The 411 Wrestling Top 5 6.11.14: Week 267 – The Top 5 Talents WWE Wasted
Posted by Larry Csonka on 06.11.2014
From Lex Luger, Vader and Mr. Perfect to Diamond Dallas Page, Dr. Death Steve Williams, Ricky Steamboat and more, the 411 staff breaks down their top 5 talents that WWE wasted!
Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Wrestling's Top 5 List. We take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, plus up to three honorable mentions.
So, onto this week's topic…
The Top 5 Talents WWE Wasted
Name your top five talents that you feel the WWE wasted and or misused…
Shawn S. Lealos
5. Vader - I don't get this one. Vader was a huge name coming into the WWE. He was a three-time WCW world champion, he was huge and could actually move like a man half his size. They guy was awesome. So, what do they do with him? They hype up his debut, have him break onto the scene and then … nothing. The two biggest memories I have of Vader in the WWE were (a) avalanching Gorilla Monsoon and (b) Cutting a promo where he said he was fat and sucked. He lasted two years, lost his major feuds while winning some minor ones and was never as big as he could have been.
4. Jake "The Snake" Roberts - He was the best talker in the history of the WWE. He was the best ring psychologist in the history of the WWE. He was the best bad guy next to Roddy Piper in the WWE at the time. He could make anyone look good. No. I could never see him as the WWF World Champion. But, here is the deal. Through his tenure in the WWE, he never held a single title. He didn't get an Intercontinental title rein. He didn't even get to win the tag titles with anyone. Jake Roberts was always involved in mid-card feuds and was never allowed to move higher. Look at the world title tournament that Randy Savage won. The best match in the tournament was Jake Roberts vs. Rick Rude. At least Rude got to win the IC title and fight for the world title when Warrior was champion. Jake got nothing.
3. John Morrison - John Morrison served his time as a gopher for Eric Bischoff as Johnny Nitro (yeah, his name was a joke). However, when he finally got a chance to show what he could do in the WWECW, he proved to be a top talent and won the ECW world title. It was a huge for Morrison, who was also a huge success as a tag team wrestler with MnM and with The Miz later one. However, when WWECW died, the WWE did nothing with Morrison. He was a three-time Intercontinental champion and a five-time tag team champion, but he was so talented that the fact he never got to play in the main events was a huge dropped ball in my opinion. I would put Shelton Benjamin in here along the same lines.
2. Diamond Dallas Page - In WCW, there was no one more popular than Diamond Dallas Page for a long time. Yeah, Sting and Goldberg were hugely popular but they were made to be popular. DDP earned every cheer he got the hard way. That is why he was the People's Champion. So, what did the WWE do with DDP when he came over after they bought WCW? They gave him an Inspirational gimmick and then made him a stalker for Undertaker's wife. It was lame and it was not what made DDP so popular. As he said, they should have had DDP vs. The Rock as the Battle of the People's Champions. Instead, they just fumbled away money by killing his push.
1. Ricky Steamboat - There might not have been a better wrestler in the 80s than Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. The WrestleMania III match with Randy Savage was the best match on a card that included Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. Now, let me tell you why – even in the 80s – I hated Hulk Hogan. For some reason, while all the other blind Hulkamaniacs was drinking his Kool-Aid, I saw what was happening. Hulk Hogan was the only good guy allowed to hold the WWF world title. All the other good guys had to turn bad to get a chance. Ricky Steamboat NEVER turned bad, so that meant that while Hulk Hogan ruled the WWF, he would never be allowed above the second tier IC title. He went back to the NWA and finally won a world title and had some of the best matches of all time with Ric Flair. The WWE never gave him the chance. He could have been Shawn Michaels before there was a Shawn Michaels when it comes to quality world title matches in the WWF.
5. Furnas and LaFon - Doug Furnas and Dan Kroffat (Phil LaFon in WWF) had made their names in Japan, winning various championships in All Japan over two separate stints. Known for hard hits and big suplexes (Furnas), along with solid technical wrestling (Kroffat), the two then went to ECW where they wowed the crowds as well. So, when the two finally debuted in the WWF, the expectations were high. They were given an entry feud with Owen and Davey Boy for the titles, but WWF gave the fans no real reason to care for the two besides "They're really good wrestlers! Like them!" Eventually, they were turned heel under the "The fans hate us, so we hate them" routine, and eventually they were gone. Huge waste in a division that really could've used the help at the time.
4. Marc Mero - The former Johnny B Badd made his debut at WrestleMania 12, getting into a scuffle with Triple H after his loss to the Ultimate Warrior. Free from the gimmick WCW had saddled him with, the newly christened "Wildman" seemed ready to take over. He had unbelievable aerial moves, and even had "next HBK" type hype from the Apter mags. Sadly, he blew his knee out, and when he returned, he was given the "Marvelous" boxer gimmick and turned heel so he could feud with his wife. He may not have gone down as an all time great or anything, but they could have done much more with Mero, injury or not.
3. Kanyon - Outside of his brief time as "Alliance MVP", the WWF literally did nothing with Kanyon. He was used to get his ass kicked along with DDP in the atrocious feud with Taker and Kane, and he held the US title briefly. Other than that, Kanyon was used for absolutely nothing, which was a shame considering just how good he really was. Even his rebirth as "Champage" Kanyon was fodder for an Undertaker assault. I really hated seeing how badly wasted Kanyon was for his entire WWF/WWE run.
2. Dr. Death Steve Williams - Hey, we have this really good wrestler who's been around forever and wrestled all over the world. He's got a reputation as a real bruiser, and we'd love to have him be a top challenger to Stone Cold's title. Should we have him debut by assaulting Austin? Should we have him obliterate some poor schmucks? No, you know what? Let's have him debut wearing a Kabuki mask in a throwaway hardcore title match, and then put him in our stupid Brawl for All tournament with the hopes that he'll win it all to prove how tough he is. Oh, crap, he got knocked out by Bart Gunn and suffered like 3 different injuries? Well, at least we tried.
1. The Big Show - Yeah, yeah, this probably doesn't sound right, but just hear me out. The Big Show has been with the company since February of 1999. He was still near the peak of his powers at the time. In his time with the company, he's been turned face/heel about six million nonsensical times. He's lost to Jeff Hardy. He's had poop dropped on him repeatedly. He's been dragged around on his Dad's casket. He spent three months last year crying on Raw. He's been sent to OVW. He's been a goof. He got his first WWF Title win in a match no one wanted to see him win the title, and he heard cheers when he lost the belt to super heel Triple H. Big Show should have been this era's Andre. Beating him should have been nearly impossible. He should have had multiple dominant World Title reigns. Instead, he's used as just another guy, one who happens to be big and have good acting chops. He's had a good run, sure, but he's still been largely wasted by WWE most of the time.
5. Shelton Benjamin: Yeah, he had a long run as IC champ but the guy really should have gone higher. He was amazing in the ring, stealing every one of the Money in the Bank matches he was part of and mixing technical skill with great high-flying action. He wasn't stellar on the mic but could have grown more with training. Instead, he was pushed around, wasted in ECW, trying more with the "Gold Standard" gimmick but still not the great push he could have gotten. Given his turns in ROH since, he really could have shone more if WWE had given him a bit more attention, a shame to see it lost.
4. Shane Douglas WWE's own book on the history of ECW doesn't hold back calling Douglas' 1995 run in WWF as a total flop. After basically helping create ECW, Douglas was a great heel, selling it in the ring as well as killer promos but WWF ignored all of that. Playing off his past as a teacher, he'd come out as "Dean" Douglas, doing promos on the "art of wrestling" and scratching the chalkboard. That was poor enough but made worse by how they pushed him around the card as he was set to feud with HBK for the IC belt but then Shawn got beat up at that bar so forfeited the title to Douglas...who then lost it in 15 minutes to Razor Ramon. Given his great success in ECW and WCW later, dropping a guy who could give massive heat on the mic as well as in the ring was a really bad move that showcased how rough '95 was for WWF and hard to really break through.
3. Bam Bam Bigelow WWF blew it twice with this guy. His breakout in 1987 was good, a tough guy with a bad-ass head tattoo, tough but light on his feet and had good skills but was pretty much ignored despite all that. He left for WCW and returned in 1993, put into a feud with freaking Doink the Clown for comedy and then headlined WrestleMania...against Lawrence Taylor. Given Bigelow's terrific work in ECW, this was a huge dropping of the ball by WWF and should have given him a much better run fitting of the Beast of the East.
2. Vader To be fair to WWF, Vader's power was pretty much ruined when Hogan no-sold his dreaded power-bomb in WCW. But it's still amazing to see how they let the massive talent here go. This guy was a legitimate monster, capable of some of the hardest and stiffest battles you could imagine, he reigned as WCW champ for almost a solid year, powerful and yet light on his feet enough to hit some good dropkicks and such. Yet, WWF never really let him have the chance to show off as he should have. Yeah, he got a push against Michaels at SummerSlam '96 but then was dropped to the midcard for the rest of his run, forgettable feuds, a tag team with Mick Foley that went nowhere despite their past history and I'm still stunned they never went for a feud with Undertaker. True, his own hard attitude hurt but it was still a great star that WWF could have pushed as a true monster champ and failed to do so.
1. Lex Luger: The poster child of a guy who should have been a much bigger star than he ended up being. Luger had some good skills early on and was a powerhouse, able to handle himself on the mic as well as in the ring. He had promise as the "Narcissist" but then McMahon tried to turn him into an American hero with the "Lex Express" tour en route to facing Yokozuna at SummerSlam...then has Luger win by countout and not get the title. From there, he was bounced around, more lost chances, a tag team with Davey Boy Smith that went nowhere and thus not really surprising he'd jump to WCW for the first "Nitro" broadcast. Given his success there as champ in several ways, it's amazing how Vince just couldn't pull the trigger on a guy who could have been a decent enough champ in '93 to help things out and maybe finally pay off on his "next Hogan" promise rather than let it be lost again.
5. Damien Sandow - And he's #5 with a bullet. When the former Idol Stevens debuted as the Sandow character he was note perfect: cutting fantastic faux-erudite promos, doing some callbacks on the Genius' old routine and generally impressing when he got ring time. Last year it looked like Sandow would break through, first as part of the Rhodes Scholars team (which never won the tag belts) and then as the Money in the Bank winner. Instead Sandow started losing ... and losing ... and losing. Daniel Bryan went through a similar streak after his MITB win, but there was at least a plan to pull him out of that nosedive. Sandow only got the nosedive. It would seem the plan all along was to have him blow his MITB cash-in so that John Cena wouldn't be the only person on the ignominious list of MITB failures. In fact, Sandow blew his MITB chance against Cena. Even then it was a great match and you might have thought the WWE at least would push the guy since he clearly can work and established himself as a team player by doing a big job. Nope, more losing followed, including a forgettable 10-second feud with Big E over the Intercontinental title. Along the way WWE Creative stripped all the flair from Sandow's character and now it has him wearing pajamas while insisting he's Magneto. It's a textbook case of how to bury a guy.
4. King Tonga/Haku - There's very little argument over who was the actual toughest guy ever to step into the ring. Almost everyone who ever worked with Tonga Fifita will tell you he could dismantle another human. Gouge out your eye, bite off your nose, rip out your teeth or just break your bones like you were made of balsa wood, Tonga could do it all. He was a real life wrecking machine who unfortunately came along during the WWF's cartoon era. At that point in time, Tonga's ferocity was an inside joke - "Oh [chuckle], he could kill us all if he wanted to." Had he come along in the Attitude Era or later it would have been central to his character - "Oh! [head slap] He could kill us all if he wanted to." He'd have been the WWE's Samoa Joe before there ever was such a thing as Samoa Joe. Actually, if he came along now he'd be the UFC heavyweight champ, because he was that kind of legit.
3. Carlito - Family lineage in the business? Check. Good in the ring? Check. Unique look? Check. Knows how to handle a mic and put over a catchphrase? Check. Fits into a major demographic the WWE is trying to capture? Check. Then where in the hell is Carlito these days? Enjoying life in Puerto Rico where he doesn't have to put up with bullshit WWE politics, that's where. He got consistently underpushed when he was in the WWE. During the moments when WWE Creative gave him something to do, he always made it work. Carlito and his brother carried the tag division for a while. Carlito should have had an Edge-like run, collecting belts all over the place and consistently working near the top of the card. Never happened and that's not cool.
2. Sean O'Haire - The list of former WCW guys who got buried during the Invasion storyline is a long one. Yet O'Haire came with a made-for-WWF frame and look. He also had a bevy of big impact moves. If there was one guy on the WCW roster it looked like Vince McMahon could take to the next level, it was O'Haire. He came into the WWF as part of the WCW tag champions team along with Chuck Palumbo. They immediately got sacrificed to the Brothers of Destruction in the Invasion angle and then O'Haire got sent to OVW. When he returned with his do-the-wrong-thing, devil on your shoulder persona, he really did seem to have some star potential. The whole gimmick got derailed quickly for reasons that still remain unclear to me. To be fair, Sean O'Haire's biggest problem very well might have been Sean O'Haire, but he stands out as a case of the WWE not being able to run with what it theoretically wants.
1. Mr. Perfect - I will maintain to my dying day that the greatest world title feuds we never saw were Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart and Mr. Perfect vs. Shawn Michaels. They fought for IC titles, but Perfect never got a sustained run as a WWF title contender. Curt Hennig's back injuries played a major role in that, yet he also is the most glaring case of the WWE failing to capitalize on hot talents during the later years of the Hogan run (Rick Rude being another). The Mr. Perfect character caught on almost instantly and he bragged about his "Perfect record" for 18 months without ever winning so much as a single title. Think about that, 18 months of him being technically undefeated (on TV at least) and he never gets a title. That would be absolutely unthinkable in modern wrestling. He began feuding with Hogan during that time in a beef that kind of got dropped. Hogan eliminated Perfect to win the 1990 Royal Rumble, setting up Hogan vs. Warrior at WrestleMania VI, and that was it for Perfect-Hogan. Fine, Hogan-Warrior was an iconic match, but Perfect should have been on deck for the winner.
Instead Perfect dropped his unbeaten streak to Brutus Beefcake at WrestleMania VI and then got slotted into the IC scene. First off, Brutus? The WWF had Piper, Rude, Santana and Martel all in forgettable matches at that event. Imagine what Hennig could have done with any of them. Given 15 minutes, that steals the show. Second, the entire story of Perfect's WWF career is he was wrestling for no belts when he should have been an IC champ and he was an IC champ when he should have been a world champ. He really should have been the front wave of the back-to-wrestling movement we got with Bret and Shawn. Unfortunately, a cracked tailbone derailed Perfect in 1991 (forcing him to drop his belt to Bret). He returned more than a year later, did a fabulous face turn and wound up feuding with Ric Flair, Lex Luger and Shawn Michaels until his back gave out again. I'd say it's between Hennig and Ricky Steamboat for most talented guy never to be WWF/E champion. You get the sense the plan was to have Perfect in the main event scene in the mid-90s, but his body gave out while he was waiting in line. Talk about a waste of talent.
5. Alex Riley - Carlito failed a Wellness test and refused rehab. Um, yeah. That is on him. Oh, and if it takes Ric Flair to yell at you on Raw in a 'worked shoot,' you probably had other problems as well. Not misused. Shelton Benjamin had tons of great moments but was never main event material. No shame there, talented guy. Not misused AT ALL! Big Show is a former WWE, WCW, and ECW World Champ despite never fully connecting with the fans (heel or face). Not in any universe was he misused. Amazing Hall of Fame career. Lex Luger jumped ship every other week - no wonder a promotion never trusted him 100 percent. Not misused. John Morrison? I would rather watch paint dry...or TNA Impact Wrestling. Not misused. Jake Roberts? Yeah, and Scott Hall was 'misused' too during his career. My choices are guys/gals who actually were not given a fair deal without 5,000 pounds of baggage already bringing them down. First name is Alex Riley! I will not repeat myself over and over, so Google my past articles hyping this guy up. In a way, it is cool to see him get plenty of screen time (on the WWE Network) without having to damage his body. At the same time though, he needs to get back in the ring. Whether his choice or WWE's choice, there is more left in the tank from Alex Riley. Now, please hit his music!
4. My "It" Girls - A blast from the past, right? In 2011, I dubbed Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes, and Aksana my "it" girls of the WWE. A few years later, they are all still there...and all still doing nothing of note. Aksana is starting to gain some attention, but that should have been going on since the AMAZING season three of NXT. Seriously, the greatest show ever created. AJ Lee is great; Kaitlyn was fun. Paige is just getting started. The Bella Twins are there. Wonderful! Now, get my "it" girls some more screen time...
3. Billy Gunn - If Hardcore Holly can get a main event run in 2004, then so can Billy Gunn. If JBL can get rewarded with a new gimmick and late career resurgence, so can Billy Gunn. If Val Venis and others can be bumped up the card during the Attitude Era, so can Billy Gunn. Probably one of the top tag team wrestlers of all-time. However, I felt WWE missed the boat with him during the late 1990's just a bit. They tried (really tried!) just once, and that was in summer/fall 1999 after winning King of the Ring. Just once. It was like they gave him the chance, had The Rock beat him, and then never bothered to give it another shot. Oh well.
2. Test - Same as Billy Gunn. I am not going to spend too much time on this choice because Test had his fair share of 'demons' in his life. Thus, I can understand the hesitation in going all the way with him during his career. Tons of potential and should have been the person to defeat Triple H at Survivor Series 1999. Not Big Show. I will say that another million times. Just boggles my mind that surprise win went to Show instead of Test. Like I said though, I fully understand hesitation later on during his career, which kind of disqualifies this pick.
1. Matt Morgan - Can this little 'retirement' end already? Matt Morgan belongs in WWE. Forget his previous run and be the mainstream star many predicted years ago. It is 2014, and he would be welcomed back at anytime.
5. "Captain Charisma" Christian - I could probably list half the divas or current midcarders, but I feel the ones I listed became wasted in worst ways. Christian during his Captain Charisma phase was on fire. Nearly every promo he cut captivated the audience. Christian had some ridiculous promos like the rap but they got over. Even absurd catchphrases like "This is How I Roll" or "Peeps" got over. Christian even single-handedly made Tomko's career with the problem solver gimmick. WWE completely wasted this at a time when two World Championships existed. It is a shame that Christian barely had any main event feuds excluding the one with Jericho and Cena. Everything looked good when Smackdown drafted Christian. Smackdown lacked the star power of its counterpart, Raw. Still, WWE refused to elevate Christian and relied on JBL. They teased a possible Christian and Batista feud that appeared promising. Honestly, a Christian and Batista feud in 2005 trumps that the JBL and Batista feud we received. Keep in mind that Batista had yet to reach his wrestling potential and working with a solid hand like Christian would have only furthered his skill. Since WWE did not use him to his full potential; he decided to tear it up In TNA and probably became their biggest acquisition ever(even over Kurt Angle, I feel Christian did more for them). WWE did eventually hire him back, but they continued to treat him like an afterthought.
4. "Black Hart" Owen Hart - I know hindsight says otherwise, but the possible success of the Black Hart remained limited. Upon his return, Owen Hart came back to probably the biggest ovations of his career. These pops were pretty monstrous and showed just how much the fans wanted to cheer Owen. Additionally, Owen had an incredible character that people could relate. Characters that show a hint of realism are probably the best. Owen Hart should have fought Shawn Michaels at a PPV if not a few PPVs. People wanted to see it, and the Montreal Screw job heat could have helped mold Owen Hart into a main eventer if used correctly. Some say Shawn did not want to work with Owen, yet they had matches on Raw. For whatever reason, what started hot would fizzle out to a meaningless European Title feud. Owen Hart could have been a buffer against the Montreal Screwjob. Imagine if the Montreal Screwjob created not only a monster heel but a monster face in Owen Hart. Eventually, they limited Owen Hart to a feud with Triple H that put Triple H over. This should have been the peak of Owen Hart's career; instead, it meant little if anything in the long run.
3. Vader - This one completely baffles me. They took one of the most dominant forces from both WCW and Japan, and booked him well at first. Vader became the first to attack a major authority figure and destroy the unbeatable Yokozuna. According to most, politics derailed what started pretty strong. I'm not sure if that is the real cause, but it seems likely. Vader despite his poor booking stayed consistently over well into 1998, a few years after his arrival. Vader was the perfect big man to complement the athletic main eventers of the time like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Most would agree Vader was better than his big man counterparts at the time whether it was Sid, Diesel, or Undertaker. Also, WWE failed to capitalize on the past of Mankind and Vader. The two clearly had chemistry and it would have made a perfect feud between the Undertaker and Mankind feuds that came later. Why did we barely get any Vader versus Hart or Michaels? Those were great matches the few times they happened. How about Vader as the corporate muscle to face beer swelling Steve Austin? In general, WWE failed to use Vader correctly and in the process wasted one of the best big men ever.
2. Muhammad Hassan - I do not care how many times WWE will try to blame a terrorist attack for their own failure to keep a character going. The fact is WWE killed the Muhammad Hassan character not unfortunate circumstance. I know years later some claimed Hassan couldn't handle the character. I cannot disprove that but do not remember any such reports at the time. Muhammad Hassan was an incredible character with memorable promos. I always looked forward to his promos because everything he said was completely justified. WWE even smartly kept him from main eventers at the right time. There were mishaps like the Hogan tag match and announcer feud; nevertheless, Hassan continued to stay over through justified promos. Hassan felt persecuted for being Arab-American and this unlike many wrestling stories was real. For once, WWE was drawing on a pretty deep issue and handling it with care. The fans ate all of this up while Hassan played his part perfectly. This character had unlimited potential without fading heat. I remember some of my friends actually liked Hassan. Hassan's unjust treatment promos worked to perfection. This character was a gimmick that felt real which is rare. All in all, WWE only had to keep letting Hassan talk without the terrorist allusions to keep this character hot. The established superstars could have helped too by giving him more victories. Hassan is one of the arguable biggest wastes of character and heat in wrestling history!
1. DDP - I will admit that WCW in some ways wasted DDP, but what WWE did in wasting him was reprehensible. DDP was the everyman champion or the Daniel Bryan of the past. DDP got the crowd all jacked up as he would say. DDP can work as a heel, yet as a face he is almost unmatched. Few people make you want to cheer like DDP from 1997 to 1998. He had one of the most over finishers of all-time in the Diamond Cutter(why else do you think Randy Orton stole it). The crowd was buzzing when DDP revealed himself as the stalker. In all due respect to the great Booker T., DDP was the real face of WCW that they had under contract. This is the biggest evidence that Vince refuses to accept any ideas not created by himself. DDP got a reception deserving of one of WCW's biggest stars, and they made sure to ruin any momentum gained from the buzzing crowd. DDP did not even need to win the feud. They only needed DDP to face Undertaker in competitive matches. Instead in a mockery, DDP became pinned by Undertaker's untrained non-wrestler wife. The misuse of DDP could be explained in an entire column. Nonetheless, WWE could have given the invasion angle a fighting chance. Sadly, they chose not to and wasted a surefire main eventer. Everyone wanted to see the real people's champion, DDP versus the self-proclaimed people's champion, The Rock. How about DDP facing Steve Austin in a crazy brawl? DDP in the upper midcard could have relived his feud with Benoit. The possibilities were endless. They went with jobber to the stars. The ever-popular DDP remained regulated to the European Championship and a positive guru gimmick. DDP was basically dead and buried upon arrival.
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