It is always tough to predict which wrestlers are going to break out in the WWE, especially in modern history, as the formula has become more complicated more than ever. There was a time when you simply needed the machine to push you, but that has clearly changed as fans are now just as involved in the selection process. But as important as crowd reaction may be, there is nothing that overrules the opinion of Vince McMahon.
And when it comes to WWE Superstars, he has always had a certain look in mind for the vast majority of his performers, especially when it comes to main eventers. And while fans may have a problem with McMahon preferring the bigger Superstars, nobody can deny the important of having the right look for a wrestling character. Would Steve Austin have been nearly as successful if he had kept the long blonde hair during his Stone Cold phase?
Chances are that he may have flopped since it clearly wouldn't suit the character. From time to time, it is only minor details that needed to be fixed to complete the transformation from a mediocre wrestler to having main event potential. But at times, some wrestlers have to go through a complete repackage to adapt a whole different identity, as we witnessed with John Cena during the course of his career. With today's list, we look at 15 WWE stars Vince McMahon would have never signed if they kept their old look!
Before he became The Animal, Batista went through different phases as he attempted to find an identity. In his early WWE days, he would join forces with D-Von Dudley although that was clearly going nowhere from the start. After switching to Raw, Batista made new friends in Triple H, Ric Flair and Orton to form the iconic Evolution. And as they say, the rest is history. But before getting a full-time WWE contract, Batista had previously been denied a developmental contract by WCW as they didn't see any potential in him.
He went on to become Deacon Batista after getting another chance in OVW, although it was crystal clear that gimmick would never make it to the WWE. During his final months in OVW, Batista began slightly moving away from the character and dropping elements to finally earn a WWE contract. He went from having a creepy gimmick to being considered a "playboy" figure in the WWE, especially during his first run as a main eventer. Considering his strength and impressive physique, it's likely that McMahon signed Batista based on those characteristics rather than his OVW character. We can only imagine what Vince might've thought about Batista in his WCW tryout.
Believe it or not, there was a time when Cesaro had full hair. Those days are long gone as he has been excessively balding since the time he signed with the WWE. Since then, he has lost even more hair which is why he fully embraced the bald look. At some point, he had a similar look to that of Jason Statham, especially early in his WWE development days. But McMahon made the call to have him go bald, which was certainly the right decision.
If Vince had seen a photo of Cesaro with hair, as well as the goofy suit with dollar signs on it, then he would have likely never gave him another look again.
That's not to mention the awful facial hair that is seen in the photo - which we could only imagine how McMahon would have reacted. McMahon has already shown plenty of skepticism when it comes to Cesaro, especially with past comments about him not having "it". And while fans have given up on the hope of seeing him pushed to the top, they are now pleased to learn that Cesaro was smart enough to get a different look for him to even have a WWE career.
13 Braun Strowman
Alright so a buddy of mine sent me this so I had to do a #waybackwednesday post this is me believe it or not 9 years ago!!!!! #IdontKnowIfTimeHasBeenThatGreatToMeLOL #BabyFaceBeforeIKnewWhatABabtFaceWas #nobeard I had a thing for pink back then to and thank god I grew out of the white sunglasses faze lol. Oh and yes I know I have a #ButtChin so have your fun with this one people lol You like me with a beard or without cause I almost guarantee I still look like a child if I shaved.
During his early WWE stint, Braun Strowman was portraying the character of a serious monster who was all about inflicting damage on other Superstars. And he was a serious heel who didn't show any flashes of his entertaining side until later on. But prior to being signed by the WWE, Strowman competed in many lifting competitions in which he achieved some major accolades. And as you can tell by videos and photos from that period, Strowman was all about having fun as he had a likeable personality that captured the attention of fans. When you put all these factors together, that screams WWE Superstar. But he didn't exactly look like a WWE Superstar, and the facial hair has transformed him into a completely different man.
If Vince McMahon had known Strowman back then, he may not have opted to sign him to the WWE. With the minor adjustments made to his appearance, Strowman went from looking somewhat goofy to being the biggest threat in the WWE. That goes to show that it takes plenty of elements coming together at the right time to create the recipe for a Superstar, regardless of how fans or even management may feel about certain Superstars.
12 Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks hasn't always been the boss. Prior to her NXT contract, Banks competed for various independent promotions and had many characters along the way - most of which were very bland to say the least. There is no way that she would have ever made the main roster with that very same look seen above, as Vince McMahon would have never allowed it. During her time in WWE development, Banks slowly added various elements to formulate her boss character. Since then, it has worked out well for her as she has more personality to show these days, compared to her early years.
The hair and make up have also made huge chances to Banks' overall appearance as she looks like a different person now. And that's not to mention the flashy ring attires, as well as the jewelry that she wears to the ring. There was a time when female wrestlers didn't necessarily have to portray a unique character in the WWE, as looking pretty was more than enough to get signed by the company. But with times changing, it has become just as important for female wrestlers to find a successful gimmick, which Banks clearly landed with this one.
11 Jeff Hardy
It's hard to believe that Jeff Hardy has been competing for the WWE since the age of 16. He was brought to serve as a jobber for many Superstars over the years with some notable matches including the one above against Razor Ramon, as well as Rob Van Dam's WWE debut. At the time, most fans and backstage officials would have probably guessed that Hardy wouldn't make it in the industry since he seemed very frail at the time.
He didn't have the look of a Superstar in his teens, and would have never earned a full-time WWE contract based on his old look.
But as the years went by, Hardy began to find his identity even more before eventually successfully forming one of the greatest tag teams in The Hardy Boyz. Compared to most former World Champions, Hardy has a truly unique look that makes him such an intriguing case. He has managed to transform from the no-name jobber seen above to one of the most accomplished wrestlers of his generation. It's a good thing that he quickly learned the ropes in the industry, otherwise Vince McMahon may not have been keen to sign him due to his old look.
10 Finn Balor
Before he became the Finn Balor that we know today, his wrestling journey was very interesting to say the least as he competed for various promotions around the world. And during one of his stints, Balor adapted the gimmick of Joker for a brief period. He was still struggling to find an identity at the time, and attempted to capitalize on the huge popularity of Joker after the release of The Dark Knight. But if Sting couldn't successfully pull off the character, then it's highly doubtful that Balor could have done any better.
If Vince McMahon had seen him as Joker, then chances are that he would have been very confused since he isn't exactly familiar with pop culture. And considering that rumors indicate McMahon has never been one of Balor's biggest fans, then it makes sense that he may not have gotten signed by the WWE. Last year, there were stories on the web that claimed McMahon was disappointed with Balor's run in the WWE thus far, believing that he should be more over as a face. And since Balor has failed to proven himself as a legitimate main eventer in the eyes of McMahon, then we can't imagine his version of Joker doing much better.
9 Triple H
Can you imagine a world in which Triple H doesn't make it to the top? Although he has been one of the top Superstars for over two decades, Triple H's career didn't get off to a great start. As he struggled to find a suitable character for himself, he got lost in the shuffle for some time, especially during his time in WCW. As you can see, he had a very different look that certainly would not have worked for his Triple H gimmick.
The long blonde hair was straight from the 80s and had become severely outdated by the 90s, which is why Triple H looks so out of place in this photo. Regardless of the improvements he made to his character and in-ring ability, as well as his strong connections thanks to his marriage to Stephanie McMahon, Triple H would not have been taken seriously if he had kept the same look. He just doesn't look threatening or evil at all, which is why he was wise to change his appearance. And it didn't take too long for him to become one of Vince McMahon's favorite Superstars in the company after he re-branded himself. Over twenty years later, look where Hunter has found himself.
8 Roman Reigns
Prior to his WWE career, Roman Reigns was a football player who competed in the CFL. And during his stint as a footballer, Reigns was bulkier than he is today for obvious reasons. Upon declaring his interest in joining the WWE, the interest wasn't mutual back then, as he was turned down and advised to get into better shape. That's when Reigns took his wrestling career seriously and dedicated plenty of time to the gym in order to get into the best shape of his life. And his appearance also changed for the better as his face lost significant weight, while the newer tattoos made him look like a true Superstar.
And as he ditched the Samoan gear for his current attire, Romans suddenly went from a nobody to being the hottest name in the WWE (at least according to company officials).
Fans who aren't high on Reigns probably wish that Vince McMahon had seen him before he went through an impressive transformation.
Chances are that he may not have been hired, or could have ended up being a mid-carder rather than the star who headlined the past four WrestleMania - with the opportunity to main event a couple more over the next years.
There was a time when appearance determined which Divas would receive a huge push, and that is why so many female wrestlers from the 2000s couldn't wrestle. And if the same shallow standards were still in place today, then Paige may not have been hired in the first place. While she is looking great today, she certainly did not have the traditional look of a WWE "Diva" with the likes of Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson preceding her. And early in her career, she didn't have much physical appeal to work with - having to rely on her wrestling ability to get over.
For some time, Paige wasn't so believable looking as a wrestler as she simply looked too babyfaced and awkward to truly get over. But a few adjustments to her appearance and character served as a major boost to her career, earning her a full-time contract in the WWE. Since then, she has exceeded all expectations by becoming one of the most successful female wrestlers in recent years. She continued to add some elements to her character as time went by although Paige's career was cut shortly due to nagging injuries - preventing her from adding more accolades to her resume.
6 Bray Wyatt
There was a time when it appeared as if Bray Wyatt might not make it to the WWE. He had been struggling to get signed, and despite receiving a major opportunity early on with Nexus, he failed to impress at the time. That is why he was sent back to development where he developed the Bray Wyatt character. Rumors suggest that the company was close to releasing him since that ended up being the fate of many of his Nexus peers, but he somehow managed to survive.
McMahon was hesitant about hiring him in the first place, and those feelings were only reinforced after Wyatt's initial flop in the WWE as Husky Harris. If he had kept the same look, then chances are that he may never have made it out of development again. It was clear that his older appearance was too bland to get over in the WWE, and he would have to get creative to earn the approval of management. He used his thick frame to his advantage by growing a beard and taking on the persona similar to that of a cult leader. Given all he has accomplished since changing gimmicks, it's fair to say that Wyatt found the complimentary character that he needed to succeed in the WWE.
5 Sami Zayn
With his old character El Generico, Sami Zayn generated plenty of buzz on the independent circuit - eventually earning him a full-time WWE contract. But his success elsewhere came at a price as Zayn had to work his way up in the WWE since they weren't interested in having him retain the gimmick in the company. With his new identity as Sami Zayn, he has become a fan favorite in a short period - proving to be one of the most talented wrestlers in the world.
While Triple H was very familiar with his past work as El Generico, he also realized that Vince McMahon wouldn't approve the signing if Zayn were to continue rocking the very same appearance.
That is why Zayn had to drop the mask as well as several elements that assisted in helping him get over elsewhere. Luckily for him, it didn't take Zayn too much time to impress the WWE Universe. He has also been able to retain his fanbase from his days on the independent circuit, making him one of the most popular Superstars among hardcore fans right now. And with his current form, Zayn is only getting more over as time goes by.
4 The Miz
Not many could have imagined an MTV reality star being a highly successful WWE Superstar. Prior to his transition into a professional wrestler, The Miz created a gimmick while being apart of the MTV series. What was once a joke would turn into a reality within two years, as he went on to impress in the 2004 Tough Enough competition, surprising many by finishing in second place. But before he was snatched up by the WWE, he didn't exactly have the look of a wrestler. He was certainly in good shape but you could tell that he hadn't been training like a real athlete. Additionally, The Miz was just too much of a loudmouth while also having a generic look that didn't exactly scream future wrestling star.
It would take him some years to find the ideal look for him, as he mainly served as a tag team competitor early on. The Miz's old appearance and personality may not have been greatly received by Vince McMahon. Luckily for him, McMahon was patient enough with him to keep him around all those years - as The Miz rewarded his faith by morphing into one of the best heels in the industry today.
3 John Cena
During his time in OVW, John Cena was impressive enough to earn an opportunity with the WWE. At the time, Vince McMahon wanted to create stars for the future which is why he invented plenty in WWE's development system. Among the Superstars who came up to the main roster was John Cena, who had been portraying the gimmick of The Prototype in OVW. By the time he made it on television in 2002, WWE had already changed his name and appearance - which goes to show what Vince McMahon thought of him at the time.
And for the first few months, Cena struggled to get over as he came off as extremely bland due to his unoriginal appearance. McMahon was ready to let him go until his daughter Stephanie stepped in to convince him to keep Cena on the roster. And it wouldn't take long for him to transition into a rapper, which served as his rise to stardom. Within a few months, Cena looked like a completely different person than what fans had seen of him in previous times. With the throwback jerseys, fashionable caps, jewelry and jorts, Cena successfully got over in the WWE with his improved appearance.
2 Dean Ambrose
When Dean Ambrose worked some appearances for the WWE as a jobber, Vince McMahon probably didn't think that he would become one of his top stars in a matter of years. His look was just bad for a professional wrestler, especially during the era in which he came up. He had yet to find a unique identity in the industry despite having been active on the independent circuit for a number of years. And given that he didn't receive a WWE contract after working for them, it's highly likely that McMahon didn't sign him due to his appearance.
Thankfully, Ambrose was wise enough to ditch the long pink hair and cheap jewelry.
He has taken on a whole different character that couldn't be more different from the vibe that you get from the photo above. The pink hair has now become infamous among wrestling fans as one of the absolute worst looks for a Superstar prior to their fame. And while some may find Ambrose as an easy target due to the awful appearance seen above, we can also credit him for managing to shed that image through his impressive run in the WWE. Hats off to Dean for recognizing a change was needed.
1 The Undertaker
For someone who was on top for as long as he has, it is always difficult to picture The Undertaker as an upcoming wrestler. Prior to his WWE contract, The Phenom was keen to make it by any means necessary as he took his talents to various promotions including WCW. He also had portrayed various gimmicks in an effort to get over, all of which would fall flat. And looking at old photos of Taker, not many would see a future star in him including Vince McMahon. But thankfully, he had already changed his look by the time he made it to the WWE.
And while McMahon had different ideas in mind for him, he would create arguably his greatest gimmick with birth of The Deadman. To make 'Taker appear believable as the character, he had to significantly change his appearance while also getting into better shape. From then, he immediately made an impact inside the ring, while successfully connecting with the fans. From being a struggling professional wrestler to one of the top Superstars in WWE, the career trajectory of The Undertaker goes to show the importance of having the most suitable character in order to make it big.