If there’s one thing pro wrestling fans can’t stand, it’s a wrestler that gets a ton of hype without ever proving they are worth it. As is the case in any sport, an athlete that gets rammed down fans’ throats before ever making much of an impact has an even tougher climb to the top than ones who start their career with little fanfare.
We’ve already counted down our picks for the greatest wrestlers in WWE history, and believe it or not, there’s some overlap between that list and this one. After all, just because you’ve proven to be one of the greats doesn’t mean you can’t still be overrated.
Here’s our list of WWE wrestlers who were given far too much exposure for the amount of skill they had.
25. Hulk Hogan
It might sound like blasphemy to put The Hulkster on this list — especially after we ranked him so high on our list of all-time legends — but he’s easily one of WWE’s most overhyped stars ever. In the early 1980s, Hogan helped turn WWE into the world’s most popular wrestling company, thanks to his endless charm, good looks and ability to fire up crowds with the microphone. But his matches quickly turned into a paint-by-numbers routine of the same patterns and moves that had been run into the ground for years.
He held the WWE Championship on six different occasions for more than a combined 2,000 days, including his final reign in 2003, which was way past his prime. Hogan was also an eight-time winner of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s most overrated wrestler award.
His WWE career only lasted about six years, but Carlito had a meteoric rise to the top of the company’s ladder, despite never really connecting with fans. Within a single year of debuting on the main roster, Carlito won both the United States Championship and Intercontinental Championship, the latter of which had always been the company’s go-to title for anyone they deemed a major up and comer. But Carlito showed very little effort in his matches and backstage interviews, which eventually led to his hot run ending as quickly as it started.
Oh, and his terrible gimmick of walking around eating an apple, spitting pieces of it at people who “didn’t want to be cool” didn’t make anyone want to take him seriously as a main-event guy.
23. The Great Khali
Vince McMahon has a lot of love for massive guys, but unfortunately for fans, the bigger a wrestler is, the less they are typically capable of in the ring. The Great Khali was the prototypical example of this, standing at a hulking 7 feet, 1 inch and weighing about 350 pounds during his time in WWE. He was certainly a sight to behold, but Khali was a total bore in the ring and couldn’t do anything with a microphone. He somehow ended up becoming the WWE World Heavyweight Champion in 2007, based solely on his size.
Khali wasn’t pushed nearly as much as other people on this list, which is why we’ve ranked him low, but the amount of hype he got was certainly overkill based on what he could actually do as a wrestler.
22. Shane McMahon
Nepotism at its finest. Shane McMahon, the son of WWE CEO Vince McMahon, has been hyped as a legitimate wrestler by the company for more than 20 years, despite having no formal training in the ring. McMahon has won three different championships so far and has had matches in prime slots at WWE pay-per-view events all through that time, which is more than many legitimately gifted wrestlers can say. His matches basically consist of him putting his life on the line in a series of dangerous maneuvers and hitting the two moves that he knows how to do.
The biggest insult to the company’s fans came in 2018 when McMahon won the WWE World Cup and became known as “the best [wrestler] in the world.”
21. The Bella Twins
Thankfully, women’s wrestling has been taken much more seriously by WWE in recent years — but The Bella Twins represent some of the last of the company’s old views. Known much more for their sex appeal, reality TV shows and racy romantic storylines than for being incredible in the ring, Brie and Nikki Bella have nonetheless held the embarrassingly named WWE Divas Championship a total of three times. In the mid-2010s, Nikki held the title for 301 days, which was the longest individual reign of anyone in the belt’s history.
For her part, Brie earned a reputation as an unsafe wrestler in 2018, thanks to several botched moves that legitimately injured her opponents. When WWE fans think of great women’s wrestling, they will likely never think of The Bella Twins, but they were undoubtedly the face of that division for several years.
20. The Sandman
Known much more for his time with the infamous ECW promotion before it was bought by WWE, The Sandman came to the bigger company as an icon that many fans had yet to actually see for themselves. When they finally did watch him wrestle, they had to be disappointed. He had held the ECW Heavyweight Championship five times, which is the most of anyone in history, but he did so with absolutely no wrestling skills. He always looked completely out of shape and seemed unable to do even the most basic moves and make them look anything close to legitimate.
The Sandman was more famous for his gimmick, which included drinking beers, smoking cigarettes and hitting himself on the head with a weapon on his way to the ring. If it sounds dumb it’s because it was.
19. John Cena
Similar to Hulk Hogan, there’s no question that John Cena is one of the best wrestlers in WWE history, but he also wore out his welcome pretty quickly. During a record-breaking run in WWE, Cena was a 16-time world champion, which is the most reigns of anyone in the company’s history. On top of that, he’s held several other titles and seemingly main-evented every major pay-per-view event for a 10-year period. It doesn’t help Cena’s reputation that he was the face of WWE for what many fans consider a weak era in the company’s history, when it started appealing more to young kids than it had in the late 1990s.
Cena had great skills on a microphone but could get obnoxious in a hurry, and his matches followed a predictable pattern, seeing him use the same signature moves on repeat until they lost all impact.
Before he became a Hollywood star, Batista was a six-time world champion during a lengthy run at the top in WWE. He headlined some lucrative events and had a handful of classic matches, but he never seemed to live up to the massive hype and opportunities given to him during his time with the company. He looked amazing and had an unforgettable entrance — two things we’ll see from many wrestlers on this list — but he had a dull set of moves and never gave memorable interviews. Batista also always seemed to be injured, which undercut his reputation as a monster.
17. Nia Jax
It’s only been three years since Nia Jax debuted on the WWE main roster, but she’s earned plenty of negative press in that time. Her work in the ring and with a microphone have left plenty of fans feeling flat but she earned a reputation as an unsafe wrestler in 2018, when she legitimately punched Becky Lynch in the face during a tangle, seriously injuring Lynch and causing her to miss time when she was rising as the company’s most popular star. Fans lost what respect they had for Jax when the company used that dangerous punch as a way to hype her even more.
She’s already held the WWE Raw Women’s Championship once, and fans aren’t exactly dying to see her get the belt again.
16. Ahmed Johnson
View this post on Instagram
Today's Autograph of the Day comes from Ahmed Johnson !!! #autographoftheday #aotd #wwf #wwe #wrestling #ahmedjohnson #pearlriverplunge #youregoingdown #nationofdomination #nod #nxt #roh #pwg #luchaunderground #bigt #wcw #impactwrestling #wwenetwork #wweuniverse #autograph #signature #collector #autographs #collection #markedout #johncena #brocklesnar #deanambrose #wweraw #smackdown @markedout
This ex-NFL player was immediately hyped as a top-level guy when he got to WWE in the mid-1990s, but fans could quickly see through the fog. Despite looking like a beast, Johnson was awkward and stiff in the ring and earned a reputation for being an unsafe worker, which is the worst label anyone in wrestling can be shackled with. He also had issues staying healthy and was awful on the microphone, which made him stick out like an oft-injured thumb during the Attitude Era, which was full of great talkers.
Johnson held the Intercontinental Championship but that was his only title reign because his time in WWE only lasted about three years. He was simply boring at a time when wrestling was as exciting as it’s ever been. Check him out in his prime, in this autographed photo from Instagram user @latinoheat578.
15. Jeff Jarrett
“Double J” is as decorated as any veteran in pro wrestling history, but his run in WWE was pretty unremarkable, especially considering how much air time he got. He was introduced in the mid-1990s with a long series of videos that showed him as a wannabe country singer who spoke in irritating catchphrases. When fans saw him in the ring, it was mostly by-the-books wrestling, with the most memorable things about Jarrett being things that Ric Flair had already done better: big, blond hair and an arrogant strut.
Jarrett somehow went on to hold four different belts in WWE and secured himself a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame, which make him ripe for being considered an overrated grappler.
14. The Honky Tonk Man
Speaking of questionable WWE Hall of Famers, The Honky Tonk Man is right at the top of the biggest head-scratchers to ever get that honor. He had a silly gimmick as an Elvis impersonator, complete with his sequined outfit, and his signature maneuver consisted of hitting opponents with his guitar. That’s hardly the recipe for a competitor who can be taken seriously by fans. The Honky Tonk Man spent many years in the WWE in three runs that spanned from the 1980s to the mid-2010s.
He once held the Intercontinental Championship for 454 days, which is the longest reign in history, only adding to his reputation as an overrated star.
13. Koko B. Ware
Compared to Koko B. Ware, The Honky Tonk Man looks like The Rock, yet this guy is also in the WWE Hall of Fame. He never held a title in nearly 10 years with the company, but being enshrined all the way back in 2009, far before they’d run out of great wrestlers to induct, makes him overhyped in any fan’s book. It’s been said by many wrestling historians that Ware was a great wrestler before his time in WWE, but once he got there, he looked average at best.
In WWE, Ware was basically a jobber, which is a wrestler who only loses and makes others look better, and he had a goofy gimmick on top of that, thanks to coming to the ring with a bird on his shoulder. On second thought, if it wasn’t for that lovely bird, he’d probably be even higher on this list.
12. Lex Luger
It’s incredible to think that Lex Luger never won a title during his time in WWE because he was endlessly hyped by the company as arguably its top guy during the mid-1990s. Luger was only with WWE for a few years but, in that span, he was consistently a main-event guy who challenged for all the top belts. He looked like a million bucks and had a star-making moment when he lifted the 589-pound Yokozuna off the mat for a slam in 1993. After that, WWE rammed Luger down fans’ throats, sending him on a nationwide bus tour, fawning over him as an inspirational role model and decking him out with the most over-the-top patriotic persona you could imagine.
Few WWE fans were too sad to see Luger jump ship for WCW in 1995, where he’d have an even bigger run.
11. Shinsuke Nakamura
When Shinsuke Nakamura debuted on the WWE main roster in 2017, following stellar careers in Japan and NXT, fans were pumped to see someone who’d been described as one of the most exciting wrestlers in history. In the two years that have followed, they’ve seen very little to make them believe that hype. Nakamura has had two forgettable runs as United States Champion, a belt that has always felt like an afterthought, and one as Intercontinental Champion. He’s also been shoehorned in as a tag-team partner with Rusev, in a move that did nothing for either man.
In short, Nakamura has looked like anything but a main-event star, which is how he was hyped when he came to WWE and won the Royal Rumble on his first try in 2018. There’s still plenty of time for him to shine, but Nakamura has been a major bust for WWE fans thus far.
10. The Fabulous Moolah
For decades, The Fabulous Moolah was propped up by WWE as the all-time trailblazer in women’s wrestling history. She held the WWE Women’s Championship for more than 10,000 combined days in her long career, which is the all-time record, and was the first to ever hold the belt in 1956. However, following Moolah’s death in 2007 — and especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement — many wrestling historians and former wrestlers revealed the truth about the legendary figure, saying she exploited and ruthlessly controlled the women under her tutelage.
There’s no question that Moolah was a gifted performer in her day, but the dark side of her story makes her one of the most overrated when it comes to her legacy as a pioneer for women’s wrestling. In 2018, WWE even distanced itself from Moolah, stripping her name from an annual women’s battle royal match.
9. Jinder Mahal
It’s a shame that Jinder Mahal is so dull in the ring, because he looks incredible and is a trailblazer for wrestlers of South Asian heritage. Mahal was one of the prototypical examples of a guy that resonated with very few fans yet saw his stock in the company take off like a rocket because of his impressive physique. In 2017, Mahal rose to the top, becoming WWE Champion for 170 days, which was the longest reign anyone had had with that prestigious belt in two years. Virtually nobody was excited about his title run and he’s been a low-to-mid-card guy ever since.
8. Bobby Lashley
You know what you never hear a wrestling fan say? “Bobby Lashley is my favorite wrestler.” He might be the prototypical example of a guy that looks the part but has none of the other ingredients. Since his first run with WWE in the mid-2000s, which included an undefeated streak, title shots and a WrestleMania main event, Lashley has been presented as a monster who is capable of anything in the ring — but he’s lived up to none of the hype he’s been given. His skills with a microphone are astoundingly bad (remember that promo about his sisters?), he comes off as the least charismatic guy in history and his work in the ring will put you to sleep.
Still, he’s held three different WWE titles, including two reigns as Intercontinental Champion and two as ECW World Heavyweight Champion after that promotion was bought. The only thing that keeps him from ranking higher is the fact that he’s never held one of WWE’s heavyweight championships.
Legendary WWE mic man Paul Heyman once said of Bradshaw that the only reason he was WWE Champion for a year “was because Triple H didn’t want to work Tuesdays.” It is baffling that a guy this dull in the ring and completely unlikable out of it could have earned six different belts during his long run in WWE. His gimmick changed from a cult member to a badass gang member to a rich, Texas millionaire in the span of less than a decade, meaning fans never knew how to connect to this guy.
When it came out in recent years that Bradshaw had been a ruthless bully to less experienced wrestlers and commentators during his career, it only further cemented his status as an over-pushed mid-carder at best during his time at the top of the company.
During the WWE’s lucrative Attitude Era, Sable was one of the company’s most popular performers, right alongside “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock and Shawn Michaels. But the difference is those three were incredible wrestlers who had a deep passion for the business, while she was in it to build her own brand. During her time with WWE, Sable rarely wore more than a bra and panties when she was on TV, and she posed in Playboy three times, which is two more times than she held the WWE Women’s Championship.
Her status as a sex symbol doesn’t automatically make her an overhyped wrestler, but the fact that she was the face of women’s wrestling in the company at its peak, despite not being able to do basic moves without looking ridiculous, does. The low point of her illogical push came when she powerbombed then-husband Marc Mero — who was twice her size — effectively making both of their careers and the entire idea of wrestling as a legitimate sport look like a joke.
5. Sycho Sid
At this point, Sycho Sid is more well known for a gruesome injury he suffered in the ring than for his time at the top of the cards in WWE and WCW. He was pushed right to the main events during his two stints with WWE in the 1990s, mostly because he looked tough and had a great gimmick as a lunatic (plus, his entrance music was creepy as all hell). But Sid was the boilerplate big man in the ring, moving slowly and using a powerbomb as his finisher, and he was one of the all-time worst interviews in WWE history.
Regardless of his obvious shortcomings, Sid found himself as a two-time WWE Champion, while phenomenal talents like Owen Hart never got the belt once.
4. Brock Lesnar
In 2002, Brock Lesnar debuted on the WWE main roster and within about 5 months, he held the company’s most important championship. “The Beast’s” meteoric rise in the company never really slowed down, as he’s pretty much continued to hold one of WWE’s main belts on and off since then. That’s pretty much the definition of overrated, especially given how little time he spends wrestling. In 2019, someone figured out that Lesnar hadn’t wrestled on either of WWE’s weekly TV shows in 15 years — only having matches on pay-per-view events — but had remained a central figure in the company for much of that time.
When Lesnar did have matches during that span, they usually consisted of him doing a small number of powerful moves on his opponent repeatedly and defeating them within a matter of minutes. His storytelling abilities in or out of the ring have never been great, and he has a reputation as a lazy and unsafe wrestler. But, as long as he draws eyeballs to the screen, he’ll be one of WWE’s top guys.
If you’ve seen one Goldberg match, you’ve seen them all. There will be an awesome entrance with a bunch of sparks flying around him, then he will proceed to hit his opponent with the spear and the jackhammer before pinning them. He skated by on that pattern for about a decade, mostly during his time with WCW, where he was presented as the company’s top guy and buried plenty of other wrestlers with a ridiculous undefeated streak. By the time he came to WWE, fans knew he was sold as a legendary brute but they were only let down by what they got.
Goldberg’s matches were predictable and formulaic and he never did a great interview, which is the top way any star wrestler connects with fans. In about two years with WWE, Goldberg won two of the company’s top titles and would later become a WWE Hall of Famer. His way overhyped — and way disappointing — match with The Undertaker in May 2019 was a fitting swan song to a career that never quite lived up to the billing.
A two-time winner of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s awards for most overrated wrestler and worst wrestler, Diesel was also a four-time champion in WWE, including once as the company’s top titleholder. He was a boring wrestler with only a basic set of the typical big-guy moves (a powerbomb finisher, yet again) and never had anything to say on the microphone. He basically had great hair and powerful friends backstage.
Diesel quickly earned a reputation as poison in the locker room, backstabbing fellow wrestlers to improve his own position in the company. He’s also been frequently cited as a key reason WCW eventually went under, after he was given a lot of power behind the scenes in that company. All that landed him in the WWE Hall of Fame, of course.
1. The Ultimate Warrior
No wrestler — or person — in WWE history has benefited from empty hype and good marketing like The Ultimate Warrior did. He was a former WWE Champion and two-time Intercontinental Champion, despite having absolutely no in-ring skills and arguably the most cringe-worthy microphone abilities ever. He had the look of a great professional wrestler during the bodybuilding phase of the late 1980s and early 1990s and had a phenomenal entrance, but it should take a lot more than that to get into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Then, there are his extremely hateful views on gay people and minorities, which have been well documented over the years. Despite all this, WWE decided to spin him as a beacon for anti-bullying messages and pro-LGBTQ+ initiatives in 2019, which shows that the hype machine for The Ultimate Warrior continues even after his death.