It’s a sad fact that for every great and long-lasting character there is in WWE, there are about a half dozen with promise that failed. Several wrestlers have jumped to WWE expecting something great only to be hit with the worst gimmick imaginable (Terry Taylor as the Red Rooster) which damages their careers. Other times, a character has potential but real-life events mar it (Dan Spivey forced to retire due to injuries which cut his Waylon Mercy character short). It’s become more obvious as scores of great NXT stars are ruined on the main roster due to bad writing.
It’s nothing new in WWE. Even before OVW or other training territories, WWE would give wrestlers some of the worst characters around. Much worse is when they give a worker a very promising character that ends up being ruined fast. In some cases, the character even is able to get over and winning fans to their side only for WWE to ignore all that and bury them. It’s downright sad to see how many future stars were marred by WWE not recognizing what they had. Here are just 10 promising characters WWE quickly ruined as a reminder of how frustrating this company can be.
11 Sean O’Haire
After being one of the few bright spots of the dying days of WCW, Sean O’Haire got a new push in WWE in 2003. His vignettes pushed him as a “Devil’s advocate” character who would urge people to indulge in sin and “I’m not telling you what you don’t already know.” It was captivating and gave him a great edge in the ring. The potential was huge for O’Haire to rise up the ranks and win the US title as he had an undefeated streak going.
As if realizing how he was getting over, WWE ruined it by having him lose and a short-lived partnership with Roddy Piper. O’Haire was soon released himself before the character had reached its potential.
10 Brodus Clay
It’s been noted how a lot of NXT guys suffer badly on the main roster. Brodus Clay shows that existed even when it was FCW. He was a monster heel using his size to crush opponents and vignettes promised a new force on the main roster.
For unknown reasons, WWE threw all that out to repackage Clay as a goofy dancer coming out with his “Funkadactyls” and doing weird rapping promos. His ring work suffered by being stuck doing the dance moves rather than selling his size. He was a forgettable guy paired with Tensai before being released. It’s remarkable how WWE ruined this monster right out of the gate.
9 Muhammad Hassan
Granted, Muhammad Hassan had a rough attitude backstage but that doesn’t make up for how WWE ruined him straight off. The character had potential at the start as someone angry at the clichés and prejudice against Arab-Americans and wanted to fight that in the ring. That had major promise but leave it to WWE to ruin it by having Hassan live up to every one of those stereotypes.
He would do “prayers” in the ring, make anti-American promos and play to cheap heat from fans. It all ended when he was fired after an “attack” on the Undertaker that had the bad timing to air against real-world events. The character could have worked if not for falling into such a bad act.
Low-Ki had been a major star in the indies, including standout runs in TNA and ROH. Expectations were high when he joined WWE and given the name of Kaval which translates as “soldier.” His FCW work pushed him more as a smart worker and a tough fighter. So WWE’s place for him on the main roster? Have him hang around Lay Cool as his NXT mentors.
Rather than be a cool guy with hot ladies, he was made out to be a loser and soon constantly jobbing. He obviously hated the whole thing and soon jumped back to TNA where he became X Division champion with his awesome “Hitman” gimmick. That was a true waste of a star by WWE.
7 Damien Sandow
Several times, WWE had some seriously great stuff with this guy and blew it every time. His cocky “Intellectual Savior of the Masses” act had some good stuff and really took off when he teamed up with the Miz. This led to the genius “stunt double” bit where he would ape the Miz and other wrestlers.
It was a terrific act that seemed set to push Sandow as a serious star. However, he was reduced to just joking impressions and jobbing to others. It got to the point of Sandow demanding his own release for a forgettable TNA run. The man deserved much, much better than what WWE had for him.
It looked for all the world like WWE knew how to handle this Japanese star. Her 914-day undefeated streak was epic and included over a year and a half as NXT Women’s champion. She also won the first Female Royal Rumble and seemed set to dominate more. Then, to the shock of everyone, she lost her big WrestleMania match to Charlotte by submission.
The woman who had been unstoppable in NXT slumped down the rankings with a forgettable reign as SmackDown Women’s Champion and currently playing up Japanese stereotypes as part of the Kabuki Warriors. The main roster turning “the Empress of Tomorrow” into yesterday’s news was a downright crime.
5 The Brian Kendrick
After a long reign as tag team champions with Paul London, Brian Kendrick moved onto singles work. He took on the act of an incredible egotistical guy calling himself “The” Brian Kendrick with Ezekiel Jackson as his backup.
It was great with him selling his arrogance and acting like a huge star and it was expected he’d rise up the ranks. Instead, WWE decided Jackson was the one more deserving of a push, including an Intercontinental title run. Kendrick slumped further before being released. He did make a return in 2016 and won the Cruiserweight title but his first act should have gotten him more push right off.
4 The Ascension
Breaking out in NXT, the Ascension looked like the next coming of the Road Warriors. Viktor and Konnor just looked incredibly imposing with their look and build and crushing all in their path. They reigned as NXT tag team champions for nearly an entire year and it was expected they would be just as good on the main roster.
They were jobbed out immediately to the New Age Outlaws and later stuck in a lame teaming with Cody Rhodes’ Stardust. Despite having such a good look, the duo were turned into jobbers barely on TV, a total waste of their talents. They rank high on the list of “NXT hits turned into main roster failures.”
This was a terrific character from the start. The idea was that he was boasting about “eliminating sin” from WWE but breaking a lot of rules to do it. He had a fantastic look and his promos were captivating. There was a lot of potential in this act as a feud with the Undertaker would be perfect.
After just a few months, it was removed for no real reason. He returned as Kevin Thorn, another promising act ruined when they tried to push him and his sister as “close.” Twice, this guy has seen the potential for stardom marred by bad creative turns.
Nick Dinsmore had been a great star in OVW as a multiple champion and a terrific heel. Fans were thus saddened that in WWE, he was saddled with the act of Eric Bischoff’s “slow” nephew. At first, it looked like they knew what to do as Eugene was made out to be a wrestling savant who could copy anyone he saw.
He got a big push when the Rock made a surprise appearance to give him support. Then HHH buried him in a short feud. Eugene was soon turned into a comedy guy who had his head shaved and never given any serious rub. The character had real potential with Dinsmore’s talent but ruined.
1 Zack Ryder
In the annals of epic burials, Zack Ryder has to be at the top of the heap. After bouncing around the mid-card for years, Ryder took off in 2011 as his goofy Long Island Z act won over fans majorly. Before long, Ryder was getting serious cheers as fans loved his antics and WWE had to take notice. In December, it paid off as Ryder won the US title and seemed set to take his place in the upper mid-card.
As soon as it started, Ryder’s push was ended in as horrible a fashion as possible. He lost the title, was made out to be a loser and slumping down the ranks big time. He had a few spots here and there like a one-day IC title reign and the tag belts with Curt Hawkins. Yet Ryder is best known for how fast his career was ruined than how it worked.