The WWE is constantly looking to shake things up on their roster. They're not a company that likes to rest on their laurels. If they feel a talent has run their course with the company, they won't hesitate to move on. The company is also always looking for new talents, especially with NXT essentially becoming a third brand to the company.
The business has changed so much in the past five years. WWE has now opened its doors to so many international talents, but for WWE to make room for them, they have to look at their current roster and see who still has a role to play.
Then of course, there are some talents who may just choose to leave the company. After all, every talent's goal is to be a main feature on WWE programming and to have a high spot in the company. If they see it's not going to happen, they could just decide to go somewhere they'll feel more appreciated.
Finally, there are some wrestlers on the roster who will simply retire, as there are plenty on the roster in their 40s or about to hit 40 and may start thinking of other career opportunities. Here, we will try to predict the future and see where these 15 potential WWE departures will end up a year from now.
It seems like the WWE's women's division has passed Tamina by. It seemed like she was going to be entrenched in the division, playing the monster heel, but WWE has now found that person in Nia Jax. Tamina has spent much of the past year in limbo. With her father Jimmy Snuka's murder accusation resurfacing, WWE removed 'Snuka' from her name to further distance themselves from the (former?) WWE Hall of Famer.
Tamina spent much of 2016 injured, but she has yet to return after being cleared in December. Perhaps WWE is just biding their time until they can release her. It's hard to imagine a spot for her on the RAW brand, where she was expected to compete.
Prediction: TNA won't hesitate to add another second generation wrestler to their roster. Tamina will get a big role in TNA's Knockouts division.
Fandango seems to be on borrowed time in the WWE. It's remarkable how just under four years ago, he was defeating Chris Jericho at WrestleMania and this year, he'll be lucky if he even gets on the card, unless it's in the Andre The Giant Battle Royal. Either way, that's not exactly encouraging.
The company clearly has no plans for him and his teaming with Tyler Breeze proves that. Expect Fandango to be a part of WWE's annual post-WrestleMania cuts. Over a dozen talents were released by the end of summer in 2016 so looking at WWE's roster, Fandango is an easy call to be a cut.
Prediction: Fandango will be no more and Johnny Curtis will make his return to the independent circuit.
13 Curtis Axel
It's pretty obvious at this point that Curtis Axel's career is going nowhere in WWE. The highest form of relevance he ever achieved was when he began his Axelmania gimmick after never technically being eliminated from the 2015 Royal Rumble. The gimmick was scratched following the Hulk Hogan scandal, but even if the WWE were to bring back the gimmick at this point, lightning won't strike twice. Axel should cut his losses and make a name for himself elsewhere. He's seen fellow second and third generation superstars leave WWE to succeed elsewhere, so perhaps that will motivate him to start fresh.
Prediction: Axel will go the route of Cody Rhodes and jump to TNA, while taking international bookings against high-profile opponents.
12 Zack Ryder
If you exclude his Intercontinental Championship winning WrestleMania moment last year, Zack Ryder has had a pretty steady decline in the WWE. Not only was Ryder demoted to not having the title, but the Long Island native was bounced off of the main roster for some time in 2016. Following his departure from the WWE in 2016, Cody Rhodes talked about how there were a few people who claimed they would be quitting the company with him. Given how close Rhodes was with Ryder, we can assume that one of his would-be-quitter friends was Ryder.
Seeing all the success that Rhodes has had on the indie scene has to be burning Ryder up to strike out on his own, and we see the Hype Bro asking for his release sometime in 2017..
Prediction: In one year Ryder will be main eventing at ROH.
11 Sin Cara
Well seeing as how the original Sin Cara is gone from the WWE already, it’s only a matter of time before his namesake follows suit. Since Hunico took over portraying Sin Cara in 2013, he has jumped around from the main roster, to NXT and back. Since his Lucha Dragon partner Kalisto has struck out on his own after getting drafted to SmackDown, Sin Cara has had little to do on RAW. Though he has joined the crusierweight division, the former NXT Tag Team Champion has yet to become the next Rey Mysterio that WWE once thought he could be. If we had to guess, we see Sin Cara falling victim to the post-WrestleMania roster cuts this year.
Prediction: In one year Sin Cara will be working a feud with the original Sin Cara for the AAA promotion in Mexico City.
10 Tyson Kidd
Tyson Kidd’s career was almost ended after taking a botched Muscle Buster from Samoa Joe in June of 2015. At the time, Kidd was lighting up the WWE along with his partner Cesaro reigning two months as the WWE Tag Team Champions. Since getting injured Kidd hasn’t appeared on any WWE programming...well except for the reality show Total Divas. Though he was featured prominently during the first few seasons, Kidd was noticeably absent in season six. Kidd played coy on Twitter, stating that “I don’t think they want my situation explained” when asked about his absence.
The Stu Hart trained grappler has now been off all WWE programming for quite some time now, and something has to give. Given the severity of his injury we see the WWE wanting to keep Kidd to appease his real life wife Natalya, but Kidd asking for his release.
Prediction: In a year Tyson Kidd will still be recovering from his near fatal injury.
9 James Ellsworth
Any man with 15 minutes of fame has a fighting chance. Though he was initially known on the indies as Pretty Jimmy Dream, James Ellsworth has made a career in the WWE so far by being ridiculed because of his looks. Ellsworth was able to capitalize on being squashed by Braun Strowman during a July episode of RAW, and somehow turn it into a legitimate WWE contract. Since then the maestro of No Chin Music has been a fixture on SmackDown, and is currently managing Carmella.
It is nearly a guarantee that the WWE will make Ellsworth an entrant in the 2017 Royal Rumble, and that night will be the time his schtick in the WWE will be outdated. Expect Ellsworth to be released from the WWE after an “injury” takes him off television before WrestleMania.
Prediction: In a year Ellsworth will be touring the country making a handsome living off of his WWE fame.
8 Big Show
The World’s Largest Athlete is a 20 year veteran of the wrestling business at this point. The Big Show has done it all in the WWE, and is nearing his swan song with the promotion as WrestleMania draws near. Big Show’s body isn’t what it used to be, but he has been in the gym dropping weight and trying to hold on a bit longer. Sticking to the theme of his name, Big Show is going to go out with a bang, rumored to face off against Shaquille O’Neal this year at WrestleMania. This presents a scenario that is a double edged sword for the seven foot giant. If he wins his potential final match, he violates one of the biggest unwritten laws in professional wrestling, but if he loses then he would be putting over a non-wrestler in front of millions of people. Either way chances are that 2017 is Big Show’s last year as an active competitor, and if he doesn’t retire at 'Mania, he will surely do so after SummerSlam.
Prediction: Big Show leverages his roles in WWE movies, and takes a shot at acting in small roles.
Fans never thought they would see Goldberg in a WWE ring again, but low and behold the former WCW Champion returned with a bang in late 2016. His squashing of Brock Lesnar was a needed relief from the overload of the former UFC Champion absolutely destroying the active roster. With his return, Goldberg has brought back millions of fans who have left the WWE over the past 15 years. The WWE has recognized this, and have already started squeezing Goldberg for everything he is worth in wrestling. Not only will Goldberg be appearing in the Royal Rumble, but there is a good chance he will be wrestling an apology tour making up for his sad 2004 departure match at WrestleMania. This gig is very part time for Goldberg, and it’s nearly a guarantee that he steps away for the WWE shortly after WrestleMania 33.
Prediction: In one year Goldberg will be announced as the first member of the 2018 WWE Hall of Fame Class.
It’s hard to say that Cesaro has lived up to his full potential since signing to WWE in 2011. The Swiss Superman has been all over the card during the past five years, and has yet to make a real impact. Sure he won the Andre the Giant Battle Royal in 2014, and has been the United States Champion one time, but other than that what has he done? Cesaro recently voiced his dissatisfaction with being drafted to RAW during the WWE brand split in 2016.
The promo, which many believe was a worked shoot, featured the former United States Champion taking shots at RAW and Stephanie McMahon. Though this was most likely a script that was based in reality, Cesaro seemed pretty serious, leading many to believe he could take the plunge of asking for his release soon. He wouldn’t be crazy to do so, as Cesaro spent over a decade on the indies before coming to the WWE.
Prediction: In one year Cesaro will be part of the Bullet Club in NJPW.
Rhyno has far exceeded any expectations that were set for him when he quietly returned to WWE a few years ago. At first it seemed he was just going to hang around in NXT to provide a veteran presence for the young talent, but he's since gotten up to the main roster and even enjoyed a recent tag team championship reign with Heath Slater. The reason he's on this list is because from here, there's really nowhere else to go with Rhyno. He and Slater look like they're about to split up and when that happens, there's really nowhere else to go with Rhyno. The WWE can soon see him as expendable.
Prediction: Rhyno focuses more on his political efforts by next year, and tries to run for the Michigan House of Representatives by next election.
4 Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan has expressed how hard it is for him to serve as the General Manger of SmackDown over the past few months. It seems that driving for hours at a time, just to do one in-ring segment isn't fulfilling for the former WWE World Heavyweight Champion. When added to the fact that Brie Bella has announced that her and Bryan are expecting a little one, fans can see the writing on the wall for Bryan. But don't take our word for it, just look at what Bryan said himself about his status with WWE after the baby comes:
“Once we have the baby that is the tough part. It’s like, man, do I really want to leave the baby… It’s like; there are times on SmackDown that I don’t even want to be on it. I only want to be on it when it’s absolutely necessary for me as the GM for me to be out there.”
Prediction: In one year Daniel Bryan will have walked away from wrestling completely in favor of being a stay at home father.
3 Mark Henry
Mark Henry is an interesting guy. If you listen to interviews he has had on various podcasts and radio shows, it’s pretty evident that he has been ready to retire for a few years now. In fact, The World’s Strongest Man claims that he walked into Vince McMahon’s office in 2013 fully intending to quit, and walked out with a new three year deal. Given that Henry has gone on record that he will not be signing any more WWE contracts, it’s only a matter of time until he becomes a relic of the Hall of Pain.
Prediction: In one year Mark Henry will be fully retired from in-ring competition in the WWE and in the early stages of developing a reality show for the WWE Network.
2 Dolph Ziggler
Well you knew you were going to see him on here right? It almost seems like you can’t have a list of people who are leaving WWE without plopping Dolph Ziggler somewhere on it. With Ziggler’s in-ring ability it’s mind boggling to think of a reason as to why he hasn’t gotten a fair shot at the top of WWE’s card yet. Sure he won the WWE World Championship a few times, but that’s not the same as being heralded as a top guy. If you dropped The Show Off in Ring of Honor, or even TNA for that matter, he would without a doubt be a champion with three months of joining the promotion. With constant rumors swirling about his status, look for Ziggler to head out on his own terms later this year.
Prediction: In one year Dolph Ziggler will be flying back and forth between NJPW and Hollywood doing stand up comedy.
1 John Cena
Man that John Cena IMDb page keeps on growing doesn’t it? With the current face of the WWE showing up in movies and network television shows, it’s only a matter of time before John Cena makes the full transition to Hollywood. He is consistently cited as a pleasure to work with, and has stolen scenes from award winning actors. Conversely Cena has been putting on some of the best matches of his career, most notably his losing effort against AJ Styles at SummerSlam last year. This presents an interesting scenario this year, as Cena will have to eventually make a choice between the WWE and making movies.
Prediction: John Cena transitions to a permanent part-time role in the WWE making sporadic appearances while making movies.