Friday, November 13, 2009

13 Unluckiest Wrestlers

In honor of Friday the 13th, I decided to look back throughout the years and find the wrestlers who may have broken a few mirrors or crossed paths with a black cat at some point in their career.

By the way,
nothing overly morbid, I'm not including wrestlers who have passed away as that would be incredibly bad taste and far too depressing.

13. Barry Horowitz
It's one thing to be a jobber for life, guys like The Brooklyn Brawler, "Iron" Mike Sharpe and Brady Boone were never going to go anywhere, and for many years, we assumed the same for Barry Horowitz. That was until 1995 when Barry Horowitz picked up a shock win over Chris Candido, who was working as Skip of the BodyDonnas. You may think this is good luck for a career jobber, but I think if I were one of wrestling's journeymen, I'd be comfortable in that position, but once I had the slightest taste of actual success, I wouldn't want to let it go; unfortunately for Barry, WWE let it go. The push of a lifetime, the little jobber that could, and then it's over as quickly as it began. Ouch.

12. Rico Constantino
Rico is an amazing story, a former paramedic, a Las Vegas police officer (even made it to the SWAT team), an American Gladiators champion, and then eventually, a professional wrestler. In WWE, Rico was just about everything you could ask for in a Superstar - extremely talented, brilliant on the mic, fantastic comedic timing and dripping with charisma. So where's the bad luck? Well unfortunately for Rico, he became a WWE Superstar in 2002... but he was born in 1961. When you look at today's WWE, newly-arriving Superstars definitely aren't in their 40s,
and Rico was considered "too old" to give a major push. Sadly, Rico was released in 2004 and has since retired from professional wrestling, leaving this fan to wonder what he could've brought to the table if he were instead born in 1971.

11. Jim Ross
I don't know what it is about Good Ol' JR, despite being the greatest commentator in the history of the business, people in charge have some sort of immunity from understanding it. Whether it's Vince McMahon or Eric Bischoff, wrestling bosses love to screw with JR. Take him off the air, fire him, bring him back, fire him again, send him home, do a skit where you give him a colonoscopy, try to bring in UFC's play-by-play guy, bring in Joey Styles instead, then wind up bringing JR back after all. How many times has Vince bounced JR around WWE programming before realizing that he's the voice of the business and putting him back where he belongs... then a couple years later try to bounce him around again? No, JR doesn't look like a TV star, but he's probably the most beloved man in pro wrestling, leave him alone!

10. D'Lo Brown
Last generation's Shelton Benjamin, D'Lo was one of those guys that the crowd always responded to, he always delivered in the ring, and unlike Shelton, he actually has charisma, but for whatever reason, nothing ever came of it. It looked like history would have a chance to fix itself when D'Lo was brought back to WWE last year, only for him to wrestle a handful of matches and disappear. What the hell?!

9. Magnum TA
I hesitate putting Magnum on this list, because it's a really sad story, but also a case of really bad luck. Magnum was the epitome of old school, Southern wrestling. While WWE's heroes looked like comic book characters, the NWA had Magnum TA, a motorcycle riding badass who didn't need super powers, he'd just kick the shit out of you in a bar. He was the antithesis of Ric Flair, the perfect guy for the common man to get behind, almost Stone Cold before there was a Stone Cold. As Magnum was being groomed for the World Heavyweight Championship, he was involved in a terrible car accident which forced him to retire from the ring. There have been many missed opportunities in the history of pro wrestling, but none like Magnum TA.

8. Val Venis
Okay, a wrestling porn star is probably never going to be World Champion, but during the Attitude Era, it worked. By the way, I love using the Attitude Era as an excuse, it's like the way people talk about the 1980s, "c'mon, it was the Attitude Era, Frankie Says 'RELAX!'" Anyway, while Val Venis may have been saddled with a one-dimensional gimmick, Sean Morley may have been the most underrated wrestler of the decade. Incredibly talented, very charismatic, did absolutely everything that was asked of him, but for some reason, it just never translated to much success. Sure, there were some IC Title reigns in there, but that was around the time that the belt was passed around more than one of Val's co-stars, so it didn't really mean much. Val Venis is the prime example that hard work and dedication doesn't always pay off... a valuable lesson to teach your kids.

7. Dustin Rhodes
Poor Dustin, despite being the son of one of the most famous wrestlers in history, people just don't care about him unless he's wearing a full bodysuit, covered in gold paint, and under the androgynous, ambiguously gay gimmick, Goldust. Don't get me wrong, Goldust is one of the greatest characters in history, and Dustin deserves all the credit in the world for making it work. You could even say he ushered in the Attitude Era, working an incredibly edgy and controversial gimmick when the rest of WWE was anything but. For whatever reason, that kind of magic has never translated into any other gimmick: whether it was the quickly-abandoned Seven, the shameless rip-off Black Reign, or even just himself... the fans just want Goldust. But perhaps that's not a bad thing for Dustin, Dusty Rhodes left big shoes to fill, and instead of trying to live up to his father, Dustin carved his own niche in wrestling history.

6. Jeff Jarrett
Okay, this one might be a mixture of bad luck and karma. In 1999, Jeff Jarrett left WWE to follow his friend Vince Russo to WCW, where he was practically guaranteed that main event push that wasn't happening up north. When his WWE contract expired, Double J was the Intercontinental Champion, and held up the company for $250,000 to stick around an extra 24 hours and drop the title. WWE, fearing that he would go to WCW and drop the IC Title in the garbage like Medusa did with the Women's Title, paid the money. Jarrett got his ransom, but effectively burned that WWE bridge, but hey, no big deal, right? WCW promised big money and gave Jarrett the World Heavyweight Championship, he was a main eventer now, he didn't need WWE, even going so far as to tell Jim Ross (who was head of talent relations at the time) & Vince McMahon to "kiss his ass" on live television. Unfortunately for Jeff, he probably didn't predict that WWE would buy WCW just a year and a half later... Vince McMahon himself personally fired Jeff Jarrett on the final episode of Nitro. Oh but wait, there's more! Knowing that he could never return to WWE, and with no other major promotions in the country, Jarrett founded TNA in 2002... and was sent home by Dixie Carter in 2009.

5. The Shockmaster
I don't know who thought this gimmick would ever work to begin with - it was a fat guy with a Stormtrooper helmet covered in glitter! Oh early 90s WCW, I miss you. Anyway, you know the story, in the build-up for War Games, Sting & The British Bulldog wanted to SHOCK the world with their partner and gave us The Shockmaster, who burst through a wall and then fell flat on his face on live television. Everyone involved in the segment (including the announcers) did everything they could to contain their laughter, but at that point it was like a Jimmy Fallon sketch on SNL.

4. Marty Jannetty
Marty's had it rough over the years, becoming something of a horror stories for tag teams who split up. "Good luck to both of you, hope you're not the Marty Jannetty of the team!" How would you like that to be your legacy, the loser half of a trailblazing tag team? It's especially tough for Marty, because depending on who you ask, he was the more talented member of The Rockers when they were at their peak as a duo. Yet, Shawn Michaels went onto become one of the greatest of all-time, and Marty faded into obscurity.
Marty did have a lot of momentum behind him at one point, especially when he beat Shawn for the Intercontinental Title, but it just wasn't enough for him to establish any sort of singles career.

3. Mr. Kennedy
I know there are a lot of rumors regarding Mr. Kennedy's departure from WWE, and we all know he didn't do himself any favors in certain interviews, but if you're talking about wrestlers with bad luck, how can you not mention him? On the cusp of the main event on at least four different occasions, each time it was derailed by injury or suspension. He was, and in many ways still is, the total package for a WWE Superstar, but it just never came to fruition and it appears that it never will. WWE's fault? Kennedy's fault? Bad luck? Whatever the reason, Mr. Kennedy is the biggest missed opportunity of the 2000s.

2. Jake "The Snake" Roberts
This isn't about Jake's personal demons, this is about how Jake Roberts the wrestler could've been the biggest heel in the industry on multiple occasions, but due to circumstances beyond his control, it was not to be. In 1986, during the height of Hulkamania, Jake Roberts was scheduled to enter a feud with the WWE Champion, which possibly could've ended with him winning the gold. When Roberts attacked Hulk Hogan on his interview segment, The Snake Pit, the crowd did not react the way they were supposed to, instead of booing Roberts for attacking their hero, they cheered. The feud was immediately scrapped and the segment never went to air. Five years later, Roberts turned heel on The Ultimate Warrior, the second biggest name in the company at the time. Right as the feud was heating up, Warrior was fired from the company, leaving Roberts to a returning Randy Savage. Savage's return overshadowed Jake, but then to make matters worse for Roberts, he was the fodder for The Undertaker's face turn. The only reason Jake The Snake isn't #1 on this list is because he was just so damn good, he didn't need top-level feuds or championships to become one of the most famous performers in the history of the industry.

1. Muhammed Hassan
The Muhammed Hassan gimmick is a touchy one. In theory, it was one of the smartest characters WWE ever created: an Arab-American wrestler bursts onto the scene, upset with the way his people have been treated in our post-9/11 culture. Unsurprisingly, WWE initially didn't handle the gimmick with the subtlety it deserved, instead going with the same old "evil foreigner" gimmick that had been around since the business became televised. But that all changed in July of 2005 when the gimmick went over the top and Hassan attacked The Undertaker along with several masked men in camo pants. The show was taped on July 4, but went to air July 7... the day of the London bombings.

UPN aired the segment, completely unedited, but following a backlash, told WWE that they could never use the character on television again after a simulated "terrorist attack." Hassan gave one last promo on Velocity, and suddenly everything he had been saying was true, whoever said the masked men were terrorists? Were we just assuming that because they were helping an Arab? Was Hassan simply pushing our buttons the entire time in order to prove his point? In wrestling, when a heel makes a good point, they're usually met with boos (just ask Chris Jericho), but in a shocking turn of events, the crowd actually cheered Hassan. In an industry where nuance isn't something you see everyday, WWE had something really unique on their hands, but couldn't do anything with it. Hassan was released soon after the controversy, and we were robbed of perhaps the most culturally relevant storyline in wrestling history.

8 comments:

  1. Applause for you.

    That was an excellent article. Muchly enjoyed, thank u!

    (word verification "missat" - definition: The abbreviated version of Missy Hyatt.

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  2. Interesting list. I always felt that Tazz was fairly unlucky during his run as an active WWE wrestler. With a great ring presence, great technical wrestling ability and above-average mic skills, along with some very solid booking, he was one of the hottest properties in ECW. However, despite initially appearing to be set for a big push from the onset in WWE, including being given the honour of being the first man to beat Kurt Angle, I think he came in at the wrong time. During his two or three years as a member of the WWE roster, it was always going to be an uphill struggle trying to break through with the likes of The Rock, Triple H, Mick Foley, Steve Austin and The Undertaker thriving in the main event scene, and it goes without saying that his history of serious neck injuries cut his career short. Looking back now, it seems a great pity as I genuinely feel that he could have done well in today's brand split era in the same way that the likes of Batista, Randy Orton and Edge have. Still, an almost uninterrupted seven year run as an announcer can't be bad for a man who never really made it past the midcard.

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  3. I actually thought about putting Taz on the list, but after becoming one of the greatest color commentators since Bobby Heenan and Jesse Ventura (and based on what was supposed to be a short-lived feud with Lawler), I think he found his true calling. Taz was fantastic in the ring, and had he decided to get that invasive neck fusion surgery, he probably would've found a lot more success in a WWE ring. But looking at how great he's been in the booth, I think he made the right decision.

    One guy who was brought to my attention today on Twitter that I regret putting on the list is The Big Show. Not because he hasn't found success, but because of his abysmal WrestleMania record. Definitely bad luck for one of the biggest stars in the business.

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  4. Does anyone notice D'elephant in this article? If we're on the topic of just really bad "no fault of their own" luck...

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  5. One more thing, thank you for including JR on this list. Do you know how many people view JR as a wrestling father figure?

    I grew up watching WWE, and the most disturbing moment for me (besides the "Pillman's got a gun!" angle) was when JR turned heel in 1996. Back then I was too young to know about how poorly the WWE was treating JR, all I knew was that he had his first Bell's Palsy attack and I was so happy to see him back that when he went to the ring and turned, I honestly felt betrayed and alone in a way.

    It's silly when I look back on it now, but it shows how much I revered JR and still do.

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  6. In the context of the article, it was probably best to leave out Big Show and his Wrestlemania record. He may be 1-8 (or something) at this point, but at least he's had the opportunity to wrestle so many WM's, three of them in main event matches.

    And by main event matches, I mean his matches at Wrestlemania 2000, 24 and 25, even though 2000 was the only match to go on last.

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  7. What about Billy Gunn? All those times WWE tried to establish him as a main eventer and the fans refused to accept him as anything more than a midcarder.

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  8. I'd say that has less to do with luck and more with the fact that Billy Gunn sucked. :-P

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