There will always be wrestlers that are incredibly over with the fans but never go anywhere. Cesaro, Zack Ryder, and Santino Marella are just a few of the names forever relegated to the mid card despite their enormous popularity. (It’s too soon to tell, but Otis seems doomed to spend his days on Main Event.) This problem is not new or exclusive to WWE. Here are five wrestlers who had incredibly popular runs but failed to break through the glass ceiling.
Workrate fans were never a fan of JYD, and rightfully so. People still marvel at how awful of a match he was able to get out of Ric Flair. There is no disputing that casual fans loved him, however. JYD was one of the fixtures of Vince McMahon‘s takeover of the wrestling business in the 1980s. He was consistently positioned strongly, yet never was a serious threat for any of the belts. In retrospect, it’s surprising how lackluster JYD’s WWF run was.
The “Boogie Woogie Man” is very similar to Junk Food Dog. Valiant rarely lost and was always on television. His odd charisma would bring fans to their feet. Still, he never seemed to be a threat to anyone’s title. This is in an age when the NWA seemingly had enough belts to give to everyone. The endless feud with Paul Jones certainly did not help — their war seemed to be comedy filler between the serious action. His teaming with Lazer Tron and Mighty Wilbur made him an even bigger joke.
Nostalgia is a funny thing. Case in point, Steve Austin. Buzz Sawyer is one of many men that people look back on and say could have been Steve Austin. This is completely untrue as Austin was a one of a kind talent; that being said, the “Mad Dog” could easily fit in today’s wrestling world. A natural heel that was loved by a certain portion of the crowd, Sawyer was extremely charismatic and worked great matches. His legendary feud with Tommy Rich derailed (and some say, ruined) “Wildfire’s” career. It only made “Mad Dog” seem that much more evil.
Still, even in the regional territories he never got to the top of the cards. He came close in Mid South, but was really a glorified henchmen. In most cases he was given a run with an area’s top tag belts. The promoters’ lack of trust may have been due to Sawyer‘s personal demons. He passed away due to a drug overdose at the age of 32.
No one embodied the Armstrong Curse more than Brad. A supremely talented worker, Armstrong was loved by the fans. He was capable of putting on great matches with seemingly anybody and was fun to watch in singles or tag action. Though he was a natural babyface, throughout his career he would play a capable heel. He and partner Tim Horner did win the UWF Tag Titles and Armstrong also held a litany of regional belts. Unfortunately, for the majority of his career he was relegated to enhancement talent.
Taylor may be the most decorated competitor on this list. Except for one notable exception, he held titles wherever he wrestled. He was a champion in the NWA, UWF, and World Class. His peers respected him as a pretty boy who could fight. Fans loved him until he turned heel and proceeded to drew nuclear heat. Yet, he was never a main eventer. He was the template for Irwin R. Schyster, the first man Jerry Lawler wrestled in his attempt to rehabilitate the AWA World Title, and a rooster. But he was never a main eventer.
Do you love wrestling? Do you have strong opinions on AEW, WWE, NJPW, Impact, ROH, and the independent scene? Do you like to write about wrestling? Then we want you on our team. AIPT is currently recruiting wrestling writers. Apply to write for AIPT today!