Most aspiring pro wrestlers would agree the dream of a sports entertainer is to work for World Wrestling Entertainment. WWE has been the number one wrestling company on the planet since at least the 1980s and arguably even longer than that. Even during the few years WCW was defeating WWE in the ratings, many superstars felt WWE was the superior company and the fact they ultimately won the war should have done well to prove that theory correct. WWE CEO Vince McMahon will forever hold the reputation as the preeminent genius of wrestling and there’s no denying it was with his guidance that hundreds of fantastic superstars have been able to flourish in ways they never could have imagined.
Unfortunately for wrestlers, merely appearing on WWE television isn’t exactly a ticket to fame, fortune, and unbridled success. On quite a few occasions, signing a contract with WWE was a veritable death sentence for a pro wrestler’s career, as they would never recover from whatever madness Vince McMahon and his writers thrust upon them. Having a unique character is what turns a pro wrestler into a WWE superstar, but sometimes those characters are bizarre, absurd, offensive, or any other manner of negative adjectives that could ruin whatever potential young wrestlers had been spending their entire lives attempting to cultivate. Keep reading to dig into the WWE graveyard and learn about 20 careers that ended as soon as these wrestlers signed with WWE.
Just like with everyone other profession in the world, wrestlers eventually get old, slow down, and retire. It’s a tradition within the wrestling industry that when it becomes time for a once major star to end their career, it is within good form that they lose a few matches to rising stars and pass the torch as it were, letting the superstars of the future take their place as the new monsters of wrestling. WWE having Vader lose to Kane in 1998 almost perfectly fits this trend and thus left fans with nothing to complain about, if not for the comments Vader made when he stepped out of the ring.
Instead of brushing off the loss and riding off into the sunset, Vader got on the microphone at No Way Out 1998 to explain his loss to Kane by calling himself “a fat piece of s***.” There was never any real explanation for why Vader chose to do this, although the result was pretty obvious, in that his North American career was virtually finished for more than a full decade after he made that remark.
20 Barry Horowitz
There is a valid question to be asked in a list like this, as to whether WWE actually killed any of these careers, considering WWE could also be considered responsible for many of them existing in the first place. Barry Horowitz had been a wrestler for some 16 years when Vince McMahon decided on a whim to make him a star, creating an angle in which career jobber Horowitz earned a sudden win over rising star Chris Candido, then known as Bodydonna Skip.
Horowitz went from a nobody to a genuine contender literally overnight, with fans loudly celebrating his repeat victories over Skip, despite not even slightly caring who he was during his hundreds of enhancement matches over the past several decades. As if it weren’t strange enough that McMahon would suddenly chose to shine the spotlight on Horowitz, WWE instantly destroyed this credibility and momentum by giving him the character of a stereotypical Jewish nerd, bringing us to question why they bothered with the experiment in the first place. Horowitz was back to jobbing by the end of the year, later jumping to WCW where he also lost significantly more matches than he won.
Speaking of Horowitz, we may as well look at the other side to his story…
19 Skip/Chris Candido
Potential is something that can’t exactly be measured, although there are certain obvious signs that make it clear when a person might happen to be blessed with an incredible amount of it. Chris Candido was a wrestler nearly unmatched in terms of technical ability and he proved it very early on in his career, winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship when he was only 22 years old. Candido debuted in WWE by the time he was 23, albeit he did so with a gimmick that would almost instantly start to cut that potential short.
The idea behind The Bodydonnas was that they were cocky fitness gurus who found themselves inherently better than the unfit audience members of the WWE Universe. The jumpsuits the Donnas wore were pretty goofy, but what really killed Candido’s career was that his first major feud was against the aforementioned Barry Horowitz, and as we just outlined, the career jobber beat Skip twice in a row, ending any possible superstardom Candido could have achieved fresh out the gate. Candido later attempted careers in ECW and WCW, but never was able to truly standout, remaining only a minor star until his early and tragic death in 2005.
18 Paul Burchill
As horrible as some of the gimmicks superstars on this list have been forced through are, an amazing thing about wrestling is that there is almost always the possibility for a wrestler to reinvent themselves and bounce back from a misguided or outright stupid character. Of course, if they have two horrifically misguided gimmicks in a row, that’s more or less a cocktail for complete career destruction. Paul Burchill suffered this fate after dressing up as a pirate throughout 2006, and then having a creepy and possibly incestuous relationship with his sister just two years after dropping the anchor on the pirate gimmick.
Vince McMahon had allegedly been toying with the idea of an incest gimmick for years and Burchill was the unfortunate victim alongside future TNA Knockouts Champion Winter, then known as Katie Lea. The incestuous elements of the gimmick allegedly (and thankfully) never went as far as McMahon wanted them too, but the second horrible gimmick in a row was enough to put an end to Burchill’s prospects in the wrestling business.
17 Simon Dean/Nova
Fans of ECW remember the hardcore Philadelphia promotion as a special place where talent was given opportunities they would never receive elsewhere, and that might be true when looking at the career paths of certain ECW standouts. Nova was never a huge star in the promotion, although he did manage to garner a good deal of attention during the last few years of the company’s existence, thanks in large part to his innovative style and uniquely vast move set. Nova spent a few years on the independent scene after ECW went out of business and ultimately chose to join WWE in 2002. After several more years in developmental, he debuted in 2004 as fitness guru Simon Dean.
In an almost identical scenario to what had happened to Chris Candido a few years earlier, the fitness guru idea was made into a joke as soon as Dean had his first loss and it isn’t like the gimmick could have been a winner in the first place. Dean reverted to the Nova gimmick when the bWo was reformed in 2005, concurrently acting as Simon Dean on SmackDown while doing so. Unlike when Mick Foley tried using multiple gimmicks at once, the fact that one of Nova’s gimmicks kind of sucked was enough to make the whole thing a failure the real Mike Bucci simply couldn’t dig himself out of.
It would be a fair question to ask whether or not the superstars on this list necessarily could have had hugely successful careers had WWE not somehow intervened, as a few of them may simply not have had that much potential as superstars. That doesn’t mean it was still unfair of WWE to kill their chances from the very beginning, which was most certainly the case with Gene Snitsky, best known as the most infamous baby killer in WWE history.
Snitsky debuted for WWE in 2004, inadvertently causing Lita to suffer a miscarriage during his inaugural match. Instead of moving past this unfortunate incident, it became Snitsky’s entire gimmick and he would even go on to give a promo where he emphatically punted a baby doll into the crowd. While the whole thing was on some level played for comedy, it was still absolutely ridiculous and Snitsky was never given a chance to be taken seriously before he was released from WWE at his request in 2008.
Wrestlers often straddle the heel-face spectrum, jumping back and forth between being good guys and bad guys whenever their careers deem a change in character appropriate. However, if a character does something particularly heinous or insane as a bad guy, they may never again be respected as a good guy, despite what wrestling promoters attempt to do to rehab their careers. In 2004, Heidenreich sexually assaulted Michael Cole on an episode of SmackDown. Don’t ask why WWE thought this was a good idea, because no one will ever know, but the fact remains, this happened, on television. Allegedly, the idea belonged to none other than Vince McMahon himself.
Just as bizarrely as it had happened, the “Heidenrape” as it came to be known strangely didn’t garner any particular negative press for WWE, but that doesn’t change the fact it completely destroyed his career. WWE later tried to turn Heidenreich into the “Nww Road Warrior” in 2005, even allowing him to win the World Tag Team Championships with Animal. Yet, despite this success, most fans could never forget the sight of Heidenreich shoving Michael Cole against a bathroom wall. Heidenreich left WWE in early 2006 and has remained far away from the spotlight ever since.
14 Jesse/Slam Master J
Nepotism is a confusing concept and one that has both made and destroyed many careers in many industries. Well, professional wrestling is no different. While superstars like The Rock and Randy Orton are accused of getting special treatment due to their famous forefathers, others like Terry Ray Gordy, Jr. were less lucky. Gordy’s father is a WWE Hall of Famer as a member of The Fabulous Freebirds, but Junior is better known for unfortunate misfire gimmicks like Jesse and Slam Master J.
Jesse was arguably the dumber of the two gimmicks, a country bumpkin with control over the even bigger country bumpkin Festus. Amazingly, Festus recovered and became Luke Gallows, but Jesse wasn’t quite so lucky. Gordy was repackaged into Slam Master J, a wannabe rapper spitting rhymes concurrently during the rise of John Cena, and quickly proved completely arrhythmic and inept in the role. Gordy bombed so bad he never even bothered looking for wrestling work outside of WWE, instead retiring to a career in law enforcement after his release in 2010.
It wouldn’t be fair to place the total blame on WWE for what happened to the careers of the superstars on this list, as the wrestlers themselves were all somewhat complicit in allowing WWE to force them through such professional downslides. In particular, Tazz might be one wrestler who wasn’t ruined by WWE in any way and rather, he just happened to be in WWE when his career went through an uncontrollable and dramatic change.
Tazz had been dealing with mounting neck problems for several years when he debuted for WWE in 2000 and it wasn’t long before his injuries were severe enough to entirely keep him out of the ring. Tazz gradually transitioned to a second career as a broadcaster due to his health issues, but this hasn’t stopped people from blaming Vince McMahon for pacifying the Human Suplex Machine and turning him into a stereotypical jokester from the Bronx.
11 Chris Kanyon
The Invasion storyline will always remain one of the most infamous in WWE history, due to the sheer volume of wasted opportunities the subsequent WCW and ECW buyouts could have created for fans of all three companies. Vince McMahon unmercifully destroyed the careers of dozens of WCW superstars when he absorbed their contracts and perhaps the worst burial occurred to Chris Kanyon. Kanyon had been a rising star in WCW since as early as 1997, slowly working his way up the midcard to becoming a regular presence near the top of WCW.
During the Invasion, Kanyon briefly retained his high status when he was named the Alliance MVP and even seemed to strive when he was award the WCW United States Championship, and won the WWE Tag Team Championships with Diamond Dallas Page. Things dramatically and immediately changed when Kanyon lost both titles in complete squashes, with the SummerSlam tag team cage against Kane and The Undertaker particularly destroying his credibility. Kanyon was written off television shortly after SummerSlam and only ever appeared in bizarre comedy segments over the next two years until he was released. Kanyon’s career never recovered and he sadly committed suicide in 2010.
10 Al Snow
In early 1995, Al Snow was considered one of the best independent wrestlers in the US, thanks to strong runs in both ECW and SMW. WWE and WCW were both aware of his reputation, and the companies actually engaged in a bidding war over Snow, with WWE ultimately winning that battle. For whatever reason, the reason they were so desperate to hire Al was to turn him into Avatar, a fake luchador. When that predictably bombed, Al became Marty Jannetty’s partner in The New Rockers, rebranded as Leif Cassidy.
These two gimmicks absolute destroyed Snow’s indy cred and he went from a potential superstar into a sterling example of how signing with WWE doesn’t always make a wrestler’s career. Snow somewhat revived his career in ECW when he introduced the mannequin’s Head that made him a minor star during when he returned to WWE during the Attitude Era, but his first run ruined his true potential and he was never able to become the huge star insiders thought he may one day turn into.
9 The Red Rooster/Terry Taylor
Terry Taylor is the earliest example of a career ruined by WWE and, as a result, he is one of the most infamous. It would be hard for fans to argue with this notoriety, as well, for Terry Taylor spent what could have been the prime of his career clucking around the ring and calling himself The Red Rooster. Prior to joining WWE, Taylor had won regional titles for the NWA and Mid-South Wrestling, impressing fans with his technical skills in the ring and his decent abilities on the microphone.
Despite nearly 10 years of experience wrestling for WWE’s biggest competitions, shortly after signing with WWE, Taylor debuted The Rooster persona and, as if being a giant chicken wasn’t bad enough, he was also presented as being completely inept in the ring without the help of Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. Heenan may have been one of the greatest managers ever, but a gimmick like this goes against the cardinal rule of managing, in that the client needs to look like the bigger star, which was virtually impossible given this arrangement. Taylor’s career never recovered and he floated back and forth between WCW, TNA, and WWE in various backstage roles ever since.
8 Perry Saturn
Despite the fact the wrestlers on this list all have a decent reason or to for them to be bitter towards Vince McMahon, a few of them would admit the downfall of their careers wasn’t entirely the fault of the WWE CEO. Perry Saturn is one superstar who would take most of the blame himself. This doesn’t mean WWE didn’t still make him do something really stupid, which in turn affected any future wrestling prospects he may have had.
Saturn’s gimmick was originally that of a hardened street thug, based somewhat on his real childhood. By the end of his tenure in WCW, he was started to act a little loopy and child-like at times, and when he joined WWE, he they made him go full idiot when he fell in love with a mop, appropriately named Moppy. However, the reason he received this terrible gimmick was because he legitimately beat up a jobber in the ring. Saturn could never be taken seriously again and was released from the WWE after an ACL injury.
7 Frair Ferguson/Bastion Booger
For repeated examples of how important a wrester’s gimmick can be to their continued prospects in the industry, look no further than the career of Mike Shaw. Fans of the WWE Universe may assume Shaw was your typical “hoss,” big and uncoordinated in the ring thanks in particular to his time as Bastion Booger. The reality is, Shaw was trained by Killer Kowalski and received a glowing recommendation from Stu Hart, meaning he had loads more talent than he was ever allowed to show in WWE.
Prior to turning into a Booger, Shaw impressed Canadian fans as Makhan Singh, and then spent a few years in WCW as escaped mental patient Norman the Lunatic. The Lunatic gimmick has been criticized as stupid and silly, but retrospect has been much kinder to Norman, as he was actually quite popular amongst young WCW fans and this likely was part of why WWE was interested in the first place. Shaw somehow managed to make that gimmick work, though, thanks to the fact it had some sympathetic qualities to it. Weird, silent monks and overindulgent slobs are more bizarre than endearing and Shaw’s early successes have all but been forgotten thanks to his terrible WWE gimmicks.
6 Bertha Faye
Vince McMahon and WWE are in many ways responsible for the fact women’s wrestling wasn’t taken seriously in America for decades, and one of the biggest pieces of evidence to that claim is Bertha Faye. Most WWE fans probably have no idea that Rhonda Sing was actually an incredible wrestler, having achieved great success throughout Japan, Europe, Puerto Rico, and her native Canada, generally performing under the name Monster Ripper.
Monster Ripper was essentially the female version of a monster like Vader or Yokozuna and she was arguably as good in the role as either of those two legends. Sing drastically switched gears in 1995 when she signed with WWE, at which point her character changed into the “Queen of the Trailer Park.” Presumably, the idea wasn’t hers, as she later called the role goofy, reductive, and restrictive. Nonetheless, it defined her legacy and only a select few can even remember the dominance of Monster Ripper.
5 Buff Bagwell
It should be pretty obvious throughout the course of this list that the careers of the wrestlers we’re documented were negatively affected by WWE in one way or another. However, the fear of burning bridges has prevented most of them from speaking out against any particular WWE officials who may have ruined things for them. Buff Bagwell is the exception to this rule and the man Bagwell blames for the failure of his WWE tenure is Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross.
Bagwell was an upper midcard talent during the final days of WCW and as such he debuted in WWE to challenge Booker T for the WCW World Championship. The match was a total dud in just about every way, with most of the blame falling on Bagwell for giving a particularly bad performance in the match. Bagwell was fired shortly after, with Jim Ross additionally claiming Buff’s mother Judy had called in sick for her son, damaging his reputation in the entire wrestling industry. Bagwell has claimed JR’s lie ruined his career far more than any poor performance possibly could have and, whether or not JR is the one to blame, there’s no denying Buff’s time in the spotlight was over almost as soon as it began.
4 Braden Walker
Names like Bobby Roode, Samoa Joe, Austin Aries, and especially A.J. Styles, have gone on to prove that a former TNA talent can most definitely make it on the big time in WWE. One of the first superstars to attempt this jump wasn’t quite as lucky, though, and thus begins the story of Braden Walker. Braden Walker is much better known under his real name, Chris Harris, which is also the name he used during his six-year stint with Total Nonstop Action.
Harris was arguably amongst the first true stars in TNA, especially when he competed as one half of the tag team America’s Most Wanted. AMW won the NWA World Tag Team Championships six times, making them the most decorated tag team of the NWA-TNA era. When Harris jumped to WWE, he was repackaged as Braden Walker, a character whose only defining characteristic was telling knock-knock jokes. Walker was a total bomb and rather than return to TNA, Walker spent several years in independent promotions before essentially disappearing from the business.
3 "Diamond" Dallas Page
WCW is always criticized for the fact they created very few new stars during the Monday Night Wars, instead relying on survivors of the NWA and expats from WWE. One of the few true superstars they created was “Diamond” Dallas Page, the Jersey everyman who called himself The People’s Champ almost a full year before The Rock was. DDP won the WCW World Championship three times, amongst achieving a variety of other major accomplishments in that promotion, and was quite possibly the biggest former WCW star to participate in the WWE Invasion.
Despite DDP’s impressive resume, Vince McMahon was never able to view him as a star, due to McMahon’s typical dismissive nature towards WCW. Page was presented as a somewhat huge deal upon his debut, but the shine didn’t last, as he was completely buried by Kane and The Undertaker along with the aforementioned Chris Kanyon. Making matters worse, Page then created a new gimmick for himself as a motivational speaker, which made him look like the midcarder Vince McMahon thought he was. DDP was already getting up there in age and he would only make a handful of wrestling appearances after leaving WWE, never again with as high a profile as he had in WCW.
The film Tropic Thunder caused a fair amount of controversy over a few lines in which Robert Downey, Jr.’s character opines that actors should never “go full retard.” Although the verbiage left something to be desired, there is a serious lesson to be learned in that film. WWE has their own example that occurred a few years before Thunder was released, and his name was Nick Dinsmore.
Dinsmore was one of the most promising prospects in Ohio Valley Wrestling, the same developmental territory that produced stars like Brock Lesnar and John Cena. Dinsmore competed under his own name, with the simple gimmick of being a very good wrestler. When he was called up to WWE, he became Eugene, Eric Bischoff’s “special” nephew. Eugene miraculously became a star thanks to victories over Triple H and Kurt Angle, but Dinsmore’s career prospects were nonetheless nonexistent as soon as his fame started to fade.
1 Muhammad Hassan
In all fairness, the vast majority of the wrestlers on this list were able to continue their careers beyond their time in WWE, albeit in a far less lucrative manner than they had been prior to their time with the titans of sports entertainment. Muhammad Hassan, however, is one former superstar who can say his time in WWE ended his wrestling career on a completely literal level. Hassan’s biggest problem was that he got too big too fast and at the absolute worst time humanly possible.
Hassan debuted in December of 2004 as an Arab-American character upset over unfair treatment of his people since September 11th, 2001. The gimmick quickly morphed into a more typical anti-American bad guy, but the important part was that it turned Hassan into one of the most hated superstars in wrestling almost overnight. Hassan rode this fame to a feud with The Undertaker and an angle on SmackDown where Hassan’s followers would would attack The Deadman after Hassan started to pray. They used extreme tactics and were dressed to look like terrorists.
The episode aired the same day as the 2005 London bombings, launching massive amounts of controversy when WWE chose to air the angle unedited. Plans were changed from Hassan beating The Undertaker and going on to become the youngest ever World Champion to Hassan losing, and perhaps the even bigger result was that after his loss, he would never again step foot in a wrestling ring.