10 WWE Wrestlers Who Proved Everyone Wrong

4/30/2024 11:15 AM

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10 WWE Wrestlers Who Proved Everyone Wrong

10 WWE Wrestlers Who Proved Everyone Wrong

April 30, 2024 11:15 AM
10 WWE Wrestlers Who Proved Everyone Wrong

Every wrestler has a point to prove.

10: John Cena

At WrestleMania 31, John Cena became US Champion. On the surface, this was a bizarre booking move, as Cena was still very much WWE’s top-star, so some fans felt like it was a step-down for Cena to now be a mid-card champion.

On the RAW following WrestleMania 31, Cena introduced the world to the ‘John Cena US Title Open Challenge’. This would see Cena defend the title virtually every week against names up and down the card.

For the ten years before this US Title reign, Cena was heavily bashed for his in-ring work, and this Open Challenge series was Cena’s chance to prove to everyone that he was indeed a fantastic worker, and he could have bangers on a weekly basis. Cena proved every single doubter wrong, as Cena embarked on the most widely acclaimed in-ring run of his career. Cena turned into a completely different wrestler during this time period, and his matches with the likes of Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, and even Wade Barrett were examples of Cena showing the world that he was a fantastic in-ring performer. 

9: Christian

When Christian parted ways with WWE in 2005, he wanted to show WWE that he had what it took to be a top-star in pro wrestling. Christian shortly after his departure signed with TNA, and what followed was phenomenal work, as Christian was instantly pushed into the main event scene, and Christian delivered in every aspect of what was required out of a main event talent. Christian would become World Champion, and this was long overdue, yet it was wonderful to finally see him get his flowers.

Upon returning to WWE in 2009, WWE still needed convincing that Christian was a main event level performer. When he finally got this chance in 2011, Christian had a chip on his shoulder, and his World Title, main event feud with Randy Orton was widely acclaimed, and Orton himself classes it as one of the stand-out feuds of his entire career. Whilst Christian didn’t win another World Title outside of the two runs in 2011, he was often placed into the main event scene, and Christian had numerous World Title matches before his initial WWE retirement in 2014. 

8: Mark Henry

For the first few years of Mark Henry’s WWE run, he just couldn’t put it together in the ring. Henry went between various different characters, and despite WWE pushing him numerous times up the card, each time, Henry failed to catch fire, and the fans rejected him as a top-star.

In 2011, Henry once again turned heel, and he was set for yet another push into the main event picture. Upon this initial turn, fans were critical, which was justified, as WWE and Henry had been in this position so many times with the same result.

Henry managed to find the gimmick that suited him perfectly. The Hall of Pain gimmick was outstanding, and Henry went into the gimmick and the push with the mindset of proving everyone wrong and showing that he belonged. Henry’s work was so good that he was given a World Title run, and to everyone’s surprise, this reign was one of the more entertaining and unique reigns of the past two-decades.

Henry’s Hall of Pain run established Henry as a legitimate main eventer, and although his main event and World Title run was brief, it ultimately defined Henry’s legacy as a talent in WWE. 

7: Big Show

WWE have had a love/hate relationship with Big Show throughout the years. Within his first year in the company, Big Show won the WWE Title, yet WWE took exception with his in-ring work, and his physique, and by 2000, Big Show was being sent to OVW for further conditioning.

When Big Show returned, WWE just couldn’t commit to booking Big Show in the main event. He would spend time in the hardcore division, and he would miss WrestleMania 18.

By the end of 2002, Big Show was put in a sink or swim situation. He was given the WWE Title, by defeating Brock Lesnar of all people, and Big Show slowly turned things around. He worked endlessly to get better in the ring, and his promo work also vastly improved. Big Show became a constant in WWE over the next few years, and after an extended break, he would return in 2008 to embark on his most successful run to date.

Big Show proved to the fans, and more importantly WWE themselves, that he was serious about being a big deal in pro wrestling, and his story is one of triumph and resilience. 

6: LA Knight

It was decided by Vince McMahon that the best role for LA Knight on the main roster would be a managerial role. This role would completely destroy the LA Knight character, as he would now be known as Max Dupri. This gimmick was atrocious, and the fans clamoured for WWE to change their minds, and revert him back to the LA Knight persona everyone knew and loved.

Thankfully, WWE did, and LA managed to get incredibly over and connect with the main roster crowds. LA became one of the most popular stars in wrestling in 2023, and he managed to convince WWE that he was someone they needed to invest their time and effort into. LA would even main event Crown Jewel in 2023 in a World Title match against Roman Reigns, which was some achievement, seeing as the year before he was literally a manager of a lower-card comedic tag-team.

5: Cody Rhodes

In 2016, Cody Rhodes officially had enough. He knew he had reached his ceiling in WWE, and the company wasn't going to give him a chance to prove he was a star.

Rhodes departed the company, and he went on an absolute tear on the independent scene, before helping create AEW, which became a legitimate alternative product for fans in an era in which WWE was seemingly dominating.

Rhodes had become a certified draw, but also, he became one of the most influential and important figures in modern-day wrestling.

Eventually, in 2022, Rhodes decided it was time to come home. After showing everyone what he was made of, Rhodes returned to WWE, and WWE instantly acknowledged his success outside of the WWE bubble, and Rhodes was quite rightly pushed as a main eventer.

All demographics seemed to gravitate towards Rhodes, particularly after his return from injury in 2023, and the fans firmly decided that Rhodes was their guy. Subsequently, WWE decided that Rhodes was the perfect choice to end Roman Reigns’ historic run as WWE Champion, and as a result, the artist formerly known as Stardust closed out WrestleMania 40 as WWE Champion. 

4: Dominik Mysterio

When Dominik Mysterio made his official in-ring debut in 2020, he was still very much green in terms of his in-ring work, and his character work was definitely lacking.

In 2022, in a much needed move, Mysterio turned heel on his own father, the legendary, Rey Mysterio. What followed was one of the greatest character changes in WWE history.

Virtually overnight, Dirty Dom became one of the most detestable heels in pro wrestling, and he seemed to find his groove almost immediately as a bad guy. Mysterio would join The Judgment Day, and his on-air partnership with Rhea Ripley has been stupendous, as they both have riveting chemistry, and they have both enhanced each other’s characters.  

3: AJ Styles

There was notable concern when AJ Styles signed with WWE in 2016. Whilst AJ’s body of work was widely celebrated around the world, there was apprehension surrounding if AJ in WWE would work. Would WWE allow AJ to shine? And would AJ be able to grasp the WWE style, and impress Vince McMahon?

Thankfully, AJ didn’t just grasp the WWE style almost instantly, he also rather quickly became one of Vince McMahon’s favourite talents. AJ proved to the critics that he was going to be a significant player for the company, and in AJ’s first year in the company, he would have a WWE Title reign, and even defeat John Cena clean.

AJ is now established as one of the biggest names WWE have under contract, and AJ has now had more matches in WWE than he had in TNA. AJ’s work since 2016 has solidified his status as a future WWE Hall of Famer, and it’s an utter joy to see AJ still performing at a top-level over two-decades after he first burst onto the scene in WCW. 

2: Roman Reigns

It’s well documented just how disastrous Roman Reigns’ babyface run was. WWE placed Reigns in an elite position that he was nowhere near ready for, and most of his top matches during his babyface reign were often met with negative chants, and overwhelmingly scathing reviews.

By late 2019, early 2020, the fans insisted that WWE needed to change direction with Reigns, and this feeling was also felt by Reigns, who according to Paul Heyman had a less than positive stance on his presentation and booking.

When Reigns returned to WWE from a hiatus in the summer of 2020, he returned as a heel, and this wasn’t the Reigns that came before. This was Reigns being totally himself, just turned up 1000. It was genius. Reigns went from this disingenuous, forced character to one of the most legitimate, interesting, and compelling characters in all of pro wrestling.

Reigns’ work between 2020-2024 was evidence that he had what it took to be the face of the company, and all it took was WWE actually listening to the fans, and allowing Reigns to shine. 

1: Logan Paul

Logan Paul deciding to compete in WWE was instantly met with backlash. Paul was a social media star and a YouTuber, and fans collectively wondered what on earth Paul could add to WWE.

When Paul eventually wrestled, it was apparent that he was incredibly athletic, and had natural in-ring ability. The more Paul wrestled, the better he became, and this was in all areas of pro wrestling, including his promos, and his selling, which continues to be tremendous.

Paul won the fans over not just by his in-ring work, he also won the fans over thanks to his genuine love for WWE.

In interviews, Paul often speaks at length about how much he respects the WWE talent, and he constantly talks about how insanely hard being a pro wrestler is. Paul has a unique appreciation for the art of wrestling, and when Paul became US Champion in 2023, fans welcomed the booking move, as Paul has managed to successfully prove himself as someone that’s incredibly serious about making his WWE run a success.