WWE: The 25 Best Wrestlers Who Never Wrestled a Match for Vince McMahon
WWE has long been where the biggest stars migrate to, but there have been some great wrestlers to never wrestle for them.
In the '80s and beyond, Vince McMahon Jr. and WWE changed pro wrestling forever.
Whatever your opinion of his product, it's undeniable that he had a huge hand in changing the sport into a global money-making phenomenon.
The men and women on this list never worked for McMahon because the company wasn't around during their time, wrestled in a far away land or in the case of one man, just refused to join the WWE team.
Note: I've revised this after realizing some of my initial entrants had in fact worked for McMahon in some fashion. Seeing just how few great wrestlers never worked for WWE is a testament to how dominant the company is.
Eliminated from Consideration
Samoa Joe wrestled Essa Rios.
Robert Roode wrestled on an episode of Sunday Night Heat.
Eddie Gilbert worked briefly as a jobber for WWE in ’82.
David Von Erich wrestled one match on a single WWE card in 1979.
A host of Japanese great, Jushin Liger, Toshiaki Kawada, Jumbo Tsuruta , Giant Baba and Mitsuharu Misawa (as Tiger Mask II) and Kenta Kobashi all wrestled at a 1990 WWF-NPJW-AJPW Wrestling Summit in Tokyo.
Billy Robinson had a match with then WWWF champ Bob Backlund in ’82.
Lou Thesz won a WWE battle royal in 1987 that also featured Nick Bockwinkel.
Verne Gagne made special appearances at MSG for McMahon's company.
The self-proclaimed "Urban Legend" has spent his career in just about every promotion other than WWE.
Homicide has won titles in Big Japan, Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerilla and TNA.
He's a solid worker, consistent, but not a megastar.
It's likely that if he were to sign with WWE that he'd just get lost in the shuffle. He's a much bigger fish in the smaller ponds.
But who knows, perhaps he's determined to find out what the bright lights of WWE are all about.
Dream WWE Match: Homicide vs. Sin Cara
24. Shinsuke Nakamura
One of Japan's fastest rising stars has already done great things.
Shinsuke Nakamura won the Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Rookie of the Year Award in 2003 and has used his MMA skills and incredible athleticism to create stunning matches.
There were rumors of John Laurinaitis trying to lure Nakamura to WWE, even just temporarily, but nothing came of it.
Instead he has become one of the most exciting athletes on the Japanese scene.
Dream WWE Match: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Evan Bourne
23. Chris Adams
Though he never wrestled for WWE, his impact was certainly felt in that company.
Adams popularized the superkick, a move that helped define Shawn Michaels' career. Adams also trained a young Texan with great potential, one Stone Cold Steve Austin.
As a wrestler, Adams had fast-paced matches. His move set was influenced by his judo skills, adding an entertaining flair to the action.
He spent the most well-known part of his career with Fritz Von Erich’s WCCW in Dallas where he became extremely popular. His work in his country of England featured battles against Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid.
Dream WWE Match: Chris Adams vs. Tito Santana
22. Davey Richards
Since debuting in 2004, Davey Richards has made a forceful stamp on the wrestling world.
Whether in Japan or Ring of Honor, where he is the current world champ, Richards has used an entertaining blend of speed, technical skills and agility to entertain any fan lucky enough to see his work.
Wrestling Observer Newsletter named him Most Outstanding Wrestler in 2011.
There's a huge chance we'll win a number of additional honors as he's only 29 and getting exponetionally better.
It's not so much a question of if WWE will come calling, but when. Richards is too talented to be ignored by the big companies.
Dream WWE Match: Davey Richards vs. Chris Jericho
21. Austin Aries
Austin Aries is destined for greatness.
On the mic and in the ring, Aries is an enthralling figure.
His star shined so greatly with Ring of Honor that TNA wisely picked him up. There are rumors now of WWE wanting to sign him.
His matches burst with energy, a grab bag of moves at his disposal.
As he continues to fill his resume with great matches, he will either climb up this list or be removed from it completely, should Vince McMahon get his hands on this rising star.
Dream WWE Match: Austin Aries vs. Dolph Ziggler
20. Akira Hokuto
Hokuto also wrestled with WCW where she fought against Madusa Miceli and teamed with Bull Nakano.
WWE fans did not get the pleasure of seeing her wrestling style, which is equal parts brutality and precision.
Nor did they see the masterpieces she's done like her five-star match with vs. Shinobu Kandori.
Dream WWE Match: Akira Hokuto vs. Sherri Martel
19. Magnum TA
Any reflection on Magnum TA's career is always a wistful discussion of what might have been.
A debilitating car accident in '86 robbed him of a long, fruitful career and robbed fans of potentially one of the sport's greatest stars.
Magnum wrestled for Mid-South Wrestling and the NWA where he brimmed with potential and became famous in part for his prominent, Tom Selleck-like mustache.
Some of his greatest work was against Ivan Koloff, Ric Flair and Tully Blanchard.
Though he may have preferred to stay with NWA had his career not been cut short, it's intriguing to think about how Magnum would have done with WWE.
Dream WWE Match: Magnum TA vs. Randy Savage
18. June Byers
June Byers was one of the greatest female wrestlers of all time, a dominating force during the '50s.
She won both the NWA Women's Championship and AWA World Women's Championship, years before the creation of the WWE Women's Championship.
Byers was known for her athleticism, superior ring psychology and toughness. She apparently broke some of her opponents' noses during matches.
The Fabulous Moolah was the clear queen of WWE women's division for years. Having a worthy challenger around could have only benefited the company and excited the fans.
17. Villaño III
One of the greatest lightweights in wrestling history, Villaño III excited fans in Mexico for three decades.
Though he won the WWF Lightweight Championships seven times, he never wrestled for WWE. The title at that time was owned and promoted by the Universal Wrestling Association.
Some of his greatest work was against fellow luchadors Gran Hamada and Perro Aguayo as well as Chris Benoit (as Pegasus Kid), who he fought several times in 1991.
Despite being 47 at the time, Villaño III had a near-perfect match with Atlantis in 2000.
One has to wonder how WWE would have been changed by the inclusion of a talent like Villaño III.
Dream WWE Match: Villaño III vs. Ricky Steamboat
16. Jaguar Yokota
Hall of Famer Jaguar Yokota was one of Japan's greatest wrestlers, male or female. She was a consistent headliner throughout the '80s for All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling.
The skyrocketing WWE could have easily found a place for such a talented woman. Wendi Richter became the female face of the company in the '80s and Richter vs. Yokota would have been a great rivalry.
In Japan, the two women had some classic matches together.
Though agile enough to pull off moonsaults and other high-flying moves, Yokota's strength was in her submission holds and devastating power moves.
Had she come to WWE, the landscape of women's wrestling would have changed dramatically.
Dream WWE Match: Jaguar Yokota vs. The Fabulous Moolah
15. Naomichi Marufuji
A phenomenal leaper and freak of an athlete, Naomichi Marufuji is one of the brightest stars in Japan today. He is likely only to improve with experience.
WWE hasn't traditionally had success pushing Japanese stars, but one has to wonder if Marufuji's excess of athleticism wouldn't endear him to even the most cynical fan.
He flies across and out of the ring. Using an astounding version of the corner-to-corner dropkick reminiscent of RVD, Marufuji is a marvel to watch.
Marufuji's only professional venture to the U.S. has been a few dates with Ring of Honor, where he had a great match with Daniel Bryan.
Dream WWE Match: Naomichi Marufuji vs. Kofi Kingston (or a rematch with Daniel Bryan)
14. Stu Hart
More famous for being Bret and Owen's dad and training wrestlers in his basement, Stu Hart was also a successful wrestler.
Stu wrestled in Canada and in the Northeast, using his amateur background to elevate his skills as a pro.
Anyone who felt him demonstrate a reverse chinlock in the Hart Family Dungeon can attest to his uncanny strength.
That strength would have aided him in the matches he allegedly had with tigers and bears.
Hart's career ended before WWE's inception, but he obviously had a hand in changing the history of that company by fathering and training two of its greatest stars.
While wrestling in Japan or with Ring of Honor, KENTA has consistently wowed audiences with his unworldly athleticism and thunderous kicks.
His stiff, kickboxing-influenced style may not translate well to WWE, but as a fan I want to see McMahon and his team at least give it a try.
CM Punk uses several of KENTA's moves, which could easily lead to a feud between the two.
At only 31, KENTA has a lot of wrestling to do. Will any of his potentially Hall of Fame career happen with WWE?
Dream WWE Match: KENTA vs. CM Punk
12. Georg Hackenschmidt
Having debuted in 1896, there's of course no way Hackenschmidt would have ever wrestled for WWE.
Even without the opportunity to wrestle in front of a television audience or a packed stadium, he was a huge star.
Georg Hackenschmidt was a pioneer in weightlifting but also in wrestling, as he is credited with creating the bear hug.
At a time when wrestling had little to do with show, the powerful Estonian had to be convinced to let his matches go on a little longer for entertainment sake.
One of the first wrestling superstars and world champions, he is now a member of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame and deservedly so.
11. Jun Akiyama
Jun Akiyama accumulated his heap of tag team honors in All Japan Pro Wrestling mostly with two legendary partners, Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuharu Misawa.
He was certainly not dead weight on those teams.
Akiyama has executed some of the most devastating and creative suplexes we've ever seen.
While the men who helped him pile up seven five-star matches (Kobashi and Misawa) worked for WWE in a 1990 WWF/NJPW/AJW supershow, Akiyama has only worked for Japanese promotions.
Still active, but certainly not as springy as he once, Akiyama could still potentially wrestle in the U.S. with WWE.
Dream WWE Match: Jun Akiyama vs. Eddie Guerrero
10. Fritz Von Erich
Fritz Von Erich's legacy is more tied to him being a promoter, but he was an excellent wrestler in his day.
The former AWA and NWA World Champion was famous for clamping a claw hold on his opponents. Though 6'4'' and 260 pounds is not big by today's standards, fans in the '60s didn’t see many men that large.
His angry German gimmick was extremely popular and Von Erich was the biggest star of his own promotion, World Class Championship Wrestling.
Fritz's kayfabe brother, Waldo Von Erich, went on to wrestle for WWE, but Fritz never did.
His son Kerry also worked for McMahon, winning the WWE Intercontinental Championship in 1990.
Dream WWE Match: Fritz Von Erich vs. Bruno Sammartino
9. Gory Guerrero
Starting in 1943, when he was named Rookie of the Year with the Empresa Mexicana de la Lucha Libre promotion, Mexican fans knew that Gory Guerrero was special.
Whether when teaming with the icon El Santo or when wrestling solo, Gory had a country's eyes on him.
The trailblazing luchador innovated the Camel Clutch and the Gory Special. His impact on the sport was felt long after his retirement as Gory became the patriarch of one of wrestling's most famous and respected families.
While Gory's sons Eddie and Chavo as well as his grandson Chavo Jr. all wrestled for WWE, Gory's run in the U.S. was mostly with NWA.
WWE would have certainly benefited from having the head of the Guerrero family on their roster during his prime.
Dream WWE Match: Gory Guerrero vs. Buddy Rogers
Often referred to as the father of Japanese pro wrestling, Rikidōzan was the biggest wrestling star in a country that was not his own.
In the ‘50s, Rikidōzan was a huge star for the Japan Wrestling Association.
He had many classic battles with men like Lou Thesz, Masahiko Kimura and Freddie Blassie. Gladly he abandoned his sumo career and found his true calling, chopping people across the chest, and piledriving his way to legendary status.
Rikidōzan's career pre-dated the WWE and his premature death prevented any chance of him coming over once McMahon Sr. had gotten the ball rolling.
What might have been had Rikidōzan not been stabbed and had he instead come to the WWE? Could he been half as beloved over here as he was in Japan?
Dream WWE Match: Rikidōzan vs. Bruno Sammartino
7. Mildred Burke
During the '30s,'40s and some of the '50s, Mildred Burke was the undisputed queen of pro wrestling.
Had she been around just a bit later, she might have joined the Fabulous Moolah atop the WWE world.
Burke held the World Women's Championship for more than a decade.
Her toughness and in-ring ability were undeniable. Had her wrestling been seen by a bigger audience, she would have been even more of a megastar.
She retired in the mid '50s, long before the creation of the WWE Women's title, an honor she would have no doubt won dozens of times.
6. Frank Gotch
Frank Gotch's career and life pre-dated the formation of WWE. During his reign as world champion (1908 to 1913), wrestling was a different beast altogether.
Wrestling rivaled boxing in popularity and was seen as much more of a legit sport.
Gotch was the king of wrestling for the beginning of the 20th century. He was a complete wrestler; strong, quick and a tremendous technician.
His rivalry with Georg Hackenschmidt was wrestling's first great rivalry.
Had McMahon Sr. or Jr. been alive during Gotch's heyday, they would have no doubt done anything to lure him to their company.
5. Manami Toyota
Vince McMahon has never been particularly interested in hiring the most talented women to wrestle for WWE. His vision of women's wrestling leans toward the flashy and the sexy.
So it's not all that surprising that the greatest women's wrestler of all time never wrestled in WWE.
Instead, Manami Toyota has done the brunt of her work with AJW, compiling an astounding total of ten five-star matches.
Here athleticism alone is enough to rank her among the all-time greats. She leaps from the mat to the top rope like a cat and glides as gracefully as Jimmy Snuka.
Toyota is a powder keg of raw emotion. She entrances an audience with intensity.
There's still time for her to wrestle for WWE, but it's highly unlikely that McMahon would bother. Toyota would make his entire female roster look like rookies.
Dream WWE Match: Manami Toyota vs. Trish Stratus
4. El Santo
There is perhaps no bigger icon in wrestling history than El Santo.
The masked Mexican wrestler transcended his sport and became a national hero and a megastar.
Santo was not only the popular wrestler in his country for much of the 20th century, but a massive movie star.
In his movies, he wore his wrestling mask and was usually a superhero fighting zombies, aliens or various bad guys.
His matches with fellow legend Blue Demon in the early '50s were some of his best and most well-known.
WWE would later come to fall in love with the Lucha Libre style bringing over Rey Mysterio and more recently Sin Cara and Alberto Del Rio.
Had Santo's era been a different one, it would have been interesting to see him go up against Hulk Hogan.
3. Keiji Mutoh/Great Muta
Whether wrestling as either the Great Muta or by his real name, Mutoh has thrilled fans all around the world for years.
His gimmick, including his trademark green mist spitting, has been copied time and time again.
American audiences know him for his WCW run where he battled Sting and Ric Flair, all while showing off an electric, gripping style of wrestling.
When he left WCW in 1990, rumors circulated about him possibly joining WWE. That never came to fruition.
Instead, Mutoh went on to have a Hall of Fame-worthy second half of his career, producing a number of award winning matches with All Japan Pro Wrestling.
Dream WWE Match: Keiji Mutoh vs. Bret Hart
2. Gorgeous George
At a time where flash was unheard of, Gorgeous George wore a sparkly robe, donned a Marcel hairdo and handed out flowers as he sauntered down the aisle. His attendant sprayed perfume on him as well.
Wrestling audience in the 1940s were wowed by his flair.
Innovative and influential, we'd have no Macho Man or Ric Flair had George not done things the way he did.
George was a huge draw, attracting throngs of fans to his matches.
His over-the-top style would have fit right in with the WWE had he been born several years later.
One of WCW's biggest stars decided against joining WWE even when his company folded in 2001. Instead, he went on to try and make TNA a national power.
Sting has said he was wary of the direction McMahon would take his character.
Even after TNA has consistently shown itself to be a second-class promotion, Sting has not changed sides.
His run with WCW saw him become extremely popular, winning PWI's Wrestler of the Year award four times. He and Flair were the faces of the company, battling time and time again in classic matches.
He was also a major part of the two five-star War Games matches in '91 and '92, respectively.
With TNA, he has been one of its saving graces even as his body slows.
His refusal to sign with McMahon has only served to lessen the scope of his legacy and give him the title of the biggest star never to wrestle for WWE.
Dream WWE Match: Sting vs. Undertaker