The 2016 WWE brand extension is well underway, the result of perhaps the most jam-packed roster of Superstars the company has ever seen. With the influx of new talent mixed with the mainstays who have long been established stars, it’s no wonder that Vince McMahon would have decided now is the perfect time for Raw and SmackDown to each have its own unique storylines and cast of wrestling characters because there are so many great competitors deserving of time in the spotlight. Without that time in the spotlight, those Superstars may never achieve the greatness of which they’re capable and the talent would be wasted.
There’s a flip side to that coin, however. With such a large number of athletes, there are obviously more great Superstars to claim the brass ring, but there is also a larger pool of stars who, shall we say, aren’t shining so bright. Any healthy roster of wrestlers has its “enhancement” talent – those who serve the purpose of making the big names bigger, often by losing to them. Those enhancement talents aren’t innately bad, however, and WWE has collected quite the sizable lump of wrestlers, new and old, who either can’t hold their own with the rest of the Superstar roster or have failed to live up to their hype.
The greatest WWE Superstars leave fans wondering about their whereabouts long after retirement has passed. It’s fascinating, as a fan of any entertainment medium, to see where those we admire take themselves once they’re not in their given industry anymore. But, whether to figure out how they ever landed a job in WWE or to come to better appreciate their journey, let’s take this opportunity to look at where WWE’s worst Superstars were before they stepped into the squared circle.
16 The Miz
It’s hard to say whether it’s surprising that The Miz would end up on a list of worst WWE Superstars or entirely expected; he’s been such a consistent, steady feature of WWE programming for so long it’s hard to remember a time when he wasn’t with the company. He’s a multiple time Intercontinental Champion and defended the WWE Championship at WrestleMania, but there seems to be an asterisk next to all of his accomplishments. For instance, The Miz’s history with the Intercontinental title seems to demand respect, but all those reigns have felt like placeholders. As for his WWE Championship run, The Miz is often cited as one of the least deserving World Champions in the past ten years.
How did The Miz’s career get to this point of stagnancy? Perhaps it’s his knack for being an entertainer that proves just valuable enough to keep him afloat, because that’s part of what got him into WWE in the first place. Before becoming “The Miz,” Mike Mizanin was one of the biggest stars of MTV’s famous Real World reality TV show. The Miz was in the unique position to have a previous body of work that proved his charisma and he brought an established following with him into the ring.
15 Dana Brooke
Dana Brooke’s case might just be one of too much hype to live up to. Her in-ring debut in NXT in 2015 was a really big deal, met with weeks of promos and hype surrounding her involvement in that year’s Arnold Sports Festival. She even established herself as the “Total Diva” early on – the company was truly selling Brooke as a force to be reckoned with. Her early matches, however, didn’t do much to make her stand out from the crowd. She teamed with Emma for a large portion of her time in NXT, but spent much of that time sidelined with an injury, forced to watch from ringside. Dana’s career seemed to get a boost when she made her main roster debut on Raw in 2016 to rejoin Emma, but Emma soon suffered an injury as well and Dana was thrown together with Charlotte.
During her time on WWE’s main roster, she’s remained mostly in Charlotte’s shadow and has faced internet rumors of Vince McMahon not being pleased with her work. However, while her wrestling career has failed to find its stride, she was an accomplished bodybuilder before coming to WWE and was even once a gymnast.
Sheamus is another situation where his resume looks a whole lot better on paper than in practice. He’s been a four-time World Champion since coming to WWE, early on being established as a main event player by feuding with the likes of future WWE Hall of Famers Triple H and John Cena. It was an unprecedented surge straight to the top of the company, one that showed tremendous confidence placed in Sheamus by his employer. Unfortunately, history has told us that confidence may have been ill-placed as The Celtic Warrior has continuously failed to really connect with the WWE Universe.
While Sheamus wasted little time rising to elevated WWE status, he actually spent many years crafting his character and training in the ring before hitting it big. His early wrestling days saw him competing in an Irish independent wrestling organization known as Irish Whip Wrestling and he also has wrestled across Great Britain in various promotions. Sheamus might seem like just another misused WWE muscle head, but he certainly put in his hours on the indie scene.
13 Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin, real name Tom Pestock, had a consistently difficult time connecting with fans during his several years in NXT. Early on he might have seen his biggest support from the audience, as they would count the seconds of all of his notoriously short matches, which he dominated. Baron was a big guy, though, and not too agile, which is a recipe for rejection in today’s state of wrestling where fans flock to guys who can move around well enough to keep the action fast and exciting. Baron made his main roster WWE debut in 2016 and has failed to captivate the WWE Universe, occasionally even struggling to fight off the “boring” chants.
That’s not to say there’s not an athlete in Baron Corbin, though. Before WWE, he played pro football with the Indianapolis Colts and the Arizona Cardinals, though he never saw the field. He was even a successful boxer, having been a two-time Amateur Kansas-Missouri Golden Gloves regional champion.
12 Braun Strowman
A couple of years into The Wyatt Family’s run in WWE, Bray Wyatt and his followers Erick Rowan and Luke Harper added a fourth member to their crew in the massive Braun Strowman and, boy, did the company hype him. Listening to announcers, Strowman was the next big Superstar in WWE, but a year and a half later he’s still not done anything of note. Rumors made their rounds on the internet that Vince McMahon wanted Strowman to be The Undertaker’s opponent for WrestleMania 32 and the backlash was incredible due to the lack of interest from the WWE Universe.
Supposedly, Strowman’s hiding some great athleticism but we’ve yet to see it. His strength, however, isn’t in question; Braun had a successful Strongman career before signing a WWE developmental contract, winning the 2012 Arnold Amateur Strongman World Championships. Having recently been separated from the rest of The Wyatt Family in the WWE brand extension, it seems Braun Strowman’s career might be heading in a new direction.
10 Erick Rowan
Having become known as the least exciting of the original members of The Wyatt Family, it’s been proven through attempts at solo runs for Erick Rowan that the best thing about him is his association with Luke Harper, Bray Wyatt, and Braun Strowman. It’s not that Rowan, who was born Joseph Ruud, isn’t a good wrestler, because he moves well for a big man. His character and charisma, however, leave a lot to be desired. He usually serves as The Wyatt Family member who takes the pinfall so the other, more interesting members can save face and he's always the most boring part of any Wyatt scene or wrestling match.
It’s rather unfortunate, given Erick Rowan’s potential and athletic history. The monster, whose family emigrated from Norway to America, has wrestled in various parts of the world, including working with popular indie company Pro Wrestling Noah in Japan, and even played football in college.
9 Bo Dallas
Bo Dallas was one of the longest reigning NXT Champions in history during his very successful stint in NXT. One would think he could never go from being so comfortably on top of that mountain while failing to reach even mediocre success on WWE’s main roster, but that’s exactly what happened. Granted, Bo Dallas had some big shoes to fill – his father, Mike Rotunda, is WWE Legend I.R.S., and his brother is fellow WWE Superstar Bray Wyatt, who has been consistently popular with the WWE Universe as the leader of The Wyatt Family. Still, it’s difficult to see how Bo could have done so well with one audience and failed so miserably with another.
It’s not for a lack of effort or in-ring ability. Bo Dallas’s silly inspirational character was bound to fail in the hands of Vince McMahon, who has never known how to handle comic relief characters. Bo’s physical skills are proven with the great matches he had in NXT, but he is also a former football player, where he was a linebacker in college, and wrestled for four years in Florida Championship Wrestling, WWE’s former developmental territory.
When Ryan Parmeter became Konnor and began teaming with a man named Viktor to form the team known as The Ascension, everything seemed to fall perfectly in place. The duo became the longest reigning NXT Tag Team Champions in history and is sometimes cited as the greatest tag team to compete for the developmental branch of WWE. Unfortunately, much like in the case of Bo Dallas, the main roster would not be kind to them. Almost immediately after joining Raw and SmackDown, The Ascension were buried again and again under embarrassing losses which made their entire NXT run seem like a fluke. The team as a whole was pretty much forgotten before the recent brand extension, but Konnor in particular was always the least popular (and least athletic) of the two, and it didn’t help that he got himself suspended in 2016.
Konnor spent many years technically under contract with WWE before his time in NXT, though he did so wrestling for developmental territories such as Deep South Wrestling and Florida Championship Wrestling. Before that, he worked in smaller promotions like Four Star Championship Wrestling and Florida's Coastal Championship Wrestling.
7 Sin Cara
The character of Sin Cara might be one of WWE’s biggest flops in recent years. The masked luchador has been portrayed by two separate wrestlers, the first being Mexican wrestling star Mistico. The role was permanently assumed by the WWE Superstar formerly known as Hunico in 2013, who has certainly seen better success than the original, having won the NXT Tag Team Championship with Kalisto as the team known as The Lucha Dragons. Once The Lucha Dragons were called up to WWE’s main roster, things quickly went south for Sin Cara, who was constantly outshined by Kalisto as the latter continuously connected with the WWE Universe on a much deeper level.
Like his predecessor, the man now under the mask of Sin Cara wrestled in Mexico years before joining WWE as Hunico. He also competed for popular wrestling promotions TNA and Chikara before spending a couple of years in WWE’s developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling. Now that Sin Cara and Kalisto have been split up in the WWE brand extension, will Sin Cara sink or swim?
6 Summer Rae
Having joined WWE’s main roster as Fandango’s dance partner, there weren’t a lot of expectations for Summer Rae’s actual wrestling career. She was a manager and that’s what she was good at. At least that was the case until she was split from Fandango and began bouncing around as a manager for a plethora of male WWE Superstars. Her allegiances have shifted so often that not only are her alliances doomed to fail, but the WWE Universe never knows if she’s playing a hero or a villain from week to week. On top of all that, after years of competing in the ring, Summer’s wrestling skills remain lackluster and devoid of energy, though we'll admit that her second run on NXT was actually pretty good.
Either way, it seems athleticism doesn’t always equate to wrestling ability, as before coming to WWE Summer Rae spent time playing for the Lingerie Football League, where she was cornerback.
5 Heath Slater
The WWE career of Heath Slater has been a long, bumpy road to travel for Slater and fans alike. Certainly through no shortcomings of his in-ring skills, Slater’s career has bounced from one sad band of misfits to the other, and it can be taken as either a good or a bad thing that he’s been the leader of all of them. Of course, that’s not counting The Nexus, which is seen as a very successful stable except for the fact that over half of the original members are no longer competing for WWE and the rest have mostly gone on to obscurity save for the lukewarm accomplishments of Darren Young. Slater’s associations with 3MB, an overly-confident band of air guitarists, and The Social Outcasts, a collective of failed WWE Superstars attempting to reclaim their never-achieved glory, are less fondly remembered.
Heath has been committed to wrestling for many years, having gotten his start in 2004 with the World Wrestling Alliance and joining WWE’s developmental territories in 2006. The commitment, the ability and even the charisma are there, but it seems Heath Slater may never find his niche in WWE.
4 David Otunga
Speaking of former members of The Nexus, David Otunga serves as one of WWE’s most notorious examples of the question, “is he really still under contract?” Though many oftThe Nexus members faded into obscurity and others have left the company by now, Otunga has followed up a cold and uneventful singles career with an extended stint of lingering so far in the background that everyone forgot he was even still a WWE Superstar. In 2016, WWE has incorporated him into the SmackDown commentary team and unfortunately he's failed to stand out as an announcer too.
Luckily for David Otunga, if his WWE career ever finally does come to the point that he’s no longer under contract with the company, he has a Harvard Law School degree and an acting career to fall back on. He’s had several roles before and during his WWE run and even came in third on VH1’s popular reality program I Love New York 2 years before stepping foot in a wrestling ring.
3 Curtis Axel
In yet another case of a former Nexus Superstar failing to find his rhythm in a singles career, Curtis Axel has just never been able to establish any sort of memorable foothold in WWE. Formerly known as Michael McGillicutty, he seemed to get a fresh start a few years ago when he first took the Curtis Axel name, but after that also failed, he eventually ended up as a member of The Social Outcasts, a group of Superstars who WWE had completely run out of ideas for.
Fans just never bought into Axel under any banner. As the son of WWE Hall of Famer Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, Axel seemed bound for glory. He was born into the wrestling industry and competed for the indie company World League Wrestling for only a brief time before being signed to a WWE developmental contract. Axel also has an Associates in Science Degree.
2 Eva Marie
What more can be said about Eva Marie that hasn’t already been shouted at her from angry fans in attendance every time she dares to show her face? The fact of the matter is that Eva gets a much more criticism than she deserves, but that’s wrestling for you. She obviously works hard; otherwise she wouldn’t be performing in front of live crowds under the umbrella of the biggest wrestling company in the world. Eva has learned everything about wrestling from scratch and unfortunately she’s had to do it in front of the cameras.
Before signing on to WWE and joining the cast of Total Divas, Eva Marie had no history in professional wrestling. If you’ve ever seen an Eva Marie match, you’ll notice that it shows pretty blatantly. In fact, she was mostly a model and has a degree in Business Management from California State University. She also played soccer for that college and is an avid baseball fan.
There are many things that could make someone a topic in a conversation about worst WWE Superstars. WWE admittedly looks for the whole package in an on-screen personality; they believe charisma and looks are just as important as wrestling ability. Rightfully so, as that’s how WWE has become the worldwide wrestling phenomenon that it is today. It is by this collection of standards that Lana has landed on our list. The Ravishing Russian has no end of charisma and it shows in how much the audience loves to hate her. But even getting one of WWE’s biggest crowd reactions can’t save the in-ring skills, or lack thereof, of the woman who is now married to fellow WWE Superstar Rusev. Lana has only competed in televised matches a couple of times and it was obvious why she doesn’t do so more often.
Perhaps she has the potential for improvement, if her impressive past as a break dancer is any indication. Lana, real name CJ Perry, also acted and modelled for several years before coming to WWE and was even once a member of an all-girl music group known as No Means Yes.