WWE has undergone a lot of changes over the years. However, one thing remains as true as ever: Vince McMahon’s word is law. For better or worse, Vince always makes the final choice in who gets a push and who gets shoved down. It’s not always fair but it’s how it is. Even as Triple H has been rising up with NXT, Vince’s personality shows (as proven by the slews of NXT stars ignored on the main roster). Many are still surprised at AJ Styles’ success as most thought he wouldn’t be a great guy in Vince’s eyes. However, it’s obvious when Vince still pushes a big guy just because of his size and ignore how fans aren’t responding.
It’s been like this for years as there are slews of cases of a guy who was pushed just because Vince wanted him as a main eventer but it didn’t go over with fans. Some were talented but not suited for that slot while others should never have been allowed at that level. While wrestlers traditionally get themselves over on the mid-card before moving up, others are shot right to the top for seemingly no reason other than their boss believes in them.
A few cases led to bad business but Vince is stubborn to ever admit he was wrong on anything and thus still supports the moves. Here are 20 famous main event flops in WWE who were only there because of Vince’s support and shows how he hurts his own company as much as he helps it.
To be fair, in late 1994, Kevin Nash was taking off with fans. As IC and tag team champion, he was a cool heel and fans were gravitating to him. However, Vince mistook that for meaning the fans wanted him on top instantly. So with no real build, Diesel beat Bob Backlund in eight seconds for the title. Then came the worse move of having him transform into a smiling babyface, ignoring how his cocky persona was what got him over.
Even when it became clear fans were turning on him, Vince kept Diesel as champ and the result was 1995 being one of the worst years in company history.
He finally lost and went back to his old persona just in time to leave for WCW and make the mistake even bigger.
19 Scott Steiner
In late 2002, Vince knew WWE needed some energy to rise up more. He thus made the horrible mistake of hiring on Scott Steiner and giving him a major push to the main event scene. The first problem was Steiner’s attitude of a borderline lunatic with insane promos. The second was that his skills had fallen badly. His Royal Rumble match against Triple H was a disaster with Steiner barely able to do anything but suplexes and Hunter was visibly upset about it all. Steiner was removed from the main event scene in a few weeks after that to show how Vince’s belief the guy could be the star of the past just dragged WWE down further.
18 Bobby Lashley
Vince has a real affinity for guys with terrific builds. Thus, Bobby Lashley was an instant favorite in 2006. He was soon pushed big, including being the representative of the Donald in the “Battle of the Billionaires” at WrestleMania. Lashley won the US and ECW title and it was obvious Vince was angling him for the main event. But Lashley was soon hit by combinations of injuries and backstage issues that crushed his momentum. He had a brief MMA career before TNA who actually booked well as a monster champion. Lashley is back in WWE but not the same and so despite Vince’s hopes, he never became the main eventer wanted.
17 Albert Del Rio
He had a good charisma and good on the mic. However, the incessant push for Alberto Del Rio turned a lot of folks against him fast. His constant rants on his “Destiny’” got boring and he seemed better for a mid-card spot than the main event.
Vince wanted to push him as an arrogant rich heel (a character he loves) but the fans didn’t respond as expected.
He had runs as WWE and World champion and each were a mess with poor reception. Del Rio of course left under a cloud and his reputation has since taken a hit to showcase why a “Vince favorite” doesn’t always work.
16 The Miz
This may seem a bit odd, considering how fans feel about him now, but it's still notable for the time. The Miz was a good guy in the midcard as an arrogant heel and also fit as a tag team champion. But having him WWE Champion didn’t work at all as he just didn’t have the main event style needed to captivate. That he got a Mania win over Cena is amazing and fans just didn’t take to it.
Since then, The Miz has gained far more respect as a multi-time IC champion and is far more suitable as an upper-mid-carder. He’s better suited there, proving some guys just aren’t cut out for the main event spot, no matter how much Vince wants that to work for them.
After years of failed gimmicks, Solfa Fatu hit it big as Rikishi. Somehow, this big fat guy dancing and sticking his rear end in people’s faces became a huge hit. He even got a run as IC champion, a perfect babyface for the mid-card. However, pushing him to the main event in 2000 was a very bad move. Making him the guy who ran over Steve Austin with a car was bad enough but that he “did it for The Rock” was worse, a totally illogical move.
The guy never fit in for major main event matches with Austin, Rock, Angle and others as building him as a huge heel didn’t work at all.
After being the forgettable Skip Sheffield in NXT, Ryback was remade into a new star. The problem was, he was one of the biggest rip-offs in recent memory. His bald head, mannerisms, crushing opponents, was basically like Goldberg without the 'it' factor.
His main event title bouts were poor as fans just couldn’t get behind such a blatant copy of a bigger star.
A heel turn, as well as an allegiance with Paul Heyman didn't work either. They tried with him as IC champion but injuries and personal issues just hurt his momentum and he never clicked as the main event guy Vince wanted.
13 Chris Masters
He was everything Vince wanted in a worker: Tall, handsome and a terrific physique. Chris Masters was given a big push with the idea of his “Master Lock” finisher being unbreakable and it was clear he was being groomed for the main event. However, it soon became obvious that Masters had little charisma and limited in-ring skills.
Despite feuds with Shawn Michaels and others, his shots at the title were letdowns as it was obvious he wasn’t at that level. WWE kept at it with an IC title feud but he was released in 2007. Thus, all he ended up doing was leaving Vince with egg on his face after such a big push.
12 The Patriot
Del Wilkes had been a long-time worker in Global Wrestling and then WCW. He was noted for his masked character that took on a good patriotic theme. He was clearly better suited for the tag ranks or the midcard. However, in 1997, Vince pushed the Patriot as a challenger for new WWE champion Bret Hart.
They even headlined a PPV which was obviously a spot the Patriot was unsuited for.
Bret won their title bout and Wilkes was soon out of WWE due to personal issues. Thus, pushing him as a main event guy showed how Vince’s somewhat troubled instincts about patriotic characters didn’t always pan out.
11 Vladimir Kozlov
Vince is infamous for being at least a decade behind in terms of pop culture. So it makes sense that in 2008, he still thought the evil foreign heel from Russia was relevant. Kozlov wasn’t too bad, an imposing figure. But he clearly needed more work, he had little charisma and didn't connect at all with the fans. That didn’t stop Vince from pushing him against John Cena but Kozlov just wasn’t cut out for the main event. He did find success as a tag team champion with Santino Marella but was out of WWE in just a few years. Ironically, his gimmick ended up being far better suited for Rusev, who doesn’t get the same support from Vince to show how skewed his judgement can be.
10 Roman Reigns
You knew this was coming. It’s not that Roman Reigns can’t be a main event star. It’s the way it’s happening that’s terrible. Presenting him as an underdog babyface doesn’t fit with his look. He’s far better suited to be a monster heel. He doesn’t fit the “underdog babyface fighting the odds” a champion should be meant for.
It’s Vince’s refusal to listen to the fans and shove Roman down their throats constantly that’s led to a huge backlash as the fans have made it clear they won’t accept him in that spot but Vince keeps pushing. It’s a shame as Roman is a good guy but Vince’s constant stubbornness have led him to be one of the most hated babyfaces in WWE history.
9 Lex Luger
The problem with Luger wasn’t his star potential in WWE, it was how he was booked. After a bad bit as The Narcissist, he was remade into a Hulk Hogan clone with a “Lex Express” bus tour.
He still could have been okay except for how Vince decided not to have him win the belt at SummerSlam despite all the hype.
Fans wanted Bret Hart back on top in 1993 or even Undertaker, not Luger after that failure. Even Vince regretted it with Luger falling down the card and no wonder he bolted for WCW to show a major dropping of the ball on Vince’s part.
8 Jinder Mahal
This remains one of the most baffling moves of WWE in recent years. It’s one thing to give a younger and fresher face a chance. It’s something else altogether to take a guy who had been a career-long mid-carder and in just a month make him WWE Champion. No one expected it or wanted it as Mahal just never had credibility suddenly elevated to this level. He was put over more deserving guys and ratings dipped during his reign on top. Thus fans were overjoyed when he lost the belt to AJ Styles. Mahal could've panned out if he had been built as a new star in the mid-card, but Vince rushed things for no good reason.
7 The Great Khali
Nothing speaks to Vince’s obsession with big guys more than this. Khali was an impressive sight with his huge size and imposing figure. But he made Big Show look like a luchadore; he was slow and plodding and his matches were always terrible. So it was boggling in 2007 when Khali won a battle royal for the vacant World Heavyweight Championship. No one but Vince thought he could be a fit for the role and it was proven by some truly horrible matches. He lost the belt to the joy of everyone but he was still pushed as a main eventer for a while and it shows why Vince’s “big guy” madness leads to setbacks for WWE.
6 Jack Swagger
A guy who could have benefited from NXT letting him work out the kinks, Jack Swagger was a good worker and not bad on the mic.
The problem was, he was a guy like The Miz (at the time), better suited for the mid card than the main event scene.
But WWE pushed him hard, having him win Money in the Bank and the World title in a span of days. His feuds were lackluster and it wasn’t helped by Swagger’s shortcomings on the mic. He kept getting pushes, including plans for him to regain the belt at Mania only for Swagger to get busted for drug possession weeks before the show. He was gone from WWE not long after so instead of being the next Kurt Angle as Vince hoped, he was just a dud.
At least every other guy on this list was an actual wrestler. Zeus wasn’t even that. In 1989, “No Holds Barred” was pushed hard by Vince as a major movie starring Hogan and WWE made it a massive deal on TV. The movie didn’t become the hit Vince was hoping for and was seen as a joke. But Vince went so far as to have Tiny Lister show up in character as Zeus to attack Hogan.
He joined with Randy Savage for battles against Hogan and Brutus Beefcake at SummerSlam and even a PPV cage match (this was back when PPVs were still rare).
Naturally, fans didn’t take at all to an actor coming in and being given a huge push and thus Vince never went for a big one-on-one match as planned. It does rank as a clear example of a guy only Vince wanted in the main event.
4 Sgt. Slaughter
In 1984, the idea of Slaughter as WWE Champion would have made sense. The man was truly over then, a heroic figure who could do great brawls and fans loving his patriotic act. By 1991, he had faded majorly and it wasn’t helped by the idea of him now being an Iraq sympathizer as the Gulf War broke out. Slaughter beat The Ultimate Warrior for the title at the Royal Rumble despite how everyone was hoping for a Warrior/Hogan rematch at Mania.
Slaughter just didn’t fit being the champion and his matches were sloppy. The ticket sales were so bad that WrestleMania was moved to a much smaller arena than planned. In the end, Hogan beat Slaughter for the belt to end a disaster of a title reign and showcase how Vince’s impulsiveness led to a bad run.
3 Giant Gonzalez
El Gigante had been signed by Ted Turner in hopes of becoming a basketball player for the Atlanta Hawks thanks to his huge size. That ended when it became obvious how uncoordinated he was. Despite that, WCW made him a wrestler and he quickly earned a reputation as one of the worst wrestlers of all time. Somehow, WWE thought he’d be a good hire, bringing him in to feud with The Undertaker in 1993.
He was as bad as ever, worse thanks to his horrible flesh-colored and muscled outfit and the matches were some of the worst ever seen.
That WWE tried to push him was amazing and proof of how Vince’s “big guys” obsession causes so many problems.
2 King Kong Bundy
Bundy was an impressive guy with his size and not as terrible as other big workers. However, he could still be slow and his “Avalanche” finisher not as great as other big guys. He got over with his size and his “five count” bit but not what you’d call a major main event guy. Still, WWE tried in 1986 by having Bundy lay Hogan out in a brutal attack. That led to their cage match at WrestleMania II that was a major letdown. The rematches weren’t much better as Bundy slid down the card before leaving. He was just a big monster to feed to Hogan, but not the true monster Andre was.
Nelson Frazier was a good guy but he just wasn’t a main event talent. He was a huge man but was far from agile, or technically sound. He was known as one half of Men on a Mission, a rapping tag team that made little impact. But somehow, Vince got it into his head that this guy was perfect as a main eventer in 1995.
Mabel won King of the Ring in a moment fans hated and then challenged Diesel in what’s probably the worst SummerSlam main event ever. He was utterly terrible, as proven when he injured The Undertaker’s face with a badly done legdrop. Only Vince thought this guy could be a main eventer and yet another reason 1995 WWE is perhaps the worst year in the company's history.