Pro Wrestling

10 ECW Wrestlers That Failed In WWE Source:

Ah, ECW, the little promotion that inspired WWE’s Attitude Era and influenced pro wrestling to such an extent that fans will still chant its name today. Sure, in the end it was a failed experiment that only survived due to Paul Heyman convincing a lot of people that they would get paid eventually and generous under-the-table financial assistance from WWE, but at least it created a bunch of wrestlers that eventually went on to make it big in professional wrestling, like Rob Van Dam and The Dudley Boyz and…um…

Actually, the truth is, except for a few specific cases, many wrestlers that were big stars in ECW went on to do pretty much nothing once they finally made it to WWE. Part of that is WWE’s fault, because they couldn’t look past the flaws of some talented wrestlers to see their real potential, but to be fair, in some cases a lot of those flaws were pretty big, and far more noticeable on the grand stage of WWE than they were in the tiny bingo hall of ECW. Throw in the fact that the hardcore style of ECW left many wrestlers with chronic injuries that seriously hampered their careers by the time they signed their WWE contracts, and it’s probably not so shocking that many of the wrestlers that were the pillars of ECW ended up as footnotes in WWE.

10. Rhyno

When ECW went under, Rhyno was both the ECW Champion and the ECW TV Champion, mostly because there was nobody else left. But during his time in ECW, he became one of their top young prospects, and when ECW folded, he was brought into WWE as an enforcer for Edge and Christian, playing off their real life friendship. Unfortunately, despite having a unique look and hard-hitting arsenal of moves, things never quite clicked for Rhyno in WWE. A neck injury led to a year-long absence just as the Invasion angle was ending, and when he returned, he didn’t have the same momentum as his original debut. He stuck around for a while as a lower-card worker before getting released for a public outburst in a hotel during WrestleMania weekend. Recently, Rhyno made a return to WWE as part of the NXT developmental system, where he works as a guest trainer and occasionally wrestles televised matches. Source:

9. Tajiri

Some will say Tajiri didn’t do too badly for himself in WWE. He was a multiple time Cruiserweight Champion and Tag Team Champion, and he was all over television for most of his time in the company. Of course, those people probably forget that Tajiri’s original character in WWE was as a servant for General Manager William Regal. Like, he was literally Regal’s quiet Japanese house boy. It was months before he even wrestled. And once he did, he was put into the usual stereotypical situations that Japanese wrestlers always seem to find himself in when they come to WWE. There were skits mocking his inability to speak or understand English, he led a faction that was clearly supposed to be inspired by the Yakuza without actually saying it, and at one point he forced his girlfriend to dress up like a geisha because he was an evil Japanese traditionalist who thought women were inferior or something. It’s important to note that in Japan, Tajiri is a respected figure in wrestling, has wrestled some of the country’s biggest stars, and has owned and operated several wrestling promotions, but in WWE, he was just another wacky foreign guy.;jsessionid=DD9954BE839FF10C84680175E16DE156?r30_r1_r1:page=2 Source:

8. Stevie Richards

We’re not saying Stevie Richards is the greatest wrestler in the history of the world, but he’s a guy who had a passion for wrestling and clearly had some very creative ideas, as he managed to re-invent himself several times over the years into some fairly memorable characters, most notably part of the Blue World Order in ECW. So when he came to WWE, they seemed intent on shoving him into ridiculous gimmicks for most of his run, including the leader of the horrible Right to Censor faction that was created to mock WWE’s detractors, his short-lived stint as manager of Kronik (who were fired for sucking after one Pay Per View match), and even having him dress up in drag. At one point, Richards ended up as a bit player on the Raw brand’s Sunday Night Heat show, and, since nobody was paying attention anyway, declared himself “General Manager of Heat”, which was an entertaining and harmless gimmick that was immediately killed when the people in charge heard about it and didn’t think it was funny. Richards held long enough to be a bit player in the revival of the ECW brand, where he never did anything important, and was released shortly afterwards. Source:

7. Mike Awesome

At one point, Mike Awesome was actually a hot prospect in professional wrestling. He was a massive guy with good skills who put on some absolutely brutal fights in ECW with people like Masato Tanaka. Both WWE and WCW were chomping at the bit to sign him, to the point that WCW actually tried to do so while Awesome was actually under an ECW contract, which led to them settling with Paul Heyman for a large dollar amount to a void a legal battle they would have lost. WCW proceeded to throw a variety of terrible gimmicks at Awesome, all of which failed, but when they went under, WWE picked him up to take part in the WCW Invasion angle. Freed from being “The Fat Chick Thrilla” (no, we’re not kidding), Awesome went on to…be the answer to a trivia question when he became the first WCW wrestler to win a WWE title, defeating Rhyno for the Hardcore championship as one of the first shots fired in the Invasion. And then he largely did nothing for the rest of his time in WWE, relegated to the syndicated “B” shows until his eventual release. Source:

6. The Full Blooded Italians

Honestly, we’re not sure that WWE ever understood the true concept of the Full Blooded Italians, where the joke was that absolutely none of them were actually Italian. However, even if WWE had been in on the humorous origins of the name, the fact is, a stable of Mafia-style wrestlers probably could have also worked, what with the popularity of The Sopranos at the time. The major problem, however, was that the leader of the group, known as Little Guido in ECW and Nunzio in WWE, was a cruiserweight, and despite WWE’s half-hearted attempts at appearing to give their best efforts, unless your name was Rey Mysterio, you were never going to be anything important in WWE. As a result, any stable led by a guy who was a head shorter than the behemoths lumbering around the main event was never going to get a real shot (see also: Tajiri’s short-lived Yakuza faction, Kai En Tai, and several other examples from the same time period). Vince has bent on his “big man” mentality a few times, but only for truly special performers, and the FBI was not going to get that sort of latitude. Although they did get entrance music that was a decent rip-off of “No Sleep Til Brooklyn”, so that’s something. Source:

5. Shane Douglas

Shane Douglas was probably never going to get over in WWE in the first place, since his gimmick upon entry was that of “Dean” Douglas, a smarmy and boring schoolteacher, because the New Generation Era of WWE was terrible. There’s a chance that his eventual angry “Franchise” persona might have made it during the Attitude Era, but frankly, most of the reason Douglas was angry was because of his treatment while in WWE. More specifically, Douglas ran afoul of the backstage faction known as the Kliq. You might have heard of them, they were a group of wrestlers who clearly had Vince’s ear throughout the 90’s and featured some of the biggest names in wrestling: Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman, and the guy who’s going to own WWE in a few years, Triple H. Once that group had decided that they didn’t particularly like Douglas, there was basically no chance of him succeeding. He did get a token Intercontinental title reign, but only because Shawn Michaels forfeited the title, and he then lost it that same night to Razor Ramon. You may have noticed something about his opponents, there. Source:

4. Raven

“Who the f*** hired Raven?”

Really, that statement should tell you everything you need to know about Raven’s tenure in WWE. It came from an backstage story about what Vince allegedly said when he walked into the locker room and saw the man who was a mainstay of ECW during its formative years, because apparently he was hired without someone telling Vince. You can understand how that might upset a control freak like Vince McMahon. One of the biggest problems Raven seemed to run into in WWE is that he’s actually a really smart and creative guy with an incredible mind for the wrestling business (during his initial WWE run as Johnny Polo, he actually did backstage work as an associate producer), and also, he’s not afraid to speak his mind. You only have to look at the many firings and re-hirings of Paul Heyman to know what happens to smart people who loudly disagree with Vince (or in Heyman’s case, everyone). Raven had an unmemorable WWE run, like many ECW graduates, he toiled endlessly in the Hardcore division and eventually went back to the independent circuit where his ECW credibility made him more valuable. Source:

3. Sabu

Sabu’s biggest problem, when he got to WWE, was two-fold. First, due to a lifetime of brutal hardcore matches, he was a shell of a wrestler who relied on innovative weapon use to get the crowd into his matches. Which played into the second issue, which is that, even during the re-launch of the ECW brand which finally brought Sabu into WWE, the hardcore style was on its way out and a relic like Sabu simply no longer fit in. Attempts were made to modify his hardcore style and extend his stay in WWE, but it just wasn’t the same “homicidal, suicidal, genocidal” Sabu that had prowled the ECW arena for so many years, and the fans couldn’t get into his act anymore. A much-publicized arrest along with RVD for marijuana-related infractions didn’t help his case, either. When the ECW brand transitioned into just another version of WWE, Sabu was phased out along with the rest of the ECW Originals. Source:

2. Sandman

Simply put, WWE wasn’t going to shell out the money to use Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” (they did it once, for the live broadcast of the original One Night Stand PPV, but all replays and the DVD release used a soundalike), nor were they going to let him have a regular entrance that took such a ridiculous amount of time in the first place. Also, they weren’t going to allow Sandman to drink beer as part of his entrance (that being the exclusive realm of Steve Austin, who admittedly cribbed parts of his act from Sandman’s), or smash a can against his head until he bled from it (for obvious reasons). And once you take his unique entrance away, The Sandman, especially at the point at which he finally made it to WWE, was a broken-down hardcore wrestler with minimal ability and nothing that really made him stand out. If anything, he lasted longer in WWE than most of the ECW Originals who were brought in for the brand re-launch, and far longer than most would have expected. Source:

1. Tazz

Tazz was a force in ECW. His wars with Sabu were legendary, and his character of a legitimate submission specialist and Human Suplex Machine were innovative at the time it was created. He was the biggest fish in the ECW pond, so it’s no shock that WWE came calling eventually. His debut, at the 2000 Royal Rumble, was done perfectly, as he manhandled the undefeated Kurt Angle (and leaving room for a re-match due to Angle’s insistence that Tazz used an illegal choke). However, alleged attitude issues combined by his relatively small stature instantly began working against him. Within weeks, Tazz was relegated to fighting for the Hardcore title, and was basically a forgotten man in WWE until years later, when they needed a color commentator for Smackdown and his experience at the job in ECW got him a position behind the desk. And Tazz was not a bad commentator, once he got used to the role, but he never got to use his excellent wrestling skills once he made it to the big stage. Source:
Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.