The wrestling business is a very fickle one. One minute a superstar is at the top of the company and the next they are walking away, sometimes by force. There are many wrestlers whose contracts come to an end in the coming months so WWE needs to make a decision whether to renew these agreements or negotiate a release. With all the stars ready and willing to come up from NXT it's the time of year for a change and these stars could easily replace the older ones who are set to walk away. The WWE has seen some big names released already in the last year, and it's only certain that there are more names to come.
The Raw After WrestleMania usually sees a number of stars called up to the main roster from NXT. With the brand split on pay-per-views ending, the company will likely release a number of stars who will no longer be needed. This will create plenty of opportunities for the talents in NXT to make their debuts in the big leagues.
The following list looks at eight WWE stars who could be released from the company over the next few months as well as eight NXT stars who could be called up to the main roster to replace them. The wrestling business is one big conveyor belt and it's the perfect time of the year for out with the old and in with the new.
16 Released: Neville
Neville hasn't been seen in WWE since October after he dropped the Cruiserweight Championship to Enzo Amore before he was then screwed out of his rematch and the British star then decided that he had enough.
WWE has tried to bring Neville back a number of times, most recently as part of the Cruiserweight tournament but the star is yet to return. Even though Neville's contract is frozen until he does return, at some point the company will have to make a decision and if he isn't back in April to face the new Cruiserweight Champion then it would be hard to see him ever returning. Neville was unhappy with his place in the company and if he returns then he would be back on 205 Live, which is probably the reason why he doesn't want to.
15 Replaced By: Johnny Gargano
Many hearts were broken a few weeks ago when Johnny Gargano lost his match to NXT Champion Andrade 'Cien' Almas on an episode of NXT and he was then forced to leave the brand for good. Gargano is one of the best technically gifted athletes that WWE has ever signed and there's no way that they would allow him to walk away from the company just like that.
It's obvious that Gargano will be back in a few weeks following WrestleMania and will be promoted to the main roster. Gargano is a solid fan favourite much like R-Truth and would be the perfect person to take his slot as part of the show when the company decide to push Gargano up and officially announce that R-Truth is no longer an active performer.
14 Released: Dana Brooke
Dana Brooke was once seen as someone who had a lot of potential during her time teaming with Emma on NXT, but the main roster and being aligned with Charlotte ruined her career and she is now struggling to remain relevant alongside Titus O'Neil and Apollo as part of Titus Worldwide.
Dana hasn't wrestled on WWE TV in a number of months and has now been relegated to standing ringside with a clipboard. It's obvious that the writing is on the wall for Dana and as soon as the company decides that it's time for budget cuts later in the year, Dana will be one of the first names on the list, which is sad since she was starting to show signs of improvement before WWE took her out of the ring.
13 Replaced By: Peyton Royce
Peyton Royce has been stuck down in NXT for a while now and the WWE Universe have been eagerly awaiting her main roster debut, something that many fans thought would take place at The Royal Rumble in the first ever Women's Royal Rumble match, but this wasn't the case.
Peyton and her Iconic Duo partner Billie Kay have recently undergone breast enhancement surgery which has taken them back a few months when it comes to their potential main roster debut, but they have both returned to the ring now and are on track to be promoted to the main roster in the coming months so it would be interesting to see if it's a like for like swap and Royce takes Dana's old place in the women's division if she's released.
12 Released: The Big Show
The Big Show hasn't been seen on WWE TV since his loss in a steel match against Braun Strowman a few months ago where he was thrown through the cage and it was then revealed that the former World Champion would be on the shelf for a bit while he underwent hip surgery.
It is reported that Big Show has since recovered from surgery and it looking for a return to the company, even though he said in an interview that February 2018 was the month he was looking at retiring from WWE. Either way, 2018 will definitely be the year that the most loved giant in WWE will walk away for good, but it is unknown as to whether or not Big Show will be able to return for a final farewell first.
11 Replaced By: Killian Dane
Killian Dane has been one of the hottest prospects in NXT for a long time, there hasn't been a big guy who can move like him since The Big Show in his earlier years, which is what he would be the perfect replacement for the giant when he decides to hang up his boots for good.
Dane could have so many interesting feuds on the main roster with one against Braun Strowman looking to be one of the fantasy bouts for many fans. Right now Dane is trying to prove himself as a singles star in NXT, which could lead to him being called up to the main roster alone rather than as part of Sanity. Dane would definitely be a fantastic addition to the Raw roster in the coming months.
10 Released: Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar's expiry date for his contract has been a hot topic of conversation over the past few months, but The Beast isn't open to signing an extension and could be set to walk away following this year's WrestleMania. Lesnar has a lot of opportunities outside of WWE and since he's been the main draw for a number of years now, it seems like the perfect time to leave.
Lesnar will be part of the biggest event of the year next month where he is expected to drop his Universal Championship to Roman Reigns before he leaves the company for an undermined amount of time. Brock will obviously be a hard act to follow, but everyone in the wrestling world is replaceable, even The Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar.
9 Replaced By: Aleister Black
While WWE are already grooming Roman Reigns to take Brock Lesnar's place at the top of the company while holding the biggest title, there will be a space on the roster for another potential star. Aleister Black will either become NXT Champion at Takeover: New Orleans, or he will be promoted to the main roster and could well be the star power that Monday Night Raw needs after The Beast departs.
Black has already proved that he has a unique ability between those ropes and could easily be seen as a show stealer in matches against Seth Rollins, AJ Styles and a number of others if the company decides to take a gamble on him, which would definitely be a worthy boost for the man who has been taking NXT by storm over the past year.
8 Released: Curt Hawkins
Curt Hawkins was brought back to WWE following the brand split back in 2016 but he was only brought back to become a laughing stock since he has made history with the number of matches he has lost over the past few months. Hawkins hasn't even been seen on WWE TV in weeks, which shows that WWE has probably already given up on their idea of a push for him.
Hawkins was released from the company back in 2014 so he is someone who has experience of receiving that dreaded phone call and since the brand split on pay-per-view is set to come to an end in the coming weeks and there are a number of stars who will no longer be needed, it's highly likely that he will be receiving that call again.
7 Replaced By: No Way Jose
No Way Jose was once one of the most popular stars on NXT but when it comes to losing streaks, Jose could definitely give Curt a run for his money. NXT is slowly ruining one of their best creations and he really needs to be promoted soon before it get's any worse.
Jose was recently put in a match against Velveteen Dream where he tried to swing the crowd in his favour against the heel star but Dream has become such a huge star over the past few months that Jose was unable to be seen as the face in the match. It is unknown where the dancing star goes from here, but a promotion to the main roster could be a way for him to start again in front of a new crowd.
6 Released: Kane
Kane has been one of the biggest superstars in WWE for more than two decades and the man behind the mask has finally decided that he has a new calling in life and he is running for Mayor in Knox County. His campaign has already begun and the star himself has admitted that he will have to give up wrestling if he is elected.
Kane has reached a point now where much like The Undertaker he is thinking about walking away anyway and he hasn't been used in the most effective ways on WWE TV, so walking away is a better option than becoming a parody of himself. Kane's most recent match was just 35 seconds long against Brock Lesnar, so it's a much better decision for him to open a new chapter in his life in the coming weeks.
5 Replaced By: Kassius Ohno
Kassius Ohno knows exactly what it's like to watch everyone else be pushed ahead of him, despite putting on some fantastic matches as part of the NXT roster. Ohno apparently doesn't have the look that WWE has in their mind when it comes to WWE stars and that is why he is being held back.
Kane was someone who didn't have the look either but he has still been able to become one of the most popular stars in the history of the company. While the last few years for Kane has been less than memorable, he has still been a constant fixture and someone that WWE could always call upon, Ohno could easily be that person for the company in the future and always put on five-star matches when needed.
4 Released: Primo And Epico Colon
Primo and Epico have been on the sidelines in WWE now for almost a year after Primo suffered a knee injury back in April that has kept the duo out of action. There have been a lot of rumours circulating about the team asking for their WWE release because they were unhappy with their current place on the roster and if budget cuts are looming then it's likely that these two stars will be near the top of the list.
Primo and Epico have tried a number of gimmicks over the past few years including Los Matadores and The Shining Stars, but they were unable to generate the reaction that the company wanted, which is why they aren't currently part of any plans moving forward on the SmackDown brand.
3 Replaced By: The Authors Of Pain
The SmackDown Tag Team Division definitely has strength in depth right now with the likes of The New Day, The Usos, The Blugeon Brothers, Gable and Benjamin, The Ascension and The Fashion Police. This means that any team would find it hard to fit into that Division, but there is only one team who would be able to step up to The Bludgeon Brothers and that's former NXT Tag Team Champions The Authors of Pain.
The Bludgeon Brothers have been taking over the SmackDown Tag Team Division over the past few months ever since their re-debut last year and the team that is managed by WWE Hall of Famer Paul Ellering would be the perfect addition to the Division to cut the Bludgeon Brothers down to size.
2 Released: R-Truth
R-Truth is a superstar who has been part of the company for the past decade, but he has recently begun making the transition into a role backstage since he is no longer needed as part of the company's weekly shows.
Truth has been a solid presence on the roster for so long that it's strange that he isn't part of the show anymore, but WWE has phased him out much like with Mark Henry last year which means that it's likely that he won't be given the farewell that many legends are afforded when they decide to depart, instead Truth's contract will come to an end and he will then move into a backstage role more permanently. Truth's best days in the ring are obviously behind him, but he still has a lot to give as an ambassador for the company.
1 Replaced By: Ricochet
Ricochet only recently made the move over to NXT and the company will want to build him up on that brand for a while, but at just 197lbs, it's easy to see Ricochet leading the Cruiserweight Division in the coming months.
Ricochet's high flying exploits have been the thing that has defined him throughout his Independent career and the only brand that would accommodate those kinds of skills would be 205 Live. Neville was a huge star and the brand have definitely been missing him, so the company knows that they need someone huge to be able to take his place and Ricochet would be perfect, he has the talent and charisma and it would begin a new much-needed new era for the stars of 205 Live.