Every fan of World Wrestling Entertainment has had that moment where they feel like they are in a love-hate relationship with the sports-entertainment giant. It feels especially true now with fans having so many expectations for how future stars are being brought up to the WWE main roster, only to be fed to aging veterans and part-time superstars who are only seen once every few weeks.
Depending on how big of a fan you are of someone like Kevin Owens or AJ Styles, the recent booking decisions for WrestleMania 33 can make you feel like that love-hate relationship with WWE might be an abusive one. They set you up to be hurt later, but you keep coming back every Monday and Tuesday night for Raw and SmackDown respectively.
These are just recent examples of the WWE dropping the ball with certain wrestlers on their roster. But this is a problem that repeats itself in a number of different forms in the history of the WWE. There will always be examples of wrestlers not being given the proper push at the right time or the WWE had them lose when they should have won in a high-profile match.
These moments go back to even the earliest years in WrestleMania history when Hulk Hogan was the top draw despite talented wrestlers never quite getting their fair shot at running with the ball, so to speak. Even in the height of wrestling popularity in the 1990s with the Attitude Era, there have been head-scratching moments in WWE. The following are the top 20 things WWE screwed something up that could have been the next big thing.
20 20. Papa Shango Could Have Been a Great Heel
Charles Wright has been known by a few different names in the WWE. While he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as The Godfather, he could have actually been a better villain as Papa Shango. It was a silly gimmick at first to see someone dressed up as a voodoo witch doctor. But the WWE was able to do something unique with him placing curses on other WWE superstars, including the Ultimate Warrior inexplicably bleeding in the ring.
19 19. Zack Ryder Buried After Brief 2011 Push
In 2011, Zack Ryder was able to find his own way in getting over with the WWE Universe. Despite not being able to get any time on television, Ryder was one of the first WWE superstars to become integrated with social media. Eventually, his YouTube show Z! True Long Island Story helped him become a star in the WWE. After finally getting attention from the fans and also the top stars, Ryder would finally get his chance to shine.
18 18. Cody Rhodes Not Taken More Seriously
He might have been the grandson of a plumber and the youngest son of The American Dream Dusty Rhodes, but it feels like the WWE hampered his early pro wrestling career with questionable gimmicks. The last straw seemed to be the Stardust character that was interesting for a moment to fuel a feud with his brother Dustin, known best as Goldust. However, the Stardust character lasted about two years too long.
17 17. Triple H Defeating CM Punk in 2011
During what is viewed as WWE’s Summer of Punk in 2011, there was a lot of buzz as the lines between kayfabe and reality blurred in a unique way. CM Punk’s contract was winding down and he was set to challenge John Cena for the WWE Championship at a pay-per-view in Chicago. Punk would win despite weeks of putting his frustrations about his time in WWE out into the public. The fans were rooting for him everywhere he went and his “pipe bomb” got him a main event spot and a reign as WWE Champion.
16 16. Triple H vs. Booker T - WrestleMania XIX
It was just one of many examples of the WWE burying the legacies that were built in WCW during the 1990s. Booker T might not be the biggest name in the promotion’s history with the likes of Goldberg and Sting, but he was a five-time (repeat four more times) WCW World Heavyweight Champion. He was a big part of the WCW/ECW Invasion storyline after the WWE bought their competition. But he spent most of the time on the mid-card before WrestleMania XIX.
15 15. CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society
Long before he gave WWE fans the infamous pipebomb promo in 2011, CM Punk was easily one of the best overall wrestlers who continued to not get the proper attention. For about 10 months from November 2009 until September 2010, CM Punk was given his own faction called the Straight Edge Society. His no-alcohol, no-drug mantra became something that could have been a role model character and turned into a self-righteous heel gimmick.
14 14. Dolph Ziggler’s Credibility
Where do we start when it comes to Dolph Ziggler? In all honesty, Ziggler is one of those mid-card superstars who really should be elevated to a regular spot in the main event. However, it feels like the WWE always gives him a little bit of a push before realizing they didn’t want to in the first place. His first World Heavyweight Championship was won and lost on the same night in 2011.
13 13. Turning Doink the Clown Face
One of the creepiest people to enter a WWE ring was easily Doink the Clown in 1993. Wrestling fans would see the WWE’s version of a man in clown mask who would quickly switch from laughing and bringing balloon animals to kids and then have a mean scowl that could cause goosebumps. Kids in the audience were certainly freaked out by the character as he would walk to the ring.
12 12. Shelton Benjamin’s Solo Career
In 2004, the WWE broke up the World’s Greatest Tag Team when Shelton Benjamin was drafted to Raw. After a backstage incident with Triple H, Benjamin would then go into the main event of RAW against The Game and win in a shocking upset. The former University of Minnesota wrestler had shown a lot of athletic abilities during his solo career in the WWE. However, it feels like he never quite got what was needed to put him over the top as a main roster star.
11 11. Damien Sandow: From Top Heel to Comical Act
It isn’t every day when someone walks into the WWE main roster and quickly gets over as one of the biggest heels within moments. Damien Sandow greeted fans as a hero of the “ignorant masses” who needed a role model in 2012. Everything about the WWE’s “Enlightened One” was entertaining in that he knew how to press buttons with the fans with big words that might require the use of a thesaurus.
10 10. Momentum From Mizdow Momentum Abruptly
As mentioned earlier, Damien Sandow was able to turn some of the worst ideas the WWE creative team gave him and turned it into some of the most entertaining content on WWE television. When they put Sandow into the stunt double role with The Miz, it was probably not expected to get over as much as it did with the crowd. Aaron Stevens (Sandow) would comment on the crowd appreciating the effort of his performance during an episode of Talk is Jericho.
9 9. Austin’s Heel Turn at WrestleMania X-Seven
The ending of WrestleMania X-Seven felt a little weird for many wrestling fans. The fact that Vince McMahon was helping “Stone Cold” Steve Austin defeat The Rock to win the WWE Championship felt well out of the norm. The WWE fans weren’t ready for this sort of surprise and it was hard for them to look at Austin as a heel. It was a shocking move that really didn’t help his character.
8 8. WWE Debut of Diamond Dallas Page
One of the things that seemed to be common about WCW superstars making the jump to WWE was that most of them were sort of buried. Diamond Dallas Page was another big star in WCW who should have been a big hit in the WWE. However, his debut was sort of a dud in that the WWE made him someone who stalked The Undertaker’s wife.
7 7. WWE’s Version of ECW
The WWE found themselves a hit when they hosted the first ever ECW: One Night Stand pay-per-view in 2005. The newer generation of WWE fans who hadn’t known what an ECW crowd was like had a chance to see some of the originals of the ECW brand compete in a list of highlight matches that made the event one of the best of the year. It was also followed up with the 2006 edition that saw Rob Van Dam win the WWE Championship and launch the new ECW brand.
6 6. The Invasion Storyline Not Having WCW’s Biggest Names
It all started during the final episode of WCW Nitro back in March 2001. Shane McMahon announced that he was the one who actually bought WCW with the storyline that he had swooped in to snag it from under Vince’s nose. But as the WCW and ECW wrestlers would form The Alliance to take down the WWE, there were some noticeable people missing from the Invasion – the bigger names from WCW.
5 5. Kevin Owens Losing the WWE Universal Championship
It was expected by many wrestling fans that Kevin Owens was going to drop the WWE Universal Championship at Fastlane to Goldberg. The former WCW powerhouse had been booked in matches that lasted shorter than a trip through a fast food drive thru. And while Owens has been elevated to being the top villain in the RAW roster, there was hope that he could have at least been competitive in his loss to Goldberg.
4 4. Goldberg’s First WWE Run
To be fair, Goldberg didn’t have the greatest first run in the WWE nearly 14 years ago. After spending the late 1990s as one of the most dominant forces in WCW, Goldberg came into WWE with a lot of excitement. Back when he first debuted in WWE in 2003, the initial cheers and chants would slow down with some poor booking by the WWE creative team. To say that Goldberg was buried after a short reign as World Heavyweight Champion would be an understatement.
3 3. Sting’s First WWE Match at WrestleMania 31
Sting is essentially the last superstar from WCW to enter the WWE Universe. So when he appeared at Survivor Series 2014, the wrestling world was buzzing about the WWE debut fans were hoping for. After years of being a top draw for TNA Wrestling, Sting finally made the move to WWE. Fans started hoping we would see Sting face The Undertaker at WrestleMania.
2 2. Rikishi Revealed to Run Over Steve Austin
In 1999 and 2000, one of the most talked about moments in professional wrestling was the mystery of who hit “Stone Cold” Steve Austin with a car in the parking lot. There were a fair number of suspects in the WWE locker room and there was a long investigation that took nearly a year; which seems crazy to think the WWE writers were able to keep a storyline going for that long. In October 2000, Mick Foley would enter the ring to confront the culprit. Many feared Foley was about to name The Rock as the perpetrator, but detective Foley pointed the finger at Rikishi.
1 1. Who Should Have Ended The Undertaker’s Streak?
This topic may depress many wrestling fans. The fact that Brock Lesnar was the one who ended the Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania in 2014 left many shocked and visibly upset. It was one of those rare moments where caused a legitimate shock across the fan base. Who would have thought that Lesnar would become the one in the 21-1 record after WrestleMania XXX? The fact remains that The Undertaker’s streak should have been broken by an up-and-comer, if it was going to end at all.
It all goes back to the WWE claiming that they are entering a new era. But the fans continue to see the same stars receive top-card slots at bigger pay-per-views – i.e. Goldberg and Lesnar. It could have been a beneficial win for someone like Bray Wyatt, Roman Reigns or even Kevin Owens. But once again, the WWE gives a push to someone who doesn’t necessarily need the additional momentum.
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