WWE may be the ultimate end goal for the vast majority of professional wrestlers, but the cream doesn’t always necessarily rise to the top. While they have one of the most exciting and action packed rosters that the world of professional wrestling has ever seen, they do have a tendency of mismanaging some of the great talent on their books.
It's often tricky to find sympathy for WWE, but it must be hard for the company itself, as the magnitude of talent they possess isn’t exactly easy to balance out with all the other talented wrestlers at their disposal. For every NXT/independent wrestling starlet that succeeds, there are always 5 others that fail to make an impact. The looming presence of AEW will now be a concern for WWE, as these neglected talents finally have a viable alternative to go to and make a living for themselves. So, let’s take a look back at 7 Promising WWE Signings That Didn’t Work Out.
Chris Hero/Kassius Ohno
We start this list off by a signing which some may consider a success and some may not. Kassius Ohno wrestled on the independent circuit for years as Chris Hero and had torn it up for some of the biggest promotions outside the WWE. He was a highly coveted signing for the company in 2011 and was part of the original gang of NXT wrestlers. He was also supposed to be the third member in the shield, but plans changed and Ohno found himself getting released.
While he did eventually return, Ohno was used primarily as a jobber on NXT, preparing other prospects for success. He was as far from the main roster as you could possibly get and was most recently seen being jobbed out to the likes of KUSHIDA, Travis Banks and Matt Riddle. His most recent move saw him take his vast experience over to NXT UK, where he again found very little success, and was one of the more notable superstars to be released by WWE in the recent mass exodus of talent. An underwhelming tenure for sure.
Uhaa Nation/Apollo Crews
The man formerly known as Uhaa Nation, Apollo Crews was supposed to be a massive star under the WWE spotlight. Wildly athletic with a likeable personality, Crews was tipped for success. However, his NXT career never got out of first gear and he was probably called up a little too quickly. That is where things started to unravel for the talented Crews.
Crews has been a non-factor on the main roster. He had an odd pairing with Titus O‘Neil which kept him somewhat relevant, but then even that pairing fell apart. Crews had recently been looking like he may finally get a push again, notably qualifying for the 2020 MITB match, but now finds himself sidelined through injury. It seems unlikely that his eventual return will coincide with a sustained push as a whole host of new talent seems to be coming to change the direction the product has been headed in. While he is still young enough to become a success, for now, Apollo is just another ailed signing by the WWE.
The Good Brothers
Two for the price of one, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson were supposed to be the hottest tag team entering free agency in early 2016. Having set New Japan on fire with their tag team work as members of The Bullet Club, they were considered absolutely massive signings for the company, especially as they would likely be joining up with long time ally AJ Styles at some point. Another former member of The BC was already waiting, in the form of Finn Balor, if things with Styles didn't pan out.
From the rumors that they would be taking over the WWE with Styles and Balor never coming to fruition, to not having appeared on television for long stretches of time, the duo really fell down the ranks during their WWE run. To be fair they did walk into WrestleMania 33 as reigning tag champions and went on to win the belts on a second occasion, but considering their status as one of the worlds finest tandems, their WWE career can only be seen as a disappointment.
Gallows and Anderson were another two of the most high profile talents to be released by WWE recently and all signs currently point to them returning to NJPW. I think we can confidently say that The Good Brothers return to their spiritual home will be nothing short of Too Sweet.
As of this Tuesday, Cain Velasquez has been released from his contract with WWE. While WWE are yet to officially confirm the news themselves, Dave Meltzer broke the story on this morning's episode of Wrestling Observer Radio, stating that the former UFC Heavyweight Champion was let go of primarily because of the big-money contract he signed with the promotion in 2019.
Velasquez debuted for WWE on the 4 October episode of SmackDown, igniting the show's FOX debut by confronting Brock Lesnar seconds after The Beast squashed Kofi Kingston in 9 seconds. He had teased participation in the 2020 Royal Rumble but the promotion went in a different direction, likely because Cain accidentally spoilt his appearance and WWE may have wanted to move away from the predictable showdown with Lesnar
Velasquez hasn't wrestled since losing a WWE Championship match with long time rival Brock Lesnar at Super ShowDown on 31 October 2019. His signing was met with equal parts fan-fare and cynicism. The MMA legend knew that he would have to put in some serious work to win over the fans and to be taken seriously as a WWE superstar. To his credit he did work some AAA shows in Mexico as part of his preparation where he looked to be coming along quite nicely. Unfortunately for Velasquez WWE seemed to cool off on him pretty quickly. One key reason for this may be the recent news that WWE are moving away from Brock Lesnar featuring so prominently. Cains first feud would undoubtedly have been against The Beast Incarante, so his departure has likely impacted his former foe's WWE credentials..
It isn't clear at this moment in time if Velasquez was a part of the recent WWE talent cull or if this is an entirely separate release. Who knows what the future holds, but for now, Cain Velasquez's WWE run is over before it could even begin.
While many of you night have expected Adrian Neville to be the penultimate superstar on this list, I've chosen to go with Austin Aries instead. Neville is a former NXT Champion, the greatest ever Cruiserweight Champion and even competed for the WWE Championship at one point. While his career didn’t blossom like it was expected to, he wasn’t an underwhelming signing by any stretch of the imagination. Austin Aries however, is a different story.
Considered as one of the very best wrestlers in the world at one stage, Aries signing with the WWE one day was expected. He never got going on NXT, so WWE decided to make him the top face of the 205 Live roster where he and Neville would have a great rivalry. However, after he realized that the Cruiserweight division was his ceiling, Aries promptly left the company and was most recently seen making headlines with Impact Wrestling, albeit for all the wrong reasons. His talent promised us so much more than what was delivered.
In his defence, Aries was used very poorly by WWE who never knew how to capitalise on his talent. An eye socket injury derailed his initial debut so instead he worked commentary for a while and it became somewhat difficult to separate the announcer from the wrestler. Being left off the WrestleMania DVD of that year proved to be the final straw for Aries, as well as Neville, who have both gone on to bigger things since leaving the E.
No list of this nature can be topped by anyone apart from Kenta Kobashi, one of the greatest Japanese wrestlers in history, but a complete non-factor in the WWE. Debuting all the way back in 2014 for NXT, Itami never succeeded inside the WWE, battling injuries over and over again. Even if WWE had big plans for him, they would get interrupted by another injury to the man. A 5* classic machine before joining the WWE, Kenta was a massive signing, but one that never really worked out.
While he did debut with a lot of buzz and excitement around this latest acquisition, Itami never really got out of first gear. He had big moments like his feuds with Finn Balor and Tyler Breeze, or his tag team with Kota Ibushi, but he never translated it into long term success. Even his 205 Live run wasn’t the most fruitful. While people expected the 205 Live adventure to reboot his WWE career, Itami requested his release within a couple of months. Difficulty in learning English and staying healthy would ultimately contribute to his downfall and led to one of the biggest disappointments from a WWE signing ever.
As expected, Kenta has found a new lease of life back home in NJPW where his recent heel run has seen his capture gold and rediscover his best form.