15 Superstars who should've been bigger deals
Why wasn’t Bam Bam Bigelow ever WWE Champion? What stopped Mark Jindrak & Sean O’Haire from becoming the tag team of the new millennium? How did Brad Armstrong perform at the top of his game for more than two decades without becoming a major national star?
It’s difficult to say what stops some Superstars — gifted with the right look, size and charisma — from breaking through to the next level. But there are few things more frustrating for a sports-entertainment fan than watching a brilliant performer who can’t seem to catch that big break.
Here, WWEClassics.com looks at 15 Superstars who possessed many of the tools necessary to make it in professional wrestling, but never got the opportunities they deserved.
Mark Jindrak & Sean O’Haire
Debuting in September 2000 after graduating from the WCW Power Plant, the duo of Mark Jindrak & Sean O’Haire seemed poised to become the future of sports-entertainment. Members of the youth-focused Natural Born Thrillers, the physically imposing and wildly athletic pair won the WCW Tag Team Titles twice within months of their arrival. ( WATCH)
What stopped the group from becoming the next great tag team? Natural Born Thrillers mouthpiece Mike Sanders who suggested that Jindrak & O’Haire exchange partners with Chuck Palumbo & Shawn Stasiak. In a classic example of WCW’s misdirection, the hottest pair in sports-entertainment was done before they even started.
Following WCW’s demise, both competitors joined WWE where they failed to break through as singles stars. Jindrak & O’Haire never reformed as a team, which is unfortunate as their early success in WCW suggested they could have been one of the best duos of the past 20 years. — KEVIN POWERS
In 1984, Hulk Hogan began his meteoric rise to fame after defeating The Iron Sheik to win the WWE Championship. At the same time, a wildly popular competitor named Magnum TA was starting to cause a stir down south in Jim Crockett Promotions.
The mustachioed grappler’s climb was due in part to his gripping rivalry with The Four Horsemen — specifically Tully Blanchard. During an unforgettable run from ’84 through ’86, Magnum TA became one of the greatest United States Champions of all time while his brutal “I Quit” Match with Blanchard at Starrcade 1985 set a new standard for physicality in profession wrestling.
With the coveted NWA World Championship in his sights, Magnum TA was dealt a cruel hand in 1986. A freak and nearly fatal car accident ended the promising star’s career and left him temporarily paralyzed. Southern wrestling’s hot new hero never wrestled again, but he did recover from the worst of the accident and appeared regularly on commentary. Still, fate left many fans wondering, “Where would professional wrestling be if Magnum TA had become a World Champion?” — K.P.
“There was a three-year period where Raven did not have a bad match,” Tommy Dreamer once told WWEClassics.com.
The grungy misanthrope from The Bowery riveted rowdy ECW crowds during rivalries with both Dreamer and The Sandman that established him as one of the most sadistic individuals in sports-entertainment history. ( WATCH)
“He had a chip on his shoulder and liked to be the bad guy,” Dreamer explained. “You ask him how great he is, trust me, he’ll tell you.”
A member of Mensa International, Raven manipulated a cadre of henchmen to do in his bidding. For more than a year during WCW’s heyday, The Flock terrorized the entire roster, but Raven’s Machiavellian ways had diminished by the time he landed in WWE.
Instead of wielding CM Punk–like influence, the two-time ECW Champion was often seen pushing a shopping cart in WWE’s Hardcore division. Given the opportunity, Raven likely could have commandeered a cult of followers en route to World Titles in other companies outside ECW. What about Raven? — ZACH LINDER
With all-American looks and a high school sweetheart to boot, Chris Candido was a common man with uncommon talents — and plenty of bad luck.
Plucked from Eastern Championship Wrestling by Jim Cornette and propelled to main events in his Tennessee-based Smokey Mountain Wrestling promotion, Candido won the heralded NWA Heavyweight Championship in 1994. But his reign came at a rare time when the National Wrestling Alliance had no major television outlet to showcase their title.
Bad luck followed Candido to WWE, where he transformed into the cocky fitness fanatic Skip of The Bodydonnas and was defeated by perennial loser Barry Horowitz. Frustrated by cartoonish personas, Candido arrived in ECW under the banner of “No Gimmicks Needed.” ( WATCH) Still, despite establishing himself as one of the organization’s most gifted athletes, he was never able to solidify himself as a World Championship contender. — Z.L.
Shawn Michaels touted Hakushi as the “greatest Japanese wrestler” upon the mysterious Superstar’s arrival on Jan. 9, 1995. So why didn’t he ever live up to the hype? ( WATCH)
An ahead-of-his-time aerialist with a striking look — he draped himself in all white gear and covered his entire upper body in Japanese script — Hakushi had many of the tools necessary to become a top WWE Superstar. He proved that during his rivalry with Bret “Hit Man” Hart, as the two men put on a series of underrated classics only months into Hakushi’s arrival.
Where did the Japanese Superstar go from there? Well, there was that one-night-only tag team with Kwang. And that time he lost to Barry Horowitz of all people. Not exactly the stuff of legend. Fortunately for Hakushi, he remains a rock star to grappling fans in his home country. Meanwhile, WWE fans are still trying to figure out why he never had a major rivalry against The Undertaker. — RYAN MURPHY
At 6-foot-6 and nearly 300 pounds, Mike Awesome’s stature was strikingly similar to WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan. But Awesome was far more athletic than The Hulkster and took plenty of risks — a necessity in the chaotic environments of ECW and Japan where Awesome made his bones in the ’90s. ( WATCH)
The big man seemed poised to dominate sports-entertainment when he appeared on WCW Monday Nitro while still the reigning ECW Champion. In WCW, he was briefly positioned as a “Career Killer,” before that fearsome moniker gave way to laughable personas like “That ’70s Guy” and “The Fat Chick Thriller.”
When WCW was acquired by WWE in 2001, Awesome was part of the WCW/ECW Alliance and eventually became a WWE Superstar. Aside from a reign as WWE Hardcore Champion, however, he did not achieve nearly the same level of success as he did in ECW or Japan. Mike Awesome certainly had the size and ability to be a WWE Champion, but the chaos of the end of both WCW and ECW prevented his greater success. — K.P.
Who was that masked man? That’s what WCW fans were wondering after Blitzkrieg — that flawless aerialist with the German name, Mexican style, Japanese look and an intergalactic home in The Cosmos — came and went at the end of the ’90s.
Appearing seemingly out of nowhere in ’98, Blitzkrieg excited a WCW fanbase that had grown weary of a staid Cruiserweight division. Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero had all moved on by then, leaving behind a ragtag roster — save for a few standouts — that failed to connect with the audience.
In all his bizarre, anime-character-come-to-life glory, Blitzkrieg thrilled WCW fans with his arching backflips and vibrant Corkscrew 450 Splash. Could he have become the next Rey Mysterio? ( WATCH) It’s a daunting comparison and one that’s impossible to figure as Blitzkrieg left sports-entertainment — suddenly and permanently — not long after the turn of the millennium. — R.M.
Bam Bam Bigelow
“There can’t possibly be more than a handful of people that have ever inhabited this planet that were more naturally inclined to become a professional wrestler than Bam Bam Bigelow,” Paul Heyman once said of the respected heavyweight.
So how is The Beast from the East — the most natural, agile and physically remarkable big man of the past quarter century — not remembered as the greatest villain of the ’90s?
It’s a tough question to answer. On top of all that God-given knack, the 401-pound Bigelow — with his flame-covered gear and tattooed cranium — looked like the last man on earth you’d want to offend in public. So why didn’t Bam Bam face Hulk Hogan at The Show of Shows? Why didn’t he take a serious run at The Undertaker’s Streak? His most lasting impact remains his WrestleMania XI loss to Lawrence Taylor. It was a main event on The Grandest Stage of Them All, sure, but Bam Bam was just there to make an NFL player look good. ( WATCH)
Bigelow deserved better. It’s a shame he never got it. — R.M.
Dr. Tom Prichard
Tom Prichard gets professional wrestling. There are scores of WWE Superstars who came through the developmental system under him that will vouch for the good doctor. Before he became a teacher, however, Prichard was a true student of the game — an underrated wrestler if there ever was one.
He first made his mark in the Fullers’ Continental territory in Alabama in the late 1980s. With a fiery offense and the charisma to match, Dr. Tom quickly became one of the biggest fan favorites in the area, especially during a controversial rivalry with The Dirty White Boy.
But Prichard soon became a tag team specialist. Although he found success as one-half of The Heavenly Bodies and The Bodydonnas, anyone who saw Dr. Tom on his own knew that there was untapped singles potential just waiting to get out. ( WATCH) Prichard never hit big as a solo act, but he’s passed on his extensive knowledge to the future generation of Superstars, many of whom are on today’s WWE roster. — BOBBY MELOK
In the 1990s, Perry Saturn competed in all three major promotions — ECW, WCW and WWE. A former Airborne Ranger in the United States Army and a student of Killer Kowalski, the tough brawler from The Combat Zone in Boston was a three-time ECW Tag Team Champion, two-time WCW Tag Team Champion, WCW TV Champion and also captured the WWE European and Hardcore Titles. ( WATCH)
Saturn possessed the skills and in-ring ability to become a major player in sports-entertainment. After redefining tag team wrestling alongside John Kronus in ECW, Saturn proved he could succeed on his own during a heated rivalry with Raven in WCW.
The bald-headed thug caused shockwaves when he left WCW for WWE alongside Dean Malenko and Eddie Guerrero as part of a famous defection. But Saturn’s defining moment in WWE remains his relationship with a mop named “Moppy.” After his mop was destroyed, Saturn tried to resume a less-comical nature, but an injury sidelined him and ultimately ended his WWE career. — K.P.
Terry Taylor was a classic example of someone who was a very talented individual, had all the natural instincts necessary to attain great results as a performer, but just could not bust out of the pack to get to where he wanted to be.
The Vero Beach, Fla., native enjoyed a modicum of success in the Florida, Mid-South, Mid-Atlantic, Continental, Dallas and Georgia territories throughout the 1980s and ’90s. During that time frame he decided to enter WWE. But his tenure did not pan out the way that it was expected to. Saddled with the bizarre persona of The Red Rooster — basically a grown man who acted like a chicken — Taylor’s 1988 run has long been questioned by pundits who had such high hopes for the young talent. ( WATCH)
Since that time, Taylor has proven his value as an influential force behind the scenes in sports-entertainment. But audiences will always wonder what he could have achieved had his talents been properly harnessed. — HOWARD FINKEL
Son of WWE Hall of Famer “Bullet” Bob Armstrong, and brother to ring favorites like The Road Dogg and Scott & Steve Armstrong, Brad was highly respected by his peers for his ability to brawl, grapple or fly, depending on what the occasion called for. ( WATCH)
“One of the greatest things someone in our business can say of any wrestler is that they could have a good match with anyone,” Jim Ross wrote about Armstrong following his untimely passing in November 2012. “Brad Armstrong certainly fits on a rather short list of wrestlers that could literally have a good match with anyone.”
What stopped Brad from becoming a household name? By most accounts, it was an inability to take all the charm and appeal he had behind the camera and put it in front of it. Still, although daft personas like Buzzkill, Arachnaman and Fantasia failed to bring Brad the accolades he deserved, no one in the locker room doubted his greatness. — R.M.
Ed "The Bull" Gantner
“When I think back over all the people that I’ve met, I don’t think that there’s someone that had as much promise, walking in the door, than Big Ed Gantner,” Paul Heyman told WWEClassics.com.
There’s no doubt that the man they called “The Bull” was built for sports-entertainment. Standing in at 6-foot-4 and weighing 275 pounds of pure muscle, Gantner took the Florida territory by storm in 1985, steamrolling over anyone who stood in his path. ( WATCH)
“[Gantner had] the right look, an extraordinary personality and boatloads of charisma,” Heyman said.
Heyman, along with many others, thought that the former football player had the pure talent to become a WrestleMania main eventer. Unfortunately, Gantner left the industry before realizing his full potential and faded into sports-entertainment obscurity. — B.M.
The British Bulldog
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith is a certifiable legend in sports-entertainment. A member of the famous Hart family by marriage, Smith famously headlined SummerSlam 1992 in his native England, defeating his brother-in-law Bret “Hit Man” Hart for the Intercontinental Championship. Physically imposing and incredibly powerful, The Bulldog captured every major championship in WWE during his time — except for the WWE Title.
The fact is Davey Boy Smith should have been a world champion. He often challenged for both the WWE and WCW Championships, but he was never able to successfully win either. That is not a detriment to the celebrated career of Smith, rather a commentary on the high-level of competition that defines WWE, particularly during The Bulldog’s heyday. ( WATCH)
Sadly, The British Bulldog passed away in 2002. Although the WWE Championship eluded him, his legacy and career should one day be immortalized in the WWE Hall of Fame. — K.P.
The Sinister Minister
“Jim Mitchell was born 15 years too late,” Paul Heyman once told WWEClassics.com. “If he were around a decade earlier, he would have been afforded the opportunity to have been one of the greatest managers of all time.”
Unknown to many of today’s WWE fans, the bizarre Florida native was never spotlighted on WWE’s national stage. Instead, he spent the early parts of his career managing lesser known competitors in Smoky Mountain Wrestling and WCW. But Mitchell came into his own as the demonic preacher known as The Sinister Minister in ECW during the Philadelphia-based organization’s final year. ( WATCH)
“Smart, articulate, creative, with a wicked, warped sense of humor — I’m a huge fan of Jim Mitchell’s ability,” Heyman said. “And I think it is a criticism of this business that he’s not featured today as one of the best-known spokesman on television.” — Z.L.