WrestleMania season is upon us. There is lots of glitz, glamour, and spectacle that will surround the five-hour plus long show that will grace our television screens in just a matter of weeks. It is the most anticipated wrestling event of the year, and that weekend alone will see another NXT Takeover card, along with dozens of other pro wrestling promotions housing matches close to the New Orleans area to build off the hype.
In recent years, we've seen a lot of surprises on the Mania card itself, and especially the night after on Raw. A lot of NXT stars make their Raw debuts the next night, receiving call-ups to the main roster in front of arguably the most savvy wrestling audience in the world, considering there are a bunch of diehard fans just waiting to be impressed with WWE. Most garner positive reactions, even though WWE has a hard time doing anything with them once they hit the main roster and compete for a year.
More so, WWE also has a spring cleaning time, if you will, that usually comes a few weeks, or even months after Mania, where budget cuts and filtering out unnecessary excess sees many WWE superstars get fired and hope they can find work on the indie circuit. It's a notorious time where fans even guess who will be axed in the coming year.
With all that said, it's safe to say there are lots of WWE stars who will be making their debuts on both Raw and SmackDown, while others are going to be less fortunate, having to join the likes of TNA, ROH, and other feds that will support their style once let go by the biggest wrestling promotion in the world.
Here are some guesses as to who will be sticking around, and who will be let go:
16 Departure: Dana Brooke
Dana Brooke has seemingly been directionless, as WWE seems to change her role every few months. She had a failed stint as Charlotte Flair's protege, and in recent months, she's served as a filler for Titus Worldwide. She hasn't shown much improvement in the ring, and she hasn't shown much on the mic in order to be considered for a vocal managerial role. Dana will either have to find her voice or a gimmick that truly works for her. She was brought in with some high hopes, as she has a great look for a current female WWE Superstar, but with an influx of talent coming up from NXT soon, you have to wonder how much longer Dana can survive on the main roster.
15 Debut: EC3
We saw him in the crowd at the last NXT Takeover over Rumble weekend, and it shocked us all. EC3 was always coming up in the rumor mill, but after leaving TNA, WWE made no mistake this time and snatched him up right away.
It wasn’t long ago that EC3 was known in NXT as Derrick Bateman, who definitely had the potential but wasn’t exactly going to be a big star in WWE. He was a little green, and didn’t quite have the experience needed to be a main player in the promotion. So EC3 signed with TNA not long after, his gimmick consisting of being the nephew of Dixie Carter and a spoiled brat at that. But something changed in EC3 – he was hungry, he was becoming a fantastic wrestler, and most importantly, when he cut a promo, you listened. He became one of the most entertaining wrestlers both on the mic and in the ring. Before Broken Matt became all the rage in TNA, EC3 was the sole reason anyone would want to watch the promotion.
As it stands, EC3 will be in NXT, yet fans know exactly who he is, and the pop to have him debut shortly After Mania or the following PPV would be something to remember.
14 Departure: Sheamus
Sheamus is now 40 years old, as many people forget just how long he's been under contract with WWE. However, Sheamus's years in the ring have started to catch up to him, as he spent much of late 2017 treating some neck problems and with him and Cesaro pretty much having accomplished everything they could as a tag team and Sheamus unlikely to get another main event run, it seems he may not have that much more time on the WWE roster. Obviously, this sort of departure would be on amicable terms with the WWE and given Sheamus's strong relationship with Triple H, it's very likely he'd be kept on in some capacity with the company, perhaps as an NXT trainer.
13 Debut: Ricochet
The self-procclaimed King Ricochet is one of those talents you don’t see too often. A veteran who has tore up rings in Lucha Underground (as the masked Prince Puma), NJPW, Dragon Gate and PWG, Ricochet is one of the most enteraining, charismatic and dangerous wrestlers out there. He is without question the greatest high flyer in American wrestling today.
He is going to bring a lot of excitement in both NXT and WWE, and when it comes to the latter, someone like Ricochet is perfect to bring new blood to 205 Live. It would be interesting to see the high flyer partake in both shows, and even though new talents have to go through NXT on their road to the main roster, Ricochet is so good that he’s one of the few that you would give a pass to make the jump to either Raw or SmackDown without any previous WWE experience. If you’re not familiar with him, go on YouTube and watch his matches against Will Ospreay, Kota Ibushi or Rey Mysterio.
12 Departure: R-Truth
He’s great when it comes to entertaining the kids, but R-Truth’s days in WWE sure feel limited.
While R-Truth is currently out nursing an injury, his presence hasn’t been missed on WWE television lately. With the current crop of stars making waves on Raw (the likes of Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and The Miz), the room is becoming tighter, and opportunities are limited. Even with a three hour show to fill, the time slots are becoming thinner. R-Truth served his purporse as a babyface that’s being used as enhancement talent, but these days, there are just too many guys participating in that role.
Truth, who’s one of the oldest members on the roster (nearing his mid-40s), isn’t going to be making a title run any time soon.
He’s probably being used for house shows when he comes back, but it won’t be surprising if Truth is included in the roster-wide cuts that happen shortly after Mania.
11 Debut: War Machine
This is a tag team to keep an eye on, and Hanson and Raymond Rowe seem destined for greatness in WWE. If you took a little bit of Demolition, added with the Legion of Doom and combined it with the versatile skills of a big man like Vader, you’d have what we call War Machine.
This team was signed not too long ago after tearing up the scene in both ROH and New Japan, and recently made their NXT debut by cutting a promo and putting the tag division on notice. While matches against the Authors of Pain and Sanity will be looming for them, it feels like they may just jump to the main roster and surpass the aforementioned tandems based on their style alone.
While the Authors of Pain could move up to the main roster the night after Mania, calling up War Machine and having them destroy the entire tag division on a show like Raw or SmackDown can really turn some heads, since a lot of WWE fans may be unfamiliar with them.
10 Departure: Mike Kanellis
You would think that a talent like Mike Kanellis would have fared well in WWE upon his arrival, but it wasn’t exactly the case – it was the complete opposite.
The former ROH and TNA star had it all going for him; a great theme song, a funny but villainous gimmick you love to hate, and a smoking hot wife for a valet all made for a career that could have elevated him to secondary title challenges within a year. But for some reason, Kanellis has been struggling on the main roster, and getting beat whenever he’s on TV in just mere minutes.
In Mike’s defense, he’s a good talent, and one that should have gotten a better shake, maybe debuting on NXT and getting to know how things work in WWE.
Kanellis belongs, so he won’t have a hard time finding work in the indies, or he could go back to ROH and even return to NJPW if he wants to. But you’ve got to wonder if Maria goes with him, because she’s someone WWE would want to use when she returns from maternity leave.
9 Debut: Candice LeRae
Candice LeRae made waves before signing for WWE, as she was a part of PWG and tore up the indies alongside partner Joey Ryan in World’s Cutest Tag Team. She’s wrestled the likes of Adam Cole, Rich Swann, and even her husband, Johnny Gargano in singles matches as one of intergender wrestling’s best ever talents.
She may as well follow her husband, and truth be told, now’s the best time for Candice to embark on a journey through the main roster, considering the pool of women is as good as its ever been. With Ronda Rousey likely leading the way for any possible intergender matches in WWE, Candice can go toe-to-toe against just about anybody from Sasha Banks, to Mickie James, to Nia Jax and to Alexa Bliss, just to name a few. She’s probably going to want to make her mark in NXT for a bit, but don’t be shocked if we see Candice in a Raw or SmackDown ring a few months after the Showcase of the Immortals.
8 Departure: Curt Hawkins
While his losing streak in comical and adds a story every time he steps foot into the ring, you’ve got to wonder what type of future plans Curt Hawkins will be a part of. He’s not exactly a needle mover, and his role is to put over talent on house shows.
Hawkins could be part of the yearly spring axe WWE delivers, mostly because there just isn’t room for him.
While Jinder Mahal was supposed to be an enhancement talent and rose to prominence with a WWE title run not too long ago, Hawkins may not have that in him, simply because he’s not going to transform his physique, and it’s not like WWE is putting him over to get big in Asian countries (like they did with Mahal).
7 Debut: Johnny Gargano
While embarked on the hottest feud in recent NXT memory, Johnny Wrestling has all the tools to make it to the big time in WWE. He sells like a face in peril perfectly, and he's an immense fan favorite who the WWE Universe cannot get enough of his act. Much like his wife, the aforementioned Candice LeRae, it seems like Gargano is going to rocket to the main roster in no time, due to the experience and crowd reception he garners every time he steps into the squared circle.
Right now, though, Gargano has to finish his feud against former partner and best man at his wedding, Tommaso Ciampa. But when the dust settles on that barnburner of a match we all expect to see, don't be surprised if Gargano debuts on Raw the next night, since he apparently has said goodbye to NXT, and is not a member of the roster anymore. It's going to be very interesting where WWE can fit Gargano, since he would be a welcome addition to 205 Live, but also has the goods to deliver against wrestlers much bigger than him.
6 Departure: The Shining Stars
It feels like it's been forever that the Shining Stars have been on WWE television, and seemingly enough, it feels like they've been directionless for a while now. Whether it be Primo and Epico who were salvaged by a sultry Rosa Mendes that accompanied them to the ring, or be it the Los Matadores who got over solely because of El Torito, there needs to be something else that shifts the focus for these two Latino superstars.
The current crop of WWE tag teams is stacked right now, so much that guys like Gallows and Anderson are somewhat floating around with Balor Club being their only ticket at the moment.
The Shining Stars have been rumored to be both parting ways with WWE, and it feels like it's only a matter of time.
It's unclear where these guys could go, but it feels like their days in WWE are soon to be over.
5 Debut: Eddie Edwards
He's one of the best wrestlers in the world, but unfortunately, due to a lack of charisma and character, nobody really gives Eddie Edwards the credit he truly deserves.
As one part of the successful former ROH and TNA tag team the Wolves, Eddie Edwards and then partner Davey Richards are excellent practitioners of the squared circle, able to turn it up and have a great match against any team in the world that can rival their in-ring talent. If you remember, the Wolves had been rumored to join WWE in mid 2016, and it was all but confirmed that they would be heading to the Performance Center and be part of NXT's immediate plans. While that wasn't the case, a strong one can be made for Edwards to soon debut. He held the TNA World Heavyweight title and NOAH's most prestigious title in the same calendar year, and he's an incredible worker that would benefit from WWE's style.
4 Departure: The Brian Kendrick
The Cruiserweight division was given a huge boost when Brian Kendrick returned and give it a proper introduction. While Kendrick was a star in the early to mid 2000s on WWE TV (notably SmackDown), he didn’t exactly disappear off the face of the earth, either.
Kendrick was wrestling all over the globe, and before rejoining WWE, he was actually coaching some of the hottest prospects in the business at the WWE Performance Center.
While he has been busy coaching the likes of Ronda Rousey as of late, Kendrick’s activity has dipped, not being in the mix on 205 Live as much as he used to be.
While he’s the perfect veteran to elevate the young talent, you’ve got to wonder if Kendrick will be taking a step back from wrestling and fulfilling his duties as a coach full time, since there are lots of new additions to the performance center. He’s still got it, so if he wants to continue wrestling, it wouldn’t be a bad thing, yet he’s also getting older, and maybe doing double duty won’t be in his future plans.
3 Debut: Bobby Lashley
Another beast that could be making his WWE return is Bobby Lashley, who in his time away from WWE, became a massive star for TNA and even had some MMA fights under his belt, including being part of Bellator MMA, the second biggest mixed martial arts promotion in the world. He wasn't exactly a mega star in WWE, but he certainly had potential, minus his lack of charisma. He was one of the better looking guys when looking at his physique, and he's only gotten stronger and buffer.
If a certain someone decides to leave (we will get to that in a minute), Lashley would be the perfect replacement. He has the experience in WWE and a big enough name to be easily recognizable, let alone be let back into the main event picture and feud with the hottest stars. It would be interesting to see Lashley as a heel, since he's done both in his time in TNA, and wrestling is always in need of heels more so than babyfaces.
2 Departure: Brock Lesnar
It seems like Lesnar’s will-he-won’t-he contract dispute is the talk of the wrestling world lately. UFC President Dana White recently tweeted a photo of Lesnar and him, which makes it all but official that Brock will be leaving WWE soon. WWE is also using Brock’s absence and unwillingness to partake in the show as a storyline lately, working 30 second matches at house shows and no showing Raw for a couple of weeks when advertised. The Beast wasn’t expected to stay on after Mania anyway, and if we could be totally honest, the Universal Championship he holds needs to be put on an employee who shows up for work every week. It makes no sense that Brock has a title held hostage for as long as he has, no matter how powerful it makes him feel. Yes, he is a big attraction, but it devalues the title, and Lesnar doesn’t even seem all that interested in wrestling anymore – his demeanor has changed since last year.
While he may show up here and there, it’s a given that Lesnar will be gone once he loses the title to Reigns.
1 Debut: John Morrison
The man of many names (Johnny Mundo, Johnny Wrestling, etc.) is no stranger to a WWE ring. A former Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion, John Morrison will be finishing up his duties for TNA and Lucha Underground soon enough to join WWE.
His name has been coming up all over the rumor sites, so don’t be surprised if he’s sitting in the crowd at NXT Takeover a night before Mania, or, like The Hardy Boyz, he miraculously shows up on the Showcase of The Immortals to challenge someone or inserts himself in a match.
Morrison is a big enough star to get right back into the title picture upon his WWE return, so it’s not like he has to redeem himself like Drew McIntyre or EC3 would have to. He’s been wrestling all over the world making a name for himself, and his matches against Ricochet (Prince Puma) in Lucha Underground speak for themselves.