For years, one of the more redundant phrases in professional wrestling/sports entertainment is that the WWE is “the only game in town.” And from a mainstream, globally-branded perspective, that is true and by a wide margin. But with the likes of TNA, Ring of Honor, New Japan and countless other independent promotions, there are still options for wrestlers who either didn’t quite fit the mold, or who were burnt out by the rigors of the WWE schedule.
Outside of the recent Roman Reigns suspension, the biggest question mark surrounding the WWE is what they plan to do once the brand extension is executed next month. More specifically, how does Vince McMahon and company plan to fill out two distinct rosters, unique to their own brands representing RAW and Smackdown. The clock is ticking on having the ability to cast two rosters, each with 30-40 talent.
We know that plans have been in place for nearly a month that will see the WWE raid the NXT talent pool, with recent indications surfacing that as many as a dozen NXT superstars will get promoted in time for the WWE Draft, and the brand split that follows. A dozen still likely won’t be enough to complete the task, which is why WWE has been continually reaching out to former employees of the company about the idea of returning.
In the latest edition of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, they could only confirm four names who have been contacted: Kurt Angle, Stevie Richards, MVP, and Carlito. Other reports have included Matt and Jeff Hardy, Rey Mysterio, John Morrison, and Goldberg. In the cases of the Hardys, Mysterio and Morrison, they are all currently under contract and wouldn’t be able to jump ship (if they wanted to) until those expired. In regards to Richards, he would be brought in as a developmental trainer for NXT, according to Ringside News. Angle and Triple H have spoken recently, with nothing specific on the table as of yet. For over a decade, both Vince and Hunter have scoffed at the idea of bringing Angle back, but there’s clearly been a change of heart.
There have been many other former WWE superstars that have been contacted as well, but there names are being kept anonymous for three major reasons. For one, they’re able to make more money on the independent scene than they would with WWE, and work a lighter schedule. And second, the offers that WWE is presenting them are even less than they were making during their first WWE runs, while working the normal 300+ days a year load. Unless the financials come up or the schedule goes down, many of them will continue to pass on the idea of returning to the WWE.
The third potential roadblock for some of these past stars coming back is how they’d be used once they signed with WWE. Many of them have been speculating that despite the cache they’d carry with them, they would be reduced to name enhancement talent strictly used to put the younger superstars over as they build towards the future. Those that have been contacted continue referencing the Dudley Boyz as prime examples. Bubba Ray and D-Von returned to the mothership last summer, and despite some high-level tag team feuds, they’ve routinely put their opponents over and have recently been relegated to pay-per-view kickoff shows.
Something will have to change in WWE’s mindset. They are in definite need of drawing power once the shows are split, but in order to attract those kinds of stars, they’ll have to be willing to concede on either money, schedule demands or the creative booking. And time is starting to run out.
[Image via WWE]