Having a top guy to lead your wrestling company is one of the most important things for a wrestling promotion. Giving the fans someone they truly want to see succeed and then allowing them to succeed can give them a huge sense of satisfaction and generate some big bucks for a company. It’s very important for this person to be the right person; talented, charismatic, marketable and, perhaps most importantly, well-liked. Sometimes, the WWE can get this spot on and the fans rejoice. However, as is usually the case, a lot of the time the WWE get it completely wrong, investing themselves in entirely the wrong person, whilst overlooking someone else who would have been perfect for the role. Let’s take a look at some of those now, shall we? Here are 8 times WWE ended up pushing the wrong guy, and 7 times they failed to spot a main event talent in the making.
15 Jinder Mahal (Wrong Guy)
Oh god, the flashbacks.
It feels like a lifetime ago now, but, not that long ago, Jinder Mahal was the WWE Champion. Mahal, who had been a perennial jobber throughout his entire WWE run prior to this, captured the most prestigious championship in wrestling from Randy Orton at Backlash 2017. For the next 170 days, the WWE crowd was “treated” to the same formulaic matches, the same boring moves and the same Singh Brothers interference for the ending. If you someone managed to miss all of this, then you are a smart person, indeed.
The entire point of Mahal’s title win and subsequent reign was, if you believe the stories, to help WWE expand into the Indian market. Clearly, WWE were so set on capturing that lucrative Indian dough, they threw logic to the wind and made someone who was nowhere near ready to be a world champion a world champion. Jinder was a boring, bland, uninspiring champion and the overall product was much worse for it. Even worse for WWE was the fact that the entire Indian expansion plan completely fell through, with the company having to cancel one of their shows during their big tour of India in 2017. A bad call all round, the Jinder Experiment crashed and burned and we were all worse off for having lived through it.
14 Zack Ryder (Missed The Boat)
Zack Ryder’s WWE career has been one hell of a rollercoaster ride. Debuting on the main roster over ten years ago, Ryder has been a United States, Tag Team and Intercontinental Champion and has been involved in plenty of storylines that could have taken him to the next level. He’s rubbed shoulders with the likes of Edge, The Miz and even John Cena, but, he’s never quite gotten to that main event stage. Not that this was Zack’s fault, though. Not at all.
Ryder is the master of getting himself over outside of the main WWE machine. Using the Internet (particularly YouTube), Ryder established a huge fanbase for himself, to the point where fans were chanting for him when he wasn’t even on the show. This was rewarded with a US title win, but WWE never fully capitalised on the huge popularity that Ryder established for himself. Whilst Zack was never going to be a main eventer, he could have been a solid upper-midcard act with the WWE machine behind him. However, the company never got onboard with Ryder and now he finds himself in booking no man’s land with, seemingly, nowhere to go. Bad luck, bro.
13 Roman Reigns (Wrong Guy)
Like I even need to explain this one.
Roman Reigns went from being one third of the most popular act in WWE (The Shield) to being one of the despised main event wrestlers in WWE history. Pushed to the moon immediately after The Shield broke up in 2014, fans saw straight through WWE’s attempts to shove Reigns down our throats and a large portion of the WWE audience has booed him ever since. And you can believe that.
It’s not that Reigns is a bad wrestler. In fact, he is one of the most capable in-ring talents WWE have on their roster and he’s had some absolute classics, both with and without The Shield. The problem with Roman is simple; he just can’t connect with the fans. In the early days of his push, he stumbled over promos, gave wooden speeches and made a fool of himself every time he got on the mic. However, WWE continued to push him, even though the fans were much more invested in people like Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan and Dean Ambrose. I do feel sorry for Reigns, but, at the same time, he’s made some of WWE’s recent product pretty unbearable to watch, so it’s hard to feel totally bad for the guy.
12 Diamond Dallas Page (Missed The Boat)
Hey, it’s him, it’s him, it’s... wait, this doesn’t work in the third person. Dammit.
Diamond Dallas Page, better know as DDP, is one of wrestling’s most inspiring figures. A long-time manager, Page began wrestling in 1991 at the age of 35. To put this into perspective, that’s older than all three former Shield members. Yet, through determination and sheer talent, DDP made it to the big leagues, capturing the WCW Championship three times and becoming one of the biggest stars the company ever had. Nowadays, Page is a WWE Hall of Famer and runs a hugely successful Yoga business, which has saved the lives of fellow wrestlers, Scott Hall and Jake Roberts. Seriously, if DDP was revealed to be the actual son of God, I don’t think I’d be surprised.
The reason Page was such a missed opportunity in WWE was because he was one of the first big names from WCW to appear in WWE following the closure of the WCW in 2001. He appeared in a memorable angle involving The Undertaker and got a huge ovation when he first appeared on WWE TV. Sadly, WWE had a nasty trend of portraying former WCW stars as weak and Page was no exception, being humiliated by Taker during their feud and achieving nowhere near the same levels of success as he had done in WCW. The WWE could have used Page’s success in WCW to their advantage, but pride got the better of them and, sadly, Page never got over to the same levels as he had done in Atlanta. Ah well, at least WWE learned their lesson with the following Invasion angle. Oh, wait...
11 Big Show (Wrong Guy)
WEEEEELLLLLLLLLL... it’s a disappointing WWE Champion.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the Big Show. I think he’s done incredibly well for a man his size to wrestle as long as he has done and his list of accomplishments speaks for itself. Multi-time world champion, Intercontinental champion, United States champion, Tag Team champion and WrestleMania main eventer, the man really has done it all in the WWE and that’s before you mention his accomplishments in WCW and the world of film. Okay, maybe that last one isn’t that great, but he did fight Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All The Way, which has to count for something.
As much as I love the Big Show, however, every single one of his world title reigns in the WWE have been giant flops. His first win at Survivor Series 1999 came during a match he wasn’t even supposed to be in and the resulting 50 days were nothing special, including a baffling feud with The Big Boss Man, where Boss Man stole Big Show’s father’s coffin. Seriously. This happened. Then there was the time he ended Brock Lesnar’s undefeated streak in the least believable upset in wrestling history. And there was his abysmal ECW Championship run in 2006. And there was his god-awful feud with Sheamus in 2012. Basically, it’s all been bad and the WWE never seemed to learn from their previous mistakes. Sadly, the man with the KO punch didn’t manage to knock anything out of the park when he was world champion in the WWE.
10 Rob Van Dam (Missed The Boat)
It even says so in his theme song – he’s one of a kind.
Rob Van Dam was never a world champion in ECW. Despite the fact that the WWE rant and rave about how big of a star he was in the promotion, Paul Heyman never put the big belt on him, instead giving him reigns with the TV and Tag Team titles. In fact, it was in the WWE where Van Dam got his first taste of world title gold, defeating John Cena at ECW One Night Stand in 2006. Whilst this was a pretty awesome moment, it was only a tiny ray of light in the otherwise disappointing WWE career of the Van Dam.
Whilst Van Dam did have an extremely decorated WWE career, he was never given the main event push he deserved. Sure, he won titles and challenged for the world title on a few occasions, but, apart from his WWE and ECW Championship reigns in 2006 (which were both cut short after RVD was busted for pot), he never reached the top of the mountain. Van Dam was an extremely talented, extremely popular wrestler that could easily have been a top star in the WWE, but, because of the stigma surrounding talent from outside of the company at the time, he was never given the attention he deserved and that is a real shame. Was it slightly his own fault for getting busted for weed? Maybe, but that’s not the point.
9 The Great Khali (Wrong Guy)
This guy could barely walk, let alone wrestle.
When The Great Khali hobbled into the WWE in 2006, it was immediately clear why he’d been signed. He was tall, he was big and he was tall. Basically, Vince’s McMahon’s dream come true. Oh, did I mention he was tall? Khali’s impressive size played hugely into his success, including a victory in a Battle Royal on an episode of SmackDown in 2007, which crowned him the World Heavyweight Champion over guys like Batista, Matt Hardy and Kane. Then he held the belt upside down. A perfect metaphor for things to come.
How this guy ever got to the main event is beyond me. He was slow, he was clumsy, he was cumbersome in the ring, he could only do about three different moves and he was about as charismatic as a recently-used sweeping brush. The perfect example of a guy getting over based on size alone, absolutely nobody believed that Khali was a credible world champion and the 61 days he spent with the gold were some of the worst in SmackDown’s illustrious history. Thankfully, when it came to Khali’s storyline brother-in-law’s world title reign, things ran a lot more smoothly...
8 Rey Mysterio (Missed The Boat)
Rey Mysterio is arguably the most famous masked luchador in the entire world of pro wrestling. Yes, purists will say that men like El Santo, Mil Mascaras and Dos Caras are more important or were more famous in their day, but if you asked any modern wrestling fan to name a luchador, the chances are pretty damn high they’ll say Rey Mysterio. A hugely popular underdog babyface, Mysterio wowed crowds with his amazing high-flying, technical skill and willingness to go against performers much larger than himself. Sadly, it was that small stature that led to his main event career in the WWE falling, and please pardon the pun, a little short.
See, popularity and talent don’t actually matter all that much in the WWE. Not when you’re no taller than 5-foot-6, they don’t. Rey’s diminutive stature was a huge hurdle during his WWE career, one that he was never truly able to get over. Yes, he had several great matches and feuds as an upper midcarders, but he was never properly pushed as the top guy he could have been and that comes down to his size. His only real main event push came in 2006, when he won the Royal Rumble match and then the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 22. However, he was only put in this spot following the death of his close friend, Eddie Guerrero, as the WWE wanted to honour Eddie’s memory. Unfortunately, WWE seemingly forgot they were doing this as soon as Rey won the world title, as he was booked to lose pretty much every single match he had following his win at Mania. WWE had something truly special with Rey, but, sadly, he’ll now probably be best remember for the funny way he said “my left knee” in that “Don’t Try This At Home” video package.
7 Bobby Lashley (Wrong Guy)
Bobby Lashley now – yes. Bobby Lashley ten years ago – oh hell no.
When Bobby Lashley first debuted in September 2005, he was pushed and he was pushed hard. It was easy to see why too; Lashley was big and strong, but also quick and agile in a combination fans hadn’t really seen since a young Brock Lesnar. He quickly captured the United States Championship on SmackDown, before being moved to ECW, where he captured their top championship twice. Let’s just gloss over the fact that the man who ended his first ECW title reign was a 61-year-old Vince McMahon.
Lashley was pushed very quickly upon his WWE debut, but that was the issue; he was pushed too quickly. Yes, he looked the part and could perform some impressive looking moves, but Lashley was nowhere near ready to be the main eventer WWE wanted him to be. He could still be quite green in the ring, his personality was basically non-existent and fans just couldn’t connect with him in the way they should have been able to connect with a top tier babyface. Only now, after years away from the WWE in places like TNA and the MMA circuit, is Lashley finally beginning to show his true colours as a dominant main event champion. This is good news if his rumoured WWE return comes good, but WWE will have to try and blank out the fact that he was once the Roman Reigns of his day.
6 Vader (Missed The Boat)
Looks like WWE didn’t adjust their watches for all that extra Vader Time.
In the decades and decades that pro wrestling as we know it has existed, there really has never been a talent like Vader. The huge man would throw 200/250-lb wrestlers around like they weighed nothing and cut an imposing figure with his terrifying mask. However, this was also a man who would regularly perform top rope moonsaults. You know how there’s that thing where bees are actually too heavy to fly, but somehow they manage it anyway. Vader was essentially the wrestling equivalent of that, except much, much more scary.
Vader was a big star pretty much everywhere he went. A multi-time WCW World Champion, Vader also became the first gaijin (non-Japanese person) to win New Japan Pro Wrestling’s prestigious IWGP Heavyweight Championship. In the WWE however, well...he ended up meh. Some say that Vader was too difficult to work with backstage, some say it was the backstage politicking of then-WWE Champion Shawn Michaels, but, for whatever reason, Vader’s WWE run from 1996 to 1998 was a total flop. His most memorable moment came in the form of a WWE title match with Michaels at SummerSlam ’96, which he lost, but not before HBK threw a tantrum at Vader after a botched move. After this, he was barely given a sniff of the main event scene, despite being one of the most impressive performers on the roster at the time.
5 Yokozuna (Wrong Guy)
Wasn’t even Japanese.
Yokozuna’s WWE run will go down in history as one of the weirdest to ever happen in the WWE. Debuting in 1992 as a monstrous Japanese sumo wrestler (despite being Samoan by heritage), Yokozuna quickly found himself scaling the WWE mountain, winning the 1993 Royal Rumble and capturing the WWE Championship from Bret Hart in the main event of WrestleMania IX. Then he lost the belt to Hulk Hogan moments later in a weird unannounced match. Then he beat Hogan to win the belt back at King of the Ring. Then he lost the title back to Hart at WrestleMania X. Told you – weird.
The reason Yokozuna was pushed as heavily as he was was because, well, he was heavy. In the wake of the steroid scandal that threatened to send Vince McMahon to jail in the mid-'90s, the WWE wanted to keep pushing bigger men, but didn’t want people who looked like they were on the gas. Enter the giant Yokozuna. When you push someone based solely on their size, then it’s hardly surprising when they fail to capture anyone’s imagination. He was slow, he was cumbersome and he got out of breath faster than an asthmatic mouse trying to run a marathon. Yokozuna was just bad all round and, as soon as he dropped the belt back to Hart, he was never seen in the main event scene ever again. And nobody was sad about this. Not a single person. Except maybe Yokozuna himself. That would make sense.
4 Goldberg (Missed The Boat)
For the record, I am NOT talking about his 2016/17 run. Just leaving that there, before you smarks come at me in the comments.
Goldberg was nothing short of a phenomenon in WCW. The former football player embarked on an amazing 173-0 winning streak (if you believe WCW’s numbers) in the company and became the first undefeated man ever to become World Heavyweight Champion. Again, that’s if WCW are to be believed. Goldberg was probably the biggest star WCW created by themselves – Sting and Ric Flair had already built their legends in the NWA, remember – and the man was definitely one of their top draws when they closed their doors in 2001. So, when Big Bad Bill turned up in the WWE in 2003, people had high expectations for him. However, as is usually the case in wrestling, those expectations soon turned to bitter disappointment and an overall feeling of regret, sadness and completely hopelessness. And I’m not even being overdramatic; it really was that bad.
Like so many other former WCW stars before him, Goldberg was treated with a fraction of the respect that he was outside of the WWE. The first signs that Bill was being mistreated came when he lost an Elimination Chamber match at SummerSlam 2003. After dominating the match and eliminating three of the five other men in the match, Goldberg was taken out by a single sledgehammer shot from Triple H, meaning Trips retained his World Heavyweight Championship and Goldberg looked like a total chump. The rest of his run was as disappointing, culminating in one of the worst WrestleMania matches of all time against Brock Lesnar in 2004. After this, Goldberg left the WWE, seemingly forever until he decided he needed the money in 2016. Goldberg could have been a huge star in the WWE, like he was in WCW. However, because he stupidly decided to make a name for himself outside of McMahonland, he was treated incredibly poorly in the company and never got over to the extent he could have done. Don’t expect any of this to be mentioned in his Hall of Fame package later this year.
3 Sid (Wrong Guy)
Man, do I hate Sid.
Sid Eudy (aka Sycho Sid/Sid Vicious) is one of the most baffling entities in wrestling history. A giant man with no real wrestling skill, Sid somehow managed to secure himself two WCW World Championship wins and two WWE Championship reigns. Furthermore, Sid also appeared at WrestleMania twice in his career and main evented the show on both occasions. How? This was a man who once tried to restart a promo on live TV! No wonder CM Punk was so annoyed he never went on last at Mania.
Sid got all this main event attention because he was an almost exact copy of Hulk Hogan. Tall, muscly, blonde Sid was basically Hogan, but after one too many chair shots to the head. This would explain why Sid was given so much attention during his time with the WWE and why he got to main event WrestleMania twice five years apart. Sid was a wrestler perfectly suited to his time, but, even then, he wasn’t the big draw WWE hoped he would be.
2 Daniel Bryan (Missed The Boat)
What could have been...
What can about Daniel Bryan that you don’t already know? One of the most legendary independent wrestlers of all time, the Ring of Honour founding father joined the WWE as a member of the first season of NXT (back when it was a weird reality show) and then debuted on the main roster as a part of The Nexus. Over the next six years, Bryan won numerous championships, put on incredible matches and captured the hearts of the WWE Universe. This culminated in Bryan winning the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania XXX, after overcoming multiple obstacles; both within storyline and in real life. Whilst Bryan’s rise to the top of WWE was one of the best stories in wrestling history, you can’t help but wonder how much more Bryan could have achieved had the company gotten behind him sooner.
For most of his WWE prior to WrestleMania XXX, Bryan had been treated like just another wrestler. Despite his obvious talent and popularity, Bryan was never given the big push he so desperately deserved. His first world title reign ended in 18 seconds at WrestleMania XXVIII and his first WWE Championship reign ended in about five minutes, following a Randy Orton cash-in at SummerSlam 2013. Bryan was never meant to succeed in the WWE and it was only through sheer determination and the overwhelming support of the fans that he finally got the moment he deserved in New Orleans. With Bryan seemingly now retired, the company truly have missed their chance with The American Dragon and that is something they should be kicking themselves about for the rest of their existence.
1 Diesel (Wrong Guy)
Always embarrassing when you put the wrong fuel in your car and, indeed, your wrestling company.
Terrible opening jokes aside, there has probably never been a bigger main event flop in the WWE than Diesel. Kevin Nash, now legendary performer and founding member of both the Kliq and the nWo, was pushed hard when he debuted in the WWE as Diesel. In his first year in the company, Big Daddy Cool won the Intercontinental, Tag Team and WWE Championship, making him the only WWE rookie in history to become a triple crown champion. The company firmly hitched their wagon to Diesel during 1995. Strangely enough, this is the year widely regarded as one of the worst in WWE history. Weird, right?
Diesel is yet another example of a big man getting pushed way beyond his remits. Yes, his power and strength was impressive, but Diesel could barely move within the ring and couldn’t keep up with smaller, faster wrestlers like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. These were the performers the fans wanted to see pushed and Diesel was seen as a relic of a time gone by, which turned a lot of the fans away from the product. In the history of WWE’s top guys, Diesel’s lengthy run on top is often seen as a mistake and it’s not hard to see why. His inability in the ring, lack of charisma and the fact that his WWE title reign lasted nearly a year almost drove the WWE into the ground in the mid-'90s and it was only after he lost the world title that business began to pick up for the company. Don’t feel too bad for Big Sexy, though, he did alright for himself. With a little help from his friends, of course. And by “a little” I obviously mean “a lot”.