The WWE hires a lot of talent. In fact, today, more so than perhaps at any other time in the WWE's history, they are chalked full of talent ready to take the next step. You have the rosters that make up Raw, SmackDown Live, NXT, the UK tournament and the Cruiserweights. Filling that much television programming with talent takes a lot of work. From announcers and managers to the wrestlers themselves, where the WWE finds these performers can vary. Unfortunately, to discover the best, sometimes, you have to kiss a few frogs to find the prince or princess.
The WWE has been known to find a few frogs. Over the past thirty years, some of the most memorable moments both in front of the camera and behind the curtain come from hired talent that just didn't have it. Whether they were terrible workers in the ring, couldn't adapt to the WWE style or simply had a few loose screws, these talents wound up outside the WWE system as soon as Vince McMahon discovered he'd made a horrendous mistake.
Who are the worst of all time? Well, there are plenty of candidates, but we've narrowed it down to our top 15. These 15 performers were so bad or so dangerous that they'll go down in infamy as the worst hires in WWE history. You almost have to wonder, what in the world was the WWE thinking?
15 Mike Adamle
Mike Adamle started as a professional football player in the NFL and went on to host American Gladiators. These mainstream leagues and iconic shows made him, what seemed like, an obvious choice for Vince McMahon when it came to sprucing up the announce team. Vince always loved to bring a built-in audience with some of his hires and Adamle appeared to fit that mold.
On paper, Adamle had all the ingredients to do the job. In reality, right from his first moments, he was such a disaster that the WWE was forced to turn his obvious lack of knowledge about the show and the product into a storyline where Adamle walked off-set and quit the company.
Adamle was most famous for once calling Jeff Hardy "Jeff Harvey." He called Tazz "the Tazz" and forgot basic things he was supposed to say and introduce. After that, he was pretty much toast as far as the fans were concerned. He will go down in history as one of the worst hires the WWE ever did when it came to the announce team.
14 Fake Diesel and Fake Razor Ramon
When Scott Hall and Kevin Nash left the WWE for WCW, Vince McMahon was worried. This was really the first time since the signing of Hulk Hogan that WCW had made steps to slow the roll that the WWE was on and take some of the ratings from his juggernaut of a show. In an effort to respond, Vince decided that while WCW had the people who played the characters, he still owned the characters themselves and that was better. He was incredibly wrong.
The WWE and specifically Jim Ross pumped up the return of Diesel and Razor so much that WCW executives thought Kevin and Scott were somehow pulling one over on them. Just before the WWE characters made their television debut, Nash and Hall were signed to new and more lucrative contracts with WCW to ensure they wouldn't dart back to the WWE (which they were never going to actually do).
The fake Diesel and Razor showed up and were immediately hated. Fans felt ripped off, the gimmicks didn't work and Vince quickly realized, the character needs the right people to make it work. He no longer had that. Glenn Jacobs (the performer who played the Fake Diesel) was lucky to escape the disaster unscathed. He went on to have a successful career as Kane.
Kevin Wacholz was an experienced wrestler who played a character named Nailz. Nailz was apparently a former convict who'd been arrested by the Big Boss Man and had time to stew over his sentence in prison. He was back to exact revenge.
For a minute the idea had some steam, but Wacholz was a bit of a lunatic and decided one day that he wasn't happy about his payout from the company. In 1992, after a SummerSlam Pay Per View, he took to storming Vince McMahon's office, arguing about the money he thought he was due and attacked Vince, physically assaulting him with a ton of witnesses around. After being terminated, he perjured himself on the stand during a trial that saw McMahon charged for illegal steroid distribution. McMahon was found not guilty on all charges thanks to Wacholz and his inconsistent testimony. I guess this has to be considered a terrible hire that turned out well for McMahon on a personal level?
Butterbean was a tough guy who made a name for himself as a brawler in boxing, MMA and wrestling but was mostly known for knocking guys out in dramatic fashion. He'd become somewhat of a personality on television and the WWE thought that it would be wise for the winner of their inaugural WWF Brawl For All contest to take on Butterbean at WrestleMania XV. The idea back in 1998 was to see which WWF Superstars were legit tough. An underdog in the competition, Bart Gunn had breezed through the field.
As Gunn and Butterbean set to square-off, the introductions lasted longer than the fight did and Butterbean knocked out Gunn on the first sequence. In one fowl swoop, Butterbean made the entire contest look like a total joke. Bart Gunn was quickly released and Butterbean was paid handsomely to make the WWE look foolish. Brawl For All never happened again.
11 Raw Guest Hosts
The idea behind bringing on guest hosts in the WWE makes sense on paper. Contract a celebrity who probably has thousands of adoring fans and extra eyeballs see your product. The only way this works is if the hosts are actually big name celebrities, promote their appearances and know the product. In the handful of times that the WWE went this route, perhaps only one or two hosts accomplished this goal.
Instead, the WWE likely paid a lot of money to bring in guests hosts who had little to no impact on the product or the television show. When they did, it was embarrassing for the show, WWE fans and likely the celebrity themselves. The storylines made no sense and it put the WWE performers in an awkward position. It's one thing to have big names show up at WrestleMania, it's another to do week after week and get no real return from it. It's basically money the WWE simply threw away.
Some bad hires are not always the fault of the performer. Such was the case in 1995 when the WWE repeatedly threw bad gimmick after bad gimmick on television. Phantasio perhaps takes the cake, but it was hardly Harry Del Rios' fault (he played the Phantasio character).
Del Rios was brought in to be a magician/wrestler and part of his gimmick was mysteriously pulling off tricks during his matchups. Perhaps, I should say matchup, because he had one appearance on tv and was never used again. It must have been when he pulled the underwear off both his opponent and then the referee that made such a lasting impression. Phantasio has to be the worst gimmick the WWE ever came up with. Well, I suppose there were Mantaur and Doink and Bastion Booger and...
9 The Gobbledy Gooker
The Gobbledy Gooker will go down as the WWE's most hyped idea to ever have the least exciting return. In anticipation for the Survivor Series in 1990, a giant egg was rolled into the stadium and the WWE asked, "what's inside the egg?". Fans were giddy with excitement.
Realistically, everyone should have looked back at the idea and decided that having something come out of an egg was probably not the greatest of ideas. After all, what could pop out of an egg and be taken seriously? Either way, what did come out was a giant turkey! Not to be outdone, the performer under the turkey costume was Hector Guerrero. What a shame that was. The Gooker was meant to be a mascot for the kids and they hated it.
This was one of the WWE's worst hires because they completely wasted a talented worker in Hector Guerrero.
The WWE is known for having come up with some offensive ideas. Eugene may rank at the top of the list for offensive ideas that were brought back to television over and over again. And sadly, they used a pretty good wrestler in Nick Dinsmore to try and make the character work.
A nephew that Eric Bischoff was ashamed of, Eugene had some sort of disability. It was never detailed as to what that disability was, but it sent the message that people didn't accept Eugene because of his special needs and that didn't sit well with a variety of groups who thought the idea was offensive. Eugene lasted on WWE programming for a while, but eventually faded since the character was so one dimensional. What should the company have expected? Where do you go from that sort of debut?
I think the WWE meant well. They wanted a character who could overcome the odds and succeed. It just didn't come across as the smartest idea ever and there was no way to again use Dinsmore after the Eugene character failed.
7 Daniel Puder
Daniel Puder was a contestant on Tough Enough. Tough Enough was a reality show the WWE thought up where amateur wrestlers (or in some cases people with no wrestling background at all), could try out to become WWE Superstar. Puder had an MMA background, so his inclusion made him someone the fans wanted to keep their eye on.
During a segment with Kurt Angle, the Tough Enough contestants were challenged to try and take Kurt on in a legit amateur wrestling style contest. Puder accepted and went to his MMA background, trying to catch Angle in a legit arm bar which almost broke Angle's arm. Angle was not pleased and tore a strip off the contestant on television. Puder was really only used again in a Royal Rumble match where Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Bob Holly teed off on him for minutes until finally throwing him out to teach him a lesson.
Perhaps both Puder and the WWE learned a lesson that day. Don't hire guys like Puder with no wrestling experience and don't put them in legit shoot scnearios that could make your stars look foolish.
If I asked you to name a wrestler out there who thinks he's better than he actually is, tell me you didn't pick Ryback. A former Tough Enough contestant, Ryback joined the group Nexus and fizzled out. He returned with the look the WWE loves but was way too big for his britches. He looked at himself as a main event player and really never was one. To this day, he still publicly talks about how the WWE dropped the ball with him.
As a character fans mocked for being eerily similar to Goldberg, Ryback made the mistake of addressing that fact well after the WWE could get any heat from the fan reaction. It didn't go over well. In Ryback's defense, he didn't get a ton of help from the WWE writers, but that didn't excuse his need to go out publicly and trash talk his employer. He's trying to build some sort of motivation speaking career, but that likely won't work well either.
5 Nathan Jones
Nathan Jones had the look to be one of the biggest monsters in the WWE. He also had a movie background and should have understood the art of entertainment when mixed with physicality. The problem was, he just couldn't wrestle a lick and was perhaps the wrestler known to be the worst at picking up the craft.
Unfortunately, that wasn't Jones' only issue. In 2003, when the world (especially the U.S.) was wrought with fear over the 9/11 tragedy, Jones decided to joke about bomb threats. Stating that he had a bomb in his shoe to a security personnel during a layover in Orlando, FL, he was immediately detained and missed the following week’s WWE shows. On another WWE tour, the company visited Perth, Australia. The WWE came back and Jones didn't, instead opting to simply stay in his homeland. That was it for Jones and the WWE.
4 Buff Bagwell
Buff Bagwell was arguably one of WCW's best mid-card stars, yet he only ever wrestled a single match on WWE TV. Coming over as part of the Invasion angle after Vince McMahon purchased WCW, Bagwell’s WWE in-ring debut was to be against Booker T for the WCW Title in the main event of Raw. It was an extremely important match both for the audience to get behind the WCW as a product, the wrestlers behind the curtain who weren't happy to let WCW guys take roster spots and for Vince who needed a strong match to move forward with the angle.
It was the absolute worst match anyone could imagine. Bagwell was not in the right physical condition, had demons he was wrestling with and despite every effort by Booker T to make the match watchable, it was a disaster. It basically signaled the end of the WCW Invasion and ruined what could have been a huge storyline for years for the WWE. Bagwell was relieved of his duties not long after.
Bagwell was a hot mess, doing things like having his mommy call in sick for him and acting like an idiot backstage. It was not a good time in his career.
3 Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner has proven he was never really that sane. Even in his first runs with the WWE and WCW, he was known to misbehave and cause trouble backstage. During the latter part of WCW, Steiner was increasingly agitative and because of it, his character worked, but it was a fine line for management to walk. Eventually, he was hired and given big money by the WWE after he'd proven himself to be a liability for WCW.
Perhaps Vince thought that working for the WWE would smarten him up or that the well-oiled machine that was the WWE company would set Steiner straight but Steiner never lived up to his billing as a monster free agent. He was brought in as a performer who could change the landscape and that never happened.
Of course, the WWE screwed up and brought him in as a babyface. They also didn't really check to see how physically ready he was to wrestle again as his ability in the ring had clearly deteriorated needing surgery on a bad foot. Since his release, Steiner has gone out and publicly bashed pretty much everyone he ever met. It's not a good look for the WWE to have hired a guy who they clearly should have seen had a few screws loose.
2 David Schultz
Back in the old days, it was a bad idea to tell a wrestler that his craft was fake. Everyone knows it's a staged show now, but wrestlers held on to the art of their craft closer than perhaps anything. Dave Schultz was a good example that you didn't ask a wrestler to comment on his job not being "real."
20/20 reporter John Stossel did so, and after stating “I think this is fake” was hit and knocked to the ground by an infuriated Schultz. Schultz not sure that Stossel had learned his lesson, open-hand slapped the reporter as he tried to get back up and then chased him all the while yelling, “Was that fake?” Schultz insists that the WWE told him to get physical with Stossel and the case settled out of court, but Schultz was fired and moved on to have other issues that showed he potentially was acting on his own accord. It was either an expensive mistake to hire him or an expensive mistake to tell him to act so foolishly.
1 Corporate "Yes" Men
Our final entry isn't so much one performer or wrestler; it's more a philosophy. In any business, the most success comes from being challenged and doing what you didn't think you couldn't do. When the WWE had WCW to compete with, the product hit its peak. Today, the WWE is full of employees who refused to challenge the ideas of a man in charge who seems to have lost his touch.
Of course, Vince McMahon will always deserve the lion's share of credit for creating the WWE as we now know it, but for years, he's surrounded himself with stooges who don't challenge him to be better. If they did, is there any way that half of the names on our list of the worst hires in WWE history would have ever happened? Probably not.
Vince's lack of motivation to do better and his willingness to hire those who don't question him, including Triple H and Stephanie, seem to be the worst mistake of all. There's no way such bad ideas get the green light if someone just tells Vince not to go ahead with them.