Stars tend to be made organically in the wrestling world. Stone Cold Steve Austin didn’t just walk into WWE and get put right into the main event. John Cena floundered for a while before finding an angle that connected with fans. Even Hulk Hogan’s rise to superstardom happened gradually, well before Vince McMahon made him the centerpiece of his company. I forget, are we still supposed to pretend he doesn’t exist anymore?
Which is why it gets so confusing when a company takes a guy and essentially tells the audience “OKAY, you like HIM now!” The more common colloquialism is, of course, the wrestlers being “shoved down our throats.” For one reason or another, a promotion has debuted a new star as the next big thing (literally, in the case of Brock Lesnar – proof that this sometimes works) or pushed a wrestler into the main event scene from out of nowhere.
Now, this list is by no means a critique of the actual wrestler involved – many of these wrestlers are actually quite talented. Many would eventually go on to have respected and, in the case of a few of them, Hall of Fame careers (some are pretty terrible, though). Because of poor booking, injuries, fan apathy, bad timing or any combination of them, it just didn’t work out.
Or, like I said, they were just terrible. There’s a lot of that on this list, too.
So, here are 15 wrestlers that were pushed down our throats, so to speak.
15. Roman Reigns
Yeah, we figured we’d just go ahead and get him out of the way. He started out so promisingly, too. His introduction to the main roster with the rest of The Shield was the most memorable debut since The Nexus years earlier. WWE then slowly started building him up with a great showing at the Survivor Series and nearly winning the Royal Rumble in 2014. Fan support was on his side and he certainly seemed to be going places.
Then, WWE decided they’d been patient enough and rocketed him to the top of the card. He won the 2015 Royal Rumble, despite the fact that fans were more invested in stars like Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler. He’s now firmly in the main event scene for the foreseeable future.
On paper, the idea behind Glacier (and his sworn enemies Mortis and Wrath) was kinda good? Maybe? Take a popular video game (in this case, Mortal Kombat), base wrestling personas around its characters and have them fight in the ring. Well, okay, maybe not good – but at least it hadn’t been done before. So, WCW ran with “Blood Runs Cold” and hyped up the debut of Glacier as if they had just signed Stone Cold Steve Austin away from WWE.
You could fill up a list this size of this one with the reasons why Glacier didn’t work. The whole thing seemed weirdly out of place in a company that was otherwise focused on the nWo. The whole concept was overly elaborate and didn’t have a prayer of living up to the hype WCW manufactured for it.
13. Max Moon
Speaking of dumb, elaborate characters that no one liked – Max Moon, everybody! He was from outer space! The future? Outer space? Something? I don’t know. But, it was somewhere dumb. He would shoot confetti out of his arms. He had a stupid costume. He was going to be a HUGE WWE Superstar!
Max Moon was originally a gimmick intended for Mexican wrestling legend Konnan, who wisely got the hell out of Dodge before dressing up like Marvin the Martian killed his career. The role would eventually be filled by Paul Diamond who won the job due to his impressive ability to fit in the costume.
12. Lex Luger – “Made In The USA” edition
When Lex Luger first appeared in WWE as “The Narcissist” – a man who was, literally, in love with himself – he was certainly promoted heavily, but by no means was going to be flag bearer for the company. Then, Hulk Hogan left the company and WWE was left without an All American Hero to fight all the bad guys.
So, WWE slapped an American flag t-shirt on Lex, proclaimed him “Made In The USA” and attempted to make him the next Hogan. It seemed to work for a little bit but Lex didn’t really seem too invested in the gimmick, and fans could tell. Lex Luger was a lot of things but one thing he was never going to be able to be was the next Hulk Hogan. The fans were far more invested in Bret Hart, who despite not being the All American, was still a hero fans could relate to.
Mantaur could actually serve as a representative to all the over-the-top weird characters that wrestling promotions tried to pass off as major threats to their stars. The majority of the Dungeon of Doom (including the Yeti, of course) could be included in this, as well as Damien Demento, Papa Shango, and the Boogeyman (although the Boogeyman was actually kind of awesome).
So, Mantaur was apparently supposed to be a Minotaur… or a centaur? I think a Minotaur. That’s like a half bull, half man from myth that killed people in a maze. He’d come to the ring – managed by Jim Cornette, of all people – wearing a giant bull mask. He was supposed to be a monster like Vader or Yokozuna but instead he was just a monster failure.
To be honest, the actual majority of Kevin Nash’s run as Diesel was pretty well done. After toiling in WCW as Oz and Vinnie Vegas (which was actually a cool gimmick, I don’t care what you say), he finally found a role that worked for him in WWE as Shawn Michaels’ bodyguard. He would eventually start to get success on his own, winning the Tag Team titles with Michaels as well as the Intercontinental Championship.
Then, out of the blue, Diesel was suddenly the WWE champion. What? At that point, Nash wasn’t the man on the microphone that would help define his career in later years. His run as champion isn’t particularly fondly remembered, although being a former champion certainly added to the impact felt when he eventually jumped to WCW.
9. Wade Barrett
Man, I love Wade Barrett. He’s got a great look, he’s excellent in the ring and on the mic and, also, there’s this:
But, after winning the first season of NXT and he showed up at the leader of the Nexus, it got a little much. The way the entire Nexus angle was handled in general is a whole other topic for discussion but Wade Barrett as this sinister, scheming mastermind just seemed a little off.
He eventually found a gimmick – Bad News Barrett – that began to connect with fans so, of course, he was told to stop doing it.
8. Ron Simmons
Ron Simmons has had an amazing career and more than deserves his spot in the Hall of Fame. Not only has he had incredible success in both tag teams and singles in two different companies, he has the distinction of being the first African-American World champion when he defeated Vader for the WCW title on August 2nd, 1992.
At the time, WCW was run by “Cowboy” Bill Watts, whose reputation for race relations wasn’t exactly… stellar. Booking the first black World champ would have certainly go a long way towards improving that. Simmons was certainly deserving of the championship and while he wasn’t exactly the most compelling champion, he held the title with integrity and poise. He only makes this list simply because the booking seemed a little suspect, especially considering how short of a reign he had.
7. The Berzerker
In a company with wrestling cops, clowns, garbage men, pig farmers and morticians, it was only a matter of time before a wrestling Viking showed up. And The Berzerker – as played by John Nord – was, well… he looked like a Viking. Wearing fur and a stereotypical horned Viking helmet, carrying a broadsword and yelling “Huss!” because, as historians have definitively stated, all Vikings yelled that. The Berzerker was built up to be an unstoppable monster. His finisher was tossing dudes out of the ring and winning by countout. Because he was crazy, y’know?
In order to build this guy up even further, he was put into a feud with The Undertaker. During one confrontation between the two, The Berzerker attempted to impale the Undertaker with his sword. He drove the sword into the mat, only because Taker rolled out of the way at the last moment.
He wasn’t seen much after that.
T6. Alundra Blayze & Taka Michinokou
This is in no way a knock on the performers. I’m pairing them here because their situations were uncanny parallels She was merely a victim of circumstances. The 2015 WWE Hall of Fame inductee was already a legend in Japan as well as her time previously in WCW as part of the Dangerous Alliance.
This is sort of where we run into problems. Madusa was brought in to spearhead a new women’s division in WWE. The problem was that she hyped up beyond belief, with the division being virtually absent of any competition. Blayze would take on opponents like Luna Vachon, Bull Nakano and, uh, Bertha Faye and… that was the whole women’s division. Just Blayze and whoever she was fighting that week?
It’s a shame Madusa couldn’t have been in WWE a few years later, when the women’s division actually had some depth.
Taka Michinoku was also a sensation in his home country of Japan before being brought to WWE to help jump start a light heavyweight division.
I don’t even think I can name any opponent Michinoku had without googling it. He would eventually have an entertaining run with Kaientai, however. Much like Alundra Blayze, the Light Heavyweight Division had absolutely no depth. It was a rather weak attempt to counter WCW’s Cruiserweight division.
When you’re looking for a scary bad guy character, what’s scarier than an angry, dangerous, violent ex-con? Especially when you already have a cop character lined up to feud with him. That’s what WWE went with when they introduced Nailz, a former convict (who still wore his prison jumpsuit for some reason) with a grudge against the Big Boss Man. Nailz was built up for weeks, stalking Big (we call him Big around here) with threatening messages before finally attacking him and laying him out.
He would then go on to attempt to feud with The Undertaker, because that’s who your scary bad guys fought back then (we could make a whole list of these guys, actually) before finally getting fired and holding a lifelong grudge against Vince McMahon and WWE, even testifying against McMahon during his steroid trial.
4. Rocky Maivia
The Rock has become such an iconic figure in WWE history, with fans going crazy with every current appearance (his 2015 Royal Rumble appearance notwithstanding), it’s almost impossible to believe that, at one point, the fans wanted him dead. No, seriously – they once literally chanted “Die Rocky Die!” and, no, they weren’t speaking German.
The reason: WWE originally brought him in as “The Blue Chipper”, an ultra-smiley super babyface, and immediately gave him the Intercontinental title. Fans weren’t buying it – especially because he represented everything they had come to resent about the promotion as a whole – and became openly hostile. Of course, he would eventually turn heel, join the Nation of Domination and become The Rock we all know today. But, back then? Woof.
3. The Gobbeldygooker
What’s in the egg?! This was the question on every WWE fans lips during the fall of 1990, as a giant egg appeared on Superstars every week. It was to hatch at Survivor Series of that year and speculation ran rampant as to its contents. Was it… Ric Flair? Or some other WCW/NWA wrestler jumping ship? Maybe it was a Playboy Playmate, as Gene Oakerlund would continue to speculate on a TV show aimed at children and families.
Turns out it was Hector Guerrero in a turkey costume. Whatever the story is behind why they went with the Gobbeldygooker (on the same show they debuted Undertaker, bringing our Undertaker reference count to, what, five now?), the fact is that the ‘Gooker didn’t hatch and then die at Survivor Series 1990. He would appear on WWE TV for a few more weeks before Vince and company realized everyone hated it and made it go away.
2. King Mabel
The man known as Viscera and Big V would eventually go on to have a pretty respectable midcard career in the WWE in the later years of his career. However, shortly after his debut as one half of the feel-good rapping trio of Men On A Mission, Mabel (also featuring Mo and Oscar)would win the prestigious King Of The Ring tournament and become the eeeeeeevil King Mabel.
Despite the fact that he could move pretty well for a big guy, fans simply couldn’t buy into the fact that this guy who, until just recently, was rapping and dancing and waving his hands in the air like he didn’t care and all that, was suddenly the company’s top villain. Oh, and he would, uh… also go on to feud with The Undertaker.
1. The KISS Demon
So, Eric Bischoff had this idea that rock concerts during wrestling shows was a brilliant idea. Which, on paper, could have worked. Provided the rest of the show was booked well, a short interlude with a popular music act could have been a welcome addition (it works for the Super Bowl for the most part). But, this was late 90s WCW. So… yeah, no.
KISS appeared on WCW Nitro in 1999 in the hopes of drawing in new viewers (it didn’t). They performed a two song set and then introduced… The KISS Demon. Played by Dale Torberg, this guy is KISS cosplay was supposed to be a major player in WCW. Actually, he was contractually obligated to be a major player in WCW. Part of the arrangement WCW had with the band was that The KISS Demon would appear in at least one WCW PPV main event.
Needless to say, this didn’t go well.
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