Wrestlers’ careers often follow a straightforward direction. But they also evolve and develop with time, maturity, and opportunity. In the case of the ten wrestlers discussed in this article, they at one time had the opportunity to compete in the number one promotion in the world, the WWE. As fans all over the world are aware, the WWE offers the largest single platform of any major promotion, and presents a variety of personalities and characters that fans could possibly relate to. But in a number of instances, characters didn’t connect, and there could be any number of reasons why that is. But these ten particular wrestlers didn’t need the WWE to achieve success. They have been able to blaze a trail all their own. A trail that has seen them featured prominently and capture a number of different championships. Clearly, they could have achieved a high degree of success in WWE if circumstances didn’t stand in their way.
In these instances, even though the ten performers are so talented, their time in the promotion didn’t work out, for one reason or another. While some had moderate success, what they are capable of doing wasn’t highlighted enough, and not consistently. They all have skill and all carry with them a certain quality that stands out. So while, sadly, they aren’t there now, they have managed to parlay what didn’t happen in the WWE into something huge that happened in other promotions. For some, other promising promotions provided a springboard to succeed, while others achieved success competing actively on the independent circuit. Allow us to dive into 10 wrestlers the WWE didn’t fully capitalize on.
Genetics aren’t always a guaranteed path to success in professional wrestling. In the case of former WWE wrestler Camacho, he wasn’t given a chance. Born Tevita Fifita, he is the son of former WWE wrestler Haku. He initially signed a developmental contract with the WWE and was assigned to its developmental territory FCW as “Tonga”, a name familiar to his family. But after joining the Washington’s Secret Service stable, his character underwent a change as he was rebranded as Donny Marlow.
As Marlow, he met with some success, capturing the FCW tag team championship. The promotion then rebranded him again as an enforcer for Hunico. He was now known as Camacho. While he occasionally appeared on Raw, Camacho’s time was mostly spent in NXT. At one point, with Hunico out injured, Camacho competed as a singles wrestler on NXT; after a $5,000 bounty was promised to anyone who could put Big E Langston “on the shelf.” Camacho attempted to claim the bounty in late 2012 so that he could “get Hunico out of Mexico,” but he was destroyed by Langston.
The on-again, off-again tag team between Hunico and Camacho were on again when they started a feud against The Ascension, defeating them in a non-title match, and then in a championship match. The team split up when the promotion came up with a different role for Hunico, as the new Sin Cara. Camacho started to wrestle solo on NXT and scored a rare victory. His last feud in WWE was with Adam Rose on NXT, which began when he attacked one of Rose’s followers after a match, and ended at NXT TakeOver when Camacho lost to Rose.
In June 2014, Camacho was released from his contract. His time was spent mostly toiling in developmental, and not really being given a meaningful opportunity. After initial uncertainty as to what his role was going to be, it didn’t unfold like it should have. He now competes for TNA under the name Mica. He has clearly stated what his origins are, and they are proudly on display as he competes as part of the stable The Rising.
9. Brodus Clay/Tyrus
After signing a contract with the WWE in 2006, Clay was sent to Deep South Wrestling. He initially appeared as a gangster/thug character named G-Rilla. He was eventually moved to FCW, continuing to use the G-Rilla name, and competed for their Heavyweight championship. However, as soon as things began progressing for the future Brodus Clay, it ended as he was released from his contract.
After almost two years, he was re-signed and aligned with The Usos and Tamina Snuka. It was during this time when he was renamed Brodus Clay, which was an allusion to the real name of Snoop Dogg, for whom he had served as bodyguard at one time. Clay was used in various roles throughout 2010 and 2011. He joined NXT aligned with Alberto Del Rio, choosing Del Rio as his mentor. He eventually played the role of Del Rio’s bodyguard and remained with him until the spring of 2011.
During this time he also filmed a WWE movie, and it appeared as though he was going to be promoted to the main roster, as he competed on several house shows, though not television. His promotion was continuously delayed however, into January of 2012. Eventually, he returned as The Funkasaurus, which was a fun-loving and charismatic character that WWE hoped would resonate with kids and young families. After a year of dancing around and calling his Mamma, Clay formed an alliance with Tensai. While it helped the tag team division, it didn’t appear to help elevate Clay, as the gimmick’s shelf life had begun to run its course. After the Tons of Funk team disbanded, Clay returned to singles competition with a new-found attitude. He eventually returned to competing on NXT and defeated Xavier Woods, with whom he had a small feud on the main roster.
On June 12th, 2014, Clay was released by WWE. As good as he was at playing an intimidating and fierce monster, that wasn’t what the company wanted to build, even though it had more potential than all the spectacle of the Funkasaraus persona. As part of TNA, and now known as Tyrus, a new-found sense of enthusiasm is apparent for him.
8. Luke Gallows/Doc Gallows
In April of 2005, even though he wasn’t one of the final ten contestants on the $1 million Tough Enough, Gallows was signed to a contract by the WWE and was assigned to Deep South Wrestling, the WWE’s developmental territory. The WWE clearly saw enough in him to keep him around. He initially appeared on Raw as a fake Kane. In the process he attacked the real Kane and would repeatedly attack him during or after his matches. This culminated in a match at the Vengeance pay per view, with Gallows picking up the win. However, the next day the storyline was cut short as he was unmasked and thrown out of the arena.
Gallows returned to DSW where he adopted a new gimmick. In the summer of 2007, he debuted on the main roster alongside former developmental talent Ray Gordy. They were repackaged as Jesse and Festus. Gordy was Jesse while Gallows was Festus. He portrayed a character that had special needs and was normally unresponsive. Despite his tame character, his partner continued to claim he was emotionally driven. Sure enough, a transformation came over him when the bell rang and he would charge at his opponents. The team was eventually split in 2009 due to the brand split and a subsequent hiatus followed.
Upon returning he was renamed Luke Gallows, a slimmed down version of the Festus character, with a shaved head, facial hair and focused demeanor. He accompanied CM Punk, and they acknowledged that he used to be Festus, but had found a new sense of meaning as part of the Straight Edge Society. During his year-long run as Punk’s follower, Gallows was used regularly. However, in November 2010, he was released, ending his time with the company.
Retaining the last name Gallows, he took the character and ran with it during his time with TNA, and now he is among the most popular wrestlers in Japan and on the independent circuit as part of The Bullet Club.
7. Frankie Kazarian
Kazarian’s career has seen him compete for a number of promotions, most notably TNA and ROH. He is a two-time former World Champion, having won the PWG World Championship; in fact, he was the inaugural PWG World Champion. He is also a five-time TNA X Division Champion and a two-time TNA World Tag Team Champion. However, in 2005, Kazarian left TNA and signed with the WWE.
Upon his signing, Kazarian was assigned to OVW, the promotion’s primary developmental affiliate at the time. He made his WWE television debut on an episode of Velocity during the summer of 2005. He competed under his real name, with the nickname “The Future” attached to it. During the match he was successful, defeating Nunzio of the FBI. Throughout the summer of that year he was undefeated.
During this time, he captured wins against other notable WWE wrestlers, such as Scotty 2 Hotty and Funaki. In fact he also defeated former ROH wrestler and former WWE tag team champion Paul London. However, as quickly as his success began, it was over.
In August 2005, Kazarian announced on his personal website that he had left WWE. He later revealed that he had asked for his release after realizing that the company had no plans to revamp its cruiserweight division. Kazarian is currently one half of the ROH tag team champions. He showed that his success would not be dictated by someone else, and that he would succeed even if the WWE was not using him in a manner that allowed him to achieve.
6. Dos/Christopher Daniels
Daniels’ recognition throughout wrestling isn’t just based on what he has achieved in ROH and TNA. The Fallen Angel has actively competed all over the world and excelled as both a singles and tag team wrestler. He has won 16 total championships between TNA, ROH, and New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), including being an 11-time World Tag Team Champion, with six reigns as NWA World Tag Team Champion, two reigns as TNA World Tag Team Champion, and three reigns as ROH World Tag Team Champion. There was a time, however, when Daniels was still developing and becoming a part of the wrestling industry that his path crossed with WWE.
In 1998, Daniels signed a developmental deal with the World Wrestling Federation and was trained by former legendary wrestler Dory Funk, Jr. at his Funkin’ Dojo. He made his WWF debut as a jobber on January 19th, 1998, losing a dark match to another developmental wrestler by the name of Mick Tierney, prior to a taping of WWF Shotgun Saturday Night. Daniels competed in the late 1990s and early 2000s on the WWE’s secondary programs like WWF Sunday Night Heat along with Shotgun. In 2000, Daniels put on a mask as Dos and teamed with Uno as Los Conquistadores, characters in The Hardy Boyz’ feud with Edge and Christian. He appeared numerous times as part of WWE Jakked through the spring of 2001.
Daniels’ ability inside and out of the ring throughout his career would have unquestionably been an asset in the WWE.
5. The American Pitbulls/The Wolves
Eddie Edwards and Davey Richards are world class athletes. They are known the world over and are among the greatest teams of the new millennium. They have captured the Ring of Honor tag team championships on a few occasions. However, if you were to try to locate their time in the WWE, you would be hard pressed to find it; blink and you missed it. They had one recorded tryout match against The Ascension, and were completely destroyed. The formidable duo were booked to make the already dominant tandem of Konnor and Viktor appear unstoppable. They were booked as a duplicate of a successful tag team from the 1980s, The British Bulldogs. They were even renamed The American Pitbulls.
The parallels between the two teams, at least in WWE’s mind, became even more apparent, as Davey Richards was given the on-screen last name of Billington. Billington is the real last name of Tommy Billington, who competed as The Dynamite Kid, one half of The British Bulldogs. Fans could make other parallels, as the physical resemblance, in stature and build, between Dynamite Kid and Davey Richards is remarkable. But why go to all this effort to try to create a team that’s look, skill and ability was so reminiscent of a team that was very successful for the promotion earlier?
In any event, the tandem has moved on to TNA and have captured the tag team championships on a couple of occasions, showcasing that they were another hot commodity that the WWE didn’t capitalize on.
4. Drew McIntyre/Drew Galloway
Galloway’s journey with the WWE was a long and winding road. He initially tried out for the promotion back in 2007 against current WWE wrestler Sheamus O’Shaunessy (he now only competes under the name Sheamus). Later that same year he was competing on television using the name Drew McIntyre. But as soon as he was on television he was off, and moved to the promotion’s developmental territories. While there he found success in OVW as a tag team wrestler, he was then moved to FCW and once again found success as one half of The Empire and capture the tag team championship. Galloway eventually captured the FCW Heavyweight championship.
During the end of the summer in 2009, McIntyre returned to the main roster on Smackdown, with The Chosen One nickname attached to his character. In fact, he was hyped by Vince McMahon as a “future world champion,” very reminiscent of how Seth Rollins has been booked recently. It was during this time that McIntrye captured the Intercontinental title. However, things changed for McIntyre, and his push was halted. As part of the storyline, after losing to Matt Hardy on Smackdown, then General Manager Teddy Long informed McIntyre that his work visa had expired and that he would be deported back to Scotland immediately. This storyline had a basis in reality since Galloway’s visa had indeed expired and as a result he was taken off television.
After his return, it wasn’t the same for McIntyre. Between 2012 and 2014, McIntyre’s career was stuck in creative limbo. As part of the 3MB faction, he lost to Hornswoggle and jobbed to plenty of wrestlers that are below his skill set and overall ability. He is now part of the TNA roster and will doubtless use this opportunity to show how good he really is.
3. Justin Gabriel/PJ Black
In 2008, Gabriel signed a three-year developmental deal with the WWE. He was the first South African person to do so. He was assigned to FCW, WWE’s developmental territory, where he made his debut under his real name in February, in a loss to fellow NXT wrestler Kawal (who competes around the world as Low-Ki). He captured the FCW championship while he was there. In February 2010, he changed his ring name to Justin Gabriel. After a near six-month reign, Gabriel lost the championship. He competed on the first season of NXT.
In June 2010 on an episode of Raw, Gabriel and the other season one NXT rookies debuted, turning villainous by interfering in the main event match between John Cena and CM Punk. They attacked both competitors, the announcing team, the ring announcer and the surrounding equipment. During this time, as part of the Nexus faction, Gabriel’s character had direction; he and stablemate Health Slater captured the tag team championship.
Eventually, the Nexus was divided and Gabriel joined Wade Barrett as part of The Corre. However there was little depth to the new faction, and once again Gabriel’s direction changed. Over the span of two years between 2011 and 2013, Gabriel was part of different titles pursuits without any direction. After these title pursuits, Gabriel’s status within the promotion went even lower. In mid-2014, Gabriel began competing more on NXT, with the intention to help solidify the brand and elevate the talent. Even there, Gabriel lost all of his televised singles matches, including to Adrian Neville, Tyler Breeze and Hideo Itami.
The Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported on January 24th, 2015 that Gabriel had quit WWE, one day before the 2015 Royal Rumble, in which he was scheduled to compete. WWE confirmed his release the following day. He now competes under the name PJ Black and is actively making a name for himself on the independent circuit. He wouldn’t allow the promotion to dictate his future and deserves kudos for taking back his career and deciding where it will go.
2. Kassius Ohno/Chris Hero
His wrestling accomplishments are long and illustrious. The argument put forth to justify his release from WWE was that his body frame and shape were not what they were looking for, But Hero’s ability stands apart, and those that have seen him compete can appreciate what he does in the ring. He is well traveled, and while the WWE style doesn’t always lend itself to everyone, Hero’s ability to adapt to various styles, with various competitors, shows that he would have been a true asset in the promotion.
While returning to the WWE’s NXT brand remains possible, as it stands his true talent wasn’t capitalized on, which is a shame. Is there a chance of Hero returning? With the influx of talent from promotions such as Ring of Honor and TNA, having Hero return is very much a possibility. With that said, Hero’s departure from NXT was in November 2013, so two years have passed since he left the promotion without even the hint of a possibility that he may return.
1. Derrick Bateman/Ethan Carter III
Ethan Carter III has been given the opportunity to thrive today and has made the most of it. Carter’s evolution, however, didn’t come overnight. It came with hard work, dedication to his craft, and a new promotion. Born Michael Hutter, Carter first appeared in the WWE in 2006, losing a match at a television taping. At this time, he went under the name Derrick Bateman, a scientist and part of the Bateman Institute. He then appeared as one of two police officers protecting Shane McMahon, and who were prepared to arrest Shawn Michaels and Triple H. It is also notable that a current WWE Superstar played the role of the other officer. Cesaro was equally prepared to detain Degeneration X at the time.
Bateman was in the WWE developmental system between 2007 and 2013. Whether it was OVW, FCW or NXT, Bateman was given time to develop. In fact, he went under his real name at this time. His time was met with some recognition, as he captured OVW’s first Firestorm Pro Heavyweight Champion. But his name and character continued to fluctuate as he returned to the Derrick Bateman name in the winter of 2009. As FCW was slowly transitioning from a developmental system to a Tough Enough-like competition known as NXT, Bateman joined the cast of the fourth and then fifth season. Although he was developing while within the WWE system, he never had a chance to show his skill on a main stage.
On May 17th, 2013, Hutter was released from his contract. One promotion’s loss was another promotion’s gain. Carter has thrived in TNA, and uses social media to develop his persona. Carter should be commended for his dedication and persistence to improve.