One of the biggest complaints about the booking of WWE is that they hold down superstars that should be in the main events. Tons of stars with all the potential in the world never escape the ranks of the mid-card. Many wrestlers barely get a sniff or a chance to fight for a world title. However, this is nothing new.
Fans saw this throughout the Ruthless Aggression era, the Attitude Era, the 90s when young superstars got a chance to make it to the top, and the 80s when Hulk Hogan ruled the roost. When it comes to Hogan's era, there seemed to be more wrestlers held down than at any other time. Here are 10 wrestlers who should have been huge in the 1980s but remained in the mid-card.
10 JUNKYARD DOG
Before Junkyard Dog came to WWE, he was a massive star elsewhere. Bill Watts helped make Junkyard Dog one of the top stars in the world of Mid South Wrestling. He was a three-time Louisiana Champion, four-time North American Champion and eight-time tag team champion.
Junkyard Dog signed with WWE in 1984 and became one of the most popular wrestlers in the company, but he never once moved above the mid-card when he hit the big stage. Instead, WWE used him as a gimmicky wrestler and had him dance more than kick butt. JYD never won a title in WWE.
9 ADRIAN ADONIS
In 1981, WWE signed two of the toughest wrestlers from the AWA in Jesse "The Body" Ventura and Adrian Adonis. Ventura was the flamboyant, colorful muscle man and Adonis was the leather-jacket-wearing biker. The East-West Connection looked ready to take over the tag team division.
Ventura had to retire due to injuries, and after a short tag team with Dick Murdoch, Vince McMahon thought it would be funny to dress up the biker in pink and call him Adorable. He never made it out of the mid-card and was released in 1987.
8 TITO SANTANA
Tito Santana joined WWE in 1979 and became a tag team champion with Ivan Putski. Fans felt he could be the next superstar in WWE following his arrival, but that was the best they would get.
Santana did get a run with the Intercontinental title in 1984, but after he lost it to Macho Man Randy Savage, he never sniffed success again in WWE's singles scene. He did team with Rick Martel in Strike Force and finished his WWE run as El Matador, a mid-card talent at best.
7 BRAD ARMSTRONG
Bullet Bob Armstrong was one of the top wrestlers in Memphis in the day. When looking at his sons, there was one that stood above the rest, wrestling-wise. That was Brad Armstrong, who had the look and talent to become a main-event star.
However, while Brad was the longest-tenured Armstrong son for years (thanks to his time in WCW), he never made it out of the mid-card. Meanwhile, Scott Armstrong became one of WWE's longest tenured-referees, and Brian Armstrong became a WWE Hall of Fame star as Road Dogg in DX.
6 CHRIS ADAMS
In World Class Championship Wrestling, the Von Erichs ruled the territory. As some of the biggest babyfaces in the world, the men they feuded with became massive heels. This was the case with Gentleman Chris Adams, who was friends of the Von Erichs before betraying them.
While Chris Adams and Gino Hernandez were major stars in World Class, when Adams moved on to the bigger stage of WCW, he could never carry his promise to that level. Part of it was due to his personal demons, but Adams was a star that could never get to the top.
If there a wrestler people could define as a legitimate tough guy, that man would be Haku. That was the name the Tongan brawler used in both WWE and New Japan Pro Wrestling, while fans in WCW knew him as Meng. He also had a small stint in WWE, where he was known as King Tonga.
It was during this time that WWE tried to push Haku to the main event scene, but it never worked. After an unsuccessful tag team stint in The Islanders, he turned heel, Harley Race gifted him with the crown, and King Tonga was born. After Haku and Andre the Giant won tag team titles, he challenged Ultimate Warrior for the world title, but the feud was shortlived and he never sniffed the main event again.
4 BUTCH REED
Much like Junkyard Dog, Hacksaw Butch Reed became a star thanks to Bill Watts and the Mid-South Wrestling promotion. As a matter of fact, Reed was the last man JYD feuded with before signing with WWE. After winning the North American title three times, the TV title once and the tag titles once, Reed left for WWE.
WWE re-named him The Natural Butch Reed and dyed his hair blonde. Reed could never even win the Intercontinental title during his stint in WWE. He left in 1988 and created one of the best tag teams in WCW history with Doom, but that was the extent of his rise.
3 MARTY JANNETTY
When it comes to tag team wrestlers who got the short end of the stick when the team broke up, Marty Jannetty is the poster boy. The Midnight Rockers were one of the top tag teams in the AWA, then came into WWE as massive fan favorites. Then, one superkick through a Barber Shop window and the tag team broke up.
Jannetty was a great wrestler, but he also rubbed people backstage the wrong way. Shawn Michaels rose to the top and became one of the best in WWE history. Jannetty never amounted to anything after the Rockers broke up, despite a wealth of talent.
2 TERRY TAYLOR
Terry Taylor was also a product of Bill Watts' Mid-South Wrestling. He won multiple titles there, including the North American title, four TV titles, and the tag titles twice. He was also one of the most popular wrestlers in that promotion, and many proclaimed him the next Nature Boy Ric Flair.
Instead, he signed with WWE and the company gave him a red mohawk, calling him the Red Rooster. The former champion who was supposed to be the next Ric Flair feuded with Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, strutted like a rooster, and his career never recovered.
1 HOT STUFF EDDIE GILBERT
Hot Stuff Eddie Gilbert is one of the wrestlers who died young. Sadly, he never rose to the level a man of his talent deserved. Gilbert was a great in-ring wrestler, one of the best promo men in the world of professional wrestling, and had a brilliant mind for the sport.
His feud with Jerry "The King" Lawler is one of the best of all time. His time in Mid-South was top-notch, and he helped make names like Sting and Rick Steiner into stars. However, when he got a chance in WCW, he could never make his mark, and he died following a heart attack in 1995.