In a time after the Attitude Era and began a new era with a young John Cena getting in Kurt Angle’s face on his WWE debut for an impressive showing, the Ruthless Aggression era featured the first time the WWE roster was split between Raw and SmackDown. It was an interesting concept that started in 2002 and ran until 2012 as there was a slow integration of SmackDown stars coming to Raw and challengers for championship belts crossing over back and forth.
Injuries and lack of depth was a big part of the end of the first brand split in the WWE. However, the NXT development brand has helped bring us new stars like Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and the tag team of Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady. There’s even more excitement with rumored main roster call-ups of names like Finn Balor, Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura. The upcoming brand split is likely going to help establish new main event stars and bring much needed change in the WWE.
However, that didn’t mean that the roster during these years were far from imperfections. In fact, the roster featured a number of terrible performers that wouldn’t even have a chance in today’s WWE.
15 Big Show
When wrestling as The Giant in WCW, The Big Show was a big signing for the WWE during the 1990s and he was a great athlete during his initial run with the company. He had everything you wanted from a big man who could be great on the microphone and was able to put on a great match with a number of various wrestlers. But as time wore on, it was noticeable how his age was starting to become a factor.
What also didn’t help his time during the original brand split was that he would flip from face to heel so often that it was hard to really know for sure what his motives were in WWE. He also gained some heat from fans when he was the one to take the ECW Championship from Rob Van Dam after the former champion was suspended for marijuana charges in 2006. He will always be one of the best big men in wrestling history, but his overall stock has taken some hits since about 2004.
14 The Miz
Before becoming the WWE Champion and multi-time winner of the Intercontinental Championship, he had a lot of heat because he was a reality television star who was wanting to be a WWE superstar. Miz was brought onto the main roster as the “host of SmackDown” in 2006, but wasn’t very good on the microphone and there was no consistency in his appearances. He also had a very memorable flub on the live microphone while hosting the Diva Search competition in 2006.
Early in his career with the WWE was more “awkward” than “awesome.” His early character felt dorky more so than anything else and had a walk to the ring of someone who had possibly had too much coffee before coming to work. Luckily, he toned down his demeanor over the years and has improved greatly in being a confident heel in the WWE – granted, there is still a large group of fans who still don’t like Miz.
13 Scott Steiner
The man who would ask the fans to “Holla if ya hear me,” many WWE fans would have preferred being deaf when Scott Steiner came to WWE in late 2002. While he was a star from his time spent in WCW in the late 1990s until the company was bought out in 2001 and got a big reaction when he beat up on Matt Hardy and Christopher Nowinski at Survivor Series and was immediately put into a feud with Triple H for Raw’s World Heavyweight Championship.
However, a history of back injuries may have finally caught up to Steiner and it was noticeable in his match with Triple H at the 2003 Royal Rumble. Steiner didn’t have the stamina for being able to have a lengthy main event championship match. Shortly afterwards, Steiner began to fall down the card that included a love triangle storyline against Test while trying to earn the affection of Stacy Kiebler before he was released in 2004.
The former Hip Hop Hippo had a number of different gimmicks and was constantly a fixture in the WWE’s mid-card roster. But Matt Bloom was certainly a large man at six-foot-seven and 360 pounds that started with the WWE during the Attitude Era in 1999 and went until 2004. He wrestled as Albert, Prince Albert and A-Train before he finally was gone from the company in 2004 to wrestle in Japan.
The problem with A-Train was that he was someone who didn’t really have much personality and was relying so much on his in-ring work, which was mediocre at best. The WWE also didn’t do him any favors with using a steam train as part of his logo and Titantron video. He would leave and make himself a big star in Japan as the Giant Bernard and would return to the WWE as Lord Tensai – unfortunately once again falling victim to inconsistent booking decisions. But at least he’s the head trainer for WWE’s NXT.
11 Jackie Gayda
The WWE’s Ruthless Aggression era included some of the best women’s wrestling that fans had seen for several years that featured talents like Trish Stratus and Lita. However, there were also some mediocre and lackluster divas like Jackie Gayda who looked like she still needed some work on in-ring presence, coordination and pretty much everything it takes to being a wrestler. Her career began after winning in the second season of Tough Enough in 2002 and would be signed brought to the main roster right away.
Most of her work near the end of her WWE run in 2004 featured costume matches for the holidays in November and December that led to Gayda having a pay-per-view match with Dawn Marie that was very forgetful in quality. She would be released from the company with her soon to be husband Charlie Haas in 2005. The two would work together on the independent circuit before going to TNA Wrestling until 2006.
10 Muhammed Hassan
It wasn’t that Muhammed Hassan was a terrible wrestler back in 2005. He was had a decent build and a character that was uncontroversial at the time, wrestling as a villainous Arab American who was wanting to go against the prejudice that was developed after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Similar heels who were against America like Iron Shiek and Nikolai Volkoff had worked in the past. However, Hassan came at a difficult time in American history.
When Hassan led an attack on The Undertaker with a group that wore ski masks, it was taped before a terrorist attack on a train in London. This led to a lot of controversy that kept Hassan on television and eventually led to his character being written off of television. Despite being planned for becoming the youngest world heavyweight champion in WWE history, it was a tough situation. The character had been banned by the networks from appearing on television and he would eventually be released later that year.
9 Kenzo Suzuki
The WWE has not had much success in being able to establish a main event talent from the land of the Rising Sun. While there is hope for current superstars in Shinsuke Nakamura, the WWE didn’t do well with talents like Kenzo Suzuki who had built plenty of credibility from wrestling in Japan. With his wife Hiroko as his valet manager, he had dominant wins in early 2004 against veterans like Scotty 2 Hotty and Billy Gunn.
By the end of the year, Suzuki was put into a tag tea with Rene Dupree – winning the WWE Tag Team Championships – and having a pro-America character where he sang popular hit songs in a not so great fashion. We went from a dominant Japanese force in wrestling to someone who thinks they are good at karaoke, which is why he didn’t last long in the company and was released in the middle of 2005.
8 Luther Reigns
During the original brand split in the WWE, it felt like the company would continue to bring in athletes or guys who look like athletes and had a specific look were given a contract and a push to the main television roster. Luther Reigns was one of those guys who started in 2004 to be an assistant for the then-SmackDown general manager Kurt Angle. His run in the WWE only lasted about a year and he wasn’t necessarily an impressive wrestler in the ring or on the microphone.
There wasn’t anything special about Reigns because he was another large, muscular talent that the WWE brought in. At least he wasn’t continuing the Horshu character from his very brief run in WCW back in 1997. But his finisher in WWE looked like the generic spinning neckbreaker they gave a lot of low-card to mediocre wrestlers – which didn’t highlight the fact he was a big, strong wrestler.
The interesting story about his release was he asked to be released from the WWE because he felt he wasn’t being used properly to meet his potential. He would then go into real estate in Arizona.
After having won a contract with the WWE during the first season of Tough Enough, Nidia spent time working at Ohio Valley Wrestling before coming to WWE television as a valet manager for Jaime Noble. The two looked like a couple that lived at a nearby trailer park, where she annoyingly chewed gum at ringside. It was an okay gimmick that included the two inheriting a fortune, which brought some extra comedy.
However, Nidia was below average in the ring with many of her matches against other WWE Divas being found on Velocity. One match with Dawn Marie from 2003 showed a number of botched spots. After an on-screen breakup from Noble, she was drafted to the Raw brand in 2004 where her character had a switch to only speaking Spanish. Her popularity continued to fall before the WWE decided to release her in November 2004, part of a massive layoff in the WWE roster.
6 Spirit Squad
There only two actual talents out of the five-man cheerleading faction that is known as the Spirit Squad – the current Dolph Ziggler and the former Kenny Dykstra. The concept was meant as an annoying and obnoxious group of men who felt secure enough to be cheerleaders that carried horns and pom poms in the ring. Their debut on WWE television was distracting for the wrong reasons.
Obviously they were meant to be a distraction that led to Jonathan Coachman defeating Jerry “The King” Lawler for a spot in the 2006 Royal Rumble, but it was not entertaining by any stretch of the imagination. Ziggler is the only one of the five who are still with the WWE as they other four could not find careers after the Spirit Squad split in November 2006 – a memorable moment when Triple H and Shawn Michaels put them into a box marked to be shipped to Ohio Valley Wrestling.
Where do we begin? First, the former professional football player was just another name in a long list of WWE superstars who had the look of being a big and dominant force in the wrestling ring. And in a list just as long, Heidenreich wasn’t able to have the in-ring skills and abilities to capitalize on the opportunities he was given. That includes being teamed with Road Warrior Animal to form the second version of the Legion of Doom and winning the WWE Tag Team Championship.
On top of that, he was part of one of the most awkward moments to watch in wrestling as he kidnapped lead announcer Michael Cole and read him creepy poetry while pinning Cole to a wall. Granted, this was not during the PG era of the WWE we are watching currently, but it was still very hard to sit through as a fan. Thankfully, he was released from the WWE in 2006.
4 Sylvester Terkay
When the WWE decided to give ECW its own brand on television, it seemed like a good idea based on the success of the One Night Stand pay-per-views in 2005 and 2006. But the ECW brand would become the first stop for new WWE superstars who were considered not ready for Raw or SmackDown. This led to talents who didn’t bring much outside of being one-dimensional.
Sylvester Terkay is one of those ECW newcomers who physically imposing athletes who stood at six-foot-six and weighed more than 300 pounds. He was considered a good fit for being the muscle behind Elijah Burke, who had a lot more talents and was better-rounded. Terkay was not that great in the ring overall and would incite “TNA” chants when he did an awkward version of the muscle buster.
Despite being reportedly groomed for a feud with The Undertaker down the road, the former mixed martial arts fighter would be let go from the WWE in early 2007 because he was unable to transition from MMA to a more wrestling style in the ring.
3 Nathan Jones
The WWE recruited Nathan Jones who definitely looked like a giant as he made his debut on SmackDown back in April 2003 in a match against Bill DeMott. The Australian born strongman had a history of spending seven years in prison after being part of eight armed robberies before he got into powerlifting, mixed martial arts and then the WWE. While he was an impressive looking seven feet and 350 pounds, he didn’t have a lot of in-ring ability.
Even when he threw a punch at DeMott in his debut, it took a while for it to be thrown. Jones looked out of place and it was understandable because he only had about two years of experience before he was signed to work in WWE. While acting as a protégé for The Undertaker and the two were supposed to compete in a tag team match with Big Show and A-Train, but it was turned into a handicap match because Jones didn’t have the proper skills to perform at WrestleMania XIX.
2 Kerwin White
The entire Guerrero family has always been one of the most respected families in professional wrestling history and earned their place among other great families like the Harts and the Von Erich family. But in the WWE, Chavo Guerrero had some highs as the WWE Cruiserweight Champion and a number of lows that included losing the ECW Championship to Kane in eight seconds at WrestleMania XXIV.
But in June 2005, he made a character switch to leaving his Hispanic heritage and decided to become part of the white, middle-class community – complete with a golf cart, blonde hair and the type of attire you would see at an expensive country club. It only got worse when White made comments about other wrestlers of different ethnicities. It was quickly dropped with the untimely passing of Eddie Guerrero in November 2005.
He returned for an emotional night as the Chavo Guerrero we all know and no longer the White character.
1 Great Khali
Up until this point, there have been several giants in the WWE who were given such a huge push right off the bat – which seemingly only because they are big people. Great Khali is someone who the WWE obviously were hoping would attract a large fan base in India, which was unfortunate for fans everywhere else who did not enjoy seeing him in action.
His debut on SmackDown in April 2006 involved him coming down to the ring and attack the Undertaker – giving the Deadman the chop to the head before tearing up a turnbuckle headbutting him several times. Khali was certainly large, but he wasn’t great in the ring. His movements were slow and taking a bump after being hit looked like live television was shown in slow motion. Khali would go from winning the World Heavyweight Championship to becoming a Punjabi Playboy before being (finally) released in 2014.