In 2003, WWE hired Ultimate Pro Wrestling (UPW) trainee Chris Mordetsky. Barely out of his teens when WWE signed him, he had started in UPW with John Cena, but quickly suffered an injury. During his time off, he took up bodybuilding, and after he developed an impressive physique, he was signed.
Being a UPW guy who was signed for his physique probably didn't endear him to those in charge of OVW at the time, like Jim Cornette and "Nightmare" Danny Davis. They were not a fan of Rick Bassman's UPW promotion and its wrestling school. Seemingly full of bodybuilders, Cornette would later emphasize that they were improperly trained as wrestlers, specifically singling out John Cena as someone who had to be re-trained from scratch in OVW.
Mordetsky became Chris Masters and was called up to the main roster as "The Masterpiece" Chris Masters in 2005. He essentially did Lex Luger's old "Narcissist" Gimmick from 1993, which wasn't a bad fit. Still, he was far from ready when he was called up, and he accidentally broke Stevie Richards' nose in his TV debut with Ivan Putski's old Polish Hammer finisher. After using the Polish Hammer (to the chest) as his finisher a little while longer, he switched to a full nelson dubbed the "Master Lock" to win matches.
Quickly, "Master Lock Challenges" became a regular feature of Raw, and it wasn't broken until Bobby Lashley quickly powered out of the hold during his big push on the road to Wrestlemania 27 in 2007. That's getting a little ahead of ourselves.
Masters had gotten some mild pushes, most notably allied with Carlito, but he never got over especially well. After splitting with Carlito, he stuck around for a few more weeks before he went to rehab for painkiller addiction in late May 2006, which was early in the life of the WWE Talent Wellness program. There were also reports that Masters had also gone through severe bout of mental illness attributed to getting off steroids, which may very well have been part of his rehab program. They wouldn't have considered him clean of drugs of abuse while on them.
When he returned three months later, he had lost much of his muscle mass and grown a goatee. He was repeatedly referred to as "leaner and meaner" as if it were a positive, but everything else about his treatment told a different story. Super Crazy, who had been much lower on the totem pole, won a series of matches against Masters. Then they dropped the bomb on him
When Eric Bischoff's book came out, there was a skit on Raw where Masters talked to Bischoff about the book and being a WCW fan, only to be interrupted by Triple H and Shawn Michaels. You can see a video of it on DailyMotion. Eventually, Triple H asks Masters when he will write a book. Masters replies that oddly enough, he was considering writing a book on nutrition. Triple H replied "What are you gonna...uh...what are you gonna call it? How to lose 50 pounds in four weeks?" and Masters skulked away.
Unsurprisingly, he gained most of his muscle mass back after that. He stuck around for another year rather uneventfully until failing his second drug test and being released from his contract a few days later.
About a month after that, Vince McMahon was interviewed by Congressional staffers as part of Congressman Henry Waxman's investigation into the wrestling business. They were relatively well prepared, and this exchange took place:
Q: Have you or anyone at WWE ever made part of a script discussion about whether a wrestler has lost weight or is smaller than he or she used to be?
A: Not part of a script, no.
Q: Has it been part of the discussion in a program, whether or not it was originally scripted that way, to your knowledge?
A I don't script everything our talents say. They ad lib, so I—you know, there may have been ad lib somewhere over the course of the last 25, 30 years in which something would have been said about someone's size.
In terms of scripting, answer, no.
Q Can you recall any recent program where—
Mr. Leviss. What did you call them, "talent"?
Mr. Cohen. Talent.
BY MR. LEVISS:
Q: where talent have commented in advance of the match about the fact that a wrestler has lost weight, is smaller than he or she used to be?
A: As I recall, there was one incident in which Triple H, as an ab lib, made reference to Randy Orton, who had been injured
and had not been training and first came back just in terms of weight loss.
Q: And what was that reference? Could you elaborate for me?
A: All I can remember is the weight loss.
Mr. Cohen: Are there any other incidents?
Mr. McMahon: That wasn't scripted; it was ad libbed.
Mr. Leviss. I'm going to go to a different topic. I don't know if you all have questions.
Ms. Safavian. We're good. Thank you.
McMahon (who does, in fairness, have a terrible memory about some things) was confusing the Masters segment with the one where he dressed down Orton and said his neck looked like "a stack of dimes." The video of that one is on YouTube. I can see McMahon's comment being an ad-lib. Triple H's, I don't think so. Yeah, he stumbled over his line, but Masters' book pitch was a clear set-up for it and he reacted as if it it was planned.
After spending a couple years doing international tours and independent shows, he returned to WWE in 2009 in a similar mid-card role. He had improved some, but still wasn't anything of note as a performer. Eventually, he turned babyface after a comedy segment where he made his pecs dance to the beat of Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" on a night where Osbourne hosted Raw. He continued to do the pec dance for a little while before being moved to a much lower spot on the depth chart and became a mainstay on WWE Superstars once it became undercard purgatory.
Then, a funny thing happened.
While on Superstars, he got really, really good. Seriously, he developed into a fantastic in-ring wrestler who reliably had quality matches on Superstars and live events/house shows. When I went to "Bret Hart Appreciation Night" at Madison Square Garden in September, he was easily one of the best performers on the show. Even throughout all this, he wasn't able to come close to getting a push.
It seemed like such an odd disconnect. He had the look they wanted. He had become a great, charismatic in-ring wrestler. He had improved noticeably at doing interviews/promos. He had even gotten very good hair transplants to take care of his receding hairline. Still, he was one of the lowest positioned wrestlers on the roster, and now he's been fired.
Throughout all this, I could only think of only two things that could have held him back.
The first was two strikes against him in the drug testing program, but so did Jeff Hardy and they were never afraid to push him. Yes, Hardy had gotten over on his own and was already a major merchandise seller, but he was also less reliable than Masters. Hardy failed both of his drug tests in the middle of major pushes, in addition to being refused boarding on a plane due to alcohol intoxication during the middle of another big push. Plus, look at what's happened since then.
The other was that Masters had been singled out for the issues he had when he got clean, and that is what would make him unreliable. The same issues that were caused by what got him signed, what got him called up to the main roster before he was ready and got him pushed before he was ready for that, too. When he was finally ready, he was already branded the guy who couldn't tough it out. I see this as the most likely issue to have been keeping him on the undercard.
Now, in the prime of his career, he's been fired from WWE in the second time. He's young enough that I guess he could get another shot, but boy, he's been put through the ringer.
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