The WWE has created plenty of full-blown superstars: Hulk Hogan, John Cena, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and the Rock just to name a few. But there are also plenty of examples of guys the WWE could have turned into superstars, but just didn’t.
In some cases, this would be because of politics. Perhaps Triple H or Vince didn’t like somebody and as a result they never received the opportunities others did to get over with the fans. Perhaps these wrestlers had become huge stars in other organizations and the WWE chose not to push them because they only want to push their homegrown stars. For whatever reason, the names on this list never reached the potential that many believe they had.
When looking at this list it’s easy to say that the WWE should have done more with these wrestlers, but often times there is no room at the main event level for that to be done. In WCW, there were often complaints that guys like Benoit, Guerrero, or Chris Jericho were never put into the main events, but at that time, there was such a large roster of main-eventers that there simply was no room to do so. In some cases, the names on this list suffered the same fate, no room at the top so they flounder in the mid-card.
If you’re in the mid-card long enough that’s where you will stay as well, as that is where the fans will begin to believe you belong.
Of all the opportunities the WWE has ever wasted, here are the top 10.
Goldberg was a huge star in WCW, but not so much in WWE. After WCW went out of business Goldberg sat out the remainder of his contract so that he would still make the guaranteed money contract he had signed with Ted Turner’s organization. When that contract ran up he signed a 1-year deal with WWE and proceeded to have a very uneventful run with the company.
While he did win the World Title and was involved in a high-profile feud with Triple H, he never got over like he did in WCW.
At WrestleMania 20 the live crowd booed his match with Brock Lesnar mercilessly, and just like that Goldberg was gone, never to return.
9 Rob Van Dam
Early in the “Invasion” angle of 2001 RVD debuted alongside fellow ECW alumni Tommy Dreamer. The original ECW had just shut its doors a few months prior leading to many on the roster joining WWF.
RVD was supposed to be a bad guy during the Invasion angle; only he got the biggest cheers of anyone on the roster.
Despite being one of the most popular performers at the time, the WWE would fail to pull the trigger on a main event run for RVD time and time again. Finally, when the company launched the new ECW in 2006 RVD was given both the ECW and WWE World Championships.
It looked as though RVD was finally going to be the main eventer many had assumed he would be, but an arrest for marijuana possession caused a suspension and he ended up relinquishing both belts.
8 The British Bulldog
Davey Boy Smith is quite possibly the most popular wrestler ever to come out of England, and at one point he was certainly the most marketable.
The only major PPV to be held in Europe was Summerslam 92 from Wembley Stadium, which was main evented by an Intercontinental Championship match between brothers-in-law Davey Boy Smith and Bret Hart. Bulldog would win the title that night as the live crowd celebrated their countryman.
Somehow the WWE failed to capitalize on the Bulldog’s marketability in Europe following the win, and the Bulldog would be released not long after as a result of being caught receiving Human Growth Hormone.
After an uneventful run in WCW, the Bulldog returned to the WWF and even became the 1st ever European Champion, but was still never given that main event run that would have gone over huge with European fans.
7 The New World Order Invasion
After sitting out the remainder of their WCW contracts following the company’s purchase by the WWE, Scott Hall, Hollywood Hogan and Kevin Nash were brought into WWE in a storyline to sabotage the company. The angle was that Vince McMahon was tired of sharing the WWE with the new co-owner (in storyline) Ric Flair, and bringing in the New World Order was how Vince was going to kill his own creation.
The trio targeted the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin leading into WrestleMania 18 in Toronto’s SkyDome.
The results were not quite as expected as fans enthusiasm for the return of Hogan outweighed their heat for attacking Rock and Austin.
Hogan would turn on Hall and Nash and bring Hulkamania back to the WWE while Nash would get injured shortly after and Hall would be released.
6 John Morrison
John Morrison spent 8 years in the WWE, having first appeared on the 2002 version of Tough Enough. Morrison looked like a WWE Superstar, and a guy that Vince would love, but somehow he never turned into the main eventer many thought he would become.
Morrison would wrestle as part of the tag team “MNM” along with Joey Mercury before undergoing a gimmick change from Johnny Nitro to John Morrison, a character inspired by Jim Morrison.
A very successful tag run with the Miz would follow, and eventually Morrison’s last match in WWE would be a World Title opportunity that he would lose to the Miz.
Morrison stayed away from wrestling for a little while before re-appearing in Lucha Underground, where he now wrestles as Johnny Mundo.
5 Barry Windham
Barry Windham is one of the most well-respected workers and former World Heavyweight Champions of all time. For a long time, he was a member of the 4-Horsemen and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame with the group.
But Windham was never really given a big singles push in any of the several times that the WWE had him under contract.
In 1989, Windham joined the company and was re-branded as “the Widowmaker” but would be gone just a few months later. In 1996, he once again found himself in the WWE but would be gone again after unsuccessful stints as “the Stalker” and then as one-half of “the New Blackjacks” along with JBL.
Why the WWE never just went with him as Barry Windham is something only Vince McMahon knows.
Anywhere Raven has gone he has been the most talked about guy in the company. When Raven first ditched the “Scotty Flamingo” character and appeared in ECW as Raven his feud with Tommy Dreamer was arguably the biggest in the company’s history.
In 1997 when he joined WCW the angle he had with the Flock was arguably the second biggest in the company at the time and helped push guys like Diamond Dallas Page and Goldberg towards the main event.
Yet in the WWE, Raven never really got going. He was lost in the shuffle as part of the WCW/ECW Alliance angle (not that this was a bad thing) and eventually was just wrestling on Sunday Night Heat.
3 The New ECW
Following the release of the “Rise and Fall of ECW” DVD, WWE decided to re-launch ECW in 2006. Originally the idea for the brand was that it would only appear on the internet, and would not be similar to WWE programming. That all started to change however when WWE worked out a deal with the SyFy network for ECW to have a weekly TV show.
While they would utilize many of the original ECW roster, the brand never felt anything close to the original ECW. The shows were taped before WWE shows in the same arena (most of the time) and did not have the same aura that the smaller venues ECW used to run did.
The WWE’s booking influence was all over the promotion as well, and eventually, the company pushed for Bobby Lashley to become the brand’s champion, something that wouldn’t have happened in the original ECW.
After the brand’s first non-reunion style PPV “December to Dismember” Paul Heyman left the WWE and all resemblance to the original ECW was gone.
2 Owen Hart
Had Bret Hart leaving the WWF in 1997 been handled differently Owen Hart could have continued the Hart Foundation storyline as their new leader. If Bret had agreed to lose to Shawn, or if Vince and Bret found another way for him to lose the title before leaving for WCW, Owen could have been named the new leader of the Hart Foundation and continued on with the Canada vs. USA and Hart Foundation vs. Austin storyline that had been the hottest thing going in wrestling since WrestleMania 13.
Unfortunately, after Survivor Series 1997 Bulldog and Neidhart left with Bret for WCW where they would promptly be wasted, and Owen was the only one not allowed out of his WWF contract. Owen would be the last “nugget” of the Hart Foundation for DX to flush, and he never really got into a main event storyline after.
1 WCW Invasion
In 2001, the WWF had officially won the Monday Night Wars. WCW was out of business and Vince had bought the tape library, and licensing of products for the company. The only problem is that many of the big-money contracts in WCW were just too costly to purchase.
Under the deals of the agreement WCW main eventers were given the option to sit at home and be paid the remainder of their contracts by AOL and Time-Warner (who had merged) or opt-out of their contract and sign a smaller deal with the WWE.
All of the big-money names that could have been used in the Invasion angle chose to sit out the remainder of their contracts: Hogan, Nash, Hall, Goldberg, Sting, etc.
Only a few guys: Booker T, DDP, and Buff Bagwell chose to debut with the WWE.
The result was that the Invasion angle fell flat, as the true stars of WCW didn’t participate.