The WWE is in the entertainment business. The way they entertain a crowd is by creating WWE Superstars the fans can get behind and cheer or boo while the storyline involving that superstar’s character unfolds. Sometimes, the WWE is so good at this, they create a star that has exceptional drawing power. Characters like Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin were characters. They wrestlers who played these characters also became huge stars. By the time the WWE had finished helping them mold their characters, they were bonafide celebrities.
These WWE Superstars will be the meat and potatoes of the business, bringing in fans from all over the world to watch them wrestle at live events or see what their characters will do on weekly television or pay-per-views. They sell merchandise that makes the WWE boatloads of money and they earn television ratings for the company which the WWE can sell for sponsorship worth thousands, sometimes millions of dollars.
While anyone can be replaced and new stars will always be created; sometimes, the WWE helps create such a huge star that the wrestlers become almost indispensable. They earn a little extra respect or can demand a little more from the company since they realized their value. This isn’t always good for the WWE.
There are at least 15 times that the WWE helped make such huge stars that when things went south, it caused a lot of heartaches, financial trouble and likely sleepless nights. Here are 15 wrestlers WWE likely wished they wouldn’t have turned such big stars.
15. Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash has a way of finding himself in the right place at the right time. After failed gimmicks in WCW, he latched onto Shawn Michaels and cozied up to Vince McMahon at a time that the WWE was a little shy on top-end talent. Vince made Diesel (Nash) a star by having him unsuspectingly pin Bob Backlund at a house show for the WWE Title. He went on to have one of the longest reigns as a WWE Champion in quite some time. Again, when the money came calling, Nash went running and this time back to WCW as part of a talent raid that almost crippled the WWE. Vince probably hated the fact that he put so much faith in a person who continually showed he’d jump ship when the option presented itself.
14. Scott Hall
While he was similar to Nash in the timing of his departure from the WWE, at least Scott Hall had the decency to ask McMahon to match the WCW offer so he could stay in the WWE. Vince couldn’t do it and gave Hall his blessing to do what he felt was best. This was probably a decision Vince wishes he could have back. After making Razor Ramon a household name, Hall went on to start one of the biggest angles in wrestling history and it almost cost Vince his company. If it wasn’t for infighting amongst the WCW talent and in Hall’s case, drug and alcohol problems, it’s hard to say if things would have worked out differently in the end.
13. Chris Benoit
This one is a touchy one because of the circumstance behind how Chris Benoit not only departed the WWE but the wrestling industry and humanity altogether. An underused talent in WCW, Benoit came over to the WWE and immediately became a star when Vince used him in matches that showcased his talent. He eventually gave Benoit the title and Benoit became one of the most popular talents in the company. Then, the unthinkable happened when Benoit murdered his child, wife and then killed himself. It was an awful image for wrestling and the WWE. Vince immediately removed any mention or reference to Benoit from the company’s media library and promotional efforts. It was almost like he didn’t exist. That shows just how much Vince was worried.
Sunny was made into a huge star by the WWE. She was the first ever “Diva” and she changed the way females were used in the company. Unfortunately, Sunny was also a massive trainwreck of a person. She wrestled with personal demons, was hooked on drugs and alcohol and spewed out rumors and backstage secrets to anyone that would listen. She went public about everything WWE and their talent in an effort to earn a quick buck. Eventually, Sunny got into adult films and offering her companionship for money. While she’s a part of the WWE Hall of Fame, the company probably regrets putting her there and she still trashes pretty much everyone and everything. She’s about the worst person the WWE could have chosen to be the first ever Diva of the company.
11. The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior (rest his soul) was about the most interesting and abnormal person ever to work for Vince McMahon. He was a massive personality and Vince saw the potential and decided to make Warrior the next big star after Hulk Hogan. There’s no denying the popularity of the character, but it was a huge mistake to put so much faith in Jim Helwig (Warrior’s real name). He held up the company for money, refused to show up for scheduled appearances and basically got so caught up in his own character that he believed he was from another world and the rules didn’t apply to him. The WWE tried to cash in on all that time and effort they’d invested into the Warrior gimmick by bringing him back, but it never worked.
Chyna was a physical specimen. The first female athlete to regularly compete in male matches, she was spotted by Shawn Michaels and Triple H and turned into a superstar by Vince McMahon. They did everything they could to make her appear legit as a talent that could compete in any spot on any card. Then, Triple H got together with Stephanie McMahon and left Chyna. She flipped out and went crying to Vince. Her WWE career didn’t last long after that and until her untimely death in 2016, she had nothing good to say about the WWE. She spent her time in adult films and on self-shot videos acting and looking extremely out of sorts. When asked if the WWE would ever put her in the Hall of Fame, the answer was at first a no. After some time and her passing, the company may be reconsidering.
9. Jeff Jarrett
Jeff Jarrett came from a wrestling background, so he was hardly a rookie when the WWE picked him up. That said, they did put a lot of time and effort into making the “Double J” character a star. It worked for a while until he left the company for WCW in 1996. When he returned, he was given a platform to vent his frustrations and criticized both Eric Bischoff and Vince McMahon. This would later define his career as an opinionated and arrogant wrestler. He eventually held up McMahon for a ton of money when the WWE accidentally left the Intercontinental Championship on him after his contract expired. He went back to WCW and was part of the downfall of the company. Vince tried to make Jarrett a star but Double J never seemed all that grateful.
8. The Rock
It’s hard to include The Rock here because he drew so much money for the WWE and he brought so many additional eyeballs to the product when he became a box office star. That said, one can’t help but wonder if McMahon ever thinks to himself that it would have been nice if The Rock became just a bit less of a star. Being so successful took The Rock away from the WWE and he could have drawn so much more money for the company as an active roster member. It was years before The Rock felt he could reattach himself to the WWE and it wouldn’t hurt his credibility as an actor. Vince and The Rock are on great terms now, but that had to have been a tough pill to swallow for Vince.
7. John Cena
John Cena is now, where The Rock was ten to fifteen years ago. Now on the verge of breaking out in Hollywood, Cena won’t be around much, despite telling the WWE Universe he’d never leave. Cena has a polarizing personality with the WWE audience, so in that way, he’s a bit unique. In the end, he’s still an extremely valuable commodity that the WWE would like to have at their disposal. That he won’t be around much while he tries to make the acting thing a real career boomer for himself, means the WWE has potentially sent another WWE Superstar away by helping them get so popular. If Cena is a man of his word, the WWE will still have him part-time and much more often than they did The Rock when he was becoming a huge movie star.
6. “Ravishing” Rick Rude
“Ravishing” Rick Rude was probably never the megastar he could have been thanks to injuries, but he was a big enough name that during a time when the WCW and WWE were competing for ratings on Monday nights, Rude was used to take a stab at the WWE and Vince McMahon. While the WCW was going live to air each Monday, RAW was still being taped. Rude was working on a performance based contract so he was free to leave. WCW signed him and he showed up on a live Nitro while being on RAW at the same time in a taped segment. It was cheap and underhanded and I’m sure the WWE was upset with themselves for bringing Rude back when they didn’t really need to and he wasn’t exactly DX material anyways.
5. Bret Hart
Bret Hart was a great wrestler and a star. With that in mind, he perhaps wasn’t as big a star as he thought himself to be and his ego went to his head. When the WWE signed him to a big fat contract and struggled financially to meet the demands of that contract, they offered him a way out and let him walk to WCW. Instead of doing so and willfully, he refused to drop the title in Canada where he viewed himself as the biggest celebrity of all time. It led to the “Montreal Screwjob” that all wrestling fans are fully aware of and the WWE took a hit from many fans for the way the whole situation unfolded. Vince and company ended up taking advantage of the situation, but it was not a good look for the company and wouldn’t have happened if Bret wasn’t pushed as the biggest Canadian wrestling star ever. He was a casualty of his own promotion.
4. Sgt. Slaughter
Sgt. Slaughter was a pro-American soldier gimmick that made him extremely popular and saw him visit many a President of the United States. That is, of course, until he returned to the WWE in 1990 with an anti-American and Iraqi sympathizer gimmick that bothered more than a few people. The WWE did so well making Slaughter the biggest heel in the company there were actual death threats on Slaughter’s family, the company as they toured, WWE Headquarters and Vince’s family. All was finally made right when Slaughter defected back to the U.S. side of things, but for a while, the WWE did too good a job making Slaughter a believable Iraqi supporter. It almost caused a lot of people some serious harm and the WWE has learned to tread carefully when it comes to these sorts of characters.
3. CM Punk
CM Punk is both loved and hated by WWE audiences today. He’s loved because of his direct, take no prisoners personality, but he’s hated because he pretty much ditched the WWE and its fans after the company made him a huge star. CM Punk was known to be a whiner and someone that was hard to deal with backstage. Still, the WWE let him air his grievances in what is now known as the “pipe bomb” speech. To repay them, he quit with no notice, trashes the company and the industry at every turn and swears he’ll never return because he’s got better things on his plate. It’s not exactly the type of glowing review the WWE would have hoped for after investing the time and giving Punk the freedom they did. The WWE isn’t blame free here though. They made some pretty bad judgement calls when it came to Punk’s departure.
2. Hulk Hogan
While it may have turned out he wasn’t the biggest star or most profitable wrestler the WWE ever employed, he was darn close and he was pushed and promoted perhaps more than any other WWE Superstar in history. Vince literally built his company around Hogan’s character in the hopes people would buy him as the company’s champ. They did and Hogan made millions and became highly sought after by the competition. Not only did Hogan go to WCW, he turned heel when he had always refused to for the WWE and almost spear-headed the WCW’s overtaking of the WWE. Since those days, he’s been brought back and forgiven multiple times, but still can’t seem to keep himself out of trouble.
1. Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar was pushed as a monster upon his arrival to the WWE in 2002. He was legitimately just that and the WWE crowned him their youngest WWE Champion. Brock decided he hated the constant travel that came with wrestling as professional so he up and decided to leave. He left the WWE at the height of his career and went to try football with the NFL and eventually MMA. He turned himself into a huge star and household name and once he’d had his fill in the UFC, he demanded a huge salary to return part-time to wrestling. Perhaps it can be argued that Brock Lesnar turned himself into a star through the UFC, but what the WWE has now on their hands is a part-time wrestler as their Universal Champion. A champ who rarely shows up to defend the belt.
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