Professional wrestling is an ever changing industry, to the extent it’s hard for fans to predict who will become a success from the start of their careers. A wrestler can appear to have all the potential in the world, but unless the right people notice him or her at the right time, their possibilities of turning into a superstar dramatically plummet. Generally speaking, the “right people” in that sentence refers to Vince McMahon and his closest lackeys in the WWE Universe.
Despite their influence and standing in the sports entertainment industry, Vince and company have been known to ignore some of the greatest talents in the scene in favor of the same bland, boring athletes already filling their roster. Other times, WWE has acknowledged a budding superstar’s talent by way of a contract offer, only to ruin his or her chances of true stardom by slotting them in a horrific gimmick or stupid storyline that destroys whatever it was fans liked about them at the start of their careers.
Luckily, some of the sports entertainers we’re talking about were able to reinvent themselves elsewhere, and a couple even returned to WWE and found a second chance that turned them into stars. Most aren’t so lucky, though, because WWE has the largest wrestling audience in the world, meaning when they kill a wrestler, they do it for good, and that’s no matter how promising the performer was beforehand. Keep reading to learn about 15 sure things you won’t believe WWE ruined almost instantly.
15 Al Snow
Thanks to his so-called good friend Mick Foley, the modern day wrestling community might chuckle at the idea Al Snow was once considered a hot prospect in the industry. Believe it or not, though, Snow indeed had potential as a technical wrestler during the early ‘90s, with one ECW match in particular against Chris Benoit receiving a great deal of attention amongst tape traders and die-hard fans. After that, a tag team with the future Kane in Smokey Mountain Wrestling proved Al also possessed a strong understanding of microphone work, making both WCW and WWE make him significant offers. For whatever reason, Snow signed with WWE, and the company bizarrely repaid the American wrestler by giving him a gimmick as a masked Mexican luchador named Avatar. When that unsurprisingly bombed, Snow turned into a Japanese ninja named Shinobi. Then came Snow's role as Leif Cassidy, Marty Jannetty's partner in The New Rockers.
Sticking a talented mic worker under a mask was questionable enough, and these gimmicks nearly destroyed Al’s career before it began.
14 The Ascension
With the advent of NXT, it looked like there was a good chance WWE’s practice of ignoring rising talent might finally be coming to an end. Now more than ever, they have a wealth of potential superstars at their disposal, specifically trained to work the style Vince McMahon loves seeing on his television. In The Ascension’s case, Konnor and Viktor also had their look and stature going for them, as they would typically be the exact kind of big hulking monsters McMahon and wrestling fans have enjoyed in the tag ranks for decades. After reigning as NXT Tag Team Champions for nearly a full year, The Ascension were finally called up to the main roster with great expectations, followed by an immediate burial as they lost to every established team around. Almost three years later, they’ve accomplished next to nothing in WWE, and are completely viewed as jokes by most of the audience.
13 Terry Taylor
Proving WWE’s practice of ignoring wrestlers with all the potential in the world has been a trend pretty much from the moment Vince McMahon, Jr. took things over from his father, the destruction of Terry Taylor’s career took place back in the late 1980s. At this point, Taylor had been a rising star across several NWA territories and Bill Watts’s Mid-South Wrestling. Recognizing his skills, Vince McMahon hired Taylor with promises of a great character that would make him a star. Unfortunately, that character happened to be wearing a big red bill and acting like a chicken. Renamed the Red Rooster, Taylor dropped from championship contention all the way down the bottom of the card, where he settled as a comedy jobber. While Rooster did have the legendary Bobby Heenan as his manager, the whole point was that he was completely inept without The Brain’s advice, making it impossible for fans to ever take the guy seriously.
12 Sean O’Haire
When it comes to WWE wasting Sean O’Haire’s potential, chances are we’re not telling you anything you don’t already know. Heralded in WCW as a superstar of tomorrow, O’Haire was clearly the most talented in-ring performer in his graduating class from the WCW Power Plant in 2000. Alongside several classmates, O’Haire debuted as one of the Natural Born Thrillers, living up to the last word in their name with incredible high flying action despite his larger than average size. When WWE purchased WCW, O’Haire was reigning as the company’s Tag Team Champion with Chuck Palumbo as his partner, a status they retained upon their entrance in WWE. Unfortunately, that would be the only title O’Haire held while working for Vince McMahon, and he lost it in extremely definitive fashion to Kane and The Undertaker. Afterwards, O’Haire developed a brilliant devil’s advocate gimmick that seriously got fans talking, yet it soon fizzled out and he was released by WWE to little fanfare.
Not one year ago today, it could have easily been argued that Bayley had the most devoted fan base out of any wrestler actively working for the WWE Universe. Her optimistic attitude and proud identification as a “hugger” was something entirely new to sports entertainment, and in the midst of a so-called Women’s Revolution, now more than ever Vince McMahon’s company was ready for exactly this sort of star. While working for NXT, Bayley rapidly improved in the ring and on the microphone, building a fervent fan base that became ecstatic when she won her first championship. Not long thereafter, she also found some gold on the WWE main roster, but fans were far less enthused to say the least. Booked like any other vindictive female on the roster, Bayley has lost almost everything that once made her so special, and worst of all, WWE is acting like they have no idea what they’ve done wrong.
10 The Road Warriors
Oh, what a rush it must be for Vince McMahon to destroy the few wrestlers who became famous without his influence controlling their fate. One of the earliest examples of this trend came during the New Generation, when the iconic Road Warriors first made their way to the WWE Universe. Having made their fame in the AWA and NWA, Hawk and Animal were already world known as the most destructive and powerful tag team in wrestling history before ever stepping inside a McMahon-sanctioned ring. In one way, McMahon acknowledged this by putting them into a program for the WWE Tag Team Champions right from the start, yet he also did whatever he could to destroy their potential to succeed at the same level in his company as they did in others. Specifically, he gave them a puppet named Rocco, a ridiculous joke that ruined their tough monster image.
9 Chris Candido
Of all the wrestlers on this list, Chris Candido best fits the term wunderkind, having already achieved great success in his early 20s. Prior to ever getting noticed by WWE, Candido was one of the standout superstars in Smokey Mountain Wrestling, leading to a run as the NWA Champion at a mere 22 years old. Both on the microphone and in the ring, Candido’s talents were second-to-one from the very beginning, outperforming and outclassing far more experienced athletes than he himself yet was. This caught Vince McMahon’s attention in early 1995, yet in typical McMahon fashion, he felt a few changes were needed before Candido was ready for the mainstream. In particular, the kid needed a gimmick, and with his gorgeous girlfriend Sunny at his side, Vince thought Candido looked perfect for the role of a pretentious gym rat, or “body donna.” Instead of making him a star, being a Body Donna made Candido a joke, and an early loss to career jobber Barry Horowitz further solidified that standing.
8 “Diamond” Dallas Page
With three WCW World Championships to his name, “Diamond” Dallas Page was easily the biggest star to join WWE during the Invasion. Others like Kevin Nash, Goldberg, and Sting opted to sit out their contracts, while DDP took a massive pay cut just to get involved with the idea, and WWE repaid the favor by destroying his character before he even made his first appearance. Rather than dig into DDP’s talents as an everyman fighting back against greedy attention hogs, they made him a creepy stalker attempting to kidnap The Undertaker’s wife. As if the dramatic character change wasn’t enough, The Undertaker then got righteous revenge on DDP and his friend Chris Kanyon, turning two WCW stars into total jobbers in short order. No wonder the entire Invasion failed when WCW’s biggest names were instantly dragged through the mud.
Having made a habit of stealing up the best stars in NWA, AWA, and WCW only to destroy them with horrific gimmicks, it was inevitable Vince McMahon would do the same thing with stars working for TNA/GFW/etc. once that organization began gaining traction. Of all the stars created by Jeff Jarrett and his father’s wannabe rival organization, the first significant jump to WWE was a martial arts expert named Low Ki, famed for his matches in the X Division against AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and others. For whatever bizarre reason, once Low Ki started working for McMahon, his name was changed to the less memorable and far more nondescript “Kaval,” followed by his pairing with Michelle McCool and Layla El. It would have been one thing if Kaval’s gimmick was being a bad ass surrounded by gorgeous women, yet the point seemed to be a joke on his manhood, as the two bullying Divas were clearly in control of his actions. Unsurprisingly, Low Ki felt misused in this role and left the company in short order.
With all due respect to Jinsei Shinzaki, a character like Hakushi probably wouldn’t feel all that special in the modern era. At this point, WWE has fully integrated high flying and Japanese styled wrestling into their programming. However, back in the New Generation Era, the mysterious tattooed Superstar from the Land of the Rising Sun was an entirely new animal. The first time Hakushi jumped out of the ring with his Space Flying Tiger Drop, fans jumped to their feet in shock and awe, expecting big things out of the fearless daredevil who competed in classics against men like Bret Hart and The 1-2-3 Kid. Despite nearly every match Hakushi got involved with turning into a classic, he never won a single title in WWE, nor did he come particularly close to doing so. Instead, the fact Hakushi was so unique alienated him from the rest of the roster, making it hard for WWE to write a storyline around his talents.
Whenever Vince McMahon stole a star from WCW and buried their characters, it was both a move of retribution and a business decision, ensuring they couldn’t return to Ted Turner’s company in the same position they left. However, his logic in stealing from ECW makes a whole lot less sense, as Paul Heyman’s little hardcore Philadelphia promotion was in no way his competition. Had Vince been stealing ECW talent to turn them into true superstars, that would make perfect sense, but instead he took readymade names with great characters and stripped away everything that made them special until there was nothing left. No one wrestler better exemplifies this than Tazz, an unstoppable monster in ECW, forever confined to the announce table after less than two years of Vince McMahon’s pacifying him. Tazz’s size might mean he was never going to be a massive star in WWE, yet he still deserved a lot better than making quips with Michael Cole for the rest of his WWE career.
4 Nick Dinsmore
All one needs to do in order to fully explain how terribly WWE ruined Nick Dinsmore’s chances of success in the wrestling industry is mention the name he went by while working for the company: Eugene. Yes, poor Nick Dinsmore was the athlete forced to fake a mental disability for sympathy and laughs, two things that are heavily frowned upon everyone in society, except apparently the WWE Universe. Well, that’s what Vince McMahon thinks anyway, but his more evolved fans are aware laughing at the mentally challenged is disgustingly uncouth in just about any circumstance. Prior to getting called up to the main WWE roster, Dinsmore had been working for their territorial training ground Ohio Valley Wrestling, where he was easily the biggest star with the most potential. Dinsmore won the OVW Championship a record 10 times, and his in-ring skills were considered in the upper echelon of the promotion. That all came crashing down the second he frizzed out his hair and wandered to a ring doing a ridiculous wave and wearing an offensive smile.
After breaking out as the most critically acclaimed character in ECW, a certain former two time World Champion’s unfortunate tenure in WCW had him asking, “What about me? What about Raven?” Granted, WCW at least treated Raven like a moderately big deal at first, giving him a standoff against “Macho Man” Randy Savage and a later run with the United States Championship, two accolades far greater than anything he achieved in WWE. This despite the fact WWE had always seemed like the perfect home for Raven, especially during the Attitude Era, when his darkly creative character could have played mind games with any top ranking superstar who dared challenge him. Once again, though, Vince McMahon and company decided to immediately destroy Raven upon arrival, having him make his big debut moment against the long-retired Jerry Lawler opposed to a real star like the Macho Man. Raven stayed at the bottom of the card his whole stint in WWE, never once getting a chance to captivate fans with a strong promo or interesting storyline, and forcing him to run away to TNA, where his talents were actually acknowledged.
Considering about half the names on this list are WCW superstars that were immediately destroyed upon jumping to WWE, there’s no surprise Sting waited so long in giving Vince McMahon a chance. Unfortunately, it was also wholly predictable that once Sting finally made the move, WWE would outright ruin his legacy just like all the others. Easily the biggest star never to work for Vince McMahon throughout the ‘80s, 90’s, and early ‘00s, it had been decades since someone was able to make their WWE as a true icon. Sting’s status meant he would be a perfect opponent for any rising star, or perhaps even a readymade talent with a similar character, lending to his darker tendencies.
The one thing that wouldn’t make sense would be Sting defending the honor of a long dead company that never treated him all that well, which is of course the one thing WWE had him do. Worse than that, they decided his closest allies in this war were his greatest enemies, who by the way, spent their entire existence trying to destroy the same company they were now helping Sting defend. Or whatever. Honestly, the whole thing made no sense, and that’s why Sting probably never should have bothered working for Vince in the first place.
All right, so if nothing else, Goldberg is proof positive that WWE can fix even their greatest mistakes. And let’s face it, folks—the way Da Man was booked during his first year working for Vince McMahon was indeed one of the most consistently baffling moves the WWE CEO had ever made. The whole point of Goldberg’s character was destruction, arriving, destroying his opponents in bombastic fashion, and leaving without saying a word. Naturally, his debut WWE match was a longwinded back and forth affair where he barely squeaked away with the victory. Wait, what? Aren’t those exact opposites? Yeah, they pretty much are, which is why Goldberg was a total dud his entire stint with the company. Throw in a few repeat losses to Triple H, and the biggest superstar WCW created was just another schmuck on the roster no one cared about. It took 13 years of anonymity before fans could remember the monster Goldberg once was, and luckily, the second time around, WWE was able to remember it, too.