The 7 Most Hyped WWE Prospects in History
Men like The Rock entered the WWE with more fanfare and hype than many of the hard-working, lesser-known wrestlers of the world.
Often it was their previous platform, the relative fame they brought with them, that made them stand out. Other times, it was their off-the-charts athleticism that got them the attention.
Whatever the reason, right or wrong, WWE believed it had something special with these men.
Predicting a wrestler's career trajectory is an impossible task. Some seemingly unparalleled talents wash out. Sometimes guys no one believes in make it to the highest level.
Rick Martel, Curt Hennig and Scott Hall came into the company with a ton of buzz, but they weren't exactly prospects at that point. All three were AWA vets. Hall had worked for WCW as well.
The following are WWE prospects, men with little pro-wrestling experience, who the company hyped like a carnival barker building up the inhabitants of his freak show. Wrestlers who, deserved or not, had their debuts passionately touted.
7. Damien Sandow
For weeks, SmackDown fans felt the sting of condescension thanks to Damien Sandow's vignettes.
Sandow earned his way through WWE's feeder system, FCW (now NXT), a period that allowed him to hone his craft and perfect his character. Once WWE realized how compelling of a performer it had, the main roster was not far away.
WWE created buzz about Sandow's arrival via his video promos. The company then milked the anticipation by having him delay his debut—Sandow refused to wrestle during his first few appearances.
He's since been a welcome addition to the WWE roster. He's partnered with Cody Rhodes and could very well live up to all the hype in the coming years.
Credit the WWE for seeing the potential in a young Adam Copeland.
Then known as Sexton Hardcastle, the man who became Edge didn't look like the typical WWE star. Edge wasn't Rey Mysterio small, but in a world of behemoths and musclebound dudes, he didn't exactly fit in physically.
Clearly, the WWE saw enough of his work in Canada's independent territories and extremely brief stay with WCW as a jobber to give him a try.
The company didn't halfheartedly throw him in the mix; it built him up as a new breed of star. Edge's vignettes painted him as a wanderer of the shadows, an intriguing, unstable enigma.
WWE saw something in Edge and gave his career an appropriate kick-start with that hype. He delivered a Hall of Fame career.
5. The Miz
As much as it likely irritated the guys in the locker room, The Miz entered the WWE afire with buzz.
Miz's time on MTV's The Real World gave him the kind of fame that seems as common now as the flu. It was fame of the fleeting kind, based on no skill in particular, but it made him more well-known than many other WWE hopefuls.
It was on that reality show that Mike Mizanin first gave the world a glimpse of his alter-ego—an undeveloped Miz persona.
He went on to be a part of every conceivable spin-off and variation of The Real World, making somewhat of a name for himself—at least with a particular demographic. Pair Miz's notoriety with the TV-loving teens of America with his showing on Tough Enough, and the WWE had to be salivating.
Miz was a showbiz guy going into wrestling, not the other way around, which is so often done.
WWE hyped his SmackDown debut in 2006 with various vignettes. These showed off his ability to be exuberantly annoying, something he'd eventually turn into WWE success.
4. Rocky Maivia
WWE's first third-generation superstar wasn't going to come into WWE quietly.
A man that athletic, with a NCAA National Championship in football on his resume, gives the WWE plenty to talk about pre-debut.
The Rock's career was catapulted by his WWE lineage. His father, Rocky Johnson, won the tag team titles with Tony Atlas in 1984. Rock's grandfather, Peter Maivia, was a multiple-time champ for various NWA territories.
That, combined with The Rock's good looks, made him an ideal star in the making.
Dubbed "The Blue Chipper," Rock's personal history was highlighted and utilized by WWE upon his arrival. The WWE couldn't have known that he'd end up being one of the best ever, but it sure had high hopes.
3. Nathan Jones
Were one to pluck the perfect WWE star from Vince McMahon's head, he'd look a lot like Nathan Jones.
Jones was a giant of a man, powerful enough to win strongman contests, who happened to spend time in Boggo Road prison in Australia.
It didn't matter that he hadn't wrestled much, WWE hyped his debut with ferocity. Slickly produced vignettes told the story of how big, strong and dangerous Jones was.
Fans might have thought they were going to soon witness the most awesome force in WWE history. It didn't work out that way.
Despite the hype and being placed in the spotlight right away as Undertaker's protégé, Jones went on to become the JaMarcus Russell of WWE.
He is among the biggest busts in the company, only lasting two forgettable years.
2. Ken Shamrock
In 1997, UFC was in its infancy, having been founded just four years earlier. Ken Shamrock was one of the promotion's first stars, having defeated names like Dan Severn and Kimo Leopoldo.
There was a significant buzz around Shamrock switching sides.
Here was a legitimate fighter, an unquestionably tough guy with renown in the fighting world, coming to a business that attempts to construct a wrestler's credibility from the ground up.
WWE was clearly excited about the infusion of UFC and WWE, as it first showcased Shamrock in what it called a "No-Holds Barred Exhibition" against Vernon White.
Shamrock defeated Vader that year, beginning his WWE career in earnest. It was the launching pad for a career powered by the thrust of significant hype.
1. Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle's Olympic gold medal, his amateur accomplishments and the tough-guy narrative of him wrestling with a broken neck made him one of the easiest sells the company has ever had to make.
Using his Olympic background to heighten the anticipation, WWE ran vignettes to hype Angle's arrival.
Angle was referred to as the "Most Celebrated Real Athlete in WWF (now WWE) History."
WWE has had weightlifters and bodybuilders on its roster but never anyone as accomplished as Angle in wrestling. The transition from the amateur game to WWE Raw is about a far a jump one could imagine, but Angle's pedigree and resume in that world gave legitimacy and media attention in WWE's world.
Angle delivered on all that promise and hype, becoming one of WWE's greatest performers.