The WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) is the premier league when it comes to professional wrestling. The league, formerly the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), is owned and operated by Vince McMahon and The McMahon family, which also consist of Vince’s son and daughter, his wife and his son-in-law Paul Levesque AKA Triple H. Together, they own 90.4% of the WWE.
McMahon has helped shaped the careers of numerous wrestling superstars both in the ring and behind the scenes. Great showmen like Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and Hulk Hogan have achieved monumental success not only as wrestlers but in the wider entertainment industry. However, not all the greatest wrestlers of all time have had the privilege of being part of WrestleMania, or any WWE event for that matter. Some of the greatest entertainers in the sport either reached their pinnacle before the WWE was even formed or chose to show off their skills in other leagues like World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Here, we’ve taken a look at 15 fantastic wrestlers who never fought a WWE match in their entire career.
15. The Midnight Express
The greatest tag team duo never to be part of the WWE might be the Midnight Express. The Midnight Express had an ever-changing roster, which included the likes of Randy Rose, Dennis Condrey, Norvell Austin, Stan Lane and Bobby Eaton. None of the original members of the Midnight Express were ever a part of the WCW, but a team dubbed New Midnight Express, which consisted of Bombastic Bomb and Bodacious Bart, fought in the WWF in the late 1990s. Jim Cornette, who would later go on to be the American spokesperson for Yokozuna in the WWF, managed the Midnight Express.
14. Akira Hokuto
Akira Hokuto made her debut for All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling in 1985, shortly before her 18th birthday. She quickly made a name for herself and ended up winning the league’s Rookie of the Year award. North American audiences knew her when she joined the WCW in 1995 and performed in the WCW World War 3 pay-per-view event, wherein she and her partner Bull Nakano won a tag team match against Cutie Suzuki & Mayumi Ozaki. Hokuto would later win the WCW Women’s Championship when she defeated Medusa; she was the only wrestler ever to hold the title as the championship was short-lived.
13. The Sinister Minister
James Mitchell had a prolific career as both a manger and a wrestler. He starred as James Vandenberg in the WCW and under his own name in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). However, it was as the Sinister Minister in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) that he became a fan favorite.
The Sinister Minister served as the manager for The Unholy Alliance, which consisted of Yoshihiro Tajiri and Mikey Whipwreck. Mitchel portrayed this character for the better part of a year, and would return as the character in a WCW pay per view event in 2005. In 2009, he unsuccessfully attempted to try out for the WWE. Interesting trivia: He has appeared in back up vocals for an Insane Clown Posse song…
12. Magnum T.A.
Terry Wayne Allen, known as Magnum T.A. in the ring, made his wrestling debut in 1977 when he joined the National Wrestling Alliance. He wore the nickname America’s Heartthrob with pride; he earned the moniker thanks to his dashing looks and resemblance to Magnum P.I. star Tom Selleck. He famously came from behind when he was down three matches to none against Nikita “The Russian Nightmare” Koloff in a best of seven series. However, he ended up losing the deciding match.
Following a near-fatal car accident, Magnum T.A. retired and later became a commentator for the WCW. The name Magnum T.A. was suggested to Allen by Andre the Giant.
11. Nikita Koloff
Nikita Koloff joined the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) in a bid to take down then NWA World Champion Ric Flair. He took on the moniker “Russian Nightmare” as a foil to crowd favorite Dusty “The American Dream” Rhodes. The Russian Nightmare was billed as being from Moscow, although that was a fabricated backstory to the character.
Koloff’s wrestling career came to an end when he took a clothesline to his head during a WCW match with Big Van Vader. Koloff’s real name is Nelson Scott Simpson and he is now a born again Christian, who features on the Lifetime Network reality show, Preachers’ Daughters.
10. Jun Akiyama
Jun Akiyama has not only never wrestled in the WWE, but he hasn’t even wrestled in the United States. Many of the best Japanese wrestlers have at least fought a match on U.S. soil but Akiyama has yet to do so.
He made his debut in All Japan Pro Wrestling in 1992, and he soon found success in tag team matches with partners like Takao Omori and Mitsuharu Misawa. Akiyama and Misawa won the World Tag Team Championship in 1996, and he went on to wrestle in Misawa’s new wrestling league, Pro Wrestling NOAH. Akiyama is known for innovating the powerful Blue Thunder Driver move.
9. The Great Muta
Keiji Mutoh (The Great Muta) was one of the first Japanese wrestlers to gain prominence and fandom outside of Japan. He is one of only three wrestlers who’ve held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship title, the AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship title, and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship title. He has been crowned world champion nine times as part of three different wrestling leagues.
Mutoh’s match against Hiroshi Hase is said to be the bloodiest wrestling match off all time. Muta ‘bladed’ (when a wrestler intentionally cuts himself to simulate injury from an opponent) his forehead and bled throughout the match. He still bears the scar to this day.
8. Manami Toyota
Manami Toyota may perhaps be the greatest female wrestler of all time, despite never having fought in the WWE. She made her debut in wrestling when she was only 16 years old, and just a few short years later she had won the All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling championship. She would go on to successfully defend the title three more times. She made her wrestling debut on American soil in September of 2010 when she defeated Daizee Haze. Toyota earned the nickname Flying Angel thanks to her ability to leap from the ropes with both grace and power.
7. Gory Guerrero
Gory Guerrero, whose real name was Salvador Guerrero Quesada, came to prominence in Mexican wrestling by starring in the Empresa Mexicana de la Lucha Libre (EMLL). He was named Rookie of the Year in that league and he took the name Gory Guerrero because of the amount of blood spilled in his matches.
Quesada often teamed up with fellow Mexican wrestling legend El Santo, and the duo wrestled under the name the Atomic Pair. Guerrero even starred in some movies with El Santo. The tag team never lost a match. Although Guerrero never wrestled in the WWE, his sons and grandson did.
6. Gorgeous George
George Raymond Wagner, also known as Gorgeous George, was a star during the golden age of professional wrestling in the 40s and 50s. He was a pioneer in wrestling thanks to his flamboyant style and outrageous attitude. These traits may be common in professional wrestling today, but in the 40s and 50s Gorgeous George was the first of his kind.
His most famous match was against his rival Whipper Billy Watson. When Gorgeous George lost the match he was forced to shave off his luxurious golden hair in front of 20,000 fans at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.
5. El Santo
El Santo the Luchadore was not only one of the most revered icons in Mexican wrestling, he was also a huge movie star. He has been called one of the greatest legends in Mexican sports, and El Santo had a career that spanned nearly five decades. He became a folk hero and even starred in comic books, portrayed as a superhero. In his films El Santo fought zombies, aliens and demons. He often fought against the Blue Demon and even starred alongside his nemesis in films like Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolf Man. He is only known to have removed his mask once throughout the course of his career.
Rikidozan, who also went by the name Mitsuhiro Momota, moved from Korea to Japan in hopes of becoming a sumo wrestler. Instead, he became known as the “Father of Puroresu” for being a pioneer in professional wrestling in Japan. He found some success in sumo wrestling, but ended up leaving the sport – likely because he was being discriminated against for being Korean.
He rose to prominence in professional wrestling by defeating a string of American wrestlers in the 1950s, and was seen as a national hero because he was able to defeat so many Americans shortly after WWII. Rikidozan died when he was just 39 from an infection that was caused by a stab wound he received from a Yakuza (gang) member in a nightclub.
3. Mildred Burke
Mildred Burke held the World Women’s Championship for an astonishing 20 years. She was at the height of her career from the mid-1930s to mid-1950s. Not only did she fight in the ring, but Burke also fought to break down barriers for women in wrestling. She could hold her own against any man, and she got her start wrestling men at carnivals in 1935.
Following her death, she was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. At the beginning of the 50s, she formed the World Women’s Wrestling Association, and she ran a wrestling school in her later years.
2. Stu Hart
Stu Hart was a Canadian wrestling legend, and not only did he help shape the careers of his famous sons Bret and Owen Hart, but he also trained WWE superstars like Chris Jericho, Mark Henry and Edge.
Stu Hart founded Stampede Wrestling, and got his start in pro wrestling as a way to entertain armed forces. He went so far to prove his strength that he even wrestled a tiger! Stu Hart was a pro football player as well; he played two seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League (CFL).
During his years wrestling in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in the ‘90s and 2000s Sting became know as “the Franchise” because he was the face of the wrestling league and by far the WCW’s biggest star. For years Sting was undoubtedly the most famous wrestler never to be a part of the WWE, but earlier this year that changed when he started appearing in WWE merchandising.
He is featured in the WWE 2K15 video game and his likeness has been used for a WWE branded action figure. However, Sting has not yet taken part in any WWE wrestling match. A matchup between the Undertaker and Sting is rumored to be happening in the near future – possibly during WrestleMania 31 next year.
*Editor’s note: After this article was published, Sting made his first official WWE appearence at Survivors Series on November 23rd, 2014.