It’s inevitable, especially in a promotion like the WWE, that talent will subside and move towards the WWE graveyard, ending their run with the company. With so much talent on the horizon, the graveyard will be open to more and more talent in the next coming years.
In the past, graveyard members typically pertained to wrestlers that had success outside of the WWE. Particularly WCW wrestlers entered the graveyard in record time; just ask Goldberg and Scott Steiner how their WWE runs were. Indie wrestlers also faced the same predicament in the past (CM Punk) although times have changed and the company is now embracing that type of wrestler. Daniel Bryan broke the mold before anyone else did. Now indie stars are dominating the scenes on both shows with Dean Ambrose and A.J. Styles running SmackDown, while former indie stars Kevin Owens and Finn Balor have taken a prominent role with Raw.
As you will see in this article, the targets have now changed and it seems like NXT stars are the new chosen ones to join the graveyard sooner rather than later, so this list of potential graveyard members is littered with former NXT Superstars.
Let us now take out our crystal balls and document the future, here are 15 graveyard members that will see their careers die on the WWE roster, enjoy!
15 Hideo Itami
With an abundance of talent headed to the WWE, particularly from the indie scene, a couple of great wrestlers are bound to get lost in the shuffle. Sami Zayn and Apollo Crews are recent examples of this, as despite their obvious talents and success with NXT, they haven't done much on the main roster.
You have to believe that this won't be the last time this will happen. Hideo Itami, aka KENTA, seems to be another Superstar who might also get lost in a web of talent once he gets the call up to the main roster. Some believe the boat on Itami was missed and his injury really plagued his credibility when he was red hot at one point. Some, like Daniel Bryan, would beg to differ, as Itami should still be regarded as one of the very best in the entire WWE.
He’s wrestled all around the world for years and has been a member of the NXT development since January of 2014. As of now, the WWE still has no plans to call up the 35 year old veteran with the intent to keep him down in NXT for a little longer. We hope the best for Itami, but his call up might be too little too late for fans to really get behind the Japanese star. Look for a potential tombstone with Itami's name written on it after a couple of months of lackluster booking on the main roster.
14 Zack Ryder
Since joining the WWE way back in 2005 it seems like Zack Ryder’s still walking on egg shells a decade after signing his first and only WWE deal. He's been with the company since the days of Deep South Wrestling as the developmental brand and later joined OVW as a tag team wrestler.
His WWE main roster involvement was marginal at best once he got the call up. Knowing things were going nowhere quickly, Ryder thought outside the box and developed a web series on YouTube entitled “Z! True Long Island Story.” His shot in the dark was a success and the WWE was selling out of Ryder merchandise without him even being on TV. Later on, crowds began chanting his name and the company was literally forced to make the Superstar return.
At that point, Ryder peaked, though the company failed to really use his popularity. Since that angle, Ryder’s been relegated to being a lower card player. Yes, he had a great WrestleMania moment by winning the IC Championship, but that was seen as more of a thank you than anything else.
We hope the best for Ryder and his new run as a tag team wrestler, but we all know that soon enough he’ll join the inevitable WWE graveyard.
When it comes to being a WWE Superstar, first impressions are huge. Kalisto enjoyed a great indie career working for the likes of AAA in Mexico before inking his first WWE deal in May of 2013.
Fans loved his in-ring work early on down in developmental. Comparisons to Rey Mysterio were quickly made, although Kalisto was initially labelled as a tag team wrestler alongside Sin Cara forming the team of The Lucha Dragons.
His terrific in-ring work eventually earned him a solo run, as the company was really high on Kalisto, seeing the value in him as a possible future Rey Mysterio. He won the US Title twice and was later awarded the OMG Shocking Moment of the Year for his tremendous Salida del Sol off the top of a ladder. At that point, he seemed untouchable.
Not so fast. Remember, this is the WWE and promos play a huge role in a wrestler's career.. After shooting one of the worst promos in recent memory following the draft, Kalisto has been relegated to pre-show status. Barring a remarkable turnaround, Kalisto looks to be headed towards the WWE’s graveyard sooner rather than later at this point.
12 Darren Young
Before we discuss Darren’s eventual trip to the WWE’s graveyard, let us applaud the man for being a pioneer in the wrestling business.
During an interview in August of 2013, Young came out and made the announcement that he was gay, being in a relationship with his boyfriend since 2011. The statement was met with huge praise from fans all over the world, including the WWE who supported his statement. The announcement made history as Darren became the first active wrestler in WWE history to come out. Previous stars such as Orlando Jordan and Pat Patterson waited until they left the business as active performers to make the confession.
His courage is heroic and we praise him for it. However, pertaining to his in-ring career, Darren has failed to make a connection with the audience despite several opportunities to re-launch his gimmick. With Raw set to add a Cruiserweight division, TV time is going to even harder to come by for the Monday night program. This will only hurt Young, sending him on an eventual trip to WWE’s graveyard as a performer.
We truly believe he’ll stay with the company as a great ambassador, but his in-ring career will eventually die out.
11 Jack Swagger
It's a shame to see how badly Jack Swagger has fallen in recent years and the poor guy literally has one foot in his WWE grave at this point.
Hopes were extremely high when the WWE signed the gifted amateur wrestler following his days at the University of Oklahoma. Once he graduated, the WWE immediately gave him a contract and he quickly reported to Ohio Valley Wrestling. The ceiling for Swagger was high, as WWE officials instantly labelled him as a fine blend between Lesnar and Angle.
After conquering the developmental system, Swagger joined ECW and dominated the brand, going undefeated and later claiming the ECW Title. His success continued from there, as he won the World Heavyweight Championship and the US Championship.
Off-screen antics would later kill the momentum of Swagger, booking his ticket to the graveyard. A DUI and drug possession charge on February of 2013 was pretty much his undoing. Swagger never recovered and has been relegated to a glorified enhancement talent. Oh, what could have been?
10 David Otunga
It's rather obvious that the WWE really wants us to like David Otunga. The actor turned pro wrestler was a homegrown talent by the WWE’s developmental system back when it was labelled as FCW. His image, mixed in with a real life marriage to celebrity Jennifer Hudson, made Otunga a hot commodity in the eyes of WWE officials.
Asides from a couple of Tag Team Title victories, his career as a wrestler never really went according to plan. Similar to Darren Young, that connection just wasn’t there with the audience, though the WWE would constantly try to make it work by putting the former wrestler in different positions. He worked as a panelist and later made the jump to commentary, debuting on Superstars and Main Event alongside Tom Phillips.
Eventually, what was Lawler’s loss turned out to be Otunga’s gain. When Jerry was suspended by the company, Otunga was called in to be his replacement. He would later stay on full-time and is currently a color commentator for SmackDown.
His first shows as an announcer were awful, though in recent weeks the company wisely decided to ease up on his lines. It literally took 20 minutes into the last episode of SmackDown before Otunga finally uttered a sentence. With new faces popping everywhere, we can expect another person, similar to Corey Graves, to eventually take Otunga’s spot on commentary. Even someone like Daniel Bryan, who thrived in his role as color commentator for the CWC tournament, would be a sexier option.
Otunga seems to be on borrowed time right now. Once that expires, he’ll be graveyard ready.
9 Tyler Breeze
Our concerns regarding Hideo Itami earlier in the article dealt with a great wrestler getting lost in the shuffle. Well, that's exactly what happened to Tyler Breeze, as he was poised to be a huge star once he left NXT.
Breeze had a polished indie resume before joining the WWE’s developmental system. He worked alongside WWE great Lance Storm and later made a name for himself wrestling predominantly on the Canadian circuit.
His FCW career was a huge success, as he’d eventually claim the FCW Heavyweight Championship by defeating Leo Kruger. When the company re-branded to NXT, the Canadian lost his way a bit and was forced into work as an enhancement talent.
His repackaging as Tyler Breeze not only saved his career, but turned him into one of the most iconic wrestlers to ever come out of the developmental brand. His confidence was sky high when he finally got the call up.
If your an avid fan of today’s product, you know he’s done absolutely nothing since joining the main roster almost a year ago. His character is going nowhere and Tyler might be better off doing what Cody Rhodes did, by re-discovering his brand value on the indies. Either way, his trajectory is destined for the graveyard, whether it’s his decision or not.
8 The Vaudevillains
You can add another former NXT act to the list of potential WWE graveyard members. It seems like NXT stars are McMahon’s new favorite targets for wrestlers to bury nowadays. Either Vince really doesn’t like NXT or the company is planning for a huge NXT rebellion against the WWE. Although a rebellion would be a lot of fun, it's more likely that Vince isn't invested in some of these NXT acts and The Vaudevillains are another pair of performers who are dealing with that.
Aiden English and Simon Gotch enjoyed their fair share of success as a tag team down in developmental, as the team was fresh and gave the audience an old school feel with their look and in-ring abilities. They were thriving as champs, but would eventually go on a losing streak, drop the straps and turn heel. At that point, the WWE decided to call up the team with no momentum on their side. They struggled immediately and things would get worse when Simon Gotch was involved in an altercation with Sin Cara behind the scenes, booking the team's ticket to a place in the graveyard very soon.
7 Sin Cara
Speaking of Sin Cara. the luchador is the next entrant on our list of future WWE graveyard members. The new Sin Cara made his name as a tag team wrestler down in NXT forming the team of The Lucha Dragons alongside another potential graveyard member in Kalisto. The duo enjoyed some serious success, winning the NXT Tag Titles by knocking out the red hot Ascension (yes, The Ascension was actually hot at one point).
The duo enjoyed some success following their call ups, but the company eventually chose to spilt the duo, opting for Kalisto to make it as a prominent solo act. This decision pretty much left Sin Cara in the dark and the wrestler hasn’t done anything of note since, aside from being tossed around the ring by Braun Strowman during a recent episode of Monday Night Raw.
Making Sin Cara great again seems impossible with such a stacked roster on Raw and his graveyard status seems inevitable.
Whatever it is that you’re doing, stop and take a moment to acknowledge the fact that Fandango made his debut at WrestleMania 29 and defeated one of the greatest wrestlers in the world, Chris Jericho.
That win should have solidified Fandango as something special, but he hasn’t won a single championship with the company since signing a deal back in 2006 when he joined Deep South Wrestling. After a decade in the WWE, he hasn't even had a run as a Tag Team Champion.
I don’t think we really need to say much else relating to Fandango and his trip to the WWE graveyard.
5 Curtis Axel
Curtis Axel literally has excellence running through his veins as the son of one of the greatest WWE performers of all time, Mr. Perfect.
When he joined the company back in 2007 by reporting to FCW, the company had high hopes for Axel and the bar was set really high from the start.
The pressure was met early on and he thrived by winning the FCW World Championship and later claiming PWI’s honor for Rookie of the Year in 2008. He would later enjoy a repackaging alongside Paul Heyman and win the Intercontinental Championship. Soon after, the push was thrown to the side and he was relegated to being a lower card player.
Since his days alongside Paul Heyman more than three years ago, Axel has struggled to get television time, often finding himself as a pushover on a 'B program' like WWE Superstars. Bret Hart made a claim for Axel, stating that his talents were being used poorly, though the WWE never cared or responded to the statement.
With a stacked Raw roster, things don’t look too good for the Minnesota native.
4 Erick Rowan
We truly feel for Rowan and his involvement with the WWE as a glorified background player under the watch of Bray Wyatt. These types of wrestlers with limited roles are needed for a company like the WWE to move forward. We applaud him for his minor role, though it’s hard to slot him in a future role at this point.
Rowan actually enjoyed a really long indie career believe it or not, as he spent a bulk of his time over in Japan where he lived and wrestled at one point. One might make the assumption that Rowan might be headed back oversees once his WWE contract expires and that would probably be for the best. Japan loves a big guy playing the role of a heel, so maybe Rowan can even thrive as a future Bullet Club member. Maybe we're getting too ahead of ourselves, but the point is that Rowan’s time in the WWE is coming to an end.
3 Dolph Ziggler
At the age of 36, we applaud Dolph Ziggler for having an eventful career as a WWE Superstar which began in 2004, when he was recruited by the WWE as an amateur wrestler competing out of Kent State University.
Dolph was the only one of the five Spirit Squad members to survive following the factions demise. After nearly two years of repackaging in OVW and FCW, Ziggler was finally ready for his re-debut. It started off pretty terribly with a 30-day suspension for failing the Wellness Exam and once he returned, he lost his debut match to Batista. Things continued to be rocky for Ziggler when he got eliminated less than 30 seconds into the 2009 Royal Rumble.
In Ziggler like fashion, he’d overcome those hurdles and turn into a major player, winning the World Title twice and IC Championship on four separate occasions.
After Dolph peaked, he lost his way. Some blamed it on Ziggler not being fully invested as a wrestler, while others blamed the WWE for his booking. Either way, he was able to re-surface recently by feuding with WWE Champion Dean Ambrose only to come up short. Some saw that title pursuit as Ziggler’s final run at the top of the mountain. We happen to agree with that, though we love The Showoff.
What started off as a dream for Paige, by winning the championship in her debut, now looks like nightmare, two years after she was crowned Divas Champion at the age of 21.
Achieving this level of star power at such a young age was risky and we’re starting to see why. Paige got caught up with the fame of becoming a mega WWE star and a huge character on the reality show Total Divas. Her fame has led to some poor decisions and many believe she lost sight of what brought her to the dance; her in-ring skills and performances as a pro wrestler.
Things reached a boiling point for Paige when she confirmed the rumors that she was dating Alberto Del Rio, which enraged several WWE executives behind the scenes. Things got so bad at one point that the company allegedly threatened to fire her if the relationship wasn’t ended immediately.
Her 30 day suspension for violating the Wellness Policy was the icing on the cake, though this might ultimately be a blessing in disguise and what saves her career. With time away from the ring, she can finally put things into perspective and come back better than ever. With such an influx of female talent, she really has no choice, as the days of the women’s division being limited are long gone and if Paige doesn’t improve soon, her days will be over as a WWE Superstar.
1 Apollo Crews
Under the name of Uhaa Nation (a man as strong as an entire nation), Crews thrived on the indie circuit, finding his footing as a member of Dragon Gate USA. Triple H oozed of excitement when he announced the signing of the California native to NXT.
His developmental run was pretty short and should have been extended, as he was certainly main roster ready in the ring, but his charisma and persona still needed lots of work. Instead, the company opted to make Crews join the big boys. He started off by feuding with The Social Outcasts and later lost his momentum when he was defeated by Chris Jericho in an MITB qualifier match.
His selection to SmackDown seemed like a fresh start, but has provided similar results, with Crews putting on terrific matches only to fall short against the likes of AJ Styles and The Miz. We understand it’s premature to label Crews as a graveyard member, but, at this point, we see Crews becoming a top flight performer that will never really do anything all that important in the WWE. For that reason, his graveyard future seems very possible.