On September 1, Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks held their indy wrestling supershow, All In, at the Sears Centre Arena in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates. Rumors had swirled ahead of the event that WWE was holding off on its usual “spring cleaning” ritual because they didn’t want anyone defecting to the Indies in time for All In. Now that the event is over and hopefully a pleasant memory to the fans who watched it live or on streaming, it’s time to take stock of the WWE wrestlers who may be wished the best in their future endeavors.
Given the many possibilities in the coming months — a huge wave of wrestler releases in the aftermath of All In, the chance WWE might be ending its brand split more than two years after it was instituted, NXT call-ups, and high-profile WWE hires — we’ve limited our list to male and female wrestlers on both Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live, as well as a couple from 205 Live. We have, however, omitted NXT talents in order to keep things manageable.
Even with NXT talents deliberately left off this list, we believe you might be surprised at how many wrestlers might be cut loose by the WWE in the coming months, or how many may ask for their releases or announce their retirements. So here they are — 25-plus wrestlers (including tag teams and couples, who are listed together) whom we believe are due to quit, be fired, or retire in the immediate foreseeable future.
25 Rusev And Lana
At this point, Rusev can be called the “boy who cried ‘future endeavors,’” as he has so often teased a WWE exit on social media, only for Dave Meltzer or WWE insiders to report that he was just joking around. But you know what they say about jokes, right? They can be half-meant, and we have serious reason to believe Rusev isn’t happy with his lack of success in the WWE since 2015.
Sure, every day may be Rusev Day, and Lana may be number one to a lot of SmackDown Live fans. But if their start-stop booking (especially Rusev’s) continues to be a problem, you can bet they’ll soon stop playfully trolling the fans and make good on their threat to leave WWE.
24 Bobby Roode
Sad to say there’s nothing “glorious” about Bobby Roode’s WWE main roster run. WWE was making a big mistake from the get-go, when they booked Roode as a babyface after he did so well as a heel in NXT. While he did win the United States Championship on SmackDown Live soon after his main roster debut, he’s almost an afterthought these days on Monday Night Raw.
Given that he’s 41, Roode’s upside is seriously limited in the WWE, and if you ask us, he may be best served asking for his release and reuniting with fellow 41-year-old James Storm (who has yet to sign with WWE, despite previous expectations) for one last run as Beer Money in the independent scene.
23 The IIconics
The arrival of the onetime Iconic Duo, renamed the IIconics when they were called up to the main roster, hinted that WWE had plans of having a women’s tag team division, and possibly having them feud at one point with the Bella Twins. Fast forward to the present, and the Bellas just made their comeback on Raw, while the IIconics are on SmackDown Live for two reasons only — to annoy the audience with their promos, and for one or both of them to do the job.
At 29 and 25 respectively, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce still have youth on their side, which means it may be better for them to reinvent themselves in the indies instead of counting the lights for the babyface women of SmackDown Live.
22 Big Show
For close to two decades, the Big Show has been a loyal employee of the WWE and has had his share of ups (four world titles) and downs (that darned New Year’s baby segment) and many, many turns from heel to face and back. But his occasional in-ring appearances have since screeched to a halt after he underwent hip surgery almost a year ago to this date.
It’s been a colorful career indeed for the World’s Largest Athlete, but it might not be much longer before he heeds the derisive, oftentimes uncalled-for chants for him to “please retire.” At 46, he has nothing more to prove in what has been a Hall of Fame-caliber career in the WWE.
21 Titus O’Neil
At 41-years-old, Titus O’Neil is one of the older male wrestlers on Monday Night Raw’s roster, and it’s clear WWE wants to use him more in a managerial role. But who’s he going to manage if Titus Worldwide is falling apart? Apollo Crews seems to have issues with him, and Dana Brooke just left the faction, so what’s next for Titus?
Despite his many outside-the-ring contributions to WWE, O’Neil’s usefulness as an on-air performer is on the decline, and it won’t be surprising if WWE gives the Gator the pink slip. However, don’t be surprised either if the company finds another way to utilize his promo skills; either way, his time as an active wrestler is running out.
Like some of the other names in this list, Goldust is well into his 40s, with more than two decades of pro wrestling experience under his belt. In fact, he’s only seven months shy of his 50th birthday, and it’s a credit to his durability that he remains employed by the WWE as Monday Night Raw’s elder statesman.
As he underwent surgery on both knees just two months ago, the only thing left for this grandson of a plumber to do is to announce his retirement, at least as far as the WWE goes. But don’t expect him to be inactive for too long, as we could easily see him teaming up with his younger brother Cody in the indies as he enjoys one last run as the Bizarre One.
19 Chad Gable
While WWE might be willing to give Jason “Kurt Angle’s Son” Jordan another chance once he heals up from his injuries, that might not be the case with the smaller half of American Alpha, Chad Gable. The poor guy’s been a complete afterthought ever since he moved to Monday Night Raw in the Superstar Shakeup.
It’s previously been suggested by Dave Meltzer — Gable would be better off in the indies, where, at 32, he’s still young enough to hone his skills and emerge as a bigger star. Besides, WWE’s recent signing of UFC star-turned indy wrestling sensation Matt Riddle is the kind of move that could make an ex-amateur wrestler like Gable superfluous.
Most fans expected that Asuka would have already won herself a Women’s Championship on the main roster by now. Instead, the Empress of Tomorrow is being treated like yesterday’s news, as she appears to be nowhere in WWE’s plans for the SmackDown Women’s title that reigning champion Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch are currently feuding over.
Is it WWE’s traditional lack of interest in performers who speak English as a second language? Is it the fact that Asuka turns 37 this month, making her 5-6 years older than Flair, Lynch, and recently dethroned champion, Carmella? We don’t know why creative suddenly has nothing for Asuka, but things need to change soon if WWE doesn’t want her heading back to Japan after a failed main roster run.
17 Tye Dillinger
He may be the “Perfect 10,” but many fans probably wouldn’t be able to make it to 10 when counting the number of times they’ve seen Tye Dillinger on SmackDown Live since the Superstar Shakeup. While he was never the biggest star on NXT, his gimmick was always over with the fans ahead of and after his main roster call-up, but it appears that WWE is no fan of those “10” chants either.
With hardly any role on WWE’s main roster and the expectation that the next wave of NXT talents might be due for a call-up in the coming months, Dillinger definitely looks like someone whose weeks in the company may be numbered.
16 Dana Brooke
Let’s start out with the good news – Dana Brooke is no longer with Titus Worldwide and is free of the on-and-off statistician gimmick that suited her poorly. The bad news is that it probably won’t lead to a better push – whenever WWE needs someone to put top female babyfaces over, they know whom to turn to.
Unfortunately, Brooke hasn’t improved too much in the ring or on the mic, and unless she’s a heel lackey like she was to Emma and Charlotte Flair, she’s bland and uninteresting as a character. She's gotten more than her share of chances, but looks to be close to running out of them.
15 Finn Balor
We’re going to go out on a limb on this one and fearlessly predict that Finn Balor might not be much longer for the WWE. With the current focus on The Shield vs. Strowman/Ziggler/McIntyre and Kevin Owens’ new feud with Bobby Lashley, Balor’s dropped down in the totem pole, and is almost at a point where he could be called a jobber to the stars.
Despite becoming the inaugural WWE Universal Champion for all of one day, Balor isn’t even an Intercontinental Championship contender at this point. Vince McMahon still clearly thinks Finn isn’t large or durable enough to be over, and he probably won’t have much problem giving him the pink slip.
14 Zack Ryder
We should have known not to expect much when Zack Ryder seemingly kicked off a career rebirth after winning the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 32. While he did fairly well in tag team competition with the Hype Bros, that team has long been done, and neither he nor Mojo Rawley are regular performers on Monday Night Raw.
It’s been a long run in the WWE for Ryder, ever since his 2007 debut and first major (no pun intended) storyline as one of the “Edgeheads.” He’s far from being an old guy at 33, so perhaps he could take his talents to Impact or the indies and make up for the years of neglect from WWE’s creative powers that be.
13 Alicia Fox
She’s been a wedding planner, kayfabe clubber DJ Gabriel’s dance partner, been portrayed as crazy on more than one occasion, and now she’s one of Alexa Bliss’ lackeys, seemingly out of WWE’s doghouse after an altercation with Ronda Rousey’s husband, UFC fighter Travis Browne, during WrestleMania weekend. But how much more time does Alicia Fox have in the WWE?
At 32-years-old with over a decade’s experience in the WWE, Fox’s upside is severely limited at this point in her career. And with this year’s Mae Young Classic expected to produce a new batch of full-time WWE hires, Fox may be one of multiple female talents WWE could deem surplus to their needs in the coming weeks.
12 The Ascension
We’ve said it before – the “Wasteland” might as well be WWE’s euphemism for the unemployment line once they finally give The Ascension their pink slips. To be fair, they showed some unexpected abilities as comedic performers in their skits with Breezango (and on Southpaw Regional Wrestling), but with those skits now a distant memory, their main purpose is as enhancement talent for Raw’s tag team division.
Occasionally, WWE finds a way for struggling tag teams to become relevant again — take the B-Team and, before their return to irrelevance, Breezango, for example. Sadly, The Ascension seem to be too far gone to redeem at this point in their WWE runs.
11 Apollo Crews
So Titus Worldwide looks to be disbanding soon, and that should mean a fresh start for everyone in the stable, right? However, you may have also noticed that Titus O’Neil and Dana Brooke are also on this list, which means it’ll likely be a return to singles job duty for Apollo Crews. Heck, they didn’t even give him an angle with Terry Crews at SummerSlam!
Despite having the physical tools and muscular build Vince McMahon likes to see in his superstars, Crews’ lack of charisma and mic skills has severely held him back since his main roster debut two years ago. It’s high time he gets a chance to become Uhaa Nation once again and reinvent himself in a return to the indies.
10 Mickie James
Alexa Bliss might as well start looking for younger women to have her back and do her dirty work as Monday Night Raw’s preeminent female heel, because it’s not just Alicia Fox whom we expect to be due for a pink slip. Mickie James is in a similar boat, but unlike Foxy, who’s more likely to be part of a massive “future endeavors” class, James’ path out of the WWE could come in the form of her retirement.
Trish Stratus’ one-off return at the Evolution PPV notwithstanding, James is the second oldest female wrestler in the WWE and the oldest who still makes regular onscreen appearances. She was evidently brought back to put the younger women over, and that run is very likely to be ending soon.
As of this writing, Kane has yet to announce his retirement from the ring, but we think that might be in store at some point in the near future. Glenn Jacobs, after all, is now the mayor of Knox County, Tennessee, and those mayoral duties will definitely interfere with his appearances in WWE, occasional as they’ve become in recent years.
If only we weren’t fooled so many times by those times when he appeared to be close to retirement, we’d include Kane’s kayfabe brother, The Undertaker, in here as well. But even if he’s a couple years younger than Taker, Kane is far more likely to retire, and it’s on account of his being the Big Red Mayor.
8 Luke Gallows And Karl Anderson
They were huge stars in New Japan as two of the earliest members of Bullet Club. That’s why many were expecting great things when Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson signed with WWE in 2016. So far, all we’ve gotten is one unsatisfying run as Raw Tag Team Champions and a few other hope spots. Otherwise, they’ve been booked worse than that word Gallows often uses to describe their rivals — “nerds.”
As Gallows and Anderson’s contracts are reportedly expiring early next year, we’re guessing they’ll be making a return to New Japan soon enough, where they can be booked as legitimate butt-kickers instead of goofy tweeners who often lose when it counts the most.
For the past couple of years, R-Truth has been WWE’s go-to-guy whenever they need someone who doesn’t wrestle much to take part in a comedy skit. However, they eventually released Santino Marella years after he quietly retired from in-ring competition and focused on occasional comedy segments, and Santino’s two years younger than Truth.
Obviously, R-Truth’s a longtime favorite of Vince McMahon, so his release as an active performer might not be the end of his tenure with the WWE. But he barely does anything as a wrestler these days, so the company might as well cut him sooner rather than later to make room for new NXT call-ups.
6 Mike And Maria Kanellis
Not even the “Power of Love” could overcome the power of apathy from WWE’s creative team, or the power of apathy from fans who tired quickly of their gimmick. Despite bypassing NXT en route to an instant main roster debut, former ROH and Impact star Mike Bennett failed to get over using his wife’s last name, and one could consider themselves lucky if they get to see him wrestling a match on Raw.
With Maria Kanellis likely to focus on motherhood and other non-wrestling plans, that makes it even more likely that this husband-and-wife team will be among the many wrestlers included in WWE’s next batch of future endeavors.
5 Shelton Benjamin
Many longtime WWE fans were disappointed when Shelton Benjamin didn’t get to sign with WWE in 2016 due to injuries. We had to wait one year for the onetime Gold Standard to return to the company, but apart from his brief partnership with Chad Gable, it’s mostly been a case of much ado about nothing for this skilled in-ring veteran.
Although Benjamin was turned heel after this year’s Superstar Shakeup, he’s been mostly absent from SmackDown Live television since then, as the arrivals of Andrade “Cien” Almas and SAnitY and Randy Orton’s heel turn dropped him down the pecking order. It was a good return while it lasted, but at 43, he’s one of those in this list who have seen much better days in the ring.
4 The Colons
Yeah, you better believe they’re still employed by the WWE. Whether wrestling as faux-Mexican bullfighters, Puerto Rican timeshare salesmen, or simply as themselves, Primo and Epico Colon just haven’t been able to sustain much interest from the WWE Universe. That’s why it often boggles the mind as to how long they’ve managed to remain under the company’s payroll.
To their credit, Primo and Epico haven’t been the headache that their far better-pushed relative, Carlito, was in his six years with the WWE. Yet they’ve lasted about a year longer than Carlito had, despite their frequent lower-card status. Expect that to change soon. (Their employment status, that is, not their place on the card.)
What a difference a title loss makes. Great things were expected from WWE’s rebooted Cruiserweight Division and its inaugural champion, TJ Perkins. But after he lost the title to Brian Kendrick (who could also be released, but could also return to his old role as a trainer), he fell way down the cruiserweight power rankings, never to rebound as a top contender for the Cruiserweight Championship in the two years or so since then.
WWE tried turning him heel, tried shortening his name to TJP, then tried adding some shoot elements to his story arc by having him complain to 205 Live GM Drake Maverick about his lack of opportunities. Nothing seems to be working, so it might be time for TJP’s fans to enjoy him on WWE while he lasts.
Tamina is one of those many wrestlers whom you may be surprised still work for the WWE. After all, it’s been ages since she’s last been on television. She’s currently recovering from rotator cuff surgery, but would it really shock you if WWE cut her loose after all those months of inactivity?
Prior to her brief return as part of the Welcoming Committee faction, Tamina was already aging and injury-prone, and right now, she’s just a few months shy of her 41st birthday. The Mae Young Classic promises to result in several new hires and maybe a few call-ups from NXT, and Tamina looks to be one of the many female wrestlers WWE could cut loose to make way for the new girls.
1 Hideo Itami
Oh, what a waste Hideo Itami’s run in the WWE has been. We’re (barely) confident WWE finally knows what it’s doing with Shinsuke Nakamura — otherwise, we would have had a trifecta of wasted Japanese talents in this list. Itami, on the other hand, is an also-ran in WWE’s Cruiserweight Division who is more likely than most of his 205 Live brethren to want out or get cut.
Truly, this is a far cry from what Itami achieved as KENTA, as he innovated CM Punk’s GTS finisher and emerged as one of Japan’s top young wrestlers in Pro Wrestling NOAH. He deserves much better than trading wins with other WWE cruiserweights but failing to emerge as a serious title contender.