When it comes to World Wrestling Entertainment, it truly is like any other professional sport. Whether it is MLB, the NBA, the NFL or the NHL, there are solid role players who believe that they should be placed in a better position to succeed; whether they really deserve it or not.
When it comes to Vince McMahon’s company, those types of athletes have a name for themselves: midcarders. The big difference is in pro sports leagues, there are dozens of other teams to find employment. In wrestling, it's very scarce and WWE is still king.
Since the mid 1980s, the roles of mid card talent has changed in the WWE.
At one point, mid carders were considered the workhorses of the company; while they could be seen as undersized, they were very talented inside the squared circle. As time went on, the mid card level was seen as a chance for older wrestlers to take a step back from the main event picture while others get their chance at the spotlight.
Either way, it was a notch below the top spot, and every wrestler who became a superstar once started out at that level. Unfortunately, not everyone had the honor of breaking through the glass ceiling. It was a lot harder back in the 80s to do so, as Hulk Hogan was the top babyface and the only way to really reach the main event was as his adversary (and you would likely have to put him over.) The Attitude Era then came around, and superseding Austin or The Rock as a top babyface just wasn't going to happen.
Let's take a look at 15 midcarders who should have been given the chance to become a main eventer, but didn’t.
15 Wade Barrett
To begin this list, I am going to start with someone who is currently on the main roster.
Although he certainly doesn’t deserve a main event spot with his current gimmick, Wade Barrett had all the makings of a star when he first joined the WWE after the first season of NXT. He had a great look and skillset, was the leader of the feared Nexus group, while also facing off against the likes of CM Punk, Randy Orton and even John Cena for the WWE Championship mere months after his debut.
If that didn’t display the backing of the creative team enough, Barrett, at one point, was scheduled to face The Undertaker at WrestleMania 27, and possibly end his streak.
Unfortunately, a string of injuries and poor booking has transformed Barrett into a glorified jobber. However, when he first debuted, the WWE was still using the brand split; and that would have been a great time to put Barrett atop Smackdown to establish himself as a main player.
14 Rick Rude
Especially during his original three-year run with the WWE, there weren’t many talents as unique as Rick Rude.
The Ravishing One never had the chance to showcase his ability at the main event level. Rude, while being a stalwart in the ring, was known to be a cocky and brash individual who would put down all of the men in the arena, have his physique airbrushed on his tights, and after his victories, would kiss women at ringside.
Unfortunately, however, he was never truly a part of the top of the card. Although he received a WWE Championship match against the Ultimate Warrior at SummerSlam 1990, Rude was mostly a part of the middle of the pack. He did have a great feud with Jake Roberts, Junkyard Dog and Roddy Piper, but he was never able to get past midcard status.
During a time where bulging muscles was a priority for Vince McMahon and company, one would think Rude would have been a WWE Champion at some point. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.
13 Ken Shamrock
What Brock Lesnar is to today’s WWE product is what Ken Shamrock was to the Attitude Era. Now, don’t get me wrong – Shamrock wasn’t nearly as dominant or imposing as Lesnar; however, he, too, was a former UFC Champion, and his intensity and in-ring style clashed with the Beast Incarnate.
When “The World’s Most Dangerous Man” first debuted in the company, there were big plans for him – including a WWE Championship title reign.
For whatever reason, however, Shamrock never made it into the main event picture. While being a mainstay in the Intercontinental Championship division, Shamrock locked up with the likes of The Rock, Triple H and Owen Hart before joining Vince McMahon’s stable, The Corporation.
During said Attitude Era, there were countless random moments that happened on television. Because of this, if you told someone that Shamrock was, at one point, WWE Champion, they would probably believe it; however, that never came to fruition. In fact, the only notable time Shamrock got a title shot was at In Your House: D-Generation X against Shawn Michaels.
By the time Montel Vontavious Porter made his debut on Smackdown, he was highly touted; after all, commentators spoke of him as a highly regarded free agent, while a press conference on WWE.com stated he signed the richest contract in Smackdown history.
Sure, that gimmick certainly didn’t endear him to the fans; however, his charisma, mic skills and in-ring talent made it seemed that MVP was destined for the main event picture.
As a two-time United States Champion, MVP engaged in feuds with Kane and Ric Flair, while having a series of memorable matches with Chris Benoit and an entertaining program with Matt Hardy, that saw the enemies eventually capture the WWE Tag Team Championship.
MVP had the talent to be a big player in the WWE, and even competed in two Money in the Bank matches and a WWE Championship scramble. However, he was never able to get to the top level in the company.
When both WCW and ECW went out of business in 2001, Vince McMahon had a multitude of talent to bring into the WWE – none as imposing as “The Man Beast,” Rhyno.
Although he joined the land of extreme in its later years, Rhyno immediately established himself as the next great talent to come out of the promotion. While he wasn’t putting on insane hardcore matches that ECW became known for, instead he was an unstoppable physical force, and his finishing move – The Gore – was the most violent looking spear at a time when everyone was using the move.
When ECW folded, Rhyno was not only their World Heavyweight Champion, but their Television Champion as well. Instead of bringing him into the WWE with his steam and momentum, the creative team immediately threw him into the Hardcore Division, and, unfortunately, he never made it out.
Following in Wade Barrett’s footsteps, Rusev is the other current mid card wrestler who should be a part of the main event scene.
After having a run in WWE’s developmental program NXT, Rusev joined the main roster and immediately became a force. Naturally being hated by the crowd because of his support of Russia, Rusev dominated the likes of Mark Henry, The Big Show, Sheamus and Jack Swagger, as he became the United States Champion while also being undefeated.
Everyone knew his title reign would come to an end; but most figured that would catapult him into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship picture. Unfortunately, two straight pay-per-view losses to John Cena really hurt his credibility, and Rusev is currently entrenched in smaller feuds lower on the card.
Sure, Rusev still has time to make it to the main event scene. However, with his character not nearly as hated as it once was, the ship may have sailed for Rusev to do so.
If Rusev can be compared to any in recent memory, it very well could be Umaga.
Umaga – a part of the great Anoa’i wrestling family – was originally in the WWE in the early 2000s as a part of the “3-Minute Warning” tag team, but really came into his own when he returned to the company as Umaga in 2006.
Like Rusev, Umaga was portrayed as a dominant heel from the get-go, as he had an undefeated streak from April to the following January. His aggression and agility made him unique, and it appeared that he had a bright future ahead of him.
Again, like Rusev, Umaga ran into John Cena – who eventually ended his undefeated streak and beat him again the following month, which really halted his momentum.
Sure, Umaga had two WWE Championship matches and represented Vince McMahon in the “Battle of the Billionaires” against Donald Trump at WrestleMania 23; however, other than that, he mainly floated around the Intercontinental title picture throughout the majority of his WWE career.
Unfortunately, Umaga was fired due to not entering rehab after violating the WWE’s Wellness Policy and passed away shortly thereafter.
8 John Morrison
For John Morrison, he holds two distinctive awards in the WWE: most acrobatic wrestler and most successful winner of Tough Enough – by far.
After winning Tough Enough III, Morrison, who originally began as Johnny Nitro, was used as Eric Bischoff’s assistant before forming the prominent tag team of MNM with Joey Mercury. After finding more success on the ECW brand and teaming with the Miz, Morrison appeared ready for the big time as he was moved back to Smackdown.
While Morrison always put on amazing acts inside of the ring, his lack of mic skills really plagued his character development. While the creative team could have given him a manager, instead Morrison was stuck in both the Intercontinental and United States title picture.
If it were based solely on talent, Morrison would have held a World Championship in his WWE career. Unfortunately, his lack of versatility really hurt him in the long run.
7 Shelton Benjamin
Whether it was as one half of The World's Greatest Tag Team or as the Gold Standard, Shelton Benjamin always stood out among the rest.
After having a successful tag team run with Charlie Haas and under the tutelage of Kurt Angle, Benjamin was shipped to the Raw brand where he was immediately put into a feud with the top group at the time, Evolution.
After getting a fluke victory over Triple H, Benjamin feuded with Evolution members Ric Flair and Randy Orton, which saw Benjamin pick up the Intercontinental Championship.
After putting on a memorable match with Shawn Michaels while also being the highlight of many Money in the Bank matches, the only thing that stood before Benjamin and the WWE Championship was time.
However, after being featured in lower card feuds on Smackdown, Benjamin was shipped to ECW, where he stayed until he was released.
6 Owen Hart
Some would argue that Owen was the most talented wrestler of the Hart family. He had the wrestling ability, could cut a great promo and worked the slimy/funny heel persona to perfection. He got his big break when he engaged in an on-screen feud with Bret and even beat him to open WrestleMania X. After his feud with Bret concluded later in the year, Owen was relegated back to the midcard - for no clear reason really. After his feud with Bret, Owen was rarely at the top of the card, mostly engaged in IC title programs and in the tag team picture.
During WWE's lean years of 1995 and 1996, Owen should have been way more of a focal point in storylines, as headlining matches with Shawn Michaels, Undertaker and more with his brother could have done wonders for a struggling product.
5 "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig
Over the years, many wrestlers have considered themselves perfect. However, there was only one Mr. Perfect.
Throughout Curt Hennig's WWE tenure, he was truly one of the best all-around performers in the company. Whether it was his athletic vignettes, charisma or charm, Hennig appeared destined for stardom.
Unfortunately, Hennig never made it past the Intercontinental title picture during his run, as he was a mainstay in the division. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; in those days, the Intercontinental title was just was prestigious as the WWE Championship, and Hennig had a series of quality feuds with Tito Santana, The Big Boss Man, Bret Hart and Ric Flair.
After an injury riddled final two years with the company, Hennig moved onto WCW, who also failed to utilize him as a main eventer. It’s a shame, however, that in his prime he never had the chance to be “the guy.”
4 Jake "The Snake" Roberts
Throughout the late 80s and into the early 90s, there was no one on the WWE roster as unique as Jake “The Snake” Roberts. At a time when professional wrestlers looked like real life, over the top cartoon characters, Roberts stood out due to his enigmatic personality and his look, as he resembled an everyday man.
Just because his look didn’t match the product, it didn’t mean that Roberts didn’t have the support of the fans.
Although he started out as a heel, Roberts won the fans over during programs with The Honky Tonk Man, Macho Man Randy Savage and Ravishing Rick Rude.
While he never had his chance at the WWE Championship, that wasn’t always Vince McMahon’s plan.
In late 1986, soon after the crowd started to favor Roberts, he was booked in a program with Hulk Hogan for his title. After Roberts DDT’d Hogan in a “Snakes Pit” segment, the crowd started chanting DDT instead of supporting Hogan. Because he wanted to protect his franchise superstar, McMahon never furthered the program, and Roberts hovered around the midcard for the rest of his WWE career.
3 Bam Bam Bigelow
If Vince McMahon didn’t trust Bam Bam Bigelow, he would have never put him in the main event of WrestleMania XI against NFL legend, Lawrence Taylor. Unfortunately, McMahon didn’t trust Bigelow enough to be a serious contender, as he was never put into the spotlight of a main storyline.
In two different tenures with the company, the ultra talented and athletic big man was never recognized as a true force. During his first run in the late 80s, Bigelow’s claim to fame was outlasting teammate Hulk Hogan in a Survivor Series match before losing to Andre the Giant.
From 1992-1995, Bigelow was used strictly as a heel, as he was a part of Ted DiBiase’s Million-Dollar Corporation. Besides his match with Taylor, Bigelow was mostly a part of the tag team scene with different members of the stable.
Bigelow left the company towards the end of 1995 due to reported problems with The Kliq. Unfortunately, his talents were never utilized correctly in the WWE.
2 "Rowdy" Roddy Piper
When you look back at the history of the WWE, not many wrestlers stood out like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper did.
Like Jake Roberts, Piper wasn’t an ideal size for a WWE wrestler during that era. However, that didn’t matter; Piper was a savant on the microphone, and that ability alone brought him to the forefront of the inaugural WrestleMania’s main event. However Piper was never given a consistent run in the main event picture, nor the title picture.
He was brash. He was cocky. He was in your face. Piper was many things; but one thing he wasn’t was WWE Champion.
While his talk show “Pipers Pit” is among the greatest of all time and was featured in memorable feuds with Mr. T and Rick Rude, he was never able to get past a certain point. Hell, the Hall of Famer was only the Intercontinental Champion for two months!
Nothing can take away the impact that the late Piper had on the wrestling industry. However, it would have been nice to see him tout heavyweight gold.
1 Razor Ramon
The other 14 superstars on this list all deserved a spot in the main event because they had attributes to do so; however, the reason that Razor Ramon is number one is because he truly was the total package.
As the WWE transitioned from the Hulk Hogan Era, it was Ramon who was one of the newcomers that was going to be a focal point on television. Because of his great look and equally great in-ring ability, Ramon was immediately sent into a feud with two sure-fire legends – Ric Flair and Randy Savage.
After that program, Ramon was featured in a short feud with Bret Hart, that culminated at the Royal Rumble 1993; this was Ramon’s only WWE Championship match in his career.
Looking back, you can't complain at Ramon’s WWE career; after all, he was a four-time Intercontinental champion, one of the top names of his generation and was in one of the greatest matches in the history of WrestleMania.
Not too bad of a career. There’s only one thing missing on the WWE Hall of Famer’s resume; a WWE World Heavyweight Championship.