Although the WWE may have been the be-all and end-all of Sports Entertainment once upon a time, that certainly isn’t the case anymore in 2017. With promotions such as New Japan Pro Wrestling and Ring Of Honor continuously growing their global presence with an abundance of recognizable stars, the WWE no longer represents every wrestler’s dream of “making it big” in the business anymore. If anything, the WWE is beginning to show a dependence on convincing “Indy” stars to join their promotion in order to attract the ever-so-quickly evolving wrestling fans who demand to see real talent instead of over-the-top stories.
It’s clear that the WWE’s Creative team is quite literally “out of touch” when it comes to pleasing their audience, and often times the company completely misses the boat on certain talents (whether it be due to terrible booking, poorly thought out gimmicks, holding talent back, etc…) There has never been a time in history when WWE’s talents were as vocally opinionated as they are now about their positions, and it’s becoming a trend for misused and mistreated performers to step outside the WWE circle in order to find success on the Indies, where they are able to express themselves and control their futures unlike the WWE’s performers who are kept on extremely tight leashes. Some will eventually follow in the footsteps of misused wrestlers such as Cody Rhodes, who has arguably become one of pro-wrestling’s biggest names today.
Stay tuned, as this list divulges 15 wrestlers who prove the WWE is a bad place to work.
15. Luke Gallows And Karl Anderson
When Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson had originally made their debut back in April last year (2016), it looked as if the “skies were the limit” for the former Bullet Club members. They looked as dominant as ever annihilating The Usos in their first appearance, and I’d say most fans expected them to fully take over WWE’s Tag Team Division with ease. However, fast forward a year and a half, and Luke Gallows/Karl Anderson couldn’t be any further from relevancy.
Booked absolutely horrendously for much of their run in WWE so far, the talented duo has quickly become a complete and utter afterthought in the grand scheme of things. There’s no reason for them not to be the top stars of the Tag Team division. Gallows and Anderson are perfect examples of WWE watering down (and literally ruining) talented and over stars from other promotions.
14. Dave Bautista
Could the WWE have gotten Batista’s 2014 run any more wrong? Right from the start, WWE chose to go the wrong route with the returning Animal, as he returned a babyface – something Batista knew would fail. In interviews following his departure, Batista made it very clear that he was totally against returning as a babyface, because he believed the fans would hate it, and because he’s way more confident as a heel. However, the WWE refused to reason with Batista (thus proving their reputation of being difficult to work with), and they went ahead with babyface Batista.
Fairly recently, Batista had made it known that he would’ve been interested in working a retirement angle with Triple H for WrestleMania 34, yet the WWE decided against it in favour of other storylines (none of which would’ve been better in my books).
13. Daniel Bryan
Despite the fact that Daniel Bryan has a solid position within the WWE as SmackDown’s General Manager, it’s clear that Bryan has one thing and one thing only on his mind – to wrestle again. Up to this point, the WWE has refused to clear Daniel for a return, and though he’s definitely more prone to concussions than other performers, I believe the WWE are playing it extra safe with Bryan on purpose.
I’m almost certain Vince doesn’t want Daniel Bryan recapturing the spotlight as the flagship star considering all the effort he’s put into solidifying Roman as “the” guy the past few years, and he certainly doesn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. I believe Daniel Bryan will wrestle again, just not in the WWE. Bryan has been forced into his current limited role due to the fact that Vince likes total control of his company.
Now I’m sure some of you may not look at “The Big Guy” Ryback in the greatest light following his WWE departure due to his constant media meltdowns and undeniable bitterness, but the fact remains that Ryback is yet another example of proving the WWE is a bad place to work.
The Big Guy was quickly dropped from the main event scene starting around early 2014, and he never regained his lost momentum up until his departure from the company in May 2016. Perhaps Ryback was never the greatest wrestler (though he improved tremendously towards the end of his run), but his horrendous booking and start-stop pushes completely killed any chance of The Big Guy rising once again to the top of the card. Completely WWE’s fault, and a total missed opportunity.
11. Nia Jax
Nia Jax has all the tools required to be a top Women’s Division wrestler, though the WWE has continued to misuse the talented Samoan, almost to the point of Nia quitting out of frustration. Although some believe Nia Jax’s sudden leave a while back was a little selfish considering she has quite a bit of leverage (being the cousin of The Rock), but how could we knock her for standing up to WWE’s terrible booking?
If anything, we should applaud Nia for actually caring about her future, and not just going with whatever the WWE sends her way. Without a doubt, Nia Jax deserves to be Women’s Champion, and I truly believe it would be a breath of fresh air in the relatively stagnant division. It’s not arguable that the WWE is a tough company to work with due to its poorly run upper management, and Nia Jax’s underwhelming booking is a reflection of that.
One of the most shocking and news-worthy WWE stories so far this year has been the release of the highly underrated (and very talented) Emma. Saddled down with terrible booking, little direction and sparse screen-time, Emma has definitely been mistreated by the WWE. As I’m sure most of you know by now, it was reported that Emma wasn’t able to pull off her “Emmalina” gimmick to the degree the company wanted and so it was dropped.
Her last match against Asuka at TLC showcased Emma’s talent and potential, yet she was shockingly released just days later. With how thin the Women’s Divisions are on both Raw and SmackDown, it makes no sense why Emma of all people was released. Emma tried to succeed with what she was given, but the WWE’s upper management obviously saw no potential in her whatsoever.
9. Dolph Ziggler
Poor Dolph Ziggler. What more could really be said about “The Showoff”? Without question, Dolph Ziggler is one of the WWE’s most talented performers, yet he’s been treated like a low-card nobody for much of the last three years. At one point, it was reported that Vince McMahon lacked faith in Ziggler as a performer, and this is obviously the root cause of why he’s been booked so atrociously.
However, when Dolph was given the opportunity to shine (his World Championship runs), he proved that he was more than capable of hanging with the company’s top stars (remember the pop he received following his MITB cash-in on Albert Del Rio?) That said, at this point, Dolph Ziggler is 100% dead in the water, and his future in the WWE is not bright. Had Ziggler opted out of resigning with the company a couple years ago, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t have become a top Indy wrestler.
8. Scott Steiner
If there’s one former disgruntled employee who can boast that they hate the WWE the most, then look no further than “Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner. Without question, Scott Steiner is one of the most outspoken wrestlers of all time, and he has ranted about the WWE on far too many occasions to count. When asked about his WWE run back in the early 2000’s, Scott has made it abundantly clear that the reason behind his lack of success in the company stemmed from backstage politics.
The main culprit Steiner blames this on is of course Triple H, and he truly believes that since Hunter married into the McMahon Family, the only wrestlers that succeed are those who Triple H likes and has a relationship with. Scott Steiner had potential back in the day, but the WWE’s backstage politics got the better of “The Genetic Freak”.
Without question, Rusev is one of the most misused and mistreated WWE Superstars of all time. “The Bulgarian Brute” has all the tools necessary to be a dominant force to be reckoned with, yet the WWE continues to book Rusev as a complete and utter afterthought. All this despite being on “The Land Of Opportunity” SmackDown Live.
With relatively untalented wrestlers such as Jinder Mahal (Rusev’s former buddy) getting the opportunity to shine, it truly makes no sense why Rusev, one of the company’s most talented and loyal individuals is being squandered. Instead of giving Rusev the WWE Championship match he demanded, Rusev was embarrassingly defeated by Randy Orton at SummerSlam in just seconds, and then defeated again by Orton at HIAC. Rusev is a perfect example of a main event caliber star being completely buried by the WWE on multiple occasions for literally no reason.
6. Austin Aries
In my opinion, one of the most shocking WWE departures in recent memory was undoubtedly Austin Aries. Bringing relevance to the dying Cruiserweight Division, Austin Aries was exactly what the WWE needed to draw interest to 205 Live. However, Austin never captured the CW Title, lost multiple times to Neville, and the company never booked Aries like the “saving grace” he should have been to the division.
Austin Aries could have been a star on either 205 Live or the main roster, yet the WWE squandered him away to the point of Aries being released. Though Austin Aries made it clear that he wasn’t the easiest person to deal with during his short WWE run, the fact remains that the company should have utilized Aries much more effectively (look at Enzo Amore, the guy’s booked as the top Cruiserweight despite having colossal heat backstage).
Although Sunny has been a controversial wrestling figure following her departure from WWE due to substance abuse (among other things), she can still make the argument against the WWE that they haven’t treated her very well. Sunny has made it very clear that the WWE doesn’t pay her bills, and she has had to resort to rather desperate measures in order to pay her bills including becoming an internet sensation for less than wholesome reasons.
Though they’ve helped Sunny in the past in regards to rehab, they should have done more. Now it’s clear that the WWE can’t be blamed entirely for former wrestlers turning to substance abuse, but considering the likes of Sunny, Scott Hall and Jake Roberts have all had troubling times following their departure from WWE, the company should make it a bigger priority to get them the help they need.
Neville is currently in a bit of a struggle against the WWE. It was reported last month that Neville was unhappy about his position within the company and that he wanted to quit, yet Neville is still under contract and the WWE have publicly stated that they’re trying to bring the former Cruiserweight Champion back.
With Enzo Amore dominating the division currently as the Champion, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that Neville would be upset about the whole situation – not to mention losing to Enzo. Many fans considered it to have been a “slap in the face” to all of Neville’s hard work, bringing relevance to 205 Live when Amore of all people defeated him, and his frustration is justified. The WWE aren’t allowing Neville to quit, and I’m pretty sure Vince is quite simply making an example out of Neville in order to scare other employees from attempting to do the same thing.
3. Jeff Jarrett
Although Jeff Jarrett has an ego the size of the Titanic, the fact remains that Vince McMahon and the WWE were very spiteful towards Jeff back when WCW was being folded into the WWE – Vince fired Jeff on WCW’s last episode of Monday Nitro before there was even a chance for Jarrett to set foot back inside a WWE ring. It’s clear that Vince McMahon and Jeff Jarrett despise one another.
Perhaps Jeff shouldn’t have ever been a main-eventer, but he still could have added some value to the WWE as a mid-card level performer – vying for the Intercontinental Championship like he did during his initial run in WWE. Vince never looked at Jarrett as a main event level talent, and though Jeff was incredibly off-base by thinking that he deserved to be featured in a top spot, things definitely could’ve been handled better (especially on WWE’s part).
2. Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes is undoubtedly the biggest success story following a WWE departure in recent memory. Previously saddled down with the extremely underwhelming “Stardust” gimmick, Cody was unable to convince the higher-ups of WWE to let him return to his original Cody Rhodes character. It was obvious that there was a low ceiling for Cody as Stardust, and the fact that the WWE weren’t willing to allow Rhodes any creative freedom is appalling.
Frustrated, Cody Rhodes ended up making the best decision of his entire life – to leave the WWE on his own terms. Since then, Cody has regained his lost momentum, and he’s currently regarded as being one of the top wrestlers in the world today and the current ROH World Champion. Able to travel the globe and control his destiny, Cody Rhodes is enjoying the highest point in his wrestling career.
1. CM Punk
CM Punk was the type of talent that doesn’t come around too often – great on the mic, great in the ring, has presence, got over, the list goes on and on. For a while the WWE ran with Punk being a top guy, as he had a very lengthy WWE Championship run between November 2011 and January 2013. However, as 2014 rolled around, CM Punk was pushed to the sidelines and out of the spotlight – something that obviously didn’t sit well with him.
He would go on to leave the company in January 2014, and one of the reasons behind his leave was due to the fact that he had little creative freedom and bad working conditions. At the time, Punk wasn’t in the greatest health either, and blamed WWE doctors for being negligent. Of course there’s always two sides to a story, but the WWE has built a firm reputation of being very difficult to deal with – also, firing Punk on his wedding day was definitely the last straw.
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