Vince McMahon and the WWE get a lot of credit for making superstars out of their wrestlers, especially the likes of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Stone Cold Steve Austin, John Cena and many, many more. Even if a wrestler is good enough to get his or herself over with the crowd, there is not always a guarantee that they will get a push from the creative team.
Ultimately, creative has about a 90 percent say in who gets to be a main event player, and who gets pushed down the card until they are out of the organization. Plenty of good wrestlers and other talent were incredibly popular with fans, but never got to the main event scene while with the WWE.
Today, we focus on the careers that could have been near legendary if it weren’t for bad financial deals, creative dropping the ball or just general grudges. These are the top 15 careers that were ruined by WWE, and there are a few stipulations (it is wrestling, after all). The talent still has to be alive (we’re talking careers, not lives) and they can no longer be employed by WWE as a talent (so no Zack Ryder, but backstage employees are OK).
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15 Justin Roberts
Justin Roberts started as a ring announcer as a teenager, and was hired by WWE in 2002. Within a few years, Roberts was the most popular of the ring announcers, and was even the only announcer beside Howard Finkel to grab the microphone during Wrestlemania XXVII. In 2014, Roberts was one of the people that was let go in the massive purge of talent, leaving fans to wonder where he went. There have been conflicting reports, but many have rumored that they slashed him to save money. Now, Roberts has been announcing House of Hardcore, a major step down from Wrestlemania.
14 Brad Maddox
Brad Maddox had a promising future (and still does, since he’s only 31 years old), since he was a Tag Team Champion and FCW Champion in WWE’s developmental system. Instead of bringing him up as a wrestler, Maddox was brought up to be a rogue referee that became the Commissioner of Monday Night Raw. They then put Maddox into a hiatus with no real plans to use him, meaning that he couldn’t wrestle with any other organization until he was finally cut loose in 2015. Now wrestling as Mad Braddox, he never got a real opportunity to showcase his wrestling talents on the big stage.
13 Steve Blackman
Steve Blackman had a memorable debut in 1997 when he attacked The Hart Foundation, and he was given the gimmick of a martial artist known as “The Lethal Weapon”. Blackman was an intimidating force that had some memorable feuds with the members of The Nation of Domination, and there was a lot of potential for him as a singles competitor. Instead, Blackman was put into odd tag team pairings with Al Snow and Grandmaster Sexay, basically killing any credibility he had as a powerhouse. Blackman left in 2002, returned once for a battle royal, and is now working as a bail bondsman in Pennsylvania.
12 Drew McIntyre
English talent Drew McIntyre is only 30 years old, so his career is far from over, but he will likely never get the chance to be a superstar. McIntyre had a soft debut in 2006, and then became a full-timer in 2009. McIntyre was introduced as a the future by Vince McMahon, and even had an Intercontinental Championship reign with WWE and a long undefeated streak. After losing, he was taken off television for a while, and they never gave him the momentum he needed when he returned. McIntyre was eventually relegated to 3MB and the group floundered around until McIntyre was cut loose in 2014 and now he’s wrestling as Drew Galloway (his real name) in Insane Championship Wrestling.
11 Ted DiBiase, Jr.
WWE loves their second or third generation wrestlers, but they just couldn’t quite get it to work with Ted Dibiase, Jr. DiBiase made his debut in 2008 as part of The Legacy with Cody Rhodes and Randy Orton, and is the only one of the three not still with the company. DiBiase was even given a movie role during this time in “The Marine 2”. After the group split up, DiBiase was basically given a rehashed version of his father’s gimmick, but it wasn’t a success. After getting multiple title shots and losing them all, you could tell that he was frustrated with his spot on the roster. When contract negotiations came around in 2013, they opted not to agree to a new contract.
10 Dean Malenko
Dean Malenko was a popular wrestler with WCW during the late 1990’s, and had a very memorable feud with Chris Jericho. Malenko got his release from the organization in 2000, and joined up with the WWE as part of The Radicalz with Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Perry Saturn. After not being able to find anything for Malenko to do, he was put into the Light Heavyweight division. What this entailed was Malenko losing to the likes of Scotty 2 Hotty and Lita, and even had a ridiculous “Double Ho Seven” gimmick. Malenko quietly left, only to make returns in tributes to lost wrestlers, and now works as a road agent for WWE.
9 Terry Taylor
After seeing success with the NWA, UWF and WCCW, Terry Taylor signed a deal with the WWF in 1988 as “Scary” Terry Taylor. Things got off to a rough start when Taylor was almost immediately rebranded as “The Red Rooster”. It takes a lot of odd creative decisions to make a wrestler with talent and Bobby Heenan as a manager, but WWE did it. Taylor was relegated to being squashed in battle royals and Royal Rumble matches before he left for WCW and came back briefly...only to be squashed in another Royal Rumble. Taylor eventually worked backstage with TNA for eight years and has worked as an NXT trainer since 2012.
After wrestling as Antonio Banks in Deep South Wrestling, Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP) made his debut in 2006 on SmackDown! as a Terrell Owens type of personality. There was a lot of intrigue when MVP’s character debuted, and he would eventually have runs as the United States and a Tag Team Champion. MVP was even the top overall pick in the 2009 WWE Draft and had feuds with CM Punk and Dolph Ziggler, but creative made him go on a losing streak that lasted for five months, so he was seen as a jobber with no credibility. MVP left for New Japan Pro Wrestling and then TNA before leaving in July 2015, and is now in Prairie Wrestling Alliance.
7 Perry Saturn
An imposing force, Perry Saturn made his debut with ECW in 1995 and then got called up to WCW in 1997, where he would go on to win the World Television Championship and two World Tag Team Championships. Saturn bolted for the WWE in 2000 (another part of The Radicalz), and was put into the Hardcore Division. Saturn had odd feuds, but was still a solid mid-carder before he attacked a jobber with real punches in a match. As a punishment, Saturn was given a ridiculous gimmick where he talked to a mop for nearly a year before the WWE just straight up released him.
6 Chris Masters
Here’s a fun fact: Chris Masters made his WWE debut in 2005, and is only two years older than current champion Roman Reigns. Masters had a lot of intrigue when he first started, as he had the Master Lock Challenge where he offered $1,000 for someone to get out of his hold (and the number would grow). Masters was given matches against the likes of Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels, but of course saw his career take a decline when Bobby Lashley became the first to break out of his submission hold. After that intrigue was over, Masters was bounced down the card until he violated the Wellness Policy, leading to his release. Had he been a bigger name, they likely would have swept it under the rug at the time.
Raven floundered in his first gig with the WWE in 1993 as a preppy manager named Johnny Polo, but really made a name for himself in ECW and then WCW as a master heel that was great at ring psychology. After becoming popular, Raven reappeared with WWE in 2000 and would end up holding the Hardcore Championship a record 27 times. Raven was involved in the ridiculous mop storyline with Perry Saturn, and even convinced creative to have his own angle on Sunday Night Heat, but they aborted it before it could come to fruition and unexpectedly released him in 2003.
4 Shelton Benjamin
A very athletic talent, Shelton Benjamin debuted in late 2002 before becoming a heel in early 2003 as part of The World’s Greatest Tag Team. Benjamin would continue to gather momentum, and had three reigns as the Intercontinental Champion. When the WWE acquired ECW, Benjamin became a member of that brand before moving to SmackDown! Benjamin was a lot of fun to watch, but toward the end of his run, most of his time was spent in ladder matches in big spots (sort of like what they did with Kofi Kingston for a while). Benjamin went on the independent circuit and has wrestled with Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling since leaving WWE.
A monster heel for WCW during the early 1990’s, Big Van Vader was a main event talent that had memorable feuds with Mick Foley, Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan and more. In 1996, Vader made the move to WWE as part of Jim Cornette’s group, but they completely dropped the ball with him despite giving Vader feuds with Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. Without any notable feuds afterward, Vader was relegated to jobber status for main eventers and was eventually released. Jim Cornette has said since then that Vader could have been one of the greats with the company, but they failed in the booking department, leading to his numerous independent circuit matches.
In the golden era of ECW, Tazz was one of the biggest names in the company as a two time World Heavyweight Champion, two time Tag Team Champion, and one of just four Triple Crown Champions. Tazz got off to a rough start in terms of booking when he lost to Triple H early, practically killing all of ECW’s credibility in the Invasion angle. Since it was clear that the main event (and maybe even midcard) status was going to be unobtainable and injuries were piling up, Tazz moved to the commentary table. After spending seven years there, a contract dispute saw Tazz leave despite him being popular with most fans. Tazz then spent six years as a commentator for TNA before leaving in April 2015.
1 Diamond Dallas Page
Diamond Dallas Page was a certain main event talent for WCW, winning the United States Heavyweight Championship and then the World Heavyweight Championship. Page should have been a major star with WWE when WCW was acquired by the company, but his debut was one of the worst in recent memory when he was revealed as the stalker of Undertaker’s wife. The ridiculous storyline killed Page’s WWE career before it even started, and was put into the low midcard status before leaving in 2002, making sporadic wrestling appearances since then.
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