“It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over” the old saying goes. For the most part, that statement is still true in professional wrestling No matter how bad it might look for a wrestler or a company, something can come along that turns everything around in an instant. That’s an idea that even long-time professional wrestling fans would do well to remember whenever they start predicting the end for a wrestler whose career has, in fact, only just begun.
That being said, there are other times when it’s pretty easy to tell that a wrestler’s career is just finished. It may not be over until it’s over but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t moments in professional wrestlers careers when you can tell the end is right around the corner. What makes a career ending moment? It’s hard to say, really, as it varies so much from performer to performer. However, the one thing that every career ender has in common is that they hit the gut before they hit the brain. When you see these moments play out before your eyes, you don’t think it might mean the end for a wrestler; you just know it. That’s what makes them the top 15 precise moments you knew a wrestler’s career was over.
15. Brodus Clay Debuts Dancing
People looked at Brodus Clay during his time in NXT and saw many things. They saw a monster wrestler who was a surprisingly good worker. They saw a guy with a unique look that just screamed terror. Most of all, they saw a guy that was such an obviously great piece of talent that there was no way even WWE could mess him up. Perhaps in an effort to prove that there is nobody WWE can’t mess up, someone on the booking staff decided that it would be a good idea to introduce Clay as a dancing babyface known as the Funkasaurus after weeks of debut hype.
In another era, or for another wrestler, this gimmick could have worked. The moment that everyone you saw it on Clay, though, you just knew that he wasn’t going anywhere.
14. MVP Loses Matches For Five Months Straight
Believe it or not, a losing streak can actually be a beneficial piece of wrestling booking. A lot of people don’t talk about this, but Daniel Bryan even benefited from a losing streak early in his career. It helped enforce a mentality that WWE were conspiring against him and made everyone excited for the moment he got that big win at last. Sometimes, however, a losing streak is just as bad as it sounds. That’s what happened to MVP in 2008 when he was booked to endure a losing streak that lasted over five months. At first, WWE really did do a good job of working this angle into a storyline. The problem was that by the time the payoff came around and MVP finally won a match, he had lost his in-ring credibility.
13. Marc Mero Gets Powerbombed by Sable
Honestly, there is no shame in a male wrestler losing to a female wrestler. In fact, one of the things that many wrestling fans miss the most about the old days of wrestling is that promoters used to allow for intergender matches that put male and female wrestlers on equal footing. In Marc Mero’s case, however, getting sable-bombed was pretty much the end of his career. The difference in Mero’s situation is that he had been built up as a big deal when he debuted in WWE, but he was never able to put it all together.
It quickly became apparent that his valet Sable was going to be a bigger star than he ever could be, so, when Sable powerbombed him in a triumphant moment, the writing was on the wall that Mero was done.
12. Alex Wright Turns Into An The Evil German Called Berlyn
Alex Wright could have been one of the rare ‘90s WCW stars that the company could have claimed was homegrown. Wright started his professional wrestling career when he was 16 and it didn’t take long for everyone to get the message that this kid had the potential to be a high-flying sensation. WCW seemed serious about pushing him when they picked him up when he was only 19, but Wright quickly found himself playing second fiddle to outside talent. Still, things didn’t get really bad until WCW decided to have Wright shave his head into a Mohawk, grow a goatee, and go by the name of Berlyn. If ever there was a wrestler that shouldn’t be a heel, it was the young high flyer Alex Wright. When he debuted as one, fans knew that WCW really had nothing else for him.
11. Bart Gunn Gets Knocked Out By Butterbean
Bart Gunn wasn’t exactly on the path to superstardom entering 1998, but he still managed to make a name for himself as a rough and tough kind of guy that was a throwback to a different era. It was a persona that became more credible when Bart Gunn entered the Brawl for All tournament in which wrestlers competed in actual boxing matches. Despite the fact that nobody expected Bart Gunn to really make anything out of the opportunity, he ended up winning the whole thing.
WWE could have just let things end there, but they decided to pit Gunn against actual fighter Butterbean at WrestleMania. While there’s no shame in losing to a professional boxer, watching Butterbean dismantle Bart Gunn in a matter of seconds pretty much destroyed any opportunity he had to maintain his tough guy image.
10. Nathan Jones is Pulled From WrestleMania at the Last Moment
Nathan Jones didn’t have much of a professional wrestling background before entering WWE, but he was a former convict and former strongman that could have easily been made to look like an absolute terror with a little formal training. Right from the start, it was clear that WWE didn’t quite know what to do with Nathan Jones as he was promoted as a psycho Hannibal Lecter-type, but that gimmick was quickly dropped in favor of a much more simple big man character.
Jones didn’t do much with what he was given, but he did work his way into a WrestleMania tag match with The Undertaker. The only problem was that it was determined at the last minute that Jones wasn’t ready, and the match was rebooked into a handicap contest. When you get pulled from WrestleMania at the last minute, that’s pretty much the end of the line.
9. Shelton Benjamin Gets Paired With His Momma
Shelton Benjamin was, talent wise, pretty much the opposite of Mr. Nathan Jones. Okay, okay, so the guy wasn’t exactly a star on the microphone and was still trying to figure out his character, but it wasn’t long into a Shelton Benjamin match before you realized that it would only take a little tweaking to make this guy a household name. So, WWE did some tweaking. The problem was that Shelton Benjamin’s character got tweaked so much that eventually it was decided that the best way to get him over with fans was going to be to have him be escorted to the ring by his “mother.”
WWE later tried to repackage Benjamin as a pure wrestler, but he had become a laughing stock. The stint with his “momma” completely killed any chance he had of becoming a star.
8. Terry Taylor Turns Face and Keeps The Red Rooster Gimmick
Contrary to popular belief, the Red Rooster was not actually that bad of a gimmick for Terry Taylor to be assigned. Oh sure, it wasn’t the Mr. Perfect gimmick that he was originally up for, but it was pretty smart to debut him as a heel wrestler that was berated and mocked by Bobby Heenan. All WWE had to do was make sure that they allowed Taylor to turn on Heenan, beat him up, and reveal himself to be an incredibly talented wrestler.
They got the first couple of steps right by having Taylor beat up Heenan at WrestleMania, but they never allowed Taylor to drop the Red Rooster gimmick and start winning matches. Once it became clear he was going to forever be the Red Rooster, you knew that was it for Taylor.
7. DDP Is Turned Into A Motivational Speaker
DDP debuting as the stalker of The Undertaker’s wife was, admittedly, not a great start to the man’s WWE career. The thing about that debut, though, was that it at least allowed DDP to enter an ongoing storyline and use his TV time to familiarize himself with the WWE style. Besides, nobody else had anything interesting going on during the Invasion. Surely WWE would find something interesting to do with DDP following this storyline. Instead, they made him a motivational speaker.
Messing up DDP’s debut is bad enough, but when WWE couldn’t bother to find anything substantial for the guy to do the second time around, then you just knew that they really didn’t care what happened to him moving forward. Sure enough, he was released by WWE not too long after the Invasion storyline ended.
6. Mike Awesome Debuts In WCW
Say what you will about WCW (and there is a lot to say), but the company never had a problem with outside talent. In fact, they got just about everyone they ever cared to push from another company. It wasn’t the greatest policy, but at least everyone that signed with WCW knew that they were going to be given a fair chance at a main even push as opposed to getting buried by pre-existing talent. Well, at least if they aren’t Mike Awesome, that is.
Nobody is quite sure what WCW had against Mike Awesome, but considering that he spent his first few months in the company as either “That ‘70s Guy” or “The Fat Chick Thriller,” then it’s pretty easy to believe that signing him was just an elaborate company-wide joke.
5. Billy Gunn Becomes “The One”
Billy Gunn’s career is like a hall of fame of bad gimmick ideas. Even the gimmicks that Billy was able to make work felt like something an eight-year-old would come up with during a sleepover. The thing about Billy Gunn’s gimmicks, though, is that they weren’t generic. They were awful and usually offensive, sure, but they gave Billy something to do and work off of. The same can’t be said of “The One” Billy Gunn gimmick. What does “The One” even mean? That’s a fascinating question that is apparently so complicated that WWE never bothered to actually answer it on-screen.
The story was the Billy Gunn came up with the gimmick after Right To Censor told him he couldn’t call himself Mr. Ass anymore, and it became the first generic character Billy Gunn was saddled with. That wasn’t the actual end of his career, but it was his “creative has nothing for you moment.”
4. Tazz Loses To Triple H While Holding The ECW Championship
Tazz could not have had a better WWE debut. He arrived in his hometown at a major WWE PPV, became the first professional wrestler to beat Kurt Angle in WWE, and he did it all very convincingly. For a moment, it looked like WWE was prepared to book him as just as big of a world beater as he was in ECW. Sadly, that only lasted a few months. The turning point of Tazz’s WWE career was definitively the moment that he lost to Triple H on SmackDown while wearing the ECW championship. It was a such a supreme burial of both ECW and Tazz that it would have been impossible for Tazz to every fully recover even if injuries wouldn’t soon end his career prematurely.
3. Dean Malenko Starts Stalking Lita
Dean Malenko in WCW was a like a wrestling demon that invaded a human body in order to make everyone else look like a ballerina by comparison. In his prime, there were only a few guys that could possibly match what Dean Malenko was capable of in the ring. He not only had cruiserweight capabilities, he could go toe-to-toe with any heavyweight as well. It was no surprise that WCW squandered his talent and, in retrospect, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that WWE did the same. WWE usually doesn’t know what to do with pure wrestling talent, and it was clear that they preferred Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle in that role anyway.
The moment that fans discovered this is when Dean Malenko started playing a very creepy stalker that was obsessed with Lita. That’s not exactly the role a wrestling god with a future is assigned.
2. Lance Storm Turns Boring Into A Gimmick
Lance Storm was in a position not unlike the one Dean Malenko found himself in, but Storm’s situation was even worse. Not only did he not join WWE before WCW and ECW closed, but he never even had Dean Malenko’s personality. Considering that Dean Malenko had no personality to speak of, that’s pretty bad. Still, Lance Storm managed to utilize his considerable wrestling talents and get over with a portion of the audience that respected what the guy did in the ring. Some fans even felt that he was in line for a major push when WWE booked him in a story with Stone Cold Steve Austin.
As it turns out, this feud was written in order to allow Stone Cold to encourage the audience to chant “boring” at Lance Storm. It doesn’t matter how good you are in the ring, when your gimmick is that you’re boring, that’s the end.
1. The Acolytes Legitimately Beat Down The Public Enemy
If you’re a professional wrestling fan, you’ve no doubt heard of the phrase ‘burial’. It’s used whenever a wrestler or the bookers decide to portray a wrestler as being so weak and ineffective that they will never possibly recover. Of course, burial is just a phrase. Nobody is actually buried so bad that they must literally have a grave dug for them. Well, nobody but The Public Enemy that is. The Public Enemy finally managed to get picked up by WWE after plying their trade in ECW and WCW. Right from the start, The Public Enemy attracted backstage heat in WWE for their supposed attitudes and received their punishment one night in the form of a Sunday Night Heat match against the Acolytes.
To say that the Acolytes beat them within an inch of their life would be an understatement. They worked them so hard during that match, in fact, that they were out of WWE a couple weeks later and almost out of wrestling entirely not long after that.
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