In the midst of a number of multiple releases, we’re taking a look into the top talent WWE wasted.
As wrestling fans, it’s a duty of ours to have an opinion on everything in the business and often that’s linked to how certain wrestlers have been used. There’s uproar on a regular basis when a talented performer is given an underwhelming gimmick, floundering below their level or just straight up neglected by the company.
At times, it can be seen as paranoia and us seeing things through our rose-tinted glasses. But there have been a number of cases where a wrestler’s value was not appreciated and their talents were not used effectively. Here is an in-depth look at look at the top talent WWE wasted.
We start with someone who was consistently overlooked despite his obvious qualities. Damien Sandow is adaptable and turned whatever he was given into gold. His “Intellectual saviour of the masses” gimmick was stellar yet WWE didn’t capitalise in the way they should have done; Sandow is one of only two people to be unsuccessful with their Money in the Bank cash-in. But more recently, his comedic work with the Miz as “Mizdow” was an enjoyable part of WWE programming in the build up to Wrestlemania 31 – a win in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal would have done wonders for him. Unfortunately, Sandow has since been cast aside. He is adept on the mic, a solid worker and gets good reactions which makes it all the more baffling that he was relieved of his duties. The journey of Sandow recently came to end as he was listed as one of many WWE Superstars to be released. Lets hope he can continue to build on his career as he begins his next chapter.
Similarly, another underrated performer is Heath Slater. There have been many opportunities to give Slater a meaningful storyline but WWE have been sceptical – which is a real shame. This is a performer who has bags of charisma, is dependable in all senses but doesn’t seem to get the opportunities he warrants. He receives plenty of support on social media which of course helped shape the Social Outcasts stable which he spearheads, but Slater hasn’t done anything of note for a long time. His biggest achievement to date was probably being a part of The Nexus, which gave him his biggest exposure. Lets hope he isn’t next on the list of releases.
Slater’s fellow ‘Social Outcast’ brother Curtis Axel is a different type of talent but remains someone who could offer much more to the current WWE product. First and foremost, he is a third generation superstar having seen his father “Mr Perfect” Curt Hennig and Grandfather Larry “The Axe” Hennig accomplish so much in the business. Axel went on a real run under Paul Heyman a few years back, scoring victories over key figures such as John Cena and Triple H before claiming the coveted Intercontinental title. Since then he’s been restricted to a more comedic role – although he did generate a real buzz with his “Axelmania” gimmick which they could have done more with.
We are now seeing Luke Gallows in a prominent role in WWE alongside Karl Anderson and AJ Styles in what is his ‘second coming’ in the company. Initially, Gallows had an underwhelming first run with the company as “Festus” – a rehash of the Lennie character from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Moreover, he also had a stint as an imposter Kane before joining CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society but he never really got going until his exploits in Japan with the Bullet Club where he was a three-time IWGP Tag Team Champion.
He should have been used better in his first stint, but it seems he has now found his rhythm in WWE with allies Karl Anderson and AJ Styles.
When you think of a main eventer in the WWE, you think of someone with a good look, a great physique and overall presence. Drew Galloway, now TNA World Heavyweight Champion, has all of those qualities in abundance and is a fantastic wrestler in between the ropes. Strangely, it seems that Vince McMahon was behind Drew McIntyre when he was in the WWE, yet despite Intercontinental and Tag Team Championship reins, never got the opportunities he warranted and was relieved of his duties in June 2014.
Not resting on his laurels though, Galloway reinvented himself on the independent circuit; wrestling for companies like ICW, PCW, PWG and Evolve. Now as the top guy in TNA he has been revitalised and is one of the shining lights in the company – regularly putting on great matches across the world. With TNA’s current situation and the influx of ex TNA talents in WWE, don’t rule out an improved Drew Galloway returning to WWE.
A former tag team partner of Galloway’s in WWE was Cody Rhodes; another excellent talent who is criminally underused. Rhodes is born and bred for the business, having seen his father, the late great Dusty Rhodes and brother Dustin (Goldust) achieve so much. He hasn’t been short of achievements himself: a two-time Intercontinental Champion as well as winning the tag team Championships on six occasions. He’s reliable and whether dashing or undashing, there is investment in his character and his work in the ring. Unfortunately, his Stardust gimmick isn’t really working and fans are clamouring for him to return as Cody Rhodes.
As his normal self, he can genuinely be a main event player. His work alongside his brother Goldust in 2013 where they battled the Authority was evidence of just what he can offer. Here’s hoping he does eventually ditch the Stardust gimmick for the more engaging Cody Rhodes character.
There are a long list of wrestlers who just don’t get enough freedom in the WWE despite the ideas that the pitch. The New Day are a prime example of something that felt very forced, before they were allowed to be themselves and become one of the most popular acts in WWE. Justin Gabriel falls into the category, except he ended up parting ways with the company in January 2015. Gabriel is an extremely creative guy who was writing his own promos and also had a number of ideas for the Bunny character while he was associated with Adam Rose. He left WWE as a three-time tag team champion but he should have done a lot more. Now he has found his place in Lucha Underground, where he is well-suited for that environment and style of wrestling.
Similarly, Evan Bourne had a similar career in WWE where he was underutilised and his only real achievement was an enjoyable tag team title run with Kofi Kingston as “AirBoom”. WWE were in a different place back then and you would think that if he was in the company now, there would have been more opportunities for him when you see the amount of high-flyers WWE possess now. His mic skills aren’t the best and he did have multiple run-ins with the Wellness policy but he has become a better, well-rounded performer in New Japan and ROH. In many ways he has been reborn as Matt Sydal in Japan, teaming with Ricochet and producing some of the craziest high-flying stunts we have ever seen. His WWE release has proved to be a blessing in disguise.
Much like Justin Gabriel, John Morrison has produced his best work in Lucha Undergound, where he wrestles as “Johnny Mundo” and is the current champion. Morrison has spoken openly about his lack of freedom and direction in the WWE and that he prefers the way in which Lucha Underground operates. Though he had multiple reigns with the Intercontinental and Tag Team titles, he never got the break to be a main event guy – whereas now with Lucha Underground that is exactly what he is. There is a real buzz surrounding the Lucha product at present but Morrison could well find himself back in WWE where they will hopefully value his supreme athletic talents.
Yet another man who never got what he deserved in the WWE is Ethan Carter (EC III). The 33-year old was in the WWE system for a long duration of time with OVW, FCW and NXT – before it became the phenomenon it is today. Back then, NXT was mainly comedic elements and soap opera programming which didn’t bode well for Derrick Bateman, as he was then known. He never got the chance to showcase what he could do but he’s become a star in TNA and has showed WWE exactly what the missed out on. He is versatile, equally as engaging as a villainous heel or a white meat babyface. If WWE are intent on bringing in more TNA talents, EC III should be at the top of their list and would fit in wonderfully with the current roster.
Continuing the trend of performers who were underused and ended up in TNA, Gail Kim also makes the list. Kim has had two separate stints in WWE, with her first main roster run coming in 2004. Shockingly, she won the Women’s Championship in her first televised match but held it for just four weeks and was reportedly axed from the company in November of the same year due to cost cutting. Her first stint in TNA lasted three years and she became the inaugural TNA Knockout’s Champion before returning to WWE. In her second spell, the Divas division was not particularly appealing and she was clearly frustrated at the way in which she and other women were being used; evidence of this being when she eliminated herself from a Divas Championship No.1 contender battle royal in August 2011.
Since then she has been the top female wrestler in TNA and at the time of writing, has held the Knockouts Championship on five occasions. Although unlikely, fans would be in for a treat if she ever returns to WWE and mixes it up with Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and co.
On Friday 6th May, along with a number of other names, it was announced that Wade Barrett had officially left WWE; something that had been expected for a long time. Barrett will take time away from the wrestling industry to broaden his horizons, but says he will be back in the ring soon. It was a massive shame to see such a tremendous talent not reach the level he ought to. From leading the Nexus invasion in 2010 to the Bad News Barrett gimmick, Barrett had all the attributes to succeed and go to the very top. He did main event five pay-per-views in 2010 and also claimed the Intercontinental title on five occasions, but his momentum was halted when he became King Barrett and subsequently ended up in the League of Nations faction. Also added to the recent release post, we sincerely hope the Preston-born grappler will also build on his career. He has the potential be a huge asset to any wrestling company who wishes to utilise him properly.
It was a no-brainer to have CM Punk on this list. Unlike many of the others, Punk was an overwhelming success in WWE having been involved in so many memorable matches and storylines. There was no reason why CM Punk shouldn’t have been a main event player. Indeed, he had multiple title reigns, including holding the WWE Championship for a record-breaking 434 days but he should have main-evented WrestleMania – something that he is still bitter about. Punk was incredible in his promos, excellent in the ring and moved merchandise yet still never got the credit he deserved and was “creatively stifled” as he said in Colt Cobana’s Art of Wrestling Podcast. This, along with a series of health issues not treated by the medical staff culminated in him parting ways with WWE and there’s nothing to suggest that he will ever return.
Cesaro is one of the best wrestlers in the world and proves that whenever he steps into the ring. Many fans and wrestlers alike have campaigned for “The Swiss Superman” to get a run with the World title. There have been plenty of moments to give Cesaro that sort of platform; his Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal win at Wrestlemania 30 was incredible and he was again white hot with two fantastic matches as part of John Cena’s US Open Challenge. Memorably, Vince McMahon spoke on Steve Austin’s podcast on the WWE Network about Cesaro and he didn’t believe he was resonating with the audience. But that has not proved to be the case as Cesaro continues to get great reactions and deliver in the ring. A former United States and Tag Team Champion, there is still hope that one day WWE may pull the trigger on him but for now, fans are satisfied with watching his unparalleled strength and agility on display on a regular basis.
We end with someone who currently has a prominent role with the company as she is challenging for Charlotte’s Women’s Championship, but’s it not all been rosy for Natalya in the WWE. She is one of the most underrated talents on the roster but has suffered from some sloppy storylines such as a ‘farting’ gimmick and more recently the rehash of the Montreal Screwjob. “Nattie” is the first third-generation female wrestler and is one of many illustrious talents to have hailed from the celebrated Hart Dungeon. She held the Divas title briefly in 2010 but has otherwise not been used effectively. A trusty hand and one of the best wrestlers in the Women’s division, Natalya has deserved more from her WWE career but she still has time on her side.