WWE likes to say that the wrestling fans are the one that will decide who becomes the stars of the industry. That is both true to an extent but it can be manipulated. All major wrestling promotions have tried to push the talent they believe in by attempting to force them down the throats of the viewer. A recent instance of this would be the everlasting ascension of Roman Reigns as “the guy” that has been going down for about three to four years now. Reigns has enough of a fan base to make it work, but not all wrestlers can say the same.
There have been quite a few stories of WWE and other promotions pushing talent with the goal of this person becoming a main event fixture and it leading to failure. Fans either reject or show apathy to these wrestlers with big plans that can change the way a promotion perceives them. Some of the wrestlers flopped in a few main events while others would fall down the rankings before they could move upward. We'll take a look at fifteen wrestlers that were supposed to be main eventers based off booking plans but failed to reach that status.
15 The Great Khali
A wrestler debuting in a program with The Undertaker always showed who WWE wanted to become major players. Mankind and Kane were the two most successful wrestlers to have strong careers after starting off against the WWE legend. One of the biggest flops was The Great Khali. WWE introduced Khali by having him destroy Undertaker in his first match.
Khali getting a clean win over Undertaker and making him an unbeatable big man saw WWE try to fast track him into the main event picture as a giant of a man. A few brushes with the main event picture would see Khali flop badly. WWE realized he just didn’t have the wrestling skills to perform at a respectable level. Khali spent the majority of his time working as a lower tier comedic character.
14 Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley is currently a main eventer for the irrelevant Impact Wrestling, but the most memorable part of his career came in WWE. Vince McMahon viewed Lashley as a future Superstar that would become one of the faces of the company with John Cena. Lashley dominated the ECW brand to get established as the ECW Champion on the third brand.
A huge moment for Lashley saw him have a match against Umaga at WrestleMania representing Donald Trump against McMahon. Lashley feuded with McMahon for months after this as he continued to get booked in a major way. Things would peak there as Lashley got lost in the shuffle due to his lack of charisma and inability to outperform the more experienced star. Lashley has improved these days but missed his chance to become a top star.
13 Muhammad Hassan
WWE created the controversial character of Muhammad Hassan to push the buttons of the audience. Hassan represented Arab-Americans facing discrimination in the country. The idea was to tap into the real issue by having him go anti-American en route to become a hated heel. Hassan received the loudest boos of the night on most shows and had the potential to evolve into a great wrestler.
The failure here came more from WWE’s booking team rather than Hassan’s work. A tasteless segment called for a group of masked henchmen of Hassan to portray a terrorist group attack on The Undertaker. This taped segment aired on the same day as an actual terrorist attack making WWE look horrible. The company removed Hassan from television due to the television network being livid with them. Hassan would never get another chance on television and left the industry.
12 Matt Morgan
Matt Morgan’s career story is basically someone that always failed at being a main eventer. Both WWE and Impact Wrestling tried to make him a top star. Morgan was valued as a top prospect in WWE due to Jim Cornette hyping him up in developmental. Cornette went on the record that Morgan would be the best big man star in WWE since The Undertaker. Morgan had a mediocre run on television leading to his release.
Impact signed him when Cornette had an influential role there and once again tried to get him elevated. Morgan had a couple of major matches against Kurt Angle, A.J. Styles and a few others but would never become a legitimate main eventer. In fact, Morgan can be considered one of the biggest flops in TNA history based off the expectations and reality.
11 Paul Roma
The look of Paul Roma made him a bigger commodity in wrestling than his actual talent would show. WCW signed Roma after a mediocre run in WWE and instantly put him in the Four Horsemen faction. The goal was for fans to start to viewing him as being on the same level of Ric Flair and Arn Anderson before moving him up into a main event spot.
Roma immediately disappointed as Flair and Anderson both despised working with him. The lack of dedication and commitment proved Roma would never be a star according to the two legends that worked with him. WCW would remove Roma from the Horsemen and had him work in lower tier matches for the remainder of his career. It was considered an all-time horrible signing by WCW.
10 Mr. Kennedy
WWE gave Mr. Kennedy one of the better pushes of the 2000s. Kennedy instantly became a relevant wrestler on the main roster by getting victories over the likes of Booker T, Eddie Guerrero and a couple of other former World Champions. A feud with The Undertaker added more credibility to the young man as he moved up the rankings slowly.
Kennedy winning the Money in the Bank was supposed to lead to his crowning moment as a future World Champion, but he suffered an injury forcing him to lose the title shot. WWE had another major plan to make him a main eventer by revealing him as the illegitimate son of Vince McMahon. A violation of the Wellness Policy led to his suspension ending another chance. Kennedy would never get another main event shot and spent the majority of his career floundering in Impact Wrestling.
The career of Heidenreich is often forgotten by WWE fans but he was meant to have a major push. Most people remember him for the bizarre introduction stalking broadcaster Michael Cole. Heidenreich however had an even bigger push entering a feud with The Undertaker. As mentioned earlier, any relatively new wrestler feuding with Undertaker meant WWE had big plans for him.
Heidenreich actually cost Undertaker the WWE Championship in a PPV main event to start the feud. Undertaker would get the better of Heidenreich who looked out of place attempting to keep up with the legendary wrestler. Heidenreich fell apart shortly after the Undertaker program struggling to find a role. WWE placed him with Animal to form a new version of Legion of Doom. This was another horrible idea that basically ended his career in WWE as he’d never recover.
Carlito had a world of hype entering the WWE as a second generation wrestler. The company loved his potential as a very athletic and charismatic young prospect. Carlito had enough confidence in him from WWE to defeat John Cena for the United States Championship on his first night on the main roster. It showed that Carlito was supposed to be a big deal.
WWE clearly wanted him to become a fixture in the main event scene but glaring issues backstage hurt him. Legendary veterans like Ric Flair and Triple H called out Carlito in media appearances for not having the desire to be a success in wrestling. Carlito developed the reputation for being lazy and unmotivated. It doomed him as he fell lower down the card until getting released after failing a drug test and refusing to go to rehab.
7 Chris Masters
Chris Masters was the former tag team partner of Carlito and had a similar career to his friend. The youth and physique of Masters made him the top prospect in WWE for some time. Masters debuted with the Masterpiece gimmick utilizing his look to get heat. WWE went with a slow burn approach of having him place weaker wrestlers and planted fans in his Masterlock finisher as they were unable to get out.
At one point, Masters entered a feud with Shawn Michaels to help elevate him into a bigger role. Michaels got a good match out of him, but the fans just didn’t buy Masters as being an upper level performer. Masters violated the Wellness Policy shortly after to end his chances of getting another shot at the main event. WWE viewed him as disappointing in the ring and behind the scenes leading to his release.
6 Nathan Jones
Another big man to get pushed early on before flopping in WWE was Nathan Jones. The Australian wrestler was one of the most physically imposing wrestlers ever. WWE loves when their wrestlers look like the last person you’d want to meet in a fight and Jones represented that perfectly. Jones was introduced to the WWE world as a partner of The Undertaker.
The original plan for WrestleMania XIX was to have Undertaker and Jones win their tag team match against Big Show and A-Train. A young newcomer getting team with Undertaker at WrestleMania after his undefeated streak became part of the show was huge. WWE however changed their minds and Jones was taken out allowing Undertaker to win the handicap match. Jones failed to impress during his WWE tenure leading to the company giving up on him faster than anyone expected.
5 Sin Cara
The early plans for Sin Cara are often forgotten, but he was supposed to become a huge star for WWE. Triple H made one of his first international signings to have Mexican star Mistico play the masked Sin Cara character. WWE introduced him with weeks of months of hype and a press conference to add importance to his eventual debut.
Sin Cara’s first appearance on WWE television saw him getting the better of former WWE Champion Sheamus. Unfortunately, Mistico struggled to learn the WWE style of wrestling on the fly as he spent no time in developmental. Consistent botches and injuries hurt his career as WWE eventually fired him and gave the character to Hunico. The character still exists on WWE television today as a lower card act.
4 Lord Tensai
Matt Bloom is the current head trainer of NXT running the Performance Center and helping teach the new signees how to adapt to the world of WWE. Most fans however remember him for his in-ring days under various names such as Albert, A-Train and Lord Tensai. The name Lord Tensai came when he re-signed with WWE after a long stint in Japan becoming a top star over there.
WWE wanted to make Tensai a top heel for the company by trying to tap into his Japanese career. Tensai even scored an extremely rare clean victory over John Cena at one point to become a credible guy right away. Fans however didn’t buy into it and he didn’t have much character work to convince them otherwise. Tensai turned into a comedic character in the Tons of Funk dancing team with Brodus Clay. Despite not becoming a main eventer, the move worked out great for Tensai now succeeding in WWE behind the scenes.
3 Ted DiBiase Jr.
The success of Ted DiBiase in WWE saw the company give a shot to his talented son Ted DiBiase Jr. One of the major moments of his career came in a few months when he and Cody Rhodes joined established top star Randy Orton to form Legacy. DiBiase Jr. was viewed as a bigger prospect than Rhodes and WWE hoped to elevate him into the main event picture.
It was no coincidence that he was the one that started standing up to Orton more so than Rhodes did. A rumor floated around that the long term plan for DiBiase Jr. was to be the man that ended The Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak. The goal from it would have been DiBiase Jr. becoming the top heel in the company. Things changed as DiBiase Jr. flopped as a singles star playing a poor version of his dad’s character leading to a release faster than anyone expected.
2 Ahmed Johnson
90s fans will remember the push Ahmed Johnson received as a rising face in WWE. Vince McMahon loved the look of Johnson as one of the most jacked wrestlers in the business and wanted to make him a future face of the company. Johnson was positioned as a friend of then top babyface Shawn Michaels as an attempt to try to make Michaels’ fans view Ahmed as a beloved wrestler as well.
The bad news for WWE was that Johnson struggled in just about every facet of wrestling. Johnson was below average in the ring and unable to cut a coherent promo on the microphone. There are viral videos online today trying to transcribe his words. WWE cooled down on Johnson’s push and an injury basically ended any chance of another main event opportunity.
The push of Ryback was one of the most obvious instances of WWE trying to make someone a main eventer. Ryback basically received the similar introduction as Goldberg did in WCW by winning every match with dominance in a matter of minutes. Fans refused to accept him as a main eventer and chanted “Goldberg” most weeks.
Ryback had a short stint in the main event picture losing matches to CM Punk and John Cena before falling down the card. Regardless of if he was a face or heel character, Ryback could never step up to the role WWE wanted out of him. The final few years of his career saw him work in the mid-card picture until his contract expired last year. Ryback now spends his time complaining about WWE never using him right on a podcast despite the company pushing him to the moon.