Like many famous artists and stars all over the world, wrestlers are not made overnight. Many current and former WWE superstars worked their way up through the ranks in the wrestling world and this meant that many of them were part of WWE and had cameo roles as part of the company before they were brought in as wrestlers. With NXT becoming a phenomenon over the past few years, recently there has been a new wave of talent coming through the ranks that have been able to play small parts on WWE TV while they train in the Performance Centre.
Even before the Performance Centre was opened a few years ago, there were a number of stars who were called into the company to be part of segments on-screen as extras like police officers and backstage staff. There are many stars in WWE right now who started from the bottom and have been able to work their way up through the company since.
The following list looks at all of the stars who have had cameos on WWE TV over the past few years before they have been able to become stars in the company in their own right.
15. AJ Styles: SmackDown 2002
AJ Styles is one of the best wrestlers in the world right now and after more than a decade plying his trade in TNA, Styles finally made his way over to WWE and debuted at the Royal Rumble back in 2016. Styles has since gone on to become one of the biggest stars on SmackDown Live.
This isn’t the first time that AJ has been seen in a WWE ring, The Phenomenal one made two appearances for WWE back in 2002. In January he appeared on WWE show Metal where he was defeated by The Hurricane with Mighty Molly at ringside. Styles then went on to make another appearance for WWE before the company offered him a developmental deal, which he went on to decline because it would have forced him to relocate and mess with his wife’s college plans.
14. Charlotte, Sasha Banks, And Alexa Bliss: WrestleMania 30
Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss are three of the biggest stars of the Women’s Division right now and are all former Women’s Champions. The trio came through the ranks in NXT and they were able to be a part of WrestleMania before they were instigators in the Women’s Revolution.
All three women appeared as part of Triple H’s entrance at WrestleMania 30 as he went out to face Daniel Bryan in a losing effort that saw Bryan then advance to main event WrestleMania. The three women were hardly noticeable with the masks on their faces, but they were part of a documentary that followed the event where all three women shared how happy they were to be able to play their part in the biggest event of the year.
13. Daniel Bryan: SmackDown 2002
Daniel Bryan is the current General Manager of SmackDown Live and one of the most popular wrestlers in the world, after what was an incredible storyline that led him to the main event of WrestleMania 30, before injury forced him to retire from wrestling while still in his prime.
Bryan wrestled a number of WWE matches back in 2002 as an enhancement talent despite not actually having a contract with the company at that time. Bryan even wrestled John Cena the same year on an episode of Velocity and Paul London who teamed with Brian Kendrick a few weeks later. Bryan wasn’t signed to a permanent deal with the company after this and shockingly this was his final match with the company for many years, when he returned as part of the NXT brand in 2010.
12. Damien Sandow: Idol Stevens
Damien Sandow will be remembered for his time as The Intellectual Saviour of the Masses, but also for the short time he spent with The Miz as his stunt double. Sandow was released from his contract in May 2016 along with a number of other talents and has since made a name for himself in Impact Wrestling.
Sandow made his official WWE debut in 2012, but he had appeared for the company before under the ring name Idol Stevens. Even though this character wasn’t very popular and was released by WWE less than a year after his debut in 2007, this was where Sandow found his feet in a wrestling ring alongside the likes of Michelle McCool and Scotty 2 Hotty. When Michelle was taken off WWE TV, Stevens was sent back down to OVW and the writing was already on the wall when it came to his WWE release.
11. James Ellsworth: Rosebud
James Ellsworth made his official WWE debut when he took on Braun Strowman on an episode of Monday Night Raw back in 2016, he was then moved over to SmackDown Live and was part of the main event storyline between AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose before he was aligned with Miss Money in the Bank Carmella.
This wasn’t James’ first appearance on WWE TV, like many stars coming through the ranks in NXT at that time, WWE used Ellsworth as one of Adam Rose’s Rosebuds on a number of occasions. At one point Ellsworth was seen side by side with Braun Strowman, who he made his official WWE debut against. James had been part of WWE’s developmental set up long before he made his debut in 2016.
10. TJ Perkins: JT Quinn
When TJ Perkins won the inaugural Cruiserweight Classic last year, it meant that he was signed to a WWE contract and debuted on their Raw roster as the champion. Perkins has since been part of the 205 Live roster over the past year, but once again, this isn’t the first time the WWE Universe has seen the former TNA superstar.
Perkins actually appeared as part of the ECW brand back in 2009 under the name JT Quinn. Perkins only performed one match, where he faced Sheamus and the match ended in a disqualification win for Perkins after Shelton Benjamin attacked Sheamus. Perkins didn’t return to WWE for another seven years after this one-off appearance even though he did make a number of appearances for WWE’s FCW developmental territory at that time.
9. Rob Van Dam With Ted DiBiase
Rob Van Dam is an ECW Original and a former Champion of the brand that WWE decided to recreate back in 2005. As well as this, RVD is a legend when it comes to his appearances for WWE over the past few years, which have become less frequent in recent years.
Even though RVD has left quite a legacy behind following his WWE career, much like many other stars at this time, Rob made a cameo appearance before he was allowed to wrestle for the company. Rob was a plant in the audience back in 1987 and was selected by Ted Dibiase to come into the ring and kiss his foot for $100, this was something that Rob went on to do to claim the money. He signed his first contract with WCW five years later.
8. Wade Barrett: Security Guard
Wade Barrett is a former King of the Ring winner and one of the best British wrestlers to ever set foot in a WWE ring. The former Intercontinental Champion requested his release from WWE back in 2015 so that he could focus on his acting career. Wade has since gone on to become the General Manager at WhatCulture.
Wade Barrett came through the ranks on the Independent Circuit in the UK before he was given a try-out by WWE. Back in 2006 when Raw was in the UK, Barrett served as one of the security members for the show in Manchester. He went on to have another try out with WWE back in 2007 where he was signed to the company and sent to OVW to train for his main roster debut.
7. MVP: Police Officer SmackDown 2005
Montel Vontavious Porter is a former United States Champion in WWE but technically could be seen as one of the most forgettable stars of the past decade. Montel had all the skills to get to the top as part of the company but was shockingly released from his WWE contract back in 2010.
MVP made his official televised debut as part of WWE on SmackDown back in 2006, but the year before while he was part of the company’s developmental set-up he was used as one of the police officers on an episode of SmackDown assigned to protect Kurt Angle’s Olympic medals. This was the kind of small job many of WWE’s developmental stars would be given and MVP’s helped him step into a career of his own.
6. Victoria: With Godfather 1999
Victoria is a former Women’s Champion in WWE and was always seen as one of the most dominant female wrestlers of her era, but following her release from the company, Victoria went on to make a name for herself as Tara in TNA.
Before Victoria became a star in WWE’s Women’s Division back in 2002, she was seen on WWE TV three years earlier back in 1999 as one of the women in The Godfather’s “entourage”. Victoria was seen accompanying him to the ring and in a number of backstage segments while also being referred to as the “head ho.” Victoria later took her first bump on WWE TV when she was power bombed through a table by The Godfather and then written off WWE TV until she made her return a few years later as the Victoria who went on to become Women’s Champion.
5. Mr Kennedy: SmackDown 2003
Mr. Kennedy was one of the most unique stars that WWE had a few years ago, before a personal issue with Randy Orton led to his WWE release and he went on to debut for TNA as Mr. Anderson, but even though Kennedy made his debut for the company back in 2005, he appeared on the programme much earlier.
Kennedy appeared in a backstage segment on SmackDown back in April 2003 congratulating Brock Lesnar after his WWE Championship win over Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 19. CM Punk was also seen for the first time on WWE TV in this segment which saw Kennedy as part of a group of fans who asked Brock for his autograph before The Beast decided to sign a female fan’s chest instead.
4. Tye Dillinger: Stan
Tye Dillinger made a name for himself as “The Perfect 10” while he was part of NXT before he was recently given the promotion to the main roster after he appeared as number 10 in The Royal Rumble match back in January.
Even though Tye was once part of the developmental set up, he has been around WWE now for more than a decade. Dillinger made a cameo appearance backstage as part of Cyber Sunday in 2006 when he was super kicked by Shawn Michaels. Tye stated that his name was Stan before Michaels went on to superkick a number of WWE employees after Triple H informed him that he didn’t know what controversy was. Dillinger had signed a developmental contract with the company a few months before this but was released from his contract with WWE in 2009 after a run in ECW.
3. Nikki Cross: RoseBud
Nikki Cross is one of the strangest and perhaps psychotic women’s wrestlers that WWE has ever seen, but right now she is only creating havoc on the NXT roster as part of Sanity. Nikki debuted with the company last year as part of the stable that is led by former TNA star Eric Young.
Before Nikki made her debut in NXT, she was known as Nikki Storm and was part of the Independent Circuit in the UK. When WWE made its annual visit to the UK in 2015, Nikki was able to be part of Adam Rose’s Rosebuds when the company was in London. It was only a few months later that she was announced as one of the women who had been signed to the company and was training at the Performance Centre.
2. CM Punk: WrestleMania 22
CM Punk is perhaps the best-known wrestler in the world right now as a former WWE Champion and the longest reigning Champion of the modern era. Punk has recently gone on to pursue a career in UFC since his departure from WWE back in 2014 and is reportedly now training for his second match which could be in the very near future.
Punk officially debuted in WWE as part of their ECW brand in 2006 and became quite a popular star. This wasn’t Punk’s first official WWE appearance though. Punk was instead used as part of John Cena’s gangsta entrance when he made his way to the ring at WrestleMania 22. Punk is clearly seen as one of the stars of the segment, but shockingly it was another year before he officially debuted in his own right.
1. Dean Ambrose: Royal Rumble 2006
Dean Ambrose officially debuted in WWE as part of The Shield back at Survivor Series in 2012 and has since gone on to become a Grand Slam Champion in WWE as well as a former Mr. Money in the Bank, he along with Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns have controlled WWE over the past three years.
Despite this being reported as his WWE debut, Ambrose made a number of in-ring appearances for the company under the name Jon Moxley in the early 2000’s. He also made a brief appearance back at The Royal Rumble in 2006 when he was part of The Undertaker’s entrance as he came out to send a message to Kurt Angle when it came to the World Championship. Even though Ambrose is wearing a druid costume, his face is easily recognizable throughout the segment.
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