10 greatest wrestlers to never wrestle in WWE

Following the closings of ECW and WCW in 2001, WWE became the last promotion standing – a final beacon for sports-entertainment hopefuls and the definitive end-all, be-all for the world of wrestling. But that wasn’t always the case. From the territorial era of days gone by to the turn of the new millennium, star grapplers and young up-and-comers had plenty of options where to ply their trade. Many of the medium’s most popular performers never made it to WWE. But who are the best of them?

Watch videos of wrestlers to never appear in WWE | Vote for the best

Many obvious choices were disqualified on technicalities. Bruiser Brody, Nick Bockwinkel and Lou Thesz all made an appearance of some kind in WWE. Even AJ Styles and Samoa Joe wrestled for Mr. McMahon in their early days. El Santo and Rikidozan were also not included because they never looked for work outside their home countries. These 10 talented, popular and innovative Superstars, however, did fit our criteria of the best performers to have never stepped foot in a WWE ring.

10

Magnum TA

Terry Allen had it all. Great looks, good wrestling skills and incredible fan support. Wrestling for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in the mid-1980s, Allen, known as Magnum TA, rocketed to amazing heights and became the United States Champion. Many longtime wrestling fans remember the classic best-of-seven series that he and Nikita Koloff had for the vacant U.S. Title throughout the summer 1986. 

Watch Magnum take on Nikita Koloff at Great American Bash | Who are wrestling's top 50 good guys?

But on Oct. 14, 1986, Magnum’s career was tragically cut short after a terrible car accident nearly took his life. If Magnum had the opportunity to have competed in WWE, there is no doubt that his star would have continued to rise. Individuals such as “Macho Man” Randy Savage or Jake “The Snake” Roberts could have easily complemented the hardnosed style that Magnum TA employed in the ring.

9

Akira Hokuto

Widely considered one of the greatest female grapplers to ever trade in a pair of heels for wrestling boots, Akira Hokuto is a true legend in Japan. Debuting in the ring when she was only 17 years old, Hokuto earned a series of accolades from All Japan Wrestling. From the mid-1980s through the late ’90s, The Dangerous Queen dominated the women’s wrestling scene by employing innovative maneuvers including the Northern Lights Bomb and Dangerous Queen Bomb, named after herself.

Watch Hokuto battle Madusa at Starrcade 1996

After leaving The Far East, Hokuto competed in Mexico’s CMLL and eventually in WCW. At Starrcade 1996, she defeated Madusa to win the WCW Women’s Championship and forced her rival to retire by defeating Madusa again at Great American Bash 1997. If she had ever found her way to WWE, Hokuto would have been a worthy adversary of female competitors like Jacqueline, Trish Stratus or Molly Holly.

8

The Midnight Express

Tag team wrestling has long been a viable part of any wrestling presentation. And one of the industry’s premier teams of all time was The Midnight Express. This tandem performed in a number of incarnations dating back to 1980. The first to get national attention was the duo of “Loverboy” Dennis Condrey and “Ravishing” Randy Rose. “Beautiful” Bobby Eaton also tagged with Condrey, who was subsequently replaced by “Sweet” Stan Lane. No matter the pairing, The Midnights were always managed by ubiquitous loudmouth Jim Cornette.

Watch The Midnight Express battle on the top of a rickety scaffold | Who are the top 50 tag teams?

From World Class to Mid-Atlantic to WCW, Cornette and his charges gained victory after victory. But apart from an ill-conceived New Midnight Express in 1998, no Midnight Express grouping ever made it to WWE. During an era when teams like The British Bulldogs, The Hart Foundation and The Rockers ruled the tag roost, The Midnight Express would have made an impactful impression in WWE.

7

The Sinister Minister

Why Jim Mitchell never became one of the most engaging personalities on WWE programming remains one of sports-entertainment’s greatest unsolved mysteries. In Smoky Mountain Wrestling and WCW, Mitchell established himself as one of wrestling’s most unique managers. But it was in ECW where he really took things to the extreme by donning a bright crimson suit as The Sinister Minister.

Watch The Sinister Minister address the ECW fans on pay-per-view | More forgotten stars of ECW

As articulate as he was creepy, the devilish preacher was ECW’s narrator before bringing together Mikey Whipwreck & Tajiri as one of latter-day ECW’s most popular tandems.  When WWEClassics.com spoke to Paul Heyman about his experiences with Mitchell, there was nothing but the highest of praise.

“It is a criticism of this business that he’s not featured today as one of the best-known spokesmen on television," Heyman said of his former star.

The Boogeyman, Mankind and, of course, Kane, all could have benefitted from the brains and leadership offered by the talents of The Sinister Minister.

6

Nikita Koloff

One of the more imposing figures to have ever competed in the ring, Nikita Koloff’s career spanned from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s. Primarily carving his niche in WCW, Nikita was introduced by his uncle, Ivan Koloff, who infamously ended Bruno Sammartino’s record-setting first WWE Championship reign. In WCW, Nikita battled Dusty Rhodes, Ric Flair and Wahoo McDaniel in legendary matchups, always employing The Russian Sickle.

Watch Nikita battle Magnum TA | More Russians in sports-entertainment

Nikita eventually caught the attention of Mr. McMahon, who attempted to bring The Russian Nightmare to WWE to compete for the Intercontinental Championship and face off with Tito Santana and Hulk Hogan. It never happened. WWE had its own menacing Soviet in Nikolai Volkoff, but Nikita may have surpassed Volkoff as the most despised Russian competitor of the era, had things gone differently.

5

Vampiro

Long before “The Walking Dead” frustrated audiences on Sunday nights, the demonic Vampiro terrorized opponents and fans alike throughout the 1990s. Trained by the sadistic Abdullah the Butcher, the mysterious Canadian found his way to Mexico, where he transcended the persona of a typical tattooed punk. A charismatic human horror show, Vampiro became a multi-time champion and one of the most popular wrestlers in the nation’s history before being picked up by WCW.

Watch Vampiro face off with Eddie Guerrero on Nitro | Visit Vampiro's Alumni profile

Timing was everything for Vampiro. After facing off against Sting, Eddie Guerrero and Konnan, the macabre rock star was gaining steam just as the Turner-owned organization as beginning to die. Even Hulk Hogan vouched for Vampiro’s potential during the company’s final days. He never made it to WWE, was never accompanied to the ring by Paul Bearer and fiery matchups against Kane, Gangrel or Tajiri didn’t materialize.

4

New Jack

As synonymous with ECW as barbed wire, New Jack was, perhaps, just a little too hardcore for WWE crowds. The three-time ECW Tag Team Champion became a Philadelphia icon by carrying a garbage dump’s worth of weapons to the ring, including the kitchen sink. With Dr. Dre rhymes blasting from bell to bell, New Jack adopted more staple guns than suplexes while appeasing the bloodthirsty faithful that cheered for him.

Watch New Jack in a classic ECW brawl with The FBI | Who are the top 30 ECW stars?

Even after ECW shuttered operations in 2001, New Jack never arrived as either a WWE Superstar or, as a Hollywood casting agent once predicted, Denzel Washington’s co-star. Perhaps the street tough would have been a little much for WWE’s Hardcore Division, which was featuring the likes of Maven and Goldust. But with all the charisma and fearlessness in the world, New Jack could have brutalized anybody he stepped into the ring with in WWE.

3

The Great Muta

His ring presence lent him an aura of mystery, but once in action, The Great Muta could mix it up with the best of them. Between appearing in his native Japan and engaging in a classic rivalry against Sting in WCW, this bizarre and uniquely talented competitor never had the opportunity to call on WWE.

Watch Muta clash with Steve Austin in WCW | Visit Muta's Alumni profile

Had he competed in WWE, there is no doubt Muta would have stood out not only for his vibrant face paint and striking entrance gear, but for the usage of his dangerous red or green mists and his devastating Shining Wizard kick. Muta could have taken on Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart or perhaps even Jeff Hardy or Edge late in his North American career. All of his potential matchups in WWE would have dazzled crowds unfamiliar with the man from The Land of the Rising Sun.

2

Abdullah the Butcher

When it comes to unpredictable individuals inside the squared circle, Abdullah the Butcher is at the top of the list. The Madman from the Sudan enjoyed great success in AWA, WCCW, WCW and across Japan and Puerto Rico — everywhere except WWE. But if he had found his way into WWE rings, The Butcher’s unique brand of ruthlessness and brutality would have taken the measure of many an individual.

Watch Abdullah's WWE Hall of Fame video package | Visit Abdullah's Hall of Fame profile

Terrorizing sports-entertainment since the late ’50s, Abdullah’s savage ways could have made him a serious threat to every WWE Champion from Bruno Sammartino to Bret Hart. How would the 400-pounder have fared against other behemoths, like Gorilla Monsoon or Andre the Giant? Or what if The Butcher had been jabbing his rusty fork around during the Hardcore Title’s heyday? Although Abdullah never competed in WWE, his unique brand of mayhem earned him entry into the WWE Hall of Fame.

1

Sting

For more than a quarter of a century, the man called Sting has been one of the industry’s most recognizable names. No matter who he has faced, this extremely talented individual’s allure has never waned throughout his amazingly successful career. The list of victims that have fallen to his Scorpion Death Drop includes legends like Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Vader.

Watch Sting vs. Ric Flair from the last-ever Nitro | Visit Sting's Alumni profile

There is no doubt that if Sting had ever decided to ply his trade for Mr. McMahon, the results would have been phenomenal. Because of his immense success throughout the industry, The Stinger would have been a great fit for the pageantry and spectacle of WWE. Of course, the one Superstar that the WWE Universe would clamor to see Sting face would be The Undertaker. Perhaps if there was one person who could have upended The Deadman’s WrestleMania Streak, it would be Sting himself.

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