Wrestling’s one seriously tough industry in which to get involved. When many stars get a contract with the biggest company in wrestling entertainment, they think they’ve hit the big time, and that their association with WWE will propel them into another stratosphere of success. For some that’s the case, and they go on to achieve legendary status with WWE. Take for example stars such as Triple H, The Rock and The Undertaker – stalwarts of WWE who will forever be associated with the world’s biggest wrestling promotion. For others, success had to be found the hard way, by wrestling around the world with various promotions after periods in WWE that didn’t live up to dreams and expectations.
Some did go on to have very successful careers, and in the case of a few – Goldberg, Sabu and DDP for example – went on to achieve legendary status, winning a plethora of titles championships and gaining a number of noteworthy accomplishments, despite flopping with Vince’s company.
It can happen; you make your name with one promotion, have lofty expectations going into the next, but things – for whatever reason – just don’t go according to plan.
These are 15 wrestlers who ruled the roost with other promotions and had successful careers despite failing when wrestling for WWE.
15 Trent Barreta
After starting off his career with New York Wrestling Connection at the still tender age of 17, Barreta must have thought that he had hit the big time when WWE came calling a few years later. He earned a contract the hard way – a contract with their developmental territory – by taking part in several try-out wrestling bouts. He must have impressed because off he went to Florida Championship Wrestling, where he spent the next two years. Unfortunately, he just wasn’t allowed to settle and was moved about a lot, never given a chance to prove himself on the main roster.
14 Low Ki
Low Ki, known as Kaval in WWE has been around for a long time, but unless you’re a TNA fan or keep an eye on what’s going on in the independent circuit, it’s unlikely you’re going to remember much about Low Ki.
13 Bam Bam Bigelow
12 Scott Steiner
For a guy who’s been around on the pro scene since 1986 and is still wrestling on the independent circuit, it’s remarkable to think that Steiner only spent five years with the world’s biggest wrestling promotion. He won a ton of titles with Jim Crockett Promotions and was beginning to make waves in the wrestling industry – along with his brother in the tag team division – so it’s little surprise Vince wanted the two contracted with his company. They came, they tried, they saw but they certainly didn’t conquer and left a couple of years later.
11 Kenny Omega
A lot of you have probably heard the name but aren’t aware that Omega once wrestled in WWE. He’s still wrestling, currently contracted with New Japan Pro Wrestling, but once upon a time, very early into his career, Omega was signed by WWE and was sent off to one of their developmental territories. He was four years into his career at that point and had begun winning titles with Premier Championship Wrestling, but that all stopped during his one and only year with WWE.
10 Matt Sydal
8 Colt Cabana
At the age of 36, Cabana’s still relatively young as far a pro wrestlers go, but he’s already packed more into his career than most wrestlers achieve in a lifetime.
His worldly ways and dynamite personality have meant that wherever he goes, doors open for him; WWE opened the door for him in 2007, but his time with Vince’s company was anything but a success – probably the only major flop of his career. But credit to Cabana because he didn’t let that period get him down and certainly didn’t let it hold him back as he went on to achieve success after success with other promotions, in the ring and out.
7 Matt Morgan
This guy achieved legendary status in ECW before signing a one-year contract with WWE. He flourished under Paul Heyman. He was the go-to guy – the man Heyman looked to to portray that extreme style of wrestling that was synonymous with his company at the time. Everything about Sabu was extreme – he took the meaning of hardcore to another level. Surprisingly he still wasn’t one of the most popular of guys in ECW, but love him or hate him, fans couldn’t help but watch him because they knew it was going to be entertaining with Sabu around. He therefore got plenty of airtime with ECW and this translated into titles, and lots of them.
His one-year stint with WWE wasn’t deserving for a man of Sabu’s stature. He didn’t win a thing, and wasn’t given opportunities, cast aside like many of the other ECW Originals.
5 Buff Bagwell
Apparently Bagwell didn’t have a clue as to why he was fired from WWE after spending a matter of months with the company in 2001. Perhaps it had something to do with an interfering mom? It’s said his mom was continuously calling management, making requests, asking for this and that. That certainly didn’t help, but things weren’t really going anywhere for Bagwell in WWE before his mom started picking up the phone. His only noteworthy moment in WWE was when he faced Booker T for the WCW Championship when WCW was purchased by Vince. Aside from that, attitude problems and backstage altercations meant that he quickly fell out of favor with Vince, and no sooner had he joined, he was fired.
Things are decent between DDP and Vince now as they both have a tremendous amount of respect for one another - Vince for DDP’s yoga program and DDP for how wrestling’s been propelled to even greater heights under Vince’s leadership. However, at one point, things weren’t great between the two. Vince just didn’t give DDP the opportunities a man of his stature in the industry warranted. Giving DDP gimmicks like obsessively stalking The Undertaker’s wife, and then making a joke out his motivational speaking – the WWE surely kept DDP down and didn't allow him to be himself, something that had already gained him a huge fan following in the industry.
3 Lex Luger
Luger had already made a name for himself well before Vince came calling. His imposing physique meant that awestruck fans couldn’t help but watch Luger in action, which they did for many years when he was winning titles with Jim Crockett Promotions and WCW, before he had his first interaction with Vince.
Vince – pretty jacked up himself – scouted Luger for one of his most ludicrous concoctions – his World Bodybuilding Federation. This was an epic failure and went out of business within the first year – should have been a warning sign for Luger.
It’s remarkable to think that Goldberg – still one of the most recognizable figures in the industry – only spent a year with WWE, and that was when he was nearing the end of his career. He had been wrestling for seven years before joining Vince’s company, and had already had a very successful time of it. His stomping ground was WCW, a promotion that paved out his path to greatness.
When he joined WWE in 2003, it was evident that there was some friction between Goldberg and Vince. Consequently, Goldberg wasn’t allowed to flourish; he won the World Heavyweight Championship, but that sole title pales in comparison to his achievements elsewhere, wrestling with other promotions in the industry.
1 Shane Douglas
Douglas had two less than remarkable stints with WWE, both of which did nothing to enhance his standing in the industry and can be deemed to have been major flops. It’s unclear why Douglas was cast aside by Vince. In 1990, he left so that he could care for his father, but when he returned in 1995, he just wasn’t given a shot – puzzling since Vince seemed to like the Shane Douglas character first time around. Whether there were some issues that we don’t know about, or it was just a case of things not working out, Douglas’ short-lived WWE career was far from successful.
He won just one title – the Intercontinental Championship, for about 15 minutes. Looking at his résumé, it’s his achievements in ECW, WCW and on the independent scene that he’d want to discuss.
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