The year 1990 was a much different time for WWE. They were riding high but still had competition from WCW, NWA and various indies. Bigger-than-life cartoon characters dominated like Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior and more; there were only four PPVs a year; and Vince pretended he was just an announcer. As things changed, WWE had to shift with them, the New Generation giving way to the Attitude Era than other times. Every year is marked by a great star but also a terrible one, one so bad that he (or she) dominates as atrocious. It’s remarkable to look back and see it and through it, an evolution of WWE.
Sometimes, it’s more the character than the guy himself that gets it badly. Other times, it’s a once-great worker who’s fallen hard while in other cases, someone never that talented to begin with. Maybe in a different time, they’d have worked better but in this particular year, they were absolutely horrible. There are a lot of choices but some just stand taller than others. Here is the worst wrestler WWE had to offer every year since 1990 and show that, no matter how the company changes, you can never get rid of one huge annual dud.
28. Saba Simba (1990)
Tony Atlas was once a good worker for WWE, and a tag team champion with Rocky Johnson. He had a great build, a good strong worker and there were plans for him to have a run as IC champion to bring in minority audiences. But Atlas left under a cloud involving drug use and Vince wasn’t happy.
When Atlas returned in 1990, he was given a harsh punishment by coming out as Saba Simba, complete with bare feet, headdress, shield and spear. The idea was Atlas had “found his roots” during a trip to Africa but it was as insulting a character as one could imagine. Atlas was okay but clearly hated the entire act and was not passionate so his matches were a mess. He was gone by early 1991 and ranks as one of the worst acts put on a decent human being.
27. The Mountie (1991)
Jacques Rougeau was actually a good worker teamed with his brother Raymond in a top tag team. However, some steroid use and other issues bulked him up and ruined some of his appeal. In 1991, he was repackaged as the Mountie, the idea of him a harsh officer for the RCMP, complete in the outfit. Since Canadians aren’t exactly known for vicious ways, the act didn’t exactly instill intimidation in fans. His ring work was very rough, a lot more brawling, not the top-level athlete he used to be and the “shock stick” bit was dumb. He had a feud with The Big Bossman highlighted by The Mountie losing a SummerSlam match and sent to jail for a night but otherwise, not much to make him a huge deal.
26. Nailz (1992)
Terrible on many levels. Kevin Wacholz was brought in on the idea he was Nailz, a former convict at the prison the Big Bossman worked at and wanted revenge. A big and burly man, he was brought in for various matches that were slow and ugly to watch. The guy really wasn’t any great shakes in the ring, his bouts just brawls and fans not taking to him very well. Yet the man was convinced he deserved a much bigger push and went to Vince to demand a raise. Tensions got high, things were heated and before anyone knew it, Wacholz was lunging over the desk to try and throttle Vince. He was naturally fired, proving to have a short run and showing one of the worst guys Vince has ever had to put up with.
25. Giant Gonzales (1993)
Oh there was a lot of terrible stuff in WWE in 1993; Max Moon, Damien Demento, the list goes on. But Giant Gonzales was something else. Already a terrible worker as El Gigante in WCW, he was brought in to feud with The Undertaker on the idea a seven foot tall monster would be intimidating. But putting him in a muscle-painted outfit hardly helped win him over fans. Worse was how it was soon clear he was absolutely atrocious in the ring, barely mobile, shifting about, stumbling and ungainly. The matches with Taker were painful to watch, easily the worst feud of the year and he just looked stupid as hell. The man is often considered possibly the worst wrestler of all time and so no surprise the year he got a huge push is also the year he ranked as the worst WWE could offer.
24. Duke Droese (1994)
A major issue of WWE in the 1990s was giving guys the gimmick of an occupation and somehow thinking that’d be enough to make them stars. Duke “The Dumpster” Droese was one of the worst examples. Really, a wrestling garbage man? He came out in the outfit with a garbage can and his matches were rough to say the least. He was put in a feud with Jerry Lawler and others, the idea of him as a “common man” type but the entire thing was dumb and fans just couldn’t buy him as a star. Michael Droese did his best and clearly liked having a shot at the big time but was lost amid the various other bad gimmicks and angles going around WWE at the time. He was eventually cut in 1996 and while the joke is too easy, it still remains true that Droese was just pure garbage in the ring.
23. Mabel (1995)
It can be argued 1995 was the single worst year in WWE history. Diesel was doing poor business as champion, budgets were tight, things were just a total mess. And a major reason was because Vince McMahon got it into his head that the number one heel for the company should be a massive fat guy known as a goofy rapper. Mabel was imposing to be sure but was also utterly terrible in the ring and had sloppy work. Despite that, Vince had him turned heel and then win King of the Ring, moves that fans did not accept in the least.
That built to a SummerSlam match with Diesel that everyone ranked as one of the worst PPV main events ever. Mabel’s stock fell with bits like breaking Undertaker’s face with a bad leg drop and terrible matches to ensure this was one of the worst periods in the history of WWE.
22. Fake Razor (1996)
You have to feel for Rick Bognar. The guy had been doing good work on the indies, had a fair build and with some more training and polish, he could have been something. He must have felt incredibly lucky when the WWE signed him on, thinking he’d hit the big time. Then he discovered that his gimmick was going to be impersonating Razor Ramon. This was part of a very complicated mess where Vince wanted to take a shot at WCW by saying that while they had Hall and Nash, he owned Razor and Diesel and could do as he pleased with them. Thus, Bognar came out as a very terrible looking ripoff of Razor. His ring work was okay but his promos were terrible. The guy never had a chance with fans hating the entire thing and WWE themselves cite it was one of their worst moves ever and easily of this year.
21. The Sultan (1997)
Solafa Fatu had a long road to success. He started as a member of the Headshrinkers and then a “street kid cleaned up” that went nowhere. It took him dancing and sticking his rear end in people’s faces as Rikishi to finally be a hit. In between all that was a rather odd detour as The Sultan. The idea was a masked man from the Middle East made out to be a ruthless fighter. He had the backing of both The Iron Sheik and Bob Backlund to try and get him over but his matches were rough and not that exciting. He faced Rocky Maivia for the IC title at WrestleMania in a match that birthed the “Die Rocky Die” chants and really made no major impact. He was gone and it took a repackaging into Rikishi to make him a star at last beyond this bad gimmick.
20. Marc Mero (1998)
In WCW, Mero was actually a good worker even under the wild Johnny B. Badd persona. His skills won WWE over with Mero given a wildly huge contract, Vince thinking he was getting a major star. Instead, Mero was just so-so in the ring and not over with fans, a brief IC title run that didn’t make much impact with fans. Mero’s biggest move was bringing in wife Rena, who became famed as Sable. In 1998, an injury had hampered Mero so he shifted to a boxer-themed gimmick but it wasn’t doing much better.
With a more grounded style in the ring, his high flying was now almost non-existent and he clearly had lost a lot of his passion. He was involved in the infamous “Brawl for All” and looked terrible as well as cut down by more injuries and doing almost nothing of note. A shame as the guy had been a top worker once but now more famous for introducing a hot wife than anything he did.
19. Big Boss Man (1999)
The Boss Man had been a good worker in the 1980s and early ‘90s and over with fans thanks to his act. By 1999, age and injuries had slowed him down, hurting his drive and he was clearly past his prime. He was part of The Corporation, basically interfering in other matches and not much good on his own. At WrestleMania XV, he lost to The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match ending with Boss Man “hanged” from the cage. He then got into a wild feud with Al Snow involving Boss Man supposedly cooking Snow’s dog and feeding it to him. This set up the horrific Kennel From Hell match that WWE themselves mock today. Boss Man then feuded with Big Show including the infamous bit of crashing the funeral of Show’s dad and dragging the coffin around. It was a bad turn for him all year involved with some of the worst bits WWE has ever done.
18. Essa Rios (2000
Essa Rios had a lot in common with Marc Mero. He too was a good worker signed by WWE under the belief he could be a bigger deal. He was pushed in the light heavyweight division as a variety of names before settling on his main one. In early 2000, he won the Light Heavyweight title off of Gillberg and looked good with his flaming red hair and ariel attacks. But he lost the belt to Dean Malenko and sunk poorly, his lack of English meaning he couldn’t do many promos. Like Mero, Rios is better known for the lady he brought in as his title win was also the debut of Lita as his valet. She was soon impressing with her beauty as well as being able to do moves better than Rios could. He turned on her after a match, leading the Hardys to rescue Lita and the rest is history. Thus, Rios is known less for any ring work and more for who he introduced to fans.
17. Shawn Stasiak (2001)
The son of former WWE Champion Stan Stasiak, Shawn was pushed in WWE in 1999 thanks to his dad. However, his run as “Meat” was bad, put with the Pretty Mean Sisters and some poor stuff. He had a run in WCW with somewhat better bits but when they were bought out by WWE in 2001, he sunk badly. He was only pushed because of his connection with the gorgeous Stacy Keibler as it was soon clear he was being made out as a total idiot. Time and again he’d attack WWE guys like The Rock and Kurt Angle and each time get beaten down hard. To top it all off, he injured his leg late in the year requiring surgery and left in 2002. Not a bad guy, but a terrible worker in this rough year.
16. Jackie Gayda (2002)
When you have a match known as “THAT Jackie Gayda match,” you’re up for this list. Sure, there were a lot of stinkers in 2002 (D-Von as a singles worker) but this has to top the list. Jackie Gayda is a good looking woman and had a push with “Tough Enough” and thus WWE did their best to push her as a worker. This led to a tag team match on RAW with her and Christopher Nowinski against Trish Stratus and Bradshaw. To call what she did in that match bad is an understatement. Gayda botched the simplest of moves like going off the ropes, stumbling over herself and selling a bulldog about five seconds too late.
Jim Ross openly apologized to the fans for it as it was just horrific to watch. She was sent to OVW for training but that did little good, as her as her bout remains one of the worst ever seen on RAW and a highlight of a poor year.
15. Scott Steiner (2003)
It’s almost sad to look back at how great a worker Scott Steiner was. In the ‘90s, he was top notch, muscular but athletic and doing moves no one had seen before. He seemed a true star in the making and only held back wanting to help brother Rick as multiple tag team champions. When he finally got his shot at singles work in the late ‘90s, he was jacked up but great as champion in WCW. In 2002, he was signed by WWE in the hopes he could be the next big challenger for Triple H. But from the start, Steiner was a mess, screwing up promos and other nutty antics. As 2003 dawned, he and Triple H were set to face off in a match at the Royal Rumble. The bout was a travesty, Steiner was blown up fast and reduced to nothing but overhead suplexes.
Triple H was clearly angry having to go along with this for a bad finish. Steiner spent the rest of the year feuding, then teaming with Test and showing he was a far cry from his old days before leaving the company. A clear sign of a once great worker now a joke in the ring.
14. Eugene (2004)
Several guys from OVW suffered in WWE but none like Nick Dinsmore. In OVW, he was the big star, a great worker who held their title ten times and tag belts eleven times, major feuds and most assumed when he joined WWE, he would be pushed hard. Instead, he was given the gimmick of Eugene, Eric Bischoff’s special needs nephew. Stumbling around with a goofy demeanor, poor Dinsmore was clearly used for comic fodder. WWE briefly seemed to get the character, a savant in the ring and even had The Rock put him over in a promo. But then he came up short against Triple H and pushed to do more “idiot” stuff than real ring work. He and William Regal held the tag titles briefly but poor Dinsmore was never taken seriously by fans. A damn shame given how great he’d been in OVW.
13. Heidenreich (2005)
With his intense look, beefy build and drive, it looked like Heidenreich would do well in WWE. But he soon showcased himself as a terrible worker with muscle fights and not that over with fans. At first a psycho, he came up short in matches with Undertaker and Booker T. He then moved to his poems which included the infamous bit of “assaulting” Michael Cole with one. Then he showed up to aid Road Warrior Animal against MNM and was soon made a member of The Legion of Doom. The two won the tag titles but fans hated the combo, Heidenreich just never accepted and he and Animal had little chemistry as a team. They lost the belts and the man took time off to help family in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and was eventually released. A lot of bad stuff in WWE that year but pushing this guy didn’t help matters.
12. The Great Khali (2006)
Even at his best, Khali was never a good worker. He was the classic case of a guy who looked so imposing and powerful but it soon became clear he could barely handle the ring work. So a rookie Khali was even worse, barely understanding the ring stuff and stumbling around a lot. His feud with the Undertaker was slow and plodding and going against the likes of Rey Mysterio wasn’t much better. He was to face off against Undertaker in a Punjabi Prison Match but an injury forced him out of it. The feud with Undertaker culminated in an ugly Last Man Standing match and Khali’s battles afterward weren’t much better. Granted, his career later was hardly stellar but this first year set the standard for Khali as one of the more hated workers in WWE and a terrible rookie.
11. Deuce n Domino (2007)
On paper, Sim Snuka and Cliff Compton looked good as a team. They held gold in OVW and their throwback idea seemed good. But on SmackDown, they were given the gimmick of 1950s greasers complete with 1950s music and a valet on roller skates. It was a dumb gimmick and it didn’t help them get too over with fans. They did win the tag titles but it wasn’t a top notch reign, their matches showing a lot of rough stuff with Sim clearly not inheriting dad Jimmy’s good ring work.
They dropped the belts to Matt Hardy and MVP and took a major nose dive in quality, losing slews of matches to ad hoc teams. Their weaknesses were exposed as just not that good a team and for them to hold the belts was astounding given how bad a team they really were and a poor act not received well.
10. Braden Walker (2008)
It took years for Chris Harris to build up his reputation enough to get a shot in WWE. It took five minutes to ruin it all. In TNA, Harris had been a top star, winning the tag titles several times as part of America’s Most Wanted and a run to the NWA belt too. He joined WWE under the ECW brand and was being readied for a run. And then came the promo where he announced his name as Braden Walker, made a knock-knock joke and “I’m gonna knock your brains out!” Any potential he had was flushed down the toilet instantly. He had only a couple of matches as fans were too busy making fun of his promo and laughing then paying attention to his work. Harris left WWE quickly and his career never recovered so this ranks as one of the more damaging short-lived runs in the company’s history.
9. Hornswoggle (2009)
Hornswoggle had always been a comedy guy but the times he was pushed as a wrestler were a bad joke. In 2007, he won the Cruiserweight title in a fluke and ran it into the ground. That was nothing compared to 2009, however as he and Chavo Guerrero were put into what was recognized as the worst feud of the year. They went at it in a wild series of comedy matches that included Chavo on his knees; Chavo dressed as a cow; a blindfold match where only Chavo wore a blindfold; and a tuxedo match. Each one was won by Hornswoggle and each worse than the previous one. It was a total waste of time, booed by fans and named one of the worst bits of WWE that year. At the center was Hornswoggle in just his goofy antics and while Chavo deserves blame too, the leprechaun was far worse.
8. Bret Hart (2010)
This hurts. It really does. To say the man who’d once been one of the greatest workers ever was the worst of a year is terrible but it must be stated. In 2010, after years of waiting, Bret Hart finally returned to WWE for the first time since Montreal. Soon, circumstances pushed him and Vince into a match at Mania. It was utterly horrible, Bret out of shape, clearly suffering from injuries and his past stroke, nowhere near the great worker he’d been. As bad as that was, it got worse as The Miz later challenged Bret to a match for his US title and ended up losing the belt. Bret just looked lazy in that effort and it was hard to believe him being able to match Miz, let alone be able to beat him. He gave the belt up fast but it was still painful to watch the Excellence of Execution so bad in the ring and a shade of his once amazing self.
7. Mason Ryan (2011)
With his muscular build and intense look, Mason Ryan seemed a good pick by WWE. He was trained in FCW, holding their championship and looked ready to take the next step. In 2011, he was moved to the main brand, running in to help CM Punk against John Cena and joining the new Nexus. However, he faltered after that with losses to Randy Orton, R-Truth and others. He was absent for a time due to injury and when he returned, it was in rough house show bouts, nothing too major. The Nexus disbanding just left him adrift and even another time in FCW (now renamed to NXT) didn’t do much to help. He was eventually released and a clear sign of how a good look isn’t always enough to get a guy over.
6. Brodus Clay (2012)
When FCW became NXT, a variety of guys were pushed well. Brodus Clay was among them, a big and beefy worker but with some good skills. He was pushed as a monster, crushing enemies and looking very promising. Clay kept up his good work as WWE started doing vignettes promising a new heel monster and ready to give him a push to the upper cards. But something happened behind the scenes to change all this. Thus, when Clay debuted on the main roster, he was the “Funkasarus,” a goofball coming out with ladies to do dancing and bad rapping. It was an astounding character makeover and not in a good way. Clay’s ring work seemed to suffer, more into crowd-pleasing antics rather than the big moves he’d done before. He had a rough feud with Big Show and then Damien Sandow but neither really made him look great. He would falter more before his release and amazing how WWE ruined such a promising guy on the main roster.
5. 3MB (2013)
The fact two of these guys are now major titleholders is astounding. Heath Slater had been doing a bit as “The One Man Band” that basically involved him crushed by legendary wrestlers every week. Jinder Mahal had been doing a bad act for a bit that was going nowhere. After a big push as a “Chosen One,” Drew McIntyre had also slumped into the lower card. So the three were tossed together with the idea of a rocker group who didn’t do any real playing. Their matches were terrible, none of them seeing passionate and they came up short constantly in their bouts. They once called out The Shield only to have Brock Lesnar come out and trash them all by himself. Their promos were a joke and the entire act nothing but a waste of time. Today, Mahal is WWE champ, McIntyre NXT champ and Slater has held the tag titles with Rhyno but the trio together was a total loss.
4. The Bunny (2014)
In 2014, a man in a bunny suit got more TV time than Zack Ryder. Just think on that for a long moment. Part of the entourage for Adam Rose and his Rosebuds, the Bunny was just a goofy gimmick at first and fans actually liked it. Sadly, someone at WWE mistook that for meaning they wanted the bunny wrestling more. And so the Bunny was pushed into matches where he was okay but…look, it was a guy in a freaking bunny costume, ok? Trying to buy him as a serious worker was just ridiculous. Yet WWE kept pushing with more matches and trying to aid Rose but coming up short in some bouts. The fact he was given any wins at all just made it all the more ridiculous. It finally ended in December with him beat down by Rose and left behind but if anything sums up the ridiculousness of WWE, it’s giving this character ring time.
3. Adam Rose (2015)
So you’d think Adam Rose could only look up after teaming with and then feuding with a giant bunny, right? Wrong. As the year began, Rose had gone heel and was trying to remake himself, claiming he was a “Misunderstood artist” held back by WWE. He dismissed his Rosebuds and party antics and a bit shown holding the Bunny’s head. Just as it looked like this arty type might work out, it was dropped, Rose now a more serious and generic figure popping up in short matches. He ended up on the losing side of various feuds like Jack Swagger and looked completely lost without any identity of his own.
2. Eva Marie (2016)
By 2016, Eva Marie had established a reputation as one of the hottest women on the WWE roster. She also had the reputation as one of the worst female workers wrestling has ever seen. Her constant botching from promos to basic moves was soon the stuff of viral videos and turned her into a laughingstock. Clearly, the only reason she had a job was because of her looks and “Total Divas” as the woman was just laughable in the ring. It got worse in 2016, her tenure in NXT seeming to show she had paid zero attention to any lessons or training. Her wins were all bad, clearly her pushed simply on looks rather than her actual in-ring skills.
She was totally out of her league facing Bayley for the Women’s title and then losing to Asuka. Moving to the main roster, Eva was clearly out of it during bouts and had a gimmick of faking injuries to get out of matches. That led to her suspension for breaking the wellness policy and her recent release. Yet 2016 still stands as a prime showcase for why Eva is best remembered for that red hair than anything in the ring.
1. Curtis Axel (2017)
As the son of Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, Curtis Axel must have thought he had his ticket made in WWE. He looked good with his work in the Nexus, winning the tag titles and later a run as IC champion. But somehow, Axel just didn’t have the goods his dad did, not able to get massively over with tag teams with Ryback and other bits as his stock lowered. In 2017, Axel just looks completely lost and it shows. He’s been stuck on the C-show of Main Event and Superstar, often losing in matches with Jinder Mahal and others.
Right now, he’s stuck in the “Miztourage” with Bo Dallas, including dressing in bear costumes to help the Miz out. Going from a top prospect to just a flunky makes Axel look a top contender for the worst WWE star of 2017 even if the year isn’t over yet.
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