The wrestlers who get a chance in the main event picture for WWE typically have a strong run getting there, and so have already created a bond with the fans. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, as WWE has missed the mark pushing some talents that just weren’t ready.
WWE’s attempts at pushing talents without much momentum led to them floundering in the role. Fans often forget that some of these performers were even involved in the main event picture at any point in their careers. We will look at some of the names with forgettable main event runs, along with what exactly doomed them. Here are ten wrestlers you forgot WWE tried pushing as main-eventers.
The popularity of Rikishi made him a beloved face along with Too Cool in 2000. WWE ruined this momentum, sadly, by trying to reward Rikishi for his great work. A heel turn would see Rikishi get a huge push when it was revealed that he ran over Steve Austin with a car to end the long storyline.
Rikishi entered the main event picture for a few months with feuds against Austin, The Rock and Undertaker. WWE eventually realized the heat for him just was not there and Triple H was added to the mix, as the mastermind that hired Rikishi to run over Austin.
9 Jinder Mahal
The most recent instance of a forgotten main event run came in 2017 with Jinder Mahal. WWE delivered one of the strangest pushes in company history when Mahal defeated Randy Orton after a few weeks of getting pushed. Prior to this run, Mahal was an enhancement act for many years.
The WWE Championship reign lasted almost seven months, with minimal success. Mahal lost the title to A.J. Styles and would fall back down into the lower card almost immediately. The past year has seen Jinder struggling to get television time before an injury put him on the shelf.
8 Hardcore Holly
One of the shorter stints in the main event picture featured Hardcore Holly getting a WWE Championship match against Brock Lesnar. Holly was among the longer-tenured wrestlers on the roster, and would suffer a bad neck injury against Lesnar in a Smackdown match.
His return would see him feud with WWE Champion Lesnar for a few months, in what was his first and only time as a main-eventer. Holly would lose his big title shot at the Royal Rumble and instantly fall back down the card. This would see him used only as a lower-card act for the rest of his WWE career.
7 Davey Boy Smith
WWE used Davey Boy Smith as a part-time main-eventer who primarily worked in the mid-card in the mid-90s. Smith had a few great performances in the tag team and mid-card picture, earning him short main event moments to test the waters of his star power.
Title shots would come for Smith against Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Diesel on various PPVs. Smith was never positioned as an equal to those names, and typically moved back down into the mid-card after losing the title shots. The tag run with Owen Hart was the main role of Davey Boy in the 90s.
6 Chris Masters
The look of Chris Masters made him a top prospect for WWE when called up from developmental. Masters had an unbeaten streak for quite some time, with his Masterlock submission defeating both wrestlers and planted fans that would challenge him.
WWE gave Masters a short run in the main event picture. The opportunities featured Masters having a feud with Shawn Michaels, an Elimination Chamber appearance challenging for John Cena’s WWE Championship and representing Raw in a Raw vs Smackdown Survivor Series match. Masters never caught on and his main event run ended before it could get going.
5 Billy Gunn
The long run of Billy Gunn featured many different character changes throughout the years. Gunn’s biggest opportunity as a singles star came in 1999 when winning the King of the Ring tournament. It was a shocking win, with Gunn receiving a bigger push in the main event picture as a result.
The co-main event of Summerslam that year would see Gunn face off with The Rock during his run as a beloved face. This was his one chance to prove he could hang in the main event scene, but Gunn unfortunately never came off as a threat to The Rock and his push ended shortly after.
The Umaga character was given to the talented Jamal after his run in 3-Minute Warning failed to find long-term success. There was a mixed reaction to Umaga at first, with many wondering if a monster character that didn’t speak would work in the late 2000s.
Umaga gained credibility as a great heel thanks to the superb work of Jamal. A couple of short main event stints would come his way. Umaga’s best match came against John Cena for the WWE Championship in a Last Man Standing match. Another short main event push would see him feud with Triple H over a few months.
3 Vladimir Kozlov
WWE instantly pushed Vladimir Kozlov as a top heel on the Smackdown roster in a feud with Triple H. The hope was that Kozlov’s early relevance would skyrocket him into a top star for many years to come. Kozlov was involved in the WWE Championship picture with Jeff Hardy and Triple H for months.
A memorable match for all the wrong reasons, fans heckled Triple H and Kozlov for the lack of entertainment involved in the bout. Kozlov clearly wasn’t ready for the role and was moved back down into the mid-card. Another main event run would never come his way.
The 1995 King of the Ring tournament featured Mabel getting a major push essentially out of nowhere. Mabel was primarily a tag team wrestler teaming with tag partner Mo as they had rap songs and dancing moments associated with them for their gimmick.
A heel turn and singles push would see Mabel adopt the King moniker after winning the huge tournament. The main event run would see him have a feud with The Undertaker and a WWE Championship program with Diesel before falling short. Mabel could not get over with the crowd as a heel and lost his one major main event push.
1 Jack Swagger
Most fans will remember Jack Swagger for having a long career in WWE as a mid-carder. However, there was a time when Swagger was a main-eventer before he was ready for such a role. Swagger won the Money in the Bank ladder match and cashed in to win the World Championship from Chris Jericho in 2010.
The title reign of Swagger featured lackluster feuds against established stars like Rey Mysterio and Big Show. WWE eventually gave up on Swagger’s title reign, but they gave him another chance years later, challenging Alberto Del Rio for the World Championship at WrestleMania 29. Swagger once again flopped and remained a mid-carder for the rest of his career.