Mr. Kennedy was pretty much given the moon early in a once-promising WWE career. He had an above-average look. A strong gimmick. And If his career-peaking Money in the Bank win wasn't enough of an endorsement, his stage name was a nod to Vince McMahon's middle name. But where there's smoke there's fire. Once the smoke began to surround Mr. Kennedy, his WWE career quickly went up in flames.
This is the first installment of a summer series that will examine talents, moments and matches that crumbled under the weight of their immense potential.
Everything about Ken Kennedy (real name Ken Anderson) screamed "look at me." The smash-mouth wrestling style. The heavy metal theme music reminiscent of Motorhead with a hint of The Offspring. That weird contraption he tattooed on his back.
And who can forget that microphone?
Following a healthy stint on the independent wrestling circuit, Kennedy was scooped up by WWE, where he shined in its Ohio Valley Wrestling developmental territory. Like CM Punk, Kennedy was a Paul Heyman guy, receiving a strong stamp of endorsement from the wrestling guru.
Ken Kennedy's trademark of performing his own introduction became an innovation in the rinse, wash and repeat culture of professional wrestling. The gimmick itself has since been recycled and reused, with great success, by Ricardo Rodriguez. This and Rodriguez's recent wellness violation are two things he shares in common with Kennedy.
Kennedy quickly connected with WWE fans through his off-color brand of entertainment. Everything he did—from wrestling, to promo delivery, to the booming voice, to that weird back tattoo—was awkward, but it was fun. More importantly, it was different.
Kennedy branded himself a Green Bay native, which was made clear during his self-introduction. This helped create a deeper connection with a specific market, similar to how WWE has helped cultivate CM Punk's love affair with Chicago.
Through a steady diet of Kennedy that was just enough to not be considered force-feeding, the newcomer quickly rose up the WWE ranks. He won the United States championship less than one month after his debut. Feuds with The Undertaker, Batista, and fellow promising newcomer Bobby Lashley only strengthened Kennedy's stock.
Despite the high-profile feuds and title wins, Kennedy had not yet had his coming-out party. That occasion was reserved for WrestleMania 23, where Kennedy would beat out names like Jeff Hardy, Edge, Booker T, CM Punk and Randy Orton to win the briefcase.
Given the near-flawless rate of Money in the Bank winners who went on to become world champions, winning that match is more than just carrying a championship. It's this generation's King of the Ring.
It is an anointment.
Kennedy's career-defining victory was supposed to be the beginning of a main event career. Instead, it was the apex of a one-hit wonder.
His otherwise-guaranteed world title shot vanished following an injury that was initially thought to be serious. After losing the briefcase to Edge in response to his ailment, the injury was downgraded from a triceps tear to a hematoma.
He would see a similar twist of fate in 2007, where he was the rumored choice as Vince McMahon's love child in a major summer angle. Prior to the reveal, Kennedy was suspended for violating WWE's wellness policy. The suspension came shortly after the Money in the Bank winner served as WWE's White Knight, publicly and aggressively downplaying the use of steroids in professional wrestling during an interview with The Sun.
A history of shoulder problems also conspired to shorten Kennedy's WWE career. After recovering from a severe shoulder injury in 2005, Kennedy was sidelined for multiple months after dislocating his shoulder in August of 2008.
Not even a starring role in WWE's Behind Enemy Lines film could revive Kennedy's career or star power.
The swan song came during yet another Kennedy return, with each bringing less fanfare and more headache than the last.
During a 10-man tag team match designed to end WWE's petty feud with the Denver Nuggets, Kennedy awkwardly suplexed Randy Orton. Orton didn't hold back in his subsequent hissy fit. Kennedy would be released just days after his return.
Kennedy was unable to recover from his "dangerous" tag, in addition to being injury prone. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time during a major John Cena injury, and has been credited with injuring Hardcore Holly as part of his stiff work rate.
Just as quickly as he had been given the moon, the sun had set for Ken Kennedy. He can now be seen wasting away in TNA. Every inconsequential moment in the second-rate promotion is a chilling reminder of a violent fall from grace.