WWE is currently at a point where the company is absolutely overflowing with incredible talent. From Raw to SmackDown Live to NXT, most of professional wrestling’s best performers are all under the same WWE banner. Unfortunately for WWE, this fantastic influx of talent has coincided with a time where the fan base, or WWE Universe, have never been more vocal. With social media and how easily it can be accessed in this day and age, fans can let WWE know exactly what they like and what they don’t like at the click of a button. This means that fans of all different wrestlers will demand that their guy or girl is the top dog.
Unfortunately for us fans, not everyone can be at the top of the pile. With Raw and SmackDown Live, there are only two top spots, WWE Champion and Universal Champion. That means with such a packed and talented roster, there are going to be deserving Superstars who simply aren’t sitting at that top table. With many we’ve patiently waited it out and their time has come. Kevin Owens, Bray Wyatt are just a couple of recent examples of deserving Superstars who have scratched and clawed to become World Champions.
There are so many others who not only haven’t climbed that mountain, but seemingly may never do so by this point. Here are 15 Superstars in WWE right now that we believe may never attain the business’s highest accolade.
Rusev hit the main roster with a bang. Just a year after his debut at the 2014 Royal Rumble, The Bulgarian Brute found himself embroiled in a feud with John Cena. A feud that culminated in Rusev battling Cena at WrestleMania 31 and making his way to the ring via a tank. Since then, it’s been pretty much all downhill for the former United States champion.
Much like Kevin Owens, you would expect someone who was awarded a rivalry with Cena so early into their run to shoot straight to the top. Sadly, aside from his runs with the US title, Rusev hasn’t made much of an impact at all. A year after his feud with John, he found himself in the failed faction League of Nations and this year he’s been on a losing streak.
14. Karl Anderson
Karl Anderson may be one of the most underrated workers on WWE’s roster right now. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was paired with a familiar face in Luke Gallows, I don’t think he’d have made it to WWE at all. It’s fair to say that Anderson is somewhat generic looking. A bald guy of average height, there’s nothing special about the way he looks.
However, if you’ve seen his work outside of WWE, you know that there’s something special about the way he works. He’s as much a reason as his tag partner to have made such an impact in Japan and around the world. Unfortunately, WWE clearly hasn’t seen that and at this point, it looks like they never will. Under Vince McMahon’s watch, Karl Anderson will never be anything more than a solid tag team player.
13. Bobby Roode
NXT may have begun its life as a developmental territory, but it can hardly be called that now. The talent in NXT nowadays makes it more of a third brand than a breeding ground for the main roster. One great example of exactly that is current NXT champion Bobby Roode. The former TNA star may have been able to make his way to the top of the NXT pile, but the top of the entire company may be a different question entirely.
Firstly, WWE still has a tiny bit of an issue with shooting talent to the top when they were made somewhere else, although that trend is being bucked by the likes of AJ Styles. The more pressing issue is Bobby’s age. The Glorious One will be 40 this summer so you’d think if WWE were going to pull the trigger on the Canadian, it would really have to be right now.
12. Bo Dallas
Back when NXT was still very much intended for developing new talent, Bo Dallas was at the very top of his game. Triple H and the other powers clearly did ‘Bolieve’ as they made Dallas NXT champion. Bo had a fantastic title match with Neville and he really did look like a big deal. Maybe an even bigger deal than his brother Bray Wyatt.
Well, fast forward a few years and brother Bray is WWE Champion while Bo Dallas is nowhere to be seen. Since arriving on Raw, Dallas has really been nothing more than a joke. His ‘Bolieve’ gimmick just did not translate and his time as one of the Social Outcasts killed whatever momentum he may have had left. Aside from potentially moving to SmackDown to join The Wyatt Family, there really is no saving Bo at this point.
11. Shinsuke Nakamura
NXT may have lost a little of its appeal recently since the departure of Finn Balor and Bayley, but trust me, it’s not all bad. One of the most charismatic stars on the planet right now is still there and still at the top of his game. Nakamura is concrete proof that Superstars don’t necessarily go to NXT to ‘develop’ anymore. Shinsuke is about as developed as it gets. He’s also a Superstar in every sense of the word.
When the lights go down and those iconic violins begin to play on either Raw or SmackDown sometime soon, there is no doubt in my mind that the roof will come off of whatever building that momentous occasion takes place in. What worries me is how Vince McMahon will utilize The King of Strong Style. His in-ring ability is incredible, but due to the language barrier, his mic skills aren’t the best and I can sadly see that stalling his progression to the top of WWE.
10. Mojo Rawley
Up until very recently, Mojo Rawley had been a part of The Hype Bros with Zack Ryder. The two were pretty average on NXT and carried on that run, following their draft to SmackDown Live. Then Ryder got injured and Rawley’s future was thrown into disrepute. We’ve actually seen Mojo a lot more than I was expecting as a singles star.
He won a battle royal to gain entry to this year’s Royal Rumble and has been ever present on the blue brand since then. However, I think that’ll be the beginning and end of the Hype Brother’s push. He’s booked his place in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33 but beyond that, his fellow Bro will return and it’ll be back to tag team wrestling for Mojo.
Another man who could have and should have been World Champion by now is The Swiss Superman, Cesaro. If WWE saw that potential in him, then that crowning moment would have taken place long before now. What’s frustrating about Cesaro’s case in particular is that literally everybody else seems to be able to see his potential apart from the WWE decision makers.
The fans love him, his peers love him, and the quality of his work in the ring is second to none. You could argue, like Shinsuke, that the language barrier is a problem, but that would be a pretty weak argument. Cesaro speaks better English than some people I know who claim it to be their native language.
8. Luke Harper
Luke Harper has just as much, if not a little more, talent than so many people he’s been in the ring with these last couple of years. For one reason or another, WWE has held back on shooting him straight to the top. They’ve teased it a couple of times, like when he became Intercontinental champion. Then even more recently, when he seemed destined to join the WWE Championship picture at WrestleMania 33.
The big man just inexplicably disappeared afterwards. Making Orton and Wyatt’s title match in Orlando a triple threat by including Harper seemed like a no brainer. Obviously, WWE didn’t think so. If they weren’t going to insert the former Wyatt into the title picture then, I don’t think they’re ever going to do it.
7. Kofi Kingston
Another Superstar who has toyed with the world title picture is Kofi Kingston. Through 2009 and 2010, Kofi was involved in a feud with Randy Orton. It seemed like it was a given that the elder statesman of the New Day was going to become World champion. During his extended stay in WWE, Kofi has won it all, Intercontinental, United States and Tag Team champion.
The only belt that has evaded him is the big one. His rivalry with Randy Orton sort of ended up just fizzling out to no avail. There was no real explanation for it and at this stage it would seem that it’ll be the closest Kofi will ever come to being atop the WWE pile.
6. Enzo Amore
Similarly to Karl Anderson earlier in this list, Enzo Amore is half of a tag team that is extremely overshadowed by its bigger half. In Enzo’s case, I believe it’s just a matter of time before Big Cass is shot into the stratosphere and Amore is well and truly left behind. We’re already seeing remnants of it on Raw each week. Almost every time the pair team up to take on a rival tag team, Enzo takes an absolute beating only for Cass to play the hero and save the day.
Big Cass was even included in a Universal Title match following SummerSlam last year. WWE has big plans for the big man but perhaps no plan whatsoever for poor old Enzo. There’s no question that Amore is one of the best wrestlers on the mic right now, but he’s going to need to show more than that if he wants to climb any higher than he finds himself right now.
There are unsurprisingly a fair few names on this list that flourished in NXT. One that stands out is Neville. For a period of time, British fans believed this was it. That Neville was going to be the first ever WWE champion hailing from the UK. Wade Barrett ceremoniously passed the torch. At a time, he was the longest reigning NXT champion ever. Even upon his arrival to Raw, the hope was still there and still strong.
Back in 2015, he answered an open challenge to then champion Seth Rollins on Raw and he fooled us into thinking he was about to achieve the impossible. A couple of times in the match, Neville was on the cusp of taking the title from Seth. Sadly, he did not overcome The Architect and is now apart of the cruiserweight division.
4. Tye Dillinger
When I first started watching NXT, I couldn’t stand Tye Dillinger. Since then, The Perfect Ten has gotten himself over with me and the rest of the fans like I could have never envisioned. Apart from Roode and Nakamura, he’s probably the most popular star in NXT right now. His entry into this year’s Royal Rumble was far and away the best moment of the 30 man match.
It was at that point that it was now or never for WWE to do something with Tye. He’s been a part of WWE for years, never being utilized to the best of his ability. Unfortunately, it seems that Dillinger’s ship really has sailed. He’s unquestionably got the talent to be a World champion, but if and when he does appear on Raw or SmackDown, I can’t see him rising any higher than the mid-card.
3. Big E
Another former NXT champion for the list, and unsurprisingly not the last, the New Day member Big E. Back in NXT’s infancy, Big E looked like a big deal. The former Tag Team champion overcame Seth Rollins to become only the second ever NXT champion. Rumor has it that upon Big E’s arrival to the main roster, he was actually Vince McMahon’s pick to be the next big star.
He meant to get a monster push, but instead, others around Vince convinced the chairman that Roman Reigns was in fact the right choice. If those rumors are true, imagine how different the landscape of WWE could have been. Instead, the highest accolade Big E has had to date is the Intercontinental Title, and I’d be surprised to even see him reach those heights again.
2. Zack Ryder
There aren’t many Superstars on the current WWE roster more deserving than Zack Ryder. Back when Long Island Iced Z was being largely ignored, he took matters into his own hands and went into business for himself. Ryder started his very own web series outside of WWE and it garnered so much attention that the company couldn’t ignore it or its creator any longer. Even after that though, it took a long time for Zack to get his crowning moment.
His pinnacle came at WrestleMania 32 when he won the Intercontinental title for the first time in his career. Ryder can have all the web presence he wants and continue to work as hard as he always has, but unfortunately, that Intercontinental title will be as high in the business as he’ll ever get. If he was going to be World champion material then we would have seen that belt on him by now.
1. Sami Zayn
Perhaps the most deserving Superstar of a World title run in all of WWE right now is Sami Zayn. Yet, as much as I tell myself that one day it’ll happen, the more I watch Raw, the less likely it seems that Zayn will ever reach those lofty heights. Only one year ago, Zayn said goodbye to NXT as he put on maybe the match of the year against Shinsuke Nakamura. Since then, he has wowed audiences on Monday Night Raw but has yet to receive much credit for it.
He’s carried on his career-long feud with Kevin Owens and has even made Braun Strowman look good during a short feud. Despite all of that, so far, Sami hasn’t had a sniff of a World championship. His only hope really is to be transferred to SmackDown, but even that at this point, it feels like a long way off and I’d settle for a United States title run for the time being.
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