Teams that compete in North American sports organizations have developmental systems used to build their rosters over time. Major League Baseball has the minor league system, and the National Basketball Association is accompanied by the D-League. In that same way, World Wrestling Entertainment has a similar developmental system. Most fans know WWE developmental these days as the NXT brand that is featured on the WWE Network and that has its own touring roster. While NXT remains separate from brands such as Raw and SmackDown, it is only one part of the company’s developmental system that included other promotions in the past and that currently includes the impressive WWE Performance Center. This system has churned out multiple talented wrestlers who went on to win titles while working for the WWE main roster.
Just as some minor league baseball players fail to become All-Stars after they are called up to the Big Leagues, some WWE developmental wrestlers received pushes when they either were not ready for those opportunities or when they did not deserve to be on the main roster, in general. Some of those acts are part of either Raw or SmackDown as of the fall of 2016, while others failed to retain spots within the company. It is worth noting that some wrestlers who fail to shine while in the WWE developmental system find their feet and become stars after joining the main roster. Don’t give up on certain acts just because they aren’t impressing you during the final months of 2016. One of those individuals may work a main-event program down the road.
Carmella is the first example of a wrestler who can only be blamed so much for being pushed by the company despite her or his lack of overall skill. While Carmella is solid on the microphone and has a great look, she needed more work in NXT and developmental matches before receiving an opportunity to work on live shows such as episodes of SmackDown and pay-per-view events. That did not happen, though, as those running the WWE decided to call Carmella up to the main roster in July 2016 during the WWE Draft. Fans who would be overly harsh regarding Carmella should remember that there remains plenty of time for her to improve and work herself off of such rankings. For now, however, we cannot help but view her as one of the worst call-ups of 2016 when multiple better options remained in developmental.
14 Baron Corbin
The WWE was somewhat stuck and out of options with Baron Corbin in March 2016. While Corbin never won the NXT Championship during his run in developmental, he had also run out of possible feuds earlier this year unless the company seriously planned on having him work a program with somebody such as Shinsuke Nakamura. Corbin, thus, was called up to the main roster at WrestleMania 32 when he competed in and won and Andre the Giant Memorial battle royal. That, as we’ve seen, was Corbin’s top achievement, to date, while on the main roster, largely because he is limited in the ring outside of his awesome “End of Days” finisher. We would’ve liked Corbin to have spent more time on the road working long matches as part of the NXT touring brand, but what’s done is done.
13 Mason Ryan
Mason Ryan makes the list because the WWE teased pushing him to the moon on multiple occasions before seemingly realizing it wasn’t going to work out due to his limitations on the microphone and also inside of the ring. Ryan had the ideal look to be a WWE superstar, as his bodybuilder physique seemingly made him the perfect babyface similar to the likes of Batista and Triple H back in the day. Ryan was not Batista, nor was he Triple H in multiple ways, however, and thus it didn’t matter all that much when he won the FCW title of when he was added to The Nexus. The WWE then hinted Ryan would receive one final push while part of the NXT roster, but he and the company parted ways, apparently for good, in the spring of 2014.
12 Ted DiBiase Jr.
One could feel sorry for the way the WWE career of Ted DiBiase Jr. played out in front of audiences, as the son of the famous “Million Dollar Man” never fully stepped out of his father’s shadow. The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase, was an incredible heel who was given a great character and who cut memorable entertaining promos. Ted DiBiase Jr., however, was passable as a wrestler, but he missed something as an entertainer. The WWE nevertheless attempted to capitalize on DiBiase’s name and his legacy, first awarding him with his father’s Million Dollar Championship belt and then aligning him with Cody Rhodes and Randy Orton, after he spent a couple of years in FCW. While DiBiase won the tag team titles on multiple occasions with the company, he flopped and flopped badly as a solo act. He is no longer in the WWE or in the wrestling business.
11 The Ascension
It does not seem like it was all that long ago when the WWE pushed The Ascension as the next dynamic tag team to make its way through developmental and up to the main roster. The Ascension is, to date, technically the most successful team in the history of the current version of NXT and the WWE heavily pushed the duo during its early stint on the main roster after the two lost a match to Finn Balor and Hideo Itami in NXT. Fans almost immediately turned on the gimmick, though, in part because the team was nothing special inside of the ring and also because it seemed as if The Ascension was a ripoff of teams such as Demolition and The Road Warriors. Don’t look now, but the WWE may again try to push this team in the fall of 2016.
The WWE seemed to have a good idea, on paper, in late 2009 and early 2010 with The Straight Edge Society led by CM Punk. One cannot help but wonder, though, if that faction would have been better served had a different female joined the group. Serena, who spent time in different parts of the WWE developmental system, was pushed as an important part of that heel faction, as she cut promos and also interrupted matches on Punk’s behalf. As a wrestler, however, Serena is a forgotten product as it pertains to her WWE career after spending a good amount of time in OVW and FCW. She had only one televised match before her and the company parted ways, and her segments as part of the WWE main roster now remain only as memories that can be re-lived via the WWE Network and clips still available on websites such as YouTube.
Who out there could possibly forget Taryn Terrell, who worked and wrestled as Tiffany during her run in the WWE. Tiffany began her run on the main roster as an assistant to Theodore Long after a three year run in FCW and she was eventually made the on-screen general manager of the Extreme Championship Wrestling brand. Fans watched, almost in astonishment, as Tiffany cut wooden promos up through the dying days of the ECW brand and before the start of the first edition of NXT. We later learned Tiffany was not all that much better in the ring during her WWE career. Tiffany was one of several wrestlers who parted ways with the WWE in November 2010, but she eventually found a new home in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. The WWE tried to push the Tiffany character in developmental and on the main roster before ultimately giving up.
8 David Otunga
It’s late October 2016, as of the posting of this piece, and the WWE is still attempting to push David Otunga. We understand why certain individuals working for the company loved Otunga when he first appeared in developmental. Otunga had a history working as an actor, he had a great build, he could talk and he happened to be married to famous singer and actress Jennifer Hudson. Of course, the WWE would try to push Otunga regardless of the fact he was barely average in the ring. Fans never embraced Otunga even after the company made him a Tag Team Champion and he now works as a commentator on SmackDown shows. No disrespect meant to Otunga, but the commentary booth wouldn’t be lacking if Otunga was removed in favor of a two-man crew.
7 Ezekiel Jackson
Some things never change in the WWE Universe and Ezekiel Jackson was proof of that during his time in the company. Jackson, a mountain of a man with a tremendous physique, was booked as a powerhouse while working in developmental, on the ECW brand and also in the stable, The Corre. The WWE tried its best to turn Jackson into a respected superstar as a heel, and also as a babyface, and the company even put the Intercontinental Championship on him for a time. The idea of the jacked-up guy being a ruthless competitor had become old in the eyes of fans by the late 2000s, however, and Jackson’s visible limitations inside of the ring kept him from getting over outside of a handful of instances. Some fans may not even remember Jackson’s WWE career.
Passionate WWE fans will always remember Cameron for telling “Stone Cold” Steve Austin that a match involving Melina and Alicia Fox was her favorite WWE encounter, largely because of how Austin reacted to hearing Cameron. The WWE nevertheless decided to push Cameron as half of The Funkadactyls after a stint in FCW, first as a dancer and later as a wrestler in a tag team. Her limitations inside of the ring never disappeared sadly and she was eventually relegated back to NXT for one final shot. As amazing as it may be to read, Cameron actually looked worse during her last stint in developmental than when she was working on the main roster. Cameron and the WWE parted ways earlier in 2016 and we have no reason to believe we’ll ever again see her work for the company.
5 Bo Dallas
We cannot say, for sure, if things would have gone differently for the Bo Dallas character had he been given a better character or had his gimmick changed at some point in developmental. That did not happen, however, and thus the “Bo-Lieve” idea became old among fans who attended developmental shows and also those who watch episodes of Raw and SmackDown. It doesn’t help Dallas’ cause that the former NXT champion who has been pushed as a member of The Social Outcasts and also as a solo act is nothing special inside the ring. Dallas has a lousy gimmick and he could use tweaks to his move set. Why the WWE continues to insist upon pushing this version of Dallas is beyond us. The hope is that the company will make necessary changes to give Dallas a real opportunity to succeed on the main roster.
We fully understand why the WWE wanted to push Askana as one of its top female workers after she entered the promotion’s developmental system. After all, Askana had previously served as a bodybuilder and also as a fitness model before she ever entered a WWE ring. The WWE, thus, pushed her while she was in Florida Championship Wrestling and the company then created multiple storylines for her after she was added to the main roster. Aksana was linked with Theodore Long, she turned heel to join up with Cesaro for a period of time, and she had alliances with Eve Torres and also with Alicia Fox. The “Foxsana” team would prove to be the beginning of the end for Aksana, who failed to drastically improve as an in-ring worker. Aksana and the WWE parted ways in June 2014.
3 Michael Tarver
Michael Tarver will forever have a place in WWE history and also as part of “where are they now?” segments that are featured on the official WWE website. Tarver was a member of the first ever NXT class and he was included in The Nexus group that invaded an episode of Raw and destroyed John Cena in the ring. Tarver also took part in the main event of a SummerSlam card. A big reason Tarver never went anywhere as part of the main WWE roster following the original Nexus stable was because of his lackluster ring skills. Tarver wasn’t a complete bust, though, as he, intentionally or not, introduced the “Superman Punch” that is now used by Roman Reigns. Then again, some wrestling fans out there may view Tarver as a heel for that.
2 Eva Marie
The WWE is probably going to continue to push Eva Marie as an important part of the company’s roster until she is given a run with a championship, hurts herself and/or somebody else during a match, quits the company or accumulates enough suspensions that the promotion has no choice but to cut her. Eva Marie is a beautiful actress who looks like a superstar in and out of the ring. It makes sense the WWE would want her to be a major player in the women’s division. While Eva Marie deserves credit for attempting to improve as a wrestler following her first call-up to the main roster and during her time in NXT, not everybody is meant to be a wrestler. If anything, Eva Marie should serve as a manager if the company insists on continuing to push her come 2017.
1 Braun Strowman
We do not at all blame Braun Strowman for being an unskilled wrestler in the fall of 2016. While Strowman spent a couple of years in the WWE development system, he was able to bypass NXT and join the main roster because of his massive frame. It’s too early for anybody to judge Strowman, who remains a green worker in every aspect. Maybe the WWE will be smart and have Strowman work long matches with the likes of Sami Zayn and other talented wrestlers on house shows before the company chooses to give him a serious push in a championship program. Strowman is currently being pushed as a monster heel on the Raw brand and his gimmick may already be played-out among pockets of fans. While Strowman may improve, over time, he has to be considered one of the worst WWE developmental workers to receive a push in recent memory.