The main event of a WWE show can be a hard place to get to. Many wrestlers have no choice but to pay their dues in the mid-card, working their way up the proverbial ladder and proving to the company - and the fans - that they have what it takes to be a champion.
As hard as it is to reach the top, it is even harder to stay there. Whether it is wellness policy violations, injuries or plain old poor booking, many superstars have had the spotlight snatched from them before they could ever truly soak up the moment. Here are ten superstars who climbed to the top of the WWE mountain... but soon came crashing back down.
Paige had a meteoric rise to the top upon her main roster debut. The Anti-Diva captured the championship during her first-ever impromptu match against A.J. Lee, going on to hold the butterfly belt twice after defeating the Black Widow again at SummerSlam 2014. Before that, she was the inaugural NXT Women's Champion, holding the belt for a historic 308 days.
Unfortunately, a neck injury forced Paige into early in-ring retirement, despite having a glowing future as the leader of the Women's Evolution ahead of her. Still, her WWE career remains short but definitive, her presence in the company in a managerial role always welcome.
9 Dean Ambrose
As one third of The Shield, the most dominant faction of WWE's modern era, Dean Ambrose occupied the main event regularly. After the team disbanded, however, The Lunatic Fringe found himself flitting to the top of the company as a fan favorite - only to be pushed back to the mid-card every time.
Ambrose suffered from questionable booking that hindered his character and, despite capturing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, never enjoyed the same level of success as former teammates Seth Rollins or Roman Reigns. This prompted him to leave the company, debuting under his former ring name Jon Moxley on AEW's Double Or Nothing.
8 Wade Barrett
Wade Barrett debuted on the main roster as the leader of The Nexus, after winning the first season of NXT in 2010. The Nexus, a stable of rebellious underdogs, threatened the status quo and were effective at winning the crowd over, especially as they began to feud with John Cena.
The Bare Knuckle Brawler headlined five pay-per-view shows in 2010, competing for the WWE Championship three times in a six-pack challenge and against Randy Orton. His time in the spotlight didn't last, however, and he fell gradually lower through the mid-card before he left WWE in 2016.
7 Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy dazzled fans with his daring, high-flying repertoire. As a tag-team with his brother Matt Hardy, The Charismatic Enigma competed in numerous high-profile Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches during the Attitude Era, capturing the WWE/World Tag Team Championships six times.
Hardy captured the WWE Championship in 2008 and the World Heavyweight Championship twice after that. Despite this, controversies outside of the ring stalled his momentum, and the former Team Xtreme member has never managed to remain in the spotlight - or WWE - indefinitely.
6 CM Punk
CM Punk remains one of the biggest names in wrestling today, despite having vowed never to step foot inside the squared circle again after his controversial departure from WWE in 2014. The Best in the World won the WWE Championship twice and the World Heavyweight Championship three times, winning fans over with his acerbic tongue whether he was a heel or babyface.
Punk's revelations in Colt Cabana's Art of Wrestling podcast echoed most of the criticisms aimed at WWE during his infamous tirade. Punk also spoke about his frustration at being deprived of the one career goal he truly wanted in WWE - WrestleMania's main event.
5 The Miz
The Miz got himself over with fans through superb work as a heel and scathing promos against Daniel Bryan (which eventually saw their feud culminate inside the ring after Bryan's triumphant return from retirement). Before this, however, The Miz found himself in the main event of WrestleMania in 2011, after becoming the runner-up in the fourth season of Tough Enough.
Although his stint in the main event was brief, The A-Lister has thrived in the mid-card, capturing the Intercontinental Championship eight times, the United States Championship twice and winning the 2010 Money In The Bank ladder match.
R-Truth's antics with the 24/7 Championship have been fun highlights for Raw and SmackDown during the previous months, as the charismatic Superstar has proved a comedic babyface for the crowd to cheer for.
There was a brief period in 2008, after R-Truth returned to the company, where he competed in the main event of Capitol Punishment against John Cena for the WWE Championship. His spotlight stint didn't last, and soon after he was used mostly as an undercard comedy wrestler.
The Empress of Tomorrow was once one of the biggest names in WWE's developmental, awing the crowd in NXT with her unique arsenal. Asuka held the NXT Women's Championship for 510 days and was never defeated for the belt, relinquishing it of her own accord after she joined the main roster.
Asuka competed in the inaugural women's Tables, Ladders and Chairs match against Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch. She won the SmackDown Women's Championship after Ronda Rousey interfered in the match, though dropped the belt soon after to The Queen and disappeared from the main event.
2 Mr. Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy had a short tenure in WWE, working for the company from 2005-2009 before signing with TNA in 2010. During his time in WWE, Kennedy captured the United States Championship once and won the 2007 Money In The Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 23.
Kennedy was involved in a bizarre angle that saw him revealed to be, potentially, Vince McMahon's illegitimate son. This story-line was scrapped and the identity of McMahon's secret son turned out to be Hornswoggle.
1 Chris Masters
Chris Masters debuted in WWE in 2005. His finisher "The Master Lock" was his biggest gimmick, as no wrestler could break the full-nelson hold. The "Master Lock Challenges" became a staple of Monday Night Raw as multiple stars tried - and failed - to break free from the heel's submission maneuver.
Masters was a good heel and generated visceral heat from fans due to his arrogant demeanor. He competed for the WWE Championship against John Cena and Kurt Angle, ultimately tapping out. After this, he drifted lower and lower through the mid-card, competing for the Intercontinental Championship before being released in 2007.