For over a year now, I've been producing a weekly column here on Bleacher Report entitled WWE's Pushed to Punished, where I've targeted and analyzed the pro wrestling careers for past and present employees such as The Miz, Elijah Burke, Mr. Kennedy and even Bobby Lashley. After publishing a total of 15 editions since March of last year, this slideshow will recap each edition leading up to the column's re-debut this upcoming Saturday.
This time around, this class of 15 Superstars were tremendous athletes in my mind, but were never able to go full circle in either getting to or maintaining a top level spot in WWE. Their releases have come as a surprise to the IWC at the time of their departure, in yet another case where management has dropped the ball on a wrestler with high potential.
I've discussed these picks before as a part of my weekly column, WWE Pushed to Punished, but I've just briefly included them here in an overall standing of everyone I've analyzed. This list goes in no particular order, and ranges from 2005 to the present.
Before adopting the Dykstra surname, he was simply known as Kenny during his time with the Spirit Squad throughout a majority of 2006. Although the gimmick was quite ridiculous, he made the best of it while wrestling the likes of DX, Big Show, Kane, Ric Flair and Roddy Piper, among others.
By year's end, Dykstra broke out as a singles star and engaged in a feud with Flair, where he notched a handful of victories over the 16-time World Champion. His future was indeed bright, and he even went as far as to proclaim himself as a future WWE Hall of Famer.
Sadly, creative never followed through on his push and shipped him over to the SmackDown brand in mid-2007. While the blue brand is usually the place where younger stars are given a chance to shine, Dykstra was mostly used as an enhancement talent during his Friday night tenure before being released from his WWE contract in late 2008.
The reasoning behind his departure remained unclear until just recently, where his Twitter tirades indicated that backstage politics involving John Cena and Mickie James is what got him "de-pushed" and subsequently fired.
Regardless of whether his accusations were true or false, don't expect to see him rehired by the WWE anytime soon. I've always thought that he could've received the same push The Miz did in 2010 due to their vast similarities, but unfortunately, that wasn't meant to be.
Read WWE's Pushed to Punished Edition 1: Kenny Dykstra here.
If you were to look up the term "underrated" in the dictionary, you'd see William Regal's face right alongside it. Okay, not really, but Regal is arguably known as one of the most underrated wrestlers that has ever stepped foot in a WWE ring.
The biggest push of his career came in 2008, when he was the reigning General Manager of Monday Night Raw. He was mostly impartial at first, but didn't become a true vilified villain until winning the King of the Ring tournament that April.
Upon claiming he was "the most powerful entity in the WWE", Regal was one of the most feared, intimidating and power-hungry forces in WWE at the time. He shut off lights during matches, interrupted bouts and ended the Raw broadcast early on several occasions.
Sadly, his monstrous push came to an abrupt end the following month due to the evil Englishman failing the WWE Wellness Policy for the second time, thus getting suspended for 60 days in the process. Regal was quickly written off television via a "Loser Gets Fired" loss to Mr. Kennedy and hasn't been seriously pushed since that point in time.
Sure, he was given a brief run with the Intercontinental Championship once he returned, but it was nothing special. Regal now finds himself semi-retired from the ring and is a prominent part of the NXT commentary team.
Regal has stated numerous times on his Twitter page that he'd love nothing more than to be a World Heavyweight Champion, but time will only tell as to whether that dream becomes a reality.
Read WWE's Pushed to Punished Edition 2: William Regal here.
Foreign heels make for the best villains in wrestling, and Muhammad Hassan was no exception. Upon his WWE debut in 2005, Hassan was already the most hated heel in the entire company following weeks of his offensive vignettes being shown to the Raw audience.
Sure, his gimmick might have been seen as stereotypical, but that's what made him such a major success. That would later be his downfall, but not before having an unforgettable WWE tenure throughout 2005.
Hassan remained undefeated for the longest time, and even went face-to-face with two of the greatest in-ring performers in history in the forms of Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels. He'd be later moved over to the SmackDown brand as part of the 2005 WWE Draft Lottery, where he immediately rivaled with Undertaker upon his arrival.
In a controversial series of events, Hassan was abruptly pulled from television following a segment considered "racial" by the public that included Hassan and a handful of masked men ambushing Taker. Of course, the timing wasn't exactly smart either, as the London bombings just had happened at the time.
Due to the overwhelming controversy surrounding the international incident, Hassan wrestled his final WWE match at The Great American Bash event, losing to The Deadman. WWE was pressured by the CW Network to never feature the Arab-American character on television again, which led to his eventual release shortly thereafter.
It's was heavily speculated at the time that Hassan was in for a run with the World Heavyweight Champion, but due to said circumstances, that was never able to come to fruition. Nowadays, WWE is attempting to recreate Hassan in the form of Jinder Mahal, but are epically failing as a result.
Read WWE's Pushed to Punished Edition 3: Muhammad Hassan here.
Known as one of the most athletic and agile WWE Superstars in recent history, Shelton Benjamin's future looked bright when he branched off into singles competition in early 2004. Although Benjamin suffered a few bumps in the road along the way, including a horrendous gimmick with his "mother" acting as his manager, he almost always maintained a steady status in the mid-card vision thereafter.
Being the veteran of Money in the Bank Ladder matches, Shelton Benjamin was able to impress many backstage with his amazing style of wrestling, including a nice showing against the Undertaker in early 2009.
The year he was drafted from ECW to SmackDown in 2008 was certainly the shining year for the Gold Standard, holding the United States Championship for the better half of the year and even competing in a WWE Championship bout at that year's Unforgiven.
His loss of title to MVP early in the next year was when Benjamin found himself in a slump, becoming one of the underutilized Superstars at the time. Benjamin would not be involved in any significant rivalries over the next year, surprisingly being released in April 2010 due to budget cuts.
His mic skills were debatable, but that was no reason to release one of the most intriguing wrestlers in the company especially in the recent lack of depth in the rosters. It has been questioned as to why he was never really given his main event push as many expected, especially with his fanbase supporting him.
Read WWE's Pushed to Punished Edition 4: Shelton Benjamin here.
Being a part of the ECW roster while the show was still watchable, Elijah Burke was certainly a Superstar to keep your eye on from late 2006 to late 2007. He possessed all the skills similar to Shelton Benjamin, but his mic skills is what kept the crowding hating him, along with the ability to produce a solid match with half of the roster.
Going into WrestleMania 23, Burke received a major push as the leader of the controversial New Breed faction—consisting of himself, Matt Striker, Kevin Thorn, Marcus Cor Von and Ariel.
These disrespectful rookies boosted Burke's chances of moving to either RAW or SmackDown at the following draft, which sadly never came to fruition following the dissolution of the group.
Elijah Burke would be sparsely used until his release in late 2008 following months of inactivity, which would lead him to where he is now: TNA Wrestling. What's even more disappointing is the fact that TNA is treating Burke the same way WWE did in his last months with the company.
It's a shame to say WWE lived up to Burke's theme lyrics in saying they basically wasted his time.
Read WWE's Pushed To Punished, Edition 5: Elijah Burke here.
Since his heel turn in January 2009, Matt Hardy has become one of my favorite wrestlers to compete in either company. The betrayal of his brother Jeff Hardy at the Royal Rumble that year signaled that WWE had big plans for the rejuvenated Matt Hardy, debuting a fresh dark attitude and attire in coming months.
Following his Extreme Rules win against Jeff Hardy at WrestleMania XXV, Matt showed promise that he had the potential to become a top heel talent in the company, which looked to be the case with his drafting to RAW that year.
However, due to unfortunate injuries, Hardy would take a backseat and watch as The Miz would occupy his spot in his planned feud against John Cena that summer.
Hardy would be traded back to SmackDown months later upon his return, but would never be treated the same again during his WWE tenure. During his last weeks, Matt Hardy would develop a bitter attitude towards management for never receiving his World Championship push he was seemingly promised the previous year, which would ultimately lead to his departure from the company upon his request.
Hardy enjoyed a brief stint with TNA for the early part of last year before being released by the organization that August. These days, the man who claims he will never die has since fully recovered in overcoming his demons and is now wrestling upon the independents.
Read WWE's Pushed to Punished, Edition 6: The Twist of Fate of Matt Hardy here.
We now begin to discuss Montel Vontavious Porter, better known in WWE as MVP. Officials backstage had high hopes for this rising star upon his debut in 2006, becoming the allegedly "highest paid Superstar on the SmackDown roster."
His future looked bright following his upset win against Chris Benoit in May 2007 to emerge as the new United States Champion. MVP would hold the prestigious title for nearly a year and then was downgraded to a lesser important role on SmackDown for the rest of 2008.
Following his much-needed move to SmackDown in the 2010 WWE Draft, many members of the IWC expected the Ballin' Superstar to receive a major push with the lack of main event talent on Friday Nights. For many months, we waited and anticipated a heel turn from MVP, and despite receiving new catchy entrance music, the ultimate turn never came to fruition.
In the final months of last year, MVP would be inserted in random matches up and down the card, losing every championship shot that was given to him. Seeing the way his character was being utilized, MVP requested and was granted a release from the company in early December.
These days, he competes in Japan as part of New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he became their inaugural Intercontinental Champion last year. He is open to return to WWE in the future, but one can only hope this veteran will be granted the main-event push he so rightfully deserves.
Read WWE's Pushed to Punished, Edition 7: MVP here.
Since the start of his career, Mr. Kennedy was also seen as a future breakout star in WWE, but his various injuries always got in the way of him taking the next step to becoming a WWE or World Heavyweight Champion.
His work on SmackDown from 2005 to 2007 was brilliant, where he embarked on a lengthy winning streak before being eventually defeated by Chris Benoit. Kennedy scored his first (and only) singles title victory in mid-2006 in the form of the United States Championship, so it was evident that his heel persona was connecting with the fans.
At WrestleMania 23, Kennedy won the annual Money in the Bank Ladder Match, which meant he was guaranteed a shot at either of the World Championships at any time, any location of his choosing. However, Kennedy would soon become the first man in WWE history to lose possession of opportunistic briefcase and its respective title shot along with it.
That May, WWE was worried Kennedy had come down with an injury, so they jumped to conclusions by having him drop the briefcase to Edge on an edition of Raw. It was later revealed that Kennedy's "injury" was hardly an injury at all, which meant he was basically screwed out of winning his first World title in WWE.
The rest of his career was pretty lackluster following that career-altering moment, which included a face turn and multiple brand switches. In May 2009, Kennedy was shockingly released from WWE after it was deemed he was too injury-prone and revealed that he nearly injured Randy Orton during a tag match on Raw.
Kennedy has since won his first World Championship under the Mr. Anderson moniker in TNA, but it's not the same as winning the big one in the WWE.
Read WWE's Pushed to Punished, Edition 8: The Curious Case of Ken Kennedy here.
Similar to Mr. Kennedy, Bobby Lashley made his WWE debut in late 2005 and was seen as a future star upon his arrival. He was built in dominant fashion for months before defeating JBL for the United States Championship the following spring, his first singles title win in WWE.
Later that year, Lashley was shockingly moved over to the ECW brand, where he quickly captured the ECW Championship at the December to Dismember pay-per-view. He maintained possession of the belt for nearly four months, even scoring a victory over Umaga at WrestleMania 23 in the process.
Lashley suffered a minor setback at Backlash when he lost the ECW title to Mr. McMahon of all people, but managed to win it back two months later at ECW: One Night Stand. However, his second reign as champ was cut short due to his eventual move to Raw as part of the 2007 WWE draft.
Within weeks, Lashley was named the No. 1 contender to John Cena's WWE Championship at The Great American Bash. Although he came up short, he had a strong enough showing that a future run with the strap was all but guaranteed.
Eight days later, the gigantic powerhouse was injured during a match with (ironically enough) Mr. Kennedy, putting him on the shelf for a number of months. This would end up being his final televised bout in WWE, as he was released from his contract the following February.
It was rumored a few months ago that Lashley has recently shown interest in returning in WWE, but WWE hasn't shown much interest in re-signing him. As they always say, though, never say never in the wrestling business.
Read WWE's Pushed to Punished, Edition 9: Bobby Lashley here.
Once the IWC's idolized favorite, John Morrison had the complete package to become a World Heavyweight Champion. He had the attractive look, flashy in-ring style, and everything except for mic skills, which of course is an essential part in finding success in WWE.
Regardless of that minor flaw, Morrison had the perfect build-up as a WWE Superstar from an unrecognizable nobody to a tag team specialist to a singles competitor to being on the cusp of main event.
Before changing his surname to Morrison in the summer of 2007, Johnny Nitro immediately made an impact upon defeating Batista and Rey Mysterio to win the WWE Tag Team Championships alongside Joey Mercury in late 2005. The two made a fantastic team, but not as good as Morrison's eventual two-year-long pairing with The Miz.
With his valet and legitimate girlfriend Melina by his side, Morrison was able to capture the Intercontinental Championship on three separate occasions. Those victories eventually earned him matches against the likes of John Cena, Batista, Triple H, Undertaker, Rey Mysterio and other established veterans.
Upon his face turn in 2009, the future looked very bright for Morrison going forward. He was slowly growing more over with the fans each week, while also competing in high-level matches on SmackDown against CM Punk and Jeff Hardy.
However, shortly after dropping his Intercontinental Championship to Drew McIntyre at the start of 2010, Morrison's momentum quickly went into a downward spiral. His move to Raw didn't help matters, nor did his partnership with R-Truth for the remainder of the year.
Morrison once again reached a climax in his career when he defeated Sheamus in a Ladder Match at WWE TLC that December to become the No. 1 contender to the WWE Championship. Had his time finally come? Well, sadly not.
On the premiere edition of Raw in 2011, Morrison quickly cashed in his WWE title shot in the night's opening match, losing to then-title holder Miz. The rest of 2011 did him no favors, as his altercation with Trish Status at WrestleMania 27 in addition to his severe neck injury that spring, saw him get de-pushed yet again.
Of course, Creative hardly did anything with the Monday Night Delight once he returned to the ring, which wasn't all that surprising. In late November, Morrison's contract had expired and he opted against re-signing, thus effectively putting an end to his WWE tenure.
His lack of progression and development in his mic skills ended up being his downfall, but one can only hope those flaws are fixed by the time he makes his inevitable return to WWE.
Read WWE's Pushed to Punished, Edition 10: John Morrison here.
While on the subject of John Morrison, his former Dirt Sheet partner has also found himself slowly slipping down the WWE's totem pole each week. With a five-month WWE Championship reign to his credit, it's amazing to see how far he's fallen in the last year and a half.
The Miz is yet another prime example of a rookie who worked his way up to get to where he's at today, while garnering a large number of naysayers along the way. Nonetheless, Miz strives off the hatred of his "Miz-takes" in order to grow bigger, badder and better.
Miz didn't receive his first real push until joining forces with Morrison in late 2007, where the two captured both the World and WWE Tag Team Championship together over their 15-month long tenure together.
Upon being sent packing to Raw in the 2009 WWE Draft, the Awesome One instantly made a name for himself by targeting John Cena and claiming victories over the Cenation leader.
By the time 2010 rolled around, Miz had already become a two-time United States Champion as well as Unified Tag Team Champion alongside Big Show. That July, he managed to win the Money in the Bank briefcase, which he eventually cashed in that November to win his first WWE Championship.
The former reality star's reign as champ saw him score victories over Randy Orton, John Morrison, Jerry Lawler, and even John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania 27. Shortly thereafter, Miz's dropping of the title would soon signal his demise, as he hasn't been pushed as aggressively since.
He embarked a lengthy losing streak in the latter half of 2011 into 2012, where he eventually won at WrestleMania 28 apart of a tag team match and took time off afterwards to film The Marine 3. He's since returned and won the Intercontinental Championship, but it still being booked to look like a weak champ.
Read WWE's Pushed to Punished, Edition 11: The Rise and Fall of the Miz here.
Much like most of the other aforementioned stars, Finlay also debuted around the same time in early 2006. His various vignettes portrayed him as a fighting Irishman, a moniker Finlay would surely live up upon his SmackDown debut.
It wasn't long before Finaly's participation in King Booker's stable earned him some gold, as he won the United States Championship from Bobby Lashley that summer. He came close to capturing the World Heavyweight Championship later in the year, but came up short of taking home the gold.
In subsequent years, it seemed as if Finlay wasn't pushed as hard as he was when he first entered the WWE scene after failing to win numerous Money in the Bank Ladder Matches and title shots. His partnership with Hornswoggle in 2007 gave him some more exposure on Raw, but his inevitable face turn turned him into a watered-down fan favorite.
The remainder of his WWE tenure wasn't all that memorable, as his time on both ECW and SmackDown helped younger stars, but not himself. While that it is the honorable thing to do, the man who loves to fight could've made an excellent World Champion as a heel if given the chance.
Finlay was later abruptly released from WWE two years ago following an incident at a house while working as an agent, but just recently returned as a backstage producer. It's highly unlikely that we'll ever see him step foot in a WWE ring again, but anything is possible.
Read WWE Pushed to Punished, Edition 12: Finlay's Luck of the Irish here.
Among those who were absent from the recent roster reveal for WWE '13 was Evan Bourne, who's been absent from WWE television since January. His absence from the game more than likely isn't due to the injury he received this past March, but rather the two suspensions he notched within the span of two months last year.
Since his WWE debut in mid-2008, Bourne has always been utilized as a sideshow act that got the fans on their feet for his exhilarating offense. He wasn't pushed seriously until the summer of 2010, where he scored upset victories over Chris Jericho and Sheamus.
It was heavily speculated at the time that his push came at the hands of John Cena, so it was assuring to know that a top guy in the company had faith in Bourne to become something major in the WWE. Bourne's mini-push came to a screeching halt that October when he was put on the shelf with a shoulder injury, sidelining him for a total of four months.
Upon his return last February, it seemed he'd be once again pushed following a singles victory over the Celtic Warrior, Sheamus, but nothing truly came out of it. It wasn't until last August that he formed an alliance with Kofi Kingston, capturing the WWE Tag Team Championships from Michael McGillicutty and David Otunga.
Three months later, Bourne was shockingly suspended for 30 days after violating the WWE Wellness Policy for the first time, but was able to maintain possession of the tag team title. He wasn't so lucky the second time, however, when he was suspended yet again for violating the Wellness Policy and dropped the straps to Primo and Epico at a house show in January.
After failing to win back the title the following night on Raw, Bourne disappeared from television and hasn't been seen since. To make matters worse, he mangled his foot during a car accident in March, so that severe injury has kept him sidelined since then.
Although the rehabilitation of the injury has been coming along nicely, it remains unclear as to when he'll return.
Read WWE Pushed to Punished Series: Evan Bourne's Turbulent Flight here.
Most second-generation stars are met with a load of pressure upon their debut to see if they can live up to the standards set in place by their legendary fathers. Ted DiBiase was no exception, as making his WWE arrival alongside the Million Dollar Man in May 2008 guaranteed a bright future for the Mississippi native.
The following month, DiBiase joined forces with Cody Rhodes and went on to become a two-time World Tag Team Champion. By the end of 2008, they formed a partnership with Randy Orton, who mentored them as a part of Legacy for nearly two years.
During his time with the sadistic stable, DiBiase starred in his first featured film: The Marine 2, which was released by WWE Studios in late 2009. Rumors circulated speculating a DiBiase face turn due to his casting in the movie, but it never came to fruition—or at least not immediately.
Legacy would later split following WrestleMania 26, leaving the son of the Million Dollar Man to fend for himself as a singles competitor. Despite bringing back the Million Dollar Championship and being offered the managerial services of both Virgil and Maryse, nothing seemed to be getting DiBiase over with the crowd.
He wouldn't be given real momentum until being drafted to SmackDown in April 2011. Upon his arrival on Friday nights, DiBiase reformed his partnership with Rhodes, but was mainly used as the "Dashing One's" personal lackey.
DiBiase's pent-up frustration is what inevitably turned him face last fall, facing Rhodes for the Intercontinental Championship at Night of Champions. Although he failed to capture the title, he still embarked on a lengthy winning streak for the remainder of 2011.
However, at the start of 2012, DiBiase was mainly utilized on neither of the main shows, and when he was featured, he'd be jobbed out to whoever his opponent might have been. He was subsequently injured this past March, rendering him inactive ever since.
As DiBiase's return date draws near, a feud with either United States Champion Antonio Cesaro and Intercontinental Champion The Miz would be the best way to utilize him. Sure, he may never be a World Champion, but he still has untapped potential just waiting to be realized.
Read WWE Pushed to Punished, Edition 14: Ted DiBiase's Nightmare on Dream Street here.
Once seen as the future of the WWE, Drew McIntyre's career has taken a drastic turn for the the worse in recent years, with no signs of it improving anytime soon.
Debuting in mid-2009, Drew McIntyre was deemed "The Chosen One" after being signed to a WWE contract by Vince McMahon himself. He'd embark on a winning streak that'd see him capture the Intercontinental Championship from John Morrison at that December's WWE TLC event.
McIntyre had a handful of strong showings at pay-per-views in the start of 2010, including his WrestleMania debut in March. Although his undefeated streak was officially snapped at the hands of The Undertaker that spring, he'd reign as Intercontinental Champion until May where he dropped the strap to Kofi Kingston.
From what I've read, McIntyre was originally scheduled to win the SmackDown Money in the Bank Ladder Match that July, but plans, of course, changed. In August, he was reportedly involved in a domestic dispute with his now-ex-wife Tiffany, which saw McIntyre drastically buried from that point forward.
Although he managed to win the WWE Tag Team Championship alongside Cody Rhodes later that year, the reign lasted for only a month before dropping the titles to John Cena and David Otunga. Despite a few brand switches in recent years, nothing has been able to resurrect the dying career of Drew McIntyre.
Since then, he's been mainly relegated to WWE Superstars and NXT, where he still struggles to score a victory. It's been reported recently that Triple H is high on Drew McIntyre's long-term potential, so it's possible we could see him rebound and get his career back on the right track.
Read WWE Pushed to Punished, Edition 15: Drew McIntyre's Broken Dreams here.
These aforementioned stars are only a select few of the many who have been pushed at some point in their career, only to fall flat on their faces due a variety of reasons despite having potential to aspire for something greater. Whether they were deserving of the downfall is out of the question, but it's a shame looking back at the controversial careers of these Superstars and seeing how they were once seen as the future of the business.
Tomorrow, my WWE Pushed to Punished series will officially make its return to Bleacher Report, being renewed for an additional five editions. If you have any suggestions for Superstars you'd like me to analyze in coming weeks, please be sure to drop a comment below with your respective pick.