2018 is shaping up to be a major year for professional wrestling. The business is growing outside of WWE with the international market being stronger than ever. Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks have already planned their first major show in a 10,000+ seat venue scheduled for September. WWE is looking to grow as well in many ways. They must negotiate a new television with Fox looking to steal them away from USA. WrestleMania is getting closer and WWE wants to improve the popularity of the event with each passing year. All these factors will lead to turn over on the roster regarding people coming in and going out.
NXT factors in this through a different perspective. The best wrestlers from NXT get called up when there is a role ready for them on the main roster allowing other new talent to get a spot down there. Wrestlers leaving WWE’s main roster just means more spots will open and a lot will change for the entire company. We will look at both the pain and joy of saying goodbye in WWE. There will be 11 names here that will be leaving WWE in 2018 and five wrestlers that will leave NXT to get called up to the main roster.
16 Goodbye WWE: Sheamus
Sheamus has had a strong career with WWE winning most of the major titles in his run. The main event push didn’t work out, but he was able to have multiple WWE Championship and World Championship reigns. Sheamus is currently a fixture in the tag team division as his work with Cesaro in The Bar has been highly impressive.
It was recently revealed that Sheamus is suffering from spinal stenosis and has severe neck issues. This is the same injury that forced both Steve Austin and Edge to retire earlier than expected. Sheamus has likely saved a lot of money after his run as an upper card act for many years. The likelihood of him retiring before the neck injury gets scarier should be high in 2018.
15 Goodbye WWE: Daniel Bryan
Daniel Bryan’s situation is the opposite of Sheamus’ right now. WWE believes Bryan is too injured to continue wrestling, but his doctors state his issues aren’t as serious as the company states. Bryan has made it clear that he doesn’t want to be a part of WWE unless they clear him to compete in the ring. The contract of Bryan is expiring in September of this year meaning there’s about nine months to clear him.
WWE is unlikely to go against their doctors and Bryan is going to end up leaving the company for a run on the independent circuit. Bryan may not get the farewell segment he deserves since he is going to be leaving WWE for the competition. However, the incredibly popular wrestler leaving at all will garner emotions from fans that watched his journey to the main event of WrestleMania XXX.
14 Goodbye NXT: Peyton Royce and Billie Kay
The Iconic Duo of Peyton Royce and Billie Kay have been ready for the main roster for quite some time. Both ladies possess the tremendous combination of outstanding in-ring talent, entertaining charisma and stunning looks. Royce and Kay have been rumored to be getting the call-up to the main roster for many months, but WWE appears to be waiting on the right time.
Between the upcoming women’s Royal Rumble match and the annual call-ups after WrestleMania, we will likely see Royce and Kay on Raw or SmackDown soon. The Iconic Duo have everything needed to succeed on the bigger stage. This means they will be getting a farewell moment in NXT before the year ends. The fan love should overwhelm even the coldest of kayfabe hearts.
13 Goodbye WWE: Big Show
Big Show has been discussing his impending retirement for quite some time now. WWE allows him to work a reduced schedule that both parties believe is best for all involved. Big Show will return to the company a handful of times per year for WrestleMania season and whenever they need him to work with someone. Braun Strowman and Big Cass were the two young projects Big Show was called in to work with.
Even with the limited schedule, Big Show has been wrestling relatively consistently over the past twenty-three years. That is a lot of wear and tear on the body of such a large athlete. Big Show is very likely retiring this year and should a great ending to his career. Everyone from his diehard fans to those that thought he was overrated should show him love on the way out.
12 Goodbye WWE: R-Truth
Another veteran on the active WWE roster is R-Truth. We barely see him on television, but R-Truth performs on all the live events. Vince McMahon is reportedly a huge believer in R-Truth as the two became buddies over the years. This is the reason R-Truth has received random small pushes out of the blue or placed into big multi-man matches during his career.
R-Truth is approaching 46 years old and can no longer do some of his more athletic movies that he did throughout his prime. The respect for R-Truth will likely earn him some other job in WWE going forward, but his time in the ring is coming to an end. It will be hard to envision him lasting the full year. Don’t be surprised if R-Truth says goodbye to the ring after WrestleMania 34 following one more performance on the big stage, even if it is in a battle royal.
11 Goodbye NXT: Aleister Black
The talented Aleister Black is one of the biggest stars in NXT right now. Black made an impact shortly into his NXT run and appeared main roster ready faster than most. The presentation of Black by Triple H and the other minds to run NXT helped get him to another level that he lacked on the independent circuit. Black always had the in-ring talent, but he now shows a star quality before he even enters the ring.
WWE reportedly considered Black for the cruiserweight division in 2017. That was shut down with his potential being too high for a failing show. Black joining Raw or SmackDown this year is a given at this point if he doesn’t suffer an injury or endures some bad luck. NXT will be losing a major player and it will be emotional to see him leave after creating such a legacy in short time.
10 Goodbye WWE: Mickie James
Mickie James has had a legendary wrestling career and deserved the contract WWE gave her last year. The body of work from Mickie allowed her to truly shine as one of the best women’s wrestlers of all time. You will be hard pressed to find another North American women’s wrestler to have as many great matches on television as James.
The current of Mickie is giving her another chance to prove her skills on the big stage, but she is clearly being used in the veteran role. James will be in multi-woman matches or used to put over the current and future stars. WWE didn’t plan to keep Mickie around in the long run and she has been there for over a year. Factor in the number of ladies in NXT ready for a call-up and James will be out of WWE before 2018 ends.
9 Goodbye WWE: Mark Henry
Mark Henry has already transitioned to a role outside of the ring for WWE, but he has yet to get his farewell. The career of Henry lasted too long with too many memorable moments in WWE for him to quietly retire with no fanfare. We will likely see Henry get involved in one last program at some point when the opportunity presents itself.
WWE has him working in a producer role due to how much he has helped talent. Neville, Braun Strowman and Apollo Crews are just three talents that benefited from Henry helping them get signed and/or providing advice on the main roster. The final moment of Henry’s WWE career is going to be obvious when it happens, and it is most likely happening in 2018.
8 Goodbye NXT: No Way Jose
No Way Jose has become a forgotten man in NXT. The fun-loving character of No Way Jose loves to dance and had strong fan support for the first few months of his run. No Way Jose even had a memorable TakeOver match against Austin Aries in Brooklyn back in 2016. Unfortunately, that ended up being the peak of his time in NXT.
Rumors suggest that No Way Jose’s story is similar to Elias. The character is made for the main roster and has nothing else to accomplish in NXT. No Way Jose’s matches won’t get the NXT fans talking and he already has the entertaining character down. It is just a waiting game of when he gets called up on Raw or SmackDown. 2018 should be the year he finally gets to the big stage and there will likely be a memorable farewell conga line for him at NXT.
7 Goodbye WWE: Goldust
The underrated career of Dustin Rhodes should see him enter the Hall of Fame whenever he retires from the ring. Most known for the Goldust character, he is still a part of the main roster for the Raw brand. We have most recently seen Goldust working in cruiserweight segments on Raw and on the 205 Live show trying to help Cedric Alexander get more credibility.
Goldust is nearing 50 years old and has already started helping behind the scenes. The wrestling knowledge of Rhodes makes him the perfect person to hold down a producer or trainer spot for many years. Goldust is likely going to get one more relevant feud or storyline before his career ends. Fans will have an emotional moment watching his in-ring career end after over two decades of entertainment.
6 Goodbye WWE: Brock Lesnar
The contract of Brock Lesnar is expected to expire at some point in 2018. Lesnar has stated he doesn’t enjoy wrestling and just does it due to being good at the job. The massive income he receives from WWE must help as the highest paid star that works few dates. However, the outside interests of Brock may keep him away from WWE.
Lesnar wants to return to UFC and teased a fight with Jon Jones last year. WWE planning over a year to have Roman Reigns defeat Lesnar at WrestleMania 34 also shows that they want to get this moment in on the big stage. That tells us that it could realistically be the final WrestleMania appearance for Brock given his contract status. The legend of Lesnar may very well happen before the year ends.
5 Goodbye NXT: Andrade Almas
Current NXT Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas is arguably the best all-around performer in NXT right now. Almas was struggling immensely during the first year of his NXT run. Fans couldn’t stand him due to his portrayal of a corny face character that lacked the personality to stand out. The addition of Zelina Vega completely changed his career for the best.
Over a few months, Almas regained his confidence leading to impressive matches and his personality finally shining. Vega made up for what he lacked, and he could finally show what he does best. The combination of Almas and Vega are the perfect package to join the main roster. It remains to be seen how WWE will push Almas with his need of a manager, but the talent is too good to wait longer to call up. NXT will lose a top star when Almas leaves in 2018.
4 Goodbye WWE: Kane
The return of Kane has been shocking in many regards. WWE has pushed him as a top star for the first time in a long time. Kane has received great moments at the expense of Braun Strowman, Finn Balor, Seth Rollins and other relevant names. An upcoming major match at the Royal Rumble will see Kane battle Brock Lesnar and Strowman for the Universal Championship.
WWE pushing Kane this hard after years of on and off mid-card work means it is likely his final run. Kane is running for Mayor of Knox County in Tennessee in 2018. If he wins that like he dreams of, there’s no reason for him to return to WWE. The safe bet is on Kane retiring after one more major match at WrestleMania 34. WWE treating with such respect on the way out is a touching notion, even if it is painfully boring at times.
3 Goodbye WWE: The Undertaker
The kayfabe brother of Kane may very well retire on the same night at him. Everyone assumed The Undertaker retired at WrestleMania 33 last year when he lost to Roman Reigns and left his gear in the ring. The symbolism was that he gave his all and left it in the ring after a storied career. WWE even flat out stated that Reigns retired Undertaker over the past year.
However, a recent report from Dave Meltzer states that Undertaker is currently penciled in to face John Cena at WrestleMania 34 in one of the attraction matches. Bruce Prichard revealed on his podcast that he recently ran into Undertaker and 'Taker said he felt the best he has in 20 years. Undertaker wants one more match against Cena meaning we will likely get another retirement moment from him.
2 Goodbye NXT: Undisputed Era
The trio of Adam Cole, Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish known as Undisputed Era has been among the top acts on NXT. Since becoming a group in August, they have accomplished many great moments. Adam Cole’s debut closed the show at TakeOver: Brooklyn, the combination of Fish and O’Reilly won the NXT Tag Team Championship and the trio won the first ever WWE War Games match.
All three men spent the past few years in Ring of Honor as top stars leading the promotion. Their experience and talent make them ready for the main roster. Cole especially has star potential on the big stage. Undisputed Era may spend a lot of 2018 in NXT, but there’s no way they last the entire year down there. Expect them all to get called up before 2018 ends. By that time, they will have had storied NXT careers and their farewell will be quite emotional.
1 Goodbye WWE: Paige
The recent news pertaining to Paige’s WWE future is quite heartbreaking. At a recent WWE live event, the returning star suffered a big time stinger after taking a stiff kick in the back by Sasha. Video of the incident is up online from a show in Long Island.
It turns out, the injury might be a lot worse than first anticipated and one that might cause the end of Paige’s career. The neck injury is said to be career threatening and at this point, it might appear as though her in-ring days are done. Paige kept optimistic about the incident making the statement, “the comeback is always stronger than the set back”. At the age of 25 and into the prime of her career, we can only hope the injury isn’t as bad as the recent news is telling us. There’s a high probability we’ll have to say goodbye to Paige in 2018.