WrestleMania 33 on April 2 received mixed reactions from fans and industry analysts alike for its storytelling and in-ring performances. The indelible moments from the soap opera’s flagship event occurred when Brock Lesnar defeated Goldberg to capture the WWE Universal Championship and Roman Reigns conquered The Undertaker in a no-holds-barred match in front of an announced crowd of 75,245 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. In total, including the 33 participants who competed in the fourth edition of the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, 71 superstars from the Raw and SmackDown brands grappled earlier this month in the Sunshine State.
Unfortunately for WWE professional wrestlers, chairman and CEO Vince McMahon is notoriously fickle and constantly changing the creative direction of his talents. Therefore, it’s virtually impossible to predict which of McMahon’s employees will be booked to work at WrestleMania 34 on April 8, 2018, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Shortly after the Super Bowl of sports entertainment concluded, The Undertaker and Goldberg revealed their intentions to retire from the squared circle. In addition, rumors remain strong that The Big Show, a 23-year veteran of the business, is ready to permanently unlace his boots. With The Undertaker, Goldberg and, possibly, The Big Show removed from the equation, speculation is already underway regarding which athletes will help shape next year’s card.
Provided injuries or other unforeseen issues don’t decimate WWE’s dueling rosters, expect these 15 wrestlers to get shelved during next spring’s “Showcase of the Immortals” in the Big Easy.
15 CURT HAWKINS
Curt Hawkins signed a developmental contract with WWE in February 2006 and remained with the company until he was released in June 2014. During his initial stint with Vince McMahon’s organization, the 32-year-old Hawkins teamed with Zack Ryder and the native New Yorkers won the WWE Tag Team Championship at The Great American Bash on July 20, 2008. Despite receiving a pretty solid push, Hawkins’ character lacked any flair and completely failed to resonate with the crowd. Following a brief run with Total Nonstop Action (TNA) Wrestling in 2015, Hawkins resurfaced with WWE’s SmackDown brand in July 2016. A valueless enhancement talent, Hawkins was essentially unnoticeable as a participant in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33. Hawkins and his dull persona was shipped to RAW this past Monday.
14 MICKIE JAMES
Mickie James is a future WWE Hall of Famer who has captured six Women’s Championships since debuting in October 2005. The 37-year-old James, who is also one of only two superstars to simultaneously hold the Women’s and Divas belts, was released from her WWE contract in April 2010. Shortly after getting axed, James returned to TNA where she grappled sporadically through April 2015. James next inked a multiyear deal with WWE in December 2016 and made her SmackDown homecoming approximately six weeks later. Trish Stratus’ former “stalker” failed to earn her seventh title at this year’s “Show of Shows” and she premiered on Monday’s edition of Raw as part of its roster shakeup.
While James is extremely skillful inside the squared circle, she is also a model, country singer and married mother of a 2-year-old boy. With so many personal commitments and professional goals outside of the ring, it’s difficult to envision that James will endure WWE’s notoriously hectic workload for any significant duration.
R-Truth debuted with the WWE in November 2000 during the Attitude Era under the name K-Kwik. Somewhat astoundingly, almost two decades later, the 45-year-old R-Truth remains an active performer for Vince McMahon’s company. R-Truth, born Ronnie Aaron Killings in Atlanta, Georgia, has held a handful of titles, headlined five WWE pay-per-view events and been booked to work five WrestleMania extravaganzas. R-Truth, the first African-American to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, even had a cameo role playing himself in Darren Aronofsky's critically acclaimed and commercially successful movie, “The Wrestler.”
Usually playing a loony rap artist, R-Truth was a competitor in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33. Ultimately, the native Georgian was eliminated when Dolph Ziggler tossed him off the ring apron. Although far from a geriatric, R-Truth is aging and he seems bound to soon become a full-time color commentator.
Fandango works alongside Tyler Breeze to form the tag team “Breezango” on WWE’s SmackDown brand. The 35-year-old Fandango, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound New Englander who was trained by Killer Kowalski and entered professional wrestling in September 1999, trumped Chris Jericho at WrestleMania XXIX at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Fandango’s victory over Jericho at WrestleMania is widely considered to be one of the industry’s all time biggest upsets. Portraying a ballroom dancer, audience members would start singing and dancing when Fandango and his storyline partner, Summer Rae, waltzed to the squared circle. Unfortunately for Fandango, his gimmick has grown stale and Tian Bing tossed him over the ropes during the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal.
Rhyno, born Terrance Guido Gerin, has been a professional wrestler since September 1994. The 41-year-old Rhyno is a journeyman who has performed for the original incarnation of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), TNA, WWF, WWE, the Independent circuit and all across Canada for multiple promotions. Nearly 10 years after Rhyno received a pink slip from Vince McMahon, the 5-foot-10, 295-pound powerhouse returned to WWE in February 2015 during a recording of NXT. Rhyno inked a deal to scrap on SmackDown and he and Heath Slater ultimately became that brand’s first-ever tag team champs in September 2016. A couple of months after winning the belts, Rhyno ran for the 15th District State House race in his hometown of Dearborn, Michigan, in November 2016. Although Rhyno failed to win the vote, the hardcore legend seems ready to exit the squared circle.
10 TYLER BREEZE
Tyler Breeze was a solid entertainer on NXT during its formative years. Regrettably for the 29-year-old Canadian, Breeze struggled mightily after getting promoted to WWE’s main roster and his stock continues to rapidly plummet. Breeze, who was trained by Lance Storm, currently works on SmackDown alongside Fandango as part of a team called “Breezego.” The narcissistic duo are portrayed as fashion police who strut around critiquing grapplers’ wardrobes on Shane McMahon’s blue outfit. The 6-foot, 212-pound Breeze, who videotaped his own entrance at WrestleMania 33, was virtually invisible during the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. Breeze is simply a middling performer, and incredibly uninteresting character, who will never make it to fight next April in the Big Easy.
9 THE HARDY BOYZ
Following a nearly seven-year absence, The Hardy Boyz returned to the WWE at WrestleMania 33 to compete in a fatal four-way ladder match match for the Raw Tag Team Championship. The Hardys, who worked as teenagers in the WWE in 1994 as jobbers, defeated Enzo Amore and Big Cass, Sheamus and Cesaro, and previous champs Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson to capture the tag team belts for the seventh time in Vince McMahon’s promotion. Former Attitude Era superstars and enormous fan favorites, the 42-year-old Matt Hardy and the 39-year-old Jeff Hardy remain the reigning Raw Tag Team kings. Still, considering the various injuries they’ve sustained over 23 years inside the squared circle and the substance abuse issues they’ve fought outside the ring, it’s hard to fathom a lengthy run by The Hardys.
8 ENZO AMORE AND BIG CASS
Enzo Amore and Big Cass debuted on WWE’s main roster on The Raw following WrestleMania on April 4, 2016. A wildly charismatic duo, the 30-year-old Enzo and the 30-year-old Big Cass almost instantly became one of the industry’s most beloved acts. Despite winning over the crowd, Vince McMahon’s creative team never completely gave the pair the push they needed to ascend to the top. Enzo and Cass failed to capture their first championship during a fatal four-way tag team ladder bout at “The Show of Shows.” More worrisome than the writers’ angles, the unique tandem’s gimmick seems to be dimming. Once the audience loses interest, “you’re sawft” and no longer “bonafide stud(s).” Enzo Amore and Big Cass are at a crossroads and it’s difficult to pinpoint where they’re heading.
7 NIKKI BELLA
Nikki Bella and John Cena conquered The Miz and Maryse in a mixed tag team bout in Orlando. Following the couple’s triumph, the 39-year-old Cena proposed to the 33-year-old Bella. Prior to popping the question, Cena mentioned the potentially career-ending neck surgery that Bella underwent in January 2016.
“You broke your neck and did everything you could to come back because you wanted a WrestleMania moment,” said Cena. “I’m so very proud of you.”
Bella, named Diva of the Year by Rolling Stone in December 2015 after she held the Divas belt for an unprecedented 301 days, also moonlights as a model and reality show star. Now engaged to a millionaire wrestling icon, Bella may choose to vacate the ring with her health intact.
Maryse was hired by WWE in August 2006 following that year’s Diva Search competition. The 34-year-old Maryse, also a glamour model, realtor and businesswoman, quickly exhibited her impressive in-ring skills and became a two-time Divas Champion. Maryse and her real-life husband, The Miz, lost to John Cena and Nikki Bella in a mixed tag team contest at WrestleMania 33. Since losing to Cena and Bella, Maryse and The Miz were shipped from SmackDown LIVE to Raw as part of the brand’s restructuring. Maryse will continue to work as a manager for The Miz on the company’s flagship show. However, with zero chance of another mixed tag team affair next April, it’s unlikely that Maryse will be booked to perform in New Orleans.
5 JINDER MAHAL
Jinder Mahal emerged as a professional wrestler in March 2002 and competed for various outlets before premiering on the April 2011 edition of WWE SmackDown LIVE. The 30-year-old Mahal, a graduate of the University of Calgary, is constantly forging partnerships with fellow heels. However, Mahal’s villainous alliances also constantly sour and he’s left seeking for a new crony. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Mahal is a powerhouse who possesses phenomenal strength. Largely due to the interference of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, Mahal finished as runner-up to Mojo Rawley in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal.
One night after besting 31 participants, Mahal was beaten by Sami Zayn on Raw. Mahal, who is now again on SmackDown’s roster, is an aimless character with little appeal.
4 SHANE MCMAHON
Fourth-generation wrestling promoter Shane McMahon has given fans countless memorable moments as a combatant inside the squared circle. The 47-year-old McMahon, who has headlined multiple pay-per-views for his father’s company, returned to WWE as an onscreen character in February 2016. Since reemerging, McMahon lost to The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match at WrestleMania 32 and, earlier this month, he was defeated by A.J. Styles in the Sunshine State. Despite consecutive losses at “The Showcase of the Immortals,” Shane-O-Mac is an athletic daredevil who fans adore. Still, McMahon is a married father of three who is pushing 48 years of age.
While McMahon clearly relishes participating at WrestleMania, Father Time is undefeated and Vince’s offspring may need to concentrate on enhancing SmackDown’s storylines.
3 CHRIS JERICHO
Future WWE Hall of Famer Chris Jericho will take a leave of absence from Vince McMahon’s organization in May so he can tour with his heavy metal band, Fozzy.
“It’s time to get back into Fozzy,” Jericho, 46, told The Metro in January.
“I don’t do WWE part-time, I do it full-time. I come and go. But, when I’m working there, I’m definitely a full-timer. I’ve had a great year which has gone way longer than it was supposed to. It was only supposed to be four months, then it got extended to eight, then 12 and 16. Wrestling will go on hold for a while, which is the way I’ve been doing it since 2010.”
Jericho is one of the premier wrestlers, and characters, in the business. Still, with so many obligations and such little time, fans shouldn’t expect to see Jericho in the Big Easy.
2 BARON CORBIN
Baron Corbin is a former practice squad offensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals. Beyond the gridiron, the 32-year-old Corbin is also a three-time Golden Gloves champion. An imposing physical specimen and gifted athlete, the 6-foot-8, 275-pound Corbin became a professional wrestler in October 2012. Approximately three and a half years later, Corbin made his WWE main roster debut by winning the Andre the Giant Memorial battle royal at WrestleMania 32. With such momentum, Corbin seemed headed for superstardom.
Regrettably for the Kansas native, Corbin’s persona has become a bit dry and blasé. Corbin lost to Dean Ambrose for the WWE Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 33 and his character appears directionless. Presently, it’s tough to envision that Corbin will get booked to compete at his third consecutive WrestleMania.
1 AUSTIN ARIES
Austin Aries gained fame for showcasing his athletic abilities on TNA, Ring of Honor and the independent circuit. The 38-year-old Aries caught Paul Levesque’s attention and the WWE COO and executive vice president of talent subsequently got the popular cruiserweight to join NXT in January 2016. Roughly a year later, the 5-foot-9, 200-pound Aries started providing commentary on Raw during cruiserweight bouts. Aries was then placed in a feud with WWE Cruiserweight Champion Neville and the two eventually agreed to brawl for the title in Orlando. Neville defeated Aries to retain his belt and the newcomer is now in wrestling’s equivalent of purgatory. Overall, considering that the cruiserweight division is a bit flat, Austin Aries’ character is on the brink of irrelevance.
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