There are certain performers in the WWE who are known to give back to the industry that helped make them household names. When their time as an in-ring performer is coming to a close, these wrestlers realize that someone made room for them to be the next generation when they started out and as such, it is their responsibility to return the favor.
These wrestlers understand that the only way to make a true star is to make fans believe they can beat the best of the best. If a true veteran agrees to use their drawing power to elevate someone else, it's "best for business."
Then, there are wrestlers who refuse to make way for the new breed. Because of these performers, the industry has trouble moving forward. Whether they believe too strongly in their character or they feel that by making room for new talent they are effectively signing their death warrant and inviting the demise of their careers, they forget how they became such huge stars in the first place and act selfishly or with greed.
Today, there are many wrestlers who have built a reputation for being on one or the other side of this coin. Some wrestlers are so giving that fans and peers wished they'd have been a bit more selfish. Others are so selfish, few wrestlers want to work with them.
Below are 15 of these performers. Eight of them were known to bury or stall another wrestler's career while seven of them gave back to the industry that made them a star. In a way, they groomed the future of wrestling.
15 Buried Other Stars: Bret Hart
Bret Hart wasn't exactly easy to get along with when he was a wrestler. That said, he seemed to understand (with the exception of the Montreal Screwjob) that putting over other wrestlers was part of the business. It seems to be in his retired years, that Bret is showing his true colors.
Today, Bret Hart is making waves by trashing the current crop of WWE stars that are in many ways the future of the business. Hart often goes public with his thoughts on the lack of respect by current wrestlers or how dangerous they are in the ring. Seth Rollins was on the receiving end of one of Hart's more recent rants. Rollins had a run of bad luck with some injuries to his opponents, but Hart felt that was reason enough to insinuate Rollins was dangerous and a disgrace to the industry Hart had worked so hard to help build.
14 Groomed The Future: Ric Flair
Part of Ric Flair's beef with Eric Bischoff during the final years of WCW was that Flair felt Bischoff never appreciated Flair for what he did by respecting the business and putting over wrestler after wrestler. Yes, Flair is the most decorated heavyweight champion in history, but he's also lost the title more than anyone and he's lost to countless others along the way. Many famous wrestlers of today took their cues from Flair.
Ric Flair has an ego the size of a large house. He'll probably be the first to admit it. But, Flair also understands the business of wrestling. Good guys can't be good guys without arch rivals and the industry doesn't grow if new talent isn't given an opportunity to shine. Flair had so many great matches and feuds that his opponents are now legends for having been involved. He'd love nothing more than to stick around the WWE as long as they'll let him and help future talent.
13 Buried Other Stars: Goldberg
One of the things that made Bill Goldberg a star was that he went 174-0 before finally losing a match. It was part of his character: he was unbeatable, winning against literally everyone in a matter of minutes. He even claimed WCW's biggest prize in dominating fashion. But, like any streak, the locomotive that was Goldberg had to slow at some point.
The only problem was, Goldberg was so hyped by WCW, he believed he was their biggest star and that losing would make his character weak and irrelevant. Had his loss come intelligently, he wouldn't have had to worry. Instead, he lost to Kevin Nash in a cheap and pointless manner. As such, he became paranoid, unwilling to give when the time called for it. He didn't want to work with certain talent, he used his creative control card and he became the most one-dimensional character in history. He still has legit heat with Chris Jericho for giving him the snub when Jericho was willing to lose to Goldberg after some entertaining ideas. Even his comeback against Brock Lesnar was quite one-sided despite Lesnar finally getting the deciding fall. Goldberg publicly admitted he wasn't willing to practice bumps in the ring for his final bout.
12 Groomed The Future: Terry Funk
Wrestling fans who go way back and know Funk from his early years will remember him as one of the nastiest heels in wrestling history. More recent fans will know Terry Funk as the wrestler who put over pretty much everyone who made their way through ECW.
Funk is widely known to help boost the careers of Hall of Famers like Mick Foley and Steve Austin and he made wrestlers like Raven, Shane Douglas, Tommy Dreamer and others Superstars. According to Paul Heyman, Funk understood that his legacy meant little if there was no future to remember it. He turned down some incredibly better-paying jobs to help the future of the business and teach the kids of ECW. He was a true pioneer when it came to giving back in the latter part of his career.
11 Buried Other Stars: The Rock
Fans and wrestlers hate it when someone who isn't committed to the product comes in and halts the momentum of someone working hard to establish themselves and their legacy. For a long time, The Rock was that hated man. With a reputation for only showing up infrequently, he also destroyed guys like Rusev, The Wyatt Family and in part, John Cena. In fact, most of the people who've worked with The Rock since he became a part-timer have had their careers take a serious turn for the worse.
Today it's even more of a problem as his appearances require someone on the other end he can demean and make look foolish to get himself over. Wrestlers of today find themselves at a crossroads. They want to work with one of the biggest draws in the company, but they know that it's inevitable they'll be made to look like idiots.
10 Groomed The Future: Chris Jericho
In the current scope of the WWE, there is perhaps no wrestler that believes in giving back more than Chris Jericho. The laundry list of people he's worked with who weren't big stars until they got a rub from the "Ayatollah of Rock 'n' Rolla" is long and distinguished. Some of those performers went on to become big stars. Others faded, but it didn't matter to Jericho. If the opportunity existed to "do the right thing," he not only took it, but he worked his butt off to make his opponent a huge star.
Jericho has been known to stand up for wrestlers when he believes they've been treated unfairly. He's been known to take a hit financially if it's the right thing for his character. His most recent work with Kevin Owens is just one example of how Jericho unselfishly gave to the company that took him from a floundering WCW and made him a star.
9 Buried Other Stars: Kevin Nash
If it didn't make sense for Kevin Nash to do so, you can bet he didn't make other people look good. For the most part, he limited his losses to guys that were part of his kliq. Nash was also known to play major backstage politics having worked his way up as far as being a booker in WCW. He played a role in bringing Goldberg's undefeated streak to an end and the wrote the infamous "finger poke of doom" angle.
Nash was widely known as one of the guys truly only in the business for himself. His selfishness was legendary and it was a mechanism of survival which he says was rampant in WCW. He admittedly faked being hurt or under the weather to get out of appearing on less popular shows like WCW Thunder and/or used his position of power to get out of wrestling guys he didn't feel like wrestling.
8 Groomed The Future: Rowdy Roddy Piper
Since he entered wrestling's main event scene, Rowdy Roddy Piper was used to build stars up and then let them defeat him. He never held the heavyweight title, but that's because he believed so firmly in being the biggest heel only to let them babyface beat him, he never needed it.
Piper had a way of making you hate him. That was his job. When the good guy beat him, fans were elated that Piper got what was coming. He feuded with Hulk Hogan throughout the 80's and Hogan's record against Piper was astonishingly good. Piper put over Bret Hart, Yokozuna and countless other stars. The only person he ever had real heat with was Mr. T and that's because Piper firmly believed in wrestlers paying their dues and actually being wrestlers. Mr. T was an outsider. Piper wasn't a fan and Mr. T wasn't the future.
7 Buried Other Stars: Triple H
If you were to look at Triple H's most recent WrestleMania record, you'd perhaps argue he's pushing guys like Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns or Seth Rollins. Then again, if you ask why Triple H is even in these matches, you might realize he's a very part-time performer who only comes back for the big events and the big paycheques. This one is sort of a toss up.
Triple H is the same guy who came out of retirement to beat CM Punk and made Sting look silly by taking away a victory in Sting's first-ever WrestleMania moment. Triple H beat Brock Lesnar when Lesnar was still a monster and he's put a halt on a number of youngsters careers.
Then again, he's in charge of NXT now and his sole purpose there is to find young talent and make them into Superstars.
6 Groomed The Future: Abdullah the Butcher
It's rare when a performer can create a Hall of Fame career by putting people over. But, it does exist and it perfectly describes the career of Abdullah the Butcher.
Abdullah made a name for himself traveling in and out of promotions, coming in like a monster, attacking the biggest babyfaces and feuding with them, only to lose in the end and move on to the next territory. He was the terrifying threat that came out of nowhere and almost killed the fan favorite. The good guy would ultimately triumph and look magnificent in the victory.
Abdullah did this time and time again. He made a career out of traveling and losing. He's perhaps the only wrestler to be both notorious and famous for doing so. It's a feat that will never be repeated but it's a technique many of today's stars should take note of.
5 Buried Other Stars: Steve Austin
Did Steve Austin bury people like Brock Lesnar when instead of putting him over in a match, Austin quit the WWE? I suppose that depends on who you ask. But, like The Rock, Austin developed somewhat of a reputation for looking good at the expense of other talent. He often refused to work with or do the job for wrestlers he didn't feel were at his level. He hated working with talent who he didn't deem as legitimate threats to take down the Rattle Snake.
In interviews on the The Stone Cold podcast, Austin now speaks highly of the young talent and goes to bat for many of them, but he also calls out wrestlers he believes don't deserve to be there. An example of this is when he called out Dean Ambrose and it caused quite a few waves inside the WWE. He was perhaps right, but there was probably a better way to handle the situation than ambushing Ambrose live on the WWE Network.
4 Groomed The Future: WWE Giants (Andre and Big Show)
You only won against Andre the Giant if he allowed you to. Just ask Hulk Hogan who at WrestleMania III was legitimately nervous that Andre would change his mind and not pass Hogan the torch to lead the WWE into the future.
The Big Show was introduced to wrestling as an unstoppable giant. The latter half of his career has been spent flopping from heel to babyface with the sole purpose of being the guy you use to put over new talent. The Big Show has been so unforgiving that his career is now viewed as underwhelming and mostly a sideshow that fans are ready to see exit the company.
Both men were and should have been unstoppable forces. Both men decided they had to let people beat them to ensure the relevancy of future stars.
3 Buried Other Stars: John Cena
John Cena has built up such a poor reputation for putting over young talent he's had to publicly address the matter in media questions and interviews. Cena's answer isn't admitting he won't lose to lesser known and younger talent often, it's that this same talent lacks the drive and motivation to do what's required to make it to the top.
Cena believes he gives his all (there's no denying how crazy a schedule he keeps) and that wrestlers don't know how to learn from working with him and applying it to the rest of their WWE careers. It's not his fault, it's theirs and they simply fizzle out because they are lazy. As Cena becomes more and more part time, it will be a real tell if he returns only so often and continues to beat wrestler after wrestler. He says he wants to work with the WWE forever. It will be interesting to see in what capacity.
2 Groomed The Future: The Undertaker
Fans need to say only one thing when trying to determine the Undertaker and his reputation for giving back and grooming the future of wrestling without him in it — the undefeated WrestleMania streak. Most believe that having The Undertaker lose at WrestleMania was among the dumbest decisions ever made by the WWE. You know who didn't feel that way? The Undertaker.
Instead, he always knew there would be a time where having someone beat him at WrestleMania would make that certain someone a megastar forever. He decided that someone was Brock Lesnar. As a result, Lesnar is one of the most legit threats in WWE history. This doesn't even account for the times The Undertaker made inroads for guys like Shawn Michales, Stone Cold Steve Austin, JBL, Bret Hart, Diesel, and others. The Undertaker was one of the most influential leaders backstage and was known as Vince McMahon's eyes and ears, often maintaining order in a locker room full of difficult personalities.
1 Buried Other Stars: Hulk Hogan
There was one man that Hulk Hogan agreed to put over during his heyday in the WWE. That was The Ultimate Warrior. Even then, Hogan despised having to do so. In WCW, he put over Goldberg, but had he not, he would have looked completely foolish for saying no. The rest of Hogan's career, he's spent refusing to do anything but be the head of the snake, the king of the mountain or the face of the company. Often times, he didn't deserve it.
His career will be remembered for not only being one of the most popular stars ever in wrestling but being the guy who stole opportunities from countless stars of future generations. From Bret Hart to Billy Kidman, Hogan only lost when it worked in his favor to do so. One of the most infamous instances of not doing what was written was when Jeff Jarrett laid down in the middle of the ring at Bash at the Beach 2000. He left the company immediately after that fiasco. Hogan has been looked up to by som many of today's great wrestling talents. It's just that perhaps these talents picked the wrong role model.
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