While WWE has relied on developmental systems to develop and train talent for years, not all stars are completely local. There are loads of wrestlers who got their start elsewhere, whether wrestling for indies or competing, before signing with WWE. Just look at stars like AJ Styles, who had a well-established Impact Wrestling career before making a splash when he signed to WWE in 2016.
But not all wrestlers can have AJ Styles’ success in WWE. There are a number of occasions where WWE has signed a wrestler who looked like a slam dunk or felt like a major ‘winner’ just so it didn’t work out as intended. None of these wrestlers below are bad, but their runs in WWE arguably were.
It is utterly tragic that Sin Cara’s name has become synonymous with “permanently sloppy moves” as the man behind the mask had a formidable reputation before WWE. As Mistico, he was a megastar of the Mexican CMLL promotion, and WWE signing him made sense as they are still trying to break into the Latin market and build a successor to Rey Mysterio. However, despite the high-profile signing, Sin Cara failed to translate into a WWE context thanks to a style difference in the ring.
Marcus Cor Von
A footnote in WWE history, Marcus Cor Von is best known to Impact Wrestling fans as Monty Brown (his real name), a former football player turned enthusiastic professional wrestler with a lot of charisma and a fun signature maneuver in the Pounce. In fact, he had had enough of the fans until the Impact decided to make him Jeff Jarrett’s lackey. In 2006, Brown signed to WWE and was heavily pushed to take over ECW despite a questionable name change. However, family issues forced him to step away from wrestling before he could truly make a splash in WWE.
When Kharma signed to WWE in 2010, she already had a nine-year career under her belt, hosting impressive matches in Japan and showing the potential of what televised women’s wrestling could be like in North America with Gail Kim in Impact. Wrestling. Sadly, his time with WWE wouldn’t match the promise.
Billed as a monster heel terrorizing (mostly) models-turned-wrestlers in WWE’s Divas Division, Kharma’s new name seemed like something new to the company. But sadly, she only made a handful of appearances and struggled one match before personal issues derailed her time with WWE.
A quick, fierce, and absurdly athletic forward to boot, Low Ki was one of the shining stars of the independent wrestling scene, so his signing to WWE in 2008 held great promise. However, it came a few years too early, so “Kaval” had to debut on the wrong version of NXT. Despite this, Kaval ended up winning Season 2, which was especially nice since his contemporary Daniel Bryan was the first guy knocked out of Season 1. However, his post-NXT run came to naught and Kaval left. the company in 2010.
A great wrestler who already had a well-established career as wreckers in Japan, “Dr. Death” Steve Williams signed to WWE in 1998 and was slated for a big feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin. To make it sound believable, WWE hosted a shooting fight tournament called Brawl For All, which they expected Williams to win despite the fights being legitimate. So, of course, he was knocked out by Bart Gunn in the tournament and got injured in the process as well, only to be released in 1999. He never had that Steve Austin feud.
One of the first major signings of NXT’s black and gold era was KENTA, a decorated NOAH Pro Wrestling star who influenced CM Punk and Bryan Danielson’s movesets and put on some amazing matches with the latter. His accomplishments and signature were showcased onscreen by NXT, but when he finally made his debut, “Hideo Itami” was plagued with ill-timed injuries and otherwise felt like an afterthought when he did. was there to fight. His only major accomplishments in WWE were being a springboard for Finn Balor’s debut and establishing that the parking lot at Full Sail University was the most dangerous place in the world.
A former Tag Team Specialist with his brother Rick, Scott Steiner embarked on a singles career in the late 1990s, changing his look and reaching the main event title scene at WCW, becoming a champion in the world. He had previously worked for WWE, but this Scott Steiner’s signing to WWE in 2002 was somewhat promising.
Sadly, Steiner’s run with the company was sadly sad, mainly due to his feud with Triple H. Their fights together have come under much criticism, including their Rumble Royal 2003 effort, which became one of the worst matches in the history of the series.
In the wake of Rey Mysterio’s signing to WWE, Ultimo Dragon joined the company in 2003 as a big score, as the former J-Crown champion had an awesome style that fused lucha libre and Japanese styles, and was a veteran who formed a group of future stars at his Toryumon school. Sadly, he never gained popularity in WWE, showing himself to be undervalued and underused while performing on minor shows like Speed. In the end, his greatest achievement in WWE was tripping over his cape at WrestleMania XX.
When Austin Aries signed to WWE in 2016, he was already a well-established Impact Wrestling star, winning the world title and proving to be a great heel. While his NXT run was solid but short, Aries’ size saw him relegated to the cruiserweight division, making appearances on 205 live. He would challenge Neville for the Cruiserweight title, but fail several times. He was quickly released from the company in 2017.
Hailed as a pioneer in women’s MMA, Ronda Rousey’s interest in professional wrestling meant her signing to WWE was a huge moment that made headlines, and he got off to a good start with his well-received debut at WrestleMania 34. The fact that she became the Raw Women’s Champion was a foregone conclusion, but coincided with the heel turn that made Becky Lynch a sensation with fans as WWE strove to make Rousey as cool as possible, becoming completely Roman Reigns with crushed promos and the like. Lynch would pin Rousey in the main event of WrestlingMania 35, and the former UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion has disappeared from WWE, she’s unlikely to be seen in the square circle again.
Ronda Rousey only spent a full year wrestling for WWE, but it was full of interesting stories behind the scenes.
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