In 2002 the Attitude Era was losing steam. Fans had started to lose interest in the product and it was time for a change in WWE. That change came in the form of new stars, new storylines, and a different on-screen product. This signaled the beginning of the Ruthless Aggression Era.
During this time the wrestling world was introduced to a slew of new talent. We all got to see the maturation of men like Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, John Cena, and Batista. These men helmed the new era and were responsible for many successes.
Outside of the cornerstones of the Ruthless Aggression Era various other talents were making their way into the company. Some got pushes that made little sense while others wallowed away in mid-card purgatory. Below we will take a look at some of these talents to see which were underrated and which were overrated.
The Smackdown Five were the ones who got all the attention during Ruthless Aggression, and with good cause. They carried the brand for a long time but this also took attention away from some fantastic talents, namely MVP.
MVP was excellent during his first run. His in-ring work was exactly where it needed to be and there were very few who matched him on the stick. During his time he engaged in some fantastic feuds opposite Matt Hardy and Kane.
If it wasn’t for MVP the United States Championship wouldn’t have experienced its revival. His near-year-long reign with the title restored some of the former glory of the secondary strap.
Overrated: The Great Khali
This should be a fairly easy one for anyone to pick up on. Debuting against The Undertaker, great things were planned for Khali. The only problem was a tree probably had a better work rate than the giant.
Khali lumbered around the ring, at best, failing to sell the simplest moves while showcasing a moveset that would make Hulk Hogan look like a master technician. Add that to the fact that Khali was terrible on the mic and you had a wrestler who had no business being in the main event picture.
Underrated: Bobby Lashley
Yes, Lashley did receive a tremendous push upon arrival to WWE. Yes, he was booked in a marquee Wrestlemania match with McMahon, Trump, and Umaga, but that is where the push stopped. Lashley was never treated like a main event talent.
Any program that he was in had many bells and whistles attached to it that took attention away from him. He had the athletic ability to be a massive star and if he was booked properly this is exactly what he would have been.
We have to look no further than how he is being booked today as an example of this. At present time Lashley is being treated like the beast he is and the fans are giving him some great responses. This is what should have happened years ago.
During the Attitude Era, Kane was a monster. He was booked properly and was a consistent threat for any title on the roster. Fast-forward a few years and Kane lost all credibility.
He had been treated as a jobber to the stars and was thrown into make-shift tag teams to give him something to do. It was a shame and was a great way to ruin the aura of the Big Red Machine.
Kane was never again taken seriously in the Ruthless Aggression Era. The monster was gone and a large husk was left in his place.
Underrated: Gregory Helms
As The Hurricane, Helms was one of the most entertaining parts of WWE. He was great in various programs and was a valuable part of the roster. Then he was given a new gimmick and everything fell apart.
Turning heel and going by Gregor Helms was a great character change for the wrestler, but one that never caught on. Fans had a hard time identifying with the character change, which was a shame. His ass-kicker gimmick was great and he was the highlight of the cruiserweight division.
If WWE chose to spend more time on Helms he could have brought prominence to the cruiserweight division that had never been seen.
Overrated: Bradshaw/John Bradshaw Layfield/JBL
Being part of the APA was perfect for JBL. He was over with the crowd and his limited work rate was hidden in comedy angles and tag team matches. That is why it was such a travesty to have him move into the singles arena.
Adopting his JBL gimmick was interesting to start. He got some great heel heat but that is where his push should have ended. Having him become a main event star exposed the limitations of JBL. His matches were boring and his promos carried on for far too long.
As a mid-card champion, he would have been better, but he was not the main event talent that WWE thought he was.
Underrated: Shelton Benjamin
This is a no-brainer. During his first run, Benjamin was the most talented man on the roster. He had few equals in the ring and deserved better than what he got.
Sure, Benjamin’s talking ability was not the greatest but he more than made up for that by putting on instant classics every time he was in the ring. He was consistently rewarded with Intercontinental Championship reigns but he deserved more.
Looking at who was pushed to the main event during this time boggles the mind why Benjamin was not given at least a chance at the top of the card.
Coming in as a monster heel, Heidenreich fell flat immediately. He never got over with the crowd and was put in angles opposite more talented wrestlers. Specifically, his feud against The Undertaker exposed the cracks in his persona.
Still, though, WWE continued to give him television time. He was given a ridiculous poetry gimmick and was included in the revamped Road Warriors tag team. Both of which failed.
There were various wrestlers on the roster, who were more talented, that deserved the consistent t.v time that was afforded to Heidenreich.
Underrated: Muhammad Hassan
This may be the biggest case of bad timing in Ruthless Aggression history. Hassan was flourishing in his heel role before some tragic events derailed his push. The London terrorist attack happened amid his foreign menace role. It, understandably, caused his character to fade into the background but that shouldn’t have been the end.
A repackage of the man would have worked. He was great on the stick and his in-ring work improved drastically. WWE was short on mid-card heels at the time and Hassan could have continued to fit that niche. Alas, WWE gave up on this underrated wrestler too early.
Sable could be on the Attitude Era list for this as well. There are very few women who have exhibited no talent or desire in the history of wrestling.
Sable was terrible in the ring, she could barely cut a promo. It was hard to hear her talk when she came out and she added nothing to every program she was in. The only reason she was put into the position she was in was due to Vince McMahon’s infatuation with her.
There were so many women on the roster who would have killed for Sables’ spot. Frankly, 90% of them would have done a much better job. Please, Brock, don’t beat me up.