The talent roster in wrestling is deeper than ever as seen with the success stories in 2017. WWE introduced a plethora of new talents to the main roster from NXT like Bobby Roode, Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka. New stars were made with the pushes of Braun Strowman and Jinder Mahal lasting almost the entire year. The outside wrestling world is also doing well with talent right now. Cody Rhodes, Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks are making huge money as successful members of the Bullet Club. Independent wrestlers in Ring of Honor, New Japan and other freelance companies are making big bucks to match the name value.
WWE is seeing talent come in and out of the company like never before. There are wrestlers bound to get fired to open up roster spots. Darren Young, Summer Rae and Emma getting fired on the same day recently showed no one is safe. However, there are wrestlers thinking about leaving as well due to the market looking so good right now for top talents. We'll take a look at both sides of wrestlers likely to leave WWE soon. These are fifteen WWE stars likely to leave WWE in 2017 along with explanation as to if they will chose to walk away or get fired.
15 Quit: Daniel Bryan
The story of Daniel Bryan wanting to wrestle again will dominate the wrestling headlines in 2018. Bryan’s WWE contract is expected to expire in September of 2018 and he has made it clear he wants to return to the ring. WWE wants Bryan to continue working as the SmackDown General Manager in a non-wrestling role due to the injury risks they feel he would have in the ring.
Bryan’s first preference is to return to the ring in WWE, but he will wrestle elsewhere if they don’t clear him before his contract expires. The most likely option is Bryan choosing to leave the second his contract expires to wrestle for Ring of Honor, New Japan, CMLL and other promotions of his choice. Bryan has expressed a desire to work with some of the guys outside of WWE and that should happen at the end of 2018.
14 Fired: David Otunga
David Otunga is in the news for all the wrong reasons right now. WWE always liked having Otunga on the roster due to his relationship with mainstream celebrity Jennifer Hudson. That is no longer the case as Otunga and Hudson have separated with mud being slung from both sides. Otunga is accused of domestic abuse and this is likely going to follow him for quite some time.
WWE removed him from the most recent Survivor Series pre-show panel and he is not expected to be back any time soon. The writing is on the wall considering Otunga doesn’t add much to the WWE product as a second string broadcaster most fans forget even work there. WWE has no reason to continue employing Otunga and many reasons to let him. The end is near for Otunga in WWE.
13 Quit: Rusev and Lana
Rusev is one of the rumored names to be on the negative side of WWE for quite some time now. Vince McMahon reportedly doesn’t view Rusev as a relevant guy to push in a major way. Rusev has been in recent stories lately as one of the wrestlers contemplating his future as a wrestler. There were some slight rumors that Rusev was considering asking for his release to move to another promotion in a bigger role.
Lana is with her husband Rusev on the list of wrestlers annoyed with their role in WWE right now. The goal of Lana is to become a wrestler competing in matches against the top stars of the Women’s Division. Lana received a short push to start her in-ring career before WWE decided to make her a manager again. There are outside business opportunities for Lana in acting and modeling. Both Rusev and Lana may be the next wrestlers to leave WWE next year.
12 Fired: Mike Kanellis
The unfortunate role of Mike Kanellis right now has him barely on television. Aside from appearing in a Lumberjack Match outside of the ring, Mike has not been seen on television in a few months. A couple of variables made his WWE role drop immediately. Following a surprise appearance on a PPV with his wife Maria Kanellis, many people expected a huge push, but he started losing all of his matches a month or two later.
Mike started getting help for an addiction to prescription drugs. During his recovery, Maria announced the news of her pregnancy. The combination of Mike having to prove he is clean for a substantial time and Maria not being at his side on television hurt his chances of being featured. WWE is now using him in the Curt Hawkins role on SmackDown. It is hard to see WWE giving him a chance in the near future and he will likely be one of the cuts next time there is a mass release.
11 Quit: Dana Brooke
Dana Brooke is one of the least featured women on the WWE roster today. We witnessed the return of Paige and call up of Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. Basically, Dana is never going to get featured on Raw unless something drastic changes in the near future. The only relevant role of Brooke in recent months saw a short term story that ended with her getting destroyed by Asuka.
Dana was signed to a WWE development contract due to her background as a bodybuilder and fitness competitor. The success in these fields could see her make the choice to leave WWE for a chance to build back up her prior careers. Dana is rarely going to be on television and could be off the live event schedule with so few spots open. Don’t be surprised if she asks to leave to have a stronger career outside of wrestling.
10 Fired: Rhyno
WWE likes to employ a handful of veterans to add some experience to the locker room. Many veterans come in and out of the company as the company will only keep certain guys around for the long haul. Rhyno is someone that returned in 2016 and has held down a main roster spot over the past year. Despite the fact that he has been employed, Rhyno is rarely seen on Raw since getting moved over in the Superstar Shakeup.
The team of Rhyno and Heath Slater seems to be going nowhere. WWE likes Slater in the comedic role and will likely be more beneficial to them as a singles act. Rhyno is someone that unfortunately doesn’t provide as much value to the company as the majority of other names on the roster. It is hard to see him lasting another full year with WWE as he will likely be one of the names fired in 2018.
9 Quit: Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler is once again treading water on the SmackDown roster after his latest revamp. WWE used Ziggler in a feud with new face Bobby Roode. Instead of helping add credibility to Roode, it just hurt his momentum and reminded everyone why Ziggler was now one of the dullest wrestlers in WWE. Ziggler has been consistently rumored to be looking for a change.
There are outside projects in comedy and other forms of entertainment that Ziggler wants to branch out into. Factor this with the other wrestling opportunities he will have to build back his name and Ziggler would be one of the wrestlers wisest to leave WWE. The current role of Dolph is just making him look worse and worse as he continues to be irrelevant. A change has to come and hopefully it is in 2018.
8 Fired: Primo and Epico
The tag team of Primo and Epico has been trying to find a gimmick that works for many years now. We have seen them flop as Los Matadors, The Shining Stars and in multiple stints using their relatively standard personas. Both guys have talent but lack the personality or ability to perform at the elite level that wrestlers without personality can get by with.
Primo and Epico were shown outside of the ring for the recent Lumberjack Match as their first television appearance in many months. WWE seems to have quit on trying to repackage them with gimmick changes. Unless they get sent back down to NXT or something major changes, you have to figure they have run out of opportunities. WWE is most likely going to cut bait with Primo and Epico as more and more new wrestlers join the company.
7 Quit: Neville
Neville has walked away from WWE already but is still under contract. Recent reports have indicated that WWE and Neville have had positive talks about him returning to the company. Neville was frustrated for the lack of opportunity and smaller financial figure than expected. WWE placing him in the cruiserweight division gave him the chance to stand out but they limited his opportunities.
Neville sees the open market and wants to make a mark like Cody Rhodes and other have done after leaving WWE. It remains unlikely that WWE will give Neville a relevant push outside of the Cruiserweight Division. If Vince McMahon is down on Finn Balor as an upper level talent, Neville has very little change to progress. The best bet is Neville sticking to his plan and heading to the independent circuit in 2018.
6 Fired: Mickie James
As mentioned with Rhyno, WWE will rotate veterans through the company. Mickie James was hired in late 2016 to a main roster contract after having an impressive outing against Asuka on an NXT TakeOver special. We have seen Mickie have a feud with Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship and she even got a chance to participate at WrestleMania 33. However, WWE is likely going to phase her out sooner than later.
The current women’s roster in WWE is nearing 20 which are enough stars for the rumored women’s Royal Rumble match coming next year. You have to figure there will be a good chance WWE is going to release some of the names no longer needed when the rumble is over. They barely had enough time for the ladies on Raw without the addition of Paige and crew. James is likely going to be on the chopping block in 2018.
5 Quit: Nia Jax
One woman fed up with her role in WWE is Nia Jax. Despite receiving a strong push, Jax didn’t appreciate being kept off a Raw PPV and having no direction in the month of October. Nia requested time off due to the frustration before returning in time for Survivor Series. WWE loves her potential but she is clearly behind three to five ladies in the Raw division.
Jax is going to get lost in the shuffle with more popular performers like Sasha Banks, Alexa Bliss, Bayley, Paige and Asuka being featured above her. The fact that she has already requested to take time off out of frustration so early in her career is definitely a red flag. Jax had a successful modeling career and could easily live comfortably doing that full time. It is quite possible that she will ask for her release once she is struggling to get consistent television time.
4 Fired: Apollo Crews
Apollo Crews was viewed as a top tier NXT prospect for quite some time. NXT gave him the fastest pay increase for a new star since Kevin Owens because they were that impressed by his work. A fast call-up for Crews did not do him well as he has been struggling to get over for over a year now. WWE seemingly quit on the Crews push after a few months and he is now a forgotten man.
Crews fits in well with the Titus Brand, but they barely get any television time on a three-hour show. WWE moved Crews from SmackDown to Raw and nothing has changed in terms of his career moving upwards. These are all signs that happen to a wrestler shortly before they get released. The potential of Crews should earn him another opportunity, but it is hard to see things working out for him in WWE.
3 Quit: Matt Hardy
WWE has done a terrible job in trying to benefit from the momentum of Matt Hardy when they signed him in early 2017. Matt did sound groundbreaking work in Impact Wrestling and Ring of Honor before making the decision to return to WWE for one big run. Impact Wrestling claimed they owned the rights to Matt’s “Broken” character and WWE was afraid of using it. Jeff Hardy getting injured added another blow to see Matt fall downhill in the WWE pecking order.
Interviews and reports before the Hardys re-signed with WWE saw Matt hesitant about returning to WWE in fear of them not doing right by his vision. Jeff was the one that wanted to return and now he is out for an unknown time period. Matt was making great money and having the most fun of his career before coming back to WWE. The chances of Matt requesting his release to have more control and a better schedule could be imminent in 2018.
2 Fired: Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
The signing of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson has become one of the most disappointing ones in recent WWE memory. It is hard to remember that Anderson and Gallows were in the same headlines as AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura when all four men joined the WWE making the jump from New Japan. The belief was that Anderson and Gallows would become the top tag team in WWE. We couldn’t be more wrong.
Anderson and Gallows have regressed from a disappointing tag team to a complete embarrassment. WWE tends to use them in comedic segment as they are lower tier goofs that always lose rather than a credible team. The chances of them getting pushed are slim to none after all the damage done to their characters. We may see them back in NJPW if WWE does indeed finally cut bait after the disappointing tenure so far.
1 Quit: Sami Zayn
The main roster career of Sami Zayn has been a huge disappointment after the incredible work in NXT. Zayn was the one to put NXT on the map with incredible matches and a character that made him one of the best faces in wrestling. A call up to the main roster has seen him typically putting over other wrestlers and struggling to find television time. The heel turn aligning with Kevin Owens seems to be a last ditch effort to move up the card.
Sadly, WWE is still treating him as a secondary wrestler. The most recent instance of this featured Owens escaping New Day while Zayn remained to endure a beat down at the hands of New Day. Zayn is one of the guys that could make huge money wrestling internationally. He was already a success before WWE and his name is now bigger than ever. If WWE doesn’t start treating him better, Zayn could be the next major name to walk out and add value to other promotions.