For a lot of fans, the 2000s is when wrestling began to become irrelevant. Back in the Attitude Era, wrestling was the cool and edgy thing to be into, and if you were a student back in those days, you knew no one would make fun of you for wearing an "Austin 3:16" shirt, for instance. But with MMA progressively rising in popularity, the WWE's popularity began to peter out a bit during the Ruthless Aggression Era. Then a combination of factors (MMA/UFC gaining more momentum, wrestler deaths such as Eddie Guerrero's, increasingly meh storylines) led us to where we were a few years back – WWE being largely uncool, with a plethora of forgettable names having come and gone.
When talking about forgotten WWE wrestlers from the 2000s, we've narrowed things down to two primary requirements – one, their careers must be identifiable to the 2000s, meaning everyone in this list competed in the Ruthless Aggression and/or PG Eras. Two, these wrestlers must not have ever been main eventers, and should not be employed at the present by any one of WWE's top North American rivals. (That means no one from GFW's present-day roster, pretty much.)
You may or may not have forgotten all about these wrestlers and/or their tenures in WWE, so let's take a look at these 20 wrestlers, see how they look like in present day (or as close to present day as we can find), and also talk you through what they've been up to recently.
20 Mistico (Original Sin Cara)
At this point, Sin Cara has been played by the former Hunico for so long that a lot of fans must have forgotten that he was once played by Luis Urive, or Mistico as he was better known in his home country of Mexico. (That is, if fans remember that Sin Cara IS still employed by the WWE.)
The original Sin Cara's run was a forgettable, botch-filled couple of years, as the now-former Mistico's refusal to adjust to the WWE style, and his refusal to learn how to speak English combined to make him difficult to work with. Unhappy with his time in America, Mistico returned to Mexico in 2014, though he appears to respect his time with WWE enough to work in CMLL as Caristico – that's a portmanteau of "Sin Cara" and "Mistico," in case you didn't notice.
19 Shad Gaspard
Thanks to his series of easy-to-read and entertaining autobiographies, JTG is still well-remembered by the WWE Universe. It also helps that the smaller, younger half of Cryme Tyme was once the subject of a running joke among fans – how long before WWE's higher-ups realize that JTG is still employed? The same cannot be said about Shad Gaspard, who faded into obscurity after WWE released him in November 2010.
As of 2014, Shad and JTG had reunited in the indies, working as the slightly-renamed "Crime Time." But if you're a movie buff, you've probably seen Gaspard play bit parts in a few films in recent years. The above photo shows Shad playing a tall, ill-tempered jock who gets challenged to a fight (to hilarious effect, of course) by Will Ferrell's wannabe-tough guy character in the 2015 film Get Hard.
18 Tyler Reks
If the rumors and the man's own claims are accurate, Tyler Reks could have had a more prominent role in WWE's mid-card, had he not been angrily buried by John Cena because his finisher looked too similar to the AA. Instead, Reks languished in the lower card for most of his time in WWE, failing to make a splash with a number of gimmicks, including his original surfer role, as well as the short-lived Magic Mike male stripper parody he had with Curt Hawkins.
Reks was released from the WWE in 2012 and retired from the ring soon after, and while he had a brief comeback in 2014 alongside Hawkins, he's yet to wrestle another match. He's now plying another trade as a fitness expert, and, under his real name of Gabriel (Gabe) Tuft, he also serves in the Chamber of Commerce in California cities Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa.
17 Kenzo Suzuki
Initially booked as an evil foreign heel called Hirohito, Kenzo Suzuki became best-known in his one-year WWE run as a comedic foreign heel who tried (and failed) to come about as pro-American. It was a gimmick that smacked of mid-card failure, and by 2005, Suzuki was yet another example of a Japanese wrestler brought in by the WWE with high hopes, only to fall victim to his own gimmick's limitations.
After leaving the WWE, Suzuki competed in Mexico's AAA and his home country's Dragon Gate, before finding a more permanent home in 2010 as part of All Japan Pro Wrestling's roster, where he remains to this day, albeit on a freelance basis. As you can see, he's ditched the traditional Japanese garb, and still looks to be in very good shape for a man who's in his early 40s.
16 Chris Nowinski
At the moment, he's far better known for being a concussion expert than anything he's ever done in the WWE. But Harvard graduate Chris Nowinski (or Christopher Nowinski, as he's more formally addressed for the most part these days) did try to make his name in the WWE's Ruthless Aggression Era, first appearing as a Tough Enough finalist, then playing up his Ivy League education as a mid-card main roster heel. He's probably best-known in the ring for that epic debate with Scott Steiner – the same one where Big Poppa Pump said that he "wrestled a lot of countries."
Nowinski's WWE career would be short-lived, as he had to retire due to nagging post-concussion symptoms at the very young age of 26. But he's since been doing his part to further concussion research, publishing the book Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis in 2006, and working closely with the families of CTE victims, particularly those who played in the NFL.
15 Kristal Marshall
Kristal Marshall was one of many models-turned-wrestlers who joined the WWE via the Diva Search in the mid 2000s. Like many of her contemporaries, she was not a trained wrestler beforehand, and keeping in the spirit of the times, she was mostly used in gimmick matches during her near-two-year run. You know what we’re talking about here — Bra and Panties matches and other similar matches designed to showcase the “assets” of WWE’s Divas.
Marshall also competed in TNA from 2009 to 2010, where she was rebranded as “Kristal Lashley,” due to the fact that she was still dating Bobby Lashley at that time. The couple left TNA at around the same time in early 2010, and while Bobby would eventually return, Kristal retired from wrestling soon after her TNA release. According to WWE’s website, she used the company’s Talent Scholarship to finish her college education, and was running her own hair and makeup salon as of a few years ago.
14 Trent Barreta
AJ Lee's 2017 autobiography Crazy is My Superpower included a few key revelations about her time in the WWE. While most fans know that she dated Jay Lethal some time before falling in love with current husband CM Punk, it was a surprise to many that AJ admitted dating a WWE wrestler named Greg – that would be Greg Marasciulo, or Trent Barreta as he was known as a WWE lower-carder.
Barreta’s time in WWE was largely unmemorable, especially after his tag team with Caylen Croft, The Dude Busters, broke up. With failed attempts to stick around in TNA, and later GFW, Barreta has mostly stuck around in the indies, and while he did well in NJPW as a tag team specialist (under the tweaked ring name Trent Beretta), he’s far from the radar of the bigger promotions at this point in his career.
13 Rob Conway
Don’t you miss the days when WWE debuted new wrestlers as plants? Rob Conway debuted as one in 2003, ostensibly appearing as an American soldier who betrayed The Dudley Boyz to side with La Resistance. Working alongside the evil Frenchmen (or should we say, French-Canadians), he became Robért Conway, and after he split with the team, he moved on to singles in 2005, becoming best-known for the time when he seemingly came about as a poor man’s Buff Bagwell. (Or a rich man’s version in the WWE, considering how quickly WWE got rid of Bagwell during the days of the Invasion.)
Conway has been working the indies since his 2007 release, and if you look at the above picture from 2014, you’ll notice he’s taken on a much scruffier appearance in recent years. He still competes in the NWA, and, with Josh Lewis as his teammate, had most recently lost the company’s Mid-America tag team championships in August.
12 Justin Gabriel
In terms of raw in-ring talent, Justin Gabriel was arguably right behind Daniel Bryan in the first season of NXT's game-show iteration. But as early as then, there were some red flags surrounding the South African high-flyer – to summarize things, he was just as bad on the mic as he was exciting and talented in the ring. As a result, Gabriel got one of the shortest ends of the stick after The Nexus' alleged burial at the hands of John Cena at SummerSlam 2010. But just as he seemed to have an interesting storyline with Adam Rose as the masked Bunny, he was released by the WWE early in 2015.
After his WWE run ended, Gabriel headed off to Lucha Underground, and if you’re a fan of the company, you should have no problem recognizing him as P.J. Black. Unfortunately, he was involved in a serious base jumping accident earlier this year, suffering a broken hand, a broken leg, and even losing a finger. Here's hoping for his continued recovery.
11 Mark Jindrak
Mark Jindrak is such a staple of these "forgotten wrestler" lists that many Ruthless Aggression fans remember him now for being on them. Sure, he had a great look, and sure, he was one of the younger prospects who joined WWE after they bought out WCW, but his utter lack of charisma meant he was best used as somebody's henchman – in that case, that would be Kurt Angle. Oh, and there's also that little matter of him being the fourth member of Evolution...until WWE made the right call and went with Batista instead.
Aside from Team Angle and that "what could have been" deal with Evolution, Jindrak's U.S. wrestling career has been forgettable. But he did make up for it by moving to Mexico and achieving much greater success as Marco Corleone. He's currently CMLL's World Heavyweight Champion, proving that at the age of 40, he's still a big deal away from his home country.
10 Ezekiel Jackson
Another one of those big guys with no charisma to speak of, Ezekiel Jackson has the distinction of being the very last ECW Champion before WWE replaced its third, mid-card-friendly brand with NXT. After ECW folded, Jackson aligned himself with the horribly-named Corre stable, and even had a run with the Intercontinental Championship at the time when the belt was at its doldrums in terms of relevance. Injuries, however, made him a virtual non-entity for most of 2012 and 2013, and by the spring of 2014, Big Zeke was finally released by the WWE.
Since his WWE departure, Jackson has worked the independent scene as Big Ryck, with a 2014-15 run in Lucha Underground being the arguable high point of his indie run. Using his real first name, Rycklon, he also had a blink-and-you-miss-it stint as a heel in the company then known as TNA.
As a guy who had seemingly traveled in time from 1957 to 2007, Cliff Compton worked in the WWE as Domino, teaming up with Sim Snuka (aka Deuce) in the kayfabe greaser tag team Deuce 'n Domino. Despite having an arguably restrictive gimmick, they had a run with the WWE Tag Team Championships, but when time came for the WWE to break them up, the duo turned into a pair of virtual Marty Jannettys – Deuce both failed to stick with Legacy and to catch The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXV (where he was an unnamed cameraman), while Domino was turned into a jobber until his August 2008 release.
With no need to maintain the appearance of an old-school street thug, the former Domino now looks like someone who's gone from greaser to hobo. Using his real name, he competed in Ring of Honor from 2013 to 2015, and was most recently in the news after CM Punk, an old friend of his, apparently gave him his WWE Championship belt as a Christmas gift last year.
8 Mason Ryan
Despite not debuting via NXT's game show/reality show format, Welsh big man Mason Ryan was first seen on the main roster as part of The Nexus. It wasn't long before fans started comparing him to Batista, albeit mostly referring to him as a poor man's version of The Animal. He wasn't half as refined or as skillful as the future Guardians of the Galaxy star, and when the novelty of his more-than-passing resemblance to Dave Bautista wore off, Ryan found himself as an afterthought in 6-man-or-more tag team matches. By the start of 2013, he was sent down to NXT in its developmental form. One year later, WWE wished him the best in his future endeavors.
Ryan wasn't exactly a much-sought-after free agent when WWE cut him, and after a few years working the indie scene, he's now working mainly in the world-famous Cirque du Soleil, where he puts his brawny physique to good use as the chief archer of Ka.
7 Vladimir Kozlov
The foreign heel shtick had long become passe by the time Vladimir Kozlov made his WWE debut in 2008, racking up a long winning streak and establishing himself as a WWE Championship contender before long. But it was downhill all the way after he lost to Shawn Michaels in March 2009 for the right to face The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXV. His only WWE gold came in the form of the Tag Team Championships, as he was one-half of a comedic tag team with Santino Marella from 2010 to 2011. Kozlov was then released later in 2011, after a run as NXT rookie Conor O'Brian's Pro – you probably know said NXT rookie these days as Konnor of The Ascension.
After a year working for Inoki Genome Federation, Kozlov announced his retirement from pro wrestling in October 2012. He’s now hoping to further his sting career, and though he wasn’t a credited part of the cast of either film, he did stunts for the films Fast & Furious 6 and John Wick 2. The picture above shows Kozlov’s newer, scruffier appearance, and the great shape he’s kept himself in as he continues working hard to get a bigger break in Hollywood.
The female winner of the first season of WWE’s Tough Enough rookie search in 2001, Nidia Guenard debuted a year later, as she and storyline boyfriend Jamie Noble worked a trailer trash gimmick. For the entire duration of her stay on SmackDown, Nidia worked this gimmick, even when her kayfabe relationship with Noble imploded, and it was only when she was drafted to Raw in 2004 that she got a gimmick change. Once again, it was a cultural stereotype, this time with WWE focusing on Nidia’s Puerto Rican heritage and having her mostly stick to rapid-fire Spanish in her promos. At least it was still better than selling timeshares or fighting bulls like Primo and Epico used to do.
Nidia quietly retired from wrestling after her WWE release, and would soon start a family with her husband, David, whom she is seen with in the above photo. As of 2015, she was leading a Girl Scout Troop and focusing on married life with her husband and two children.
We’ve featured the female winner of the first Tough Enough, so let’s move on to Season 1’s male winner, Maven Huffman. Although he spent virtually all of his WWE career in the mid-card, he is remembered for his surprise elimination of The Undertaker from the 2002 Royal Rumble, and the fact that he was never technically eliminated from the match. At the time of his release in 2005, he was working alongside Mike “Nova” Bucci’s goofy Simon Dean persona as an endorser of the kayfabe nutrition guru’s “Simon System” products.
Maven followed up his WWE stint with two years wrestling in TNA, but after retiring in 2007, he became notorious for racking up arrests for doctor shopping, nursing a painkiller addiction in relation to those arrests, and working as a bouncer at a New York City club. He returned to pro wrestling in 2015, most prominently appearing on shows promoted by current WWE super-jobber Curt Hawkins for his Create A Pro wrestling school.
A product of the all-female third season of the NXT rookie search, Lithuanian fitness model Zivile Raudoniene is better-known to WWE fans as Aksana. She made her main roster debut in 2011, and was known initially for her storyline relationships with SmackDown GM Teddy Long, and later on with the debuting Antonio Cesaro, way back when the Swiss Superman still had a first name. Though she wasn't the worst model-turned-WWE Diva to ever compete for the company, she was sadly lacking in in-ring and promo skills and charisma, and was let go during WWE's 2014 "spring cleaning."
As she only has a couple of mostly-inactive Twitter and Instagram accounts to her name, it's hard to keep tabs on Aksana and what she's doing these days. But the above Instagram pic suggests she's switched back to her natural blonde hair color, and still may be involved in the fitness business.
3 Mike Knox
If Mike Knox had stuck around the WWE a little longer, would he have made a good addition to The Wyatt Family? Appearance-wise, we think he would have. He was originally part of a storyline relationship that could be best described as "beauty and the beast" – Knox was the bearded spoil-sport who ran in on Kelly Kelly's ECW stripteases and covered her up with a towel. He then jumped from brand to brand until his 2010 release, never getting to distinguish himself as being more than that big guy with the bushy beard.
As Knox's WWE departure wasn't on the most amicable of terms, we doubt we'll ever see him as a Wyatt, or as a third "Bludgeon Brother" (Erick Rowan and Luke Harper's brand-spanking-new tag team). But he isn't as negative toward WWE as he is toward TNA, where he spent three years competing under the ring name "Knux." Now 39-years-old, he is currently wrestling for Japan's Inoki Genome Federation.
2 Eve Torres
It would arguably be a stretch to call Eve Torres a "forgotten WWE wrestler." Then again, she hasn't been directly involved in the squared circle since leaving WWE early in 2013 and retiring from the sport. In terms of accomplishments, Eve is best-known for her three Divas Championships, but in terms of storylines, chances are you remember her for the role she played in Zack Ryder's 2012 super-burial, where she essentially used and emasculated Ryder en route to an extended stay near, or at the bottom of WWE's totem pole.
Since retiring as a pro wrestler, Torres has focused on being a wife to Rener Gracie, a mother to their 2-year-old son, and head instructor of the Gracie Women Empowered self-defense program. She's also worked as an ambassador for WWE in 2014, and had most recently made an appearance on the WWE Network's Table for 3 earlier this year, appearing alongside contemporaries Maryse and Kelly Kelly.
1 Ted DiBiase Jr.
He comes from money, he comes from class. He may have been a solid hand in the ring, but Ted DiBiase Jr. was one of those wrestlers who spent most, if not all of his time in the spotlight in his father's shadow. He wasn't the same man on the mic or in the ring, and despite WWE's best efforts to build him up as a third-generation star, Teddy Jr.'s biggest accomplishments in the WWE are still his tenure in The Legacy, his starring role in The Marine 2, as well as his two World Tag Team Championships with Legacy stablemate Cody Rhodes.
After making a sole appearance on Superstars in 2013, DiBiase parted ways with the WWE in the summer of that year, and retired from full-time in-ring competition soon thereafter. These days, he spends a lot of time working with underprivileged youths in his home state of Mississippi. His Twitter information also shows him as the VP of Business Development for a company called One Life America.