Like sports and entertainment, wrestling has always tried to look to the future in order to succeed. And just like in those fields, there has been a tendency to push guys who were supposed to be major but never quite lived up to that. WWE are the obvious culprits here as it’s been noted how so many guys who have been champions would never have gotten that far in the old territory days. The problem is WWE has the tendency to push guys right off without them paying their dues or such and thus they fail to connect as a top star should. That’s the benefit of NXT, let them get the kinks out and give WWE a chance to better gauge how they can handle the big leagues. Sadly, in wrestling history there are still so many workers who were pushed as being the next mega-star in the making but it just didn’t work out.
Sometimes, it’s circumstances. Guys get injured and that hurts their drive, it’s a common thing. However, it can also be bad booking and presentation, the promoters not quite realizing the right thing to do with a guy to make him look strong. Look at Goldberg, WCW booked his rise wonderfully to turn him into this unstoppable monster but his loss then hurt him and he was never the same. Some guys can overcome it; Steve Austin is a prime example of someone whose star drive was never going to be stopped. Sadly, too many were exposed as nowhere near as great as they should have been and several, in fact, pretty darn bad. It’s happened before and likely to continue in wrestling for a while to come. Here are 15 cases of workers who were meant to be the next mega-star but it never quite worked out and shows how early hype can backfire majorly.
Brian Adams really was supposed to be something huge. Breaking out in Portland, he had a great build but also some skill in the ring that showed serious promise. He was made the third member of Demolition and proved himself well in the role. In 1993, he got a bigger push as a babyface muscleman and fans took to him well as plans seemed to be for him to get a serious singles run.
That faltered so he was turned heel, but soon lost in the mid-card. That was followed by a real stint in jail for possessing a handgun and when he got out, was part of the Nation of Domination and then leading the biker gang Disciples of the Apocalypse. His run in WCW had him in the lower runs, briefly the KISS Demon and then he and Bryan Clarke forming an actually good team who held the titles a couple of times. Adams faltered before his death in 2007. A guy who had so much promise to be a huge star but never got the right chances.
Paul Heyman’s greatest skill in ECW was being able to take workers and make them look far better than they were. A key example is Alfred Poling, who looked the real deal at 6-foot-8, dressed as a biker and quite imposing in the ring. As 911, he would soon become massively popular with his tendency to show up and hit chokeslams which were still a new thing to see back then. The program leading up to him finally chokeslamming Bill Alphonso was excellent and gave ECW new push.
He left the company in 1996 after a falling out with Heyman and headed to WCW. Under names like Tombstone and Big Al, he was losing to the Giant and others in syndicated TV shows, showing how critical Heyman was in building him and he returned to ECW far more humble.
13 Matt Bentley
The cousin of Shawn Michaels, Bentley seemed to share much of his great talent in the ring. He broke out in Ring of Honor with some sensational battles that had folks saying he could easily follow Shawn as a major star. In TNA, he competed in the first-ever Ultimate X match, winning the X Division title and having great feuds that showed ring skill along with good mic skills. In 2005, he began negotiating with WWE with the idea of joining Shawn but it never came through.
The legal issues forced him to change his name to Michael Shane, as he returned to TNA but not quite the same impact. He would be gone from the company in 2008, a few jobbing programs in WWE and the indies but now is semi-retired.
12 Teddy Hart
When you’re part of arguably the greatest wrestling family ever, the expectations are naturally high. Teddy Hart entered as a guy with terrific talent and signed by WWE in their developmental programs seemed ready to give him a true rise. Instead, Teddy’s massive arrogance and backstage problems have undone so much of his promise, the man really his own worst enemy. That was highlighted by his infamous ROH run where he refused to sell injuries and did moonsaults off a cage. In just about every promotion he’s been with, Teddy has shown amazing skill and potential but shot himself in the foot with his behavior to make himself too much of a risk to promoters to trust and in many ways, shaming his family while proving being a Hart doesn’t always equal instant fame in the business.
11 The Ascension
After so many years, it looked like wrestling had finally found the true next Road Warriors. Viktor and Konnor were two imposing guys, cool looks and really doing their best to sell themselves as unstoppable monsters. They would hold the NXT titles for almost a full year, crushing opponents in minutes and winning over crowds and thus looked ready when they got the call-up to RAW as surely they would be the monster champs. Instead, they were beaten down by the Outsiders and the New Age Outlaws. They were soon playing second fiddle to Stardust and losing in their return to NXT. It’s a sign of a bad move by WWE to waste this once-promising powerhouse duo who could have been the next Legion of Doom but instead fell to jobber status.
10 Sin Cara
The heat on this guy upon his entrance was major as the former Mistico had made his name as a fantastic luchador and his signing was talked of majorly online. It seemed he was going to be pushed as the next Rey Mysterio. However, injuries to Luis Urive would hold him back and thus force WWE to give the gimmick to Jorge Arias which led to various confusing tales of two Sin Caras and the guys swapping the gimmick. This of course led to the once-promising star turning into more of a joke. Eventually the original Sin Cara was released and the Arias as Sin Cara has basically played second fiddle to Kalisto.
9 Elijah Burke
Elijah Burke really seemed a great deal when he broke out in the indies. He spent time in OVW before called up to the big leagues of WWE and was notable for having the last match with Chris Benoit before Benoit's death. But WWE ignored that potential to waste him in dark matches and he was cut loose in 2008. He moved onto TNA who seemed ready to push him majorly as D’Angelo Dinero, getting over nicely as “The Pope” and soon feuding with Samoa Joe, Anderson and others, clicking nicely and most thought he’d get pushed to the top. Instead, he seemed lost amid the politics of the company and injuries as well and was soon forgotten to the point fans were barely surprised he was cut from the company.
He’s made a return but the heat is now off and it looks like he’ll be a guy not just one but two companies failed to properly use.
8 Erik Watts
Arguably the greatest case of nepotism in wrestling history (which is saying something). Among the many issues Bill Watts had when running WCW in 1992 was his belief that what worked for a territory in the ‘70s could for a national company. That included taking his son Erik out of the Power Plant after only a month of training and immediately pushing him into the upper mid-card.
The kid had some potential but the absolute lack of any training or paying his dues weighed over him as older workers weren’t happy about having to job to this obviously green rookie. The fans didn’t take to him either so despite the fact the announcers kept putting him over as a future star, fans could see Erik had no business being in this ring. When Bill was fired from WCW, Erik’s stock took an immediate dive to prove how he’d relied on his dad so much and thus Bill’s attempt to make his son a star just ended up ruining Erik's career.
7 Paul Roma
A handsome guy with a good build, Roma was set for promise in WWE as part of the Young Stallions, a tag team that soon faltered. A singles run was messy but he and Hercules clicked as Power & Glory and seemed ready to take off with the promise of a tag title run, but politics kept that from happening and Roma was soon out of the company. WCW saw major potential and had him become a member of the Four Horsemen, a move the fans didn’t buy for one minute. Despite tag title runs with Arn Anderson and later Paul Orndorff, Roma was never seen by fans as more than a mid-card talent despite hopes of making him a main eventer.
6 Ken Kennedy/Anderson
Rarely can you find a guy who had “future superstar” written all over him only to be undone time and again. Kennedy was a breakout in 2005 for WWE with his fun entrance and arrogant manner and seemed prepared to take the next step. He had title runs, Money in the Bank, he was to be revealed as Vince’s “son” but just about every single time his push was starting, he would be suspended or suffer an injury that ruined all the plans.
Finally cut loose from WWE, he moved to TNA where he had a run as champion but the same issues soon plagued him. They continue today, a recent run cut short by injury once more and speculation he might be let go. It’s truly remarkable to see just how much bad luck can happen to one guy and thus kept Kennedy/Anderson from ever being the huge star he seemed destined to be.
The first ever “Tough Enough” winner, it’s logical Maven got a huge push from the company to try and sell him as a star. At the 2002 Royal Rumble, he shocked everyone by eliminating the Undertaker to a huge pop and thus seemed set for a push. It never quite worked out, however as the guy’s small build didn’t help him out and it was soon shown how utterly green he was. He had a run as Hardcore champion but nothing much else and before long was stuck jobbing. He wasn’t the first “Tough Enough” guy to fail to rise up but still among the biggest due to being the first winner and how looking to reality TV rather than development for new talent didn’t work well.
For months on end, WCW ran the promos of a guy in what looked to be a cool looking costume doing fancy martial arts moves. He was being set as a new deal, a major worker to make his debut and WCW really put their push into him. Sadly, when he finally showed up, he looked nothing like the promise, just a guy in a lame “Sub-Zero” knockoff costume and all the lights and “snow” around him could do nothing to beat that. Soon, this hot newcomer was stuck doing jobs and looking dumb with the outfit to showcase all the advance hype in the world doesn’t mean a thing if the worker can’t back it up.
3 Bobby Lashley
You can see why WWE was so interested as the guy is quite bulked, an imposing look and not too bad in the ring as he was training for the Olympics before an injury ruined it. He showed potential in OVW and was soon pushed hard in WWE as part of the “Battle of the Billionaires” at WrestleMania 23, a run as U.S. and later ECW champion and clearly being set for a possible WWE title run. However, the combination of injuries and suspensions for drug use would curtail his promise and he was gone from the company.
A brief MMA run followed before he came to TNA, once more pushed and they actually seemed to do well with him as “the Dominator” holding the World title. But since his loss of the belt, Lashley appears lost, with TNA pushing older guys over him and ignoring all his potential. This is a guy with real power but never quite the chance to show it all.
2 Monty Brown
Of all the many, many mistakes they’ve made, the way TNA handled Monty Brown has to rank among the biggest. The former football player was rising in 2004, good work in the ring with his “Pounce” finisher, rough but still capable and fun on the mic. The crowds were responding to him as well as he challenged for the NWA World title and fans thought giving it to him would be a great move for TNA to push a fresh talent and see how he could handle it. But then in early 2005, he was turned heel for no reason and with no buildup and it never made any sense. His career never recovered, soon lost in the mid-card, the heat dying down and he was lost and gone from TNA the next year.
He had a brief run in WWE's ECW but then faded away, a guy who really seemed ready to take off but leave it to TNA to ruin what could have been their biggest home-grown star.
1 Magnum T.A.
For a while, Terry Allen really seemed like he was ready to live up to all the potential he had. Few workers in the mid-1980s seemed the full package like him. Incredibly talented in the ring, dynamite on the mic, quite handsome to win over female fans, fantastic charisma, Magnum truly had that “it factor” so many workers are desperate for. Rising in Mid-South, he was signed to Jim Crockett and soon taking off there as U.S. champion, winning over fans with an epic feud with Nikita Koloff in 1986. He was to challenge Ric Flair for the NWA title at Starrcade and many believe he would have gone over and become champion, the new mega-star for the time.
But just a month before that show, Magnum was involved in a horrific car accident described by rescue teams as one of the worst they’d ever seen. Bed-ridden for months, he eventually returned as an announcer but despite the hopes of fans, he never returned to the ring. It’s still an amazing thing as he could easily have been Crockett’s Hogan, a guy to take them to a new level and keep competitive while also becoming a star in his own right. A true shame that this is the guy who could have truly been big if not for one sad accident.