World Wrestling Entertainment cultivates its own talents through its developmental territories. However, they should sign talents from other wrestling promotions such as Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, Ring of Honor or New Japan Pro Wrestling to not just produce content that will sweep their fans off their feet but also to ensure that other promotions do not keep hold of their prized asset for long.
WWE certainly hit the jackpot when they timely signed CM Punk and Seth Rollins from ROH, Dean Ambrose from Combat Zone Wrestling or even Triple H from World Championship Wrestling. The wrestlers were young, on the brink of becoming the next best thing in the wrestling industry, and needed only a little fine-tuning to become a WWE superstar at the time of signing.
Much like any other career, wrestlers peak in their early thirties but somehow sink into irrelevancy in their late thirties and early forties – unless the wrestler goes by the name Mark Calloway. With such short shelf life, wrestling promotions, especially the ones such as WWE shall snap the wrestlers up in their prime. However, WWE has not always been wise, signing wrestlers, who are past their best.
Such wrestlers, who were initially destined to achieve greatness, often become irrelevant, and the ever-volatile WWE Universe prays for them to go off screen. In this TheSportster article, we list 15 wrestlers, whom WWE should have signed earlier instead of making jokers out of themselves and the wrestler.
15 Chris Harris
Fans were excited at the prospect of watching Chris Harris in a WWE ring, as they believed he could revive WWE's tag-team division, which was on its last legs at the time of his debut. However, the seven-time NWA World Tag Team Champion looked overweight and completely out of shape. He was released after just a single year. WWE could not care less about Chris Harris now, but they could have had a solid performer had they signed him during his prime.
14 Zeb Colter
WWE signed Zeb Colter in 2013, who has always been a well known name in the wrestling industry, as Dutch Mantel. Given his fantastic work with the Jack Swagger, Alberto Del Rio, and Antonio Cesaro, it is a truism that he could have been a great heel while working alongside the likes of Edge. At 66, he is not getting any younger, and the McMahons may as well rue not bringing Dutch Mantel to WWE earlier. Perhaps it's because for so long, WWE ignored the boost a good manager could bring for a wrestler.
13 Ultimo Dragon
Ultimo Dragon was one of the cornerstones of the cruiserweight division of WCW, but he was never booked to his potential during his one-year stint with WWE. Had WWE snapped him up as soon as WCW released him in 1998, fans might have enjoyed his luchador wrestling. With WWE giving Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, and Chris Benoit the center-stage, he could have set the cruiserweight division alight, but his signing came too late. Realizing his downslide, he asked for his release after accomplishing his dream of wrestling in Madison Square Garden and WrestleMania.
12 Ric Flair
Ric Flair returned to WWE as its co-owner following the culmination of the Invasion storyline, but his involvement in the Invasion angle could have made it watchable, as he had been the face of National Wrestling Alliance, WCW and also WWE. It would have been legendary to have a legend get embroiled in such a colossal storyline, but his arrival was just a few weeks too late. He still went on to enjoy a decorated run in WWE for a wrestler of his age, however.
11 Daniel Bryan
WWE signed Daniel Bryan in 2009 after many failed trials between 2000 and 2003. However, given his long list of accolades from 2003 to 2009 and unprecedented success with WWE it appears as though the Chairman needs to light a fire under his scouts' arse for their incompetency. With an injury curtailing his career at a tender age of 34, WWE has lost one of their top draws and will regret not signing him earlier. He could have been a babyface that fans actually got behind, while he still had plenty of great years ahead of him.
10 Kevin Nash
Here is yet another entrant who could have made the Invasion angle tolerable. Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, much like every other overpaid veteran chose to collect their paycheck from AOL Time Warner by doing absolutely nothing. Had WWE convinced him to join Team Alliance, WWE could have had a fantastic storyline, courtesy of his three-year tenure with World Wrestling Federation between 1993 and 1996. His late return in 2002 was largely insignificant with the roster already filled with world-class performers like the Rock, Triple H, Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin.
Tazz, who was a mainstay in Extreme Championship Wrestling, made him WWE debut in 2001 when WWE bought out the bankrupt ECW, but the veteran of hardcore wrestling looked obese, and his matches were merely shadows of his legendary ECW matches. WWE should have signed him earlier as he could have been an incredible addition to the roster, especially during the infancy of the Attitude Era. Thanks to his sloppy matches, WWE had to demote a good wrestler to the commentary.
Given her dominance and unconventional physique, it was certain that WWE would sign her. Her arrival offered a different dimension to the dying divas' division, but it was short-lived as her pregnancy would put her WWE career on hold. Triple H deserves much credit for bringing her to WWE, but he should have been given recruitment powers much earlier as she was clearly past her best at the time of her debut.
7 Hulk Hogan
Once again we're talking about someone who should have been brought in for the Invasion storyline. Hulk Hogan's face popping up every now and then could have added a lot more credibility to Team Alliance as he boasted the pride of being the face of the two biggest wrestling promotions of the nineties. Adding the wrestler, who decided the outcome of the Monday Night Wars to the Invasion angle, would have surely made it amazing. WWE did punish him for not signing a WWE contract earlier by giving him the Mr. America gimmick upon his return in 2003.
Goldberg was another WCW legend, who chose to see out their contract with the defunct wrestling promotion instead of being a part of the Invasion angle. WWE still signed him a couple of years later only to let him go after 12 months. Had they persuaded him to join them earlier, or hold off on the Invasion storyline, the Invasion angle might have been successful. Given his unmatched dominance inside of the ring, it is safe to assume that WWE made a mistake when they did not sign him before 2003.
5 Samoa Joe
Samoa Joe has won multiple Pro Wrestling Illustrated and Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards during his ten-year association with TNA, and respected professional wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer even gave five stars to three of his matches. WWE finally came calling in 2015, and at 37, he may never wrestle such five-star matches ever again. WWE should have signed him earlier for fans that prefer in-ring action to the Miz-esque entertainment.
4 Brock Lesnar
After his run as a professional footballer with Minnesota Vikings ended terribly, Brock Lesnar wrestled for NJPW and Ultimate Fighting Championship, and it took almost eight years for WWE to get the Beast Incarnate wrestle in a WWE ring. Given fans' unbelievable response every time he appears, it looks as though WWE could have made big money, had they signed him a little bit earlier. The Conqueror, however, can be proud of abandoning professional wrestling to chase his other dreams and still be a top draw upon his return.
3 Mauro Ranallo
Mauro Ranallo has lately become one of the major reasons why fans watch SmackDown despite the show becoming more and more irrelevant every day. Fans are heads over heels in love with his commentary as evidenced by his multitude of retweets. He rose to fame during his stint with Pride Fighting Championships, and WWE may not have lost of fans due to Michael Cole's cruelty, had they signed the voice of SmackDown earlier.
2 AJ Styles
AJ Styles signing a WWE contract was a long time coming as he had set the independent scene abuzz like no other wrestler. After many fruitful years with every indy circuit, including NJPW, TNA, ROH and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, the Phenomenal One has finally become a rookie at WWE at 38. WWE should have signed him earlier, however, had they done so, he would have become irrelevant by now, given WWE's aversion to wrestlers of short stature. He debuted on Royal Rumble as a legend; he would definitely not have had such fan following if his WWE trials in 2002 had earned him a contract.
Sting made his WWE debut at 56 after carrying TNA on his back for more than a decade. Fans long thought that Vince McMahon's penchant for treating WCW wrestlers like garbage was the reason why he never jumped ships from TNA. While asked ten years ago why he never joined WWE, the Stinger answered that WWE's controversial booking decisions might hurt his religious values held back his move to WWE. Had WWE signed him a few years earlier, fans may have witnessed the Franchise take on big dogs such as The Rock, Steve Austin, and The Undertaker. The little boy inside me is still hoping to watch the Icon and the Phenom lock horns with each other.