This is one of those topics where the trick isn’t finding enough examples, it’s trying to narrow them down. Since wrestling began, there have been a lot of constants of the business. And sadly, one of them is that incredibly talented performers are simply not given the chance they deserve to rise correctly. It’s been that way for years and the reasons are varied. The short-sighted reasoning of those in charge, other workers not willing to give up their spot, even fans not giving them a shot. Whatever the reasons, it just happens, not always fair but it does.
The list is long and filled with plenty of workers, including some major names of the business. It’s amazing to look at these people exploding with talent and promise and yet somehow just not used right. In some cases it’s young talent but in others, it’s a veteran making a jump yet not used the way they should be. It’s always a disappointment to watch happen but it seems unlikely to continue. WWE are easy to blame but WCW and TNA have more than their share of such examples as well. Here are 20 of the biggest cases of wrestlers never used the way they should have been and how it hurt them and the companies as well.
20 The Ascension
The most recent addition to this list but deserving. In NXT, these guys truly laid claim to the next coming of the Road Warriors; big, beefy, powerful and scary as hell. They dominated as champions, crushing all opposition and so when they moved to the big leagues, it was expected they’d have the belts in no time. Instead, in their debut, they were beaten down by the New Age Outlaws and the Outsiders and soon relegated to the preshows of PPVs. It made no sense for WWE to have these guys built up so well but then do pretty much nothing with them and while a chance they can turn it around, many feel the damage is done for these guys becoming the next major team.
19 2 Cold Scorpio
In WCW and ECW, Scorpio impressed with his fantastic ring skill, doing high flying moves you just didn’t see guys breaking out in the early 1990s. In WWE, he could have been a good showcase, particularly for their attempt at their own light heavyweight division. But his potential was marred as he came in as Flash Funk, a pimp character doing whacky dancing and just not connecting. He was still great in the ring but the character did nothing for fans and was soon lost in the lower card. A major waste of a great worker who could have given the mid-card a big boost.
18 Brodus Clay
Yet another case of a guy who was spectacular in WWE’s developmental system but had it all crushed out when he reached the big leagues. Clay was quite successful in FCW, a great powerhouse and early promos had him set as a monster who could be a truly thrilling contender and worker. Instead, we got a goofball coming out doing crazy dances with his own cheerleaders, never seen as a real star and relegated to the lower rung of the card. He’s actually used better in TNA as the enforcer for ECIII and shows what WWE should have done with him.
17 Terry Taylor
According to legend, it was literally the flip of a coin between Taylor and Curt Hennig for the “Mr. Perfect” gimmick. Taylor lost that as badly as you can imagine. A great star in Mid-South and the UWF, he was a terrific worker able to handle 60 minute matches with Ric Flair and good on the mic. But then he was saddled with one of the absolute worst characters in history: The Red Rooster. A red streak in his blonde hair, terrible promos of actual rooster crows and more, Taylor never had a chance, a complete joke and his attempt to remake himself in WCW as “Terrance Taylor” didn’t do much better.
This was a man who could have been IC champion and a great mid-card performer but relegated to the lower rungs and one of the biggest misuses of a talented guy imaginable.
At first, Vader was used perfectly by WCW, the unbeatable monster crushing all in his path and dominating as champion. But the arrival of Hulk Hogan pushed him down to nothing feuds with Sting and the Boss among others. He and Hogan seemed set for a dream battle but it was ruined when Hogan no-sold Vader’s dreaded powerbomb BEFORE their PPV match. Vader never recovered, soon out of WCW and at first, his WWE run was promising but was marred by battles with Yokozuna.
He was to win the title but Shawn Michaels put an end to that so Vader was marred by poor feuds, a bad face turn and never rising as high as he should have, a major loss of a good star by WWE.
15 Chris Harris
For years, Harris was a top worker for TNA, holding the tag titles as part of America’s Most Wanted and still a good singles worker. So when he joined WWE, it was seen as a good way to get a worker. But any potential he had was ruined right off the bat as he was given the name Branden Walker, a terrible promo style and any hopes of rising were crushed right away. Truly a waste off the bat of a guy who had proven himself to be a top notch worker and he was gone in only a month. His career never the same after this poor showing.
14 Orlando Jordan
It’s hard to imagine getting worse gimmicks than this. After leaving WWE, Jordan joined TNA and seemed ready for a good shot, a talent who had made the daring move of coming out as bisexual so it was hoped TNA could use that well. Instead, he was given the most insulting character imaginable, coming down wrapped in yellow tape, a freaky mask, portraying gay stereotypes and smearing himself with cream. Terrible already and that was without the announcers talking of how disturbing it was. Any potential Jordan had was ruined right off the bat, the guy never given a shot and gone from the company fast amid a terrible character decision.
13 Diamond Dallas Page
After becoming one of the biggest stars for WCW in 1999, DDP faltered a bit but seemed prepared to help lead the “invasion” of WWE in 2001. But his entrance was as badly handled as could be as he was made the “stalker” for The Undertaker’s wife. Putting aside how disturbing that was, it made no sense as DDP’s real life, Kimberly, was far hotter. It set DDP off on the wrong foot, leading to bad matches, the “motivational speaker” gimmick also going nowhere and for a guy who had been one of WCW’s biggest stars, Page never really got a fair shake in WWE.
12 Lance Storm
A truly great worker, Storm’s first misuse was in (of course) WCW as despite winning the tag team, U.S. and Cruiserweight titles, the feud of his Team Canada with the Misfits in Action was bad to say the least. In WWE, he held a few belts but bad stuff continued like the Un-Americans that fans hated (for the wrong reasons) as well as the bit of Steve Austin getting fans to openly call Storm “BORING!” during matches. It was never a good setup and Storm would soon be out of wrestling, a real shame given his terrific ring work.
When Japanese star Kazuchika Okada was signed to TNA, there were hopes this guy would be a great addition and spark the X Division well. But those familiar with TNA were worried how they would ruin it. As it turned out, the doubters were right. After being dismissed on lower-run shows and matches, Okada was given the gimmick in 2011 of coming out in a black suit and mask under the name “Okato,” an obvious link to the “Green Hornet” movie out at the same time. It was totally insulting to be labeled such an act and it didn’t even get him over as Okada would leave TNA after several losses and back to being a top star in Japan. Even by their own standards, how TNA messed this one up is remarkable.
10 Cactus Jack
In his first book, Foley is clear that he liked WCW and would have stayed but couldn’t stand what they were doing with him. It was one thing to be used as just muscle against Sting, but it got worse with his feud with Vader. First, they came up with the horrible “Lost in Cleveland” skits that rendered what should have been an epic feud into a total joke and Foley hated it. The blow-off was a good Halloween Havoc match but still not as good as could have been. The final straw was when Vader power-bombed Foley on concrete, a huge move but the announcers completely no-sold it.
Foley realized he wasn’t going to get ahead and left, first for ECW and then WWE soon rising as a star on his own terms and showing just how much of a prize WCW let slip through their fingers.
9 Christopher Daniels
For a time, it looked like the “Fallen Angel” was going to be one of TNA’s biggest stars. He was a great tag team worker with XXX and then set the record for the longest X Division title reign, including his classic battles against A.J. Styles and Samoa Joe and killer promos. But then, he was put into the idiotic masked personas of Curry Man and Suicide that took away a key element for TNA and robbed his momentum. He would return but not quite the same big star with a dumb face tattoo and gimmick that didn’t suit him well.
He and Kazarian did click as Bad Influence but had to put up with the incredibly stupid “Claire Lynch” angle and their tag title reigns weren’t as long or good as they should have been. This was a man who deserved to be TNA World Champion but kept down so it’s not surprising he would jump to ROH who used his talents far better. Yet another case of TNA so obsessed with ex-WWE stars that they ignored a homegrown talent.
8 Shane Douglas
Even WWE themselves acknowledge Douglas’ run in 1995 as a total flop. Coming in from ECW, Douglas had shown himself as a main-event caliber heel and a terrific worker. WWE’s great idea was to present him as “Dean” Douglas, talking school lessons and scratching a chalkboard, not exactly a threatening person. Of course, Douglas had issues clashing with the Kliq and coming out the loser there.
He was to win the IC belt over Shawn Michaels but Michaels had to give it up after being injured in a bar brawl and Douglas only got to hold the belt for 15 minutes before losing it to Razor Ramon. It was a bad move that drove Douglas back to ECW and a big lost opportunity for WWE at the time.
Madusa got a big push in WWE as Alundra Blayze, winning the Women’s title and seemingly ready to push this division up. However, Blayze had a falling out thanks to her lack of payment and some poor booking and so jumped to WCW. It was a famous moment as she showed up on “Nitro” and dumped the WWE Women’s title belt into a garbage can on live television.
Given that huge debut, you’d think WCW would use Madusa to build up their own women’s division and push it hard. Instead, they just let it fade out, Madusa ignored until 1999 where she was thrown into the Cruiserweight title picture and other moves that were beneath her. A true mistake by WCW and set back one of the best female workers ever.
WCW struck gold with this man, pushing him as an unbeatable monster and his victory over Hogan for the World title was fantastic. Sadly, Goldberg was soon lost by the politics of WCW, his reign a joke as he was often not even headlining shows. He got lost in the shuffle following the Fingerpoke of Doom and was marred by a bad heel turn, injury and other moves that cost him his heat.
It got worse when he came to WWE who made him look weak, losing to Triple H, his reign as a World Champion too short and nowhere near the powerhouse he should have been. Goldberg was open about his problems with WWE and slammed their treatment of him. One of the biggest phenomenons in wrestling was taken down by some seriously bad booking.
5 Nick Dinsmore
There’s an entire list to be made of guys who were fantastic in WWE’s developmental system but when they got the call-up to the big league, they were saddled with terrible stuff. In OVW, Dinsmore was a terrific worker who reigned as champion 10 times and sparked fans up with his act. When he was moved to RAW, he was given the character of Eugene, Eric Bischoff’s “slow” nephew and meant to be used as comic relief. At first, there was the promising bit of him as a wrestling savant who could copy anyone in the ring and it had promise with The Rock giving him the rub in a promo.
But then WWE put him in a feud with Triple H that killed all his heat and rendered him even more of a joke. Poor Dinsmore just never had a shot and remarkable how a worker with so much promise was crushed by a poor gimmick, a sad trait for WWE.
In his recent documentary, Sting states the reasons he never signed with WWE were both their intense schedule and that he was afraid how he’d be used. Those fears have since been realized since signing with them. Rather than the obvious battle with The Undertaker at WrestleMania as fans had always wanted, Sting was put against Triple H in an overbooked match that Hunter won, the opposite of what fans wanted. Sting also came up short in his title shot with Seth Rollins. True, the man is 56 and slower, but there's still an incredible aura around him. WWE just wouldn't give Sting his due (perhaps because he was the one major star never to work for the company before). A true letdown of what should have been a great arrival of the Icon.
3 Mike Awesome
Even by their own epic standards of blowing sure things, what WCW did here is mind-boggling. In early 2000, they managed to land Mike Awesome, the reigning ECW champion, known for his powerbombs and putting guys through tables. The heat on him was terrific as the ECW faithful were ready to rip him apart for leaving them. WCW’s genius idea for this monster? Have him take on the act of “That ‘70s Mike Awesome,” a lounge lizard with an interview segment that didn’t suit him at all. That was followed by him as the “Fat Chick Thriller,” which also went nowhere. His stint in WWE wasn’t much better but the damage was done as Awesome went from monster to joke in no time flat and yet another bungling by WCW.
2 Cheerleader Melissa
TNA has been accused a lot of immediately pushing outside talent over their home-grown folks. But in one case, they totally missed how a newcomer should have been used. One of the most talented and gorgeous female workers on the indie circuit, Melissa was a great signing for the Knockouts division and many expected her to get a big push to the title fast. Instead, for reasons that make no sense, TNA had this beautiful woman come out decked head to toe in robes to be Raisha Saeed, manager for Awesome Kong. It was a total waste of a great performer and although she would pop up briefly as Alissa Flash, it still remains a terrible move by TNA not to use someone who could have given the Knockouts more power.
1 Bret Hart
Nothing speaks to the sheer ineptitude of WCW than what they did with Bret Hart. This was a massive star, an icon in Canada (a fanbase WCW could never quite crack) who was coming off the biggest double-cross in wrestling history. This was a major coup for the company and Bret easily could have helped them take the lead in the Monday Night War for good.
Instead, in his very first appearance, Bret was made the special referee for a match between Eric Bischoff and Larry Zybsko for the fate of “Nitro” then an entrance in an attempt to salvagee the terrible blow-out to the Hogan/Sting match. For the next couple of years, Bret was shoved down the card, with feuds that went nowhere, lost amid the politics of WCW and the non-stop New World Order push. He never became the headliner WCW should have used him for. Bret would get the belt down the road but it didn’t mean as much thanks to how WCW had devalued it and his career was ended by injuries suffered as champion. Bret himself has always been sorry for how things went and even Vince McMahon has indicated he can’t believe how badly WCW dropped the ball with a man who could have led them to the promised land.