Daniel Bryan and 7 Superstars Better off Leaving WWE
With All In just around the corner and sold out, it is clear that the wrestling business is changing. Even after countless attempts by WWE to stifle competition, promotions like New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor and Lucha Underground have stepped up their game.
It could be argued that NJPW is a legitimate rival to WWE. ROH recently sold out Madison Square Garden in conjunction with the Japanese promotion, and Impact has been dramatically growing fan interest in recent months. There are more opportunities outside WWE than ever before.
Meanwhile, WWE's roster continues to grow to an unreasonable size, with many stars not getting their fair shot. It may seem like WWE is always the best option for talent, but Cody Rhodes has proved with All In that is not true.
Other stars like Austin Aries, Jack Swagger, Rich Swann and Emma have found almost immediate success after being released, with Neville hoping to be the next man to change the game. These stars should not be the only ones looking for an alternative.
With WWE in need of a smaller roster and talent from Daniel Bryan to Zack Ryder in need of better opportunities, these are seven stars who would immediately benefit from leaving WWE to venture into the wider wrestling business.
Given Dolph Ziggler's recent resurgence on Monday Night Raw, it may seem odd to suggest he is better off leaving WWE, but this is just the story of The Showoff's career. He gets hot for a few months at a time before the company cools on him and he returns to the forgotten midcard.
While more highly decorated than Cody, Ziggler comes off as a similar caliber of untapped star. He's the type of talent any promotion, except WWE, would run with as a top guy. He's an athletic and dynamic in-ring performer who can more than hold his own on the mic.
If he left for just a year and went to NJPW or Impact, he would be a star instantly. He would be putting on fantastic matches in the G1 Classic or main-eventing Bound for Glory, and it would force WWE to re-evaluate his value.
The #Heel has stated repeatedly that he has other interests outside wrestling, but that may come from an expectation that he won't be paid or treated as well as he has been by the McMahon dynasty. He might change his tune when the offers started coming in, though.
He would also be free to work as much as he wanted rather than being constricted by WWE's scheduling. He could focus more on standup, politics or acting while still enjoying a major spotlight in the wrestling industry.
Once considered one of the greatest innovators in wrestling, inspiring multiple top stars in WWE, including The American Dragon, Hideo Itami has become a supporting talent on WWE's least promoted brand, 205 Live. Since day one, Itami has not looked right in WWE.
The man formerly known as Kenta was one of the most decorated champions in the history of Pro Wrestling Noah and often represented the Japanese promotion in ROH. He put on fantastic matches with Bryan, Naomichi Marufuji, Low Ki and more in a way that has never translated to wrestling's biggest brand.
His time in NXT produced some quality matches with Bobby Roode and Aleister Black, while he has looked good at times on 205 Live, but The International Sensation seems just a bit hesitant with his strikes, the main driving force behind his offense.
Some of this comes down to an unfortunate injury in 2015 that he took a long time to recover from, but he would likely feel much more comfortable working in Japan than he does in WWE. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported in June that Noah had formed a partnership with WWE (h/t Cageside Seats), and shortly afterward it was announced Itami would be appearing for the company on a one-time basis in September.
This is a telling sign of just how much that promotion respects Itami as a performer. Hopefully, he will be able to have a few more great matches with Mustafa Ali, but, after that, he would be better off leaving to work in Noah and All Japan Pro Wrestling again.
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson
One of the most decorated tag teams in NJPW, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson made their debut as a pair in WWE with almost as much excitement as their friend AJ Styles. However, they have not had anywhere near the success most expected them to have.
Despite a brief title run and main event moments while working with Styles and Finn Balor, the former Bullet Club duo has been a non-factor at a time when WWE has turned away from tag team wrestling. It does not help that Gallows and Anderson are working in SmackDown Live's packed tag team division.
It is often speculated that they could leave the company, and it would be the best thing either man could do. Both are talented performers, with Anderson one of the most underutilized stars on the roster.
They would likely be instantly treated as top-tier tag team stars on any brand from NJPW to ROH, and they would deserve that recognition. They have not been able to develop as stars on the one wrestling promotion entirely focused on star power.
It is still possible the Good Brothers will get a chance to shine again as tag team champions, but time is running out. As the roster gets more bloated, they continue to look like the most talented team that will never get a chance to succeed, and they have proved their ability to find success elsewhere.
In 2011, Ryder went from a no-show on television to a household name and one of the most popular wrestlers in the business. WWE programming rarely admitted this fact, with Long Island Iced Z only finally getting his due at the end of the year with a short United States Championship run.
Booking has destroyed Ryder's popularity since that time, with WWE seemingly punishing Ryder for getting over. Beyond another brief title reign as intercontinental champion, he might as well not be on the roster because he's not even used as a jobber to the stars.
Even with so much time removed from his breakout in 2011, it would be huge to see Ryder on the independent scene. He would quickly become one of the most sought-after stars in the business, bringing charisma and star power to any promotion.
Impact Wrestling or Lucha Underground would be a perfect fit for The Broski, who could reinvent himself as a big star and get necessary opportunities in bigger matches. He would likely be paid better and certainly be respected more than he has been at any time in his WWE run.
He may not be an amazing in-ring performer, but he has shown he can work. He's in great shape despite his lack of opportunities, and he is only 33 with 11 years of main roster experience. It is a shock he has not tested the waters at any point in his career.
The first response from casual fans when asked about Mike Kanellis is likely a question right back: who? One of the biggest names in ROH around 2014 before taking over Impact briefly in 2016, Kanellis has been relegated to Main Event enhancement talent, losing to No Way Jose and Ryder.
Brought in likely because WWE wanted to bring back his wife, Maria Kanellis, he was not even given a chance in NXT before he was made a comedy act on SmackDown. When Maria took a leave of absence during her pregnancy, Kanellis disappeared from TV.
Some of the reasons for invisibility were personal, taking a hiatus of his own to deal with a prescription drug addiction, but since returning he has only wrestled on Main Event or participated in fill-out spots in a Battle Royal or locker-room segment.
When he was first signed, Kanellis had all the tools, from his charisma to his in-ring work, to make himself a household name in WWE. But now the only thing that could save him is leaving the company. He'll never be taken seriously in WWE.
He has worked in ROH, Impact and NJPW, finding success in all three promotions. He can still tout himself as a former WWE talent if he leaves and would likely make better money elsewhere as a major attraction.
While WWE would not be fazed if any of the aforementioned Superstars left, Bryan's departure from the company would be a huge loss. It would change the wrestling industry, and that is precisely why it is the perfect move for The Yes Man's career.
The former WWE champion has proved since his return to action earlier this year that he can still outwork anyone in his way. He's also still the most over performer in the company. However, he spent a long time in WWE unable to wrestle, which would've given him time to think about performing for other companies.
Once considered the greatest technical wrestler in the world, Bryan has changed his style to suit a new audience, and he may never get another chance to fully embrace the style of wrestling that defined him at his best. He is hamstrung by his popularity and character.
There may not be a wrestler in the world who would be more sought-after than a free-agent Bryan. He would also pull new eyes in for other shows. He would headline anywhere he competed and could work with anyone from Kenny Omega and Kazuchika Okada to Will Ospreay and Zack Sabre Jr.
There is some concern that Bryan would put himself in harm's way by getting out of the WWE system, but he has shown recently he is learning from his mistakes. If he left, he would change the game, work with the best in the business and likely get more time with his family.