While the WWE may be the big dog in the yard, they are not the only dog, as there are independent promotions are all over the world. Since there are other viable options then the WWE, some wrestlers will leave to try their luck somewhere else or other times they will come to the WWE from another promotion where they were a star. This kind of movement between organizations tends to build excitement and for some it works out brilliantly, like Chris Jericho, Big Show, Finn Balor and The Young Bucks. These are just a few names that have moved on from where they where to find much more success somewhere else.
There are many reasons a wrestler may want to leave his current promotion. They could feel they are being underutilized, as maybe they are lower on the card then they feel they should be or maybe they are right on top of their game and feel like cashing in on a big money deal. There are also wrestlers who are past their primes and are let go by one promotion only to sign up with another promotion to try and recapture some of their former glory. And then there are the guys who at one time were something big but because of backstage politics or wellness issues they are just let go.
Not every story is as great as Chris Jericho’s or CM Punk’s. In fact those are the exceptions to the rule. More often then not, a change of scenery does more harm to a wrestler’s image then anyone could have guessed. Whether it is because of poor work ethic, terrible booking, bad gimmicks or just not knowing what to do with a guy, the chance for failure is high. So with that being said, let’s take a look at the top 25 guys who fell off the face of the earth after changing companies.
25. Brutus Beefcake
Ed Leslie was one of the more popular wrestlers of the late ’80s. His barber gimmick personified the cartoon era and he was incredibly over, especially with the kids. In the 90s when a lot of the big names left WWE for rival WCW, Ed went along to see if he could cash in on his popularity. The Barber gimmick and his name were both trademarked by the WWE so he had to change his name. The Zodiac, the Man with no Name, The Booty Man and the Disciple were just a few of the names he tried. Not surprisingly they all failed and Ed never was able to reach the average heights that he had in the WWE.
24. Charlie Haas
Charlie Haas debuted alongside Shelton Benjamin to form “The World’s Greatest Tag Team,” who combined with Kurt Angle to create a very fun heel stable. They quickly won the tag team championship and were in very entertaining feuds. When he was drafted to Raw, he formed a tag team with Rico and continued winning championships. After leaving WWE, he joined Ring of Honor where he found some limited success but was soon out of ROH all together. He is now married to his former valet Jackie Gayda and still wrestles on the independent scene in his home state of Texas.
23. Mike Awesome
ECW was huge in the late 1990s. Had it not been for Paul Heyman’s inability to manage a checkbook, it’s entirely possible that they would still be in existence today. Mike Awesome was everything his name implied. He looked like he was chiseled out of stone and had charisma in spades. He was the reigning ECW Heavyweight Champion when he left for WCW, but poor management and straddled with one of the worst gimmicks in history. The Fat Chick Thriller did little to strengthen his image, while That 70s Guy was an obvious failure.. After an equally uneventful run with the WWE, Mike left wrestling all together.
22. Colt Cabana
As part of The Second City Saints, Colt Cabana, along with CM Punk and Ace Steel, ruled Ring of Honor. He was a two-time tag team champion with Punk, who had developed quite the cult following internationally before the WWE came calling. After a couple years in the developmental territory, Cabana finally made his main roster debut for SmackDown. After a few underwhelming matches as Scotty Goldman, he was released from his contract and was never able to reach the same level of success he previously had. He is now best known for his podcast, The Art of Wrestling.
A lot of the wrestlers on this list came from ECW. In the middle of the Monday Night Wars, ECW was the edgy alternative to the WWE and WCW. A lot of guys became household names especially in the northeast. One guy who was considered a true innovator of offense was Nova. He was most well known for playing Hollywood Nova in the ECW parody of the nWo, called the bWo. Nova had a great career in ECW and was there until the doors closed. He first appeared on WWE programming a few years later after a stint in their developmental area. His character Simon Dean was not received very well by the fans and he was eventually regulated to being a jobber to new guys entering the company.
20. Chavo Guerrero Jr.
Coming from the legendary Guerrero family, Chavo really made a name for himself while teaming with his uncle Eddie in WWE. Then he became the Heavyweight Champion on the WWE’s version of ECW before moving to Raw where he became a comedy character. In 2011, he asked for his release from the WWE and they granted it. Then Chavo appeared in TNA where he didn’t do very much. After a little over a year with the company, he competed in a Feast or Fired match in which his kayfabe firing turned out to be real. He has since joined Lucha Underground where he is currently trying to rebuild his legacy.
19. Kenta Kobayashi
Kenta spent 13 years in New Japan Pro Wrestling and NOAH, winning many championships and putting on classic matches during that time. Pro Wrestling Illustrated, in 2013, had him ranked as the 22nd best wrestler in the world when they released their top 100. Needless to say the excitement and expectations were high when he signed a contract with NXT in 2014. Debuting as Hideo Itami, in September 2014, he was quickly put into the Heavyweight title picture. Sadly, Itami suffered an injury shortly after his debut, after a very underwhelming few matches and has not been seen since. His injury was supposed to take 6-8 months to heal and that was over a year ago, so it’s not looking good for him to make an impact in the WWE, though there’s still time for him.
18. Mr. Kennedy
Groomed to be a top star in the WWE, Mr Kennedy went on to win the Money in the Bank briefcase in 2007. At one time, he was even going to be featured as Vince’s son in a storyline. Injuries, PEDs and complaints from other wrestlers soon got him fired and he resurfaced with TNA as Mr. Anderson. A couple of failed pushes later and a significant loss to Ethan Carter III in the tournament for the vacant heavyweight championship tournament has him currently floating around with nothing to do in the company.
Billed as signing the largest contract in SmackDown history, Montel Vontavious Porter made a name for himself while playing the part of a conceited pro athlete who only cared about fame and money. The gimmick worked well for him and between that and some incredible in ring work, MVP became a very hot commodity in the WWE. Feeling that he wasn’t being used to his full potential, MVP asked for his release and it was granted. After spending a couple of years in NJPW, he signed a contract with TNA where he played a storyline investor with the company. After a very uneventful year, his contract was not renewed and he is currently out of wrestling all together.
16. Ahmed Johnson
He had the look and charisma of someone who should have been a top star in the wrestling business. The WWE agreed and they pushed him to the moon and back. Injuries curtailed every major push he received and after only a few years he was out of the WWE. After taking some time off. he appeared in WCW, quite a few pounds heavier, under the name of Big T. His major feud was then with his storyline cousin, Booker T, over the use of the letter T in their names. Needless to say that didn’t go over well and Johnson never reached anywhere near the heights he did in the WWE.
15. Kerry Von Erich
Part of the legendary Von Erich family, Kerry may have outshone them all. He was a multiple champion in a few different promotions and he was also a part of one of the greatest feuds of all time when he and his brothers teamed up against The Fabulous Freebirds. He made his way to the WWE in 1990 and quickly captured the IC Championship. That’s where it fell apart. Within two years he was out of the WWE after a run that was nowhere near as eventful as what brought him to fame. Sadly Kerry took his own life in 1993.
14. Barry Windham
Barry moved back and forth between WCW and WWE, but it was his third stint with the WWE that really did him in. While in WCW, he was one of the legendary Four Horsemen and during his first couple runs with the WWE he was a two-time tag team champion. His final time in the WWE though was just a disaster and he really faded away after a couple of bad gimmicks. His first gimmick was The Stalker in which he would wear camo and face paint. His second gimmick was as one of the New Blackjacks with JBL. Neither gimmick worked really well and he was gone soon after.
13. Tully Blanchard
From one Four Horsemen to an original Four Horsemen, we have the story of Tully Blanchard, who was a multiple time Television Champion and Tag Team Champion. First, he went to the WWE where he was able to find tag team gold. When he left WWE to go back to WCW, he failed a drug test and ended up in the AWA. He never again gained anywhere near the notoriety he had in the WCW. His last official match was in 2007 which was surprising since not a lot of people realized he was still wrestling after 1989.
12. Davey Boy Smith
The British Bulldog’s story is really a curious one. He had the look of a star, he connected really well with the crowds, but he just could never get over the hump to become a main eventer. In 1992, he and his brother in law Bret Hart put on one of the greatest IC title matches in history at Wembley Stadium in London. After originally being fired by the WWE for using human growth hormones, he spent a year in WCW where he was chasing the World Title. A return to the WWE saw him win multiple championships and team with The Hart Foundation. After the Montreal Screwjob he left WWE again. A second stint with the WCW is where he just faded away. Even a third return to the WWE couldn’t revitalize his carrer.
11. Brian Kendrick
After a couple successful runs in WWE where he feuded with John Cena as Spanky. then tagged with Paul London for a very lengthy tag team title reign, he then tried his luck as The Brian Kendrick and had a very successful run as a heel with his body guard Ezekiel Jackson. After he was let go by the WWE. Brian tried his luck in a couple of independent promotions before he finally joined TNA. Trying the same Gimmick he had used in WWE, Brian was unable to re-capture any of that momentum and, even though he held a couple of championships in his three year run with them, he never really reached the heights he had while with WWE. He is now a trainer with NXT.
10. Tito Santana
A former WWE Intercontinental Champion and two time Tag Team Champion, Tito Santana had the reputation going as a great worker. He was also a member of one of the most entertaining tag teams of the late 80s, Strike Force. Along with Rick Martel, the duo would capture the tag team titles before Rick Martel turned on him. After a couple of gimmick changes, Tito would eventually leave the company and bounce around a few different promotions before finally just fading away. One thing to note though is that he did spend some time in ECW before they were know as the land of extreme. At that time, they were simply known as Eastern Championship Wrestling.
Fred Ottman was very well known in WWE at the time of his departure. Originally known as Tugboat, he helped Hulk Hogan in The Hulkster’s feud with Earthquake. Eventually turning on Hogan and changing his name to Typhoon, Fred would then join with Earthquake to form the Natural Disasters tag team. That team ended up winning the tag team titles before Ottman changed companies. In 1993, Fred debuted with WCW under a new gimmick where he fell through a wall wearing a storm trooper helmet that was painted with sparkles. The Shockmaster incident was the last time Fred would do anything noteworthy in wrestling.
8. Diamond Dallas Page
DDP had a very successful run in WCW, where he was a multiple time champion and one of the most popular wrestlers in the company’s history. DDP really made a name for himself while feuding with the nWo and the late great Randy “Macho Man” Savage. After WCW folded, like most wrestlers, DDP found himself in WWE. A very underwhelming feud with The Undertaker, where he had appeared as the man who was stalking The Undertaker’s wife Sara. A short run with WWE, along with a bad run in TNA, eventually ended his wrestling career and he is now a yoga instructor and both Scott Hall and Jake Roberts credit him with helping end their addictions.
Goldberg is another wrestler who is arguably one of the best known and most popular wrestlers to come out of WCW. When WCW closed, he sat out the remainder of his contract and really didn’t seem to have the same fire for the business when he joined the WWE. After a year with the WWE, he left wrestling all together and is now a color commentator for an MMA promotion called the World Fighting Alliance.
Part of the Colon wrestling family, Carlito really made a name for himself in the WWE as an apple spitting heel. While with the WWE, he won the Intercontinental title, the United States Championship and also teamed with his brother Primo to win the tag team titles. After failing a wellness test and refusing to enter rehab, Carlito was released from his contract. He tried his luck in the company that he originally started, the World Wrestling Council. However, he was never able to achieve anywhere near the same type of fame. Carlito still wrestles to this day in the WWC.
5. Bret Hart
We struggled with this one because it is hard to say a legend ever fell off the face of the planet. But in all reality, we tried to find one significant thing that Bret did in WCW and we could not, so ultimately he qualified. When Bret was in the WWE, he was arguably the best wrestler in the world. At the time of his departure, he had done something no one else will ever duplicate. He managed to be the most hated heel in the company while in the United States, while in Canada he was the most over superstar. To have the legacy that Bret did while in the WWE, it’s truly shameful that he was so misused in WCW.
4. Hardcore Holly
Bob Holly had many gimmicks in the WWE but none were as popular as his hardcore gimmick. He teamed up with his on-screen cousin, Crash Holly, to win the Tag Team Championship. Billed as the Super Heavyweights, they were introduced as being over 800 pounds and Crash would carry a scale to the ring with him. Bob left the WWE in 2009 and bounced around a few different promotions since, most notably with TNA where he had a short run in 2013. As tough as nails as Bob Holly was, it truly is amazing that he was never able to catch on anywhere else.
3. Perry Saturn
In what could be the oddest situation ever, Perry literally disappeared. After very successful runs in ECW and WCW. Perry came to the WWE as part of The Radicalz. One of the most entertaining storylines ever occured when he fell in love with a mop and carried “moppy’ around everywhere he went. Perry left the WWE in 2002 and showed up briefly in TNA before being lauded as a real life hero when he came to the rescue of a young woman who was being attacked by a couple of men. After the altercation, he became addicted to pain killers and literally disappeared to the point even his family didn’t know where he was. Thankfully, in 2009, Perry re-emerged after beating his addiction.
2. Ezekiel Jackson
After starting with the WWE as The Brian Kendrick’s bodyguard, Ezekiel eventually moved to WWE’s version of ECW and he is recognized as the final ECW champion in history. After ECW folded, he started to make a name for himself in the WWE eventually aligning himself with Wade Barrett and the rest of the Nexus cast offs when he joined The Corre. He spent some time as the IC champion before an injury sidelined him. He had limited success after he returned from injury and was finally released from his contract. Trying his luck in TNA and changing his name to Rycklon, he was unable to capture his previous momentum.
1. Chris Harris
A seven-time tag team champion and one half of arguably the best tag team in TNA history, America’s Most Wanted, Chris Harris would make the jump to WWE in 2008. After a few months of training, he debuted on WWE’s version of ECW as Braden Walker and looked like he had gained quite a bit of weight. Less then a month later he was released from his contract by the WWE. Unfortunately for Harris, even a return to TNA wasn’t enough to revitalize his career as he was only with the company for a few days before they let him go. Chris then faded out of wrestling to pursue other ventures.
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