A lot of people can relate to the stories of office politics holding certain people back. While some are viewed as the hardest working by their peers, networking and “butt-kissing” by some can lead to having a better position. This can lead to conflicts that continue to hold down some who are viewed as deserving better; even being terminated if the highly-valued are liked better.
The world of professional wrestling is no different. Certain wrestlers have found themselves in positions that provided better opportunities, better pay and other benefits. Sometimes, it is earned through having a run of popularity among the fans. Of course superstars like The Undertaker, John Cena and Triple H can call some shots. They paid their dues for being in the WWE longer.
However, that doesn’t mean there weren’t casualties along the way. Backstage politics, like the earlier mentioned office politics, have often been viewed as the reason for up-and-coming superstars never reaching their full potential. It’s not just recently with some superstars having to fight politics to get their main event push (i.e. Daniel Bryan and the Yes Movement).
The history of professional wrestling features a number of great talents who never quite got the big push many fans felt they deserved. Names like Bam Bam Bigelow, Big Van Vader and Ted DiBiase might quickly come to mind. Younger fans could point out superstars like Wade Barrett and Kofi Kingston never winning World Championships in their otherwise successful WWE careers.
The following are the top 15 professional wrestlers who have suffered the most from backstage politics that affected their main event pushes.
15 Kenny Dykstra
Ken Doane may have been part of one of the silliest gimmicks with the Spirit Squad in 2006. But he showed a lot of potential for possibly being a singles superstar in the WWE. Unfortunately, he was unable to last long in the WWE before he would fall down the card before being released later in 2008. He was barely used on television during those few years in the WWE.
14 Billy Gunn
Billy Gunn might not have been viewed as the most charismatic superstar, but he still reached a height in popularity during the Attitude Era. Along with Road Dogg Jesse James, The New Age Outlaws were a dominant tag team in WWE. But his run as a singles superstar with the Mr. Ass gimmick never worked out. When he was released in 2004, Gunn put the blame on Triple H and backstage politics that held him down.
13 Marty Jannetty
Before going to the WWE, Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels were a hot tag team as The Midnight Rockers – winning tag team gold through the National Wrestling Alliance and the American Wrestling Alliance. For a few years, they worked for WWE with a lower pay than other teams until 1991. Jannetty and Michaels were apparently told that they could leave once their contracts expired after the 1991 Survivor Series.
12 Mr. Kennedy
When Ken Anderson broke out into the WWE main roster in 2005, he certainly showed the type of microphone and in-ring skills of a major star. The potential was there as Mr. Kennedy even wound up winning the United States Championship. But injuries certainly hurt his standing in 2005 and also when he won Money in the Bank in 2007. But Kennedy also said in a 2012 interview that there were other problems behind the scenes.
11 Shane Douglas
Shane Douglas was considered by some to be a well-rounded performer who could have been destined for better things. Back in 1995, Douglas was reportedly being pushed to face Shawn Michaels for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. According to an interview Douglas earlier this year, the match was canceled due to Michaels not thinking the two would have a good match.
10 Matt Hardy
When Matt and Jeff Hardy ruled the WWE tag team division through the Attitude Era, Lita was right by their side. It wasn’t a secret that Matt Hardy was in a romantic relationship with Lita. It also isn’t a secret that the relationship ended poorly after news leaked that Lita was having an affair with fellow WWE superstar Edge. The news came out when Hardy was out with an injury.
9 Kofi Kingston
Sometimes, an untimely mistake can cost someone a big main event push. Kofi Kingston was part of a feud with Randy Orton that included a memorable brawl at Madison Square Garden. Unfortunately, there was a moment in a match where Orton was looking to do the punt kick to Kingston to dodge. However, Kingston stood up and Orton decided to switch to going straight to the RKO for the finish – yelling “stupid” repeatedly to Kingston.
8 John Morrison
John Morrison certainly developed quite a following after being the second season winner of WWE’s Tough Enough in 2002. He was arguably one of the best athletes on the WWE roster at the time. Unfortunately, backstage politics involving his former girlfriend Melina led to WWE officials taking away his push on television. After being released from the company in early 2011, Melina’s reaction was considered over the top.
7 Wade Barrett
During the first season of the NXT “reality competition,” Wade Barrett showed that he had all of the intangibles of a WWE superstar. Fans knew he was special when he broke out the “Winds of Change” promo during an improv promo competition. The WWE seemed to have early thoughts he could be a big star by having him lead a dominant faction in The Nexus. But the faction’s power died and Barrett would spend several years in mid-card limbo.
6 Ted DiBiase
There are a number of WWE superstars who should have been a World Champion. Ted DiBiase is one of those names after having a successful run in the WWE as the Million Dollar Man. It was honestly one of the best gimmicks through the 1980s. He even bought the WWE Championship after Andre the Giant won it. Despite wearing it for events at Madison Square Garden, he was never recognized as an official champion.
Speaking of mid-card superstars who should have been main event staples, Christian is often viewed as one of the most underutilized WWE superstars. After breaking up with Edge, he had some moderate success during the Ruthless Aggression Era as the WWE Intercontinental Champion. The fans put him over, but Vince McMahon apparently held him down for some of the silliest reasons.
4 Bam Bam Bigelow
Considering the size and the look of Bam Bam Bigelow, he should have been a force to be reckoned with during his time in WWE and WCW. However, both runs involved being around rosters that had other wrestlers with a lot of pull behind the scenes. Bigelow had a dominant run at first in 1992, but was the receiving end of some poor booking over the next few years. This included a loss to football star Lawrence Taylor at WrestleMania XI.
Big Van Vader certainly came to the WWE in 1996 with a very deserving resume. He was a three-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion and won several more championships for New Japan Pro Wrestling and other international promotions. After being hyped heavily for the 1996 Royal Rumble, he continuously lost to major stars in WWE like Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker.
2 CM Punk
There is a very long story behind the infamous “Pipebomb” promo from the summer of 2011. There were a lot of the issues involving CM Punk during his early years in the WWE. In 2007, CM Punk’s undefeated streak was ended by Hardcore Holly after being put in the figurative “doghouse” backstage. There was also another incident in 2009 where he was questioned about how he was dressed in Europe as the World Heavyweight Champion.
1 Bret Hart
In 1997, Bret Hart’s contract with WWE was expiring. The problem was that he was holding the WWE Championship at the time. As the clock was winding down, the WWE wanted The Hitman to drop the championship to Shawn Michaels. Hart knew it was going to happen, but he didn’t want to drop the belt in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, for the 1997 Survivor Series. That was his one request.
However, the folks in charge at WWE were worried about Hart appearing on WCW television with the WWE Championship in hand. This led to a change for the finish to the match that only a few people knew behind the scenes. This led to one of the most infamous moments in professional wrestling history – the Montreal Screwjob. The backstage politics hurt Hart and burned a bridge that took more than 12 years to rebuild.
Problems with backstage politics continued for Hart in WCW. From the moment he arrived, Hart was underused and as a result, his WCW career was very lackluster. That Montreal Screwjob essentially killed a part of The Hitman that he could never get back.
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