It’s an unfortunate side effect of a league predetermined by storylines written behind the scenes. WWE higher ups and writers determine what direction their league will go, and which wrestlers will benefit within a given year. Sometimes they decide to push certain ideas or genres upon their audience. The Attitude Era is one prime example of this, with a sudden influx of raunchier storylines with characters to fit the mold. During these times, characters and wrestlers that don’t fit the mold of what the league is pushing seem to fall by the wayside.
We may never know the true potential of many of these wrestling casualties. Many wrestlers showed great promise, and even had the makings of champions before being discarded for various reasons. If anything, these discarded wrestlers could have at least amped up the level of entertainment.
But it’s simply how the business works. The chances of wrestling prospects hitting it big are very slim. For every upstart John Cena or Brock Lesnar there are ten others who have stumbled along the way. It doesn’t stop aspiring stars from trying though. Let’s just hope they don’t wind up on an updated version of this list. What follows are the ten wrestlers the WWE gave up on way too soon.
10. Matt Morgan
Sometimes talented performers are paired up with cheap gimmicks that don’t really land. Case in point: Matt Morgan. While Morgan could most definitely put on an entertaining show, it was his gimmick that ultimately sank his WWE aspirations. The writers behind the scenes billed him as a giant stutterer, literally. While he was physically imposing, his speech impediment proved to be a hurdle and a source of frustration.
The WWE took it even further and for some reason clashed Morgan with baby faces like John Cena, who would in turn take jabs at him for his speaking struggles. It all just didn’t quite add up. Why push a character with an impediment that’s frustrating to watch, and then set him up to be made fun of by the wrestlers who are supposedly the good guys? Ultimately, Morgan fizzled out of the league, but his recent success in the TNA might bode well for a return to the WWE.
Mordecai makes the list not because he had an extremely vast amount of WWE potential. In fact, religious based characters rarely make it in professional wrestling. After all, a religious zealot who admonishes the very fans that pay to see him wrestle doesn’t exactly sound like a huge attraction. Truth be told, Mordecai was a strange gimmick for the WWE to test out to begin with.
Still, it seemed like he was being billed as the anti-Undertaker. Everyone seemed convinced that the two would eventually clash in a wrestling match resembling heaven vs. hell. Their very costumes seemed to be direct opposites of each other. Undertaker wore all black while Mordecai’s attire was pure white. Unfortunately, we never saw this clash of good versus evil, as Mordecai faded into obscurity after a defeat at the hands of Rey Mysterio.
8. Muhammad Hassan
Hassan, a wrestling character portrayed by Mark Copani, seemed to be dealt a bad hand by fate. Sure, portraying an Arab-American in the United States, a country proven to be prejudiced against such a denomination, is already a daunting task. But in light of more recent, tragic, historical events the gimmick proved to be one the WWE simply couldn’t keep up.
Due to events like the London Bombings and of course 9/11, the league was faced with immense outside pressure to cancel the character. It’s disappointing because Hassan showed some real potential, even taking down the Undertaker at one point in time. People must realize that the WWE is entertainment, and simply having an Arab character does not mean the league is making any sort of statement about recent events. Here’s hoping we’ll eventually see a return to some diversity within professional wrestling.
7. Gunner Scott
Scott was portrayed by wrestler Brent Albright, who first began wrestling back in 1998 as a character named Vinnie Valentino. It would be over eight years before he earned his WWE debut in an episode of SmackDown! He proved that he had the desire to become a superstar, though, winning his debut against Booker T and even being praised backstage afterwards for his performance.
Unfortunately, the league did not really recognize Scott’s potential. While he wrestled Booker T, Matt Hardy and Finlay at various points during his month-long WWE span, he was sent back down to the “training” leagues in June, 2006. Later that year, he was released from his contract. Scott went on to have several stints with the Ring of Honor as well as the NWA, but never was given a second chance at WWE glory.
6. Brian Kendrick
The WWE is always in need of good villains, or “heels”, to populate the league. “The” Brian Kendrick is one wrestler we’re sure Vince McMahon looks back upon and regrets not giving a fairer shot. In essence, he was a villainous character brimming with overconfidence, and fans couldn’t wait to see him get knocked down a peg. Unfortunately, neither could the league, as he was relegated to a few jobs at RAW before being released.
It’s hard to envision why the WWE treated his character in this way. It was pretty clear to most people that The Brian Kendrick had plenty of charisma and potential. Whenever the league happens upon a character that fans love to hate, that character typically sticks around. The door may not be permanently closed, though, as Kendrick’s TNA success may give him a second chance, though he is already starting to age.
5. Ultimo Dragon
Much like how Sin Cara attracts Latino viewers, Ultimo Dragon was expected to help the WWE expand its Japanese market. At first, it seemed like the experiment would be a resounding success. Dragon’s wrestling was top notch, with a style that was as exciting as any current WWE superstar. It seemed he was destined to take on Rey Mysterio in a battle of foreign wrestlers.
Unfortunately for him, an untimely elbow injury that required surgery derailed his initial momentum. Afterwards, Dragon never recovered. He took a couple years off from wrestling before returning, but by that time it seemed the league had moved on. Dragon never quite reestablished the foothold he’d found early on in his career, and he eventually faded from the WWE’s consciousness.
Kaval’s story is especially interesting considering his profound success before joining the WWE. For reasons unknown, the league relegated him to NXT rather than bumping him up to begin some big name feuds. Everyone at the time was under the impression he could hold his own against other superstars, and the timing for a new underdog seemed absolutely prime for Kaval to take.
After dabbling with NXT, it seemed the WWE simply ran out of ideas for him. He eventually challenged for the Intercontinental title and lost. Looking back, it seems the perfect symbol for his entire career. Kaval was so close to clutching the gold, yet came up just short. After realizing there was no room for his character in the WWE, Kaval eventually asked for his release from the league.
Kanyon’s story is rather tragic. Once again, we see an untimely injury derailing a very promising superstar. At his height, Kanyon was a comedic wrestler who knew how to antagonize the crowd. Not only that, but he was also an extremely gifted athlete. He became known as an “innovator of offense,” and created moves other wrestlers wouldn’t dream of attempting.
As mentioned, an unfortunate injury kept him out of wrestling just as he was peaking. Coupled with an allergic reaction, Kanyon’s very life was suddenly in danger. He eventually recovered but suffered the same fate as Ultimo Dragon. The WWE had lost interest and thought there was simply no room for him on their current roster. After leaving the league for good, Kanyon tragically committed suicide in 2010. It’s a sad reminder of the frailty of WWE popularity, and the hurdles life can sometimes throw at even the most promising of prospects.
2. Sean O’Haire
O’Haire was prominent during the whole Invasion WWE angle in which wrestlers from the WWF took on the newcomers from the recently merged WCW and ECW wrestling leagues. The storylines clashed up until 2001, with O’Hair gaining prominence throughout that span of time. It wasn’t until 2003 that he took a new creative direction with his devil’s advocate gimmick.
His character took on the likings of something yet to be seen in the WWE. He relished in debauchery and even encouraged adultery and drug usage. He encouraged fans to not pay their taxes in brief TV spots, and it was clear that the WWE had found a great new heel in their midst. All of a sudden, though, the air went out of the whole effort. It seemed the league simply gave up on the idea, and O’Haire disappeared from the scene shortly after. Sadly, O’Haire was found dead in his apartment in 2014.
The top spot on our list goes to MVP, a true superstar through and through. After all, what more do you need to create a superstar that fans clamor around? He had the persona and the bravado to pull off just about any storyline that the WWE decided to throw his direction. Not to mention he was an excellent wrestler in his own right.
While some may argue he experienced success as the U.S. Champion, we’d counter by saying his character was capable of much more. During his time in the WWE, it was clear he had quite the fan following. After leaving the league, he went on to find plenty of success in the TNA, creating yet another solid indicator that the WWE simply mishandled his character. Perhaps there is still time left for an MVP return to the WWE in the future, but if so let’s hope the writers realize their past mistakes.