When people talk about professional wrestling, there is the WWE and then there is everyone else. However, it wasn't always this way.
During the Monday Night Wars, in the territory days and later with Impact Wrestling, there were other alternatives. Despite their options, it seems like many wrestlers dreams are to be part of the WWE.
The problem is that it doesn't always work out. Sometimes wrestlers join the WWE and realize that they made a huge mistake. Other times, wrestlers leave the WWE and realize that it was the wrong decision, for one reason or another.
There have been many WWE superstars who were main event talents who then left the company and found that success outside of the promotion was not easy to come by. Then there are others who realized that not only was the grass not greener on the other side, but it was also enough to end their careers.
Other wrestlers had huge careers before making their way to the WWE and then ended up stuck in a gimmick that turned them into a joke that they were never able to recover from.
Whether they were coming or going, many of these wrestlers thought they were making good career moves but ended up regretting them when all was said and done.
With that said, here are the 10 WWE Stars Who Should’ve Never Left (And 10 Who Should’ve Never Signed).
20 Shouldn't have left: BRET "THE HITMAN" HART
Bret "The Hitman" Hart joined the WWE in 1984 and worked in one of the company's most successful tag teams -- the Hart Foundation.
He then moved on to singles action, where he won the Intercontinental title and became a five-time world champion. Along with Shawn Michaels, the two men revolutionized what professional wrestling looked like in the '90s.
However, after a conflict concerning his contract, Hart chose to leave the WWE. It was a mess that resulted in the Montréal Screwjob and Hart went to WCW, burning his bridges with Vince McMahon on his way out.
It was in WCW that Hart suffered a severe concussion in a match with Goldberg that ended his career. That concussion also led to a stroke later in his life.
One might wonder if Hart could have avoided this if he had never left the WWE.
19 Shouldn't have signed: LEX LUGER
Lex Luger got his start in the NWA working down in Florida and training under the legendary Hiro Matsuda.
This was in the pre-internet era when people learned about wrestling through magazines and there was a lot of hype for Luger. The Total Package finally made his big league debut when he joined Crockett Promotions and became part of the Four Horsemen.
Luger enjoyed a hugely successful career in WCW, a two-time world champion, five-time U.S. champion, and three-time tag team champion.
He was also one of the faces of the company, but there was a period when he signed with the WWE from 1993 through 1994 and it was a colossal failure.
Vince McMahon wanted him to replace Hulk Hogan as the top face in the company and fans rejected him outright. It was easily a low point in his career.
18 Shouldn't have left: "NATURE BOY" RIC FLAIR
"The Nature Boy" Ric Flair, for many fans, was the face of WCW and the man who carried it on his back for many years.
However, there was the incredible storyline that saw Flair finally leave WCW and make his way to the WWE, brought in by Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and carrying his actual WCW world title, declaring himself the Real World Champion.
It was a memorable moment and Flair made it even bigger when he won the Royal Rumble to actually become the WWE world champion.
He had a great feud with Macho Man Randy Savage but then soon decided to leave and return to WCW.
It was a huge mistake. Once Flair returned, Eric Bischoff was in power and the two spent more time fighting behind-the-scenes than anything. Flair has openly said that he hated WCW after returning.
17 Shouldn't have signed: AUSTIN ARIES
For many years, Austin Aries was one of the top wrestlers on the independent scene. When he went to TNA Impact Wrestling, he proved to be on an even higher level, winning their world title and proving to be one of the best in-ring wrestlers in the business.
Add in his amazing Ring of Honor career, and Aries was on top of the wrestling world.
It was exciting to see Aries make his way to the WWE and fans hoped to see what he could do in the big leagues.
However, he never got that chance. In NXT, he was involved in fleeting storylines and ended up out of action for five months after suffering an eye injury.
He returned on 205 Live and wrestled on the pre-show at WrestleMania 33. Four months later, he demanded to be released from his contract, unhappy with how the company used him.
16 Shouldn't have left: MR. PERFECT
Before coming to the WWE, Curt Hennig cut his teeth up in the AWA in Minnesota and was one of their top in-ring grapplers.
In 1988, he signed with the WWE and filmed some of the most entertaining pre-debut promos in the company. He took on the persona of Mr. Perfect and took part in sketches where he was perfect in every single thing he attempted.
When he debuted on TV, he was a perfectly arrogant villain.
While he was only a two-time Intercontinental Champion, his career in the WWE was very successful but was cut short due to injuries.
However, Hennig wanted to wrestle again and left for WCW, knowing that they would let him return to the ring.
While he started out in the nWo, he ended up in an embarrassing group called the West Texas Rednecks before finally leaving WCW in 2000.
15 Shouldn't have signed: NEVILLE
Neville had a successful career in the indies before he ever made his way to the WWE. He wrestled under the name Pac and held a ton of titles around the country in promotions like Dragon Gate, Dragon Gate USA, and PWG.
When he arrived in the WWE, they renamed him Neville and pushed him to the stars in NXT, giving him a nice long reign as the NXT Champion.
He then made his way to the main roster and floundered on the mid-card until the company started their 205 Live division. It was there that Neville developed the best character of his career, as the King of the Cruiserweights, and he was the top act on the show.
However, he ended up very unhappy and asked for his release. The WWE refused and froze his contract.
He has not been allowed to wrestle anywhere since late 2017 as a result.
14 Shouldn't have left: MADUSA
Madusa Miceli was a woman ahead of her time. When she debuted in the AWA, she won the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Rookie of the Year award -- the first woman to ever get that honor.
As with many of the biggest stars at the time, Madusa made her way to the WWE and took on the role of Alundra Blayze. She ended up holding their women's title three times.
However, she only stayed in the WWE for two years and then left for WCW. She not only chose to go to WCW, but she left while still holding the WWE women's title and threw it in the trashcan on Nitro, burning bridges and getting blacklisted from the WWE.
Madusa was never as successful in WCW and has since said that she regrets throwing the title away after she left the company.
13 Shouldn't have signed: BIG VAN VADER
Before he debuted in the WWE, Big Van Vader had developed a reputation across the world as one of the toughest and meanest wrestlers in the industry.
After getting his start in the AWA as Leon White, he moved on to New Japan and dominated, winning the IWGP title.
He moved on to WCW and had amazing feuds with Sting and Mick Foley.
When Vader signed with the WWE in 1996, fans started to get excited about the possibilities. However, after an attack on Gorilla Monsoon on Monday Night Raw, things went downhill for Vader.
He started losing more and more and his most infamous moment was a meltdown where he admitted that "Vader time is over" and left the company five months later.
His wrestling career never recovered.
12 Shouldn't have left: REY MYSTERIO
Rey Mysterio has been a star no matter where he wrestled. He was fantastic in AAA and ECW and then became a huge star in WCW.
When he showed up in the WWE in 2002, Mysterio turned it up and proved he was more than a cruiserweight -- winning the Royal Rumble and the WWE world title.
However, problems began after 13 years with the company when Mysterio started to struggle with injuries.
Rey Mysterio wanted to leave and the WWE wanted to keep him. The WWE even forcibly renewed his contract due to injuries he suffered that kept him from fulfilling his contractual dates.
He refused to return and even recorded a video to show at AAA hinting his return there, finally forcing the WWE to release him. Mysterio has since said that he wants to return to the WWE but has been unable to secure a new contract.
11 Shouldn't have signed: HIDEO ITAMI
When Hideo Itami signed with the WWE, it was a monster deal bringing one of the best wrestlers in Japan to the company.
However, things didn't work out well for the man formerly known as KENTA.
While wrestling in Pro Wrestling Noah, KENTA held 8 titles through his career there and fans in America got to know him when he worked extensively in Ring of Honor.
In 2004, KENTA signed with the WWE, changed his name to Hideo Itami, and then checked in with NXT.
While he was supposed to be a huge international star, Itami missed so much time due to injuries that Shinsuke Nakamura signed a deal and passed him in the pecking order.
Itami is now wrestling on 205 Live and has never reached the prominence he once held in Japan.
10 Shouldn't have left: ROWDY RODDY PIPER
Most of the biggest stars of the '80s left the WWE and headed for WCW. For a man like Hulk Hogan, he stayed on top and grew even bigger thanks to the formation of the nWo.
When it comes to Randy Savage, the WWE stopped using him in the ring, so moving to WCW was smart and helped him keep wrestling while in his prime.
Rowdy Roddy Piper was the biggest heel in WWE history.
Some might argue that Hulk Hogan was only as great as he was in the WWE because he had a nemesis like Piper. He became a part-timer in the WWE and tried his hand at acting.
In 1996, he left the WWE for WCW. While he finally got a win over Hulk Hogan there, his stint was mostly feuding verbally with Eric Bischoff and Piper was another former star misused by the company.
9 Shouldn't have signed: KASSIUS OHNO
Kassius Ohno was in the WWE before and felt misused and left NXT frustrated with his position in the company.
Before that, he was a huge independent wrestling star known as Chris Hero. After leaving NXT, Hero started putting on some of the best matches on the indie scene, becoming the biggest star not working for the WWE.
Finally, Hero resigned with the WWE and took on his old NXT name again. While some thought that his indie success and high-quality matches would finally lead to success in NXT, it did not happen.
Maybe Ohno feels like his career has reached its peak and he doesn't mind elevating younger wrestlers, but he never wins and is a shell of the wrestler that was turning in five-star matches just a year ago when he was in Evolve.
8 Shouldn't have left: THE BRITISH BULLDOG
Davey Boy Smith was part of the talent exchange when he came to the WWE after Vince McMahon bought Stampede Wrestling. It was the British Bulldogs tag team with Dynamite Kid that debuted in the company and they were easily the most popular team of their era.
However, when Dynamite Kid quit the WWE, Smith ended up taking on the role of The British Bulldog and he became a singles star.
When Bret Hart signed with WCW and the Montréal Screwjob took place, Smith sided with Bret and left as well.
He ended up regretting the move for the same reason that Hart did.
An injury due to a hidden trap door in the ring caused severe back damage to Smith. He got one more chance in the WWE, but leaving for WCW was what started the end of his career, and the eventual end of his life.
7 Shouldn't have signed: MATT OSBORNE
Matt Osborne had a very successful career in the territory days under his real name as well as under the name Matt Borne.
He achieved great success in Pacific Northwest Wrestling up in Portland and also in Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling, which later became WCW.
The first time he went to the WWE, it was not good and he ended up as a jobber before leaving and earning more success in World Class Championship Wrestling, the home of the Von Erichs.
Despite being a jobber in his last stint with the WWE, Osborne for some reason signed and returned to the company in 1992.
He ended up taking on the gimmick of Doink the Clown, and his career turned into a punchline. He barely capitalized when he left the WWE, as different wrestlers took on the name of Doink after Osborne left the company.
6 Shouldn't have left: RAVISHING RICK RUDE
There were a lot of big moments in the Monday Night Wars between the WWE and WCW. Scott Hall showing up on Raw got it started and DX invading with the tank was another highlight.
However, one moment that stands up there with the best of them was when Ravishing Rick Rude showed up on Raw and Nitro on the same night.
Since the WWE pre-taped Raw, Rude was involved with DX in a segment on Raw but he also showed up as the newest member of the nWo one hour earlier on Nitro, something that the WWE never saw coming.
It was too late to edit their show and therefore embarrassed the company. Sadly, Rude passed away two years later and his burned bridges never mended, finally reaching the WWE Hall of Fame posthumously in 2017.
5 Shouldn't have signed: TERRY TAYLOR
Before he entered the WWE, some people considered Terry Taylor the future Nature Boy Ric Flair.
He spent most of his career in the NWA, Mid South Wrestling, and WCW, where he won titles like the North American Championship, Mid South TV Championship, U.S. Tag Team Championship and many more.
However, when Taylor signed with the WWE, he was turned into a joke.
In 1988, Taylor joined the company and made his debut, quickly turning heel and hiring Bobby "The Brain" Heenan to manage him.
He grew a red mohawk, started to strut like a chicken, and went by the name the Red Rooster. He needed constant coaching from Heenan and had to pretend that he didn't know how to wrestle.
Taylor finally escaped two years later and returned to WCW.
4 Shouldn't have left: JOHN MORRISON
John Morrison wasn't an immediate star in the WWE. He started out with Eric Bischoff and worked as his right-hand man, using the name Johnny Nitro -- his last name mocking WCW.
However, the former Tough Enough competitor reached his first success as part of the tag team MNM. He also had great success as the tag team partner of The Miz and even won three Intercontinental titles and the ECW title.
The WWE never seemed to know what to do with Morrison and ended up pushing him away.
Despite his immense talent, Morrison chose not to accept a three-year renewal with the WWE and left.
He has been successful outside the WWE in Lucha Underground and Impact Wrestling, but one might wonder how big Morrison could have been if he had remained in the WWE.
3 Shouldn't have signed: APOLLO CREWS
Not every independent superstar will succeed when and if they sign with the WWE. While someone like Neville will succeed only to burn out and AJ Styles dominated after signing on, there are also those that come in with a lot of promise and never achieve anything their fans expected.
Apollo Crews is a perfect example of this type of indie superstar.
After proving how good he was while wrestling as Uhaa Nation in Dragon Gate USA, Crews signed with the WWE in 2015 and got his start in NXT.
He had only been in wrestling for six years, so it is not a surprise that he hasn't set the world on fire. However, Crews hasn't done anything yet.
He is just a part of Titus Worldwide and has no real direction since entering the WWE.
2 Shouldn't have left: KURT ANGLE
Kurt Angle was an Olympic gold medal winner who signed with the WWE and was a natural. He was one of their biggest stars and won six world titles and numerous secondary championships.
However, due to personal issues and demons, Angle asked for time off from the company.
He then chose to sign with TNA Impact Wrestling one month later, which was seen as a betrayal of the trust of the WWE.
Kurt Angle has since returned to the WWE as a general manager and said in an interview that leaving the WWE was a mistake.
Angle was successful in TNA, winning six world titles, but he was still fighting injured and his personal demons grew. Angle said that he was coming into his own when he quit the WWE and he never had a chance to prove what he could do in the company by leaving too soon.
1 Shouldn't have signed: STING
The biggest name to never wrestle in the WWE was easily the man known as Sting. He was the face of WCW, getting his first big break in Mid South Wrestling before moving to WCW when Mid South went under.
He then stayed there until the WWE bought the company in 2001. Sting didn't go to the WWE and became one of Impact Wrestling's biggest stars.
However, after 29 years, Sting signed with the WWE for the first time. It was exciting for fans to see him in a WWE ring and also watching him enter the WWE Hall of Fame.
However, he never got the dream match with The Undertaker, lost his only WrestleMania appearance to Triple H, and then saw his career end due to injury in a match against Seth Rollins. It was fun to see, but it ended the icon's run on a down note.
Can you think of any other WWE stars who shouldn't have left or shouldn't have signed? Sound off in the comments!