Often, I am asked, “who do you think WWE dropped the ball on?’ To tell the truth, this is one question that will always and forever get under my skin. Throughout history, anytime someone who is considered a favorite, doesn’t make it, or doesn’t work as hard as they can, and fails to get over once they hit the big league, ultimately, someone will ask this question. Just as it is stated above, I’m going to hit you with another question. Why ask this question? Perhaps you should be asking, “how do you think so and so ended up dropping the ball on his or her opportunity?
That’s right folks. I’m flipping the switch. I mean, let’s be real here. Not every person and not every name that enters the hallowed halls of the WWE is going to get over. Then again, on the other hand, there have been many a talent, who have come from other promotions, and even perhaps the indy scene and these are people that have really taken the ball, and run with it. Some of these people are now known as legends in the business.
For right now, I’m going to shift my focus to two people that I truly thought would never ever be in the WWE. No, not because they lack the talent to be there, and not because they don’t deserve to be there, but simply because I never thought they would sign the dotted line on a WWE contract. I never thought that they could fit into the WWE mold, and with that being said, I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong. These two gentlemen, are none other than Canada’s own Sami Zayn, and Kevin Owens.
Story time. I had the pleasure of seeing Kevin Owens, (then known as Kevin Steen) and Sami Zayn, (then known as El Generico) in a then, small up and coming indy promotion known as Ring of Honor or ROH. The action on that night was hot and heavy and roughly about 1000 fans crammed into the event center that night in Mississauga to watch the show.
This was even before the days of MCW. But I will say I had the pleasure of also meeting two more of my favorite people on this night, and those two are the one and only Mr. Atlantis and your MCW Champion, Roughhouse Jeff Black! But that is a story for another day.
Ironically, I would accompany my esteemed fellow writer and co-host turned legal trouble making humanoid Phil Gordon to this event.
ROH is known for being a hotbed of professional wrestling an on this night it would be no different. They also take pride in showcasing some of the best tag team wrestling of today and it is a card that I will remember for these very reasons.
But let’s go back to Kevin and Sami shall we? Legendary manager James E. Cornette has stated several times in many different ways on his podcast that he also felt that Steen and Generico would not fit into the WWE mold, so much so as to even indicate that at one point Steen stated that he would not ever want to go to WWE. (This would later be contested in a promo that was cut just after the now Owens’ match at WrestleMania 36 against The Monday Night Messiah Seth Rollins)
Right from the get go, both men have done a wonderful job of taking each and every opportunity that has been afforded to them, and they have turned it into something magical. Kevin Owens went from WWE’s call up system at the time, NXT after turning his back on his “best friend Sami” and he was immediately thrust into a match after debuting on RAW with WWE’s Golden Goose in John Cena… And it would go down in history as one hell of a match. One that would cement Owens as a main event player. Cena would fall in defeat and it was off to the races. Then, who could forget Triple H, coming to aid the prize fighter resulting in his first ever reign as the WWE Universal Champion?
This ladies and gentlemen is a prime example of how you take the opportunities you’ve been given, and you make them work. You get yourself over to the point where you have no choice but to be successful. Then, the sky is the limit.
Moving on to Sami.. Sami’s rise, wasn’t as prolific to that of his fellow competitor and friend, but each and every time Sami has been in that ring, he has showcased his skills and talents to the point where no one can argue about just how good Sami is. (Trust me, he is very, very good).
From his days in NXT, to debuting on RAW to wrestling on Friday Night Smackdown, to switching to a management role which helped to elevate Cesaro and Shinsuke Nakamura, to winning the Intercontinental Title, to becoming an absolutely bitter human being, translating and resonating with fans which allowed him to become that much more annoying, that much more of a thorn in their sides, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the mark of a true professional. Some of the matches and situations that Sami Zayn has found himself in, weren’t exactly top tier, but he has carved himself a spot and he has made things work.
But quite possibly the most masterful jobs of “not dropping the ball.” would be the stories of one Zack Ryder and to a much larger extent, Daniel Bryan. More on the former American Dragon in a moment.
One could possibly be naive enough to say that WWE dropped the ball on Zack Ryder. Fans seemed to be lukewarm with him at the best of times. But, there was a time when fans were behind him, and they were loud enough that it gave him a short reign as the WWE Intercontinental Champion and an even longer reign with a dark horse partner in Curt Hawkins as a Tag Team Champion.
WWE had for all intents and purposes pretty much given up on “Long Island Iced Z” and they were doing what has become customary in the business it seems, and that was that they were placing him with lower card performers and having him lose out. That was until he put them into the position to not have a choice but to push him. How did he do it you ask?
He started his own YouTube Series. The master of the Rough Ryder got people so behind him due to the success of the “show” that each and every time he was on TV, the fan reaction was almost deafening. WWE had not choice but to take notice and they eventually would give fans what they wanted. Zak Ryder got a small push.
So, again I ask, did WWE “drop the ball” with Zak Ryder? Or did he see the writing on the wall and then pick up that very same ball to work his ass off to get to where he did? This writer thinks it is the latter. Don’t believe me? Well then let’s look at the man who is the most well known on this mini list of superstars that have the unfortunate accolade of being in the sentence that begins with “I think WWE dropped the ball on…”
Daniel Bryan. You read that correctly. Bryan had quite possibly one of the hardest uphill battles to get to where he did, and Daniel ascended to heights that not the fans, not the company and I dare say not even he himself thought he could reach.
For months and months, The Authority (Triple H and Stephanie McMahon) made it their mission to make Daniel Bryan’s life a living hell. Most likely for the sheer purpose of proving to everyone that he was not one of their top tier players. This would be further highlighted by the fact that they even began to refer to him as a “B Plus Player.” Match after ridiculous match and stipulation after stipulation and even a horrendous 9 second loss to Shaemus at WrestleMania 28, the powers that be did everything they could to make Bryan lose hope and for the fans to lose interest. But what happened was just the opposite.
Bryan took the reigns and he started what would become known as “The Yes Movement.” Daniel Bryan got himself so over with wrestling fans that WWE was again put into the position of not having a choice, and the push that Daniel Bryan received was one that would see him become the WWE Champion at WrestleMania 30 in the main event.
Unfortunately Daniel would suffer an injury that would take him out of action just shortly after this accomplishment, but it is the opinion of this writer that if said injury did not occur, then it’s quite possible that Daniel Bryan could have reached the heights of one Stone Cold Steve Austin or even the immortal one himself, Hulk Hogan.
These are just a few examples of superstars that took the proverbial ball and didn’t let it go. They picked up that “dropped ball” and ran with it. They didn’t sit there and complain about not being given a chance, they didn’t talk about shoving the brass ring where the sun doesn’t shine, (from the looks of this week, it didn’t work the way you wanted it to, now did it Miro? Ask your wife how sore she is these last few weeks because you wanted to get “years of frustration off of your chest). No, they took whatever it was that they were given and they ran with it, and as stated above, when you do that, then the sky is the limit.
To say that every mishap and every lost opportunity is WWE dropping the ball, is both naive and ridiculous. Has WWE dropped the ball on some performers? Absolutely. I’m not here trying to contest that fact. The Scottish Psychopath being one of them. But look where Drew McIntyre is now? WWE Champion. Rightfully so.
Bobby Lashley (who for the record I never thought I would be writing about, let alone enjoying) but there is an example of both parties dropping the ball. Let’s be honest here. Back in the early 2000’s, Lashley had the personality of a doorknob with charisma to match, so no matter how impressive his physique and how huge he was, there was no saving him. Fast forward to now and the Hurt Business, and it’s a whole new ballgame.
Yes, WWE has dropped the ball with certain talents, but for the most part, a lot of the so-called “favorites” weren’t grateful for the opportunities that they were given. Steve Austin is the one exception because no matter how hard he may have been to work with at times, he earned the right to be difficult and he was and is one of the most memorable superstars in the history of the business.
The former Dean Ambrose? Not so much. Be that as it may, I’m sure I can write a whole other column on pages and pages of AEW insults to the competition, but I’ll leave that for another day. But I will say this, if AEW continues on the path that they are on, and continues to put down the competition, somehow, someway, karma will find them. Mark my words.
What are your thoughts on “dropping the ball?” Feel free to leave your comments and your thoughts! Until next time, this has been another journey, through the Magnificent Mind.