Unlike most other television shows and much like soccer, WWE releases and sign talents throughout the year. While arrivals and departures take place only during transfer windows in soccer, WWE transfers occur at various points during a year.
This year, we have seen numerous departures, with WWE releasing Neville, Big Cass, Enzo Amore and Rich Swann at various points during the year. At this point last year, no one would have expected any of the above-mentioned four to leave WWE. That's the nature of the business.
We will look at 10 surprise departures that will take place in 2019 in the following article. We'll tag them under surprises.
Of course, one can't predict backstage problems or personal issues. That said, it's easy to see who are either growing unhappy in WWE, or who the company is growing tired of when you've figured out what makes WWE release their employees.
Some of the recent departures, on the other hand, were a long time coming. For instance, not a lot of eyebrows were raised when WWE axed James Ellsworth, Summer Rae, Darren Young, HoHo Lun, The Spirit Squad and Eva Marie. We'll also be listing 10 wrestlers who we think would be surely released under the obvious category.
It’s quite possible that you feel a different wrestler belongs in this list. Feel free to mention them in our comments section. Also, feel free to share this article with your friends in the event that you enjoy the article.
Without further ado, let's dive into the article with our first potential surprise departure!
20 Surprise Us: John Cena
This year's SummerSlam marked the first time John Cena hasn't performed in one in 15 years. He's now working on his side projects while also becoming more jacked. It's easy to suggest he's only kept away from the show for storyline reasons, but it's possible that the 16-time WWE Champion is finally looking to focus on his acting career full-time.
Much like The Rock, he won't quit wrestling entirely, but there's a huge possibility that he's no longer tied to a WWE contract in or by the end of 2019.
With WWE still trying to make their Roman Reigns project work, their losing their only big mainstream attraction will surprise a lot of people.
19 Obvious: Dana Brooke
Titus Worldwide clearly didn't produce the results the WWE writers may have intended. While Titus O’Neill had his Titus Worldslide moment and Apollo Crews managed to get himself acclimatized to how the main roster works, Dana Brooke was left to wonder if her aligning with the two men has helped her career in any way. She has had few fun matches every now and then, but none of her matches or segments stood out.
One expects Charlotte’s former protege to be sacrificed to make room for Mae Young Classic signings or new NXT call-ups, as she isn’t nearly as good as even undercard wrestlers such as Sonya Deville, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan.
18 Surprise Us: Shinsuke Nakamura
Shinsuke Nakamura arrived to much fanfare and, unlike Sin Cara before him, he had a decent time in NXT, winning the NXT Championship. His promotion to he main roster, in contrast, hasn't worked so well, with WWE booking him rather poorly. The wrestling sensation has previously stated that he's keen on returning to NJPW one day and, with his current contract running out in 2019, it's entirely possible that he refuses to sign a new deal, choosing to go back to Japan instead.
What will make his departure surprising is the fact that WWE have only begun building him up, even putting what's often considered the precursor to WWE Championship, the United States Championship, on him.
17 Obvious: The Ascension
Most NXT call-ups have shone on the main roster, with Seth Rollins, Finn Balor and Brain Strowman all now main-eventing PPVs. Some, in contrast, have failed, and one of those who've suffered the most on the main roster is The Ascension.
Konnor and Victor, former NXT Tag Team Champions, was a dominant force in the developmental and, given their size, gimmick and experience, many expected them to become 2010s' The Road Warriors.
However, Vince McMahon and his team of main roster writers seem to have no plan to put them in title feuds for some reason. With Authors of Pain coming in, one expects The Ascension to be around by the end of 2019.
16 Surprise Us: Ronda Rousey
Most mainstream stars have never taken WWE seriously. They've only used the company to promote their movies or earn a quick and easy paycheck. Ronda Rousey has proven to be an anomaly and a welcome one at that. She hasn't just signed a long-term contract with the company, but also put in a good amount of effort to actually perfect the art. WWE has been known to pander to big names to gain mainstream relevance, but they did the absolute right thing when they put the Raw Women's Championship on the former Olympian and UFC fighter. However, given her being keen on becoming a mother, it's possible that she leaves or at least goes on a hiatus next year.
15 Obvious: Curt Hawkins
Several eyebrows were raised when WWE re-signed Curt Hawkins in 2016, just two years after releasing him. What made his arrival all the more surprising was his being average at best on the indie circuit. His arrival hasn't impacted the product in any way. However, WWE have managed to do a fantastic story with him, with his losing over 200 matches in such short span. It's definitely not the focal point of the show, but he manages to draw the attention of the fans, like he did when he faced Elias for his 200th loss. That said, his shtick’s shelf life is relatively short, so it'd be pretty surprising if he lasts another year.
14 Surprise Release: Paige
Many touted Paige's Papi phase to mark the end of her wrestling career, but both WWE and the wrestler herself surprised the IWC by patching up. WWE even let her head a dominant faction before allowing her to be on SmackDown Live following her retirement.
While she's been having a decent time, it's safe to assume it won't last a very long time.
Her current WWE contract runs in 2019; in the event her Rock-produced Fighting With My Family fails, WWE will opt against renewing it. Her potential release will surely come as a surprise as she’s been featured prominently in recent times.
13 Obvious: Rhyno
Rhyno is the last true ECW Originals wrestler to still wrestle for WWE. Sabu and The Sandman are all wrestling from time to time, but they've both lost an yard or two in the recent times. Rhyno, in contrast, has proven that he can still go in the ring. With his being just one year older than AJ Styles and John Cena, one may think he'll wrestle for WWE for many years to come. However, WWE doesn't seem to have big plans for him, given his languishing in the bottom-card. Plus, with WWE now having numerous destroyers on their roster, including new signing Bobby Lashley, it's safe to say Rhyno has no future in WWE.
12 Surprise Us: Bobby Lashley
When Bobby Lashley was brought back into the fold this year, fans expected for him to be given the main event run he didn't quite get in his first WWE stint. Despite Lashley's best work coming as a heel in Impact, WWE made him a smiling babyface and he has only sniffed the main event scene. By this time next year, Lashley will be another year over 40 and will likely be thinking about calling it a career. If WWE can't think of something better for him, he could very easily choose to just walk away. And WWE will grant him his wish.
11 Obvious: Mike Kanellis
Mike Kanellis could have been an amazing character. He had a solid gimmick unlike most wrestlers today. His personal problems and his wife becoming pregnant meant they had to be taken off television. They haven't returned to action since, with his only making sporadic appearances.
WWE doesn't seem to know what to do with him, especially when they have names like Tye Dillinger, Chad Gable and Bobby Roode doing nothing but wrestle throwaway matches and have underwhelming feuds. Not many will be surprised if he wrestles for Impact Wrestling or ROH Wrestling again in 2019. It'd likely be better for him.
10 Surprise Us: The Bar
This will be one of the biggest surprise releases of 2019. Both Sheamus and Cesaro are main-event calibre wrestlers but, for some reason, WWE haven't done major things with them, save for putting the Raw Tag Team Championship titles on them. The fans would have loved to see Sheamus, a WWE veteran, help an indie veteran in Cesaro win his first WWE Championship or Universal Championship. That tells us that WWE doesn't have big plans for them at least as of now. However, there's a possibility that the company releases one of them or even both of them, as a returning wrestler is more valuable and marketable than the overexposed ones.
9 Obvious: Sin Cara
How Sin Cara is still in WWE is anyone's guess. Much hype surrounded him when the original Sin Cara signed for WWE. His lack of professionalism and frequent botches meant WWE had to release him and Hunico, who once played the imposter Sin Cara, was tasked with saving the character. Despite his talent, he hasn't been able to revive it.
After spending months playing Marty Jannetty to Kalisto, he now finds himself yearning for television time.
With more talented luchadors like Gran Metalik struggling to gain television time, the future looks bleak for Sin Cara. The character has certainly run its course, and it won't be long before WWE releases him.
8 Surprise Us: Jonathan Coachman
Booker T was never going to be good at commentary, but the former WWE Heavyweight Champion did manage to keep the WWE fans entertained. His replacement, Jonathan Coachman, must be better than him, on paper, given his vast experience as a broadcast journalist. However, he’s managed to be worse than him. In fact, most fans today found Michael Cole’s commentary more tolerable than his, and that says a lot about his quality as a commentator. The WWE has already replaced Coach on commentary with Renee Young, so the writing could already be on the wall for a 2019 release.
7 Obvious: Mickie James
Mickie James had a heroic return, challenging Asuka to a NXT Women’s Championship match. They did have an amazing match; however, WWE have since transformed her into Big Show’s female counterpart, with her going through heel- and face-turns every other week. That said, her presence on the main roster must be of great value, as she can pass on her wisdom to younger wrestlers such as Sasha Banks, Alexa Bliss, Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan.
While she provides immense value for the money WWE have invested in her, she likely won’t remain an active main-roster wrestler for a long time. WWE will have moved her to the production department before the end of 2019 thanks to her age.
6 Surprise Us: Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar’s reign of terror has finally ended; he did have amazing matches against AJ Styles, Roman Reigns and Goldberg, but most IWC members disliked his Universal Championship reign, stating it undermined the new title. That said, The Beast Incarnate’s minor change in character has got not just the internet fans but also the mainstream media talking about him again.
The fact that he also occasionally performs for UFC helps, surely.
However, he, one of the most underrated minds in the business today, must know that overexposure shortens his shelf life as an entertainer big-time. There’s a huge chance that he leaves WWE in 2019 to return a year or two later.
5 Obvious: Mojo Rawley
It looked as though WWE was looking to make Mojo Rawley one of the biggest stars in the company when WWE booked him to win Andre the Giant Memorial Trophy in 2017. Since winning the battle royale at WrestleMania, however, he’s become obscure. Even breaking up The Hype Bros and turning him heel hasn’t helped WWE revive his career. He clearly couldn’t get the crowd to jeer him, and his face run as Zack Ryder’s partner was underwhelming as well. With other big men, including Drew McIntyre, Big E, Dean Ambrose, Elias and Bobby Lashley, all proving more relevant than him at any given point, WWE will be forced to give up on him before the end of 2019.
4 Surprise Us: No Way Jose
No Way Jose was one of the coolest aspects of NXT but, much like other interesting characters like The Ascension and Adam Rose, he’s struggled to convince the main-roster writers he can get over with a bigger audience. Vince McMahon and co. afforded him only two underwhelming throwaway feuds against Baron Corbin and Mojo Rawley before demoting him to Main Event. There’s no coming back from Main Event, and he must know that. There’s little chance that WWE renews his contract once it runs out unless they choose to repackage him. Our money is on his debuting under his real name talking more seriously without his backup dancers on Impact Wrestling in late 2019.
3 Obvious: Tamina Snuka
WWE have made a lot of questionable decisions when it comes to signings. For instance, why they chose to sign Gran Metalik only to make poor use of him is one question Dave Meltzer and many super fans want answer to.
One such decision is signing Tamina Snuka. She has never shown the fans why WWE invested in her, with her either wrestling underwhelming matches or being on the injury table.
At 41, she won’t be getting any better any time soon and, unlike Natalya, she doesn’t have the experience to remain contracted to WWE in a mentor role. One expects her to be one of the first few persons to face the axe in 2019.
2 Surprise Us: The Bludgeon Brothers
Harper and Rowan have had mixed fortune as a team. While Harper had a decent amount of success as a singles wrestler, winning the IC title once and almost being involved in a WrestleMania feud for the WWE Championship title with Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt, Rowan has struggled as a singles wrestler. As The Wyatt Family, they sometimes looked promising, but poor booking meant they became undercard acts.
Since being rebranded as The Bludgeon Brothers, though, they were booked as unstoppable giants, but an untimely injury to Rowan meant they were stripped of the SmackDown Tag Team Championship. It won’t be long before WWE gives up for good on them.
1 Obvious Release: Goldust
Goldust is set to turn 50 and has said so himself that he's nearing the end of his wrestling career.
"I've wrestled just about everybody there is to wrestle, done just about every character reincarnation that I can come up with," Goldust stated. "What's next? I'm at the end of my career here and about to be 50 in April. What else is there to do? I don't know," he said.
Goldust also recently mentioned that he was disappointed he couldn't be at brother Cody Rhodes's All In show, due to contractual obligations to WWE. He won't have them for long, as he and WWE will amicably part ways sometime soon.