During the Monday Night War and even before that for that matter, WCW and WWE needed all the main eventers they could in order to compete with one another. They tried to sniff any talent they could out of a performer and elevate them to the top. Sometimes it worked out in WCW's case with guys like Sting and Goldberg as well as in WWE with Kane, The Rock and countless others. But that's not what we're here for, we're here for the failures!
Every time you get a Stone Cold or Ric Flair, you have countless others whose main event runs are left on the side of the road in a broken heap. Fans may have forgotten about them but they didn't just vanish into the ether. Many of them went on to continue their wrestling careers in other promotions or even on the independent circuit. Some of them leave the business altogether and join us normies in a "regular job". How you go from an industry with undead 300 pound athletes and people bashing each other with steel chairs to an office job, we have no idea. Here are 10 failed WWE main eventers and 5 WCW main eventers and where they are now.
15 WWE: Bobby Lashley - Possibly Returning To WWE
CM Punk once described The Shield as being the hardest pushed entity since Bobby Lashley and he was right because Bobby Lashley was pushed to the heavens in the brief time he was in WWE. He won the United States Championship and the ECW Championship while being green as grass. Not to say he was bad, but should he have been wrestling John Cena as a PPV main eventer for the World Championship? Probably not.
While he did lack experience in the WWE, he went out and got the experience he needed in TNA/Impact. Over his various stints there he earned fans' respect and admiration for improving his entire game. Not only that, but he carved out an MMA career for himself too boasting a 15-2 record. He is rumoured to sign with WWE soon, as he's contractually cleared from Impact and New Japan, so keep your eyes open for that.
14 WWE: Great Khali - Running Wrestling School
A big man notoriously short on talent, the Great Khali was supposed to be the next coming of Andre The Giant but he ended up being more like his generation's Giant Gonzalez. He won a good amount of matches and stayed in the main event for some time in the mid 2000s, but never was a draw due to a shocking lack of athletic ability or charisma. He also couldn't speak English, so bummer there.
Aside from a weird cameo at WWE Battleground 2017 where he helped Jinder Mahal retain his title, Khali has moved back to India where he... opened a pro wrestling school? Well from what we gathered, he doesn't really train anybody; he just owns the place. Damn, we really wanted to learn how to raise our arms and chop people in the head.
13 WCW: Jeff Jarrett - In Recovery
10,000 guitar shots later... and still couldn't draw a dime. Jeff Jarrett has had more help in the wrestling business than most wrestlers who have come through it. When he's either owned a company or was best buds with somebody on the creative team he's been on top. However, most would agree that Jarrett is a decent star that should be firmly in the midcard, not main event level.
It would be easy to dunk on Jarrett even more for all the stupid business and booking decisions he's made over the years but Jarrett is going through some stuff. Suffering from alcoholism, Jarrett entered a rehab facility in order to clean up in late 2017. We wish him all the best because life is more important than grown men wrestling in speedos.
12 WWE: Heidenreich - Part Of Class-Action Lawsuit Against WWE
The Undertaker really had some awful storylines in the mid 2000s didn't he? Burn outs like Nathan Jones and Great Khali all managed to leech off his name for a period but none of these were more notorious than the man who aggressively read his poetry to Michael Cole in a closet. He sort of got over as a comedic babyface and briefly teamed up with Road Warrior Animal before leaving the WWE in early 2006.
Heidenreich would compete for independent promotions for a few years after leaving the company but his name was brought up recently as WWE was sued by a ton of wrestlers over neurological injuries they suffered while wrestling. Perhaps he can read a poem if it ever goes to trial.
11 WWE: Vladimir Kozlov - Stunt Double, VP Of Production Company
If there ever was a charisma vacuum in a business that heavily relies on said attribute, it would have to be Vladimir Kozlov. Before he was paired with Santino Marella as a comedic character, Kozlov was supposed to be SmackDown's next big monster. His triple threat match against Edge and Triple H at Survivor Series was so bad it won worst match of the year in the 2008 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards.
After leaving the company in 2012, he went on to all things an acting career. We know, this is coming from the guy who could be a stunt double for Nyquil. He's landed roles as a stuntman in the Fast And Furious franchise as well as in John Wick 2. Maybe he thought if hung around The Rock, he could absorb some of his charisma. He also is the Vice President of a production company Quasar Entertainment.
10 WCW: Buff Bagwell - Soon To Retire
While we don't know this to be a fact, we're certain that Buff Bagwell is the only wrestler to have their mother call in sick for him in a major wrestling promotion. Somehow, we don't see John Cena's mother calling in to tell Vince McMahon that he can't come in to work.
Near the end of WCW's existence and at various times before that Bagwell was put into main events. Bagwell definitely was obnoxious enough to draw heat as a heel and was a decent performer but a horrendous attitude backstage consistently stopped him from ascending to the top. After an amazingly long 27 years in the business Bagwell is only set to retire next year at the age of 47. Book him while you can indies!
Bagwell's side job as a male gigolo must be doing well if he's willing to retire from the ring.
9 WWE: Jack Swagger - Bellator MMA Bound
Also known as that guy who somehow won the WrestleMania XXVI Money In The Bank match, Jack Swagger brought in a tremendous amateur wrestling background but never had the speaking ability or charisma to stay in the main event for too long. After a brief period of relevancy with Zeb Colter as a mouthpiece, Swagger faded away into irrelevance before leaving WWE in 2017.
Since Swagger always seemed to be more at home in shoot fighting than he did in pro wrestling, Swagger announced that he had signed with Bellator MMA as a fighter in the heavyweight division. Even if he is 35, heavyweights in MMA can compete at a high level at a later age better than most divisions. Let's hope it goes better than CM Punk and let's be honest, it will.
8 WWE: Scott Steiner - Restaurant Owner
In WCW's final days Scott Steiner was an unhinged lunatic backstage that had people fleeing in terror but on-screen he was... largely the same but at least he was over. By the time he finally came to the WWE in December 2002 he was miscast into the role of a babyface opposite eternal champion Triple H. His two month feud with Triple H destroyed any drawing ability he stayed in WWE's mid card for the rest of 2003.
After his failed run in McMahon's world, he went down to Florida to work for TNA for several years. He would leave and re-enter the company many times while working on the independent scenes in between his turns with the promotion. When he's not wrestling these days, Steiner is owning and operating Shoney’s restaurant in Georgia.
He's become more memorable in the internet wrestling community for his insane rambling promos than matches.
7 WCW: Tank Abbott - Eyeing MMA Fights
Boasting the worst record in UFC history and a physique that just screams "I mix beer into my protein shakes and screw you" we give to you Tank Abbott. A former mixed martial artist in the early days of the sport, Abbott transitioned to WCW in 1999 and they planned for him to be a big star. Vince Russo even wanted to make him World Champion. Unlike Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn though, Abbott had no real legitimate wrestling talent and ended up as a comedy figure by the end of his run.
Speaking of Dan Severn, Abbott was actually supposed to take on the former UFC champion in an MMA fight (the combined age of both men would be about 110 years old) but he couldn't pass the medical tests. You gotta be a little messed up if you think that toupee looks good.
6 WWE: Sid Vicious - Recently Wrestled Retirement Match
Hey speaking of a little messed up, it's Sid Vicious! Only slightly more composed than the singer of the same name, Sid somehow made it by in the wrestling business throughout the 1990s with only a fraction of the talent needed to stay around as long as he did. Despite multiple attempts by WWE to make Sid a top star, they never stuck and he faded away into WCW by the time of 1999.
Surprisingly enough despite a horrific injury to his leg in 2001, Sid still wrestled sporadically for years on the independent circuit. He wrestled his final match in August 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada against Paul Rosenberg. A fun little tidbit is that he also competed in a bodybuilding competition at the age of 51 in 2011. Sid, you do you man.
5 WWE: Lex Luger - Consulting Wrestlers On Substance Risks
When people think failed main eventer in WWE, the first name that usually comes to mind is Lex Luger. While it was painfully obvious that he was supposed to be the next great American hero in the mid 90s but he just couldn't pull it off and the WWE decided to crown Bret Hart its first real Canadian hero.
After his wrestling career ended in the early 2000s, Luger went through a series of personal struggles that ended with him broken mentally and physically. Nowadays, Luger is bound to a wheelchair and pulled a Shawn Michaels becoming a born again Christian to get his life together. He still goes to a convention every now and again to meet some fans, in case you really want him to sign your Lex Express picture.
4 WCW: Bret Hart - Recovering From Prostate Cancer
We never said that the fact that these wrestlers were failed main eventers were necessarily their fault. Bret Hart obviously is one of the greatest performers in wrestling history but WCW and Bret Hart didn't go together. Through a combination of backstage politics and Hart losing his passion for wrestling a bit, The Hitman never even grazed his potential in the company before he retired in 2000.
Nowadays Hart spends his time attending wrestling conventions and meeting up with the fans who have given him all the love they could throughout the years. Hart also announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, though he had surgery and is in remission. He is still monitored every three months in case.
3 WWE: Vader - Still Wrestling Despite Health Problems
A unbridled success in nearly every promotion he entered, Vader was the masked mountain of a man who had a reputation for being one of the hardest hitting men in the business. Combine that with great agility for a man his size and you have somebody who should have been a smash in the WWE. Due to backstage politics though Vader never realized his potential and left the company by 1998.
Though his days as a top star were long gone, Vader still made some one off appearances in various independent leagues along with some one night stands in WWE and TNA. More worringly Vader has been diagnosed with congestive heart disease and was told didn't have long to live. He's also said he'd want to die in the ring rather than in a bed. Let's hope no promoter takes him up on that.
2 WWE: Rikishi - Running Wrestling School & Entertainment Company
From one athletic big man to another, Rikishi was a great talent in the giant lineage of Samoan wrestlers but never quite made it as a main eventer. While he was the man who technically ran over Stone Cold at Survivor Series 1999, nobody in the audience bought it and his run as a top heel was cut short. You know it's bad when WWE completely ignores it in their Hall of Fame announcement video.
Rikishi left WWE in 2004 due to not wanting to lose weight as asked by the WWE. The rump shaker would bounce around independent leagues and TNA before founding a wrestling school and entertainment company called KnokX Pro Entertainment based in California. His most successful trainee would be none other than RUSEV! HAPPY RUSEV DAY EVERYONE!
1 WCW: David Arquette - Faded Hollywood Star
SCREW YOU MAN HE'S A FORMER WCW CHAMPION AND MAIN EVENTED A PPV SO HE DESERVES YOUR RESPECT! BOW DOWN YOU FOOLS AND WORSHIP AT THE ALTAR OF THE GREAT DAVID ARQUETTE!
Trolling aside, it is still hilarious to think that this D-list actor was once THE World Champion of the second biggest wrestling promotion in North America. By the time he was finished wrestling, he had a 75% winning percentage in the ring. Beat that Roman Reigns! So why was he a failure? Well his first and only PPV title defense drew a measly 140,000 PPV buys. That would do it.
Since his stint in wrestling, Arquette continued his acting career starring in films nobody's ever seen. He also occasionally pops up in a the tabloids, so yipee for that. We bet those readers don't even know he once speared Eric Bischoff...