Fame is like a drug, you just don’t want to give it up. Wrestling relies on it, men and women going around famous places, made into a huge deal, it’s hard not to let it overwhelm you. The movie “The Wrestler” shows vividly what happens when a former huge star slumps badly and unable to let it go. Some guys are able to handle it better, getting into a new line of work and may miss the spotlight but overall, still happy with what they have. Others take harsh falls and infamous bad times. And still others may be sadder cases in that they think they’re still a big deal when they’re not.
Like any real sport, wrestling is filled with guys who believe they could have been mega-stars if not for a few bad breaks. Others were mega-stars and can’t get that things have changed and their time passed them by. You hear them on radio shows ranting about the new stars being bad, not grasping they were once these rookies. You see them at conventions overcharging for appearances and assuming fans will flock around them. It’s amazing how they can be so stuck in the past and think their voices still matter when many younger fans have no idea who they are. Here are 15 wrestlers whose best days are long gone yet continue to think they’re still relevant and just show how the business has left them behind.
15 Jim Cornette
Don’t get us wrong: Jim Cornette is still one of the best men ever on the mic. The former manager can still get the best promo work out there and his experience lends itself to great insight on the business. The problem is that Cornette tends to live a bit too much in the past. Yes, things might have been better but Cornette often seems to be stuck in the idea that you can present wrestling exactly the way it was in the 1970s or ‘80s and somehow, today’s fans will accept it. The man is on the Internet a lot yet doesn’t seem to grasp how the social media generation thinks.
He has trashed guys like Kevin Owens for daring to adapt to the times. He continues to scream about Kenny Omega wrestling a little girl and ignores the man turning into a fantastic star. Cornette just seems the old man screaming of “the good old days” and not getting how stars today need to adapt so as great a talker as he can be, his “expert” opinion doesn’t count as much today.
14 Alberto Del Rio
It might be a bit early to call him “washed-up” but clearly, Del Rio thinks he’s a lot bigger deal in wrestling right now. He got a great push in WWE, winning the Royal Rumble and World title but fans didn’t take to his arrogant heel act as expected. He painted himself totally in the right slapping a guy for a racist insult despite how it broke so many rules. A WWE return ended badly and he trashed the company for holding him back despite how he was hardly setting the fans on fire. When he entered TNA/Global Wrestling, Del Rio made it sound like he was a mega-star about to show up WWE, ignoring how far down the ladder TNA/GFW is compared to them.
Now, with the domestic mess with Paige, Del Rio is suspended from GFW and likely to sink lower. Yet the man continues to act like he’s a centerpiece of modern wrestling despite how most see him in less than kind terms.
13 Billy Gunn
Billy Gunn was a notable deal for WWE, going from a tag champion cowboy to part of DX, a great athlete and seemed primed for singles stardom. It never quite took, his pushes rough as fans enjoyed him more with Road Dogg. They reunited in TNA and then came a WWE return that ended with Gunn’s sudden firing. Since then, Gunn has gone around the indies and seems to still hold himself as some sort of mega-star. A famous case is when he wrestled Hiroshi Tanahashi in Japan. Gunn and IWGP thought he would be cheered but instead, the fans booed him out the building, wanting Tanahashi to face someone younger and better. Gunn himself appeared taken aback but rolled with it as he still seems to hold like it’s 1998 and he’s in his prime despite how most indie show appearances show an aged man locked way too much in the past.
12 Ken Anderson
In a recent tweet, Ken Anderson openly stated that if any promoters were interested, he was free for a few months. That is just open begging, nearly laughable for a man once cited as a star in the making. In WWE, Kennedy got over with his great mic skills and impressive build. However, he was struck by a succession of injuries and suspensions that ruined every one of his programs. In TNA, he held the title but also held back by the same injury issues and fired for failing a drug test. Since then, Anderson has bounced around the indies while doing radio interviews boasting of his greatness and acting like it was WWE not using him properly rather than his own problems hurting his pushes.
He recently popped up in ROH and seemed to believe he was a huge star coming in when most fans saw him as a guy long past his chances at stardom, but thinking he’s a huge draw.
11 Buff Bagwell
From the beginning, Bagwell had a huge ego. Paired with various partners, he held tag team gold but also got a swelled head, thinking his good looks and build would be enough to get over. It got worse as he rose up as a heel, cocky as hell, sloppy in the ring and clashing often backstage. In interviews, he regularly slams guys like Booker T and other WCW stars, making himself sound arrogant and huge as hell. Bagwell charges big for appearances and even fancies himself an “actor” with “red carpet” events for cheap direct to video movies. Perhaps the biggest is that he’s currently on a “retirement tour,” planning to hang it all up in 2018 and talks about it like he’s Flair going on his final go around. He no longer has “the Stuff” but Bagwell continues to act like he’s a bigger deal.
10 Marty Jannetty
Make no mistake, in his prime, Marty Jannetty was a great worker. He and Shawn Michaels were magic together as the Rockers, Jannetty pulling off fantastic high-flying moves and looked to have stardom in his future. When he and Michaels had their infamous split, the idea was for Jannetty to become a babyface star against his former partner. But his addictions took hold, fired after showing up drunk for a Royal Rumble match and then a short IC title reign. Time and again, Jannetty tried but it was obvious he just wasn’t that good without a partner of some sort in both WWE and WCW. Jannetty is still out there wrestling on the indie scene at the age of 57 which is impressive.
What isn’t is how he makes the demands of a main eventer and talking of how WWE is missing the boat not offering him a deal despite his advanced age. Shawn was ten times the star and worker Marty was but he knew when it was time to hang it up. It's a shame his partner can’t get the hint.
It’s one of the most famous images around wrestling sites. A huge fan convention, folks flocking to various panels. In the middle of it all is Virgil sitting at a table without a single person in sight. That sadly seems to sum up Michael Jones’ life as the man is quite obviously coasting on his fame. That “fame” was being the silent bodyguard for Ted DiBiase, then a bad singles run before time in WCW and the indies. He was never a good worker his name meant as a shot on Dusty Rhodes and his attitude rough. Yet Virgil continues to show up at various conventions and other meetings and try to charge big bucks for his autograph when he’s nothing but a relic of the past. This is a man who tried a GoFundMe campaign to “make me a millionaire” and has only raised $1100. It’s sad how “Lonely Virgil” appears to be his final legacy.
There’s no denying that Rob Van Dam was a fantastic worker in his prime. He was great in the ring, killer promos and would get fans in ECW going well. In WWE, he had runs as IC and tag team champion and folks stating that he should have been given the big belt. When he did get it in 2006, it took just weeks to ruin it with a drug arrest and his career was never the same. He’s had stuff in TNA and a return to WWE but today, RVD is on the indie scene. He demands huge paydays for his appearances and some serious bonus incentives. Rumors abound of how he refuses to put over younger talent. RVD also continues to push a pot-filled lifestyle, not seeming to grasp the way it can hurt a younger guy and also the attitude of just treating wrestling as fun rather than a serious job. The man was a great worker in his time but today just coasting on his past.
From the start, fans were against Ryback’s push in WWE as an obvious Goldberg rip-off. He had some skills but the look, the push, the “feed me more” bit and such, it just got them on the wrong foot. Ryback never got another real decent push, not helped by injuries or suspensions. It’s gotten worse since his release as Ryback has gotten on numerous radio shows to trash WWE and act like he was a mega-star they were holding back. He got in hot water claiming he was to wrestle the Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania XXX, a claim WWE and the Warrior’s widow have denied ever being discussed. He and CM Punk have traded barbs with Ryback actually claiming Punk was intimidated by him. He keeps up on the independent circuit but most see Ryback as a guy who thought he was a bigger deal than he was and can’t accept how it’s changed so badly for him.
6 Kevin Nash
In person, Kevin Nash comes off as a pretty cool guy, a fun voice and someone to hang with. However, Nash still has the reputation of an incredibly selfish person who always made sure attention was on him. That hasn’t changed too much as today, Nash’s wrestling time has long passed thanks to years of injuries. He still shows an arrogant attitude, charging a lot to show up as conventions and the occasional show for a terrible match. Nash can also take shots on various guys as being a huge star, still fighting with the likes of Bret Hart and others. He can be an impressive guy in some ways but Nash is clearly someone who hates to let go of the spotlight and continuing to think he’s a huge star when his name today is more loathed than liked among wrestling fans.
5 Vince Russo
Vince Russo is credited with turning wrestling around with the “Attitude Era.” He did do good stuff with edgy material and building up mid-card guys. However, Russo also cut loose too much, overwhelming WCW with dumb gimmick bouts and breaking kayfabe way too much so fans were turned off and away. Since then, Russo has worked for TNA and most cite him hurting that company badly. Today, Russo seems content to do blogging and interviews, almost all of which involve him complaining of how badly he’s been mistreated. To hear Russo tell it, all his ideas were sheer genius that fans misunderstood and he can’t be blamed for the bad that happened under his watch.
It’s well known Russo assumed Internet fans were a huge majority and that hasn’t changed as he continues to make “insider” cracks and thinks 99 percent of wrestling fans are listening. He takes plenty of shots at others while claiming himself the man who changed wrestling forever. He and Jim Cornette have famously feuded as Russo seems to think if he was in charge of WWE, they’d be doing great. Most fans see through his act as Russo doesn’t grasp how hated a man he is and believing his opinion counts for so much.
4 The Honky Tonk Man
A wrestling Elvis was a funny joke for 1987 and it seemed that would be all HTM would be known for. A fluke series of circumstances led to him winning the Intercontinental title and somehow managing to hold it for a record 14 months. After that, his stock fell and he was soon in WCW, a brief WWE return but since then the independents. HTM still charges a big fee for an appearance, sometimes bigger than he deserves and continues to act like it’s a great thing for fans to see him. His radio appearances are marked by him doing a lot of bad-mouthing of guys who were much better workers and stars than he ever was and often sounding harsh doing it. HTM has picked so many fights with folks and acts like he’s a huge star despite some seeing him as a bigger joke now than when he was working.
3 Scott Steiner
Once, Scott Steiner was a great worker, amazing in the ring and good on the mic. But as he roided up and took on his arrogant persona, Steiner also appears to have turned into a total lunatic. He’s well known for acting up in public and a lot of wild antics but too often, Steiner acts like it’s still 2000 and he’s the top guy in WCW. Almost every interview has him trashing guys who have been huge stars, claiming none of them hold a candle to him. A frequent target is Triple H and Steiner slams Hunter at every opportunity, claiming time and again that Hunter is “afraid of me” and Steiner is a much better worker. This ignores how, when they feuded in 2003, Steiner was totally over matched and out of shape and Triple H had to carry their bouts. Steiner continues to act like he’s “above” things like the WWE Hall of Fame despite how they don’t really want him anyway. “Big Poppa Pump” is a star in many ways but hardly as huge as he wants folks to think.
Once, Tammy Sytch was the hottest woman in wrestling. Gorgeous, lithe, blonde hair and blonde smile, Sunny set the trial so many other Divas have followed. She was a huge hit as a manager and TV personality and getting over like gangbusters. But addictions to drunk and drinking hurt her drive, leading to her fired from WWE and later runs in ECW and others. She has sadly lost much of her looks, affected by these issues and clearly not handling things well. One can cut some slack as Sytch was affected by the loss of husband Chris Candido in 2005 and not the same since. But she’s gotten desperate with stuff like appearing in an adult film and having flirtatious encounters on Skype.
That’s not counting how she goes on shows trashing the current Divas on all about looks and WWE needs someone like her, ignoring how she only got ahead because of her own looks. It’s sad to see this beauty falling like this as Sunny’s former glory is now clouded over.
1 Shane Douglas
Shane Douglas always had an ego. He got a good push in 1992 WCW, holding the tag titles with Ricky Steamboat but a falling out over money and left. He helped put ECW on the map throwing down the NWA title and “The Franchise” a huge deal. He famously had a terrible run in WWE as “Dean Douglas” that pushed him out over fights with the Kliq and moved onto another run in WCW. Since then, Douglas has worked for the indies as well as TNA and a popular voice online. However, the fact is that Douglas is a very bitter man who often seems to think he was a bigger star than he was. He keeps claiming ECW would have been nothing without him, ignoring Paul Heyman totally and has trashed people left and right. He’s famously feuded with Ric Flair for years. Well, actually, it’s more Douglas trashing Flair at every opportunity and Flair just ignoring him. Douglas continues to act as if it’s the 1990s and he’s a major star, ignoring he’s laughed at more than respected these days.