One of the things that makes the WWE so special is their ability create characters. Some of the most iconic figures in WWE history have gone on to become household names. In fact, one of the things most respected about Vince McMahon himself is the genius promoter and marketer he is.
But, the WWE doesn’t hit a home run every time. There are a number of cases where the company had visions that an incoming talent was going to become a huge star. The WWE put the full weight of their promotional power behind them and did everything they could to make the WWE Universe believe, this talent was the next “big” talent. In many cases, it didn’t come to fruition. Some of those talents weren’t big successes at all — they were utter failures.
In the defense of the WWE, some of these talents did become big stars. They became rock stars in a short period of time. Alas, the WWE couldn’t figure out how to maintain the momentum they’d built and the once brightly shining light fizzled.
Below is a list of 15 WWE Superstars the company pushed to the moon and then wasted. Most of these entries are former stars, but some are still employed by the company and at a crossroads. There is still time to save these talents, but it might take some time to get them back on track.
Who did we miss? Share with your friends and add your own entries in the comments section. There’s no possible way we got everyone.
When Rusev debuted at the Royal Rumble, he was a relative unknown coming from NXT. It took four people to eliminate him. As the months progressed it was clear he was a monster and his partnership with Lana was going to make for one of the most formidable duos on television. He beat everyone and he did so easily (he “crushed” them). That is until he met up with John Cena at WrestleMania 31.
All the promotion and the entire push Rusev received appeared to be to build him up to the point that Cena’s victory over him would look more impressive. Instead of capitalizing (which the WWE could have done even with a Rusev loss) he shot down the depth charts and into mid-card status. He wound up feuding as part of a faction or with guys like Enzo Amore over Lana. It was a direction that didn’t do him any favors and today, he’s yet to bounce back on SmackDown Live and Lana is trying to do her own thing as a wrestler.
14. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
Can you think of a superstar that was dropped faster than Ricky Steamboat was? Neither can I. Steamboat was one of the best wrestlers in the world and he had the match of a generation at WrestleMania III with Randy Savage after a feud that was off the charts good between the two. He held the title for a few months (remember titles were not defended every week) and dropped the strap to the Honky Tonk Man because Steamboat had asked for a little time off to be with his wife for the birth of his child.
Instead of granting the time off, the WWE gave the belt to the Honky Tonk Man and he held it longer than anyone. Steamboat disappeared, eventually going to WCW where he had classic feuds with wrestlers like Ric Flair. The WWE built Steamboat up to being one of the biggest babyfaces in the WWE, had him battle for the Intercontinental title in a classic and then just sent him packing.
13. The Shield
The most dominant faction in the WWE in last decade beat everyone. They started as guns for hire and moved on to become the most cheered threesome in the WWE. The WWE treated them as if they were unstoppable and they could have been. But, too trigger happy to break them up, the WWE decided to split them into singles wrestlers and kill one of the greatest factions going.
If they could do it again, the might not. Dean Ambrose has struggled to remain important, Seth Rollins has battled injuries and flopped back and forth between heel and face with no really notable feuds and Roman Reigns is the biggest tweener in the business because the WWE made him the obvious next guy in line for a big push (which fans rejected). It was a mistake to break them up so soon. They hadn’t reached their pinnacle as a group and it’s hurt their singles careers.
12. Bray Wyatt
Thinking about what Bray Wyatt could have been and then realizing what he turned into, is one of those times that it’s painful to be a wrestling fan. Wyatt (and by association, the Wyatt Family) was among the coolest gimmicks to come across a WWE screen in a while. The company knew it too. They made them a monster group with Bray Wyatt as the leader and he destroyed almost everyone he came into contact with, including a surprising victory over a budding superstar in Daniel Bryan. Then, like other wrestlers do, he ran into John Cena.
When he lost clean to Cena, he was no longer unstoppable. He was like everyone else and the one thing that you can’t do with a character like Wyatt’s is to make him like everyone else. Concerned they’d done so, the WWE went too far the other way and made Wyatt hokey. He’s become the WWE’s most glorified jobber, but despite that, he’s still way over with the fans. It’s not too late, but time is fading quickly if the WWE doesn’t correct their mistake.
For a bunch of reasons we may never fully comprehend, it took over 20 years to get Sting into a WWE ring. Finally, once he and the WWE started working on the WWE video game, the partnership developed and Sting was hired to become an in-ring talent. It wasn’t necessarily going to be a long deal, but one that could finally give Sting the opportunity he deserved — to be in a match with the WWE and at WrestleMania.
Instead of setting him up to be in a feud that made sense, the WWE stuck him with Triple H and made a mockery of their bout by including the NWO and DX in a teaming that really wasn’t logical. To make matters worse, Triple H pinned Sting in his first ever WWE bout. They had no use for him after that until he ran into Seth Rollins and was permanently injured and forced to retire. It was a sad ending to a push that was 20 years in the making.
10. Braun Strowman
We included Strowman here, but in doing so are putting a big asterisk beside his entry. There is still plenty of time for the WWE to do the right thing and make one of the biggest monsters in the WWE a real star. Having him lose clean to Roman Reigns was strike one. If it happens again at the Great Balls of Fire pay per view, that will be strike two.
When Strowman separated from the Wyatt’s and went to Raw, he was in line for the push of the decade. Like the machine that the WWE has used countless times to push monster heel characters, the company did everything they normally do to make him a bonafide weapon, capable of destroying anything. But, before he could really grow, he lost to Reigns clean on a nothing pay per view. The WWE did the right thing by virtually ignoring what that loss meant and he came back to destroy more people, but the blip on the radar seems to be a trend in the WWE. Hopefully, they figure out how to keep Strowman at the top of the company’s relevancy list.
When the WWE was waiting for WCW’s stars who had big name recognition and expiring contracts to become available, DDP was one of the first in that group. In a series of vignette’s targeting the Undertaker’s wife, a masked man was stalking and terrorizing her in an effort to rattle Taker. It was one of the most anticipated reveals in the WWE in years. When it turned out to be DDP, it was shocking.
Then, the WWE destroyed him. They had him start out by wrestling arguably the biggest star in the company, he got manhandled and he became a mock character for the rest of his time in the company. He was used as a motivational guru of sorts and never amounted to much before he left. It was grossly missed opportunity and it was a pattern for former WCW wrestlers in the WWE after WCW folded.
8. Muhammad Hassan
This is a tricky one because the WWE clearly needed to distance themselves from the Muhammad Hassan character. The company had gone way overboard with a terrorism gimmick that got UPN so upset they stepped in a told the WWE to ditch the character or face major network consequences. That said, Hassan had real heat and the wrestler who played him would up quitting and retiring from wrestling.
He and Daivari (the wrestler who played his manager) were both demoted and eventually, Mark Copani (the man who played the Hassan character) quit when he was no longer allowed to use the gimmick. When he debuted, he was a pretty good wrestler, he knew how to get heat and he was immediately made into the company’s top heel. The WWE could have found a way to salvage his push and reinvent his character, but they just abandoned it instead.
For more than four months the WWE Universe was subjected to vignettes of a soon to be debuting Emmalina. Emmalina was Emma of the WWE, but after a lengthy absence was returning and ready to knock our socks off as a stunning beauty whose sexiness was simply too much for anyone to handle. It was reminiscent of when Lex Luger first appeared in the WWE as “The Narcissist” Lex Luger. If followed through on, it could have been interesting.
Instead, Emmalina debuted and less than 20 seconds later told everyone on Raw that she was gonzo and Emmalina was never to return. This was probably the biggest push the WWE ever did for a wrestler who never once wrestled. She didn’t do anything more than show up and tell everyone who’d watched her for months she would come back later as the character we already knew.
6. Jack Swagger
Within four months of his debut in the WWE’s version of ECW, Jack Swagger challenged Matt Hardy for the ECW Championship and won. He held the title for over 100 days and was sent to Raw where his push continued. Not long after, he won the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania XXVI. A month later he cashed in, defeating Chris Jericho to win the World Heavyweight Championship, just over a year after his debut.
Almost as quickly as he rose to the top, he came crashing back down. In June 2010 he lost the title to Rey Mysterio and then was removed from the title picture beating only guys like Chris Master, MVP and Kaval. He never again got anywhere near his potential and eventually asked for and was granted his release early in 2017.
5. “Macho Man” Randy Savage
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, there may not have been a bigger star than Randy Savage. He dominated the Intercontinental Title picture and eventually moved on to win the WWE Title at WrestleMania IV. He wound up teaming with Hulk Hogan to form the Mega-Powers and then feuded with Hogan until WrestleMania V as the top heel in the company.
Savage stayed relevant for a while, but Vince McMahon decided that he wanted to go in a direction of youth and forced Savage to job to the Ultimate Warrior in a retirement match. They also turned Savage into a ringside commentator (which Savage hated). Eventually, he couldn’t take it and moved onto WCW. Savage had one of the greatest careers in the WWE and they jobbed him out of his spot and sent him packing. Many say it was due to a backstage relationship with Stephanie McMahon, but that’s not been proven to date.
4. Mr. Perfect
Curt Hennig was a darn good wrestler. He was almost a perfect wrestler. As such, it made sense to create the character Mr. Perfect for him and have him showcase his skills at any competitive event he ever undertook. He then came to the WWE and won his matches, dominating his opponents and taking the Intercontinental Title.
The only thing that didn’t make sense was stopping him mid-card and not having him go on to win the WWE Championship. If he was, in fact, perfect, why not have him go on an undefeated streak all the way to the top and finally have him lose? You can’t really say he was perfect if he couldn’t beat the best the WWE had to offer. That character was great. But, it was taken off the rails way too early.
3. Mr. Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy has to take some responsibility for his release from the WWE. He was linked to a couple substance abuse scandals and that didn’t do him any favors. But, there are wrestlers in the WWE who have currently done much worse and are still employed. Instead, the WWE let Randy Orton (another wrestler who was considered for this list) sway the company’s decision to fire Kennedy over what Orton called reckless work habits.
Kennedy came into the WWE like he was going to be the next megastar. He had was a great mic worker who had the audience right where he wanted them and he’d won a number of high-profile matches. Injuries stopped his momentum but the WWE could have found a good use for his skills. They simply chose to discard him and move on.
2. Lex Luger
To say the WWE wasted Lex Luger is tricky because he wasn’t exactly the best or most talented wrestler. He had one thing going for him, which was a physique that Vince McMahon loved. His timing was also impeccable.
Hired originally to be part of Vince’s failed bodybuilding league, Luger was forced into wrestling and was tagged the next star to take the place of Hulk Hogan who had exited a little while earlier. Luger was pegged the man, had a huge bus he toured the country in and was campaigning for a title shot. The WWE put the full force of their promotional power behind him and he repaid them by being a terrible wrestler and jumping to WCW as soon as his contract expired.
The final entry on our list goes out to an entire company. When the WWE purchased the WWE, it was about the biggest news for wrestling fans on the planet. The anticipated crossover and dream matches that could have resulted when WWE stars went face to WCW stars was almost too much to take. Instead, the WWE tried to make the WCW Invasion happen with the mid to lower card wrestlers and it bombed so badly there was no chance to rebound from the disaster.
This push wasn’t even something the WWE did intentionally. The angle had its own push pre-built by the fans who’d been waiting years for the two companies to collide. It was actually the push the WWE did give it when they tried to make the invasion a thing that killed it. They should have known better than to try and have non-stars act like stars.
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