Professional wrestling is a fickle business; no single gift is a guarantee of a performer's success. Great athleticism can take a wrestler far but having weak promo ability will hold him back from his maximum potential.
A great storyline can compensate for a wrestler's weaknesses. A bad storyline or gimmick can overshadow his strengths. And even if a performer has every necessary skill, backstage politics and favoritism can also throw roadblocks into a once promising career.
Here are 10 wrestlers from the 00's who never made it big, despite having the tools to do so. If you liked this article, check out our other galleries: 7 WWE Superstars Who Hit Rock Bottom--And Bounced Back, 7 Times WWE Turned Real Tragedies Into Scripted Storylines, and 10 Times WWE Superstars Trolled Their Fans At Live Events. And be sure to check back in soon; Gamespot Universe will be ramping up its WWE coverage for the Money in the Bank PPV on June 17
Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP)
He had a great look, a great entrance, and a well-defined personality. Montel Vontavious Porter's persona was inspired by Terrell Owens and Cuba Gooding Jr.'s "Show me the money!" Rod Tidwell. MVP swaggered to the ring through an inflatable entranceway, and everything about his cocky heel persona infuriated the crowd. He was a 2-time United States Champion, which included a lengthy, memorable feud with Matt Hardy.
But for the latter half of his WWE career, MVP went on a lengthy losing streak and never recovered his reputation.The rumors at the time were that MVP made fun of the Wellness Policy tester who had to watch him urinate, and management viewed his behavior as disrespectful. MVP was released from the company in 2010, and he subsequently wrestled in NJPW, TNA, and Lucha Underground. In 2018, he returned to WWE, making a cameo appearance on the 25th anniversary episode of Raw.
Matt Morgan was the rare, 7-foot tall big man who was as light on his feet as he was strong. He had mic skills and a fantastic look. He was, as his nickname suggested, a "blueprint" for a professional wrestler.
So what did WWE do with this prospect who had every raw advantage? They saddled him with a comedic stuttering gimmick in 2005. Morgan was able to talk--something many wrestlers can't do, even with years of practice--and the creative team took that away to make a silly joke. Fans found it hard to take Morgan seriously after that, and he was released from his contract before the end of the year.
Alex Riley seemed built to last. First, he was a lackey for the Miz, and entered with him for the main event of WrestleMania XXVII. As a solo performer, Riley teamed with both Randy Orton and John Cena. He entered the Money in the Bank ladder match. He feuded with both Dolph Ziggler and Jack Swagger for the United States championship. But then, he suffered a serious hip injury, and after he recovered, he jobbed to everyone on the roster. Eventually, things got so embarrassing that Riley hung up his boots and became a color commentator.
Today, Riley claims he was buried. The cause? A tense backstage conflict with John Cena, who had the clout to kill Riley's career, Riley declines to go into specifics about the drama, though he says he will tell the story, one day, when he's ready. Riley attempted an in-ring comeback in WWE NXT in 2015, though this also didn't work out, and he was released from his contract in 2016.
When Gail Kim debuted, she captured the WWE Women's title in her first match. But that was the highlight of an otherwise unremarkable WWE career. She dropped the title to Molly Holly a month later, and though she was always in contention for the belt, she never clinched it again. She was unexpectedly let go after two years. It was a prime example of "wrong place, wrong time." She would have been a great addition to the Women's Evolution had she started her career ten years later.
Kim would go on to have a highly acclaimed solo career in TNA, where she held the women's title seven times. She made headlines last year by calling out WWE and Stephanie McMahon on social media, claiming that TNA, not WWE, had led the way on legitimizing women's wrestling.
Chris Nowinski's gimmick was that he was the only WWE Superstar with a Harvard degree. This was actually true; Nowinski graduated from Harvard University with a BA in sociology, and he played defensive tackle for Harvard's football team. He was a cocky, vain heel who lorded his intelligence over his fellow wrestlers.
It was a great persona, but unfortunately, he never had the opportunity to grow and develop it. After suffering multiple concussions and post-concussion syndrome, Nowinski retired from professional wrestling. But he didn't leave the business completely behind him. He founded the Concussion Legacy Foundation, which partners with medical institutes to research and educate about concussions in sports and the military.
John Morrison won Tough Enough 3. He won tag team titles, first with Joey Mercury and then with The Miz. When Morrison and Miz were drafted to separate shows, most fans assumed that Morrison would be the one to make it big. Instead, Miz became WWE Champion and one of the longest reigning Intercontinental Champions of all time. Morrison won the ECW Championship and had several reigns as Intercontinental Champion himself, but for his final year in the company, he went on a lengthy losing streak and had an overlong feud with R-Truth.
According to backstage sources, the cause was his romantic relationship with WWE Diva Melina. She had a notorious reputation for not respecting her colleagues, and some of that rubbed off on Morrison. When Morrison was booked with Trish Stratus as his tag partner for WrestleMania XXVII, he ignored the women's wrestling legend because he wanted to tag with Melina instead. And after WWE let Melina go, she continued to hang out backstage with Morrison. The front office disapproved of Morrison's attitude, and that ended any chance of a major push.
Molly Holly is one of several WWE women from the 00's who had a real passion for being a wrestler as opposed to being an entertainer. She started off as an in-storyline cousin of Crash Holly and Hardcore Holly, and she found some babyface success as Mighty Molly, the Hurricane Helms' superheroine sidekick.
Then, she became a heel. Holly took on a snooty persona, and she turned up her nose at the other, sexy women on the roster. She had a couple of runs with the women's title, but over time, Holly was burnt out by the over-emphasis and heckling of her looks. Holly left WWE and became a wrestling trainer, and she never joined another promotion full-time. In 2018, she made her return to WWE as a member of the first women's Royal Rumble. History has been kind to her; Holly is now considered one of the forerunners of the Women's Evolution.
A gifted ring technician, Lance Storm was solid worker in ECW and WCW. When WWE bought WCW, Storm became a WWE employee and took part in the Invasion angle, during which he became the Intercontinental champion.
After that, he took part in a pro-Canada, anti-America angle as an Un-American, but aside from some tag title runs, Storm never became a main event staple. Part of the problem was his in-ring charisma; he could play a stoic, stern-faced badass, but he didn't have any real emotional range beyond that. Storm currently runs his own wrestling school in Calgary; it turned out that training future WWE superstars was his true passion.
When Shelton Benjamin began his WWE wrestling career in developmental promotion OVW, head booker Jim Cornette pegged him for success. Benjamin was a wrestling fan as a kid, and according to Cornette, he picked up the fundamentals better than almost anyone else. He was close to fellow developmental wrestler Brock Lesnar, which also worked in his favor. The two men were collegiate wrestling teammates at the University of Minnesota, and Lesnar would only sign a WWE developmental contract if Benjamin signed with him.
Once he got to the main roster, Benjamin became a part of the Team Angle stable along with Charlie Haas and Kurt Angle. During his solo career, he held both the Intercontinental and United States titles, but he never captured a world championship. Even Benjamin, when asked about why, expressed puzzlement. Today, Benjamin is back in WWE, and he's still not being utilized to his full potential.
The Green Bay native was flagged for success early on. Paul Heyman saw him training in OVW and helped him shape his in-ring persona: a loud-mouthed, trash-talking narcissist who announced himself to the ring. And when Mr. Kennedy hit the main roster, the WWE creative team strapped him to a figurative rocket. He beat multiple former world champions, including The Undertaker, Rey Mysterio, and Batista. He won the Money in the Bank briefcase at Wrestlemania. It seemed he was well on his way to becoming the top guy in the company.
But then, everything fell apart. A misdiagnosed triceps injury caused him to unnecessarily lose the Money in the Bank briefcase (Edge later cashed it in on The Undertaker to become champion). He was busted for violating the Wellness Policy (right after the Chris Benoit tragedy). John Cena tore his pectoral muscle wrestling him. Mr. Kennedy later got injured again, this time for months.
And in his returning match, he performed a back body drop on Randy Orton, who later accused Kennedy of being careless in the ring. WWE released him from his contract four days later. Mr. Kennedy, now known as Mr. Anderson, went on to become a 2-time world heavyweight champion for TNA. But the first half of his wrestling career will always be defined by what he could have been, as opposed to what he was.