Wrestling is a dog-eat-dog world, and that is never more so the case than in the land of WWE. No matter how much they claim to be friends on social media (and that may very well be the case), deep down they all know the same thing. They are all fighting for the same spot. There can only be a handful of wrestlers that make it to WWE's main event level, and given that Roman Reigns has one of those spots on lockdown for the next several years, there are even fewer opportunities for upcoming talents to make a big break to the top.
But even when you take it down to a smaller level, there just aren't enough spots in the company, even with all the WWE's current programming, to fit every wrestler, and countless talents signed to the company are already sitting on the sidelines. Despite that, WWE continues to sign wrestlers as soon as they become available, because it is the top wrestling company in the world and it wants to have the very best working on its roster, it makes sense. No matter how hard everyone works or how different they claim to be, many of the new signees just aren't going to make it. Many sign for WWE, believe they've made it and then fade back onto the independent scene, while others come and take those spots.
This list will look at eight recent WWE signings that simply are not going to make it, as well as giving eight examples of wrestlers who could potentially replace them.
16 Not Going To Make It: Shayna Baszler
She may very well be the current NXT Women's Champion, but Shayna Baszler has a major problem in her way and it happens to be in the form of one of her closest friends, "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey. WWE has done a great job with the Queen of Spades so far, booking her like a dominant, butt-kicking machine who holds nothing back. It has gained her some major heat with fans, especially after the dominance of Dakota Kai. Baszler hasn't been shy in linking her MMA career to her wrestling work either, talking about it and having it be brought up on commentary, while also working many MMA holds and strikes into her arsenal in the ring.
While that is all well and good, the problem with it is that WWE is doing exactly the same thing (albeit as a babyface currently) on the main roster with Ronda Rousey, and when it comes to who WWE will want to push more, there is only ever going to be one winner. Rousey will print money for WWE, as has been proven already with her WrestleMania 34 appearance, and it is going to be very tough for WWE to present both women at the same time unless they finally go for the Four Horsewomen angle.
15 Could Replace Them: Viper
If WWE wants to have someone dominate the NXT landscape in the women's division, that makes perfect sense and if it isn't going to be Shayna Baszler, then perhaps another former Mae Young Classic star could take her place? Scottish wrestler Viper (who was known as Piper Niven in WWE) was one of the standout performers in the inaugural Mae Young Classic and it was quite surprising to see she wasn't signed to a deal, with her powerful physique being matched by incredible athleticism.
While WWE didn't put pen to paper with Viper straight away, there is no doubt she is someone the company still has their eye on.
Hopefully she is involved in the tournament again this year, finishing up with a contract. There is really only Nia Jax that has a similar look to Viper, being a bigger woman, but when it comes to what the two women can do inside the ring, then the ICW star wipes the floor with the current Raw Women's Champion. With the ability to work as a babyface or a heel, Viper could fit into any situation for the company and hopefully, WWE will be smart enough to recognize her talent and bring her in sooner than later.
14 Not Going To Make It: Donovan Dijak
Feast your eyes on this potential WWE failure, Donovan Dijak is someone you won't have heard of unless you were aware of his work prior to WWE, mainly with ROH, but he is a very talented wrestler. Since signing with WWE, the excitement surrounding him has been high with many fans eagerly awaiting his debut, yet with each TakeOver and every taping that goes by, Dijak is nowhere to be seen and nobody knows why.
It isn't as if he is green and needs to be trained to get to the WWE level, because the whole purpose of the company signing him was that he is already ready to work at that level, yet for some reason, WWE is holding off on debuting him. It's not a good sign to have someone of Dijak's talent just sitting working in the Performance Center or appearing on house shows. Of course, it would be fair enough if WWE had only just signed him, but Dijak has been under contract for months now. Hopefully, WWE has some form of plan for him as he really does have the look and the talent to make a big impact in WWE and potentially be a huge main event star, but right now, things are not looking good for him or his future in the company.
13 Could Replace Them: Matt Riddle
If WWE wants a top name who could dominate NXT and be a major main event star, then look no further than former UFC fighter Matt Riddle, who is one of the biggest names not working in WWE right now. WWE loves building former UFC stars with the likes of Brock Lesnar (even if he joined UFC after his first run) and Ronda Rousey as the perfect examples and while Riddle wasn't quite the star that they were, he still has a brilliant record and only left due to a policy issue.
Riddle is an amazing wrestler and is one of the very best out there and someone who Triple H has spoken about in the past, meaning WWE certainly has their tabs on him, which is a good sign for the future. Should Brock Lesnar walk away and return to UFC, Riddle is someone they could easily market in a similar way as he has a body that looks to be made from stone and works a stiff style, with the only difference being that Riddle has tons of personality. If things don't work out with Dijak in NXT, Riddle would be a perfect replacement as there is no way that WWE would be able to have him sit on the sidelines for several months, as he is too big of a star.
12 Not Going To Make It: War Raiders
In case you aren't familiar with the name, War Raiders have recently debuted in NXT and are formerly known as War Machine from Ring Of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling where they have been one of the best tag teams in recent years. There is a huge buzz around the destructive pair right now and rightfully so, they are truly fantastic wrestlers and could be a huge deal in WWE. They have a great look, they are both massive yet they can also do some insanely agile things for people of their size.
The only issue for War Raiders is that there are several teams that boast very similar qualities to them, all of which are already established and now work on the main roster, with teams like SAnitY and Authors Of Pain having the "big guy tag team" gimmick locked down. But they aren't the main problem; instead, that would be the current SmackDown Live tag team champions, the Bludgeon Brothers. The gimmicks of both of those teams are incredibly similar, to the point where it might cause problems for War Raiders down the line. Sure, you can put them on different brands, but because the Bludgeon Brothers are already an established top team, anything that War Raiders do would look like a cheap copy at this point.
11 Could Replace Them: The Briscoes
While people might cry out for the Young Bucks to be the next big tag team that WWE bring in to the company, (and I would certainly love to see it) the chances of it happening are incredibly slim and there would be huge worry about how WWE handled them. But that isn't a problem as the tag team wrestling scene right now is littered with brilliant tag teams and one of those is currently working in Ring Of Honor and that is The Briscoes, who are fantastic.
WWE might be cautious to sign The Briscoes over some things they have said on social media in the past, but everyone makes mistakes and people currently signed to the company are not perfect. If the worry with War Raiders is that they are too similar to other teams, that same problem simply would not exist with The Briscoes as there isn't any team like them on the planet, let alone in WWE. In the ring they are brilliant, being able to mix a highflying style with that of a more street thug-like style, and on the microphone, they can capture the attention of an audience with ease, which are the two major things WWE looks for.
10 Not Going To Make It: Lio Rush
Sometimes, people need to learn to think before they speak, or in this case tweet. It is quite surprising that Lio Rush hasn't already been let go from WWE after he managed to get on the wrong side of the entire company just weeks into his contract. After WWE announced it was releasing Emma from her contract, Rush decided this would be the appropriate time to make a joke about the situation, claiming she wasn't ready for Asuka, who Emma faced in her final WWE match. While the idea was certainly not to be nasty or mock Emma, the entire thing came off poorly and he received major heat backstage, with several people calling him out online, which is not how you want to start any job.
There was lots of speculation that he was to be released, but clearly someone backstage is pulling for him.
Rush survived but has barely been used since, only appearing to be defeated by bigger opponents, making it clear the company is punishing him. Rush was then rumoured to be set for a 205 Live debut, but then WWE gave that role to Buddy Murphy. Given his backstage heat, the fact he has yet to make any impact on the company and is already being overlooked, Rush's time may just be up.
9 Could Replace Them: Rey Mysterio
WWE wants a top cruiserweight wrestler who can work a high speed and electrify an audience? Well, look no further than the greatest cruiserweight of all-time, Rey Mysterio, who is itching for a return to the company. Sure, we have seen a couple of cameos from him in the Royal Rumble and then again the Greatest Royal Rumble (apparently he only works battle royal matches now), but it is clear that Rey and WWE are in contact and working on a potential return.
While he would certainly not be going to NXT as a direct replacement for Lio Rush, there is a possibility that the company would use him on 205 Live, even if he is competing there and on the main roster at the same time to give some real star power. Mysterio has clearly got plenty of gas in the tank and looks to be in fantastic physical condition, arguably a lot better than towards the end of his WWE run, and the company would be foolish not to bring him back. He is a fan favourite and big merchandise seller and given how long it has been since he last worked a full-time schedule, the number of dream matches awaiting the master of the 619 really is staggering. Thankfully, this situation appears to be more of a when and not an if.
8 Not Going To Make It: Lars Sullivan
Getting the human monster gimmick right can be quite a tricky feat and so far, WWE has done a solid job with Lars Sullivan, making him captivating to the audience while also maintaining him as a monster. It is a tough balance to walk and eventually WWE is going to fall here because they want him to be a dominant machine that people should fear, yet at the same time they are giving him a lot of time to talk, which tends to put him over with fans, the opposite of what WWE wants for Sullivan.
The big man has done great work with everything he has been given so far in WWE, but the problem that remains for Sullivan is how far can they push him before he simply becomes another Superstar and no longer acts as a monster. The moment he talks he opens himself up to becoming more normal, especially considering the fact he always talks with big words, which is part of his gimmick, making him seem smart as well as physical. Another issue that Sullivan will run into is the fact that WWE already has a monster who appears to be as human as possible, and that is Braun Strowman. Considering that Sullivan is never going to be as over as him, there could be an issue when he hits the main roster.
7 Could Replace Them: Keith Lee
If WWE wants someone to be a dominant wrestler but also have human elements, then look no further than Keith Lee who ticks all of those boxes and is one of the Independent's top stars right now. Rumours currently have it that Lee has actually signed a contract with WWE and can be expected at the Performance Center in the near future. This comes after the fact that Lee has already worked for WWE at Axxess during WrestleMania 34 weekend. He is an unbelievable wrestler and WWE would be foolish not to sign him. Regardless if if he is coming in to replace someone or not, Lee is a talent WWE just needs on the books, as soon as possible.
If WWE's issue is that Sullivan is perhaps too human, then the perfect alternative is hiring someone who doesn't have a gimmick of being mysterious or as a monster, and is merely being himself, while also having the size of a real-life monster. The great thing about Keith Lee is that he backs it all up in the ring, with Lee being one of the most agile big men in the business today. There is no doubt WWE is interested, bringing him in for Axxess matches, so it seems like this is a matter of time.
6 Not Going To Make It: Danny Burch
It might have seemed like Danny Burch has been signed to WWE for some time now, after all, he has been making appearances in NXT for over a year now and he also competed in the UK Championship Tournament, but he actually only put pen to paper on a contract last week. Burch has made his biggest impact for WWE by teaming up with Oney Lorcan and that is likely going to be where WWE continues to use him, either feuding with him or being a partner as the pair's hard-hitting styles work naturally together.
He is a well-experienced wrestler and it is no surprise that WWE wants to have him on the books, after all, he can work in the tag team division for NXT while also appearing on the UK tournament, popping up as a name that fans around the world know. The problem here is that when it comes between him and Lorcan, WWE is more than likely going to push Oney as he seems to have a bigger future open for him in the company, with management being high on him. The other issue for Burch is that there are too many other top UK wrestlers that are already established, not just as NXT stars but major stars who deserve huge spots, which means Burch will likely be left behind.
5 Could Replace Them: Zack Gibson
In terms of top-tier UK wrestlers that are able to match the levels of what WWE already has such as Pete Dunne or Tyler Bate, then Liverpool's Number One, Zack Gibson would be the perfect choice to do that. Rumours have already circulated about the fact WWE may have signed Gibson on a similar contract to that of Bate's or Dunne's, where they can compete on the independent scene as long as it isn't televised, while also working for WWE when needed. He was signed to World Of Sport the last time around which is the only reason he missed out, but in terms of being a pure heel, there are few people better on the UK scene than Gibson and he is someone that everybody should be watching.
Unlike Burch, he is a younger prospect and is someone who could legitimately dethrone Dunne for the UK Championship as he is just that good, especially as a heel.
WWE is currently lacking in tops heels and he would make a sensible choice to fill that gap in the market. Gibson plays upon his heritage a lot which might be lost in the United States, but he has the ability to change up his act and in the ring, his ability is more than good enough to get over on the main stage.
4 Not Going To Make It: Ricochet
The One and Only Ricochet has been treated as a huge star so far in WWE which is great to see. After all, many people thought that the high flying wrestler might not have ever been signed to WWE in the first place. However, he was, and Ricochet was thrust straight into the North American Championship picture which made him a major star right from the star, perfect. The only problem is when you consider his size, will he ever be given the shot to the main event?
It is very hard to imagine a world where someone like Ricochet walks around as the WWE Champion, regardless of how talented he is, meaning that no matter what he does he will always have a glass ceiling. At the end of the day, no matter how much influence Triple H gains, Vince McMahon is still in charge and someone of Ricochet's size isn't walking away with the main prize while he has a say, as unfortunate as that might be. This could play a big factor, as one of the most obvious places for Ricochet to end up is sadly 205 Live. While the show is certainly improving, someone like Ricochet would be totally wasted there and could easily lead to him becoming burnt out and going back to the indies.
3 Could Replace Them: Kota Ibushi
While the argument made against Ricochet was that he could very easily end up being sent to 205 Live which will see his star power and potential wasted to the point he might walk away, you may question why Kota Ibushi would be a solid replacement. After all, Ibushi has worked for WWE before in a small capacity, taking part in the original Cruiserweight Classic Tournament. The difference is, one of the reasons Ibushi never signed was because he didn't want to just be a cruiserweight wrestler. What that means is, if WWE ever wants to bring one of wrestling's most talented men into the fold on a permanent basis, then they will need to do so either in NXT or on the main roster, meaning he will bypass the cruiserweight division.
Ibushi has a look and size that can easily work on the main roster, with a similar stature to that of Finn Balor or Seth Rollins.
In the ring, Ibushi is unbelievable, with his matches simply being a joy to watch. Considering how many dream matches are in WWE for Ibushi, with people like Daniel Bryan or AJ Styles, seeing him come sooner rather than later would be a good thing as he has all the potential to be a huge hit.
2 Not Going To Make It: EC3
Let's just hope I am wrong about this one, as EC3 is fantastic. He has enough charisma to get even the most uninterested fan involved and he can back up all of his personality in the ring with great ability. EC3 should be a main event star in NXT and then again on the main roster whenever he gets the call, but the fact he is someone on his second chance with WWE who is also borrowing a lot of his TNA gimmick might have an impact in just how far he can go in the company.
This is something that WWE will be careful with because pushing former talents who have gone away and done better, making a bigger name for themselves is something that the company often looks down upon, even if it could help the overall product. Looking at how Bobby Roode has faired on the main roster, as someone with a similar gimmick to EC3, the future doesn't paint a bright picture for the former TNA World Champion, and that is a huge shame. He might have the catchy theme song and a brilliant look that should tick all the boxes, but his past could come back to haunt him, even though he has worked hard to make sure that doesn't happen.
1 Could Replace Them: Cody Rhodes
While EC3 went away and totally changed his gimmick outside of the WWE bubble, Cody Rhodes has managed to do the opposite of that. He has become a giant star in wrestling but all while remaining very similar to his original WWE format, keeping the name and the look, which means a return to WWE would be easy for him. If you have seen what Cody has done outside of WWE and aren't clamouring for him to return to the company then you need to have a long hard think. It is tough to think of a better example of a wrestler making a bigger impact outside of WWE than Cody.
Since joining Bullet Club he has become a top name in wrestling, regardless of what his second name is and given his brilliant look (which has majorly improved since his WWE run) and improved in-ring abilities, the company would be foolish to not bring him back. With the connection that Triple H and Dusty Rhodes shared it seems like they will eventually make peace with whatever issues lay between them and bring Cody back in, after all, he has plenty of gas in the tank so it isn't a major rush. Unlike his last WWE run when he was the mid-carder, Cody would return as a ready-made main event star, and that is exactly what WWE would want if they were to re-sign Cody, who could easily become a huge star in the sport, just like his father.
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