WWE is responsible for the most popular Superstars in all of pro wrestling and allowing them the chance to show off their talent and charisma on the biggest stage. The majority of the talent signed by the WWE are wrestlers on the free agent market with some sort of name value behind them. Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan were respected performers in the industry but WWE signed them and took them to the next level. The company also keeps their eyes on talents with minimal wrestling experience, especially if they have backgrounds in other forms of athletics. John Cena and The Rock were each signed by the WWE early in their wrestling careers and made the absolute most of the opportunity.
Basically, WWE usually knows what they're doing in terms of scouting. Through the years, there have been some issues with poor scouting or talents failing to deliver the goods after getting a contract. WWE is like any other business with a fair share of bad decisions coming along with the positive ones. We’ll look at some of the most regretful choices the company has made when it came to free agent market. Their history of poor decisions making will be discussed here with fifteen former Superstars the WWE should have never even signed.
15 The Sandman
WWE bringing back ECW as a third brand caused a sense of excitement in the wrestling community. Various ECW related projects brought in big money and that led to Vince McMahon trying to resurrect the old promotion. Many of the ECW originals were signed but the show clearly was about showcasing younger talents on a smaller stage before they moved to Raw or SmackDown. That made the signing of The Sandman a complete waste of time.
The only reason Sandman ever succeeded in the original ECW was due to Paul Heyman being a master at hiding weaknesses. No one ever confused Sandman for a world class worker and that was further proved during his WWE run. The fact that WWE couldn’t use his entrance theme of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica also killed any chance of fans caring about him. Sandman essentially added nothing making the signing a failure.
14 Chris Harris
The current WWE product is full of stars that originally made their name in TNA. A.J. Styles, Samoa Joe and Bobby Roode have all succeeded in the WWE this year. WWE’s current open-minded approach to free agency wasn’t always this great for former TNA performers. It was rare for a previous TNA star to get a chance in the WWE world. One person to receive this opportunity before it became a trend was Chris Harris and he dropped the ball big time.
Harris showed great talent in TNA and many believed TNA should have made him a main event player. That made his singing with the WWE, under his new name of Braden Walker, incredibly exciting before things quickly fell apart. With the ECW brand, Walker looked like a fool, delivering disappointing matches and silly backstage promos. Walker looked out of shape compared to his TNA days and the WWE quickly pulled him off television to cut bait.
13 Sara Lee
WWE Tough Enough is meant to find potential wrestlers through a reality series, but it hasn't given the WWE many legitimate main roster stars. The most recent season has yet to see if anyone has progressed enough to be main roster worthy, but there’s one big failure. Sara Lee won the women’s side of the Tough Enough competition earning a contract worth $250,000. The problem is that she showed less athletic ability and charisma than everyone else on the show.
Despite being billed as a reality show, WWE had the power to skew things and there’s no way she would have won or even been on the show if they didn’t want it. For whatever reason, the company saw something in Sara that was worth signing. Those beliefs have already been proven incorrect as she flopped in the Performance Center. WWE released her this year and it was revealed that she was expecting a child with NXT star boyfriend Wesley Blake.
12 Ultimo Dragon
The death of WCW led to many former impressive talents from the promotion getting a chance in WWE. Rey Mysterio was among the best signings following the Monday Night Wars ending. Fans instantly connected with him and Mysterio became one of the top merchandise sellers in the company. WWE hoped to go back to this formula with the signing of another masked cruiserweight from WCW's past.
Ultimo Dragon dominated the Japanese wrestling world and made a name for himself in North America with WCW. His debut in WWE was worked brilliantly with weeks of highlight videos setting up his first match in Madison Square Garden. However, WWE didn’t like how he worked and he failed to adapt to the new environment. Dragon did very little of note and the big signing turned out to be a flop.
11 Mason Ryan
WWE has always shown favoritism towards the muscle heads of the industry with larger physiques. This has led to many untalented performers getting an opportunity in the WWE despite not having the goods to back it up. Mason Ryan is the perfect example of this. The company signed him and tried to mature him into a capable performer during his time in developmental.
It never worked, but the WWE felt he was passable enough to become a full-time member of the main roster. Ryan joined The Nexus and clearly stood out as the worst member. Aside from his physique, Ryan had absolutely nothing working for him. WWE tried repackaging him a couple of times before releasing him. All of the wasted time proved they should have never bothered to sign him in the first place.
10 Mike Adamle
Michael Cole coming to the WWE as a broadcaster with experience in other fields and becoming such a successful commentator made them look for new talent everywhere. One broadcaster from the sports world to get an opportunity in the company was Mike Adamle. His prior experience saw him play in the NFL and later commentate NFL games and host American Gladiators.
Adamle’s experience on paper looked like a perfect fit for the WWE. However, you can’t fake knowledge at this job and Adamle would get exposed for knowing very little about the wrestling industry. On his first night in the company, Adamle referred to top face Jeff Hardy as “Jeff Harvey.” Adamle made mistakes frequently and did a horrible job at every role WWE tried putting him in. The experience proved how vital it is to search for someone with a wrestling background, hence the hiring of Mauro Ranallo.
Vader dominated WCW on the heel side of the roster for a couple of years. The monster villain worked outstanding programs against Ric Flair and Sting. Between his success in Japan and WCW, his eventual signing in the WWE seemed like a perfect fit for him. Vince McMahon typically loved behemoth wrestlers, but he never gravitated towards Vader.
Vader's pushes were sporadic and short-lived. Vader did mix it up with Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, The Undertaker and other top stars, but he was never presented on the same level as them. Vader's size always benefited him in WCW, but it looked like he struggled to keep up with the WWE stars. Everything about the signing left both parties in disappointment over how things turned out.
8 “Dr. Death” Steve Williams
Steve Williams' background in college football and college wrestling added credibility to him. With the nickname Dr. Death, he destroyed his opponents for many years in various wrestling promotions and Williams achieved his best success in Japan. A friendship with fellow Oklahoma fanatic Jim Ross caused WWE to sign Dr. Death with the intentions of pushing him to the moon.
WWE introduced the "Brawl For All" as a fighting tournament for the toughest wrestlers with backgrounds in various fighting worlds. The point of it all was for Williams to demolish all of the other guys in the tournament and enter a WWE Championship program against Steve Austin. Maybe WWE should have scripted it instead because Williams suffered a defeat to Bart Gunn. Dr. Death got knocked out and ruined all of WWE’s plans. Vince McMahon likely instantly regretted the signing the second Williams hit the mat.
7 Original Sin Cara (Mistico)
WWE has looked to the international free agent market in recent years when signing new talents. Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Bálor and Asuka are three of the better wrestlers to benefit and prove foreign wrestlers can provide huge success if booked well. One wrestler that added a negative strike towards the international side of things was the original Sin Cara. WWE signed the legendary Mexican wrestling star Mistico to play the character.
The original hope for Sin Cara was for him to become the next Rey Mysterio in bringing in the Latino demographic as well as selling merchandise to younger fans. Sin Cara had a world of hype behind him with weeks of videos setting up his big debut. The problem is he never spent time in WWE’s developmental system and was not ready at all for the main roster. Sin Cara botched in almost every match and quickly flopped. WWE eventually fired Mistico and replaced him with Hunico to play the masked character.
Brakkus' bodybuilding is the sole reason Vince McMahon showed any interest in signing him. McMahon loved his physique and locked him into a contract with the WWE during the mid-90s. Brakkus lacked experience and was sent to various promotions in hopes of learning the skills needed before becoming a fixture on the main roster. His stints in ECW and USWA both showed minimal potential from Brakkus.
WWE tried to use him in 1998, but he failed to demonstrate the tools needed to make it in the business. Most fans would struggle to name a single match Brakkus had in a WWE ring. The company primarily put him on secondary shows like Shotgun Saturday Night before letting him go. Brakkus’ most memorable matches came when he lost in seconds to Taz in ECW. Talk about a horrible signing that likely haunts McMahon to this very day.
5 Buff Bagwell
WWE purchased WCW in 2001 and it gave us the first ever storyline putting the two promotions against each other. Vince McMahon owned both properties, but struggled to sign talents from the WCW brand. Many of the top names kept their prior contracts with AOL Time Warner and collected the huge checks until they ended. Buff Bagwell was one of the talents to accept and sign a new contract with the WWE for the WCW brand.
The first ever WCW match to take place on a WWE broadcast saw Booker T defend the WCW Championship against Bagwell in an absolute stinker. Fans turned off the match and Bagwell got more of the blame than Booker. Bagwell's disappointing career always saw him fail to reach the expectations from promoters. Bagwell also had a poor attitude and WWE fired him within a week of his debut. At least they figured out signing him was a bad decision right away.
4 Nathan Jones
Nathan Jones’ resume of time in powerlifting, strongman competitions and mixed martial arts made him a noteworthy signing for the big company. They believed his background and potential could land them another future main event star. Jones debuted on the SmackDown brand with little experience. The Australian star clearly wasn’t ready for the WWE world and failed to make an impact.
WWE paired Jones with The Undertaker in hopes of a legendary presence helping him learn at a faster pace. The initial WrestleMania XIX match featured The Undertaker and Jones teaming against Big Show and A-Train. WWE pulled Jones making it a handicapped match and he was sent down to developmental shortly after. Jones never showed enough for the WWE to give him a noteworthy push and it was a waste of a signing.
3 Marc Mero
WWE and WCW aggressively pursued the talents hitting the free agent market, which allowed wrestlers to go back and forth between both companies. One of the big signings at the time saw WWE acquire former WCW star Johnny B. Badd and have him work under his real name, Marc Mero. They presented Mero completely differently, with a more well-rounded character and a chance to move up the card rather than the comedic gimmick he used in WCW.
Mero unfortunately did not take the ball and run with it. WWE pushed him as the Intercontinental Champion with wife Sable by his side. Sable was the only aspect of Mero’s act that provided interest during his matches and segments. Mero's bland personality saw him fall down the ranks and become secondary to Sable. This was one of those Monday Night War signings that hurt the company more than it helped.
2 The Great Khali
The Great Khali utilized his seven-foot height to his advantage by entering the wrestling world. History was made in 2006 when Khali became the first wrestler from India to ever receive a WWE contract. It was clearly for his size rather than his wrestling skills or charisma. Khali struggled to move around the ring and it caused his matches to be a disaster every single time.
WWE fans did not enjoy watching him and WWE Superstars did not enjoy working with him. Khali’s size did attract attention from casual fans at first glance, but he always lost them considering it was difficult to understand his words during promos. Everything involving Khali in the WWE left a bad memory for the poor souls watching him attempt to wrestle. We would have all been better off if the WWE never signed him.
1 Lex Luger
The signing of Lex Luger by the WWE is one that everyone wishes never happened. Luger wasn’t bad in WCW before or after his WWE run, but it's clear looking back at his career that he was just better off in WCW. Vince McMahon actually signed him away from WCW for his World Bodybuilding Federation. The WBF tanking is what led to Luger instead being used as a major player in the WWE.
Following Hulk Hogan’s departure, WWE desperately needed a new star to be the face of the company. McMahon put a lot on Luger and marked him as a young American hero basically ready to follow in the footsteps of Hogan. Luger could not connect with fans and his push flopped. WWE had to go with Bret Hart winning the WWE Championship at WrestleMania X instead of Luger. At the end of his WWE contract, Luger jumped ship back to WCW. McMahon signing Luger was among the worst decisions in WWE history which also bit them in the rear-end when Lex made his shocking debut for WCW without anybody knowing.
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