By: Joren B. Apiquian
Although the WWE Brand Extension happened a little over two months ago, there are still a handful of active WWE Superstars that do not have a place to call home quite yet. These performers were not selected during the draft due to injury or have earned the status of being special talent who have reached legendary status in recent years. Wrestlers dealing with injuries is unavoidable (unless you happen to be The Miz) and it has put individuals on the shelf time and time again. Even though part-timers such as The Rock and The Undertaker are destined to return to the squared circle in time for WrestleMania season, the following WWE Superstars are full-time performers who went undrafted due to injury or have been recently signed by the company. With a surplus of talent on both RAW and Smackdown Live!, the following individuals have a golden opportunity to either make a statement upon their return or debut. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Quite possibly being WWE’s biggest missed opportunity in the women’s division over the past few years, Tamina is scheduled to return to action after having knee surgery in early May. Injuries are never a pleasant time for any athlete, but this is the perfect time to re-introduce Tamina as a formidable threat to either brand’s women’s division. Being a part of the historic Samoan wrestling lineage and daughter of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, she has all the tools to be successful in WWE. However, the aforementioned Snuka is in the middle of a trial for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Argentino which dates back to 1983. This shouldn’t have any effect on Tamina’s role in the company, but if history has shown us anything, it is very possible that it might.
With all of that aside, where does Tamina belong upon her return to the WWE Universe? As I stated earlier, Tamina has a lot of untapped potential. She may not have the technical prowess like Alundra Blayze, but she has an intimidating look and strength advantage over most of her counterparts. It’s also a thing of beauty to see someone of her size jump off the top rope to perform a Superfly Splash. Enter Nia Jax. Jax has been running rampant over unknown local talent ever since her RAW debut. She is scheduled to go one-on-one with Alicia Fox at Clash of Champions, but it does not seem likely that Fox will be victorious. Until Jax is ready for title contention, she is going to need a believable challenger. With Summer Rae out with an injury and Paige not medically cleared to perform yet, Tamina would be the perfect opponent. Although they are considered cousins, that could be an interesting showdown to say the least. They can also join forces to tear through the women’s division which would make for some compelling television as well.
However, it appears that RAW only has room for one imposing figure in the women’s division. Smackdown Live! seems like the destined home for the returning Samoan. Not only would she be able to thrive in a more competitive division, but she would also have more storyline options. The Usos recently turned heel and their change in attitude is promising to say the least. Many may not remember this, but when The Usos debuted in WWE, they were heels and Tamina was their manager. Their feud with The Hart Foundation is a forgotten gem of the past. Having Tamina return as their manager would provide more intrigue to their act and who knows? Maybe they can snag the tag titles while Tamina is the Women’s Champion in the very near future.
Next to Cesaro, Luke Harper is one of the most underrated Superstars on WWE’s roster today. He is also arguably the most successful member of The Wyatt Family because he is the only one to win a championship within the group. After suffering a severe knee injury during a dark match earlier this year, he has been sidelined ever since.
Harper has since been medically cleared to compete and his return to WWE should take place any day now. Out of all of the returning Superstars, Luke Harper has the highest ceiling and his possibilities are endless if he is given the opportunity to succeed. It is difficult to predict which brand he will head to because his character could go in a number of directions from a creative standpoint. During the initial split of The Wyatt Family, Harper proved that he could thrive as a singles competitor when he defeated Dolph Ziggler for the Intercontinental Championship in November 2014. Even though he dropped the title back to Ziggler 27 days later, their showdown at TLC the following month was enough to prove Harper’s worth in the company.
Going to Smackdown Live! seems like the next logical path for Harper. He can reunite with Bray Wyatt and Erick Rowan to bring back the original trio of The Wyatt Family because they have not reached their full potential as a group even though they have been on the main roster for a little over three years. He is the workhorse of the group and can perform moves that typical men of his size can’t pull off. Even though Rowan has shown tremendous growth since the brand extension, he still has a very low ceiling as opposed to Harper. This can be very intriguing for Harper’s return, though. Wyatt has called on Rowan to do his dirty work for him and Rowan has failed every time. Wyatt has walked away from the White Sheep at times and after Randy Orton decimated Rowan last week on Smackdown Live!, the clown-painted sheep mask left in the middle of the ring was the lone image of the segment. Wyatt has teased dissension within the family, but when Harper returns, what will happen? Harper has always been loyal to The Eater of Worlds while Rowan has never been shy to venture out on his own. Will Harper return to lay waste to Rowan? Will Harper come back and attack Wyatt in order to help Rowan? Or will the Wyatt Family simply coexist with no issues whatsoever? If any of these storylines take place, they can all be promising if booked correctly.
Although heading to Smackdown Live! seems to be the most logical destination for Luke Harper, logic and WWE never seem to go hand in hand. Going to RAW wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for Harper at all. Many of his independent circuit peers reside on WWE’s flagship show. His potential wars with Sami Zayn, Cesaro, Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins and Finn Bálor are mouthwatering to any diehard professional wrestling fan as he has feuded with most of them in the past. Also, Braun Strowman is in serious need of a legitimate opponent. Unknown local enhancement talents, including internet favorite James Ellsworth have outshined Strowman. This Sunday’s Clash of Champions event would be the perfect opportunity for Harper to return. Have Strowman destroy his opponent with ease. He can pick up a microphone and call out someone from the back for a real challenge. Harper can return and give Strowman a run for his money. The bout can end in a count out or a disqualification in order to further the rivalry. Harper can express his anger towards Strowman the following night on RAW by saying that he felt replaced during his absence. Not only would this scenario give Harper direction immediately upon his return from injury, it allow fans to see a new side of him that they haven’t seen before.
Harper has proved that he is a valuable asset to WWE whether he returns to the Wyatt Family on Smackdown Live! or ventures out on his own once again on RAW.
The Melbourne, Australia native has had an odd career in WWE. She found success in NXT as a bubbly airhead who possessed an impressive repertoire of crowd-pleasing moves. Unfortunately, that success did not translate to the main roster where she seemed destined to be a comedic act alongside Santino Marella. After Marella’s untimely injury followed by his release, Emma was in limbo. She went back to her roots in NXT and turned into an Aviator-wearing badass heel with an even catchier theme song than her previous one. She partnered up with Dana Brooke and they developed good chemistry that carried over to the main roster. Emma finally found her footing within the company and a promising feud with Becky Lynch seemed underway.
Sadly, Emma suffered a back injury during a live event that required surgery in May. Brooke has found success as Charlotte’s wimpy protégé who is destined for a huge babyface turn and monster push, but where does that leave Emma? She recently returned as a guest referee at a live event which suggests that she is returning to action sooner rather than later. Having her return to RAW without reuniting with Brooke would be a puzzling move, but with Summer Rae being the latest addition to WWE’s injury report, it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad move because she would be able to forge her own path as a singles star without Brooke weighing her down.
If Emma joined Smackdown Live!, not only can she resume her rivalry with Smackdown Women’s Champion Becky Lynch, she can also be on the same brand as her real -life boyfriend Zack Ryder. Since her character still needs to be fleshed out, going to either brand would be a good move for Emma.
Honorable Mention: Jack Gallagher
The English Gentleman Jack Gallagher captivated the audience in the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic. Even though Akira Tozawa eliminated him in the second round of the tournament, many believed that would not be the end of his run in WWE. He was featured in vignettes for RAW’s Cruiserweight Division which seemed to suggest that he would be a member of the red brand. However, Daniel Bryan’s admiration for him during the tournament might lend itself to the possibility of Gallagher heading to the blue brand instead. Daniel Bryan spoke very highly of the young gentleman during an episode of Talking Smack a few weeks ago. If the GM speaks that highly of him, it would make sense for him and Shane McMahon to sign Gallagher to their roster. Not every Cruiserweight has to be a part of RAW. Just take a look at Kalisto for example. Jack Gallagher has a unique look and his technical prowess mixed with high-risk offense is a spectacular thing to watch. This gentleman can be a low-key breakout star in WWE.
Speaking of gentlemen, there are two manly individuals on the Smackdown Live! roster who can significantly benefit from Gallagher’s presence: Aiden English and Simon Gotch of The Vaudevillians. The duo found great success in NXT as both babyfaces and heels. Much like Emma, their success in NXT did not carry over to the main roster, but they’re not to blame. With no build up whatsoever and a debut on Smackdown prior to the brand extension, the duo was doomed to be glorified jobbers. Gotch’s backstage heat doesn’t help either. With their initial push being snuffed out quicker than Tyler Breeze’s, The Vaudevillians never had a chance to impress management despite their commendable qualities. They are tremendous performers, but their gimmick can be hard to grasp on the main stage. Introducing Gallagher to their act would be a genius idea to get the tandem over. In an already heel-dominated tag team division on Smackdown Live!, bringing in Gallagher can make them babyfaces. Let’s face it, Gallagher is way too likeable to ever be considered villainous.
However, all signs point to Jack Gallagher being a part of RAW’s Cruiserweight Division, but taking a chance and pairing him with The Vaudevillians would be a risk worth taking as well.
Where do you think WWE’s top free agents will land? Let us know below!