When WWE brings wrestlers to its main roster, there are times it has a clear plan in place and knows that the man or woman will become one of its biggest stars. However, when it comes to 90 percent of the wrestlers that WWE signs, it just brings them in to fill in as bodies on the roster and see how the crowds react to them.
It is always a roll of the die to determine if a wrestler becomes a major star. Sometimes, a clear-cut legitimate star will end up flopping and falling out of favor quite quickly. Other times, a body meant to just put over other wrestlers will end up as the biggest star in the company. Here is a look at five champions WWE expected, and five that surprised everyone.
10 ROMAN REIGNS - EXPECTED
Roman Reigns charged into WWE like a house of fire. He teamed with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose as part of The Shield and immediately entered the main event scene. They were almost unbeatable, and while Seth Rollins was the first to hit it big on his own, it was clear WWE had big plans for the Big Dog.
Reigns had the size and look Vince McMahon loves in his superstars. He had the heritage as part of the Samoan Dynasty. Reigns was also a company man through and through. WWE put him in several high profile WrestleMania matches and ensured he would be a star from the start.
9 DANIEL BRYAN - SURPRISED
Daniel Bryan was one of the best wrestlers in the entire world as Bryan Danielson in Ring of Honor. When WWE hired him, they did the unthinkable. They put him on NXT when it was a competition show to find the next big star and made The Miz his mentor. Yes, it set up a big feud for Bryan with Miz, but they never expected him to make it.
Bryan was even part of the NEXUS invasion, but WWE fired him after the initial attack. WWE hired him back and slowly pushed him, but when the "Yes Movement" started — while WWE had other big plans in mind — they have no choice but to push Bryan to the moon.
8 THE ROCK - EXPECTED
WWE had enormous plans for The Rock when he debuted. Of course, they almost screwed everything up by bringing him in as the plucky blue-chip babyface Rocky Maivia and fans hated him. After the "Die Rocky Die" chants wouldn't end, WWE finally made him a heel and let him talk.
While the rise to the top as a heel was not what WWE might have envisioned, it still proved that they were right when they picked him out as one of their future main event stars from the time they sent him to the ring for the first time.
7 STEVE AUSTIN - SURPRISED
Stone Cold Steve Austin might be the most popular wrestler in WWE history. He was only around for a few years before a neck injury ended his career, but he was the biggest name in the business during the Attitude Era, and no one else came close.
However, anyone who saw Austin debut in WWE would never have seen this coming. Austin entered the company as The Ringmaster, managed by Ted DiBiase. He didn't talk much and was a vanilla heel wrestler that no one cared about. It took the "Austin 3:16" promo to finally put him over the top and a feud with Bret Hart to make him a main event star.
6 UNDERTAKER - EXPECTED
WWE had huge plans for Undertaker when they signed him. In an era where cartoony characters littered the WWE roster, Undertaker was something different. He was still a silly character, formerly a zombie-like character who eventually morphed into an undead-styled monster wrestler. However, he was a star.
Before WWE, Undertaker was a big man wrestler in WCW, but he was nothing special character-wise. WWE saw something in him and made him into the Dead Man and then pushed him quickly into an almost unbeatable star, even having him beat Hulk Hogan.
5 MICK FOLEY - SURPRISED
When Mick Foley signed with WWE, he had a career behind him as Cactus Jack and was a hardcore wrestler with crazy matches in his past. However, WWE saw something special here and brought him in as Mankind. While he was a great character, similar to Undertaker, he was not meant for the main event.
After a few years of working angles with Undertaker and other stars, Mick Foley started to get over. Finally, WWE realized they had someone on their hands the fans connected with and rewarded him with his first world title reigns. However, the main event was nowhere in sight when he debuted.
4 HULK HOGAN - EXPECTED
Hulk Hogan had a chance to work in WWE before they finally brought him in to become their top main event star of the '80s. However, he took a movie role (Rocky III), and WWE wasn't happy about it. Hogan went back to the AWA and kept working on his character.
However, when Vince McMahon took over WWE from his dad, he knew that Hulk Hogan was the main event star that could help him make a lot of money and signed him. He pushed Hogan to a world title win, and Hogan was an instant main event talent.
3 CM PUNK - SURPRISED
Much like Daniel Bryan, WWE saw little in CM Punk when they signed him. The Straight Edge Superstar was one of the top stars in the indies, but he wasn't expected to be any more of a star than Daniel Bryan was. However, there is no holding back talent.
Punk wasn't even proving himself to be a star anywhere outside of Ring of Honor, as he had a stint in TNA Impact Wrestling where he was nothing more than a lackey. Punk got a chance to help carry the ECW brand, but on the main roster, he was just a player. However, his talent got over huge with the fans, and he ended up one of the top world champions in modern-day WWE.
2 BROCK LESNAR - EXPECTED
Brock Lesnar was a star from the beginning. He had to learn professional wrestling in the developmental Ohio Valley territory. Lesnar was lucky enough to have his college coach Shelton Benjamin there to help him learn the ropes.
However, once WWE was sure he was ready, they brought him up to the main roster, aligned him with Paul Heyman, and had him run over everyone and become one of the company's biggest main event stars in history. He was a star from his main roster debut and never slowed down.
1 TRIPLE H - SURPRISED
Triple H is not only one of WWE's top main event stars of the last 20 years, but he is now the man who is running NXT behind-the-scenes. He is the most powerful man in WWE behind only Vince McMahon. Whenever Triple H wrestles, it is the main event match.
However, when he debuted in WWE, he was Hunter Hearst Helmsley, nothing more than a mid-card champion. He was squashed in seconds by a returning Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania. He was punished more than anyone when the Curtain Call happened. However, he rebounded and married the boss' daughter and became the main event star.