Just about everyone who grows up wanting to be a professional wrestler wants to be “the guy.” When they dream big, they dream of themselves standing alone in the ring at WrestleMania with their hand raised high in the air and a World Championship around their waste. Blame it on the fact that we hear names like Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Ric Flair whenever we’re talking about wrestling at its biggest and best. Yes, there are factions and tag teams that have drawn as many fans as the biggest singles stars (at least in certain situations), but the wrestlers that really define the business through the eyes of history are the ones who stood alone. To be honest, wrestlers are lying to themselves if they say they never had singles star dreams.
However, the truth of the matter is that there is only so much room in the wrestling world for singles stars. Even the midcard of a wrestling organization can fill up quickly. Being a singles star is about more than just having a good luck, good in-ring skills, and good luck. You’ve got to have it all. This is why it’s sometimes confusing when we see wrestlers who excelled when they were part of a faction or team, but either flopped as singles wrestlers or just never really made that transition. It doesn’t always make sense why that is the case, but it’s hard to deny that some faction stars just never really made it. These are the 20 Wrestling Faction Members That Flopped As Singles Wrestlers.
20 WWE: Billy Gunn
We kind of get why WWE tried to push Billy Gunn as a singles wrestler. He had a good look, he was decent enough in the ring, he had okay mic skills, and he had a lot of friends in the back. However, Billy Gunn lacked one thing that every great singles star needs; the ability to make fans really care about him.
Billy Gunn’s matches felt bland and competent at best.
He just never really found a way to turn that energy he helped generate as part of DX into singles charisma.
19 WCW: Buff Bagwell
There’s going to be some controversy about this selection. After all, Buff Bagwell had his fans. He still has his fans. There was something about the guy at that time that just made fans go wild. However, it’s hard to deny that Buff’s best days came when he was a member of the nWo or part of a tag team.
As a singles wrestler, Buff’s many, many weaknesses were too glaring to ignore for long. He was a bad in-ring worker who bordered on unsafe, and his ability to cut a non-shoot promo was pretty much non-existent. It would only be further evident when he went to WWE for a brief stint.
18 WWE: Big Cass
Faction might be a bit of a stretch here, but we’ll call the Enzo, Carmella, Big Cass group a faction. Besides, Big Cass turned out to be one of the biggest (literally) singles busts in recent WWE history. In NXT, Big Cass just had to let Enzo do the talking while he handled the big man work and followed a strict, mechanical promo style. Once WWE decided to split that group, though, we got to see just how limited Big Cass was. It’s rare that we see someone who looked as scared in the ring as Big Cass did during singles matches.
17 WWE: Marcus Cor Von
Marcus Cor Von (a.k.a. Monty Brown) was an NFL player who broke into the wrestling business via his time in TNA. When he eventually made it to WWE, the company found a nice little role for him as part of the ECW New Breed faction.
He was allowed to be the big guy “enforcer” and played the role reasonably well.
However, the moment we saw Brown in a singles match is the moment we realized that nobody actually taught this guy how to be a professional wrestler. He was a sloppy performer who left the business before long.
16 WCW: Steve “Mongo” McMichael
To be fair, Steve “Mongo” McMichael also kind of flopped as a faction member. However, when McMichael was part of the Four Horsemen, he was able to take advantage of the considerable talent that surrounded him. He could fake being a competent wrestler for just long enough to make people believe that maybe he wasn’t the worst thing ever. As a singles wrestler, though, Mongo was the worst thing ever. He lacked even the basic skills a pro wrestler requires, and he was prone to legitimately hurting those he worked with in the ring.
15 WWE: Heath Slater
We’re a little on the fence when it comes to this one. Heath Slater is a fairly entertaining singles wrestlers, and we don’t think he is supposed to be much more than that. However, it’s hard to argue that Heath Slater was at his best when he was part of a team or faction. The Nexus, 3 Man Band, and even his partnership with Rhyno showed what Slater could do when you paired him with others who were able to carry more of the weight. It’s fine to be a faction or tag team guy, and Slater is just a faction guy.
14 WWE: X-Pac
Let’s be real honest about Sean Waltman’s ceiling as a professional wrestler. He was okay in the ring, he wasn’t very good on the microphone, he never really developed a character, and his move set was incredibly limited. Was he the worst? No. In fact, he had some very memorable career moments. However, as an all-around performer, X-Pac/1-2-3 Kid/Sean Waltman wasn’t good.
The limits of his abilities really revealed themselves when Waltman was forced to wrestle as a singles star.
He was always going to be that guy from D-X, and most fans didn’t accept any other premise.
13 WCW: Rick Steiner
Rick Steiner was actually more of a tag team guy, but he’s on this list because he was actually in some more traditional factions. More importantly, there was a time when Rick Steiner was seen as a singles star on the rise. He could cut a decent promo, he was very good in the ring, and he had a pretty good look.
The problem with Rick Steiner as a singles wrestler was that he never really found a way to distinguish himself from a pretty talented list of guys who dominated that era. He just never felt like a singles star, which is something that’s pretty hard to shake.
12 WWE: Gangrel
The Gangrel character is really something that you could have only gotten away with in the late ‘90s. Gangrel was a vampire wrestler. He wasn’t some kind of guy who was obsessed with vampires or anything like that, but for all intents and purposes, he was an actual vampire.
What made the whole gimmick work was the character’s costume, his music, and his entrance.
As a wrestler, though, David William Heath was subpar. Once The Brood broke up and Gangrel was thrust back into singles action, we saw just how little he could actually do in the ring.
11 WWE: Stevie Richards
Stevie Richards spent most of his career (or the best years of his career) in a faction. Raven’s Flock, the b.W.O, Right to Censor...the guy was typically typecast as a faction member. To be fair, he was pretty good in that role. Some even saw him as the breakout member of these factions. However, history has shown that Stevie Richards just never performed as well as he did when he was in a faction.
Richards could get people to care about a faction, but he struggled to really establish a personality of his own when it came time for him to be a singles star.
10 WCW: David Flair
As a character, David Flair worked well enough in WCW. After all, he was the son of the legendary Ric Flair. That aspect alone meant that it was fairly easy for WCW’s bookers to come up with some decent storylines for the kid. Where David Flair fell apart is when he was expected to be anything more than a character. It was simply unfair for someone with limited training.
WCW could hide his weaknesses when he was a part of a faction, but when they tried to push David Flair as a singles star, audiences got to see just how far the apple fell from the tree.
9 WWE: Mason Ryan
Mason Ryan stands out because WWE clearly thought he was going to be something special. In fact, some go so far as to say that WWE hoped to turn him into the next Batista.
Ryan had the look and proved he could work somewhat well with others, but everything fell apart when Ryan was forced to leave The Nexus.
Quite frankly, Ryan never really used the opportunities he was given as a way to progress as a performer. Instead, he seemed convinced that WWE had already decided that he was going to be a star no matter what. It was clear he wasn't cut out to be a wrestler.
8 WWE: Ted DiBiase Jr.
You know, we’re actually going to give Ted DiBiase Jr. some credit that he rarely gets. The early days of his WWE career were actually pretty good. When he was paired with Hardcore Holly (and later Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes), he was a fairly capable number two or three kind of guy. This ends our praise of Ted DiBiase Jr. From here, we must inform you that DiBiase Jr. was just lost as a singles wrestler. Not only did he lack charisma and a character, but he was seemingly incapable of doing anything more complicated than a wrist lock.
7 WCW: Ed Leslie
There was a time where it seemed anybody who was friends with Hulk Hogan in WCW would get a push. Ed Leslie wound up getting the push of his career in 1994 when he turned heel on Hogan and faced him in the main event of Starrcade '94. Billed as "The Butcher", Leslie would eventually join the Dungeon of Doom and the alliance to end Hulkamania. Leslie would also later become a member of the nWo, this time as The Disciple. Any time Leslie was pushed into a role bigger than a lower midcarder, it proved why he belonged there.
6 WWE: Jim Neidhart
In the early days of the Hart Foundation, Jim Neidhart was generally seen as a better worker than Bret Hart. That might sound crazy, but the truth of it was that Neidhart had more personality, cut a better promo, and was (at that time) a more confident in-ring performer.
Even when Bret clearly surpassed Neidhart, fans thought that Jim might still become an effective singles performer.
We soon learned, though, that Neidhart was only effective when he was given a smaller, more technical wrestler to work with. As a singles star, Neidhart had about five minutes worth of material.
5 WWE: Virgil
As hard as is it to believe, there was a time when Virgil was genuinely over as a performer. Virgil wasn’t quite as big as he seems to believe he was, but the guy really attracted an audience when he started to turn against Ted DiBiase. WWE was right to try to push him as a singles wrestler at that time. Unfortunately, Virgil was just in no position to take advantage of that opportunity. It turned out that Virgil was very good at being a lackey, but he was absolutely incapable of being anything close to a legitimate singles wrestler.
4 WWE: Justin Gabriel
There were quite a few members of the early Nexus faction that many people thought were destined for better things. However, Justin Gabriel remains one of the biggest singles busts of that group. Yes, he won the FCW Championship, yes, he got quite a few singles opportunities, and yes, he put on some good matches. However, it wasn’t long before Gabriel was thrust back into the tag team scene. The problem with Gabriel as a singles star is that he ultimately could only put on a pretty good match. He wasn’t a great in-ring leader, he had no personality, and he never developed a real character.
3 WWE: Big E
We’re sure this one is going to cut deep, but history can only lie so much. When Big E was getting ready to join the main roster, many fans felt he was on a quick path to stardom.
When Big E broke free of Dolph Ziggler and AJ Lee, many felt he was on a quick path to stardom.
However, stardom as a singles wrestler never really came for Big E. As Intercontinental Champion, he tried - and struggled - to present himself as a true main event threat. Granted, he’s better off showcasing the personality we’ve seen from him during his time in The New Day, but we doubt that he’ll ever really be a singles star.
2 WWE: Curtis Axel
Curtis Axel had it all. As the son of Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, he was wrestling royalty. As an up-and-coming performer, Axel seemed to have enough talent to take advantage of the opportunity that he was almost certainly going to be given. Actually, Axel’s biggest problem has never been that he’s an bad performer. Axel’s biggest problem is that nobody cares about him. He’s as generic as a competent professional wrestler can possibly be. Nobody bought into his reign as an Intercontinental Champion, and nobody bought into the idea that he was destined for the main event.
1 WWE: Harper
We get that this hurts. We get that most fans probably don’t want to hear this. However, the truth remains that Luke Harper didn’t make it as a singles star in WWE. Some of that was due to the way he was booked (WWE waited so long to give him even a minor push) but Luke Harper was given the chance to distinguish himself as a singles star. What held him back? Well, it wasn’t his in-ring talents, it wasn’t his promo skills, it wasn’t his character, and it wasn’t his looks. No, sometimes guys just aren’t destined to be singles stars.