The WWE is a very interesting company, and with Vince McMahon in charge, he certainly has his individual opinion, and while guys like Pat Patterson or Triple H can influence his decisions backstage, McMahon makes the final choices, and that can sometimes lead to the wrong performers being put in a situation they don’t "deserve," or it can lead to incredibly talented guys who are well-liked by the fans not getting their way because of McMahon’s old-school judgments of wrestlers. While some of those are understandable, as McMahon and WWE management need to worry about marketing and guys like Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar and John Cena just fit that mold, sometimes, the WWE takes it a bit too far, and we end up with guys like Ezekiel Jackson or Vladimir Kozlov in World Title pictures.
Whatever your personal feelings, you have to agree with at least half of this list because of fan reaction alone, but today we are going to look at 8 wrestlers that WWE should have pushed further when they had them, and 7 guys who were just given way too many opportunities, and ones that quite frankly they just didn’t deserve.
15 Missed The Boat – Cesaro
Cesaro is currently holding the WWE RAW Tag Team titles with Sheamus, so he has definitely found his place on the card, but as someone with the looks and in-ring ability, the WWE are definitely missing the boat on Cesaro, as he should undoubtedly be a World Champion by this point in his career. While there are sure to be fans around the world who agree with the out-of-touch Vince McMahon when he said that Cesaro “lacked the it factor,” it’s simply not true, as the "Cesaro Section" turned out in full force when he was being pushed as a singles competitor. At this point, he would be more successful back on the independent scene where he would be used well in New Japan and ROH, because it’s quite obvious that McMahon is clueless when it comes to the Swiss Superman.
14 Pushed Further – Bobby Lashley
Today Bobby Lashley is one of the most important wrestlers in the GFW organization, and is one of the best pure heels in the entire wrestling business, but during his days with the WWE, he was pushed way too quickly, way too soon, and one look at his body and you will realize why Vince McMahon did this. Despite severe limitations in the wrestling and charisma department, McMahon pushed Lashley to the top of the ECW reboot brand, but it simply didn’t work, as the fans just didn’t enjoy him. While he definitely had all the tools to be a top guy (like he is in GFW today as the whole package), this was a case of too much too soon, and it certainly hurt him for life in the WWE.
13 Missed The Boat – Shelton Benjamin
The WWE today, much like the independent scene has become focused on in-ring ability, and perhaps if that had of been true 10 years ago, we would be looking back on The Gold Standard, Shelton Benjamin as one of the best wrestlers of his generation. But unfortunately the supremely athletic Benjamin was held down in the midcard his entire career before going on to some decent success over in Japan. Whether he was a part of the World’s Greatest Tag Team or he was on his own as The Gold Standard, Benjamin never failed to impress the WWE Universe, but the WWE kept him in the midcard in favor of guys like Triple H, John Cena and Shawn Michaels. Although he has had a great career, he definitely should have been a World Champion in Vince McMahon’s company.
12 Pushed Further – Ezekiel Jackson
On this list, we’ve already spoken about Bobby Lashley and why he was pushed because of his looks, but Bobby proved that when given the right character, he could truly excel as a main event performer. Ezekiel Jackson, on the other hand, has been a complete bust in the wrestling industry, and while an Intercontinental title reign isn’t being pushed too far, it’s definitely further than he deserved. Sure, in Lucha Underground as Big Rick, Ezekiel excelled as he was allowed to show some character and push boundaries, but in WWE, he was nothing more than muscle, and we’ve seen those characters hundreds of times before, While he was a competent worker, he just didn’t deserve the push he got.
11 Missed The Boat – Dolph Ziggler
Most wrestlers will look at a career that includes a World Championship, Money in the Bank contract, sole survivor at Survivor Series, a World Tag Team Championship and several Intercontinental title reigns as a huge success, and I’m sure Ziggler will look back on his career with pride. But with the talent that he possesses, he should have been one of the biggest stars of an entire generation. And due to Vince McMahon’s hatred for smaller guys, he will never reach those heights. Whether it was Triple H disliking him for “trying to hard to be like Shawn Michaels” or Vince McMahon hating him for some silly reason, Ziggler is one of the most talented wrestlers to ever step foot in the WWE ring. Although he will likely end up in the WWE Hall of Fame, he deserve so much more.
10 Pushed Further – Vladimir Kozlov
The WWE have a pattern of booking when it comes to big, foreign heels; book them strong on an undefeated streak, have them lose to one of the top babyfaces (e.g. Triple H, John Cena or Roman Reigns), then push them as a comedy character. We’ve seen it with the likes of Rusev and The Great Khali in recent years, and Vladimir Kozlov was no exception. Unlike Rusev and The Great Khali, however, Kozlov had absolutely no personality, and he looked about as bland as you could get in a WWE performer, so when he was pushed as a challenger to Triple H’s WWE Championship, it just didn’t feel right. Of course Triple H sold that Kozlov was a true challenger, as he was a legitimately tough guy, but thankfully he came up short. Either way, there was no denying that Kozlov didn’t deserve to be in that position in the first place.
9 Missed The Boat – Wade Barrett
There have been many complaints made about modern-day WWE, but perhaps the biggest two are their inability to create new stars, as well as their inability to book true heels, and in Wade Barrett with the debut of the Nexus, they had the chance to do both. But as usual, Super Cena took priority and Barrett became nothing more than another body in WWE’s midcard. Not only that, but the WWE missed the boat on Barrett TWICE, as he came up with the brilliant “Bad News” gimmick that could have made him a star, but they were more fixated on other performers, and Barrett was stuck in the Intercontinental title picture for most of his career. While he should be proud of his accomplishments in the WWE, he should have been so much more.
8 Pushed Further – Sheamus
When Sheamus debuted in the WWE reboot of ECW, it was clear that the company had big plans for him, and he went on to win the WWE title from John Cena within a year. While that was done fairly well, it was his last run in the main event with the WWE Championship that qualifies him for this list, as he had no business holding the WWE title heading into the year 2016. At this time, the WWE were heavily pushing Roman Reigns as the top guy, and while fans took delight in seeing Reigns dethroned immediately by Mr. Money in the Bank, they quickly realized that Sheamus, the head of League of Nations at the time wasn’t the right man to do it, so they quickly turned on him, proving that wasn’t a spot he should have been in at the time.
7 Missed The Boat – Evan Bourne
Despite the fact that the cruiserweights aren’t succeeding on RAW, or much at all, it’s nice to see the WWE attempt to push the smaller guys in a division of their own, as they haven’t been treated too well in Vince McMahon’s company. One person that can certainly attest to that is Evan Bourne, who was used horribly throughout his run with the WWE, and seeing him as “Reborn” Matt Sydal since his departure shows just how badly they mishandled him. Whether it be teaming with Ricochet in Japan or working in PWG and ROH in the US, Sydal has shown why he is one of the premier high-flyers in wrestling today, and with the state of the WWE Cruiserweight division currently, they could really use someone like Bourne. Unfortunately, they missed out on him due to poor treatment.
6 Pushed Further – R-Truth
Knowing how R-Truth is presented in the WWE today, you might think I’m crazy by putting him on this side of the list, but if you can recall, there was a time just six short years ago where not only was R-Truth headlining PPVs challenging for the WWE title, but he was also main eventing PPV’s alongside John Cena and The Rock. He was actually presented as a serious threat at the time, but even then, there was no way that fans would truly buy into R-Truth being a World Champion. And although he never captured that Championship gold, the majority of fans see that even having him challenge for the companies top title was pushing him far beyond what his character deserved.
5 Missed The Boat – Drew McIntyre
The WWE often brings superstars in and push them to the moon straight away, and sometimes it works. But sometimes those performers can’t deliver the way the company wants, and one such case is that of Drew McIntyre, who was brought in as “The Chosen One,” and was touted a future World Champion by Vince McMahon himself. Several years later he was released with little more than an Intercontinental title reign under his belt. He was determined to prove the company wrong, and travelled the world winning every World Championship he possibly could. This year, they brought him back and will hopefully atone for their mistakes the first time around, but even then, it seems the WWE missed out on his prime years which were spent killing it on the independent scene everywhere he went.
4 Pushed Further – Lex Luger
By now, everyone should know the story of Lex Luger, as it carries some similarities to the current story of Roman Reigns (as in Vince McMahon was pushing him after Hulk Hogan left, similar to the way Reigns has been pushed so heavily with John Cena’s time winding down). But where Roman has succeeded in having great matches and getting his fans, Luger failed, and despite never winning a World title with the WWE, he was pushed beyond what he deserved. Before coming to the WWE, Luger was actually quite a talented worker, but because of the muscle he put on to become more like WWE’s previous hero Hulk Hogan, it deteriorated his wrestling skills, and instead of having a replacement for Hogan at the top of the card, the WWE were left with a cheap rip-off who just didn’t connect with the fans.
3 Missed The Boat – EC3
With guys like Stone Cold, The Rock, John Cena and Brock Lesnar all starring in the WWE, you’d imagine that their talent scouts will always identify top talent, and while bringing in independent stars like Tyler Black (Seth Rollins), El Generico (Sami Zayn) and Prince Devitt (Finn Balor) proves they still have a good eye for talent, this entry is proof to the contrary, as they completely missed the boat on Michael Hutter, now known as Ethan Carter III. In the WWE, he was used on NXT as Derrick Bateman, and despite being a hilarious comedy character with much potential, they let him walk without giving him a chance to prove himself. After putting on some serious muscle, he has been fantastic in TNA ever since, and even if they do bring him back in one day, they will have missed the prime of one of modern-day wrestling’s most impressive stars.
2 Pushed Further – The Great Khali
He has just recently made his return to WWE, and while that makes sense in the storyline, as he is back to help Jinder Mahal successfully represent his country of India, fans around the world are all hoping not to see Khali back in the ring, as his final matches in his previous run with the company were just horrendous. It makes you wonder how on earth the WWE booked him to be their World Champion. There is an answer to that, as we all know Vince McMahon is obsessed with giants, but as he could barely move, let alone work an entertaining match, it’s just ridiculous that he was given the top title, as it was way more than he deserved. That isn’t to say that The Great Khali isn’t an interesting character, but he definitely didn’t deserve to be pushed the way he was during his first run.
1 Missed The Boat – Cody Rhodes
For years, the WWE placed Cody Rhodes in the midcard, and while he was showing the promise that he could be a future World Champion, but by pushing him further and further down the card, he had enough of it and left the company. Less than a year later, the son of Dusty Rhodes has now won quite possibly the most prestigious World Title in the wrestling world, the Ring of Honor World Championship. As a member of Bullet Club, Rhodes has thrived in ROH, New Japan and everywhere else he’s wrestled, but for some strange reason, the WWE were intent on him being a joke in their company while wrestling as Stardust, and although they’ve got several main event performers who are doing a great job, they will regret treating Cody so poorly.