Contrary to what some might think, not every bad thing in wrestling was invented by Vince McMahon. That includes burials. Yes, it’s high with WWE but the fact is from the start we’ve seen guys amazingly talented, often getting quite over only to get dumped on by the promoters and pushed down the card. It’s happened throughout history and for a variety of reasons. Usually, it’s a guy who’s screwed up and being punished. Sometimes, it’s just rubbing a promoter the wrong way. Or there could be no clear and obvious reason, it just happens. It may not be right but it’s there and so many performers have suffered for it.
It’s true that some of these people may not have ever been true main event talent (despite what some of them would say). However, they all had serious promise and even proved themselves quite well in their work. So to be treated the way they were is astonishing, so many amazing talents pushed down for reasons no one can truly figure out. Yes, most of the list is WWE but there are plenty of examples throughout wrestling of folks pushed down despite their talent. Here are only 20 wrestlers who should have gotten far more but management thought otherwise.
20 The Ascension
Kicking off with the most recent example, The Ascension were hailed in NXT as the true next coming of the Road Warriors. Konnor and Viktor had a great look but backed it up with power moves and great teamwork that livened up the NXT tag team scene and looked like stars in the making. They reigned as champions for almost a solid year and it seemed a no-brainer they’d jump to WWE to tear it up there.
Their debut on RAW looked to be the logical idea of beating down the New World Order but instead, they got their butts kicked by the APA and New Age Outlaws. While they defeated the Outlaws at a PPV, it just seemed off and the push was non-existent. There may be time to turn it around but as it is, right now, The Ascension are the best team WWE doesn’t want and this instant burial astounds given the heat they were coming in with.
19 Chavo Guerrero
For a man of such terrific talent in his blood, Chavo has been prone to some truly awful burials over the years. In WCW, he was made to be a crazy man running around with a wooden horse toy and a feud with Norman Smiley before becoming a salesman as part of the Latino World Order and later the Misfits in Action. He got over well in WWE, teaming with Eddie to win the tag titles and later a run as Cruiserweight Champion.
We then got the horrible idea of “Kerwin White,” a polo-playing middle-class guy putting down his Mexican roots. That was ended by Eddie’s death as Chavo bounced around before a feud with, of all people, Hornswoggle that was “highlighted” by antics straight out of a Looney Tunes cartoon. He would hold the ECW title but lose it in 10 seconds to Kane at WrestleMania XXIV and be bounced around in nothing feuds and tag matches. Chavo moved to TNA for a reign as tag team champions with Hernandez but when they lost the titles, he’d be pushed down the card and soon gone amid talent cuts. No matter where he goes, Chavo just doesn’t seem to catch a break, a guy who doesn’t deserve his multiple burials but keeps getting them.
18 Ultimo Dragon
This fantastic Japanese star made his debut in WCW and quickly became a highlight of the Cruiserweight division, winning the title 10 times as well as the TV title. He had to take time off from injury but returned to fine form in Japan and was ready to take off in WWE in 2003. However, he was lost amid the shuffle of cruiserweights, jobbing on the B-shows and not making any impact. His most famous moment in the company was the Cruiserweight Open at WrestleMania XX where he tripped on his cape on the way to the ring and was soon out of the company. He could have been as big a star (and merchandise mover) as Rey Mysterio was but WWE could never give him his proper due.
17 Lance Storm
Storm was a great talent in WCW, leading their Canadian heel group and getting over well with his hard demeanor and terrific ring work. He was one of the first to “invade” WWE in 2001 and seemed poised to break out. However, WWE turned Storm’s cold demeanor into the joke of him being so ultra-serious that he came off dull and that would haunt him through the rest of his tenure. He did win a few titles but nothing truly breaking out as his seeming lack of charisma was played up by the company and thus fans never got into him.
It culminated in 2003 with Steve Austin openly leading crowds in chanting “boring!” at Storm in matches and the goofy dancing gimmick that died fast. You could see Storm’s frustrations at it all and no surprise he chose retirement over further mistreatment, showing how WWE’s belief in a guy being “dull” can too often turn to reality to kill a drive fast.
16 2 Cold Scorpio
While he did well in WCW, it was in ECW that Scorpio truly took off, wowing fans with his sensational high-flying moves and killer workrate that got him over nicely, winning the TV title. There were hopes he’d replicate that success in WWE but he was saddled with the character of Flash Funk, acting like a 1970s pimp doing whacky dance moves and a bad jumpsuit. He still had his great agility and flying skills but not any decent push, just lost amid the talent of the time. He was made a member of the JOB Squad and would be gone after a couple of years, a real waste of a fantastic flyer at a time WWE could have used more “flash” than this.
15 The Spirit Squad
Okay, Dolph Ziggler turned out okay from this but it’s still pretty bad. Johnny Jeter, Ken Doane and Nick Nemeth (Ziggler) were stars in OVW, a great trio of performers who were getting good heat and Mike Mondo and Nick Mitchell seemed promising too. When they heard they were not only going to be called up to WWE and made a stable, they must have been excited and eager to make their big break. And then they learned the gimmick was going to be a bunch of male cheerleaders.
True, they would have a tag team title reign out of it but seriously…MALE CHEERLEADERS. How exactly is that going to get anyone over? The bigger issue was that these guys were supposed to be the big enforcers for the McMahons against the reunited DX and thus you had five guys basically getting their butts kicked on a weekly basis by only HHH and HBK. It was a total joke that buried four of the five badly and Ziggler himself has to put up with mocking on it and one of the most ridiculous examples of a heel group ever.
14 Nick Dinsmore
This is one of the most bizarre cases of talent mismanagement WWE has ever known. Dinsmore was a star in OVW, holding the tag titles and a record ten reigns as OVW champion, getting himself over nicely with promos boasting of his wrestling greatness. So WWE’s genius idea was to have him come in as Eric Bischoff’s mentally challenged nephew, Eugene, his clothes and hair in disarray and annoying everyone with his broken speech. Amazingly, WWE actually seemed to get how to do the character as William Regal decided to “train” him and discovered Eugene was a wrestling savant who could mimic any performer. A big moment was when Jonathan Coachman ran him down in an interview only for The Rock to make a surprise appearance to give Eugene help as a friend.
Naturally, WWE found a way to blow it as HHH first befriended Eugene, then beat him down in a feud that ended at SummerSlam, killing off a lot of his heat. He would have stuff like a tag title reign, forcing Bischoff to get his head shaved and winning Kurt Angle’s gold medals but he was treated more the comedy player than a really useful member. Injuries and drug issues took their toll to push Dinsmore down further but still astounding how WWE took a great worker and saddled him from the start, making his burial probably inevitable.
13 D’Lo Brown
A case where a burial was partly justified, D’Lo had been doing well as a member of the Nation of Domination, holding the European and IC titles at once and his chest pad a nice addition to get himself over. But in October of 1999, a botched powerbomb by Brown led to Darren Drozdov taking a hit that would leave him in a wheelchair for life. D’Lo has always felt terrible about the moment and doesn’t really blame WWE for punishing him with pushes down the card and multiple losses. He and Chaz formed a team with Tiger Ali Singh better remembered for their ridiculous outfits than any success and an attempted comeback with Theodore Long’s “Thugging and Buggin’ Enterprises” went nowhere. Bad but Brown himself may feel it justified for the rare case of a burial not totally the fault of the company.
12 Monty Brown
Make no mistake, the dropping of the ball with Monty Brown remains one of the biggest mistakes in TNA’s history. A former football player, Brown was clicking with fans in 2004 and early 2005 with his power, charisma and “Pounce” finisher. He was challenging Jeff Jarrett for the NWA World title and most thought a reign was in the cards to push a hot talent. Instead, TNA had him turn heel which made no sense and he was soon involved in tag matches with Kip James and brawls with other big faces. He had a brief shot back at the top in 2006 against Christian Cage but failed to win the belt and his stock fell fast. He was soon out of TNA, headed to ECW but that didn’t last long as he seemed to lose his love for the business. Still a horrible move by the company to kill one of their rising stars just as he was about to take off and another sign of the mistakes TNA is prone to make.
11 Ronnie Garvin
Winning the NWA World Title in the 1980s should have been the highlight of anyone’s career. For Garvin, it was the beginning of the end. A good midcard worker, Garvin was basically chosen as the sacrificial lamb to win the belt from Ric Flair in September of 1987, just so Flair could regain it at Starrcade. Every major heel refused to lay down for what was obviously a lame-duck champion so the story was Garvin taking a 40-day “sabbatical” to train for the big rematch against Flair. That left the match’s end no surprise as Flair regained the belt and Garvin’s stock fell fast, a heel turn later in 1988 doing nothing for him.
He had a brief AWA run and then to WWE with a too-long feud with Greg Valentine that went nowhere. The guy had talent but the stigma of one of the worst NWA title “reigns” ever was something his career never recovered from and stunning to see how fast he was buried afterward.
10 Cheerleader Melissa
Much is talked about TNA’s constant pushing of newcomers over their regular talent. But this ranks as one of the biggest bunglings ever of a newly signed star. Melissa had established herself as probably the best female wrestler on the independent scene and better than most in WWE or TNA. Signing her on seemed perfect for the company, the ideas of feuds the gorgeous woman could get into among the Knockouts writing themselves. Instead, TNA decided to have Melissa dress head to toe in robes and veil, the name Raisha Saeed and simply be the manager for Awesome Kong.
It still makes no sense for TNA to not even use a talent so terrific and a total waste of both her talent and presence. She made a later run as Alissa Flash but that also went nowhere and she was soon back on the independent scene, highlighting one of the bigger talent mistakes TNA has ever made.
9 Rey Mysterio
Rey may have seen some low stuff in WWE to be sure but the company still treated him a hell of a lot better than WCW did. After tearing it up for a few years in some classic matches, Mysterio was forced by WCW to unmask on the idiotic idea he wasn’t “marketable” enough as a masked man. His reward for going against years of tradition and his own pride? A couple of cheap wins over Nash and Bam Bam Bigelow and a brief tag title reign but then shoved around in the Filthy Animals and clearly never given a chance because of his size.
When he arrived in WWE, they showed WCW’s mistake by making a mint off the sale of Rey masks and building him up as “the biggest little man” and showed WCW one of their big mistakes with talent.
8 Shane Douglas
WWE’s own book on ECW doesn’t hold back calling Douglas’ run with the company in 1995 a total flop. He’d been rising high in ECW as “the Franchise” and while his ego could be an issue, he was still a capable worker and ready for a bigger push. However, WWE decided to give him the gimmick of “Dean Douglas,” doing lectures as a schoolteacher and scratching the chalkboard. Doesn’t exactly fill you with fear, does it? It got worse as Douglas’ ego clashed with the Kliq who were practically running WWE at the time and needless to say, it didn’t go very well. Douglas was to beat Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental title but Shawn bowed out due to his being beaten up by a bunch of guys at a club. Douglas was awarded the belt by forfeit only to lose it in a 15 minute match to Razor Ramon. Not surprisingly, Douglas bolted back to ECW in no time and showcased just how badly WWE was in that terrible year.
7 Perry Saturn
After a great run in ECW, Saturn was signed to WCW with expectations of taking off well. He was saddled from the start by some injuries and then attached to Raven’s “Flock,” its enforcer with stuff like losing a match to become a servant to Lodi and later forced to wear a dress after a loss to Chris Jericho. His tenure ended with being told point blank by Kevin Sullivan that he wouldn’t get over with fans so he jumped ship with the rest of the Radicalz in 2000.
He was the odd man out, a brief run as European champ but nothing much else. The big moment was when Saturn lost his temper during a televised match with jobber Mike Bell, beating the rookie down hard. His punishment was the storyline of getting a blow to the head and believing a mop was his girlfriend and the “Moppy” stuff pretty much killed his career. Sad but in many ways, Saturn is a case of a guy who can really blame himself for his own burial and how bad things went.
6 Chris Harris
This one was a true waste. Harris had done well in TNA, he and James Storm forming America’s Most Wanted, who dominated the tag team ranks with multiple title reigns. In their split, Harris was promised a push but never quite materialized with a losing feud against Christian Cage and ignored amid the rest of TNA talent.
He jumped to the WWE, making a big noise about making a huge splash but his ECW debut had him coming out to the name of “Branden Walker” and the now infamous “I’m gonna knock your brains out” catchphrase that brought instant ridicule. He would only last a month before he was gone, no impact whatsoever and later a return to TNA that went nowhere, a good guy who never got his due amid such bad character moves.
Vader was a dominant force in WCW, crushing Sting for the World title in 1992, losing it to Ron Simmons but regaining it later in the year. He held the belt for almost all of 1993, turning back all challengers and won the favor of fans with his skill, his hard style and ability to take flight. When he dropped the belt to Flair in late 1993, he was still hot and seemed ready to keep at the main event. But he was lost a bit as Flair gave feuds to Ricky Steamboat and then, of course, the coming of Hogan changed things as Vader was stuck in a meaningless feud with the Boss and then Sting, winning the U.S. title from Duggan and seemed primed for a match with Hogan. But the feud died instantly when Hogan no-sold Vader’s dreaded powerbomb BEFORE their big SuperBrawl match. Vader’s stock fell lower and lower and he finally jumped ship from WCW in late 1995.
It seemed WWE would be a good fit for him but his debut at the Royal Rumble ended with him eliminated and pushed down the card a bit. His feud with Shawn Michaels was reportedly going to have Vader winning the belt at SummerSlam but Shawn supposedly put the kibosh on that so Vader got pinned after winning by DQ twice. After that, Vader was soon lost with low-key feuds, a partnership with Mankind and a badly-done face turn. He was out of the company by 1998, one of the biggest botchings of a star of WWE in this time and his career never recovering from the dual burying in both companies.
After making her mark in the AWA and later WCW, Madusa Miceli changed her name to Alundra Blayze to find great success as WWF Women’s champion. But when cuts basically killed that division, Madusa jumped to WCW where, on “Nitro,” she dumped the Women’s title into a garbage can. It was a huge moment in the Monday Night War but WCW failed to capitalize as Madusa was lost with no women’s division, only making brief appearances now and then. She would make a return in 1999 but in bad stuff of fighting “Oklahoma” and even holding the Cruiserweight title. It was a terrible waste of a great female talent that could have helped WCW out but they buried her badly after that initial burst of rubbing it into Vince’s face and never did catch up to WWE when it came to the ladies.
3 Terry Taylor
Here’s a case of a guy who got buried by not one, but two major companies. Taylor had been a great star in the Mid-South/UWF era, able to hang with Ric Flair and popular with crowds. He was TV champion when Bill Watts was forced to sell the UWF to Jim Crockett and despite big promises, Crockett never really gave the UWF the potential push it deserved. Taylor was jobbed to Nikita Koloff to “unify” the two TV titles at Starrcade and shoved down the card more.
He moved to WWE where, according to legend, it was literally a coin flip between him and Curt Hennig for the “Mr. Perfect” gimmick. Taylor lost that as badly as you can imagine as he was saddled with the horrible “Red Rooster” gimmick that killed his potential right off the bat. He made a return to WCW with the idea of him becoming the businesslike “Terrance Taylor” that went nowhere. It’s a shame as Taylor was a truly talented guy who could have spiced up the mid-card of any promotion but both WWE and WCW ignored that to render him a joke.
2 Mike Awesome
Even by the amazing standards of WCW, the bungling of Mike Awesome is stunning. As 2000 began, Awesome had been dominating ECW as their champion, skilled in technical stuff but also able to smash guys to pieces with his dreaded power bomb. WCW threw him plenty of money, enough for Awesome to show up on Nitro, still the ECW champion, to attack Kevin Nash. It was a huge moment and the hate of ECW fans was huge as Awesome dropped the belt to Taz at a house show.
So how did WCW capitalize on this terrific heat with a man who could be a monster star? By giving Awesome the gimmick of a 1970s lounge lizard called “That ‘70s Guy" and a lame interview segment. They later turned him into “The Fat Chick Thriller” with the idea of him hitting on overweight women. It’s amazing that WCW would pay all that money to sign Awesome and proceed to misuse him so badly, rendering the former monster a joke and his career never recovered, astounding to see him dropping so fast.
1 Zack Ryder
Let’s make this clear: even his biggest fans have to acknowledge that Ryder isn’t a guy you’d want headlining WrestleMania or carry the company. But it’s still astonishing how a guy could get so massively over, almost entirely on his own and then get crushed by the company. It’s more baffling given how McMahon makes a huge deal to the talent on “grabbing the brass ring” and it’s up to them to get over but when one does, he cuts the legs out from under them. And no one exemplifies that more than Ryder.
Tired of being underutilized, Ryder began a series of YouTube videos called “Z! True Long Island Story” that soon caught on with fans. Before long, Ryder was getting cheered more and more and WWE began to take notice of him, the crowds popping huge, chanting his catchphrase and mimicking his poses, the guy was truly on fire. That led to him winning the U.S. title as 2011 ended and seemingly on the rise for more.
But as soon as he was on top, Ryder was soon shoved down, losing the belt to Jack Swagger and the on-air storyline of Eve dumping him and before long was relegated to only showing up on “Superstars” or brief bouts he’d lose on RAW. It was a bad move by fans and Curt Hawkins would state in an interview that it also broke the locker room morale, that Vince was basically telling the talent all their hard work would be for nothing, he could break anyone he didn’t like getting over. Now currently in NXT, one can hope for a revival but as it stands, Ryder ranks as a guy on the verge of greatness when his own company decided otherwise.