Every WWE wrestler wants to be a champion or contender and to appear on each pay-per-view and episode of the television show to which he or she is attached. Every wrestler is desirous of creative attention — the big push — in order to enter and remain a vital component in the story arcs that surround the titles. Championships in most cases lead to improved status and increased earnings: everyone knows that.
However, not every WWE wrestler can be either a champion or a contender. Though WWE has more titles than one can point a stick, it still has far more wrestlers than championship belts. Some say that titles, due to this surplus, have lost their prestige in recent years. Most WWE wrestlers would disagree with that assertion.
With so many wrestlers under contract, many reside even further down the company totem pole: there are wrestlers who aspire to be contenders, and another gaggle beneath those, who have accepted their lot as sidekicks or also-rans and have no realistic aspirations to climb any higher.
Hey, there are many people in wrestling who would gladly change places with the likes of Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel.
As members of The Miztourage, future opponents of The Shield, Dallas and Axel’s footing is more stable than many in the following article — a collection of wrestlers whose careers have stagnated or even figuratively flatlined in recent times.
Some of the wrestlers on this list can be rebuilt and might soar again. But others are too far gone. Beyond salvation, they are done for.
15 CAN STILL BE SAVED: BRAY WYATT
A WWE Title defense at WrestleMania is supposed to mark the pinnacle of a wrestler’s career. For Bray Wyatt, who defended the WWE Title against Randy Orton at WrestleMania 33, it was the beginning of his current woes.
Wyatt, who lost the title at ’Mania, defeated Orton in the hare-brained House Of Horrors match at Payback, and scored a win against Seth Rollins at Great Balls Of Fire. However, neither win did anything for him in the long run. Wyatt next lost to Finn Balor’s “Demon” character at SummerSlam. He then fell to Balor, sans make-up, at No Mercy.
For Wyatt, worse than suffering two consecutive losses on pay-per-view is the failure of his character to evolve. This is not a new development, sadly.
We know Wyatt can talk; he just needs to be given something worthwhile to say. We know he can wrestle too. However, he has been meandering for so long, his matches don’t matter.
Maybe he needs to recruit members for a new Wyatt Family or seek out a mentor (Jake Roberts, perhaps?) to give him a fresh purpose. He needs to do something different. Wyatt is far too talented for WWE to continue to waste like this.
14 DOOMED: DOLPH ZIGGLER
Nick Nemeth made his main roster debut as Dolph Ziggler on the September 15, 2008 RAW. More than nine years later, he is still working for WWE — with less relevance than ever.
Ziggler’s biggest match of 2017 was a loss to Shinsuke Nakamura at Backlash. This defeat was not intended to set up a pay-per-view rematch: Ziggler was tasked with elevating the newcomer for bigger things. Once Nakamura had beaten Ziggler, he moved on.
Conversely, Ziggler slid down the ranks. Playing an expendable filler role on SmackDown, Ziggler disappeared from TV for a while and then claimed in his return on August 22 that he would reinvent himself. Instead, he began half-heartedly impersonating other wrestlers’ gimmicks and bragging about how talented he was to general apathy.
After more than nine years in WWE, it feels like Ziggler’s time in the company is up.
13 CAN STILL BE SAVED: PAIGE
It has been all quiet on the Paige and Alberto El Patron front over the last three months. There has been no drama outside the ring, from what we understand. For that, we should be thankful.
There was more encouraging news in September: it was disclosed that Paige, having recovered from major neck surgery, resumed training at the WWE Performance Center in readiness for a WWE comeback.
Some said it would never happen — that WWE would never bring her back. However, Paige is still only 25, has a large following, and has been absent from WWE screens for so long that she will feel shiny and new when she returns to television.
There’s one more reason for WWE to give Paige another chance: the forthcoming release of the film Fighting With My Family, based on Paige and her wrestler parents, which will star Lena Headey, Vince Vaughn and Dwayne Johnson.
12 DOOMED: MIKE KANELLIS
WWE was always going to be an uphill battle for the artist formerly known as Mike Bennett.In ROH, most felt Mike’s manager Maria Kanellis was the star of the act. Bennett wasn’t very interesting as a wrestler or a personality —but he did at least have an engaging brawl with Kevin Steen at Final Battle 2013.
The arrival of Mike and Maria in TNA in January 2016 was supposed to be a fresh start, but there was nothing fresh about Mike, except his nickname “The Miracle”. Again, Maria was the star of the team. Her feud with Allie was more memorable than anything Mike did on Impact Wrestling.
When Mike and Maria resurfaced in WWE in June 2017, they both used the surname “Kanellis”. Let’s not give WWE too much credit here: they purposely presented Maria as the star because she had previously worked for the company.
Even with Maria’s WWE pedigree, the company lost interest in Mike and Maria in the space of just a few weeks: they dropped off the radar. On the bright side, the recent announcement that they are expecting their first child together gives the couple something to look forward to.
11 CAN STILL BE SAVED: TITUS O’NEIL
It’s been a strange old time for Titus O’Neil in WWE since he was slapped with a 60-day suspension in February 2016 for committing the crime of good-naturedly grabbing Vince McMahon following Daniel Bryan’s retirement announcement on RAW.
When Titus returned, most expected he would be subjected to some form of punishment booking. In WWE, the natural inclination is to assume a marginal talent, coming off a suspension, especially one concerning Vince McMahon himself, will be made to pay for his infraction — again and again.
O’Neil’s heel turn and losing streak displayed the usual hallmarks. Then came the Titus Brand, a gimmick that was seemingly designed to portray O’Neil as delusional.
However, Titus played it with such humor that it caught on: he made it work for him. Recruiting Apollo Crews and Akira Tozawa to his organisation, later renamed Titus Worldwide, O’Neil hammed it up to the max. That Crews lost most of his matches and Tozawa’s Cruiserweight Title reign only lasted six days was part of the joke everyone was in on.
With this accidental gem, O’Neil has shown more personality than ever. We’d like to see Titus hire some bigger stars and play a larger part on RAW.
10 DOOMED: RHYNO AND HEATH SLATER
The team of veteran Rhyno and longtime loser Heath Slater seemed an unlikely combination, and even less likely candidates to become the first SmackDown Tag Team Champions. But that’s what happened when they defeated Jimmy Uso and Jey Uso in the final of a tournament at Backlash 2016.
The wrestling public rallied behind Slater’s desire to triumph in WWE in order to earn a contract, which would provide him with the income he needed to move his wife Beulah and their seven children into a double-wide trailer in their West Virginia trailer park, install an above-ground pool and, most importantly, buy a tongue for long-suffering daughter Mary Lou.
To Vince McMahon, redneck stereotypes are an endless source of amusement.
Alas, Rhyno and Slater’s Tag Team Title win was the beginning of the end. Once their dream had been realized, Vince lost interest. The team dropped the title to The Wyatt Family in December. Rhyno and Slater have been given nothing to work with since.
9 CAN STILL BE SAVED: LUKE HARPER
Before he entered the WWE system in 2012 as the wild-eyed Luke Harper, disciple of Bray Wyatt, Jon Huber toiled for a decade on the independent scene as Brodie Lee.
Along with Wyatt and third Family member Erick Rowan, Harper was called up from NXT to WWE in summer 2013. Their first feud with Kane was a letdown, but the Family redeemed itself in a gripping series with The Shield.
Harper became Intercontinental champion after he was “set free” by Wyatt in 2014. He reunited with Wyatt in 2015, but suffered a serious knee injury in 2016 and departed to undergo surgery.
Following his return, the 2017 Harper sported a new lean physique. In an ideal world, WWE would have rewarded this commitment to self-improvement with a hearty push. Alas, Harper has done little this year, except beat Erick Rowan in a dead-end feud.
We believe there is hope for Harper, though. He can work, he’s in the best shape of his career and, best of all, he has untapped verbal skills. WWE should capitalise on these by reinventing Harper as an articulate miscreant or tweener antihero.
SmackDown needs new stars. We say: give a revamped Harper a chance.
8 DOOMED: CURT HAWKINS
The series of vignettes which heralded Hawkins’ return to WWE in 2016 did not bode well for the man.
“Fact: Curt Hawkins has counted to infinity . . . twice,” read one on-screen caption.
“Fact: The Marines are looking for a few good men . . . or one Curt Hawkins,” quipped another.
Hawkins’ scheduled debut at No Mercy last year was cancelled. He fled from Apollo Crews on SmackDown, and was beaten by Dolph Ziggler in six seconds after a single superkick on the November 1 SmackDown.
Curt’s outlook did not improve on Raw in 2017 following the Superstar Shake-up. On the September 25 Raw, it was announced that he had lost 118 consecutive matches. Hawkins was then grabbed and smashed through the stage lighting wall by Braun Strowman.
7 CAN STILL BE SAVED: MOJO RAWLEY AND ZACK RYDER
WWE did not have a plan for Mojo Rawley after he won the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania this year.
Appearing infrequently on SmackDown, Mojo even said to Shane McMahon on June 6 that he had been overlooked. “I thought [the Andre Battle Royal win] was going to open a lot of doors for me,” Mojo told Shane. “But the fact of the matter is, man, I’ve been a ghost around here.”
Accepting Mojo’s point, Shane booked Rawley to face Jinder Mahal on the programme. Rawley was beaten. But all was not lost: Zack Ryder returned from injury and suggested to Rawley that they reform their Hype Bros team. Rawley agreed.
The Hype Bros haven’t exactly turned wrestling on its head since they reunited. Presently on a losing streak, they have resolved to make changes. With a heel turn, perhaps they could finally get on track as a unit. Rawley has never been used to his full potential, and Ryder has been treading water for at least four years.
With a new outlook, Rawley and Ryder could be contenders to The New Day after New Day’s feud with The Usos ends at Hell In A Cell. If Rawley and Ryder’s current run of misfortune ends in a split, however, they could find themselves on the “Doomed” list. We don’t like their chances as singles players.
6 DOOMED: THE COLONS
Primo and his cousin Epico Colon are still under contract to WWE and listed in the “Superstars” section of the company’s website. We checked.
Primo and Epico held the WWE Tag Team Title from January-April 2012. Really. Look it up, if you don’t believe us.
The Colons went into free fall after they lost the title to Kofi Kingston and R-Truth on April 30, 2012. Their reinvention as the masked Los Matadores in 2013 halted the descent and gave them a purpose. They weren’t fooling anyone under those masks but, then, they weren’t supposed to. Alongside mascot El Torito, the bullfighters were popcorn match regulars, whose job was to put smiles on fans’ faces, before the real stars came out.
Los Matadores quietly gave way to The Shining Stars in 2016. This time, Primo and Epico’s role was to extol the wonders of their native Puerto Rico as a holiday destination. It was the feeblest gimmick WWE wheeled out all year. This was dropped without warning too.
In April 2017, the Colons were revamped again . . . as Primo and Epico Colon. The team is currently on hiatus, due to Primo’s knee injury. Did you notice?
5 CAN STILL BE SAVED: AIDEN ENGLISH
The Vaudevillains’ silent movie character gimmick was not embraced by Vince McMahon after they were promoted from NXT to the main WWE roster in 2016. As if the team needed another barrier to overcome, Aiden English’s partner Simon Gotch found himself in disfavour backstage, which ruined the slim chance the team had.
The departure from WWE of Gotch in April 2017 was initially regarded as a blessing for English. However, English, as a solo competitor, repeatedly lost to Tye Dillinger and, after irregular appearances on SmackDown, scored what were classed as upset wins over Sami Zayn, another talent struggling to find his feet.
More recently, English had a competitive and exciting match with Randy Orton on SmackDown in mid September. One week later, English exercised his vocal talents in the role of master of ceremonies in Rusev’s Pride of Bulgaria Celebration. Though English was rocked with an RKO by Orton as he proclaimed it “Rusev Day”, this made it two weeks in a row that he rubbed shoulders with stars.
Things are finally looking up for Mr. English.
4 DOOMED: KALISTO
Kalisto’s Slammy Award win in 2015 for “OMG! Shocking Moment Of The Year” and triumphant April-May 2016 feud with Ryback seem like a lifetime ago.
Kalisto’s Salida del Sol off one upright ladder through a horizontal ladder in his tag match with Lucha Dragons partner Sin Cara against The Usos and The New Day at TLC in December 2015 was a deserving winner of the Slammy accolade. Masterfully set up, executed and sold, it looked awesome and, moreover, tore the house down. This was more than just another insignificant aerial move that was destined to be forgotten 60 seconds after it had been performed.
That Kalisto was able to make such an impression at TLC 2015 and again in his believable one-on-one matches with the much larger Ryback was testament to his all-round skills — which WWE has completely squandered throughout 2017. Indeed, Kalisto has been booked in an enhancement role in his infrequent RAW appearances this year. Though Kalisto is still only 30, it’s difficult to imagine how he can recover from this undignified jobber treatment.
3 CAN STILL BE SAVED: SAMI ZAYN
It might seem odd to include Sami Zayn on this list after he headlined SmackDown against Kevin Owens on September 26. If Zayn were doing so terribly, he would not have been booked in the main event slot on SmackDown, right?
However, that match once again ended in a beating for Zayn from Owens, and he had to be rescued by Owens’ Hell In A Cell opponent Shane McMahon.
Zayn has been in Owens’ shadow ever since Owens was chosen to win the Universal Title in August 2016. Even the most ardent Zayn fan would have to admit that the beating he received from Owens on September 26 was his biggest moment in months.
Zayn has likeable qualities, effortlessly interacts with audiences and is smooth in the ring and on the mic. And, yet, he has been booked as a supporting wrestler — a talent they call upon when they need to set someone else up.
Both Sami and the star-malnourished Blue Brand deserve better. Zayn is like a light bulb, waiting to be activated on an underlit SmackDown.
2 DOOMED: TJP
The Cruiserweight Classic was one of the wrestling highlights of 2016, an adrenaline-pumping thrill ride, featuring talent from the US, Japan, England, Scotland, Italy, Mexico, Chile and other countries. Celebrating so many different forms of pro wrestling, the tournament was a daring departure from the rigid WWE style of wrestling, endorsed by Vince McMahon, and won praise from all corners for its inventive flair. Watching the tournament, it was obvious that it was a Triple H production through and through.
TJ Perkins was selected to win the tournament, which climaxed on September 14, and was crowned WWE Cruiserweight Champion.
Called up to the main roster the next week, Perkins immediately felt hamstrung by the strict limitations of McMahon-style wrestling. Many of the slick moves and sequences he used to such great effect in the Cruiserweight Classic were banned on RAW and 205 Live. The upshot was, the more he appeared, the less over he became.
Now billed as TJP, he is one of many interchangeable characters on cruiserweight home 205 Live, the WWE Network’s ratings disappointment. That Enzo has been added in an attempt to salvage the programme says it all.
1 CAN STILL BE SAVED: ALICIA FOX
The woman who first appeared on WWE television in June 2008 as Edge and Vickie Guerrero’s wedding planner has survived umpteen talent culls. It’s an amazing feat, since she has only held the Divas Champions once, for fewer than two months in 2010, has mostly been a minor character and has spent long periods of time off screen.
Fox has worked as an unassuming babyface and a tempestuous heel. Earlier this year, she was part of a love triangle story line with Cedric Alexander and Noam Dar in which her fiery temper was there for all to observe. In the end, however, Noam Dar was very much the villain and Fox the victim when Dar dumped her after he had lost an I Quit match to Alexander on July 11. “You mean nothing to me,” Dar revealed to a tearful, broken-hearted Fox.
Alicia hasn’t done a great deal since then. But don’t write Foxy off just yet. Somebody up there likes her.