Names like Nathan Jones, Mordecai and Ahmed Johnson may not ring a bell to casual wrestling fans. However, these three former WWE superstars, along with plenty of others, were once seen as the future of the industry.
As WWE Superstars hang up their boots, aspiring wrestlers are hyped up as the stars of the next generation. Yet, as we've seen with the careers of the three aforementioned men (and countless others), those who receive promo packages building their debuts don't always enjoy the level of success anticipated for them. Whether it's poor timing, injuries or a lack of creative direction, some superstars are just not meant to be successful on wrestling's grandest stage of them all.
But while some wrestlers don't enjoy some success in the WWE, others continue to find success in the business on the independent scene. In some cases, being released from the WWE has revived the careers of certain superstars, causing WWE to bring them back to varying levels of success. On the other hand, many wrestlers have left the business to pursue happiness outside of wrestling.
Plenty of men and women have received plenty of buzz upon making their WWE debuts, only to have momentum pulled from under them. Curious as to where these former Superstars are now? Here's a look at 15 former superstars whose success underwhelmed their hype.
15 David Hart Smith
The son of the late British Bulldog, David Hart Smith made his WWE debut in 2007, defeating Carlito with his father's finisher, the Powerslam. Less than two weeks after his main roster debut, he was hit with a 30-day suspension for violating the WWE's wellness policy. Two years later, he would form The Hart Dynasty with his cousin, Natalya, and her now husband, Tyson Kidd. However, after the group broke up, Smith would obtain an underwhelming amount of success compared to his family members.
Now, you'll find Smith, now wrestling as Davey Boy Smith Jr., wrestling for New Japan-Pro Wrestling alongside former WWE Superstar Lance Archer, also known as Vance Archer or Lance Hoyt. At only 31 years old, Smith isn't too old to have at least one more run in the company. However, with Kidd working in a non-wrestling role, don't expect The Hart Dynasty to reunite anytime soon.
14 Gail Kim
Often regarded as one of the best women's wrestlers of the new millennium, Gail Kim wasn't always regarded as such. Making her WWE debut in June of 2003, Kim won the WWE Women's Championship on her first night on the main roster. However, her title reign was short-lived, thanks to Molly Holly. She would last on the main roster for less than a year and a half. In 2004, Kim was released and told the Women's Division was headed in a new direction, months after the Diva's Search wrapped.
Kim's star truly began to shine during her time in TNA. Her feud with Awesome Kong is regarded as one of the best women's feuds of all time. Along with Kong and the rest of the original TNA Knockouts, Kim helped revolutionize wrestling before the Women's Revolution that's being buzzed about today. The Women's Revolution didn't start with NXT; it started with Gail Kim. It's arguably why WWE brought Kim back in 2009, yet Kim returned to her home in TNA two years later.
And Kim would continue to build her legacy, being cemented as the company's first female Hall of Famer in 2016. Recently on GFW:Impact, Kim stated she is planning to retire by the end of 2017.
13 Matt Morgan
A Tough Enough reject, Matt Morgan was signed to the WWE anyway and assigned to its at-the-time developmental territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling. Briefly appearing on the main roster before returning to OVW, Morgan would eventually win the promotion's top championship. He had the opportunity to work programs with the likes of Carlito and Brock Lesnar during his main roster tenures, yet he would be released by the company in 2005.
Like many other former WWE Superstars, Morgan would also end up in TNA, where he would appear on and off for the next few years before retiring from active competition. In that time, he took up a position as a regional manager of a medical device company. In 2017, Morgan would make another return to TNA, aligning himself with Jeremy Borash.
12 Muhammad Hassan
Muhammad Hassan is a true case of unfortunate timing in the WWE. In the middle of a main event level feud with the Undertaker, an angle was booked involving masked men (resembling terrorists, nonetheless) beating up the Undertaker in Hassan's defense. This angle was pre-taped on the Fourth of July and aired on July 7, 2005, the same day as the 7/7 London bombings that were carried out by Islamic terrorists. Pressure from television networks and fans led to Hassan's character, which many felt was stereotypically Muslim, being removed from television completely. Hassan has not had a wrestling match since then and would be released from WWE in the following months.
These days, you'll likely find Muhammad Hassan working in education. A former social studies teacher, he currently works as an assistant principal for a high school in New York. He's distanced himself from wrestling, even stating that he doesn't watch it in a 2016 interview.
Taryn Terrell was one of many former Diva Search contestants who didn't win the competition but received a contract anyway. She would eventually make her debut on WWE programming as Tiffany, the Assistant General Manager of ECW. Eventually, she would be moved to the SmackDown brand and began getting more promise in the ring. Before she could reach the top of the mountain, she was reportedly suspended and then released from her WWE contract. Two years later, Terrell would make her TNA debut under her real name and have classic matches with Gail Kim.
You likely won't see Terrell in the ring anytime soon. She announced her departure from the TNA at the beginning of 2016, saying it didn't fit with her lifestyle moving forward. A born-again Christian, Terrell also recently gave birth to her second child, which she was visibly pregnant with at Gail Kim's Hall of Fame induction ceremony at TNA's Bound For Glory event last year.
10 Mordecai/Kevin Thorn
Promos hyped up Mordecai as the one to rid the world of sin. A feud between him and The Undertaker is something many fans would have dreamed of. However, Mordecai would last a mere few months on the main roster, before getting released and eventually returning to the main roster as a repackaged Kevin Thorn. Yet Kevin Thorn didn't last on the main roster for more than two years.
These days, you'll find Kevin Thorn wrestling on the independent circuit under both of his WWE gimmicks. He's also a dad and has retweeted fans on his Twitter stating that he should make a WWE comeback. He's not too old either, and in the world of WWE, anything is possible.
9 Ahmed Johnson
One of the first professional football players to be signed to WWE, Ahmed Johnson had the look to be successful. As a matter of fact, he's the first African-American to ever win a singles title in the WWE. Yet his time in the WWE wouldn't last long. Within less than three years after making his debut, Johnson was gone. Many's last memory of Johnson may be this ill-fated promo from WWF War Zone, a 1998 video game released months after his last on-screen appearance.
After his time in WWE, Johnson returned to school and received a degree in criminology. However, a WWE return is not likely for Johnson. He is one of the many wrestlers named as a part of the infamous class action lawsuit regarding concussions filed last year.
8 Nathan Jones
A former strongman competitor and MMA fighter, Nathan Jones had the natural physique that would have nearly guaranteed him the spotlight in the WWE. Yet the crowd and critics were not taking on to him, despite him working with the likes of The Undertaker, A-Train and Big Show. After taking more time to develop his skills in Ohio Valley Wrestling, he would return and be paired with Paul Heyman. He would eventually quit the company less than a year after making his televised WWE debut.
These days, Nathan Jones won't be seen in a wrestling ring. Instead, Jones has opted to pursue an acting career. His resume includes appearances in Conan the Barbarian, Charlie's Farm and A Flying Jatt.
Awesome Kong, like Gail Kim, truly made a name for herself in WWE. As a matter of fact, many consider the modern day Women's Revolution to truly have begun with their feud in the late 2000s. Eventually, Awesome Kong would sign with the WWE and make her debut as the intimidating Kharma. Yet fate had another plan for her. Weeks after her debut, Kharma announced that she was pregnant and would have to take time away from the spotlight. After having a miscarriage, Kharma made a return to the WWE at the 2012 Royal Rumble, yet would be released from her contract later that year.
Kong would eventually return to TNA as recently as 2016, when she last appeared to help induct Kim into the Hall of Fame. Kong also joined the cast of the Netflix-series, GLOW. She's lost weight since her WWE days, and her Twitter page suggests she spends a decent amount of time in Compton.
6 Vladimir Kozlov
When he first appeared on WWE programming, Vladimir Kozlov was made to appear untouchable. He easily won matches with little to no effort. He even won the Slammy Award for Breakout Star of the Year in 2008. Once Kozlov was paired with Santino Marella, it felt as if his physicality was no longer such a dominant trait of his character. While Santino and Kozlov were humorous together, he wasn't on track to be the singles star he could have been. WWE released Kozlov from his contract in 2011, and he would retire from wrestling the following year.
These days, you can find Kozlov on the big screen with a pretty awesome beard. He opened a production company, Quasar Entertainment, where he serves as the company's vice president. He has also worked as a stuntman for many Hollywood movies, including Fast & Furious 6, which starred former WWE Superstar, The Rock.
5 Místico (Original Sin Cara)
The original Sin Cara was portrayed by Místico, a world-renowned luchador who was wildly regarded as one of the best wrestlers in the world. Yet numerous injuries would stop him from becoming as large as other luchadors in the United States, such as Rey Mysterio. On top of all that, Mistico reportedly had a lot of attitude problems backstage. Reportedly, he didn't make an effort to learn English even though speaking it would have helped massively in getting him over with an American audience.
Three years after making his main roster debut, Místico was released from his WWE contract.
Místico no longer wrestles under the name which gained him fame before his WWE days. Instead, you'll find him wrestling as Carístico wrestling for CMLL in Mexico.
Maxine wasn't regarded as the best wrestler during her all-women season of NXT. However, she was seen by many as the best on the mic and the female with the most potential. After appearing on NXT Redemption and eventually making her way to the main roster, she asked for her release after waiting too long for opportunities she felt weren't going to come to her. Judging from where her career has gone so far, it seems she made the right call in pursuing other opportunities.
These opportunities would come to her at Lucha Underground, where she is known as Catrina. As Catrina, she's become one of the most popular characters of the show. She also pursues various acting and modeling gigs.
3 Chris Masters
With an overwhelming sense of charisma and a physique that many fans would only wish to have, Chris Masters had it all. His "unbreakable" Master Lock made him a serious threat in the ring, and he received WWE Championship opportunities on multiple occasions. However, he would be hit with not one, but two WWE Wellness Policy violations and was soon released in 2007. He would return to the WWE in 2009, only to be released a couple years later.
These days, Chris Masters can be found wrestling for Impact Wrestling as Chris Adonis. He also wrestles various matches on the independent circuit. He still refers to himself as the Masterpiece, and his physique (and himself) doesn't lie.
2 Mason Ryan
Mason Ryan looked like just the kind of guy that WWE would want to push. He had the look and coming out of The Nexus you just knew WWE was itching to push him. However, Ryan never had any charisma and his in-ring style just seemed like a lamer version of Batista. Ryan never ended up holding a title and was released in 2014. After a couple of years on the independent circuit, Ryan decided to try his hand in the Cirque du Soleil. Since 2016, he has been on tour with them as the character Ka, where his wrestling background has been put to good use. It's not the normal post-WWE career, but it sure is interesting.
1 Drew McIntyre
The WWE releasing Drew McIntyre was one of the biggest "What the heck?" moments in recent memory for the Internet Wrestling Community. It seemed that the former Intercontinental Champion had it all: looks, in-ring talent and charisma. After being placed in the 3MB stable, McIntyre was released alongside fellow 3MB member, Jinder Mahal.McIntyre would go on to work the independent circuit as Drew Galloway, racking up multiple championships in the process. McIntyre would also work with Impact Wrestling, where he won the company's World Heavyweight Championship.
Drew's stacked resume and in-ring skills would eventually capture the eyes of the WWE, and in 2017, it was confirmed that he had resigned with the company. Working the independent scene truly helped revitalize McIntyre's career. At this rate, a man who was once a would-be star could be on-track to be a future Hall of Famer.