The WWE receives a lot of criticism for their creative story telling and not developing talent, but in all reality they are the top of the mountain in the wrestling business. They have the financial resources to pull in the best talent from around the world. They also have the television contracts, media relationships, and promotion opportunities to help that talent become very rich and famous around the world. The WWE produces a lot of revenue and the majority of that is because of the Superstars and Divas who give everything they have in the ring on a nightly basis.
When there is someone who is dripping with charisma, good on the mic, and talented in the ring not only the WWE but the wrestler themselves stand to make a lot of money. For the most part the WWE is great at noticing what they have even when the fans don’t realize it immediately. John Cena, Steve Austin, The Rock, Bret Hart and even Hulk Hogan started off as plain, boring personalities that Vince McMahon saw something great in. Because of that these guys were pushed to the moon and given character changes that accentuated their strengths. These are guys who the WWE didn’t give up on no matter how little they were connecting with fans.
There are wrestlers, regardless of how well they perform in the ring or how much the fans like them, who just don’t have what the WWE is looking for, whether it’s for creative differences or they got saddled with a horrible gimmick they can’t escape from. The company needs to part ways with that talent. Sometimes these incredibly talented wrestlers catch on and tear up the wrestling community with another organization. Other times they simply can’t recover and leave the business all together. Either way, with the correct backing it is possible that a lot of these guys could have been huge stars. Let’s take a look at some of the more talented wrestlers who the WWE gave up on way to soon.
19. Paul Burchill
Paul was a hot commodity in Florida Championship Wrestling when he was called up to the main roster as… a Pirate? By 2006 when it was clear that a ridiculous gimmick like that was not going to get over with fans, who wanted realism and real life characters, he was sent back to FCW for additional training. He was called up again in 2008 this time with his on screen sister Katie Lea. Had it not been for the on screen incest laden relationship with Katie Lea this gimmick may have worked. Paul was never able to recover from bad booking and is now currently a full time firefighter.
Montel Vontavious Porter had the look, he had the charisma and he had the wrestling ability to be a top star for a decade or better. He was saddled with a bad gimmick to start but he turned that into gold when his feud with Matt Hardy really hit its stride in 2008. His feud with Hardy ended and he floundered around the midcard for a couple of years before asking for his release. A couple years in NJPW and a year in TNA helped revitalize his career and turned into an offer from Lucha Underground in April 2016. That contract lasted a little over a week when he was released for interviewing LU talent on his podcast. The WWE missed a golden redemption opportunity with MVP and his real life road from prison to the WWE. A story like that could have been just what he needed to get over the top.
17. Shawn Stasiak
A running theme with this list is that when you start with a terrible gimmick, it’s hard to recover and have a successful career. Going by the name “Meat,” Shawn became the storyline boy toy of PMS (Jacqueline, Ryan Shamrock, and Terri Runnels). Needless to say, even in the attitude era, this gimmick had a very short shelf life. After Shawn was released he signed with WCW and won the WCW Tag Team Championship 3 times with Chuck Palumbo. When WWE purchased WCW Shawn was part of the “Invasion” storyline but much like most WCW guys in 2001 his career in WWE didn’t last long. He was released (at his request) just when he was starting to develop a “Planet Stasiak” character that had a lot of potential. Now he is a chiropractor and motivational speaker.
16. Evan Bourne
Matt Sydal is having an amazing career in ROH and NJPW. He has one of the most breathtaking double team moves, with his tag team partner Ricochet, where they hit their opponents with shooting star presses. As Evan Bourne, in the WWE, he struggled to stay healthy. After a couple of wellness violation suspensions and a year long absence due to injuries sustained in a car accident, Evan was released from his contract. He was able to show his potential when teaming with Kofi Kingston as the tag team “Air Boom.” He would have made a great addition to a cruiser weight division but in the land of the giants he never really got the chance.
15. Colt Cabana
Scotty Goldman may not be the best name in the wrestling business but what really hurt Colt was the fact that he had a very short run on the main roster and really had a difficult time finding a win even against the lower mid carders. Not really the best treatment for a guy who was the right hand man of CM Punk in ROH. As part of the Second City Saints, he and Punk had a very unique chemistry that was almost magical as a team but really shown through when they faced each other. He has recently rejoined ROH and hopes to resurrect his career.
14. Michael Tarver
WWE struck gold when they hit on the Nexus storyline. It was one of the first factions to really make a shocking appearance and dominate wrestling since the nWo. Michael Tarver was a huge part of the initial group but had a very short run before injuries took there toll. After a few awkward backstage segments where he appeared in the background of other promos he was released. He had a rare athleticism, strength and look that would have made for a great main event talent if given the right manager. He has been winning championships for the NWA territories over the last four years.
13. Katie Lea Burchill
She is stunningly beautiful and at the time was probably one of the best female wrestlers in the company. Unfortunately for Katie it is very hard to come back from an incest angle. She didn’t last long with the WWE but thankfully when she left them TNA was still a worthwhile option. She appeared there as Winter, who was an admirer of Angelina Love and would only appear to her. She became a two time TNA Knockouts Champion as well as a Knockout Tag Team champion. She proved how talented she was in the ring and is currently wrestling on the independent circuit.
12. D.H. Smith
When you are a member of the Hart Family and the son of the legendary Davey Boy Smith you basically come into the business as royalty. After a couple of very brief runs on the main roster (at least he got credited as a tag team champion with Tyson Kid) he was released from his contract before ever really living up to his potential. He really did seem to find his groove when he appeared with NJPW along with fellow “let go to soon” alumni Vance Archer. Currently he is wrestling for Japan’s NOAH organization where he and Lance are tag team champions.
11. Shelton Benjamin
You hear the word personality a lot when it comes to Shelton Benjamin. In reality personality may mean the wrong thing in today’s wrestling world. Not every one can be the Rock even though that is who everyone gets compared to. Bret Hart, Daniel Bryan and A.J. Styles have proven that a more low key composure mixed with superior in ring talent is more than enough to make the fans flock to you. Shelton put that ability on display while a member of “The World’s Greatest Tag Team” with Charlie Haas. He continued to show that God given ability as the “Gold Standard.” Currently his skills are on display with Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan.
10. Mark Jindrak
In the dying days of WCW they finally realized that home grown talent was needed to make an organization flourish. Four of the best and brightest of those up and coming stars came with the sale of WCW and only Chuck Palumbo managed to make anything of it. Mark is the second of that group to make this list. We looked at Seann Stasiak earlier and the fourth is still to come. Jindrak was a beast and originally penciled in to be a member of Evolution but that spot went to Batista instead. He is now a very successful member of CMLL which is a Lucha Libre organization in Mexico.
9. Monty Brown
Typically when a guy with natural charisma, an incredible look and insane athleticism falls in your lap, as a promoter, you get behind that guy 100%. The Alpha Male was a former NFL linebacker who was incredibly green when he arrived in TNA but managed to win over critics and fans. When WWE saw potential in him they did what they do and changed his name to Marcus Cor Von. Instead of letting Monty use his real name the WWE needed trademark rights and after 8 months Monty was released while attending to personal issues. Monty currently works as a personal trainer from his home.
8. Drew Galloway
Entering the WWE as Vince McMahon’s chosen one should put you on the fast lane to the top. Drew started out quickly, winning the Intercontinental Championship within only a few months. Two years later Drew was shuffled off to Raw in the brand extension supplemental draft and was quickly sent to the “C shows.” He suffered a horrible losing streak while mainly performing on “Superstars.” A year later Drew was part of the comedy act 3MB and then thankfully he was released from his contract. Drew resurrected his career on the independent circuit by displaying the in ring talent that brought him to the WWE in the first place. He is currently the TNA World Heavyweight Champion.
7. Kenny Omega
With an incredibly cocky personality and move set that includes the One-Winged Angel (which is one of the three best finishing moves in the world today) Kenny Omega has torn the house down in both ROH and NJPW. He is currently the IWGP Intercontinental Champion and one third of the NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champions with the Young Bucks. He is one of the top 5 in ring performers in the world currently and at one time he was in the WWE developmental system. He doesn’t appear higher on this list because the WWE didn’t let him go but they did nothing to retain him when he asked for his immediate release stating that he had issues with the trainer and the bookers.
6. Matt Morgan
When we look at a seven foot tall man who is a decent talker and very athletic, the last thing that comes to mind is a stuttering gimmick. The WWE saw differently and he debuted with that gimmick a year after being eliminated from the Royal Rumble. The WWE was hoping that their fans would have short memories and not remember he was in high profile feuds as Brock Lesnar’s back up just one year earlier. He didn’t last long but became the monster he should have been with TNA. After a fairly successful seven year run Matt retired and is currently a regional manager for a medical equipment company.
5. Angelina Love
She got her start in Deep South Wrestling when it was a developmental territory for the WWE and was released when it was shut down and moved to Ohio Valley Wrestling. She found herself in TNA forming one of the greatest women’s factions ever. She teamed with Velvet Sky and later Madison Rayne to form “The Beautiful People.” One of the best female wrestlers of this generation, she won the Knockouts Championship a record 6 times and also won the Knockouts Tag Team Championship with Winter. In March 2016 she announced through her Twitter account that her contract with TNA had expired while she was at home during her pregnancy.
4. Damien Sandow
He is incredibly talented in the ring and one hell of an entertainer. One of the few people who could take even the worst gimmick and get it so incredibly over crowds would erupt when his music hit. The WWE never really knew what to do with him, which is part of the reason for his release. Damien made the best of every chance he got and the fans appreciated him for it. He stated in a recent interview that since his release he has played with his dog and cleaned the shed. Thankfully he is planning to continue wrestling so there is a chance to see him again.
3. Elijah Burke
He is a former police officer for the Jacksonville Police Department and a former amateur boxer. He had very good in ring skills and is one of the best on the mic in the wrestling world today. His move set is flashy, his personality is flashy and he has charisma in spades. Put that all together and mix it with a good overall look and it really is a crime the WWE couldn’t do more with him. He flourished on the mic and in the ring while playing D’Angelo Dinero, a character he still portrays while doing commentary for TNA.
2. Taryn Terrell
Taryn really got handed a tough hand in WWE when she became the ECW general manager. She was incredibly green and lacked confidence on the mic but the worst part was trying to play a role that Vicki Gurrero had perfected. Taryn had a great look and proved when she moved to Smackdown that she had in ring skills as well. Unfortunately she was suspended after a real life incident involving her then husband Drew Galloway. In 2012 she debuted with TNA, and in the four years she was with the company she became one of the best female wrestlers in the world. Like most of their talent she parted ways with TNA earlier this year and has yet to resurface anywhere else.
1. Ethan Carter III
In 2015 there were four wrestlers not named John Cena that could have been considered the best in the world: A.J. Styles, Kenny Omega, Shinsuke Nakamura and Ethan Carter III. ECIII is the best natural heel in the business since Randy Orton and can wrestle with the best of the best. So it is kinda of surprising that the WWE kept him in developmental for what seemed like forever as a semi-comedy figure named Derrick Bateman. While it always felt like the WWE never really knew what to do with him, his TNA run proves that they actually had no clue what they had.
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