We long-time wrestling fans know our legends—guys like Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, and The Undertaker who remained in the public eye for decades and in more or less the same character, and thus became a part of our lives by growing up (or growing old) with us. We also know our stars who reinvented themselves over time. We watched Bob Holly develop from a faux-racecar driver to a hardcore bruiser; we watched Charles Wright evolve from voodoo priest, to street fighter, to pimp; and we saw Lita go from the Essa Rios’s valet, to a punk rock girl in the corner of Matt and Jeff Hardy, to Edge’s femme fatale when he eclipsed the main even scene.
But then there are those other wrestlers who didn’t stick around as long, develop, or change, but rather had a short spell of being high profile figures in the wrestling world and then disappeared from the public eye. These are the men and women whom casual fans might not think of until they’re reminded that they exist, and who immediately prompt the question: where are they now?
This article recalls 20 one-hit wonders—athletes and gimmicks that made a huge splash for a limited time in professional wrestling before at least the character (and in most cases the performer, too) vanished from the mainstream wrestling community’s consciousness. Some of them stuck with the wrestling business but worked on smaller stages, while others found new lives far away from the squared circle. Here’s what we know…
15 Luther Reigns
If nothing else, Luther Reigns looked like the prototypical WWE Superstar—6’5” and jacked to the gills. WWE rolled out the character on the SmackDown brand in 2004 and he made an immediate impact as Kurt Angle’s sidekick and eventual in-ring protégé who worked the tag ranks and feuded off and on with The Big Show. During his year on the main roster, however, he never quite demonstrated the in-ring game or charisma to live up to his look, and according to his MySpace page, he wound up negotiating his release from WWE due to creative differences.
Fans have most recently seen Reigns in the documentary Prescription Thugs, streaming on Netflix, which shows him discussing the dangers of the pro wrestling lifestyle and how easy it was for performers to get hooked on not only steroids, but painkillers, erectile dysfunction pills, and a variety of other drugs. He was part of a lawsuit against WWE, claiming the promotion knowingly engaged in practices that led to long term brain injuries in its performers. The case was dismissed last year.
14 Rockin’ Robin
In an awkward era for women’s wrestling in WWE, after major names like Fabulous Moolah and Wendi Richter had passed the torch, and as Sensational Sherri transitioned from wrestler to full-time manager, Rockin’ Robin filled the void as the holder of a Women’s Championship that was scarcely defended nor even made mention of. Robin made only occasional appearances, mostly defending the title against Judy Martin, and finally singing “America The Beautiful” at WrestleMania V, before WWE finally retired the belt and released the champ.
After some work on the independent scene, Robin walked away from the wrestling business. When she was honored by wrestling’s Cauliflower Alley Club in 2011, the organization recognized her contributions to wrestling and cited that she had moved on to a successful career in real estate appraisal.
13 Evad Sullivan
The Equalizer was a decent enough, if forgettable bruiser of a heel in early 1990s WCW, but made a star turn through a strange storyline sequence of events in the mid-90s. First he ran afoul of The Nasty Boys and recruited his kayfabe brother to come back to WCW to help him—reintroducing Kevin Sullivan to the audience, and hence rebranding The Equalizer as Dave Sullivan. Then the character was revealed to be dyslexic and began going by Evad. Finally, Hulk Hogan debuted, and while Kevin immediately made plans to bring evil destruction to the Hulkamania enterprise, Evad was revealed as a huge Hogan fan who became The Hulkster’s sidekick for a few months. After a few forgettable mid-card feuds, Evad quietly retired just as Hogan’s heel turn and nWo run caught fire.
By all accounts, Evad Sullivan retired due to injuries he had accumulated over the years. According to local media outlets, he transitioned to working at Dana College in Nebraska, first as offensive coordinator for the school’s football team and later as the athletics director.
12 Rob Terry
Rob Terry looked like a world beater—a supremely jacked performer who justifiably went by the moniker “The Freak” for a spell. After a failed run in WWE’s developmental system, he became a player for TNA under a variety of gimmicks—part of The British Invasion stable through which he could look impressive, but his limited in ring skills could be hidden behind workhorses Doug Williams and Magnus, and later part of the Immortal stables and an extended angle with Robbie E.
Terry’s in-ring work was always his achilles heel—the reason he never got as over TNA would have liked and the reason he never broke through WWE’s developmental. Just the same his look, and the fame he garnered on the TNA roster have allowed him to stay in the wrestling business, working a variety of indies in the U.S. and abroad.
After the better part of a decade working off and on as a WWE jobber, Duane Gill got his big break when he was recast as Gillberg—a pointed parody of WCW’s top star, Goldberg. Though the gimmick was mostly played for laughs, it did also bring Gill his greatest kayfabe success, including a Light Heavyweight Championship reign and more TV time than he’d ever garnered before. Better yet, when Goldberg first came to WWE a few years later, Gillberg had a one-off appearance on RAW to join The Rock in attacking him.
Gill’s most famous gimmick overachieved to a supreme degree, allowing him to remain a recognizable character to play on the independent circuit after his days with WWE were over. He eventually parlayed the character into running his own training camp in Maryland—Gillberg’s Pro Wrestling School, which WWE.com reported on in 2010.
10 Zach Gowen
Zach Gowen rose to prominence for the novelty of being a successful professional wrestler who plied his trade on one leg after a childhood bout of cancer forced the other leg to be amputated as a child. After a short spell on the independent circuit and in TNA, Gowen signed with WWE and spent a year in the limelight, most memorably feuding with Vince McMahon and Brock Lesnar.
Just a shy of a year into his tenure, Gowen went down to injury and then was released from WWE. In recent shoot interviews, he’s cited that management advised him to get more seasoning so he could come back even better down the road. In the meantime, Gowen went back to school, in addition to working matches for TNA, ROH, and an array of independents. He made headlines in 2015 for launching Wrestling For Warriors, a non-profit organization to benefit disabled and terminally ill children.
9 Taylor Wilde
In 2008, Awesome Kong was a dominant Knockouts (Women’s) Champion in TNA, and issued an open challenge. TNA booked Wilde to come out of the crowd to answer the call. First, Wilde came close but ultimately failed in challenging Kong. Soon after, though, Wilde beat Kong to explode into a high profile position in a time when one of TNA’s best selling points was its strong women’s division (particularly in comparison to WWE’s middling efforts at the time).After nearly half a year as champion, including successful return matches against Kong, Kong got the better of Wilde. From there, Wilde spent two years largely lost in the middle of the pack of TNA performers.
Though Wilde was only in her mid-20s, in 2011 she announced her retirement from wrestling. Slam! Sports has kept up with her, reporting that she went on to varied pursuits away from the wrestling business, including studying psychology at York University. Her Twitter profile also indicates that she now works as a firefighter.
8 The Yeti
One of WCW’s most infamous gimmick inventions was that of The Yeti—a super tall monster heel addition to the Dungeon of Doom, recruited to help squash Hulkamania. The character’s biggest moment involved joining The Giant in an attack on Hogan at Halloween Havoc 1995 using a double bearhug that embarrassingly looked a lot like the Yeti dry humping Hogan while The Giant cradled him.
After trying on a variety of other gimmicks, WCW ultimately cut its losses on the big man, and Ron Reis, the real-life giant, decided to hang up his wrestling boots. Last year, The San Francisco Chronicle reported on him having moved to the Bay Area, before ultimately settling down in Atlanta where he works as a distributor for a wine company.
7 Ahmed Johnson
Upon his WWE debut in 1995, Ahmed Johnson looked like he would be a huge star—a powerhouse who was promptly body slamming Yokozuna on television and running through the competition in the simple gimmick of a badass good guy. Whether the WWE brass lost faith in Johnson over time, or the creative decisions about his direction simply weren’t the shrewdest, he soon got lost in the shuffle, first feuding with, then teaming with The Nation of Domination before he left for a lower profile run, mostly teaming with Stevie Ray as half of Harlem Heat 2000.
After working the independent circuit for a time, according to Slam! Sports Johnson went back to school to pursue a degree in criminology at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. In recent podcast interviews, Johnson has made mention that he’s happily married (and has been for twenty years), and that his time with WWE ultimately didn’t work out on account of racism from management.
Rarely has there been a wrestler whose debut was more poorly timed than Glacier in WCW. Multiple sources have verified in documentaries and shoot interviews that the character was inspired by Mortal Kombat’s Sub-Zero, and his look and introductory vignettes celebrated the similarities. The character might have fit in nicely in WCW or WWE just a few years earlier, but by the time he debuted in spring 1996, the initial nWo invasion was just about to start and marked a stark departure into more realistic storytelling and characters that made Glacier an awkward fit for the product, who was quickly relegated to feuding with other characters of a similar ilk like Mortis and Wrath, before settling into the mid-card. Glacier would ultimately be rebranded altogether as Coach Buzz Stern before getting released from WCW.
Glacier went on to sporadic acting appearances, most notably including a part on a 2007 episode of Burn Notice, besides making occasional appearances wrestling on the independent scene.
5 Tank Abbott
After a fairly successful fighting career in the early days of UFC, WCW signed Tank Abbott. All signs point toward them looking to capitalize on his real-life credentials as a shoot fighter—an answer to WWE having Ken Shamrock under contract, and a forerunner to Brock Lesnar’s success as a pro wrestler who’s over, in part, for his reputation outside of sports entertainment. He never ended up working above the mid-card, though Vince Russo controversially once pitched putting the world title on him—a proposal Russo has defended on multiple podcasts and shoot interviews. Abbott most memorably wound up in a largely comedic feud with the 3 Count boyband stable.
After Abbott’s year-long experiment in WCW was largely a flop, he returned to MMA but seemed to have lost a step, dropping high profile fights in the UFC, EliteXC, and PRIDE. He was supposed to have a big fight with Dan Severn as recently as 2016, but mmafighting.com reported that Abbott failed his Arizona state-imposed physical, bringing an anticlimactic end to what might have been Abbott’s last big chance on the national scene.
4 Ashley Massaro
Ashley Massaro was introduced to WWE fans via the 2005 Diva Search contest, which she won, and promptly became a face character. Despite never becoming particularly polished as an in-ring performer, she spent most of her tenure as an active wrestler (though she also managed a bit, most notably backing the tag team of Paul London and Brian Kendrick). Her work included serving as a victim to Mickie James’s attacks in a program with Trish Stratus, challenging Melina for the Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 23, and ultimately posing for Playboy as a representative of WWE.
Massaro reported on her MySpace page at the time that she left WWE to care for her sick daughter, but in the aftermath, things don’t necessarily appear to have been cordial between the two sides. In 2016, The Boston Globe reported on Massaro filing suit and launching complaints against WWE for the company’s negligence in putting performers at risk of brain injuries, and for a purported incident in which she was assaulted when WWE visited a military base in Kuwait.
Notably, Massaro’s apparent resentment toward WWE hasn’t extended to the pro wrestling world at large. Massaro’s wrestling appearances since leaving WWE most prominently included worked as the on-air GM for the World Independent Ladies Division indy promotion.
Nailz debuted in WWE as an ex-convict, complete with an orange jumpsuit for ring attire, and promptly entered a feud with The Big Boss Man, suggesting that the Boss Man had been an abusive prison guard while he was incarcerated. Though Nailz came up on the short end of that program, based on physical stature and look alone, he remained a fairly hot property and looked geared up to feud with The Undertaker, only to suddenly disappear from WWE programming.
In an incident reported on by a variety of sources, most prominently the book WrestleCrap, Nailz had a backstage dispute over money with Vince McMahon that turned into a physical confrontation. In the aftermath, Nailz made a number of accusations about management lying to him, pushing steroids, and purportedly even about sexual harassment. He ultimately testified against McMahon and WWE in the famed steroid trial.
Despite hard feelings with WWE, he continued to use the gimmick he worked under there as his biggest calling card, working as The Prisoner, The Convict, and Nails for WCW and a variety of independent promotions over the decade to follow. He now has his own website marketed under the Nailz gimmick, and works with his family to run a garage.
The character of Mordecai debuted on WWE’s SmackDown brand in 2004. The big man wore all white and his promos and look were carried an assortment of religious overtones with a consistent message about wanting to rid the world of sin. He was quickly established as an upper card heel, before quite suddenly losing clean to Rey Mysterio on an episode of SmackDown and subsequently disappearing from action.
The man behind the gimmick would get one more WWE run, playing vampire character Kevin Thorn on the ECW brand. While he picked up a number of victories, the character never really went anywhere and was off TV shortly thereafter. He worked the indies from there.
In shoot interviews from last year, he suggested that WWE was no longer attractive to him or a number of other former talents both because he suspected he would be used as a jobber and because he felt he could ultimately get a better financial deal working the independent scene.
1 The Shockmaster
After a fairly successful run playing Tugboat and Typhoon in WWE, Fred Ottman jumped to WCW and immediately got a plum spot, booked as a main event ally to the likes of Sting and The British Bulldog as The Shockmaster. Unfortunately, a poorly placed board sent The Shockmaster tripping, losing his helmet, and ultimately looking like a fool on his first appearance—a stigma that followed him for the duration of his short WCW run, as there was no hope of him getting over from there.
After the failed run in WCW, Ottman worked the independent scene and in Japan, with one more appearance for WWE thrown in as part of the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania 17. He retired from pro wrestling shortly thereafter. According to a feature on WWE.com, Ottman’s second career after wrestling sees him working as a safety manager for an industrial services company in Florida.