The wrestling industry is built on connections. Word of mouth and good reputations will land many performers opportunities in various promotions. Wrestlers who possess star power or have earned a credible reputation backstage can help get friends an opportunity in WWE or other major companies to see if they stand a chance. There are other scenarios of a wrestler getting a friend out of trouble or preventing them from losing their job. It is good to have friends in high places when you are a wrestler trying to make a name in the wrestling business.
We'll look at some of the stories in wrestling history that feature careers being saved by other wrestlers. These wrestlers benefited from a friend either getting them hired or going to bat for them in a major way that impacted their livelihoods. These stories don’t necessarily have endings of every wrestler being saved getting to main event WrestleMania or become millionaires. However, they could have been in ugly situations if their pals didn’t step in to provide a helping hand. Find out if your favorite wrestler received help or provided help in changing a career for the better. Here are fifteen wrestlers that saved the careers of one of their peers.
15 Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash
Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash are linked together for their time together in the Kliq. Before they even became friends, Michaels saved Nash’s career. Michaels saw Nash on WCW television in horrible roles wasting his potential. WCW placed Nash in horrible gimmicks such as Oz the wizard and Vinnie Vegas the parody mobster.
Michaels felt Nash could be valuable as his bodyguard in WWE and convinced Vince McMahon to bring him in. Nash started playing the Diesel character backing up Michaels and they had tremendous chemistry. McMahon believed in Nash enough to make him the WWE Champion beating Michaels in a shocking decision. Nash would have a tremendous career in WWE and going back to WCW as a bigger star. Michaels going to bat for him saved him from being another big man to flop.
14 Mark Henry and Neville
The backstage role of Mark Henry today has him working as a producer and talent scout after a long in-ring career. Henry has stated that he loves the behind the scenes job of contributing to the product by helping others. Braun Strowman and Apollo Crews are just two wrestlers to get discovered by WWE thanks to the recommendation of Henry to those in power backstage.
Henry also developed a close relationship with Neville backstage in the locker room. Both men were just wrestlers, but Henry had a more respected reputation as a locker room leader. Henry spoke up on behalf of Neville multiple times, including when Vince McMahon tried to give him a Mighty Mouse gimmick. The word of Henry helped him escape it. According to Mark, Neville broke down in tears thanking Henry for all the help at WrestleMania 33 when he had his first ‘Mania experience.
13 The Undertaker and Kane
The careers of Kane and The Undertaker will be linked together for their work as on-screen brothers. The Undertaker was obviously the bigger star and spent nearly three decades as a top name in the company. Glenn Jacobs struggled to find a role in WWE playing horrible characters such as Isaac Yankem DDS and the fake version of Diesel.
The Undertaker developed respect for Jacobs’ work as a fellow big man as they worked together on many live events. Apparently, Undertaker suggested Jacobs to play the Kane character when WWE wanted a long-lost brother to feud with him. Jacobs worked perfectly as Kane considering the character is still main eventing shows today. Kane and Undertaker are bonded together, and it was clearly the right decision by Undertaker to give Jacobs the break of his career.
12 Evan Bourne and Seth Rollins
Seth Rollins is a top player in WWE today and is expected to be a main event fixture for the next decade. A shocking discovery is that Rollins wasn’t sure he would even join WWE when he signed a developmental contract many years ago. Rollins always had the dream of working for WWE, but he had a better financial offer from Impact Wrestling.
This was when Impact still had relevance on Spike TV and WWE didn’t have a thriving developmental program like NXT. Rollins was going back and forth until his friend and then WWE star Evan Bourne aka Matt Sydal talked to him. The questions of Rollins were answered, and he was convinced to take the WWE offer. Impact killed the careers of many talented wrestlers at the time. Rollins choosing Impact would have changed his career forever in the worst of ways.
11 Kevin Nash and Buff Bagwell
The WCW career of Buff Bagwell is extremely impressive if you factor in that he flopped every time he was given a big push. Bagwell spent a full decade in the company until its dying day. WCW loved his look and believed he had potential to become a future main event star. The lowest point for him took place in the mid-90s when his American Males tag team with Scotty Riggs was no longer over with the fans.
Bagwell swerved Riggs by turning on him to join the white hot New World Order faction. In various interviews, Bagwell claimed that Kevin Nash was the one to go to bat for him and get him the spot in the faction. It saved Bagwell from falling lower down the pecking order and gave him something to do. Buff made great money to do minimal work and be a part of the hottest thing in the industry. Nash and Bagwell are still friendly today.
10 Zelina Vega and Andrade Almas
Andrade “Cien” Almas winning the NXT Championship in November was a huge shock to those that have witnessed his entire NXT run. As recently as early 2017, Almas was struggling to get consistent television time and a spot on the TakeOver cards. The talent was clearly there, but fans just couldn’t connect with him. Almas displayed a lack of charisma and confidence wrestling without a mask for the first time since his success in Mexico.
WWE hired Zelina Vega to play the manager of Almas and it changed his career drastically. Both performers worked perfectly together leading to Almas becoming a big player. Fans started getting excited to see Almas perform rather than expressing groans during his entrance. The rise from forgotten man no one cared about to the top star in NXT shows that Vega truly saved Almas’ career in a few months.
9 Chris Jericho and Disco Inferno/Konnan/Cyrus
Chris Jericho has gone out of his way to help many of his friends in the wrestling business. Various wrestlers have received huge donations from Jericho when in need of financial help in tough times. Jericho took this to another level by offering jobs to his friends that he felt could benefit them all. Podcast One offered Jericho his own network known as The Jericho Network featuring a few shows.
Two of the most popular shows are Keepin’ It 100 featuring Konnan and Disco Inferno along with Kiling the Town with Lance Storm and Don “Cyrus” Callin. Storm was still doing well in wrestling as a highly successful wrestling trainer. The other three guys mentioned have not been relevant in wrestling in a long time. Cyrus became a top commentator in New Japan and is now running Impact Wrestling thanks to Jericho bringing him back into wrestling. Konnan and Disco are being heard of after years of irrelevance.
8 Ted DiBiase and Virgil
The career of Virgil has basically been all in the shadow of Ted DiBiase. Both men were a package deal in WWE for many years when DiBiase was a top heel. The arrogant rich villain character made DiBiase arguably the top heel in the wrestling business for a few years. Virgil worked as his henchman and manservant doing ordinary tasks along with taking care of business for him in the ring.
A few years after their peak time together, DiBiase made the jump to WCW to become the benefactor of the New World Order. The role was great for him before Eric Bischoff joined and essentially had the same position. During the introduction process of DiBiase, Virgil resurfaced to join him as another nWo member. Virgil made a lot of money to stand in the ring and take part in beatdowns thanks to DiBiase putting in a good word for him.
7 Kevin Owens and Mike Kanellis
Mike Kanellis’ career is a tricky one to examine. During his time in Impact Wrestling as The Miracle, he did a lot of good work along with wife Maria Kanellis. Both wrestlers made the jump to the WWE in 2017 skipping NXT to join the SmackDown brand. Mike’s addiction to pain killers took him off television for a short time period and Maria getting pregnant ended the act from being pushed strongly due to more important things in their lives.
Some would argue that they would be better off, but they are in a secure place now thanks to joining WWE. Many wrestlers struggle to get help for addiction issues. Mike having the support of WWE means he has more opportunities to go to rehab if need be. It also allows Maria to give birth to their child with less worries than they would have if working elsewhere. Kevin Owens is the one to help them get hired after they were planning to re-sign with Impact.
6 Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake
Hulk Hogan has wielded the most power of any wrestler in the history of the business. The power of Hogan in WWE during the 80s and WCW in the 90s allowed him to help many of his friends. Hogan would get various buddies hired in WWE. WCW took it to another level by basically hiring a dinner table worth of Hogan’s closest buddies.
One person to benefit the most from this was Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. Hogan was his best friend for many years and got him a spot in WWE. The move to WCW saw him work under various failed gimmicks and even main event a Starrcade PPV against Hogan. The two are no longer friends, but Beefcake owes Hogan for the success of his wrestling career.
5 Triple H and X-Pac
The friendship between the various members of the Kliq is still going strong today. One friendship to last the test of time is Triple H and X-Pac. They grew close during the mid-90s when both guys were trying to make a name in the mid-card picture. X-Pac left to join Kevin Nash and Scott Hall in WCW as a member of the New World Order. Unfortunately, he was treated with less respect and Eric Bischoff fired him while injured.
Triple H convinced WWE to bring back X-Pac in 1998 when Shawn Michaels was retiring. X-Pac returning to join Triple H and Chyna in D-Generation X allowed the group to keep going, especially with the New Age Outlaws joining them. The role of X-Pac not only helped him become a bigger star than ever, but it allowed Triple H to step up as a leader. Everyone benefited, and the legacy of DX grew stronger.
4 Booker T and The Boogeyman
Booker T is one of the most respected men in the wrestling industry after decades of hard work. The work ethic of Booker is the biggest reason that he had a longer and more successful career in WWE than most of the other wrestlers to come from WCW. WWE eventually respected him enough to take his recommendations of hiring talent.
Marty Wright got hired by WWE to a developmental contract thanks to Booker vouching for him. WWE gave him the gimmick of The Boogeyman and he had a role on SmackDown for a short time. Despite the run not being too long, Boogeyman developed a legacy in WWE that still exists today. WWE signed him to a legends contract and he makes appearances occasionally when needed.
3 The Miz and Mandy Rose
An odd instance of someone saving another wrestler’s career came on the Tough Enough reality show. This most recent competition took place in 2015 with The Miz replacing Hulk Hogan as a judge after the latter was fired from WWE for a racist tirade leaking. Mandy Rose was one of the standout talents on the show that was on the cutting block earlier than expected.
Miz saved her from elimination solely due to her looks to add a lot of heat to her. Rose used this to her advantage to develop a heel persona that stood apart from the others struggling to stand out. Mandy made it to the finals before falling short, but she impressed WWE enough to land a contract. WWE viewed her as a top prospect and she recently just debuted as part of Absolution. You must wonder where she would be if not for Miz forcing her heel turn.
2 Kazuchika Okada and The Young Bucks
Kazuchika Okada and the Young Bucks shared one thing in common during their time in Impact Wrestling. The company treated them with zero respect and made them look like complete jokes. Okada was there as part of a talent excursion leading to New Japan cutting ties with TNA due to the anger from this poor use of their star. Despite the setback, Okada went on to become the top guy for NJPW and is still leading the company to huge success today.
The Young Bucks requested their release from Impact but still struggled. Jim Cornette hated their wrestling style which prevented them from getting bookings in Ring of Honor. Matt and Nick Jackson were reaching the point of considering retirement to find jobs to provide for their families. Okada however became a connection that vouched for them in New Japan. The rest is history as the Bucks joined the Bullet Club and have become one of the hottest acts in wrestling over the past few years.
1 Sting and Lex Luger
The friendship between Sting and Lex Luger became part of their on-screen characters in the 90s. Sting and Luger were well-known best friends as two guys that happened to stumble into the wrestling business. Both guys worked out at the same gym and eventually started running their own gyms together as a business venture outside of wrestling.
Luger made a huge move going to WWE in the early 90s with the idea of a massive push. WWE wanted him to be “the guy” replacing Hulk Hogan, but he flopped badly. Sting was the one to convince Eric Bischoff to bring Luger back to WCW. Bischoff hated Luger, but Sting talked him into stealing Luger away from WWE. Luger ended up being a top star making huge money for the rest of WCW’s existence.