Whether a popular Indie wrestler wants to admit to it or not, the WWE is still the biggest platform for the top professional wrestlers in the world today to perform on. And with names like Brock Lesnar and most recently Ronda Rousey joining the fold, the company continues to garner mainstream attention. With that being said, the WWE is far from being a 'Perfect 10' working environment for all of its Superstars, and quite often, certain talents are better off either on the Indies where they have more creative freedom and control, or in a completely different field such as acting.
Names such as Cody Rhodes come to mind when you think of former (misused) WWE wrestlers who are succeeding outside the company on the Indies, and names such as The Rock and Dave Bautista come to mind as former WWE wrestlers that are succeeding in Hollywood. However, as much as we love a good 'success story' when it comes to a disgruntled ex-WWE star, that's not always the case unfortunately. It's great to have confidence in your ability and to believe you'll succeed wherever you go, but sometimes things simply don't work out in the favour of wrestlers who think they don't need the WWE to be successful. Today, we'll be looking at 15 wrestlers who thought they could make it outside WWE, but failed miserably.
15 Scott Steiner
If you ever feel the need to listen to an ex-WWE star bash the company, then look absolutely no further than 'Big Poppa Pump' Scott Steiner who's made crapping on the WWE a hobby and strong passion of his. Though Scott Steiner rose to fame in the later years of WCW, he still had a run in the WWE during the early 2000's era, and while he never captured the World Championship, the WWE offered a large platform for Steiner to continue wrestling.
However, due to Scott being a hot-headed arrogant guy who's cardio is beyond terrible, his career in the WWE didn't last very long. Being the egotistical kind of guy Steiner was, Scott truly believed he'd succeed and make it elsewhere. Despite wrestling in TNA Impact Wrestling, he's truly failed miserably in his attempts to remain a big name in the industry.
14 Brandi Rhodes
Unlike her husband Cody, Brandi Rhodes has unfortunately failed to make it outside the WWE as an in-ring wrestler. During her stay in WWE Brandi felt as though she was being held back and had a lack of opportunities, but since departing the company, Rhodes has done terribly as a wrestler. Despite receiving multiple opportunities to become a post-WWE success story, Brandi hasn't made any impact on the Indies.
The main aspect Brandi's lacking right now is in-ring talent, as she's far below most Indie women's wrestlers in that department. Brandi Rhodes has a great look, and if she trains a bit more and improves some, there's always that chance she'll eventually succeed outside the WWE, but until that time, she's failed miserably. Thankfully, Brandi's married to one of the most successful wrestlers in the world today, Cody Rhodes.
13 Alberto Del Rio AKA Alberto El Patron
I think it's clear that Alberto El Patron has a bit of an ego, and his lack of a main event push during his last WWE run was the root cause of why he asked for his release from the company - pretty ungrateful for his reported million dollar/year contract. It's not as if Del Rio was being booked like a jobber, as he won the United States Championship from John Cena in his return match. However, Alberto thought he could make it big outside WWE, and he's tried his best to do so the past couple years.
Yes, Del Rio's won the GFW Global Championship since leaving WWE, but he hasn't been a very popular wrestler on the Indies despite making regular appearances. One aspect hindering Alberto's Indie run is his constant outbursts that are covered in many major media outlets - not good for his career at all.
12 Adam Rose
Adam Rose was definitely a wrestler WWE held back, as his Leo Kruger gimmick could've worked well in the company. Instead, the WWE went the route with the party goer Adam Rose who had a very low ceiling regardless of his booking. After a forgettable run in WWE that ended with Rose being suspended indefinitely for his domestic violence arrest, Rose has failed miserably in his attempts to make it outside the WWE.
Like many fans, Rose felt as though he'd make it on the Indies following his WWE release, but unfortunately for Adam, that hasn't happened. Adam has tried a couple gimmicks over the last couple years in an attempt to reinvigorate his dying career, but none have caught on. Now a days, you'll often find Adam Rose wrestling in what some of us like to call "bingo halls".
11 Damien Sandow
Poor Damien Sandow. The man behind the insanely popular 'Mizdow' character in WWE (Aaron Haddad) has unfortunately done terrible post-WWE. Sandow was one of the Superstars who was released during the company's annual 'spring cleaning' back in 2016, and though I'm certain Damien fully believed he could make it outside WWE considering he was a recognizable star, he's failed miserably in his attempts.
Following his firing from WWE, Sandow tried his luck in TNA, but his run was short-lived and amounted to absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. In April of last year, Sandow departed from Impact Wrestling after a forgettable run and claimed he'd be taking a break from the wrestling business to focus on getting an acting career off the ground. I wish Damien Sandow luck in his Hollywood aspirations, but until he's proven otherwise, he's been a complete flop outside the WWE.
10 Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger has spread himself too thin since his WWE release, and he could be referred as being a 'jack of all trades', but not a master of any of them. Swagger's currently pursuing an MMA career in Bellator as we speak all while performing weekly on the Indies. Considering a good portion of Jack's time is being spent training for his upcoming MMA debut, his wrestling career has suffered unfortunately.
Swagger's only been performing for lower level Indie events, and he's failed miserably up to this point to 'make it' outside the WWE. However, unlike many of the other performers on this list, Jack Swagger real-name Jake Hager has a great opportunity to make it big if things pan out MMA-wise. Swagger has a background in wrestling, and considering legitimate wrestling's one of the most useful backgrounds for MMA, Jack has a good chance of succeeding.
9 Austin Aries
I believe the main problem with Austin Aries is the fact that Aries feels as though he's a bigger deal than he actually is. Austin's WWE career ended rather uneventfully, and Austin Aries hasn't taken the Indie wrestling scene by storm since his release. In the WWE's Cruiserweight Division, Austin had the potential to be a star, but his ego unfortunately got in the way of things panning out the way many fans imagined it would.
Aries felt as though 205 Live was beneath him, and although it may have been, having a poor attitude backstage isn't the way to go about proving your point and getting WWE's management behind you. Instead, it rubbed company officials the wrong way, and Austin was quickly granted his release. Since then, Aries hasn't done much, and his ego must be damaged slightly considering he's failed miserably outside WWE.
8 Yoshi Tatsu
Despite the fact that the WWE Universe was pleasantly surprised with Shinsuke Nakamura winning the 2018 Royal Rumble match, the WWE hasn't always had a great track record of booking Japanese talents well. Yoshi Tatsu definitely comes to mind as one who was booked horrendously. Tatsu showed potential early on during his ECW days, but it wasn't long at all before the WWE went the typical route of booking a talented foreign wrestler into a comedy act.
Yoshi would end up getting released in 2014, and though he aspired to make it outside WWE, Tatsu's unfortunately failed pretty miserably in his attempts to do so. He has tried his luck in NJPW and most recently AJPW, but he's been used as nothing more than a secondary talent. Yoshi Tatsu may have been booked terribly in WWE, but his pay must've been better than what he's earning today.
7 Chris Masters
Chris Masters messed up one too many times in WWE, with multiple Wellness Policy violations. Masters may not have been a great in-ring talent, but he would've became a much bigger star had he stayed away from the steroids or 'the juice'. Since Masters' release from WWE in 2011, he's been floundering on the Indies and in Impact Wrestling under the ring name 'Chris Adonis'.
Not only has Chris lost most of his impressive physique that had made him stand out from the rest of the pack early on in his career, but he's also lost pretty well all of his momentum on the Indies, and he continues to wrestle at small venues. With how low the WWE placed Masters on the card towards the end of his career, I'm sure Chris though he'd make it outside the company without the slightest problem - that hasn't been the case though.
6 Bull Dempsey
Though Bull Dempsey never made it up to the WWE's main roster, he still was a regular fixture on NXT television up until his release from the company in February 2016. Perhaps Bull never screamed 'Superstar', but he still could've been utilized as a talented mid-card big man. However upon his release, Bull Dempsey was adamant that he'd succeed elsewhere, but up to this point, he's completely failed to do so.
Dempsey's made no major impact on the Indies yet, and he's been stuck performing at smaller Indie venues in from of just dozens of wrestling fans - quite dismal for a former NXT Superstar. Bull's appeared sporadically in ROH, but he's been featured as nothing more than a sideshow attraction. However, Bull Dempsey's still quite young at just 30 years old, so he still has the opportunity to find his way on the Indies.
5 Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam may be one of the most popular wrestlers in WWE history, but when he's outside the company, he fails to stay relevant in the business. For starters, RVD isn't even wrestling on a full-time basis on the Indies thus lowering his chances of making it, and considering many of these sporadic Indie matches aren't even that great, he's widely regarded as a post-WWE flop.
Perhaps it's because Rob Van Dam's well past his peak so he feels that he doesn't need to succeed elsewhere (he already has enough 'fat' to live off of), but being an Indie 'trainwreck' doesn't do anything positive for his legacy as one of the very best of all time. Maybe the 'herb' RVD enjoys smoking regularly has affected his once great work ethic, as he's one of those guys who though he'd make it outside WWE, but has failed exponentially.
4 Wade Barrett
Without question, Wade Barrett's one of the most under-utilized wrestlers in recent WWE history. The former 5-time Intercontinental Champion should have been a main event scene fixture, as he had 'all the tools' as some fans like to say. Wade opted out of re-signing with the company in 2015.
Following his departure from WWE, Barrett stated he'd be taking a bit of a hiatus from wrestling to pursue an acting career, and though he left on good terms with the company, it's clear he felt he could make it outside the WWE - perhaps in Hollywood. However, things haven't quite worked out for Wade Barrett like he had originally planned, as he's only been featured in a couple of smaller acting gigs. As far as wrestling, Wade currently acts as WCPW's GM, which is far from being a position worthy of leaving the biggest company in pro wrestling.
Ryback is definitely one opinionated guy! The Big Guy has been very outspoken since his WWE release in mid 2016, and though he's attempting to 'make it' outside the WWE, he's failed to do so up to this point (wrestling wise). One success Ryback's had since his WWE departure is starting up his own supplement line 'Feed Me More Nutrition' which seems to be doing alright.
Ryback wrestles fairly often at smaller Indie venues, and though he claims to be pulling in around 5,000 dollars from each of his appearances, he's not one of the top Indie stars in any way. It's clear Ryback's not too concerned about being a huge success on the Indies, as he's more focused on his supplement line.
The main reason why the talented Carlito never became a true WWE Superstar was due to his terrible work ethic. Carlito had been given countless opportunities to make a name for himself in WWE, and though he did to some extent, his momentum fizzled out pretty quickly and he faded away from the spotlight following his release from the company in 2010 (he was released for a violation of the Wellness Policy and because Colon refused to go to rehab for his painkiller addiction).
I'm sure Carlito had aspirations to 'show up' WWE by becoming a success story outside the big league, but he has unfortunately failed miserably to do so. Carlito's been working the Independent scene since 2010, and he's made no impact whatsoever- he's instead lived off the bit of fame he garnered during his WWE run. It's quite disappointing that he's squandered many of his opportunities.
1 CM Punk
Perhaps some of you guessed that the insanely popular former WWE Superstar CM Punk would be included on this list of wrestlers who thought they could make it outside WWE but failed miserably, and for those of you who guessed correctly, here he is! Once upon a time, CM Punk was one of the biggest stars in Sports Entertainment, but his career in the squared circle ended much sooner than most fans had anticipated.
Considering CM Punk was such a big star, there's no denying Punk thought he'd have no trouble making it big outside the company he hates with a passion. However, though CM Punk has stayed somewhat relevant in the grand scheme things, his UFC 'career' has been a complete joke, and most fan believe he's better off in the company he detests (or for another promotion if he's that spiteful).