WWE has gotten fans going lately thanks to Jinder Mahal. A long-time mid-carder and jobber, Mahal was part of 3MB and it looked like his career was done in 2014. However, he has not only returned to WWE but pushed hard, winning a special challenge match and then upsetting Randy Orton for the WWE title. For fans, elevating this guy so fast is ridiculous and many are citing him as totally underserving of his push. However, others defend on other “undeserved” guys who managed to make it work. JBL, for example, was also elevated fast but ended up doing great by winning the WWE title and holding it for a long while. Some can argue about Roman Reigns but the guy did have skills and charisma, it was just the push itself that was off.
But in so many ways, a guy is pushed who just hasn’t done anything to earn it. Whether a rookie is shoved too fast or a veteran who hasn’t earned it, this has happened a lot in wrestling. It’s not just WWE as it goes back to the old territory days of guys elevated too soon and in many cases, it can be very damaging to their careers. Guys who should be mid-carders are turned into main eventers while new guys are shoved far beyond their abilities. Here are 15 workers who deserved their pushes even less than Jinder does and how you have to be careful in how a guy is programmed.
15 Steve McMichael
Steve McMichael became a Chicago hero as part of the legendary 1985 Bears team that won the Super Bowl. Retiring, he spent time as a sportscaster and WCW decided to hire him for “Nitro.” McMichael became known as a bad broadcaster but worse was when WCW decided to make him a wrestler. A face at first, McMichael than shocked everyone by being made the newest member of the Four Horsemen. On their DVD, Flair actually says McMichael had the perfect Horsemen attitude with his drinking and hard style. But in the ring, “Mongo” was nowhere near the level of Flair or Arn Anderson.
He held the US title for a time and introduced wife Debra to the proceedings but fans couldn’t buy him going from broadcaster to part of the most elite group in wrestling. It wasn’t the worst push in WCW history but one has to wonder why McMichael of all people got such a massive rub.
14 Mike Von Erich
The tragedy of the Von Erich clan is famous in wrestling history. They had it all but their combination of arrogance, drug use and entitlement brought ruin to the family. Kevin, Kerry and David all had their issues but they were also great athletes and fantastic performers. Mike was something else. He lacked the skills of his brothers, smaller and almost no muscle frame and seemed totally uncomfortable on the mic. He just lacked the flair the others had and would have been better off in a backstage role but because he was a Von Erich, he was pushed over guys he shouldn’t have gotten over.
Far worse was when Mike nearly died of toxic shock syndrome. Even before he was out of the hospital, Fritz was promising he’d be back in the ring. Clearly, the kid was never the same but shoved up more as “the Living Miracle” despite how he should have been allowed nowhere near a wrestling ring. It led to the issues culminating in Mike’s suicide and so this push was not only underserving but added to the Von Erich tragedy.
13 Ed Leslie
For years, Ed Leslie was a dependable mid-card guy. At first a tag team champion in WWE as Brutus Beefcake, he later morphed into the popular “Barber” character. In 1990, he was to win the IC title as a reward for his past work only to get into a horrible parasailing accident that destroyed his face. He and Hogan had a match at WrestleMania IX that they lost and that appeared to be that. When Hogan went to WCW, Leslie followed as “Brother Bruti,” his loyal aide. For weeks, Hogan was attacked by a mysterious masked man but at Halloween Havoc, finally unmasked him to reveal it as Leslie. Now calling himself “the Butcher,” Leslie would challenge Hogan at Starrcade.
Seeing a life-long mid-card guy suddenly challenging for the WCW title at the biggest show of the year was a terrible move for the company. Fans did not buy Leslie in the least in the role and Starrcade was a mess. Leslie would take on more roles like Zodiac, Booty Man and others but having him in the World title scene didn’t do him or the company any favors.
12 The Renegade
It’s a sad story in many ways. In 1995, it was pretty clear to everyone how WCW was aping WWE in so many ways. That included plenty of ex-WWE guys joining the company. So when Hulk Hogan began boasting of “The Ultimate Surprise” at Uncensored 1995, fans naturally assumed the Warrior was coming. Instead out came a guy with similar hair, similar outfit and makeup but definitely not the Warrior. He was the Renegade and, if anything, he was actually far worse than the Warrior in the ring. His wild antics got no one on his side and it was as blatant a rip-off as humanly possible.
Despite that, WCW kept on pushing him to the TV title over Arn Anderson and more actions. But even they knew it was failing, the fans booing the guy and so had him dropping fast. The poor guy ended up taking his life later on and showed that trying to replicate a major star just doesn’t work out very well, especially when the copy is even worse.
11 The KISS Demon
There are entire books written about the terrible stuff WCW did but this still ranks as one of the dumbest. In 1999, WCW made a deal with the rock band KISS to make an appearance for a mini-concert. As part of the deal, long-time jobber Dale Torborg was made up in white face and other garish makeup to become the Demon. He was pushed out the gate (although Brian Adams played the role at first) with a feud with Sting and ready for more conflict. According to the contract, KISS expected the Demon to win the World title despite the fact he made almost no real impact and was pretty bad in the ring.
The idea was to have KISS do a special concert PPV with the Demon in the main event and then carry on to more success. But then Bischoff was removed from power and the new creative team pushed the Demon down to get back at him. He was eventually put in the Dark Carnival and showcased how trying to get a main event star over just to please a rock band is a pretty bad idea, even for WCW.
10 Ronnie Garvin
Usually, becoming NWA World Champion was the highlight of a career. For Ronnie Garvin, it was the beginning of the end. Garvin was a good worker, known for his “Hands of Stone” punches and some charisma in the ring. He had feuded with Ric Flair several times, among the many Flair could do any four-star match with. In September of 1987, out of the blue, Garvin defeated Flair in a cage match to win the NWA title, a major surprise to fans.
The truth was that Crockett wanted Flair to regain the title at Starrcade to make it a big deal. That meant they needed someone to beat Flair then lose the belt two months later at the biggest show of the year. Even Dusty Rhodes didn’t want that so Garvin was the guy to volunteer. However, every heel refused to job for an obvious lame duck champion so they announced Garvin was taking a 45-day “sabbatical” to train for the rematch with Flair. Naturally, Flair won and Garvin, with no standing as a champion, fell fast in the rankings. A good worker but trying to have him on top of the NWA just wasn’t going to work.
9 The Great Khali
Vince McMahon loves big guys but this was ridiculous. A former Punjabi cop, Khali was notable for his amazing size so no wonder WWE would hire him. Sadly, it took little time for fans to realize the man was totally uncoordinated and slow and turned on him fast. Despite that, WWE kept pushing him with stuff like feuding with The Undertaker and challenging Batista for the World Title. He was to be in a “Punjabi Prison Match” but was injured so Big Show took his place.
The worst was in 2008 when Khali won a battle royal for the vacant World championship. Having a man fans hated and who had come up short in his various feuds be the World champion was a terrible move when so many worth guys were ready. Khali was pushed again and again, even a comedy guy but fans didn’t take to it and showed Vince’s love of big guys out of control.
8 Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger is a guy who clearly could have benefited from NXT. He was a fair worker but more time in a developmental system beyond just the old FCW. Pushed hard in ECW as the “All-American American,” Swagger had skills but just lacked the main event charisma needed to take off. Despite that, WWE pushed him as ECW champion and later cashed in Money in the Bank to beat Chris Jericho for the World title. But fans didn’t get behind him, even with a more “serious” persona as the guy was rough in the ring, even causing injuries to others.
His arrogance helped his character but trying to make him a face was a total failure. WWE kept trying with him as U.S. champion and other moves but it never worked out with Swagger finally departing in 2017. Perhaps more time to develop him could have helped as Swagger just wasn’t cut out for the main event.
7 Eric Young
In terms of his tenure in TNA, you can argue it might have been deserving. But at the time, it just wasn’t a good move. For years, Young was a dependable guy in TNA, a funny worker with bits like “Super Eric,” a former TV champion fighting Scott Baio (really) and forming a tag team with ODB. Which was why it was so jarring when in 2014, Young suddenly won a gauntlet match then challenged and defeated Magnus for the TNA World title. Making this long-time goofy guy the main event champion was a jarring bit and also turning him into a serious fighter.
The truth was that TNA was trying to capitalize on Daniel Bryan’s push in WWE and picked Young as the “bearded underdog.” They made no secret about it, Dixie Carter talking about “the beard is trademarked” as if WWE were the ones ripping TNA off. It was short-lived and while Young was a TNA veteran, having him shoved to the main event so quickly just didn’t pay off.
Originally Skip Sheffield, he was an okay guy with The Nexus but nothing really notable. Thus it was more baffling that WWE picked him as the guy to mold into the next Goldberg. He was soon given a makeover with bald head and beard, new attire and pushed as a monster, complete with the “Feed Me More” catchphrase. The problem being, the fans hated what was quite clearly a blatant rip-off of Goldberg and shoving the “win streak” into their faces made it worse. They had him go against CM Punk for the title with the “streak” broken and Ryback ended up injuring Punk for real in an attack.
They continued to push him as a heel, a face, IC champion, last man eliminated in the Royal Rumble and fans just never bought it. He was soon brought low to a tag team with Curtis Axel before leaving the company. Trying to replicate something like Goldberg is always a risk and Ryback just wasn’t the guy for it.
5 Paul Roma
It still makes absolutely no sense. In 1993, Ric Flair returned to WCW, first hosting a “Flair For the Gold” talk show and later talk of reforming The Four Horsemen. Ole and Arn Anderson were in but debate on the fourth slot. While Barry Windham made perfect sense, he was busy with another program. So WCW’s pick for the final slot was…Paul Roma. The man’s only real claim to fame was part of Power & Glory, a team meant to win the WWE tag titles until politics ruined the plan. Having him as part of the most elite heel group in wrestling made absolutely zero sense and the fans hated it from day one. Roma himself didn’t get along well with the others, convinced he was meant for bigger stardom. Yet somehow, he earned the tag titles and yet this is recognized as the worst Horsemen unit ever and Roma never deserving of this spot.
4 The Barbarian
In the 1992 year-end issue of “Pro Wrestling Illustrated,” a fan sent in a list of the 10 reasons WWE was better than WCW. Three of the 10 were “The Barbarian a World title contender?” When Ron Simmons won the WCW World title in 1992, it was a huge deal at the time as he was the first black World champion. However, Simmons had an issue of credible challengers thanks to the rough conditions of the company. So Watts decided to take long time tag team worker and mid-carder The Barbarian and make him the next contender. Even with Cactus Jack as his manager, it made no sense and was just terrible to watch. It culminated at Halloween Havoc, a horrible show from top to bottom where Simmons’ victory wasn’t even in the main event. No wonder fans don’t recall Watts’ tenure well.
1995 was one of the worst years in WWE’s history and this is a key reason. For the previous two years Mabel was the goofy big guy of the tag team Men on a Mission. He was better known for rapping and wearing ridiculous outfits than a serious worker. With Diesel needing challengers, Vince McMahon decided against all sense that Mabel was the guy to be the next monster heel of the company. He won King of the Ring, a decision fans booed loudly and was then pushed to an absolutely atrocious SummerSlam main event against Diesel. The guy was just too slow and not effective at all to keep getting these pushes to the top and the fans turned against WWE in droves with bad ratings and buy rates.
Not only that but Mabel was sloppy in the ring, with a legdrop shattering The Undertaker’s face and Diesel hated working with him. His star faded fast but that he was pushed at all is a reason fans hate this particular year in WWE.
2 Erik Watts
The thing about Erik Watts is the kid had some potential. With some training, he might have been a good worker and handled himself well. But his father Bill was in charge of WCW at the time and convinced Erik was the star of the future. So, after just a month at the Power Plant, Watts yanked Erik out of training and put him right into the upper middle card. Skinny and no charisma, Erik never had a chance as veterans groused over having to put the boss’ untalented son over. Poor Erik just never caught on with fans booing his obviously blatant push and covering up his massive failings. It didn’t help that he had issues backstage such as an altercation with Rick Rude that led to Rude leaving WCW. When Bill was fired, Erik’s stock fell quick and he never recovered, showing how nepotism in wrestling can be very damaging.
1 David Arquette
Vince Russo can spin it all he wants on “It got people’s attention” but it remains the worst idea he ever had. In 2000, David Arquette was hanging around WCW to help promote the “Ready to Rumble” movie. Leave it to Russo to think the best idea for publicity was Arquette teaming with Diamond Dallas Page against Eric Bischoff and Jeff Jarrett with the person making the pin winning the title. Arquette covered Bischoff and made the pin, making a third-rate actor the WCW World Champion.
Fans loathed it from the start as WCW kept pushing him along, even “defending” the belt a few times. Arquette himself hated it but at least used the money WCW paid him for the families of Owen Hart, Brian Pillman and Darren Drozdov. It ended with Arquette turning on Page to give Jarrett the title and vanishing not long after. The most underserving world champion ever and a key reason why WCW collapsed.