Not every performer on any version of a World Wrestling Entertainment roster can be a Superstar worthy of winning a World Championship. That is not a personal knock on any wrestler. It is simply the nature of the business. All-time greats such as Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Triple H, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, John Cena and others performed in memorable matches and also attracted attention with promos they cut. These legends of pro wrestling are all-around packages as it pertains to their skills and that is why they generated so much money in the industry. Stars sell fights. It’s a business model followed by the WWE and copied by mixed martial arts promotions, such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Bellator.
With that said, the WWE has a long history of pushing certain wrestlers in main event programs who, no disrespect meant, never belonged in such storylines. A couple of the individuals who come to mind were not even full-time active wrestlers and one only wrestled a single match while with the company. That publicity stunt occurred at a time when the WWE was competing with World Championship Wrestling for television viewers, pay-per-view buys and recognition. While there is no version of WCW around today, it is not difficult to imagine the WWE going a similar route in an attempt to make money and receive attention on cable television shows such as SportsCenter in 2016. The more things in the wrestling business change, the more they stay the same.
15 Owen Hart
We don’t blame you if you don’t remember this portion of Owen Hart’s career. It essentially lasted one night. Roughly a month after the events of "The Montreal Screwjob,” Hart challenged Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship on an edition of Raw. That, theoretically, should have been the start of a program involving Hart attempting to gain revenge for his brother Bret, who made the move from the WWE to WCW in the fall of 1997.
Such a storyline died before it ever really had life, though, as Michaels went on to feud with Steve Austin in early 1998. Hart never again had as much momentum as he did in December 1997 and he was relegated to the midcards of shows until his unfortunate and untimely death in the spring of 1999. Today, some wrestling fans believe Hart is one of the best overall workers to never win the WWE Championship during his career.
14 Paul Heyman
Paul Heyman is an icon of the pro wrestling industry who has done many noteworthy things during his career. Heyman is widely regarded as one of the greatest managers in the history of the industry. He was the man responsible for turning Extreme Championship Wrestling into a brand recognized in the northeastern portion of the United States and, later, around the world.
Heyman has also sporadically worked in matches. Arguably the most memorable in-ring moment of Heyman’s career occurred at the 2002 edition of the Rebellion show when Heyman partnered up with Brock Lesnar to face Edge in a handicap match. It was not the best encounter you’ll ever see between two wrestlers worthy of being in the WWE Hall of Fame. One could even say that bout serves as an explanation for why fans should be happy Heyman doesn’t participate in title matches these days.
13 The British Bulldog
Odds are if you are a wrestling fan who grew up watching the industry in the early 1990s, you remember The British Bulldog wrestling a main event match versus Bret “Hitman” Hart at Wembley Stadium. What you might not realize, however, is that Bulldog participated in multiple main event matches during his WWE career. Bulldog was part of the “Camp Cornette” faction that once wrestled against a group of wrestlers known as the “People’s Posse.”
In 1997, Bulldog was part of The Hart Foundation group that headlined the Canadian Stampede show that was one of the better pay-per-views of that year. Later in ‘97, Bulldog wrestled a main event match versus Shawn Michaels. Bulldog was largely a wrestler who competed for midcard titles during his run in the WWE and thus it is somewhat surprising to look back and see all of the main event programs he worked during his time.
12 Brian Lee / “Faker-Taker”
The WWE was a much different organization in 1994 than what we see today. Many cartoonish figures, such as The Undertaker, were common on WWE programs at that time. It, thus, was not all that big of a shock to see the company create a storyline where an impostor Undertaker feuded with Paul Bearer and later with the real Undertaker. The only good thing with this idea is that it was, pun intended, buried in under a year, as Brian Lee stopped playing the role after “Faker-Taker” was placed into a casket by the real deal.
SummerSlam 1994 was fortunately responsible for a match involving Bret Hart and Owen Hart that may have been the best contest of that feud. That encounter allows us to pretend the Undertaker versus Undertaker match never happened, as we can close the WWE Network after watching the Hart brothers do battle and before the main event begins.
R-Truth turning heel was, in all honesty, a pleasant twist for a character that had become played-out and even boring at the time. The “Little Jimmy” jokes were run into the ground because WWE writers cannot help themselves in certain instances, but the early days of the heel turn were nevertheless entertaining.
Following Truth’s turn, the company had him feud with John Cena and also Rey Mysterio over the WWE Championship, even facing John Cena in the main event of WWE Capitol Punishment in 2011. Truth is a fine worker and he can also cut solid promos when given the time and opportunity. The problem here is that the WWE told fans, via storylines and feuds, that Truth was not on the same level as those icons of the industry. Truth has since become a comedic figure who works in the lower cards of shows. There was a time, though, when the WWE teased he would be the top championship in all of the promotion.
Mabel won the main event of the 1995 King of the Ring tournament that was, to put it nicely, lackluster for its time and he then went on to main event that year's SummerSlam against Diesel, in one of the worst main events of all-time. That, of course, was not the only time Mabel worked in a main event program. The big man later known as Viscera was booked to be the top heel of the resurrected ECW brand underneath the WWE umbrella. There is a great irony in Viscera becoming one of the supposed stars of an ECW product considering the “ECW” chants heard during his match with Savio Vega. Things often come full circle in the wacky world of professional wrestling and this was one of those cases.
Some larger-than-life individuals are able to get over with fans and have careers remembered for generations. Unfortunately, Big Vis will not be known for having such a successful run.
9 Ludvig Borga
The WWE was a much different company in the early 1990s than today in many ways. It is difficult to imagine somebody such as Ludvig Borga, who was a big guy but limited inside of the ring and also on the microphone, taking part in any main event match, let alone in the main event of one of the top four shows of the year.
That is what happened back in 1993, however, when Borga was part of the “Foreign Fanatics” team that feuded with Lex Luger and his team of “All-Americans” at the Survivor Series. We would soon learn after this show that Borga was not long for the WWE. An injury halted any momentum the character may have had in the winter of 1994 and he and the company parted ways later that year.
While the WWE still pushes foreign wrestlers such as Rusev as menacing heels, at least those heels can work circles around the likes of Borga.
8 Wade Barrett
It is almost amazing to recall just how quickly the WWE ruined any momentum had by the Wade Barrett character. Barrett seemingly possessed all of the tools necessary to be a massive star during his days on the original NXT. He had a good look. He could work. He could cut promos and play the role of a classic heel. Those who missed out on the first six months of Barrett’s run in the WWE probably would not believe he main evented a program, however, as he quickly descended down cards en route to becoming a wrestler barely good enough to compete for the Intercontinental Championship.
The WWE dropped the ball here, as Barrett could have made for a solid WWE Champion had the promotion protected the character following the debut of The Nexus. Speaking of Nexus, let’s take a look at the stable that actually main evented one program before the WWE ruined what could have been an awesome and unique storyline.
7 The Nexus
The Nexus once, literally only once after its debut, main evented a SummerSlam (in 2010), one of the biggest WWE pay-per-views of the year. That group, at the time, included Wade Barrett, Darren Young, Skip Sheffield/Ryback, Michael Tarver, Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater and David Otunga. Barrett was discussed earlier in this piece. Sheffield found some success as Ryback and he got over among fans for a brief amount of time. Everybody else in the group was a midcard worker at absolute best. Yes, Heath Slater found new life in the summer of 2016 while attempting to “earn” a contract on SmackDown, but even that story will likely only go so far before fans turn on the gimmick.
The Nexus could, and probably should, have been something special, but the WWE instead had the group lose its first ever official main event match. Thus, Nexus deserves a spot on this list.
6 Jerry Lawler
When we first saw that Jerry “The King” Lawler worked in the main event of a WWE show, we automatically assumed his opponent had to be Bret Hart. Hart and Lawler, after all, were engaged in quite the entertaining feud during the opening half of the 1990s.
That was not the case at the 1994 King of the Ring show, however, as Lawler wrestled “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in the main event of that card. The match between the two wasn’t horrible, but the crowd in attendance were burned out because of all that had taken place earlier in the night. Thus, the bout between the two legends of the industry failed to impress if you go back and watch it via the WWE Network. It’s a shame, in a way, because Piper and Lawler probably could have told an entertaining and fun story in the ring if given the proper circumstances to build a good match.
5 Ted DiBiase Jr.
If you are anything like us, you legitimately forgot Ted DiBiase Jr. was once even on the main roster, let alone treated like a main eventer and a star. The reason you forgot probably has something to do with you wanting to erase this portion of WWE history from your minds for understandable reasons. Legacy, a group comprised of DiBiase, Cody Rhodes and Randy Orton, was a faction that featured one established star and two guys who had no business feuding with D-Generation X founders Shawn Michaels and Triple H. The tag team of Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase Jr. nevertheless main evented Hell in a Cell 2009, somehow getting the not over Cena/Orton for the WWE Championship, while also defeating them at a previous event.
That victory did little favors for either DiBiase or Rhodes, however, and Legacy is now remembered for being one of the worst factions in the history of the WWE. Neither DiBiase nor Rhodes are with the WWE as of September 2016 and we may never again see either in a WWE ring again.
4 Lawrence Taylor
All is fair in love and war, teaches the famous adage. The WWE was in the early days of a serious war with WCW in the spring of 1995 when the company chose to have former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor work a main event program for WrestleMania XI. The actual match between Taylor and Bam Bam Bigelow was hardly a five-star classic worth going out of the way to see if you’ve never before witnessed the encounter. At the same time, it wasn’t horrible considering one of the men involved was not an active in-ring performer.
The WWE attempted to earn publicity at a time when the company was putting on boring and even bad shows and pushing Taylor, well-known among football fans, was not a terrible idea. WrestleMania XI is, however, a candidate for worst WrestleMania in history and the match featuring the former NFL player is only one reason why that is the case.
When you go back and really examine the WWE during the first half of 1997, it is easy to understand why the company was losing to WCW in the ratings. This is not a personal shot at Faarooq, who worked in the main event of the 1997 edition of the King of the Ring. Faarooq was, simply stated, never built up to be taken all that seriously by fans. It also did not help Faarooq’s cause that he was basically an afterthought as part of the storyline that involved Paul Bearer blackmailing The Undertaker regarding a “secret” that was the unveiling of the Kane character.
Ron Simmons, who played Faarooq, was a fine wrestler and he was even a World Championship outside of the WWE. His best days in the WWE, however, were as a tag team wrestler alongside Bradshaw. The current WWE roster could use a tag team like the APA, but that’s a different story for a different piece.
2 The Spirit Squad
If you go back and re-live portions of WWE programming from 2006, you may see that you enjoy The Spirit Squad more so than you did at the time. They were goofy dorks playing male cheerleaders, yes, but that was the gimmick given to them and they played their parts perfectly.
With that said, The Spirit Squad headlining a main event match also tells you a lot about the Raw portion of the roster from a decade ago. Much like with Legacy, Spirit Squad were fed to D-Generation X members Shawn Michaels and Triple H, this time at Vengeance 2006. This match would have been perfectly acceptable as the main event of a Raw. However, imagine how you would feel if you paid more than $9.99 to watch a program that ended with The Spirit Squad wrestling what was supposed to be a competitive contest.
1 John Laurinaitis
We understand you may not be enamored with WWE shows in September 2016. Just remember, though, that things could be worse. You could be watching John Laurinaitis serve as an authority figure who consistently is involved in main event programs. Laurinaitis even worked a main event match with John Cena at Over the Limit 2012, presumably because the WWE wanted to see how low they could go before even diehard fans would decide that life is too short to watch such an encounter take place.
The heel authority figure is seemingly an idea the WWE cannot abandon for whatever reasons. Kevin Owens became the second ever WWE Universal Champion all thanks to Triple H hitting the Pedigree on two different Superstars during a championship match. We never again want to see Laurinaitis have a match with the WWE and we would also be perfectly fine with the WWE throwing the idea of the heel authority figure out the window forevermore.