Every WWE Superstar is striving to be the best that they can be, bringing the unique quality that got them noticed over thousands of others to the table in hopes of a career of fame, fortune, championships and perhaps even a Hall Of Fame ring. The secret ingredient that must be contended with en route to these goals, is Vince McMahon himself.
Vince McMahon makes or breaks your career in WWE more than anyone else and he likes it that way. If you follow his direction and get over, all the better as he has monetized something about you and both of you benefit. In rare circumstances, some superstars go against him and get over anyway, and it's more of a 50/50 shot whether you're applauded or punished for the attempt. The list for both cases is long and rife with stories of triumph and tribulations and some superstars seem to succeed despite their shortcomings due to Vince's support while others fall short regardless of fans wanting the opposite. Such is the power of the chairman of WWE.
Here we're looking at current cases where Vince McMahon is clearly done supporting some acts within WWE and is about to pull the rug from under them. Alongside that, there are the opposite cases where he's just getting started investing screen-time and promotion in them in quest of massive merchandise and tickets sales through this new year.
15 You're Fired! - Bayley
Vince McMahon has no idea why people liked Bayley in NXT and has no idea how to make them like her now. For someone who routinely gets called a genius and has complete creative control over what works on both Raw and Smackdown, Bayley might as well be a riddle wrapped in a non-charismatic-enigma. Vince clearly has given up on the likable hugger and has moved on to anything else, letting her coast along without character development or a direction for months on end.
With the upcoming women's Royal Rumble they need all hands on deck to make up the numbers but once that's done there's a good chance Bayley won't make it onto the WrestleMania card and an even better chance she'll be gone when the mid-year roster cuts come about.
14 Pushed To The Moon - Jason Jordan
If you think Jason Jordan is being pushed now, you ain't seen nothing yet! The rumble behind this push is that among the WWE roster the only wrestler comparable to Roman Reigns among the female demographic is Kurt Angle's "son". The fact that he can wrestle decently well and is more and more channeling his on-screen father's original oblivious heel character only furthers the lengths McMahon will be able to feature him prominently.
He may not be as entertaining as Kurt in the role (few are) but Jordan is slowly developing something resembling a compelling character.
With Vince clearly investing massive amounts of time into him each and every Raw for the foreseeable future we should buckle in and prepare to be seeing 'The Next Generation Of Great' all over the coming year.
13 You're Fired! - The Miztourage
It's an unfortunate reality that being lackey to The Miz is both a career-maker in the short term and a career ender once it's over. First Alex Riley, then Damien Mizdow, and now The Miztourage are on a collision course with unemployment as The Miz will undoubtedly highlight their best qualities while in a team together, but this will only illustrate their lacking qualities the second the group splits. Vince McMahon has given both Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel excessive time on his roster to get over in some form or fashion, Axel in particular, but if the pair weren't legacy superstars they'd have been gone long ago. It's only a matter of time before Vince simultaneously notices them and realizes they've hit their ceiling as bottom feeders. Unless a breakout moment happens very quickly, the future is bleak for these two.
12 Pushed To The Moon - Dean Ambrose
Sometimes an injury is as good as a holiday in WWE, but for someone like Dean Ambrose whose heel persona has barely been tapped into in WWE, it's come at just the right time for Vince McMahon. He has had Dean plugging away as a face since the original Shield but he has known this whole time that Ambrose is perhaps triple the asset when he's a heel. With Ambrose now scheduled to sit out the majority of the year, his former Shield buddies moving on without him, missing the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, he's going to have multiple reasons and inspirations to finally break out as WWE's premier bad guy that they've been lacking since perhaps the days of The Rock.
Ambrose was always the secret ingredient that made The Shield work so when he returns to seek vengeance on his former brothers it'll be compelling, volatile, and most importantly to Vince, a money spinner.
11 You're Fired! - Cesaro
When Vince McMahon directly acknowledges that he doesn't see what you bring to the table your options going forward are limited at best. Cesaro has been through hell in WWE, including being forced to yodel, having his teeth smashed up into his jaw, and being a side-show for Paul Heyman to ignore him while extolling the virtues of Brock Lesnar on the weeks he didn't want to show up. All of these incidents should have gotten Cesaro a reward but as always his highest ceiling is in WWE tag teams despite his ability to put on main events the likes that could set WWE on fire.
Vince's now famous "I don't know" on the Stone Cold Steve Austin podcast on what Cesaro is missing proves his own lack of insight here.
Considering the options outside WWE, Cesaro himself is missing out as long as he's under Vince's regime. Cesaro could be main eventing next year's Wrestle Kingdom for NJPW if the ax falls between Summerslam and Survivor Series.
10 Pushed To The Moon - Elias
If there's one way to perfectly ingratiate yourself to Vince McMahon it's to be given a weekly segment on WWE television and consistently knock it out of the park. Elias has done exactly that since he was first spotted in the background of Raw as he debuted, and since then he's been a highlight every time he's under the spotlight. He's been sufficiently protected this entire year, only losing to the likes of Roman Reigns and similarly massive names. He's been in segments with John Cena and bested him handily on the mic and held his own in the ring.
Vince McMahon could at any moment propel him to the main event scene and he wouldn't look out of place and it feels inevitable that he'll have a segment at some point where he and The Rock have a musical face-off. If Elias is handled correctly, there's a chance he could be wearing top championship gold by the end of the year with a Vince-approved rocket strapped to his back.
9 You're Fired! - The Revival
Much like Hideo Itami in NXT, The Revival has been bitten by the injury bug this entire debut year on the main roster and it has absolutely crippled their momentum. Now that they have returned and subsequently been forgotten it appears clear that whatever cache they had with Vince McMahon has expired and the two throwbacks are primed for the scrapheap.
Only the intervention of Triple H can save this duo from being fed to more favored teams on their way out the door, which would be a criminal shame given their proven excellence in NXT.
Scott Dawson, in particular, is an asset above the normal with his excessively good mic skills, but unless Vince sees it first hand he's likely to wash his hands of this failed investment before getting the payoff they can provide.
8 Pushed To The Moon - Jeff Hardy
The younger Hardy is money in the bank (not the briefcase gimmick) and Vince knows this from his previous stint in the company. For the entire Cena era, only one superstar came close to permanently knocking him off of the top merch sales spot and that was Jeffrey Nero Hardy with his 'Creatures' in tow. Now that Vince has re-signed the Charismatic Enigma and given him time off to heel his problem shoulder he can rightfully expect to once again begin making moves to have Jeff ascending towards World/Universal Championship gold and the accompanying riches that brings in.
Jeff is one of those rare superstars who get over just by doing what he does, that undefinable 'X' factor making women adore him, men support him and children idolize him. In essence, pushing Jeff Hardy is Vince's easiest task moving forward because Jeff does 90% of the work by showing up in his paint and with his presence. Matt may have massively inspired their return, but Jeff is perhaps what Vince saw as the bargain in the returning teams deal.
7 You're Fired! - Mike & Maria Kanellis
Appears on TV, has not even a handful of matches after lots of buildup, pretty much immediately disappears except for an appearance in a multi-person brawl months later. Am I describing the mythical Kizarny from SmackDown 2009 or Mike Kanellis from 2017? Doesn't matter, either way,, the prognosis is the same because Kanellis is, unfortunately, a near-certain casualty if Vince McMahon realizes he's even still employed and taking up a paycheck.
With Mike Kanellis submitting himself to rehab for painkiller addiction and his wife Maria becoming pregnant at the same time, giving them zero screen time to salvage their gimmick, they were immediately beyond saving. It would take a concerted effort from creative that is hard-tasked enough keeping the balls they're already juggling in the air without burdening them with revitalizing a weak "haha, the guy took his wife's last name" schtick. Mike Kanellis himself isn't an impressive enough specimen visually or in the ring to warrant that focused effort either, so expect them to disappear quietly after Wrestlemania season passes.
6 Pushed To The Moon - Matt Hardy
Jeff is the sure thing but Matt Hardy is to Vince like hearing of a hot stock tip and buying a heap of shares before he expects it to blow up huge. It's no guarantee like the former but it can pay off big-time and Vince clearly wants in on those big dollars. So far the 'Woken' Matt Hardy storyline has been a bit rough, with the opening week great fun but the aftermath involving little more than retreading laughter between he and Bray week after week. As we approach the Royal Rumble and particularly WrestleMania, WWE needs to find the spark to the Woken formula.
Failure to get the Woken gimmick over would go down as a monumental failure for Vince to have brought in the hottest gimmick in wrestling and tanked it as badly as he did the WCW Invasion.
Expect Vince to not only double and triple down in efforts to make this cash cow work but for him personally to get involved, as Matt Hardy's logical opposition to "Meek-Ma-Han" might be exactly the thing to get everybody back on board with it. With Matt revealing that all litigation between he and Anthem over the remaining Broken Universe properties has been settled, perhaps WWE is now able to really go full tilt into exploiting 2016-17's best gimmick in the new year
5 You're Fired! - Harper (sans Luke)
We're concerned that the moment The Bludgeon Brothers hit the New Day/Uso ceiling and have to compete at regular tag team levels instead of 'bum-rushing' (thanks Byron & Corey), they'll lose all their momentum and that'll be it for the 52nd incarnation of this team. If Vince wanted to push Luke Harper it would've happened at this last Wrestlemania when he should've been inserted into the WWE Championship match. As it is it seems more like he's using (first name redacted) Harper to try to make something of the bland bigness that is (first name also redacted) Rowan.
Harper just ticks too many of Vince's negative boxes without the likable promo upside of a Mick Foley-type to overcome them.
If The Bludgeon Brothers see the end of the year without being split, buried like The Ascension and released unceremoniously we'll be shocked.
4 Pushed To The Moon - 'Rowdy' Ronda Rousey
It's safe to say that since she hasn't even debuted yet the only direction for 'Rowdy' Ronda Rousey is upward, but with her impending arrival practically a fait accompli and there being zero chance Vince lets her spend a second in NXT, Rousey is destined for massive things this coming year. Legitimately putting the women's division of UFC on the map she is potentially the crown jewel for WWE's division and could enjoy similar status as Brock Lesnar where she goes undefeated for years in the company and even the notion of defeating her propels the women in contention to greater heights by the association.
Rousey may have lost some of her luster after her latter UFC defeats but she got out at the right time where Vince can still promote her as a world-beater, and that's what he's set to do this coming year. If she doesn't debut in the safety of the Royal Rumble, she will at least definitely be around for the Road To WrestleMania to face Charlotte or Asuka come the Showcase Of The Immortals.
3 You're Fired! - Zack Ryder
Vince would fire Zack tomorrow if it wouldn't create a situation he truly wishes to avoid, that being the locker room becoming totally disillusioned with ever trying to get themselves over. Zack Ryder for his entire decade with WWE has not been meant to succeed and yet has found a way to be only one championship win from the Grand Slam achievement, largely despite Vince. It was reported that his Intercontinental Championship win was even decided upon by the participants in the match rather than the chairman, so even his greatest moment has no input from McMahon. Truly Zack is walking on that knife's edge now, having again been left behind by a partner with Mojo Rawley going into singles competition at his expense and each passing day Vince probably thinks he can jettison the Long Island Iced Z with fewer and less repercussions.
We personally hope to be wrong on this one, but Zack's career trajectory is currently perilous and Vince has shown no qualms about putting the boot in when you're at your lowest.
2 Pushed To The Moon - Apollo Crews
Vince sees money in the former Uhaa Nation and he's using Titus O'Neil to keep Crews on the simmer until he figures out how to unleash Apollo's personality. He brought him up from NXT way too soon and there's most definitely a reason for the chairman's interest and whether it's Apollo's look (a classic Vince preference), his athleticism or the combination of the two, Vince sees dollar signs in this athletic specimen. He threw Apollo onto Raw with just his smile and no character to see how that would do and it went over like a lead balloon, so now he's looking for that combination of factors to make him a breakout star and you can see it every time Vince changes something around to try to benefit him.
It's only a matter of time before something Vince throws at the wall sticks for someone as naturally talented as Crews.
So look for increased screen time and even perhaps a surprise Intercontinental Championship reign and feud with The Miz sometime after WrestleMania.
1 You're Fired! - Titus O'Neil
Speaking of Titus O'Neil, the moment Vince has gotten what he wants from the big man regarding his pet project in Apollo, he's likely finished with WWE. Titus has shown a natural charisma and ability to get over with the crowd but at every turn Vince refuses to get behind him with any significant singles push. Whether it's because of Titus' limited progression in the ring (although his 'Clash of the Titus' finisher is sweet) or his age (he just passed 40) there isn't a whole lot the chairman sees as a viable path forward for the former Florida Gator. Titus has a history of being clumsy in the ring and also has a few personal strikes against him directly from Vince McMahon himself. He was supposed to break Santino Marella's quickest elimination record for the Royal Rumble a couple of years ago and botched it which reportedly had Vince tossing headphones backstage.
He also had the infamous incident from the night Daniel Bryan retired where he playfully grabbed Vince's arm and almost got fired over it before the chairman was calmed down into only a 60-day suspension. Titus is low-rung for life and Vince McMahon has wrung all he can see from O'Neil and he'll soon be gone like his former tag partner Darren Young.