Stables are a staple piece of pro wrestling storytelling. A stable can offer a rising or top heel backup to become a more credible threat at the top of a card. It can offer lower card talents more of an identity and a direction, rather than getting lost in the shuffle of crowded roster. Furthermore, from a backstage perspective, a stable can offer opportunities for mentorship as veterans offer not only kayfabe credibility to up and coming acts, but real life wisdom and advice based on their years of experience.
Evolution is one of the prime examples of WWE getting the most out of a stable. The group largely dominated the main event scene on Raw for two years, shoring up Triple H’s identity as something of a modern day Ric Flair and great heel champion. Flair himself played a veteran and manager role for the group, while Randy Orton and Batista represented the next generation of stars coming up in this lineage, not to mention Batista in general serving in a heater role—a big guy who acted as Helmesley’s muscle. The group was important to WWE’s angles at the time in and of itself, and set up Orton and Batista for longer term careers as main event level stars.
Not every stable works out as planned, though. For all of the noteworthy factions WWE has spotlighted over the years, there are times when creative changes, injuries, or other happenstance have led to significant changes in plans. Sometimes, these shifts clearly worked out for the best in the long run. Other times, we fans can’t help but wonder what might have been for the group, or for that individual wrestler’s career had membership in the stable worked out. This article looks at fifteen times a a WWE star almost joined a major stable.
15 CM Punk – The Shield
The Shield—Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose—debuted in late 2012, and their most featured early appearances tended to revolve around helping heel world champion CM Punk. In particular, they helped out The Straight Edge Superstar when he was in over his head against Ryback and The Rock. The story wound up being that The Shield were mercenaries for hire, before they settled into wrestling as a more independent unit.
When Punk visited Colt Cabana’s podcast, months after leaving WWE, he revealed the original plans for The Shield that he’d discussed with management.
As his world title reign carried on toward the year mark, the idea was to put a stable behind him to give some younger guys the rub, and to give him a way of fending off top faces without making them look bad. While The Shield did operate that way in those initial appearances, the choice was soon made to keep Punk separate from them, perhaps with the knowledge that he’d be dropping the title and then turning face before too long.
14 Mark Jindrak – Evolution
When the Evolution stable started up, Triple H was given significant stroke in determining whom he’d be aligned with. This makes good sense given the stable largely revolved around The Game, and given that he’d be using his clout to help get over some new major stars. Word is that Randy Orton had his spot locked down early, whereas the other spot for an up and comer was more in flux.
WCW alum, young Mark Jindrak was reportedly lined up for the group, before WWE went in another direction with a guy of similar size and build, Batista. The Animal was already more of a proven commodity in the WWE system based on his work as Leviathan in OVW.
It remains a great unanswered question if Jindrak might have wound up a main eventer, rather than a forgettable big man if he had gotten that spot.
On the flip side, questions linger as to whether Batista could have gotten over anyway without the stable as a launching pad, and a feud with Triple H to launch him into the stratosphere.
13 Daniel Bryan – The Nexus
Early summer 2010 saw WWE air a special Viewer’s Choice episode of Raw. The main event match pitted John Cena against CM Punk, only for the eight rookies from the original NXT show to arrive and destroy the ringside area, launching a hot angle for the summer.
Daniel Bryan was among those rookies and was a key part of the attack, whose moments included screaming in John Cena’s face that he wasn’t better than him, and, most memorably, choking announcer Justin Roberts with his own tie.
Unbeknownst to Bryan, the strangulation was a huge no-no per WWE policy. So, before The Nexus properly introduced itself as a stable, Bryan was released from his WWE contract.
By all indications, the plans had been for Bryan to have been just another part of the group and to sink or swim.
The powers that be would change their minds a couple months later as Bryan was not only welcomed back, but cast as the surprise member of John Cena’s team to oppose the Nexus at SummerSlam. It would take years for Bryan to realize his true main event potential, but getting a fresh start in that role, rather than chugging along as another cog in the Nexus machine, was probably one of the best things that could have happened to his WWE career.
12 Rey Mysterio – The Radicalz
While they may not have accomplished a ton as a stable, there’s little questioning the electricity around The Radicalz when they debuted on the WWE landscape. The crew of Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn made an immediate splash when they defected en masse from WCW. There was reportedly one other guy itching to join them in that leap: Rey Mysterio.
Though Mysterio purportedly asked management for his release around the same time as the rest of The Radicalz, who were so unhappy under the WCW banner, Mysterio’s request was denied.
Claims vary as to whether WCW saw more value in Mysterio, he didn’t contractual obligations, or if he simply didn’t push as hard to get to leave. Regardless, it’s probably just as well as he would get signed to WWE just a few years later and go on to a successful career there.
11 Triple H – The New World Order
The New World Order is one of the most iconic wrestling stables of all time—so much so that WWE was willing to bring the faction’s core members in under their original stable name to do business in WWE. For a variety of reasons, the nWo would never catch fire in WWE like they had in WCW, but they were nonetheless feature prominently for a good portion of 2002.
In the summer of 2002, rumor has it that Triple H was to join the group to really get some momentum behind them.
Plans changed, however, when Kevin Nash got injured. With Hogan having already left the stable, Nash out, and Scott Hall far from reliable, the remaining pieces didn’t feel much like the nWo, and so WWE decided to cut its losses, instead shooting an angle in which Hunter betrayed Shawn Michaels to set up his return to the ring.
10 Kaitlyn – The Divas Of Doom
The Divas of Doom turned out to be a two person stable, but it was nonetheless an interesting forerunner to the current Women’s Revolution. Beth Phoenix and Natalya teamed up as a pair of powerful and serious wrestlers, who stood out from the pack of model types who occupied most spots on the women’s roster in their day.
Rumor had it that newer arrival Kaitlyn was going to join Phoenix and Natalya.
She certainly could have fit in as another blond powerhouse. Indeed, WWE went so far as to try out the idea, including having Kaitlyn turn on AJ Lee to join the heels on more than one house show. Whether management ultimately decided it wasn’t a fit, or saw more value in Kaitlyn turning face, she never actually joined the group on TV. So, her membership has fallen out of WWE canon, and is mostly lost to the sands of time.
9 Kenny Dykstra – Rated RKO
Kenny Dykstra looked like he was going to be the breakout star from the Spirit Squad. While the stable was too silly to ever really get over, Dykstra was mostly cast as their leader and mouthpiece, looking to be the eventual breakout star.
True to form, after DX unceremoniously sent the group packing back for OVW, it was Dykstra who showed up on WWE TV again just a few weeks later, pitching himself as a third member of Edge and Randy Orton’s Rated RKO stable. The guys took some time to consider, and the angle had potential with Dykstra taking on a more serious edge and proceeding to sit under the learning tree—both in real life and kayfabe—of two of the top heels of their generation.
Whether WWE changed its mind or never intended for Dykstra to actually get his membership card, he’d wind up rejected.
Rumors abound about his real life girlfriend Mickie James having an affair with John Cena, Dykstra not taking it well, and thus getting blackballed for the rest of his WWE run. For whatever combination of factors, this possibility never came to fruition and it turned out Dykstra peaked fronting the Spirit Squad.
8 Kassius Ohno – The Shield
In his visit to Colt Cabana’s podcast, CM Punk got into the conceptualization of The Shield. He claimed they were briefly proposed as a stable under Punk’s leadership, and as such he got some creative input about what the group would look like. He had, thus suggested old pal from the indies Chris Hero—Kassius Ohno in NXT—to team up with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.
WWE went with Roman Reigns as the group’s big man instead, perhaps recognizing they had two workhorses to help cover for and usher along Reigns from an in ring perspective, and that this would be a good way to usher a guy they wanted to be a star into the fore. Punk seemed fairly neutral in discussing the point. In the broader context of what he was talking about, though, it did seem like yet another case of Punk and WWE management butting heads, between Punk’s more indie sensibility, and WWE pushing their own agenda.
7 Chris Benoit – The Million Dollar Corporation
The Million Dollar Corporation was a spiritual successor to The Heenan Family—less a proper stable than a group of heels who banded together under a common high profile manager. As such, it was a reasonable enough use for Ted DiBiase as a great talker and recognizable character as he closed the book on his in ring career. Just the same, the group was far from accomplished, featuring a lot of lugs like Sid, Nikolai Volkoff, and King Kong Bundy who, at least at that point in their careers, couldn’t do much in the ring.
One guy who might have helped change the culture of the group was Chris Benoit. Before he signed with WWE during the Attitude Era, he had worked for the company on a trial basis in the mid-1990s, and had DiBiase accompany him to the ring as his manager for a number of house shows. Given that it would be another decade before anyone really took Benoit seriously as a main event talent, it’s probably just as well this membership didn’t come to fruition, but it does pose an interesting what if? scenario.
6 Baron Corbin – The Wyatt Family
Baron Corbin has never had any affiliation with The Wyatt Family on WWE television. Indeed, his biggest defining identity trait may well be his Lone Wolf persona, operating without any alliances. Still, a number of sources have reported that WWE tried him out as a Wyatt, particularly in shooting promos when he first got to developmental and he was trying to figure out his wrestling persona.
Corbin staying out of the group is probably for the best.
The affiliation arguably held back Luke Harper and Erick Rowan for a time, while Braun Strowman only broke in earnest after WWE more or less forgot about his connection to Wyatt. While Corbin may still not be thriving at the highest level, he’s enjoyed a respectable upper mid card run so far, and may be a main event yet on his current trajectory.
5 Big E – The Shield
The Shield is arguably the most successful stable of this past decade in the WWE. The entire trio of Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns have all gone on to become world champions in WWE. While the group was together, they went on a long undefeated run, and were as tight knit of a trio as we had ever seen in WWE.
However, Seth Rollins has revealed that initial plans called for fellow NXT alum Big E to debut with the group.
Some reports have even gone so far as to say Big E was Vince's preference for the group over Roman Reigns as the big enforcer, but plans were changed. Knowing Big E as we know him now, can you imagine what Big E would've been like with a group like this?
4 Matt Morgan – The Brothers Of Destruction
There are those times when ideas are pitched and wrestlers get a little ahead of themselves in what they understand to be their futures. As such, it’s unclear where on the spectrum of real plan to what Matt Morgan wished would have happened we should place Morgan becoming the third Brother of Destruction, alongside The Undertaker and Kane.
According to Morgan, he started working under a mask in developmental to get him ready for the angle in which he would be introduced as Abel—a riff off of Kane’s name. Morgan indicates that Vince McMahon himself ultimately pulled the plug on the idea, which makes sense given the number of accounts of him being fiercely protective of The Undertaker brand. Morgan would instead show up on the main roster under the gimmick of a big man with a stuttering problem.
3 Dan Severn – The Ministry Of Darkness
Dan Severn was always an awkward fit for WWE, as a legitimate shoot fighter with little interest in the more theatrical elements of pro wrestling. As such, despite his credibility and garnering some early momentum, his character never really went anywhere under the WWE banner.
According to Severn, one of the last straws of his WWE involvement was a pitch for him to join The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness stable.
The gimmick would see him either paint or tattoo the numbers 666 on his forehead, which he found both silly and offensive.
Given that Severn never exceeded the WWE mid-card, it’s unlikely his involvement would have shifted much for the Ministry, though he might have extended some extra credibility and severity to the group had he been a part of it.
2 Ted DiBiase Jr. – The Hart Dynasty
The Hart Dynasty faction featured Davey Boy Smith’s son—and nephew to Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart—DH Smith, teamed with Hart Dungeon graduate Tyson Kidd, and Neidhart’s daughter Natalya Neidhart. The tight knit group made logical sense given their real life ties, and featured three stellar in ring workers.
An earlier iteration of the group, in WWE’s developmental system also included Teddy Hart—like Kidd, Dungeon graduate, closely tied to the family—and Ted DiBiase Jr. DiBiase was a bit more of an oddball fit for the group, given the lack of a clear Hart family connection. Fans seemed generally willing to give him a pass for at least having a wrestling legacy behind him as a the son of the Million Dollar Man.
In the end, WWE probably made the right call in splitting off DiBiase to not convolute the meaning of the Hart Dynasty group, and to let him thrive as a part of the Legacy stable that still highlighted his lineage.
1 Manu – Legacy
The Anoia’a wrestling family has produced more than it’s share of wrestling stars, ranging from The Wild Samoans to Rikishi to Yokozuna to The Rock to Roman Reigns. Manu looked to join this tradition. A son of original Wild Samoan Afa, and brother of Headhsrinker Samu., he had the right family connections to be a star, and a look that very much befit his kin who had been featured before him.
Manu debuted on the main roster as a prospect for Randy Orton’s Legacy stable, made up of all multi generation stars, and spent several weeks working with the fledgling unit.
Before the stable really got off the ground, though, Manu splintered from the group. The on air rationale was that he wasn’t as talented as the rest of the stable. Fans have theorized he didn’t fit the clean cut, ripped look that would ultimately define the trio of Orton, Cody Rhodes, and Ted DiBiase Jr. Manu’s absence probably didn’t have much effect on the group’s overall trajectory, but there’s a real argument to be made that getting kicked out was a death sentence for Manu’s main roster prospects.