The recent WWE draft split is a gift to many superstars. With a smaller talent pool for each show, those wrestlers on the fringe of the main event will finally get their shot. Those who found themselves lower down the card will now get a fresh chance to tell stories and get fans invested in their characters.
Finn Bálor and Dolph Ziggler may be the most obvious beneficiaries. Both men got an instant insertion to the Universal and WWE Championship pictures respectively at SummerSlam, where they previously would've been left out.
Apollo Crews has finally been given something to do, and fellow NXT call-ups are seeing similar spotlights. But they are far from the only people to see a change in fortunes.
Mick Foley, Daniel Bryan, and the McMahon siblings have made a big campaign about their shows representing change and opportunity in the self dubbed 'New Era' and there are plenty of cases where they can point to evidence for doing so.
But it isn't all just dream fulfillment and the land of opportunity. Some faces just don't fit. Creative just doesn't have anything for some talent. Here we take a look at 15 stars who, even with the draft, will be left on the outside looking in.
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15 Zack Ryder
He may be the 'Internet Champion' but Ryder is destined to never catch a break in the WWE.
Once the hottest star in the company with cries of 'We want Ryder' ringing throughout arenas all over the country, Ryder forced his own opportunity back in 2011 but was quickly shoved back to background once again.
Five years later and with Ryder relegated to shows like Main Event and Superstars, fans got a shock when he won the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania. However, the norm was continued the following night as he lost the title straight to The Miz.
Now, Ryder has once more faded to the background and has found himself paired up with NXT tag partner Mojo Rawley as a supporting player in American Alpha's tag team division. Given that the Hype Bros didn't even connect with the NXT audience as a whole, the future doesn't look too bright on SmackDown.
Neville is an interesting superstar when talking about how well WWE will use him. The former NXT Champion has been a reasonably solid fixture of the midcard since debuting on the main roster. With his exciting style and highlight reel finisher, the Red Arrow, Neville has undeniable upside to him that will likely see him have a place on the RAW show most weeks.
So, you will be wondering why he is in this list then. The answer is simple, WWE will feature him on television for the above reasons but they seem to lack any direction for him.
This has been a problem since his call-up, with minor storylines and involvement in multi-man matches being his high points.
His size has held him back from true success thus far but the hope is that he will be one of the faces of the upcoming relaunch of the Cruiserweight division. There is a fear he will stagnate into a weekly attraction match if not.
13 Summer Rae
It would truly seem that the days of Summer have gone. The one time leader of NXT's answer to The Beautiful People, the BFFs, above the likes of Charlotte and Sasha Banks is now best known as the former dance partner of Fandango. Unfortunately, that's about it.
Summer Rae would never be considered one of the starting points of the renaissance of women's wrestling but her time inside the ring in NXT showed a perfectly capable performer with a solid grip on her gimmick.
Yet since her split from Fandango, she has done next to nothing outside of Total Divas and brief pairings with both Rusev and Tyler Breeze, a far cry from her potential while in NXT.
Given the fact that the split has shown the low quantity of women wrestlers on the main roster, you would think Summer may finally get some kind of look in but even now her chances look very slim.
12 Sin Cara
What an interesting ride that that Sin Cara character has gone through in WWE. Originally Triple H's first major acquisition, Mistico was a much hyped and anticipated debut. The reality, however, fell short of the expectations and he found himself replaced by the man who had played a fake Sin Cara and was known to the WWE fantom as Hunico.
Unfortunately for Hunico, with the bubble burst, Sin Cara was being used as an enhancement talent but this did lead to him ending up back in NXT. It was there he began a resurgence thanks to being paired up with exciting luchadore, Kalisto.
Together as the Lucha Dragons, the two stormed up the ranks and were soon called up to the main roster. Bad booking saw the excitement play out and the Dragons were used sparingly until WWE realized the potential for Kalisto as a solo act in the vein of Rey Mysterio.
Now Cara's hopes of being used lie exclusively with the Cruiserweight division. Although even there he will find himself near the bottom of the ladder.
11 Alicia Fox
Alicia Fox is an often forgotten but endlessly durable presence on the roster. Only used when circumstance deems it necessary, Fox is always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Even her pinnacle was a short Divas Championship reign during a period of time that the valleys of the then Divas division were dry.
To be fair to Fox, she is very competent in the ring and has shown a willingness to try to adapt with her frequent gimmick changes. Her biggest problem is that many fans see her as a representative of these dark times of Divas, not women's wrestlers. But another extreme change may be the final roll of the dice that could finally connect with viewers.
This seems very doubtful for Fox on Raw though. If she had gone to SmackDown, she perhaps may have been given another shot like Naomi but with RAW dominated with Sasha, Charlotte, Nia Jax, and likely Bayley, and Dana Brooke and Emma later in the year, Fox is very unlikely to get more of a shot than the receiving end of squash matches.
10 Jack Swagger
'The All American American' seems to be a natural fit for WWE. A record setting amateur wrestler standing at six foot seven, he was the final signing Jim Ross made as head of talent relations.
WWE has made several attempts to have Swagger take off and he has won both the ECW, United States and World Heavyweight Championships as a result. He even challenged for the World Championship at WrestleMania.
Yet nothing has quite stuck for Swagger. The most success he has had came from his pairing with Zeb Coulter. It got off to a rough start with it catapulting straight into the aforementioned WrestleMania main event but the act recovered and became one of the most hated in the company.
When Swagger finally turned on Coulter and re-embraced the American people, for both feuds with Alberto Del Rio and Rusev, he received huge reactions from the crowd and proved he could be a popular midcard act. WWE didn't seem to agree though and after his role as challenger was over, he was pushed straight to the background again, where he seems destined to stay.
9 The Shining Stars
Primo and Epico are a part of the legendary Colon wrestling family. Not that it is has helped their progress in the WWE.
The cousins have undergone several different gimmicks and failed to connect with audiences. Not that it is particularly surprising. First, they found themselves paired with charisma vacuum Rosa Mendes. Then, they were paired with El Torito and turned into a child-friendly comedy act as the masked bullfighters Los Matadores. Earlier this year they debuted another character change, as the Puerto Rican tourist board, The Shining Stars.
The two are a talented team but at this point they are damaged goods in the eyes of the audience and creative. Their jobs are safe due to the slim talent pool but barring something radical - like the return of Carlito to turn them into a three man unit with some edge - they are destined to be bit part players in the Raw tag team division.
8 Bo Dallas
Rewind back to 2013 and you will find a Bo Dallas who the WWE viewed very highly indeed. After being placed in the upper echelon of the re-branded NXT, Bo found himself in the Royal Rumble match after winning an NXT tournament during promotion for the pay per view. In the match, Bo eliminated then Intercontinental Champion Wade Barrett and began a rivalry over the title.
The underdog story didn't quite land with audiences and Bo returned to NXT where he would soon become the third ever NXT Champion. At the same time, he turned heel after the Full Sail crowd had venomously rejected his happy-go-lucky character.
Bo had a great heel run and got a high profile call-up to the main roster immediately after WrestleMania XXX but with WWE failing to explain the character to that audience, he received no reaction whatsoever. He only managed to get back on to TV as a part of the Social Outcast group - a combination of unused wrestlers who united to get back on TV, and lose every week.
Now, with the Outcasts split apart, Bo is back in limbo and there are no signs of anything changing soon.
7 The Ascension
NXT is one of the hottest brands in professional wrestling today, perhaps even ever. With its ECW-like following and ability to create stars, dozens of wrestlers have found themselves debuting on the main WWE roster to thunderous reactions due to audiences already being familiar with them and their work down in Orlando.
This is not the case for everyone. The Ascension held the NXT Tag Team Championships for 364 days, a record that still stands to this day. Yet a couple of months after losing them they debuted on the main roster as a joke team. They had the exact same gimmick only it was treated as the butt of a joke.
At the surprise of no one, except perhaps those inside the company, this elicited no response from crowds. They ended up being lower down the pecking order than Los Matadores or the Social Outcasts. They might be one of the worst regarded teams in WWE history, and they appear to continue to be bottom of the pile on the small SmackDown tag division.
6 Mark Henry
The World's Strongest Man has been with WWE for 20 years this year and has had one hell of a varied career. Debuting as a Mr. America bodybuilder following his Olympic success, Henry got patriotic cheers but soon became the first ever man sent to developmental due to his lack of wrestling training.
From there Henry rebuilt himself and has had a parade of different gimmicks, all with differing levels of success. The undeniable pinnacle of his wrestling career was the Hall of Pain gimmick he began in 2011. Henry left a wake of destruction in his path and had one of the best World Heavyweight Championship reigns in Smackdown's history.
Unfortunately, the last couple of years have seen his role reduced to simply putting over other talents and appearing in comedy skits. While some of this has been down to injuries, bad booking has a hand in it as the company no longer seems to have a true place for him on-screen.
His recent backstage segment with Stephanie McMahon and Mick Foley about wanting to be more than an ambassador and have one last run felt a little too real for some viewers. Especially after he was dispatched relatively easily by Rusev later that night.
5 The Dudley Boyz
The most decorated tag team in wrestling history, Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley have won tag team gold in every company they've been in. They are truly one of the most legendary teams to ever compete in the squared circle.
So when the duo unexpectedly returned to the WWE after a decade away, fans were excited to see some true dream matches as the old (but in no way diminished) clashed with the new. WWE's lack of restraint saw them instantly thrown in against The New Day for the Tag Team Championships and their inevitable defeat took away a little of the excitement. Following this up on the losing end of a feud with the Wyatts didn't help matters.
So the Dudleyz were turned heel, turning their back on not just the fans but their signature tables. Instead of reigniting the team, this saw them move further to the background in the tag division and now they find themselves used sparingly.
Had the Dudleyz gone to SmackDown, they could've been one of the top teams in their talent pool and provided a fantastic foil for American Alpha but given the amount of top teams on RAW they don't seem to stand much chance of getting a look in. If anything, there appears to be hints of them being split up, meaning D-Von will once again be left in the dark as Bubba re-enacts his Bully Ray act for WWE audiences.
4 Curtis Axel
Earlier in this list, Axel's Social Outcast partner Bo Dallas was featured but he is not the only left stranded by the disbanding of this group. The third generational wrestler, following on from Larry 'The Axe' Hennig and 'Mr Perfect' Curt Hennig, was expected to achieve great things when he arrived on the scene in WWE's original reality NXT show.
But saddled with the Michael McGillicutty name with a lack of defined character, and up against internet favourite Kaval - formerly Low-Ki - he only finished second place.
However, he and fellow generational second season competitor Husky Harris - now Bray Wyatt - got a second chance, joining The Nexus on Raw. Still, their ill-defined characters, terrible names, and the weak usage of Nexus led to them not connecting.
Reinvented as Curtis Axel, under the management of Paul Heyman, things appeared to finally get bright. But with Brock Lesnar's return, Axel was relegated to lackey who took the beatings and lost all momentum again.
He did eventually find success with a Hogan riffing AxelMania gimmick but after WWE got him to change his look to emulate the Hulkster, things turned south and he ended up unused again.
Things looked bright for Axel on the first post-draft Raw, as he debuted a 'Mr. Irrelevant' gimmick similar to his AxelMania delusions but he hasn't been featured since.
Tyler Breeze and Fandango are true tragedies of bad creative. Both talented wrestlers who were given little to work with and ended up together.
Fandango, already at a disadvantage with a ballroom dancer gimmick, managed to get a surprising crowd reaction thanks to a combination of dedication to the character, a debut win over Chris Jericho at WrestleMania, and a fan love for his theme song. But when WWE got a hold of this latter craze, they drove it to the ground and left fans nonplussed.
Breeze was a top act down in NXT and was even the man who got to face Jushin 'Thunder' Liger in his only WWE match. With a fantastic character and great in-ring skills, Breeze seemed destined for good things. But when he was called-up he was paired with Summer Rae and inserted into her awful storyline with Dolph Ziggler, WWE became uninterested in him.
The two men have found a way back to television by being the foil for R-Truth and Goldust's coming together as the Golden Truth but still, WWE do not seem willing to invest. Even despite the thin tag division on SmackDown.
Paige's role in the rise of women's wrestling in WWE is often overlooked. Her matches with Emma for the NXT Women's Championship are undeniably one of the building blocks for where we are today.
The raven haired girl from Norwich would also score one of the biggest surprise moments in recent years, debuting the night after WrestleMania XXX and defeating AJ Lee for the Divas Championship.
She would find herself lost in the shuffle once AJ left and Nikki Bella had her long run as Divas Champion, only finding relevance in the 'Divas Revolution' storyline in the awful Team PCB grouping.
Again, she would find a brief push within this as she betrayed the group but has fallen straight back into the shadows since. At one time Paige was the most popular of the WWE women with audiences and now she is mostly forgotten. With her suspension it only seems like this may get worse rather than rectified.
1 Alberto Del Rio
Paige's real life boyfriend, Alberto Del Rio has an almost identical problem. He returned back in October as the surprise challenger to John Cena's United States Championship, defeating him in his last PPV match for nine months. In his previous run in WWE he captured four world championships, the Money in the Bank briefcase, and won the only ever 40-man Royal Rumble match. Given this and his work in Lucha Underground since he left, fans were excited to see what he would bring to a stagnant WWE.
Despite the fans eager to cheer him, WWE would place him into the League of Nations group where he stagnated until their break-up just after WrestleMania.
Not that the group separating has actually improved his standing. Besides competing in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, Del Rio has had nothing to do and hasn't been booked on any other pay per view since WrestleMania. And that was before he got suspended. Rumors have been circulating for weeks that Del Rio will not be looking to renew his contract when it is up in October and that seems very believable.
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