In wrestling, you could have all the talent in the world and you could have the best or even the most unique gimmick. You could even have the look of a main eventer or a face that would be perfect to represent the company. However, you could also blow all of that with one wrong move, messing with the wrong superstars or just getting on the bad side of the authority.
Such has been the case for many wrestlers as despite WWE being sports entertainment, it is still a business in a dog eat dog world where everyone has to look out for themselves. Sure, you need a good work ethic and have to be over with the crowd to succeed, but in this business, it's not enough as luck and being in the right place at the right time is just about as important. Look at John Cena after all. He was below Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton and Batista in the pecking order for the future "face" of the company but look at his position now.
In some cases for the superstars in this list, backstage politics didn't completely derail their careers or lead to their release, but it has also stopped some of them from reaching their potential or truly making an impact in the business. While in some cases, many superstars on this list are legitimate wrestling stars who could have achieved so much more.
Here are 15 wrestlers who could have done more without backstage politics. Let us know if you agree with the choices or if we missed any out.
15 Marty Jannetty
Marty Jannetty was one-half of The Rockers alongside Shawn Michaels as they were a very popular tag team in the early 90s. However, he had his demons both personally and backstage, as his relationship with Michaels started to deteriorate, especially after their tag team broke up.
14 The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy are one of the few tag teams to appear for all three major promotions in the 90s in WWE, WCW and ECW. Despite not winning any gold in WWE, the tag team duo was still very successful, being four-time ECW Tag Team Cons as well as their one solitary reign as WCW Tag Team Champions.
13 Daniel Puder
Daniel Puder won the second ever million dollar Tough Enough competition with an MMA background, seemed like he could at least follow in the footsteps of Ken Shamrock in the WWE. However, in a shoot fight with Kurt Angle on SmackDown, Puder put the gold medalist in a Kimura lock, which most MMA fighters would have tapped from but Angle couldn’t due to his character.
12 John Morrison
John Morrison had just about everything. He had the look to be the face of the company, he had a memorable entrance and he was one of the most exciting wrestlers in WWE. When he was tag teaming with The Miz, everyone assumed it was Morrison who’d go further with his career. However, his behind the scenes relationship with Melina got in the way of his career progression. When rumors started circulating that Melina was sleeping with other wrestlers like Batista, Morrison didn’t bat an eye, causing many to believe he was spineless.
11 Muhammad Hassan
Muhammad Hassan had the potential to be arguably the greatest heel in the history of this entire industry. Donning an anti-American gimmick a couple of years after the 9/11 tragedy, Hassan had real heat and was booed in every arena he stepped foot in. He had so much heat that even heels despised him and they’d team up with faces to eliminate him in the 2005 Royal Rumble.
Vader was a dominant and scary big man who could also fly, and when he joined WWE from WCW in 1995, many big things were expected. However, he encountered Shawn Michaels, the WWE Champion who had lots of pull backstage as most of The Kliq did at the time. Michaels didn’t want to work with Vader, let alone drop the title to him.
From being over as a monster and a former WCW Champion, Vader’s stock started to drop as he quickly became a jobber, constantly losing and not seeming a threat anymore. Vader lost to the likes of Edge, Bradshaw and Mark Henry and was just not booked well, as he subsequently asked for his release in 1998 to wrestle in Japan.
9 Dean Malenko
Dean Malenko was the Iceman, the Man of a Thousand Holds and one of the best technical wrestlers in this entire industry’s history, even being named the number one wrestler in 1997 by Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Finding most of his success in WCW, Malenko was a four-time Cruiserweight, one-time Tag Team and one time US Champion with the company, however, he couldn’t emulate the same success when he joined WWE in 2000, eventually retiring in mid-2001.
8 Kofi Kingston
When Kofi Kingston debuted for WWE, he was an up and coming mid-carder with lots of potential and an exciting move set. As he gradually moved up the ranks, he was soon thrust into a program with WWE Champion, Randy Orton in 2009. However, during one of their matches, a botch from Kingston towards the end of the match angered Orton, who infamously shouted “stupid, stupid!” at him for the whole world to see.
7 Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes recently left the WWE after being frustrated with his position in the company as well as being forced to don his stale Stardust gimmick. Rhodes has proven that he is quite the performer over the years, getting over with various gimmicks and showing many glimpses that he could be a future main eventer.
However, at 31 years of age, Rhodes finally had enough and decided to quit the company. Many instances of politics held him back but surprisingly, it was the creative team rather than fellow wrestlers. For example, Rhodes was on an impressive Intercontinental Title run, only for him to lose to The Big Show at WrestleMania XXVIII. His dad, Dusty Rhodes even suggested for him to leave WWE after that.
6 Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho is a veteran who is still going strong today. Y2J is the first Undisputed Champion (in case you somehow forgot about that), a six-time WWE champion and the fourth grand slam champion in WWE history. Despite being 45, he has constantly reinvented himself and is the hottest act on RAW today, possibly doing his best work to date. Now a veteran of the business, it could be fair to say that he has a considerable amount of pull backstage.
5 Eddie Guerrero
Eddie Guerrero is a wrestling legend and while it took him a long time to reach the pinnacle of the industry, he achieved a lifelong dream by winning the WWE Championship against Brock Lesnar in 2004. However, like many other WCW alumni, he was held back by backstage politics during his tenure at the company.
Having excellent matches every week and getting little reward for it, only being a cruiserweight level wrestler unable to fight with the top guys, Guerrero did his own pipe bomb ala CM Punk. During the hype of the nWo, Guerrero formed the LWO (Latino World Order), taking jabs at Bischoff, saying he never allowed them to climb the ladder of success, and even telling him to kiss his backside.
4 Owen Hart
Owen Hart has always fondly been remembered as one of the best wrestlers to grace the squared circle. While he was in the shadow of his more successful brother in Bret Hart, the two took part in some of the best WWE matches, including against themselves. Owen didn’t have a shabby resume either, being an Intercontinental Champion, Tag Team Champion, King of the Ring, European Champion and a three-time Slammy Award winner.
Following the infamous Montreal Screwjob, Owen Hart was the only Hart remaining in WWE, but the storyline was set. Shawn Michaels and DX ran the Hart Foundation out of the company but Owen, the “little nugget”, was the Black Hart -- who wanted revenge and attacked HBK following In Your House 1997.
3 Ken Anderson
Back in 2009, Ken Anderson (known as Mr. Kennedy in WWE) was on the verge of becoming the company’s biggest rising stars. He had the looks, the personality and a very unique gimmick, and having returned from injury, WWE was promoting his return in the form of vignettes.
However, Kennedy was released a few days after his return as it’s believed Randy Orton was vocal about Kennedy hurting him in a match and being a dangerous worker. This is the widely believed reason as to why Kennedy’s tenure at WWE came to an end but Kennedy himself, doesn’t think Orton was the reason his career came to an end, though he did say it was the final straw.
2 Bret Hart
The best example of Bret Hart being held back by backstage politics was the Montreal Screwjob, as he wasn’t allowed to retain his title in Canada against his arch rival, Shawn Michaels. However, that’s not the only time The Hitman has been held back by backstage politics.
When he dropped the title to Michaels at WrestleMania XII, it was expected that Hart would get his title back against Michaels one year later at WrestleMania 13. To his misfortune though, Michaels “lost his smile”, forfeiting the title as many believe he refused to drop the title to Hart -- which further intensified their rivalry.
1 CM Punk
After being just about everywhere in WWE except for the main event scene, CM Punk got his break in the summer of 2011 when he was involved with WWE’s hottest storyline alongside John Cena. With his contract expiring, Punk challenged Cena for his WWE title at Money in the Bank in Chicago and won the title, kicking off the “Summer of Punk”.
Punk went on to become a huge star for the remainder of his WWE career, however, one can’t help but think the “Summer of Punk” could have been even better. That’s because while Punk was really over and truly becoming a star, Triple H came out of retirement and beat him in a match. Along with this, for some reason, Triple H’s Kliq buddy, Kevin Nash powerbombed Punk after SummerSlam, allowing Alberto Del Rio to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase and win the title.
The politics don’t end there either as we all know how Punk refused to face Triple H at WrestleMania XXX, eventually walking away from the company, having never main evented Wrestlemania despite being the WWE Champion for 434 days.
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