When a professional wrestler starts working for the WWE Universe, it’s generally a sign they’ve “made it” within the sports entertainment industry. That said, simply getting employed by the McMahon family doesn’t always translate to success for a wrestler. In fact, there have been countless examples over the years where athletes had their potential squandered if not outright destroyed due to Vince McMahon and his company’s influence on their career trajectory.
In the current era, with ratings sagging, buy rates dropping, and fans running away in droves, this problem is worse than it has ever been before. The good news for poorly utilized WWE employees is that there are also more options for them to run for than there have been in decades. Sure, TNA/GFW/etc. is kind of a joke these days, but New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and plenty of other smaller organizations are proving more than willing to pay top dollar for wrestlers who deserve it.
On top of the WWE superstars who would be better served working elsewhere, there are also a number of wrestlers working for the company who just shouldn’t be active competitors anymore regardless of what promotions are willing to hire them. Worse than the McMahons failing to see potential in a wrestler is an athlete simply lacking talent altogether. Truth be told, there are probably even more names in this category on the WWE roster than the previously described one. For examples of people in both, keep reading for 15 current WWE superstars who should just give up already.
15 Zack Ryder
More so than most people on our list, it’s almost understandable that Zack Ryder chooses to stick with WWE regardless of how little success he has found in the company. Thanks to his Internet presence, Ryder has become extremely popular on more than one occasion, and the loud appreciation of his fans has paid off through reigns with the WWE Intercontinental and United States Championships. The downside of these runs with the gold is that Ryder instantly shunted back down to the bottom of the card after losing both titles. Some speculate Vince McMahon is bitter that Ryder was able to find success on his own and without WWE’s approval, explaining these repeat start and stop pushes. Whether or not McMahon is upset about it, Ryder clearly was able to become popular without any help, and he might even be better at it without anyone punishing him for it.
14 Erick Rowan
Be honest: can anyone remember a single moment of Erick Rowan’s career not involving at least one other member of the Wyatt Family? The man has been on the WWE roster for five full years, and though Bray Wyatt’s cult has broken up more than once in this time, Rowan has remained inexorably linked to the vicious manipulator throughout it all. Removed from Wyatt, Rowan has almost no charisma whatsoever on his own, and his in-ring style is limited, to put it lightly. In all fairness, Rowan does have a small chance at success in WWE or elsewhere should he switch things up already and find a new gimmick that separates him for the Wyatts once and for all. Unless that happens soon, however, he may as well quit before things get even worse, because living life as a lackey is more embarrassing the longer one does it.
13 The Ascension
For a brief moment while the duo was in NXT, it genuinely looked like The Ascension might revitalize the long-suffering WWE tag team division to the heights it once reached some 30 years ago. Granted, this was almost entirely because they were a total rip-off of The Road Warriors, but Konnor and Viktor were in the very least a good rip-off of Hawk and Animal, and history has been known to repeat itself in pro wrestling time and again. Despite this, and without any reason fans have been able to contrive, Vince McMahon was completely blind to this potential. Ignoring a nearly year-long reign as NXT Tag Team Champions, The Ascension have been treated as total jokes from the moment they were called up to the main WWE roster. The nadir of this came when they rebranded to The Cosmic Wasteland with Cody Rhodes/Stardust, although reverting to the old persona and acting like nothing happened is pretty close.
12 Jinder Mahal
All right, the fact Jinder Mahal is WWE Champion as of this writing is probably a sign he won’t be giving up any time soon. However, Jinder’s current success is also used to prove just how off the rails WWE booking has become. The real issue is that WWE needs to give up on pushing The Modern Day Maharaja, yet the fact Mahal couldn’t even get over as the top star in the top promotion in the business is also a sign he needs to call it quits altogether. Being WWE Champion definitively proved there is nothing special about Mahal on the microphone or in the ring, and the only quality he has that makes crowds react is the fact he’s from India, making the whole WWE Universe look bad when they boo foreigners out of sheer xenophobia alone.
11 Curt Hawkins
Speaking of Zack Ryder, at least Long Island Iced Z has it better than his former tag team partner and ex-Edgehead, Curt Hawkins. The two had been teaming together since before they joined WWE, where they reunited to join La Familia as The Majors Brothers. After switching to their current names, the duo won the WWE Tag Team Championships together, and then they split up so Ryder could achieve his modest solo success. With nothing left for him to do, WWE shunted Hawkins down to NXT for several years and then released him. Two years later, he returned, and since that fateful day in July 2016, Hawkins has managed to win one single match against Apollo Crews. From there, Hawkins went on a losing streak that is now in excess of 100 losses deep. Granted, the success of Jinder Mahal means this guy could still become WWE Champion tomorrow, but barring that unlikelihood, he should probably give up before he loses another 100 times.
10 James Ellsworth
When a wrestler makes their mainstream debut in the manner James Ellsworth did, which is to say as a joke, they have an extremely short window to capitalize on the spotlight it brought them before the joke wears thin. Ellsworth’s initial appearance was as a spirited jobber against Braun Strowman, getting destroyed in short order. Unexpectedly, fans took to the little guy’s never say die attitude, earning him a few high profile matches against then-WWE Champion AJ Styles later in the year. This combination made Ellsworth extremely popular, albeit as a comedy character, and WWE’s method of transitioning this into a full-time role has been an unmitigated failure. The whole point of Ellsworth was that he had no chance and kept trying anyway, and making him into a conceited boyfriend/manager for a low-level female talent (even if she is Ms. Money in the Bank) obviously removes the context allowing his positive qualities to shine.
9 The Colóns
Truth be told, we almost understand why cousins Primo and Epico Colón have been sticking around the WWE Universe for years since their last great push. There are so few other tag teams in the company that even their nondescript jobber-ready personas get to compete in the occasional WWE Tag Team Championship match, which could inspire any performer to believe the sun could rise on their careers yet again. That said, the chances of The Colóns experiencing a true career revival are somewhere between slim and none. WWE has made it abundantly clear that they see the cousins as total jokes, ignoring decades of family history considering the past successes of Primo’s brother Carlito and father, WWE Hall of Famer Carlos. The two would almost certainly receive far more respect joining the family business down in Puerto Rico, let alone anywhere else outside of the WWE Universe.
Quite frankly, most insiders have been shocked WWE hasn’t fired Paige yet for months now. Forget about the scandal involving leaked videos stolen from her phone, as that wasn’t Paige’s fault, and several other WWE superstars have kept their jobs through similar incidents before and since (not to mention the fact one of Paige’s, shall we say, co-stars is still employed, as well). The real issue is Paige’s other high-profile relationship, a whirlwind affair with the technically still-married Alberto Del Rio/El Patron. Apparently, WWE had been trying to separate Paige and Del Rio while both were still on the roster, and people have simply been waiting for the other foot to drop with the Anti-Diva and El Presidente. Beyond that, Paige has also suffered a number of injuries lately that might mean she should cut her career short regardless of her love life.
7 Sin Cara
For quite some time, Sin Cara’s biggest issue in WWE was that his size and style prevented him from making becoming a true star. All right, there were also some issues involving an identity crisis and the legality of his gimmick that would take too long for us to get into here, but aside from that, Sin Cara has been a cruiserweight wrestler without a cruiserweight division to compete in. WWE recently fixed this problem by reviving the Cruiserweight Championship and creating a whole TV show based around it. This should have been great news for Sin Cara, and it turned out to be such for almost all other cruiserweights on the WWE roster. Defying expectations, however, WWE decided to draft Sin Cara to the show without any other cruiserweights, making him stick out as a sore thumb to an even greater degree. Maybe there was a hint in there that WWE isn’t the place for him in general.
6 Heath Slater
In one respect, Heath Slater’s recent tag team with Rhyno is a sign that anyone can reinvent themselves and earn moderate success in the WWE Universe when fans least expect it. On the other hand, this same duo also proves just how fleeting that fame can often be. Thanks to some country-fried Southern humor, the One Man Band turned into the patriarch of a lovable, wacky family, alongside a Cheez Whiz-loving former ECW Champion friend. When that was all said and done, however, he went straight back to being a low-level joke used whenever someone needed to get beat up without consequences. Currently, Slater is still occasionally tagging with Rhyno and trying his hand at a solo career in the interim. Ultimately, should he choose to stick with Rhyno and come up with funny skits, maybe his career will be saved. If he’s looking to go solo again, though, Slater should definitely quit while he’s ahead.
Not that long ago, Goldust was in the middle of a career resurgence, with his father and brother both standing proudly at his side. Today, his father Dusty Rhodes has passed on and brother Cody realized the WWE Universe was never going to give his family the respect they deserved. Goldust has been toughing it out, however, experiencing vastly diminishing returns from the high watermark he was achieving pretty much up until the point WWE decided to make him a comedy character again. It’s not that Goldust is bad at comedy, it’s just that they always force Goldust to get involved in the lowest, basest version of the genre. Granted, his team with R-Truth has broken up and Goldust is getting darker again, so that phase may be over. At the same time, however, at 48 years old, maybe retirement is a smarter move than yet another attempt at going solo.
As if Goldust doesn’t have it bad enough, his recently betrayed partner R-Truth is even lower on the WWE totem pole when it comes to consistently producing bad comedy. Goldust at least has a number of past successes to validate his continued existence in the company, while Truth has almost exclusively been a punch line since joining the company in late 2008. Yes, there were short and forgettable runs with the WWE United States and Tag Team Championships, yet Truth’s most recent taste of gold was over five years ago at this point. That’s not even mentioning the fact he used to be an NWA World Champion, and it’s entirely possible some other company out there would push him at that level once again…so long as the horrible comedy doesn’t forever pigeonhole him as a total non-threat in the wrestling world.
3 Bo Dallas
Sorry, Mr. Dallas—no one Bo-lieves anymore, and it’s hard to imagine anyone ever did. Realistically speaking, Bo Dallas will remain employed unless or until his brother Bray Wyatt also leaves the company, and this doesn’t seem likely in the near future. That being the case, Dallas should in the very least consider revamping his personality, and we don’t mean turning into a forgettable lackey to The Miz like WWE seems to think the answer is. Quite frankly, Curtis Axel should be right next to Dallas on this list as well, showing just how bad an idea it is when a semi-defined star sheds their character to do another’s bidding for no reason. The difference is that Axel has the slightest chance at recovery should he come up with a unique gimmick when it’s over. Knowing Dallas, he’s going to go right back to Bo-lieving, so it’s probably be better he just walk away from the business than retread past failed ideas.
2 Mark Henry
No matter how long ago it was, there are still wrestling fans shocked by how much crap Mark Henry has put up with over the years. Sure, the man is a former World Heavyweight Champion who has been in and out of the main event for the past decade. That said, the first five years of his tenure in WWE were such a monumental insult it’s amazing he lasted long enough to see it. How Henry ever forgave his employers for Mae Young, for Sammy, or even for the racist nickname Silverback, we may well never understand. Another thing that’s hard to comprehend is why Henry has stuck around WWE well past his expiration date, his famous fake retirement speech itself a solid four years old at this point. There’s nothing left for him to accomplish, and no longer pushed as a true main eventer, it’s only a matter of time before WWE throws Henry into another embarrassing gimmick to ruin all the good will.
1 Mojo Rawley
Take away Mojo Rawley’s shocking and confusing victory in the 2017 André The Giant Battle Royale, and the man has done absolutely nothing worth mentioning during his entire tenure in the WWE Universe. After injuries forced Rawley out of a promising football career, he spent four years in NXT training to be a WWE superstar. He was called up to the main roster in April 2016, and aside from that André trophy, that’s about all there is worth mentioning in regards to his career. Oh, he also spent a few months teaming with another member of this list in Zack Ryder, calling themselves The Hype Bros, rarely winning a match and never giving the money promo that could make a star. The real sign Rawley needs to give up is that the big Battle Royal win didn’t change this trend, and he still hasn’t done anything memorable or interesting.