The history of WWE and WCW are the most important for the wrestling industry. Both promotions dominated the 90s leading to record-breaking figures when it comes to ratings, buy rates and overall success. Chances are most people reading this article are wrestling fans due to WWE and/or WCW. Most of the wrestlers of the era to find great success are remembered fondly for their greatness. Ric Flair, Sting and Booker T become legends after thriving in the main event scene for WCW. The WWE icons like Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and The Rock are deemed worthy of the fictious Mount Rushmore of wrestling for being top names in the longest lasting company. While these stories stand out for positive success, there are some wrestlers that just didn’t live up to expectations.
We will look at wresters that were supposed to be bigger names for each promotion, but they could never fulfill that destiny. These wrestlers were given opportunities that all their peers always dreamed of getting. Someone important each company believed these specific wrestlers could have made them a lot of money while earning main event paychecks in general. History showed that they could not reach that level and did poorly when given an opportunity to prove their worth. Many of these performers were talented. Unfortunately, not everyone is meant to thrive in the biggest roles. Find out which wrestlers failed to get to the top level in the industry. These are ten wrestlers from WWE and ten from WCW that were supposed to be main eventers but couldn’t handle the pressure of the role.
20 WWE: Ryback
Vince McMahon loved Ryback from day one and wanted him repackaged following an injury ending his time in Nexus early. The Ryback character was born and he was introduced to the WWE as an unbeatable machine. Ryback had an undefeated streak that culminated in getting a WWE Championship match against CM Punk.
Once the undefeated streak ended, things fell apart for Ryback as he had to prove he belonged at the top of the card without the luster carrying him. Horrible matches and feuds against the top two stars John Cena and CM Punk proved he couldn’t handle the pressure of improving to become a top guy.
19 WCW: David Flair
WCW made a shocking decision when signing Ric Flair’s son David Flair to a large contract. David received some light experience from training at WCW’s Power Plant system, but he never wrestled before landing this deal. WCW management wanted David to become a main event player as they introduced him in a storyline with big names like his dad Ric, Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash.
The run of David was a colossal failure that made promoters wary about instantly pushing second-generation wrestlers right away. David was viewed as a joke as he failed to become a competent wrestler. Many people to work with him at the Power Plant believed he had potential, but David couldn’t live up to the pressure of following his dad’s legacy.
18 WWE: Mr. Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy once had a chance to join the likes of John Cena and Randy Orton in the top tier of WWE’s main event picture. His inability to work well with them along with various injuries and other forms of bad luck destroyed his WWE career.
The company introduced him with huge wins over the likes of Eddie Guerrero, Booker T and The Undertaker in his first year on television. Kennedy’s microphone skills were his strong suit. WWE tried to push him with various big storylines. Injuries or suspensions ended them all early. Kennedy then got heat for issues with Orton and Cena leading to his firing which proved he couldn’t handle the pressure of backstage politics.
17 WCW: The Butcher
Hulk Hogan joining WCW in 1994 created a huge change in the wrestling industry. It was the first time WCW felt they had a realistic chance to compete with WWE on the national level. This didn’t work out right away as fans were getting sick of Hogan’s character and his less talented friends getting pushes.
Hogan’s best friend Ed Leslie played a heel character known as The Butcher. Both guys somehow convinced WCW to give The Butcher a massive push as the heel facing Hogan in the main event of Starrcade 1994. It was meant to set up a main event future for Leslie, but he couldn’t step up and flopped with the biggest opportunity of his career.
16 WWE: Sin Cara
Sin Cara was one of the first major talent acquisitions inspired by Triple H. WWE needed another luchador star with Rey Mysterio being towards the end of his run as a top name in the company. Triple H signed Mexican wrestling legend Mistico to play the new masked wrestler of Sin Cara.
A press conference and months of vignettes set the tone for a huge debut. Sin Cara unfortunately struggled right away with botches frequently occurring in his matches. Fans started to view him negatively and he responded by more mistakes. The character lost any chance of becoming a main eventer and it has since seen Mistico get fired and replaced by Hunico to play the secondary wrestler today.
15 WCW: Jeff Jarrett
Vince Russo going to WCW led to a lot of negative changes coming to the company. While they were already trending downwards, Russo’s decision making put WCW in a spot too terrible to ever recover from. One of his worst moves was getting Jeff Jarrett to jump ship from WWE with the promise of a huge push.
Jarrett jumped back and forth between both promotions in the 90s with everyone viewing him as a solid mid-carder. Russo loved him enough to make him the top heel in WCW as the WCW Champion. It was a huge failure as fans just didn’t view Jarrett as being on the level of prior world champs like Hulk Hogan, Goldberg and Sting. Jarrett failing as a top guy was part of the reason WCW fell to new lows.
14 WWE: Lex Luger
The career of Lex Luger is very interesting when looking back at how he did in WWE and WCW. Most wrestlers claimed being a top guy in WWE carried a lot more pressure than WCW due to Vince McMahon having higher expectations and a bigger vision for his company.
Luger thrived in WCW in both the early 90s and late 90s as a top star. However, WWE wanted him to become the new face of their company in 1994 replacing Hulk Hogan and he failed immensely. Luger didn’t do well with the pressure on him leading to his stock falling. WWE sent him back down to the mid-card until he returned to WCW.
13 WCW: Glacier
Eric Bischoff had a lot of great ideas that helped WCW reach new heights to start the Monday Night Wars. Unfortunately, not all his ideas would be success stories, and they failed more often than not. One especially stupid concept came when creating the Glacier character.
Bischoff has a karate background and loved the Mortal Kombat video game franchise. Glacier was the first of his hopeful many characters that would be inspired from the game. A lot of money, time and hype was put into Glacier with the end game being a main event push. Aside from the poor gimmick, the performer wasn’t ready for such a spot, and Glacier would be an undercard guy.
12 WWE: Carlito
WWE loved the potential of Carlito as a charismatic and athletic guy entering the company. Not only did Carlito have the tools needed to succeed, but he grew up in the business as the son of now WWE Hall of Famer Carlos Colon. The fact that Carlito defeated John Cena for the United States Championship on his first night on the main roster showed you how much WWE believed in him.
Carlito would see the perception of him change when he failed to live up to the expectations. Many important people in the company felt he lacked the motivation and hunger to succeed. A reputation of being lazy destroyed Carlito’s future chances as his career fell apart.
11 WCW: Buff Bagwell
The story of Buff Bagwell’s WCW was that he was always viewed as the next big star. Bagwell joined the company in the early 90s with many people in management expecting him to become a future world champion following enough years of experience.
This remain the same towards the end of the 90s when Bagwell was considered someone next in line when the company wanted new talent to rise. Buff just didn’t have the skills or the ability to handle the pressure of being a top-level performer. The ego of Bagwell made him believe he deserved a top role, but it was obvious he didn’t deserve the main event spotlight.
10 WWE: Davey Boy Smith
Davey Boy Smith was among the top in-ring performers of the 90s and a valued member of the Hart Foundation faction. Many fans wonder why WWE didn’t push him harder or make him the world champion, but the company did have such hopes for him.
Bret Hart has revealed in interviews that there were plans for Smith to become a fixture in the main event scene. He received big match opportunities against Shawn Michaels and Bret each usually delivering good work. The problem was that he was a mess behind the scenes. Smith had various drug addictions and often had low points backstage that saw him doing poorly when trying to handle the pressures of a WWE top star.
9 WCW: The Giant
Most fans know The Giant as Big Show for his time in WWE. It makes sense given he has spent almost two decades in WWE becoming the performer we’ll remember him for. However, he was once the biggest heel in WCW for a short time.
Hulk Hogan met him at a gym and talked him into signing with WCW due to his size and athletic ability. The Giant would become WCW Champion two matches into his career during a feud with Hogan. From his own admittance, Big Show revealed he couldn’t handle the pressure in WCW and ended up falling into bad habits of being manipulated by his peers. The move to WWE saved his career.
8 WWE: Ahmed Johnson
The look of Ahmed Johnson made him a valuable commodity to WWE when joining the promotion. Vince McMahon wanted Johnson to join Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart and Diesel as the faces of the new generation the company was built around. Ahmed even teamed with Michaels on a few occasions to set the tone.
Both in-ring work and promo skills were huge weaknesses for Johnson making him a difficult person to spotlight effectively. While he did have some momentum as the Intercontinental Champion, Johnson did not improve and fell out of favor quickly. Ahmed could have been a future main event star but is barely remembered today.
7 WCW: Mike Awesome
WCW tried rebuilding in 2000 by pushing new stars and making drastic moves. One shocking talent addition saw then ECW Champion Mike Awesome appear on WCW television attacking Kevin Nash before losing the title. Awesome was planning to drop the ECW title in the trash leading to a huge push as Eric Bischoff loved him.
However, Paul Heyman stepped in with the threat of a lawsuit that made Awesome return for one show to drop the title. This slowed down the momentum of Awesome, and WCW appeared to quit on the idea of him being a top star because of it. Awesome would spend the rest of his WCW career playing horrible gimmicks.
6 WWE: Vader
Vader was a successful WCW main eventer in the early 90s. The role of a monster heel allowed him to have great matches against the likes of Sting and Ric Flair. Vince McMahon’s love of the monster heel saw many expecting Vader to become a future WWE Champion when joining the company.
The only time Vader would come close to that is facing Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship in the main event of Summerslam 1996. A couple of mistakes in the match led to McMahon completely turning on Vader. The belief is that Vader made mistakes in the ring and backstage due to the pressure, and he would never get another chance to get back to the main event level.
5 WCW: Tank Abbott
The UFC is now a major brand that leads to exciting crossovers when someone like Ronda Rousey or Matt Riddle becomes a professional wrestler. This wasn’t always the case as most people had no idea what MMA even was back in the 90s.
WCW believed they could find talent there when signing Tank Abbott to a huge contract. The former UFC fighter was quite intimidating, and WCW signed him with the intention of having him become the top rival for Goldberg in the main event picture. Abbott couldn’t handle the position as a top heel and lost momentum. WCW gave up on Abbott to the point where he would dance with 3 Count every week.
4 WWE: Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley returning to WWE in 2018 has been a bit disappointing. Aside from his short feud with Roman Reigns, nothing Lashley has done is helping him stand out as a top star. It was the same story when receiving an even bigger push back in 2007.
The look and background of Lashley made him a top commodity. Vince McMahon wanted Lashley to reach the level of John Cena and Batista as the three faces of the company. Lashley clearly could not handle the pressure of being a top star and lost relevance. Once things started to trend downwards, Lashley wanted out of the company to try an MMA career.
3 WCW: Paul Roma
Paul Roma is in the discussion for the biggest bust in WCW history. The look of Roma impressed WCW management following a run as a mid-card talent for WWE primarily in the tag team division. WCW signed Roma to a contract with the intent of eventually making him a main event star.
Roma had a great introduction to the company by becoming part of the legendary Four Horsemen faction. The pressure of performing at such a level wasn’t something Roma could handle, and he appeared overmatched. Ric Flair and Arn Anderson have stated he was the worst member to ever be in the faction. Once that opportunity was ruined, Roma never rebounded to become a relevant wrestler.
2 WWE: Ted DiBiase Jr.
Not many people would have predicted Cody Rhodes would be the bigger star of the two younger members of Legacy today when polling them a decade ago. WWE clearly viewed Ted DiBiase Jr. as the more important wrestler to their future.
The end of Legacy featured DiBiase being spotlighted as a rival to Randy Orton while Rhodes was just there. DiBiase received a singles push similar to his dad’s character and rumors circulated that WWE even considered having him end The Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak. The pressure proved to be too much for DiBiase as he flopped on his own and would end up out of the company within a few years.
1 WCW: The Shockmaster
The Shockmaster is a wrestling legend for all the wrong reasons. Veteran Fred Ottman was known for playing the characters of Typhoon and Tugboat in WWE. WCW hired him with the intention of giving him a huge push as The Shockmaster.
Everyone remembers the iconic moment of him tripping and falling in humiliating fashion in his debut. However, a forgotten fact is that he was supposed to team with top faces Sting, Davey Boy Smith and Dustin Rhodes in War Games. This was meant to elevate The Shockmaster into a top role. It instead turned him into a joke and became the only moment people talk about regarding his career.