The end of a decade is a great time to reflect. Unfortunately, WWE has quite a few negative memories when looking back at the past ten years of content. They tried hard to push certain wrestlers who just never caught on. The company doesn’t always go with what the fans want, as they tend to have their eye on a select few wrestlers they believe have bigger star potential.
We will look at some of the names that just never panned out in the way Vince McMahon and company expected them to. They couldn’t get to the next level, due to different variables like a lack of crowd support, not improving fast enough or just not having the skills. Find out which wrestlers the company initially wanted to represent them at the top today.
10 Eva Marie
The women’s division was in a dire state when Eva Marie and other fitness models were the only talents getting hired. WWE saw huge potential in Eva and had her start on television right away as part of the Total Divas reality show, looking at the real lives of the female performers.
Eva never received enough training time and floundered on the main roster. WWE sent her back down to NXT and she returned with a new gimmick following the 2016 brand. The company had huge plans for Eva, but her time in WWE proved short.
9 Shinsuke Nakamura
Shinsuke Nakamura joining WWE was meant to be one of the biggest signings in company history. Nakamura is one of the all-time great wrestlers in New Japan history. He even had a superb run in NXT, adding more hype to his main roster debut.
Despite winning the Royal Rumble match and getting a few pushes, Nakamura struggled to thrive in the main event picture. A disappointing outing against AJ Styles at WrestleMania 34 essentially ended the chances of Nakamura becoming a star.
8 Brad Maddox
WWE originally introduced Brad Maddox in the role of a referee to make his impact bigger when getting pushed. Maddox helped CM Punk steal a win over Ryback in a huge WWE Championship match, revealing he was a heel character all along.
The role of General Manager was eventually given to Maddox, allowing him an important spotlight on the show and the chance to interact with many top names. Maddox was moved to a wrestling role and it just didn’t work out. Fans never viewed him as a special performer, even though WWE wanted them to.
The original plan for Ryback was to make him a main event fixture. WWE introduced Ryback with an undefeated streak, destroying his opponents with ease. Fans had mixed reactions to this, as many felt his look and presentation felt like a copy of Goldberg.
Ryback had multiple feuds with top names John Cena and CM Punk, but both were unable to keep him at the top. Eventually, Ryback left of his own accord.
6 Sin Cara
One of the first big signings from Triple H as he moved into an executive role was Mexican wrestling legend Mistico, joining WWE under the original Sin Cara mask. Months of hype and a press conference showed how much WWE believed in this character.
Sin Cara, unfortunately, turned out to be a huge bust, with consistent issues and injuries ruining every chance he had. WWE eventually fired Mistico and eventually gave Hunico the same role. The Sin Cara character is still in action today.
5 Wade Barrett
The start of the Nexus faction made everyone think Wade Barrett was going to be a huge player for WWE. Barrett won the first season of NXT and led his fellow competitors for a hostile takeover of Raw, debuting as a group and destroying everyone at ringside.
WWE slowed down the push of Nexus, which hurt Barrett’s status as a rising main-eventer. There were a few more pushes with the Bad News and King characters, but Barrett could never reach the momentum that he had during his time in Nexus. He chose to leave WWE and start a new career path, in acting.
4 Dana Brooke
Dana Brooke was one of the most important women’s wrestlers training at the Performance Center. WWE loved her fitness and bodybuilding background, which led to the signing. Brooke was protected in NXT, with the goal being to get her experience for the main roster.
Since being called up, Dana has struggled to break out on her own. Brooke has tried hard to improve in recent months, but WWE rarely gives her television time.
3 Alex Riley
Alex Riley had a great spot on the main roster shortly after losing in the second season of the NXT competition. Riley was ringside for most of Miz’s WWE Championship reign, trying to help him cheat to win.
WWE split the duo up and placed them in a feud against each other. Riley had a face run that never saw fans caring about or investing in him. Miz even fell from a top heel into a secondary player after this feud. Riley struggled in WWE for years before one final failed run in NXT, which led to his release.
2 Big Cass
There were high expectations for the tag team of Big Cass and Enzo Amore, after a strong run in NXT. Cass was viewed as a future top name. WWE split up the tag team much faster than anyone expected, due to Enzo’s backstage heat and the desire to push Cass.
A singles feud with Big Show led to a couple of horrible matches that hurt Cass’ momentum after the heel turn. Following an injury, Cass returned in an important feud against Daniel Bryan, right after Bryan returned from retirement. Backstage issues led to WWE giving up on Cass and releasing him.
1 Jack Swagger
The decade started with WWE giving Jack Swagger a huge push as a young rising star. Swagger won the Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania XXVI and cashed in on Chris Jericho days later to become the World Champion for the SmackDown brand.
Lackluster feuds with Big Show and Rey Mysterio showed that Swagger wasn’t ready for such a role. WWE ended the title reign after a couple of months. Swagger had a few different character revamps and pushes afterwards. None of them worked out due to a lack of crowd connection, and he’s hoping for better results in AEW.