What an important decade this was in WWE's history. Vince McMahon saw the company thriving at a new level at the peak of the Attitude Era, but he knew change was coming. Wrestling mimics society, and the edgy content was no longer the style. WWE changed their approach to presenting the show and they needed new stars. Steve Austin retiring and The Rock leaving for Hollywood would see WWE try out new talents in big roles.
Some of the bigger success stories of the decade would see Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Batista and Randy Orton thrive as main eventers. However, not all planned future main eventers would have a future at the top of the pecking order. Let's take a look at the names that either fell just short of the goal or flopped completely.
10 John Morrison
John Morrison is rumored to be returning to WWE soon and he may have the chance to finally reach the top level. WWE viewed Morrison as a future main eventer after splitting up MNM and pushing him in memorable matches against Jeff Hardy.
Morrison came close to the top when feuding with The Miz over the WWE Championship, but he fell right back down the card. WWE eventually saw Morrison leave to chase other projects, after realizing he was not going to have a top spot.
The size, look and intensity of Heidenreich made him a top prospect for WWE when starting on the main roster. Heidenreich had a strange introduction with Michael Cole. However, the push would become more stable when he entered a feud with The Undertaker.
WWE often tested the larger prospects in feuds with Undertaker, to see if they had what was needed to rise to the top. Heidenreich did not impress in his matches against Undertaker and eventually turned face. A short run as the new Legion of Doom with Animal was his final chance, before WWE gave up on him forever.
8 Mr. Kennedy
The early push of Mr. Kennedy worked perfectly, as he found credibility by defeating former world champions like Booker T, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio. Kennedy had a unique presentation with his own ring introductions, setting him apart early on.
WWE tried to make him an A-List main eventer multiple times, but something always got in the way. Kennedy dealt with injuries and suspensions any time he was on the verge of breaking out. It was never meant to be, sadly, and Kennedy was released faster than expected due to backstage issues.
7 Vladimir Kozlov
WWE tried to make Vladimir Kozlov a top heel right away, placing him in matches with the likes of Triple H and Jeff Hardy. Kozlov never came off as a legitimate threat against such top names in the eyes of the fans. WWE slowed down his push after a few WWE Championship match losses.
Kozlov would be moved down into the lower card, in a comedic gimmick with Santino as his tag team partner. The run of Kozlov was a huge disappointment and WWE eventually released him, realizing he would never hit the upper card.
6 Scott Steiner
The signing of Scott Steiner in 2002 produced huge expectations from both WWE and the fan base. Steiner was about a year and a half removed from his incredible heel run in WCW as the second-to-last WCW Champion. WWE signed him once his contract expired, with intents of a major push.
Steiner’s first storyline was against Triple H for the World Championship. Both matches between the two were abysmal and Steiner was blamed, since Triple H was the established star. WWE essentially gave up on Steiner right there, moving him back into the mid-card for the rest of his run.
5 Matt Morgan
Jim Cornette hyped up Matt Morgan in WWE’s developmental system, as the next big main event star. This led to huge pressure on the youngster, before he even joined the main roster. Morgan had two runs in WWE as Carlito’s enforcer and part of Brock Lesnar’s monster team, but neither worked for him.
WWE was unimpressed, releasing Morgan shortly into his second main roster tenure. TNA added Morgan and would suffer the same disappointment. Even though he had a great look and athleticism, Morgan just couldn’t thrive at a high level.
4 Gene Snitsky
The size of Gene Snitsky impressed WWE in the mid-2000s and they gave him a noteworthy push. Snitsky started off in a feud against Kane and Lita. It was a huge opportunity to have a few matches with one of the biggest legends on the roster.
Kane got the better of Snitsky in the feud and he started treading water. Snitsky had another chance years later with a new look, but flopped once again.
3 Chris Masters
Chris Masters had tremendous potential on joining the WWE roster. The early push worked, as his Masterlock finisher became an easy way to get heat. Masters was meant to move up the card quickly and was even slotted into a feud with Shawn Michaels within his first year.
The run of Masters never saw him gaining much momentum and a suspension for violating the wellness policy slowed him down. WWE never viewed Masters as highly after this, and he would be released multiple times with minimal impact on the main roster.
The talent of Carlito made him a top project in the WWE developmental system, especially as the son of the legendary Carlos Colón. WWE introduced Carlito in dramatic fashion after months of vignettes. Carlito defeated John Cena on his first night on SmackDown to win the United States Championship.
The early run of Carlito was quite impressive, as he often delivered excellent promos and entertaining matches. WWE, however, soured on him within a few years. Carlito would never get to the main event level and left the company faster than anyone predicted.
1 Shelton Benjamin
WWE ended the incredible tag team of Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas within a year and a half solely due to the potential of Benjamin. The signing of Benjamin had him in the same developmental class as Brock Lesnar, John Cena, Randy Orton and Batista.
Benjamin received a push by scoring an upset win over Triple H and eventually defeating Chris Jericho to win the Intercontinental Championship. Fans loved Benjamin and he had a successful mid-card run. His lack of promo skills, unfortunately, held him back from hitting the top tier. Benjamin fell just short of WWE’s plans of the main event picture.