Just as wrestling is an art, so too is the creative practice of developing characters and telling stories on a weekly basis. No other company has had to produce as much creative content as fast as WWE has in recent years; currently the WWE produces seven hours of original content per week, all year. With that kind of schedule it’s no wonder why the company has had just as many flops as it has had successes.
You can’t really blame WWE for letting some of their talent fall through the creative cracks, as having over so many wrestlers on the roster can be a bit overwhelming. In the past wrestlers may have been able to coast through the latter half of their career based on a character they were given when they debuted in WWE; Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Macho Man and The Undertaker all come to mind.
In an ideal world, these established veterans, in conjunction with creative, could help to develop new characters so that the company could continue to thrive. Back in the real world however, more and more big stars became part timers in WWE since 2010 and rookies were forced to develop characters on their own. When you add in the fact that the writer turnover rate in WWE is fairly high, the chances of a character failing are amplified.
Some of you might be saying “well if a guy is really talented, then he can get himself over”, which is true to an extent. Keep in mind though that there are only a handful of guys who have been able to get over with the crowd, and those guys were given an opportunity to go off script. With the increased reliance on scripted material, WWE creative has more control than ever in determining the fate of its Superstars.
With all that being said, this is not a bashing of WWE creative, but rather an exploration into how they may have let some potential main eventers slip into obscurity. As always if you disagree, or want to yell at us, leave a comment below.
Lana joins this list as the most recent WWE employee to be completely screwed by the creative team. For about two years Lana, along with Rusev, trashed Americans on WWE television on a weekly basis. So please explain how it makes any sense to have her waving to crowds, and pandering to the audiences in attendance. Sure it may make work in a business sense, but Lana’s character is completely ruined. The unique character that brought her to the show is now gone and she will eventually blend with all the other divas. Now that a reunion with Rusev has been brought to kayfabe, we'll see if she can regain her old magic.
14 Slam Master J
You may think that WWE would capitalize on having a second generation Superstar on their roster, especially one whose father was a member of arguably the best stable in wrestling history; you’d be wrong.
Most people don’t even remember J’s three year run in the WWE, let alone his less famous gimmick of being a “thug” wreslter. He was essentially John Cena mixed with Brian Christopher, wearing Cryme Tyme’s clothes. Needless to say, WWE creative missed the mark on this gimmick.
“It wasn’t my fault” is a line that made Gene Snitsky famous in 2004, after causing WWE Diva Lita to miscarry Kane’s child (storyline) on an episode of Raw. The catchphrase along with a unique look catapulted Snitsky to the main event, facing John Cena on multiple occasions.
Eventually creative ran out of things for the giant to do and he would end up punting fake babies, confessing to a foot fetish, shave off his eyebrows, and slowly disappear off WWE television.
One could only imagine what would posses WWE creative to throw together a team like the Three Man Band. Truth be told, the “One Man Band” gimmick actually worked for Heath Slater, where he would get humiliated by various legends over the course of several months in 2012.
It would seem that after Raw 1000, the WWE ran out of legends and ideas, and decided to just add in Drew McIntyre and Jinder Mahal to create a faux band. All of the men in the stable were talented in the ring, but couldn’t really connect with mainstream fans as 3MB. The trio was split up after Mahal and McIntyre were both cut last year.
So technically Kane’s career isn’t ruined, but there is no doubt that his legacy is tarnished. It’s really hard to say when The Big Red Machine’s character was completely destroyed by WWE creative. Some say it was after he put his mask back on in late 2011, while others argue that it was after being forced to hug it out with Daniel Bryan in 2012. Let’s not forget his most recent run switching between “Corporate Kane” and the newly named “Demon Kane” every week.
Kane does get some benefit of the doubt, because he is a true team player who puts others over, and has been able to retain his iconic status based on the first half of his career.
10 The Nexus
In what was perhaps the hottest angle in all of wrestling during the summer of 2010, The Nexus ran through the WWE like a freight train. The group, consisting of all NXT contestants, seemed to have everything going for it, the crowds were eating it up and each member brought a unique trait to Raw. The group would go on to attack employees of the WWE until they eventually feuded with John Cena.
The rivalry with Cena would eventually lead to the inflation of “Super Cena”, besting the group of 10 rookies on multiple occasions. Some might say that this debacle isn’t the work of WWE creative and Cena is more to blame than the company, but keep in mind that Cena has creative control; Cena is creative, and even booked their silly finish to 2010’s SummerSlam match himself.
9 Damien Sandow
Poor Damien Sandow, the guy consistently makes chicken salad out of chicken manure, dating back to his 2012 main roster debut. An argument could be made that Sandow was over with the crowd during his “Intellectual Savior of the Masses” gimmick, but no one can deny that he was at his peak of popularity during his time as Damien Mizdow.
While working at The Miz’s “stunt double”, Sandow won over the WWE Universe, and even made it to the final two in the the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 31. Sandow hasn’t really done much since WrestleMania, minus a Macho Man impression, and with the revived intellectual gimmick, fans can only hope that his career isn’t at its end. Sometimes having creative ignore you is worse than a terrible gimmick.
R-Truth has always been a bit off of his rocker, even as the happy “what’s up” guy when he returned to the WWE in 2008. Truth reworked his gimmick in 2011, and became the hottest heel in the company, working alongside then WWE Champion John Cena.
What started as the superstar using a fictional “Little Jimmy” to represent the John Cena fanbase, quickly became the WWE attempting to make Truth look legitimately crazy. WWE creative turned the idea of “Little Jimmy” into so much of a joke, that they even produced vingettes where Truth takes an invisible Jimmy to a theme park. It was a waste of a gimmick, and a waste of Truth's talents on the microphone as a heel; one the company desperately needed at the time.
WWE Creative: Let’s take one of the biggest babyface in WCW’s history, Diamond Dallas Page, and bring him to the WWE.
Vince McMahon: Sounds great, what ideas do you have for him?
WWE Creative: Well, you know how he was completely over in WCW by being himself, and connecting with fans?
Vince McMahon: Yeah?
WWE Creative: Well we actually aren’t going to go the route, let’s make him a stalker, and have him follow around The Undertaker’s wife for a few months.
Vince Mcmahon: I LOVE IT.
Is the conversation above exactly how it went down when DDP debuted in WWE in 2001? Probably not verbatim, but it has to be close. DDP was known as The People’s Champ before The Rock was, which may have led to him being jobbed out when wrestling in WWE, but that is pure speculation. Though Page would have a semi decent run with a motivational speaker gimmick, the damage had been done, and DDP would soon leave the company in 2002.
6 Santino Marella
Santino is unique in that no matter what WWE creative gave him, he made it work. So why is Santino on this list? Well the former Intercontinental Champion took so many beatings as a jobber to the stars, it had an impact on his career.
WWE has dressed him up like a woman, had him wrestle in hog pens, host tea parties and constantly humiliated him on screen. None of these mentioned things are worse however, than WWE never giving him a shot to prove himself as a main event talent. The crowd went absolutely nuts for him when he almost won the World Heavyweight Championship at Elimination Chamber in 2012, yet creative still didn't give Santino a chance. It doesn't make sense.
5 Lord Tensai
How could anyone in the corporate office of WWE ever think that fans wouldn’t recognize Prince Albert/Albert/A-Train, when he returned as Lord Tensai in 2012. WWE creative went into panic mode once the “Albert” chants started, barely giving Tensai a chance to settle into his new character.
Within one year Tensai had dropped “Lord” from his name, lost his unique attire, was called “Fat Albert”, went on a losing streak, wore women’s clothing (a recurring theme in the WWE), and eventually became a sidekick for another horrible gimmick. Speaking of...
4 Brodus Clay
In one of the biggest head scratchers in WWE history, Brodus Clay debuted in 2012 as a character that was the complete opposite of what his vignettes had portrayed. Clay was slated to be a monster heel, an unstoppable force, that the WWE would have to find a way to deal with. He instead debuted as a dancing funkasaurus.
According to Clay, who now goes as Tyrus in TNA, Vince McMahon saw his true personality backstage, and thought they should go a different direction than a monster. The problem with the choice that WWE went with, is that eventually fans get sick of a shtick. True to form, the shtick ran out when Clay was released from WWE in June of 2014.
3 Zack Ryder
Rather than tell you about how WWE completely buried Zack Ryder in 2012, let's just talk about how their creative team should have handled the Ryder Revolution. WWE wasn’t too far off in their booking of Ryder, as they made him look like an underdog during his feud with Kane.
During his angle with Kane, WWE dropped the ball and literally threw Ryder off screen, when what they should have done was had Kane win one of the mid card titles (either one), and have Ryder challenge him for it at WrestleMania XXVIII. If WWE creative was more interested in pleasing fans, than playing backstage politics, they wouldn’t miss such obvious opportunities.
Did Christian ever really come back to the WWE after leaving TNA? Really? I mean sure he had a brief stint as the World Heavyweight Champion in 2011, but that was only because his best friend Edge was forced to retire due to injury.
In truth, WWE creative never had any good ideas for the highly decorated Superstar, making him a joke more than a credible main eventer. Whether he was throwing temper tantrums, or crying for one more match, the WWE never gave Christian the opportunity to show off how truly gifted he was.
It hurts to even sit here and write about Fandango, because the guy has proven to be so talented over the past few years. He has made a gimmick work that is the complete opposite of his true personality (listen to his interview on The Art of Wrestling if you disagree), won NXT, has the look of a World Champion and is a lifelong wrestling fan.
Yet despite all of the things that he has going for him, WWE creative is still making him dance to the ring when he is capable of so much more. As stated earlier, dancing is a gimmick, a shtick that wears out its welcome fast; with that being said if Fandango doesn’t get a change soon, he will be future endeavored, and that would be a waste of a someone who should be World Champion one day.