In the wonderful world of wrestling, a common phrase heard by fans is “plans change”. Sometimes, we don’t even know about a storyline alteration, but other times, it’s pretty blatant. WWE is no different in this regard, and whether it’s thanks to an injury, a run in with the law, or a superstar exercising a little bit of creative control, storylines change all the time.
Still, it's something we must accept, and in the fast-changing world of the WWE, it happens all the time, and unfortunately, an unexpected change in direction can hurt whatever momentum a superstar has built up, leaving many fans to wonder "what if".
With that in mind, here are 10 WWE Superstars Whose Careers Went Downhill With Storyline Changes.
10 Rob Van Dam Drops The WWE Championship
Poor Rob Van Dam. The master of the Vanterminator had everything going for him in 2006 when he held the WWE and ECW Championships simultaneously following One Night Stand. Unfortunately, however, the wheels fell off his push really fast when he was caught carrying some illegal substances with fellow hardcore legend Sabu.
Once the news broke, fans could see the writing on the wall. He lost his WWE Championship on Raw and his ECW title the following night. While he managed to enjoy a successful career following the incident, he didn’t come close to being a top guy ever again.
9 Bret Hart & The Montreal Screwjob
Bret Hart was one of the biggest names in wrestling during the mid-90s, but due to a variety of reasons, WWE decided to let him walk to their competition WCW in 1997 and that is where the story gets interesting. With a degree of creative control in his contract, Hart didn’t want to drop his WWF Championship to Shawn Michaels, but Vince McMahon had his plans for Survivor Series 1997 and made sure his guy walked out of the show with the title.
RELATED: FACTS ABOUT THE MONREAL SCREWJOB
While everyone involved in the Montreal Screwjob ended up doing alright for themselves, Hart got the worst of it in WCW. He was underutilized and really was never treated the way he was just a year prior in WWE. His rather forgettable run in Ted Turner’s federation came to an abrupt end following a concussion from a rouge kick from Goldberg. It’s a shame how it all played out.
8 Rikishi Did It For The Rock
When Stone Cold Steve Austin was hit by a car, it was a way to write him off TV. Unfortunately, according to former WWE creative member Bruce Prichard, there was no plan to actually follow up the story. Unfortunately, no plan was probably better than what we got, as we learned Rikishi was the man behind the wheel, stating that he “did it for The Rock”. WWE effectively took a fun comedy character and turned him into a man who attempted vehicular homicide.
The popular Samoan went on to become a WWE Hall of Famer, but while he was wrestling, we couldn’t help but remember the time he tried to kill a guy.
7 Chyna Vs Stone Cold?
The Ninth Wonder of the World, Chyna, was one of the biggest stars of the Attitude Era, but she could have been bigger. In fact, the former D-Generation X enforcer was originally planned to beat none other than Stone Cold Steve Austin at SummerSlam 1999.
However, the female superstar was not given such a distinction and, despite being advertised for the match, was swapped with Mankind after the Texas Rattlesnake took exception to the idea of losing to a woman.
Things didn’t turn out too bad for Chyna, however, as she went on to defeat Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental title, which was a nice consolation prize, but it’s not quite the marquee spot that comes with being the WWE Champion.
6 Dolph Ziggler’s Concussion
Dolph Ziggler was on top of the world in 2012. He was World Heavyweight Champion, he had one of the most successful Money In The Bank cash-ins ever, and the crowd was on fire every time he’d come out.
Unfortunately, an ill-timed concussion caused WWE’s plans for him to go off the rails. Upon his return, there was an attempt to recapture some of that magic when he returned, pulling off an expert double turn with Alberto Del Rio, but he was never the same again.
Ziggler has managed to stick around in the WWE for years following this and he’s even challenged for the top belt a few times, yet he's never really been the same since.
5 Nathan Jones Misses Mania
WWE had big plans for Nathan Jones and it’s not hard to see why. He was big and he had the look, but he was not exactly Ricky Steamboat between the ropes.
Yet, WWE didn’t seem to care too much. They put him in a high profile feud, which included teaming with The Undertaker at WrestleMania against Big Show and A-Train. Even though this was a little bit before the Streak became a big deal, this was a huge opportunity, but WWE began to fall out of love with Jones. At the last second, he was removed from the match, though he did make a cameo, and he was quickly brushed under the carpet. His career never hit those levels again.
It worked out for him, however, as he’s enjoyed a pretty successful Hollywood career since.
4 Paul Burchill As Johnny Depp
This is less of a storyline change and more of a random thing that happened out of nowhere, but we think it's still a change in direction that hurt a wrestler's popularity.
Paul Burchill had one of the best WWE gimmicks ever, don’t @ us.
As a WWE Superstar with a pirate heritage, Burchill came swinging down onto the entrance ramp where he’d then battle his foes, and fans bought into it. It was dumb, but it was fun, and things were going well for the English star who capped off a feud with William Regal. Then he was beaten up by Mark Henry and taken off TV.
When he returned he lost his pirate outfit but gained a sister that he may or may not have been attracted to, and that was the end of that for good ol’ Paul. Later, it was revealed that Vince McMahon didn’t get the gimmick, and didn’t understand the reference to Pirates of the Caribbean, which makes this whole ordeal even more frustrating.
We’re not saying he was going to be WWE Champion, but it was a lot better than what he was stuck with later.
3 Mr. Kennedy as Vince McMahon’s Son
Mr. Kennedy (Kennedy) had a bright future in the WWE. He had the gift of gab and a good gimmick, so really, the sky was the limit for the Green Bay Native. Unfortunately, a series of events changed the course of his career forever.
In Summer 2007, Vince McMahon was involved in a storyline limo explosion. This angle was supposed to set off a huge “who done it” arch, and eventually the reveal that ol’ Vincey Boy wasn’t exactly a loyal husband who had a child out of wedlock that he left the entire company to — that would have been Kennedy. The plan was supposed to culminate in Triple H vs the young upcoming star at in a huge match, but that never happened.
If you look at the time when the whole angle started, you can see why this was dropped, but WWE figured they could save the latter part of the story. We use save very loosely here because what happened next was much, much, worse. Instead of an epic battle over control of the WWE, we got a comedy angle with Vince McMahon learning Hornswoggle was his son. That is until WWE decided to make him Finley’s son instead.
Kennedy floundered for a while in WWE following this and was eventually released for a botched slam on Randy Orton. He managed to stay pretty good run in TNA, but he’s been pretty open when blaming both Orton and Triple H for his lack of success in WWE.
2 Muhammad Hassan Goes Too Far Against Taker
Full-stop, Muhammad Hassan is the best heel WWE had in the mid-2000s. Taking the real-world xenophobia the west was witnessing following 9/11, Hassan was always supposed to be a man from Detroit who grew tired of how middle-easterners were treated in the country. It was a great idea for a character, and he was a heat magnet. He was a logical villain, with motivations that made a lot of sense.
That is until WWE went overboard. During a SmackDown taping, Hassan got help from some not-so-subtle looking henchmen using piano wire to strangle Undertaker. While this was pretty tasteless, it wasn’t something he couldn’t recover from under normal circumstances. The problem was, this episode aired the day of the London bombings that killed 56 people. Unable to cut the content in time, the segment caught a lot of backlash internationally. This spelled the end for Hassan. At the Great American Bash, Undertaker gave the young star a last ride through the entrance stage, and we never saw him again.
What makes this even more disappointing is that there were rumors that Hassan was on track to win the World Heavyweight Championship.
1 Nexus Goes Up Against The Fact That Runs The Place
Nexus had the potential to be one of the greatest WWE factions of the last 10 years. Consisting of names like Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel, Husky Harris (now Bray Wyatt), David Otunga, Heath Slater, and more. The group made an instant impact on Raw and were quickly put in a feud with the Face That Runs The Place, John Cena, with the culmination of the story taking place at SummerSlam 2010.
The rookies took on a team of Cena, John Morrison, Bret Hart, Edge, and Chris Jericho, and the original plan called for Nexus to win. That is not what happened. Instead, a lone survivor John Cena pinned both Gabriel and Barrett, effectively killing whatever momentum the team gained.
This one is pretty frustrating when looking back in hindsight, but even at the time, it was awful.