Just like any other job, hiring managers only have so much to go on before shaking hands with a prospective employee before telling them they’re hired. In the wrestling industry, you can’t simply judge a performer on their ability to clock in and out every day. Wrestlers have to not just be there every day. Once you’ve made to the big show, it’s time for the real work to be put in. Most of the time, everyone that The Game or the Chairman hire are already hard workers. But are they good enough to become WWE Superstars?
Triple H should be praised for the creation of The WWE Performance Center and its expansion. When WCW and ECW fell, so too did places to work and hone your craft. Ring Of Honor and New Japan are also now established places to work nowadays. But of course, the WWE is still the measuring stick. As Triple H keeps building his corporate reputation, there will hopefully fewer and fewer signing duds, and more and more major successes. Another important factor in play is that eventually, Triple H won't have to worry about some of his pet projects being mishandled by Vince and the enormous writing team on the main roster. His vision of a certain wrestler should remain a lot more consistent when they make that jump.
But in the meantime, here are 10 wrestlers Triple H regrets hiring and, in most cases, bringing up to the main roster, and 10 whom he'd like to hire.
20 Regrets - Enzo Amore
What a black mark on the industry Enzo Amore turned out to be, as most recently seen in his stunt at Survivor Series. Signed by Triple H, Amore seemed to be an early success story of what the Performance Center could accomplish. Take a guy with a decent look and work ethic, put him through the rigorous training and plop out a WWE Superstar. But in Enzo’s case, something worse than plopping happened.
The bad attitude, the backstage heat, the lack of decent in-ring talent, and recently, we had the guy sneaking into Survivor Series. Enzo was good on the mic in a way that you can't teach (see what we did there), but when that’s all the sauce you got, you just don’t have the sauce.
19 Wants To Get - Kenny Omega
Duh, part one. Kenny Omega is most likely the most over superstar anywhere in the world, WWE included. Plying his trade mostly in New Japan, he has been front and center in New Japan’s global expansion. As NJPW is raided more and more for their talent, it has been Kenny Omega that has been leading the charge about changing professional wrestling.
But in order to effectively change the business, the best wrestler in the world might need to leave the world he helped to forge in New Japan behind and head to the WWE, where he’ll have even more eyes on him. For a guy like Omega, the question isn’t a matter of if he makes the jump; when he does, it might be the most important debut in recent memory.
18 Regrets - Mistico
Sin Cara, the former Mistico was the first major star Triple H had signed as Head Of Talent Relations, and he had a lot of hype behind him. Before The Game was tapped for the position, he had been a force in discussing talent for years, going back to his days in the Kliq. Now that it was official, there was a lot riding on the luchador’s shoulders.
But for whatever the reason, the original Sin Cara couldn’t get off the ground. Language barriers, botches, barely being able to keep up with Rey Mysterio, you name the issue - chances are it happened to Mistico.
17 Wants To Get - Young Bucks
Nick and Matt Jackson have been leading the revolution in indie wrestling for years now. They inadvertently didn’t endear themselves to members of the old guard of WWE. But that was years ago. Now, the Bucks Of Youth, as Broken/Woken Matt Hardy calls them, are on top of the wrestling food chain and even big-time WWE stars like The Usos have grabbed hold of the Superkick Party and are running with it.
With many members of the OG Bullet Club running around WWE, perhaps it’s time for the Jacksons to come stateside. The company has always claimed they want to give the fans what they want and plenty of fans want the Superkick Party to come to Stamford.
16 Regrets - Big Cass
Hands down and guaranteed, if someone told a knowledgeable fan two years ago that Carmella would be the lone survivor of this East Coast trio, they'd tell you that you were nuts. But between Enzo being a goof who can’t keep his mouth shut and Big Cass also not being able to keep his actions in check, it’s easy to see why she’s the Princess and they were clown shoes.
Cass thought it was going to be a good idea to go into business for himself. He supposedly went too far with a talent in a backstage segment. Add that to not listening to Vince and having a little too much fun on a European tour, and that meant the end of the line for the big guy.
15 Wants To Get - Kota Ibushi
For over a decade now, he has been one of the most prolific wrestlers in the Rising Sun. Kōta Ibushi has pretty much worked in every major promotion in Japan. He is also part of the Golden Lovers tag team with Kenny Omega, a team name that could only exist in Japan.
If you’ve never seen Ibushi in action before, you owe it to yourself to watch him kick heads off, or just about everything else. Not to mention, he delivers some of the most innovative suplexes you’ll ever see. WWE was close to signing him a few years ago, but he declined. Perhaps they’ll come to terms one day soon.
14 Regrets - TM61
As far as tag teams go, you won’t find a more underutilized tag team in NXT than Nick Miller and Shane Thorne, aka The Mighty Don’t Kneel. Also, as far as team names go, you won’t find a tougher name than The Mighty Don’t Kneel. The team was signed in 2016 to a little bit of fanfare due to their days on the indies and in NOAH.
Unfortunately, they’ve been nothing more than glorified enhancement talent. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. However, TM61 were making waves across the pond, so you’d have to think they wouldn’t have come over just to be job guys. Perhaps they’ll kick it up a notch enough to show Triple H that he needs to use them.
13 Wants To Get - Zack Sabre, Jr.
To say Zack Sabre Jr. is wrestling’s current greatest technician would be the understatement of all time. ZSJ is a vicious submission wrestler that could make William Regal, Daniel Bryan, and Bret Hart all blush with pride watching the kid stretch hapless victims, and stomp them in the head at the same time.
Sabre is another superstar that the WWE almost had signed during the Cruiserweight Classic, but he opted for New Japan instead. But even with guys like Bryan and Joe on the roster, a true shooter like ZSJ hasn’t been around in a long time. He's definitely on Hunter's radar.
12 Regrets - Eva Marie
Let it never be said that WWE, NXT, Triple H, or even Vince McMahon aren’t above giving people about 12 chances. But you have to be able to produce results for the company if they’re willing to put the time into you. Sometimes, no matter how much effort you put in, it just might not be enough.
Case in point – bombshell…BOMBSHELL…Eva Marie. If she had worked out, the WWE might have had a Trish Stratus-level star who could actually go in the ring, too. But she just wasn’t clicking with today’s fan base. She worked to learn her craft, with Brian Kendrick no less. But at the end of the day, if someone can’t click with the fans and come off as vapid and shallow, then they might find themselves future endeavored.
11 Wants To Get - Juice Robinson
As many fans and wrestlers know, sometimes the prime-time of WWE or NXT might not be a perfect fit for a performer at the moment they’re there. Sometimes they’re not ready, sometimes the company doesn’t know what to do with a talent. For whatever the reason, some wrestlers just have to move on. Every so often (see: Drew McIntyre), they come back better than ever.
Juice Robinson, aka CJ Parker, had worked for a few years for FCW and NXT. The hippie-eco warrior character he was using just wasn’t working. Parker was being used as a carpenter to help get other guys over. So he asked for his release, headed to New Japan, and won their IC title. Now he’s back in demand, which means he’s back on WWE’s radar.
10 Regrets - Apollo Crews
Not every signing can be a big-time top-level main event level star. Some have to have some buzz and rise up through the ranks. When Evolve and Dragon Gate star Uhaa Nation was signed in 2014, it did create a small buzz. Like many NXT stars, the re-christened Apollo Crews was given the ball and a chance to run with it. He would even work a match with then-champ Finn Balor.
But on the main roster…there just isn’t room for mediocrity. Well, there is, and it’s called the mid-card or a level or two below. Besides being able to use a standing Shooting Star, Crews hasn’t shown (or been allowed) to show a lot of energy.
9 Wants To Get - Tessa Blanchard
In case you haven’t noticed, Triple H is a fan of the old school Jim Crockett Promotions. He idolized the Nature Boy, Ric Flair, and once in power had Dusty Rhodes as one of his trainers. He pushed the throwback team, The Revival, to the moon. Just a few weeks ago, he brought back the traditional 4-on-4 War Games match.
The Game would love to keep the women’s division chugging along. So why not combine the best of both worlds and bring in Tessa Blanchard? She's the daughter of a Horseman Hall of Famer (Tully Blanchard) and a great worker in her own right. She’s been running around the indies and Impact for a few years now, but perhaps it’s time for her to come home?
8 Regrets - Adam Rose
Adam Rose might have had the best gimmick of the 'regrets' side of this list – a party animal using a Russell Brand-type of character and devil-may-care demeanor. Rose and his band of Rosebuds were able to bring a fun vibe and energy to the NXT crowds. But instead of transitioning this to the main roster, Rose wound up jobbing to a guy in a bunny costume.
While he might have been able to overcome bad gimmicks (or bad presentations of his gimmick), Rose’s personal life would come up against the WWE’s policies, and he would be released from his contract.
7 Wants To Get - Cody Rhodes
Duh, part two of this list. Knowing full well that his career was going nowhere fast, Cody Rhodes asked for his release after nearly ten years of service. Giving up the guaranteed fortune to make it on his own, he has revolutionized the indies because of it. All In was a tremendous success that will undoubtedly spawn another next year.
If he decides to come back, and it is done properly, it could be a moment for the ages. A huge, "return of the king" type of moment that would cement Cody as not just a top guy, but a legend worthy of his family’s legacy.
6 Regrets - Hideo Itami
As one of the biggest stars in Japan several years ago, KENTA became one of the guys who helped to innovate the modern Strong Style that is so revered today. Guys like CM Punk were copying him long before he got to NXT - both men used the GTS finisher. He would sign in 2016 and was supposed to be the first major star from Japan to come over.
Instead, he was a very injury-prone wrestler for the first two years of his NXT run. Now he’s a fixture on 205 Live. It’s pretty hard to say that Itami's signing has been a success. It’s also kind of a cruddy thing to release the guy for it also, but it might have to be done sooner or later.
5 Wants To Get - Dalton Castle
Some of the biggest names in the industry have had wild outlandish gimmicks, including Gorgeous George, Adrian Street, and Goldust. They all had a larger-than-life, flamboyant character. This generation’s version of that is Ring Of Honor’s Dalton Castle. Signing him would mean an epic feud with the Velveteen Dream; amongst other stars.
The other thing Castle brings to the table is the intangible "It" factor and ability to deliver a compelling character, which is something that isn’t seen a lot in NXT. There’s a lot of top talent in the black and yellow brand, but seldom different characters. They could severely use Dalton and the boys.
4 Regrets - James Storm
At one point in time, Impact Wrestling was not the joke that it became under the mismanagement of Panda Energy. Then, a lot of poor decisions were made. Bobby Roode’s contract was allowed to expire. Other stalwarts like Samoa Joe and AJ Styles were tossed aside and grossly undervalued. James Storm also fell into this category. Considering what WWE has done with two out of three of the aforementioned TNA Originals, Storm might have had a decent run.
But all of the coddling and cajoling it took to get Storm to the black and yellow brand was a thorough waste of time. For whatever the reason(s), the Cowboy decided the big time just wasn’t for him.
3 Wants To Get - Jay Lethal
From TNA to ROH to New Japan and all points in between, Jay Lethal has a unique distinction of having never worked for the WWE. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t worked a whole heap of WWE’s past and current roster throughout the years. Lethal has been nothing but a skilled hand throughout most of this career and spend the better part of the past three years as ROH World Champion.
He has all the skills and notoriety that an indie guy would need to be successful in WWE. If he ever decides to come in from the cold, so to speak, Lethal could be a sleeper superstar in the making.
2 Regrets - Mike Kanellis
Mike Bennett, an indie darling with some buzz, got signed to WWE last year, alongside his wife and former Diva, Maria Kanellis. They debuted with a Power Of Love gimmick that only Bruce “Brother Love” Prichard could get behind. Seriously though, as good as the heel gimmick could have been, Mike and Maria were moved over to 205 Live.
While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s also a telling sign, too, for the former "Miracle." Instead of being on Raw or SmackDown where everyone gets to see him weekly, Mike is on a Network show that is only seen by subscribers, and only if they choose to watch.
1 Wants To Get - Cris Cyborg
“Congrats to the baddest woman on the planet…Sincerely, the most feared woman on the planet.” That's what MMA fighter, Cris Cyborg tweeted to Ronda Rousey following her title win at SummerSlam. Cyborg and Rousey have been at each other’s throats for a long time now, although they never faced each other in UFC or anywhere else for that matter.
What if The Game can get Cyborg into a WWE ring? Not only would that be a tailor-made feud for Ronda Rousey, but it could also lead to matches for the ages that could go on for years.