For every star that WWE has made over the years, there have been numerous ones that they’ve missed out on. The sheer amount of talent that has come through their ranks over the years has been overwhelming. There have been numerous eras in which WWE has had a certified monopoly on elite wrestling talent, but it’s been both a blessing and a curse. Because of the number of great wrestlers in the promotion at one time, sometimes there isn’t enough room to make stars out of talent that deserves it. Certain wrestlers fly under the radar who should be making main event appearances, just because of the size of the roster.
Other times however, it’s strictly the fault of WWE management and creative for not making new stars. They’ve hamstrung some wrestlers with bad gimmicks, or simply not given them the push that they deserve. Every circumstance has been different, but it’s safe to say that WWE should have thought twice before passing up the opportunity to make stars out of some wrestlers they’ve had in the past. Let’s take a look at some of the notable names this applies to.
Ranked below are 15 potential stars that WWE has missed the boat on.
15. D.H. Smith
It’s interesting that the only push Smith ever received was in the tag team division. If the legacy of a former WWE star (The British Bulldog in this case) is going to get a push, typically it comes in the form of singles competition. Instead, Smith was paired with Tyson Kidd as The Hart Dynasty, and went on to win tag gold on a pair of occasions. Considering they developed Smith as a singles wrestler (he won the FCW Southern Heavyweight Title in developmental stages), it was kind of a strange decision.
While The British Bulldog certainly was prolific as a tag team wrestler, he also won the Intercontinental Title at one point as well. Logic would dictate that they would do the same thing with Smith, but it wasn’t in the cards. He left the company in 2011, never to return.
14. Ted DiBiase Jr.
The son of one of the most notable WWE heels of the ’80s and ’90s, Ted DiBiase Jr. was figured to have a limitless ceiling when he debuted in 2008. And really, it was just bad booking that got in the way of that. He had a great look, natural charisma, and was good enough in the ring to warrant a big push. Instead, he was booked into the tag circuit with Cody Rhodes, and his primary singles gimmick was just a ripoff of his father’s; a millionaire heel with all of the same hallmarks.
Needless to say, it didn’t stand out, and DiBiase eventually fell out of favor. With a more original gimmick surrounding him, his success would have been much greater. As it was, it was difficult to distinguish it from his father’s gimmick, and it fell flat. A wasted opportunity for sure.
13. Drew McIntyre
McIntyre seemed to be on an ascent through the WWE ranks after winning the Intercontinental Title in 2009. Instead of getting him up to a match for the WWE Title, or some equivalent kind of upper-card match, he as then put into a tag team with Cody Rhodes, which wasn’t the best possible move for a talent like this. Rhodes and McIntyre were good wrestlers, so putting a stop to their singles careers to have them team up never made any sense.
The 3 Man Band faction was an even worse idea, and pretty much killed off any legitimacy McIntyre could have had for another singles run. Not surprisingly, he left the company in 2014, and is now back in NXT trying to once again work his way onto the main roster. Knocking on his mid-30s, the clock is ticking for him to make a main event impact as a singles wrestler in WWE.
12. Shelton Benjamin
It seems almost crazy to think about right now, but there was a time when Benjamin was one of the most hopeful young WWE stars around at the time. Starting out in a great tag team, consequently named The World’s Greatest Tag Team (with Charlie Haas), Benjamin was well on his way to the stardom that many thought he would achieve. Upon leaving the tag ranks, he won the Intercontinental Title, and he had the trajectory of a superstar. No doubt he would eventually get a WWE Title to his resume.
Instead, creative slotted him into a horrific angle that involved a portrayal of his mother, killing so much of the momentum that Benjamin had been building since his debut in 2002. He would pick up a United States Title victory, but never truly got hold of the main event scene, and the booking around him in the mid-2000s was the primary reason why.
11. Terry Taylor
Taylor was a star in the NWA of the ’80s, as well as the UWF, and was a pretty notable pickup for WWE in the latter half of the decade. Clearly, they didn’t see the point in giving Taylor any kind of a notable push, because they slotted him with the Red Rooster gimmick which put him squarely in the lower regions of the mid-card.
Perhaps they didn’t think he had the crossover appeal to be a part of a national promotion, but Taylor had all the requisites for a successful wrestler in the ’80s (when he was given a chance to showcase them), and he was burdened with an embarrassing comedy gimmick that never afforded him a chance to move up the ranks. He would make appearances in both WCW and WWE until the mid-90s, but would always be remembered mainly for his time as the Red Rooster.
Another casualty of the buyout of 2001, Raven was one of the least likely candidates to not get some kind of a push in WWE. After all, he had excelled in both WCW and ECW at various times, and been involved in some of the most groundbreaking storylines of the era. WWE was still engrossed in the Attitude Era-method of doing things, and Raven seemed like a perfect fit to get a title run.
Not the case. Management deemed him worthy of the hardcore division, only that portion of the roster, at least for the beginning of his run. Raven won the Hardcore Title a whopping 27 times because of the 24/7 rule that was in place at the time. But he never got the opportunity for a real title run that would have shown off the best of his skills. Perhaps WWE didn’t want to push a wrestler who was coming off of so much success in rival promotions, but so it was.
9. Cody Rhodes
Undoubtedly, Rhodes had some successes in WWE, but he was never truly considered a long-term piece to the company that they would want to hang on to. He started out with a sizable push, and would receive several more throughout the years. However, far too often he was given sub-par gimmicks, and put in situations that didn’t move his career forward in any capacity. It all culminated with the horrific Stardust gimmick, which indicated that creative had simply run out of ideas for Rhodes.
In retrospect, it would have been better for WWE had it worked out, as Rhodes has re-estalished himself as a rising star with NJPW. They were hasty with the gimmicks they presented him with at times, and it cost him his standing in the company.
8. Taka Michinoku
Around 1997 or so, WWE realized that they needed to expand their roster to keep up with WCW, which was featuring all kinds of wrestling on their cards at the time. One of the results was the creation of the light-heavyweight division, later to be named the cruiserweight division. Michinoku was an ace Japanese junior, and had competed in Mexico as well for CMLL. He won the first Light Heavyweight Title, and seemed poised to be on the rise.
Then, he was put into a tag team with Sho Funaki as Kaientai, and promptly was relegated to the comedic level of lower-carders, never to win another title again. It was a poor use of an elite talent they had at the time, and it’s just another in a long line of examples of WWE misusing foreign wrestlers, who were often times more talented than the majority of the domestic roster.
7. Perry Saturn
Another one of the most botched WCW/ECW wrestlers to come over to WWE, Saturn was actually one of the most complete talents in the world at the time. Underrated wrestler with a wide variety of moves, and could draw well when put into the right gimmick or angle (see: The Eliminators in ECW). Unfortunately, he quickly became mid-card fodder after debuting as a member of The Radicalz.
From there on, he never achieved the heights that he probably should have, and WWE kept burying him until he was just another random face in the lower ranks. The infamous Moppy angle was particularly detrimental to his career, and by 2003 Saturn was out of WWE for good, disappearing from public consciousness all together for a while. A wasted opportunity, as Saturn could have been a great perennial champion.
6. “Dr. Death” Steve Williams
A certified legend in Japanese wrestling, and one of the most accomplished American to wrestle overseas, Williams was legitimate one of the toughest guys in the business. Years of success overseas in AJPW prompted WWE to sign him in 1998, just as The Attitude Era was going into full swing. What could have been a great opportunity was not to be however.
For some reason, management had Williams debut at the infamous “Brawl For All” tournament, which were basically WWE-sanctioned shoot fights. He suffered an injury during the tournament, and was out of action for months, killing all the momentum of the signing. By 1999, he was out of the company. Had WWE just let him debut in a proper manner, he could have had several years as a main event talent, instead of fizzling out without doing much at all.
It’s difficult to remember it in full, but at one time Tazz was absolutely one of the biggest wrestlers on the planet. Just as ECW was beginning to go national, he was one of their major players. Sheer intensity and a great physical style of wrestling made him popular in the ring, and the demeanor off of it fit the character perfectly.
Instead of going on a run for any singles title at all, he was placed in a tag team with Spike Dudley. Tag wrestling was never his strong suit, and it was clear that management was just trying to keep him afloat until he would be ready to be cut. Tazz quickly turned to commentating, where he did well for many years, but he always should have gotten a run with the Intercontinental Title at the very least. He could draw better than the WWE brass thought at the time.
4. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
There were few wrestlers of the era better than Roberts was on the mic, and few had such a unique, methodical in-ring style. Truly, “The Snake” was an underrated wrestler of the late-’80s and early-’90s if there ever was one. His promos and ring psychology were influential to several proceeding generations, he invented the DDT, and at his peak was one of the most over wrestlers in the company. It was quite the career, for sure.
But Roberts was never given a chance with any title belt of any kind while in WWE. He was certainly used in notable angles, but more often than not it was to elevate somebody else to the main event scene, or using his trademark snake Damien as a gimmick. He should have gotten a chance with some kind of gold. There were few talents as ahead of their time as Roberts was in his era.
3. Chris Kanyon
After WCW and ECW were bought out in 2001, all of a sudden WWE was stocked to the brim with elite talent on their roster. Surely, not everyone could be accommodated with the main event role, but some wrestlers would have been worth at least giving more of an opportunity to. Kanyon was considered a rising star at the time, and he was one of the few lone bright spots present at the end of WCW.
His time in WWE wasn’t long, and after some months wrestling in tag matches he was sent down to developmental territories never to return to the main brand. Clearly, management never saw his talent as something worth investing time in, as he barely even got a chance to wrestle in a singles match at all. He would retire from wrestling soon after leaving WWE in 2004, and unfortunately pass away in 2010.
2. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
Truly one of the best wrestlers of the ’80s, Steamboat was in WWE for four years, but only had a single run with the Intercontinental Title. Considered a worthy acquisition at the time, he had a wrestled for years in Jim Crockett Promotions, and gained a reputation as a great in-ring worker. In WWE he gained “The Dragon” gimmick, but was never able to ascend to the highest ranks of the company.
There were certainly great moments and individual matches, but by and large WWE never saw him as a true frontline star. He was the kind of wrestler that they could count on to always have a great match, but never followed through with any increase in promotion. His best work always came in the NWA and WCW, since WWE never did quite get the most out of him.
1. Diamond Dallas Page
In the latter days of WCW, Page was arguably the company’s biggest star, and it was one of the only wrestlers on the roster who were homegrown instead of veterans picked up after leaving WWE. The charisma was definitely there from the beginning, and while his wrestling ability was just solid enough, the Diamond Cutter was one of the best finishers of the era. So what happened when he made the switch to WWE in 2001?
He was relegated to the upper mid-card, which was fine to begin with, but he never ascended past that rank. Page was a one-time tag champion and one-time European Title-holder, but considering that he was a major main event player in WCW, such accolades were small potatoes in WWE. In the end, he fizzled out of the company in 2002, partly due to injuries, but partly because he knew he wasn’t going to get a big push. WWE should have given him a title run, especially at a time when their main, constant champions were all getting a bit stale.
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