While WWE is known as sports entertainment, the company relies on the entertainment side of things, and less on the sports side. However, there are many aspects of the company that would mirror one of your favorite sports franchise.
Free agent signings, concussion protocol and a developmental system are some of the positives in that aspect. Unfortunately, one of the negatives is when a talent gets released from their contract.
Even just a couple of years ago, Vince McMahon and company would have their yearly cuts, where a multitude of talents would be released at one time, usually shortly after WrestleMania. While the WWE has strayed away from the annual releases, there are still plenty of times where wrestlers are let go. Whether it’s because of something that happens outside of the ring, failing drug tests or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, there could be many reasons why wrestlers are released.
However, not every time is because of an action that is done.
The wrestling industry is a machine; when one person leaves, there is someone who is waiting in the wings to fill their shoes. There have been times where certain wrestlers haven't necessarily done anything wrong, but they have had enough chances to get over with the crowd, but just haven't done their job.
While it wouldn't appear that any of the following wrestlers will do anything wrong, it wouldn't be a surprise if they were let go by the company at some point next year. Here are 12 WWE wrestlers that I think will be released in 2016.
12 Alex Riley
When NXT was a television show on the Sci-Fi network, Alex Riley was one of its breakout stars during the second season. Coached by The Miz, Riley possessed charisma and extreme athleticism, which many believed would translate to main roster success.
Once being promoted to the big stage, Riley accompanied The Miz to all of his matches while also filling in when The Miz didn't want to compete. After months of the storyline, Riley was drafted to Smackdown and eventually turned on him, making him a face.
Unfortunately, before he was able to separate himself from the pack, Riley went into wrestling purgatory - the lower mid card. Constantly losing, Riley eventually became a color commentator for NXT and a panelist for the WWE Network. Getting a resurgence of sorts, Riley made his way back to the ring, wrestling for NXT in a short program with Kevin Owens. However, a chronic knee issue led to surgery, and Riley hasn't been in a ring since.
11 Bull Dempsey
Ever since joining NXT back in 2013, Bull Dempsey has had the tall task of making his way up the ranks. However, with the immense talent surrounding him, Dempsey did as well as he could at getting over with the audience.
Although he first appeared as an enhancement talent, it wasn't before long when Dempsey was squashing the opposition. He showcased his newfound aggression on the big stage at NXT TakeOver: Fatal 4-Way, where he demolished former tag team partner Mojo Rawley with a mix of strength and surprising agility.
Dempsey looked to be on his way closer to the top, as he entered a program with fellow big man Baron Corbin. Putting their undefeated streaks on the line at NXT TakeOver: Rival, Dempsey fell to Corbin. He then lost his allure and attraction to the fans. Dempsey recently embarked on a gimmick that pokes fun at his weight, while having less and less time on WWE NXT.
10 Rosa Mendes
When the WWE Diva Search was still a thing in the mid-2000s, the company was in the hunt for attractive females, regardless of their in-ring talent and Rosa Mendes fit that bill. As a big time model, she didn't have experience in the ring, but her looks alone got her a contract with the WWE.
After training for two years in Ohio Valley Wrestling, Mendes made her debut on the main roster back in 2008. However, her struggles were apparent, as she spent time between the road and Florida Championship Wrestling to continue to hone her skills.
While she was originally brought on as a wrestler, Mendes was never a part of any major storylines, instead spending time as a manager/valet with Primo and Epico and Fandango, among others. She is currently off the road due to pregnancy. When Mendes does return, it doesn't look like she has a spot in the wrestling heavy Divas division.
Speaking of a Rosa Mendes, her former dance partner may be on the WWE’s chopping block as well. After spending nearly six years combined in OVW, FCW and NXT, the man formerly known as Johnny Curtis finally caught his break on the main roster.
Donning the gimmick of a ballroom dancer, there were a multitude of vignettes touting his debut. Nearly five months after the videos aired, Fandango made his television debut in early March, defeating a local talent on Smackdown. Not before long, he entered a feud with future Hall of Famer Chris Jericho, with the hopes of matching Fandango with an established star would put him over the top.
Unfortunately, a win at WrestleMania 29 over Jericho couldn't help Fandango, as inconsistent booking and a corny gimmick combined for a failed venture. After wrestling on the lower mid card and switching his character to a salsa dancer, Fandango has yet to get over. Although he possesses good in-ring ability, it’s obvious that the creative team isn't behind him.
While Tamina Snuka is currently a part of the Divas Revolution storyline as one-third of Team B.A.D., she is the least used and polished wrestler out of the bunch. While the creative team has tried to push her time and time again, her lack of in-ring skills have hurt her over the years.
The daughter of WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka joined the company back in 2009, and only after a little over the year in developmental, she was paired with her family members, The Usos, on the main roster. After feuding with the Hart Dynasty, the trio split. Soon after, Tamina was featured in a comedy angle with Santino Marella.
Eventually finding her way into the WWE Divas Championship picture, Tamina’s size and intimidating look made her look like a future title holder. Unfortunately, her underwhelming wrestling skills hurt her chances, and she instead became the body guard of champion AJ Lee. Although Tamina is featured weekly with her team, it looks as though she is the least likely to make it far in the storyline.
7 Zack Ryder
At one point, Zack Ryder was arguably the most popular wrestler on the entire WWE roster. However, his fall from grace has been long and hard, and truly a shame as well. After spending time in developmental, both he and tag team partner Curt Hawkins made their debut on the ECW brand as the Major Brothers.
After having moderate success on ECW and Smackdown, Ryder came into the spotlight as a part of La Familia. Siding with World Heavyweight Champion Edge, he was able to gain some of the spotlight. Once he became a single’s competitor, a vastly successful Youtube channel catapulted him into the spotlight, and before you could know it, “Woo, Woo, Woo” could be heard in every arena.
That was, until he was befriended and eventually buried in a confusing storyline with John Cena. After spending a few months as a part of the upper mid card, Ryder found his way back down at the bottom of the pack. His spot on the roster was so underwhelming that Ryder asked to be put on NXT - something that is definitely not a good sign.
6 Adam Rose
If only the WWE creative team actually capitalized on ESPN’s E:60 special on WWE NXT back in May. On that show, Adam Rose spoke about his struggles in his early life, his climb in NXT and the sickness of his son. After the show came out, Twitter was flooded with “Push Adam Rose” tweets; and unfortunately, they came with no avail.
As a South African mercenary named Leo Kruger, Rose never was able to get over with the NXT crowd. However, once he changed to the party-loving Adam Rose, he quickly found success. Rose was quickly brought up to the main roster, accompanied by his own posse of characters and his own party bus, the Exotic Express.
Unfortunately, once on the road, the gimmick wasn't accepted by the WWE Universe. Losing television time by the week, Rose underwent many tweaks and changes. After turning the tides and working as a “Party Pooper” for a while, Rose now has the role of a gossip television show host and a weekly segment called the “Rose Bush.” Just like his entire time on the main roster, Rose has found trouble getting this gimmick over, and it appears his days are numbered.
5 Curtis Axel
As the son of Hall of Famer “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, many had high hopes for Curtis Axel. While he has tried his best to get over to the WWE Universe, the creative team has struggled to put him in a position to succeed.
Making his WWE in 2010 as Michael McGillicutty, Axel joined CM Punk as a part of the New Nexus. While he did have a Tag Team Championship run, Axel wasn't positioned well in his initial run and was sent back down to NXT. He returned to the main roster in 2013, now with Paul Heyman as his manager. Although it was hoped that Heyman would get him over, Axel struggled, and the gimmick was eventually scrapped.
This year, Axel began calling himself “AxelMania” saying he technically won the Royal Rumble after being taken out by Erick Rowan. Now mimicking and dressing like Hulk Hogan, Axel and Damien Sandow (mimicking Randy Savage) went on to create the Meta Powers. However, with Hogan getting fired due to racial slurs, Axel had to drop his gimmick, being seen sparingly ever since.
4 Damien Sandow
Speaking of Damien Sandow, when he was working as The Miz’s stunt double at the end of 2014 and into 2015, the crowd was highly anticipating his eventual split from his parter. And while that did happen, an underwhelming feud and squandering of his talent led to Sandow - again - being lost on the main roster.
After working as Idol Stevens in WWE developmental and on the main roster in the early 2000s, Sandow eventually found his way back to the company in 2012. Working as the “Intellectual Savior of the Masses,” Sandow won his way over with the fans, despite being a heel. After a run as one-half of the Rhodes Scholars with Cody Rhodes, Sandow received his big break by winning the Money in the Bank contract in 2013.
Unfortunately, Sandow became only the second person to unsuccessfully cash in his briefcase. After going on a serious losing streak, Sandow found his way with The Miz. Similar to that of Curtis Axel, he has rarely been seen after the Meta Powers team was squandered. What a shame it is, simply because Sandow had the potential to be a star.
3 Erick Rowan
Currently a part of the Wyatt Family, Erick Rowan is clearly the least respected and utilized member. While the group is supposed to be terrifying and dominant, it is Rowan who constantly takes the pinfall when they lose.
After dominating the NXT ranks with Luke Harper, the duo and Bray Wyatt made their way to the main roster in 2013. The three men were impressive; while Wyatt was something the fans haven't seen in some time, Rowan and Harper began to be one of the more dominant tag teams in the WWE. Their feud with The Shield was one of the best of 2014.
The downfall began when he became a single’s competitor. As a part of John Cena’s Survivor Series team, Rowan always looked to be the odd man out. That continued when he would team with Ryback and Dolph Ziggler in hopes of getting their jobs back after being fired in storylines. However, after briefly reuniting with Harper, Rowan tore his biceps, and returned to the Wyatt Family once the injury healed. Continuing to be the odd man out even with the stable, Rowan’s future doesn't appear to be too bright.
2 Darren Young
After breaking his way into the wrestling business on the East Coast independent circuit, Darren Young earned himself a contract to FCW. After impressing there, Young became a participant on the inaugural season of NXT, as he was paired with CM Punk.
Although he wasn't much of a factor, Young was a part of the Nexus. After debuting in a savage-like faction, Young faded into the background until he joined Titus O’Neill to create the Prime Time Players.
Although their tag team was popular, the duo didn't find much success. However, neither did Young once the team split, and in 2015, they reunited. A part of the tag team renaissance, the Prime Time Players captured the Tag Team Championships over the summer, while feuding with the New Day. However, once they dropped the belts at SummerSlam, the team has been used sparingly on television; while O’Neill continues to be used weekly, it is Young who has been put on the back burner once again.
1 Daniel Bryan
This final selection may come as a major surprise to many; after all, Daniel Bryan was, and probably still is, the most popular guy on the entire roster. However, the way his current standing in the company is unfolding, it only appears to be a matter of time before an ugly split comes about.
Bryan fought and clawed his way to the top of the WWE card. After becoming one of the best wrestlers in the world on the independent scene, Bryan signed a deal with the company and was a part of the first season of NXT. However, his first WWE run didn't last long; while the Nexus was attacking the ring, Bryan choked out ring announcer Justin Roberts, which led to his release.
Mere months after his initial release, Bryan was brought back by popular demand. After competing in the midcard scene for two years, a brief run with the World Heavyweight Championship and a partnership with Kane as Team Hell No got him over with the crowd. Everyone knows what happened once the duo disbanded: Bryan became the number one guy in the company, and to the dismay of officials but delight of the fans, he forced his way into the WrestleMania 30 main event, capturing the WWE’s top prize.
Unfortunately, ever since then, Bryan has spent more time on the shelf than in the ring. Although he made a brief return in 2015, Bryan was again injured, and hasn't been seen since April. While he claims he's been cleared to return by his doctors, WWE doctors wont clear him and simply because of this, I think Bryan’s days are numbered in the company as a wrestler.
The WWE may very well keep him on in a non-wrestling capacity, i.e - NXT coach or announcer, but Bryan has been adament that he still wants to wrestle, whether it's in WWE or somewhere else.