Stone Cold Steve Austin. Hulk Hogan. The Rock. We all remember names like these that made countless millions of dollars for the pro wrestling business. However the performers that are a lot more common than these cash cows are those that just don’t pan out at all. Superstars that are pushed to the moon and promised the world, but for one reason or another, the grand vision WWE or WCW or whatever company they found themselves within just doesn’t come to fruition. As you’ll see from the coming list the mid 2000s were a boom period for this sort of thing, but believe me, Superstars not drawing money are certainly not limited to that one moment in time.
It can be any number of things that lead to a wrestler falling flat on his or her face, despite being given all the tools they need to make it. Normally, something as simple as the fans not being on board or the talent in question not being able to produce what the company saw within them when under the spotlight. Some of the stars in this following list really were given everything and more in order to try and make it. Whether it’s battling The Undertaker, being thrust in the title picture, or even going unbeaten for almost a year! Some of these names you’ll remember and some of them you probably won’t, but what they all have in common is that none of them came anywhere near to reaching the lofty summits that the powers that be expected from them.
15. Mr. Kennedy
Another entry on the list that failed to grab the brass ring during their time in WWE but found greater success upon moving to TNA. Mr. Kennedy, or Mr Anderson as he was known in TNA before his release last year. It wasn’t for lack of trying on WWE’s part when it came to pushing Kennedy. In fact, at WrestleMania 23, the once United States Champion won the much coveted Money in the Bank ladder match.
Kennedy announced his intention to keep hold of the briefcase until WrestleMania XXIV the following year, however, his grasp on it would falter far before then. WWE obviously realized that Kennedy was not a popular choice to be Mr Money in the Bank as he lost the opportunity to Edge long before he could make good on his promise.
14. The Spirit Squad
Don’t let their brief re-introduction to WWE TV fool you. The Spirit Squad were not a popular and successful group back during their original run. Yes, the quintet may have momentarily held gold (the RAW Tag Team Championships) during their time in WWE, but that should not warrant fond memories. Whichever member of creative that believed a faction made up of male cheerleaders would be a good idea must have been left kicking themselves soon after.
Those of you not familiar with the Spirit Squad may not know that it was not a complete flop. In fact, SmackDown Live’s Dolph Ziggler began his on-screen career as part of the failed group. Unsurprisingly, he was the only one who managed to rise from the Spirit Squad’s ashes and forge a WWE career.
13. Jesse and Festus
Speaking of superstars who have managed to succeed in WWE despite previous gimmicks, enter Jesse and Festus. Well, just Festus. It’s almost unbelievable that the one-half of the now RAW Tag Team Champions Luke Gallows actually began his WWE career as the mindless Festus.
Festus’s gimmick was that the big man was effectively brain dead and Jesse was his ‘keeper’. All until the bell rang. Once Festus heard the ring bell, he would fly into a blind rage and only return to his original state once he was victorious and heard the bell ring for a second time. A pretty non-PC character to portray on TV that thankfully met its end once Festus met his match in The Undertaker.
12. The J.O.B. Squad
Fair to say that some names featured on this list should have probably been merely enhancement talent, or ‘jobbers’ as they are more commonly known. Well, during the Attitude Era, one group of wrestlers attempted to make a gimmick out of being just that. The J.O.B. squad was made up of Al Snow, Bob Holly, Scorpio and later on Gillberg.
Yes, a couple of those names went on to have semi-successful careers in WWE but as a faction, things did not work out. An argument could be made that The J.O.B. Squad actually achieved exactly what they set out to do, and that’s job to other wrestlers. Nevertheless, the group didn’t exactly make much money for themselves or the company during their time together.
11. Kevin Nash
Hear me out on this one! I know that Nash is a Hall of Famer and a bonafide wrestling legend at this point. However, Big Sexy has the somewhat unflattering moniker of the worst drawing WWE champion of all time. Nash won his one and only WWE championship during his Diesel gimmick, famously defeating Bob Backlund for the belt in an impressive eight seconds.
Despite the limited drawing power, Nash kept the gold for a full year. Clearly his lack of success as the face of the company didn’t harm him much, as Kevin still went on to have a great career in both WWE and WCW. However, there is no running from that ‘poorest ever’ label.
Most of you that were fans of WWE during the Attitude Era will remember The Undertaker led faction, The Ministry of Darkness. Less of you may remember that Mideon was a member of said faction. As part of the Ministry, Mideon even became European Champion. Well, he found the belt in Shane McMahon’s bag and stole it but more or less the same thing, right?
Mideon’s forgettable stint in WWE gets worse. For some reason, some bright spark thought making him ‘Naked Mideon’ would boost his chance of success. Yes, you read that correctly. The final gimmick Mideon portrayed before leaving WWE forever was a near-naked version of the one that had already proved to be a flop. All he wore to the ring was a thong, a fanny pack and a pair of boots. Oh dear.
TNA fans will know Kharma as her more successful persona Awesome Kong. What some fans may not know however is that in between her two stints with the company, she had a far less prominent run under the name Kharma in WWE. Kia Stevens, as she is known outside of the ring, made the move to WWE in 2011. Fans of the current product may question why exactly Stevens didn’t flourish on the big stage. In all fairness, it’s probably not due to any fault of her own.
The simple reason being that she arrived in WWE just a few years too early. If Kharma was unleashed on the women’s division now, she would run rough shot, much like Nia Jax is about to do on RAW. Back in 2011, there simply wasn’t much competition on the female side of things for Kia to make a name for herself.
8. Jack Swagger
Where is Jack Swagger at the moment? And perhaps more importantly, does anyone really care where Jack Swagger is at the moment? Well, it turns out the former Real American was actually released by WWE this week. Not surprising really, as I struggle to think of a former World Champion that has done less, yet managed to maintain a spot on the WWE roster for this long. Moving the All American from RAW to SmackDown Live not long after the initial draft in 2016 probably filled Swagger with hope.
A place on the blue side of WWE, where formerly overlooked talents were and still are being given opportunities they hadn’t been afforded before. No such opportunities were afforded to poor Jack, though. He now finds himself without a job and although this may sound a little harsh, it really has been a long time coming.
Not many people have ditched the WWE and gone on to bigger and better things. Especially since WWE became far and away the biggest wrestling company on the planet. Well, Cody Rhodes is bucking that trend. During his time with WWE, Rhodes was given poor gimmick after another. The final nail in the coffin being Stardust. Cody did all he could to make his Stardust moniker a success but he was really fighting the tide.
There’s no doubt that Rhodes has the in-ring ability as he’s proving on the Indy circuit right now, but WWE simply never gave him the chance to be himself. The one time Stardust looked like he may generate some momentum, but for some unknown reason, WWE pumped the brakes. A showdown with his brother Goldust that looked destined for WrestleMania just never came to fruition. A real waste.
6. Jeff Jarrett
Good old Double J, Jeff Jarrett. A man with professional wrestling coursing through his veins. As a son of a promoter, it was always going to be a given that Jarrett would have a knack for that side of the business himself. That is unquestionable. Jeff has done great things working with TNA and running his own company, Global Force Wrestling.
Being behind the scenes wasn’t enough for Jarrett though. During the 90s, Jeff tried his hand at some in-ring activity. It didn’t really go as well as JJ may have envisioned it. Yes, he did manage an Intercontinental Championship run while he was wrestling for WWE, but unfortunately, that title run was as unsuccessful as the rest of his time between the ropes. He would go on to dominate for years to come in WCW and TNA, but as the late Mike Graham said: “he broke 6000 guitars and never drew a dime”.
5. Essa Rios
A young luchador from Mexico at a time in American pro wrestling when high fliers were beginning to get a spotlight, you’d have thought Essa Rios may have had more success in WWE. No such luck for the Mexican. Rios made his full debut in WWE in February of the year 2000, capturing the Light Heavyweight Championship in the process. That would be the only high point of Essa’s time with the company.
In fact, just a year later, he found himself already accepting bookings elsewhere. His twelve months with the company did see him feud with The Hardy Boyz, as well as an extremely short program with Kurt Angle. In fact, even though you may have forgotten Essa Rios, we do have one thing to thank him for. His mistreatment of Lita is what drove her into the arms of the Hardyz, launching her to a Hall of Fame worthy career.
4. The Great Khali
Speaking of undeserving World Champions, enter The Great Khali. There is a loophole in this one, and method to the madness of putting the big gold belt around the waist of Khali. The seven-foot-one tall behemoth is tremendously popular in India, being an Indian himself, and at the time WWE were understandably trying to break in to new markets. In parts of the world more familiar with WWE’s product however, the push of The Great Khali was not a popular one.
So many head scratching moments spring to mind when it comes to Khali, most noticeably his squashing of The Undertaker (he pinned him with his foot!). Then you have ‘The Punjabi prison’ match against Batista, and of course, his portrayal as ‘The Punjabi Playboy’. Just a streak of bad decisions when it came to The Great Khali.
3. Vladimir Kozlov
If you read off a list of what Vladimir Kozlov accomplished during his time with WWE, you’d be mistaken into believing the man was an absolute star. For those who watched his run, we are more in tune to the fact that it was simply WWE attempting to create a star, and failing. Kozlov did battle with the likes of Triple H, Jeff Hardy, and Shawn Michaels. In fact, he was one match away from getting the chance to face The Undertaker at WrestleMania.
He also went the first ten months of his on-screen career without being pinned in singles competition. How one man can have all that yet still not become a draw for the company is a mystery. Once Kozlov had been defeated, the stock he had attained began to dwindle. He was drafted to ECW, then became a comedy act with Santino Marella, before finally being released in 2011.
Who remembers Heidenreich? Don’t be upset if you don’t. His run with WWE was not a particularly memorable one. Surprising really, considering the former football player was actually a Paul Heyman guy for part of his career. Those of you who do remember Heidenreich most likely remember him for his feud with The Undertaker. Upon writing this list, I’m actually starting to realize how much dead weight Undertaker had to work with during the mid-2000s.
Much like Koslov, Heidenreich was another superstar WWE had pigeon holed to face The Deadman at WrestleMania. Once again, their lofty visions did not pan out. Heidenreich was not a success and like so many others before him on this list, gradually slipped down the roster before disappearing into obscurity.
1. Bobby Lashley
The MMA fighter may have since made a name for himself in TNA, but Lashley simply couldn’t find his niche in WWE. Bobby certainly had his moments under the banner of the biggest game in town, but didn’t come close to reaching the potential that Vince McMahon and others saw in him. The highlight of his time with WWE came when Lashley won the ECW Championship.
However, that did come during WWE’s failed reboot of the hardcore brand that itself could appear on this list. After being drafted from ECW to RAW, Lashley briefly chased the WWE title before being sidelined through injury. The former ECW champ was released during that time on the shelf and left with little more than a whimper.
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