The story of WWE’s success has always been one of ruthless acquisition. Whether it’s Vince McMahon buying up his competition or the more modern phenomenon of stripping the indies of their top talent, the company is the biggest player in the game, and for the most part if they want a wrestler, they’ll take that wrestler.
Less commonly, though, WWE will build a star completely from the ground up. This may be a legacy act who the company is willing to put the time into, an athlete from another discipline who translates to pro wrestling, or just someone with undeniable star quality and potential.
Even with the Performance Centre, it’s still relatively uncommon for a performer to go from zero to hero with no outside input, but when WWE does take the time to build a star from the ground up, it can pay real dividends. From reliable, long time hands to performers propping up the business for years to come, these bespoke performers have repaid the company’s investment and then some.
With the recent rejig of NXT, perhaps we’ll see more fully homegrown stars in years to come - if so, these performers are the benchmark for success.
10. The Miz
To say Mike “The Miz” Mizanin exceeded all expectations is to put it lightly. A thoroughly modern wrestling story, Mizanin first gained minor fame on reality show The Real World, then transitioned into the inaugural season of WWE’s Tough Enough. Miz finished second, but clearly had a flair for the business, and was sent to developmental.
From there, his rise has been, if not meteoric, then incredibly consistent, clearly as the result of real effort and grit. From being hazed out of locker rooms and dismissed by his peers, Miz eked out a career coming up to 20 years, gaining dozens of championships, a handful of genuinely excellent matches and angles, and a WrestleMania headline berth (which admittedly was probably a mistake).
Equally importantly, though, Miz has been a priceless tool in WWE’s media empire. He is their go-to for publicity outside of wrestling; the man’s a total pro, built in their image to sell the product on morning TV, Dancing With The Stars, movies, and more.
Is he many fans’ favourite wrestler, or an in-ring innovator? Not really, no. But as far as the WWE powers that be are concerned, he’s indispensable.