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Wrestling's Biggest Busts


JHawk
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Essentially a repost of an old article I wrote in the dying days of the TSM main site, but I thought it'd make for good discussion.

 

Credit for the bulk of this article goes to the fine posters over at the Kayfabe Memories Message Board, the Pro Wrestling Chronicle website, the Slam! Wrestling website, and my frazzled memory. Honestly, there's so much in that head of mine at this point that I have trouble remembering fact from fiction these days.

 

NOTE: This is hardly a complete list, and as such there is no ranking system of any sort. I’m just listing guys in the order I thought of them, and I know there are a ton I’m missing. I'm also providing YouTube clips when possible to get an idea of what we're talking about here.

 

Robocop: Professional Wrestler

 

One of the problems with the Ted Turner-owned World Championship Wrestling was the man in charge, Jim Herd.

 

Jim Herd apparently could run one hell of a pizza hut, but he knew nothing about wrestling. In 1990, Jim Herd thought it would be a good idea to delve into the movie rights owned by Ted Turner and use the characters as wrestlers. He obviously thought the WWF's No Holds Barred crossover of the year before worked much better than it really did. So in addition to the idea of a wrestling hunchback (the hump would prevent him from ever being pinned) and the peg-legged wrestler (Ric Flair figure-four leglock would be ineffective against the wooden leg), Herd came up with this brilliant quote: “Could Rhett Butler beat Ric Flair?”

 

Well, Rhett Butler never made an appearance in WCW, but Robocop did. Not only was Robocop brought in as Sting’s “bodyguard” for the Capital Combat 90 PPV event, but Robocop’s appearance was essentially billed as the main event of the PPV.

 

Robocop’s appearance was so forgettable that, if not for this clip, I would remember nothing about it, except it was also the night another bust on this list debuted…

 

El Gigante

 

Jorge Gonzalez didn’t come to the United States to be a professional wrestler. He came to the States to be a professional basketball player.

 

Gonzalez signed with the Ted Turner-owned Atlanta Hawks in either late-1989 or early-1990, but he never saw a minute on the hardwood due to his bad knees. So what do you do with a guy who stands a legit 7’7” but can’t play basketball? You sign him to your wrestling company, of course.

 

Here's his horrible match with One Man Gang at Great American Bash 1991.

 

In fairness to Gonzalez, he did make an effort to improve in his four years in wrestling, but he really did nothing of note except feud with The Undertaker under the name Giant Gonzalez in the WWF. The combination of Gonzalez’s bad knees and failing health had him basically out of the business altogether by the start of 1994. Although I think he wrestled Muta in 1995.

 

Glacier

 

What article about wrestling’s busts would be complete without discussing Glacier?

 

Many of you can probably remember the vignettes airing on literally every WCW show for months, featuring what appeared to be the Sub-Zero character from Mortal Kombat doing all his martial arts motions while snow fell in the background. Literally, three months of these “Blood Runs Cold” vignettes aired, sometimes twice in one segment, on every WCW program (and there were a lot of them in 1996). When Glacier finally debuted though, it was the crowd reactions that ran cold, and despite them trying for two years to get the gimmick over, Glacier was relegated to the lower midcard for almost his entire run.

 

That didn’t stop the geniuses running WCW in 2000 from bringing the gimmick back and acknowledging how stupid it was on the air.

 

Chris Taylor

 

I almost didn't include this one.

 

Chris Taylor was an amateur wrestling standout, winning a bronze medal for the United States in the 1972 Munich Olympics. In fact, if not for a controversial decision that ended the referee’s Olympic career, the 350-plus-pound Taylor may very well have taken the gold.

 

The Michigan native soon turned professional, training with Verne Gagne. Taylor had a humble disposition about him, and given his amateur background seemed like a sure fit for the AWA. He even brought professional wrestling into the mainstream, as many of Taylor’s professional matches aired on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. One of those matches was a two-ring battle royal that came down to Mad Dog Vachon and Taylor that Taylor won…but not before Mad Dog made sure Taylor was blown up and bloodied.

 

However, Taylor’s weight at times would balloon to over 450 pounds, thus making working long matches difficult. Also, Taylor’s tendency to acknowledge the worked nature of professional wrestling likely kept him from becoming a true household name.

 

Taylor’s health failed him, and he passed away on June 30, 1979 at the age of 29.

 

The Shockmaster

 

Here we come to a case of the gimmick being a bust moreso than the worker involved.

 

See, Fred Ottman had been wrestling about seven years when he went to WCW in 1993. After a run as Big Bubba in Memphis and as Big Steel Man in Florida, Ottman went on to greater fame in the WWF as Tugboat and, later, Typhoon. Never put on fantastic matches, but good for a big man.

 

When his contract ran out in 1993, Eric Bischoff couldn’t wait to sign him, and head booker Dusty Rhodes couldn’t wait to push him into the main event.

 

Ottman, dubbed The Shockmaster, made his TV debut on a live Clash of the Champions during a Flair for the Gold segment as the partner of Sting and Davey Boy Smith in an upcoming War Games match. Ottman, sporting a mask that looked like a storm trooper out of Star Wars, was supposed to burst through the walls of the set and look imposing while the distorted voice of Ole Anderson cut a promo to hype the War Games match. Which is exactly what happened.

 

Except for the looking imposing part.

 

Instead, Ottman tripped going through the set. His mask fell off, and as he was trying in vain to put it back on and salvage the angle, Anderson went into the promo anyway, apparently unaware Ottman fell.

 

The segment was such a disaster that broadcasters Tony Schiavone and Jesse Ventura were laughing about it through the entire next segment. The Shockmaster went from being this monster to a lovable but clumsy construction worker. The Shockmaster was gone in six months, but not before Dusty tried to bring in someone (I always thought it was supposed to be John Tenta but never got that confirmed) as “The Super Shockmaster”, complete with Ole Anderson-voiceover. The angle was thankfully scrapped before it could reach fruition.

 

The Black Scorpion

 

Which brings us to another angle that used the voice of Ole Anderson and failed miserably. I’m sensing a pattern.

 

With Ric Flair being faded into the midcard after losing the NWA World Title to Sting, Sting really didn’t have a major heel challenger in place. (Rule #1 in wrestling: Always build up a new challenger before pushing the former champion to the side.) So while the booking committee was busy trying to make Sid Vicious look like a threat, they had another idea: Create a challenger for Sting.

 

Enter the Black Scorpion.

 

Scorpion debuted on TV in a series of vignettes where a shadowy figure with a distorted voice that was a dead ringer for Ole Anderson left cryptic “clues” as to his identity to Sting, the most widely-repeated being “California, 1986”. Surely it was a member of Powerteam USA, who Sting broke into the business with. Or maybe it was Larry Zbyszko, who Sting feuded with briefly in the UWF. A stretch, maybe, but I do remember rumors to that effect at the time.

 

The angle itself was reasonable enough. There was only one problem. Ole had the Angel of Death in mind to play the part of the Black Scorpion, but he didn’t actually bother to sign the Angel prior to starting the angle. What followed was probably the biggest flop of an angle in wrestling history.

 

With Sting defending the NWA World Title against The Black Scorpion at a live Clash of the Champions, a series of vignettes had aired where Scorpion promised to unmask if he didn’t win the title. So of course, Sting wins the match, but not only doesn’t the Scorpion unmask, but the Scorpion Sting was wrestling was a fake! In fact, the real Scorpion, easily 3-6 inches taller than the one who just wrestled, was standing on the ramp looking at Sting after the match. (The match can be viewed in two parts on YouTube, with part one here). Supposedly the Scorpion that wrestled that night was former World Class Champion Al Perez, who hadn’t been seen in a year and hasn’t been seen since. The second one? The Angel of Death, who apparently agreed to an appearance but not a contract.

 

The angle got progressively worse, with Scorpion conducting “black magic” to get into Sting’s head over the next few months. These bits were mind-numbingly stupid, particularly when they turned the one guy into a “tiger” that looked more like a leopard, then doing his own disappearing act that was so mind-numbingly unmagical that members of the crowd were actually pointing to tell Sting where he disappeared to.

 

Watch Gordon Solie recap the feud

 

With no real blow off plan in place, they finally blew the angle off at Starrcade 1990 (available in four part with part one here), revealing the Scorpion to be Ric Flair playing mind games all along. Which might have worked had they not made it obvious by pulling Flair out of his scheduled tag team title match with Doom that had been scheduled to blow off that long-running feud. Seriously, I was twelve years old at the time and I remember the conversation I had with my friend Dan the next day like it was yesterday.

 

Me: “The Black Scorpion was Flair, right?”

 

Dan: “Yeah.”

 

Me: “Did he win?”

 

Dan: "No."

 

Yes, I expected Flair to be the Black Scorpion and reveal himself after he won the title, just to prove Sting to be an idiot. That payoff probably would have worked better than what they went with.

 

Funny how Ole Anderson lost his booking job two weeks later.

 

Outback Jack

 

Never had Vince McMahon given anybody so much pre-debut publicity and gotten nothing for his investment quite like this.

 

With the popularity of the movie Crocodile Dundee in 1986, McMahon decided he should use it to his advantage by creating an Australian WWF superstar. With Australian tours drawing well in 1986 despite the top stars being largely midcard talent, surely this would gain McMahon a foothold overseas.

 

Enter Outback Jack, who was introduced in December 1986 with a series of well-produced vignettes that still rank among the best introduction vignettes ever seen in the WWF. Sadly, YouTube doesn't seem to have those available. Fast-forward to February 1987 when Jack made his WWF TV debut, where he sucked hard. Happily, YouTube only has a couple of his matches.

 

Outback Jack was about as over as a suicide angle after three months of action. In May, Jack was put into a feud with returning veteran Killer Khan in which Khan blinded him with green mist. Khan won the TV blow off that summer, and Jack’s TV appearances were limited to largely tag team matches and a meaningless battle royal. Most people believe the Khan match was Jack’s last TV appearance. Not true. It’s just that he was so bad that nobody remembers seeing him after that.

 

Tom Magee

 

If anybody had the complete package to be a World Champion in this business, it was Tom Magee.

 

A former bodybuilder, Magee was trained for professional wrestling in the Stu Hart Dungeon made his professional wrestling debut in early-1986, main eventing against -- and defeating -- Riki Chosyu in Japan. Reports from many of the fans in attendance said Magee combined the perfect blend of look, style, and athleticism that was needed to be a major superstar. Even Dave Meltzer made similar comments in the Wrestling Observer newsletter.

 

Fast forward to October 7 of that same year. At a taping of WWF Wrestling Challenge at the War Memorial in Rochester, New York, Magee wrestled Bret Hart in the second half of the marathon four-hour-plus taping. Magee backflipped into the ring, and over the course of seven minutes or so not only had the crowd reacting for the first time in over two hours, but reportedly had Vince McMahon himself screaming “That’s my next champion” while watching the match on a monitor.

 

One problem. His opponent was Bret Hart.

 

Hart had made Magee look like a million bucks, to the point the conscious decision was made not to air the match until such time as they were ready to made Magee the heir-apparent to Hulk Hogan. Magee would wrestle on C-level house shows…and actually regress to the point that by 1989, he was completely out of the business as an almost unheard-of competitor.

 

Anything else you guys can think of?

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Glancing over WrestleCrap's past inductions, the ones that jump to mind:

 

Ted Arcidi

Billy and Chuck's wedding

Ludvig Borga

The Invasion

Lex Luger's WWF run

Zeus

Vince Russo's WCW run

WCW Mini-Movie Trilogy

The Dungeon of Doom

The KISS Demon

nWo Nitro

Oz

The Yeti

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Glancing over WrestleCrap's past inductions, the ones that jump to mind:

 

Ludvig Borga

 

See, at least with the others you at least knew what they were aiming for. I never understood the point of the Evil Foreign Heel Menace From......Finland? How was that supposed to get over at all? Is he going to sodomize you with skis? He wasn't even that bad of a wrestler for the WWF at the time, but the premise was so ridiculous people were just like "LOL Finland".

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Glancing over WrestleCrap's past inductions, the ones that jump to mind:

 

Ludvig Borga

 

See, at least with the others you at least knew what they were aiming for. I never understood the point of the Evil Foreign Heel Menace From......Finland? How was that supposed to get over at all? Is he going to sodomize you with skis? He wasn't even that bad of a wrestler for the WWF at the time, but the premise was so ridiculous people were just like "LOL Finland".

 

Watching old WWF syndie shows from the period reminded me that he was actually really bad for the WWF at the time, but that's neither here nor there. My line of thought here was that he came very close to being pushed as the top heel in the company, ended Tatanka's two-year undefeated streak, and was supposedly being considered for a WWF Title run, but really wasn't very good at anything, and ended getting fired at the height of his push after he hurt his ankle. His post-wrestling career makes for added hilarity.

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Zeus would have to qualify.

 

Mid-South pushing The Nightmare to the North American title.

 

The Midnight Express-Tully/Arn feud.

 

Historically, the all-time biggest might be Wayne Munn. He was a Nebraska football star who got pushed to the world title in 1925 despite a lack of any real ability, and promptly got double-crossed and beaten by Stanislaus Zbyszko.

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Ah Outback Jack. Thanks to the wonders of 24/7, I bet I've seen the whole collection of his work. It's fun to hear announcers subtly bury wrestlers, in one case Monsoon and partner note Jack's complete inability to work on the ground.

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Glancing over WrestleCrap's past inductions, the ones that jump to mind:

 

Ludvig Borga

See, at least with the others you at least knew what they were aiming for. I never understood the point of the Evil Foreign Heel Menace From......Finland? How was that supposed to get over at all? Is he going to sodomize you with skis? He wasn't even that bad of a wrestler for the WWF at the time, but the premise was so ridiculous people were just like "LOL Finland".

 

The thing I found so funny was that Ludvig Borga was a heel but loved the environment. it's like the WWE told the fans that evil dudes were eco-friendly. Was this a jab at WWF (Wildlife Foundation) by chance?

 

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The Invasion. Talking to random fans from all walks of life, from the nerdiest smart marks to the most casual Stone Cold fans, nothing ever seemed like it disappointed and pissed off more people like that bungle did.

I also have found this to be true. Amongst my friends that used to watch wrestling, this seems to be the common straw that broke their backs in terms of following wrestling.

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I'd agree with the Invasion, as that was the easiest money feud any promotion could ever have asked for. WWF vs NWA/WCW was the one feud everyone who was ever remotely interested in wrestling wanted to see. They even had over a decade of both sides bashing the other on commentary they could have used as retroactive build, but instead it became yet another Austin vs Vince rehash and they lost nearly half the audience.

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Mid-South pushing The Nightmare to the North American title.

How exactly was this a bust?

 

Did Nightmare v Brad Armstrong for the North American Title have any less heat than Dibiase v Brad Armstrong for North American Title? Than Buck Zumhoffe v Brad Armstrong for NA Title?

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Ogawa vs Hashimoto

 

John

Started out well, though.

 

The 1997 stuff was a good "save" when New Japan's original idea (Shamrock) fell through.

 

I think the 1999-2000 feud started poorly. I just don't think it's wise to make the top star in the promotion (the biggest in the promotion of that generation) look like shit getting his ass kicked/destroyed. It went bad from there, and they should have had a much better idea of how badly they were booking themselves into a corner.

 

If I wanted to point to a decline in the promotion, I'd point to that feud.

 

John

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  • 3 months later...

I know this is an old thread, but I am quite disappointed this one never came up, because it should be in everyone's top 10.

 

The Gobbledygooker

 

So the WWF spent weeks trotting out a giant egg, promising it would hatch at the 1991 Survivor Series. Every week, it seemed, Mean Gene Okerlund was pulling out fans from the audience asking them what they thought was in the egg.

 

The usual response was "a turkey" and, in a way, it turned out to be so. Hector Guerrero pops out of the egg dressed in a suit that looked like a mutated turkey, gobbles at Mean Gene as Gene actually understands what he's saying, then heads to the ring to go dancing with Mean Gene as "Turkey in the Straw" plays and the fans turn on the whole thing.

 

As I recall, the last time we saw the Gobbledygooker was joining Koko B. Ware in singing "Bird, Bird, Bird." Poor Koko always seemed to get the shaft in WWF.

 

It's also worth noting somebody else debuted at 1991 Survivor Series, teased as a "mystery team member" for Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Team. Said mystery person was mentioned merely in passing, but this wrestler would go on to become one of the top WWF/E wrestlers for many years.

 

Of course, that mystery man was The Undertaker.

 

The lesson to be learned? The more you hype a surprise, the bigger the payoff better be or it's going to be a flop... while sometimes, the things you hype less turn out to be more successful in the long run.

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