Sasha Banks
Not too long ago, she and Charlotte Flair were playing hot potato with the RAW Women’s Championship. Now, we’re waiting for what should be her long-awaited heel turn on Bayley, and the resumption of their bitter NXT rivalry. But even if that does happen, we don’t know if Sasha Banks will look anything like a Boss by the end of that feud. See, there are a few things WWE doesn’t quite like about Banks.
First, there’s her height/size, or lack thereof – if Vince McMahon loves big, sweaty men, he also loves tall, statuesque women. Secondly, there’s the fact that her high-risk style makes her more than a bit injury-prone. Like many others in this list, we hope Sasha doesn’t get further lost in the shuffle than she already is right now, but don’t say we didn’t warn you if she becomes the third-, or even fourth-least heralded member of the “Four Horsewomen.”
4. Samoa Joe
Why is it that I’ve got this sinking feeling in my gut that Vince McMahon doesn’t get Samoa Joe? Getting the obvious out of the way, Joe’s skill set is extremely diverse for a man with his size and build, and he’s a great worker who deserves the same success AJ Styles achieved last year as a WWE “rookie” in his late-30s. But given his age (38) and his non-Vince-friendly build, who knows if WWE Creative will de-push the Destroyer and have him put over younger guys?
Of course, we’re hoping that never comes to pass. And we’re hoping something, somehow materializes from that once-rumored Triple H-led stable featuring Samoa Joe. But if WWE was willing to give the similarly roly-poly Kevin Owens a pass upon his main roster call-up due to his youth, the company might not be willing to give Joe the same breaks.
3. Sami Zayn
We were all hoping for it – Sami Zayn moves to SmackDown and finally lives up to his immense potential. But instead of proving once again that the blue brand is the land of opportunity, Zayn’s had more of the same on Tuesday nights, jobbing to the stars while making them look like a million bucks. And he’s also been jobbing to people nobody thought he’d ever job to – surprising mega-push and interference from The Singh Brothers aside, who would have expected Jinder Mahal to defeat Sami Zayn in a singles match?
That said, Zayn is only 32 (turning 33 this July) and can’t be considered an old guy. He’s still got time for that main event push. But the more we see him lose on television, the more we’re expecting him to be another NXT super-prospect who can’t get Vince McMahon and company to really like him.
2. Bray Wyatt
The jury is still out for the wrestlers affected by WWE’s recent Superstar Shake-Up. But we’re very, very concerned about what could become of Bray Wyatt now that he’s lost his WWE Championship, lost his faction, and lost a good deal of credibility due to the fiasco that was the House of Horrors match at Payback. Suddenly, the Eater of Worlds looks likely to return to his old, lamented status as the Eater of Pins on pay-per-view. Wyatt’s House of Horrors win was a fluke, thanks to Jinder Mahal and The Singh Brothers, so what’s to become of him should his feud with Finn Balor materialize in earnest?
Sadly, Wyatt’s move to Monday nights means he’s now further down in the heel pecking order, behind Braun Strowman, The Miz, and a certain belt-wearing beast who can only show up so many times in a year. And if the rest of his 2017 is as mediocre as current events suggest it would be, that’s going to make Bray’s WWE Championship win at Elimination Chamber feel like a hollow participation trophy.
1. Dean Ambrose
Doesn’t it feel like long ago when Dean Ambrose cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase to become a first-time WWE Champion? Oh, those were good times for the Lunatic Fringe, who’s since quietly married longtime girlfriend Renee Young, much to the rumored chagrin of WWE officials. Rumors have also suggested WWE finds him lazy and unmotivated, and that’s probably the reason why we can’t get behind Ambrose as Intercontinental Champion like we got behind The Miz when he held the belt for several months in 2016.
And that brings us to what could happen soon – Miz could win the IC title back from Ambrose and bring it back to relevance, while Ambrose falls further behind his former Shield brothers Seth Rollins and (especially) Roman Reigns. The only way to turn things around for Ambrose would be to revamp his stale, increasingly unfunny character and turn him heel, and if WWE does this, they better do it right, lest 2017 amount to a proper burial for his push.
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