At the turn of the century Vince McMahon finally completed a mission he had set in motion twenty years earlier. To eliminate all of his and WWE’s competition. It began with buying out rival territories in the 1980s, then of course WCW and ECW came along to make things awkward. Well after a few turbulent years Vince sent them packing too. Having just one game in town since then has meant that not every young talent aspiring to be a World Champion is perhaps going to get what they deserve. Yes there’s TNA and Ring of Honor but really even the top guys and girls at those promotions are likely dreaming about one day making it big at the top table.
A simple lack of room at the top of WWE has led to a lot of Superstars falling by the way side when perhaps at one point it appeared that the world was their oyster. Stars that were hand selected from an entire locker room, sometimes by Vince McMahon himself, yet within a matter of months they have fallen back off the radar and as the entries in this upcoming list will demonstrate, sometimes out of our minds and memories for good. The era of WWE being the one and only super power in professional wrestling has truly created some impeccable wrestlers, and here are fifteen of them that showed so much promise yet here we are just years later racking our brains as to what happened to them and why. Well rack your brains no longer and read on!
15 Ted Dibiase Jr.
The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase, was one of the greatest characters in WWE during the late 1980s. A golden era in wrestling so it says something about any wrestler who stood out at that time. All that being said, when DiBiase’s son made his way to WWE 20 years later, the past dictated that we were in for a treat and hoped we see history repeat itself. Unfortunately for us and Ted Jr, that wasn’t the case. DiBiase arrived in WWE and was paired off with Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes to form the faction Legacy. Unlike his tag partners that was about it for Ted in WWE. DiBiase left WWE in 2013 and retired from the business shortly after that. Since then he’s been working with a college textbook e-commerce website and running a camp for kids.
14 John Morrison
While with WWE he wrestled under both the name John Morrison and Johnny Nitro. Whichever moniker you remember him for there was actually a time while he was under the watch of Vince McMahon that it looked like Morrison may have been a big deal. Morrison defeated CM Punk to become ECW Champion and for a while there even toyed with becoming a WWE Champion. Morrison’s talent was unquestionably great and it’s strange that he never did take that next step while with WWE as he seemed to have it all. The Lucha Underground fans among you will know that Morrison still wrestles under the ring name Johnny Mundo. He’s also an actor and has recently starred in his own project, Boone the Bounty Hunter.
To say Snitsky was one of the stranger WWE Superstars we’ve seen in recent history would probably be an understatement. Snitsky’s gimmick as a wrestler in WWE was based around him being somewhat unhinged, a concept that was epitomized during a storyline that saw him drop kick Lita’s new born baby into the crowd. Thankfully for Snitsky and anybody the former WWE star has interacted with since his departure, that insane persona was nothing more than a facade. He has continued to wrestle since parting ways with WWE however and actually appeared on TNA television as recently as 2014. Other than wrestling, Snitsky also helps pay the bills by acting nowadays starring in a movie called 100 Acres Of Hell in 2016.
12 Elijah Burke
Elijah Burke began his WWE career honing his craft in their then developmental territory OVW. It’s hard to say whether Burke’s timing was great or poor. On the one hand he arrived at a time where WWE needed extra bodies as they began to relaunch ECW under their own banner. The bad news was that the venture failed, miserably. So while Elijah got an opportunity he may not have done had ECW not been brought back, it was an opportunity that was never destined to further his career. It was hardly uneventful for Burke though, as at one point he feuded with CM Punk for the ECW Championship. Since leaving WWE in 2008 Burke has gone between the independent circuit and TNA as well as getting his degree in criminal justice.
11 Wade Barrett
Being British myself, it will always pain and confuse me that Wade Barrett never became our country’s first ever WWE Champion. As the leader of the Nexus he blazed a trail of destruction through WWE, one that finished at the feet of John Cena. It seemed almost inevitable that Barrett’s ascent up the ladder would not stop until he was champion but alas, it was not to be. Once the Nexus disbanded Wade’s chances of being WWE Champion seemingly went along with it and even though he’s only been gone from the company a little over a year, his final actions weren’t exactly memorable so it feels like the Brit has been gone for a lot longer. Since leaving Barrett has been focusing on his acting career, but has also recently returned to the wrestling business doing some work with British company What Culture Pro Wrestling.
10 Ezekiel Jackson
Considering his title reigns, it really is surprising that Ezekiel Jackson didn’t manage to stick around in WWE for longer than he did and even more surprising that he has more or less been completely forgotten. First of all Jackson was an Intercontinental Champion, certainly not an accolade that is bestowed on just anybody. Second of all, and even more impressively, Ezekiel was the last ever ECW Champion. Once WWE finally gave up on the brand’s reboot it was Jackson who had its grandest prize. On second thought maybe that’s why he doesn’t get mentioned all that often since that’s a chapter of WWE’s history they’d likely rather forget. Since leaving WWE in 2014 Jackson has wrestled for TNA, Lucha Underground and German promotion wXw.
9 Mr. Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy was under WWE’s employ for four years less than ten years ago. During that time he managed to become United States Champion and even more impressively laid claim to the Money in the Bank briefcase. Unfortunately for Kennedy he was one of the few unlucky souls to not have a MITB win lead to a world title reign as he lost the accolade in a match following his ladder match victory. Nevertheless when a Superstar wins that coveted prize it’s a sign, at the time at least, that WWE has great faith in them. Clearly that faith dwindled, and fast, as Kennedy eventually parted ways with WWE in 2009. Fast forward to today and Kennedy is still wrestling, now for Ring of Honor, and also runs his own wrestling school.
8 Damien Sandow
Speaking of unsuccessful Money in the Bank winners, on to Damien Sandow. Sadly for Sandow though he actually cashed in his briefcase and still didn’t emerge as a World Champion. Not only was Damien the self proclaimed Intellectual Savior of the Masses for a time in WWE, he had the backing of much of the WWE Universe to be the savior of the World Championship. Despite the belt’s fading prestige so many of us wanted to see it on Sandow and perhaps have it elevated once again along with its holder. WWE clearly did not agree and despite his evident talent that’s the only time Sandow came anywhere near the World Championship. While WWE may have already forgotten about him, we the fans certainly have not and hope that he returns for a more successful run one day. In the mean time Sandow is now trying his hand at acting following a short spell with TNA.
7 Orlando Jordan
During the Ruthless Aggression Era it really did feel like WWE was beginning to build up the relatively unknown Superstar Orlando Jordan to be something of a big deal. I say this because Jordan defeated the one and only John Cena to become United States Champion. Yes Orlando may have had a helping hand from Cena’s then bitter rival, John Bradshaw Layfield, but take nothing away from the young man. Being hand selected to defeat John Cena in any way, and for a championship no less, means something in WWE and it means that the powers that be see something in you. With the nature of this list you will have already guessed that Orlando’s push did not last and he has since been long forgotten by WWE. Nowadays Jordan is a husband and father as well as continuing to wrestle on the independent circuit.
6 Chris Masters
Everybody knows that Vince McMahon loves big, muscular men leading the charge for WWE. That’s why it’s no surprise that when Chris Masters arrived on the main roster in 2005 he was shot almost straight to the top of the pile. He declared himself as The Masterpiece and would slap his signature submission on his opponents, The Master Lock. There would even be a challenge that became a weekly segment during which Superstars would try their hand at attempting to break out of the lock. Masters ascent to the championship scene was almost as quick as his descent as just two years later he parted ways with WWE. Chris Masters has proved that he’s a good wrestler, but not a WWE Champion quality wrestler, by continuing to wrestle since leaving WWE, mainly for TNA.
5 Drew McIntyre
If you’ve seen any of Drew McIntyre’s work outside of his time alongside Jinder Mahal and Heath Slater as a part of Three Man Band, then you’ll know he’s the real deal. In fact Vince McMahon seemingly saw that at one point also during Drew’s first stint with the company as the chairman quite literally labelled the Scotsman as the future of the business. Despite that WWE did nothing with poor McIntyre and let him go. Well turns out time away from WWE was exactly what Drew needed. McIntyre has recently returned to WWE but is now under the wing of Triple H at NXT. You can already see from the short time he’s been there that this run is going to be a far cry from the Scot’s first.
4 Bobby Lashley
Another man that seemingly had Vince McMahon’s vote of confidence at one point was Bobby Lashley. Lashley was famously involved in the WrestleMania match that wound up causing Mr McMahon to have his head shaved by Donald Trump, a moment that has returned to the public eye as of late for obvious reasons. Bobby appeared to be a wrestler that Vince envisioned being able to build his company around. However for one reason or another it never panned out and the highest plateau Lashley reached in WWE was when he won the ECW Championship. Like Chris Masters, the former ECW champ has gone on to find more success in TNA and has held the company’s top prize. He is still with them today and also continues to partake in MMA from time to time, recently citing that he’d love to take on Brock Lesnar in the octagon.
While many of you readers may have forgotten about the former United States Champion Carlito Caribbean Cool, later shortened to just Carlito thankfully, I most certainly have not. I’m not sure what it is exactly but the vignettes that built to Carlito’s debut have stuck with me. WWE really built this guy up as being a big deal before he eventually made his debut on SmackDown during the mid 2000s. Carlito is a member of the famous Colon family which may have played a part in the company’s expectations for him being pretty high. As I mentioned Carltio won the US title and was also an Intercontinental Champion. Carlito actually wrestled another member of this list, Wade Barrett, recently on a wrestling show in Pakistan. He also still competes for his family’s promotion the WWC, or World Wrestling Council.
2 Vladimir Kozlov
Vladimir Kozlov looked destined for great things when he first stepped foot in WWE. He went unbeaten in singles competition for his first year on the main roster and an accolade like that doesn’t come without its rewards. The Eastern European not only recorded a win over The Undertaker, but also battled Shawn Michaels on Raw for the chance to do it again at WrestleMania. It was then that HBK dealt Vladimir his first loss. After that it was a slippery slope for Kozlov that led to him performing in a comedy duo with Santino Marella, which is probably why your brains have tried desperately to try and forget him. Fast forward to today and Kozlov is actually a stuntman. His WWE connections have come in handy too as he plied his trade on the set of Fast and Furious 6, also starring The Rock of course.
1 Justin Gabriel
Justin Gabriel appeared to have it all. The look, the in ring ability, plus the added novelty of being South African which is a country that really doesn’t produce many professional wrestlers. At least not a lot that make it all the way to WWE. This entry shocked me the most as my memories of Gabriel feel so distant that I thought he was wrestling for WWE around the mid 2000s. Turns out I was way off. Justin didn’t debut on the main roster of WWE until 2010, and left just two years ago in 2015. He felt like such a distant memory that I didn’t think that could be possible. Gabriel currently wrestles on the independent circuit and for Lucha Underground, a promotion where his persona and high flying abilities are very well suited, under the ring name PJ Black.