For some reason, there are talents in the WWE that Vince McMahon simply doesn't believe in. They don't often get the television time to become a star and if and when they do, they're forced to lose to lesser opponents just to advance a storyline.
Some WWE Superstars seem so stuck behind the 8-ball that no matter what they do, they can't seem to get the WWE chairman's attention. Something has to go extremely right before they get noticed or change the opinion of the boss.
This is what happened with a guy like Daniel Bryan. In spite of Vince McMahon, who thought Bryan was far too small and too vanilla, it took the WWE Universe getting behind Bryan and forcing the WWE to consider him an A-plus player before the company jumped on board. By the time Bryan was a huge star, only an unfortunate injury took him down.
McMahon calls a WWE Superstar's ability to make it in this business grabbing the "brass ring". He likes to tout that he promises nothing but opportunities and the job of a WWE Superstar is to take the opportunity and run with it. If the WWE Universe tells Vince they have the next star in their grasp, that's the direction he goes.
But, grabbing that brass ring isn't easy when the company you work for doesn't have faith in you. Below are 15 WWE Superstars that Vince McMahon is holding back from being the next WWE Champion. He might not believe in them, he might not think they're bankable and for whatever reason, they're going to have to win an uphill battle to get noticed.
It's difficult to find another WWE Superstar who has the WWE Universe completely behind him more than Cesaro does. Everything Cesaro seems to touch has the fans completely interested and regardless of the position he's put in, Cesaro has the audience with him all the time. They love his move set, they love his style and despite the fact that he's not fantastic on the mic, he's clearly good enough and they're waiting patiently for the WWE to give him the opportunity he deserves. For some reason, Vince isn't feeling it.
McMahon has even gone out publicly and stated that guys like Cesaro should be stars, but something is holding them back. In Cesaro's case, McMahon touted his accent/language barrier as the main issue. It seems clear by now, Cesaro is never going to the get the opportunity and if he gets even a sniff at the title, it will be an extremely short-lived tenure.
14 Enzo Amore
He's not nearly as skilled a wrestler as Daniel Bryan, but in much the same way Bryan was able to win over the WWE Universe, Enzo Amore has the charisma to be a huge star. He's small and appears too weak to be the main-man and for that reason, the WWE has no faith in him. If somehow they could figure out a way to make him a legit threat in the ring, he has the gift of gab and that alone could make him a big draw.
Alas, he's in a current feud with Big Cass and he definitely won't come out on the other side of that battle with a victory. He's been the whipping post of the team for far too long and with the recent news that he may be in hot water thanks to some behind the scenes behavior, he's really making things harder for himself.
13 Big Cass
While we're talking about Enzo Amore, we might as well talk about his former partner Big Cass. Unlike Enzo, the WWE clearly sees something in Cass and has him pegged for a major singles push. There's a slight problem.
While he's not terrible on the mic, he's not convincing enough to handle the pressure of talking his way through things as champ (at least not yet). He's also big, but unlike Braun Strowman or former stars like Diesel or Sid, he's not in good enough shape to only get over as a big man. It's one thing to beat guys like Enzo, it's another to convince people you're big enough and tough enough to outlast the biggest guys. Cass doesn't have that aura about him.
This is less about the WWE holding Cass back, but more about the fact that while they're pushing his character, they may come to realize he's not the entire package.
12 Luke Harper
While Bray Wyatt has finally won a couple of key matches in a row on Raw, for some reason the WWE took the popularity of the Wyatt Family and flushed it down the toilet by making them the most glorified jobbers in the company. Erik Rowan is about as close as one gets to being future endeavored and Luke Harper seemed primed to break out on his own, but it just didn't happen.
Harper is not the youngest wrestler in the company (37 years old) and his momentum has completely stalled. When it comes to facing off against his old running mates, he gets the better of Rowan but loses continually to Wyatt, who also struggles to get the attention he deserves. If Wyatt can't get it, Haper won't. It's a shame too because Harper has the goods.
There was a time that Rusev was considered a monster. He was close to, if not the biggest heel in the WWE and when his momentum was at its highest, he could have won the WWE Title as a bad guy and it would have felt legit. That time has passed.
He's back on SmackDown Live and once again, acting like a monster. That said, he's no longer a believable title holder and he's missing the manager character he needed for that persona. McMahon made the mistake he makes with a lot of his monsters. Instead of riding the momentum, he jobbed Rusev out to John Cena at WrestleMania and turned him into a comedy act. It's now too little too late and with that, McMahon and the WWE will allow him to be nothing more than a strong adversary who loses in the big matches.
10 Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler is a great wrestler. He's also anything but a legitimate threat to win the WWE Title. He held it once and when he won, the crowd popped for his title win bigger than almost any pop in recent WWE history. Then, because the WWE decided he was too small or too quirky or too... whatever they decided, they took the belt off him rather quickly and never gave it back.
In the past couple years, Ziggler has tried to get people to take him seriously as a real threat and the WWE has given him moments to get back in the main event picture, but he can't ascend above the Intercontinental Title. After he wins it, he loses it almost immediately. There's really no hope the WWE has any confidence he can be their champ if he can't be their second-rate champion.
9 Zack Ryder
He was the Internet Champion and built a huge following acting goofy and teaching the WWE that social media had a huge role to play in marketing and future revenues. For showing Vince McMahon what could be done with the internet alone, Zack Ryder should have been rewarded with a title reign. Instead, he was put back on tv, pushed a little and then buried a lot. Even his WrestleMania moment, where he won the Intercontinental Title, lasted all of 24 hours.
One of Zack Ryder or Mojo Rawley is in for a push (one will likely turn heel in the next couple weeks on SmackDown Live), but that won't lead to a sustained push if it's Ryder. He'll continue to be seen by the company as nothing more than a guy who got over on the Internet and prolonger his employment. Vince will never show him the love he deserves.
8 Jeff Hardy
There was a period that Jeff Hardy was one of the most popular WWE Superstars of his time. Unfortunately, injuries affected the length of his reigns as champion and he ultimately screwed up his first major singles run by letting his personal demons overtake his good decision making. He could have done so much more than win the WWE Championship a couple times between 2008 and 2009.
After Hardy cleaned up, he and Matt returned but Vince McMahon is not going to give him another shot at the title anytime soon. Hardy is aging and he's stuck in limbo between the tag division and potenially what happens if the Hardy's can obtain the rights to their old TNA gimmicks. He may have one more big match in him (Hell in a Cell at WrestleMania), but it won't be for the WWE Title. The company doesn't view him now like they used to almost 10 years ago.
7 Matt Hardy
If Matt Hardy gets a hold of his "Broken" gimmick and if the WWE doesn't screw up him using it once they have it, there could be a chance (while small) that he'd be popular enough to win the WWE Title. It would be the most buzz Hardy has ever had as a member of the WWE talent roster. With all that in mind, those are pretty big ifs.
Vince McMahon is not big on promoting an idea he didn't come up with. He'll use it make money, but he'll do so reluctantly and that doesn't bode well for Matt Hardy, who if "Broken" will likely get a high-profile feud with someone, but not for the championship. Matt Hardy has never really gotten a fair shake despite being one of the few people to successfully reinvent himself. He should be rewarded, but he probably won't be.
The minute that the WWE thought it would a good idea to dress Neville up like Mighty Mouse and have him come to the ring like a superhero, you knew he was doomed. Luckily, the WWE didn't go through with that gimmick, but how they did start him off was almost as bad. Wearing a cape and being labeled the man gravity forgot didn't have WWE Champion written all over it.
But, Neville has been so good in the Cruiserweight Division, he could be a threat. Yes, he was demoted when placed with the Cruiserweights, but he's been handsdown better than almost any heel character in the WWE the last six months. It won't be enough and he may go onto the hold the Cruiserweight belt longer than anyone, but that will be his highest achievement. Vince doesn't, and never did see Neville as anything more than a gimmick.
5 Big E
Before The New Day, Big E might have been in line for a mega push as a singles wrestler. He's publicly stated when The New Day is done, he sees bigger things for himself. To that end, he might be right. If The New Day breaks up, he'll likely be the only member who comes out of the breakup with a singles push. But, he's not going to reach the heights he thinks he might.
The are two things that often come from being in a group like the New Day. First is that the WWE milks the most it can out of the gimmick draining every last possible dollar until it's no longer popular. That could ruin Big E. Second is that being in a group like this often gets you typecast. Very few people (Triple H as leader of DX is one) are able to overcome that type of character and completely change their personality. Vince McMahon undoubtedly doesn't see Big E as the next Triple H.
4 Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose's most recent title reign is probably the last time you'll see him with a WWE Championship belt that isn't more mid-card level than anything else. He's quickly lost the trust of the WWE brass and especially Vince McMahon. He's viewed as lazy and not nearly as entertaining as it appeared he might be with his Lunatic Fringe gimmick, He's proven time and time again he's not the guy to run with the ball.
Vince not only sees him as less than fit to be the WWE Champion now, there are rumors that Vince isn't 100% sure he's going to last as a long-term player in the upper mid-card to main event scene. That he's being used more as a comedy act than anything else these days is a telling sign of what the company thinks of his longevity.
3 Samoa Joe
Right now, Samoa Joe is becoming a star in the WWE. And, while predicting he won't ever be the WWE Champion is a bigger risk than some of the others on this list, the bet is that he gets as far as challenging a guy like Brock Lesnar or Roman Reigns, but never wins the big one.
Joe has enough street credibility to hang with anyone. He's earned enough respect to challenge anyone. I believe he has enough marketability to win the title. Does the WWE? Probably not. Instead, he'll be used to put over the bigger named guys. It's not fair and it shouldn't be that way, but that's probably his future. He's the perfect adversary, just not the perfect champion — as far as Vince McMahon is concerned.
2 Apollo Crews
Apollo Crews has proven he's not ready for the main stage yet but he's got almost everything Vince McMahon loves in a WWE Superstar. He's got a million dollar body, a uniquely agile skill set for such a big man and he's a personality away from being a star. If Vince McMahon could, he'd put the belt around his waist now. Vince has done more for undeserving people in a similar position.
Unfortunately for Crews, McMahon may have realized the errors of his past ways and is not keen on repeating the same mistakes. He's already got a guy in Roman Reigns who he's pushing to the moon and the fans aren't buying into. It would be completely transparent if he did the same with Crews who, at this stage in the game, can't hang with a guy like Roman in the ring. If only Crews had that complete package.
1 Sami Zayn
I can't think of a better fit to have an underdog WrestleMania moment than Sami Zayn. He already has a built in opponent in Kevin Owens. The problem is, as good a story as Zayn overcoming the odds would be, the WWE doesn't see him as a legit threat. Instead, he's being used a comedy bit mixed with some major in-ring talent to help elevate his opponents.
Whether it's his size, his look or the fact that few people would take him seriously as a heel character, there's almost zero chance we'll see Zayn as anything more than the U.S. Title or Intercontinental Champion. He'll keep putting on five-star matches and never get the credit he deserves and that's likely his role in the WWE. He's been working away at the business for years and fans would love to see Zayn win the big one, even if only for a brief time. He won't.