Let us take a moment and give the WWE some credit, as they finally given WWE fans a sense of excitement and something to talk about again. It just didn’t feel like a New Era yet, as young stars weren’t getting pushed properly and it just felt like there were way too many cooks in the kitchen. To develop young stars properly, a brand extension seems absolutely necessary. With this mind, the WWE is addressing a major concern which stems around adding some depth to both Raw and SmackDown via former WWE veteran stars that can help to push some young faces.
A rumored list of potential recruits recently emerged, sending shock waves across the pro wrestling landscape. Some names got us excited, while others had as scratching our heads as to what and why? The list featured a variety of names from lower card tag teams to previously established mid carders. The names on the list gave us different emotions. In this article, we will further evaluate those names and classify which we are excited for and which we really don’t care for.
With this being said let us begin, here are eight wrestlers we want to see and seven we’d rather not at this point.
15 DO: John Morrison
His skill set defines what the New Era is all about, as he's a regular sized Superstar with some serious in-ring skills. Morrison’s athletic prowess mixed in with his experience and in ring talents would fit perfectly into the WWE’s new vision. Adding him to the roster would be a great depth move, which is something both brands desperately need in order to thrive and more importantly put over the younger talents. In terms of making Superstars look good, Morrison is right up there.
His WWE release surprised many, similar to the Cody Rhodes situation. Morrison attempted to customize a new deal with the WWE that saw him gain creative control while moving up a class into a more prominent position on the show. Unfortunately, the WWE did not see him in that light and this where contract negotiations broke down. John wanted to be the prototypical “guy” while the WWE wasn’t willing to push him any further. With his vision in mind, John took his talents to the indie scene and later signed a deal with Lucha Underground becoming “the guy.” He is still with the promotion putting on some tremendous matches. He admits a WWE return is possible, but at this point his heart remains in a Lucha Underground environment.
14 DON’T: MVP
When the list of names was made public of who the WWE (allegedly) contacted for a possible return, many fans were surprised to see the name of MVP on the list. Montel is set to turn 43 this year, so he’s certainly getting up there in age.
Eventually, like so many others, MVP lost his way after a promising debut with the SmackDown brand as a highly sought after free agent. His career highlights included multiple United States Title runs along with a random Tag Team Championship reign alongside Matt Hardy. Following his championship involvements, MVP was regulated to a role at putting over younger stars and he was later released from his WWE contract.
It's not really a shock that WWE called him up, as MVP is exactly what the company needs at this point, a mid card level name that has experience under his belt. Since leaving the WWE, Montel has stayed active to his credit wrestling with New Japan, TNA and a brief run with Lucha Underground. The problem about MVP making a return is will the crowd care enough? His draw value was spiralling downwards towards the end of his career, not to mention his ring work has taken a major blow in the last couple of years. If he is to return, we certainly hope for his conditioning to improve. In terms of a possible return, fans remain very split on how effective he can be, the ultimate concern is that he’s a medium sized fish in a huge pond.
13 DO: Carlito
Similar to MVP, Carlito eventually got lost in the mid-card. It seemed like it happened overnight, as he went from an upper mid carder to a low card tag team wrestler. With the proper booking, Carlito had the ability to excel, but ultimately his demise was both his fault, along with the WWE’s for not booking him properly. Carlito’s run with the company came to an end after the veteran talent refused to check into a rehab facility. WWE officials were worried about the talent after he showed up to a Raw taping from Toronto, Canada in terrible condition. It was later revealed following his release that the former Untied States Champion had a painkiller addiction.
Despite his past issues, we can all agree that bad booking also cost Carlito. His draw value was sky high after he defeated some guy by the name of John Cena in his first WWE match, winning the United States Championship. That set up a memorable mid card feud between the two. Eventually, Cena rose to fame as a face, while Carlito downgraded, going lower and lower in the card. He was eventually used as a lower card tag team wrestler. His involvement would play a crucial role on either brand, as he can become a prominent fixture in either the Intercontinental Championship or United States Title picture. His return has all the makings of a successful redemption story and we truly hope to see him back soon.
12 DON’T: Stevie Richards
Most pro wrestling fans can agree that Stevie’s name was probably the most random one to surface once the names were made public of who the WWE might be pursuing for the brand split. Set to turn 45 this year, we struggle to understand how the veteran can make an impact. Richards was the prototypical journeyman throughout his career. He travelled the world wrestling everywhere from ECW, WCW, WWE, TNA and, as recently as of 2015, Ring of Honor. His impact in a WWE ring was marginal, as Richards found himself as a lower card wrestler throughout his career. His biggest successes came in the midst of the wacky Attitude Era, leading a faction called Right To Censor.
Aside from that, he was mainly used to put others over, which is why you think the WWE contacted him in an era where putting younger talents over is crucial for the company’s future. The one glaring concern at this point is his draw value, as fans likely won't care and his role will likely jut be for some comedic relief in the lower card, like Goldust. It’s worth mentioning however that conditioning wise, he looks like he’s in the best shape of his life. Not sure if that will be enough, however, for fans to care.
11 DO: Jeff Hardy
Since his WWE departure way back in 2009, several rumors have surfaced pertaining to a return by The Charismatic Enigma. Hardy’s career was plagued by his heart being in the wrong place at times, which caused him to be a solid player but not a crucial one. The WWE also believed in his talents, don’t forget, as Jeff had stints with both the WWE Title and World Heavyweight Championship. Not to mention, he became the 18th Triple Crown in WWE history.
Jeff himself admitted that a WWE return will happen at some point. Hardy stated in various shoot interviews that he wants one more WWE run before he finally rides off into the sunset. Set to turn 39, Jeff is older and wiser. Mix that in with a clean lifestyle away from his older drug infused days and this makes Hardy a valuable asset to the WWE product. In addition to all of that, thinking of some possible opponents for Jeff is mouth-watering. Hardy versus Rollins anyone?
10 DON'T: Matt Hardy
When you look at things from a technical standpoint, Matt is the better brother, although in terms of general draw value and creativity, fans have sided with brother Jeff, leaving Matt as the odd man out. Hardy’s draw value over the years has taken a bit of hit because of his constant babbling online. From disputes with fans to bashing the WWE product, Matt seems to always have an opinion on things. This has caused many fans that once adored Matt to grow fed up of the former Tag Team Champion.
Despite these cons, let's give him some credit, as Matt has managed to recreate himself in front of the TNA lights, becoming a prominent upper card heel for the promotion. He also won the TNA World Heavyweight Championship which is a positive accomplishment for his career. His only issue remains what we previously discussed, as many fans are rather annoyed of Matt. If he is to comeback, the only way I can see this happening is alongside his brother Jeff as a tag team wrestler. This will suppress any annoyance, while also helping out a tag division that needs some veteran teams.
9 DO: Shelton Benjamin
Similarly to John Morrison, Shelton Benjamin will be the perfect piece to the New Era puzzle, as they crave a veteran talent which is highly skilled and has the ability to make anyone look good. Not many people outside of the WWE do this better than the 40 year old Shelton Benjamin. His release in April of 2010 caught many off guard, as Shelton was released with several other WWE stars due to budget cuts.
Since leaving the company, Benjamin has stuck to his guns and continued to do what he does best: wrestle at a high standard. After spending some time on the indie scene, Benjamin was involved with Ring of Honor and New Japan. He is currently working with Pro Wrestling Noah.
His devotion and love for the wrestling business will earn him a WWE contract and Benjamin will likely be one of the first returning wrestlers to the roster. His involvement will be as either a prominent mid carder or a tag team wrestler possibly joining American Alpha. Either way, fans will be excited to see him back in a WWE ring, where he belongs.
8 DON’T: Cody Rhodes
Here’s a name you probably didn’t expect to see for a while, but Cody’s name has somehow already resurfaced in regards to a possible WWE contract renewal. The WWE is apparently interested in resigning Cody, perhaps on a part time basis. There interest stems from content and merchandise sales, as the company was very high on his Stardust gimmick, unlike Cody who wanted to take of the paint and join the elite members of the WWE’s upper card.
Although we can all agree, Cody coming back would be great for the fans, it would ultimately do nothing for his career. His decision to leave was admirable and redefining his name on the indie scene is crucial for his brand and future in the wrestling business. If he has any chance of becoming a big name, Cody must stay away for at least a year while adding some much needed experience to his name via the indie scene and other promotions like New Japan or EVOLVE. We hope to see him back one day, but not yet.
7 DO: Trish Stratus
Although her name was not on the list of former WWE stars to be contacted, Trish made headlines when she said that she was open to a possible return. The former Diva of the Decade states that if the right concept came along, a return might entice her enough to return.
With a women’s revolution in full swing, WWE officials are concerned with the impact a brand split will have on the division. Back in the old brand extension, the WWE used Raw as the competing women’s brand, while SmackDown used women mainly for entertainment purposes and gimmick matches. Don’t expect this to happen today, with the WWE prioritizing women’s wrestling. This begs the question, how can the company create depth on both brands with so many women still down in NXT developing? One obvious way is to bring back established veteran talents like Trish. This will not only help the overall depth of the programs, but it will also further help put over young female wrestlers by making them stars in the process. I think we can all agree, pulling the trigger on a Trish return just seems right, especially now.
6 DON’T: Cryme Tyme
Similar to Stevie Richards and MVP, some wrestling fans scratched their heads when thinking about Cryme Tyme’s involvement in a WWE storyline, given all the tag teams in place at the moment. Don’t get me wrong, having veteran teams certainly helps, but in the grand scheme of things, how much will this team really help a brand, aside from adding lower card comedic relief to either Raw or SmackDown.
As we are currently seeing, fans really don’t care about bland, unrelevant comedy at the moment. Finding comedic relief in a PG Era is nearly impossible. The Golden Truth and BreezeDango storyline has showed us that, as the story which was just laughable at first is now becoming sad. You can’t help but think that Cryme Tyme will suffer the same faith in a PG Era. Depending on their involvement, fans are quite unsure on the team's return to the WWE roster. Projecting their future, the team will add excitement early on and later fade to irrelevancy, similar to the Dudley’s WWE return.
5 DO: Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan's story just seems like it isn't quite done yet. Bryan is still loved by wrestling fans and he recently made headlines by claiming he still dreams of being a wrestler at night. For the time being, an in ring return seems unlikely, though several rumors have surfaced that Bryan will eventually return, just not in a WWE ring. With this being said, his popularity is still relevant and Bryan can add value to a WWE show in other ways.
For one, Bryan can be a perfect ambassador to usher in the New Era. How? Well, being Raw’s General Manager can be a solution. Comparable to Mick Foley, fans have a soft spot for both. The WWE used this to their advantage by making Foley the commissioner, a decision that worked wonders and Foley is regarded as one of the best leaders of all time. Bryan can fill a similar void by becoming the beloved Raw GM that gives the people what they want. A possible GM spot for Bryan certainly gives the WWE something new and exciting to think about.
4 DON’T: Any Previous General Manager
With the WWE using former GM’ to fill the void of a three hour show, all the angle has really done is show wrestling fans how much we really don’t care about any of these former faces. With the likes of Teddy Long and John Laurinaitis appearing on Raw, you just get a sense of outdated programming, as opposed to a nostalgic feeling that Stone Cold Steve Austin gives wrestling fans when he randomly reappears. The current product is in dire need of something fresh and new. Putting a reliance on former faces will certainly not do the trick.
I think we can all agree that the WWE desperately needs to book something new and fresh at the GM position, whether it’s a Shane versus Stephanie angle (not that new, but it is different) or the previously mentioned Daniel Bryan return. We need something we have never seen before and more importantly something that will help to usher in a New Era in sports and entertainment.
3 DO: Goldberg
During his failed WWE run, Goldberg learned the hard way that the WWE is not WCW. His run, which seemed impossible to mess up, failed miserably. Both sides failed and played their part in this terrible run. Goldberg had a poor attitude after stepping foot into the WWE and his ego also didn’t help his cause. As for the WWE, well their booking of the WCW mega star was extremely poor. The company tried to rush Goldberg in making his debut with the likes of The Rock, a storyline they should have waited for. In terms of booking, the company needed to go with the AJ Styles approach, by slowly easing him into things with a long term storyline with an established veteran talent. Instead, the company pushed him too fast and the WWE Universe just didn’t buy it.
Now older and wiser, both the WWE product and Goldberg have done a lot of growing up. The WWE does a better job of booking established stars, while Goldberg seems to be more humble, particularly in his interviews with WWE 2K17, which he has been chosen to be the poster boy of. With a part time role, Goldberg can be a great redemption story if the WWE chooses to bring him back. With the need for established stars, Goldberg would fit right in.
2 DON’T: Rey Mysterio
I won’t go as far to say that no fans are excited to see a Rey Mysterio return, however let’s not forgot that during Rey’s final days, fans became sick of Mysterio and really didn’t care for his departure. The master of the 619 managed to stay relevant for several reasons. For one, he appealed to a younger demographic. Second, he drew great numbers with foreign markets. Though as for the main North American side of things, fans got tired of seeing Rey, as his gimmick was dry and just stayed the same for far too long. Fans wanted to see something new out of him but the WWE weren’t willing to do so because of the demo he appealed towards. Mysterio also admitted, he wanted out and it was actually at his request that he left the company and not the WWE’s don’t forget.
He left in February of 2015, so the wound is still rather fresh. While away, Mysterio has worked for AAA and Lucha Underground. Now we're not suggesting that Mysterio should never return, but some fans do feel like it’s still too soon. Rey might be better off holding out a little longer and further improving his brand value outside of the WWE.
1 DO: Kurt Angle
It's unbelievable to think that Kurt Angle last stepped foot in a WWE ring almost a decade ago. At one point, it looked the Olympic Gold Medalist would never step foot in a WWE ring again, as things were really bad between both sides. Well, like we’ve seen so many times before, things just find a way to work out. The two sides have both done a lot of growing up in the last decade, reopening talks. Angle was the first wrestler to emerge for a possible WWE comeback during the brand extension and rightfully so. Angle’s contributions to the SmackDown brand were memorable to say the least.
The rumor mill further intensified recently when Angle said it was a matter of “when” and not “if” after meeting with Triple H. With this in mind, fans are that much more excited for the brand extension with the possibility of Angle returning. His role remains to be revealed and possibilities include a GM role, part time wrestler, mentor for American Alpha or even a prominent in ring wrestler. Either way, we are excited to see him make his long awaited return.