While we fans are usually excited when WWE signs one of our favorite wrestlers, whether from TNA, the independent scene, glorified indy promotions like ROH or even from international territory, the fact is WWE still wants to make its own stars. It’s understandable, and every promotion on Earth should strive to do this. If a guy takes off and he’s been homegrown from day one, WWE can say they made the talent and there are no other promotions that can take credit for that.
WWE has had great success with this formula (John Cena and Ryback, to name a couple), but not every homegrown talent is going to be a homerun. Sometimes, it is the WWE not booking them right and sometimes, it’s simply due to the fact that the wrestler in question just isn’t that good. Regardless of the reason, sometimes these guys just don’t make it, and in the worst scenarios, they leave such a little impression that they are nearly forgotten in the long run.
*Note: Only talents who have been called to the main roster were included, and anyone who made a name for themselves elsewhere (Braden Walker) didn’t count.
Escobar seemed to have a leg up on other developmental stars when he finally got his big call-up, immediately given the gimmick as Vickie Guerrero’s new boyfriend. When you consider that Vickie was one of the most over heels in the company at the time-despite doing little outside of, “Excuse me!”-Escobar seemed primed to have a solid upper mid-card position in his hands. Escobar signed his developmental deal in 2005, and that’s where things fell apart. You see, Escobar stayed in developmental for FOUR YEARS before getting that coveted call-up, which is pretty much a death sentence for WWE hopefuls. In fact, until his call-up, many believed Escobar would never get that call, and were shocked that he was still under contract. When he was finally called up, it was obvious he wouldn’t last. Escobar was clumsy in the ring and showed very little personality. After just a handful of cheap wins as a heel, Escobar was turned face after splitting with Vickie, jobbed out in one-sided contests for a couple of weeks and then let go completely. Honestly, if it weren’t for Vickie being his manager for a few weeks, I think the guy would have been completely forgotten.
Speaking of forgotten, I actually had to look Spears up, as I don’t recall seeing him wrestle even once. Much like Escobar, Spears spent a long time in developmental (around 3 years) before he got his call, and in a move that didn’t bode well for his future, he was immediately put on WWE’s relaunch of ECW. Spears debuted for ECW in August of 2009, losing his first match to fellow developmental flunkie Ricky Ortiz. After just that one match, Spears was sent back to FCW and split his time between the two. It didn’t do much good, as Spears apparently lost every televised match he was involved in before being fired in January 2010, not even making it six months. Honestly, there isn’t much more to tell. That’s how unremarkable he was.
The name might not sound familiar, but if you watch pro wrestling on TV now, you know Braddock’s work as he is currently employed by TNA as glorified jobber Jay Bradley (I should really do an article on how badly TNA has handled some workers at some point). Before he made it to TNA, he briefly competed on WWE television and in fact, I had completely forgotten about him until he surfaced in Gut Check a while ago. Anyway, Braddock also suffered from being in “developmental hell” for too long, but based on look alone, he seemed like he might have a decent shot at making something of himself. He had the right look and was (still is) a decent performer; not great, but with some smoothing out, there was definitely potential. Apparently, WWE didn’t see it, and Braddock was instead jobbed out his entire run, starting with the Big Show and ending with the team of Jesse & Festus (remember them?). In fact, his only win came during his last appearance on Smackdown against Festus, and that was via disqualification. Braddock debuted around the same time as Spears and lasted roughly two months longer.
Former Tough Enough alumni Daniel Rodimer was given a golden opportunity after losing the 4th season of WWE’s pseudo-reality show, only spending about 7 months in developmental before working an episode of Heat as part of the RAW roster. Why did he get called up so fast? Was it because he was just that good? Was he a quick learner? Did he ooze charisma? Nope! He got the call-up for 2 reasons: a) he was big. b) Stephanie McMahon liked him. That’s it. Stephers truly believed Rodman was going to be a major star and pushed hard for him to not only get plenty of TV time, but work with the top stars in the company at the time. After just a handful of televised matches in 2007, however, it was obvious Rodman wasn’t going to make it. Why? Quite simply, he sucked, and no amount of push from Steph (who picked Rodman to be her pet project) was changing that. After just barely a year under contract, Rodman was quietly released, and has not been involved in wrestling since.
BRAKKUS (or BRAKUS)
Former competitive bodybuilder Achim Albrecht was signed to WWE (then WWF) in 1996 and for roughly about 2 years, he spent his time in both USWA and ECW, which WWE had a working relationship with and were considered unofficial developmental territories. After building himself up a little bit in ECW as a member of a faction of WWF wrestlers supposedly sent to destroy ECW (including Doug Furnas, Phil LaFon and Droz), Brakkus was eventually brought up through vignettes on WWE television. The vignettes were spoken entirely in German, with Brakkus targeting wrestlers like Vader and Hunter Hearst-Helmsley, which were intended to make him a face (despite most fans didn’t speak German and didn’t understand them). In March of 1998, Brakkus made a quiet debut on Shotgun Saturday Night, losing to The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust, only to disappear for the next few months. During the summer, Brakkus was brought back for WWE’s ill-fated “Brawl for All” tournament, where he was easily defeated at the hands of Savio Vega, suffering a bloddy nose in the process. Reportedly, Brakkus believed the match was supposed to be scripted and had no idea he was supposed to somewhat legitimately fight Vega, according to Vega himself. Brakkus was brought back a couple of weeks later for a match with Vega’s Los Boricuas partner Jesus Castillo, Jr., which he won in short order with a spinebuster. However, that was the last time he was seen on television. For reasons unknown (but let’s face it, the dude sucked as a wrestler), Brakkus was released and retired from wrestling a year later.
While the other cases were forgettable, I can believe people remembering them-especially Brakkus. However, I can nearly guarantee no one reading this article remembers Vansen. Vansen was a British wrestler who signed with WWE in 2007 and made his debut in 2008. In December of that year, Vansen appeared in a cryptic promo that was filmed with a shaky handi-cam and was expected to be a big part of Smackdown the next year, with the idea being that he would feud with the Undertaker, possibly as a leader of a cult-like faction similar to the Wyatt Family. It makes sense, as in the promo, Vansen came off as something of a cult leader, which would explain the possible ‘Taker feud. The next week, Vansen appeared in one more cryptic promo similar to the first one. After that…well, there was no after that. The plans for Vansen’s call-up were immediately canned, and Vansen was outright released. To this day, no one seems to know exactly what happened with Vansen and why he was cut so quickly. Rumors surfaced that those in creative believed Vansen, at 5’11” in height and weighing 220 lbs., was considered too small to believably feud with “The Dead Man”. While that might be true, that only explains why his feud was scrappped and not why he was let go completely. As for where he is now, Vansen retired from wrestling right after his release, again without explanation.
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