Following Vince McMahon rebranding the WWF to the WWE in 2002 and the subsequent brand split of RAW and SmackDown, many wrestlers have gone on to reach the top of the WWE mountain.
Whether it’s been the coveted WWE,Universal or World Heavyweight Championships, the company hasn’t been short of belts to place on their top stars, but throughout those years some have never gotten a much-deserved run as the top guy.
With the wrestling promotion now in its twentieth year of operating as the ‘World Wrestling Entertainment’ here’s a look at 10 wrestlers who should’ve gotten a world title run.
10 – Umaga
After the team of 3-Minute Warning had run its course in 2003, Edward Fatu would spend some time in the indies, plying his trade with TNA and All-Japan Pro Wrestling before earning a move back to the company in 2006.
No longer Jamal, Fatu’s second reign with the WWE would be under the guise of ‘Umaga’ where he was portrayed as a dominant Samoan savage.
He’d hit the ground running in 2006, acting as an enforcer for both Vince and Shane McMahon, Umaga would be used as the muscle to do the dirty bidding of the company’s hierarchy. In his first couple months back in WWE, he’d take out the likes of Ric Flair, John Cena, Shawn Michaels and Triple H.
Umaga would also start off strong in 2007, feuding with John Cena for the WWE Championship as well as getting on the WrestleMania card, taking on Bobby Lashley in the infamous battle of the billionaires involving McMahon and former U.S president Donald Trump.
Though still utilised as an enforcer for the WWE Chairman in mid-2007, Umaga would start to be pushed down the card, where he won the WWE Intercontinental Championship before dropping to Santino Marella in what is now dubbed as “the Miracle in Milan”.
He wouldn’t be featured as prominently as he once was, and in the latter years of his WWE tenure, Umaga was largely in the mid-card before being released due to failing the company’s wellness policy in 2009. Tragically passing away months after.
Coming out of the gates strong and a reliable worker, it’s a shame the big man never got a title run.
9. Chavo Guerrero
Nephew of the legendary Eddie Guerrero, Chavo was a great wrestler in his own right, being one of the most technical workers during his long tenure with the company.
In the early 2000s, Chavo had been a staple of SmackDown’s tag team division after a memorable championship run as the Los Guerreros with his aforementioned uncle.
Guerrero would also have a solid run in the cruiserweight division, winning the title four times under the WWE Banner.
Though his run as Kerwin White was largely forgettable and a waste of his talent, he’d be used more to his abilites in 2005 and 2006 post his uncle’s death.
After having decent feuds with Randy Orton and Shelton Benjamin, he’d enter one of the best feuds of his career, turning heel when he took on fellow Mexican wrestler Rey Mysterio, where trading victories with the iconic luchador would be one of the highlights of his WWE tenure.
After defeating Mysterio in an I-Quit match on SmackDown and putting him on the shelf with a knee injury, Guerrero looked poised to be positioned as a serious contender on the SmackDown brand, though nothing would eventuate after his feud with Mysterio ended in 2007.
In December of 2007, he’d later be drafted from SmackDown to ECW, where he quickly captured the ECW Championship from CM Punk after a month on the brand. From there he’d be used largely as an enhancement talent before his tenure with the company ended in 2011.
Being a former ECW Champion, four-time cruiserweight champion and two-time tag-team champion, Guerrero found success in WWE, though a world-title run like his uncle could’ve taken Guerrero to the next level of stardom.
Boasting one of the best theme songs and entrances in WWE history, while also being a great worker and incredible on the microphone, MVP had the complete package, yet never reached the top during his multiple stints with the company.
Debuting in August of 2006, MVP made an immediate impact on the SmackDown brand, trading victories with Kane, before feuding with the Brothers of Destruction until the end of the year.
He’d then feud with Chris Benoit for the United States Championship in a series of matches, culminating in him winning the title at Judgement Day 2007. He’d take out his next opponent Ric Flair before entering one of his most memorable feuds in the company’s history with Matt Hardy.
The two would have a series of challenges, then team up to win the tag belts, before fueding once again when MVP attacked Hardy after they’d lose to The Miz and John Morrison in back-to-back title matches matches.
After two impressive years with the company, he’d fizzle out in his final years and was never given a world title run.
Though he never reached the top of the WWE mountain, MVP is now enjoying the twilight years of his career as the mouthpiece for The Hurt Business and Bobby Lashley.
7. Shelton Benjamin
While Brock Lesnar has gone on to become one of the WWE’s biggest stars, his collegiate wrestling teammate Shelton Benjamin never got a run at the top of the company.
One of the most athletic wrestlers to grace the squared circle, Benjamin would enjoy success in the tag team division as “The World Greatest Tag Team” with Charlie Haas in addition to obtaining both the United States and Intercontinental Championships.
With a great look, possessing great athleticism and seemingly having good mic skills, Benjamin had all the tools to become a top star in the WWE, yet was never given an opportunity to enter the main event scene during his stints.
Though he’d have matchups with the top stars such as The Undertaker, Triple H and Shawn Michaels, he was rarely on the winning end.
Seemingly possessing all the skills to pay the bills, those in the booking and creative departments never saw him as a top guy, though they really should’ve been given the green light.
6. Matt Hardy
A staple of the WWE Ruthless Aggression era, Matt Hardy had a memorable singles career after the Hardy Boyz split.
Teaming up with Shannon Moore in 2002 and adopting the V1 gimmick, Hardy had success in the cruiserweight and mid-card division between 2002 and 2004 before entering a heated feud with Edge for most of 2005.
Playing into their real-life drama over Hardy’s ex-girlfriend Lita, Matt and Edge would have a series of entertaining matches, with the Rated-R Superstar coming out on top in the feud’s conclusion.
Hardy would spend the next five years of his tenure with the company as an upper mid-card wrestler going into the aforementioned feud with MVP and other top stars on the SmackDown brand, winning the United States championship, before reuniting with brother Jeff in 2007 to win tag team gold.
He’d have a stint on the ECW brand becoming the ECW Champion before his first spell with the company came to end in early 2010.
He’d later return to the WWE in 2017 winning the tag team titles several more times before leaving again in 2020.
Though he’d finish his career winning an array of titles with the company, he doesn’t have a world title to his name which in hindsight he really should have given his talent.
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5. Mr Kennedy
Another staple of the Ruthless Aggression era, Mr. Kennedy made his debut in 2005 and made an immediate impact.
Though his work rate in the ring was always solid, it was his work on the microphone which he’d be best remembered for, being one of the top loudmouths in the company during the mid to late 2000s.
Having been one of SmackDown’s brightest up-and-coming stars in 2005 and 2006, Mr Kennedy looked set for stardom in 2007 when he won the Money in the Bank ladder match at WrestleMania 23.
On RAW in the weeks which followed, he’d later announce that he’d be cashing in his money in the bank in 11 months time at Wrestlemania 24.
This never came to fruition as he lost his briefcase to Edge on Smackdown, a match where he got injured in the process.
Though his injury was not as severe as first thought, Kennedy would lose momentum by the time he returned in the middle of 2007, as he was never featured in the main event scene again despite looking set to become one of the company’s top heels.
He’d spent the next two years with the company in the mid-card, before getting released in 2009.
According to Kennedy, he was shown the door after accidentally dumping Randy Orton on his head in a match on RAW, in which Orton persuaded fellow top star John Cena to complain to WWE Chairman Vince McMahon about his ring work.
A good wrestler with good mic skills to boot, the trigger should have been pulled on Kennedy in 2007 who seemed ready for the spotlight having spent two years working his craft as one of the company’s best heels.
4. John Morrison
Debuting in 2005, Morrison would have a great start to life in the company going on to establish himself as one of the top rising stars in the WWE. Capturing the tag team titles with Joey Mercury as part of MNM in 2005, and again with The Miz in 2008.
In addition to winning the Intercontinental Championship, Morrison seemed destined for big things.
However come the turn of the decade, Morrison began to plateau. Despite being one of the most athletic wrestlers on the roster with good mic skills to boot, it remains a mystery as to why he was never elevated past the mid-card.
While management pulled the trigger with his former tag-team partner The Miz, Morrison wasn’t put into the main event scene despite his talents.
His second stint was just as underwhelming, coming back to the company in 2020 and once again not getting close to capturing WWE’s top prizes.
A great talent and popular with the fans, Morrison should have gotten a run with one of WWE’s world titles.
3. Cody Rhodes
Though this could potentially change when Rhodes returns from injury, the American Nightmare really should have a world title to his name already.
Debuting in late 2007 as the tag team partner of Hardcore Holly, Rhodes would get off to an underwhelming start in the company before joining with Randy Orton and Ted DiBiase Jr. to form Legacy.
A group of next-generation wrestlers whose fathers also had successful careers during the 1980s, the trio would wreak havoc on the WWE from 2008 before they’d turn on each other in 2010.
Rhodes would enter the tag team scene again in 2010 winning the titles with Drew McIntyre, before then breaking out on his own as ‘Dashing’ Cody Rhodes.
He’d turn heel and feud with Rey Mysterio in 2011, before capturing the Intercontinental title. And after looking poised to take the next step, he’d lose the title in convincing fashion to the Big Show at WrestleMania 28, and was brought back to the mid-card.
He’d find success again in 2013, teaming with Damien Sandow and brother Goldust, winning the tag team titles against The Shield.
His career would take a turn for the worst thereafter, adopting the gimmick of Stardust for the next several years, a gimmick which he hated.
Rhodes would leave the WWE in 2016 after it was reported that he wasn’t happy with his position in the company.
Though treated as the star he should of been in his second stint, it’s underwhelming that Rhodes is yet to have been given a world title run given his talent.
2. William Regal
The textbook definition of an ‘in-ring technician,’ William Regal was one of the most underrated talents during his second stint with WWE, never getting passed the mid-card despite his brilliant in-ring capabilities.
Being technically sound whilst having great facial expressions, in-ring psychology and mic-skills, Regal was an allrounder, but yet was never featured in the main event scene.
Having been utilised in the tag team division for most of the early to mid 2000s, Regal looked set to for a long-awaited main event push when he won a battle royale in 2007 to become the GM of RAW, before later becoming King of the Ring and Intercontinental Champion in 2008.
Though the stars were aligning for Regal, he’d be suspended for 60 days for violating the company’s wellness policy and all momentum would be lost.
Though he did solid work in the years that followed, he was never featured as promisingly again before his retirement. Even though never getting a run with a world title was self-inflicted to an extent, it’s a shame the company never thought to have pushed him sooner given his skillset.
Having made waves on the independent scenes during the late 2000s as Claudio Castagnoli, WWE eventually came calling and after a short stint in developmental, Cesaro was brought onto the main roster and wasted little time asserting himself.
With a great theme song, look, and signature move, Cesaro had an enjoyable first year with the company in 2012, quickly winning the United States Championship.
He’d be featured in the mid-card for most of 2013, but was picking up wins and quickly gaining fans with his incredible in-ring ability, and while he didn’t come across as the most charismatic person in the world, it had more to do with WWE’s unwillingness to let him off the chain, as his promos were often scripted by the company.
In 2014, the company looked set to push him into the limelight, pitting him with Jack Swagger and Zeb Colter as ‘The Real Americans,’ having him go over then WWE Champion Randy Orton on SmackDown before winning the inaugural Andre the Giant battle royal at WrestleMania 30 by picking up and eliminating The Big Show.
Though he’d continue to be featured as a top star of the company, he never got a run with any of WWE’s top prizes, having just a single one-on-one match for a world title, losing to Roman Reigns for the Universal Championship in 2021.
Earlier this year, Cesaro quietly left WWE after they failed to come to terms on a new contract.
A workhorse of a wrestler, with a devoted following behind him, The Swiss Superman was one of the strongest forces to walk through the doors of the company in the past decade.
Cesaro should have been a bigger star with the company and given at least one world title run.
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