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.
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.
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.
12 The Ultimate Warrior
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.
10 Vladimir Kozlov
9 Mr. Kennedy
8 Roman Reigns
7 Bobby Lashley
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.
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.
3 Drew McIntyre
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.
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