Like any other sport, wrestling fans and current crop of stars look fondly upon professional wrestling's elder statesmen, the trailblazers who showed everyone just what this sport could be when it reaches the pinnacle of excellence. How do we measure the careers of sports entertainers? Unlike other sports, where stats could play a factor, it's the moments that truly make the man or the team. Mike Piazza hitting a home run shortly after 9/11, the Miracle on Ice, Jordan dunking from the free throw line.
These are all legendary moments in the career of some marvelous athletes and the same hold trues for wrestlers. Whether it's "Hard Times," Triple H's epic return at MSG or Mick Foley winning the world title, these too are moments in the careers of some of our favorite legends. Sadly, though, every now and again legends get stymied. Legends don't necessarily fall flat on their face, but when booking takes a turn for the worst, it sure doesn't help any either. Triple H has Katie Vick, Mick Foley has several poor performances whenever he came out of retirement and, of course, polka dots for The American Dream!
Not all legends have had a streamlined career of perfect harmony, in fact they all have had some sort of booking that went south (Leslie Nielsen searching for The Undertaker, anyone?). The following list celebrates some really poor booking for some truly great legends. There are a few that highlight a particular moment and some guys on the current roster whose names have been tarnished by a creative staff that has no clue how to handle them. But, for better or worse, these names are titans in the sport we love and here are 15 times poor booking made fans, and perhaps the stars themselves, shake their heads.
15 Diamond Dallas Page (WWE)
Whether Vince McMahon likes it or not, he didn't make every superstar a household name. In the nineties, WCW did that too, if only for a few of its homegrown stars, and there were none bigger than Diamond Dallas Page. So when Page finally came to the WWE, did they capitalize on Page's stature and put him against their own People's champ? Did they at least let Page be the lovable fan favorite that he was? No, of course not. They buried him by making him some creepy stalker, lusting after The Undertaker’s wife, Sara. All leading up to him getting buried in the ring by The American Bad Ass. Not sure whose coffee Page spat in, but creepy stalker angles just don't work in professional wrestling.
14 Barry Windham (WWE)
Speaking of Stalkers and men Vince didn't make, there's Barry Windham. The second-generation star was one fourth of the best Horsemen roster and a former tag and world champion by the time Vince got his hands on him. What great gimmick was one of the best natural wrestlers ever saddled with? The Stalker, of course. Decked out in camouflage gear, Windham would carefully stalk his opponents like a lion would stalk gazelle. When this clearly wasn't working, they decided to dress him up like his daddy and call him Blackjack Mulligan, Jr. We all know that to Vince, every guy needs a character, but in the era of larger than life characters, Windham was so damn good at being himself that any character he was given just plain stunk.
13 Vader (WWE)
He started in the industry as an absolute monster, terrorizing Japanese crowds, wowing WCW fans and taking Mick Foley's ear as a souvenir. Naturally, the Man They Call Vader was destined for a god long run in the WWE as a monster heel champion, but a real life injury put the kibosh on all of it. Vader had to get surgery more or the less the moment he started and he certainly wasn't the ferocious competitor he was in WCW. While he did have a decent program with HBK, the mastodon was largely used in tags and as one of Jim Cornette's henchmen instead of reaching his full potential.
12 Ultimo Dragon (WWE)
While guys like Eddie Guererro, Psicosis, and Rey Mysterio were educating the public about Luche Libre, guy like Jushin Thunder Liger, The Great Muta, and Ultimo Dragon were showing the world their Japanese style, which incorporated elements of Lucha as well, so when the two styles were married in WCW, we got some classic matches. With two dreams in mind, to wrestle at MSG and at WrestleMania, Dragon signed with the WWE in 2003, during a time when Light Heavyweights barely got noticed. Couple that with one of the most famous blunders in wrestling history, tripping on his way to the ring at WrestleMania XX and there wasn't much hope left for The Last Dragon.
11 Stone Cold Steve Austin (Losing to Brock Unannounced)
With the rocket strapped to Brock Lesnar's back, it was a foregone conclusion that he would just steamroll through everyone on his way to wrestling greatness. One man protested when it was his time to do the honors for Brock and that was Stone Cold. Austin was booked to lose to Brock in a King of the Ring qualifying match on Raw, unannounced and unadvertised. Austin maintains that having no build-up for the match was the reason he took his ball and went home, considering we wouldn't see him again for nearly a year, and he might have been right. Considering how much money was left on the table for a non-PPV match, Stone Cold should have been treated far better.
10 Big Show (WWE)
Back in the seventies and eighties, during the territory days, it was very hard to have over exposure that makes people not want to see you. That's why guys like Andre the Giant weren't just over, but they were the biggest (literally and figuratively) attractions in wrestling. While that aspect of booking Big Show couldn't feasibly be done anymore, it does take something away from his allure when you see him every single week. Not to mention that no one seems to know why a legend like Big Show has been made to look like an oaf instead of the legend he should be seen as.
9 Kane (WWE)
On the topic of big men creative have no idea what to do with, there's Kane, the legend of longevity. He debuted as the silent younger brother of The Undertaker and has withstood a multitude of variations of the demonic character all the way to becoming head of operations for The Authority. The problem is that every time he gets to the top of the mountain, someone in creative forgets to book him like a monster or at least a bickering idiot which surprisingly worked well with Daniel Bryan. Hopefully, we'll get one last run with The Big Red Machine before he takes a real position backstage and enjoys retirement.
8 The Ultimate Warrior (WCW)
Leave it to WCW to completely ruin a no-brainer, ratings grabbing scenario. But in 1998, that's exactly what happened when they brought in the Ultimate Warrior to feud with Hollywood Hogan and the nWo. Whether he decided to walk to the ring, the moment spelled certain doom for the whole thing. After all, The Warrior doesn't merely walk to the ring, he runs at Mach-10. Then, later, he would appear in a mirror behind Hogan and only Hogan could see him (even though we all saw him). Everything was forgiven because we were getting the Ultimate Rematch between the two, right? Well, the only problem is that the rematch completely stunk and is widely regarded as one of the worst ever.
7 Chris Jericho (WreslteMania 29, Part Timer)
Chris Jericho has no problem putting new talent over. He continues to do for others what the WCW brass wouldn't do for him. The business needs to constantly position people to become stars and Jericho knows this. However, every time Jericho comes back, there's some diminishing returns. When he came back in 2013, he faced the debuting Fandango at WrestleMania 29...perhaps the dancing fool didn't like Jericho's turn on Dancing with the Stars. When legends come back, it generally should mean something and this unfortunately meant a whole heap of nothing, as Jericho lost to Fandango, before Fandango would go on to become....nothing.
6 Dusty Rhodes (WWE)
He debuted in 1968 and won tag team gold with Andre the Giant and Dick Murdock. He's a two-time NWA champion and invented Starrcade, the Great American Bash, and War Games. He won over the hearts and minds of fans the world over long before he delivered his now famous Hard Times promo. The American Dream was a titan of the wrestling world for over 20 years and all that Vince McMahon could come up with for him was to put him in polka dots. Luckily because he oozed charisma, there wasn't anything Dream couldn't pull off. How awesome was Dusty Rhodes? The guy even made polka dots legendary.
5 Ric Flair (End Run WCW)
Thanks to backstage politics in WCW, if you weren't down with Eric Bischoff, Hogan, Hall, and Nash, then you weren't part of the cool club. Ric Flair certainly wasn’t in this club and it cost him his job at one point. However, even before that, his stock in WCW was dropping, as was everyone else's who weren't part of the nWo. Things got even stranger when Ric Flair went a little crazy, headed to a mental ward and then drove to Nitro. Triple H has often said that Flair is the only guy in this world that doesn't know he's Ric Flair and that certainly showed in the final years of WCW, when he was jobbed out to just about every member of the nWo.
4 Goldberg (WWE)
Goldberg was the epitome of Eat, Sleep, Conquer, Repeat long before it became a t-shirt. When he arrived the day after WrestleMania XIX to a thunderous ovation, many believed that Goldberg would pick up his dominance where he left off, but besides beating The Rock, Goldberg couldn't gain a lot of traction. While he did win the World Heavyweight title at Unforgiven 2003, the issue is that WWE tried to create an old school feud with Goldberg, placing bounties on his head and having Evolution destroy him almost every night. The business had moved on from that sort of thing and fans just wanted to see Goldberg do what he did best and maim people.
3 Hulk Hogan (Fingerpoke of Doom)
There are three things that make the already terrible Fingerpoke of Doom even more ridiculous.
1. The match between Nash and Hogan was hyped up to be the match of the century.2. It was the same night Tony Schiavone told everyone watching Nitro to turn to Raw to see Mick Foley with the world title.3. Hogan has stated that this seemed like a good idea at the time.
Especially now evidenced by current events, Hogan really needs to hire/find people that are willing to do good for his legacy since all he seems to know how to do is make Hulkamania look ridiculous.
2 Sting (WWE)
While it remains to be seen how the rest of Sting's WWE run will go, it has been questionable at best so far. He arrived at Survivor Series, taking down The Authority. The build up towards he and Triple H at WrestleMania continued and The Stinger continued to look strong. Surely, WWE creative wouldn't have The Icon job out to The Game in his debut match for the company, would they? Of course they would! Why shouldn't the continue to bury their former competition 14 years after they bought it? Hopefully, WWE creative will redeem themselves at Night of Champions and give Sting a chance with the belt, otherwise he'd be 0-2 and would have proven himself right to not have gone to the WWE sooner.
1 Bret Hart (WCW)
In 1997, the always popular and respected Bret Hart got white-hot and, while he was already on top of the business, he had reached a level that put him far ahead of the rest of the pack. However, looking out for his family and Vince not being able to fulfill contractual payments sent Bret looking to go to WCW. Besides his debut at Starrcade, there was only one other memorable thing that Hart did while in WCW, which was wearing the steel plate that Goldberg ran into. Before he left WWE, he and Vince both knew that WCW wouldn't know what to do with a Bret Hart and WCW proved them both right.