There are a lot of factors that go into determining the star power and longevity of a WWE signing. First and foremost, the wrestler has to have strong in-ring ability whether it's as a technical grappler or a high-flying crusierweight. A strong personality and impressive skills on the mic can carry a mediocre talent, as we've seen in the past with some of WWE's biggest stars during the 80s and 90s. A good gimmick helps too. There are other factors, but generally speaking, if you're a talented worker and a strong personality you'll likely have some success in the WWE. It's that easy, right?
Well, not always. Sometimes the timing simply isn't right and fans might not gravitate toward a particular new signing. If fans recognize an attempt by the WWE to shove an unwanted and unlikable talent down their throats, they'll react appropriately and said star will either be released, or, if your name is Roman Reigns, be given a main event push. Some of the 15 wrestlers on this list had the skill, but didn't have much else. Others weren't given a fair shot. The one thing they all have in common: their dreams came true, but only for a short period of time.
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15 Crowbar: Physical Therapist/Indie Wrestler
Though he was never strictly signed to the WWE, Crowbar appeared in about a dozen matches for the company in the mid-90s before finding some stability in WCW. Real name Christopher Ford, Crowbar balanced a healthy schedule of studying to become a physical therapist and wrestling during that time. Competing as Devon Storm, he wrestled five times for the WWE in 1997, once at a house show, three times on Shotgun Saturday Night and once on Raw, when he lost to Taka Michinoku in the quarter finals of the Light Heavyweight Title tournament.
He now has his own physical therapy practice and is married with two children, though he hasn't completely given up wrestling. He competed in 13 matches in 2016 for Game Changer Wrestling, American Championship Entertainment, WrestlePro, North Shore Pro Wrestling, and East Coast Wrestling Association. In fact, he won the ACE Fight For Flight Championship in December.
14 Public Enemy (Johnny Grunge/Rocco Rock): Passed Away
The former four-time ECW World Tag Team Champions and one-time WCW World Tag Team Champions were a formidable duo in both companies and on the independent scene during the 90s. Their rapid ascension culminated in a brief WWE stint during 1999, in which the tag team butted heads with the likes of The Acolytes, The Hardy Boyz, and The Brood.
After scoring debut wins on Raw and Sunday Night Heat against The Brood and Hardy Boyz, Public Enemy was scheduled to be put over once more by The Acolytes the following week, setting up a potential feud. Instead, the tag team flipped the script last minute and decided they weren't going to be put through a table to end the match. What followed was an ass-kicking at the hands of JBL and Ron Simmons, which included the tables. They wrestled in only four more matches, losing them all. Their last match came in 2002 with Pro Pain Pro Wrestling, following which Rocco Rock passed away. Johnny Grunge died four years later.
13 The Great Sasuke: Founder of MPW
We'll get to the guys the WWE kept around for longer than a couple matches eventually, but we can't fail to mention The Great Sasuke, founder of Japan's Michinoku Pro Wrestling (MPW). Sasuke spent some time in North America in the late 90s, including two nights in Alberta, Canada, where he and Taka Michinoku had a pair of high-flying matches for the Light Heavyweight Championship.
The two dazzled the Calgary crowd during 1997's In Your House: Canadian Stampede, with Michinoku going over on Sasuke. Taka lost the following night in a rematch on Raw, but we can't help wonder what would have been between the two if WWE had been able to hire Sasuke full-time. Okay, he'd probably be as badly misused as Taka was. Sasuke, now 47-years-old, still wrestles extensively in MPW.
12 Samoa Joe: WWE Superstar
Long before he was a surging independent star and a TNA World Heavyweight Champion, Samoa Joe had a WWE tryout on Jakked in 2001, where the much-thinner Joe lost to Essa Rios. The stars certainly didn't align for Joe at the time, as he jobbed to Rios without even a proper entrance, and rocked bleach-blonde hair and a brown sleeveless shirt that screamed not-yet-ready for the big time.
If you're reading this, you probably know where Joe is now - back in the WWE, and poised for what appears to be a main event push after defeating Roman Reigns on Raw. It was a long road for the big man, however, as he toiled through numerous independents and spent time in WWE-affiliated Ultimate Pro Wrestling. In fact, he won the UPW Heavyweight Title after being sent back to the promotion following his lone match on WWE TV, but unlike his pal John Cena, it took Joe much longer than a year to reach the WWE.
11 Tony Schiavone: Minor League Commentator/Starbucks Barista
Best known for his WCW play-by-play during the height of the company's popularity, Tony Schiavone briefly worked for WWE in 1989. He and Jim Ross had worked for Ted Turner and the recently-renamed WCW in 1988, but the company opted to use JR on cable shows and Schiavone for syndication shows. Needless to say, the latter sought out opportunities at rival WWE, where called several shows, including SummerSlam 1989.
Of course, he later returned to WCW and became the voice of the company during its heyday. Following the WWE's purchase of WCW, Schiavone more or less disappeared from the world of wrestling except for a couple appearances in TNA. He now calls play-by-play for the Atlanta Braves' AAA team, the Gwinnett Braves and, as of May 2016, was in training to be a Starbucks barista. That sounds like a joke, but it's not.
10 Buff Bagwell: Gigolo/Wrestling Conventions
Marcus Alexander Bagwell had a great opportunity to advance his career in the WWE when the company purchased WCW. Sure, he wasn't the most talented worker of all-time, but he was a decent draw in WCW and was handed a WCW Championship match in his first match on Raw against Booker T. He wasn't going to win, but at the very least it could have led to some memorable bookings. Instead, Bagwell wrestled Booker T with 28 stitches in his head and a concussion resulting from an earlier altercation with Shane "Hurricane" Helms.
Bagwell had other gripes about the match, namely that it was in Tacoma, WA, and not in Atlanta, where the WCW spent most of its time and the WWE was to be the following week. Regardless, as Bagwell tells it, he received a call from Jim Ross later that week, who told him to take the weekend off, but was promptly fired the following Monday. Bagwell is now doing what he was truly made to do; exposing himself out to ladies for an incredibly high price as a male gigolo. He even appeared on an episode of the Showtime series Gigolos.
9 Nathan Jones: Actor
Aussie wrestler Nathan Jones had a one-year run in the WWE in 2003, beginning with a string of house show appearances before his first TV spot in which he defeated Bill DeMott (Hugh Morrus of WCW fame). He later had some high-profile matches on SmackDown against Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle, but was out of the company by December of 2003; his last on-air appearance saw him score a win over Shannon Moore.
The former strongman didn't have any trouble finding work after being released by the WWE, though it wasn't in the wrestling business. Jones was cast in the 2004 film Troy and has since appeared as a frightful bad ass in 13 films, including Mad Max: Fury Road. He's slated to appear in four soon-to-be released films.
8 Giant Gonzalez: Passed Away
Bringing the 7-foot-6 former Argentinian basketball player Jorge "Giant" González into the WWE in 1993 seemed like smart business, especially when in-ring talent wasn't exactly a prerequisite for stardom in the company. After all, dressed in that creepy-ass, hairy body suit, the dude scared many six-year-old children who tuned in to watch WWE back then (I'm not the only one, right?). But fewer wrestlers flopped harder in the WWE than González, especially considering the push he was given.
As was custom back then, he scored a few victories over Virgil before being given an unsatisfactory feud against The Undertaker. The duo worked together at numerous house shows before meeting at SummerSlam 1993. González was so bad in that match, however, that the WWE quickly realized they weren't able to turn him into a competent wrestler. He made just two more appearances with the company before being released. He wrestled briefly for New Japan Pro Wrestling but retired from the ring in 1995. He died in 2010 at just 44-years-old after battling a myriad of health problems.
7 Jesus: Indie Wrestler
Aaron Aguilera spent parts of five years wrestling for the WWE and its affiliated partner UPW from 2000-04. His first match came in 2000 against Christopher Daniels on Sunday Night Heat, but it took another couple years for Aguilera to resurface with the company. In 2004, repackaged as Jesus, he was given a prompt, but extremely brief push to the United States Title picture. After a string of no contests against Charlie Haas, Jesus met and lost to John Cena for the US Title at WWE Armageddon. That was his final match with the WWE as he was released the following year.
After wrestling extensively in Japan for a number of years, Aguilera has continued to wrestle occasionally as a main eventer for California-based Alpha Omega Wrestling.
6 Hakushi: MPW President
Jinsei Shinzaki was one of the few extremely talented Japanese wrestlers to be given air time in the WWE. An established Michinoku Pro Wrestler, Shinzaki made his WWE debut in 1995 as Hakushi and was immediately pitted against Bret Hart in numerous house show matches, which we can only assume were fantastic. His TV appearances were few and far between, but he did have some memorable matches by the end of the year, including matches against Jeff Hardy, the 1-2-3 Kid, and Jeff Jarrett.
He participated in the 1996 Royal Rumble and was given an Intercontinental Title shot against Goldust on a later episode of Superstars, but went back to Japan shortly after, where he could be better utilized. The 50-year-old serves as president of MPW and still competes, having wrestled in 20 matches last year.
5 Muhammad Hassan: Teacher
A WWE in-house developed star who rose through Ohio Valley Wrestling, Muhammad Hassan (as Mark Magnus) was an OVW Heavyweight Champion before making his WWE debut in 2004. The up-and-coming star was a much-hated heel who had considerable talent but a questionable, boundary-pushing gimmick fueled by Western and Arab tensions. His New Year's Resolution 2005 win over Jerry Lawler led him on a meteoric rise which included wins over The Hurricane, Rhyno, Chris Jericho, and Val Venis. He even had matches for the Intercontinental Title and Heavyweight Title.
His career ultimately ended with a loss to The Undertaker at The Great American Bash in 2005. It was not only the last time Hassan, real name Marc Copani (yeah, an Italian), appeared in the WWE, but his last ever in-ring appearance. Today, the 35-year-old is a teacher in his home state of New York after a failed writing career.
4 Luther Reigns: Actor
Matthew Wiese wrestled briefly in the WCW and then WWE development territories UPW and HWA before making his debut with the Vince McMahon-led company in 2002. It wasn't until 2004, however, that Wiese, as Luther Reigns, made his on-screen debut in the WWE. The big man scored a win over Funaki on SmackDown in June of 2004 and one month later was squaring off against John Cena. His time with the company was inauspicious at best. He feuded briefly with Big Show and ended his on-screen career the same way it started - with a win over Funaki.
Since leaving the WWE in 2005, Wiese has overcome a battle with addiction and has appeared in a couple films, including the 2014 comedy Let's Be Cops. He's also slated to star in Spring Break '83, an upcoming comedy which features Erik Estrada and Lee Majors. It could be worse.
3 Marcus Cor Von: Personal Trainer
Former NFL linebacker Monty Brown was trained by Dan Severn and Sabu following his short-lived NFL career and he eventually found success in TNA before being scooped up by WWE in 2007. He wrestled there for just under a year as Marcus Cor Von and had numerous matches against former ECW greats like Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, and CM Punk. In fact, the final match of his wrestling career came at ECW on Sci-Fi when he lost in the ECW World Heavyweight Title tournament semi-final's to Punk.
He took time off for family issues following that match, but never returned to WWE and was eventually released. The Alpha Male is now a fitness trainer and, according to his Twitter, is still a big WWE fan.
2 Shawn Stasiak: Chiropractor/Personal Trainer
Shawn Stipich (Shawn Stasiak and Meat in WWE) was an up-and-coming WCW talent when the company was sold to WWE. He had the looks, and he had the ... well, that was about it. But it worked for him, especially being backed by the incredible Stacy Kiebler. It was enough for him to get picked up by the WWE following the sale in 2001. He was a low card draw, but thanks to the 24/7 Hardcore Title rule, he can always refer to himself as a 15-time champion.
He was fired for unprofessional conduct (filming an irritable Steve Blackman and The British Bulldog while on a Montreal road trip) in 2002 and retired from wrestling to open up his own chiropractic and personal training business.
1 Bobby Lashley: TNA Wrestler
Few wrestlers on this list were given the push that WWE gave Bobby Lashley. The physical specimen burst onto the scene in 2005 and lasted two years with the company, winning the United States Title and feuding with John Cena for the Heavyweight Title. In fact, after losing to Cena at The Great American Bash 2007, Lashley last appeared on WWE TV a week later, losing to Mr. Kennedy before leaving the company due to what some believe was the result of friction between then-lead writer Michael Hayes.
Lashley took some time off before briefly resurfacing in TNA in 2009. He then bounced around various independents before finally becoming the star he seemed poised to be in TNA during 2014. Lashley is now a four-time TNA World Heavyweight Champion, most recently regaining the title on January 8th in a 30-minute Iron Man Match against Eddie Edwards.
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