Because a professional wrestler is, essentially, some combination of an athlete and an actor, the wrestling business can be a pretty weird thing. For example, while some off-screen shenanigans might result in an actor not getting a role, you can’t objectively say one actor is better than another; it’s a matter of personal choice. In professional sports, we do have objective data to inform us which player or team is superior. But barring the odd poor call from a referee, the best team or player always wins. You can’t have a situation in which, let’s say Chelsea has the most points at the end of the English Premier League season, but the league awards the title to Manchester United instead because the head of the league prefers the way they look.
However, that is exactly what we have with pro wrestling. Nobody who has ever seen more than two wrestling matches would argue that Hulk Hogan was a great ‘wrestler’, yet he was champion for over four years in the 1980s. And there have been many great wrestlers who never got big opportunities because they weren’t seen as marketable enough. Add to that all the backstage politicking and there have been plenty of wrestlers who didn’t get the spots they deserved. And that’s not including the guys who screwed themselves out of chances because of drug or other behavioral problems (such as Marty Jannetty, Rob Van Dam, or Mr. Kennedy). So read on and find out about 15 wrestlers who got screwed out of big opportunities.
15 CM Punk Never Main Eventing WrestleMania
CM Punk was at his hottest for WrestleManias 28 and 29. These were the years they did the two Rock-Cena matches. Now, you can understand why the WWE wanted to keep The Rock in the main event. However, it kind of sent a bad message to the guys who were working their butts off every week for the company; and none more so than Punk. Furthermore, the second match had considerably less hype than the first, despite the WWE taking the title off Punk to give it to The Rock at the Rumble prior. A better decision probably would have been to let Punk extend his 434 day title reign into ‘Mania and make it a triple threat match.
14 Seth Rollins Not Getting The Return He Deserved
When Seth Rollins injured his knee in the autumn of 2015, some saw it as a blessing in disguise. Rollins was the reigning WWE Champion, but hadn’t been been booked like a champion. He was positioned as subservient to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. But he was undeniably a great worker, so many expected that when Rollins finally returned from his lengthy layoff, the fans would embrace him as a babyface. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder. When Rollins returned unannounced and attacked champion Roman Reigns (who pretty much everybody hates anyway), the crowd loved him.
13 Sting Not Getting A Clean Win At Starrcade '97
12 Shane Douglas Held Back By The Kliq
11 Bret Hart Not Getting His Return Match at WrestleMania 13
WrestleMania XII could not have been easy for Bret Hart. Apart from the grueling one hour match, Bret had to surrender his WWE title to the younger Shawn Michaels, signalling a passing of the torch. One of the things that made it palatable for Bret, though, was the knowledge that the plan was for him to win the return match at the following WrestleMania. Fast forward 10 months, and Shawn Michaels “lost [his] smile”. Michaels vacated the title due to a questionable knee injury. It was behavior like this that made Bret detest Shawn. Bret would win the vacant title, but only hold it for a day, as Vince chose Sid defending against Undertaker as his new ‘Mania main event (a truly awful match).
10 Ric Flair Not Getting The WrestleMania VIII Main Event
When NWA Champion Ric Flair appeared on WWE programming in 1991, everybody anticipated a mega-match. The longtime face of WCW/NWA could finally wrestle the face of the WWE, Hulk Hogan. The WWE ran a house show loop headlined by this match, which was standard practice at that time; you did the feud at live events before the big match on Pay-Per-View. Only, the tour didn’t draw very well. Apparently in response to this, the WWE decided Flair would defend his newly won WWE title against Randy Savage, but the main event would be Hulk Hogan against the other recent WCW recruit, Sid Justice.
9 Triple H Denied Winning The '96 King of the Ring
On May 9, 1996, Kevin Nash (Diesel) and Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) wrestled their last matches for the WWE at a house show at Madison Square Garden. Hall and Nash were leaving for WCW for bigger contracts, but were sad to leave their friends behind, specifically Shawn Michaels and Triple H. After Michaels defeated Nash in the main event, Hall and Triple H came down and the four hugged to say goodbye. A touching moment, only it broke kayfabe as two were faces at the time and two were heels. Vince McMahon was angered by this and felt a punishment was in order. Only, Hall and Nash were now gone, and Michaels was his world champion. Thus, only Triple H was left to be punished.
8 Ricky Steamboat Being Relegated To A Bit Player
At WrestleMania III, Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat defeated ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Championship in what some consider to be the greatest WrestleMania match ever. One would have thought this would be a launching pad for both men to go straight to the top. And Savage did, winning the World title the following year (more on that later). Steamboat, however, would never again reach such heights in the WWE. Just a few months after winning the IC title, he asked Vince McMahon for time off to be with his newborn child. A reasonable request, but Vince was taken aback, as he never would have given the title to Steamboat had he known ‘The Dragon’ would want time off.
7 Billy Kidman Being Held Back By Hogan
6 Bam Bam Bigelow Not Getting His Promised Push
5 Road Warrior Hawk Abandoning Animal
When The Road Warriors finally came to the WWE in 1990, it should have been a match made in heaven. While it started off okay, The Road Warriors (rechristened the ‘Legion of Doom’) never quite had the run many had hoped. And when a ventriloquist dummy, Rocco, was added to their act, that was too much for Hawk. Hawk had always been the more headstrong and prickly of the two, so it should come as no shock that he quit the WWE after SummerSlam 1992 (perhaps after a binge-drinking tour of London).
4 Batista Not Having the WrestleMania XXX He Was Promised
When Batista returned to RAW shortly before the 2014 Royal Rumble, he drew a very large rating, supporting Vince McMahon’s decision to have the aging movie star win the Royal Rumble and challenge WWE Undisputed Champion Randy Orton at WrestleMania. But there’s one thing neither the WWE nor ‘Big Dave’ counted upon: Daniel Bryan. The diminutive, outstanding wrestler was gaining more crowd support every week. When fans realized Bryan would not be in the Rumble match, they turned on it hard, booing constantly. And in the subsequent weeks, they turned on Batista, seeing him as the personification of the WWE trying to hold Bryan down.
3 Wendi Richter And The Original Screwjob
Even casual fans are aware of Bret Hart and the “Montreal Screwjob”. But what many don’t realize is that it wasn’t the first such incident. The “Original Screwjob” occurred in 1985. Wendi Richter was the WWE Women's Champion and her involvement with Cyndi Lauper sparked the “Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection” that helped to propel the WWE to new heights in the 1980's. Unfortunately for Richter, she would not be with the company for much of this golden period., Richter became disgruntled because she felt that she and the other women were underpaid. She and Vince had difficulty negotiating a contract extension, so on November 25 at Madison Square Garden, the WWE planned for Richter to lose her title to a mysterious opponent known only as “The Spider”.
2 Bruce Hart Not Getting His WWE Run
1 Ted DiBiase Not Getting the WWE Championship
Ted DiBiase is the only wrestler to have been promised both the NWA and WWE titles and to have received neither. DiBiase was skeptical about whether he’d ever get the NWA title, so left for the WWE, partly because of the promise of a bug push. And he did get a big push, but he never got the title. The initial plan in 1988 was to get the title on DiBiase. However, the Honky Tonk Man’s refusal to do a job set off a chain reaction. Honky, who only won the IC title because Steamboat wanted time off, didn’t want to drop the belt to Randy Savage. Vince decided to let Honky keep the IC belt, and reward Savage with the World title. Savage was then booked to win the championship tournament at WrestleMania IV. The title was vacant because Andre the Giant beat then-champion Hulk Hogan thanks to ‘evil twin’ referee Earl Hebner, and then tried to sell it to ‘the Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase.
Because Savage was now scheduled to win the tournament, Vince couldn’t keep his promise of giving the belt to DiBiase. That’s why they made the Million Dollar Championship for DiBiase, as a consolation.
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