People lose their jobs. It’s an unfortunate but unavoidable fact of life that we have all went through at one point. When it comes time for a certain sports entertainment company to trim the fat, there is always the tendency to look at things through rose-tinted spectacles. Erick Rowen was never going to be WWE Champion, Elias had a shelf life, and The Shinning Stars, well they existed!
However, with every released class there is a few who stick out as missed opportunities. While not everyone can be a WWE Champion or a WrestleMania main eventer, there was room in the mid card or more road to left to travel with certain gimmicks.
Unfortunately, the WWE merger with Endeavour and the formation of TKO meant that a small crop of stars would lose their job – some of which suffered from years of inactivity whilst others just didn’t get the time to make their mark at all.
Here are five of those that WWE really missed the boat with.
There are multiple people on this list with multiple gimmicks that could have gone further, so prepare to see some crossover here.
When Mace and T-Bar attacked Mustafa Ali at Fastlane kicking him out of the Retribution stable (Another gimmick creative dropped the ball with) this should have kick started a run for a monster tag team.
Mace seemed to have everything that is on Vince McMahons check list. 6 foot 8, great mic skills, a terrifying look, and an incredible physique. Adding to that, the fact his partner was 6 foot 7, a fan favourite in NXT, and could move like a cruiserweight. The stage should have been set for the team to dominate a division that saw thrown together teams like Dolph & Roode, RKBro, and AJ Styles & Omos taking centre stage. Unfortunately, a DQ win over McIntyre & Braun followed by an Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal appearance was as far as this team went, they disbanded at the end of April in the 2021 draft.
As much as I would love to have put the Maximum Male Models on this list, and I do believe they had more to offer, for this section of the list I have gone with the early portions of Mansoor’s WWE career. WWE loved to trot out a legend at these Suadi shows, but over 3 shows in 8 months, the legend of Mansoor was born!
His 3 show winning streak despite no matches on WWE main roster tv over Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler, and basically the entire roster in a 51 Man Battle Royal saw the internet come alive with memes and nicknames such as The SaudiTaker and Big Match Mansoor. Eventually WWE had no choice but to put him on weekly tv. The company put him in the failing Cruiserweight division that had suffered from lack of fan interest and the loss of talent like Ali, Cedric Alexander, and Angel Garza to the main roster.
Mansoor on 205 Live could have worked for everyone had WWE played it right and pushed his winning streak, which was 49 – 0 before he lost to Sheamus in the Spring of 2021, correctly and led to a Cruiserweight title run.
Mansoor is on weekly tv, so fans can’t complain he is just being dragged out for the home country pop. The 205 weekly tv show is viewed by less people than Raw or Smackdown, Mansoor could have improved with less pressure on him in a division that would have featured such veterans as Kushida and Brian Kendrick. The Cruiserweight Championship would have gotten some much needed exposure on these big Saudi stadium shows. And finally, as we mentioned, less people watching the show in the Western World, but 205 Live could have benefited from an influx of Saudi viewers desperate to see a home country hero.
Representation matters, and in this case, WWE could have saved a failing show, sparked interest in a division, and build a new international star all in one go.
3. Mustafa Ali
Mustafa Ali had a solid run on 205 Live tv from its inception until 2019 despite never winning the Cruiserweight Championship. A refreshing change of pace character where he wanted to break stereotypes about Muslim Americans, an amazing move set, and a Championship Match at WrestleMania 34 had Ali set up in a cushy position as the number 2 face on the 205 Live division before joining Smackdown and pinning WWE Champion Daniel Bryan on his first night.
We could talk about how Ali should have faced Kofi for the WWE Championship, after all he replaced Ali at Elimination Chamber. We could talk about how he should have had a Cruiserweight Championship run. We could even make a case for The Retribution storyline being more than it was.
But for this entry we think WWE should have done more with the #FreeAli movement. In January 2022 Ali announced via twitter that he had been declined his release and it led to a #FreeAli movement on twitter with other wrestlers and fans advocating for his release. Ali managed to agree a return to the company in April 2022 and WWE really should have done something with it.
We have saw how people have become massively over rallying against the machine, Austin, Rock, Bryan, and more have managed to make something of a storyline while rallying against the machine. And while we mentioned in the intro that not everyone can be a top guy, Ali vs Theory in the US title scene could have been more than it was with the chosen breakout star of Vince McMahon going up against the guy rallying against the machine.
2. Shelton Benjamin
2017 saw Shelton return to the company where he had spent a decade with from 2000 – 2010. However aside from a thrown together team with Chad Gabel, not much came from the first 3 years back in WWE.
That all changed in the Summer of 2020 when Shelton Benjamin joined up with MVP & Bobby Lashley (and later Cedric Alexander) to begin The Hurt Business. A 2-week 24/7 title run (Like Romans 1000-day reign at that point), and a 3-month tag team title run began what fans would hope to begin a dominant long-term stable with Bobby Lashley leading the group as WWE Champion.
Unfortunately it was not to be and Benjamin & Alexander dropped the titles back to New Day on a random Raw and would be kicked out of The Hurt Business for no reason what so ever.
All 3 members have spoken about how they would have liked to stay together and taken the stable further, and with the likes of The Bloodline, The Brawling Brutes, Imperium, The OC, and The Judgement Day now on the main roster, the trio could have had a multitude of great matches and a solid tag team in the tag ranks for years to come.
1. Dolph Ziggler
This list could have been 5 times WWE missed the boat on Dolph Ziggler alone!
An accomplished amateur wrestler who had a brief run on the main roster with The Spirit Squad where they won the tag team titles from Kane & Big Show before headlining ppvs with The McMahons and DX, Dolph Ziggler returned to the main roster in the Autum of 2008 as a cocky heel.
It almost seemed like Ziggler at times was punished for making other people look good. Entrusted with main event talent like Edge, Orton, Sheamus, and John Cena in an era where a great wrestler really stood out in the pre-NXT WWE landscape, Ziggler was put in the Bret Hart esq role of making the other guy look great, but unfortunately for him there was no steroid scandal to push him to the top of the card!
Post NXT it seemed like he wasn’t pushed because he wasn’t one of the home grown talents that WWE had invested in down in the performance center, yet he was always chosen as a first feud whenever WWE needed to a new call up to have a star making performance.
Runs like his Money In The Bank run in 2012, his cash in in 2013, and being the sole survivor in 2014 at Survivor Series should have seen him pushed further than he was.
But for this entry we are going to go for post No Mercy 2016 run as Intercontinental champion. The Brand split of 2016 saw more stars given chances to shine with WWE being very strict about their brand split. Dolph and Miz entered into a highly personal feud with Ziggler having to put his career on the line in a match that had fans on the edge of their seats. Maryse with the hair spray, Miz with every trick in the book, and even a cameo by 2/5ths of the Spirit Squad couldn’t stop Dolph winning the title to a deafening pop.
In a post-show Talking Smack appearance, Ziggler pleaded with GM Daniel Bryan for the Intercontinental Champion to be given more responsibility and spoke about he wanted to make the title the work horse championship.
In an era that had more and more World Champions becoming special attractions, Ziggler as an Intercontinental Champion could have led to some great main event matches that carried the brand while the main champion was away.
Ziggler held the title just 37 days before dropping it back to Miz at Smackdown 900. With yet another loss to Miz at that year’s TLC ppv and with the 2017 that followed for Ziggler, time was eventually up for the former World Champion.
Yes, there would be tag and mid card title runs to follow and even a few WWE title matches as well but Ziggler had clearly become disenfranchised with WWE and worst of all, the fans eventually gave up hope of Ziggler as a credible threat to anyone. WWE had well and truly missed the boat!
Sliding into the DM’s, Ross is the team’s sweepstakes expert, spending a number of long, painful hours deciding the destination of the ESSR Title.
Ross has been on hand to provide live tweets and commentary from various wrestling shows and PPVs, backed up by his quick wit and creative sense of humour. His ability to remember obscure moments in wrestling still shocks the team to this day.
Apparently he has a weird obsession with memes about Billy Gunn and claims to have numerous ‘best friends’ in the wrestling industry.