It stands to reason that pretty much all of us at one point or another have given up on a TV show after only a few episodes, only for it to turn into some sort of phenomenon. While we might scratch our heads initially, after giving it a second look on Netflix, it's easy to see what we might have been missing. Or perhaps we hung on to a friendship too long, and all of our friends are scratching their heads wondering what we're doing hanging out with this person?
Now apply the too soon / too long premise to professional wrestling. There's perhaps several promotions worth of wrestlers that you can say the WWE gave up on too soon and vice-versa. Even the ones that are still in the company, you can apply this logic to their initial pushes. The stops, the starts, the reasoning behind it all is at the whim of a madman. According to the Something To Wrestle podcast, and alluded to by just about every wrestler who ever worked for Vince, much of his decisions could be based upon what he had for breakfast.
That's hopefully exaggerating- there's no way the WWE could be this successful if Vince was really that knee-jerk. But every so often it certainly seems that he is, doesn't it? As you'll see with this list, sometimes the reasoning is very inconsistent, or irrational. Here are 15 Wrestlers WWE Gave Up On Way Too Soon (And 15 They Kept For Way Too Long)
30 Too Soon - Neville
Neville isn't just The Man That Gravity Forgot, he's also a man WWE forgot!
What should have been auspice debut and run at the top (based upon his NXT career), Neville was quickly shuttled to the undercard and wasn't afforded the opportunity to do a whole lot…until he was given a spot on 205 Live and became the King Of Cruiserweights.
Seeing as how he was given up on too soon and then booked to job to Enzo Amore (seemingly), Neville walked out on the company. Perhaps if he was seen as anything other than Mighty Mouse, he'd still be around dazzling the WWE Universe.
29 Too Long - Brock Lesnar
When an entire storyline revolves around the “stranglehold” and absentee champion has over Raw, you know you've overstayed your welcome. But for the Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar, he's been overstaying his welcome for pretty much six years since returning after a twelve year hiatus.
Part-time dividends are wonderful for short-term gains in a business sense, but while Brock might have his devoted fans, he's never around long enough to gain a true fanbase.
The problem is that his character and he himself don't seem to care that the fans have grown legit tired of his absentee antics.
Hopefully, the next time Brock shows up will be to collect his Hall of Fame ring and head back to the farm.
28 Too Soon - Rusev
No matter how silly “Rusev Day” seems to be, the fans have gotten back into both Rusev and Lana and thankfully the company has seemingly noticed too. But there was a point that Rusev and Lana seemed to be not just on the cusp or the brink of being the upper echelon, but Rusev and Lana WERE the upper echelon.
Strong booking of the match at WrestleMania 31 with John Cena could have had Rusev go over and continue his dominance, but instead, his first defeat is still his biggest. Rusev and Lana never got to reclaim even a percentage of the momentum they had, and that was nearly four years ago. Hopefully, Rusev Day catches even more fire and Rusev gets his fair shake someday.
27 Too Long - Lex Luger
As a WWE fan, everyone could see Lex Luger was going to be pushed as the next Hulk Hogan.
After a brief run as a heel, Luger arrived on the USS Intrepid on a hot July 4th, 1993 and body slammed the mighty Yokozuna. From that moment on, Luger campaigned for a title shot for SummerSlam ‘93. There was no stopping Luger, right? Luger would win by countout and still celebrated like he won the big one, which was sort of like kissing your sister.
Even though he booked it, Vince still persisted with Luger and put him as one of the co-winners of the '94 Rumble and again jobbed him out to Yoko at WrestleMania X. The constant mega push and not following through saw WWE hang on to Luger far too long.
26 Too Soon - John Morrison
There's sometimes just no understanding of the decisions made at the top. For all intents and purposes, Vince McMahon values dedication and work ethic, and terrific physiques that he can put on a poster.
Morrison’s in-ring skill was a cross between RVD and HBK.
There is absolutely no reason that John Morrison shouldn't be with the company right now having marquee matches with Seth Rollins and AJ Styles, but that's what happens when WWE gives up on a talent too fast; they traverse the indies instead, not that that's a bad thing. But Morrison’s one name that deserves to be on top of WWE.
25 Too Long - The Big Show
He might be beloved WWE royalty now and praised for committing himself to fitness, but just a few short years ago, The Big Show was the biggest joke on the roster. While he's always pushed as a credible threat, the fans just wouldn't buy it based on the 972 times the big guy was turned.
But instead of dutifully cheering or booing the Big Show, they chanted “please retire,” at the guy. The chants were not out of disrespect for him, but out of outrage for how he was booked over the last few years, especially against the fans’ chosen ones.
24 Too Soon - Diamond Dallas Page
He might be a hall of famer now, but it certainly wasn't for anything he did inside a WWE ring. He got his start in the business a little later in life than most wrestlers do. He busted his hump, tried a slew of gimmicks, props, and Diamond Dolls to get over. But once he just became himself, WCW fans were won over and DDP became their People’s Champion.
Naturally, a run at the top against The Rock was bound to happen once WWE purchased WCW back in 2001, right? People's Champ vs. People's Champ? Nope, instead DDP was booked to be a creepy stalker guy, creeping around The Deadman and his then-wife Sara. The whole angle made no sense, DDP was quickly thrashed and spent a few more months on the roster before becoming a life guru before being unceremoniously released.
23 Too Long - Nikki Bella
Ten years ago, someone like Nikki Bella was exactly what the WWE was looking for. The raven-haired model Bella twin has striking good looks and for over ten years now, has been tantalizing the male portion of the WWE Universe.
While she has always worked hard to get better in the ring, to have her reign supreme over the division for 301 days seemed to possibly out of spite.
Whether it was to spite the former longest-reigning Divas champ AJ Lee or not might seem petty. But in any event, it was her reign that that seemed like the last gasp of a soon to be bygone era as the Revolution was set to begin with the end of her reign.
22 Too Soon - Emma
With the Women's Revolution and Evolution is full swing, a girl like Emma should be commended and remembered for her work to help the ladies of WWE get to where they are today. She should probably still have a big place in the company too, but Emma is on this list in the “Too Soon” category for a reason.
The girl was let go real quick when she was caught shoplifting. But fan support got her release rescinded, she headed back to NXT where she invented herself as a cocky heel who knew she was hotter than everyone else. It eventually got her on the Raw roster. But if you believe the dirt sheets, between the Emmalina gimmick being a bust and Emma giving Asuka a run for her money in her debut roster match, she was abruptly released.
21 Too Long - Sheamus
While The Bar has rejuvenated both the careers of Sheamus and Cesaro, there was a point where the Celtic Warrior was on the cusp of having that irrelevant 'get off my TV' heat. Seemingly a ship without a rudder, the WWE brass still tried to push him straight to the top, so much as having him cash in Money In The Bank right after Roman Reigns finally won the big one back in 2015.
But the damage was long done to Sheamus years ago when he was given the ball way too soon before anyone could really get behind him. Then Vince hung on way too long to the idea that the Celtic Warrior was a top guy. Thankfully he's found his niche as part of The Bar.
20 Too Soon - Mr. Kennedy
Debuting in 2005, Ken Anderson brought a pretty cool gimmick for a heel, announcing himself with the big old microphone. Not to mention using Vince's middle name for a last name.
Now dubbed Ken Kennedy, the guy was given the mega push, he was booked like a top guy and booked to beat all of the top guys on SmackDown as well.
Couple that with a Money In The Bank win at WrestleMania 23, and it was just matter of time before Kennedy was going to rule all of the WWE.
Between several injuries happening real quick and at least one wrestler reporting the guy’s recklessness in the ring, Anderson was given his release.
19 Too Long - Dolph Ziggler
Every WWE fan knows that the Showoff is so similar to guys like Mr. Perfect or HBK that it's a crime the guy isn't higher up on the card, and a multi-time WWE champion. Instead the guy is in a constant rebuilding phase. Rebuilding from the damage done to him in his previous run.
It seems like every single time the WWE brass gets behind Dolph, his push ends abruptly with no rhyme or reason and Ziggler flounders around until the next time creative has something for him to do. It's not quite as drastic as the Big Show, but if you're going to pull the trigger on someone, then do it. Do it, instead of practically ruining the guy's career every six months.
18 Too Soon - Mr. Perfect
There shouldn't be any argument here; Mr. Perfect is one of the greatest performers of all time, both in and out of the ring. Between his AWA matches with Nick Bockwinkel and intense and amazing matches with the likes of Bret Hart in the early nineties and it's easy to see why the guy was in fact, perfect.
So where does the too soon come into play? Considering the trigger was never pulled on him as world champion, that might be a reason. But with all due respect to Brutus Beefcake, it was more the fact that the guy’s perfect record was snapped by a guy lower than him on the card and it was treated as an afterthought instead of having a big deal made about it and having Perfect lose his streak to the Warrior or Hogan.
17 Too Long - Kane
As the other half of the “please retire” club, Kane was getting the shaft a few years ago, the same way the Big Show was.
Again, that was also more for how he was being used and how many times he was switched from heel to babyface and back again.
It's exhausting and it makes fans throw their hands up, exasperated at how a talent is being handled.
Since he is so well liked by all accounts, the guy should have begun an agent or trainer career years ago. But now that he is serving for the public in Knox County, Tennessee, perhaps the mask will now come off for good for Kane.
16 Too Soon - Buff Bagwell
Despite being a home grown, WCW talent - Buff Bagwell couldn't have been more WWE-ready out of all the guys that did come aboard after WCW closed its doors. His outlandish character was the perfect mix of old-school villain and the attitude of the day, and it was tailor-made for WWE to cultivate into something special.
While a lot wrestlers like to spin rumor and innuendo to get themselves over and bury other guys, the story about what happened to Buff remains the same. He did not endear himself to WWE brass, had a bad match with Booker T, got into a scuffle with fellow WCW signee Hurricane Helms, and supposedly had his mother call in sick for him.
This all left WWE brass little to no choice but to wish Buff well in his future endeavors.
15 Too Long - R-Truth
Being someone who can make Vince laugh will certainly keep you employed, no matter how little you contribute to the product. That's no disrespect to R-Truth, but the guy is holding a spot on the roster that someone else could be putting to better use.
There's always a spot for comedy on any roster, but Truth isn't even being used to put over talent, currently pseudo-creeping on Carmella and not quite understanding that he can't challenge for the Women’s title. Isn't some of that why WWE was paying James Ellsworth?
14 Too Soon - Elijah Burke
Back in the early days of the ECW revival, there was an act that seemed to be equals parts old-school ECW and WWE.
Elijah Burke had the physique, a kickboxing background, and the gift of gab. Vince even dubbed him, the Future of ECW. Not that ECW had much of a future; but still, Vince clearly thought highly of him.
Despite debuting the Pope gimmick in WWE, he was unceremoniously released after being off TV for several months.
Considering the moderate success he had in TNA, with the direction of WWE creative, they could have done a lot with Burke, but instead he's just a footnote in WWE history.
13 Too Long - Goldberg
During Goldberg’s initial run with the WWE, something always felt decidedly un-Goldberg about the whole run, and not just Goldust putting his wig on the guy. For whatever reason, the winning formula behind one of the only homegrown talents WCW ever had was forsaken. Vince wanted to show another side of Goldberg. Unfortunately, it didn't resonate - the fans wanted the unbeatable monster, without any comedy to him.
By the time Goldberg was ready to come back and WWE was ready to book him as the monster we know he is, the guy was already done with wrestling and had merely come back for a farewell tour to show his son what daddy used to do. WWE should've just given Goldberg a one-off match, rather than dragging out his feud with Lesnar and winning the Universal Title along the way.
12 Too Soon - Asuka
A Women's Title reign that lasted 510 days. A winning streak that eclipsed Goldberg’s and a fan following and respect that hadn't been seen for any athlete in WWE in quite a while. Since no one was ready for Asuka, she also earned the distinction of winning the first ever Women's Royal Rumble.
Set on a collision course with Charlotte at WrestleMania, it was clear that WWE wasn't ready to put Asuka at the top of the Women's Division. But not only did she lose, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but telling Charlotte that she was ready for Asuka and seldom being seen on SmackDown or Raw since. That's a telling sign if there ever was one that the WWE brass doesn't know what to do her past her initial run.
11 Too Long - The Ascension
The Ascension is one of the first casualties of what could happen when you get called up from NXT, you get hurtled into obscurity faster than these two can head to their Wasteland.
Konnor and Viktor were the black and yellow brand’s first dominant tag team. Reminiscent of old-school teams like the Road Warriors or Demolition, they were seemingly primed and ready to set the WWE main roster on fire when getting called up.
But instead of celebrating that fact they way the announcers do about The Revival, The Ascension were made to feel like jobbers.
The team were given up on way too soon and considering they still have a job, they're being kept on for far too long now.
10 Too Soon - Zack Ryder
One of the best things a wrestler could do is just get themselves over. With no TV time, Zack Ryder used the power of the internet and social media long before it was a thing and created Z: True Long Island Story, which became a sensation and crowds all over the WWE Universe started chanting “we want Ryder”.
Fans would get what they wanted. But Ryder didn't receive any kudos for getting himself over. He got decimated by Kane, heartbroken by Eve Torres and years later when he finally was able to achieve singles glory at WrestleMania 32, he lost the IC title one night later. While Ryder probably wasn't going to be winning the world title, he got booked to look like a goof instead of anything credible.
9 Too Long - ECW
When ECW folded, the company was still popular and its fans were still rabid for it.
Several years later, Vince gave the fans what they wanted and brought ECW back as a third brand, featuring many ECW originals like RVD, Sabu, and Sandman, and peppered with young lions too. But it was real quick that everyone realized this would be Vince McMahon’s ECW. That's a not a knock on the guy, he just had a different vision for a company that already had its unique concept.
Once the debacle known as December to Dismember took place, it should've ended there, but instead the boss doubled down on it and kept it going a few more years, forever linking his version of ECW with the once-great rebellious promotion.
8 Too Soon - Cody Rhodes
Cody was a dutiful soldier in WWE, doing whatever what was asked of him and in typical Rhodes family fashion - getting it all over.
But WWE never truly gave him a chance to get over without a silly gimmick.
But the kid was also smart enough to know that he was just treading water and the brass wasn't throwing him a life vest. So he created one for himself, asked for and was granted his release and is now one of and part of one of the hottest acts in all of the wrestling world. Hopefully, he'll return to the WWE one day and claim his birthright, but for now he's doing a pretty good job of doing that on his own.
7 Too Long - The Undertaker
This is sure to cause some debate, because The Undertaker remains the most iconic character ever created and of course, fans still get goosebumps when he makes a return. However, the last great match Taker had at WrestleMania was against CM Punk at WrestleMania XXIX. The streak ended seemingly because WWE thought Taker was done. However, Taker keeps getting brought back to WrestleMania each year and now, it wrestling occasionally, albeit in squash matches at special events.
At the very least, Taker should've been able to get his much needed hip surgery instead of being fed to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33.
6 Too Soon - Gail Kim
Gail Kim was doomed from the start, getting her WWE career started several years before the Women's Division had real relevance.
While her in-ring skill was on par with anyone else's and Gail Kim could have been the cornerstone of any revolution, the fact that Vince didn't believe in her, looks or skill wise spelled doom for the super-talented Kim right from the start. Upon ending her second tour with the company, Kim vowed to never re-sign with them. If someone like her were to come along in WWE now, she'd undoubtedly be pushed to the moon.
5 Too Long - The Great Khali
It's pretty easy to make the argument that Khali never should have been signed at all by the WWE. The only way to justify him being there for a brief stint was for him to be another conquest of The Undertaker. However, WWE surprisingly kept Khali around for nearly 10 years, simply because of his size. He even got a run with the world title, despite it being very clear that he could barely move and his moveset basically consisted of chops and the occasional chokeslam.
4 Too Soon - Cesaro
There are plenty of superstars that seem like they're always right at the brink of breaking through from the mid-card to unbridled superstardom. But as plenty of veterans have said over the years - if you don't have the backing of the machine behind you, you're not going to go very far. Submitted for your approval - Cesaro.
While The Bar has achieved a modicum of tag team success, there was a moment that the WWE Universe was firmly behind the King Of Swing, he even had his own Cesaro Section of the audience. As it kept increasing, the guy became the inaugural Andre The Giant Battle Royal winner. WWE brass thought it would be a good idea to pair him with Heyman, but the fans wanted to cheer the guy not boo him. The possibility of Cesaro at the top of the card quickly faded away.
3 Too Long - Alberto Del Rio
The WWE strapped a rocket ship to Alberto Del Rio far too soon and they kept getting lost in terms of how to book him from there on. While he's found plenty of success outside of WWE, in WWE he just seemed fairly average and never quite was able to connect with the WWE universe.
Surprisingly, WWE brought him back for a second stint in 2015 and again, they quickly didn't know what to do with him. Del Rio was released in mid 2016 and has seemingly burned all bridges for another return.
2 Too Soon - Evan Bourne
When injuries and suspensions plague your career, how much can WWE really get behind you? Then you have a guy that nowadays would be setting 205 Live on fire, but from 2008-2011, there's wasn't a whole lot to do booking-wise with Evan “Air” Bourne.
With nothing for him to do, he hung around guys like Kofi Kingston and Mark Henry in separate tag teams.
The one-time tag team champion might have dazzled crowds with his high-flying move set, but when your biggest and brightest memory of your WWE career is hurtling yourself into a wild RKO, your WWE run didn't stand much of a chance. Perhaps, the brass didn't give up on Bourne too soon?
1 Too Long - Tye Dillinger
Tye Dillinger had always received high praise for his in ring work, even helping main roster superstars like Seth Rollins get back into ring shape after injury. It seemed his big moment came when he debuted in the main roster during the 2017 Royal Rumble at what else? Number 10. But instead of striking while the iron’s hot, Dillinger is barely seen on TV, despite being a great hand.
Surely it's up to Dillinger to ask for his release if he isn't going to get one, but he is the type of wrestler who would do well on the indie circuit. So if Vince isn't going to use him more, stop using a roster spot on him.