Every athlete wants to be competing at the highest level of competition in their respective sport. High school football players dream about playing on Sundays in the National Football League, and young baseball players hope their fastball has enough speed and movement to one day get a call to Major League Baseball.
The highest ranking stage for professional wrestling still remains World Wrestling Entertainment. Despite the growth of independent circuits with the evolution of streaming video and the internet, the WWE still has the most to offer talents in that profession. Over the years, there have been a number of names and faces to come through the WWE system – some stuck, some struggled and some had little to no chance.
While many superstars have been born through WWE, there have also been a number of failures – sometimes destroying any chance they had of either having a lengthy run in the company or being able to come back at a later time. You could blame it on backstage politics, the inability to put on decent matches or they made bad decisions outside of the ring. Sometimes though, responsibility has to fall on an individual's shoulders, as there's always plenty of blame to go around.
The following are the top 15 examples of wrestlers who blew their chances of having long-term success in the WWE.
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15 Tiger Ali Singh
Many wrestling fans might not recognize the name Tiger Ali Singh, and for the most part, can be easily forgotten, although he was the man used as part of Kurt Angle’s debut in WWE back in 1999. But between 1997 and 2002, Singh would be on and off the roster for multiple attempts at improving his in-ring abilities.
He hadn’t been seen on television since 2000 and wouldn’t be released from WWE until 2002. The delay was caused by him filing a lawsuit about being let go after suffering an injury from wrestling in Puerto Rico – where WWE sent him to try and develop more. For years, Singh didn’t wrestle when he cited that he suffered a career-ending injury.
He did return to action on the independent circuit in 2008, but don’t expect WWE to reach out to him any time soon. Filing a lawsuit against the WWE claiming your career was over and then coming out of retirement is definitely one way to burn bridges.
14 Eric Escobar
Despite spending four years in the WWE’s development system between Deep South Wrestling and Florida Championship Wrestling, Eric Escobar only lasted in WWE for a total of four months after being brought to television as Vickie Guerrero’s new boyfriend in 2009. He was scheduled to be on Team SmackDown at the 2009 Bragging Rights pay-per-view, but was removed right before the event.
He was quickly dropped by Guerrero and then lost a few television matches before he was released in January 2010. Apparently, his release was no surprise since he had apparently upset a number of other wrestlers and higher ups in the WWE backstage area. It was a very brief stint that one would normally question why.
Usually when someone is let go shortly after a debut, there’s generally some controversy or issue behind the scenes that can explain why – which explains Escobar’s release months after coming to the main roster.
13 Daniel Puder
Despite winning the 2004 Tough Enough Competition, the former mixed martial arts fighter had some problems involving in-ring veterans. One of the earliest problems came when Kurt Angle came out and challenged the Tough Enough competitors to shoot matches. Puder accepted and actually put Angle into a kimura lock – which had a higher risk of breaking Angle’s arm and led to the referee counting a pinfall win for Angle despite Puder’s shoulder being up.
Angle was obviously not happy and other talents backstage felt it was a dangerous situation to have wrestlers doing shoot matches. The series of events saw Puder have a very brief stint in the 2005 Royal Rumble – not until he received chops from veterans like Chris Benoit and Hardcore Holly – and then down to develop in Ohio Valley Wrestling before he was fired.
After that, Puder wrestled some in Ring of Honor and in Japan. But his wrestling career felt more like a bust considering that he was initially given a four-year, $1 million contract with WWE.
12 Tom Magee
One thing that has circled around more times than anyone can count is that Vince McMahon is a big fan of athletes who are extremely tall, extremely muscular or a combination of both. At one point, it was believed that powerlifter Tom Magee was possibly the next Hulk Hogan. There was a story that he was able to make a big debut against Bret Hart back in 1986.
It’s a match that is likely not going to be found on the WWE Network, especially when Art of Wrestling star Colt Cabana mentioned that his request for the tape of Magee vs. Hart was the only match he was not allowed to see by the WWE. After his match with Hart, Magee would tour on the lower-tier house shows and would barely make it to television in 1990.
Magee would continue to struggle when he went to wrestle in Japan. He is considered one of the biggest busts in professional wrestling history.
11 Sean O'Haire
There was a time when Sean O’Haire was looking to get one of the more interesting pushes in WWE history. Portraying a Devil’s Advocate in 2003, he was earning some big upset victories over talents like Rikishi, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. There was a lot to like about a large athlete who could still move pretty well in the ring.
While he was definitely fitting the athletic mold of a WWE Superstar, he lacked plenty in charisma in front of the cameras and the live crowd. He once told Mike Mooneyham of the Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C. that he “was a fighter, not an actor.” Unfortunately, athletic abilities can only take a superstar so far in the WWE as one needs a balance of both in-ring skill and spoken word.
His post WWE career was filled with continued struggles. Beyond going 0-4 in the world of professional kickboxing, he had a number of personal problems that included assault and battery against his 2009 girlfriend, a battle with depression and his eventual suicide in 2014. A sad ending for someone who had potential after being named Rookie of the Year by the Wrestling Observer in 2000.
10 Sin Cara
Before the days of WWE’s NXT development system, Mexican wrestling star Mistico was one of Triple H’s earliest pet projects of bringing a new star from outside WWE for a push. The unfortunate thing was that he didn’t adapt well to the WWE style of performance and there were multiple mistakes made during his time in WWE. Nearly any WWE match involving the original Sin Cara includes at least one blunder.
When you add that the original Sin Cara also had a number of injuries and served a wellness policy suspension, things were not looking good for the Mexican lucha libre superstar. It became very interesting when he announced he was returning from injury in 2014, but not for the WWE. He would later claim that he owned the rights to the Sin Cara name (no, he didn’t) and that the WWE limited his in-ring abilities.
Now wrestling as Caristico, he performs in Mexico back to his usual style of wrestling in the ring, still believing that the WWE corporate giant was the reason he did not meet the expectations that many fans and experts had of him.
9 Buff Bagwell
Shortly after WWE bought out WCW and the infamous Invasion storyline was going on, Buff Bagwell was one of the first to accept a buyout to leave WCW for the WWE. He would make his debut during a July episode of Raw in a match with Booker T. While it was the main event match of the night for the WCW Championship, Bagwell’s time with WWE ran short.
There were apparently a number of situations that led to him being released by the WWE, including a backstage altercation with Shane Helms and there was also a belief that the match was one of the worst Raw main events in history. Since then, Bagwell made claims that it Jim Ross was at fault for his career in WWE being so short. Overall, it seemed like Bagwell’s termination was a combination of his attitude, his performance and other factors.
The sad part about the entire situation is how Bagwell was one of WCW’s biggest stars and some would argue that he deserved a longer run. Unfortunately, it looked as if he was the biggest factor of his termination in the end.
8 Scott Steiner
A little bit of time had passed since the WWE’s Invasion angle wrapped up before Scott Steiner signed with the WWE. He was billed as a big star that both Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon wanted to sign to their respective brands until he ultimately chose to go to the Raw roster. This was shortly transitioned into a feud with Triple H for the WWE’s World Heavyweight Championship.
It wasn’t Steiner’s first WWE run (early 1990s with his brother Rick), but he was a singles star from WCW and had developed quite the name as the “genetic freak.” Unfortunately, his matches were very poor and he was not in the cardiovascular shape to be able to handle longer, main event matches in the WWE.
After losing to Triple H, his status on the WWE roster fell to mid-card and lower – leading to a love triangle feud involving Test and Stacy Kiebler. The run in WWE ended in 2004. Some believed it was because he was never fully recovered from nerve injuries he suffered in WCW. Since then, he’s knocked WWE for a variety of reasons, including how the most recent WWE card shaped up.
It might seem a little harsh considering the circumstance of Kharma’s short run in the WWE. Best known for her time as Awesome Kong, she made a great debut in May 2011, and was attacking a number of divas after weeks of vignettes were shown with her destroying toy dolls – possibly to have her as a monster heel against the “pretty” divas.
Weeks went by until there was a confusing moment where she entered the ring and then cried in front of several divas and the fans. It was later announced she was pregnant and had to leave the WWE. She was released in 2012 with wrestling writer Dave Meltzer reporting that she apparently came back to training in Florida out of shape and not an easy person to work with.
There was a lot of excitement about her run in the WWE and it could have been memorable, but a combination of the baby being lost and her frustration apparently coming to work with her led to her termination.
6 Mr. Kennedy
When Mr. Kennedy first came to the WWE, there was a lot of potential with a confident gimmick that even included getting his own microphone to do his own introduction before matches. Unfortunately, Kennedy suffered a number of injuries that continued to sideline his push up the WWE card.
The breaking point happened during a Raw match in May 2009 that was a five-on-five tag team match. A suplex on Randy Orton went wrong and apparently injured Orton, which was noticed by fans when he yelled at Kennedy during the match on live television. According to an interview he did in 2010, his run in WWE ended because both Orton and John Cena went to Vince McMahon to complain that they didn’t trust working with Kennedy in the ring.
Now competing under his real name, Ken Anderson, he commented that the mistake with Orton wasn’t the only factor that led to his termination from the company. However, it was the final straw that broke up the working relationship between the WWE and Mr. Kennedy.
5 Ultimo Dragon
Ultimo Dragon had some of the greatest success during the 1990s as a member of World Championship Wrestling’s cruiserweight division. Internationally, he had even greater success during that decade as he held 10 different championships simultaneously – a record that will likely never be broken.
So when the former WCW Cruiserweight Champion was announced as a new member of the WWE roster in 2003, there was a lot of excitement. He had some good matches on television, but booking was inconsistent. He did return after months of hiatus for the Cruiserweight Open at WrestleMania XX in Madison Square Garden, where he committed one of the more memorable botches by tripping on the stage before the match.
After a few more televised matches, he was released shortly after WrestleMania XX and has since wrestled for multiple companies in Japan and Mexico. As he nears the age of 50, it’s highly unlikely he will make a return to the company. His one chance in the WWE was unfortunately a flop, considering how big of a name he was from the 1990s.
4 The Young Bucks
While both Matt and Nick Jackson had jobber roles in 2008, the Young Bucks received an official WWE tryout back in 2011 before a taping of Monday Night Raw. The reports came out that some of the veterans were not big fans of the young talents who have become big hits on the independent circuit and overseas in Japan.
Booker T stated that they didn’t want to shake his hand backstage and Rob Van Dam also noted a similar experience back in TNA. Since then, the two recorded an interview with Sports Illustrated and they commented that wrestlers don’t need to be in the WWE to find success in professional wrestling. Nick Jackson even went as far as saying they are doing betting financially than some WWE talents. That's a pretty strong statement.
There’s a good chance the WWE probably didn’t like those type of comments and probably didn’t help their chances of getting into the WWE, even after the issue with respecting WWE veterans.
3 Chris Hero
With the WWE’s development system becoming a hotbed for a number of stars from the independent circuit like Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn and Neville, there was plenty of heads turning when someone like Chris Hero debuted at Florida Championship Wrestling in 2011 and then was part of the transition into NXT.
There seemed to be a problem with how Hero, wrestling in WWE’s NXT as Kassius Ohno, was adapting to the WWE style and he wasn’t necessarily considered being in the best physical condition. Nearly two years in WWE’s development territory led to him feeling like he had paid his dues to earn a spot on the main WWE roster and his eventual release in 2013. However, he has said all of the right things to not burn bridges for any chance of coming back to WWE.
But when you consider that he spent 21 months in FCW and NXT and never was talked about coming up to WWE television, one has to wonder if they would consider bringing him back when he is now above the age of 35. The odds are looking less likely as time goes on.
2 Rob Van Dam
Ever since he was signed to a full-time contract with the WWE back in 2001 after the closure of ECW, Rob Van Dam had plenty of success with having multiple championship reigns that included the WWE World Tag Team Championship, the European Championship and the Intercontinental Championship. However, he didn’t hold a world title for a majority of his career.
It looked like things were changing when he was the winner of the 2006 Money in the Bank ladder match that gave him a guaranteed championship match, which gave him a feel-good moment with defeating John Cena at ECW One Night Stand later that year. It looked like Van Dam was going to get the main event push many fans felt he deserved.
And then it all came crashing down as he and Sabu were pulled over for speeding and the officer found marijuana and other drug paraphernalia in the vehicle. This eventually led to Van Dam losing both the ECW World Championship and the WWE World Championship quickly and then falling down the card before he left the company in 2007.
While he wasn’t fired and has come back in very small stints, his chance to be a main eventer superstar in WWE simply went up in smoke.
1 Kerry Von Erich
In 1990, Kerry Von Erich competed in the WWE under the name “Texas Tornado;” although the announce team would reference his family often during matches. He had a few months holding the Intercontinental Championship, but it looked as if he would start to fall from potential main event talent to the dreaded jobber status before he was fired from the company in 1992.
One of the biggest factors that led to his fall from being the Intercontinental Champion was the same type of fate that his brothers also fell into – using drugs and other substances. He also had a bout with depression that didn’t help his abilities either. The sad part is how much potential he showed during his time with the WWE and was part of one of wrestling’s most influential families.
Unfortunately, Kerry Von Erich would be found dead after committing suicide about a year after his termination from WWE – he was only 33 years old.
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