Wrestling is a business at its core and as Triple H often says, “the company will always do what is best for business.” No single Superstar could ever be considered bigger than the company, so it is easy to see that many of the stars who have been made from WWE have only been pushed at the expense of someone else.
Sadly, there will never be enough main event spots in WWE which means that the creative team often need to make the decision to keep some stars on the main card despite them being good enough to main event any other promotion in the world.
Over the past few years, there have been many stars who have benefitted from others who have quit the company, or who have been fired, leaving their spot open and allowing other stars to prove that they have what it takes to fill the gap.
It is a sad reality, but everyone in the wrestling world is replaceable. And that means that everyone on the following list was given a push they made not have deserved at the expense of someone else. Does this mean that the overall product meant less to them? No, because in wrestling every title counts regardless of how you won it.
15. Roman Reigns
The most recent on this list sees Roman Reigns step into a spotlight that The Big Dog has never been in before thanks to a clean victory over The Undertaker on the Grandest Stage of Them All. Roman Reigns has been a star in WWE for the past four years but the company have found it hard to get him over with the WWE Universe, who are refusing to accept him as the new face of the company.
The win over The Undertaker at WrestleMania was the final obstacle that Reigns needed to overcome. The Undertaker is reportedly retired from WWE after his final match back in April which means that Reigns will have the record of always being ‘Taker’s last WrestleMania match, which was a rub that WWE always wanted The Big Dog to secure.
14. Mickie James
Trish and Lita were perhaps two of the best female wrestlers of the past generation and WWE was left in a terrible position when both women decided to retire from the company back in 2006 within a month of each other. Trish had her last match against Lita at Unforgiven in Toronto that September and within a month Lita had decided that she wanted to retire as well. But this time she lost to Mickie James in her final match.
Mickie was always seen as the woman who would have to carry the Women’s Division in the absence of the likes of Trish and Lita and she managed to do quite a good job. Melina later came in and the duo carried the division for a number of years before WWE carried on bringing in women who couldn’t wrestle until the female division was unsalvageable. Thankfully the recent Women’s Revolution has got the Division back on track.
The Rock was the biggest star in WWE at one point and he has continued to return to the company over the past decade or so ever since he made the decision to leave and pursue movie making full-time. WWE was left in a position where they had no real replacement for The Rock when he decided to leave, so Goldberg was there to step up, even though he wasn’t fully a replacement for The Great One.
As well as taking his place, Goldberg has recently been able to do a Rock style return as he came in, defeated Brock Lesnar, won the Universal Championship, then dropped it at WrestleMania back in April. He then decided that he was done with Wrestling again, perhaps for another 12 years again this time?
12. AJ Styles
When WWE decided that they would revert back to the old Brand Split style in the summer of 2016, it was Dean Ambrose that the company wanted as the leading man on SmackDown Live. So he was able to defeat Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns at Battleground to take the title over to SmackDown.
Sadly for Ambrose, he was unable to control SmackDown in a way that a WWE Champion should and this was where all the backstage problems for Ambrose first began. It was decided that AJ Styles would be able to do a much better job as the main guy and the WWE Champion on SmackDown so Ambrose was forced to drop his title to Styles and has since been drafted over to Raw where he has found a place on the mid-card.
11. Braun Strowman
Braun Strowman was first brought into WWE’s main roster as a member of The Wyatt Family. But it wasn’t until the WWE Draft when Braun was drafted to Raw away from Bray Wyatt, Luke Harper, and Erick Rowan that he was able to prove the kind of star he really was alone.
Even though Bray has since been drafted over to Raw and is attempting to climb up from the mid-card, Braun is the only former Wyatt Family member that has actually been able to make a name for himself. Braun is currently heading into one of the biggest matches of the year at SummerSlam and it could be argued that Bray should be in that kind of position in WWE. But sadly he has never been given the chances he truly deserves.
10. Alexa Bliss
Alexa Bliss has become one of the biggest stars in the Women’s Divison as of late. And even though it was Charlotte who ended up defeating Nikki for her Divas Championship, seeing her out of action for almost a year, it is Alexa who has gained much more from Nikki’s absence.
A star was needed on SmackDown Live in Alexa’s early career and she was the only person who was able to step up into that spot that Nikki had left empty. Charlotte later came over from Raw and took Alexa’s place, but Alexa has proved that she doesn’t have to take anyone’s place anymore. She has now become a star in her own right. Nikki may well return to WWE in the coming months and a rivalry with Alexa Bliss could be an interesting feud.
9. Rey Mysterio
It was quite a cute storyline back in 2006 when Rey Mysterio used the spirit of Eddie Guerrero to help him to win the Royal Rumble and then win the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 22. But Rey was never actually supposed to win the championship. It was a domino effect of events that eventually led to his victory as the last resort.
Kurt Angle walked into Chicago with the championship and he was set to drop it because he wanted to leave WWE and recover from a number of injuries. Randy Orton was supposed to win the title from Angle, but because Orton had just tested positive for violating the Wellness Policy and had to sit out a suspension, he was unable to take the championship either. This meant that Rey Mysterio was the last resort and only won the Championship because there were problems with the other options.
Batista was brought back to WWE back in 2014 as the reunion of Evolution then lead to the demise of The Shield. Batista then deciding to leave the company again when he was told that there wasn’t a plan for him to be given the WWE World Championship.
Batista leaving The Authority then allowed Kane to step into his position and act as the main enforcer of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon’s group. It is entirely feasible that Batista could have been the man that the company wanted to fill that position and he decided against it, instead moving into film which left the door open for Kane to become corporate instead. It’s hard to imagine anyone but Kane in those storylines with Seth Rollins back in 2015, but it could have been Batista if he wasn’t so title driven.
7. Aiden English
Downfalls of tag teams happen all the time. Just look at The Shield. Teams split and the strong competitors learn to adapt to life alone, but this was a little different for The Vaudevillians. Simon Gotch got into a lot of trouble backstage and it came to the point where WWE the company had had enough and they decided to release him from the company following WrestleMania back in April.
Aiden English was his tag team partner, but The Vaudevillians weren’t doing very well on-screen at that point anyway so the split worked for English who has gone back to using the character he developed in NXT and is now a consistent mid-card wrestler on SmackDown Live. It’s just sad that his rise came from the downfall of his partner.
6. Randy Orton
Brock Lesnar left WWE back in 2004 to pursue a career in the NFL and later a career in UFC. It was reported that WWE was not impressed with his decision and this was the main reason why Randy Orton was allowed to win the WWE Championship at SummerSlam in 2004 and break Brock’s youngest World Champion record.
It is thought that Orton wouldn’t have been given such a huge push in his early years in WWE if Brock and Goldberg hadn’t decided to leave back in 2004. Orton was used as the man who would then go on to be a huge star, which he obviously has, but much like the recent CM Punk situation, many of the decisions that WWE made that year were seemingly out of spite towards Lesnar and his decision to quit the company.
5. Dolph Ziggler
The Spirit Squad were always seen as an entertaining group, but they became surplus to requirements in WWE and it was then decided that they would be released. But Kenny Dykstra was seen as the break out member of the group.
Kenny remained signed to WWE and began performing on their SmackDown brand. That was until he was fired from the company in 2008 when it was revealed that his fiance was having an affair with John Cena, so he was used as the scapegoat. Dolph Ziggler made his main roster debut in September 2008 and in the absence of his former teammate, Dolph became the break out member of the group instead and has since become the only former member to win a World Championship. Not bad for a guy who started out his WWE career as Nicky.
Paige was once the biggest break out star in the Women’s Division. She is the only woman to have held the NXT Women’s Championship and Divas Championship at the same time as well as being the youngest at just 21 years-old. But personal issues have derailed her career recently.
Paige and Charlotte looked to be having a decent but personal feud on WWE TV throughout 2015 and into 2016 before Paige was suspended from the company and hasn’t been seen for the past year. Charlotte has easily been able to step into her position and become the best female wrestler in the company right now. Charlotte and Paige had their own personal issues, but it seems that her break away from the division has done all the women a lot of good.
3. Shinsuke Nakamura
John Cena announced that he was taking hiatus from WWE following his proposal to girlfriend Nikki Bella at WrestleMania 33. The SmackDown brand needed a star to step into Cena’s shoes and it was decided that this was the perfect time to bring Shinsuke Nakamura up from NXT.
Over the past few months Nakamura has been one of the biggest stars on the Blue Brand and last week the takeover was complete when The King of Strong Style became only the 14th man in the last decade to be able to defeat John Cena clean on TV. Nakamura was the right choice and he could be set to win his first WWE Championship at SummerSlam next weekend. John Cena is aware that his time in WWE is coming to an end so he is happy to be helping the future of the company.
2. Nikki Bella
AJ Lee is a former Divas Champion and the wife of CM Punk. She made the decision to retire from WWE following WrestleMania 31 back in 2015 where she was victorious in a Tag match, teaming with Paige against The Bella Twins.
WWE apparently was so annoyed that AJ waited until after her victory at WrestleMania to announce her retirement that they decided to allow Nikki Bella to break her record Divas Championship reign of 295 days so that AJ was no longer known in history as the longest reigning champion. Sounds petty, but compared to some of the stunts WWE has attempted to pull just to get level with Superstars or namely AJ’s husband CM Punk, this could be considered a much lower level of petty from the company.
1. Daniel Bryan
When CM Punk walked away from WWE following the Royal Rumble back in 2014, it sent shockwaves through WWE, mostly because Punk was supposed to face Triple H at WrestleMania that year. They were mere months away from the event, and the COO was without an opponent.
Daniel Bryan was scheduled to face Sheamus once again, so he definitely got an upgrade to main event level when the whole B+ player storyline was taken into overdrive and Bryan was then forced to compete twice at WrestleMania instead. If Punk didn’t walk away then he would have faced Triple H, Bryan would have faced Sheamus, and Batista would have fought Randy Orton in a singles match in the WrestleMania XXX main event. Do you still think Punk was selfish walking away? I think he took one for the team and we got a much better show because of his actions.
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