WWE has dominated the wrestling industry for many decades. Since the inception of WrestleMania and the company going with a mainstream approach, they have been on top of the industry the entire time, aside from about two years in which WCW took control. Following the end of WCW and the Monday Night Wars, no one has even reached anything close to the stranglehold lead WWE has on their competition. TNA, Ring of Honor, Lucha Underground and New Japan could all merge and they would still only receive a fraction of the success WWE has.
The popularity of WWE as the overwhelming top brand in the industry makes them the most attractive option for free agents. Many top wrestling names on the free agent market have been rumored to be making the move to WWE over the past few decades. Some turn out to be correct like AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura and Mickie James in the past year or two. However, there have been others to find their names on the rumor mill without ever signing with WWE. We will take a look at those specific rumors and the stories behind each. These are fifteen wrestlers that were once rumored to sign with WWE but never did.
15 Bob Sapp
Bob Sapp tried his hand at professional wrestling following his NFL dreams ending. WCW actually signed Sapp first in their final years before the company went out of business. Sapp continued his career in NWA and later New Japan. The high point of Sapp’s wrestling career came when he won the prestigious IWGP Heavyweight Championship. WWE and TNA both reportedly had interest in signing Sapp as a free agent.
The love for MMA, however, won out at the end of the day, with Sapp continuing to make that his main priority. Sapp has consistently performed for various MMA companies like Pride, K-1 and Strikeforce. WWE definitely had interest in his talent due to the size and intensity associated with him. Sapp apparently did not feel like it was the right move for his career and it never happened. The sad part is he probably would have done really well in the WWE environment.
14 The American Wolves
Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards actually made WWE appearances together as the American Wolves. They lost to the NXT Tag Team Champions The Ascension during an episode of NXT TV and were never seen again in WWE. The match was an unofficial tryout and everyone expected The American Wolves to join the company. Triple H, however, ended the rumors when he made the decision not to sign Richards and Edwards.
A controversial spot during the tag team match saw Richards land on his head. Triple H apparently was not fond of the style of The American Wolves and didn’t think they would be a good fit in WWE. Richards and Edwards eventually signed with TNA very shortly after that and remain there to this today. The American Wolves are definitely one of the most talented teams in wrestling and it is a shame they never got the chance to have a run in WWE.
13 James Mitchell
The career of James Mitchell in WCW, ECW and TNA proved he was one of the best managers in the industry. Mitchell managed Mortis and Wrath in WCW, adding a mysterious and spooky demeanor to their characters. His ECW run saw him work with Tajiri and Mikey Whipwreck for the very successful Unholy Alliance tag team. Mitchell’s most recent hit came about a decade ago as the manager to help Abyss get to the top of his game as a main event heel.
Despite the success and talent, Mitchell remains an underrated personality in wrestling history, partly due to never signing with WWE. There were rumors at one point after he left TNA that WWE wanted to bring him in. The Wyatt Family and The Ascension were both referenced as potential teams for Mitchell to become the manager of. WWE not caring for the art of the manager these days likely hurt any chance he had of making it to the biggest stage.
12 Disco Inferno
WWE never showed interest in Disco Inferno signing with the company as the comedic jobber wrestler he played in WCW. There was, however, a rumor about Disco joining the WWE writing team with Vince Russo back in 2002. Vince McMahon reached out to Vince Russo to bring him back into the company as part of the writing team once again for the original brand split. It was Russo’s last chance to return to WWE, but he had one request.
Russo wanted Disco to join him on the writing staff, after the two worked together during the dying days of WCW. Inferno had ridiculous ideas in WCW, such as wanting to portray Mike Tenay as a Martian or debut an invisible wrestler. McMahon heard about the ideas of Disco and it was enough to shut down both him and Russo from joining the staff. The rumors died when McMahon found out just what kind of ideas Inferno brought to the table.
11 Jay Lethal
A recent rumor that turned out to be false revolved around Jay Lethal hitting the free agent market at the end of 2016. Rumors circulated that Lethal was WWE bound and wrestling expert Dave Meltzer even reported it was leaning that way at one point. Lethal’s ROH contract expired and WWE has been aggressively signing all of the top free agents. The fact that Lethal has worked for both TNA and ROH gives him the television experience to make the rumor look likely.
Lethal, however, ended the speculation when he decided to sign a short contract to stay in Ring of Honor. ROH is currently pushing Lethal as one of the faces of the company and offered him one of their best contracts to retain his services. Lethal will be a free agent once again in a year or two. It will be interesting to see if the rumors become fact at that point, with Lethal having all the tools to make it in WWE.
10 Nikita Koloff
Nikita Koloff is one of the biggest names in wrestling that never signed with WWE at any point. The Minnesota native was billed from Russia and portrayed a stereotypical anti-American foreigner character for much of his career. WCW, Jim Crockett Promotions, UWF and the AWA were the main promotions of Koloff throughout his career. Most fans remember his WCW success, especially for his presence in the memorable War Games matches.
Like with any relevant talent of the time, there was speculation about Koloff making the jump to WWE. Koloff claims Krusher Kruschev AKA Smash offered him the opportunity to come along with him. However, Koloff chose to not try to get the WWE job out of the desire to keep his character and not start fresh in a new company. You have to wonder if there are any regrets, since Koloff is one of the rare wrestlers from his time to never work for WWE.
9 Mike Goldberg
UFC commentator Mike Goldberg clearly made a success out of his broadcasting career, calling some of the biggest fights in MMA history. The reports in 2005 saw him in the pro wrestling rumor mill due to WWE’s interest. WWE looked to find a new play-by-play man to replace Jim Ross as the voice of Raw. The hope was apparently for Goldberg to make the jump from UFC to WWE behind the commentary table.
Goldberg has discussed this in interviews since then, basically confirming that WWE sent him a generous offer, but he decided to remain loyal to the growing UFC. Joey Styles ended up getting the spot and JR returned shortly after to take the job back. The departure of Mauro Ranallo currently has Goldberg back in WWE rumors. It is, however, still highly unlikely he will ever make the drastic decision of leaving UFC to sign with WWE.
The death of WCW saw WWE buy the company and retain many of the stars. Most of the bigger names were unavailable for the Invasion storyline, given AOL was paying off the rest of their contracts allowing them to sit on the sidelines. One of the younger names that people expected to sign with WWE at the time was Vampiro. The dying days of WCW were a huge mess, but Vampiro was one of the few bright spots standing out.
WWE and Vampiro would never reach a deal. Vampiro has claimed that they both showed hesitation on ever getting a deal done due to different reasons. He didn’t want to give up his persona and WWE was not convinced of his star power. Vampiro continued to travel the world, wrestling for various promotions before signing with Lucha Underground as the current color commentator and a part-time wrestler on the independent circuit.
7 Magnum T.A.
WWE started to dominate the wrestling business in the 1980s. The popularity reached new peaks for the wrestling industry and just about every talented wrestler of the era wanted to join the company. That led to most names hitting the rumor mill. Magnum T.A. is one of the few guys to never join WWE, but he was one wrestling historians remember wanting to see in the WWE. The impressive stints in Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-South Wrestling made him one of the best well-rounded wrestlers of his era.
Unfortunately, Magnum’s career ended due to a car accident preventing him from ever wrestling again. The timing made it hurt even more, since he was being groomed for a NWA Championship reign. Magnum may have very well joined WWE at some point, but his career shortening earlier than anyone expected made it impossible to ever happen.
6 The Great Muta
The Great Muta is arguably the most popular Japanese wrestler to get over in the United States, due to his successful run in WCW. Shinsuke Nakamura will have a great chance to pass him, but Muta currently holds that accomplishment. Muta, however, was never able to wrestle for the WWE. There was one occasion where it almost happened, according to rumors back in 2012. WWE was looking to expand more into Japan and looked to make a talent exchange with All Japan Pro Wrestling.
The rumored exchange would have seen Big Show appear in Japan for a show and Muta would have worked a match for WWE. As crazy of a trade as that sounds on paper, it does make sense. The attraction of Show’s size makes him a huge Japanese draw and Muta is one of the rare wrestling legends to never once work for WWE. For whatever reason, it never happened and the rumor never took off again.
5 The Rock 'n' Roll Express
The Rock 'n' Roll Express succeeded just about everywhere but WWE. Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson worked perfectly together to form one of the greatest tag teams of all time. Strangely, the only time they worked for WWE was during the mini-NWA invasion storyline in the late 90s. The Rock 'n' Roll Express were rumored to join WWE numerous times, especially when their manager Jim Cornette joined the company, but it never officially happened.
Gibson and Morton still had a spectacular career, going on to win tag titles in the NWA, AWA, CWA, USWA, Mid-South Wrestling and Jim Crockett Promotions among others. The Rock 'n' Roll Express were so successful that WWE inducted them into the 2017 Hall of Fame class for their success in the other promotions. The only shame is the rumors never came to fruition to allow us the pleasure of seeing The Rock 'n' Roll Express join WWE during their prime.
Homicide achieved the majority of his success in both Ring of Honor and TNA. Many of his friends and peers went on to become massive stars for WWE, but Homicide never received the opportunity to work for the biggest company in the world. The decision to bring back ECW under the WWE banner made the company search for new talent to join the third brand. Terry Funk was rumored to have pitched the idea of Homicide joining the ECW brand, after the two worked together on the independent circuit.
The hardcore style of Homicide would have made him a great fit for the old style of ECW, along with his modern skills being relevant to the new audience. Unfortunately, the rumors never culminated into anything more than just rumors. Homicide remained with TNA and did some great work with LAX, but joining WWE would undoubtedly have been the best thing for his career.
3 Kenny Omega
The recent history-making performance of Kenny Omega saw him have the first ever Wrestling Observer Newsletter “six-star match” rated by Dave Meltzer. Omega received praise for his performance in losing the IWGP Heavyweight Championship match in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 2017. A few days after the epic match, Omega announced his New Japan contract expired and he was going to explore the market.
Rumors started hitting the internet that Omega was WWE-bound. Everyone was speculating that Omega would be a surprise entrant in the 2017 Royal Rumble match. Omega ended up signing an extension with New Japan, but it showed just how much interest there is in him signing with WWE. The argument today is usually between Omega and AJ Styles when discussing the best wrestler in the world. Smart money is on Omega eventually signing with WWE one day. All of the top names are ending up there these days and Omega is as good as anyone else.
Abyss is one of the very few TNA wrestlers to never make the jump to WWE. Most of the TNA legends have signed over the past few years, with AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and Bobby Roode all fixtures in WWE today. Abyss has remained loyal to a fault in sticking it through with TNA. A rumor became popular in 2007 that Abyss was in discussions to sign with WWE.
Both Abyss and former WWE employee Tommy Dreamer have confirmed this rumor with a huge story behind it. WWE apparently wanted Abyss to join the company and feud with The Undertaker, leading to a match at WrestleMania 23. The story is hard to believe, since Abyss was relatively unknown to the larger WWE audience, but the company did love to push monster heels against Undertaker. Dreamer has nothing to gain from lying about this either, which makes it more likely to be true. Abyss turning down such a sweet deal has to be among the worst decisions in the history of wrestling.
1 New Jack
The biggest “what if” scenario about a wrestler once rumored to sign with WWE was New Jack. ECW fans loved New Jack during his run in the 90s as the most unpredictable personality and the most hardcore wrestler. WWE considered bringing him into the company for the ECW rebirth in 2006, as a third smaller brand for the company. Ultimately, it was reportedly decided that New Jack was way too much of a risk to the company and the other wrestlers who were being brought into the mix.
No one knows how much of New Jack’s persona actually is an act, because he constantly crossed the line throughout his career - getting into it with fellow wrestlers, fans and the law. Old school ECW fans read the rumors about New Jack potentially returning and would chant his name at the WWE ECW shows on a few occasions. It didn’t help change anything. WWE never signed New Jack due to the dangers associated with being responsible for him.
Sources: Cageside Seats, Pro Wrestling, Bleacher Report, Wrestling Inc.
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