Given the fact WWE superstars are on the road over 200 days out of the year, wrestling almost every night they travel, it would be almost absurd to try and judge one of them based on the merits of a single match. The most prolific WWE superstars wrestled in literally thousands of contests, some good, some bad, and many falling in between those two lines, forgettable to anyone who wasn’t live in attendance when it happened. With this much content, a misfire here or there isn’t going to shatter an otherwise sterling career.
However, under the right circumstances, one single match can nonetheless have an extremely important impact on a wrestler’s prospects once it’s over. Win or lose, if a wrestler looks particularly bad when the second bell rings, fans will give up on them almost immediately. There is a plus side in that certain matches can also reveal a superstar’s potential and turn them into a star, but that’s not what this list is all about.
Focusing instead on the worst of wrestling, today we’re looking at matches that pretty much ended a wrestler’s chances at ever finding future success. Some lost in definitive fashion, others made some seriously bad moves under the most spotlight they ever received, and others still simply failed to perform on the level fans expected. Whatever the case, these bouts were so bad, one or more involved superstar was never the same. Keep reading to learn about 15 matches that singlehandedly destroyed a wrestler’s career.
15 Triple H vs. Scott Steiner, Royal Rumble 2003
Believe it or not, when Scott Steiner first arrived in the WWE Universe as a solo star, he was immediately treated like a pretty big deal. His debut came at the 2002 Survivor Series, earning a huge pop in front of the Madison Square Garden crowd as he annihilated Matt Hardy. Three mere months later, Steiner was challenging Triple H for the World Championship. Unfortunately, that’s where it all fell apart, as the first match between the two was, in a word, atrocious. Almost nothing Steiner attempted actually connected with Triple H, aside from literally dozens of suplexes he threw haphazardly, putting The Game at risk. Not that HHH was doing much better, lazily plodding through the match and expecting Steiner to suddenly get better. Unsurprisingly, that never happened, progressively getting worse until Steiner’s entire value as a main event star had shattered.
14 Hulk Hogan vs. The Warrior, Halloween Havoc 1998
No matter how hard WWE attempts to whitewash The Ultimate Warrior’s history after his Hall of Fame induction, fans who witnessed his insanity firsthand can never forget it. Those who saw his match against Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc 1998 might even question how the hell he could ever be considered a Hall of Fame worthy “wrestler.” For a full decade up to that point, Warrior was one of the top stars in the country, with his war against Hulk Hogan in 1990 coincidentally being the peak of his fame. Eight years later, neither man was quite the performer they once were, delivering this awful rematch where every single move was mistimed. Hogan was still pretty much untouchable at this point, leading the nWo and winning multiple WCW Championships, meaning Warrior took all the blame. Because of that, he never wrestled for a major US promotion again.
13 Four-Way Match For The AAA Reina de Reinas Championship, Triplemanía XXV
While WWE has been promoting a women’s wrestling revolution in recent years, fans of female grapplers around the globe are well aware the concept is hardly anything new. Other companies have been treating women equal to men for a long time now, at least in terms of their biggest female stars. For example, Lucha Underground pushed Sexy Star as one of their absolute top talents, making her the first ever female Lucha Underground Champion. Barely a year after her landmark moment hit the air, though, Sexy Star ruined her own career by breaking the script during a four-way match at AAA Triplemanía XXV. For no good reason, Sexy decided to break the arm of her opponent Rosemary, also legitimately attacking the other women in the match before the referee called it off. Since then, Star has been a total pariah in the industry, with most companies refusing to hire her.
12 Team WWE vs. The Nexus, SummerSlam 2010
For all the flack men like Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin get about holding back men who tried to eclipse their fame, John Cena deserves mention beside them as a man who singlehandedly crushed seven rising wrestlers in the same match. Granted, he wasn’t only, merely serving as the captain to Team WWE as they one by one eliminated The Nexus during their heated war at SummerSlam 2010. Ultimately, it came down to Cena and two Nexus rivals, and naturally the Face of WWE overcame to the odds to save the day. This completely shattered the Nexus’s momentum, immediately killing off what was the company’s most popular angle at the time. None of the Nexus members ever recovered, with most of them fading away fairly soon. In fairness, Wade Barrett ultimately did all right for himself, but things would have gone even better if he managed to beat Cena in this key contest.
11 Barry Horowitz vs. Skip, Action Zone 1995
In a certain sense, there’s something of a cosmic balance with wrestling, in that one career being destroyed can open up space for another one to flourish. WWE once managed to boil this concept down to its core, managing to kill two birds with one stone in a single match, ending the mainstream career or Skip while giving Barry Horowitz his biggest moment ever. At the time, Skip was a brash wunderkind newcomer who entered WWE with great hype as a former NWA Champion. Horowitz was the exact opposite, a 10-year veteran who almost never won a significant match. In a massive upset, Horowitz managed to pin Skip to the mat on an episode of Action Zone, forever ruining the chances of Skip being respected in the company. Although he later earned a brief run as WWE Tag Team Champion with Zip, Skip had the skill set to become a much larger star, and this early match is the main reason he couldn’t capitalize on it.
10 The Acolytes vs. The Public Enemy, Sunday Night Heat 1999
Before ECW was a slowly rising national sensation, it was just a little hardcore Philadelphia promotion with a few hundred fans. The first homegrown superstars to start changing this reputation were Johnny Grunge and Rocco Rock, also known as The Public Enemy, representatives of the generation more afraid of living than they were of dying. Diving through tables and raising the roof wherever they went, the Public Enemy were extremely popular, earning multiple ECW Tag Team Championships before getting signed away by WCW and winning their belts, as well. The Public Enemy’s next stop was WWE, and that’s where it all came crashing to an end, as superstars in the company somehow felt they were undeserving of the opportunity. Early opponents the Acolytes sent them a message conveying such on Sunday Night Heat, beating them into oblivion and smashing them through their own tables like mere jobbers, totally killing their cool edge. PE never got another chance in WWE, nor did WCW or ECW even want them back.
9 Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss, Extreme Rules 2017
Barely two years ago, Bayley was genuinely one of the hottest prospects in all of professional wrestling. Spearheading the women’s wrestling revolution, she participated in the first ever WWE Network special main event between two females, defending the NXT Championship in an Iron Man match against Sasha Banks. More important than a few glass ceiling shattering matches was the fact Bayley’s character, an optimistic hugger who always tried her best, connected with young female fans the same way John Cena did to young male fans. This could have made her a gigantic star, until WWE shattered everything she worked for within a few months after she was called up to the main roster. This WWE Raw Women’s Championship match against Alexa Bliss was the final nail in the coffin, as Bayley quite frankly looked scared while Bliss beat the living tar out of her with a kendo stick. Once loudly cheered like no other, Bayley now receives boos just for existing, and the damage will likely never get reversed.
8 The Spider Lady vs. Wendi Richter, Madison Square Garden 1985
Anyone reading this list and assuming it’s always a bad thing for the performer who loses their career, look no further than the example of Wendi Richter to discover the departure can nonetheless still be mutual. Granted, Richter didn’t want to leave WWE up until this particular Madison Square Garden Women’s Championship defense against The Spider Lady took place, but the second it was over, she never wanted to work for Vince McMahon again. The reason for this sudden switch is that the match was “the Original Screwjob,” when the Spider Lady, aka the Fabulous Moolah in a mask and body suit, conspired with McMahon to legitimately defeat Richter for the title without her knowledge. Why? No one is quite sure, aside from the fact money was involved. All we know for sure is that Richter’s career was done when it was over, despite being the most popular female wrestler on the planet before it began, and all involved parties were pretty much okay with the outcome.
7 Buff Bagwell vs. Booker T, Raw 2001
This list is all about careers being killed in a single match, and this example certainly saw that happen. However, there was far more lost in the terrible bout between Booker T and Buff Bagwell for the WCW Championship than merely the latter performer’s career. Highly advertised as the first time WCW’s Big Gold Belt was defended on Raw, the match was a total failure in every sense of the word, with fans tuning out en masse at the would-be main event of Nitro. Those who stuck around saw Bagwell give a particularly terrible performance, failing to acknowledge how heavily the crowd was booing his every move. When it was over, Bagwell apparently made things even worse with his terrible attitude backstage, but even if he played nice, the damage had already been done. Not only was Bagwell never seen in WWE again, but the idea of a true WCW revival of any kind also died on the spot.
6 Jeff Hardy vs. Sting, Victory Road 2011
To cynical fans, a wrestler who willingly leaves WWE for TNA/Impact Wrestling has already killed their career simply by making that jump, and they may have a point. Jeff Hardy was already in a lot of trouble after getting arrested for drug trafficking, which is why he was fired by WWE and forced to slum in the smaller company for several years. That wasn’t his rock bottom, though, as the true nadir of his life wouldn’t come until Victory Road 2011. Flailing down to the ring bombed out of his mind, it was immediately clear Hardy was in no condition to wrestle, forcing his opponent Sting to forcibly shove him to the mat and score a pin fall in less than a minute. Crowds loudly chanting their belief the match was, ahem, “B.S.,” with Sting and the wrestling world all loudly agreeing. Hardy still has a career, but his prospects in the main event are nowhere near what they used to be, nor will they ever rise to those heights again.
5 Chris Kanyon and “Diamond” Dallas Page vs. The Brothers of Destruction, SummerSlam 2001
From the moment WCW wrestlers started “invading” WWE in the summer of 2001, it was basically a long downward spiral until every last one of them except Booker T became totally irrelevant. Two of the first former WCW stars to turn into nothing as a result of the Invasion were Chris Kanyon and “Diamond” Dallas Page. DDP in particular was huge in WCW, a three time World Champion and regular fixture in the main event. However, to Kane and The Undertaker at SummerSlam 2001, they were just two ragdolls to toss around a cage without every once taking any sort of significant damage. Of course, this was to be expected, as the same thing happened any time some pairing of the two teams crossed paths leading up to their bout. Expected isn’t always good, though, considering Page and Kanyon both looked extremely weak when it was over, as did all of WCW by proxy.
4 Perry Saturn vs. Mike Bell, Jakked 2001
For the most part, wrestlers who have their career ruined in a match do so because their performance in that match made them look horrible. In rare cases, it’s the exact opposite that gets a wrestler in hot water, due to an overzealous performance in what should have been a forgettable contest. That’s what happened to Perry Saturn when filming a match for the little seen C-Show WWE Jakked in 2001. Saturn was supposed to wrestle a perfectly normal little match against Mike Bell to warm up the crowd, but a hard knock on the head caused him to lose his senses early on in the bout. From there, he absolutely ravaged the poor jobber, beating him into actual submission in a vicious display. Vince McMahon was so unhappy with Saturn’s random bullying behavior that some believe the “Moppy” gimmick was a punishment, and if that’s the case, his career was definitely ruined for it. In fairness to Saturn, though, he at least managed to make his descent to the bottom pretty funny.
3 Bart Gunn vs. Butterbean, WrestleMania XIV
Technically speaking, this exhibition probably doesn’t belong on the list, as it wasn’t a “wrestling match” in the traditional sense of the expression. However, it was a contest that took place on a major wrestling show produced by the top wrestling company in the world, and it featured one wrestler whose American career was over when it ended, which adds up to the fact it pretty much counts. Before he was pitted to fight pro boxer Butterbean, Bart Gunn was experienced the high point of his career, implausibly winning the Brawl for All tournament. His “reward” was a shoot match against an actual boxer, who made all of wrestling look silly by knocking the former WWE Tag Team Champion unconscious in all of 30 seconds. Gunn, who had the reputation of a total killer mere months earlier, was now a total joke, forced to continue his career in Japan because no one in America saw him as a worthwhile talent any longer.
2 Tazz vs. Triple H, SmackDown 2000
Being a sawed off monster who Vince McMahon never quite understood, the ceiling for success was always relatively low for Tazz in the WWE Universe. That said, the reaction he received upon his debut at the 2000 Royal Rumble was huge, and the previous year he spent as ECW Champion suggested he could have achieved much more than he was allowed. Tazz’s first few months in WWE made it look like he could actually break through to the main event, until ECW owner Paul Heyman desperately asked him to return for one night only and regain their championship. At that point, McMahon and Triple H decided to pull a massive power play that ruined Tazz and ECW in one fell swoop. On a random episode of SmackDown, WWE Champion HHH squashed ECW Champion Tazz in less than five minutes, making the wrestler and his brand look overwhelmingly inferior. ECW had bigger problems down the line, but this was pretty much it for Tazz, who found himself permanently in the announce booth before the year was over.
1 Lex Luger vs. Yokozuna, SummerSlam 1993
Despite having invented the Hulk Hogan formula for success, Vince McMahon managed to mess things up royally when he attempted to repeat it with Lex Luger. In 1993, the WWE Universe was taken down the “Lex Express,” with the Total Package touted as the next great American hero guaranteed to save pro wrestling for good guys everywhere. He got his big WWE Championship shot against Yokozuna at SummerSlam 1993, with fans frothing at the mouth to see him win. Technically, Luger did pick up the duke, but he did so by count out, meaning the title didn’t change hands. This made him look like an absolute moron as he paraded around the ring in a parade of red, white, and blue confetti, acting like he’d achieved something great. It also cemented Luger’s long reputation as a choker, who could make his way to the top but never walk away with the prize.