"Austin 3:16 says, I just whipped your a**." It's moments like this that can catapult superstars like Steve Austin from mid card to main eventer. Most of these moments are obvious to wrestling fans while others are more subtle. In many cases, a single moment can propel a wrestler to stardom and make an ordinary superstar into a legend. However, not always does a single moment have a positive effect. In other instances, a single moment can break a career as well.
For most wrestlers, it’s a foregone conclusion that their careers could end at any moment, and that any one of their matches could be their last. A poor fan reaction or injury can spell doom for a wrestler's career, even if it's the career of a veteran superstar, a favorite of WWE officials or someone just starting their career. When a wrestler has a bad losing streak, a failing gimmick, poor wrestling skills or simply isn't being used, many times the fans can see the writing on the wall. However, there are also instances when a wrestler’s career is doomed to fail where neither the wrestler nor the fans could have seen the end of a career coming.
Sometimes fans can pinpoint a single moment where a wrestler's career was either made or broken right when it happens, whether it's a promo, match or gimmick. Other times, unforeseen events, injuries or backstage politics to which fans are not aware, can turn a promising career 180 degrees. It's during these times that the fans are witnessing the shocking unpredictable end of a career, without even realizing it. Here’s a list of 15 times the fans didn’t know a superstar's career was doomed.
15 Muhammad Hassan And Masked Men Attack The Undertaker
Muhammad Hassan was an Arab-American heel in WWE and an extremely controversial character. His gimmick originated around the time of the Iraq War making his heel status assured. During his run, Hassan became a heat magnet and had successful feuds with legends Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker. After feuding with legends of the business, Hassan’s future in the WWE seemed bright. He got reactions, had good ring talent and worked well with the industry’s best.
Little did fans know that a great feud with The Undertaker would be his last. On an episode of SmackDown, in a match Muhammad Hassan wasn’t even wrestling in, the Undertaker would face Hassan’s toady, Shawn Daivari, in a match. The Undertaker would win and what followed was one of the most controversial moments in WWE history.
Muhammad Hassan would "pray" and suddenly a group of black masked assailants stormed the ring and beat Undertaker down in a “terrorist attack.” Afterwards the masked men picked Daivari up and carried him away like a “martyr.” The scene was controversial enough but three days later, the July 7th 2005 London Bombings took place. WWE was under huge pressure to write off the Muhammad Hassan character which they did shortly afterwards. Who knew the height of Hassan’s career, a match against one of the business' most popular wrestler, would also mark the end of it.
14 Buff Bagwell Bombs His Match With Booker T On RAW
“Buff is the stuff and the girls just can’t get enough.” However, Vince had enough of Buff, apparently, after his first match on Raw. Vince had just bought WCW and retained some of its talent, including Buff Bagwell. WWE had seemingly big plans for the WCW talent during the Invasion Angle, and Bagwell’s status in the company seemed secure. Bagwell was in the main event of Raw against Booker T for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. The match that involved Stone Cold Steve Austin and Kurt Angle as well, and the Invasion Angle seemed to be kicking off. Unbeknownst to fans, and Bagwell, this would be his only match in WWE and the angle carried on without him, as the company quickly soured on him after a dismal performance.
13 John Cena Breaks Pec Muscle, Blame Falls On Mr. Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy was in the middle of a huge push. Involved in programs with Batista and The Undertaker, Ken Kennedy had the look, mic skill and ring talent to be a huge star in WWE. Kennedy chalked up victories and won the Money in the Bank ladder match, assuring a title shot. Kennedy would declare that he would “cash in” during the grandest event in wresting, WrestleMania. Kennedy hit a setback losing the Money in the Bank briefcase and needed time off for an injury.
When Kennedy returned, WWE's big plans for him remained. He was rumored to be Vince McMahon’s long lost son for a storyline and had feuds with Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton and John Cena. In a career that started with such promise, Kennedy’s match with Cena, on the October 1 episode of Raw, would be a pivotal point in Kennedy’s career. During the match, Cena suffered an injury and Kennedy would be blamed for it. Kennedy would later be involved in a ten men tag match in which Mr. Kennedy made his another return. Orton ended up being dropped on his head and blamed Kennedy for the botch. Orton encouraged Cena to join him in complaining to Vince McMahon and a short time later, Kennedy would be released. Fans believed any match with the company's "top guys" would elevate Kennedy's career but instead his promising career was cut short.
12 Edge Wrestles His Last Match Without Anyone Knowing
Edge was a highly decorated champion and long time veteran of WWE. Edge’s hall of fame career was guaranteed, winning singles titles and tag team titles, notably with his partner Christian. Through his long illustrious career, Edge found himself involved in some of the most brutal matches in WWE history. Edge would suffer a legitimate neck injury and required a year to recover. Edge would return better than ever, eventually capturing the WWE and World Heavyweight Titles. Despite Edge’s many years of service to the company, his career remained steady. While champion, Edge faced 2011 Royal Rumble winner Alberto Del Rio in a match during WrestleMania and came out surprisingly victorious. Sadly, this would mark the end of Edge’s career. Edge would feel numbness in his arms and the WWE doctors were unable to clear Edge to wrestle. According to the doctors, Edge risked paralysis if he continued to wrestle and with that, Edge had no choice but to retire, shocking the wrestling world, after a victory and title retention.
11 Daniel Bryan's Pinnacle Moment Also Proves To Be The Start Of His Downfall
Daniel Bryan had a long career in the Independent Circuit. Bryan would go on to join the WWE and become one of the most beloved superstars of all time. Bryan won the WWE Championship against John Cena at SummerSlam but lost it that same night to Randy Orton. His immediate loss started his feud against The Authority. Bryan would inexplicably miss the Royal Rumble match but won an opportunity to wrestle in the WrestleMania 30 main event title match against Randy Orton and Batista. Bryan would win the title to a capacity crowd chanting “YES” afterwards.
What should have jumped started the "YES Era," unfortunately, marked a turning point in his career. He would suffer a neck injury soon after during his subsequent feud with Kane and had to relinquish the title, needing a full year to recover. Though Bryan would return and win the Intercontinental Title, Bryan would never reach the WWE World Heavyweight Title and was forced to retire from the effects of concussions.
10 Christy Hemme Proves She Doesn't Belong Against Trish Stratus
Christy Hemme was the winner of the second ever Diva Search Contest. WWE seemingly had big plans for Hemme as the fiery red head had the personality to catch on with the fans. WWE wanted to showcase the Diva Search winner and put her in a program with then Women's Champion Trish Stratus.
Unfortunately for Hemme, WWE is a wrestling show and the ability to actually wrestle is a must. Unsurprisingly, her in-ring skills were nonexistent, having had no prior training or experience in wrestling. Still, Hemme was put into a match with Trish Stratus on the grandest stage of them all, WrestleMania. The match went very poorly, and not even Trish could carry Hemme to a decent match. Hemme reportedly apologized for her match, but her poor performance wasn’t entirely her fault. She’s not a wrestler after all, but this marked the beginning of the end for Hemme. She continued her WWE career for a while, involved in minor feuds, but her career never recovered from the WrestleMania match, and Hemme was soon released.
9 Routine Side Kick Ends Bret Hart's Career
Bret Hart’s career in WCW was nothing short of disappointing. This disappointment came to a head in a match against Bill Goldberg where Goldberg gave a stiff kick to Hart. Hart suffered a legitimate severe concussion and never fully recovered from the kick. Hart was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome, and the timing of the injury couldn’t have been worse.
Bret Hart was finally being treated like a champion in WCW and a big storyline involving the return of the New World Order was on the horizon. Despite the big storyline just starting, Hart realized the extent of his concussion(s) and was forced to take time off. Sadly, the injuries forced Hart to eventually retire from wrestling altogether capping off a lackluster WCW career. It's such a shame he couldn't go out on top with a signature Hitman classic.
8 DDP Adopts A Stalker Character
Like Bret Hart's career in WCW, Diamond Dallas Page’s career in WWE was a similar disappointment. DDP’s career in WWE started off with a “BANG” with a feud against The Undertaker. Unfortunately, Page was also given the terrible 'stalker' gimmick as he was revealed to be stalking Taker's wife Sara. It made no sense for a longtime fan favorite to be given such a dark gimmick.
His career went straight downhill afterward his program with The Undertaker. DDP should have been a big player in the Invasion Angle and his match with The Undertaker should have been a prelude of things to come, not due to the nature of the storyline, but the fact he was feuding with Taker at all. Instead Page was turned into a joke and his "match" with the Undertaker took him nowhere.
7 Samoa Joe's Muscle Buster On Tyson Kidd Goes Horribly Wrong
Tyson Kidd was the last student trained in the Hart Dungeon. He married into the Hart family and entered into the WWE. Kidd seemed destined to carry on the Hart tradition, but his career ended up being plagued with injuries instead. He suffered a knee injury which kept Kidd out for months. However, Kidd would return and team with Cesaro, winning the Tag Team Titles.
Kidd’s career seemed back on track until he wrestled a non-televised match against Samoa Joe. Kidd took Samoa Joe’s Muscle Buster finisher, and all looked normal. However, Kidd suffered a life-threatening neck injury, which sidelined him. Although, Kidd had hoped to recover, a return to the ring seems highly unlikely and what appeared to be a harmless maneuver in an untelevised match ultimately ended Kidd’s career.
6 Eva Marie's Wellness Policy Violation
Eva Marie was the golden child of WWE. She was highly touted on Total Divas and made sporadic appearances on Monday Night RAW and Smackdown. Eva Marie was clearly a favorite of upper management and appeared to be in line for a long, fruitful career. An injury caused her to take time off, but to Eva Marie’s credit, she returned to NXT to improve her ring skills. Even though Eva Marie spent a year down in NXT, her eventual push on the main roster seemed guaranteed.
When Eva Marie returned to the main roster, she was given an extended introductory entrance but would excuse herself from ring action. With her new gimmick, Eva Marie's big push seemed to have finally arrived on the SmackDown brand until WWE announced that she violated the WWE’s Wellness Policy. After almost a year removed from action, Eva Marie, the highly promoted Total Diva's star and darling of upper management, would surprisingly part ways with the WWE.
5 Chris Masters' Master Lock Is Broken By Bobby Lashley
Chris Masters had everything to make it big in WWE. He had the body, the mic skills and the ring talent to take him to the main event. His finisher, the “Master Lock”, put down several WWE legends such as Shawn Michaels, John Cena, and Sgt. Slaughter. His “Master Lock Challenge” was surprisingly entertaining and helped elevate Masters as a dastardly heel and powerful force in the company. Despite some close calls and controversial finishes, The Master Lock was never officially broken and became a credible finisher. Then, after more than two year since debuting the move, The Master Lock was officially broken by Bobby Lashley.
Still, The Master Lock had established itself as a strong finisher and much of Chris Masters' young career seemed ahead of him. He continued to issue Master Lock Challenges on occasion, but the damage was done. Masters would end up failing two Wellness Policy tests and was subsequently released from the company. Despite the Wellness violation, Master’s downward turn can be traced to Lashley breaking of the Master Lock.
4 Layla El Suffers Ill-timed Injury Against Michelle McCool
Michelle McCool and Layla dominated the Smackdown Women’s Division as "LayCool." Layla had a modest career on Smackdown but was often lost behind the success of Michelle McCool. Even though LayCool considered themselves “co-champions” of the Diva’s Title, Layla was often portrayed as McCool’s sidekick rather than her equal. Friction between the two started, and Layla and McCool wrestled in a "loser leaves WWE" match. Layla would win and McCool would leave the WWE, assuring a singles career for Layla out of McCool’s shadow. Unfortunately, Layla would be injured in the match and needed time off to heal. What should have jump started a singles career for Layla would mark the beginning of the end of it instead. Layla would return in sporadic, comedic roles, despite being the longest tenured diva at the time, but would never receive a legitimate push.
3 Ezekiel Jackson Gets Squashed By David Otunga
Ezekiel Jackson, the huge powerhouse from Guyana, had the look and strength that WWE officials love to push. Ezekiel Jackson found himself in a match against David Otunga, and to most fans, a squash match was certain. While it was indeed a squash match, it was actually Ezekiel Jackson who was squashed. Otunga slammed Ezekiel Jackson and the match was over, in one of the greatest upsets in WWE history. No one came into that match thinking Jackson would lose much less suffer a career damning loss. Ezekiel Jackson was removed from television and surprisingly released shorty afterwards. While mostly used as a jobber, in WWE management’s eyes, David Otunga is a huge asset, being Jennifer Hudson’s husband. Still, Jackson seemed to have all the potential, and for him to be one of the few wrestlers to lose to Otunga was all the more surprising.
2 Candice Michelle Breaks Her Collarbone Against Beth Phoenix
Candice Michelle was one of those model-turned-wrestler Divas in the WWE. Many of those women didn't posses a wrestling background and struggled mightily in the WWE. To Candice Michelle’s credit, she made huge strides in the division and showed a lot of improvement in the ring. She gained huge upset wins over Beth Phoenix, winning the Diva’s Title. Candice Michelle appeared to be the perfect "Diva" WWE officials were looking for. She had the look they wanted and her in-ring abilities were passable enough to get over with the crowd.
Unfortunately, the pressure and standards officials held towards Candice may have been too high. During a match against Beth Phoenix, Candice suffered a legitimate concussion where she was knocked unconscious and separated her clavicle. While Candice seemed to be the next Trish Stratus in the making, Candice fell out of favor with management a short time after that match. Candice would re-injure the clavicle and WWE abruptly released her. To no fault of Candice Michelle, her high profile match with Beth Phoenix doomed her and ultimately ended her career.
1 Damien Sandow Fails To Cash In Against John Cena
Damien Sandow was a hilariously entertaining character in the WWE. He had wildly enjoyable mic skills and was above average in the ring. He earned a title shot by winning the Money in the Bank ladder match and had all the makings of a big star. Even better, Sandow had Triple H in his back pocket as rumors circulated that Triple H was high on him. Sandow would cash in his Money in the Bank contract on John Cena and a match ensued. Sandow took the 16 time champ to his limit and the match was fantastic. Yet, vintage Cena prevailed making Sandow the first to “cash in” and lose via pinfall.
Now, working with the company’s best, even in a loss, as they say, should have propelled Sandow’s career. The match was highly praised, and Sandow's career seemed ready to launch itself to new heights. Unfortunately, this was the high point and the beginning of the end. Sandow, instead of becoming a huge star, became a comedic character and never reached the main event level. Later, despite the great match with Cena and praise from Triple H, Sandow was inexplicably and unexpectedly released from the WWE. Losing to Cena didn’t propelled Sandow, like it should have. It squashed him instead.