Indeed, having high-quality talents who can put on high-quality matches is what has kept WWE atop the wrestling pyramid. That’s why WWE choose to pay their top performers in millions. As important is keeping hold of their best performers is signing ones who can improve them.
WWE has historically been poaching the smaller promotions, including Ring of Honor Wrestling, Impact Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling and National Wrestling Alliance. Hulk Hogan signed from AWA, while Ric Flair was a NWA mainstay before becoming a WWE wrestler. Plus, they signed Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, Big Show and Eddie Guerrero all from their biggest competitors to date, World Championship Wrestling. They show no sign of stopping despite developing a monopoly over the wrestling business now.
We’ve seen the company sign Keith Lee, Matt Riddle, Mia Yim, Kacy Catanzaro, Io Shirai, Chelsea Green, WALTER and Rey Mysterio in recent months. We’re only going to see them bring in even more big-name independent wrestlers in coming months.
The following article looks at seven wrestlers WWE could sign in 2019. To ensure every promotion’s wrestlers are discussed, we’ve chosen to include just one wrestler per promotion, so some of the more obvious names has been left out in favor of the less popular ones.
In order to make room for new signings, some of their current employees must make way. We also look at 14 wrestlers — seven men and seven women — who’ll likely be shown the door in 2019.
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21 Male Star: Jason Jordan
Gable and Jordan bucked the trend when they lifted the SmackDown Live Tag Team Championship when former NXT teams struggled to win titles on the main roster. They couldn't last long as a tag team despite that. Jason Jordan, on the back of the split, received an immediate push, being named Kurt Angle's illegitimate son. He even wrestled Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins before winning the Raw Tag Team Championship with the latter. His untimely injury has forced WWE to replace him with Baron Corbin. He doesn't look to be returning any time soon, either. He'll be gone by 2019 if he doesn't recover quickly.
20 Female Star: Paige
After the leaks and Alberto Del Rio fiasco, the wrestling world believed Paige's WWE career is over. The company chose to be classy instead, as they offered her a decent push shortly after her returning. An unfortunate career-ending injury couldn't derail her ascension either, as WWE named her the new SmackDown Live General Manager. She suits her role to a tee, as SmackDown Live is now projected as the more serious wrestling brand. Given how quickly the wrestling fans turn on authority figures, her being over with the crowd highlights her abilities. However, her current contract runs out in 2019; there hasn't been much talk of a contract renewal.
19 New Star: Tetsuya Naito
Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Newsletter recently reported that WWE got in touch with Tetsuya Naito recently, offering him a contract, which the New Japan superstar turned down. WWE, however, are known to get what they want and are likely to come back for him with an improved offer. The former Intercontinental Champion has been forced to play second fiddle to Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada for some time now. Plus, with WWE now putting the limelight on more talents from Naito's neck of the woods, he must be tempted to make the jump sooner than later. One expects him to be announced as a WWE wrestler by 2019.
18 Male Star: No Way Jose
Most NXT wrestlers enjoy a little TV time before the main-roster creative makes a decision on them. Even Bo Dallas and The Ascension received ample screen time before turning into jobbers. No Way Jose, however, is an outlier, with the Raw creative, for some reason, choosing against having him have a decent run on the main roster. After seeing his feud with Mojo Rawley tank, they've sent him down to Main Event, where he wrestles fellow struggling characters like Bobby Roode and Jinder Mahal. By the looks of things, he'll be gone by 2019 or perhaps, wrestling on Evolve Wrestling or NXT again.
17 Female Star: Brie Bella
Brie Bella's matches since her recent return have been widely talked-about for all the wrong reasons. The Total Divas star hasn't just been putting her own safety at risk, for she's also proved to be an unsafe worker. She duly received heat from the wrestling world for causing harm to Liv Morgan's, when they botched a Yes Kick of all moves. She, a mother of one now, shouldn't be nothing beyond a managerial role, perhaps for a newly heel Bryan. While she'll forever be valuable to WWE in some sort of ambassador role, she must have wrestled her last serious match already.
16 New Star: The Bullet Club
Cody, while speaking on The Jericho Cruise, said he wouldn't be returning to WWE any time soon. He even discussed the possibility of All In 2. However, his being firm on his decision isn't going to stop the other members of The Bullet Club from considering signing for WWE. Vince McMahon and co. must know signing Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks would improve WWE drastically, and it's going to take an multi-million dollar contract to convince them to sign on the dotted lines.
Flip Gordon, Marty Scurll and Tama Tonga, on the other hand, will cost them much less. Which Bullet Club members fall for WWE contracts is yet to be seen, however.
15 Male Star: The Fashion Police
Fandango and Tyler Breeze proved, during their time on the developmental rosters, they can put on four-star matches. Their main-roster run as The Fashion Police highlighted their ability to cut promos and build entertaining characters. Despite their being well-rounded wrestlers, though, WWE haven't found a reason to put titles on them. Perhaps, they must think they don't need titles to be over, but their frequent losses and being away from TV has made them irrelevant to an extent.
One think the ship has sailed, as it'll be difficult to build them up again. WWE must consider releasing them, as doing so will probably help both parties in the long run.
14 Female Star: Mickie James
Mickie James has proven women can bump and tell great stories in the ring at an age most wrestlers ponder retirement; her feuds with Bayley, Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss bear testimony to her quality. That said, there's only so much a wrestler's body can take. She, 39, has been wrestling full-time for almost two decades now and, despite her being able to still go in the ring, she must consider hanging her boots up at this point. The company doesn't seem to be giving her another run with the women's title, so at this point, she may transition to a behind the scenes role, if she stays in the WWE at all.
13 New Star: Walter
When WWE brought in Keith Lee and Matt Riddle, several dirt sheets reported Walter could be the next in line to sign for WWE. Reports are now going around that Walter has in fact signed to be a part of NXT UK.
WWE now has numerous big-man wrestlers, including Rusev and Big E. However, none of them seem fear-inducing, except for Braun Strowman, as they've all espoused comedy gimmicks.
Walter will surely be a breath of fresh air. A WXW original, he's already wrestled for Evolve Wrestling, a promotion that has close ties with WWE, so it's entirely possible that he, the current Progress World Champion, makes his way to North America by the end of 2019.
12 Male Star: The Ascension
It's now well-established that success in NXT doesn't translate to success on the main roster. The Ascension are an excellent case in point. Konnor and Viktor looked a formidable force on NXT, with Triple H and co. making them the longest reigning NXT Tag Team Champions. On the main roster, however, the best work they've done are being beaten up by legends and being side-acts to comedy jobbers The Fashion Police. With Authors of Pain called up, there's no room for The Ascension there. They must be one of the first names on the list of wrestlers WWE future-endeavors next.
11 Female Star: Tamina
WWE are often accused of pushing undeserving wrestlers solely because of their being related to The Rock. The Usos, Roman Reigns and Naomi have all proven that they'd be where they're in the company even if they're not related to The Rock. Tamina Snuka, however, is a weird case. She had little wrestling experience before signing for WWE and hasn't ever been impressive in the ring. Her new on-screen association with Nia Jax is, in theory, her last chance at proving useful to the company but, if her past works are to go by, she will only be used to legitimize Nia Jax before she faces Ronda Rousey.
10 New Star: Jeff Cobb
Jeff Cobb is now a household name on the indie scene, with the Hawaii-born wrestler performing for PWG, NJPW, Lucha Underground, Progress Wrestling and ROH Wrestling. He, who's signed to ROH Wrestling, is the promotion's current Television Champion, and is also the PWG World Champion. He's also previously held the Lucha Underground Championship, among many other titles. A wrestler with a resume as decorated as his is bound to end up in WWE at some point; not a lot of eyebrows will be raised if it happens before the end of 2019 as there have already been numerous reports suggesting WWE has established contact with him already.
9 Male Star: Sanity
Sanity was touted to replace The Wyatt Family, with Bray Wyatt going solo and Harper and Rowan assuming new gimmicks. Their promotion to the main roster, however, got off to a forgettable start, with the company said to go through legal troubles as to the use of the stable's name. They have only been sparingly used since although the leader, Eric Young, is building them up gradually in the recent times on Instagram. It's entirely possible the SmackDown Live stable bounces back but, with The Usos, The Bar, The New Day and The Bludgeon Brothers all proving key to the show, one expects one or two of the Sanity wrestlers to be shown the door.
8 Female Star: Mandy Rose
Until their recent split, The Absolution hadn't been relevant since Paige left them. Sonya Deville has proven a solid worker, so her position in the company is more secured than that of Mandy Rose. The former Mixed Match Challenge offers nothing to the table that other women don't even though Corey Graves might tell you otherwise. Plus, with WWE catering to a younger audience than Impact Wrestling, they can't have her do the things Scarlett Bordeaux does to get over with the fans. With Dakota Kai, Toni Storm, Io Shirai and Kairi Sane all looking at main-roster positions, WWE must be pondering releasing her.
7 New Star: John Morrison
John Morrison has been a superstar in Impact Wrestling, Lucha Underground and Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide, winning the top titles all three promotions. With Drew McIntyre, Lashley and EC3 all returning to the company in recent times, perhaps, it's time the company brought back the former Intercontinental and United States Champion. While he can't be on the same level as Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, he can definitely be a top second-tier star like Jeff Hardy or Andrade Almas. Many expect him to be surprise entrant at next year's Royal Rumble, perhaps along with his wrestler wife Taya Valkyrie.
6 Male Star: Apollo Crews
In recent times, WWE has no wrestler whose sole purpose is only to fill a spot on the roster. Even undercard wrestlers like Tyler Breeze have had their shot at major titles, and have played key roles in many feuds. Apollo Crews, on the other hand, is an anomaly. The athletic big man was called up when he was still far from ready to be on the main roster, and he has been on the periphery since. He has lately been given the opportunity to work solo, but he hasn't been setting the world alight, either. He may probably be given the chance to hone his craft away from the company in 2019.
5 Female Star: Alicia Fox
Alicia Fox has been with the company for over 10 years now. Save for her Northern Lights suplex, she hasn't improved in the ring, and her poor timing in her recent match at Evolution, also featuring Lita, Trish Stratus and Mickie James proves that. Unlike Natalya or Mickie James, she can't be a good Performance Center coach as well, as she only excels in character work. With new names like Ember Moon, Nikki Cross and Dakota Kai all looking at main-roster places, WWE will consider making room by finally releasing her. Frankly, it's surprising she's stayed on the roster this long.
4 New Star: Batista
Batista, unlike other wrestlers we've discussed in this list, doesn't wrestle for any promotion. Instead, he's a former WWE star who's now become bigger than most wrestlers to have laced the wrestling boots. He, a big Hollywood star, has been hinting at a potential return to the ring for many months now, and he finally teased a feud with Triple H when he returned on SmackDown Live 1000. Given that WWE has exhausted most of their big returns, they may look to bring The Animal back in 2019 for a WrestleMania match or perhaps, for a full-blown run on SmackDown Live, which is set to move to FOX and needs some star power.
3 Male Star: Hideo Itami
WWE have clearly revised their stance on Japanese talents. Shinsuke Nakamura, Akira Tozawa, Asuka and Kairi Sane have all won major titles and tournaments in recent times, but there's one star, who must have been at the forefront of the recent Japanese revolution in WWE: Hideo Itami. However, the 205 Live star now only remains a case of what-could-have-been, unfortunately, as his frequent injury problems have kept him from building any momentum. He must look to return to his home country to have one proper run, which WWE don't understandably offer injury-prone wrestlers, before his body gives up for good.
2 Female Star: Ronda Rousey
When Ronda Rousey was first signed to WWE in early 2018, it was a common understanding she had with the company that her run wouldn't be for all that long. While she has committed herself to being a full-time WWE Superstar, it's not something she plans on doing for many years. Recently, Ronda commented on how difficult being on the road full-time has been on her:
“I can’t wrestle forever because I feel like I’m failing my family….It’s rough.
“I wouldn’t be leaving home unless it was to do the most fantastic things ever and I really, really do enjoy it and love it, but all that energy I spend on the WWE is energy I don’t spend on my family.”
Ronda will at least work through WrestleMania but by the end of 2019, it wouldn't be all that surprising for Ronda to request a release, or at the very least transition to being a part-time star.
1 New Star: Taya Valkyrie
We already discussed the possibility of John Morrison making a WWE return, and if he does come back, then one has to think Taya Valkyrie would be offered a contract as well. Valkyrie has the kind of look Vince McMahon loves and she's done some impressive character work in Impact as well. The WWE showed some interest in Valkyrie a while ago, but for unknown reasons reneged on a contract offer. It wouldn't be a surprise if WWE gives her another look, considering she's even better now than when WWE first expressed interest.