Vince McMahon is probably the most successful person in the history of professional wrestling, and he has shared that success with literally hundreds of wrestlers by allowing them to craft incredible careers as a part of his programming. With such great power to create also comes an incredible power to destroy, and Vince McMahon has done his deal of destruction, as well. While it’s almost every wrestler’s dream to one day appear in WWE, they don’t always get to control every little aspect of their career once they finally get there. Vince always ultimately has the last say on the wrestlers’ gimmicks and what it is they get to do in the ring.
Vince is a creative genius, and he hires a team of other creative geniuses to help him fully realize some of his craziest and best ideas, but sometimes all of the creative energy backfires. Some truly terrible gimmicks have been given to incredibly talented wrestlers, ending their careers before they could even take off. Occasionally, a fairly or even extremely successful career was derailed thanks to Vince’s intervention. Some of them managed to pull out of the spiral and still have a moderately successful career outside of WWE, but by and large, these 15 wrestlers had their careers destroyed by Vince McMahon and WWE.
After a short but successful career in sumo wrestling, Canadian born John Tenta debuted in WWE as Earthquake, immediately entering high profile feuds with The Ultimate Warrior, Jake Roberts and Hulk Hogan. Quake wasn’t the greatest technical wrestler alive, but he had a very unique and imposing look, and he quickly became a huge star by toppling those two giants. He also won the WWE World Tag Team Championships with Typhoon, as The Natural Disasters. Tenta briefly left WWE to compete in WCW for three years as The Shark. Tenta’s position gradually lowered while in WCW, but it was Vince who finally put his career to an end after he returned to WWE as Golga. Golga’s only defining characteristics were being a member of the much-maligned Oddities and carrying around an Eric Cartman doll. It’s hard to even believe the same wrestler could have ever main evented shows with Hulk Hogan. Tenta passed away in 2006.
14. Héctor Guerrero
Héctor Guerrero is the older brother of Eddie and thus a member of the famous wrestling Guerrero family. Along with his brothers Mando and Chavo, Sr., Héctor was mostly a tag team wrestler in Southern territories during the 1970s and ‘80s. Although they weren’t quite on the level of their legendary father, nor did they reach the heights their younger brother ultimately would, the Guerreros were considered extremely talented wrestlers especially considering the era in which they competed. In 1990, Héctor became the first Guerrero signed by a McMahon, and he debuted at that year’s Survivor Series by hatching out of a giant egg. Yep, Eddie Guerrero’s older brother is the Gobbledy Gooker. Regardless of the fact the gimmick definitely killed his career in America, Héctor has a sense of humor about it, appearing as the character a few times since whenever WWE wanted to bring it up for a laugh.
For all of the many problems and criticisms most people have with WCW, there is also Goldberg. Goldberg made his wrestling debut in WCW on September 22, 1997, and he would be WCW World Heavyweight Champion by the end of the year. While he received criticism for his lack of technical wrestling acumen, when listening to the crowds of tens of thousands of people who chanted his name every Nitro, it would be impossible to deny him his success and achievements in the wrestling world. Goldberg finally debuted in WWE in 2003, spending less than a year in the company largely in part because he felt Vince was destroying his career. The final straw for most fans came when the unstoppable monster was forced to wear a long blonde wig in a comedy segment with Goldust.
12. The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior and WWE famously mended their ties just days before his death in 2014. Years before that, few people were as clear-cut victims of Vince McMahon’s pettiness. Most people on this list were hurt by a booking decision or a creative idea gone wrong, but Vince actively set out to destroy the marketability and credibility of the man once known as Jim Hellwig by releasing a DVD titled The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior. Wrestlers interviewed for the DVD made extremely negative comments about Warrior as a performer and an employee, causing so much personal damage Warrior filed a libel suit against WWE. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, but even after the implication of an apology and an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame, many fans who saw the DVD will never forget the way it portrayed him.
11. Road Warrior Hawk
The argument could probably be made for both Road Warriors and their manager Paul Ellering, but Hawk by far got the worst of it, so he’s the one on our list. As a team, the Road Warriors were one of the most dominant tag teams in the history of professional wrestling, and almost certainly the most successful team of the 80’s. They won countless titles everywhere they went, including a brief stint in WWE from 1990 to 1992. McMahon’s first strike came during this era, when he forced Ellering to carry around a weird dummy named Rocco. Hawk and Ellering quit over the gimmick, and Animal followed shortly after due to an injury. Several years later they would return to WWE and suffer an even worse gimmick. Drawing on Hawk’s real life alcohol problem, an angle took place where Hawk was gradually replaced and then nearly murdered by Droz. Although the Road Warriors eventually made nice with WWE and were inducted in the Hall of Fame, many fans can’t forget the times Vince repeatedly embarrassed them.
10. Mike Shaw
It’s hard to explain what Mike Shaw could have been since we are marred by the context of what he was. It’s not that he could have been a megastar, but Vince McMahon turned him into a disgusting joke. Shaw first made a name for himself wrestling for Stampede in Canada under the gimmick of Makhan Singh. Singh wrestled against future superstars such as Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and The Dynamite Kid before heading to WCW as Norman the Lunatic. Managed by Teddy Long, Norman became decently popular with the slightly offensive gimmick of an escaped mental patient, but his career took a huge dive after Vince McMahon hired him. Shaw first played the ridiculous Friar Ferguson, a wrestling monk, which lasted all of two weeks before religious groups were furious. Next he became Bastion Booger, a gimmick that literally just had him eat a lot of food and be gross while sitting next to Vince McMahon himself. Shaw passed away in 2010.
9. Perry Saturn
Perry Saturn started his career as the tag team partner of Triple H, but that part of history has pretty much been rewritten out of existence. More famously, he was one of The Eliminators in ECW, a fierce tag team of former criminals turned wrestling machines. After jumping to WCW, Saturn dropped the violent backstory, but continued to be considered the tough enforcer in a series of successful tag teams. After Vince McMahon got his hands on him, he fell in love with a mop. It’s true that even by the end of his WCW run, Saturn was starting to move towards a comedic oddball gimmick, but by pairing him with an actual mop and having him claim he was in love with it, Vince absolutely destroyed Saturn’s career.
8. Terry Taylor
In the mid-1980’s, Terry Taylor was considered a potential future superstar brimming with untapped potential. Smooth in the ring and competent on the microphone, Taylor won a series of titles in Mid-South Wrestling and the NWA. He signed with WWE in 1988, and after a few quick appearances under his real name, he was rebranded The Red Rooster. The Rooster is generally considered one of the dumbest and most poorly thought out gimmicks in wrestling history. Taylor wore a fake rooster’s comb in his hair and actually clucked around the ring. The gimmick was a huge flop and didn’t last long. Taylor bounced back and forth between WWE and WCW under various iterations of his real name, but never was able to overcome the negative association with the Rooster gimmick. He ultimately found a second career as a trainer, a role he currently holds at NXT. We hope he takes some small solace in the fact he’s not the only man Vince gave a gimmick fit for the birds…
7. Diamond Dallas Page
Like Goldberg, Diamond Dallas Page was one of the few true stars of WCW. He was an everyday everyman, the original People’s Champion. While most WCW superstars either came from WWE or were simply around forever, DDP made a name for himself by clawing his way up the card in the 1990s, despite this time being the height of the nWo’s political maneuvering preventing anyone from elevating themselves. By running through the crowds and speaking his mind, Page connecting with audiences on a level few others were capable of doing. When WWE bought WCW, he turned into a weird stalker obsessed with the Undertaker’s wife, and after that bombed, he turned into a gigantic joke as a motivational speaker. In only the second or third WWE match of his that actually mattered, the Undertaker beat him so decisively he had to become a joke to even survive in an industry he once thrived in simply by being himself. Somehow in this instance Vince didn’t realize being yourself isn’t a bad thing: it’s a good thing.
6. Lance Storm
Continuing the trend of people who proved themselves elsewhere, there is the case of WCW and ECW star Lance Storm. Lance first dominated ECW’s tag team scene, winning the Tag Team Championships with Chris Candido and then as a member of the Impact Players with Justin Credible. In WCW, Lance was one of the few people the company actually used well in the year 2000 – at one point becoming a triple champion, holding the WCW United States, Hardcore, and Cruiserweight titles simultaneously. He joined WWE during the Invasion and started out moderately successful, winning the Intercontinental Champion, but by 2003 his gimmick was literally that Steve Austin thought he was boring. A ridiculously goofy dancing gimmick followed, turning the once multi-time champion into a joke. Maybe Lance should’ve seen this coming, though, considering how Vince treated his tag team partners earlier in their careers. Speaking of which…
5. Chris Candido
Today Chris Candido is best known for his longtime relationship with WWE Hall of Famer-turned-adult film star Sunny, but for a brief time in the early 1990’s, he was seen as a potential superstar of the future. He wasn’t big enough to be a main eventer, but his wrestling talent was second to none. Candido was the top star in Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling while barely over 20 years old, and when he was only 22, Candido won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1994. The next year, he debuted in WWE as Skip the Bodydonna, a fitness guru. As if that gimmick wasn’t career death already, his first major feud was a series of losses to career jobber, Barry Horowitz. Horowitz was talented himself and deserved a few wins, but giving them to him in this manner basically killed Candido’s incredible potential right out of the gate. He found more success in ECW and WCW, but sadly passed away in 2005 due to a post-surgery blood clot.
An amalgam of several of our last entries, Tazz made his legend before entering WWE, and on top of that, he wasn’t very tall, either. In ECW, Taz was alternatively referred to as either “The One-Man Crime Spree” or “The Most Miserable Son of a Bitch on the Planet.” Less than 10 months after his debut in WWE, Tazz added another “z” and became the chuckling sidekick to Michael Cole. Okay, his role was a bit antagonistic at first, but that’s how long it took him to stop kicking ass and sit down in the commentary booth, and it wasn’t long after that he just became another wisecracking announcer. It’s true injuries played a role in Tazz’s downfall, but Vince has also made it clear in a few interviews and talking heads he just didn’t understand the Taz character. In one ECW documentary, Vince infamously called Taz the “suplex king, and all that stuff,” extremely dismissively referring to four years of Taz single handedly dominating the entire ECW roster, being viewed as a terrifying killer.
3. Al Snow
We just recently covered how Al Snow was screwed over by his contract in the 1990’s, but it bears repeating considering just how ridiculous the scenario was. Al Snow was a successful independent wrestler making a name for himself by having fantastic matches in ECW and SMW. He found himself having conversations with both WCW and WWE, and ultimately sided with WWE, but quickly regretted the choice. Snow has always been a solid technical wrestler with a slightly unhinged personality, so WWE’s decision to twice put him under masks and force him to wrestle in unfamiliar styles as the luchadore Avatar and fake ninja Shinobi is particularly baffling. Less baffling and more plain insulting was having him play second fiddle to a drug addicted Marty Jannetty as one of the New Rockers, which ultimately offended Snow all the way out of the company and into ECW.
2. Muhammad Hassan
The definition of “ruining a career” is open for interpretation. What isn’t open for interpretation is the fact Mark Copani was one of the most noteworthy wrestlers in the world when he retired at 24 years old, due to the horrible way Vince McMahon forced him to act on television. Copani came to fame as Muhammad Hassan, quickly rising to the top of WWE in late 2004 and becoming a huge star in the early months of 2005. Hassan’s character fed on the unfortunate racism and xenophobia that certain wrestling crowds sadly possess, but that’s exactly what McMahon hired him to do and he was doing a great job at it. This lead to a feud with the Undertaker. Unfortunately, the feud started in an absolutely tasteless angle where Daivari was martyred in Hassan’s name, only three days after the 2005 London bombings. Shortly after the angle aired, Copani was fired, and he hasn’t made a wrestling appearance since. His biggest mistake was doing exactly what Vince McMahon hired him to do.
1. Roman Reigns
While everything else on this list is firmly within the history books at this point, fans get to watch Vince McMahon destroy the career of Roman Reigns each and every Monday night. If things go the way fans are predicting, it’s possible upwards of 100,000 people will get to watch Vince drive the nail in the coffin live at WrestleMania 32. Reigns debuted in WWE in 2012 as a member of the Shield. Despite obviously being the least popular and least talented member of the group (although neither untalented or unpopular, just less so than his partners), Reigns has always been the WWE and Vince’s favorites, as evidenced through the words of his announce team avatars.
With all the other people on this list the problem was a bad idea, but in this case, the problem is that the fans just flat out resent the guy. He’s pushed as a Superman type hero, but gets booed out of the building with his every appearance, forcing diehard fans to turn away in droves. Crowds need to be heavily edited for him even to appear popular, since the blatant audience vitriol overpowers the “narrative” WWE is attempting to sell. Virtually every time he appears, WWE attempts to push their big lie about Reigns being a popular beloved wrestler even harder, but audiences know the truth, and continuing to lie is only killing Reigns, McMahon, and possibly the entirety of WWE.