To many wrestlers, the greatest and most hopeful day of their lives is the one when Vince McMahon gives them a phone call and offers a WWE contract. For more than 60 years, McMahon’s empire has been the peak of sports entertainment, and anyone who wants to make a name for themselves in the industry will probably have to spend a little bit of time working there to do so. Unfortunately, plenty of wrestlers have gone in and out of the WWE Universe without making an impact, pretty much dashing their hopes of becoming a true legend in the industry.
Of course, there is an alternative. As a matter of fact, there are more alternatives than ever these days, from the reality larger, televised promotions like Impact Wrestling or Lucha Underground, down to smaller indies like Ring of Honor or Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. That’s not to mention the many foreign promotions where wrestlers can go to hone their crafts, most notably those in Japan, where wrestling is taken more seriously than it is in America.
Once a wrestler who didn’t do so well for McMahon suddenly starts to a great job in one of these companies, it might be time for him or her to think again about why they were let go in the first place. Keep reading to learn about 15 forgotten wrestlers whom WWE needs to give a second chance to.
Truth be told, even a die-hard WWE fan could have missed Maxine’s short but sweet tenure with the company. She never made it to the main roster, relegated only to the developmental leagues Florida Championship Wrestling and NXT, and this was before the latter expanded to what it is today, meaning Maxine hardly got any relevant screen time. This is a borderline tragedy to anyone who has seen her in Lucha Underground, where she has been absolutely dominating the promotion with her incredible charisma and screen presence. Rumor has it Maxine was released from WWE in part because they would ignore her ideas, or worse, give them to other wrestlers, making it sting that much worse for fans who wanted to see the full extent of what she had to offer. Were WWE willing to actually give Maxine a chance, the results could be amazing.
14 Evan Bourne
Like several other superstars on this list, Evan Bourne really has no one to blame for him getting fired from WWE except himself. After breaking his foot in a fairly serious motorcycle accident, Bourne did what many do and turned to drugs to dull his pain, specifically synthetic marijuana. Believe it or not, legal fake weed is on the list of substances banned by the Wellness Policy, and Bourne definitely knew this when his newfound vice caused him to fail two tests in a row. Foolish as the whole thing was, Bourne’s firing is reaching its three year anniversary, so it might be time for WWE to forgive and forget, especially considering what a minor offense Bourne was committing. His matches in Japan, Impact Wrestling, and the indy scene in general make it clear Bourne still has something special in the ring, regardless of how often he pretends to party.
13 Gail Kim
For a person who won the WWE Women’s Championship in her debut match with the company, Gail Kim had surprisingly few chances during her time working for the McMahon family. By and large, Kim’s considerable wrestling skills were cast aside for the more traditional WWE diva archetype, leaving her perhaps a little bitter that her gender wasn’t being taken as seriously as had been promised when she signed her contract. A second stint in WWE didn’t help, but Kim has been doing incredible work as arguably the top female in Impact Wrestling. There will always be a valid question to whether or not McMahon would use Kim’s talents any better were she to get a round three, though the Women’s Revolution at least gives the impression she could indeed get one last chance.
12 Frankie Kazarian
Barely lasting two full months in the WWE Universe and rarely making it higher than the C-Show Velocity when he was there, Frankie Kazarian is almost definitely the person on this list to spend the least amount of time working for the McMahon family. By Kazarian’s own admission, this is largely the fault of his own immaturity, a.k.a. his refusal to cut his hair when requested. While this is a pretty minor thing for such a low level talent to complain about, it could still be argued WWE has overreacted in never giving Kazarian a second chance in over ten years. Since that moment all those years ago, Kazarian has excelled in Impact Wrestling as a constant main event presence, improving and impressing in the ring along the way. Now that his good friend AJ Styles has finally made his WWE debut in earnest, perhaps Kazarian will join him.
What about him? What about Raven? All right, the man is in his 50s at this point, and though he does still occasionally step into the ring, the truth is WWE definitely doesn’t need him to do so at this point. However, professional wrestlers often have more than one skill to offer, and Raven’s use at this point would be his incredible mind, both at wrestling and general knowledge. It would be a perfect fit for Raven to either teach at the Performance Center or get involved in production, which he actually did a bit of back in the early ‘90s. Alternatively, he could find a role at the commentary desk, where he could at least be better than the bullying JBL or the eerily silent Tom Phillips. Granted, Raven’s acrimonious relationship with the McMahon family makes him one of the less likely to make a big return on this list.
It takes a confident man to call himself the Most Valuable Player of the WWE Universe, and confidence was merely one of MVP’s many strong points as a performer. While some critics thought it took Montel Vontavious Porter a little while to find himself as a performer, once he hit the mark, it looked like MVP would never slow down. People went from saying MVP didn’t earn his spot to thinking he was underrated, but WWE was slow in getting the message as per usual, and eventually caused him to leave the company, feeling he could achieve more elsewhere. True to his name, MVP was quick to prove his value by being crowned the first IWGP Intercontinental Championsh, and has continued to ball out of control on the independent scene. Although WWE doesn’t need a new MVP, surely they could still find some use for the old one.
Back when Kharma was in the WWE Universe, there was no Women’s Revolution, but in a manner of speaking, she was changing the game all by herself. Imposing in a manner no other female wrestler has been before or since, and that includes Chyna, the one flaw about Kharma’s run in WWE was the bizarre ending, which came before she had even wrestled an official singles match. It also didn’t help there were virtually no true challengers for her were she to step into the ring, making it that much simpler to forget Kharma in the years since she’s been away. Kharma’s a little bit older now, but she still gets in the ring on occasion, and now that WWE employs a few women who could actually stand against her, it might be time for her to think about a comeback.
Once upon a time, a wrestler named Low Ki was one of the top rising stars for both Total Nonstop Action and Ring of Honor. He stood beside names like Samoa Joe, CM Punk, AJ Styles, and some other names on this list as one of the potential futures of the business. What set Low Ki apart from those grapplers was his intensity, which could have made him a star despite his less-than-perfect microphone skills. And then, he jumped to the WWE Universe and they gave him a really weird name, taking away all that intensity in favor of a goofy partnership with LayCool. In fairness to WWE, knowing Low Ki solely as Kaval, he probably deserved to get let go. However, Low Ki was quick to prove he still has plenty of skill over in Japan, and now that he’s back in America with Impact Wrestling, maybe the McMahon’s should give him another chance.
7 John Morrison
Looking like a TV star in every way imaginable, it’s amazing that Vince McMahon would ever let John Morrison out of his grasp. Add in Morrison’s penchant for flashy moves and natural born charisma, and one would think he could be a WWE Champion, or at least that he’d be a headliner for quite some time. As is sometimes the case, though, Morrison and WWE had a number of creative differences that lead to him parting ways with the company back in 2011. Nagging injuries didn’t help, either, and somehow, more than six years haven’t been enough to fix the problem may be a sign tensions are still strong. On the other hand, with Morrison’s incredible work as Johnny Mundo in Lucha Underground, it would be a huge mistake for McMahon not to make some effort at working things out.
Getting down to brass tacks, one has to ask, was WWE not cool enough for Carlito, or was Carlito not cool enough for WWE? The latter seems virtually impossible, and the first almost looks obvious on paper, and yet a closer examinations imply Carlos Colón’s son simply didn’t care about wrestling that much, which led to his exit from the company. If that was really the case, however, it would mean Carlito’s current life working for his father’s World Wrestling Council is pretty much pure hell. The fact he’s won the WWC Universal Championship no less than 17 times might in fact be a sign Carlito is less averse to wrestling than he previously let on, and WWE might want to snatch him up before he decides working for the family business is cool enough for him.
5 Blue Pants
When a wrestler’s ring name is based on a botched insult made by a fellow superstar, they probably don’t have the greatest chance at turning into a headline act any time soon. True to form, Blue Pants, or Leva Bates as she was known elsewhere, didn’t spent much time in the WWE Universe, nor did she manage to accomplish much while there. This doesn’t change the arguably far more important fact that Blue Pants managed to get extremely popular in the short time she was there, making it a bit confusing why WWE got rid of her so quickly. In any event, since leaving the company, Bates has found success in WrestleCircus as “The Queen of Cosplay,” a gimmick that sounds tailor-made for a WWE Magazine photo shoot, mot to mention one of their wrestling rings.
4 Derrick Bateman
Certain gimmicks are so integral to a wrestler’s career that it’s easy to forget whatever came before, hence plenty of fans already forgetting Ethan Carter III spent a few years as Derrick Bateman before breaking it big. The amazing thing about Bateman’s evolution into EC3 is how quickly it shot him up the card, although chances are anyone slotted into the money gimmick as Dixie Carter’s nephew could probably do the same. With Impact Wrestling forever teetering on the brink of existence, fans are wondering what value WWE could possibly get out of purchasing the brand, and the answer may be found in Carter having a tailor-made gimmick that could let him debut in a new company’s main event, bitter they put his aunt out of business. Alternatively, they could just hire him and give him a new, better name altogether, letting his talents shine through on their own.
3 Maria Kanellis
Having evolved from a ditzy interviewer to an occasional wrestler and incredible heel manager, Maria Kanellis has undergone an amazing character shift since leaving the WWE Universe. Of course, that’s often the case when people are allowed to spread their wings away from the influence of Vince McMahon, although in Maria’s case, the most important man in the process may well have been her husband, Mike Bennett. Maria has been hooking up with Bennett onscreen since they got together in real life, and their act has only grown now that they’ve become husband and wife. WWE has a good number of married couples dominating the show lately, with the idea practically growing popular enough to earn it’s own division. Maybe that’s going a step too far, but simply bringing Maria and Mike for a test run would be a decent start.
2 Killer Elite Squad
Plenty of wrestlers throughout history have been unable to get by without a little help from their friends, and given his father’s career path, it’s not particularly surprising that Davey Boy Smith Jr, aka DH Smith , happens to be one of them. While he was still working for WWE, Smith was only able to find success tagging with his childhood friend Tyson Kidd as the Hart Dynasty. Since leaving WWE, he’s formed a team with the similarly exiled Vance Archer, together known as the Killer Elite Squad. A name like that might not fly in the PG era, but talent like Smith Jr .and Archer doesn’t come along often, nor does their effortless ability to work together as a team. The majority of their success has been found in Japan, but it might be time for WWE to let the whole world in on the hype.
1 Cody Rhodes
It hasn’t been that long since Cody Rhodes left the WWE Universe on his own accord, and yet many fans have already forgotten about the son of the American Dream. That’s only referring to those wrestling fans who only watch WWE, of course, as Rhodes has been doing great work on the independent scene and on the international circuit pretty much from the moment he said goodbye. That his wife Brandi Rhodes has joined him for the journey only sweetened the deal, and also served as the first sign the family of dreamers was more likely to succeed when given a certain amount of freedom. Hopefully, Cody’s high profile, plus the fact his brother Goldust is still in WWE, means the McMahon family will give him a second look sooner than anyone else.