Throughout the history of the WWE and other big promotions, there have been thousands of wrestlers who have entered the ring. Wrestlers of all sizes, shapes and backgrounds have come and gone through the years. And most of them, if not all of them, had the ultimately goal of going down as the best of all time and being remembered by fans as a legend. Of course, there are very few wrestlers that are seen as bonafide legends of the sport, let alone the best of all time.
Because of this, hundreds of extremely promising wrestlers are left wondering what could have been and are simply forgotten for one reason of another. Some might have had no backing by the company, some ran into out of the ring issues and others just weren’t as skilled as they needed to be in a certain area, such as on the mic or during the actual match.
These are those guys that we all watched and remember, but haven’t heard of in years (or even decades in some cases). But when someone speaks their name or we are reminded of them some way, we are taken back to that time when they were gracing our TVs with their presence and, in some cases, were almost assured to be the next big thing, before fading away into obscurity.
So continue on and get ready to have your wrestling memories jolted. Here are 15 great wrestlers in history that we are sure you forgot about.
15 Justin Gabriel
Neville is currently one of the best and most promising superstars in the WWE locker room. His impressive athleticism allows him to pull off death defying acrobatics in the air like no one else can. Does that description remind you of anyone? Well, it should. Before there was Neville, Justin Gabriel was the resident high flyer in the WWE for a few years. During his time in the WWE, his most impressive feat was winning the Tag Titles three times with Heath Slater. While he had some big matches and was a ton of fun to watch, he just never really went anywhere further than the mid-card in the WWE. He has moved on to other promotions and currently wrestles in Lucha Underground, but isn't remembered as fondly by fans as he should be, as he was always involved in a fun match and you never knew what he would do next.
14 Mason Ryan
Batista was one of the biggest stars in the WWE during the Ruthless Aggression Era. His imposing size and physique made him an absolute powerhouse, as he won numerous titles and headlined numerous events during his time with the WWE, before getting into show business and becoming an actor. In Mason Ryan, the WWE finally thought they had another Batista. He was another extremely huge and imposing figure and made his debut with CM Punk’s Nexus, as the muscle of the group. After an injury, and CM Punk not needing a stable any more, he was sent back down to the developmental circuit, before being released in 2014. There is no doubting he had the look and power to be a big time superstar, but things just didn’t pan out for him. He is now currently performing as a pro wrestler in Japan, so the dream is still alive.
13 Spike Dudley
With The Dudley Boyz recently retiring from the WWE for good, it made sense to include their long lost third brother in this article about wrestlers we have forgotten, as he has been gone for quite a while from our TV screens. While Spike was one of the skinniest and smallest wrestlers of all time, he more than made up for it with heart. The guy was almost always the smallest wrestler in whatever company he was working for, but didn’t let that stop him from having a decent career. He won a number of championships (including the Cruiserweight and Hardcore Championships), but could never never to the same status of as Dudley brothers. After a fairly decent career in the WWE, he went to work for TNA and actually feuded against his Dudley brothers, which was an interesting twist. Since his retirement from wrestling, we've rarely heard about Spike, who is now actually working as a financial planner.
12 Nikita Koloff
Back in the 80s and 90s, Nikita Koloff was one of the most physically imposing and massive guys on the roster. He stood at 6’3 and was 275 pounds of pure muscle. He is what wrestling organizations salivate over and he was thought by many to be the next big star. He was brought in to challenge Ric Flair for the NWA title and was getting feuds with major stars throughout his career. But despite all that going for him, he's still not remembered by a large number of fans, even though he won some big matches, held a number of titles in the NWA and did well for himself. Since fading away from the wrestling world, he has been a born-again Christian and is now a minister, while he also runs a small wrestling promotion as an outreach. He was billed from Russia and Lithuania, despite being born in America.
11 Ricky Steamboat
Ricky Steamboat was among the most fundamentally sound wrestlers in pro wrestling history, along with being very entertaining in the ring. After being a state champion during high school, he decided to pursue a career in pro wrestling, which turned out to be a pretty good idea. Steamboat made his wrestling debut in 1976 and wrestled for nearly 40 nears until finally retiring in 2009. He wrestled for a number of the biggest promotions on the planet and was fairly successful in all of them, winning numerous titles, including being an eight-time WCW Tag Team Champion. He had numerous five star matches throughout his career and was even entered into the Hall of Fame, as he had matches and feuds with some of the biggest stars out there, including a legendary feud with Ric Flair during the late 1980s. However, despite all this, he is still never remembered among the greatest wrestlers of his time, which he most definitely should be.
In the early 2000s, someone at WWE had the bright idea to try and capitalize on the reality TV craze that was taking over the world. They created the show Tough Enough, which would follow some young men and women around to see if they had what it took to become a WWE superstar. The eventual winner of the first show was a wrestler named Maven and we're sure this is the first time you’ve probably seen his name in years. But when he was at the height of his career after winning the show, he looked as if he was going to be in for a huge career. He had numerous title shots and matches against some of the biggest stars ever, but his career basically fizzled out just as quickly as it materialized. After this whirlwind of a career, Maven is retired from pro wrestling.
9 The Hurricane
Gregory Helms, or The Hurricane (as he is most likely remembered) began wrestling at 16 and did all the right things to become great. He worked his butt off and found his way into the WCW and won a few titles for the promotion. Then, when the WWE purchased WCW, they picked up his contract and he became The Hurricane. His super hero gimmick was very popular among most crowds and he was actually one of my favourite gimmicks from that era. He even won the Cruiserweight Championship and after dropping the super hero gimmick, won it again and held it for over a year, becoming the longest reigning Cruiserweight Champion in WWE history. He went back and forth between the character of The Hurricane and his real name throughout the rest of his career. He currently remains in the industry as a manager in TNA.
8 Junkyard Dog
Junkyard Dog was a true legend of the sport and barely gets his name mentioned despite of how much of a draw he was, how good he was in the ring and how much he did for African Americans in professional wrestling. In the 1980s, he was a member of the Universal Wrestling Federation and was one of the biggest draws in all of wrestling. He often headlined cards to sold out arenas (including the Superdome) and became the first ever African American wrestler to be the undisputed top star in his promotion. He eventually moved on to bigger promotions, where he would continue to have success and win titles wherever he went. Despite being a member of the WWE Hall of Fame, he rarely is talked about for his greatness and impact any more, which we think is a travesty.
7 Juventud Guerrera
Now this is the case of a guy who has not only been largely forgotten, but also didn’t get as much credit as he deserved during his career. He rose to prominence in the mid-1990s as a WCW Cruiserweight wrestler (and champion) and he would have a large feud with future mega star Rey Mysterio. However, after some success, he was eventually released from the promotion (despite being a top star) because of drug and legal problems. After bouncing around a number of promotions, he eventually found his way to the WWE as a member of The Mexicools (the worst stable idea of all-time) and eventually went on to win the Cruiserweight Championship two more times. However, again he was released for backstage issues. Even though his career ended in a rough way, there's no arguing that he was a huge star for WCW in the 1990s.
6 Ezekiel Jackson
For a time (albeit a very brief time), it seemed like Ezekiel Jackson was destined for greatness. He had the size, the presence and the skills in the ring for the most part. And while he was not extremely over with the fans like the New Day or Enzo and Big Cass, he was over enough and the fans didn’t hate him. But perhaps the most important thing (and the reason I thought he would be the next big thing) was that he had the support of creative. Vince McMahon loved Jackson and in the wrestling business, that is almost an express pass to success. But as it turned out, creative couldn’t figure out what to do with him and he was released. And after all the buzz surrounding him, his only claim to fame is being the last ECW champion.
5 Rick Martel
Many of you reading this probably have absolutely no idea who Rick Martel is and that is a travesty, but we can't blame you, as he almost never gets talked about. He is best known for his decade plus with the WWE throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In the promotion, he was a tag team specialist and won the Tag Team titles three times. But in addition to this, he also had some memorable singles feuds with the likes of Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Shawn Michaels and Tatanka. In addition to his long tenure in the WWE, Martel also held the AWA championship for 595 days, which is the third longest reign in the history of that title. While he never became a massive WWE singles star, his contributions to the sport during its growth deserve a little more attention than he has gotten.
4 Chavo Guerrero
Chavo Guerrero is part of one of the best wrestling families out there and was a staple for major promotions like WCW and WWE throughout the 1990s and 2000s. He played numerous roles (both heel and babyface), had some memorable gimmicks and won his fair share of titles. In fact, Chavo won the Cruiserwight title numerous times in both WCW and WWE and was a threat in the tag division of every promotion he was a part of. While he was never a top level guy, Chavo was a quality performer who would do whatever was asked of him and was a staple on TV weekly for years. But despite all this success and the fact his family name is legendary, Chavo hardly gets remembered or talked about anymore. He still currently wrestlers in Lucha Underground, but his appeal and fame is far less than what it was, and what we thought it would be.
I still think the Carlito gimmick is one of the best we have seen in a while. Carlio was fantastic on the mic and his spitting of apples in his opponent's face was the perfect heel move to piss off the crowd. But on top of just being that character, the guy could wrestle and was extremely talented in the ring. Also, he has wrestling in his blood, as he was the son of the legendary Carlos Colon. But even with all that in his favor, Carlito could not become a top guy like most thought he was going to be. A bad attitude and some Wellness Policy violations got him served his walking papers. I think a comeback for him with The Shining Stars and a feud with the New Day would be magical, and would at least help Epico and Primp mean something again. The back and forth on the mic between Carlito and the New Day would be worth the price of admission alone.
2 Tito Santana
Despite most wrestlers trying different angles and changing from a face to a heel over their career to try and catch lightning in a bottle, Santana remained a babyface for his entire career, and it worked for him. Santana had a long and illustrious career and wrestled for the WWE between 1979 and 1993, missing only a few years when he joined the AWA. He won numerous championships in different promotions, most notably winning two Intercontinental Championships and a Tag Team Championshup (when his partner was actually number 5 on this list, Rick Martel). He wrestled in the first nine WrestleManias and helped bridge the gap between the 80s era and 90s era in the WWE. Despite all these accolades and his skill in the ring, many people don’t remember this superstar. He was even inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004, but we rarely see his name come up during WWE programming.
1 Shelton Benjamin
There is no doubting that of all the people to ever grace a wrestling ring, Shelton Benjamin is among the most talented of the bunch. Before becoming a pro wrestler, Benjamin had become a championship amateur wrestler in both high school and college, which is incredibly impressive. In WWE rings, he was among the most athletic and talented wrestlers, but could not parlay that into a hugely successful singles career. He was seen as more of a tag team wrestler than a solo act, which was a travesty. But with the recent news that Benjamin will be coming back to SmackDown Live after his injury heals up, he might not be forgotten for very much longer and will hopefully finally realize his immense potential, even though he's already 41. It really is sad that a guy as talented as Benjamin was largely forgotten by the public for so long.
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