With another wave of WWE releases, including a few names who got ample TV time on the main roster, I thought it would be interesting to look back on each of their WWE runs and evaluate how successful they were (relative to expectations) throughout their time in WWE and give them a letter grade.
Braun Strowman: B
Strowman in a lot of ways was a huge success for WWE. He was a big guy that they started from scratch and slowly introduced him to the business, then put him on TV probably before he was ready, but they protected him and he grew into the role and at one point he was absolutely one of the biggest stars in the company. How many big, ex-football players or powerlifters does WWE sign? The answer is a lot, and pretty much none of them reach as high as Strowman did, so that has to be considered a success.
Strowman showed a lot of potential and was a hot, new star when he first broke out of the Wyatt Family. Unfortunately, he never was quite pushed to that upper-echelon of elite stars, being kept more in the old Kane role as a big, imposing guy who was protected to a degree but also nearly always lost when it came time for him to wrestle a big match. He was a victim of being someone who was sacrificed to Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns as part of the master plan to get Reigns over by beating Lesnar, and later after finally winning the world title, he was victimized by The Fiend’s antics, losing any momentum he got from beating Goldberg at WrestleMania last year.
Strowman’s release was shocking; WWE has released a lot of names this year and while some of them have been fairly noteworthy, such as Samoa Joe, nobody that was such a pushed commodity as Strowman has been let go. As recently as the last PPV, Strowman was challenging for the world title and while he may have never reached true superstar status, he was a big name within the company, someone who had serious time and investment put into him. I’d be tempted to give him a higher grade because he was pretty close to a top guy and was one of the few true performance center names to really make it, but his release brings a lot of questions about his status within the company and so I’m giving him a B.
Aleister Black: D+
Aleister Black had a lot going for him; he had a unique look and a cool superstar aura. In NXT he was protected and WWE looked like they had big plans for him and he was quickly brought up to the main roster. When Black was on RAW with Paul Heyman, he was tabbed as one of the younger wrestlers slated to get a push, and he was protected and made to look like a dominant figure.
Then Heyman got removed from running RAW and Black immediately lost his push. Then he disappeared from television for what felt like an eternity. After some vignettes and a debut in recent weeks that gave off the impression he was going to get a renewed push, he was suddenly let go.
Black gets a D+ because WWE never came close to maximizing the potential they had with him. Even when he was protected in NXT and the main roster, he never was really pushed as a top name. It was more like WWE was killing time with him before they gave him the REALLY big push, which ultimately never came. He’s a super talent that should be a star in any future promotion he works in, and WWE really dropped the ball with him.
Lana has been a joke on the main roster for the last few months as she has consistently been made to look like a pathetic loser. That being said, it’s hard not to see her run in WWE as a success dating back to her debut as Rusev’s manager. Lana came in as a model who was thrust into the role of conniving manager and she was tremendous in the role, oftentimes outshining Rusev in the process. Problems arose when WWE insisted on turning her into a wrestler, which hid her strengths and maximized her weaknesses, and when Rusev left for greener pastures, that was pretty much it for her.
Still, out of all the hot women WWE signs for non-wrestling roles, Lana is probably one of the best in the history of the company if you just judge her by her peak as a manager for Rusev when the act was really over. WWE made a lot of mistakes with her after that, but she did reach her potential at times.
Buddy Murphy: C-
Unlike Black, who was an international star before coming to WWE, Murphy was not particularly well-known when he signed with WWE, exclusively wrestling in his native Australia before that scene really rose to international prominence. In WWE, Murphy did manage to enhance his profile, eventually finding a home on 205 Live and going on a long run as Cruiserweight Champion.
It might not sound like much, but at least Murphy was given a small platform to showcase his considerable skills, and in some ways was used better than Black, who was given a larger role at his peak but also was never allowed to cut loose. Murphy actually was allowed to have good matches, and for a brief period of time when he was feuding with Mustafa Ali, 205 Live was not treated as a punchline. He got called up to RAW and later SmackDown, where he was involved in a feud involving Seth Rollins and Rey Mysterio, which was eventually dropped with no explanation. Murphy wasn’t used particularly well, but he did gain something from his spell in WWE.
Ruby Riott: C
Riott signed as one of the more prominent women’s indie wrestlers and spent less than a year in NXT before coming onto the main roster. Riott was a capable worker, but whatever charisma she had was not going to be caught by Vince McMahon. Riott was made the leader of the Riott Squad, a middling women’s group that was never given anything significant to do.
Riott was a victim of WWE doing very little with its women’s division outside of the individual titles. There isn’t a natural midcard for the women, and since Riott was never seriously pushed as a title contender, she never really had any significant programs or feuds on the main roster. Riott is a capable worker who was in a division that had some dreadful ones, and she will be an asset wherever she ends up.
Santana Garrett: D
Despite coming to WWE with a lot of experience on the indies as well as a stint in Impact, Garrett was never given a serious chance, either in NXT or on the main roster. After being signed in 2019, Garrett only wrestled 34 matches for WWE and on television basically only did jobs. She did get on television, but ultimately her stint in WWE has to be seen as a waste of time.
In the latest episode of the Gentlemen’s Wrestling Podcast, Jesse Collings (@JesseCollings) and Jason Ounpraseuth (@JasonOun95) discuss Daniel Bryan. First, they go over his history in WWE and his strange last few years, then they fantasy book some future angles for him and discuss where he could go outside of WWE.