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There is little doubt that today’s WWE roster is incredibly talented, perhaps more so now than ever before, but the company still lacks true attractions. John Cena and Brock Lesnar are superstars in every sense of the word, but in their absence, the featured performers of Raw and SmackDown Live struggle to stand out as special.
That said, there are plenty of prospects on both brands who are bound to break out eventually, it simply takes time for them to find their footing. Most of those future world champions are products of NXT, WWE’s state-of-the-art developmental system based out of Winter Park, Florida.
In light of the many call-ups from the black-and-yellow brand, however, there are those who are overlooked and largely forgotten. Regardless of how skilled they are or what their list of past accomplishments consists of, it is unlikely they will ever get their just due again.
For some, WWE may have attempted to push them at various points over the course of their careers, and when they either didn’t pan out as planned or officials lost interest, they were cast aside in favor of the fresh faces from NXT.
By now, they can be classified as damaged goods, meaning they once could have been something before losing their value. These are the seven stars who currently find themselves wasting away on the roster.
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It’s almost unbelievable to think that Dolph Ziggler has been in WWE for almost a decade, and that’s only under his current name. He spent some time in the company a few years earlier as Nicky in the Spirit Squad and as Chavo Guerrero’s caddy, but it wasn’t until he landed on the Ziggler character that he started to find some success.
Less than one year removed from his Raw debut, he showed signs of immense potential in his series of matches with Rey Mysterio and John Morrison. Once he eventually captured the Intercontinental and United States Championships, it was merely a matter of time before he was among the elite in the main event scene.
After spending years paying his dues in the midcard, Ziggler finally broke through the glass ceiling in 2012 when he became Mr. Money in the Bank and later world heavyweight champion. He was primed to remain a fixture in the title picture for years to come, until he suffered a concussion that cut his title run short.
Ziggler was pretty popular as a babyface, but fans ultimately realized that he was never going to get beyond a certain level. He has received so many start-and-stop pushes that it has damaged his stock significantly, and as a result, any hopes of him winning the world title again have been dashed.
Turning him heel was his last chance to return to relevance, and considering he is every bit as directionless now as he was six months ago, it wouldn’t be surprising if he decided not to re-sign with WWE when his contract expires soon. In fact, following in the footsteps of Cody Rhodes and taking his talent elsewhere would be Ziggler’s best option.
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It’s very rare that WWE releases second-generation wrestlers, so don’t think for a second that WWE is keeping Curtis Axel around because they have plans to push him anytime soon. Rather, he is a good hand in the ring who can be used as a stepping stone for other up-and-coming talents.
From the get-go, Axel was held back from reaching his full potential when he was placed in the watered-down version of The Nexus in late 2010. By the time the faction dissolved the following year, he had been reduced to enhancement-level status and mainly competed on NXT and WWE Superstars.
For whatever reason, WWE finally realized it had a possible star on its hands in May 2013 when he was paired with Paul Heyman. It wasn’t long after that he won the Intercontinental Championship and was gradually getting over with the audience, but bad booking prevented him from ever truly breaking out.
The failed partnership with Heyman was the final nail in the coffin for him. Instead, he settled for being a background player in the years that followed. He teamed with Ryback, formed The Social Outcasts and even aligned with The Miz, but nothing has been able to get him any closer to super stardom.
Needless to say, the ship has sailed on Axel ever amounting to anything more than an undercard competitor.
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The rise and (almost immediate) fall of Sin Cara in WWE is well-documented, yet six years removed from his heavily touted debut, he remains on the roster. Perhaps WWE hasn’t completely given up on the character just yet, but fans surely have.
Mistico, who originally portrayed Sin Cara from 2011 to 2013, was thought to be Rey Mysterio’s successor when The Mater of the 619 eventually retired. Unfortunately, countless injuries and a reputation for constantly botching things caused him to flop fairly fast.
Despite Mistico’s departure from WWE in late 2013, WWE was adamant that Sin Cara was an important asset to the roster and put the former Hunico under the mask instead. He won a few matches here and there, but it was clear the character wouldn’t escape the stigma of being a failure.
Sin Cara spent some time in the spotlight when he joined forces with Kalisto to form The Lucha Dragons in 2014, capturing the NXT Tag Team Championship later that year. They also had a nice little run for themselves on the main roster, but the writing was on the wall for Sin Cara when they inevitably split up before the WWE draft in 2016.
Aside from a short stint in the cruiserweight division late last year, Sin Cara has been mostly absent from WWE programming since being moved to SmackDown Live in the Superstar Shake-up. He is the ultimate example of someone who could have been a much bigger deal had certain circumstances not gotten in the way.
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Similar to Dolph Ziggler, Alicia Fox debuted on WWE TV in the summer of 2008 as Edge’s wedding planner. By the end of the year, she was a fixture of WWE’s then-Divas division and showed signs of improvement between the ropes.
Two years into her main roster stint, she captured her first (and only) Divas Championship at 2010’s Fatal 4-Way pay-per-view, embarking on an uneventful run as champ before dropping the belt to Melina at SummerSlam. She hasn’t been considered a legitimate threat to the title since, and that was almost seven years ago.
Fox has more than earned her stripes in WWE, but her countless number of face and heel turns haven’t done her any favors. She’s merely been there to put others over, which is fine, but fans shouldn’t expect her to ever be utilized for more than that for as long as she stays with WWE.
To her credit, she can play a variety of characters well, including the unhinged gimmick she had for a while from 2014 to 2015. She may have been on the same level as everyone else during the Diva days in terms of in-ring ability, but with Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Bayley ushering in a new era of women’s wrestling, Fox hasn’t been able to adapt.
For months, Fox has been a regular on Raw as Noam Dar’s main squeeze, but she could fade into the background of Raw’s women’s division now that Dar has broken it off with her.
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From #DIY to Enzo Amore and Big Cass to seemingly The Hype Bros, WWE hasn’t been shy about breaking tag teams so far in 2017. One would think that would lead to the remaining tag teams on both brands receiving more television time, and while that could be the case with some tandems, don’t expect to see that happen with The Colons.
At this point, it virtually doesn’t matter whether you call them Primo and Epico, The Matadores, The Shining Stars or The Colons; they are damaged goods no matter what. Unfortunately, they have been for several years, and their latest aborted push reaffirmed that.
While their character work has left a lot to be desired, The Colons are excellent athletes inside the ring. Although they could have quality matches with whomever, fans have been conditioned to not care about the duo due to how they have been booked for so many years.
Most recently, WWE had its chance to allow them to start fresh upon their move to SmackDown Live. They immediately entered a feud with former SmackDown Tag Team champions American Alpha, but within a matter of weeks, American Alpha avenged the loss and The Colons were back to where they started.
Primo and Epico have been overlooked for far too long, and it might not be long before they call it quits and become stars elsewhere, preferably in Carlos Colon’s World Wrestling Council promotion.
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It’s evident by this point that Titus O’Neil will never be world champion material in WWE, but he has found a solid role for himself as the leader of Titus Worldwide and managing the likes of Apollo Crews and Akira Tozawa. Sadly, his former tag team partner Darren Young hasn’t had the same luck on his own.
The Prime Time Players initially parted ways in late 2015, and while O’Neil stacked up several victories in singles competition, Young toiled away on WWE Superstars and Main Event. He made very few televised appearances up until May when WWE finally decided to do something of note with him.
Bob Backlund serving as Young’s life coach had potential, and although the vignettes quickly became repetitive and boring, Young made a major impact upon returning to Raw by earning a shot at the Intercontinental Championship. That was his ultimate opportunity to shine, but his match with The Miz at Battleground 2016 was an embarrassment and forced officials to sour on his push.
Young suffered a nasty elbow injury earlier this year that has sidelined him from in-ring action, but even prior to that point, he was rarely seen on Raw. It was a complete waste of Backlund whenever Young did resurface, and if the two-time WWE champion couldn’t get him over, no one was going to.
Sure, Young is a solid wrestler, but every creative attempt to make him a midcard player has been unsuccessful.
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Few people, if anyone, saw The Wyatt Family debut on Raw in July 2013 and thought Erick Rowan would one day be a breakout star. He has a unique look, but the buck stops there with him; virtually nothing else about Rowan screams “superstar.”
Thus, the writing was on the wall when The Wyatt Family originally parted ways in late 2014, and Luke Harper captured the Intercontinental Championship soon after. Rowan could have surprised a ton of people by beating Big Show in their Stairs match at TLC that year, but he fell short in decisive fashion and that marked the end of his short-lived push.
Reuniting with Harper and Bray Wyatt was the best thing that could have happened to him in October 2015, but even then, it was apparent his purpose was to eat defeat for the faction. Injuries have kept him on the shelf more often than not these past two years, but breaking off on his own yet again just recently exposed his weaknesses as a performer.
While he is merely mediocre in the ring, you can tell he enjoys getting creative with his character by teasing becoming darker on his Twitter page and debuting a new sophisticated side of himself on an episode of Talking Smack not long ago.
His recent absence from WWE programming should tell you everything about what the future holds for Rowan in WWE. Assuming he isn’t released before the end of the year, he is destined to flounder for the rest of his days with the company.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham “GSM” Matthews, is an Endicott College alumnus and aspiring journalist. Visit his website, Next Era Wrestling, and “like” his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.