As we all know, when we're put on a high pedestal, all it takes is one mistake before we find ourselves knocked back down to reality. We could be on the verge of success or already successful. We could be on top of the world and all it takes is one screw up on our part before everything we work hard for crumbles before our feet. No one knows this feeling more than the average WWE Superstar. In a business where plans change on the daily and at the drop of a dime, wrestlers can find their spot on the company's hierarchy rise and fall within a week's time and often, it's the wrestler's own fault that their spot diminished.
A wrestler can do everything they are supposed to do to impress the top brass of their respective company—have great mic skills, great in-ring skills, kiss the right agent's ass, etc—but if they make the slightest of mistake, it could be the end of their push. In some cases, it could be the end of that wrestler's career. Sometimes it's a simple mistake that a backstage suit took too seriously. Sometimes it's quite clearly a misdirection on part of the wrestler that they are rightly punished for. In either case, these scenarios have proven to be detrimental towards the careers towards numerous wrestlers in an array of companies. WWE, WCW, TNA, ECW, you name it. All have had wrestlers that have been de-pushed at the biggest points in their careers (or, again, fired) because of a mistake that the wrestler themselves made. Here are just 15 examples.
15 Tyler Breeze
After years of working down in NXT, Tyler Breeze finally made his debut on the WWE main roster on October 22nd, 2015 and within a month received his first big pay-per-view win by pinning Dolph Ziggler at Survivor Series. The Gorgeous One has been compared by many as a modernized Shawn Michaels, both in gimmick and in-ring talent. Many predicted that if WWE utilized him right, he could be the company's next breakout star. Unfortunately, before WWE even had a chance to book him wrong, Breeze ended up falling out of favor with backstage brass. In January 2016, it was reported that Breeze decided to leave a WWE taping early without permission because he didn't have a match later in the night. This was considered by many to be incredibly disrespectful of Breeze to do and it garnered him enough heat to dramatically de-push him. Since then, he hasn't been given another major storyline and much of his tv time has been dedicated to him getting jobbed out in embarrassing fashion. Even while he does manage to entertain when he can as part of Breezango with Fandango, the duo are still the resident jobbers of WWE. Especially Breeze, who if he didn't step on the wrong people's toes after getting called up, could have been a main eventer by now or at least upper midcarder.
14 Triple H
While Triple H received bigger and better opportunities in the future, he was effectively placed in the doghouse after missing out on this opportunity in 1996. Early into his WWE career, Triple H was set to win that year's King of the Ring tournament and receive a big main event push afterwards. However, after taking part in the now infamous Madison Square Garden Curtain Call with Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall, Trips was the sole man out of the 4 who were punished for it. For the following year, he would be de-pushed down the card and his big King of the Ring push was given to Stone Cold Steve Austin. Once he was back in WWE's good graces, he won the next year's King of the Ring tournament.
13 Jack Swagger
Once upon a time, WWE were quite keen on getting Jack Swagger over as a top star. Early into his career, The All American American snagged the ECW Championship and a year later, a big Money in the Bank win at WrestleMania that led to a successful World Heavyweight Championship cash-in on Chris Jericho a couple days later. Despite racking up big wins against future Hall of Famers and winning World Titles, Swagger wasn't getting over. For some reason, his gimmick wasn't connecting with the crowd. In February 2013, he finally found a gimmick that connected with crowds when paired with Zeb Colter as a Real American. He was set to challenge Alberto Del Rio for the World Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania 29, but on February 19th, he was arrested for marijuana possession and driving under the influence. The pot incident seemed to put the final nail in the coffin for Swagger's relevance as a WWE main eventer. While he still got his WrestleMania match with Del Rio, he wasn't even given a televised entrance so folks at home knew from the get-go that Swagger's loss was coming. After WrestleMania, Swagger was effectively relegated to the lower midcard. As time passed, he eventually found himself as a jobber. Now, he hasn't even shown up on television in months.
12 Randy Orton
Randy Orton is infamous for getting in trouble in WWE and one of the most ill-timed moments he got in trouble came in 2006 at WrestleMania 22. Remember how on the road leading to WrestleMania 22, Rey Mysterio was basically on an Eddie Guerrero memorial tour? He turned into the definitive underdog in his quest to win the World Heavyweight Championship in his honor. He outlasted 29 other participants in the Royal Rumble for over an hour and then entered a Triple Threat Match for the title at Mania versus Orton and the defending champ, Kurt Angle. Surely, WWE were setting up for a feel-good miracle storybook ending at WrestleMania, right? Well, actually, Orton was originally booked to win that match. From there, Orton likely would have carried Smackdown as the top heel. The change was made after what has been spoken of as "unprofessional conduct" on Orton's behalf (which has been alleged as drug abuse). Because of this conduct, the change was made for Mysterio to get his miracle win after all by pinning Orton. Afterwards, Orton was suspended for 60 days.
11 William Regal
For the entirety of his WWE run, William Regal was one of the most loyal members of the roster. He did anything and everything WWE asked of him no matter how ludicrous it sounded on paper. This would include humiliating himself every week as a comedy act and even literally kissing Vince McMahon's ass on national television. Regal's loyalty would have paid off in 2008 when he was due for his first WWE Championship run. Despite being slapped with a suspension for violating the Wellness Policy in the summer of 2007, Regal was still in WWE's good graces and set to receive the biggest push of his career. That push was halted when Regal was slapped with another suspension for steroid use right before he was planned to win the title. Regal has since admitted that out of feeling insecurity for his age and physical shape, he used steroids to bulk up a bit. He takes full responsibility and regret for his actions and admits there's no one to blame for screwing up his opportunity but himself.
10 Robbie McAllister
While McAllister was never in line for a huge push (with or without his Highlanders tag team partner, Rory McAllister), but with WrestleMania XXIV on the horizons at the time, he missed out on an opportunity to catch a big payday. Also at the time, the McAllisters were better known as The Highlanders. 10 years may seem like a pretty long time ago and this may be hard to remember, but the duo were actually pretty over as, essentially, Scottish vikings. They had plenty of feuds with different tag teams and many of them saw them challenging for the Tag Team Titles. Admittedly, their momentum slowed down a bit by 2008, but they were still active on the show and had a guaranteed spot at WrestleMania. Then, suddenly, out of the blue, Rory appeared on the March 28th, 2008 TNA Impact, filmed live just days before WrestleMania XXIV. Though TNA had to reveal him under his real name, everyone knew exactly who he was by face. Vince McMahon was reportedly furious that one-half of The Highlanders paid to attend enemy territory. It cost him his $5,000 Mania paycheck and later on, it cost him his job.
9 Lance Cade
By 2008, Lance Cade had spent his last several years as part of the tag team division. From a not-so-successful tag team with Mark Jindrak and to a World Tag Team Championship winning one with Trevor Murdoch, it was always apparent in both Cade's look and skills that he was capable of more as a singles star. In 2008, his singles push finally came to fruition. Though this pushes started off in baby steps with him playing second fiddle to Chris Jericho, being paired with such a top star for main event caliber segments made Cade a shoe-in for becoming a future star. Unfortunately, that superstardom never came. Cade was fired in October after a much publicized drug induced seizure on Cade's part. Given that Cade died just a few years later, I feel bad having besmirch the name of a dead man, but we have to call it what it is. It was Cade's drug abuse that led to his eventual release.
8 Mr. Perfect
After ditching WWE in favor of WCW years prior, Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig made his long awaited return to WWE in 2002 to an uproarious reaction. From his return in the Royal Rumble as one of the final 3 participants, impressed many (fans, critics, and backstage brass alike) with his electric performance. What was meant to be a one-off showing manifested into a full contract for Hennig afterwards. Sadly, we never saw the full potential of a Mr. Perfect Comeback Tour as he was released shortly afterwards just a few months after. During the now infamous Plane Ride From Hell, one of the wacky scenarios that took place included Hennig getting into a physical altercation with Brock Lesnar. Since Lesnar was being primed for a position as the new face of the company at the time, Hennig caught immediate heat for the scuffle and was fired shortly after the plane ride landed.
For years, ever since his first taste and claim to fame in ECW, Rob Van Dam has been a much beloved superstar in the wrestling world. Whether he was in WWE or ECW, whether he was Mr. Monday Night or Mr. Tuesday Afternoon, everyone loved RVD. Despite his wide and ever expanding adulation from the crowd every week, WWE never went all the way with his main event push. That would change in a big way in 2006. The Whole F'n Show arrived to The Show of Shows, Wrestlemania 22, and won the Money in the Bank contract. He would cash in for the main event of One Night Stand 2006 and not only win the WWE Championship, but the inaugural ECW Championship for the brand's revival. As a double champion representing two different brands, things couldn't get much better for RVD. He was on top of the world. Sadly, his world came crashing down when he got arrested with weed in his car just a month after winning his titles. Shortly afterwards, RVD lost both titles in the same week and was quickly taken off tv to serve a 30-day suspension. WWE has kept RVD out of the main event scene ever since.
6 Teddy Hart
As heir to the famous Hart clan, there was a lot of talk in the late 90s and early 2000s that Teddy Hart could be the next big thing in the wrestling world. As an incredible athlete in the ring, his skill set and in-ring repertoire made him more than deserving of the WWE contract that he received in 1998. At the age of 19, young Teddy was hired under a developmental contract, but was later released over alleged attitude problems on his behalf. He would return twice more to the company in the coming years, but would be fired again for pissing off some people backstage. It's a shame, really. Anyone who has seen the guy's indie stuff knows that he is one of the most talented wrestlers to ever step inside of a ring. The stuff he can do in the ring is awe-inspiring and the fact he's never been able to do it on the main roster of WWE as a marquee attraction is disappointing.
5 Daniel Bryan
After spending a decade on the independent scene, Bryan Danielson finally made his way to WWE and after spending a year in developmental, he was interjected immediately into a hot Raw angle as a member of the Nexus. The two made an immediate impact in WWE and as fast as they rose to the top of the WWE, Daniel Bryan was released from WWE even faster. Apparently, before the angle took place, WWE carelessly told this group of inexperienced young guns to wreck havoc as they saw fit without leaving instructions on what not to do. Everything that Bryan did out there was exactly the kind of stuff WWE wouldn't have wanted him to do. Spit on John Cena, choke announcer Justin Roberts with his tie, etc. After catching hell from their sponsors on Bryan's behavior, WWE released Bryan the next day. Though he would return by the end of the summer and became one of WWE's most popular stars in due time, getting fired so early on stalled his momentum and removed him from WWE's biggest angle of 2010.
4 Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy is a repeated offender when it comes to screwing himself out of big opportunities. The first time came in 2002. Back when he was fresh off of having a classic Ladder Match for the WWE Championship against The Undertaker and in the middle of his biggest push yet, he began rubbing people the wrong way backstage. He was constantly tardy to events, acting erratically, suspended for drug use, and refusing rehab treatment. Eventually, Jeff Hardy decided to leave the company. In 2008, after being back with the company for 2 years now, Hardy was set to win the Money in the Bank Ladder Match at WrestleMania XXIV and eventually win the World Title. Weeks before the big show, Hardy was pulled out of the match and slapped with a suspension for abusing drugs yet again. Hardy's most infamous offense came in 2010 while in the TNA World Heavyweight Championship pictures. He was booked for a match against Sting in the main event, but he showed up to the show high off his keester. The match was abruptly cut short with Sting getting a quick roll-up. That last instance didn't hurt Hardy's TNA career too badly seeing as he regained the title a year later, but his reputation is forever stained from the altercation.
3 The Shield
From the moment the trio debuted as a unit on WWE soil, The Shield were pushed as a dominant force and WWE's hottest act. In just their first couple of months, the three were on a roll by picking up wins over future Hall of Famers like Daniel Bryan, Kane, Randy Orton, and John Cena. At SummerSlam 2013, they were set to have the biggest match of their careers when there were plans for The Shield to face The Brothers of Destruction at the show. However, a couple months beforehand in an angle on the April 26th, 2013 edition of Smackdown, The Undertaker was legitimately injured after taking a triple powerbomb from The Shield. After being blamed for injuring the legend, The Shield were punished on-screen. To humble the trio, The Shield's undefeated streak was booked to end unceremoniously on free television on the June 14th episode of Smackdown. From there, the group spent months on the pre-show of pay-per-views instead of the main show and even lost a few matches along the way. Though the group eventually bounced back as a unit as soon as they started playing The Authority's henchmen in August and each member has flourished on the main event scene since breaking up, it was one cruel summer for The Shield in 2013.
2 Chris Hero/Kassius Ohno
Independent wrestling fans around the world were astounded to see their beloved indie darling, Chris Hero, finally landing himself a contract with WWE after over a decade on the independent scene. Though he did report to the NXT developmental system under a new name (Kassius Ohno), they were still satisfied with seeing their favorite Knock Out Artist in the big leagues on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, these fans were sorely disappointed to see Hero get released a year later. In the time leading up to his release, Hero was being difficult backstage when it came to sticking to the slim weight figure that WWE wanted him to be. For failing to commit to physical conditioning program, Hero was taken off television with a storyline injury and, after one match back on the tapings, released. Hero has stated in interviews that he takes full responsibility for his stubbornness and admits he should have handled the situation better. Both himself and WWE were open to Hero returning to WWE at a later time and after 4 years away, it's finally happened. Now that he's returned to WWE NXT under the Kassius Ohno name, hopefully Hero's latest WWE stay is a permanent one.
1 Mr. Kennedy
There was once a point when Mr. Kennedy was being primed to be the next top heel of WWE. His crowning coronation would have came in 2007 when he was booked to be revealed as Mr. McMahon's illegitimate son. From there, Kennedy would have been pushed hard enough that he would have won the WWE Championship at the start of 2008 and then main event Wrestlemania 24 against Triple H. Those plans came to a screeching halt when Kennedy was suspended for violating the Wellness Policy right before the reveal would have taken place. In a recent interview, Kennedy clarified that his 60-day suspension was over medication that Vince McMahon told Kennedy he would be allowed to use under the correct prescription. Despite following McMahon's guidelines accordingly, he still got slapped with a suspension. Shortly after his return, he found himself injured and months later, in his first match back, managed to drop Randy Orton on his shoulder and head. Now, we all know injuries can happen on accident at any time, but Orton threw a big enough fit backstage that Kennedy was fired in a matter of days.
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