It’s long been said that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this could be one way to explain the bizarre business practices of Vincent Kennedy McMahon. As the owner and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, McMahon is also the most powerful man in the entire sports entertainment industry, and yet his actions don’t always behoove a man in this position. In fact, there have been a shocking number of cases where it looked like Vince had no idea what he was doing whatsoever, and countless wrestlers have had their careers impacted because of it.
McMahon’s primary business strategy is that his word is final, so there’s no changing his mind on a given employee’s talents once he’s made a decision. Unfortunately, these decisions have, at times, been made swiftly and without any sort of logical forethought, making it merely a matter of time before WWE fans start begging for him to change his mind. This practice can go both ways in that McMahon sometimes promotes low-level talent far beyond their abilities while outright ignoring performers capable of changing the business for the better.
In any other business, this is where aides and assistants would step in to try and change McMahon’s mind, but as already established, he doesn’t take kindly to those who disagree with him. Rather than get fired over the issue, McMahon’s yes men thus simply reassure his every decision, patting him on the back as he keeps pushing mediocre talents to the moon, not to mention covering the boss’s ears when crowds boo him for firing people they actually liked. Keep reading to learn about 8 WWE superstars Vince McMahon kept around way too long and 7 he never really gave a chance.
15. EMPLOYED TOO LONG: Michael Hayes
Speaking of Vince McMahon’s aides and yes men, let’s kick off the list with one of his longest tenured. Michael Hayes has been working for WWE on and off since 1995, when he was first hired as an interviewer, writer, and road agent. Though Hayes barely worked for WWE as a wrestler himself, he nonetheless was a pretty big star for Southern territories of the 1980s, making him somewhat suited for the role. However, rather than contribute any ideas himself, stories about Hayes largely paint him as doing nothing but reinforcing every bad idea McMahon has, with his only true contribution a low key racism that permeates through the backstage area to this day. Of course, with this sort of reputation, it isn’t hard to guess why McMahon has kept Hayes around for so long anyway.
14. NEVER HAD A CHANCE: Gail Kim
It might not be entirely accurate to say Gail Kim never had a chance in the WWE Universe, because technically speaking, she had two. That said, neither of Kim’s brief stints working for Vince McMahon in any way lived up to her potential, which was only truly realized while working for TNA/Impact Wrestling. In all fairness to McMahon, he did give Kim a bit of spotlight right from the start, allowing her to win the WWE Women’s Championship in her first match. Unfortunately, though, this debut victory was pretty much the sole noteworthy event of Kim’s entire tenure in WWE, which cumulatively spanned nearly five years. This means absolutely everything after Kim’s first appearance was a downward spiral, and the only logical explanation is that McMahon lost interest in her almost immediately. Given the whole story, it’s no surprise Kim prefers working for Impact.
13. EMPLOYED TOO LONG: Jacqueline
It almost feels mean saying someone employed by WWE for a mere six years outstayed her welcome, and yet we still have little hesitation in including future WWE Hall of Famer Jacqueline in the list. Quite frankly, it’s hard to understand what McMahon sees in the wrestler he twice made WWE Women’s Champion, and once even gave a men’s title to with the Cruiserweight Championship. Jacqueline was uncoordinated and sloppy in the ring and didn’t possess any special charisma to speak of, so a push of this level was wholly inappropriate from the start. That Jacqueline was one of very few women McMahon employed at the time might have been part of why women’s wrestling had trouble getting viewed as equal to the men’s version. Of course, it’s not as though there were many other women around at the time to fill the roles Jacqueline played.
12. NEVER HAD A CHANCE: Sean O’Haire
The dying days of World Championship Wrestling were rough for virtually everyone working for the company, even those who were hired by Vince McMahon in his corporate takeover. Main-event level talent was forced to participate in The Invasion, and newer stars on the rise like Sean O’Haire were pretty much lost in the shuffle. O’Haire at least had a slightly better chance than some of his former co-workers in that WWE were able to create a brilliant new gimmick for him: a Devil’s Advocate who wasn’t telling sinful audiences anything they didn’t already know. O’Haire also had some considerable chops in the ring, though he was never quite able to show them off in WWE. Allegedly due to his inability to stay in character during live interviews, O’Haire was cast out of WWE entirely mere weeks after his new character debuted, never to return.
11. EMPLOYED TOO LONG: Kane
Upon his initial appearance during the main event of Badd Blood 1997, few wrestling fans thought The Undertaker’s demonic brother, Kane, was going to stick around for long. Big bad monsters were constantly introduced to fight The Dead Man in his latest epic battle and then slowly fade away, if only because their bizarre backstories made long-term character building almost impossible. That has pretty much been the case with Kane, but that hasn’t stopped WWE from keeping the Devil’s Favorite Monster on their roster for nearly two decades. On one hand, WWE deserves a little bit of credit for constantly switching things up with Kane, and the man himself is clearly a versatile worker. That said, his talents in the ring have been diminishing since the day he was hired, and keeping people like him employed prevents better, newer talent from taking over.
10. NEVER HAD A CHANCE: Chris Kanyon
Despite his reputation as The Alliance MVP, it turned out almost anybody was better than Kanyon, at least insofar as Vince McMahon was concerned. To just about everyone else, or at least wrestling fans who had seen the man work in WCW, Kanyon was one of the most innovative up and coming performers of the late ‘90s. The world may never know exactly why McMahon failed to see Kanyon’s innate talents, although there might be some small explanation in the fact that the former WCW United States Champion repeatedly found himself injured after making his way to WWE. Of course, spending a year on the injured list makes it impossible for someone to show the boss what they’re capable of doing, so it’s not like this justifies McMahon firing Kanyon almost the instant he was ready to get back in the ring.
9. EMPLOYED TOO LONG: The Fabulous Moolah
Easily the longest-tenured WWE employee featured on this list, Vincent K. McMahon isn’t the only person responsible for The Fabulous Moolah sticking around way past her expiration date. The previous WWE CEO, McMahon’s father, Vincent. J, had also been booking Moolah on and off for decades, and truth be told, she had already been wearing out her welcome even before the big switchover between them. In contrast to her legendary reputation, Moolah had always been one of the laziest and weakest female wrestlers around, keeping her position solely through political maneuvering. Moolah’s control was such that no other females had any chance of becoming stars on any level, thus preventing something like the WWE Women’s Revolution from happening until her retirement. Had the McMahon family only realized Moolah’s worthlessness and gotten rid of her decades earlier, there’s no telling how much females could have achieved in her absence.
8. NEVER HAD A CHANCE: Justin Gabriel
In the interest of fairness, Vince McMahon didn’t exactly refuse to give Justin Gabriel a chance; rather, the self-proclaimed “Darewolf” himself realized his career would never take off in the WWE Universe. Gabriel spent a good six years working for McMahon before he realized this, and truth be told, it’s not like he was entirely free of success. Gabriel won three WWE Tag Team Championships during his brief stint in the company and was a regular member of The Nexus, but none of this was enough for him, and many fans were agreeing Gabriel’s innovative high-flying style deserved more than a second-string role in tag teams. According to Gabriel himself, he repeatedly went to executives and writers in an attempt to plead his case and get a better role within the company, only to constantly get shot down and turned away. Once this became a pattern, Gabriel gave up on WWE before McMahon could give up on him.
7. EMPLOYED TOO LONG: R-Truth
Ironically, had this list been written about 10 years ago, the name Ron Killings might find itself on as one of the people Vince McMahon never gave a chance. The man who would become R-Truth made his first WWE appearances using the name K-Kwik, appearing as The Road Dogg’s tag-team partner for a few short months before disappearing without ever making much of an impact. From there, Killings jumped to NWA: TNA and won the World Championship multiple times, greatly raising his stock in the industry. Switching things up to his current name, R-Truth jumped back to WWE in 2008, where he would more or less have to start all over from the bottom due to the McMahon’s long-standing practice of ignoring their competition. Bizarrely, Truth has stayed in WWE almost nine years at this point without ever building his reputation back up, still pretty much exactly where he started.
6. NEVER HAD A CHANCE: Héctor Guerrero
If nothing else, the wrestlers on this list who never got a chance at least got to have their face on television doing what they loved. Well, with the exception of Héctor Guerrero, that is, as he was instead forced to have his one shot in the sun dressed as a giant turkey called The Gobbledy Gooker. Now, as one of the most maligned ideas in wrestling history, it’s hardly our intention to imply The Gooker deserved anymore than his one appearance at Survivor Series in 1990. However, the man behind the suit was, in fact, a highly talented performer who had previously dominated a number of territories in the 1980s with his brothers Chavo and Mando. Years later, Héctor’s young brother, Eddie, and nephew, Chavo, Jr., would redeem the Guerrero name, yet there’s a chance the family legacy could have been even greater if only Héctor had a chance to be himself.
5. EMPLOYED TOO LONG: John Bradshaw Layfield
Whether behind the announce booth or inside the ring, it always felt like Vince McMahon must see something in John Bradshaw Layfield that the rest of the world simply doesn’t understand. Throw in the fact a good portion of the WWE roster has complained that JBL is a backstage bully, and he should have been fired decades ago. Unfortunately, rumor has it McMahon is supportive of this bullying attitude, just like he supports practically everything else the wealthy, obnoxious Texan has to offer. Any other promoter probably would have fired Bradshaw over 20 years ago, when he failed to make an impact as Justin Hawk. The New Blackjacks was even worse, making it downright baffling JBL got his third shot and formed The Acolytes. While that idea might have worked, JBL’s partner, Faarooq, walked away gracefully once that period was over, and many fans have long wished Bradshaw had done the same.
4. NEVER HAD A CHANCE: Kaval
Throughout the Monday Night War era, one category WCW consistently had over WWE was their cruiserweight division. In a manner of speaking, this would remain the one area TNA/Impact Wrestling has managed to excel above Vince McMahon’s empire, with their X Division achieving far more attention than any lightweights in WWE were getting around the time the brand was created. Some of the early standouts TNA had were Low Ki, A.J. Styles, and Christopher Daniels, to name a few, and when Low Ki was the first to jump over to WWE, fans were hoping this meant Vince would finally give smaller guys a shot at standing out. Instead, Low Ki became Kaval, a borderline comedy character that mostly wore pink and hung out with LayCool. Unsurprisingly, this took all of his edge away, and the innovative stylings of the X Division never really made their way to WWE until Styles jumped as well nearly eight years later.
3. EMPLOYED TOO LONG: Mark Henry
Hindsight being 20/20, maybe Vince McMahon had the right idea with Mark Henry. That said, the first decade the so-called World’s Strongest Man spent in WWE was a constant barrage of reminders that WWE made a huge mistake in hiring him for so long. Had McMahon not offered Henry a 10-year contract from the start, he probably would have fired the future World Champion almost immediately, when it was revealed Henry’s strength didn’t quite translate to in-ring talent. Bad gimmick after horrible gimmick after atrocious gimmick were to follow, all of which would have gotten anyone else fired. Amazingly, by sticking it out and always doing as he was told, Henry would eventually save himself, lucking into the Hall of Pain gimmick no less than 15 years into his career and retroactively justifying everything… at least for a while. Six more years later, and it feels like Henry is overstaying his welcome yet again.
2. NEVER HAD A CHANCE: Scotty Goldman
Wrestling fans out there who view the WWE Universe as the only show in town probably don’t remember Scotty Goldman in the slightest, considering he spent all of a few months on the SmackDown roster, almost never making an appearance. However, a fan with a wider view of pro wrestling would be quick to point out that Goldman also experienced a great career on the independent scene with the name Colt Cabana. Working with that nom de guerre, Cabana was a two-time NWA Champion, not to mention a mainstay in Ring of Honor during the formative days of that organization. During that time, Cabana was good friends with CM Punk, and Vince McMahon’s ignorance towards the Voice of the Voiceless’s friend was actually part of one of his famous shoot promos about how WWE is headed off the rails.
1. EMPLOYED TOO LONG: The Big Show
Back in the year 1999, a young wrestler named The Giant jumped from WCW to WWE, and outside of a few months along the way, in WWE has The Big Show remained for the rest of his career. This is despite constant diminishing returns in relation to his in-ring work, not to mention a rapidly accelerating feeling that every single thing the monster does at this point has been done already. More than that, Big Show is usually the person who already did it. At this point, there’s absolutely nothing left for Show to accomplish in wrestling, and the fact of the matter is that this has been true for at least a decade. The only reason Show remains employed by Vince McMahon is that he’s still a very large man, and his lack of skills or interesting character traits apparently aren’t enough to cancel that out.
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