The best way to make it to the top of the WWE is to let it happen organically. It takes a combination of talent, fan support and the right opportunities to become a top level guy. Sometimes though WWE is intent on pushing a wrestler to the moon way too fast. Rarely does this ever work. Brock Lesnar is the exception but more often than not this mistake can damage a the career of a would be future star.
Some recover, some don’t. Let’s take a look at 7 wrestlers WWE pushed too soon.
#7 – Randy Orton
Now let’s get one thing straight before we get into this one, Randy Orton is currently at the top of his game and he has been for many years. This guys is more than deserving of the push he’s received over the years and he has all the talent to back it up. However, it was a different story in 2004.
Orton had been tearing it up in Evolution as he became the”Legend Killer” and he had built up a lot of momentum. Whether or not he had built up enough momentum to face off against Chris Benoit for the World Heavyweight Championship was questionable. Orton went on to become the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history at SummerSlam 2004 but his title reign was very short lived.
Nowadays Orton is a guy that you can rely on to carry the company with a WWE World Heavyweight Championship reign but he just wasn’t ready for it at such a young age. Randy still had a lot of growing up to do. Although everyone knew he had everything it took to become a huge superstar, Orton just wasn’t ready to meet everyone’s expectations at the time. He proved that he was just too immature to handle all of the responsibility that came with being World Heavyweight Champion.
Luckily for Orton his story has a very happy ending and he was able to recover. Orton has had one hell of a career and he’s without a doubt a future WWE Hall of Famer.
#6 – The Great Khali
The Great Khali is the monster heel that no one wanted and no one asked for. A little over a year after his debut, Khali won his first World Heavyweight Championship and many fans would like to forget it ever happened.
We get where WWE was going with this. The man is huge and on paper it looks like he could be a threat but Khali’s mobility (or lack thereof) is a huge problem. The Great Khali’s World Heavyweight Championship run was really hard to sit through and the matches he had on pay-per-view made for great nap breaks.
Today Khali is used as a comedy character which is something that seems to suit him much better than monster heel.
#5 – Paige
Paige is extremely talented and when she made her debut on the WWE main roster the night after WrestleMania 30 many people were excited to see her on Raw. With AJ Lee leaving for a little while WWE needed someone to carry the WWE Divas Championship and they chose Paige. It seemed like a great idea at first but WWE forgot one important thing, most fans didn’t know anything about Paige.
WWE made Paige the WWE Divas Champion without ever establishing a character for her on the main roster and this talented young lady paid the price. Paige isn’t lacking in the talent department at all but without a character to care about the fans seemed to have a tough time getting into her matches.
WWE has obviously seen the era of their ways as they recently turned Paige heel which has managed to give her some much needed character development. Luckily they’ve corrected the problem early enough into her WWE career that it won’t do any long term damage.
#4- Jack Swagger
When Jack Swagger first debuted on the ECW brand it seemed like this man was destined for greatness. Swagger looked like the total package and it wasn’t hard to imagine that he would be a World Champion someday but that someday was a lot sooner than anyone anticipated.
Swagger debuted on WWE’s ECW brand in September of 2008 and he was the ECW World Champion by January of 2009. Too soon? Definitely, but Swagger did a decent job holding it down on WWE’s least respected brand. He was putting on decent matches and showed a lot of promise.
In March of 2010 less than two years after his debut, he cashed in a Money in the Bank briefcase to become World Heavyweight Champion. Too soon? Definitely. Although Swagger did a decent job with as ECW World Champion, that was not the case when he was chosen to carry the SmackDown brand on his shoulders. His title reign was lackluster at best due to a combination of terrible booking and inexperience.
Swagger is without a doubt extremely talented and it’s obvious that WWE wants him to be a top superstar and hopefully someday he is able to make it to that level. He puts on great matches and seems to be experiencing a career revival as of late after turning face. Jack Swagger has everything it takes to get to the top of the WWE mountain, he just wasn’t ready for it back in 2010.
#3 – Sheamus
Only 166 days after his debut on WWE’s ECW brand, Sheamus captured his first WWE Championship when he defeated John Cena in a tables match. Sheamus is currently one of the most valuable members of the WWE roster but giving him the most prestigious title in the industry so soon was a mistake. Sheamus was fast tracked to the main event and in the end, that hurt his career.
The WWE fans never really got a chance to get to know Sheamus and accept him as a main event level star and some fans to this day still have trouble accepting him as a top guy. Sheamus is a great worker and he consistently puts on great matches but he still has yet to have that really successful run as a top guy.
Hopefully the best is yet to come from Sheamus but pushing him too fast, too soon didn’t do him any favors in the long run. It seems like after only 5 years his WWE career has already peaked.
#2 – Ryback
Ryback has been an unfortunate victim of circumstance. After debuting with the Nexus in 2010 as Skip Sheffield, Ryback got injured and was unfortunately sidelined for almost two years. In retrospect that was probably a good thing.
He made his debut as Ryback in April of 2012 and defeated many local jobbers over the next few months. He went on an undefeated streak for quite a few months and although the fans didn’t accept it at first, it seemed as if he was starting to get over. Ryback was a powerhouse and his “Feed Me More!” chant was becoming a big deal among fans. It seemed as if WWE had put Ryback in the perfect position for a slow build towards the main event and it looked like they had another superstar in the making. Then, WWE panicked.
In the fall of 2012 John Cena got injured and WWE needed a main event star. WWE decided to put Ryback in a feud with CM Punk for the WWE Championship with no intentions of him winning the title. Ryback’s undefeated streak (and his momentum) came to a crashing halt at Hell in a Cell 2012 when he lost to CM Punk thanks to a low blow and fast count by referee Brad Maddox. Ryback would chase the title for a few more months only to get screwed every single time and this once white hot superstar became ice cold because of it.
Ryback seemed to be on the right track to main event status but pushing him into the WWE Championship picture with no intention of letting him win the title proved to be a fatal mistake. Unfortunately for Ryback he hasn’t been able to regain that momentum and as of right now it doesn’t look like he ever will.
#1 – Alberto Del Rio
From day one Alberto Del Rio was shoved down the throats of wrestling fans like there was no tomorrow. There was no months of working his way up the ladder, Del Rio was placed directly into the main event upon his debut and the fans wanted no part of it. WWE was determined to make the fans believe that this guy was the next big thing but they failed to convince anybody that was the truth.
Alberto Del Rio debuted in June of 2010 and by January of 2011 he had won the Royal Rumble, then in April of 2011 he was challenging for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania. Too much too soon? Without a doubt.
The problem with this is that Del Rio couldn’t even get heel heat, people just didn’t care. He more often than not received no reaction whatsoever which is pretty much the kiss of death in the career of a wrestler. Still, WWE was intent on making him a top guy and refused to accept failure. After winning Money in the Bank in 2011, they tried to pull the rug out from underneath CM Punk (who was the best thing going in wrestling at the time) by having Alberto cash in on Punk and become WWE Champion at SummerSlam. Once again, no one cared.
WWE tried once again during the buildup to WrestleMania 29 to make Del Rio a main event star by turning him face and giving him the World Heavyweight Championship but it just didn’t feel natural. After failing to get over with that run the WWE seemed to just give up on Alberto.
The irony of all this is that once the pressure was off the fans to take him seriously, Del Rio started putting on some great matches in the midcard. The damage had already been done but it’s not hard to believe that with his exceptional wrestling ability, if WWE had just let Del Rio’s career happen naturally, he could have been the star they kept telling us he was.