WWE patriarch Vince McMahon is infamous for his short temper and even shorter attention span. It's amazing that the man has been able to oversee a weekly live (scripted) TV show, without a summer break or vacation, since 1993. Countless characters, gimmicks and wrestlers of all stripes have walked through the curtain for Vince McMahon, and though some of them managed to etch themselves in the annals of wrestling history, many more tried and failed to make an impact. They were thrown to the wolves and had Vince's hook wrapped around their neck before they could ever find their groove.
Who remembers Rene Dupree? Bull Buchanan? Chainz? Iron Mike Sharpe? WWE history is littered with people that went nowhere, did nothing, and disappeared never to be seen again. The only chance you have to see those wrestlers (outside of a random WWE Network broadcast of Raw is War) is if the WWE Hall of Fame well runs so dry, a guy like Glacier headlines the event.
On the other hand there are those superstars who did make an impression, one way or another, and despite serious deficiencies (either personal, professional or both), they were welcomed back, sometimes multiple times, simply because Vince saw the potential to make money with them. Whatever malice he might have toward them, there are very very few people the man won't do business with. At the same time there are a handful that he never will (or never would have before they died) do business with again.
Here are 10 famous WWE Superstars that, for various reasons, didn't deserve a second chance but, because of one particular reason ($$$), got one anyway. Simultaneously, we'll look at five that never will be (or never were) welcomed back with a smile and a tear-jerking music video.
11 Got One: ULTIMATE WARRIOR
It made sense in 1990 for Vince to give Warrior a big push as the next Hulk Hogan; crowds couldn’t get enough of him. Unfortunately he flamed out pretty hard soon after as revenue cratered with him in the spotlight. Part of that can be blamed on the simple fact that the 1980’s Wrestling Boom/Fad was ending no matter what; Warrior can’t be blamed for that.
But Warrior was also a prima donna with a bad attitude, not just to his co-workers and fans (he infamously snubbed a cancer-suffering child waiting backstage to meet him), but also to Vince himself. Warrior held McMahon up for money on the night of SummerSlam 1991, refusing to work without extra pay. Vince paid him then fired him. And yet, Vince brought him back for WrestleMania VIII, and again for WrestleMania XII. Vince clearly saw something in the enigmatic egomaniac to keep giving him second chances. Maybe it was a little of himself?
Michaels was given a big main-event push in 1995-1996 but failed to curb the downward slope the company had been in since the end of the 1980’s boom. Michaels’ time on top failed to move the needle and he certainly failed to make an impact big enough to justify his behind the scenes drama.
Like Warrior, Shawn Michaels was diva backstage. He battled (and lost the fight with) drug abuse and got into more fights outside of ring than in. Most infamously, he refused to drop the Championship at WrestleMania 13, forcing everything to be rewritten just weeks before the show. When he retired a year later business boomed without him. Clearly Vince didn’t need him, yet in 2002 he gave him a second chance anyway, and Michaels proved himself a changed man backstage. The second chance worked out, too, as HBK had a second career that far eclipsed his first.
The man known as X-Pac (to WWF fans) and Syxx (to WCW watchers) is famous for two things: His shocking underdog victory over Scott Hall on a 1993 episode of Raw, and his being friends with far more important people in wrestling (HBK, Nash, Hall, Triple H). No offense intended, but Waltman was a nobody who happened to be friends with somebodies.
So when he ditched the WWE (the company that gave him his first taste of wrestling fame) for Ted Turner’s money and joined the group helping to (almost) bring down WWE, that should have been the end of it. But Waltman, who did next to nothing in WCW got a call to come back to WWE on the night after WrestleMania XIV. He did, and became one of the founders of the new DX. Did he do anything to deserve his second chance?
Did he do anything to deserve his first?
Having looked at ten superstars that WWE was happy to give second chance, it should be noted that there are some talents that Vince will never mend fences with, either because circumstances have prevented it, stubbornness will resist it, or common sense will insist upon it.
The man previously known as Mistico is one of those people. He was brought to WWE to be the next big Hispanic superstar, but his WWE career was killed by a thousand tiny cuts: He couldn’t speak the language, nor did he seem to want to learn, he was a backstage diva, he was botch-prone, and fans never got into him. Though the company is still trying hard to find their next “Rey Mysterio” they’re likely never to look again at the former Mistico. Why not? Because they signed him as “Sin Cara” and continue to use that name and gimmick on homegrown—more manageable—superstars. Why bother with the original?
The new, Triple H-led version of DX featured one of the most popular tag teams in the business: The New Age Outlaws. They were among the absolute top merchandise sellers, whose promos constantly had crowds eating out of the palms of their hands. But like everything else in that era, their star faded after the turn of the Millennium. The second wrestling boom ended and old stars like Billy Gunn and Road Dogg were no longer “cool.”
They left the company and landed in TNA, where they routinely bashed WWE and its fast-rising mover-and-shaker: Triple H. That should have been the end of their careers, but fences were mended and the duo returned for a nostalgia run, even getting a WrestleMania 30 match with one of the hottest teams around at the time: The Shield. Today they work backstage, seemingly set for life. That’s some second chance.
10 Got One: GOLDUST
Goldust—Dustin Runnels—has been with WWE for as long as Triple H has been, but he’s never achieved the same main-event success, nor has he remained solely with the company since first donning the blond wig and gold paint. Goldust’s first WWE run lasted until 1999, when he debuted on Nitro cutting a disgruntled promo about his time in WWE. When WCW folded, he was given a second chance and became a staple of the midcard once more. After two years, WWE let his contract expire, seeing no further use out of the Goldust gimmick.
Like so many others, Runnels eventually landed in the toxic environment of TNA. He toiled away, out of shape and in the midst of drug abuse, when WWE offered him another chance to come home. He cleaned himself up, got back into shape and remains a needed veteran in the present day WWE locker room.
Alberto Del Rio is fools gold. He looks the part but there’s nothing there. A lot of money was spent to sign him to WWE, a lot of time was spent building him up before his debut, a lot of work was spent pushing him to the main-event. And when it was all said and done all WWE got from it is a checklist of accolades they could have put onto anyone they wanted: WWE Champ, World Champ, Royal Rumble winner, MITB winner. But no money: He never drew a dime.
He left WWE after a failed five-year career and bashed the company once he was out the door. But, like so many others, he came back because there was a (fool’s) hope that he could make them money this time. After a year, however, he was gone again, having failed to draw a dime and proving himself unworthy of his second chance.
Luger doesn’t deserve a second chance in WWE because there’s no money to be made in giving him one (his name is not warmly thought-of, the way Hogan’s or Ric Flair’s is). Luger doesn’t deserve a second chance in WWE because he is dishonorable (Luger secretly walked out on the WWE and appeared on the debut episode of Nitro, embarrassing the company that once pushed him to the moon).
Luger doesn’t deserve a second chance in WWE because he’s an awful human being, who hooked up with Mrs. Elizabeth, physically abused her and corrupted her with drugs to the point of her death in 2003. For all of those reasons, plus the fact that he’s a broken-down, wheelchair-bound shell of his former bodybuilding self, Vince will probably never pull the trigger on putting him in front of millions at the WWE Hall of Fame. Nor should he.
9 Got One: MADUSA
Madusa came to WWF with the promise that she’d be the centerpiece for a new women’s division. Her feud with Bull Nakano was supposed to be the first in a long line of major women’s wrestling feuds that the WWE would spotlight.
Instead, Madusa took Turner’s money and left for WCW.
She showed up on Nitro and dropped the WWE Women’s Title in the trashcan, live on TNT. After the company folded, there was no rush to sign her back to the WWE. Though Lita, Trish and Ivory were ushering in a new women’s division, Madusa had no part in it (nor did she want one, based on interviews at the time). It would be twenty years before she mended fences with Vince McMahon. Though she no longer wrestles, she received a Hall of Fame induction, and occasionally helps out training the next generation of women’s wrestlers at the WWE Performance Center.
8 Got One: GOLDBERG
Some wrestlers get a second chance because they started out as jerks but softened with age. Some will always be jerks, but keep getting second chances for unknown reasons ($$$).
Guess which one Goldberg is!
WCW’s biggest in-house superstar made it to WWE two years after Vince bought the company (but not Goldberg’s hefty contract). When he finally debuted, he was on fire with the crowd, but was jerked around by “creative.” When he finally got a World Title push, Goldberg proved what his critics always said about him: He never loved the business, he just loved the checks. He refused to work extra dates without big pay up front, and infamously left after a fiasco of a last match (with Brock Lesnar). For 10 years he attacked WWE, swearing he’d never work for Vince again. The way WWE talked, they’d never give him a second chance anyway. And then…well you know.
Money, and all that.
For all the accolades Savage acquired in the WWE, he never reached his potential. That’s not his fault, of course; the way pro wrestling was booked back then there was only room for one man at the top, and Hogan was too-safe a bet to rock the boat. After years playing second fiddle, Savage decided to leave the WWE for WCW.
Vince had already lost wrestlers, and would lose many more, but with Savage he offered big money to try and keep him. What he didn’t offer was a chance to wrestle as a featured attraction. Vince wanted him on commentary; Savage wanted to work. He left Vince, never to wrestle for him again. After WCW sold, Savage was never called to come home. Years later offers would be made but by then pride had set in and no deal was ever reached. He never got that second chance before dying.
Hardy was over from almost day-one in the WWE, but what could have been a big post-Attitude Era push was nixed when his drug abuse forced him to leave the company in 2003. He got a second chance a few years later which lead to a big singles run and even a few World Title reigns. It didn’t last however, as he continued struggling with sobriety. After two strikes on his wellness record, WWE couldn’t afford to put too much on his shoulders for fear that they’d suddenly have to fire him.
Hardy left the company in 2009 and soon after popped up in TNA, where no one cares if you’re clean and healthy. After six inconsistent years, Hardy was given another chance in WWE. Whether he stays clean this time is to be determined, but it can’t be denied that Vince will eventually work with anyone as long he can make money from them.
5 Didn't: CHYNA
As with Savage, Chyna died without ever personally reconciling with her estranged former employer. But unlike Macho Man, Chyna probably never will be given a posthumous Hall of Fame induction. Savage’s only crime was jumping ship and holding a grudge; the WWE has forgiven worse. With Chyna, her harsh words went well beyond being a “disgruntled former employee.”
Though Triple H’s official line as to why the trailblazing women’s wrestler is not yet in the Hall of Fame is that her porn career goes against the company’s PG rating, the fact is the WWE has worked with others with less-honorable pasts before. The real reason is because of things she’d said in interviews. She didn’t just attack the WWE for the way they fired her soon after Triple H’s relationship with Stephanie went public (she had been dating him too); she accused Triple H of domestic abuse. That’s not as easily forgiven.
The Olympic Gold Medalist was a reliable main-event hand, and multi-time world champ with no danger to his spot; he was great in the ring and on the mic and could work a variety of roles. He should have been set for life but, like Jeff Hardy, drug addiction and refusal to take time away to clean himself up cost him his WWE career.
Once again TNA was more than happy to bring him in and let him run wild, doing crazy moonsaults off cages and throwing himself around with reckless abandon. For ten years he was the featured attraction as his health deteriorated before our eyes. Thankfully he seems to have gotten clean on his own and WWE is more than happy to give him a second chance. There’s talk he may wrestle again, which could lead to a relapse, but there’s money to be made so that’s a chance Vince is willing to take.
Jeff Jarrett will never return to work for Vince McMahon. He will never work with Vince McMahon. He will never work in the same building as Vince McMahon. Why? Because Vince will never see any money in doing so, and Jeff Jarrett will never amount to anything as a wrestling businessman (promoter or performer) to make Vince change his mind. Whether it’s TNA or GFW or whatever comes next, Jeff Jarrett will always have another wrestling club to start and headline; he’s the Michael Scott of wrestling promoters, always carrying a load of new names. But he’ll never get another shot with WWE.
Never say never though, right? No: Say never. Like Warrior, Jarrett held Vince up for money on the night of a PPV, but unlike Ultimate Warrior, Jeff Jarrett never had even a flash of great popularity. Jarrett has nothing except whatever D-grade wrestling promotion he’s ruling over currently.
Most everyone who works with Vince will get a second chance. Unless you can’t make him any money or unless you die.
Or unless you’re just a loser.
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