If there’s a constant to the wrestling business, it’s how pushing the wrong guy always happens. It’s tricky to tell who has “it” or not and how some guys who seem ready for a major slot just can’t fit in there. It’s not talent either; as an old mantra goes, a guy can be great in the ring but can’t draw a dime. Too many times, promoters have put their faith in a guy only to be let down massively and the results bad for business. It’s happened countless times in wrestling from the indies to the major ones.
WWE is different because Vince McMahon runs the show and has a…unique view of which guys to push. It’s never been a secret Vince tends to go for big guys, giants, muscular looks and often with long hair to boot. He prefers that, really, as it led to massive success with Hogan but too often, it’s failed him in other areas. Too often, Vince has gone on a guy’s look alone without taking in other factors and pushed him too hard, too soon. There are other times when someone has had the factors of success at the top but it fails to click due to issues like bad opponents, the fans turning on him or more. In each case, Vince has gone a bit too far pushing a guy down fan’s throats. Sometimes, a guy seems like the right pick for the top but the push just mars him and does damage to the company itself. And, of course, there are times a guy never should have been in this place to begin with. Here are 15 cases of folks Vince pushed hard but never really paid off and how it hurt both the worker and WWE itself.
Click the button below to start this article in quick view
It’s one thing for Vince to give a push to a big guy when he’s a wrestler. But an actor? Such was the case as in 1989, McMahon and Hogan brought to life No Holds Barred, a major box office flop. Despite how fans weren’t crazy about it, McMahon still had Tiny Lister come to WWE as the movie’s character, Zeus. To be fair, Lister was impressive in his size and build, a massive force and seemed to like showing off his intensity. His wrestling…that’s something else as the guy just couldn't work in the ring. McMahon realized that fast as Zeus and Savage were teamed against Hogan and Beefcake several times while the house shows did terrible business. Lister has gone on to a good career in movies and TV while McMahon learned the hard way fans weren’t buying a bad movie character as a worse wrestling one.
14 Scott Steiner
Vince must have felt happy when he managed to land Steiner in 2002 as Big Poppa Pump had been a rare highlight of the dying days of WCW, a powerful worker with wild promos. Sadly, in the years since, Steiner appeared to have truly lost what little sanity he had and his body was getting way too blown up. He ruined promos on TV, didn’t wrestle much, yet Vince had him put against Triple H in a World title match at the Royal Rumble. The result was a horrible bout with Steiner doing nothing but overhead suplexes, HHH hating it and the fans turning on Steiner big time.
He was depushed fast after that with Vince was left with major egg on his face for thinking the former WCW star could be the same instead of the self-parody he’d turned into.
13 Ahmed Johnson
He really looked great with a bulky muscular build, intimidating bald head and Vince saw plenty of promise in him. Ahmed got a big debut, bodyslamming Yokozuna and winning at Survivor Series and was soon put into a feud with Goldust to win the IC title. His promos were rough and his ring work was a bit too stiff, accused of hurting jobbers and getting blown up fast. Vince was still intent on pushing him hard with alliances to Shawn Michaels but an injury cost Ahmed the title and put him on the shelf.
He returned for a feud with the Nation of Domination and after a badly done heel turn, never rose to the levels of success Vince intended and proof once more looks could not overcome a lack of talent.
12 The Ultimate Warrior
At the time, this made perfect sense. The Warrior had been one of the hottest performers in WWE, winning the IC title twice, with the fans going wild for his entrance theme and his persona. He seemed like the real deal. His clashes with Hogan were exciting and when he beat Hogan clean for the title at WrestleMania VI, it really seemed a “Passing the torch” moment. However, Warrior never got over like Hogan did, with his promos a bit too out there, his challengers a poor selection and also how the main event scene exposed him as a guy who’d get blown up in minutes and unable to handle longer matches. Hogan sticking around didn’t help, as Warrior could not stand on his own and was soon relegated to B-shows on the house circuit despite being champion. Top it off with the Warrior’s…unique mindset and his run ended up being a major misfire that made WWE look too cartoonish to take seriously.
Like Warrior, this seemed a good idea as Kevin Nash had won fans over as Diesel, winning the IC and tag titles and catching on well. So, just days after the Survivor Series, Vince had Diesel crush Bob Backlund in eight seconds to win the title at Madison Square Garden. It promised a good reign but Nash had gotten over as this cocky rebel when Vince immediately began turning him into a typical babyface. It just didn’t suit Nash and it wasn’t helped by how the main event status exposed his limitations as a worker, especially against the likes of Sid and Mabel.
Combine those with the other issues of 1995 and it’s no wonder business that year was utterly terrible and McMahon had Diesel drop the belt to Bret at Survivor Series. Ironically, it was afterward Nash began winning folks over again as a heel only to bolt for WCW so while he had the star power as a top guy, handing him the keys to the kingdom proved to be one of the worst mistakes of McMahon’s career.
10 Vladimir Kozlov
Vince has always had a weakness for “the evil foreign heel” and Russians are a staple as bad guys in wrestling. Put that with Kozlov’s intense look and the guy had promise to be a major player. Instead, he came off stiff in the ring, never connecting as he was just too flat in his promos and even a win over The Undertaker wasn’t enough to win folks over to him. He actually got over as the serious man to Santino in a tag team but was soon let go, making him another case of a guy with promise who never got to fulfill it despite Vince’s insistence.
9 Mr. Kennedy
On the one hand, you can understand his push as he had skills and was getting over with his fantastic mic work, just the arrogant heel character to work on the main event level. He had the Money in the Bank briefcase and set to be named as “Vince’s secret son.” But then Kennedy hit an incredible streak of bad luck with injuries and suspensions striking just as his pushes were beginning and leaving WWE having to scramble for a substitute. It weakened him and just made him far too much of a risk for the company so no wonder he was let go for TNA where he hit much the same problems. Vince had a soft spot for the guy (check the “Kennedy” name) but even his pushes couldn’t overcome Ken’s horrific luck at staying healthy.
8 Roman Reigns
You knew this was coming. It’s not that Reigns doesn’t have the ingredients to be a main eventer; he does. The issue is that he’s been saddled with an absolutely terrible push, horrible booking and bad moves. This guy works as a heel, not the babyface fighting authority and his promos are horrible to say the least. The real reason his push comes off worse is that Dean Ambrose is quite clearly the crowd favorite and much more suited for the role fighting Triple H yet Vince insists on Roman instead. It’s led to a huge backlash among fans, a much hated Mania main event and just not doing what’s good for business. Roman could have worked in one way but the manner Vince has shoved him down our throats has destroyed his reign before it’s started and hurt WWE.
7 Bobby Lashley
Big and bold, Lashley was a well-muscled black man with an impressive look, just the guy Vince wanted to push majorly. He was made the focus of the “Battle of the Billionaires” as Vince and Donald Trump went at it through agents and Lashley showcased as the true next star. He was soon ECW champion and U.S. as well and Vince clearly wanted to elevate him to main event status. However, a combination of suspensions and injuries would hamper Lashley as well as his poor promo work and fans turned on the mega-push with his lack of skills. Amazingly, TNA would use him well as a monster heel champ but even that faltered as the guy had all the look of a star but couldn’t quite put it all together.
The famed documentary “Beyond the Mat” showcases how Vince really wanted to turn a guy puking into a big deal. Droz had some skills to be sure but just didn’t connect as well with his goofy mannerisms and the entire “puking” gimmick was as stupid an idea as you can imagine. Vince still tried to get him over in commentary and then inserted him into the Legion of Doom as the replacement for the “intoxicated” Hawk in one of the more tasteless angles in WWE history.
A heel turn then tried to push him more until his career-ending injury landed him in a wheelchair and thus the push Vince gave him did plenty of damage to the poor guy’s life.
The calendar year of 1995 is seen as one of the worst years in WWE’s history with bad business abounding. A major factor had to be that out of the entire roster, Vince decided the guy to turn into the challenger for Diesel was a comedy tag team worker with the mobility of a slug. Mabel was turned heel and then made King of the Ring to challenge Diesel, leading to the worst SummerSlam main event ever as the guy’s horrid look of purple baggy pants with that huge build was never taken seriously by fans. So much wrong with WWE in this year but Mabel pushed as a main event contender is the epitome of why this was a disaster.
4 Lex Luger
When Hulk Hogan left WWE in a huff in 1993, Vince just shrugged that he could make anyone a Hogan-level star. So, Lex Luger was turned face and set against Yokozuna at SummerSlam. Luger was skilled and had been cited as “the next Hogan” since his debut so it made sense. Leave it to Vince to ruin it by turning Luger into a huge “USA” star, complete with “Lex Express” bus going around the country, pushing it hard for fans to cheer Luger on as an icon, way too much when Luger was capable of getting over on his own.
After all that, Luger ended up winning the match but not the title at SummerSlam, making him look like a big loser and coming up short in other attempts. It’s no wonder Lex jumped to WCW in 1995 as Vince pushed him too much as an “American Hero” to work well and mar a rough year for WWE.
3 Drew McIntyre
After breaking out in FCW, McIntyre was moved to SmackDown with Vince coming out to personally welcome him as a major deal and “the Chosen One.” That gimmick was shoved down the throats of fans with Vince proclaiming him a “future World Champion,” putting far too many expectations on the guy. McIntyre was a good worker but was still young and the fans not taking to him as much as Vince expected them to. His reign as IC champ was forgettable as he eventually ended up working with jokes 3MB before being released. He’s shown better in TNA as Galloway, currently the TNA World champion but the way Vince pushed him too much too soon in WWE did a lot of damage.
After a forgettable bit as Skip Sheffield in the Nexus, Vince decided this was the guy to turn into the next Goldberg. He came out muscled with shaved head, storming about with quick squashes and “Feed Me More!” yells and soon on an undefeated streak. The problem was Ryback lacked the charisma that Goldberg possessed and the fans couldn’t get into the massive push of him to main event level status. It wasn’t helped by a few injuries cutting his runs short and harming things as fans just never warmed up to him. While some fellow workers praise him, Ryback was just too green to be put into this major spot and in no way the next Goldberg despite Vince’s obvious hopes.
1 The Great Khali
This is clearly Vince’s love of big guys taken to the extreme. Yes, he looks imposing with his giant height and intense face but his in-ring skills are low to say the least. He’s gawky, barely mobile, just hard blows and a terrible seller while his sheer size makes it hard to work with smaller guys. Yet Vince has continued to push him on, including a run as World champion that did horrible business. He later settled into some comedy stuff with Santino before dropping out of the company and shows that just because Vince likes a guy’s size, it’s no guarantee he’ll work in the ring.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!