Established in 1980, the Wrestling Observer was one of the first regular newsletters for the wrestling business. At a time when kayfabe was still held up, Dave Meltzer was giving the dirt on goings on, guys leaving, backstage issues and more. He was among the first to be giving star ratings to matches although some might argue his personal beliefs often get in the way. Long before the Internet came around, Meltzer was dishing out goodies and more than a few fans were smartened up by him. The man can be a bit old-school, was not a fan of ECW and made it clear he was a major Ric Flair fanboy. While it’s obvious how many are among the best by their rankings in the yearly polls and Hall of Fame, the worst is a little harder to grasp.
There is no definitive list for the “worst” as judged by the Observer (keep in mind, slews of minor indie performers who are basically ignored can be among the worst around). Some cases may surprise you, as Kane has been part of the “Worst Feud” award a record seven times, but his actual match rankings are surprisingly high. Indeed, guys like Erik Watts, Kevin Nash and others are surprising in how many positive starred matches they have. Thus, it’s a bit tricky but going over the lists, you can see who Meltzer picks as the worst wrestlers. Some are more obvious than others and again, it’s his own judgement at work. Still, here are the 20 worst major wrestlers as counted by the Observer and how it shows the way it’s shifted up the business over the years.
20 Jackie Gayda
When you take part in one of the worst matches in the history of RAW, that’s a clear sign you end up on the Observer Worst list. That infamous 2002 match of Nowinski and Jackie Gayda against JBL and Trish Stratus was the easy winner of Worst Match of the Year and still regarded as one of the worst women’s matches ever. Gayda was hot but more used because of her connection to rising star Charlie Haas. Yet any attempt to make her good in the ring was doomed to fail thanks to her lack of talent. That was proven in that tag match as she botched the simplest moves, her timing horrible and Jim Ross openly apologizing to the fans for what they were seeing. It’s an epic match in terms of sheer awfulness and nothing else she did was that better so her ranking among the worst the Observer has ever seen is assured.
“Blood Runs Cold.” Anyone watching 1995 will remember those promos, promising a brand new major star. The videos showed a guy obviously based on Sub-Zero from the “Mortal Kombat” video games as he did some cool kung fu moves. When he finally debuted, it became clear he had absolutely no real wrestling talent. His entrance with blue lights and such was cool but in the ring, Glacier was totally overmatched and didn't take off with fans. He went from a cool mid-card act to jobber in little time.
He was really one of the last gasps of the cartoonish early 1990s for WCW and as the company embraced a new edge, he was lost amid the rush. Pretty much every one of his matches was listed near the dud range and thus Glacier was ice cold by the standards of the Observer.
18 Los Villanos
Only a few bouts have achieved that epic feat of getting a minus five star rating from the Observer. Thus, whoever does it has to be ranked among their worst wrestlers. Originally a groundbreaking luchadore, the mask has been worn by many others and spread out to no less than four other Villanos. Indeed, Chris Jericho once nicely mocked how “he represents Villanos II through 64.” At 2015’s Triplemania, three Villanos took on Los Psycho Circus and the result was one of the most atrocious bouts ever seen in Mexico. The mix was horrible, moves all over the place, no flow and the audience was baffled at what they were seeing. The Villanos themselves haven’t exactly won favor in their usual work but taking part in this horrific match was enough to land on this list.
17 The Boogeyman
The Boogeyman is a bit of an odd duck with fans. His in-ring work was pretty terrible and his act was a little over the top. The idea was he was from some horror show, had an accident and came to believe he was that morbid character. His first appearances were scaring people and doing nutty rhymes before his matches which were notable for him eating worms. It was terrible but to his credit, Marty Wright did such a great job playing the character that you got sucked into it.
That led to an odd following, but the Observer was not among them. The character was slammed as one of the worst around, his matches were ranked duds and rarely seen as a positive. Granted, his bad ring work was obvious but the way he pulled the entire character off was impressive to deserve more consideration.
16 Uncle Elmer
Stanley Frazier spent years bouncing around with one rough gimmick after another. Usually, he was pushed for his giant size and huge gut, a monster type but not that notable. In WWE, he was Uncle Elmer, the “uncle” of Hillbilly Jim and thus had a country boy motif. WWE had fun with him at times, including his wedding on Saturday Night’s Main Event and going around with a huge bucket of chicken he’d eat out of. His high point was facing Adrian Adonis at WrestleMania II and a few other notable bouts.
But with his oversized frame and lack of real ability, Elmer didn’t do great and was soon fading fast. Meltzer growled at any match involving him and slammed him majorly as one of the worst wastes of huge talent around. Elmer didn’t last too long afterward but that was far more than the Observer could take.
15 Mike Von Erich
If it was up to him, Mike would never have gotten into wrestling. He was interested in the business but in a backstage role, knowing he didn’t match his brothers in terms of actual in-ring ability. But father Fritz insisted on pushing him as a worker despite his lack of an athletic physique and subpar skills. The result was Mike being pushed over others and clearly in over his head. His matches were bad already, but worse when he had his bout of toxic shock syndrome that nearly killed him.
The Observer tore into World Class and Fritz for pushing him as “A Living Miracle” when this man clearly was in no condition to be near a ring again. The result was a terrible push that ended with Mike taking his life in 1987. That might make him more tragic than horrible but he was still the winner of Worst Wrestler for his debut year and a guy who would have been far better off never getting into the ring.
14 The Bushwackers
It’s worth tracking down the Sheepherders in their late-‘80s prime and seeing two fantastic heels who engaged in matches so bloody, it would make an ECW fan wince. They tore up the place so when WWE hired them, you’d figure they’d be pushed as monsters. But when they joined WWE, they were transformed into a pair of goofballs who would lick the heads of fans and engaged in comedy antics.
That made them popular but not with the Observer who listed them the Worst Tag Team of 1992 and ’94 and pretty much any match with them was bad. That included their Heroes of Wrestling bout with The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff that earned the fabled minus-five star ranking from Meltzer. Meltzer’s main annoyance was how they changed from a truly great pair of ass-kickers to a lame comedy act and it marred their reputation to turn into one of the worst teams around.
13 The Iron Sheik
The Sheik was a good worker in his prime but it says a lot that his biggest claim to fame was losing the WWE title to Hulk Hogan. Aside from that, while he could work out a nice promo, the Sheik’s ring work relied on the same type of match and they were often short. His work was not well received by the Observer as his highest rated match was two stars for the WrestleMania II battle royal. His tag team work with Nikolai Volkoff was marred by various shortcomings and in 1999, the duo and the Bushwhackers engaged in their infamous minus five star match at the horrific “Heroes of Wrestling” PPV. Today, the Sheik is known for his truly nutso behavior with Twitter rants and various wild appearances. He was a top heel of his time and he's highly entertaining, but not a guy you’d count on for a great match.
12 Nathan Jones
Historically, Jones is important as he was the final ever “winner” of Worst Wrestler of the Year. With an imposing build and terrific look, Jones seemed impressive as he was set up in WWE as a sort of Hannibal Lecter type. That was changed to him now working with The Undertaker as an ally. After time in OVW, Jones was changed again to the bodyguard for Paul Heyman, a tough guy and decent worker but nothing special. Indeed, he was booked to look like a massive loser against Brock Lesnar, Undertaker and others and he was so annoyed at WWE’s schedule and that they wouldn't push him, so much that he left during a tour. That might make him an odd choice but his lack of any decent matches means his term in WWE was short but nasty to earn him this “honor” fully.
Frankly, the Observer had a lot more fun raking Sid over the coals for his out-of-the-ring behavior than anything he did in the ring. Granted, he was an imposing presence, obviously having the right look. But between his botching of moves and insane promos, Sid was no favorite of critics. Worse was his attitude, clashing with everyone, acting like a mega-star and tossing his weight around. His battle with the Nightstalker was the Worst Match of 1990 and any bout with him was guaranteed to be rated low on the star chart (including minus ratings a couple of times).
Sid was also involved in epic clashes including his infamous brawl with Arn Anderson and least improved for his work in WWE and later in WCW. His career ended with breaking his leg in the ring during one of the final WCW PPVs.
Dustin Rhodes was great in WCW and could deliver some fine matches. He did some fine work as tag team and US champion and he was a much better in-ring worker than father Dusty. But Meltzer had serious issues with the Goldust gimmick. If anything, that was ahead of its time with its work, pushing the envelope. But Meltzer truly hated it and lambasted it, naming it the Worst Gimmick of 1995 and very rarely did any Goldust match get a positive star rating.
He also slammed the “New Goldust” act of 1998 as among the worst of that year and trashed his work. Rhodes got another shot at “Worst Gimmick” for his time in TNA as Black Reign and even his brief run in a non-costumed persona was trashed. Despite how he was a much better in-ring performer than his dad, Dustin couldn’t escape being slammed by the Observer for his Goldust act.
9 The Great Khali
High on the lists of the worst workers ever, Khali looked imposing to be sure with his fantastic size and tough-looking face. Then he began to wrestle. He was so slow and plodding that he made Giant Gonzales look like a luchadore. Khali easily won the Worst Gimmick of 2008 award. That he got a World title run is astounding as nothing about him spoke out to fans who booed wildly, even when he was tried out as a face. None of his matches were ranked higher than two stars, most far below it and the less said of horrible stuff like the Punjabi Prison Match, the better.
He didn’t land on as many “worst” lists as could be expected but the sheer lack of stars for his career are a key reason Khali ranks high on the list of Observer’s least favorite workers.
8 Doink The Clown
The original Doink was a great creation as Matt Bourne had fun playing a dark and evil clown. But when he left WWE, the role was given to others and transformed into a goofball comedic bit that ruined it. Doink was soon involved in 1994’s Worst Feud with him and Jerry Lawler that dragged around and did horrible business. That also included the Survivor Series match of each being surrounded by little guys going at it that was not only Worst Match of that year but the rare minus five star rating from Meltzer. He also called it one of the worst gimmicks ever.
Doink was nothing more than a joke in WWE to the point by 1996, fans were chanting “Kill the Clown” but Meltzer never got into it at all and thus found nothing to laugh at regarding the man’s in-ring work.
7 Hulk Hogan
It’s no secret Meltzer took a dim view of Hulk Hogan. That was mostly as he was a Ric Flair fanboy and thought it was unfair that Hogan got all the attention while Flair was giving three or four star matches every night. Hogan was named “Reader’s Least Favorite Wrestler” nine times including an impressive seven in a row. He was also given “Most Unimproved” for his first two years in WCW and Most Overrated for almost his entire tenure there, five years in a row (he was also named that twice more in the mid-80s).
He finally nabbed the Worst Wrestler award in 1997 for his time in WCW basically waiting for Sting. Also, Hogan’s match with Roddy Piper was the rated the worst of 1997 while his rematch with the Warrior was the worst of ’98. Meltzer even dared cite Hogan-Andre at Mania III as the Worst Match of 1987, showing that he never liked Hogan at any point and cited him as an embarrassment to wrestling.
6 The Ultimate Warrior
It should be no shock the Warrior was often listed among the worst around. With his cartoonish mannerisms, insane interviews and ability to get blown up fast, Warrior wasn’t quite what one would call a great worker by any means. So he was soon listed among the worst feuds around and it’s nearly impossible to find a match he was in that was higher than two stars (the biggest deviation being WrestleMania VI at three and a half but that was more due to Pat Patterson’s booking).
The Warrior was part of Worst Feud and Match in 1989 with Andre the Giant and also easily won Worst Wrestler in 1998 for his infamously terrible WCW run. He was also the pick for Most Overrated three years in a row. Unlike many, the Warrior’s death in 2014 hasn’t softened Meltzer’s view as he still holds him up as one of the worst major stars ever and any match with him was among his most painful to sit through.
5 Loch Ness
Martin Austin Ruane was known as one of the biggest men wrestling has ever seen. A huge figure, he stood six feet tall and topped the scales at nearly 700 pounds. As Giant Haystacks, he was a big star in England, mostly due to his spectacle of size than anything he really did in the ring. In 1996, he moved to WCW where he was named Loch Ness and a member of the Dungeon of Doom. The infamous stable of freaks were going after Hulk Hogan and on paper Loch Ness facing him looked to be a huge threat. However, because of his size, Ness was barely mobile, staggering about and barely able to make his blows look effective enough to be truly painful. He was the easy winner of Worst Wrestler of 1996 and his participation in WCW’s worst ever stable was more than enough to get him among the worst ever.
4 Andre the Giant
Andre may have been an iconic figure but he also ranks as a guy who ended up on the Observer’s “Worst of” lists quite a lot. The Observer rocked many by naming the epic Hogan/Andre WrestleMania III match Worst Match of 1987 which most thought was just Meltzer trolling for attention. Plus, a house show of Andre vs Ultimate Warrior was the worst of 1989. He twice won Worst Feud (once again Big John Studd and the other against Warrior as well as Worst Wrestler of 1989, ’91 and ’92. Plus, he and Giant Baba were named Worst Tag Team two years in a row.
Granted, at this point, Andre was pondering, slow and basically a total physical wreck. But it’s still amazing just how high he ranked among Meltzer’s least liked guys. That Dave could be so brutal on Andre right up to his death in 1993 was seen as somewhat cruel and most think some personal reasons are why Andre was ranked among the worst.
3 Dave Sullivan
The back-to-back winner of Worst Wrestler of the Year, Sullivan started off in the indies with a variety of gimmicks such as Captain Ron and America Hawkwind. In WCW, he was the Equalizer, the bodyguard to Rick Rude and teamed with him and Paul Orndorff to show little actual talent. The next year, he was remade as Dave Sullivan, Kevin Sullivan’s brother whose name was actually Evad but answered to Dave because he was dyslexic. Yep, it’s as bad as it sound and no wonder it was named Worst Gimmick of 1994. He was also presented as the world’s biggest Hulkamaniac, dressing like Hogan and helping him out. This led to a horrendous feud that did no favors to either man. Dave would slump in the ranks later on and best remembered for two years of being named the worst guy in the business.
2 The Renegade
If The Ultimate Warrior was bad, should it be a surprise his lame knock-off could be worse? The landslide winner of Worst Wrestler of 1995, the Renegade is still remembered as one of the biggest rip-offs ever. When WCW couldn’t get the real Warrior, they moved to Rick Wilson, a guy who was given the same hair, makeup and outfits as the Warrior. He was worse in the ring with none of the charisma to cover for it and while he got a run as TV champion, the fans revolted against him.
The guy just couldn’t handle it; not the pressure or the work and thus was soon on the downside of the card. Wilson would have a sad fall, as he took his own life shortly after WCW released him.
1 Junkyard Dog
A book on his life makes it abundantly clear that JYD was never a good worker. He was rough, got blown up easily and Bill Watts had to make sure to put him in squash matches. Dog’s fantastic charisma and promo work won over the crowds to make him a huge hit. Yet he was also involved in very bad stuff as despite great angles (“blinded” by the Freebirds), you can’t really point to a great match with him.
It got worse as he joined WWE and increased in weight while decreasing in talent. His match with Moondog Spot at the Wrestling Classic was picked as one of the worst of 1985. Also, JYD himself was named Worst Wrestlers of 1987 and 1990, his partnership with George Steele was the worst tag team of 1986 and his program with Ric Flair was the Worst Feud of 1990. While JYD was a major star in his time, he ranked among the worst workers Meltzer ever saw.