From the Attitude all the way through to the Reality, WWE has gone through many different transformations and ‘eras’ over the years. Some of these have been more extravagant than others, with one of the most divisive being when the company decided to up sticks and become a family friendly PG product.
Of course, this didn’t go down too well with the hardcore members of the WWE Universe, and as such a lot of talented stars slipped through the cracks in terms of gaining a solid backing from the audience.
Now there were obviously some duds in there throughout the course of the era, but not everyone on this list was destined for failure. In fact, some really could’ve been something had the "machine" so to speak, gotten behind them.
Some are doing great in the present day but others haven’t been so lucky, and as we take a trip down memory lane it may be worth booting up the WWE Network in order to properly remember these guys and girls’ body of work.
15 John Morrison
Whilst John Morrison may not necessarily qualify for the "forgotten" section of this query as much as his fellow entrants on this list, the guy has certainly fallen out of people’s minds given that it’s only been six years since he was with WWE. During that time, as many fans now know, he’s been quite busy on the good old independent scene.
In addition to crowdfunding his own movie project, Morrison has also been featured in several TV roles. It’s no surprise to see him continually pursue a career of this nature, but he has still remained true to his wrestling roots with successful tenures in both Lucha Underground (as Johnny Mundo) and now in GFW, where he works as Johnny Impact. The latter is still ongoing, but we hope that things go well for him there.
14 Mike Knox
Half of you won’t even recognise the name Mike Knox, and the other half will see him as a poor man’s Braun Strowman. Either way, Knox was a formidable figure for part of the PG Era and he actually managed to edge his way into an Elimination Chamber match once upon a time. Aside from that, though, his tenure was quite forgettable – for the most part.
Nowadays Knox continues to try and grind out a somewhat strong wrestling career for himself, and the last we heard he was a part of the Inoki Genome Federation in Japan. Of course, that was two years ago, but such is the nature of professional wrestling these days you could go months without even being heard from at all.
13 Vladimir Kozlov
Vladimir Kozlov may not have been the greatest wrestler to ever grace planet earth, but he was certainly imposing and that takes you a long way when your boss is Vince McMahon. The Russian superstar went from being the Moscow Mauler into becoming a comedy act, but nonetheless, his work can still be considered "entertaining" at times.
Since leaving WWE not only has Kozlov continued to be a success, but he’s probably even bigger now than he was before. In addition to growing a bad ass beard, Vladimir has started up his own production company and even landed roles in John Wick 2 and Fast & Furious 6 as a stuntman. Not many guys can say they got to work with The Rock AFTER they took off their elbow pads and left the squared circle.
12 Shad Gaspard
As one half of the now infamous Cryme Tyme team, Shad Gaspard was never really given much of a chance to thrive from the very beginning. The racist undertones to his persona made him a target for fan criticism, and even when going off on his own in a singles capacity he was unable to forge a consistently strong run at the top.
Gaspard is back on the independent circuit to this day, though, and has even tried his hand at several other ventures. These include stage productions and bodybuilding, however, things haven’t really taken off for him as many would’ve hoped.
Sure, his gimmick was a little bit dated, but that doesn’t mean he should’ve been written off altogether – at least not in our books.
11 Yoshi Tatsu
Yoshi Tatsu was one of the guys who fell into the "underrated" category in WWE, despite the fact that he was often a big-time player on the company’s fringe shows. Still, he was strapped with the same Asian stereotypes as Funaki and Tajiri before him, which meant that things were destined to go badly from the word go.
Nowadays, however, Tatsu is thriving as a part of All Japan Pro Wrestling. He may be entering his early 40s but that hasn’t restricted his abilities in the ring for the most part, even after he managed to botch a Styles Clash and break his neck. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, you may want to go and take a look on YouTube, it’s nasty stuff.
10 Ezekiel Jackson
In many ways, Ezekiel Jackson was the last of a dying breed when it came to big guys who were being pushed purely for their look. He was about as green as you can get inside the squared circle and aside from an Intercontinental Championship reign, the Jackson experiment floundered and he eventually faded into obscurity.
That was, until, his career experienced something of a rejuvenation in Lucha Underground. After being repackaged and given time to grow as a performer, Jackson was on fire up until he was abruptly released from the company. In the present day, we last heard from him over in wXw where he was still honing his craft. That, in itself, is something that should be admired by fans regardless of his skill set.
9 Jimmy Wang Yang
People may not realise this, but Jimmy Wang Yang has actually been around in this business for quite some time now. After initially debuting in WCW back in 1999, Yang has been on a rollercoaster ride that took him all the way through to the WWE and back – where he was regularly seen contending for the Cruiserweight Championship.
With Jimmy being in his mid-30s you’d think that he’d still be grinding away, but instead, he’s running his own personal Redneck Party Bus over in Cincinnati. He actually seems to have quite the booming business, too, which is much more than can be said for the majority of ex-pros.
Who knows, maybe we’ll see him back in a WWE ring one day fighting for the purple belt.
8 Caylen Croft
Whilst the names on the list thus far have been somewhat notable, we can just about guarantee that 90% of you would’ve never heard of Caylen Croft. That’s hardly surprising, either, because one of the only things he actually did on the main roster was be a part of the Dude Busters team alongside Trent Barreta. Yup, we can’t remember either.
In the present day, there really isn’t too much of note when it comes to Croft, aka Kris Pavone in real life, although he was the illustrator of a children’s book by the name of No Beard The Pirate. As silly as that may initially sound, it shows some good diversity from Croft and at 37-years-old we can’t exactly see him making much of a splash in his remaining days within wrestling.
7 Slam Master J
We’d much rather refer to him as Slam Master J, but the majority of you will know Ray Gordy better as Jesse from the Jesse & Festus tag team – with Festus, of course, now being known as Luke Gallows. For some reason, Jesse wasn’t able to live up to his family’s sterling wrestling reputation, with his dad being the late Terry Gordy of the Fabulous Freebirds, but it doesn’t seem to have held him back all too much.
Good old Slam Master J retired from professional wrestling in favour of becoming a police officer over in Atlanta, Georgia. In terms of appearing in WWE, he did make one last cameo at the 2016 Hall of Fame ceremony in Dallas where he assisted in accepting the induction of the Fabulous Freebirds on behalf of his father.
Not a bad way to bookend your tenure.
6 Tyler Reks
Whilst the most notable feature from Reks’ time with WWE was his pitiful version of the Burning Hammer, he certainly had a look that would strike fear into the hearts of many. Still, that doesn’t always translate into success and although the WWE brass seemed intent on pushing him to the moon, things never clicked into place.
Thankfully, though, Tyler was able to launch his own fitness website and has even starred in a few commercials – with one popping up during the Super Bowl. In addition to this, he’s been involved in lots of great charity work, proving that not all wrestlers are as one dimensional and self-obsessed as the rumours would suggest.
At 38, perhaps his wrestling journey isn’t over just yet.
The only female entrant on this list goes by the name of Tiffany, who you may know these days as Taryn Terrell. Back in WWE she was never really utilised as well as she should’ve been, with the company clearly not opening their eyes and realising what a sensational talent they had on their hands.
Tiffany has been fortunate enough to rule the roost over in Impact Wrestling, and she’s even carved out a solid career as a model for herself. With that being said some of her shoots haven’t exactly been in the best of tastes, but given the demographic that they were aiming for you could probably still call it a slam dunk.
Oh, and the way she pins people is interesting, to say the least.
4 Michael Tarver
You may recognise Michael Tarver as being the big scary guy from The Nexus who wore a bandana across his face and managed to book himself a one-way ticket out of the company before his stint ever really began. Still, he was a part of an incredibly exciting faction for a brief period of time so at least that’s something to put on the resume.
Nowadays, Tarver has transitioned into the music business as he attempts to make a name for himself in an alternative form of entertainment. Whilst he may not have hit the limelight quite yet, Tarver always did come across as someone who will see something through until the bitter end – so keep your eyes and ears out for his upcoming efforts.
3 David Hart Smith
When you’re associated with one of the most iconic wrestling families of all time, the odds are good that you’ll be given a chance to succeed in World Wrestling Entertainment. Unfortunately, that chance was fleeting for the British Bulldog's son, David Hart Smith, and after making a name for himself in the tag team division, he was cast aside quicker than you could say Sharpshooter.
But persistence is the key to glory in this business, and that’s one trait that nobody could ever deny Smith of having. Just last month he managed to claim his third IWGP Tag Team Championship, with his triumphs in Japan proving to WWE that sometimes all it takes is hard work.
If we don’t see him back on our screens again soon, we’ll be very surprised.
2 Vance Archer
Vance Archer always came across as a guy who was just a bit too green to make anything of note happen during his time with WWE, and alas, all he really did there was team with Curt Hawkins in what was nothing more than a makeshift partnership. Still, it’s better than nothing, right?
Well, kind of. The irony of this entry is that it follows DH Smith in the last, as Archer is the other half of Smith’s tag team title winning duo. Even at the age of 40, he continues to reinvent his character in order to try and reach that next step, and he’s living proof that there is a profitable and wealthy career to be had in this industry outside of Vince’s playground.
1 Charlie Haas
As one half of the World’s Greatest Tag Team, Charlie Haas was one of the most notable faces in all of WWE back in the mid-noughties. During the PG Era, however, he was better known as the guy who kept mimicking legendary superstars week in and week out. It was certainly entertaining at times, but it wasn’t exactly a gimmick that Haas deserved given his many years of hard work.
So then, perhaps the silver lining is that in 2017 he seems to be doing better than anyone could’ve ever imagined. He currently runs a Nutritional Store with former WWE Diva and wife Jackie Gayda, in addition to running a Smoothie Shop in Texas.
Shelton must be beaming with joy and pride right now.