One of the realities with WWE is that everything they do is magnified to an extensive degree. Every decision they make, every wrestler that they push, every angle that is created, falls under a tremendous microscope for the simple fact that it's the largest wrestling promotion in the world. They have the ability to make any wrestler's career ascend to the greatest heights, or crash and burn, depending on how they choose to use them. Over the years we've seen plenty of wrestlers benefit from this circumstance, and we've seen plenty suffer massive consequences because of it.
It's really a double-edged sword, because while some of our favorite wrestlers ever have succeeded in a WWE ring, the company has also ruined some of the best talent in multiple eras of wrestling. It's a tradeoff, but it's one that we all wish wouldn't have to happen. Unfortunately, it's one of the realities of the business. For every career WWE manages to salvage and elevate, there is another that they flat-out ruin. Let's take a look at some examples of each.
Ranked below are 8 wrestling careers WWE saved, and 7 they absolutely butchered.
15 Rey Mysterio (Saved)
After being marginalized in WCW, Mysterio seemed to be caught between a rock and a hard place. He wasn't achieving the kind of success that he should have been, which relegated him back to CMLL for a while before signing with WWE in 2002. While CMLL is a great Mexican promotion, it's a territory that Mysterio had wrestled extensively in before. His career needed a change, where he could receive more opportunity in a high-profile promotion.
WWE fit the bill, and surprisingly, Mysterio was one of the few luchadors that has ever been pushed by the company. In fact, he held just about every major title, and became one of the biggest stars in the business because of it. Shocking to see a cruiserweight being able to draw as much as the others in WWE, this is one that they definitely got right.
14 Raven (Butchered)
One of the hallmark stars of ECW, and a quality contributor in WCW, Raven should have been a character that WWE could push into some kind of upper-card status. He was edgy enough for the product at the time, and had way more potential for success than he was given. The caliber of feuds he could have had during the tail end of the Attitude Era would have been phenomenal.
Instead, he was used mainly as hardcore division fodder, in a time when there truly was no structure to the division at all. He held the Hardcore Title 27 different times, but usually in the era of the 24/7 rule, allowing the title to be defended at all times. Consequently, it had no effect or importance. WWE really squandered an opportunity to make a main event star with this one.
13 Chris Jericho (Saved)
Jericho has been vocal about just how horrid his time in WCW was near the end. Exploited for his ability to put on consistently quality matches, but receiving little reward for it, he quickly jumped ship to WWE in 1999, and promptly became a frontline star for the company over the next decade-plus.
As was the case with most of the stars made in WWE, they allowed Jericho to excel with his natural ability on the mic, to set up his great matches. By the year 2000, Y2J was a force of nature within the company, and one of their biggest draws. That success would continue up to the present day. Jericho was one of WWE's best ever reclamation projects during the Monday Night War.
12 Tazz (Butchered)
Tazz (then known as Taz) was a juggernaut in the original ECW, becoming a fan favorite in short order, and winning the ECW Title on two separate occasions. His in-ring intensity was almost unmatched, and he quickly became one of the most renowned wrestlers in the world, almost strictly based on his performance in the squared circle, and little else. Impressive, to say the least.
Upon switching to WWE, it was clear that they didn't see him in a main event role. Tazz (now with an extra "z" in his name) switched between singles and tag competition for his duration with the company, but it was clear that he wasn't being viewed as a high-profile aspect of the roster. He was able to parlay it into a broadcasting role, which he held for a long time, but overall, ECW remains the finest hour for Tazz.
11 The Big Boss Man (Saved)
Making his name in WWE during his run there in the late-'80s, Boss Man was one of the most intriguing wrestlers of that era. He had a unique gimmick, could put on good unexpected matches, and was generally pretty over with the fans. Upon leaving in 1993, he soon moved over to WCW, where he never saw the same success. He wrestled mainly under the Big Bubba Rodgers moniker, never reaching the same success as his law enforcement gimmick a few years earlier.
When he came back to WWE in 1998, it was undoubtedly for the best. Updating his look with an all-black SWAT getup, Boss Man became a fixture in the hardcore division, and even held the tag titles once with Ken Shamrock. While he was never cut out to be a top-flight star, it was a fitting end to a solid career. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2004.
10 Dean Malenko (Butchered)
One of the best technical wrestlers of his era, Malenko got the short end of the stick in WCW as well. But it was in WWE where there was really an opportunity to turn his career around, and move him up the card. As a member of the Radicalz stable at the time, Malenko was still marginalized, even if he did get a run with the Light Heavyweight title.
Far be it from WWE to always push the best in-ring talent, but Malenko was one who really deserved it. As it was, he had to play second-fiddle to most of the other WCW stars at the time trying to crossover. He would retire soon after his run in WWE. Malenko had a good career, but never was pushed to achieve the level of high-profile matches that he could have.
9 Goldust (Saved)
Known as Dustin Rhodes in the pre-Nitro era of WCW, he did see some mid-card success, winning the U.S. Title as a highlight. But that wasn't saying much, considering that WCW was hardly the heavyweight promotion that they would soon become. With his career somewhat stagnated, he went to WWE in 1995, where he was supplied with a gimmick that would last him for the rest of his career.
The Goldust character has been both praised and maligned, but there's no denying that it's had staying power. It's been present in just about every era of WWE dating back to the mid-'90s, and Rhodes was the only person to ever portray it. It has to be considered the catalyst for his long career, if not saving it all together.
8 Diamond Dallas Page (Butchered)
A top-flight star in WCW, there was once a time when DDP was considered to be one of the rising talents in the business. He was the complete package for a main-eventer in the late-'90s, and was considered to be a surefire bet once he made the switch to WWE during the Alliance angle.
Outside of a brief run as European Champion (for whatever that's worth), Page never caught on with the company. He seemed to be zapped of any of the draw that he had with WCW just a short time earlier. It was a strange situation to say the least, but it was clear that WWE wasn't prepared to give him any kind of a real push. Considering the influx of talent at the time, they got away with it, but it still was probably a mistake. Page would never regain the acclaim he received in WCW.
7 Ultimate Warrior (Saved)
There are few, if any wrestlers in the history of the squared circle that were benefitted by WWE more than Warrior was throughout his reign of dominance. A former bodybuilder, he fit WWEs preferred mold of a heavyweight champion, and quickly became the hottest thing in the company by the late-'80s. A chance was needed from the near-sole presence of Hulk Hogan at the top, and Warrior was thought to be the best option.
His initial run may have been brief, but it's certainly one of the most memorable in the history of the company, regardless of what anybody thinks of his wrestling ability. There's no question that his lack of in-ring skill would have been exposed in most other promotions, but Warrior was entertaining and charismatic enough to make it work in WWE.
6 Cody Rhodes (Butchered)
While WWE always seemed to always lack a distinct plan with Rhodes, the Stardust gimmick is what truly ruined any opportunity for him to succeed on a championship level long-term with the company. The fact that they used too many scattershot gimmicks with Rhodes never helped his case, but they all but buried him of the course of his last two years there, and it's kind of miraculous that he's been able to recover from it.
While he had to transfer over to NJPW to do it, Rhodes is now back on his feet as the "American Nightmare," which, needless to say is preferable to almost anything he was doing in WWE. He looks poised to regain lost ground in NJPW, but was prevented from reaching any kind of elite-level success in WWE ever again.
5 "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan (Saved)
A mainstay in the Mid-South territory before coming to WWE in the mid-'80s, Duggan actually held a few title in other promotions, something he was never able to accomplish in WWE. What was provided to him in WWE however, was the opportunity to be a mainstay, tenured wrestler. Instead of bouncing around smaller territories for his entire career, Duggan was able to stick around for around seven years in a major promotion. He then parlayed that into a job with WCW, where he stayed for another six years or so.
Essentially, being a consistent mid-carder was better than the prospect of winning titles for Duggan. To do so, he would have had to work for numerous territories, and none of them would have had the clout of WWE. It was a smart business move to make the switch, and he was definitely compensated for it with stability.
4 Perry Saturn (Butchered)
Perhaps nobody who came over from WCW during the Attitude Era got more of a raw deal than Saturn did. A tremendous in-ring wrestler, who exhibited charisma when placed in the right character, he could have been, and should have been a frontline star. Unfortunately, it became clear that management didn't see him the same way. Saturn was used as a filler almost exclusively.
To top it off, he was given a horrific gimmick which saw him infatuated with a mop, and that pretty much signaled the end of his legitimacy. It was a terrible idea, and it essentially buried his career. After that, Saturn didn't do anything of note in the wrestling world, and disappeared entirely for a number of years.
3 Steve Austin (Saved)
It's true that before he became "Stone Cold", Austin was successful as a member of the Hollywood Blondes while in WCW, but his ceiling was far greater than that of one-half of a good tag team. It wasn't until WWE allowed him creative control on the microphone a few years later that he really began to flourish. Not only that, but it ushered in the Attitude Era with full force, and WWE's biggest draw of that era was established front and center.
Austin would have had a good career without WWE, but there's no way that he would have ascended to the heights of a generational talent. WWE gave him the platform to succeed on the greatest stage, and undoubtedly turned his career into a juggernaut.
2 Terry Taylor (Butchered)
Taylor was an up-and-coming star in the NWA and UWF in the years preceding his WWE debut. He seemed to have all the hallmarks of a classic '80s wrestler; great look, great in the ring, and a charismatic presence that a company could build around. As was the case with many late-'80s WWE acquisitions, Taylor was instead given the horrific Red Rooster gimmick, pretty much killing any legitimacy he had built for himself up to that point.
As expected, this gimmick certified him as a lower mid-card talent for the entirety of his WWE run, which lasted until 1990. From there, his career was pretty much over, even after making the jump to WCW, and again back to WWE (where they at least gave him the name "Terrific" Terry Taylor, but by then he was out of his prime). Overall, a wasted opportunity for a wrestler who should have succeeded higher on the card.
1 The Undertaker (Saved)
I don't think anybody would argue that the jump from "Mean" Mark Callous to The Undertaker is one of wrestling's greatest triumphs. That was during his time in WCW, and while The Skyscrapers were a pretty good tag team for their era, it pales in comparison to the work that he would go on to do in what was the penultimate WWE gimmick of all-time.
It took a stroke of genius, or a stroke of luck depending on which way you look at it, to turn him into a main-eventer for the next 25 years, and it all happened in WWE. Had he stayed in other promotions, they likely would have used the standard big-man gimmicks that he had used his entire career up to that point. It may have yielded a fine career, but it wouldn't have been the same in terms of star-power.
When The Undertaker debuted in 1990, wrestling was changed forever, and WWE had yet another hallmark superstar on their hands.