WWE: The 9 Biggest Superstar Busts of the 21st Century
In professional sports, there is often no word that carries more devastating weight than being called a bust.
These are athletes who come into the league with much fanfare and high expectations, but who ultimately fall flat on their faces and set their franchise back for years to come.
People like JaMarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Sam Bowie, and Kwame Brown come to mind when you use the term bust; they were supposed to save their franchises, but weren't up to the task.
In a sport like wrestling, however, it's a bit harder to determine who the real busts are; pushes are mostly based on Creative's discretion and backstage politics.
However, there are times when a guy comes along who seems like he's going to get the star treatment and a big push, but for whatever reason his push is stalled and he falls flat on his face. Those are the guys I'm focusing on today.
So, enjoy today's list of the nine biggest WWE busts of the 21st century!
No. 9: Daniel Rodimer
We begin our journey today with a guy whom a lot of you might not remember: Daniel Rodimer, aka Dan Rodman.
Maybe his name doesn’t ring a bell, but there was a time where he almost became a household name. He competed in the 2004 Tough Enough competition (won by Daniel Puder), and impressed WWE officials enough to earn a spot down in OVW. Supposedly, Stephanie McMahon was enamored of Rodman, who at 6’7” and 300 pounds had the chiseled look that WWE loves.
Due to the feelings of the McMahon heiress, Rodimer was supposed to be brought up to the main roster in 2007 as a caddy/enforcer of Rated RKO, getting the Evolution-style rub of working with Randy Orton and Edge. The stage was set for Rodimer to become a featured player on WWE programming.
However, Rodimer never made it up to the main roster, mainly because he was still incredibly green in the ring. He wrestled in a number of house shows and on Heat (getting a shot at John Cena’s WWE title), but never made the big show and was released in August of 2007.
No. 8: Sylvester Terkay
I never really understood what the big deal was with Sylvester Terkay.
I mean, WWE really seemed intent on pushing him to the moon, despite the fact that he 1) never spoke, and 2) couldn’t work a lick in the ring. His gimmick was that he was an MMA master who…did…things. These things were not particularly interesting, nor were they that vicious-looking.
I can’t remember anything about his ring work other than his arm lock finisher that was supposed to be an overhead kimura but wound up looking like a tricep stretch you do before lifting weights. All of this was compounded by the fact that Terkay looked a frowning teddy bear who had gone to the buffet one (hundred) too many times.
He had a cornerman, the wildly underrated Elijah Burke, who was all kinds of awesome but could never escape from Terkay’s shadow. Despite an early push, WWE officials realized that Terkay was terrible and soon got demoted to ECW (taking Burke with him) and forming a tag team.
Terkay’s time on the main roster didn’t even last a year; he came up in July of 2006, and was released in January of 2007. Burke stuck around in WWE for another year or so, getting a mini-push as the leader of the ECW New Breed, before getting the boot himself late in 2008.
No. 7: Evan Bourne
I know what you’re thinking: Evan Bourne is still on WWE’s roster! There’s hope for him yet!
I have to disagree.
I mean, I like Evan Bourne. He’s fun to watch in the ring, his Shooting Star Press is sweet as sugar, and while his mic skills aren’t the best it’s not like there haven’t been main event players with substandard promo skills before (see: Lesnar, Brock).
It might be tempting to say that Bourne really hasn’t gotten the chance to show what he can do in WWE, but when you really think about it you realize that this isn’t true.
Bourne has, in the past, actually gotten several opportunities to show what he can do in WWE: he got an ECW title shot in mid-2008, he main-evented an episode of Raw (vs. Rey Mysterio, October of 2008), he got a pin over Sheamus in a tag match with John Cena (May 2010), and even defeated Chris Jericho on PPV.
Through all of this, Evan Bourne has still not gotten the “push” he deserves. Why? Because the fans just haven’t taken to him for whatever reason, despite how much John Cena lobbies Creative. It could be because of all of his injuries and his suspensions (he’s been off camera since January of this year, and it wasn’t like he was really featured before that until he became part of Air Boom), or it could be because he just lacks the “it” factor.
Whatever the reason, Evan Bourne has lost his momentum, and I don’t think he’s getting it back. If he does—and seeing as how guys like Daniel Bryan and CM Punk have gotten big pushes as of late, it’s possible—then I’ll apologize to him and anyone else I offended for doubting him.
Until then, though? I can’t say that his career has been anything but a bust.
No. 6: Heidenreich
So…first he’s going to be a thawed-out Nazi, then he does R-Truth’s Little Jimmy gimmick 10 years before Truth did (Little Johnny, everyone’s inner fat kid!), then comes back as a Paul Heyman-led psycho heel who went full-on Deliverance on Michael Cole, then turns face and writes bad poetry before winning the tag team titles as part of the New Road Warriors.
That’s a hell of a resume, considering that Heidenreich was only on WWE’s main roster for three years.
Heidenreich was supposed to be a major heel player in WWE, even getting into a major program with The Undertaker in 2004, before getting pushed back down due to the fact that he was a terrible worker. Once, he infamously tried to apply his finisher (The Cobra Clutch) but couldn’t figure out how to do it.
He got put into a tag team with Snitsky and was supposed to face Undertaker and Kane at Wrestlemania XXI, but Undertaker said “thanks, but no thanks” and went on to face Randy Orton.
But hey, at least we’ll always have this moment.
And hey, speaking of Snitsky…
No. 5: Snitsky
Snitsky started off in 2004 as a seemingly innocuous jobber set to face Kane on Raw during his pregnancy/wedding storyline with Lita. Snitsky, of course, would knock Kane into Lita and force her to have a “miscarriage,” which turned Kane face and caused Snitsky to proclaim to everyone who would listen that it “wasn’t [his] fault.”
Snitsky would go from proclaiming that he didn’t mean to cause Lita’s miscarriage to going full-on heel and punting fake babies into the stands before defeating Kane at Taboo Tuesday 2004 and kayfabe-crushing his throat (Kane would be written off to go make See No Evil).
After the aforementioned team with Heidenreich fell through, Snitsky would reveal that he had a foot fetish and turn face (sure), forming an oddball tag team with Goldust and have his only Wrestlemania moment by licking Mae Young’s feet at Wrestlemania 22.
Seeing as how WWE loves to try and push intimidating big men, Snitsky would get repackaged as a bald, hairless, yellow-teethed psycho who was going to dominate everyone in WWE. He debuted on ECW and then moved to Raw, where he was due to get a main event push and feud with John Cena over the WWE Title.
However, his main event push never came to fruition, mainly because his in-ring skills had not improved and he got no reaction from the crowd at all, likely because they still remembered him as the foot-loving baby punter and weren’t going to take his new gimmick seriously (kind of like how Tensai is bombing now).
He would be released in late 2008.
No. 4: Jack Swagger
Another guy who is still on the roster, but he might as well be packing it up and looking for other things to do is Jack Swagger.
Swagger’s hellaciously bad career is way worse than Bourne’s, mainly because WWE has never figured out how to handle Swagger.
Don’t believe me? Well, let’s take a look back at his career so far.
Swagger has every tool to become a main event player: he’s 6’6”, 260 pounds and is both strong and incredibly athletic. He has the look. His promos are better than people give him credit for (and like I said earlier, with his in-ring skills you could live with OK promos). You’d think that Swagger would be the total package that Vince and company would love to push to the moon and make him one of the faces of the company.
But the fact is that, ever since he left ECW in 2009, Swagger’s career has been maddeningly frustrating. I know that nowadays he’s getting squashed by Brodus Clay in 30 seconds, but let’s not forget that he spent time in 2009 and 2010 jobbing to Santino, and was buried so deep that his Money in the Bank win was completely out of left field.
Then, when Swagger won the title right after Wrestlemania XXVI, the wheels completely fell off. WWE had no idea how to handle him as their champion. He went from a smiling, cocky, almost fun-loving heel to a straight-laced, serious competitor, then back to cocky.
Of course, I’d be remiss in discussing Swagger’s title reign without mentioning what a complete and utter failure it was: he was, with the possible exception of Rey Mysterio in 2006, the worst-booked World Champion of this century, if not of all time.
Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until after Swagger dropped the title (to Mysterio of all people) that he developed a nastier edge that he desperately needed while he held the belt, adopting the ankle lock as his finisher and turning into a vicious competitor that would be believable as a contender and even as a champion.
So what did WWE do with him? Nothing.
He quickly dropped back down to the midcard before resurfacing as Michael Cole’s trainer for his match vs. Jerry Lawler at Wrestlemania XXVII. He would then fall off the earth, again, before coming back as one of Vickie Guerrero’s clients; as we all know, though, Dolph Ziggler got the monster rub from that partnership, while Swagger has resorted to getting crushed by comedy acts once more.
I know that there is still hope for Swagger, but he has been mishandled so badly for so long that I can’t help but chalk him up as a bust. He has all the tools, but he’s never been given the opportunity to show all of them off; the fault, then, lies more with WWE than with Swagger, which is why he doesn’t actually rank higher on this list.
Until we see something different from Swagger, he goes down as one of the biggest wastes of great talent in WWE history.
No. 3: Chris Masters
Masters was a guy who seemed like he had the world at his fingers, but could never fully grab onto the brass ring. Therefore, a guy who seemed like a lock to win a number of world titles wound up never winning any title in WWE.
That’s right, not one.
Masters certainly made an impact upon his debut in 2005. He had the look that WWE loves (big, muscular, chiseled). His entrance was, and still is, one of the best ever. His signature segment–the Masterlock Challenge–was actually highly entertaining, and helped to get his finisher (a basic full nelson) over as a dangerous move that could take out anyone.
Masters would take place in a number of high-profile feuds against the likes of performers like Ric Flair (who submitted to the Master Lock) and Shawn Michaels. Masters would ultimately work his way up to get a number of title opportunities against John Cena, including a Masterlock Challenge for the title and a spot in the Elimination Chamber (where Edge would infamously cash in his MITB contract right afterwards).
However, his push would effectively end there. Why? Well, a few reasons. First of all, his in-ring skills were never anything special (some say bad, I say more astoundingly mediocre), and his promos were iffy at best.
Then there’s the, ah, wellness issue: Masters was suspended twice in 2007 for wellness violations (after stint in rehab for a painkiller addiction in 2006, let’s not forget how…well…small he got). After his second violation at the end of 2007, Masters was released from his contract.
Masters would come back to WWE in 2009 and ultimately turn into a comedy undercard babyface (Pec dance!), but he never made much of a splash on the main roster again. In August of 2011, despite working hard to improve in the ring (as famously stated by CM Punk), he was released once again.
Chris Masters is one of the biggest busts of the 21st century, mainly because he was given every opportunity to become the next big thing but couldn’t get there. He was, for all intents and purposes, a good guy who was given a good gimmick; however, WWE was more infatuated with his look than his actual talent, and it showed when Masters failed to get over with the fans as a main event heel.
The reason that Masters ranks this high on the list is because, when you really look at it, he’s one of the last super-jacked guys to get a major push. Think about it: after Masters was released (the first time) and Lashley left, what muscle-bound freak of nature got a monster main event push? I can only think of Batista (and he was already an established main eventer) and more recently Ryback (who isn’t exactly getting World Title shots).
So, not only did Masters bust as a performer, but his failure to break through to the top signaled the beginning of the end for big, muscular guys who couldn’t work. So…thanks, Chris!
No. 2: The Great Khali
Another active guy (well, unless his recent brain surgery is career-ending, which it could be), Khali is pretty much a huge waste of space and has been for his entire career.
He has gotten monster pushes in WWE for one reason and one reason alone: he’s huge. He can barely move in the ring, his moves are sloppy (and that’s being generous), and he can’t sell. His promos are…special. Yes, I know that there’s a language barrier, but he can speak English; it’s just that when he says anything, you have no idea what it is.
Khali ranks at No. 2 on this list of biggest busts of the 21st century because, unlike guys like Chris Masters (who was OK in the ring, and cut serviceable promos), it was obvious from the jump that Khali had no business being in a wrestling ring. When he debuted on Smackdown in 2006, he immediately was put into a feud with The Undertaker, beating him cleanly at Judgment Day (name one other time in the last 10 years that Undertaker put a heel over cleanly). Also during this time, Khali got a clean win over Rey Mysterio (who was the World Champion).
However, as the wins continued to build and he got a push toward the World Title, it became brutally obvious that Khali was an absolutely horrid performer that was only on TV because of his size (and he wasn’t even that physically imposing muscle-wise). When he finally won the World Title in 2007, fans reacted like the end of the world was coming. This guy, who couldn’t put on a halfway decent match to save his life, was now a world champion?
After a short, ineffectual reign, WWE wised up pretty quickly to Khali’s limitations (you know, like, everything) and took the title off him. Khali then inserted himself into the McMahon-Hornswoggle illegitimate son angle before turning face as the Punjabi Playboy, a gimmick in which he has been at least good for a laugh (plus, his entrance theme is awesome).
Khali has since settled into his role as comedy babyface, but considering what WWE originally wanted from him—multiple, dominant title reigns—that’s a pretty steep fall. A guy who beats The Undertaker cleanly should not end up as someone who winds up doing a kiss cam and dancing like a fool, no matter how funny he is at it.
Let’s face it, if an NFL Wide Receiver who was drafted first overall winds up as a Pro Bowl special team tackler, he’s still a bust because that’s not why the team brought him in.
The same goes for Khali.
No. 1: Carlito
While Khali mostly makes me laugh, Carlito’s career mostly just makes me angry.
I went back and forth numerous times between putting Carlito, Khali, and Masters at the top of this list. Ultimately, I settled on calling Carlito the biggest bust of the 21st century for one main reason: the guy had major talent, and ultimately did nothing with it.
Carlito had outstanding in-ring talent and was a great promo guy, and it was clear that WWE was high on him from the jump. For those who don’t remember, his debut in 2004 made quite the splash:his very first match in WWE saw him defeat John Cena for the U.S. Title and hold onto it for over a month before dropping it back to Cena (Carlito was legitimately injured at the time). A year later, he switched to Raw and, also in his first match there, won the Intercontinental Title from Shelton Benjamin.
When you look at it, it’s not like Carlito wasn’t given opportunities: he won titles; he got placed in a Piper’s Pit segment with Piper and Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania XXI (and got his own show, Carlito’s Cabana, soon after); he was placed into feud after feud with big names, and by early 2006 was competing for the world title. With all of these opportunities, and with his natural abilities, it seemed like the sky would be the limit for Carlito.
One problem, though: Carlito didn’t want it. He was lazy. He coasted by on his natural ability and never made an effort to capitalize on his talents. His great in-ring work started becoming sloppy, and his promos started suffering as well. WWE saw this and, infamously, had Ric Flair put Carlito on blast on Raw in February of 2007 (in an admittedly awesome promo that seemed an awful lot like a shoot) to try and light a fire under him.
The ploy worked…to some extent. Instead of using this opportunity to learn from Flair and achieve his potential, Carlito started complaining. And I mean a lot. He complained about not being booked at Wrestlemania and about backstage politics. He complained about his character’s stagnation (which, let’s not forget, was mostly his fault due to laziness). He asked Vince McMahon to release him, but was convinced to stay.
If for nothing else, this last piece should have been a wake-up call for Carlito to realize what an opportunity he had; an unmotivated underachiever asked the boss to fire him, but McMahon thought he was still too valuable to let go. So, Carlito stuck around…and did very little until 2008, when he and his brother Primo formed The Colons.
The Colons were a successful tag team, that’s for sure, even becoming the first ever unified tag team champions by defeated Miz & Morrison in the dark match at Wrestlemania XXV. In a moment that really captured the essence of Carlito’s career, the night after Wrestlemania he and Primo came out to the ring, newly won championships in tow…to absolutely no reaction at all from the fans.
Carlito, essentially, had run out of chances to be special, and now no one cared about him anymore. He and Primo would lose the titles before Carlito turned heel on him, and would sputter around until being released (for good this time) in 2010 due to a wellness violation.
In the end, Carlito is the ultimate example of wasted talent. He had it all, and was given the opportunity to prove it, and did nothing with it. While a guy like Masters was given the opportunity to become a main eventer but didn’t have the skills to back it up, Carlito never reached his considerable ceiling due to his lack of motivation. All the pieces were there, but Carlito refused to put them together.
And that, my friends, is not cool.