Each wrestling promotion has its own identity and it cannot be taken for granted that an act that got over in one company would be popular in another. While great wrestlers are likely to get crowd support irrespective of the company that they wrestle for, there have been numerous instances of things not working out as well. An example is Diamond Dallas Page who was a main eventer in WCW but was relegated to wrestling for the European title when he came over to the WWE in 2001.
Similarly, Matt Hardy’s ‘Broken Matt’ character was on fire in IMPACT! Wrestling, but it failed to capture fan attention during his later stints in the WWE and AEW. While both DDP and Hardy succeeded in one promotion at least, some wrestlers have consistently underperformed regardless of the promotion that they find themselves in. These are not necessarily bad performers, but either due to the huge fan expectations or bad Creative, their exploits just did not match up to their hype.
This list specifically looks at AEW and WWE and 5 superstars who failed to live up to expectations in both those companies.
5. Marina Shafir
Marina Shafir had a lot of hype when she made her WWE debut in 2018 – she was the first Moldovan to sign with the company, had competed in mixed martial arts professionally, and was a close friend of both the then NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler as well as the latest marquee main roster signing, Ronda Rousey. Her first in-ring appearance would come at the women-only PPV Evolution where she and Jessamyn Duke helped Baszler retain her title against Kairi Sane.
The early signs were promising and there were talks of Shafir, Duke, and Baszler joining Rousey on the main roster to take on the likes of Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Becky Lynch in a ‘Horsewomen vs Horsewomen’ feud. However, the rumors died out soon as it became apparent that Shafir and Duke had a lot more to learn before getting such a prestigious spot on the card. It didn’t help that Shafir got pinned clean in her first official NXT match and she was soon relegated to being Baszler’s lackey and got released during the pandemic, having only wrestled in a WWE Raw Underground match on the main roster.
She joined AEW six months later, hoping to make an impact – but her inauspicious start continued as she lost to Kris Statlander in her opening match, that too on AEW Dark. Since then, she has been hardly featured on AEW Dynamite and her stable with Vickie Guerrero and Nyla Rose is as good as done. She is still with the company though, having wrestled and lost matches for the AEW and ROH Women’s titles as well as the TBS championship in a shallow women’s roster.
4. Tony Nese
WWE had high hopes when they launched 205 Live in 2016 as a show to highlight their cruiserweights. While Tony Nese was a part of that roster, he never felt like a credible threat to the title and it was soon apparent that the 205 division was on its last legs after Neville and Enzo Amore left the promotion.
With viewership dwindling, Tony did get a chance to hold the title after defeating Buddy Murphy during the WrestleMania 35 pre-show. However, his lack of charisma meant that the title was switched to Drew Gulak within three months. The pandemic soon led to Tony’s release and he promptly showed up on Dynamite.
The AEW commentators hyped Tony as one of the best free agents in pro wrestling, which gave his fans some hope that he might get a good storyline in Tony Khan’s company. But he was saddled with Mark Sterling as manager and an uninspiring tag team with Josh Woods. Having taken the moniker of the ‘Varsity Athletes‘, don’t expect Nese and Woods to successfully challenge for the AEW tag team belts any time soon.
3. Matt Sydal
Back in 2008, Matt Sydal was making waves with his Shooting star press finisher in the WWE version of ECW as Evan Bourne. He got an ECW World title shot within four months due to a fan vote and he soon captured the WWE tag team titles with Kofi Kingston.
But that is as good as it got for Sydal. Two wellness policy violations within three months meant that he lost the confidence of the WWE brass and just as he was about to return to the ring, he got injured in a motorcycle accident which resulted in another 12-month layoff. On his return, he received no push from the creative and within the next year, Sydal was gone from the promotion.
Six years after his last appearance with a major US promotion, Sydal appeared at the 2020 AEW All Out as a surprise entrant in the Casino Battle Royal. However, he botched his once-lauded finisher after slipping on the ropes, instantly taking away any momentum that he had. It took months before AEW offered him a full-time contract, but he has hardly appeared on Dynamite let alone having a proper feud with anyone. Sydal has now been relegated to ROH and his early career successes seem like a distant memory.
2. Ruby Soho
She might be one-third of The Outcasts with AEW Women’s champions Toni Storm and Saraya, but Ruby Soho’s AEW career is threatening to go in the same underwhelming route as her WWE stint. While she debuted on the WWE main roster as the leader of the Riott Squad, that group was not the springboard to success that Ruby had hoped for. WWE had the best women’s roster at the time and the likes of Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Alexa Bliss completely overshadowed the Riott squad.
Injuries didn’t help and her heel turn on fellow Riott Squad member Liv Morgan resulted in Ruby taking loss after loss, eventually leading to her WWE release during the pandemic roster cut. Just three months later, Ruby showed up at AEW with a lot of hype and the company backed her, booking her to win the Casino Battle Royal in her debut match.
However, the huge expectations that fans had for her AEW run never came to fruition. Crowd reaction to her wasn’t great and after defeats in a Women’s title match and the Owen Hart Cup finals to Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D., Ruby seemed to be lost in the shuffle. Another heel turn soon followed with her joining The Outcasts, but she has firmly been placed as the third wheel in the group with Toni Storm reigning as the Champion and Saraya as the official mouthpiece. Ruby could still capture the title sometime in the future, but she hasn’t performed as a world-beater during her AEW stint so far.
1. Shawn Spears
Shawn Spears’ WWE and AEW careers had drastically different paths but produced the same underwhelming results. While he was underutilized on the WWE main roster, AEW gave him chance after chance – but in both cases, Spears failed to get over as a main event star.
Spears was in the WWE system for nine years, teaming with Cody Rhodes during their developmental days in 2006. However, he was on the main roster only from 2017-19 and never held a title on Raw or SmackDown. His first feuds were with Aiden English and Baron Corbin and things just did not pick up for his vanilla babyface character. After a brief and failed pursuit of the United States Championship, Spears was mostly relegated to competing in Battle Royals. He requested and was granted his release from the company in 2019.
Wasting no time, Spears showed up at the first AEW pay-per-view as a heel and was given a prominent spot due to his friendship with Cody Rhodes. Spear did get some eyeballs due to his infamous chair shot to Cody at Fyter Fest, but his association with Tully Blanchard and his moniker as the ‘Chairman of AEW’ never got over. He got a new lease on life as part of MJF’s The Pinnacle stable, but always felt like the odd man out in a group that also comprised Wardlow and FTR.
AEW Creative had nothing for Spears after The Pinnacle experiment folded and he has recently shifted to his babyface persona, but he doesn’t seem to be in line for any title shots any time soon.
More From LWOS Pro Wrestling
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