Professional wrestling has a lot in common with 'real' sports such as football, soccer and cricket despite what the sports purists want you to believe. With Fox now signing a five-year $1 billion deal with WWE, it's now easier to win an argument with those who only want to denigrate the art form we've all grown to love.
Much like most other sports, wrestling promotions sign talents to multi-year deals to improve their own programming and sometimes, to ensure their competitors don't get better. Wrestling promotions, however, hardly resort to buying out contracts of talents and instead wait until their contracts run out to initiate discussions with them.
WWE, being the global leader in sports entertainment, are always on the lookout for new talents and recruit talent round the year. With numerous NXT talents promoted to the main roster following WrestleMania and their scheduling the second edition of UK Championship Tournament, they've gone on a signing spree, signing talents left, right and center.
Promising signings may end up being a flop and, sometimes, signings you least expect to be good turn out to be superstars. We've had Low-Ki, a signing tipped to achieve great things, fail gloriously, and we've also had unknowns such as Alexa Bliss do excellently against the odds.
We take a look at new signings and predicts what Vince McMahon will likely do with them.
20 Waste: Io Shirai
Io Shirai signed with WWE over the summer, and the general consensus was that she was the best female wrestler not signed by WWE before that. However, we predict that she won't go on to have as illustrious a WWE career as she might have had had she been able to join WWE this time last year. In her absence, Vince McMahon has managed to create two big WWE names in Asuka and Kairi Sane.
While it's true that WWE absolutely needs big names from Japan performing for them, they surely can't turn numerous women into their top stars.
At the end of the day, WWE is a global company that caters to the English-speaking wrestling fan-base. Thus, her compatriots' being big names in WWE already makes her becoming a star rather improbable.
19 Star: Xia Brookside
Io Shirai apparently isn't coming to the WWE alone. She's bringing along with her World Wonder Ring Stardom colleague Xia Brookside. She, a 19-year-old, began wrestling for the Japan promotion only recently, and it truly shocks a lot of observers that WWE has decided to sign her this early into her wrestling career.
When she eventually becomes a top wrestling talent, however, her lineage will be a crucial factor that decides whether or not she's pushed to the moon. We predict that she'll be amongst the next set of Four Horsewomen figures.
18 Waste: Keith Lee
Keith Lee, who signed a WWE contract on May 1, comes into the WWE only months after becoming a top indie talent. In fact, even most of the hardcore independent wrestling fans wasn't aware of his quality until recently. He won his first major wrestling championship only earlier this year when he lifted the PWG World Championship. He's definitely a fantastic wrestler, and wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer seems to approve of his quality, as evidenced by his rating his match with Donovan Dijak at PWG Battle of Los Angeles five stars.
However, he isn't as popular as most WWE signings who have gone on to be big stars in WWE were when they signed for WWE. It's likely that he, a former college football player, will defy the odds but, knowing Vince McMahon's preferences, we don't see it happening.
17 Star: Donovan Dijak
Talking about Keith Lee brings us to his only five-star opponent Donovan Dijak. For other wrestling promotions such as Chaotic Wrestling, he was firing on all cylinders pulling off picture-perfect springboards.
An indie wrestler pulling off springboards shouldn't surprise anyone in 2018, as such moves have become the new super-kicks.
However, what makes his being exceptional at those is his size; he stands at 6-foot-8 and weighs over 270 pounds. Although he's not the same level as fellow big man Cesaro in terms of athleticism, his joining the Performance Center this early into this WWE career will likely make him WWE-ready sooner than later.
Given Vince McMahon's well-documented penchant for pushing men with Superman-esque physique and the wrestler's undoubted quality, we expect him to be pushed to the moon.
16 Waste: Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley's first push came at the wrong time. Two ECW Championship and one United States Championship reigns later, he was let go.
Unlike most former WWE talents, he didn't let his future-endeavoring from WWE derail him, as he went on to make a name for himself, working on his skill-set at Impact Wrestling. With the timing being right, he came back to WWE in April.
Instead of being booked as a monster, a role that suits him to a T, he was a generic smiling goofy face. Even with his recent heel turn, Vince might have already wasted him.
15 Star: EC3
Signed from Impact Wrestling at the same time as Bobby Lashley was his long-term in-ring rival EC3. At Impact, he honed his craft, winning the TNA World Championship and the Impact Grand Championship.
Many expected him to debut on the main roster after being signed by WWE, but he ended up becoming an NXT wrestler. It looks as though his not being on the main roster's a blessing in disguise, as he's already gotten off to a fantastic start.
Given his only being 31 years old and being a well-rounded wrestler, one expects Vince to make him a World Champion in the foreseeable future.
14 Waste: War Machine
Both Hanson and Rowe's arrival at NXT has got the hardcore wrestling fan-base both excited and concerned. Potentially seeing them face off against The Usos, The Club, The Revival, The New Day and Sheamus and Cesaro seems to does excite the fans, but the prospect of WWE misusing them raises concerns. At NXT, they're certain to be reckless behemoths, with The Undisputed Era's being the only team on their kayfabe level.
However, it's unknown how they'll be treated on the main roster.
With SAnitY and The Bludgeon Brothers looking more or less like them and being on their level when it comes to skill and ability, their chances of becoming big stars looks slim. We expect Vince McMahon and co. to waste them, killing all the momentum they've built on the indies.
13 Star: Babatunde
Although Vince McMahon has been forced to overlook looks and size in the recent times, we all know that old habits die hard. For every Finn Balor as the Universal Champion, we've had Brock Lesnar as the Universal Champion.
Many wrestling fans aren't even aware of his existence, but Babatunde had a strong showing in the Greatest Royal Rumble despite being quickly eliminated by Strowman.
The 6-foot-10, 355-pound juggernaut is a rarity in wrestling these days and, given his Performance Center education, he'll likely receive his shot on the main roster. Should he impress, nothing is going to stop Vince from rocket-strapping him.
12 Waste: Mahabali Shera
WWE now has more wrestlers from India than they've ever had. However, there's a former Impact Wrestling stalwart hiding among them.
He's Mahabali Shera, who made us all do The Shera Shuffle. However, despite his unprecedented success under Dixie Carter, it's unlikely that McMahon will push him as, despite wrestling for seven years now, he hasn't become half as good as even Jinder Mahal, who himself is criticized heavily for his wrestling ability. We'll see how he does in NXT first, but needless to say, it'll be an uphill climb for him on the main roster, considering how poorly Mahal's push went.
11 Star: Ricochet
Given his success with PWG, Lucha Underground, Dragon Gate and NJPW, it was only a matter of time before WWE came calling. Since moving to NXT, he's only shown that he won't be derailed by scrutiny and the limelight, as he got off to his WWE career with a five-star showing, which also included five other wrestlers, including Velveteen Dream.
Ricochet has even won the admiration of his idol, The Rock. To receive such high praise from The Rock is no easy feat, and he's also one of the few veterans who seem to know what works today.
Given his looks, charisma and talent, it's likely that Ricochet will have an amazing WWE career.
10 Waste: Travis Banks
Even if you have only a passing interest in indie wrestling, you must have watched at least a couple of Travis Banks matches. The New Zealand-born wrestler is an absolute workhorse, working as many matches as El Ligero, who's known to wrestle as often as Hulk Hogan claimed to wrestle during his peak.
While his having a spectacular showing in the tournament was a given, what's uncertain is his role on the back of it.
If he's wrestling predominantly in the UK wing, he'll certainly be a main-event talent. However, should he be promoted to Raw or SmackDown, Vince will likely won't let him progress past the mid-card as he, an exceptional wrestler, isn't the best at character work, which one needs to master to have a decent career under The Evil Genius.
9 Star: Toni Storm
Since the end of the Mae Young tournament last year, her stock has skyrocketed. The 22-year-old won SWA World Championship and World of Stardom Championship since on top of winning the Cinderella Tournament and 5 Star GP tournament. For a wrestler so young, she's already established herself as a top-class star. When her becoming a part of the second edition of the Mae Young Classic became a certainty, many expected her to join NXT, much like the participants of the first edition, shortly afterwards. However, she's become a part of WWE's UK wing.
While her talent is set to be restricted to the UK audience for the time being, Vince McMahon and co. will definitely promote her to the main wing when they watch her perform as she has the looks, can talk and put on a wrestling spectacles.
8 Waste: Garza Jr.
Shortly after Rey Mysterio's departure in 2014, the shortage of Latin stars forced WWE to push a seemingly unreliable Alberto Del Rio. When it became apparent that he wasn't worth the trouble, WWE ended up signing a host of talents, including Sin Cara, Kalisto, Lince Dorado, Gran Metalik and Andrade Almas. It's safe to say that they haven't had astounding success.
They've certainly begun investing in Hispanic talents, with Garza Jr. being one of the newest Performance Center talents.
Garza Jr. isn't adept at producing five-star matches, but he's super entertaining, as evidenced by his short yet memorable run in Impact. Given the fact that WWE's struggling to accommodate names such as Chad Lail and have nothing for Tye Dillinger, Authors of Pain and SAnitY, it's quite difficult to imagine Vince going all the way with the 25-year-old.
7 Star: Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey has already gotten off to a fantastic start. It's safe to say that no other recent signee, no matter the gender, has had as impressive a debut as her.
Given the fact that WWE put Raw Women's Championship on her this early into her wrestling career, it's safe to say that the McMahons have set their sights on capitalizing on her popularity.
The former UFC talent is one of the rare talents whose character is easy to book. The writers only need to make her destroy the heels, and she'll be cheered on.
She's already a star. Vince McMahon doesn't need to make her one. Here's hoping he uses her star power like it's supposed to be.
6 Waste: Zack Gibson
Very few heels today receive wrestling-esque heat these days. One who draws such organic reaction from the audience is England-born Zack Gibson.
He's a natural on the mic, and he's managed to garner heel heat despite his popularity growing in leaps and bounds over the years. Many even peg him to win the UK Championship Tournament later this year.
While he possesses everything WWE looks for, their history of misusing European talents may result in his being used sparingly on the main roster or reduced to a territory man. On the UK wing, though, he may go on to have matches with Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate but, once he moves to a Vince McMahon-managed show, he'll likely be peripheral.
5 Star: Drew McIntyre
Reports have already surfaced that both Vince and Triple H are high on Drew McIntyre and that this whole pairing with Dolph Ziggler is expected to lead to McIntyre receiving a bigger push of the two.
It'll be a case of McIntyre challenging for the Universal Championship in the near future.
Vince has always seen big things in McIntyre and now that Triple H is high on him as well, it's only a matter of time before he's a top star in the company. It's only a matter of time before McIntyre breaks off on his own and gets a big push.
4 Waste: Danny Burch
Danny Burch was making appearances for WWE in NXT for the better part of the past year, but he only signed an official contract with the company this spring. Burch has made his biggest impact in NXT teaming with Oney Lorcan and it's likely that Burch is going to keep being used in that capacity rather than being elevated to the top of the NXT brand, much less the WWE main roster. It's just a case of things being too crowded and WWE already has several UK stars in development. Burch is likely only going to be used as a reliable veteran hand.
3 Star: Shayna Baszler
Shayna Baszler's push has already begun. She made it to the finals of the Mae Young Classic tournament last year even though she was one of the less experienced wrestlers in the tournament. Her ascension in NXT was pretty quick too as she dethroned Ember Moon in Moon's last match in NXT.
Baszler will likely spend the rest of the year in NXT and could get called up to the main roster by next spring.
Due to her association with Ronda Rousey, the WWE can either pair them up, or make Baszler a heel, turning on Rousey out of jealousy. Either way, WWE will definitely use her quite a bit.
2 Waste: Jessamyn Duke
Jessamyn Duke has now joined the fray as she's decided to give up on her MMA career and join her friends in WWE. However, the WWE will not be able to make big stars out of all the Four Horsewomen of MMA. Duke was just signed recently to the WWE Performance Center and she's only now beginning to train so it's hard to tell if she'll emerge as a big star in the company. The most she could probably amount to is getting a high profile tag match with Rousey, but Duke is seriously facing a ton of obstacles as she has a high mountain to climb in the company.
1 Star: Lio Rush
It seemed like Lio Rush had dug himself a hole he'd never be able to climb out of in WWE last year when he made a joke at a bad time, dissing Emma when she was released by the company. Rush was in the doghouse for a while, but things appear to be turning around for Rush in WWE. He's gotten some higher profile matches in NXT and the fact that the company has been willing to overlook some of his misjudgements is a good sign for Rush. His pairing with Bobby Lashley on the main roster has kept him relevant, while at the same time, he's set to become one of 205 Live's bigger stars. He's someone WWE wouldn't be doing that for if they didn't have big plans for him.