Pro wrestling is without a doubt one of the hardest businesses to succeed in. No one is guaranteed anything when they step through those curtains. Success in the business is based on great work ethic, perseverance, some luck and being in the right place at the right time. Even if a wrestler has all the ingredients to become a success, there is still absolutely no guarantee that they will ever amount to anything. In reality, very few wrestlers ever make it to WWE stardom and if they do, then you know that they earned their position with the rather cliché yet still accurate phrase “blood, sweat and tears”. No wrestler (okay, at least not the majority) are ever handed anything without fully earning it first.
Wrestlers start out at the very bottom, usually as an enhancement talent (jobber). When you start, you’re not the Superstar Shawn Michaels, you’re a no-name guy whose main purpose is to make other wrestlers (guys that have the same dream, have shown potential and have been in the business longer) look good. Even if a wrestler has paid their dues, has the talent, the look, the work ethic and everything else needed to be a wrestling star, that doesn’t equate to actually becoming any sort of a star in the WWE.
Most wrestlers never become true stars in the WWE. To even become a WWE mid-carder is very hard and those that have made it to that level, and have had those positions, are very lucky themselves. Although it’s extraordinarily hard to become a WWE star, it’s not entirely impossible, as some have accomplished the feat. Stay tuned, as this list divulges the Top 15 Wrestlers who were jobbers (in the WWE or another promotion) before they became stars in the WWE and made their dreams come true!
15. Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash has done it all in professional wrestling. He has won the WCW Championship 5 times, the WWE Championship once and is a WWE Hall Of Famer. However, things weren’t always so great for Big Daddy Cool. Before becoming the WWE star Diesel, Kevin Nash was floundering as a jobber on WCW with hideous gimmick after hideous gimmick. It’s really hard to believe that a guy who had previously played Oz, Vinnie Vegas and Master Blaster Steel in WCW could go on to become the bad-ass known to the WWE Universe as Diesel and in the future, nWo’s Kevin Nash.
While on WCW with his gimmicks that reeked of total failure, Nash was used as a jobber-to-the-stars with no upside or direction. If he had left the next day, no fans would have cared. However, when Nash jumped ship to the WWE, huge success followed. After playing the bad-ass bodyguard for Shawn Michaels for a while, Diesel would go on a tear through the roster as a singles competitor and he ended up having the longest WWE Championship reign of the 90s.
Kevin Nash is a perfect example that just because a wrestler’s gimmick fails to catch fire (in his case multiple horrendous gimmicks), the next gimmick could be the one that catapults a wrestler into super-stardom and for Nash, that’s exactly what happened. Who at the time could have imagined that WCW’s Oz would go on to become a WCW or WWE Champion? I certainly couldn’t have.
14. Mark Henry
Despite being widely considered a jobber-to-the-stars presently, once upon a time (not too long ago), Mark Henry was at the pinnacle of his career with his Hall Of Pain gimmick that led the World’s Strongest Man to capture the World Heavyweight Championship after defeating one of WWE’s biggest stars, Randy Orton. However, before becoming the Hall Of Pain monster, Mark Henry was formerly known for his mid-card “sexual chocolate” gimmick and he was used mainly as a jobber-to-the-stars as he put over many talents such as The Rock, The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar, among others.
He was used as a jobber-to-the-stars for years but because Henry was a loyal employee for over a decade, he was eventually rewarded with a push and I feel he definitely made the most of his opportunity as he became a star out of it. Although Mark Henry’s Hall Of Pain gimmick was a total success, the gimmick was cut short which is unfortunate as he was really excelling in his role. Still, Henry can now proudly say he is a former WWE World Champion and a guy that became a star despite being in an entertaining, yet limited role for so many years beforehand.
13. Mick Foley
Mick Foley is a wrestling legend who has accomplished all there is to accomplish in the wrestling business, from having multiple WWE Championship reigns to becoming a WWE Hall Of Famer. Though, before attaining all of these impressive accolades, at one point, Mick Foley worked for the WWE in 1986 as a true low-ranking jobber under the ring name, Jack Foley. Foley was squashed by talents such as Hercules and Kamala, and Foley was also squashed as a part of a tag team with Len Thornton by the British Bulldogs.
Mick Foley’s true success would come years later after he jumped ship from ECW to the WWE. For Foley’s first couple WWE years, he was mainly involved in the mid-card and although he wasn’t a total jobber like he was during his first WWE run, he was still mainly utilized as a higher profile jobber-to-the-stars. In 1998, following his infamous Hell In A Cell match with none other than The Undertaker, Mick Foley would move up the card and rise to main-event status and as a result, Foley went on to have three WWE Championship reigns. For a guy that very few saw any potential in, and for a guy that started out as a jobber in the truest sense of the word, Mick Foley has exceeded all expectations and he became a much bigger star than anyone could have ever imagined he would become.
12. Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose is a former member of the highly successful Shield faction, as well as a former WWE, Intercontinental and United States Champion and he is currently one of the top, fan favorite stars on the SmackDown brand. Ambrose still has a long career ahead of him so success will continue to follow the Lunatic Fringe. However, despite being one of the WWE’s current top acts, Dean Ambrose started his career in the WWE as a jobber. Back in 2006, Dean Ambrose, formerly known on the Indies as Jon Moxley, teamed up with Brad Attitude against Johnny Nitro and Joey Mercury on Velocity, and the no-name jobbers were squashed.
As well as having a jobber match in the WWE, just two years later, Ambrose had a “tryout” match for TNA (no-name jobber vs no-name jobber) and although he won the match, he wasn’t signed by the company. When it’s all said and done, it’s quite hard to believe that Dean Ambrose, a guy that didn’t have the prototypical WWE Superstar look or build to begin with, actually made it to the WWE and became a legitimate star, considering he was originally a name-less tag team jobber just years prior. Dean is a prime example of a wrestler that proved hard work, determination and paying one’s dues were enough to get that golden opportunity to become a WWE star and that is exactly what he is now.
11. Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy, a former multi-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion, originally started out his WWE career by performing as a jobber, under the ring name Jeff Harvey in 1994. Jeff Hardy was used as a generic jobber until 1998, which is when the Hardy Boyz started to take off. Hardy was jobbed out to many talents including Razor Ramon, Jim Neidhart, 1-2-3 Kid, King Kong Bundy, Owen Hart and Triple H. At the time, I doubt anyone thought Hardy had any future in the WWE other than being used as a low ranking jobber.
Despite this notion, Jeff Hardy has went on to have a very successful WWE career as both a tag team wrestler with his brother Matt Hardy as well as a singles wrestler. The Hardy Boyz not only became 6-time Tag Team Champions, but they also become one of the most popular/greatest tag teams in WWE history, and as a singles wrestler, Jeff went on to win the WWE Championship once, the World Heavyweight Championship twice and Hardy also had runs with the Intercontinental, European, Hardcore and Light Heavyweight Championships. As well, during his time near the top of the card, Jeff Hardy was an extremely popular star to boot and his merchandise sold like hot cakes! Looking back now, Jeff Hardy made his childhood dream of becoming a WWE Superstar a reality, which is very inspiring indeed!
10. Bret Hart
“The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be” is Bret Hart’s signature phrase and without a doubt, it’s true. Not only was Bret one of, if not the best in-ring technician of all time, he also achieved accomplishments only a true star could, including 5 WWE Championship reigns, 2 Intercontinental Championship reigns as well as being a first ballot Hall Of Famer. Bret Hart is also undoubtedly one of the most popular WWE stars of all time. However, before becoming a huge WWE star, Bret Hart’s was utilized as a jobber-to-the-stars throughout the late 70s and early 80s working for his father’s wrestling promotion, Stampede Wrestling.
When Bret Hart made the jump to the WWE in ’84, Bret’s first proposed gimmick was that of a cowboy that would ride a horse on down to the ring. Thankfully (for everyone involved), Bret shot the idea down and it never made its way onto live TV. As well, just a few weeks removed from Bret’s WWE debut, Jim Neidhart made his debut and with Jimmy Hart as their mouthpiece, they formed the Hart Foundation which went on to become one of the greatest wrestling duos of all time. I think it was clear from the start that Bret Hart was destined for greatness and super-stardom because of his ring ability alone. Definitely one of the all-time greatest wrestlers!
9. Chris Jericho
Before becoming the self-proclaimed “Best In The World”, a multi-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion, a record setting 9-time Intercontinental Champion and undoubtedly one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, Chris Jericho was struggling to get noticed on WCW. Although Jericho was a a key player in the company’s Cruiserweight division, Chris had bigger goals and aspirations he wanted to achieve. As he correctly thought, although the Cruiserweights were widely considered the highlights of WCW, they were also widely considered to be afterthoughts compared to the other talents and they really weren’t considered “stars”.
Chris Jericho tried his best over the course of a couple years to get noticed as an actual potential star for WCW (remember when he tried to feud with Goldberg as a way to promote himself), but it never panned out and no one backstage saw big potential in Jericho so instead, they placed him into the mid-card, or used him as a jobber-to-the-stars. Shortly after, Jericho left WCW and jumped ship to the WWE which is where Jericho ended up becoming a star.
However, Jericho’s first few years in the WWE were spent in the mid-card. It wasn’t until 2001, when Jericho truly became a star. After becoming the first ever WWE Undisputed Champion, Jericho’s career was set, and over the years, he has been featured in countless top feuds and has truly become one of the WWE’s best and most entertaining Superstars of all time.
8. John Cena
John Cena is undoubtedly one of the biggest stars in the history of the WWE and pro wrestling in general, and he has accomplished more than nearly any other wrestler. But like everyone else on this list, that wasn’t always the case. John Cena started off his WWE career in 2000 as a jobber who worked dark matches before SmackDown against the likes of Mikey Richardson and Aaron Aguilera, as well as working house shows against the likes of Shelton Benjamin. However, when John Cena eventually got the call to the main roster in June 2002, it was clear that John Cena was destined for success.
From putting on a heck of a showing with Kurt Angle in his debut match on SmackDown, to becoming United States Champion after defeating Big Show at WrestleMania XX, Cena quickly climbed the WWE ladder. The next year, John Cena climbed to the top of the WWE mountain as he won his first WWE Championship after defeating JBL at WrestleMania 21.
From that point onwards, John Cena was presented as the company’s top star and he has went on to have up to this point, 16 WWE World Championship reigns. Although John Cena started off his career as a jobber, it was very clear that John Cena would go on to have a very successful career. John Cena is now the biggest name in the business and he is a future first ballot Hall Of Famer no doubt.
7. Daniel Bryan
Like everyone else on this list, Daniel Bryan was at one point, utilized as a jobber. Back in 2003, Daniel Bryan (Bryan Danielson) had jobber matches on Velocity against the likes of Jamie Noble, John Cena and also as a part of a tag team with John Walters, against Paul London and Brian Kendrick. Fast forward 7 years, Bryan would return to the WWE in 2010. For Bryan’s first couple years, he was mainly used as a mid-carder. Although Daniel Bryan had a World Heavyweight Championship reign in 2011 through early 2012, he was still widely considered a glorified jobber, especially after he was embarrassingly defeated by Sheamus in a matter of seconds for the belt at WrestleMania XXVIII.
It wasn’t until Bryan’s “Team Hell No” with Kane in 2012 that Daniel Bryan started to actually become a star. Eventually, the “no” chants would turn into “yes” chants and once the “yes” movement started to pick up steam, he quickly become one of the WWE’s most popular acts. From 2013 up until his retirement from the WWE in 2016, not only was Daniel Bryan one of the most popular WWE stars, he had multiple runs with the WWE World Championship and headlined WrestleMania 30. I would say without a doubt, Bryan’s done exceptionally well for himself considering he started his WWE career out as a no-name jobber on WWE’s show Velocity.
6. Triple H
Despite being a 14-time WWE World Champion and one of the WWE’s current top executives, Triple H wasn’t always successful. In fact, Triple H worked for WCW in ’94 and ’95 as a jobber under the ring names Terra Ryzing and Jean Paul Levesque and as a result, he put over guys like Dustin Rhodes and Alex Wright, among others. When he jumped ship to the WWE in mid ’95, Triple H first performed under the ring name Hunter Hearst Helmsley (later changed to Triple H). During his first couple years, Hunter was used as a jobber-to-the-stars and he didn’t accomplish all too much.
Hunter was especially jobbed out after the infamous “Curtain Call” incident and as a result, Triple H’s opportunities at the time were stripped away from him. Despite being in the monotony of jobbing, Triple H’s determination to succeed in the business and not take no for an answer proved to be enough, and he eventually became a huge WWE star with many World Championship reigns when he was finally given the opportunity to succeed.
Triple H worked his butt off, kept his head up and pushed forward despite doors getting shut in his face, because he knew that he would get what he felt he deserved in time. Triple H’s time indeed came, and he prospered hugely as he became one of pro wrestling’s biggest names, one of the company’s top executives and a definite future Hall Of Famer.
Before Kane became known as the “Devil’s Favorite Demon” and an extremely popular star, especially during the Attitude Era (when he was booked like an unstoppable force), Kane was struggling in the WWE playing numerous hideous gimmicks. Even before his WWE run, Kane was used as a jobber against Sting in his one and only WCW match. When Kane made his WWE debut in ’95, Kane was given the horrendous Isaac Yankem gimmick. During this run, Kane was used as a jobber-to-the-stars as he put over many talents like The Undertaker, The Ultimate Warrior and Jake Roberts. His next gimmick (which was far worse than Yankem by a mile) was to play the fake Diesel character.
That gimmick was very short lived, and rightfully so, considering it was beyond awful. In 1997, when the WWE changed fake Diesel’s gimmick to the Undertaker’s long lost brother Kane, that is when Kane became a real star. Right from his debut at the ‘Badd Blood’ PPV, Kane was a polarizing figure that was destined for success. From that moment on, Kane was presented as a top tier star and throughout his career, Kane has achieved many accolades like the WWE and World Heavyweight Championship.
Although Kane has been mainly used as a jobber-to-the-stars after his 2003 unmasking, he has still been booked in a way that presents Kane as a star himself. Looking back, at the time, I doubt a single fan viewed Isaac Yankem or fake Diesel as a future WWE Champion and wrestling legend.
4. AJ Styles
Before gaining the moniker “The Phenomenal One”, A.J. Styles was used as a jobber on WCW as a part of the Air Raid tag team with Air Paris who were used to put over teams like the Jung Dragons. Styles was also used in the WWE as a jobber against the likes of The Hurricane, and as well in a dark match before SmackDown, against Rico Constantino. After declining a developmental deal from the WWE in 2002, A.J. Styles would go on to have a very successful career on the Indies, in TNA and in NJPW, where he became an IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Despite being successful elsewhere, few fans expected Styles to ever make the jump to the WWE, and even if he did, to become an actual star and not to become just another mid-carder.
Well, as of last year, A.J. Styles has done exactly what many fans thought was impossible. Not only has A.J. Styles made the jump to the WWE, he has also become one of the WWE’s most popular Superstars as well as the company’s best in-ring talent. He has defeated the likes of John Cena, has a WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign under his belt and he is now heading into WrestleMania 33 to face Shane McMahon. AJ Styles definitely proved to everyone that he was capable of making it anywhere. Styles has surely come a long way from being a no-name jobber on WCW and WWE, and I’m very happy for all his successes considering I was a huge AJ Styles mark when he was in TNA and in New Japan.
Before becoming the “Rated R Superstar”, an 11-time WWE World Champion and a first ballot Hall Of Famer, Edge was at one time, being utilized as a jobber for WCW in ’94 under the ring name Damon Striker. Edge put over multiple WCW talents, including Kevin Sullivan and Meng. When Edge finally made his WWE television debut in ’98, for the first bit of his stint in the WWE, Edge was placed into low-card matches, many of which he lost, against the likes of Owen Hart and Tiger Ali Singh. It wasn’t until later that year that Edge would start to see real success, which came in the form of “The Brood” which eventually became apart of the Undertaker’s Ministry Of Darkness.
From that storyline onwards, Edge’s career continued to project upwards as he captured the Intercontinental Championship 5 times, as well as the Tag Team Championships with his best friend, Christian, on several occasions. In 2005, after defeating John Cena, Edge cemented himself as a new main event star by becoming the WWE Champion. From that point up until Edge’s retirement from wrestling in 2011, Edge captured many more World Championships and accolades that truly solidified himself as one the WWE’s greatest of all time. Going from being that generic WCW jobber Damon Striker, to becoming a multi-time WWE World Champion and a Hall Of Famer proves hard work and determination can pay off.
2. CM Punk
Before becoming “The Best In The World”, a multi-time WWE World Champion and one of the WWE’s most popular Superstars in history, CM Punk was a guy struggling to make his mark in the WWE. For the first half of his WWE career, Punk was mainly utilized as a jobber-to-the-stars despite having multiple title reigns including three World Heavyweight Championship runs. No one backstage legitimately considered Punk to be a top star during any of his World Heavyweight Championship reigns, and his sole purpose during those said reigns was to put over talents such as Jeff Hardy and The Undertaker.
It wasn’t until 2011 when CM Punk started to become a “star” in the true meaning of the word. After Punk’s infamous “pipebomb” in June 2011, CM Punk started to gain immense popularity and he was placed higher up on the card. For the years up until his departure from the WWE in 2014, CM Punk was considered to be a top-tier Superstar by both the fans and by those backstage, and as a result, he had multiple WWE Championship reigns with one title reign being over a year in length. Very impressive considering no one backstage viewed CM Punk as a future star in the making!
1. Shawn Michaels
Before Shawn Michaels became “The Showstopper”, a first ballot Hall Of Famer and a true WWE icon, Shawn found himself in a jobber-to-the-stars position for promotions such as the NWA and TASW. Michael’s first major success came after he had signed with the WWE in 1988, which is when Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty would form the wildly popular tag team, The Rockers. Although The Rockers were very successful and popular in their own right, Shawn Michaels had much larger ambitions and aspirations, to become a standout singles star, and that is exactly what Michaels did after he infamously Super Kicked Marty Jannetty and flung him through that glass window.
From that point forward, Shawn Michaels took on “The Heartbreak Kid” persona and he was extraordinarily successful as he captured the Intercontinental and WWE Championship both on multiple occasions. Not only that, Michaels also became one of the company’s most popular stars. Although Michaels had to prematurely retire in 1998 after suffering from a serious back injury, Shawn Michaels would once again return to the WWE in 2002 and would continue to perform as one of the company’s biggest stars up until his retirement from wrestling in 2010.
Shawn Michaels has had a career like no other, and he is certainly one of the greatest performers in pro-wrestling history. But just like everyone else, you have to start somewhere, and for Michaels, he started out with a jobber-to-the-stars position.
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