WWE may have a huge, and some might say, bloated roster at the moment, but it's sure that there will be some changes afoot in the coming months. Usually, the biggest changes take place after WrestleMania, as the company calls up a new batch of talents from NXT. Wrestlers who once competed for the WWE may also return around this same time, if not at 'Mania itself or in the run-up to it. But with those new additions often comes subtraction – we haven't seen it in a couple of years, but WWE often culls its roster and releases upwards of 10 wrestlers in one fell swoop. That's what many fans have taken to calling "spring cleaning" due to its usual timing.
One important thing to remember is that the title says it all – we're predicting wrestler debuts, returns, and releases after WrestleMania 35, and not before. As such, possible pre-'Mania releases such as The Colons or Tyler Breeze and/or Fandango won't be included, and neither will we be including Nikki Cross or Kairi Sane, who could conceivably make their main roster debuts before the Show of Shows. And when it comes to returns, we'll mostly be including wrestlers who could return to the main roster, though there may be a few examples of ex-WWE or NXT superstars returning via NXT included in this list.
So here they are – seven potential debuts, returns, and releases we may see at some point after WrestleMania 35 next year.
21 Debut: Velveteen Dream
Patrick Clark was favored by many to win Season 6 of Tough Enough, and while he ultimately fell short, there's no denying that there isn't anybody from the Season 6 cast who has as much upside as he currently does. Of course, he now goes by the name Velveteen Dream, and his flamboyant character has been a huge hit since he debuted it on NXT.
While he hasn't won any championships on NXT, Dream's character is tailor-made for WWE's mid-card (albeit in a good way), and since WWE tends to debut a few gimmicky characters right after WrestleMania, it won't be surprising if he makes the jump by then. Here's hoping this youngster (only 23 as of this writing) turns out to be more like Elias than No Way Jose.
20 Return: Hulk Hogan
If you thought WWE had fully and officially welcomed Hulk Hogan back with open arms at Crown Jewel, think again. Most reports point to this return being a one-off to pop the audience and make the checkered PPV feel more special, as reports have claimed WWE is asking its social media team to lay off The Hulkster references post-Crown Jewel.
Those reports added that WWE is waiting for the right time to formally reintroduce Hogan to the WWE Universe, so with that in mind, there's a decent chance we'll see him on a more regular basis, possibly in an authority figure role, after the book is closed on WrestleMania 35.
19 Release: Mike And Maria Kanellis
Despite WWE's attempts to give Mike and Maria Kanellis something to do by moving them to 205 Live, it ultimately won't be enough to convince them to have a long and successful run with the company. While the former "Miracle" Mike Bennett was never thought to be a WWE Championship contender, much more was expected from the former ROH and Impact Wrestling standout. Same with Maria, who spent several years in WWE after she first debuted via the Diva Search.
At this point, Mike may be better off as a big fish in the smaller indie pond, while the lighter independent schedule could help Maria focus on motherhood and her non-wrestling interests. The "power of love" obviously isn't enough to give the couple the push they deserve.
18 Debut: The Other Three MMA Horsewomen
We've been hearing so many reports over the past year or so about the WWE and MMA versions of the Four Horsewomen feuding with each other. Well, how about building it up for next year's SummerSlam, or maybe next year's Survivor Series at the very latest?
Definitely, current NXT Women's Champion Shayna Baszler is more than ready to debut right after WrestleMania, but the question here is whether Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir will be ready to do the same. As relative pro wrestling newbies, they still need more seasoning in developmental, but regardless of when Ronda Rousey's fellow MMA Horsewomen debut, they'll likely be doing so as a group.
17 Return: Eva Marie
Don't laugh, panic, or cancel your subscription to the WWE Network – Eva Marie has been sending out feelers, as she told Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet just last month that she's interested in resuming the wrestling career she left behind to focus on acting. And when we say wrestling career, we mean an actual return to the ring.
Being that Vince McMahon has always been high on Eva Marie due to her looks (rather than her near-total lack of wrestling ability), we think it won't be farfetched for WWE to give the former Ms. All Red Everything a chance at a return. We can only hope that if WWE ends up re-signing her, they do so by giving her a managerial role.
16 Release: Mojo Rawley
Remember when many people thought Mojo Rawley had a chance at upper mid-card (not main event) stardom just because he won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33? Sorry to break it to you, but Rawley's lack of success after that surprise win is all the proof you need that winning the Andre Battle Royal will NOT result in an improved push.
Rawley may have been an interesting prospect because of his size, NFL background, and real-life friendship with Rob Gronkowski. But you can forget about Gronk returning to the WWE and stop being "hyped" about Mojo because WWE clearly has nothing for him at this point, and will likely cut ties with him after WrestleMania 35.
15 Debut: Ricochet
It's been so far, so good for Ricochet since he signed with WWE last year, as he currently reigns as NXT's second N.A. Champion. Upon his signing, many expected him to be fast-tracked to the main roster, and if a post-'Mania debut qualifies as such, then you may be in luck. You may also want to set your expectations if you're hoping to see him in a higher-profile role.
It's been said quite a few times that the plan is for Ricochet to make his main roster debut on 205 Live. That, of course, is slumming it for someone with his reputation in the business, but who knows? Maybe his presence could be a great help in making the cruiserweight division more than it currently is in Vince McMahon's eyes.
14 Return: John Morrison
As of now, it's been seven years since John Morrison last competed in the WWE. Since then, he's had high-profile stints in Lucha Underground, AAA, Impact Wrestling, and on the current season of Survivor, where he was eliminated on a recent episode.
That mainstream exposure will certainly have him on WWE's radar once again, and even if it's for a mid-card nostalgia stint not unlike the ones Mickie James and Shelton Benjamin have been on since returning to WWE last year, it would be nice to see Morrison back on WWE television in 2019. He may be pushing 40, but his Impact run is proof positive that he's still got it.
13 Release: Sonya Deville
A former MMA fighter, Sonya Deville progressed through the WWE ranks via Tough Enough and NXT, and debuted on the main roster alongside Mandy Rose late last year, as they served as Paige's lackeys in Absolution. But with Paige retired and having shifted to an authority figure role on SmackDown Live, Absolution's ex-members have floundered and are barely featured on the blue brand these days.
Vince McMahon, being the fan of old-school Divas that he is, still sees a lot of potential in Rose, but as far as Deville is concerned, her lack of charisma and mic skills could make her surplus once WWE starts culling talent after WrestleMania 35.
12 Debut: Heavy Machinery
This was a close one, given that there's a chance we could be seeing The Undisputed Era show up on the Raw or SmackDown after WrestleMania, or maybe even before 'Mania. But since the chairman loves his big men, to say little of the tag teams that may be disbanded (or released) by that time, we think Tucker Knight and Otis Dozovic, aka Heavy Machinery, are the odds-on favorite tag team to get the post-'Mania call-up.
With a look that wouldn't have been out of place in the '80s and a decided fondness for "steaks and weights," Knight and Dozovic make for interesting main roster prospects going forward. They probably won't be fighting for a tag team title just yet, but they'll certainly be far more entertaining than the likes of the Bludgeon Brothers or The Ascension have been.
11 Return: Juice Robinson
Now this entry may seem like a bit of a long shot, but there have been few wrestlers outside of Cody Rhodes who have benefited from leaving WWE as much as Juice Robinson has. Known in NXT as CJ Parker, Robinson's upside was limited because of the weak "tree hugger"/"eco-warrior" gimmick he was given. But things may be different if WWE gives him another shot, possibly having him return to NXT shortly after WrestleMania 35.
If and when WWE does bring Robinson back, it better be without the crazy gimmicks. As he's shown in New Japan, he could be successful playing an amped-up version of himself like many other wrestlers do – his current ring name, after all, isn't that far of a stretch from his real name of Joseph Robinson. (And not the same name as a female Baywatch character.)
10 Release: No Way Jose
Some NXT mid-carders are simply destined for better things on the main roster, with Alexa Bliss, Carmella, and Elias being the prime examples of such. Then you've got flops such as Tyler Breeze, Simon Gotch, and this guy – No Way Jose, who is essentially a Hispanic version of Adam Rose without the mischievous, decadent edge.
After picking up his requisite introductory wins and getting squashed into irrelevance by Baron Corbin, Jose has mostly been utilized on Main Event, where he's got a fairly decent win-loss record – mostly thanks to wins over Mr. Losing Streak himself, Curt Hawkins. Maybe it's time for him to head back to the indies, pick up more experience, and maybe return to the WWE in a year or two with a newer, fresher, and more promising gimmick.
9 Debut: Johnny Gargano
Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa became household names thanks to their intense and bitter NXT Championship feud this year. While we'll discuss Ciampa separately, let's take a look at what the future may hold for Johnny Wrestling following his recent heel turn.
As we see it, turning heel and revealing himself as Aleister Black's mystery attacker might be what Gargano needs to win that elusive NXT Championship. With that in mind, he'll need some time to establish himself as a villain, then probably debut around the same time as Ciampa, either as one-half of a heel #DIY or a singles competitor whom we hope Vince McMahon wouldn't ignore (or send to 205 Live) due to his smaller stature.
8 Return: Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho may be enjoying himself away from Vince McMahon and his micromanaged product, and his run in NJPW is way better than anyone would have imagined at first. However, it was in WWE where Jericho went from underutilized WCW mid-carder to bona fide main event talent, and you never know when he'll be back for an extended run under Vince's watch.
However, you've got to wonder how much longer he'll be able to play a key part in WWE storylines, as he just turned 48 and has close to three decades of wrestling experience under his belt. Look for Jericho to finish up his New Japan run in the coming months, return to WWE at some point after WrestleMania, and have one final stint as a regular performer for the company.
7 Release: Luke Gallows And Karl Anderson
WWE saw something special in New Japan standouts Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, which is why they debuted (re-debuted in Gallows' case) straight-away on the main roster right after WrestleMania 32. But unlike their old Bullet Club stablemate AJ Styles, who didn't need NXT to thrive in the WWE, the Good Brothers are now riding the bench on SmackDown Live, with creative having nothing for them.
That's right – Gallows and Anderson are now almost as irrelevant and hardly-utilized as Primo and Epico these days. Since we think The Colons might be gone before WrestleMania 35, we're willing to bet Gallows and Anderson will choose not to re-sign and opt to return to New Japan about two years to the date of their WWE debut.
6 Debut: Tommaso Ciampa
At this point, Tommaso Ciampa has achieved all he could possibly achieve in the developmental ranks. After a feud with Johnny Gargano that spawned multiple classic matches, Tommy Entertainment is now reigning as NXT Champion, and the time may soon be right to bring him up to the main roster.
The question, however, is how WWE will present Ciampa once his inevitable, possibly post-WrestleMania 35 call-up, comes around. He's obviously way too good for 205 Live, and while it won't be surprising if he ends up there, his dastardly heel character is good enough to fit in either Raw or SmackDown's mid-card. We hope Vince McMahon, given his trademark skepticism/disinterest when it comes to smaller guys, doesn't keep him there for long.
5 Return: Cody Rhodes
Having had it with the Stardust character that made him irrelevant in WWE's mid-card, Cody Rhodes asked for his release from WWE in 2016, and since then, he's become an even bigger star in the indies and New Japan. He's clearly made the right move by striking out on his own.
As Cody previously said he will become a free agent at the start of 2019, it's not inconceivable for WWE to snap him up ASAP and re-debut him at the Royal Rumble. If not, then there's a solid chance you might see the "Nightmare" back in WWE around or shortly after WrestleMania 35. He may, after all, want to perform a few more indy dates before giving Vince McMahon and company another try, much like the Hardy Boyz ahead of WrestleMania 33.
4 Release: Alicia Fox
At this point, Alicia Fox's role is pretty much that of the veteran female talent who takes the pin whenever someone younger and more promising (usually a babyface) needs a win. It's been more than a decade since she was first introduced as Edge and Vickie Guerrero's wedding planner, and to be honest, it's somewhat surprising she remains gainfully employed by the WWE.
That isn't to say she's a liability in the ring, though she has dealt with her share of injuries and backstage issues as of late. Foxy has had a long and successful WWE run, all things considered, but there are so many women in developmental who may be due for a call-up right around WrestleMania season, may it be before or after the event.
3 Debut: Aleister Black
There was much hype when it was reported in 2016 that Dutch indy standout Tommy End had signed a contract with WWE. So far, the renamed Aleister Black has lived up to that hype and then some on NXT. His upcoming feud with a now-heel Johnny Gargano should be something to look forward to.
Given that he's had a great run atop NXT, it might not be long before we see Black make his main roster debut, possibly on the Raw or SmackDown after WrestleMania. Let's just hope he doesn't follow in the footsteps of Neville, Sami Zayn, and Finn Balor as a former NXT Champion whose lack of size has made Vince McMahon hesitant on pushing them in the main roster.
2 Return: Batista
This one, we'd say, would have been a slam dunk return following his appearance with the rest of Evolution on SmackDown 1000. Dave Bautista may be a huge star in Hollywood these days, but as far as he's concerned, there's nothing he'd want more outside of the movie world than one final WWE run, and hopefully a marquee match at WrestleMania 35.
Due to the torn pec Triple H sustained at Crown Jewel, that one last, definitive match against The Game at 'Mania could be in jeopardy. But there's always the possibility WWE could find someone else to step up against "The Animal" if Triple H's pectoral muscle still isn't healed up. Perhaps a certain Apex Predator would be interested in such a match?
1 Release: Brock Lesnar
We've said it so often this year, but we've seen him come back and sign new short-term deals with the WWE because Vince McMahon still sees dollar signs in him. But that's the only reason why Brock Lesnar keeps coming back – he earns so much for showing up so infrequently, though we think he'd much rather be sending Daniel Cormier off into the sunset in the UFC's octagon.
Sooner or later, Vince will realize what everyone else around him has realized long ago – the longer Brock stays in the WWE, the fewer opportunities other Monday Night Raw talents stand to receive. His current contract is said to be expiring after WrestleMania, and we think that's about all the time he has before leaving WWE. (At least for the next year or two.)