The current roster of WWE employees is longer than ever, as they need more talent than ever before. Raw and SmackDown Live each have to put together deep rosters of wrestlers ready for the big time of the national television audience. Triple H continuing to grow NXT means there needs to be a nice middle ground of credible established names and new young stars training at the Performance Center. The addition of the Cruiserweight Division and 205 Live adds more spots on the roster for the smaller wrestlers. Despite the need for more wrestlers than ever, no one is ever safe in the WWE.
Independent wrestling and the free agent market has led to great talent being all over the world. No one would have predicted Kevin Owens and A.J. Styles as the two World Champions of the WWE a couple of years ago. WWE signing the best talent on the market means the roster has to see changes take place. Wrestlers will be released in 2017 like any other year. Some of the top names have shown frustration in the past and this could lead to them requesting a release or to get fired like Cody Rhodes did in 2016. Others are struggling to stand out and might be forced out. We’ll look at fifteen specific wrestlers that will unfortunately hear the words “you’re fired” by the WWE in 2017.
15 James Ellsworth
James Ellsworth's underdog story has actually earned him a WWE contract. Ellsworth stood out after getting destroyed by Braun Strowman and found a spot in the Smackdown Live main event feud between A.J. Styles and Dean Ambrose. Ellsworth's shocking heel turn, costing Ambrose his chance at the WWE World Championship at TLC, changed his standing as a character.
Instead of the lovable underdog, WWE has turned him into a delusional heel thinking he can hang with the main eventers of the show. Ellsworth is an act that can work short term. His talent is not on the same level as the rest of the roster. There are only a few more months of relevancy left before fans grow tired of him. Once the luster wears off, WWE will likely give him the boot. The company doesn’t employ full-time enhancement talents these days and that’s what he is at the end of the day.
14 Darren Young
Darren Young was on the original season of NXT competing against Daniel Bryan, Wade Barrett, David Otunga and others. They all formed The Nexus stable together, but Young is often forgotten when discussing the group. Young was a lower tier member of the group for the majority of their stint in WWE. WWE still believed in his talent enough to keep him around all these years.
Being a member of The Prime Time Players tag team with Titus O’Neil is the most successful period of his WWE career. WWE tried repackaging him as a singles star with Bob Backlund as his coach, but it has already seen him fall off television. WWE is likely going to cut bait with Young unless they decide to reunite The Prime Time Players one more time.
13 Erick Rowan
The new look Wyatt Family currently consists of Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton and Luke Harper. It is the most relevant the group has been in over two years and most fans have already forgotten about Erick Rowan. An injury has forced Rowan off television for a few months. Orton being with The Wyatt Family in the long run is unknown but even if he isn’t, Rowan is no longer a credible third man for the faction.
WWE fans have witnessed Rowan take the beating or loss every time he was involved in a Wyatt Family match. His singles push as a face years ago flopped in a manner that exposed his weaknesses. There’s very little for Rowan to do unless the WWE continues to make him the sacrificial lamb in Wyatt segments. Expect the Superstar to be given the boot by the WWE sooner than later.
12 Summer Rae
Summer Rae has the potential to be a successful member of the women’s division, but her window is closing. Her heel personality in NXT earned her a spot on the main roster. Sadly, the company has never found a worthwhile spot for her in the women’s revolution. Rae is currently on the shelf with an injury. Her social media pages often see Summer finding gigs in modeling and other business ventures outside of the company.
Rumors circulated that Summer was one of the names planned to be released earlier this year, until Cameron spoke out against the WWE leading to her taking the firing instead. Rae looking for other opportunities and the rumors both spell that her time is coming to an end soon. It's a shame we have yet to see the best of Rae, but it is a safe bet she'll be out of the WWE in the near future.
11 The Shining Stars
Primo and Epico have been on thin ice for quite some time. From their heel tag team with Rosa as their manager to their face run as Los Matadores with El Torito as their manager, fans have never connected with the cousins. WWE repackaged them once more this year with The Shining Stars becoming their personas. A gimmick of heels trying to sell timeshares in Puerto Rico didn’t help them at all, which anyone could've guessed.
No matter who they're facing, the fans are dead silent any time Primo and Epico are in the squared circle. They have talent, but lack the all-around charisma needed to stand out. The Shining Stars are arguably the least relevant tag team on the Raw roster today. WWE has given them enough chances. Vince McMahon is fond of Primo’s dad and Epico’s uncle, Carlos Colon, but enough is enough and he’ll likely fire The Shining Stars soon.
10 Mick Foley
The relationship between Mick Foley and the WWE has seen many ups and downs through the years. Foley is undoubtedly one of the biggest stars in WWE history. Fans loved when he would make the rare appearances as a beloved wrestling legend. Despite that, even Foley stated he was surprised when Vince McMahon brought him back into the fold in 2016.
Stephanie McMahon named Foley as her Raw General Manager for the brand split. His lackluster work has led to quite a few awkward moments. Most of his promos feel forced or lost with him struggling to keep up with the current wrestlers. It's a bad fit comparative to Daniel Bryan helping to make SmackDown Live a better show with his presence. Foley and Vince usually see their relationship sour and it will happen again when Foley is removed from his on-air position.
9 Jack Swagger
The award for most disappointing World Champion in recent history goes to Jack Swagger. WWE believed in him enough to put the World Title on him back in 2010. Given where Swagger is today, they were clearly wrong and he has proven to be a disappointment. His lack of personality hasn't allowed Swagger to use his athleticism to move up the card again.
WWE moved him from Raw to SmackDown Live a couple of months ago. It was the first change to happen under the current brand split and signified he could contribute to the SmackDown roster. Following a month of weak matches with Baron Corbin, Swagger is back off television yet again. The clock is ticking and 2017 seems like the end of his time in the WWE.
8 Curtis Axel
Another wrestler that has been on the roster for a long time and yet to breakout is the second generation Superstar Curtis Axel. As the son of Mr. Perfect, WWE signed him at a young age and hoped to groom him into a future main eventer. The peak of Axel’s career came when he won the Intercontinental Championship as the latest “Paul Heyman guy.”
Axel failed to step up as a big player and looked weak compared to the rising stars of the time. It was the final time he received anything near a noteworthy push. Between his time cosplaying as Hulk Hogan and being a member of The Social Outcasts, Axel has seen his stock fall dramatically the last few years. WWE is trying to tune their roster to have less weaknesses and Axel is bound to be a victim of it very soon.
7 David Otunga
David Otunga's wrestling career appears to be over with the once highly valued prospect never achieving much in the squared circle. Otunga’s poor wrestling skills have translated equally to the broadcast table. WWE made Otunga a commentator for the SmackDown Live brand along with Mauro Ranallo, JBL and now Tom Phillips. The four man booth is clearly the biggest flaw about the brand with Otunga being the weakest link.
Otunga deserves some slack for being relatively new to the job, but he shows no instincts to get better at it. There have been weeks where he’s forgotten to finish stories, lost his train of thought and flat out taken away from the matches. Otunga is the worst commentator WWE has employed in many years. Considering it’s his only role in the WWE right now, expect Vince McMahon to cut bait after a few more months of failure.
6 Sin Cara
Sin Cara continues to find himself in hot water with the WWE. The masked luchador got into two highly publicized fights with fellow wrestlers this year. One confrontation saw him get the better of Simon Gotch in the WWE locker room. It was reported that Gotch took the heat for that incident as the newer talent to the main roster.
The more recent incident involving Sin Cara featured him being the person to be blamed this time around. He was making annoying noises, disrupting the other wrestlers on the Raw tour bus, during the United Kingdom tour. Respected veteran Chris Jericho tried to shut him up and the two got involved in a physical confrontation. Sin Cara was apparently exiled from the locker room. It is only a matter of time before the WWE gives him the boot.
5 Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler's potential has made fans rally behind him for many years. 2016 was the year the fan base appeared to start giving up on him. Ziggler got lost in the shuffle with new names like Sami Zayn and Finn Balor becoming the new beloved stars. A disappointing WWE World Championship match against Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam especially stood out as a failure for him.
Since then, Ziggler had an outstanding feud with The Miz to help raise his status but it may be too late. The fact that Ziggler often complains about how management uses him can easily rub the people in charge the wrong way too. WWE signed him to a new contract but they can typically release anyone, at anytime they deem fit. Ziggler falling behind new stars and being vocal about management may lead to his firing in 2017.
4 Eva Marie
WWE has given Eva Marie all the time in the world to improve at wrestling. Her stunning look has made Eva a valuable commodity in the WWE. Between her role on Total Divas and mainstream appeal in photo shoots, Eva is protected by the company despite being one of the worst wrestlers in a long time. She received her biggest opportunity on SmackDown Live following the brand split.
Marie portrayed a heel character that found ways to get out of competing in her first match every week. Before she could wrestle, Eva violated the WWE Wellness Policy and was suspended for thirty days. The fact that she could slip up like that after all the company did for her put a negative mark on her reputation. WWE has yet to bring her back on television. Marie is looking for gigs outside of the WWE and Vince McMahon should finally release her at some point next year.
3 The Vaudevillains
NXT created many new stars for Raw and SmackDown Live following the brand split. Finn Balor, Alexa Bliss and American Alpha are just a few of the NXT stars to shine bright on the main roster. One of the biggest flops would have to be The Vaudevillains. Simon Gotch and Aiden English were a fan favorite tag team and actually held the NXT Tag Team Championship for quite some time.
WWE hoped The Vaudevillains would translate to the bigger audience. They entered the company following WrestleMania and saw their first big feud come against New Day for the WWE World Tag Team Championships. Gotch and English didn’t appear ready for the big stage. The Vaudevillains gimmick didn’t connect and Vince McMahon is rumored to have given up on them right away. The brand split has not helped them as they rarely appear on SmackDown Live. Gotch and English should be very worried about what 2017 holds for them.
The one name that always comes up when discussing wrestlers frustrated with WWE is Cesaro. Fans seem to love him at all of the live shows with his outstanding matches making him one of the better performers in the company. Cesaro cut a memorable promo at the draft due to his disdain for being drafted to Raw rather than SmackDown Live. Even he knew it would lead to disappointment.
Cesaro is currently working with Sheamus in an “odd couple” tag team and it appears he will never get the big singles push we’ve been waiting on. The alternative wrestling promotions out there don’t have the reach of the WWE, but can offer respectable money. The Young Bucks just signed a six-figure deal with ROH and New Japan. Cesaro could easily make that on the market. Cesaro's frustration mounting may see him beg Vince McMahon to fire him.
Controversy has followed Paige all year and it will carry over into 2017. WWE once believed in her being the face of the Women’s Division following her great run in NXT. The past year has seen a staggering drop in Paige’s value. Injuries forced her to miss most of the year, but her relationship with Alberto Del Rio has caused the WWE to turn against her.
Both Paige and Del Rio were suspended for violating the Wellness Policy, with Paige violating it a second time. WWE tried to keep them apart by drafting them to separate brands, but Paige sitting home injured and Del Rio requesting his release ruined their plans.
The rumors indicate that the WWE is livid with Paige’s actions on social media speaking out against them and claiming she failed for prescribed drugs. WWE issued a statement saying she was lying. Paige’s time in the WWE is coming to an end. Unless she breaks up with Del Rio, she will get the phone call with the words “you’re fired” in 2017.