Being a professional wrestler in WWE is one big gamble. Not only do you have to possess a myriad of almost unrealistic physical and personal qualities that you have to maintain 24/7, but you also have to deal with a company whose direction is always undecided until the very last minute.
For the wheel to stay in a forward-moving motion, it needs the right kinds of people pushing it in direction. The right kinds of people are those wrestlers that not only fill the roles WWE looks for in its superstars, but also adapt to other situations and find use for themselves in the long run. These wrestlers are the ones that WWE looks for all the time; they’re the ones they think will not only bring them plenty of money for a long time, but will also be around for an equally long time.
Sadly, WWE’s track record isn’t very good when it comes to hiring these sorts of wrestlers. Many of the people they’ve signed over the years have been questionable best, abysmal at worst. What’s even more disturbing is that many of these disappointing signees were thrust into high-profile feuds and storylines at the expense of the superior workers. For each John Cena, Randy Orton or Brock Lesnar, there’s at least one disappointing star whose signing ended up being a spectacular disappointment.
Here are the top 15 of those disappointments…
Heidenreich was the SmackDown equivalent of RAW’s Gene Snitsky. A tall, somewhat muscular and intimidating guy that someone in WWE’s decision-making chain of command thought could sell tickets. Oh, how wrong they were.
Heidenreich would not wrestle very well. He was made into a brawling power guy of sorts with big red gloves. But every match he had was disappointing and otherwise uneventful. Keep in mind that he debuted in 2004, and at that time, the memory of both Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero standing tall as winners at WrestleMania XX was still burning strong for many fans. So for the fans to go from Eddie and Benoit to Snitsky and Heidenreich was unforgivable.
But WWE still tried to get him over, and they even tried to get Paul Heyman to sell this man as a legitimate threat. But not even he could convince fans Heidenreich was a big deal.
This was cemented by rumors suggesting that the original plan for WrestleMania 21 was for Kane and the Undertaker to team up against Heidenreich and Snitsky. Thankfully, the Undertaker, being a smart man, found an out and chose to wrestle Randy Orton instead.
14. Ezekiel Jackson
Ezekiel Jackson was a SmackDown midcarder for a few years between 2009 and about 2014. His biggest claims to fame in WWE were winning the Intercontinental Championship once and being the final WWE ECW Champion after that brand folded. Other than that, his career didn’t amount to very much.
A big part of that was that his actual in-ring ability was relatively limited. He could only execute power moves, to the point that his ‘superstar comeback’ considered of a series of scoop slams, the simplest and easiest move to execute in all of pro wrestling. If your signature move consists of a series of scoop slams without setting up for something bigger, you know you’re limited.
Other than that, Jackson had very little charisma and poor promo ability. He was sold to the WWE fans on his looks alone. That, and gigantic muscles on his arms and shoulders, with Cole once claiming that ‘Jackson looks like he has basketballs on his shoulders’. Unfortunately, one cannot become successful in WWE with only that.
13. The Kat/Miss Kitty/Stacy Carter
A lot of people lambast the Bellas for being fitness models that don’t belong anywhere near a wrestling ring. Well, both Bellas look like Victoria and Mickie James in terms of in-ring skill if you were to compare them to Stacy Carter, a.k.a. The Kat.
The Kat was the perfect example of backstage politics being used to enhance the career of someone that didn’t deserve it. Stacy Carter was Jerry Lawler’s wife at the time, and because of this, she was given a prominent position in the Divas division at the time.
She was not a trained wrestler in any way, yet because of her relationship, she managed to shoehorn herself into prominence. She then used this relationship to avoid actually wrestling by taking part in over-the-top gimmick contests. These included: Bikini contests, catfights, and several random moments whereby she flashed her breasts to the audience.
It was because of people like the Kat that the women’s division in WWE was treated so poorly throughout the early 2000s. It took years for the division to obtain any kind of legitimacy again. Stacy ‘the Kat’ Carter was gone by 2001, having accomplished a whole lot of nothing and having wasted a considerable amount of time.
12. Kenzo Suzuki
Suzuki was WWE’s latest attempt to at least try and take advantage of the popularity of Japanese wrestling that was happening during the mid-2000s, especially with Pro Wrestling NOAH. Unfortunately, WWE interpreted this popularity as a love for Japanese characters, instead of Japanese workers, so they turned their chosen Japanese guy into an enormous stereotype.
Kenzo Suzuki was instantly brought in as a stereotypical Japanese shogun-type character, complete with his wife dressed as a geisha. But that was it; he had a gimmick, but he couldn’t wrestle very well. His matches were basic and often uneventful, and none of his offense looked truly impressive. It’s no wonder he was lost in SmackDown’s mid-card within only a few months.
But the worst part of his signing was that WWE chose Suzuki here over Hiroshi Tanahashi. Yes, that Hiroshi Tanahashi, the one that saved New Japan Pro Wrestling from possibly going under and helped usher in a new golden age for that promotion. Nice work, WWE.
11. Gene Snitsky
Snitsky was just one of countless WWE guys that got signed because he met the same criteria: he was tall, he had muscles and he looked intimidating. Vince probably took one look at this guy and thought ‘big star, push this man’. And push him they did.
Snitsky was instantly thrust into one of the main storylines on RAW at the time: Lita’s pregnancy with Kane’s child. Snitsky was the man that ‘fell’ on Lita, causing her to ‘miscarry’.
It was a painful storyline to watch, and it was made worse by Snitsky punting a baby doll into the arena like a football. What was supposed to be a moment of despicable heel antics ended up being genuinely funny.
Snitsky didn’t do much once that story ended, but he did experience a very brief repackaging when he shaved all his hair and debuted yellow teeth. It was hard to figure out what was more psychotic: the gimmick Snitsky portrayed, or that someone backstage approved such a thing?
10. Sylvester Terkay
Back in 2006, WWE was still looking for big guys to sign. They thought they finally had a winner with Sylvester Terkay, a 6’6, 320lbs. wrestler with experience in Mixed Martial Arts. There was hope this guy would be something like Brock Lesnar: a tall, massive, powerful man who also possessed natural wrestling ability.
This didn’t happen. Terkay lacked charisma and ‘presence’, so they gave him a mouthpiece in Elijah Burke. In an odd twist, it was Burke that actually became the bigger star overall, and ended up being the wrestler that stayed in ECW longer.
Terkay is a perfect example of WWE not giving someone enough long-term thought when they’re in control of someone’s career. Terkay could’ve been a much more successful star, but they ran out of ideas for him, even after he remained undefeated on WWE programming. His career was a big disappointment, but this wasn’t necessarily solely his fault.
9. The Boogeyman
This was one of the most questionable booking decisions in SmackDown history. The man behind the Boogeyman gimmick was 40 when he was first signed, and made headlines by lying in his application to be on WWE Tough Enough. Why WWE thought it was a good idea to sign this guy we’ll never know.
As if the man’s lack of athletic ability wasn’t bad enough, the gimmick itself was horrendous and left more people scratching their heads than cheering in approval. The Boogeyman would do some incredibly weird things, from eating live worms, to smashing a clock over his own head and even ate Jillian Hall’s facial blemish. None of these things endeared the fans to him; if anything, he probably turned fans away with his antics.
This was perhaps one of those instances where Vince McMahon created a character solely to amuse himself. The Boogeyman wasn’t as entertaining as many thought he’d be, given his terrible wrestling ability. If the character was bestowed onto someone younger and more athletic, it might’ve been much better in execution.
8. Mark Jindrak
At first glance, Jindrak looked like he’d be booked well in WWE. Not only did he have the look, but he also had the right kind of face that WWE was looking for, but he wasn’t that bad of a worker. So what went wrong?
Jindrak’s planned main roster push was being put together around the time Evolution was being put together for the first time. In actuality, Jindrak was scheduled to be the fourth man, alongside Triple H, Ric Flair and Randy Orton. What happened was, when they were doing photo shoots of the foursome of wrestlers together, many of the power-brokers felt that something was off. Most of them thought it was Jindrak, so they replaced him with Batista, then boom, Evolution was born.
From that point, nothing WWE could to could elevate Jindrak in any way. He spent most of his SmackDown time either working in low card nothing matches, or as a forgettable face in Angle’s trio alongside Luther Reigns. Once that fell apart, Jindrak was stricken with ‘creative-has-nothing-for-you’ syndrome, and was released shortly thereafter.
7. Deuce/Sim Snuka
Introduced as ‘Deuce’ as part of a 1950s throwback tag team, Deuce didn’t look right in the ring. He never had a standout match, and was obviously the weak link in his team. Things didn’t get any better for him when he tried to forge a singles career for himself as Sim Snuka.
Just because he was a famous wrestler’s son did not mean he himself was destined for success (just ask Superfly’s other child, Tamina, who hasn’t done much of anything in WWE, and she’s been there for years).
The final nail in the coffin of Sim’s career was at WrestleMania XXV, when he failed to catch the Undertaker when the Deadman did his suicide dive. ‘Taker landed so badly that some people thought he had genuinely injured or killed himself in that dive. After that, there was no way he’d ever find any success in WWE again.
6. The Great Khali
Khali was WWE’s first attempt to gain a major foothold in the lucrative Indian market. They wanted him to be the cash cow for that country that John Cena had been for much of the English-speaking world. There was just one problem: Khali could not wrestle.
Poor Khali was immobilized by his own size. He was so freakishly tall he couldn’t execute anything beyond sluggish-looking strikes and a relatively-easy Two-handed Chokeslam. Because of this glaring immobility, his matches were downright terrible.
Things were worsened by the fact that his first major opponent was the Undertaker, who was stuck facing Giant Gonzalez 2.0 thirteen years after it was clearly established that he shouldn’t be working against immobile monsters.
5. Vladimir Kozlov
Poor Kozlov. He was signed with WWE at the worst possible time. Sent to SmackDown in 2008, he was pushed to the moon almost instantly. He scored several upset victories, including one over the Undertaker, shortly after his arrival. WWE made their point loud and clear: this guy is a big deal and you should pay attention to him.
There was just one problem: Jeff Hardy.
The younger and more artistic of the Hardy brothers was enjoying a career renaissance in WWE at the time. He was arguably the most popular wrestler on the roster, was cheered above everyone else, and was also flirting with the main event scene. So when it came to the main-event matches, the audience had to choose between Jeff Hardy and Vladimir Kozlov. You can guess whom they chose to cheer.
Kozlov’s main-event push ended just as quickly as it began. Even though he was a natural mat technician and all-rounded wrestler, he did not fit in the character-driven world of WWE, especially with many people believing he stole Jeff Hardy’s spot.
4. Nathan Jones
It isn’t hard to see why WWE signed and pushed Nathan Jones when they did. I mean LOOK AT THAT MAN. He had a look and physique that most guys even within the WWE would’ve killed for, and this look was complemented by a monumental push that began almost the moment he was signed.
Basically, WWE wanted him to be the Undertaker’s protégé. They put these two men together as much as possible, with the hopes that Jones would learn something from the legendary Phenom. There was just one problem: Nathan Jones was horrendously inexperienced and lacked most of the fundamentals needed to be a WWE superstar.
He was so bad, in fact, that WWE nixed his spot at WrestleMania XIX, when he was supposed to team with ‘Taker against Big Show and A-Train (more on him later). WWE thought it would be a more entertaining match to have Undertaker defeat both men at the same time than it would’ve been to see Nathan Jones square off against these other two giants. In hindsight, it looks like they were right to make that call.
3. The Shining Stars/Primo & Epico
Primo and Epico have had some really bad luck. They couldn’t simply be two wrestling siblings that happened to be from one country, like the Usos. Instead, they had to be some kind of gimmick. In their case, they’ve been saddled with two of the worst and most embarrassing WWE gimmicks in modern times.
First, they were rechristened as ‘Los Matadores’, a duo of Puerto Rican bullfighters complete with a dwarf wrestler acting as their bull mascot (poor Mascarita Dorada). They were as cheesy and childish as one would expect, with JBL loving anything involving their ‘bull’ character as opposed to the brothers themselves (when your gimmicky dwarf companion is more popular than you are, you’re in trouble).
They were then saddles with the gimmick of ‘the Shining Stars’, a gimmick they’ve been trying to sell for months now. With this gimmick, they’ve exchanged their bullfighting attire for Hawaiian shirts with the goal of selling travel packages to Puerto Rico. None of this is getting over with anyone, and the audience doesn’t care one bit about these guys.
Cameron never had a chance of getting anywhere in WWE. From the very first episode of the new season of Tough Enough, Cameron was damaged goods. Her knowledge of wrestling and its history were both virtually nonexistent, which begged the question of why she even bothered to sign up for this in the first place?
She did not get better with time whatsoever. She did become something of a ‘star’ by being on Total Divas, but that was it. Once her team with Naomi ended, she flopped immensely and had gimmick to speak of. Then the final nail in her coffin was when she had a match on RAW and went for a pinfall, despite her opponent being on her stomach and not her back.
You couldn’t possibly find a better example of someone being in the wrong business and having way too little experience than Cameron. Maybe if she actually had some understanding of wrestling fundamentals and tried to improve, maybe she’d still be there now.
1. Albert/Prince Albert/A-Train/Tensai
This man of a thousand ringnames tops our list because of the sheer number of times he has been repackaged, re-gimmicked, and reintroduced to WWE. There was obvious support for him from the moment he debuted in 1999 to his most recent return in 2012. He was as menacing as can be, with his imposing face, large frame and litany of body piercings and tattoos.
But WWE no longer cared for one-dimensional big guys by 2000. As big as he was, he had no discernable gimmick, and smart fans could tell that one of his ring names, ‘Prince Albert’ was the name of a penile piercing. How could a man with such a name ever even hope to get over?
WWE gave him one last chance in 2012, after he had spent years doing very well as a tag team wrestler in NJPW under the name Giant Bernard. But that was the problem: NJPW cared about working ability and what you do in the ring. They could care less about gimmick unless your name was Shinsuke Nakamura.
So what worked in front of the quiet, respectful, athleticism-oriented Japanese fans could not hope to possibly translate well for the loud, gimmick-oriented WWE fandom. It’s no wonder that, within six months of his WWE return, Tensai was losing matches in less than five minutes and was forced to wear women’s lingerie on RAW. Hopefully the money made all of that worth it.