“CM PUNK! CM PUNK!” “LET’S GO CENA! CENA SUCKS!” “ROCKY! ROCKY!” The resounding echoes of fans cheering, jeering, protesting, or demonstrating, but what would the landscape of pro wrestling be today if just one wrong bump hadn’t been taken? If just one more concession on a contract had been made? If just one illegal substance test hadn’t been failed?
Wrestlers are trained. Superstars are made. As fans, all have an opinion of who should be pushed, who should be a main eventer, who should be THAT guy. So many great performers have come and gone through the ranks of pro wrestling that a large portion of them fall through the cracks for a multitude of reasons. Maybe one guy couldn't cut weight. Another couldn't tone up. One more decided a drunken binge may be better than sleeping before a PPV. And yet another may have less-than-desirable pictures leaked onto Instagram......too soon? This list isn't for "enhancement talents," per se, yet some of these names may have been there at one point or another. You won't see the Brooklyn Brawler on this list. Mucho respect for the man, but what we're looking at is the guys who could've/should've/would've been the long term main eventer. he kind of guy who, had things been different, would've taken the spot away from a Shawn Michaels or Chris Jericho. Maybe we wouldn't have ever heard the "YES!" chant. Possibly......never even heard of John Cena. As unlikely as that may be, we will never know. You probably will not recognize a name or two on this list, but I assure you, each one of them could’ve been an even larger superstar than they were. So sit back, get YouTube ready, and let the memories of what could have been roll. These are the top ten wrestler who, for whatever the reason may be, could’ve been MORE than what we remember them for.
10 Rob Conway
To start this list with someone who is a two time NWA World Heavyweight Champion seems to be somewhat off putting. However, before he was the Ironman, he was one part of a solid tag team known as La Resistance. He came into WWE in a managerial role with the team, which consisted of Rene Dupree and Sylvain Grenier. When Grenier suffered a back injury in October of 2003, Conway moved up to tag with Dupree. The draft lottery, lack of focus on tag teams, and so many other factors lead to the demise of La Resistance, and Conway was left in the cold, eventually to be fired publicly on Raw.
What “Ironman” Rob Conway has done within the NWA, and in NJPW, has been nothing short of spectacular. His matches with Satoshi Kojima over the NWA World Title are being watched and studied every day by students of the game. Had it not been for these facts, Conway would either be higher on this list, or not at all.
9 Sean O'Haire
What do you do with a 6’6”, 270 pounder who flies like a luchador and packs a punch to rival any other big man in the business? You waste him. You let him flounder with the horrible life coach gimmick that could only be one step behind “That’s not a bad thing. That’s…….a GOOD thing.” WWE had a habit of burning off the WCW talent it acquired and Sean O’Haire was no exception. Paul Orndorff himself labeled this guy as one of the next big talents. Former World Champion Adam Pearce has nothing but good things to say about him. So why does a guy with so much going for him get shoved to the gutter? Politics. Locker room hierarchy. And so on and so forth….. But we're not telling you anything you don’t already know. RIP, Sean.
8 Lance Storm
If I can be serious for a minute… all you need to watch to know what a great talent Lance Storm was would be his IC title matches with Edge in 2001. Seriously. Go watch it. Now tell me honestly that you don’t want to watch more. With few words, and a stone cutting glare, Storm could create a chorus of boos or make you choke on your popcorn with laughter. A general in the ring and respected out of the ring, Lance Storm was another victim of the interpromotional politics that so many WCW/ECW stars succumbed to. Now quit reading and go watch Lance Storm vs Edge from SummerSlam 2001. Then try to argue with me.
7 Chris Masters
Heading into New Year’s Revolution 2006, Masters seemed to be on the right track to be a Heavyweight Champion. He was chiseled, strong, fast, and good on the mic. Everything that the E wants in their top guys. His on again, off again teaming with Carlito was great stuff. Chris Masters should’ve been the next big thing. Then the wellness policy caught up to him. Masters was never the same after failing that first test. His push died. His career stalled. Fans quit reacting to him. After all this, The Masterpiece never stopped scratching and clawing. What some people may fail to realize is that Masters is a true life hero. The man physically picked up a tree to remove his mother from her burning home in LA. Were he not a real life hero, 'The Masterpiece' Chris Masters would be higher on this list.
6 Waylon Mercy
Imagine Bray Wyatt at nearly 7’ tall, clean shaven, and overly-nice-preacher style creepy. Add to that the simple actions of peacefully shaking the fans hands, the referee’s hand, and even his opponent’s hand to really boost the confusing creepiness, and that was Waylon Mercy. “Dangerous” Dan Spivey may be more familiar to you. As part of The Skyscapers in the late 80’s and early 90’s, he feuded with The Road Warriors, Doom (Ron Simmons and Butch Reed), and the Steiner Brothers in the NWA/WCW. Spivey was teamed with “Mean” Mark Callous (The Undertaker) then with Sid Vicious in two incarnations of The Skyscrapers. Upon returning to WWE, he became the creepy Waylon Mercy. Running roughshod over many enhancement talents, including a young Jeff Hardy, Mercy was poised to receive a major push. His last televised match was against Diesel, wherein he received multiple powerbombs after the match. Despite rumors that it was the reason for his retirement, the truth is that he had accumulated many nagging injuries over the years. Waylon Mercy will still live on, for as he said on many occasions, "Lives are gonna be in Waylon Mercy’s hands. You know what I mean?”
5 Brian Pillman
One of two men on this list whose death shortened their careers, Brian Pillman was truly a spectacle to behold. Sinister. Dark. Twisted. Those are the nice things you can say about the Loose Cannon. His earlier days in the Light Heavyweight divisions saw him have wars with Jushin “Thunder” Liger and more, and his heart was really shown in his feuds with the monsters, namely one Sid Vicious. Moving on to tag team work with Steve Austin, The Hollywood Blondes would hold NWA/WCW tag team gold several times, but it wasn’t until he joined the Horsemen that we saw what this man could really do. His promos were intense. His energy and charisma were hard to match. His time in the WWE with the Hart Foundation, challenging Stone Cold and others, was a great time for fans. Brian Pillman had many different health problems, and they finally caught up to him. He was lost way too early and could’ve been remembered as one of the all-time greats.
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4 Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy? Are you serious? Former World Heavyweight Champion. Half of one of the greatest tag teams in history. Part of some of the most memorable OMG Moments in history. Yes. That Jeff Hardy. What else do you consider a man who had the world in the palm of his hand and then let it get away because of issues with substance abuse? He had the opportunity to be a long running champion for WWE. His program with CM Punk was beautiful. His time in TNA is simply a reminder to many people that he could’ve, and should’ve, been so much more. Imagine what RAW would be like today if we had Jeff Hardy vs Seth Rollins/Dean Ambrose/Daniel Brian. Jeff Hardy is a prime example of how the rock star life can destroy a man. All credit in the world should be given to him for rebounding in his life. Getting clean not only saved his career, it saved his life.
3 Tully Blanchard
If you’ve read my editorial articles, you already know that I’m a HUGE Tully Blanchard fan. One of the classiest heels ever. He had the Lance Storm ability to draw heat just by walking into the room, and, by God, he could back it up in the ring. While one of the original Horsemen, Tully Blanchard carried the NWA TV Title and covered it with prestige. His feud with Magnum TA was a sight to behold. Later in WWE, he tagged with former Horsemen stable mate Arn Anderson as The Brain Busters alongside Bobby Heenan. When they had the chance to go back to NWA/WCW, they jumped at it. However, like Jeff Hardy, Tully failed a drug test. His career never got back on track, but the time we had to see Tully work was a great time for pro wrestling.
2 Owen Hart
The younger Hart brother was a victim of his own great talent. His early pairings with Jim Neidhart and Koko B. Ware were not necessarily what you would picture as a great start, but fans were quick to see that he was well beyond either of those two men in the ring. Owen was quick, technically sound, and could he ever turn your stomachs with just a few words. The battle between brothers is a story as old as time itself. Bret and Owen’s rivalry was something that hit close to home for millions of people. Then their reconciliation. Then Bret’s defection to WCW. Owen was left on his own for the first time. Saddled with a difficult gimmick, Owen donned a mask and tried to make it work. It was comical. It was different. It ended up being tragic. RIP, Owen Hart. May you know that your time spent for the fans was not wasted. We remember you. We miss you.
1 The Ultimate Warrior
Should’ve. Could’ve. Would’ve. The Ultimate Warrior is almost single handedly responsible for stirring the fighting spirit in millions of youngsters who one day went on to become a pro wrestler. I’m not going to sit here and go into all the political goings on he had with the McMahons. I won’t spend time discussing the defamation of the first WWE documentary on him. I won’t waste any more than a sentence talking about his WCW run. What could’ve been had the Warrior been around during the Attitude Era or the Invasion angle? We will never know. We will always have to wonder what could’ve been. Then why should the Ultimate Warrior be remembered as one of the all-time greats? I’ll let the man tell you himself, “Every man's heart one day beats its final beat, his lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others, and makes them believe deeper in something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit will be immortalized.”