When it comes to the modern day WWE product, there aren’t many wrestlers who can claim top spots. Back in the esteemed Attitude Era, the WWE was famous for letting their fans cheer for who they wanted to see succeed, and because of their reactions, these wrestlers were pushed to the top of the card.
But nowadays, the company seems to have changed their philosophy. Instead of letting talents grab the brass ring that Vince McMahon always loves to talk about, they’ve taken the television mantra of doing “what’s best for business” and have brought that to the forefront of both Raw and SmackDown.
Oftentimes the decision makers ignore the sounds of the audience for doing what they think is the right choice. Because of this, many wrestlers see their talents wasted.
But that’s not the only reason why. Other times, wrestlers lose their passion along the way, struggle to work on their skills outside of the squared circle or fail when given the chance, only to waste the opportunities handed to them.
No matter what way you look at it, there are plenty of current WWE wrestlers whose talent is being wasted. Here are 15 of them.
Dating back to when he first signed with the company, Kalisto has been a wrestler that many believed could one day be the next Rey Mysterio. The WWE creative team had those plans too; whether it was his time with Sin Cara in NXT or when the Lucha Dragons got called up to the main roster, Kalisto was always positioned as the superior luchador. After his surprising but underwhelming US Title run, it was only a matter of time before he made his way to the upper mid-card.
Unfortunately, however, the WWE decided to put Kalisto on Smackdown, even though he would’ve fit into the Cruiserweight division perfectly. A terrible promo and an injury later, and it looks as though Kalisto may never live up to the hype he once had.
14 Luke Harper
When it comes to the Wyatt Family, there is no denying that Bray Wyatt is someone who has the potential to be a future WWE Champion. When thinking of his followers in Luke Harper, Erick Rowan and Braun Strowman, it can be argued that no man has a higher ceiling than Harper. With a mix of intimidating size and surprising athleticism, Harper has put on high quality matches against a wide range of opponents like Dolph Ziggler, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose. He’s someone who can go from a physical brawl to a mat-based style, and there aren’t many people of his stature that can follow suit. Harper can be a Kane-like superstar, but the WWE is dead set on making him Wyatt’s lackey — and unfortunately for Harper, he may never reach the heights that his natural ability can take him to.
13 Tyler Breeze
For the most part, the WWE creative team has done a tremendous job in promoting NXT talent as a big deal once they make it to the main roster. The key part, however, is 'most' part — and Tyler Breeze is someone who hasn’t received a strong push like some of his other NXT counterparts. When looking at a pure in-ring style, there aren’t many wrestlers as talented as Breeze. He was constantly in the main event picture in NXT, even being chosen to take on Jushin “Thunder” Liger in his only WWE appearance.
Although his current tag team with Fandango has some steam behind it, there is money in Breeze being a singles competitor. He may have Intercontinental or United States Champion written all over him, but it doesn’t look like Breeze will reach that level.
Speaking of NXT call-ups not getting a fair chance on the main roster, Emma could challenge Breeze as someone who the creative team failed. The talented Australian wrestler signed with the company back in 2011 and built her strong in-ring reputation in both FCW and NXT. However, once she made it to the main roster, she was instead paired into a comedy gimmick with Santino Marella as her talent dwindled away. Realizing she wasn’t getting far, she was re-assigned to NXT and found new life with an improved and physical in-ring persona.
She was recently called back up to the main roster and a push appeared to be on the horizon. Unfortunately, however, she was sidelined with an injury; and although she’s as talented as they come, both Raw and SmackDown have a set title picture for their Women’s division, and it’s hard to see where Emma fits in.
Unlike both Tyler Breeze and Emma, Neville was someone who was brought from NXT to the WWE roster which much fanfare. One of the biggest stars the developmental system has ever seen, Neville was both an NXT Champion and NXT Tag Team Champion, with his in-ring style and unique build making him one of the most awe-inspiring wrestlers in the entire company. Although he wrestled for both the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and United States Championship against Seth Rollins and John Cena, Neville has mostly been relegated to smaller feuds without much build.
His push was halted even further when Neville broke his ankle and hasn’t done much since his return. While he could have a great platform with the Cruiserweight division on Raw, don’t be surprised if Neville continues to squander at the bottom of the card, simply due to his lack of promo skills.
10 Apollo Crews
Let’s just stay on the NXT theme here, shall we? With Triple H shifting his vision from developmental territory to its own promotion, he scoured the independent scene for various talents. In came Apollo Crews, then known as Uhaa Nation, as someone many thought could follow in the footsteps of Finn Balor, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. While Crews had the innate ability to put on highly athletic matches, his lack of mic skills and persona held him back. That didn’t stop Vince McMahon, however, as Crews got called up to the main roster after a surprisingly brief stay in NXT. Unfortunately for the former indie darling, Crews has had the same troubles on WWE television. There’s no denying that the talent is there; but if Crews can’t work on his character outside of the ring, he’s going to continue to struggle.
9 Austin Aries
Since we’re talking about NXT so much, let’s take a look at someone who’s still in the promotion. Austin Aries came to the WWE-run circuit after much fan fare from his time in TNA and ROH, amongst other independent promotions. Although he’s a a near 16-year veteran, it was expected Aries needed to spend time in NXT, simply because he needed to adjust to different nuances that the WWE uses in their programming. What wasn’t expected, however, was his extended period in Full Sail University, as he’s been with NXT for almost a year.
The main roster could use some upper mid-card talents, and Aries would slide perfectly into either the Raw or SmackDown secondary title picture. Unfortunately, however, he’s stuck in NXT. And as he gets older, it’ll be less likely that he gets a much deserved main roster run for an extended period of time.
8 Sami Zayn
Before being called up to the main roster, Sami Zayn was arguably the greatest wrestler to ever come out of NXT. Whether it was awesome in-ring ability, connection with the crowd or his infectious personality, the man formerly known as El Generico was surely going to be a hit whenever he made it to the main roster. After being called up at the Royal Rumble, Zayn has had some high profile matches, including multiple number one contender’s matches for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, a ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 32 and a handful of great matches with Kevin Owens.
Unfortunately, however, Zayn has floundered ever since the brand split, a time when he was supposed to get the best push of his career. He’s yet to engage in a serious feud since July, and it looks as though the WWE doesn’t know what to do with him. The company could very well have the next Daniel Bryan on their hands; instead, Zayn was a healthy scratch at the second biggest show of the year, SummerSlam and lost to Jericho at Clash Of Champions.
7 Gallows and Anderson
When Vince McMahon, Triple H and company raided New Japan Pro Wrestling back in January, it was seen as one of the biggest coups in recent memory. AJ Styles has been WWE’s MVP in 2016. Shinsuke Nakamura has been his counterpart down in NXT. In Gallows and Anderson, fans thought they were getting a team that would be atop the tag team division mountain for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, all the WWE Universe has seen from the duo is a ripoff of the infamous Bullet Club, terrible comedy segments and loss after loss.
Gallows and Anderson should be positioned as unstoppable badasses, but are instead positioned to be goofballs who can’t get out of each other’s way. Is there a chance Gallows and Anderson win the WWE Tag Team Championships? Sure. But by the way they’re booked, it’ll be hard for fans to take them serious.
6 Xavier Woods
Although they’re not as popular as they were a year ago, The New Day is still one of the most over acts on WWE television. The trio of Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods have utilized the perfect combination of in-ring talent and silly charisma, making them beloved in nearly every arena they walk into. Unfortunately for Woods, however, he’s used as a mouth piece instead of a wrestler. There’s no denying that Big E and Kingston are great in the squared circle, but so is Woods; and it’s a shame he doesn’t get much of a chance to shine.
He had a strong showing against John Cena during the US Open Challenge, just scratching the surface of his potential as a wrestler. What’s unfortunate is it doesn’t look like the creative team has any plans to make him a featured talent in the ring.
It could be argued that Paige had the greatest debut in WWE history, as she captured the Divas Championship in her first match at the Raw on the night after WrestleMania 30. Although the WWE loves to push Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Bayley as the figureheads of the Divas Revolution, Paige deserves just as much credit. From her first night on, she made it clear that nothing meant more than what goes on inside of the ring, making her beloved among loyal WWE fans. With an influx of women on the main roster, Paige had recently lost her spot as one of the top dogs.
What hasn’t helped is her relationship with Alberto Del Rio, as she seems more content to stay by his side than listen to the company’s orders. At 24, she still has the chance to be a star. But as each day passes, it looks like she’ll never reach her potential.
4 Dolph Ziggler
When talking about wasted talent, there aren’t many wrestlers who deserve to be on the list ahead of Dolph Ziggler. After spending time as Kerwin White’s caddy and a part of the Spirit Squad, Ziggler finally caught his break as the Show-Off, letting what goes on in the ring do all the talking. For years, Ziggler has been one of the best performers in the company, with his work on the mic getting better by the day. After a brief time on the top of the card, the WWE seemed to sour on him until the end of 2014, where he began on an ascent to the crowd’s favorite superstar. But as the WWE Universe backed him, the creative team didn’t. Ziggler floundered in the middle of the card, seemingly being held back despite everyone else not believing so.
This was never more clear than his battle against Dean Ambrose for the WWE World Championship at SummerSlam. Despite pinning AJ Styles and receiving a strong build towards the match, fans weren’t invested into the bout due to Ziggler always ending up on the losing side of things. And that’s a shame, because he has the talent to be the WWE’s top star.
3 Dean Ambrose
Speaking of the SummerSlam showdown, Ziggler’s opponent in Dean Ambrose is also someone who has had his talent wasted. After The Shield disbanded, the WWE Universe united behind Ambrose and his frantic wrestling style. Unlike former friends Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins, Ambrose was relegated to the mid-card. But that didn’t matter to the fans, as he was the most beloved character on WWE television on the road to WrestleMania 32. After an awesome WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at Roadblock, people were excited for his match against Brock Lesnar at the Showcase of the Immortals.
Plans changed, however, as the match was the most underwhelming on the card, with Ambrose losing all the steam he once had. Even winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship couldn’t regain his momentum, and Ambrose is currently going through gimmick tweaks to try and recreate that magic.
2 Samoa Joe
Like Aries a few slides back, Samoa Joe is a grizzly veteran who is simply wasting his time in NXT, a place that doesn’t need him whatsoever. A former standout in TNA, ROH and Pro Wrestling Noah, among others, Samoa Joe has been one of the best talents to see his work translate from outside of the WWE to the company. Ever since his debut back in May of 2015, Samoa oe has been a standout performer in Full Sail University. From his debut feud with Kevin Owens, to his series of matches against Finn Balor, to his current program with Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe has used his combination of intimidating size and awe-inspiring in-ring ability to catapult his way to the top of the card. But both Raw and SmackDown are lacking top level talent, and Samoa Joe is someone who can come in and, from day one, be a main event player. He’s wasting miles down in NXT, and in turn, the WWE is wasting money.
1 Bray Wyatt
Since he reinvented himself from Husky Harris to the Eater of Worlds, Bray Wyatt has been someone who has main event talent written all over him. There aren’t many wrestlers who can match what he does on a microphone, and he has the wrestling ability to match his promo skills. Wyatt can easily be a franchise player for the WWE, but the creative team instead wastes his talents on promos that go nowhere and on feuds that he never wins. Since his debut, Wyatt has had main event programs with John Cena, Roman Reigns and The Undertaker, but has failed to come out on top of either of those programs.
Despite having a majority of the WWE Universe in his corner, it seems like the WWE believes he doesn’t need to win - and that’s a shame, because a couple of high profile victories will catapult him into true stardom. In Wyatt, the company has someone who could main event for the next decade. Instead of making him the next Undertaker, he’s slowly becoming the next Papa Shango.
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