As much as fans hate to acknowledge it, some guys are not meant for the main event. It’s not just looking good in the ring or on the mic. You have to be able to handle the touring, the publicity and extra fame and some guys can’t handle it. WCW and TNA were infamous for slapping titles on most anyone and thinking it could work. For the most part, WWE has managed to handle things better with Hogan, Michaels, Austin, Cena and more. But they’ve had a lot of misses too. They’ve had guys who seemed to have the ingredients to be stars but a combination of bad booking, injuries and other issues curtailed that. They’ve also had guys who should never have been in that position in the first place but were pushed anyway. It continues all the way today and something fans put up with.
It’s a shame with some as circumstances could have made them a big deal but as it was, their tenures failed. It’s easy to pick guys pushed just on look, not talent but it’s surprising how some who seemed to have what it took to be main eventers failed badly. It’s amazing to see and while some can be blamed on themselves (RVD), others just didn’t get to that level at all. Here are 15 WWE stars who were meant to be big main event talents but failed miserably and why it’s harder for fans to get behind such pushes.
15 Sgt. Slaughter
Had this happened a few years earlier, it might have been different. Sgt. Slaughter was well known already in the '80s as a hard worker, and a great heel in the Mid-Atlantic area. He and Don Kernolde were tag team champions and their feud with Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood was huge business. Slaughter got a great push in 1984 in WWE and the idea seemed to be him challenging for the title. Fans loved his patriotic act and terrific heat to carry him along. But he held up Vince for more money and was fired.
As if to pay him back for that, when Slaughter returned in 1990, Vince gave him the gimmick of an Iraqi sympathizer. With the Gulf War looming, Slaughter was pushed harder and at the Royal Rumble, upset the Warrior for the WWE title. From the start, it was obvious he was meant for a short run to lose the belt to Hogan and while Slaughter could still give great promos, his tenure as champion was bad. He faded fast and thus, the timing was bad for Slaughter as a main eventer.
14 Roman Reigns
The problem with Reigns isn’t that he can’t be a good main eventer. He has the look, the skills and an ability to pull fans in. If WWE had just done a better job, he would easily be over and popular. But from the start, WWE made the wrong moves. They had him doing idiotic promos to sell him as a babyface then shove him down the throats of fans winning the Rumble and other bits. They keep pushing him in matches he can’t handle against much better stars and how they want him to be the big deal. That is the key issue; Vince is convinced Roman can be the Cena-like face of the company, used to carry them in promotions and across media.
But while Cena has the charm and charisma to make that work, Roman doesn’t. He can pull off some bits here and there (his post-'Mania 33 promo) but the fact fans react so badly means his time on top is limited. Again, had WWE just been smarter in booking, it would be different but as it stands, Roman has failed as a main eventer thanks to how the company pushed him.
You can’t do this list and not have Sid on it. From the beginning, the guy was pushed hard as the “next Hogan.” He looked terrific with his height, his power, his aura and a man ready to snap at any moment. Sid could have been a huge deal if not for how he was an absolutely horrible worker and sloppy to the point of hurting guys in the ring. His arrogance and bizarre behavior didn’t help either. Sid was given his first shot in WWE in 1991 and rising up well before turning heel and facing Hogan at 'Mania. That ended badly with Sid exiting the company for an infamous WCW run. He got another shot in 1995, his matches with Diesel sloppy and many were surprised he returned.
He finally got the title in late 1996 to a good pop but it wasn’t effective as it was clear the real story was the feud between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. Sid dropped the belt to Undertaker and then left for WCW for some more nutty bits. He had what it took to be a main eventer but it couldn’t come together.
The Celtic Warrior was pushed very hard by WWE. He had an intense aura about him and a cool look and they must have thought he would be terrific as a main event star. Time and again, Sheamus has been given his shots against John Cena and others with runs as both World and WWE Champion. That includes wins at WrestleMania and other PPVs, winning King of the Ring and MITB as well as the Royal Rumble. But despite all of that, the idea of Sheamus in the main event is not something fans want.
No matter who he’s against, Sheamus is seen as a pretender, a guy not set for the huge level of stardom and fans hate his pushes. When he won the title in 2015, fans booed loudly at how stupid a move that was and actually backed Roman Reigns in his victory. That speaks volumes, not helped by how Sheamus is one of the best-paid guys in the company despite being a tag team worker lately. The only thing “green” about Sheamus is how most feel he’s not right for the main event scene.
11 The Ultimate Warrior
On paper, the Warrior as WWE champion should have worked. For two years, he’d been building up a huge following, fans loving his wild entrance, crazy antics and appearance and his reigns as IC champion were big business. Having him beat Hogan clean at WrestleMania should have turned the Warrior into an instantly made mega-star and carried the company. But it was soon shown the main event exposed more of his bad ring work and not able to carry the torch. His baffling promos also didn’t help, fans more confused than pulled into his work.
There was also the issue of him lacking good challengers and was soon stuck teaming with the Legion of Doom against Demolition. His later runs in 1992 and ’96 were meant to be as a main eventer but both were marred by his attitude and then Warrior leaving over a pay dispute. The Warrior’s legacy is a guy who just failed as a major champion despite having so much going for him.
Few guys have gotten as screwed over in WWE as Vader. In WCW, he was a powerhouse, reigning almost a solid year as champion and impressed everyone. A huge man who could fly off the ropes, he was stiff as hell and his power bomb finisher even breaking a jobber’s back. However, Vader was hurt by Hogan’s arrival in the company and his power waning (beaten up by Paul Orndorff backstage didn’t help).
He headed to WWE although needed time off right away for surgery so they had him attack Gorilla Monsoon and get “suspended”. But Vader was never embraced by WWE as he should have been, told to cut down his stiff moves and he just wasn't as vicious as the Vader everyone had known. He got a shot against Michaels but came up short with speculation of how Vince just didn’t think he was right for the top spot. That’s a shame given how over Vader still was, but this lowered his standing with fans. Vader was gone after a couple of bad years and it's a shame WWE couldn’t elevate him to the same monster star WCW had.
9 Muhammad Hassan
The original idea was good and could have worked: An Arab-American worker fighting against the bigotry people had against him. Sadly, WWE threw that out to present him as your cliché “evil Arab” heel. He had some skills but his yelling about “persecution” didn’t click as hoped and he came off more obnoxious than wicked. Not helping was Hassan’s arrogance backstage as it was clear the locker room hated his guts for how he flaunted his big push. Hassan was set against The Undertaker, a sure way for a guy to rise up fast. Yet it didn’t take but that was due to unfortunate circumstances. A segment of Hassan having masked men attack 'Taker happened to air the same night as terrorist attacks in London. That, combined with Hassan’s bad attitude, made him the fall guy and he was fired. That might be rough but frankly, the guy was never going to be the main event star WWE wanted with an act clearly behind the times.
8 Rey Mysterio
Let’s be clear, Rey Mysterio is a fantastic athlete. He’s one of the greatest masked wrestlers of all time and sensational as a cruiserweight. His runs with that title were great for WWE and he fit well as tag team champion with various partners. However, trying to push Mysterio as a main-eventer was a bit much due to his size. Fans may hate large, unathletic wrestlers but someone barely over five feet as a champion was hard for fans to take. He only got his shot at the World title due to Eddie Guerrero dying and that was a hard reality for fans. Mysterio just couldn’t get that backing as seeing the “underdog” on top as champ was hard to buy.
He had the big moment of winning the WWE title but only holding it two hours before losing it to Cena. That got bad heat yet most agree having Rey as the guy to carry a company wasn’t right. The man is celebrated as “the biggest little man” yet Rey wasn’t the guy to be in a main event.
7 The Great Khali
Many have complained that Vince McMahon has too big a fixation for big guys. The Great Khali is a fine example of that. He sure looked imposing at over seven feet tall and a tough face and could have been a huge monster type. Sadly, his utter lack of coordination and horrible pace meant any match involving him was painful to watch. His feuds with The Undertaker were horrible and other programs didn’t fare much better. Somehow, WWE thought giving him the World title would fix that. It just made it worse, fans hating seeing him on top and his matches actually got even worse. It wasn’t fair as off-camera Khali was a great guy with a funny side but that didn’t come off nearly as well in the main roster. Khali isn’t bad off camera but making him a main eventer was one of WWE’s worst moves.
6 Lex Luger
There was always something off about Luger. He had the look, the physique and wasn't bad in the ring. He was massively over in WCW and such but was held back by Flair’s refusal to drop the title to him at the right time. He finally got a run in 1991 but was marred by bad feelings over Flair leaving and some rough challenges. Luger went for bodybuilding before joining WWE in 1993. His run as The Narcissist had promise but when Hogan left, Vince decided to turn Luger into a super patriotic hero type. He was given a “national tour” meeting fans, pushed as an icon, the whole thing. However, it didn’t take off as expected and soon Luger failed to win the belt. This gave him the appearance of a choker which marred his entire remaining run in WWE. He was given a few shots but they failed to click and thus it's no wonder why Luger jumped to WCW for lower pay. He had all the ingredients but Luger never became the main event star he should have been in WWE.
5 Mr. Kennedy
Rarely can you see a guy that had “future star” written over them only to be hit time again with terrible luck. From day one, Ken Kennedy was meant to be a star, pushed hard by WWE. He had the looks, the physique and great mic skills to win fans over. He was clearly being prepared for big things like winning Money in the Bank, the U.S. title and other accomplishments. But every time it looked like Kennedy was ready to take off, he was hit by a bad injury to curtail his push. If that didn’t happen, he would be caught breaking the wellness policy and get suspended. It cost him the MITB briefcase as well as the plotline as “Vince’s secret son” and made him amazingly unreliable.
WWE finally realized they were better off cutting their losses and letting him go. Kennedy went to TNA for their title but showed the same problems and slumped, showing how his main event push was marred by various factors.
4 Jack Swagger
The issue with Jack Swagger wasn’t that he was a bad worker. He was a damn good one. However, he was better off as a mid-carder rather than a main eventer. Swagger had good skills and not bad on the mic. However, he just wasn’t suited for the main event scene. He was good with ECW and as a U.S. champion yet sticking him into the main event failed to work. His run as World champion was a mess with bad challengers and matches and quickly forgotten. Swagger’s stock fell as a face turn and an attempt to face Del Rio both faltered. His stock dropped further and further for him to finally be released earlier this year. It’s a shame as he could have done well on the lower ranks but WWE insisted on trying to make him a main eventer when he wasn’t set for that and it just hurt Swagger in the long run.
When you push someone as blatant a rip-off as possible, you can’t be surprised when fans don’t respond well. That was the case with Ryback. Following a stint as Skip Sheffield in The Nexus, WWE remade him into a powerhouse guy with a bald head and intense attitude who would crush all in his path. From day one, fans saw him as a Goldberg knock-off and Ryback wasn’t accepted nearly as well as he could have been. WWE kept trying with him bouncing between heel and face, taking on John Cena and others yet somehow, he lacked the same spark and charisma that Goldberg possessed.
It didn’t help how WWE had him lose a few times when making Goldberg an unstoppable monster was one of the few things WCW did right. Ryback’s status faltered and he’s bad-mouthed the company a lot since he left. The fact is, he just didn’t have it in him to be a main eventer and especially not as the copy of a far bigger star.
Vince McMahon has a real affection for giants, that’s no secret. But rarely has that led to such disaster as with Mabel. In 1995, Diesel was champion but business was suffering. Rather than try and push someone talented, WWE decided instead to take tag team worker Mabel and make him a star. The guy was huge, pushing 500 pounds and looked imposing. But he was also horribly untalented to the point of injuring The Undertaker and others. Mabel was crowned King of the Ring with fans booing and it was clear they wouldn’t accept him as a main event threat. WWE went ahead as Mabel faced Diesel at SummerSlam, one of the worst main events ever seen on PPV. His stock fell fast, especially after breaking Taker’s face and reports of how disliked he was backstage. He was tried in other gimmicks but didn’t click either and showed you just can’t make someone main event by size.
1 Jinder Mahal
WWE tried. Oh, did they try. But from day one, it was doomed. Taking a man who had been nothing but a jobber for his tenure in WWE and elevating him to champion was a bad move and it showed with horrible ratings and fading fan interest. Mahal just didn’t work as a main event guy or a huge threat and seeing him with the belt was ridiculous. WWE kept it up with his push and the Brothers helping, trying over and over to make Mahal look a huge star. It just hasn’t been accepted by fans and when he lost the belt to AJ Styles, the joy was overwhelming. Not just him being beaten but how WWE seemed to realize it wasn’t working. However, they are still trying with Triple H giving him the rub in public. Yet fans just don’t buy it and it ranks as one of the worst cases ever of WWE trying to make a guy not worthy a star.