Over the years there, have been many wrestlers who have graced the ring and have gone on to have very successful careers. Wrestlers such as Triple H, The Undertaker and the former Women’s Champion Trish Status are some of the most notable names that come to mind because they’ve won numerous titles during their time in the ring. Not only have they each won multiple championships, they have the personality – had in Stratus’ case – and charisma to make it work, to make their characters shine through and establish themselves as fan favorites. These personalities surely fulfilled their potentials, but there have been plenty of others who left the sport knowing that they didn’t do themselves justice.
There have been a plethora of wrestlers who have endeared themselves to the fans, to the wrestling fraternity, been part of some memorable matches, story lines and feuds and some who have even had championship fights and won a few titles here and there but haven’t tasted the success they’d hoped to achieve. These wrestlers still forged careers in the competitive sport of wrestling, and kudos to them for that, but they must have left the sport ruing missed opportunities and thinking about what could have been.
14 Davey Boy Smith
Smith must have traveled across the pond to the U.S. full of hope and anticipation that he would be embarking on a career that would win him belts, championships and world titles. To be fair to him he won quite a bit, but was never a world champion, making his career fruitless in many people’s eyes, possibly even his own.
The transatlantic success he experienced never really came on his own. He was successful with the Dynamite Kid when they paired up to form the British Bulldogs, but his strength, tactical prowess and the grappling skills never translated into a world title win. During his solo career, he won many championships, including the Intercontinental Championship and the European Championship, but that elusive world title just didn’t come. For a guy who achieved so much, stepping away from the sport in 2000 without a world title under his belt must have been painful. A title would have been the cherry on top of a perfect career, but he had to make do with championships.
13 Roddy Piper
Piper held many titles in his early days with NWA, but when he made the jump to WCW and then WWE, he failed to win any major titles. Again, what constitutes as major is open to interpretation, but looking at the number of titles Piper won with NWA, a single Tag Team Championship and an Intercontinental Championship with WWE isn’t really anything to brag about, and if Piper was alive today, I’m sure he’d agree. He certainly filled his boots in the early days and won things for fun, but when it came time to show what he was made of against the best of the best in WWF/WWE, things didn’t turn out as planned.
Due to his long career – a career that spanned a remarkable four decades – Piper was bound to win titles here and there; that’s by no way disrespecting Piper and his accomplishments. But let’s face it, be in the game that long and you’re bound to pick up a few title belts along the way.
12 Magnum T.A.
Terry Wayne Allen was one of the early guys and made his debut with the National Wrestling Alliance way back in the 1980s. He makes this list because he certainly left wrestling unfulfilled, but unlike the others on this list, it wasn’t because things just didn’t work out for him. He was on the way up, certainly on the way to becoming a future world champion, when fate dealt him a bad card and tragically ended his career.
Up until that horrific night, Allen was a talented professional who was starting to make waves in the wrestling world. He had fought with NWA and Mid-South Wrestling, winning championships wherever he went. But a car crash in 1986 – a crash which left him paralyzed – brought his career to an abrupt halt. He never fought again, but more than that, he was told he would never walk again. Fortunately, after outpatient therapy, he proved the doctors wrong and took his first steps after the incident in a style befitting of a world champion.
When Rikishi first stepped into the ring in 1985, he came with a lot of expectations – the weight of his family’s wrestling legacy, the Anoaʻi family – on his massive shoulders. Having hailed from such a prestigious family, you would have thought that it would be a given that Rikishi would be a world title holder at some point during his career, but that wasn’t to be the case. He won numerous championships with various promotions and gained a cult following during his time in WWE – seeing a sumo wrestling in the ring attempting a different type of wrestling was certainly something different and a gimmick that many people found hugely entertaining.
Though Rikishi was entertaining – who could forget his somewhat disgusting signature Stink Face – he never secured a world title, no doubt something that meant he left the company unfulfilled. At least his sons, collectively known as The Usos, have carried on the Anoa'i family tradition of stepping into the ring, and they’d be hoping, along with their father, that they could do what Rikishi couldn’t and win a world title. If they do, it will most definitely bring a sense of fulfillment, not only to their lives, but to Rikishi’s as well.
10 Nikita Koloff
The "Russian Nightmare" kind of got pushed into wrestling by his uncle, Ivan Koloff, so in those early days in in 1984, perhaps the fire wasn’t burning in Nikita’s belly and wrestling was just a means to an end. His uncle managed to get him onto the NWA roster, and his main aim was to prove Soviet superiority – this occurred just after the fall of the Soviet Union. Nikita was big and nasty in his portrayal of an evil Russian, and he pulled it off superbly in menacing fashion. With hardly any training, Nikita was a true novice when it came to wrestling, but when he won his first fight in 13 seconds, people began to stand up and take notice. He ended up winning numerous championships with Jim Crockett Promotions but when he stepped away from the ring in 1992, there was still something missing, something that would cause Nikita to walk away from the sport unfulfilled.
He never worked for WWE, which was remarkable considered how big a star he became in NWA. Apparently he was never asked and never considered it; if he did, it would have been the finishing touches on an awesome career and something that would have secured Nikita as one of wrestling’s all-time greats.
9 Jimmy Snuka
Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, over the course of a mind-boggling 47-year career, won a ton of titles and championships – the list just goes on and on. But you can’t help but think that for such a legend, for a WWF Hall of Famer, not winning the WWE Championship was the only blank mark on his résumé and must have been eating away at him when he called it quits in 2015. But you’ve got to know when to give up – at 72 years old, the only thing he would have been fighting if he had continued would have been arthritis!
Snuka certainly left his mark on the industry. He’s the man that was responsible for introducing the high-flying style of wrestling to the WWE, hence the nickname Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. But for a man as accomplished as Snuka, walking away from wrestling without a WWE Championship under his belt must have been painful and would’ve left him unfulfilled.
8 Ted DiBiase
While The Million Dollar Man was able to carry around a belt that he had custom made, The Million Dollar Championship, he actually didn't hold an official title, save for a few minutes. When Andre The Giant controversially defeated Hulk Hogan for the title on Saturday Night's Main Event in 1988, it was revealed DiBiase had paid off the referee and had 'purchased' the world title from Andre. DiBiase's title was soon vacated and that was the only noteworthy reign DiBiase would have in the WWE. His tag title reigns with I.R.S weren't exactly enthralling, considering he had fallen down the card.
Word was he was originally booked to win the WWE Championship at the WrestleMania IV tournament but Hogan reportedly swayed McMahon to give Randy Savage the win and set up a program between the Mega Powers.
A few years later, DiBiase would retire following back issues and since then, we've been left wondering whether DiBiase should have held more gold.
8. Mr. Perfect
Mr. Perfect had a very successful reign with the Intercontinental Championship. Winning the IC title used to mean a lot, as it was traditionally given to the company's "best worker" while the world title typically went to the biggest star. Mr. Perfect was certainly worthy of winning a world title. He had the ability, he had charisma and he had the rare ability to make his character work as a babyface or a heel. Perhaps the one thing that held Hennig back in WWE was injuries, as he began suffering back problems just as WWE was transitioning to a new generation where wrestlers with technical ability could thrive more.
Hennig eventually went to WCW but he was never really given a sustained main event push, hovering around the midcard for most of his time there. Hennig was always one of those wrestlers you felt should have been given more.
7 Scott Hall
Hall began his wrestling career all the way back in 1984 and is still involved with the WWE to this day, albeit in a backstage capacity. This just goes to show the respect that Scott Hall commands within the wrestling industry, much of which was gained due to his portrayal of the Razor Ramon gimmick -- a stint that brought him four WWE Intercontinental Championship titles. He was part of arguably one of the best matches in the company’s history – that infamous ladder match at WrestleMania X, and was gradually working his way up to a world title shot, but his personal issues got the better of him and forced Vince McMahon’s hand in sending him back to WCW.
As such a great talent, it’s remarkable that Scott never held the big belts in WWE or WCW. He was battling with personal demons -- substance abuse and legal issues -- but even so, never even had a shot at becoming champion. It's a sorry waste of a talent and a career that was left unfulfilled.
6 Owen Hart
Owen Hart’s tragic demise doing what he loved meant that he was never the WWE Champion, but judging by the way things had been going and his position in the company as a mid-carder, it was unlikely he would have been getting a title shot.
Hailing from the Hart wrestling family – a family that also included the likes of Smith Hart, Brue, Bret and Dean Hart – Owen, the youngest of his siblings, had wrestling in his blood and grew up in and around the sport. It was therefore somewhat inevitable that he would follow in his family’s footsteps and step into the ring, and when he did in 1983, people were expecting a lot. Although his career was ended prematurely, in 16 years, he hadn’t tasted the success that many people thought he was destined to achieve.
He won a handful of championships, but never held the big one, the title that every wrestler craves – the WWE Championship. It was criminal that he never really got a shot at this coveted title; the company seemed happy with him remaining as a mid-card talent fighting for the Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships – a shame because he could have achieved so much more.
5 Dynamite Kid
It’s ludicrous to think that Thomas "Tom" Billington, aka the Dynamite Kid, wrestled for over two decades without becoming a world champion. A highly influential in-ring performer, along with the likes of Bret Hart, he helped revolutionize the sport with his athletic feats; he had a mixture of different styles which made him one tough competitor.
He found success with fellow Brit and cousin Davey Boy Smith and won the WWE Tag Team Championship, but aside from that, didn’t really make it big and win the world title with the major wrestling promotion at the time. Billington accomplished a lot in Japan, but when it came to the big companies in the United States, he must have left in 1988 unfulfilled, thinking what could have been if he had been given a shot.
Perhaps the Dynamite Duo -- Dynamite Doll and Dynamite Dan Myers, Billington’s eldest daughter and her husband who are currently in the industry -- could work their way up and achieve what the Dynamite Kid couldn’t – that may bring him some sense of fulfillment.
4 Bam Bam Bigelow
Bam Bam Bigelow was always an underappreciated wrestlers. When people think of Kevin Owens' ability today to move around the ring the way he does, a lot of that was found in Bam Bam back in his day. Being able to jump off the top rope and move around at a great pace was something Bam Bam always brought.
Although he headlined a WrestleMania facing Lawrence Taylor, Bam Bam was never rewarded with a title reign in WWE of any kind. You would have thought that after carrying a former football player to a decent wrestling match that WWE would have been awarded with some gold by the time 1995 ended.
Rumors have gone around that The Kliq sabotaged much of Bigelow's run in WWE. Bigelow would go on to win the ECW World Championship and held some gold in WCW as well a few years later, but it's crazy to think he never held gold in WWE.
3 Jake Roberts
Jake Roberts is always credited as one of the most charismatic wrestlers of all time and an innovator in the business. In a period where the norm seemed to be for guys to yell into the mic when cutting a promo, Roberts always sounded cold and methodical. He brought a different style that is still copied by wrestlers to this day. He was one of the great heels of his time, but for some reason, never seemed to be given the gold. He was never a world champion in any of the major promotions across the United States and never even held any titles throughout his runs in WWE and WCW. While Roberts had some substance abuse problems in his wrestling career, so did a lot of other wrestlers who enjoyed many title reigns.
It's crazy to think that looking back today, Roberts was given so little, yet still left such a strong legacy.
2 Arn Anderson
The current senior producer of WWE Raw began his in-ring career in 1982, and gradually rose through the ranks of NWA, WWF and WCW, but amazingly never won a world championship. As a member of the Four Horsemen with fellow heels Tully Blanchard and Ric Flair, Anderson quickly became one of the most respected wrestlers around.
Despite only being with Vince’s company for a year from 1988-1989, Anderson and his pal Blanchard were already regarded as being forces with which to be reckoned. They teamed up again to form the Brain Busters and won the WWE Tag Team Championship, but their reign was over three months later when they lost their title to Demolition. As a tag team competitor, Arn Anderson was one of the best. But it’s baffling to think that all that brawn, and the reputation he had gained, didn’t translate into him winning one of the major titles – the WWE Title or the World Heavyweight Title. He would leave the ring in 1997 unfulfilled with his championship haul.
1 Tony Atlas
This bodybuilder-turned-wrestler had all the attributes to make it big in the sport of wrestling, and he held a few titles and had a few accomplishments with some of the promotions around at the time, but never held the world title that most wrestlers crave with WWE.
Atlas burst onto the scene in 1974 and performed admirably in NWA, picking up titles for fun. When he lost his tag team title, WWE stuck their neck out and gave Atlas a lifeline, but personal problems got in the way. Drug problems meant that Atlas was unreliable – it was this unreliability that had a big part to play in Atlas leaving the sport unfulfilled, and it reduced him to becoming a mid-carder and a jobber to the stars for the majority of what was left of his career. You always felt like Atlas could have blazed trails and could have been the first African American to hold the world title.