The WWE likes to market itself as an entertainment company, akin to the major movie studios, but despite their insistence, they are an entity, unlike any other major entertainment company. Combining the highest production values that any live broadcast could possibly muster with a predetermined dance of violence that can go wrong at any minute; you’d be a fool to think they aren’t marvelous at what they do. That doesn’t mean that they have a racket on everything good in the wrestling industry, though. Far from it, in fact. One of their biggest deficiencies is an inability to see some incredible talents for the potential they possess. Don’t believe us? Well, you need to look no further to find the greatest examples of missed WWE opportunities than this list.
In order to be considered for this list, a performer needs to have been employed by the WWE after the year 2005, giving us a window that is just over a decade long. Considering the company’s long history there is little doubt that a ten-year span is but a blink of the eye in their view. People who are still employed but aren’t being used in a manner their talent deserves could also find their way here.
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15 David Hart Smith
A member of the legendary Hart family, DH Smith was employed by the WWE for several years but in the end had a career there that amounted to very little. Memorable for his time on the main roster where he teamed with Tyson Kidd and was managed by Natalya, they were known as The Hart Dynasty and accomplished way less than they were capable of. Winning tag titles twice, they were workhorses each week but were always used as afterthoughts which affected the way fans viewed them and hastened this young man’s departure from the company.
Had they just given the tag team Smith was one-half of the respect it deserved, it seems abundantly clear that they had all the skills to have an impressive run. Worst of all, even when Bret Hart made his long-awaited return to the company after years of anger and controversy, he barely interacted with his family members. Has a way to push a talented team has ever been better gift wrapped for WWE creative and then largely ignored?
14 Justin Gabriel
Best remembered as part of The Nexus, Justin was present when the group of youngsters crashed a Monday Night Raw main event and destroyed everything and everyone in sight. A segment that shocked pretty much everyone and became the talk of the industry, we find it painful to look back on how horribly the resulting storyline would eventually peter out.
That’s ok, though, right? Justin was arguably the best actual worker in the group and is clearly a very good looking gentleman so he should have had no problem rising to the top as a singles star. Obviously, since he is on this list that never happened. Opting to walk away from the company of his own accord after coming to the realisation that he was never going to be given a real shot, Justin had good reason to make such a decision. When a wrestler like him, who has everything going for him other than He-Man size, is used so poorly that he decides to walk away from the biggest wrestling company in the world, something is wrong.
13 Evan Bourne
Evan Bourne finds himself listed right after Justin Gabriel because the two of them are peas in a pod. Another incredible high-flyer, he spent years working for the WWE and despite being highly respected by his peers and fans he would eventually leave the company with little fanfare. Injured in a car accident, he suffered a severely broken foot which forced him to stay on the disabled list for almost exactly a year before returning at an NXT event. Disappearing from the wrestling world again afterwards, he never reappeared on WWE television and was handed his walking papers.
While he wasn’t injured in a WWE ring, it still feels slimy to us that he was fired without even being given a chance to make a return to the company. Especially considering the fact that a veteran like Chris Jericho respected him enough to lose a feud to him and he and Kofi Kingston had created an entertaining tag team just before he got hurt.
12 Zack Ryder
Currently wrestling for the Smackdown brand as one-half of The Hype Bros tag team, alongside Mojo Rowley, Zack may have recently had a minor resurgence but he deserves so much better. Joining the main roster as one-half of The Major Brothers, before too long, it became clear the team wasn’t going to go anywhere (despite a great run as Edge’s lackeys) and they were split up. Needing to reinvent himself, he rechristened himself The Long Island Loudmouth which also went exactly nowhere. Not content to sit back and hope something good would come his way, Zack took to YouTube, created Z True Long Island Story and became an internet sensation
Popular enough that eventually his bosses could no longer ignore what he had done; you’d think that Zach would be rewarded for his efforts and at first that seemed to be the case. Winning the United States Championship, he looked to be on the rise but when he was placed in a feud with Kane which also involved John Cena he too was destroyed. Made to look like a complete loser, he lost his belt and was mostly forgotten on WWE TV again for several years. What the hell WWE, please stop pretending you listen to your fans. If they had only capitalized on Zach’s momentum there is no telling how hot he could have become.
Of everyone on this list, Maxine’s WWE career may have amounted to the least. Employed by the company for around three years, she spent time in Florida Championship Wrestling before being added to the third season of the competition show version of NXT. Losing in the end, she would come back to the show as part of the Redemption season which involved people who’d previously taken part in the show and lost. Unlike the previous seasons which came to an end after a performer was eliminated each week and had a winner who was promoted to the main roster, this season just went on and on. Lasting sixty-seven episodes in total, everyone involved toiled away in relative obscurity and Maxine was clearly very frustrated by that.
She chose to walk away because she felt she would never be given a real shot. “After sitting for a while, and the chance not really coming, I just decided to take it in my own hands and make a chance for myself which is what I did". Currently performing as Catrina in Lucha Underground, she is one of the best parts of the show and had she been given the chance in WWE to play a character with such vigour she would have been very valuable.
An extremely talented women’s wrestler who has plied her trade all over the world and for several companies, Serena would certainly be a great addition to WWE’s modern day roster. Able to hold her own in the ring with pretty much anyone and dedicated enough to her craft that she was willing to have her long locks shaved off in the middle of the ring, she seems like a no brainer. A member of the Straight Edge Society, she added some real validity to the group, of all of CM Punk’s followers she seemed to be most skilled as coming off as a fiercely loyal to him.
Shockingly her inclusion in the group also led to her dismissal from the company. A stable that centered on its member's belief that their decision to abstain from alcohol and drugs made them better than the rest, one of them drinking in public could clearly be a problem. Serena seems to have missed out on that memo and after a few such incidents, she was given her pink slip. While, we can easily understand why, her choice to imbibe in public was problematic and frustrating for her bosses, their choice to wash their hands of her seems wildly too harsh. Especially, when you look at the scenario while reflecting on what she could have meant to the company’s TV product.
Another woman who at one time seemed like she was poised to become the biggest thing in WWE’s women division but was shown the door after a very short run, this too was a huge waste. She was even able to make fans see TNA as the destination for mainstream women’s wrestling in North America, as her feud with Gail Kim is the thing of legend. Hired by the WWE, she spent several weeks walking out to the ring and squashing pretty much every female member of the main WWE roster. Then, she gave an emotional speech in which she revealed that she was pregnant and would have to take a leave of absence.
Still employed for several months but absent from their product for obvious reasons, WWE’s fan base awaited her return and looked forward to seeing her add some gravitas to the division. Turns out, they were waiting for an event that never came to be. After very sadly suffering a miscarriage, Kharma made an appearance in the 2012 Royal Rumble before being given her release because she wasn’t ready to return as quickly as her bosses wanted her to be. While she has defended the move in the past as “appropriate”, we wish they were a lot more patient with her considering how traumatic of an experience she had gone through. Had they done so, she would have been the star they are so desperately trying to turn the under prepared (through no fault of her own) Nia Jax into.
8 Paul London and Brian Kendrick
What is up with the WWE and the blind spot they obviously have when it comes to what they can do with some of the best undersized high-flyers they employ? While there are some exceptions, Shawn Michaels most obviously comes to mind, there is a long history of WWE undervaluing the little guys. Two of the best examples of that are Paul London and the recently rehired Brian Kendrick. A tag team that held the Smackdown version of the tag titles for an extended run, 337 days, their time on top largely took place in the background of WWE shows.
Separated as part of a WWE draft, just over a year later both men were gone from the company and mostly forgotten until the last couple of years. While Paul London did nothing to help his career considering his backstage heat with major power brokers, politics alone aren’t a good enough reason for the WWE to miss out on years of incredible matches featuring this team.
7 The World’s Greatest Tag Team
Speaking of awesome tag teams, could you imagine what it would have been like if The World’s Greatest Tag Team served as the backbone of the company for years and years. Introduced as a part of Team Angle, they were probably the only two guys who could have convincingly stood at the side of Kurt Angle, arguably the best talent in the industry at the time. A pair of former amateur wrestlers, in Shelton’s case he became an NJCAA collegiate wrestling champion, they had the athletic skills to back up their boastful name.
After splitting from their former mentor, they would be broken up and before too long it became clear that the pair was stronger together than they ever were on their own. While Shelton especially had some real potential as a singles star neither of them were ever given an extended run near the top of the card. Had they stayed together it seems impossible that anyone could have stopped them from being the standard bearers in the tag division.
6 Damien Sandow
A wrestler whose story mirrors Zach Ryder’s to a large degree, Damien beat out Long Island Iced Z because he seemed to have even more potential. Briefly working in an unremarkable tag team on Smackdown, Damien re-debuted as the intellectual saviour of the masses. A traditional wrestling character that held himself up as superior to the rest of the roster and fans, he was a refreshing return to what made wrestling great in the past. Fast forward a few years and he had mostly abandoned that character and despite the WWE having him dress up in various getups he always made the best of it and remained popular.
Then, he became The Miz’s stunt double and began calling himself Mizdow. Shadowing the would-be star and mirroring The Miz’s every move, while standing outside the ring, his segments quickly became some of the best each. Receiving huge reactions every time he appeared, it seemed inevitable that he would stick up for himself and when that finally came to pass everyone seemed to love it. Well, everyone but his bosses who ignored the storyline as quickly as possible and had him dress up as Randy Savage, someone he was terrible at imitating. Had they just kept his immense momentum going there is overwhelming evidence that fans were primed to fully embrace Damien.
5 Kassius Ohno
Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Neville, Cesaro, Finn Bálor, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, Bobby Roode, Asuka, and Dean Ambrose are a few examples of indie standouts that’ve made a big impact on WWE. Chris Hero, the man now known as Kassius Ohno in the WWE, is a former indie standout whose impact pales in comparison to what he could have done. A beloved figure that many have compared to a man like CM Punk, he has proven again and again that he is more than capable of getting fans to invest in him.
Unfortunately, his time in the WWE only proved that the WWE, even while Triple H is in charge of hirings and firings, will let good talents go if they don’t like their attitudes. Evidently, Kassius was told to drop some weight and get in better shape but didn’t comply, at least not as quickly as he was expected to. Let go, as a result, there is little doubt that he belongs among the people listed at the beginning of this entry instead of on the unemployed line. Thankfully for him, promoters around the world rejoiced to be able to work with him again.
The final person on this list who is still employed by the WWE, Natalya is also a member of the legendary Hart wrestling family. Currently working as a part of the Smackdown women’s roster, she is currently taking a back seat to the likes of Becky Lynch, Nikki Bella, Naomi, and even the recently called up Carmella. While she has enough credibility that she could be thrust into a feud for the belt at any moment, she seems unlikely to have a run at the top any time soon.
Hired by the company all the way back in 2007, the fact that she has been employed for nearly a decade has done little to make her bosses treat her in the way someone as valuable as her should be. While she isn’t the best performer on the mic, prone to overacting at times, she should have been the workhorse who sets the pace for the division. Instead, she spent a decent portion of that time serving as a manager for The Hart Dynasty as well as the tag team of Tyson Kidd and Cesaro. If that weren’t a big enough miscarriage of justice there were also extended periods of time in which she didn’t appear in any form whatsoever.
MVP absolutely oozes charisma from his every pore. Creating one of the best characters in recent history, that of an all-star athlete who is kind enough to gift us lowly wrestling fans with his presence, his introduction to WWE TV was phenomenal. Following that initial flare of brilliance with one of the best modern WWE feuds, against Matt Hardy, the pair was fantastic fighting one another and operating as a makeshift team.
Then someone behind the scenes had the brilliant idea that he should go on a losing streak and his tenure in the company was never the same. Leaving the WWE to try his hand at working internationally, wrestling in Japan was a longstanding dream of his; he proved that he had a great deal of value. Joining TNA after a period of time, he was extremely entertaining and added a great deal of appeal to Booby Lashley’s persona before departing that company too. If one thing is abundantly clear after all these years it is that MVP makes the shows he appears on better, something he could have been doing for WWE all this time.
2 Wade Barrett
When The Nexus debuted on WWE television, the group turned a lot of heads but there was nobody who received more praise than team leader Wade Barrett. He was then thrust into a feud with the perennial face of the company John Cena. The very fact that he didn’t seem totally and inescapably out of his depth across from the biggest wrestling star alive, should have been evidence enough that he needs to be permanently entrenched at or near the top of the card. Ultimately definitively defeated by the former champ, he seemed to need a refresh of sorts but instead was given the awful faction known as The Corre to lead.
Fortunately, before too long he was repackaged as Bad News Barrett, which seemed like a terrible gimmick initially but the magnetic way in which he delivered his lines made fans fall in love with it. Who among us didn’t love saying I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you along with him? Of course, the WWE being the insane place that we all know it to be, the need to put the kibosh on it once fans started to buy into the gimmick. Mired in the mid card for the rest of his tenure, it is a truly sad state of affairs when you’re that good at what you do and get demoted as a result.
1 CM Punk
We know what you may be thinking. CM Punk is the longest reigning WWE World Champion of any sort in the last twenty-five years, how could he take the top spot on a list like this? We’ll tell you how, his mic skills, in-ring ability and ability to come off as a true star no matter how poorly he is used made his claims that he is the best in the world entirely believable. Yet he was never pushed as the top star in the company, never headlined a WrestleMania and even as champion his feuds were typically featured less prominently than John Cena’s.
If there is any moment in WWE history that was mishandled worse than the so-called Summer of Punk we can’t think of it. Giving the “pipe bomb” promo, Punk said a lot of things that fans had thought for years but never dreamed they’d ever see anyone say on WWE’s product. The hottest thing many wrestling fans have ever seen, when he won the WWE title and disappeared from television all too briefly it was unlike anything we’d ever seen before. Instead of seeing the storyline through to its optimal finish he would find himself defeated at the hands of Triple H and Diesel before becoming embroiled in typical WWE fare once again. Talk about missing the boat.
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