World Wrestling Entertainment is a fascinating company to follow heading into the summer of 2018. Rumors and reports continue to link the company with putting pen to paper on massive television rights deals for the Raw and SmackDown properties, and it appears as if those deals will be worth over $1 billion — yes, billion — for Vince McMahon and the WWE. As the WWE prepares to reportedly move the SmackDown show from NBC to over-the-air Fox in the United States, the company is reportedly eyeing additional stars who could be signed for the main roster, NXT and the developmental portion of the organization's overall roster. Assuming those stories are accurate, McMahon could, essentially, pay just about anybody who is on the independent scene and wrestling for Ring of Honor, New Japan Pro Wrestling and other promotions whatever they would want to complete moves to the WWE. Do not be surprised if multiple noteworthy and recognizable names either debut or return to the WWE between June 2018 and WrestleMania 35, an event set to take place at MetLife Stadium in the New York/New Jersey region. What is already a stacked roster filled with a variety of talent should only improve over the next 18 months or so.
As much as McMahon and others who work in the WWE front office may be popping champagne bottles these days, there are still only so many spots available throughout the promotion’s different rosters. Multiple journalists have reported that developmental is overflowing with talent to the point that some of those individuals need to be added to the touring NXT brand or released so that new bodies can start training for future WWE dates. This does not account for people currently performing in NXT who will be added to either Raw or SmackDown after this year’s SummerSlam or next year’s WrestleMania. The unfortunate reality here is that McMahon will need to let some WWE contracts expire, and also elect to fire at least a handful of different wrestlers. Just as professional sports franchises and clubs looking to improve have to remove those deemed to be “dead weight,” Vince not renewing some contracts and even firing others should, in the long run, only improve the WWE. Younger talents in developmental need to be on notice that they’d better work harder than ever before once McMahon cashes-in on these media rights deals. More talent is coming to WWE locker rooms, and fans should be excited about what is to come.
15 Won’t Renew: Apollo Crews
It seemed as if the WWE had high hopes and a real plan for the Apollo Crews character when he first debuted in NXT. The company produced multiple interesting videos introducing the man to viewers who never saw him work outside of the WWE, Crews won several matches and was made to look like a top-tier athlete in the process, and he was added to the main roster before he carried the NXT title, an indication that Vince McMahon believed Crews was ready to leapfrog others on that brand.
Since joining Raw, though, Crews has been placed in multiple insignificant and forgettable storylines.
He has never won a championship, and he is currently in the Titus Worldwide stable filled with mid-card acts and jobbers. While we cannot come up with a reason why McMahon would show Crews the door in 2018, it does seem as if the man formerly known as Uhaa Nation would not have his contract renewed were it to come due today. Hopefully Vince and whoever else needs to be convinced of Crews’ talent experiences a change of heart, because Crews is too good to not be on either Raw or SmackDown, let alone NXT, come January 2019.
14 Fire: Chad Gable
The fear among outside observers and fans who understand what Vince McMahon reportedly looks for in future stars feared that it would only be a matter of time before he split the American Alpha duo of Chad Gable and Jason Jordan, pushed Jordan as a potential future singles star and dropped Gable down into the mid-card, at best. That, as of the end of May 2018, is essentially what happened. Jordan was added to the Raw brand in 2017 ahead of a horrendous storyline that involved him being the estranged son of general manager Kurt Angle.
Gable, meanwhile, was teamed with Shelton Benjamin (more on him later) on SmackDown before he, too, was placed on the Raw brand in this year’s Superstar Shakeup. While things can change, Gable has been made to look like a jobber and little more when facing the likes of Dolph Ziggler.
All things considered, Gable could be the more talented of the two former Alpha partners, but it is difficult to imagine a scenario where Vince pushes him.
Perhaps his future would be brighter if Triple H was running Raw. That isn’t the case, though, and that is why we could see McMahon choosing to fire Gable to make additional room on the roster.
13 Won’t Renew: The Ascension
The tag team The Ascension was fine down in NXT in front of fans who will embrace pretty much any act presented to it on a weekly basis. Even before they were called up to the main roster, one could tell that casual fans who watch Raw and SmackDown would not accept that duo and that it would not get over. McMahon and writers apparently understood this to be true, as The Ascension were buried down into the mid-card of the tag division almost as quickly as they were added to the roster. The WWE has tried different things to make The Ascension meaningful on both Raw and SmackDown. They were paired with Cody Rhodes/Stardust for one of the worst stables of the past several years. Later, they became comedic figures featured in backstage segments alongside Breezango.
WWE has more tag teams than the company knows what to do with on Raw, SmackDown and in NXT, and McMahon, for whatever reasons, is never going to push that portion of the roster as main-event acts. The Ascension are one of several duos that will need to make room for other teams that will be added to the main roster either in 2018 or in 2019 after WrestleMania.
12 Fire: Mike Kanellis
The former “Miracle” Mike Bennett, who has gone by Mike Kanellis in the WWE, was signed for reasons that we can only guess as of May 2018. Kanellis and his wife, Maria, appeared on SmackDown in June 2017, and they barely did anything of note before Maria disappeared off of television because of her pregnancy. Maria suggested in May 2018 that she is not yet finished working for the promotion, and Mike was moved from SmackDown to Raw in the Superstar Shakeup. We couldn’t blame you if you did not know Kanellis was part of the Raw brand, as his switch barely registered a blip on the radar for those of you who do not follow all of the WWE’s social media accounts.
Kanellis is a solid hand, and Maria is a recognizable name who can play an entertaining heel. Seeing how they were treated when they were on SmackDown, it is logical one would think Vince would decide to fire them both and bring other acts to what is still the main show rather than push both Mike and Maria in the near future. Hopefully, Mike at least gets a chance to show what he can do as a character and performer before McMahon pulls the trigger on such a decision.
11 Won’t Renew: Dana Brooke
Take one look at Dana Brooke, and one can probably imagine why McMahon saw something in her and believed that she would become a Superstar even before she was added to Raw from NXT. The problem with Brooke is that she was still a green worker, both as a wrestler and a promo, before she was called up to the main roster, and she has not shown all that much improvement in the ring. McMahon and others obviously agree with that assessment, as the company added her to the Titus Worldwide stable more as a manager, mouthpiece and valet than an active worker.
The WWE has a long history of quickly growing tired of these types of gimmicks, and that leads one to believe that Brooke’s time within the company could be running out.
McMahon has no reason to fire her since many of the women who are in NXT today still need time to develop and evolve before they are called up to Raw. Waiting until her contract runs out and then not renewing her deal could be the direction McMahon goes regarding her status. Maybe she could reunite with the former Emma on the independent circuit.
10 Fire: No Way Jose
The No Way Jose gimmick is absolutely perfect for what it is as of the end of May 2018. He comes out, preferably at the beginnings of shows, via some awesome dance moves, he gets those in the crowd on their feet with his awesome theme song, and he draws positive reactions. In reality, it isn’t a bad job for somebody to have for 10 years, at least.
Granted, Jose, as he exists on the Raw roster right now, won’t ever be a World Champion, but there are unquestionably worse ways for wrestlers to earn a living.
We have seen what happens when McMahon and those underneath him get their hands on this type of character, though, and it usually ends poorly once Vince gets tired of the gimmick. Jose will probably take several losses on Raw and, maybe, Main Event before being dropped down cards and then being relegated to house shows. Then, McMahon will determine Jose just didn’t get over before choosing to fire him en route to handing his roster spot to somebody in NXT. We hope that isn’t the case, as Jose is a fun and unique part of the main roster who gives fans who want to be entertained by something other than lengthy matches something to enjoy.
9 Won’t Renew: The Colons
Even though they were never booked to look like unstoppable heels while in NXT, much of what was written about The Ascension could also be said about the team of Primo and Epico Colon. The WWE has tried several different gimmicks to get these two over as a great tag team and also as babyfaces and heels, but their days in the WWE may be numbered once summer comes to an end and both McMahon and Triple H have to make some roster decisions. Epico is currently sidelined because of a shoulder injury, and the WWE likely wouldn’t send them packing until he is healthy and once again ready to work. When that day arrives, though, we would not be surprised if McMahon chose to let their contracts expire and not renew those deals.
Just as with The Ascension, the Colons are taking up a spot in the tag team division that will be given to an act in NXT or a team that is currently wrestling in ROH or a different promotion. They are talented workers who could have a lot to offer down in NXT and development, but Vince relegating workers for more than a one-off has not yet become a trend.
8 Fire: Shelton Benjamin
Stop us if you have heard this exact tale before. Vince McMahon and the WWE sign Shelton Benjamin, the company puts him in a tag team, that team experiences highs and lows, the promotion splits Benjamin from his partner, it teases that Benjamin could become something on a part of the roster on his own before ultimately choosing to fire him. We are over halfway through this journey in the final month of the spring, and things aren’t looking all that great for Benjamin outside of a couple of solid appearances on house shows.
McMahon is not going to push Benjamin as a potential World Champion. He just isn’t.
Maybe things would be different if Triple H were able to get his hands on the Benjamin character and give it the singles push it deserves, but we have no reason to believe that is going to happen. Once the time comes for wrestlers to be added to SmackDown via a draft, Superstar Shakeup, NXT call-ups or individuals being signed for the main roster, McMahon will probably fire Benjamin because that’s just the way things work. Benjamin is another worker we would love to see spend at least six months in NXT and developmental.
7 Won’t Renew: Jinder Mahal
Years down the road, WWE fans and journalists will all laugh and cringe as they retell the tale of how Jinder Mahal went from being a guy signed by Vince McMahon to be a jobber and little more on Raw to somebody who actually on the WWE Championship, probably because he managed to transform his body following a failed first stint in the promotion. Unlike with Roman Reigns (who isn’t getting fired by Vince McMahon anytime soon, sorry to disappoint some of you), Vince and the WWE apparently learned from the failed lesson of attempting to make Jinder the main heel of any brand, as the former champ has been lowered in status and on cards since being moved to Raw.
There is, admittedly, something to be said for Vince trying something different, but it didn’t work, and Mahal, simply put, has not improved as a wrestler since being resigned by the WWE.
McMahon may not fire Mahal, but the boss has little reason to renew this deal once it expires. The company needs better workers to fill the roster spot and role occupied by a character fans stopped caring about nearly a year ago. Mahal taking losses isn’t even worth what it was in early 2018.
6 Fire: Neville
Per rumors and speculation that arose in the middle of May, it appears that Neville is going to be allowed to leave the WWE, for good, in the near future following the dispute that resulted in him exiting the promotion last fall. There had been reports that the WWE was looking to bring him back for 205 Live or the main roster at some point either before or after WrestleMania, but that, as you know, did not occur. If Neville is going to be allowed to wrestle for a different company either in the United States or overseas, one would have to determine that Vince McMahon fired Neville and let him out of his WWE deal.
We understand that is probably what is best for all involved considering June is about to begin and it has been months before we have witnessed Neville perform, but it is still too bad that McMahon, Triple H and Neville could not come to terms on some agreement that would have seen the King of the Cruiserweights back in a WWE ring this summer. At least we got to see Neville play an awesome heel in the Cruiserweight division for a period of time before he walked out.
5 Won’t Renew: The Brian Kendrick
Here is an example of how Vince McMahon making a decision about a talent could be Triple H’s gain. While Triple H reportedly took control of the 205 Live show after the WWE fired Enzo Amore and, in turn, restarted the Cruiserweight division, it is still McMahon who signs the checks and has final say on who remains part of the main roster. The Brian Kendrick was a nice edition to the first Cruiserweight Classic tournament and, subsequently, 205 Live, and he can still go in the ring as a heel.
Even if the WWE does decide to add tag team titles to the Cruiserweight division, the company is also reportedly signing other acts in North America and from overseas who, eventually, could join NXT and 205 Live. This could leave Kendrick’s roster spot up for grabs once his contract expires if McMahon, understandably, chooses to not renew the veteran’s deal. That wouldn’t be the worst thing for the WWE, though, as Kendrick could still help mold younger talents in developmental and at NXT house shows. Triple H is clearly keen on using Kendrick’s skills and abilities to offer boosts to others. We hope to see the Cruiserweight remain with the WWE for years to come.
4 Fire: Aiden English
The hope here is that fans either jumped the gun and became overly paranoid after it was hinted that the WWE was about to separate Aiden English from Rusev and the “Rusev Day” gimmick, or that Vince McMahon and/or somebody else changed their minds about the futures of the performers. It is clear McMahon wants to push Lana, who has supermodel looks and experience working as an actress, as a main character on SmackDown, and the company seems to be reuniting her with Rusev. Say whatever you will about McMahon’s mindset at a time when the WWE is supposed to be pushing a so-called women’s revolution. Lana is over among pockets of fans, and she is only going to grow in popularity if the WWE puts her back with Rusev, her real-life husband, and lets the two work as babyface wrestlers.
This would probably leave English with nothing to do, though, especially given McMahon’s track record as it pertains to the treatment of secondary figures and managers. We don’t want to see it happen, but we can’t say we’d be surprised if Vince fired English to make room for somebody else, especially if the idea is for English and Rusev to feud later this year.
3 Won’t Renew: Sin Cara
We aren’t sure what Sin Cara’s role on the main roster is at this point. He is not even part of a mid-card tag team on SmackDown. He does jobs for fellow insignificant acts on house shows. He is not a member of the Lucha House Party stable that has produced some fun and entertaining matches on 205 Live. We cannot imagine the gimmick is still selling a ton of masks and other merchandise at live events, house shows and online. One may think that it would actually be more logical for McMahon to just fire Sin Cara, call Lucha House Party up to SmackDown (unless the WWE is introducing tag team championships to the cruiserweight division and 205 Live) and go from there.
For whatever reasons, McMahon has not wanted to make that call with the character, so we would have to guess he would allow the contract attached to Sin Cara to expire as a method of letting the wrestler walk. Fans who only watch WWE television programs and don’t go out of the way to read about house shows or behind-the-scenes workings probably wouldn’t even know if Sin Cara and the company parted ways before or after this year’s SummerSlam.
2 Fire: Alicia Fox
It was rumored that Alicia Fox, who is on the verge of completing a return to the WWE main roster from injury, was recently backstage at a Raw show, so maybe those out there who are assuming she could be on the figurative chopping block and fired by Vince McMahon before 2018 comes to an end made one too many assumptions. Still, the story about Fox allegedly getting into a heated argument with Travis Browne, the husband of former Ultimate Fighting Championship star and current Raw performer Ronda Rousey, is a bad look for somebody who probably is not going to be one of the top wrestlers in any of the company’s women’s divisions moving forward. Rousey is getting paid a ton of money to be one of the faces of the WWE and somebody who makes public appearances on Wall Street and on national television shows.
Fox, meanwhile, could never return to either Raw or SmackDown, and most fans wouldn't notice she vanished from the organization.
Then again, maybe all of this is just an elaborate storyline to set something up for a future feud. Rousey could learn some things from Fox if the plan is for the Rowdy one to main-event next year’s WrestleMania.
1 Won’t Renew: The Revival
The Revival is obviously too talented for Vince McMahon to fire in June 2018. Fans around the world just wish Triple H could convince McMahon that the former NXT Tag Team Champions deserve a little better than taking losses on weekly editions of Raw and being dropped down to NXT for house shows that aren’t televised or shown on the WWE Network. Any and all fears one may have had about what McMahon would do with The Revival once they were called up to the main roster have been realized, and the team probably won’t get much further on Raw or SmackDown than where it is today considering the other duos who are on the main roster and also teams in NXT.
Knowing McMahon will want to use the roster spots on larger wrestlers in tag teams, it’s not much of a gamble to bet he would not renew the contracts for The Revival when they expire.
At least fans who watch wrestling products other than the WWE could, in that case, see The Revival finally face the Young Bucks. Watching The Revival confront the Bucks and Cody on an edition of Being the Elite could make their lackluster run on Raw all worth the trouble.