The shelf life of a push in WWE is always hit or miss. Top stars like The Undertaker, Triple H and John Cena get the opportunity to run with the ball as long as they want. That luxury doesn’t apply to the rest of the talents. WWE typically only uses a performer for as long as they can get value out of them or as long as the company wants to employ them. Navigating politics, connecting with the fan base and finding new ways to keep things fresh are all necessary to have a long career in the WWE.
Many of the talented performers have been limited by the landscape of the WWE preventing them from hitting their potential. The initial push or success of a wrestler is great, but the gradual growth and progress is more important. Performers have to continue maturing with management supporting them enough to get to the next level in the company. WWE has been home to many “one hit wonders,” seeing their career go downhill after a brush with success. We’ll look at the most talented performers to fall under such unfortunate luck. These are the top fifteen WWE one hit wonders that actually had potential to become bigger stars.
15 Wade Barrett
Every wrestling expert would have predicted Wade Barrett to become a future WWE World Champion after his early success in The Nexus. Barrett was the standout talent among the group of promising youngsters looking to make an impact in the company. The on-screen presence and potential of Barrett tempted WWE enough to make him an instant main event performer as the leader of The Nexus against John Cena and Randy Orton.
Barrett did an impressive job in the role, but quickly was sent to the back of the line. Following losses to Orton and Cena, his career went downhill and he could never rebound. WWE gave him various gimmicks as a king and a bearer of bad news, but neither propelled him back towards the top of the card. His talent would be wasted away for years until he finally gave up and let his contract run out after WrestleMania 32.
14 Bobby Lashley
WWE desperately wanted Bobby Lashley to become one of the top stars for the future of the company from day one. If Vince McMahon initially had his way, Lashley may currently be WWE Champion instead of TNA World Champion. Lashley was heavily protected with the hopes of becoming a success story similar to John Cena and Batista. McMahon was still invested in the bodybuilder physique for his top stars around that point.
The push went as far as Lashley representing Donald Trump in his feud against McMahon at WrestleMania 23. Lashley won arguably the most important match on the show but that would be his peak in WWE. His inability to cut a promo or connect with the fan base left Lashley behind and he was devalued before choosing to leave the company. It wasn’t until years later that Lashley showed his impressive talent and he has become one of the top stars in TNA. WWE had the right idea, but went about it the wrong way.
13 Sean O'Haire
The acquisition of WCW by Vince McMahon led to very few contracted talents making the jump to the WWE. Most of the big stars collected a bigger paycheck to stay at home until it ran out, but the younger talents didn’t have the same luxury. WWE actually preferred to go after youth by signing the talented prospects with hopes of developing them into stars. Sean O'Haire was one of the most interesting names on the roster with a great look and natural athletic ability.
WWE sent him down to developmental before introducing him as the protégé of Roddy Piper in 2003. O'Haire portrayed a heel that would manipulate other wrestlers into doing ridiculous things through his power of words. The association with Piper could have led to a new main eventer, but it just took the spotlight away from him. Fans cared more about the Piper/Hulk Hogan feud continuing than the new star. WWE quickly gave up on O'Haire and would never utilize him to the best of his impressive talents.
12 Marcus Cor Von
Over the last few years, we have typically seen TNA sign many former WWE stars. One of the first occasions of WWE signing a former TNA talent was bringing in Marcus Cor Von. TNA fans remember him as Monty Brown, the former NFL player that intensely brought it in the ring every week. WWE renamed him and tried to push him on the ECW brand as one of the future stars of the company.
Cor Von held a spot as one of the leaders of “The New Breed” looking to take down the ECW legends. The talented star even had a WrestleMania match at WM 23 in a losing effort in the eight-man tag match. Things appeared to be on the up for Cor Von, but inconsistent booking started to hurt him. He later requested some time off for personal reasons and was eventually let go by the company. The potential of Cor Von could have seen him become a main event star, but the unfortunate ending prevented it.
11 Muhammad Hassan
WWE tried to get controversial by creating the character of Muhammad Hassan to take advantage of a hot topic in society. Hassan portrayed an Arab-American reacting to racial discrimination by rebelling against America. Vince McMahon always loves tapping into the patriotic side of the fan base. The Iron Sheik, Yokozuna and Rusev are just some of the characters to achieve big success as a heel by standing against the USA.
Hassan did an outstanding job on the microphone getting heel heat and was the most hated man on the roster. There was just a slight hint of honesty in the gimmick to tap into the emotions of the fans, but the over-the-top nature made him a perfect villain. WWE would take things too far and air a group of masked men attacking and carrying The Undertaker out of the arena just days after a terrorist attack in London. The timing and content ruined the career of Hassan. WWE ended the push and the career of Hassan was over, as the gimmick was scripted for the promising star.
10 Steve Blackman
Every longtime wrestling fan has affection for Steve Blackman’s presence in The Attitude Era. The Rock, Steve Austin and Triple H are the names anyone can name but the diehard fans recall Blackman using his nunchucks and kendo sticks to absolutely destroy his opponents. Known as The Lethal Weapon, Blackman achieved popularity for his weapons and genuinely intense presence as a performer. Blackman’s top moment came when he knocked Shane McMahon off the titantron at SummerSlam 2000 and dived onto him.
The ascension of Blackman as a popular hardcore wrestler ended prematurely with no big pushes going forward. Blackman’s presence still delivered fun entertainment but WWE just never cared for his skill set enough to move him up the card. The legend has grown and fans seek out his matches on the WWE Network, proving he does have a legacy in pro wrestling. Blackman will never be forgotten by the fans, but sadly was by WWE, making him a one hit wonder.
9 D'Lo Brown
The underrated talents of The Attitude Era never got the respect they deserved due to the overwhelming talent during the time period. A plethora of future Hall of Famer's dominated the top spots but a couple of talented wrestlers flew under the radar. D'Lo Brown is the perfect example as one of the better in-ring performers on the show. WWE could always count on Brown having a fun match in the midcard on any episode of Raw, SmackDown or PPV.
Brown is frequently remembered for two things – his role in The Nation of Domination faction and holding both Intercontinental Championship and European Championship at the same time in 1998. D’Lo performed at a high level and made the best of his push. Everyone remembers the comical head nod and his Frog Splash finisher. Brown’s push faded quickly and he barely received television time for the remainder of his career due to WWE missing the boat on him.
8 Spike Dudley
Spike Dudley never gets the credit he deserves for his time in the wrestling business. The underdog hero was born in ECW but got over in WWE during a highly competitive time. Spike joined Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley as beloved brothers and hated enemies at different stages in their careers. WWE fans took to the smallest Dudley due to his positioning as a loveable underdog. One specific short term storyline led to his greatest success.
The romantic side of Spike was born in a relationship with Molly Holly during the Invasion era. The lovely couple endured the bullying of Steve Austin and Spike standing up for his love interest caused fans to support him as strongly as anyone else on the roster. WWE stumbled upon a tremendous little feud for compelling television. It earned Spike some faith in the company and he was employed for many years. Unfortunately, little Spike Dudley would never get such a high profile again, but he deserves more respect for his time in WWE.
7 Ken Doane
The Spirit Squad gimmick was a ridiculous idea pitting five young wrestlers in a faction as male cheerleaders, but the wrestlers selected all had potential. WWE specifically put talented performers in the position to work against the likes of Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Big Show, Kane and Ric Flair. Ken Doane was the standout talent and the assumed leader of the faction. It only made sense that he would get a singles push following the end of the group.
Doane feuded with Ric Flair and aligned himself with Edge and Randy Orton for a short time period. WWE quickly soured on Doane, which saw him fall further down the card. The talent would never get the chance to be showcased in singles action. Doane claims his love interest at the time, Mickie James, getting involved with John Cena caused Cena to politically bury him. That story has never been proven, but the fact is Doane’s potential would never be explored after his small stint of relevance in WWE.
6 Elijah Burke
The ECW brand under the WWE banner on SciFi television was made for the company to introduce young stars. In a lot of ways, ECW was meant to be a touring version of what NXT currently is. CM Punk, John Morrison, The Miz, Sheamus and a few others became stars in ECW before moving on to Raw or SmackDown. Elijah Burke had the potential to join them, but it just never materialized.
His athleticism was quite impressive and he had some great matches against CM Punk. WWE just never booked him with any confidence. Burke easily could have become one of the top heels on the ECW brand and a bigger star on the bigger brands. For whatever reason, he was moved down the card and eventually released. His short term success on WWE TV was enough to land him work in TNA, but he failed to hit his true potential.
5 Ken Shamrock
WWE went out of their element by signing Ken Shamrock to a big contract following his success in the UFC. MMA was not nearly as popular back then in the 90s, but Shamrock was talented enough to have name value entering WWE. The in-ring work and intensity of Shamrock made him a noteworthy wrestler on the show right away. A solid push saw Shamrock win the 1998 King of the Ring and become one of the most popular midcarders in the company.
Things faded quickly as Shamrock remained in the midcard and joined The Corporation stable under Vince McMahon. The man that once had a legitimate chance to become WWE Champion turned into just another henchman in the heel group. Shamrock is another story of a one hit winner that could have been so much more in the WWE. “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” is celebrated by longtime WWE fans, but he still deserves more recognition for his peak in The Attitude Era.
4 Stevie Richards
ECW pushed Stevie Richards perfectly as the leader of the Blue World Order and it led to him having bigger opportunities elsewhere. Richards failed horribly in WCW as Raven’s lackey, but it didn’t prevent WWE from giving him a new chance at wrestling stardom. The Attitude Era represented the shock element of crash television wanted by society at the time. That meant violence, sex and foul language were all utilized to create interest.
Richards lucked into the best gimmick ever to get heat as a heel. The Right to Censor group was formed with Richards as the leader. They attempted to censor the nudity, cursing and violent actions taking place on the WWE shows every week. It was meant to parody the parental groups boycotting WWE at the time and Richards showed how great he was with the role. Richards held a job for many years in the company, but never moved onto anything as over as Right to Censor.
3 Damien Sandow
Damien Sandow has always been a highly entertaining performer on WWE television but never was used to the best of his abilities. The charisma and in-ring skills shown by Sandow usually would be a strong enough combination to receive a massive push, but it never came. Sandow’s greatest success came in the least likely of situations. With nothing going on with his character, Sandow started imitating other wrestlers and entertainment personalities every week from Shawn Michaels to LeBron James.
The biggest hit would be Sandow cosplaying as The Miz and eventually becoming his stunt double. Both men worked perfectly together that WWE made them a full-time tag team for months. Fans started to fall in love with the newly named Mizdow. The organic movement saw them hope a push would come for the entertaining talent. Following their split at WrestleMania 31 during the pre-show battle royal, Sandow went back to his normal persona, but lost all of his television time. WWE recently released him and fans will always wonder why his claim to fame will be nothing more than a one hit wonder.
WWE has a horrible history of saddling talented performers with terrible gimmicks. This was the story of Nick Dinsmore being introduced on television as Eugene. Dinsmore had the reputation of being an elite in-ring performer that could hang with anyone in the ring. That led to the character of Eric Bischoff’s mentally handicapped nephew Eugene coming to WWE as a super fan turned wrestler. Eugene did make Dinsmore a lot of money, so it was worth it at the end of the day.
Fans rallied around the bullied Eugene when the likes of Bischoff, Triple H and Kurt Angle took advantage of him at various times. Eugene worked with the best of the best and had a near top spot on the roster during his peak. A character like Eugene will always have a shelf life and things went down quickly once fans had enough. Eugene would get booed many weeks and devolve into a lower card afterthought. The true talent of Dinsmore never could be exhibited and Eugene’s run ended faster than he could have hoped for.
The signing of Awesome Kong was hoped to signal the original women’s revolution in the WWE. The company only hired models at the time and Kong getting a spot gave us hope the division would become credible with such an elite talent coming over. Renamed as Kharma, she debuted by running into matches between others and destroying the competitors with ease. Kharma had a mysterious personality making her motivations unclear and adding intrigue to her entire presentation.
A pregnancy forced her off television for a few months and ended her storylines. Kharma made a shocking return in the Royal Rumble match and even eliminated a few male wrestlers. This was actually the only official match she ever participated in WWE, as her other interactions always featured her interrupting other bouts. Kharma would get released from her contract shortly after the Rumble appearance. The short-lived success left an impact but Kharma’s talent sadly didn’t evolve into anything more than a memorable WWE one hit wonder.