The shelf life of a main eventer in WWE is dependent on how well they do in the role. WWE will typically push the wrestlers that either already has strong fan support or that the company believes has the potential to place in a successful role. Unfortunately, a wrestler will need more than a push to be accepted in the main event scene. Even the popular wrestlers to get a chance in the big spot must prove they belong on that level of being a legitimate main eventer. Everyone has the dream of getting there but not everyone can thrive.
Many men have failed in the role through the years due to various reasons. Some wrestlers just couldn’t hang with the other top stars and failed to live up to expectations. Others have been booked poorly causing their chance at the top to fail. We'll look at what happened to these wrestlers that failed in the main event picture. Find out which wrestlers were able to rebound from disaster to work their ways back up and which others let it ruin their careers going forward. Fifteen wrestlers to fail in the WWE main event picture will be examined with what they are doing today.
15 Bobby Lashley: Impact Wrestling Star
The career of Bobby Lashley was a huge disappointment in WWE. Vince McMahon wanted Lashley to be one of the faces of WWE along with top stars John Cena and Batista at the time. Lashley had a similar physique to the other two with even more potential at a younger age. However, the lack of charisma and in-ring experience failed him in the long run despite the talent.
Lashley didn’t find his confidence until many years later in Impact Wrestling. The current run of Lashley over the past couple of years has seen him step up as a top talent. Impact is struggling to get viewers, but Lashley is a rare bright spot on the product. There are rumors of Lashley leaving when his contract expires to try his chances of being a WWE main eventer once again.
14 Scott Steiner: Restaurant Owner
Scott Steiner signing with WWE in 2002 a year after WCW went out of business excited fans of his. The singles work of Steiner as the Big Poppa Pump character was a rare success story in WCW during the dying years. Steiner waited out his contract and joined WWE as a free agent in 2002 with the plans of a huge push.
WWE placed Steiner in a feud with top star Triple H for the World Championship right away. Both men had horrible chemistry together and delivered some of the all-time worst matches in WWE history. Steiner received the blame and was moved down the card leading to a horrible run. The wrestling career of Steiner is still going with his rare appearances on independent shows. Steiner’s main job right now is owning and managing a Shoney’s restaurant location in Georgia.
13 Mr. Kennedy: Ring Announcer/Podcast Host/Independent Wrestler
It seemed like a given that Mr. Kennedy would become a huge star for WWE. A great debut saw him get wins over major stars such as Booker T, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio to develop instant credibility. WWE was ready to push him to the moon on multiple occasions. Kennedy won the Money in the Bank briefcase in 2007 but lost it due to injury before he could become World Champion.
There was another occasion where he was planned to be revealed as Vince McMahon’s illegitimate son but violated the Wellness Policy leading to a suspension that ruined another push. WWE eventually gave up on Kennedy and released him faster than anyone could have expected. Kennedy still wrestles on the independent scene along with other gigs in the business such as running a wrestling school and hosting a podcast. There’s also the new job of doing ring announcing for boxing fights.
12 Chris Masters: Impact Wrestling Star
WWE tried pushing Chris Masters with the hopes of him becoming a future main eventer. The gimmick of the extremely strong Adonis saw him place wrestlers and fans in the Masterlock submission as it was nearly impossible to escape. Masters worked in a top feud with Shawn Michaels and participated in one main event in an Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Championship.
The work of Masters failed to deliver in the opportunities to step up. A failed drug test ended up sinking him as WWE never gave him another chance at the main event scene. Masters has been on the independent circuit over the past few years failing to do anything of note. He is currently a member of Impact Wrestling, which may be worse than floundering on the indie circuit at this point. Masters recently blamed internet fans for wrestling losing interest due to guys like him not being pushed anymore.
11 The Great Khali: Running Wrestling School in India
The Great Khali received the push of a lifetime due to his gigantic size as the tallest man in wrestling. WWE introduced him by having him destroy The Undertaker with ease. This made him an instant top heel taking down one of the all-time great legends. Khali was World Champion and had a few extended periods as a main event fixture.
Unfortunately for fans and wrestlers alike, Khali’s horrible in-ring work made it impossible for him to entertain. The slow speed of Khali delivered awful matches most weeks and he could barely speak coherent sentences. WWE eventually made him a comedic character before eventually releasing him. Khali is running a wrestling school in India and trying to make the sport a bigger deal in his home country.
10 Goldberg: Redeemed WWE Legend
The original run of Goldberg in WWE is considered as one of the biggest flops in company history. Goldberg dominated WCW with an undefeated streak lasting over a year. The star power of Goldberg made him the WCW Champion by defeating Hulk Hogan of all people. It only made sense WWE would sign him a few years after WCW died and he was back on the free agent market.
Goldberg only spent one year in WWE, but it was a huge failure. The company didn’t push him the same way as WCW and he failed to adapt to the new surroundings. After years of hostility, Goldberg returned in 2016-2017 for a story of redemption. WWE booked him as a monster to destroy Brock Lesnar and Kevin Owens each in a matter of seconds to become Universal Champion. Goldberg dropped it to Lesnar and has unofficially retired. WWE and Goldberg salvaged their poor relationship, and he is expected to join the Hall of Fame in 2018.
9 Ryback: Podcast Host
We can’t mention Goldberg without bringing up a wrestler trying to imitate him. Ryback debuted as an undefeated character that would destroy opponents in quick time like Goldberg did in WCW. Fans often heckled him with “Goldberg” chants and he never got over as a true top star. The programs with John Cena and CM Punk just proved he wasn’t on their level and it hurt his momentum.
Ryback would spend most of his career treading water in the mid-card picture after his main event run flopped. The frustration with his booking in WWE led to him ripping the company publicly in a blog before leaving for good. Ryback and WWE agreed to let his contract run out. Despite claiming to want to prove WWE wrong, Ryback has done almost nothing of note with appearances on lower tier independent wrestling shows. The claim to fame these days for Ryback is hosting a podcast where he rips other people in the wrestling business for attention.
8 Vader: Semi-Retired
Vader was one of the most underrated WCW main eventers in the 90s. Before Hulk Hogan joined WCW to change the landscape, Vader was arguably the best act having great feuds with Ric Flair and Sting. The changes saw him move to WWE in hopes of making more money working for Vince McMahon. However, McMahon was the one that didn’t like Vader’s work.
McMahon felt Vader was a slob and gave up on his main event push quickly. One title match with Shawn Michaels was all Vince needed to see to stop considering Vader as a future WWE Champion. Vader has continued wrestling through the years on the independent circuit. Health issues have put his future in doubt, but Vader is still working shows on the international market. Vader has also expressed a desire to enter the WWE Hall of Fame as soon as possible.
7 Vladimir Kozlov: Vice President of Production Company
Vladimir Kozlov received a great opportunity during the early stages of his WWE career on the SmackDown brand. WWE portrayed him as another foreign heel that spoke against America, but he at least got to work against the likes of Triple H and Jeff Hardy in the WWE Championship picture. Kozlov worked against the hottest star in the company and a legend for the top title.
Sadly, he couldn’t figure out how to get over with the fans. Instead of getting boos for being an effective villain, fans frequently showed apathy. WWE quit on him shortly after the title program proved he couldn’t hang with top stars. Kozlov would play a comedic character for the rest of his run until getting released. The current life of Kozlov sees him outside of wrestling as the Vice President of the production company Quasar Entertainment. Kozlov has also done stunt work in major films like John Wick 2 and Fast & Furious 6.
6 R-Truth: WWE Wrestler
One of the most bizarre main event pushes came in 2011 when R-Truth got a run as a top heel. The face character of R-Truth snapped after losing one too many losses. His shift saw him playing a delusional heel starting to lose his mind. A title shot against John Cena saw him lose his one singles PPV main event match. WWE gave him another chance teaming with Miz against Cena and The Rock at Survivor Series 2011.
R-Truth didn’t prove to be a good main event act as the buy rate for Rock’s first match in years tanked mostly due to Miz and Truth not being credible opponents. WWE used R-Truth as a comedic character before he returned to the face character. R-Truth is still on the roster today despite not receiving television time. His role is mostly to wrestle in multi-person team matches on live events and serve as a locker room leader.
5 Jack Swagger: Independent Wrestler
Jack Swagger was pushed way too soon into his career and it ended up hurting him in the long run. WWE loved the athletic background of Swagger and hoped he could blossom into a star right away like Kurt Angle. Swagger won the Money in the Bank briefcase title shot at WrestleMania XXVI and cashed in days later to defeat Chris Jericho for the World Championship victory.
Fans didn’t buy into Swagger and he quickly lost any credibility as a top star. WWE ended his title reign after a couple of months. Swagger never returned to the main event picture after the initial flop. Swagger spent years in the mid-card as a forgotten face until he requested his release in 2017. The career of Swagger is still going on the independent wrestling circuit along with other side MMA projects showing his excitement of being away from WWE.
4 Lex Luger: WWE Wellness Policy Consultant
The career of Lex Luger is best remembered for his success in WCW. For whatever reason, Luger was a different performer in WCW and found a way to connect with the audience there. It was likely due to the WCW fans being more accepting to what they were given along with Luger being more comfortable there. WWE tried to make him the face of the company in 1994 when Hulk Hogan left.
Luger had a patriotic gimmick and was slated to win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania X. Fans just didn’t buy into him and WWE realized they had to punt on this idea in favor of Bret Hart winning the gold. Luger has had a lot of personal struggles following his wrestling career but seems to be in a good place today. WWE works with him as a consultant offering advice regarding nutrition and body care to prevent wrestlers from going down the same dark path he did in the 90s.
3 Jinder Mahal: WWE Midcarder
The most recent instance of a failed WWE main event run featured Jinder Mahal winning the WWE Championship. Mahal spent most of 2017 holding the title as the lead heel on the SmackDown brand. The seven-month long reign of Mahal gave us mostly horrible matches on PPV against Randy Orton and Shinsuke Nakamura before dropping it to A.J. Styles.
Things would get worse when it was discovered that the India market didn’t spike in interest for Jinder. Fans all over the world thought he was overhyped. After losing his rematch to Styles, Mahal was moved back to the mid-card and is involved in the United States Championship tournament. We likely won’t see Jinder in the main event scene any time soon, but he will be a mid-card fixture for quite some time.
2 Wade Barrett: Actor
The career of Wade Barrett is often remembered as what could have been rather than what he did. Barrett seemed ready for a top spot after debuting as the leader of the Nexus faction. Nexus had the potential to be the hottest thing in wrestling and was white hot for about a month. Barrett worked with the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton and The Undertaker in his first year on the main roster.
WWE randomly lost faith in him and started to strip away his credibility. Following the short main event stint, Barrett worked as a fixture in the mid-card scene for the rest of his WWE career. It was a given that he would be involved in the Intercontinental or United States Title picture with nothing above. Barrett chose to leave WWE in 2016 and has been delving into the world of acting. He has a few movies coming out in 2018 and is returning to wrestling as an on-screen character for Defiant Wrestling in the United Kingdom.
1 The Miz: Thriving WWE Star
It is easy to forget how poorly the main event run of The Miz went in 2011. Miz won the Money in the Bank title shot and defeated Randy Orton to become WWE Champion. The biggest accomplishment came when Miz won the WrestleMania XXVII main event over John Cena. However, Miz was a forgotten man in the feud between Cena and The Rock starting.
The poor run of Miz ended a few months later and WWE sent him back down to the mid-card. Miz struggled to get any momentum going until his wife Maryse returned to freshen up his act in 2016. Since then, Miz has become one of the top performers in the company. His work is at a peak and way more impressive than his time as WWE Champion. Miz is a perennial main eventer once again with chances of a more credible top run coming soon.