Sports fans love to compare different athletes from different eras, even though much of it is subjective. The era of Wilt Chamberlain was very different from Michael Jordan’s era. Wayne Gretzky’s numbers are far more impressive than Sidney Crosby’s, but what could Crosby have done in the high-scoring NHL of the 1980s? And with soccer/football, you have different leagues around the world, in addition to different eras, that make it impossible to conclusively say Pele was better than Maradona, or vice versa, or maybe Messi or Ronaldo should get the accolade as “best ever”. It’s a subjective decision, and we all know that. But at least there are objective numbers involved.
With pro wrestling however, there is very little objective data. How does one decide who is the best wrestler of a year? Should they be graded on how many tickets they sell, or how many stars Wrestling Observer writer Dave Meltzer gives their matches? But more importantly, how do we rate the worst wrestler? Because, let’s be honest, that’s way more fun. This list looked at a number of metrics. It’s not simply who has the worst reputation as an in-ring worker. If so, Hulk Hogan could have won every year, but it would be snarky to award wrestling’s biggest mainstream star the “worst wrestler” tag. At least, it would be to do so every year. Instead, this list looks at in-ring incompetence, damage done to business, and inability to fulfill key roles as the main pillars of what makes “the worst wrestler” for every year from 1980 to the present.
38 1980 - Verne Gagne
We begin with a hot take! For modern day fans who are unfamiliar with the name “Verne Gagne”, he was one of the top wrestlers from the late 1950’s through to the ‘70’s, every bit the equal of Lou Thesz and Pat O’Connor. Which is to say, he was a very good old school technical wrestler. He held a World Title for more days in his life than any other wrestler (depending on which titles and reigns you count.) He was also the owner and booker of the American Wrestling Association (AWA), the major territory in the mid-west. However, Gagne was not always the best booker.
And by 1980, at age 54, he was no longer a great wrestler. Yet he still put the AWA title on himself...and then he retired as champion! It was conceitedness and lack of self-awareness such as this, as well as refusing to put the title on his promotion’s biggest draw a few years later --Hulk Hogan-- because he wasn’t a technical wrestler, that helped lead to the downfall of the AWA. And it made Gagne the worst wrestler of 1980.
37 1981 - Tommy Rich
Tommy Rich was a decent worker, so it seems a bit harsh to name him the worst wrestler of 1981. But he’s on this list because he was nowhere near appropriate for the role that was foisted upon him - National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) Champion. Tommy Rich was a pretty big star in the NWA’s Georgia territory, Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW), and he ended up with the NWA title largely because of backstage politics. Harley Race, the man whom Rich beat --and then lost the title to four days later-- has stated that the title switch has part of a power struggle involving GCW promoter Jim Barnett. Rich was a fine performer, but he was not championship caliber.
He remained a star in Georgia, but after GCW shut down in 1984, Rich was largely seen as a joke; the plucky underdog who once, bafflingly, was the NWA Champion. His reign was symptomatic of the type of the political problems of the NWA that were not present in the Vince McMahon-run WWE.
36 1982 - Superstar Billy Graham
While Vince and the WWE had some advantages over the NWA, in-ring work was definitely not one of them. This was the year that Vince McMahon Jr. bought the company from his father, Vince Sr. And Jr. endeavored to change the WWE from a Northeast based territory to a national promotion, focusing not on wrestling but larger-than-life, cartoonish characters. One of the more colorful characters of Vince Sr.’s time was Superstar Billy Graham, whose flashy talk and steroid fueled body (he has admitted to it) influenced everybody from Dusty Rhodes, to Hulk Hogan, to Jesse Ventura, to Chael Sonnen. But he left in 1978 after Vince Sr. took the title off him and put it on Bob Backlund, to whom he had promised the belt a year earlier.
But 1982 saw Graham’s return to the WWE. Maybe he was bitter. Maybe he was just older. Maybe he got some bad advice, but the Billy Graham that came back was a far cry from 1977-78 version. While never a great worker, Graham’s character now sucked, too. He shaved his head (okay, he was balding), and adopted a bizarre karate gimmick, despite having no martial arts training. It was bad. Really bad.
35 1983 - Ivan Putski
A famous rival of Billy Graham’s was Ivan Putski. Nicknamed “the Polish Hammer”, Putski was also a strongman and bodybuilder. And he had the classic physique of a man who was not adverse to enhancing his body by artificial methods. And, like most muscle guys, Putski’s work rate left much to be desired. And by 1983, the 42-year old Putski, while still maintaining big arms and pectorals, was decidedly less concerned with his abdomen. The paunchy Polish strongman was incredibly limited in the ring and, and while still carrying a certain charisma, it was clear to everybody that he could not hang with the new wrestlers Vince Jr. was importing for his national assault. Putski was just too immobile to do much of anything by this point.
34 1984 - The Fabulous Moolah
A similarly elder statesperson in the WWE locker room at the beginning of Vince’s national expansion was the Fabulous Moolah. Except Moolah stuck around. Moolah’s feud with Wendi Richter was arguably the key feud that launched the “rock and wrestling connection”. The feud involved Captain Lou Albano and superstar singer Cyndi Lauper and the two main evented The Brawl to End it All live on MTV, in which Richter took the title from Moolah. The key thing to note here is that Moolah was 61 at the time; 61! She began wrestling in 1949!
The reason she was there was because Vince Jr. wanted to start a women’s decision and Moolah owned the rights to an old women’s belt. So Vince bought it from her and promoted her as a 28-year champion. It is most peculiar that a 61-year old woman helped the WWE brand themselves as hip and young. But Moolah was neither hip, nor young, nor a good wrestler.
33 1985 - Uncle Elmer
Uncle Elmer is probably best remembered for getting legitimately married to Joyce Stazko on the second episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event. Elmer was part of the Hillbillies stable centered around Hillbilly Jim and was a focused upon character throughout 1985. This despite the fact that he wasn’t a good actor and an even worse wrestler. Elmer was billed at 6 ft 10 and 420 lbs, and even though those were pro wrestling numbers, he was still a really big guy. What’s more, he turned 47 in 1985. Quite why Vince decided to make this guy a key character on his television is a mystery. Perhaps Vince just needed somebody who was willing to get married on live television and was willing to let Roddy Piper insult him during said wedding.
32 1986 - Adrian Adonis
Elmer’s opponent at WrestleMania 2 was Adrian Adonis. Adonis had been wrestling for 12 years by this point but was only 32 years old. For most of his career, he was a competent wrestler, but by ‘86 he had completely let his body go. To be fair to Adonis, he kind of made it work for him. When he first came to WWE in the early 1980s, he was still in decent shape and won the tag titles with Dick Murdoch as the North-South connection, But he gradually stopped working out, seemingly, and as he became fat, he adopted a fay, effeminate, self-obsessed gimmick. The gimmick got over, but the problem was, he would eventually have to wrestle. His striking and cardio were both awful. If you haven’t seen it, you can imagine the quality of his match with Elmer. Not good.
It should be mentioned that Adonis had some health issues by this point and would die two years later, after his release from WWE in an unrelated vehicular collision in Newfoundland.
31 1987 - Ron Garvin
The past several years have been dominated by horrible WWE wrestlers because, as mentioned earlier, the WWE was less focused on in-ring work than other promotions. What’s often forgotten is that during the mid-1980s Jim Crockett Promotions’ (JCP) mid-Atlantic NWA territory was an equal rival to the WWE. But that all started to fall apart in 1987. Dusty Rhodes’s style of booking (ie: the ‘Dusty Finish’ and bloody matches) was starting to wear thin with fans and network executives alike. They also held Starrcade ‘87 in Chicago instead of the traditional Greensboro and the Greensboro fans never forgave them.
But perhaps the biggest misstep of all was putting the NWA title on ‘Rugged’ Ronnie Garvin. Dusty wanted Flair to win the NWA title at Starrcade, despite Flair already being the champ. But no marquee wrestlers were willing to have a two-month run as champ. So the title was put on 42-year old Ron Garvin. Garvin was OK in the ring, but because he became symbolic for JCP’s demise, he gets the worst wrestler of ‘87 nod.
30 1988 - The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior was one of the most popular WWE characters of the late 1980's and early 1990's. He was a main eventer and a made a lot of money. He was also a terrible wrestler. He would get slightly better than he was in 1988, mind you...but not much better. ‘88 was the Warrior’s first full year in the WWE and it also marked his first championship: he won the Intercontinental Title from the Honky Tonk Man in a matter of seconds at SummerSlam 1988. Why was it a squash match? To emphasize Warrior’s amazing strength? Not so much. The truth is, the Honky Tonk Man didn’t trust Warrior and didn’t want to work a prolonged match with him for fear of getting hurt. And Vince put a title on this guy!
The most athletic thing Warrior would do was run to the ring, after which he was “blown up” (out of breath) for the whole match. He was also a headache to deal with, as we’ll see later.
29 1989 - André the Giant
André the Giant was a tough call. On the one hand, he could have been the worst wrestler for multiple years. On the other hand, it wasn’t really his fault. His acromegaly had really caught up with him and by his 40’s he had become too big to wrestle or even live comfortably. Yet he continued to wrestle. Whether he did this out of loyalty to Vince or just because wrestling was all he knew is unclear. Though in 1991 & ‘92 he wrestled almost exclusively for All Japan Pro Wrestling and his WWE schedule was reduced in 1990. So 1989 seems appropriate.
André’s feud with Hogan was over by now and pretty much all he did was stand on the apron while Haku worked their tag matches as the Colossal Connection. André was just too immobile to do anything beyond a headbutt and it was mostly just sad to watch. He would die just a few short years later.
28 1990 - Sid Vicious
André was a giant in his 40s and had decades of bumps wearing him down. What was Sid’s excuse? Sid Vicious was never a good wrestler, though he would go on to have good matches in his career, mostly with Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart (the ‘Kevin Nash Special’). But if you thought Sid was bad in the mid-to-late 90’s, watch some of his early work. You can’t imagine how slow and immobile he was. It honestly looked like your TV was stuck on slow motion, but it only affected Sid. It says a lot about Sid that during his time in The Skyscrapers, Dan Spivey had to be the workhorse. Worst of all, WCW was building around Sid. They saw Sid, Sting, and Lex Luger as their go to guys for the coming decade. Well, I guess Sting worked OK, right?
Any thoughts of making Sid a top guy should have been abandoned after his Clash of the Champions match in November of 1990 against the Nightstalker (Bryan Clark), truly one of the worst professional wrestling matches of all time.
27 1991 - Junkyard Dog
Like Sid, Junkyard Dog always got over with his charisma. While Sid’s charisma was more physical, JYD was an extremely likable and charming man. But he was never a good wrestler. And by 1991, he was coasting. JYD was a rare black top babyface in the Mid-South promotion in the early 1980s before moving to the WWE. While very popular in the WWE, JYD was always firmly behind Hulk Hogan, and sometimes others, in the babyface rankings. He is also believed to have got into some bad habits with regards to substance abuse. His physique deteriorated and after he left for WCW, he really began to phone it in. By 1991, JYD was just an out of shape old timer resting on his laurels and taking up screen time from younger, hungrier wrestlers.
26 1992 - The Ultimate Warrior
We discussed Warrior’s in-ring limitations in 1988. Since then, he managed to have good matches with Rick Rude, Randy Savage, and, surprisingly, Hulk Hogan. Warrior left the WWE after a disagreement with Vince McMahon over his SummerSlam ‘91 pay. Vince brought him back at WrestleMania VIII. What followed was a bizarre feud with Papa Shango and some awful matches with Sid. Warrior would leave the company that very autumn. He was fired for using steroids, on which the WWE was cracking down due to an investigation and upcoming legal battle.
Warrior’s dismissal jeopardized the primary promoted match for Survivor Series with Mr. Perfect being drafted in his place to team with Savage against Ric Flair and Razor Ramon. He was only there for seven months, but Warrior’s in-ring ineptitude and backstage problems make him the worst wrestler of ‘92.
25 1993 - Giant González
An honorable mention goes to Fred Ottman’s Shockmaster character in WCW, but while that character (and debut) were notoriously awful, Ottman himself could at least, you know, move. Which is more than I can say for Giant González, for whom even the basic daily activities of life seemed a struggle, let alone professional wrestling. The former El Gigante debuted at Royal Rumble ‘93 and eliminated the Undertaker. He would go on to lose to Undertaker by disqualification at WrestleMania IX (Taker’s only DQ win in The Streak) in an abysmal match, before having another stinker with him at SummerSlam.
González only ever got into wrestling because, despite his massive height, he couldn’t hack it for the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA, so Hawks owner Ted Turner offered him a job in one of his other company’s: WCW. But by ‘93, González was in the WWE and arguably had a bigger spotlight on him than ever. But his immobility, his ridiculously basic move-set, and his ludicrous muscled body suit (replete with hairy shoulders) just made a mockery of the whole business. He would retire from wrestling soon after and move back to Argentina.
24 1994 - Brother Bruti
How has Ed Leslie avoided this list up until now? Pretty much every job he ever had in pro wrestling was because he was Hulk Hogan’s buddy. So when Hogan joined WCW, he brought over Leslie along with a cadre of his other buddy’s (Honky Tonk Man, Gene Okerlund, Jimmy Hart). The former Brutus Beefcake was rechristened “Brother Bruti” and kind of just stood around most of the year, which is just as well because he couldn’t really do much else. This was until he turned on Hogan, for basically no reason, and the two good buds got to main event Starrcade together; in theory, WCW’s biggest annual pay per view. The match was awful and was largely just a backdrop for a Hogan-Vader angle.
23 1995 - The Renegade
The Ultimate Warrior has already appeared on this list twice. So now I’d like you to imagine a poor man’s Warrior. What you get, is The Renegade. Leading up to Uncensored ‘95, Hulk Hogan and WCW were promoting “the Ultimate surprise” and showed the silhouette of a muscular man with tassels on his arms, trying to trick their audience into thinking that Warrior was coming. Instead it was a very green and very limited Rick Wilson as the Renegade. He went on a bit of a run and even won the Television Championship, but it quickly became apparent that he had neither the talent nor charisma for a main event push. Worse still, once WCW brass finally realized how dumb a gimmick this was, they lost interest in the Renegade. Wilson would hang around in the background of WCW for a few years before being released. He sadly killed himself in 1999.
22 1996 - Ahmed Johnson
This was a hotly contested year. We again had The Ultimate Warrior come back to the WWE for a brief failed run before no-showing events. And in WCW we had a 49-year old Giant Haystacks pathetically masquerading as Loch Ness. But we’ve seen Warrior already and Haystacks would be diagnosed with cancer that year, so let's have some compassion. But not for Ahmed Johnson. Most of the wrestlers on this list have been sloppy, old, or miscast. But Johnson was downright dangerous. And unlike a lot of these guys, he was not out of shape. Ahmed’s collection of bulging muscles was rivaled only by his collection of knee pads strewn about his massive legs. Vince must have loved his body, though, and gave Johnson the Intercontinental title, making him the first ever black IC champion. (In 1996. Yay wrestling.)
And what finisher did they give this dangerously powerful and uncoordinated man? The Pearl River Plunge (a sitout double underhook powerbomb). Not a good idea! In addition to not being able to work, Johnson couldn’t talk either. And I don’t mean he couldn’t cut promos, he literally couldn’t talk. It was as though he always had marbles in his mouth.
21 1997 - Hulk Hogan
Finally, the Hulkster makes it! Hogan has always been a bad wrestler, but he also had almost always been good for business. This was changing in 1995, so by ‘96 Hogan cleverly jumped on the nWo angle and turned himself heel. It worked great and did amazing business for WCW. That continued through 1997, WCW’s best year, financially. But it was also the beginning of the end. The nWo angle managed to stay hot through ‘97 despite retreading some awful Hogan-Piper matches. But a big part of this was ‘the Crow’ Sting, lurking in the rafters waiting to get his revenge on ‘Hollywood’ Hogan and the nWo.
That time came at Starrcade ‘97, WCW’s most anticipated Pay-Per-View (PPV) ever. And what happened? A garbage finish. Hogan pinned Sting with a fast count from Nick Patrick which wasn’t a fast count at all and then Bret Hart, fresh off the Montreal Screwjob, appeared and restarted the match, somehow, leading to Sting winning but the whole thing was a dusty finish. In 1997, Hogan’s politicking did some serious, and ultimately irreparable, damage to WCW.
20 1998 - Lex Luger
After the finish of Starrcade ‘97, it became clear to fans over the next year that they could watch old guys in WCW cling on to their top spots with bad booking, or they could watch new, younger stars in the WWE. WCW still did good business, mind you, and did still have cool wrestlers. Kevin Nash and Konan made the nWo Wolfpac seem cool. Lex Luger...did not. Luger has already been a runner up for most of the ‘90s on this list, but he finally made the top spot. As a steroid using bodybuilder, Luger was, as one might expect, never a good worker. Limited mobility and stamina kept him from having good matches for most of his career. And his exaggerated selling didn’t help matters. But seeing Luger trying to be a cool, hip dude in the Wolfpac was just too much. He was also struggling with substance abuse issues at this point and this did his work no favors.
19 1999 - Kevin Nash
While ‘Big Sexy’ did seem cool for most of the ‘90’s, by 1999, the bloom was off the rose. He began the year as WCW Champion (having just ended Goldberg’s streak via taser) but lost the title to Hogan on January 4 in the infamous “Fingerpoke of Doom” match. The match belittled the title and is widely seen as the point of no return for WCW. They were doomed after this. Oh, and Nash is the one who planned that spot, as he was the booker for WCW at the time.
With a billed height of 6’10, it would be unreasonable to expect Nash to have been a great worker. But he could have tried a little harder. He was slow, limited, and seemingly lazy. And this was also the year that he squashed Rey Mysterio and took his mask. Not only was Nash bad in ring, he did major damage to WCW outside of it.
18 2000 - Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan was only active in 2000 for a few months. But it was just enough for him to be the worst wrestler. His first major program was back in the red and yellow against Ric Flair in a pathetic attempt at nostalgia. The two fought at Uncensored in the infamous “Yapapi Indian strap match (Jack!)”. After Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff returned and formed the New Blood, Hogan adopted what seemed to be a biker gimmick and feuded with Billy Kidman. The feud was awful as Hogan dwarfed the much younger and more agile Kidman and repeatedly defeated him.
Then came Bash at the Beach, which saw Jeff Jarrett lay down for Hogan in their World Championship match. This lead to a scathing promo from Vince Russo and Hogan took the belt and went home. This was supposed to be a work, but Russo hurt poor Terry Bollea’s feelings (he mentioned that he was bald - OMG!) and the Hulkster never came back. That would be his last ever appearance in WCW.
17 2001 - KroniK
2001 is an interesting year because it’s the year that saw the WWE buy WCW and the ensuing Invasion angle essentially killed the massive popularity that professional wrestling had enjoyed over the previous few years. The business has never again reached such heights. Having said that, 2001 was arguably WWE’s strongest year in-ring. So it seems only fitting that the worst wrestlers of 2001 should be connected to the Invasion angle.
Brian Adams and Bryan Clark finally got over after a decade of various failed gimmicks with their KroniK team in 2000; two big dudes who squashed teams and made marijuana puns. They were brought into the WWE in September of that year when it was already clear the Invasion was failing miserably. They did not help. They only had one program -against the Brothers of Destruction-- and had one of the worst WWE PPV matches of all time against them at Unforgiven. Both ‘Taker and Kane were reportedly angry at KroniK’s sloppy performance and the two were quickly written off. Their time was brief but their mark was indelible; they sucked.
16 2002 - Jackie Gayda
The July 8, 2002 episode of Raw is infamous for having one of the contenders for “worst match in history”. It was a mixed-tag match: Bradshaw and Trish Stratus vs. Christopher Nowinski and Jackie Gayda. If you ever want to see a match fall completely off the rails, go look at it. Essentially, you have three competent wrestlers completely overwhelmed by Gayda’s total inability to do anything properly. It was one of Gayda’s first television matches. She got to the WWE via Tough Enough II, but she was nowhere ready to perform live on international television. Shortly after that disaster of a match, she was sent down to Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) for more training. She came back up in 2003, a little better, but not still not very good.
15 2003 - Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner was brought into the WWE in late 2002 and promptly swore on a live mic. But that would be the least of it. He was slotted as a top babyface and inserted into the World Heavyweight Championship program against champion Triple H. They made two big mistakes with Steiner. First, he was miscast as a babyface, let alone a top one. Second, Triple H and the agents expected him to work a WWE main event style, meaning long matches. The result was two of the worst, botch-laden championship matches in WWE PPV history.
After headlining against Hunter at the Royal Rumble and No Way Out, Steiner didn’t even make it on the card for WrestleMania XIX. He spent the rest of his time in WWE in the low-to-mid card and never achieved much. It’s hard to believe that this was the same guy who has having some of the greatest tag matches ever 10-13 years earlier.
14 2004 - Snitsky
At the end of WrestleMania XX, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit were the WWE and World Heavyweight champions, respectively. However, throughout 2004, WWE would make a shift from emphasizing their best in-ring workers, which they had done for the past several years, to highlighting big, muscle bound guys. Guys like Snitsky. What was worse than Snitsky’s wrestling, however, was his angle. His very first appearance on Raw saw him hit Kane on to Lita, causing Lita’s kayfabe miscarriage. That’s what we want out of our pro wrestling: miscarriages.
Apparently, Snitsky wasn’t meant to stay on the main roster after this, he was just there as an enhancement talent. But Vince and the writers liked his look and the potential storyline feud and booked him into a program with Kane. Now, Kane has had many good matches for a big man, but he needs the right opponent. Another big dude who is still very green is definitely not the right opponent. Snitsky and Kane had a horrible feud with some horrible matches.
13 2005 - Heidenreich
Another man very much in the same mold as Snitsky was Heidenreich. Billed at 6’8 and over 300 lbs, Heidenreich debuted in 2003 as a very green wrestler with a weird angle. He was quickly forgotten and taken off of television. He re-debuted in 2004, reciting weird poetry and feuding with the Undertaker. This was a period in the aughts that saw the WWE booking the Undertaker much as they had for much of the ‘90’s: against big, scary dudes who couldn’t work.
In early 2005, Heidenreich even teamed with Snitsky in what was meant to culminate in a WrestleMania 21 match against Undertaker and Kane. Thankfully, common sense prevailed and the WWE realized that that much would be a heinous crime of horrible wrestling and instead booked ‘Taker against Randy Orton. Heidenreich would later turn face and team with a returning Road Warrior Animal in a new version of the Legion of Doom. This only lasted a short while and Heidenreich was released in early 2006.
12 2006 - The Boogeyman
I don’t think this period of WWE’s history gets enough criticism. The mid-aughts saw the WWE employing the cartoonish characters of the early-mid 90’s with all the crudeness and vulgarity of the late ‘90’s - but with none of the edginess. Just lame attempts to re-live the Attitude Era with half-baked storylines and character ideas. Take the Boogeyman. This second-rate Papa Shango was awful in every respect. First, he was green, but he wasn’t young (over 40), so there wasn’t much upside to him. He couldn’t really work in the ring and his gimmick was lame and lacked subtlety. He was actually called “the Boogeyman” for pete’s sake! In 2006, he was involved in an awful and disgusting feud with JBL which saw him bite off Jillian Hall’s “mole”. Later that year, he was released and re-signed in a matter of weeks in a bizarre turn of events. They should have just let him stay away.
11 2007 - The Great Khali
If you had one word to describe the Great Khali, it would be “big”. If you had a second word it would be, “immobile”. Khali debuted in 2006 and was instantly put into a program with the Undertaker. While the matches were bad, Khali was booked strong, and he avoided the awful inaugural Punjabi Prison match due to elevated liver enzymes. But he couldn’t avoid the second Punjabi Prison in 2007, this time it was him against Batista. While it’s a dumb concept and awkward structure, the match itself wasn’t awful (Big Dave had his working boots on that night).
But Khali gets to be named the worst of 2008 because they actually put the World title on him. Granted, he only got it because an injury to Edge caused them to reshuffle, but still. To see a man who literally only had two moves --a chop and a tree slam-- get the title was to besmirch the title (at least, Big Dave certainly thought so).
10 2008 - Vladimir Kozlov
Vladimir Kozlov made his in-ring debut in WWE in the spring of 2008. He won a bunch of jobber matches. These were OK, but when Kozlov started to wrestle longer matches, he was exposed. He had a very limited move set, he moved awkwardly and slowly, and he could be sloppy. Still, they pushed him as undefeated. This is a gimmick that usually gets over --big guy beats up everybody-- but Kozlov’s lack of charisma and a similar push given to the similarly dreadful Mike Knox, hurt Kozlov. As did the size of other wrestlers, such as Khali, Big Show, etc. Sure, Kozlov is a big dude, but in the WWE? In a land of giants, nobody really stands out. And the only thing Kozlov stood out for was his bad wrestling.
He received a WWE title shot at Survivor Series against Jeff Hardy and champion Triple H. But Hardy was removed due to a storyline injury and Edge would swoop in near the end of the match in his place and win the title. But the first part of the match was just Kozlov and Hunter, and it was just awful.
9 2009 - Kelly Kelly
There is no better answer to the question, “Why did the WWE need a ‘divas revolution’?” than, “Kelly Kelly”. This was a time period when the women’s roster consisted almost entirely of models that John Laurinaitis hired. And while some models would develop into great workers (Trish Stratus, Victoria), many would not. By 2009, Kelly Kelly had been on the roster for over two years, but she still looked greener than goose poop. She couldn’t talk on the mic, she wasn’t strong in ring, her selling was terrible, and she seemed terrified of the ropes. Never has there been a professional wrestler --somebody whose actual job it is to wrestle-- who has ran the ropes as terribly as Kelly Kelly did. She would run into those ropes so gingerly that she looked more like a kid just trying it out.
8 2010 - The Great Khali
After his heel run had fizzled out, the Great Khali adopted a “Punjabi Playboy” persona and turned face. This was fun for a while (and he had great music) but by 2010, this too had worn thin. And Khali had become even less mobile than when he debuted. In 2010, he also took some time off to film movies and they should have just let him leave permanently. While he had some decent matches in the past, nothing he did by this time looked good. And it seemed maybe his mind was going, too. Why? Well, there was that time that eliminated himself in a battle royal by absentmindedly walking over the top rope and dropping to the floor, confusing his opponent (Edge) and the referee while Michael Cole had to point out the idiocy just displayed.
7 2011 - Crimson
Remember Crimson? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Bereft of ideas (as TNA writers usually were) they decided to try to recreate the magic they had had with Samoa Joe and his undefeated streak. Now, undefeated streaks can lead to big money. But you can’t do them too often and you have to choose the right guy. Crimson was not the right guy. He had wrestled on the independent scene for a few years before debuting in TNA in late 2010. Crimson was tall and muscular, but not significantly so for a pro wrestler. He couldn’t really talk and unlike guys like Goldberg and Joe, he had no physical charisma. No babyface fire. He was just kind of there. And yet, every week TNA shoved him down the fans’ throats with this undefeated gimmick.
They pushed him all throughout 2011, but realized they couldn’t put him in a title program, yet they still didn’t want to beat him, so they wrote him off for a while with a storyline injury. Crimson’s undefeated streak would end the next year against James Storm with a whimper.
6 2012 - Kelly Kelly
How was Kelly Kelly still with the company? And how had she still not improved? The worst thing was the WWE actually put the title on her in 2011. This was truly a nadir for the women’s division in the WWE. Kelly Kelly was with the WWE from 2006-2012 and in all that time she showed no significant improvement. She still ran the ropes like was afraid of them, she still couldn’t sell anything convincingly, and her offense still looked weak and contrived. Whether pro wrestling was just not for her or she just never really put in the effort, I don’t know. But that the WWE stuck with her for so long showed a real lack of judgement. Despite wrestling in the top company for six years, Kelly Kelly never looked like a real wrestler.
5 2013 - The Miz
By 2013, The Miz was two years removed from his WWE Championship reign and winning the main event of WrestleMania XXVII. But that ‘Mania feud against Cena was overshadowed by The Rock, and though Miz stayed relatively hot for a few months after, by the beginning of 2012 he was lost. And it just got worse. In 2013, the Miz turned face, which just doesn’t work. The Miz is a natural heel. But to make things worse, he was paired with Ric Flair and Flair bestowed upon Miz the Figure Four Leglock. What? At his best, The Miz is decent in the ring, but he’s not an outstanding worker. And with a cold character, giving him Flair’s move just seemed like an insult to Flair, the fans, and all of wrestling history.
The Miz would continue to flounder for years until an inspired rant out of nowhere on Talking Smack in 2016, along with being paired with his wife, Maryse, would reignite his character.
4 2014 - Brie Bella
In 2014, WWE fans wanted one thing and one thing only - Daniel Bryan. But sadly, Bryan got injured shortly after winning the WWE title at WrestleMania XXX and had to vacate it and leave television. To keep the Authority vs. Bryan storyline going, they subbed in Bryan’s wife, Brie Bella. Brie was never a good worker, but for most of her time in WWE, only a couple women were. But now she was trying to imitate some of Bryan’s moves and it just looked pathetic. Worse still, the women’s roster around Brie was improving, including her twin sister Nikki, so Brie stuck out like a sore thumb. Watching her do those Daniel Bryan kicks was one of the most unnatural sights ever. Maybe Brie just wasn’t meant to wrestle.
3 2015 - Eva Marie
As bad as Brie Bella was, she was still streets ahead of Eva Marie. Eva Marie was a professional wrestler in name only. What she did in the ring barely even resembled pro wrestling. After a calamitous few matches on the main roster and rupturing her breast implants in 2014, Marie was sent down to NXT for more training. The WWE even took the unprecedented route of sending Marie to train one-on-one with Brian Kendrick. After some social media posts showing her executing some moves with Kendrick, hopes were high that she could, you know, actually wrestle. Nope. Her ring work in NXT was as awful as ever. Slow, ginger, awkward, and unconvincing, Marie always looked out of place in the ring. To her credit, though, she did manage to get major heat from NXT crowds. Perhaps she would have been better as a manager. But she seems to have left wrestling now, and that’s probably for the best.
2 2016 - Ho Ho Lun
It seems unfair to name Ho Ho Lun as the worst wrestler of 2016 seeing as how he only wrestled a few matches. But he was so bad. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such a gulf in class as there existed between Lun and the rest of the Cruiser Weight Classic (CWC) roster. What’s worse is that Lun actually won his first round match against Ariya Davari before being eliminated in the second round by Noam Dar. Lun would go on to wrestle in NXT and 205 Live.
Lun was only hired because he founded the Hong Kong Pro-Wrestling Federation. He was, essentially, a backyard wrestler. The WWE wants to make inroads in China, so they hired Lun. But Lun just looks like a fan got in the ring. He doesn’t appear to even workout, he has no idea how to play to the crowd, and his “shining wizard” consists of him awkwardly stepping over his seated opponent, barely grazing him. Lun just looked completely out of his depth.
1 2017 - Jinder Mahal
And we end with “The Modern Day Maharaja” Jinder Mahal. The current WWE Champion. If you told anybody a year ago, or even just four months ago, that Jinder Mahal would be the WWE Champion, they’d laugh in your face. Seemingly, earlier this year somebody told Vince McMahon that there is a country called India with over a billion people and that if they had an Indian star they could make a lot of money. And then, presumably, Vince tried to call up Tatanka before being told that they needed a different kind of Indian. So, they pushed their one Indian wrestler (actually a Canadian) to the moon. Jinder is not great on the mic, he has a lame and stereotypical anti-American character, and his move set his incredibly basic. He does look great, however. Mahal either does truly diet and exercise harder than anybody else in the world, or we might hear about a failed wellness test soon.
But 2017 is not yet over; maybe Mahal will grow into the role. But as he is now, he is a horrible choice for WWE Champion.