While the WWE has succeeded on numerous occasions, it has also failed on numerous occasions. From signing wrestlers who either struggled to perform, failed to connect with their audience or wore their welcome behind the curtains thin, the world’s greatest wrestling corporation has certainly whiffed on talent. Further, its failures extend beyond its stars’ performances. On many occasions, the company’s creative team has steered a character’s storyline in a bizarre direction, causing that character to take part in unfitting moments that either destroyed their career or put the company under a heated microscope.
This list contains both superstars and infamous moments because they often go hand-in-hand. Some wrestlers hurt their careers because they were unable to effectively wrestle, but others saw their livelihood wither away because of the awful moments they were placed into. Other moments just plain hurt the company’s immediate image.
Some may argue the company’s failures were actually good for business. Did these so called failures really hurt the WWE or did they propel the company to seemingly once unreachable heights? After reading this article, you might think the WWE had collapsed under the mounting weight of its own blunders; yet, if anything, the opposite was true. No matter the type of creative disasters that went live, they always seemed to rebound and grow stronger. And that growth would have never happened if the WWE had not learned from its mistakes.
Without studying why it failed, the WWE may have never become the global phenomenon it is today. It would have never won the Monday Night Wars, invaded Hollywood (figuratively speaking of course) or launched its own global network. Companies get rich by taking risks and the WWE has always pushed the boundaries of reality TV.
So, with that being said, let’s delve into the major mistakes that initially hurt, but actually made and continues to make the WWE one of the most watched programs on the planet.
20 RAW Guest Hosts
In 2009, the WWE may have come up with one of their worst ideas to date. They decided that each week a celebrity would host RAW. While some of the hosts were engaging, such as Bob Barker and Shaquille O’Neal, most looked uninterested in the wrestling brand. Not long after the idea was implemented, it faded away. It also send a confusing brand message, like when the Muppers hosted Raw.
19 Mae Young Gives Birth to a Hand
In one of the most disturbing scenes to air on RAW, 77-year old Mae Young gave birth to a hand. Just as awkward was that the hand’s father was 29-year old Mark Henry, who Young had been “dating,” according to the storyline. If you were a kid watching this scene, you were likely scarred until someone sat you down and explained it was a fake pregnancy.
18 Michael Cole, The Wrestler
While this is more about Jerry Lawler and Michael Cole’s horrific WrestleMania 27 match, it really places a spotlight on the WWE for placing Michael Cole in the ring with a legend. The overall WrestleMania event lasted about 25 grueling minutes. How can you insult Lawler's dead mother—Cole did this during an episode of RAW—and then attempt to provide believable commentary next to the same guy during the weeks prior to your match? Hall-of-Famer Jerry Lawler deserved better than this.
17 Outback Jack
Outback Jack was one of the more entertaining figures in WWE history who never quite made it big. He was tough in the ring and his initial introduction into American wrestling put everyone on notice. While he mainly wrestled jobbers to start, he scored some decisive victories over Nikolai Volkoff and former WWE Champion The Iron Skeik. Yet, these were his only real victories. Soon after, he became a jobber himself by losing to superstars such as Ted DiBiase and Rick Rude. Rumors had Outback Jack winning the Tag Team Championship with Hillbilly Jim, but it never happened.
16 Dr. Death Steve Williams
Overall, Williams was not a bust in the wrestling world, but he was in the WWE. Throughout his WWE career he failed to capture America's attention. He was a tough guy, but that was not good enough for the American fan base--a fan base who often turns a cold shoulder to real tough guys for fake ones with great mic skills. See Steve Blackman and Ken Shamrock as examples. In the late 1990’s, the WWE, thin on talent, wanted to book the aging Williams as the front runner to feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin; however, a torn hamstring in the WWE’s Brawl For All kept Williams sidelined and derailed his major push as a heel.
15 The Great Khali
One match can sum up both Khali’s WWE career then and now. In the 2008 Elimination Chamber match, fans greeted Khali with chants of “you can’t wrestle.” Instead of showing the fans otherwise, he tapped out to The Undertaker after a short series of lumbering, unimpressive moves. The Great Khali entered the WWE as the next great big man, but he's been anything, but great.
Brakkus almost had everything the WWE loved. He had the looks and he had the attitude to succeed; however, the company soon found out he lacked the skills to survive against top competition. The angry German’s image could have potentially worked in the Attitude Era, if he stuck around longer. His promo built him up to be a brute who could topple top-tier talent immediately. Moreover, he held an impressive resume as a former Mr. Olympia contestant and a professional bodybuilder. Nevertheless, his WWE resume was much less impressive. An embarrassing loss in the first round of the Brawl for All Tournament and to Tazz in ECW marks the highlights (or lowlights) of this German’s career.
13 Scott Steiner
Steiner’s came back to the WWE came a bit too late, and when he finally re-entered the company’s squared circle, they cast him in the wrong role--as a fan favorite. Due to his WCW/Time Warner contract, Steiner missed out on the entire WWE/WCW Invasion angle. When WWE creative finally brought him aboard, they cast the former nWo leader as a baby face, feuding with then WWE Champion Triple H. By the time the two squared off, Steiner had lost his competitive edge that once made him a crazy performer. Injuries had finally caught up to the former superstar, and in August 2004, the WWE released him.
12 The Miz
Sure, The Miz has been a WWE Champion, but many believe it was a hardly deserved. In 2009, he struggled to beat top-tier superstars even though creative elevated him to a main-event feud with John Cena. In 2010, The Miz won the Money in the Bank and a contract for a WWE Championship match, which he eventually won over Randy Orton and Wade Barrett. Even though he currently holds the Interncontental Championship, The Miz hardly deserves the title. He lost multiple times in the weeks leading up to the event.
11 Stone Cold Aligns With Vince McMahon
Stone Cold had always been the anti-hero—someone who balanced the WWE universe when either the faces or heels grew too strong. Austin’s one constant was how he always rebelled against authority figures, which makes his heel turn in 2001 all the more shocking.
In the main event match at WrestleMania 17, Austin fraudulently defeated The Rock and then sided with long-time rival Vince McMahon. In the weeks after the match, the audience continued to have a difficult time accepting his heel turn. Even Austin regrets the decision. The turn actually failed to take off after his new tag partner Triple H, also a heel, severely injured himself in a match soon after the two united forces.
While she only had a brief stint in the WWE, the diva quickly became recognized as one of the most dominant female wrestlers in the industry. Maybe even history. The only other female wrestler who may compare is Chyna, who actually encouraged Kharma to forge a wrestling path. Kharma laid waste to a handful of WWE divas before she quickly faded away. In 2011, not long after her debut, she became pregnant and the WWE was forced to remove her from the lineup.
9 Vladimir Kozlov
Kozlov went from having a title match against Triple H for the WWE title to a forgettable mid-carder only months later. His fall from grace was anything, but painless. After Kozlov’s quick stay at the top, the WWE sent him down to the ECW to work on pretty much everything. The Russian kickboxer later became part of William Regals’ Ruthless Roundtable, but the push was more for Regal than for Kozlov. Kozlov’s next and last venture in the WWE came as a sidekick for the quirky Santino Marella.
Snitksy’s journey through the WWE was as unstable as his in-ring persona. Initially, WWE creative wanted Snitsky to debut as a part-time jobber to Kane; however, the former’s part in Lita and Kane’s strange and disturbing love-affair went so well that the WWE quickly promoted Snitsky to its full-time roster. During his first year in the WWE, he received an incredible amount of air time. Creative differences between Snitsky and the company, as well as his reduced role, prompted him to quit.
7 Sin Cara
The WWE hyped Sin Cara’s debut and the Mexican superstar delivered early. Similar to Rey Mysterio, his innovative brand of high-flying wrestling wowed crowds. With Rey Mysterio and Alberto Del Rio aging, the WWE hoped to use Sin Cara as a bridge to the world of Mexican wrestling. However, soon after his signing, trouble began. Sin Cara’s negative attitude, use of steroids, series of poor performances, and string of injuries has stunted his development.
6 Mr. Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy had the WWE world in the palm of his hands before a series of missteps and injuries caused it to crumble. His unique mic skills, hardcore entrance and style of wrestling helped him stand out from the assemblage of mid-level wrestlers behind the jumbotron. After a stint in the independent wrestling circuit, the WWE promoted Mr. Kennedy to their roster. He even had the backing of Paul Heyman. With such strong support, the WWE (specifically Vince McMahon) let Mr. Kennedy use the chairman's middle name as his stage gimmick. A series of strong feuds with The Undertaker and Batista helped Mr. Kennedy rise to stardom; however, injuries, poor performances and a wellness violation forced the WWE to reluctantly release the rising star.
5 Brian Pillman Takes Shots at Stone Cold
We can categorize this angle as a short-term bust for a couple of reasons. First, Pillman and the WWE had to apologize profusely for swearing on live television. Soon after the incident, Vince McMahon received a phone call from the head of the USA Network, and to ensure the network didn't cancel the weekly program, Pillman argued the profanity “slipped out.”
Second, the WWE was, and still is, a family network. While the storyline did usher in a new set of real-life plots, the company had to scramble to make amends with some of its biggest supporters and promoters.
Carlito could have been special. He had the swagger and the personality to inspire crowd reaction, as well as the in-ring talent to defeat top opponents early in his career. During his first match in 2004, he defeated John Cena to win the U.S. Title, and by 2006 he was competing for the world title. However, Carlito's poor attitude and overall laziness prevented him from rising further. He’s been out of the WWE since 2010 and has no desire to return due to his dislike for the company's backstage-stage politics and his love for wrestling in the independent circuit.
3 Tom Magee
Like Brakkus in the mid-1990s, Tom Magee had almost everything Vince McMahon wanted in a wrestler except one thing, the ability to wrestle. In June 1986, Vince McMahon requested that Bret Hart put Magee over by losing to him in a WWE tryout match. Hart adhered to the request and McMahon was thrilled with the results.A June 1987 WWE Magazine even spotlighted Magee as a potential up and coming superstar. That was about as far as he got in the business. Later matches portrayed Magee’s true weaknesses, and the WWE cut him in 1989. Many label Magee as the greatest bust in the company’s history.
2 Vince McMahon Fakes Death
This storyline couldn’t have gone more wrong. On an episode of Monday Night Raw, the WWE decided to dedicate the entire night to honoring the chairman. Instead, however, wrestlers took to the stage and disparaged the billionaire owner. The events led to McMahon walking and climbing into his limo, which then exploded as he shut the door.
In the week following the incident, the WWE played it off as a real event. Yet, this only added to the eventual drama. On the same night they scheduled a scripted memorial service, police found the body of WWE star Chris Benoit who had just committed a double murder-suicide in his home days before. The company quickly scrapped McMahon’s storyline and it is rarely discussed today.
1 The WCW/ECW Invasion Roster
While the WCW/ECW Invasion angle became one of the most engaging and subsequently last storylines of the Attitude Era, that’s all it became—an angle. Because most of the bigger WCW stars were contracted under Time Warner, it would have cost the WWE a substantial amount of money to buy those contracts out. So, instead of seeing upper-tier WCW and WWE talent battling it out, fans had to watch WWE superstars destroy WCW's midcarders.
Other factors helped kill a potential, new long-term rivalry that could have lasted the better part of the 2000s. Right before the Invasion storyline took off, Chris Benoit and Triple H sustained major injuries that kept them out of action. Also, rumors unsurprisingly suggest that McMahon’s ego obstructed his former enemies from sustaining any long term success over his own wrestlers. Shortly after the invasion, Team WWE beat its rivals in a “Winner Take All” match and the WCW/ECW were officially no more.