WWE likes to tell fans that they control the future of the product by supporting the talent they love. The belief is supposed to be that the company will push the talents that have the fans showing support by live show cheers, merchandise and overall business numbers associated with that person. While this is true to an extent, WWE does their best to manipulate that theory by pushing the performers they want to be the top stars in the industry. Hulk Hogan, The Rock and John Cena were all put in a position to excel before they became the most beloved stars in the company at various points.
The company also does their best to diminish the chances at a top spot for talents they don’t have confidence in. Daniel Bryan had the wrestling world in the palm of his hands in 2013, but WWE didn’t view someone as the right guy to be the face of the franchise. They tried to book him a little lower down the card but fans revolted to support him to the point where WWE was forced to have him win the main event of WrestleMania XXX.
Sadly, that rarely happens and the talent will get undervalued. We’ll look at the historical sides of both stories with the eight most underused wrestlers and seven most overpushed wrestlers in WWE history.
15 Underused: William Regal
William Regal's legacy has the wrestling world celebrating his accomplishments today. Regal was truly before his time in the North American wrestling landscape. WWE has rewarded his wrestling brilliance by making him one of the most influential minds in hiring new talent. The scouting department is led by Regal and Canyon Ceman, and they are responsible for many of the current stars. Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura and numerous other stars might not be on WWE’s radar if not for Regal.
All of this started with Regal traveling the world to earn a reputation as one of the better grapplers around. WWE and WCW focused on the larger than life characters during his era. That led to WWE making Regal a midcarder at best. We were treated to many entertaining moments by Regal between his in-ring work and comedic segments as Commissioner. Regal is respected and appreciated these days, but WWE completely dropped the ball on doing more with him in his prime.
14 Overpushed: The Ultimate Warrior
WWE’s old philosophy was to overpush the talents with larger physiques. If you looked like a bodybuilder and showed an ability to get fans interested in you, WWE would give you a monster push. The Ultimate Warrior’s rise to the top of the WWE followed this blueprint. Fans adored Warrior and he deserved the opportunity to get the ball. However, Vince McMahon let him carry the ball for too long and gave him too much leeway.
Warrior completely flopped as WWE Champion proving he couldn’t match Hulk Hogan in popularity. The company would try to recapture the magic of his early run multiple times in the future, but made a mess of it every single time. Not only did Warrior receive many more chances than his peers, but he refused to treat them with respect. Wrestlers loathed him during his peak years for good reason.
His lack of in-ring talent would expose him years later when asked to improve. Warrior couldn’t answer the call and remained an overpushed flop.
13 Underused: Bam Bam Bigelow
The big men of the 80s and 90s provided an important aspect to the show at the time. Fans were captivated by the story of a heroic face overcoming a large monster heel. Bam Bam Bigelow had the all-around talent in the ring to back up his intimidating look. Most men of his size could rarely pull off competent moves in the ring but Bigelow was as agile as most of the smaller wrestlers.
WWE sadly never pushed Bam Bam to the top of the company and he'd only be used to put over others. The biggest moment of his career saw him main event WrestleMania XI against Lawrence Taylor but nothing else came out of it for him. Rumors of tension between himself, Shawn Michaels and The Kliq may have played a role in the downfall of Bigelow’s career.
It will always remain a sad note in WWE history simply because we missed out on plenty of great main event level matches if Bigelow would have evolved into a main eventer.
12 Overpushed: Big Show
Big Show's career in the WWE has been a big time success. Over the course of sixteen years, Show has played just about every role possible. Face, heel, serious, comedy and everything in between is on the resume of his character work. The big man has more athleticism than the majority of the wrestlers anywhere near his size. You can understand why the WWE has always loved Show, but they pushed him way too hard on many occasions.
Big Show’s best work came in the upper midcard with the random title shot or PPV main event level storyline. WWE tried to make him a consistent main eventer on multiple instances, but it never worked out. Show couldn’t hang with the likes of Steve Austin, Triple H, Brock Lesnar and John Cena over the long run of his WWE tenure. Fans ended up losing interest when he was moved into a role above his talent. WWE refused to realize the obvious and made him a higher priority than he should have been far too many times.
11 Underused: Raven
Raven had one of the most successful stints in ECW. Many would argue the company was at its best when he was the dominant heel as ECW World Champion. His character work was second to none in the industry at the time and the freedom given to him by Paul Heyman who helped him tap into his artistic side to pull it off. No other wrestling promotion could match the magic in ECW and the WWE certainly would not, by later butchering him.
The company re-signed him in 2000 to play the Raven character rather than his prior WWE gimmick of Johnny Polo. A character that intricate and creatively fulfilling could not thrive in the WWE and they turned him into a glorified enhancement talent. If Raven wasn’t in the hardcore division, he would be losing to bigger names on the roster. WWE never gave him a fighting chance to move up the card and dropped the ball with a special performer that had much more to offer.
10 Overpushed: Bobby Lashley
WWE often ruins promising talents by pushing them to the top of the company before they are truly ready for the pressure attached to that spot. Bobby Lashley quickly progressed in the WWE with a big push making it clear he was one of the promotions chosen ones. Vince McMahon wanted Lashley to become a top player to take the company into the future alongside John Cena.
Paul Heyman walked out on the WWE and quit the ECW brand concept because McMahon refused to let CM Punk win the ECW Championship instead of Lashley. It showed not only the lack of faith in Punk at the time, but the overall belief in Lashley by the company. WrestleMania 23 featured Lashley involved in a feud against McMahon by being the wrestler selected by Donald Trump in the Battle of the Billionaires storyline.
Lashley would suffer a strong decline later on and fans didn’t care for his push in the months following his career peak. WWE sabotaged one of their beloved stars by giving him too much way too soon.
9 Underused: Gail Kim
The women’s division is one of the most important things in the WWE today, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, the female performers used to be disparaged frequently with the better talents being treated poorly. Gail Kim is the perfect example, as she had little to no moments in the WWE despite being one of the best female workers in North American wrestling history. WWE tried to push her on her first night by having her win a battle royal for the Women’s Championship, but gave up shortly after.
Kim would never receive another fair chance to move up the pecking order and was always one of the secondary women in the division. WWE signed her on two occasions with no confidence in pushing her either time. TNA showcased just how tremendous of an athlete she is, but it didn’t sway them into trying to change things in the second tenure. Kim felt disrespected and chose to leave WWE with no intentions of ever returning. It’s a true shame as there are many promising matches the WWE missed out on.
8 Overpushed: Roman Reigns
The career of Roman Reigns is still in its infancy, but the man deserves to be mentioned among the most overpushed stars ever. WWE desperately want him to become the next big star to follow the likes of Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, The Rock and John Cena in the WWE hierarchy. Fans just don’t want to see Reigns as the face of the franchise and that has resulted in him getting booed out of the building every single week to date.
WWE has gone ridiculously out of their way to try and sway the fan base into vocally supporting Reigns. The 2015 Royal Rumble saw The Rock make a surprise appearance specifically to endorse Reigns by raising his hand in the air following his victory. Boos showered the ring proving it wouldn’t work. WWE has tried many more alternatives to manipulate fans into liking Reigns, but the result remains the same.
The company might be forced into finally quitting on the push and revamping him as a heel.
7 Underused: Mr. Perfect
Mr. Perfect is regarded as an all-time great in-ring performer, but never was booked as such during his WWE run. The company didn’t value great workers and the work rate aspect of performers as much during Perfect’s time. WWE relegated Perfect into the midcard for the majority of his career and he still managed to steal the show more often than not. Many fans viewed the Intercontinental Championship as more exciting than the WWE Championship and Perfect’s work in the IC Title matches helped get it to that point.
The times changed and Perfect became more valued as fans started to express their opinion on his classic matches. WWE could have a richer library today if Perfect had a substantial main event run and a reign or two as WWE Champion. Perfect could have had outstanding main event matches against the likes Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and even guys like Hulk Hogan. We’ll always wonder what could have been if the WWE used Perfect to the best of his abilities because it could have created more special moments.
6 Overpushed: Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash had one of the luckier careers in pro wrestling with various breaks giving him the opportunity to make a lot of money. The big man signed with the WWE after Shawn Michaels saw his work and wanted Nash to play his bodyguard. Both men worked well together to the point where Nash would win the WWE Championship before Michaels. Vince McMahon wanted to take the chance on a new star with Hulk Hogan leaving the company high and dry.
Nash completely bombed as champion, but still managed to have a long reign before dropping it and heading to WCW shortly after. WWE would bring back an over-the-hill Nash and try to push him every time. Nash fought in a World Championship program against friend Triple H in 2003 that wasted an opportunity that could have been given to a younger star. The most recent instance saw Nash attack CM Punk during Punk’s red hot run, in yet another inexplicable overpushing of the big man.
5 Underused: Vader
One big man that didn’t get the benefit of the WWE machine pushing him correctly was Vader. WCW and Japan showcased Vader as a nearly unbeatable behemoth of a man wreaking havoc on anyone in his way. The legendary feuds with Ric Flair and Sting stand out among his best work that still stands the test of time today. WWE signed Vader with hopes of the same success, but Vince McMahon absolutely hated him.
McMahon allegedly thought Vader was sloppy. This led to the position of Vader going downhill. The only time Vader was treated like a main eventer was playing the heel to oppose Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam 96. Vader suffered the loss and moved into less heralded action.
The career of Vader was wasted with the talented big man never getting the platform to truly show WWE fans what he could do. As one of the most athletically gifted giants, Vader could have done so much more in the WWE world.
4 Overpushed: Lex Luger
The mid-90s was one of the most bizarre times in WWE history. They desperately tried to create new stars following Hulk Hogan leaving and the steroid scandal shaking the business. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were the better stories of new talent rising to the occasion with outstanding performances coming from them. One project completely flopped right before that era and that Lex Luger who was signed to replace Hogan as the new patriotic muscle head.
WWE put a lot of money and effort into Luger, by having him travel around the country in the Lex Express bus. A memorable moment featured Luger bodyslamming Yokozuna on Independence Day to try and get the fans to support his love for the United States. It didn’t work in the slightest. No one bought Luger as the top guy in the company and his career bombed big time. Luger’s time with the WWE is viewed as a failure and he made the right move by leaving to WCW.
3 Underused: Drew McIntyre
Most fans looked at Drew McIntyre and saw someone with all the tools to become a massive star in pro wrestling. WWE signed him at a young age and introduced him with a huge push as Vince McMahon’s “chosen one.” McIntyre wasn’t ready for such a spotlight that early in his career and could not get over effectively as a heel. WWE killed the push and never gave him another opportunity to thrive in the company.
Between inconsistent television time and a comedic gimmick in 3 Man Band, McIntyre wasted many years of his career until WWE released him from his contract. Drew showed great hunger and motivation following his release to create a highly impressive body of work traveling the world.
As for Drew Galloway now, the potential has been fulfilled as a top star in TNA, EVOLVE, PWG, ICW and other promotions. WWE missed out on a future main event star and underused McIntyre for far too long.
2 Overpushed: Randy Orton
WWE made it clear from day one that they were going to push Randy Orton to the top of the company until it finally worked. Orton has received more opportunities than anyone in his era with quite a bit of struggles along the way. The strategic decision to have Orton become the youngest World Champion flopped and saw him lose the title in a couple of weeks to Triple H.
Orton would transition from the underdog heel champion into a more comfortable hated heel role within a couple of months, but he was sadly also playing a villain outside of the ring. Behavior issues and various suspensions over the years made Orton someone the company would have cut bait with if he were almost anyone else. WWE continued to push him to the moon and have made him a legend along the way.
Orton is currently in a better place in life and enjoying his last few years as a top star, but it was a long road of overpushing him to get there.
1 Underused: Cesaro
The most underused star in recent WWE history is someone that is still being wasted on the current roster. Cesaro has shown the ability to get over on multiple occasions, but it always lands him back into irrelevance. Many of Cesaro’s peers like Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens have captured various World Championships in the WWE while he remains in a struggle to get an actual storyline on the weekly shows. Fans support him at the shows, but the company just refuses to take him seriously.
Cesaro’s best chance at moving up the card came after he won the inaugural Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal match at WrestleMania XXX. The unofficial face turn and huge win portrayed him like the next big main event star. but he was relegated back into a heel role as a Paul Heyman Guy. Unfortunately, Heyman had to focus more on reminding fans about Brock Lesnar than actually helping Cesaro and he fell back down to the lower card.
The cat and mouse game has gone on for many years with fans rallying behind Cesaro and WWE doing nothing with him. It lives on today as Cesaro remains the most criminally underused star in the business.