Not everyone can become a main eventer in World Wrestling Entertainment. Some superstars reach the top and others don’t, which is just the way that this industry works. Some will say it isn’t fair and others will try and justify the reasons behind it, but either way it’s a shame to see wrestlers – and we don’t use this term lightly – be "wasted."
The definition of that term within the confines of pro wrestling can, and has caused a lot of debate over the years which makes sense. For example if a male or female superstar let themselves and the company down, then they deserve to be punished, right? Well yes, but at the same time many top names have done things they regret over the last few decades and still ended up as multi-time world champions.
It’s an unfair game, and most of the time you just need to learn how to play it (not-so-indirect reference to Triple H there). We really do feel sorry for these guys and girls, but moreso than that we feel sorry for the WWE Universe. We, as fans, never got to experience these superstars at their best: and some of them are still with the company!
Montel Vontavious Porter was a man who was bred for success under the WWE umbrella. The 6-ft-3 machine had a great gimmick to go alongside his impressive wrestling ability, and the man himself had such a hateable presence about him that made his run as a midcard heel in the mid noughties incredibly successful.
Unfortunately they didn’t really know how to handle him when it came to pushing the guy to that next level, and the now-43 year old eventually walked away. After a semi-successful tenure in TNA, the veteran is back on the independent circuit and is currently on an Australian tour down under with Tommy Dreamer’s House of Hardcore promotion.
19 Mr Kennedy
You could copy and paste a lot of what we put for MVP and transfer it into Kennedy here. The guy was being called the next Stone Cold by some people, but the majority of others were a bit more realistic about his potential. Still, with a hot gimmick and killer skills on the mic, Kennedy was being positioned for a run at the World Title.
A combination of his own personal problems and ridiculous booking soon cut those plans down at the knees, with Kennedy being one of many ex-WWE names to transition into the world of Impact Wrestling. After leaving the company under controversial circumstances, much in the same manner as he did with WWE, Kennedy aka Anderson popped over to ROH where he sporadically appears in 2017.
18 Zack Ryder
Woo woo woo, you do indeed know it. As we previously mentioned current WWE stars are not off the table when it comes to this list, and Zack Ryder is a perfect example of a self-built superstar who people just didn’t know how to handle. After getting himself over in 2011, Zack seemed more than ready to make a splash in the upper midcard.
Which is exactly what happened, for a brief period of time, before he was relegated back to jobber status within 12 to 24 months. To Ryder’s credit he continued to work hard and got his big moment at WrestleMania 32, but once again he’s been thrown off the metaphorical ladder and back down to a tag team partnership alongside Mojo Rawley.
17 Jack Swagger
The All-American American was given a great shot at success when he won the Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania XXVI, but the company forgot one of the fundamental rules behind someone succeeding in the main event: building them up. Yup, that’s right, we’re going to have a little chat about THAT MITB cash-in.
Following Swagger’s win over Jericho a few nights following Mania, his destiny went from "long term success story" to "destined for failure" in a matter of seconds. Jack would never again reach the heights that saw him capture the belt, mainly because WWE had thrust him into a position that he definitely wasn’t ready for. What a shame. Nowadays, like MVP, he’s enjoying his time on the indies with House of Hardcore in Australia.
16 John Morrison
From MNM all the way through to his babyface singles run, John Morrison just had that “wow” factor about him as a WWE superstar. It wasn’t just his look either, as in the ring Morrison could do things that few could’ve anticipated when first gazing upon his appearance – and his athleticism truly does speak for itself.
Aside from a WWE Championship match against former partner The Miz, a series of avoidable incidents seemingly led to the downfall of JoMo in WWE. The man himself claimed that he wasn’t given much creative freedom, which was soon rectified as he went to Lucha Underground (where he's known as Johnny Mundo) in addition to a string of other indie promotions.
15 Damien Sandow
Although we’d prefer applause for bringing the greatness of Damien Sandow to your attention, we’ll settle for a classic “you’re welcome”. Everything about Sandow’s gimmick upon his promotion to the main roster was special, and it seemed like only a matter of time before he’d burst onto the scene in the main event picture.
Then, in the biggest injustice in years, Sandow failed to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase successfully on John Cena and was quickly relegated to jobber status. As you can imagine, Damien didn’t take this too well, and after a few failed attempts at retribution he left WWE and spent a few months over in TNA as Aron Rex.
14 Drew McIntyre
Another man who is currently signed to the company, Drew McIntyre’s first run as "The Chosen One" really didn’t go to plan. Having been hand picked by Vince McMahon it seemed like Drew could do no wrong, and yet a mediocre IC Title reign was about as good as it got for the man who would eventually wind up in 3MB.
They just didn’t know what to do with him which was a massive shame, but thankfully McIntyre bounced back after making a name for himself on the independent scene. Now, as a part of the NXT developmental system, it seems like we may finally get to see the Scot do what he does best – and that’s kicking ass and winning titles.
13 Shelton Benjamin
The man formerly known as the Gold Standard was the resident high flyer in WWE for many years prior to his departure a few years back. Benjamin may not have possessed the star quality you necessarily need to succeed at the highest level, but at the same time WWE never showed any kind of trust in him as a main event performer.
Following numerous midcard title reigns, Shelton should’ve logically been given a chance in the big time, but it just didn’t come to fruition. Now, Benjamin is on standby for a return to the company which was actually meant to happen almost a year back. Unfortunately a torn rotator cuff ensured that those plans, for the time being, were shelved.
12 Wade Barrett
We’re afraid we’ve got some bad news: Wade Barrett never became a world champion in World Wrestling Entertainment and we can’t figure out why. The former bare knuckle boxer had just about every trait you could hope for when it comes to a dominant foreign heel champion, and yet his potential was tossed away in favour of the obvious choices.
Thankfully Wade made the smart decision to leave the company last year, choosing to focus on his acting career. He’s made sporadic appearances on the indies with companies like What Culture Pro Wrestling, but for the most part it seems incredibly unlikely that we’ll be seeing another Bullhammer inside the squared circle anytime soon.
11 Ricky Steamboat
We’re going back in time a bit for this next entry, with the man who put on one of wrestling’s greatest matches back at WrestleMania 3 – Ricky Steamboat. The WWE legend was one of the first ‘smaller’ guys to really make an impact with the company, but that one word description of him is exactly why he never made it to the top.
His size was always considered to be his biggest issue, with the Intercontinental Championship always being as far as he went in terms of achieving long term glory. Nowadays he’s an ambassador for the company, making occasional appearances following a brief stint as a trainer down in NXT.
Remember Lord Tensai? Of course you do, it was Albert/A-Train dressed up as a Japanese warrior. Following an initially strong debut in which Tensai defeated the likes of John Cena, the man who formerly had the world’s hairiest back seemed to fade into the background – which was a great shame given his potential as a monster heel.
Thankfully, Tensai managed to land on his feet in another role behind the scenes, and nowadays he’s known by his real name as NXT head coach Matt Bloom. It’s certainly been an interesting transition for Bloom over the last few years, but it’s one that he has taken in his stride which won’t come as a surprise to those who know him.
9 Gail Kim
Sure, she made her name off of a sterling career in Impact Wrestling, but let’s forget about that for the time being shall we? Gail Kim should’ve been a trailblazer when it came to the women’s division in WWE, and yet she ended up leaving the company just a few short years before things really started to happen for the females.
From not being able to showcase her tremendous wrestling ability to poor romantic storylines, Kim was completely mismanaged and it’s no surprise that she walked away. At 40 years old, Gail is now on the verge of retirement, with the back end of her career being highlighted by a deserved entry into the TNA Hall of Fame.
8 Muhammad Hassan
This one is partially the fault of fate, but WWE could’ve given Muhammad Hassan another chance in one way or another. For those of you who don’t know him, Hassan’s extremely controversial gimmick in the mid noughties was enough to push him up the card extremely quickly – to the point where he was being groomed for the World Heavyweight Championship.
Then, a poorly timed angle led to his eventual release from the company due to a series of tricky circumstances. We understand why WWE did it, but it was a huge waste of potential for a guy who probably could’ve rebounded in the form of another gimmick. Hassan ended up retiring from pro wrestling altogether, eventually becoming a social studies teacher of all things.
7 Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes, also known now as the American Nightmare, deserved so much better than what he got in WWE. Sure he was positioned to succeed in the early stages of his blossoming career, but by the end of his run he was parading around in ridiculous face paint as the extremely forgettable character of "Stardust."
Rhodes deserved so much better, and now he’s finally able to show the world what he can do under the banners of Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling. (He also wrestled briefly in Impact Wrestling, alongside real-life wife Brandi.) Cody is already being made to look like a top star in both companies, and it won’t be long until WWE realise what they’re missing.
6 Brodus Clay
Say what you will about Brodus Clay, but that man could’ve been a phenomenal monster heel. That fact was extremely obvious from the moment he appeared on the main roster alongside Alberto Del Rio, and he really should’ve been given the chance to transition from an enforcer into a solo talent.
Of course, that didn’t happen, and instead we were "treated" to the sight of The Funkasaurus for months and months on end. Naturally this didn’t sit well with Brodus, who ended up departing from the company. Since then he’s wrestled in TNA/Impact Wrestling as Tyrus, he’s done some political work on Fox News and was even able to start his own YouTube series.
5 Sean O'Haire
In the early noughties it seemed as if Sean O’Haire was destined for great things in WWE. The guy had the look, he had the confidence and he had the in ring ability necessary whilst being able to do things that no man of his size could do. Sean was the definition of the full package, which is what makes his fall from grace all the more tragic.
The company didn’t appear to seem interested in pushing him towards the top of the card following an initially strong start to life in pro wrestling, and he eventually faded into obscurity. Unfortunately, O’Haire passed away at the age of 43 due to an apparent suicide. We’ll never forget you or your outstanding work rate, Sean.
4 Alex Riley
Oh A-Ry, what could’ve been. From an outsider’s perspective Alex Riley was nothing more than a sidekick alongside The Miz back in 2011, but eventually he grew into a really strong singles babyface performer. The now-36 year old was on top of the world, but soon it would all come crashing down.
Rumours suggest that John Cena was the reason behind Riley’s dramatic collapse, with Alex himself confirming that he’ll reveal all about the issue one day. He hasn’t really made any notable appearances since actually parting ways with WWE, and there’s an argument to be made that this could be the biggest waste of them all on this list.
This is going to be considered a confusing entry for many on this list, but let’s face it, R-Truth’s whole conspiracy gimmick back in 2011 was absolutely extraordinary. Truth managed to go from a dull midcarder to a legitimate main eventer in the span of a few weeks, but unfortunately WWE weren’t able to maintain this momentum.
Truth was quickly turned back into a jobber after a short spell on the sideline, never again reaching the heights of challenging John Cena for the WWE Championship like he did at Capitol Punishment. He’s still kicking about in 2017, as a jobber that will likely lose a relatively pointless feud to Goldust. Oh, what could’ve been.
2 Dolph Ziggler
We know that he’s here to show the world, but what exactly is he showing? Mediocrity? Look, Dolph Ziggler is great and all, but this current run of his is doing him absolutely no favours. Unfortunately that’s pretty much entirely WWE’s fault, as they messed up the chance to pole vault Dolph into the main event picture as a babyface back in early-2015.
He’d more than deserved the right to move up the card following his sensational performances at Survivor Series and TLC in 2014, and yet nothing came of it. Right now he’s back to being a stereotypical heel on SmackDown Live, desperately needing a stint on the independents in order to revitalise his career.
1 Mr Perfect
Mr Perfect wasn’t just a nickname and it wasn’t just a saying: it was exactly what Curt Hennig was inside the squared circle. Throughout his time with WWE he put on some exceptional matches, and he had the gimmick/mic skills to go alongside that. He also had some of the most entertaining vignettes of the early-'90s, putting some of the biggest names in sports (baseball's Wade Boggs, hockey's Mike Modano, etc.) to shame with his acts of "perfection" in any given sport.
It makes his absence from the hall of WWE Champions all the more baffling, as he could’ve represented the company in a way that nobody else could’ve ever dreamed of. Perfect, aka Hennig passed away in 2003 – but his legacy in the professional wrestling business lives on through his son Curtis Axel.