It’s a long way to the top of the wrestling world. Thousands upon thousands have tried to become a professional wrestler at some point in their life, and few have ever even gotten the opportunity to receive pay for their efforts. Even worse are the ones who have all the talent in the world, become heroes of minor promotions and still never receive that big break that catapults them into household name status. It’s a sad fact of life that the very best in professional wrestling don’t always reach the heights that they deserve to see.
On the other hand, you have wrestlers whose careers are like hangovers. They come along, achieve the kind of stardom that few could ever dream of and retire with the love and affection of everyone that witnessed them do their job. Shortly thereafter, however, we all start to feel dizzy when we try to comprehend what just happened. In retrospect, it’s hard to understand just how these wrestlers that were so often a step behind the very best in the industry were able to achieve so much with so little. The term overrated is a highly subjective and controversial one, but at the same time, it’s the only word that feels appropriate when describing the careers of wrestlers that had the world handed to them despite never measuring up.
But what happened after those careers ended? When the spotlight was turned off and it was time for these performers to start looking at the next stage of their life, what became of them? Did they find success in another area, or simply fade away into a normal life while occasionally taking advantage of the glory days to reap some extra cash? What are the 20 most overrated wrestlers of all time up to now?
20 Koko B. Ware
Koko B. Ware spent much of his early career touring the territories working a variety of uninspiring gimmicks. He was a solid hand that could work a gullible crowd if called upon to do so but didn’t possess anything that really set him apart from a couple dozen other guys that fit that billing. It wasn’t until he entered WWE and was graced with his famous “Birdman” gimmick that Koko finally started to separate himself from the pack. Still, his meandering ring and mic skills don’t explain how the man made it into the Hall of Fame.
19 Mikey Whipwreck
Paul Heyman was something of a genius when it came to making the most out of the talent he was given, but Mikey Whipwreck is undoubtedly his masterpiece in that respect. Despite being a scrawny young man with little real talent to his name, Mikey was still able to win the hearts of the ECW faithful thanks to an innovative “lovable loser” gimmick that was booked to perfection. Mikey even won the ECW World Championship because of the success of his booking.
18 Billy Kidman
17 Greg Gagne
16 One Man Gang
If you were a big enough, mean enough looking guy in the 80s, you could usually find work as a professional wrestler. That seems to be how the physically intimidating One Man Gang found his way into the scene, but it doesn’t explain how this uninspiring wrestler found so much work over the years. After a run as a top heel in UWF, George Gray found his way to WWE during that period when Hulk Hogan was squashing big guys. After dealing with that awful “Akeem” gimmick, he spent a little time working worse ones in WCW and continued to make sporadic appearances up until 2009.
15 The Sandman
Long before Steve Austin began knocking back beers and sticking it to the man, The Sandman was doing the same in ECW. As something of a blue-collar hero armed with a kendo stick, The Sandman climbed up the ECW ranks even though he lacked just about every traditional wrestling skill you can name. As a matter of fact, The Sandman was so popular he became a record five-time ECW World Champion. Sandman had a brief run in WCW in 1999 followed by a return to ECW that lasted until the promotion’s dying days.
14 Jeff Jarrett
Jeff Jarrett always seemed to have the good fortune of finding himself in the right place at the right time. After snatching up the World Class Championship Wrestling promotion in the late ‘80s, he managed to book himself to the top and catch the attention of WWE. Here, Jarrett benefited from a number of over-the-top gimmicks that successfully created the illusion that the man had personality. J
13 Kevin Nash
Never underestimate how far a well-liked big man can go in the world of pro wrestling. Kevin Nash worked under the guise of some of the worst characters wrestling has ever seen during his time in WCW, but thanks in part to a friendship with Shawn Michaels, he was able to work his way to the top of the WWE card before becoming a founding member of the nWo upon his WCW return. During this lengthy run at the top, Nash never really put on a good match with anyone not named Shawn Michaels or Bret Hart, but was reportedly one hell of a backstage politician.
12 Larry Zbyszko
Once upon a time, Larry Zbyszko took part in a brilliant angle that saw him turn against his mentor Bruno Sammartino. It was such a classic wrestling moment that Zbyszko spent the next few decades parlaying it into a healthy and lucrative wrestling career. Zbyszko was good at drawing boos, but they were always the kind of “please just go away” boos that are misinterpreted for actual heat.
11 King Kong Bundy
Could you imagine a guy like King Kong Bundy finding his way into WWE today? Put mildly, King Kong Bundy broke into the world of professional wrestling because he was one shockingly large individual. While nobody ever really expects someone of that size to be a skilled worker, Bundy also happened to lack the personality and character that made guys like Andre The Giant so memorable.
10 Buff Bagwell
Due to his simply ridiculous physique and complete lack of wrestling skills, Buff Bagwell could very well serve as the poster child for the era of steroid-fueled wrestlers. His success is something of a sign of the times, as Bagwell was able to get over in an era that saw well-built loudmouths with bizarre senses of style and a catchy names become stars. Buff made a brief run with WWE following the fall of WCW, but was released due to a reported altercation with Shane Helms and other general attitude issues.
9 Jim Duggan
8 Ahmed Johnson
In retrospect, it’s easy to see why WWE had such high hopes for Ahmed Johnson. The man was a natural athlete and had the kind of physique that promoters of the era believed could sell out stadiums. The problem was that everyone was so obsessed with Johnson’s physical attributes that nobody ever really bothered to acknowledge the fact that he couldn't wrestle and cut some of the worst promos that human ears have ever had to suffer through.
7 Billy Gunn
6 Val Venis
Vince Russo often cites the Val Venis videos as the prime example of how proper pre-debut promotion can help a star to get over, and he is not wrong. Val’s adult film star turned pro wrestler gimmick was perfect for the Attitude Era and helped Venis become a bonafide star. Once the character began to fade, however, the deficiencies of Venis’ ring work became that much more obvious. Remarkably, Venis actually made in-ring appearances for WWE as late as 2008 before the company formally terminated his contract.
Whether you call him Sid Justice, Sycho Sid, Sid Vicious or simply Sid, the man born into the world as Sidney Eudy never managed to live up to the main event chances he received in several major wrestling promotions. Sid fit that “big guy with an intimidating demeanor” wrestler role perfectly, but was a painfully limited in-ring performer who was incapable of working a good match with anyone that wasn’t a hall of famer. His last run in a major promotion was with WCW from 1999 to 2001, but that came to an end courtesy of one of the worst wrestling injuries ever witnessed.
4 Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner has had an interesting career to say the least. As part of the Steiner Brothers, he and Rick Steiner spent a good few years as arguably the best tag team in the world. In fact, you could argue that they’re the best team of all time. The trouble started when Scott Steiner embarked on his long awaited solo career, bulked up to cartoonish degrees, cut some indecipherable promos and generated enough backstage heat to bake a cake.
3 Tommy Dreamer
Tommy Dreamer had trouble getting over with the ECW faithful in his early days with the promotion, but quickly discovered that fans loved seeing him take beatings that would kill other men. He parlayed this willingness to endure incredible violence into a long wrestling career that saw him continue to endure incredible amounts of punishment while failing to produce quality matches outside of his eternal feud with Raven.
You’d be a fool to deny Bill Goldberg his rightful status as one of the hottest properties in wrestling during one of wrestling’s most popular eras, but his work hasn’t aged gracefully. He’s not much more than three power moves, some occasional yelling and a win streak that did not end gracefully. His run in WWE during 2003 highlighted his weaknesses and served as a fairly underwhelming farewell to the once major star.
1 Shane Douglas
Wrestling has no shortage of generic performers that have somehow found a way to churn a respectable career out of the business, but none are quite as undeserving of their success as Shane Douglas. Shane may have faded away into wrestling history as a white bread performer, were it not for his involvement in the famous 1994 NWA Title shaming that helped him become a beloved superstar. Shane remained an unimpressive professional wrestler in the big leagues all the way up to 2009 when he left TNA. He produced the 2013 film Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies and is currently working on starting a wrestler friendly promotion that offers performers real benefits.
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