Every 'Next Big Thing' In Wrestling History: Where Are They Now?

Does the instant mega-push actually work in wrestling, or...?

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A quick note on the criteria:

This list only covers wrestlers whom the office deemed the guy whether you liked them or not - the recipients of the super-committed all-the-way-in absolute mega-push. 

Obviously, that rules out Daniel Bryan, who occupies the opposite extreme of that spectrum. The rocket was not exactly strapped to his back; he was brought back down to earth ritually, by Michael Cole, who delighted in calling him a vegan nerd whom only the most snarky know-it-all jagoffs thought was one of the best wrestlers on the planet.

This criteria rules out even John Cena and Batista. 

Both were eventually pushed, and heavily, to an extent that you resented them entirely, but neither were the Next Big Thing: Cena was a handsome greenhorn with muscles who WWE might want to do something with maybe, and Batista was a handsome greenhorn with bigger muscles who WWE might want to do something with maybe.

This list assesses the "Are you sure you don't like them? They're on TV all the time, and moreover, we don't give a flying f*ck what you think" pro wrestler. The wrestler with whom promoters broke the golden rule - a star is an act who best connects with the audience - because the promoter likes them so much.

How many of them actually made it?

20. Tom Magee

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Bret Hart Vs. Tom Magee, thought lost forever until it was exhumed in 2019, revealed who the next Ace of the World Wrestling Federation was. 

Vince McMahon thought it was Magee, the guy with the hairspray metal poodle barnet and Greek God physique who couldn’t work a lick. It was in fact - eventually - Bret Hart. 

Hart was uniquely superb in the match. He knew that Magee could do literally less than nothing and treated him like a proximity mine. He charged at Magee like a rocket, ran away from him in cowardice, and expressed his sheer fury that he “couldn’t” get near him. Hart had to do everything in the spaces between moves; if he made contact with Magee, and he had to do that on occasion, the match would blow up. To Hart’s eternal credit, it only blew up once or twice. 

After Magee was exposed as a dud, he did some shots for All Japan Pro Wrestling, in which he essentially wrestled like a small child copying the first karate film they’d ever watched. The WWF gave him some more dates in 1989, but Magee simply was not cut out for it. 

Magee presently works as gym trainer, as far as anybody seems to be able to tell, but did resurface to talk about the match in 2019. Seemed like a very sweet man.


Michael Sidgwick is an editor, writer and podcaster for WhatCulture Wrestling. With over seven years of experience in wrestling analysis, Michael was published in the influential institution that was Power Slam magazine, and specialises in providing insights into All Elite Wrestling - so much so that he wrote a book about the subject. You can order Becoming All Elite: The Rise Of AEW on Amazon. Possessing a deep knowledge also of WWE, WCW, ECW and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Michael’s work has been publicly praised by former AEW World Champions Kenny Omega and MJF, and current Undisputed WWE Champion Cody Rhodes. When he isn’t putting your finger on why things are the way they are in the endlessly fascinating world of professional wrestling, Michael wraps his own around a hand grinder to explore the world of specialty coffee. Follow Michael on X (formerly known as Twitter) @MSidgwick for more!