Nobody becomes a success in sports or entertainment on their own. In the wrestling world, this doesn’t mean everybody needs to start out in a tag team, it just means that somewhere along the line somebody needs to give a young wrestler a chance for them to become a true superstar. In most cases, the person to give them a chance is Vince McMahon, or some other major wrestling company promoter. Wrestlers obviously do everything in their power to make themselves shine and let their talents hang loose when they get their big shot, but it doesn’t always go quite the way they planned.
Plenty of wrestlers have reached the big stage and quickly fizzled out of the spotlight, despite the fact McMahon or some other figure was putting their faith into them. Sometimes they recover, but more often than not, when a superstar blows their big shot, that it for their career. Once given the brass ring, a wrestler should only move forward, and a major hiccup out the gate can cause them to stumble all the way into obscurity. Some of these stories are tragic, some are confusing, and others are downright mysterious, but they all follow the same basic pattern. Keep reading to discover 15 wrestlers who completely blew their big shot at fame.
Tiffany debuted with WWE when she was only 22 years old, and immediately found herself in the fairly high profile role as the General Manager of ECW. Two years later she moved to SmackDown and instantly became a major part of the women’s division on that brand. Tiffany was teaming with Kelly Kelly and started a feud with LayCool centered on the WWE Women’s Championship. Tiffany earned a shot at the title in late July of 2010 and could have received plenty more, but around that same time she also made the horrible choice of domestically assaulting her husband, wrestler Drew McIntyre. Tiffany was suspended for the incident and fired shortly thereafter, and though she continued to succeed in wrestling under her real name in Total Nonstop Action, her WWE days are far behind her.
14. Muhammad Hassan
Muhammad Hassan is a special case on this list, in that the character definitely ruined it’s shot at the big time, but the wrestler portraying that character was the one person who is completely free of any blame for his downfall. The man whose real name is Mark Copani portrayed Hassan from 2004 to 2005, and instantly became one of the most hated heels in WWE history. He was rapidly shooting up the card, and rumors were he was poised to become the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history at SummerSlam of that year. Copani’s career crashed and burned in the most spectacular fashion imaginable, when WWE officials instructed him to martyr his manager Daivari on SmackDown only three days after the London City Bombings. In WWE’s defense, the segment was taped before the bombings and aired after, but the damage was irreversible and absolutely destroyed Hassan’s career in an instant. Copani retired from wrestling at 24 years old and never looked back.
13. Sean O’Haire
Sean O’Haire was one of the most promising prospects to come out of the WCW Power Plant, and quickly became the standout of the Natural Born Thrillers stable of newcomers during the dying days of that company. O’Haire was big and buff, but he could move around like a cruiserweight, and he impressed fans so much he was named the Wrestling Observer Rookie of the Year in 2000. When WWE purchased WCW in 2001, O’Haire lost a few matches before being sent to a developmental territory to get better at his character work. Either O’Haire or one of the writers came up with a great character for him that could have made him a star, that saw him act as a Devil’s advocate who “wasn’t telling you anything you didn’t already know.” Fans were intrigued and impressed once again by his vignettes, but rumor has it O’Haire just couldn’t get comfortable and deliver a promo in front of a live crowd. Despite being paired with WWE icon “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, O’Haire’s limitations stopped him from becoming a star, and forced him to leave wrestling a few years later.
12. Último Dragón
Último Dragón has the distinct honor of holding more championship titles at a single time than any other wrestler. Dragón actually held more titles at once than some of his most talented contemporaries held combined, so like a few people on our list, it’s hard to say he totally wasted his career or anything that hyperbolic. Despite his unparalleled success in Japan, Mexico, and WCW, he lasted less than one year in WWE, and his time in the company wasn’t exactly a highlight of his career. Dragón had just spent six years away from the sport recovering from injuries, and his decision to return to the industry was inspired by his lifelong goal of competing at WrestleMania. He lived his dream at WrestleMania XX, but suffered one of the most embarrassing moments of the night, when he tripped on his cape during his entrance. Dragón left WWE less than a month later, deciding to return to Japan.
11. Buff Bagwell
Buff Bagwell was a decently popular wrestler in WCW throughout the 90s, but he more-or-less completely vanished from the sport along with that company. He has made a few appearances since for independent companies, but his one shot in WWE was one of the most embarrassing and short-lived of any former WCW star. Bagwell main evented one episode of Raw in 2001 against Booker T and lost by DQ, and he also appeared on that week’s episode of SmackDown. That would be all for Bagwell, though, as he was quickly fired for his poor performance in his one match and a general feeling backstage that he had a bad attitude. It didn’t help that his mother called the company to inform him he was sick on his first week.
10. Kerry Von Erich
Kerry Von Erich is a member of the legendary Von Erich wrestling family, and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a result of his family lineage. Kerry is noteworthy even amongst his famous family, as he is the only Von Erich to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, or any title in WWE, where he was Intercontinental Champion. At the same time though, Kerry, like almost his entire family, had some serious problems with drugs and alcohol that prevented him from being an even bigger star than he was. His reign with the NWA World title only lasted a few weeks, in large part because NWA officials didn’t trust him on top thanks to his known substance problems. His time in WWE was equally short-lived, as his downward spiral throughout his life continued.
9. Ricky Steamboat
Ricky Steamboat is considered one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, and we aren’t going to disagree with that reputation in any way. His match with Randy Savage at WrestleMania III is one of the best ever, and that’s why it’s a bit curious Steamboat’s ensuing reign with the WWE Intercontinental Championship only lasted two months. Especially in the 1980s, this was extremely short for a major title reign, and it wasn’t the original plan. Steamboat was supposed to have a lengthy run with the gold, but always a family man, Steamboat instead asked for time off so he could help his then-pregnant wife after their first son was born. Vince McMahon wasn’t very happy about a potential star immediately wanting a vacation, so Steamboat lost the belt and was never given another big shot in WWE again. He still became NWA World Champion and a WWE Hall of Famer, but Steamboat’s legacy could have gone in a different direction had he been willing to miss precious family moments.
8. Sin Cara
The original Sin Cara, better known as Místico, is one of the biggest stars in Mexican history. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter called him the Best Box Office Draw and Best Wrestler of the Year in 2006, and his reputation only continued to grow in his home country over the next few years. He decided to make the jump to the United States and WWE in particular in 2011, but for whatever reason, the man now called Sin Cara completely failed to connect with American fans on the same level as those in his native land. Only a few months into his WWE tenure he was suspended for a violation of the Wellness Policy, and his career never quite recovered from that suspension. A second Sin Cara replaced Místico, and although the original did stick around for a few years, he never won any titles and eventually left WWE in 2014 amidst complaints the company wouldn’t let him wrestle the style that made him a star in Mexico.
7. Mr. Kennedy
Mr. Kennedy only spent four years in WWE, but they were four years on the top, and he seemed like he was only raising his profile up to the day he was fired. Kennedy had a unique character and a strong comedic timing that connected with fans, but his inexperience in the ring showed against major talents like John Cena and Randy Orton. Both top WWE stars complained that Kennedy was being careless in the ring against him, and a few weeks later, Kennedy was released from the company. Fans of his have complained that was an overreaction to two top stars who were trying to bury a rising potential competitor, but whatever the case, the incident totally wrecked his WWE career.
6. Scott Hall
Scott Hall was involved in one of the biggest storylines in wrestling history and was a constant main event superstar during the hottest period in the industry’s history, so it’s hard to say he wasted his big shot. However, Hall never won a World Championship, and he definitely ruined more than a few opportunities at becoming an even bigger legend than he’s revered as today. Hall was one of the last viable stars in WCW during late 1999 and early 2000, with everyone else either injured or rapidly jumping away from the sinking ship. Hall could have finally won the title if WCW trusted him, but around this same time he decided to cheat on his girlfriend, who was the niece of a top WCW executive. Hall was fired and never made another appearance for the company he helped put on the map. His destructive habits with drugs and alcohol have also prevented him from earning a more consistent role backstage in today’s WWE.
5. Jake Roberts
Jake Roberts is a WWE Hall of Famer and one of the absolute legends of the business, but the man himself acknowledges he at one point had the potential to be so much more. Roberts never won a title in WWE or WCW, and part of the reason was that no company would trust a serial drug abuser with that kind of responsibility. Worse than anything that happened during his in-ring career, Roberts has always been considered one of the best minds in the wrestling business, and as such he was offered a prominent and long-term backstage role with WWE when his career as a wrestler first started to slow down in 1997. The increased pressure caused one of his worst relapses, and although he was eventually forgiven and inducted into the Hall of Fame, WWE haven’t exactly renewed that old job offer.
4. Louie Spicolli
Many of the stories on this list are tragic tales of wrestlers falling from glory, but Louie Spicolli stands out as probably the saddest of them all. Spicolli had been wrestling on the major stage since he was 17, working for WWE as a jobber under the Spicolli name. He became a minor star in Mexico as Madonna’s Boyfriend, and in his mid 20s he returned to WWE as Rad Radford, the third Bodydonna. Spicolli started to finally gain some traction in ECW by feuding Tommy Dreamer, and it seemed like huge things were ahead of him when he joined WCW in late 1997. Spicolli started hanging out with Scott Hall and was the unofficial lackey of the nWo, engaging in a high profile feud with Larry Zbyszko. In February of 1998, Spicolli even got to act as a color commentator for several segments on Nitro and highly impressed officials with his humor, and Eric Bischoff had promised to turn him into WCW’s Chris Farley. Just when things seemed to be taking off for him, Spicolli passed away by overdosing at the age of 27.
3. Rob Van Dam
Rob Van Dam was one of the most popular superstars of ECW, and when he joined the WWE roster in 2001 he quickly proved he would be extremely popular anywhere he went. He immediately started getting main events and title shots, but despite fan support he was kept away from the WWE World Championship until One Night Stand 2006 when he finally won the gold from John Cena. WWE finally seemed to be putting their faith in Van Dam, and he responded by getting arrested for speeding and possession of marijuana barely three weeks later. WWE has a zero tolerance policy on drug related arrests, but they kept Van Dam around long enough for him to lose both the WWE and ECW Championships over the two days following his arrest. Van Dam was eventually welcomed back into the company, but they never trusted him on that high of a level again.
2. Jack Swagger
Jack Swagger’s biggest brush with fame was his World Heavyweight Championship reign in 2011, and while that was certainly a squandered opportunity, it wasn’t entirely his fault. Swagger was never treated like a true superstar during his time with the title, and a lack of serious opponents made that reign forgettable from the start. He could have elevated it with better matches or promos, but the weak reign wasn’t even the worst downfall of his career. Swagger was still treated with a certain degree of respect for a few years after that, but any chance of a revived career went down the drain when he was arrested for marijuana possession in 2013. Swagger was in the midst of another push as a member of The Real Americans, but that second chance was taken away from him after the arrest, and he was treated like a joke once again.
1. Tom Magee
Tom Magee is one of the strangest stories in wrestling history. When he first started wrestling, he was considered probably the hottest prospect in the history of sports entertainment. Noted wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer was calling him the future of the industry, and after viewing Magee’s debut match with Japanese legend Riki Choshu, Meltzer called him possibly the greatest combination of speed and power the business had ever seen. Magee was big and handsome and seemed like a superstar out of the gate, and was quickly hired by Vince McMahon, who saw him as the next Hulk Hogan. Unfortunately, something happened to the so-called Mega Man that sports entertainment has never quite seen. As quickly as he was considered a potential superstar, Magee started to get called one of the worst wrestlers in history, and a match with Hiroshi Wajima was considered maybe the worst ever. It’s hard to say what exactly happened to him that caused the downward spiral, but the lesson seems to be that sometimes hype happens so fast people don’t even notice the natural limitations of the people they’re hyping.
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