To many American pro wrestlers, the day they signed their first contract with World Wrestling Entertainment was the moment their career truly began. WWE has been the top company in sports entertainment since at least the early 1980s, and it was already one of the biggest promotions around throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s as well. While it isn’t always the case, most wrestlers working in the US do achieve the peak of their careers inside a WWE ring, and they have Vince McMahon to thank for the opportunity.
Unfortunately, the wrestlers who don’t do so well in WWE tend to fall by the wayside, and McMahon is equally responsible in most of these instances. For every wrestler Vince helped become a star, there’s another wrestler whose reputation was irreparably damaged by the way he handled them. Granted, there have been plenty of occasions this was entirely warranted, with McMahon generally only booking wrestlers poorly if they never could've become famous, to begin with. However, there have also been a number of cases where a wrestler’s career was going along perfectly fine until McMahon’s influence derailed things entirely.
Not every person to enter the wrestling business is going to be a star, and that’s regardless of whether or not Vince sees anything special in him or her. There are also plenty of wrestlers who can become stars on some level without ever working for Vince, not a big surprise considering the possibility of him destroying their chances before they had a real shot. For now, though, let’s focus on the WWE Universe and the many athletes who had their lives changed by the company’s CEO for better or worse. Keep reading to learn about 8 pro wrestlers who had their careers killed by Vince McMahon (and 7 he completely saved).
15 CAREER SAVED: Kevin Nash
Standing over seven feet tall, possessing natural charisma, and pretty darn funny in the right circumstances, Kevin Nash pretty much had all it took to be a pro wrestler from day one. Unfortunately for Nash, the first company to give him a shot was WCW, meaning he had to suffer through a cavalcade of the goofiest gimmicks in wrestling history despite having everything it took to be a star. First up, Nash was in a forgettable tag team called The Blade Runners, followed by a ridiculous turn as The Great and Powerful Oz. Next up was Vinnie Vegas, a slight improvement over the others, though not one which could have elevated him from a joke to a major player. On the plus side, Vince McMahon did have a gimmick that could make Nash a star, and all it took to pull the role off was dying his hair black and wearing sunglasses. After establishing himself as Diesel, Nash was even able to go back to WCW and become an even bigger deal by mostly being himself.
14 CAREER KILLED: Tazz
Before anyone out there tries to call us out on this one, fair’s fair -- Tazz’s career probably would've gone much the same regardless of Vince McMahon’s influence. Ultimately, it was an injury that sent Tazz out of the ring and towards the announce desk, but it was also Vince who first set him on that path. Things were already looking downward pretty much the moment Tazz jumped from ECW to WWE anyway, as he was no longer the ass-kicking sawed-off monster he once was. Not understanding the gimmick, McMahon pretty much turned Tazz into one of a half dozen ECW expats who represented all things hardcore with little to differentiate them personally. Blending in with all the others, Tazz was quickly shunted down the card. Along the way, he briefly recaptured the ECW Championship only to lose a non-title match against WWE Champion Triple H, allowing Vince to kill off an entire promotion en route to burying Tazz.
13 CAREER SAVED: Big Boss Man
The world will probably never know why Vince McMahon takes pity on some of his former employers and gives them second chances. Big Boss Man, in particular, was a decent enough worker in his day, yet by the time Vince hired him back in the late ‘90s, his career had been heavily put through the ringer in WCW. Called Big Bubba Rogers, The Boss, The Guardian Angel, and his real name Ray Traylor, it looked like the Boss Man had somewhat of an identity crisis while working for Ted Turner, and with each name change, he fell further down the card. Despite the fact Ray Traylor was basically a pure jobber by the end, Vince still saw value in him as a worker, rehiring him as The Big Boss Man once more and creating the badass bodyguard persona that made him a hit once again.
12 CAREER KILLED: Monster Ripper
For all WWE likes to boast about the women’s wrestling revolution happening in the modern era, not too long ago, the company was actively destroying the genre altogether. In fact, there was once a point when WWE seemingly dug the women’s division out of nothingness just to kill it all over again, dragging the career of Rhonda Singh through the mud in the process. The real point was to put over Alundra Blayze, also known as Madusa, but every wrestler needs a rival, and so the feared Canadian Monster Ripper was signed after years of wreaking havoc in Japan. Unfortunately, Vince McMahon didn’t see how an intimidating woman could be of use to him and instead turned her into “The Queen of the Trailer Park” Bertha Faye. This reductive and restrictive role openly offended Faye, not to mention, killed her chances of ever getting taken seriously in America again.
11 CAREER KILLED: “Diamond” Dallas Page
As soon as “Diamond” Dallas Page started rising up the WCW roster, insiders immediately questioned whether or not he deserved the opportunity. On the other hand, people who supported DDP were quick to counter he was amongst the hardest working men in the business. Another title for him was “the world’s oldest rookie,” owing to his reputation for training at the WCW Power Plant well into his 40s. Ultimately, all of DDP’s efforts paid off with three reigns as WCW World Champion, not to mention several other titles he won along the way. Once WCW was purchased by WWE, DDP was one of the few top stars willing to take a pay cut and keep working for Vince McMahon, and he was repaid by having his character turned into a glorified jobber. Gone were the days in the main event, and suddenly DDP was lucky to wrestle in the opening match.
10 CAREER SAVED: Triple H
At this point in time, Triple H is arguably the second most powerful person in the wrestling industry. Since marrying Vince McMahon’s daughter Stephanie, and perhaps even a bit before that, HHH has been climbing the corporate ladder all the way to his current position as the COO of WWE and head creative mind behind NXT. Before any of that could happen, however, HHH had a brief trip down south to WCW, and his career nearly died before it truly began. Competing first as Terra Ryzin and then Jean-Paul Levesque, the man now known as the Cerebral Assassin was little more than an opening match loser prior to his rebirth in WWE. When he decided to leave WCW, all Levesque had accomplished was losing a bunch of matches to Alex Wright and occasionally teaming with Steven Regal. Thanks to Vince giving HHH a second chance, The Game was able to start in earnest.
9 CAREER KILLED: Scott Steiner
Holler if you hear the fact Scott Steiner was once perhaps the most respected technical wrestler in the entire world. Granted, his own body transformation had more to do with that status fading away than anything Vince McMahon could possibly do to him. That said, Steiner’s technical prowess fading away happened concurrent to his ascension from the tag team division to the main event, so it’s not like that was the downfall of his career. It was three years after Big Poppa Pump bulked up that he won the WCW World Championship, and two more years later, he tried to repeat that success in WWE. Suffice to say, things didn’t quite work out for him, as his few shots at Triple H’s World Heavyweight Championship resulted in some of the worst Pay-Per-View matches in company history. Steiner slightly recovered through his stint in TNA, but he never again had the same star power seen in WCW.
8 CAREER SAVED: William Regal
Drugs and alcohol have ruined the lives of countless people, and the professional wrestling industry has seemed particularly prone to this problem. In the late ‘90s, it looked like Lord Steven Regal might be going down this horrible path. Regal started in WCW as a highly respected grappler, competing for the United States Championship against Sting in his first year with the company. Later on, he won a number of Television Championships, yet behind the scenes, his life was slowly unraveling. By 1998, Regal’s problem was bad enough it got him fired from WCW, and with his reputation at the time, it would have been easy for mainstream wrestling to forget about him entirely. For whatever reason, McMahon took pity on Regal, offered him a job, and then put him through rehab on numerous occasions when it was clear his problems weren’t over. To repay the favor, Regal merely had to change his name to William.
7 CAREER KILLED: Low Ki
In the early days of NWA: Total Nonstop Action, one area that stood out as truly different from what WWE had to offer was the X Division. To critics, it was little more than a glorified cruiserweight division, yet diehards knew the work men like AJ Styles, Low Ki, and Samoa Joe were putting into their matches was something special. Nowadays, Styles and Joe have a chance to show that off in the WWE Universe, and given their success, one might assume Low Ki did even better as the first of the crew to make the jump. For whatever reason, the exact opposite happened, and Low Ki’s career was over almost immediately after he switched his name to Kaval. Of course, Vince McMahon has changed countless names successfully in the past, but making Kaval dress in pink and hang out with the women’s division was so against everything that made him popular as Low Ki, he could never recover.
6 CAREER SAVED: Sid Vicious
With all due respect to Sid Vicious, his psychotic nature meant his career would need saving more than once. Lucky for Sid, his imposing size and intense personality were enough for Vince McMahon to look the other way on his faults and help out more than once. Things were going along well enough for Sid throughout the early '90s, when Japan, WCW, and WWE all wanted him for one reason or another. Things cooled off after his second stint in WCW when a series of backstage altercations left him an unstable laughing stock to the rest of the industry. The one man willing to take another chance on Sid was Vince McMahon, who hired the vicious monster to be Shawn Michaels’ second bodyguard after Diesel. Two reigns as WWE Champion followed, and then a few as WCW Champion, solidifying Sid’s career as saved.
5 CAREER KILLED: Héctor Guerrero
Just about every fan of the WWE Universe is familiar with the legendary name that is Guerrero. That said, this reputation is almost entirely due to the efforts of Eddie Guerrero, with his widow Vickie and nephew Chavo, Jr. playing smaller albeit significant roles. Father Gory was a legend in Mexico, but never made much of a name for himself in America, and brothers Chavo, Sr., Mando and Héctor may have carved out decent niches for themselves in the ‘70s and ‘80s. However, not having spent much time in WWE, none of them are much remembered today. In fact, the only brother aside from Eddie to enjoy a significant WWE run was Héctor, better known to fans as The Gobbledy Gooker. Not that anyone could have made the idea of a wrestling turkey work, but Héctor being forced to try pretty much ruined his career. Were it not for Eddie, the whole Guerrero family reputation may have suffered.
4 CAREER SAVED: Goldust
Born into royalty as the son of Dusty Rhodes, it would have been extremely easy for Goldust to coast on the family name in his own career as a wrestler. That nearly happened during his first few years in WCW, but when the Rhodes' family lost their pull in that company, Dustin soon found himself ousted and without any option other than to try his hand working for Vince. While the Goldust gimmick was intentionally bizarre and outrageous, there’s no denying Dustin made it work perfectly, prolonging his career by decades. Unfortunately, Goldust the man was far from perfect and would fall into drug and alcohol issues many times throughout his life. Each time, McMahon was willing to give him a second chance and improbably kept coming up with ways to keep things golden.
3 CAREER KILLED: Mike Shaw
Due to the way he was portrayed in WWE, it would be reasonable for fans to question if Mike Shaw even had a career capable of getting ruined by the time he debuted as Friar Ferguson. That’s not even mentioning the ridiculously stupid Bastion Booger gimmick that came next, where Shaw’s sole characteristic as a human being was being disgustingly obese. Prior to it all, however, he actually had a pretty respectable career going on down in WCW as Norman the Lunatic. The gimmick was just as offensive, suggesting Shaw was an escaped mental patient, but two things were different from what was to come next -- fans liked it, and somehow, it made him popular. Before he was a Lunatic, Shaw was known as Makhan Singh in Stampede Wrestling, another bare bones monster character, yet also one that still became successful through Shaw’s hard work. With the awful characters Vince McMahon gave him, Shaw never had a chance to show what he could do.
2 CAREER SAVED: Tony Atlas
What exactly constitutes as saving or killing a career is up for debate, so there has probably been a decent amount of controversy throughout this list, and that isn’t going to end. Even the person writing it has to question how Vince McMahon saved Tony Atlas’s career, and yet the Black Superman himself has claimed Vince did exactly that, so who are we to argue? Nonetheless, the point of contention comes from the fact Atlas said McMahon saved his career, and in fact his life, by offering him a role as Saba Simba in the early ‘90s. There’s no doubt Atlas’s life in wrestling was almost over at that point, and getting the racist character provided him with steady paychecks at a time he was almost homeless. Even so, the Simba character was so patently offensive one still has to question if it was worth it.
1 CAREER KILLED: Terry Taylor
Representing the precautionary tale that should have warned this half of the list, Terry Taylor was one of the first wrestlers who had a perfectly fine career going along for him when Vince McMahon stepped in and ruined everything. Back in the 1980s, Taylor was a respected journeyman athlete who achieved fame in Mid-South Wrestling and the NWA, mostly on the merits of his strong technical skills. Vince McMahon cares not for mere technique, however, and he decided Taylor needed a clucking crazy gimmick to connect with fans. Instead of giving him a strange occupation or strong character, McMahon accomplished this by having Taylor wear stupid red feathers in his hat and act like a chicken named The Red Rooster. Unsurprisingly, this hardly made Taylor a star, and rather, made him a total laughingstock free of the boundless potential he once had.