WWE/TNA Pushed to Punished, Edition 43: The Malcontent Misfortune of Matt Morgan
Since the start of my Pushed to Punished series in March 2011, I've been analyzing the controversial careers of past and present WWE Superstars. From Bobby Lashley to Zack Ryder, a total of 42 wrestlers have been featured in this selective series over the last three years.
However, I've decided to expand the series to the company down south. One individual who never got his due in either WWE or TNA was Matt Morgan.
From his immense 7'0" size to his solid in-ring skills, it's baffling to think Morgan never won a world championship in either company. He had a subpar run in WWE from 2003 to 2005 before jumping ship to TNA in 2007.
Christian and R-Truth are prime examples of wrestlers who never (initially) made it in WWE but were given a shot at stardom in TNA. Morgan, unfortunately, wasn't one of those people.
From Kurt Angle to Sting to AJ Styles, he feuded with the very best TNA had to offer but never once was given a run with the prestigious prize. He departed the company in 2013 and retired from active competition in early 2014.
Here, I'll break down every peak and valley in the career of Matt Morgan in an attempt to discover where exactly both WWE and TNA went wrong with him.
Debuting on SmackDown
Matt Morgan initially appeared on WWE TV as a part of the second season of Tough Enough but was forced to pull out due to injury. However, his sheer size and raw talent were unmissable, so it was no surprise WWE signed him to a developmental deal a short while later.
He spent a year in Ohio Valley Wrestling before being called up to the main roster in October 2003. He debuted on the SmackDown brand on the October 30 episode, being named as a member of Team Lesnar at Survivor Series.
Despite being an unknown to the audience, Morgan was receiving a push right from the get-go. He was involved in a huge (figuratively and literally) traditional five-on-five elimination tag team match at one of the most historic events of the year.
Morgan's team was unsuccessful in beating Team Angle, but he was prominently featured in the weeks that followed. His association with then-SmackDown general manager Paul Heyman saw him receive more television time than most, often alongside Brock Lesnar.
Unfortunately, Morgan's time on the blue brand was cut short when he suffered a shoulder injury that would keep him out of action indefinitely. He was sent back down to developmental before he could make his return.
Returning to SmackDown and Release
Upon his return from injury, Matt Morgan was sent back down to developmental for further training and honing of his skills. Within weeks of his return to Ohio Valley Wrestling, he won its heavyweight championship.
He had a dominant reign as champion, holding the strap for six months before dropping it to Chris Cage in October. He continued to appear on OVW TV for the next six months, and it proved to be beneficial for him and his future in WWE.
When he was deemed ready to return to the main roster, Morgan resurfaced on SmackDown on the April 21, 2005 episode. In the midst of being repackaged, Morgan was given a gimmick where he stuttered during his promos.
Needless to say, it was a stupid gimmick that made him much less intimidating than he should have been given his size, but he made the most of it. He squashed Superstars left and right and aligned with Carlito in May, becoming his bodyguard.
However, Morgan floundered following Carlito's move to the Raw brand in the WWE Draft. He lasted another month on SmackDown before getting unceremoniously released on July 5.
For a company that's into "big" wrestlers, it's mind-boggling WWE never did more with Morgan. He was constantly improving on the ring, but the silly stutter it gave him obviously didn't help matters.
Debuting in TNA
After spending some time on the independent scene, Matt Morgan signed with Total Nonstop Action Wrestling in 2007. He debuted for the promotion in August, serving as Jim Cornette's "backup" for the remainder of the year and well into 2008.
It wasn't until April 2008 that Morgan finally became an active competitor. After being "relieved of his duties" by Cornette, Morgan joined Team Cage and successfully defeated Team Tomko at Lockdown.
From there, Morgan immediately established himself as a fan favorite and a force to be reckoned with in singles competition. He was finally being given an opportunity to shine on his own with no (stupid) strings attached.
Until he started teaming with Abyss, that is.
Feuding with Abyss and Kurt Angle
By the summer of 2008, Matt Morgan joined forces with Abyss, who had also recently re-entered the fray in TNA. Their partnership only added to the company's stacked tag team division.
The duo briefly feuded with Team 3D, whom they defeated at September's No Surrender pay-per-view event. However, they were unsuccessful in winning the World Tag Team Championship at both Bound for Glory and Final Resolution.
They received one final shot at the twin titles at Genesis in January but came up short at the expense of Abyss' erroneous ways. Their tandem came to an end on the January 23 edition of Impact when Morgan betrayed Abyss, turning heel in the process.
Abyss won in their first encounter at Against All Odds, but Morgan scored the next two victories at Destination X and Lockdown, ending the feud.
For the remainder of 2009, Morgan made a name for himself in singles competition. He petitioned to become the newest honorary member of The Main Event Mafia, but they never offered him an invitation to join.
At the same time, he began chasing the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, contending for the gold at Hard Justice and No Surrender. Although he failed to capture the gold on both occasions, he looked strong in defeat.
He reverted back to being a babyface as he transitioned into a feud with Main Event Mafia member Kurt Angle. It was the biggest push he received up to that point in either organization, and he wasn't about to squander it.
At Bound for Glory, Morgan battled Angle in one of the night's marquee matches. While he came up short in beating Angle, he earned the Olympian's respect.
Morgan was arguably one of TNA's brightest babyfaces with the most potential at the time, but instead of riding that momentum, the company shifted him back into a tag team instead.
Teaming and Feuding with Hernandez
Following Bound for Glory, Matt Morgan banded together with Hernandez and D'Angelo Dinero as the future faces of TNA. They feuded with the likes of Rhino and Team 3D for the remainder of 2009, defeating them in multi-man matches at Turning Point and Final Resolution.
Morgan and Hernandez entered the tag team division going into 2010, winning the World Tag Team Championship from The British Invasion at Genesis. This marked Morgan's first taste of gold in a major wrestling organization.
Despite teaming together for all of a few months, they teased tension almost immediately after winning the straps. Morgan turned on Hernandez after their successful title defense at Destination X and took him out of commission on the following edition of Impact.
Morgan maintained his possession of the twin titles from that point forward, teaming with a variety of wrestlers. It wasn't until May when The Band cashed in their Feast or Fired briefcase on Morgan and beat him for the belts.
Morgan and Hernandez resumed their feud upon Hernandez's return to the ring in June. Morgan defeated his former partner by disqualification at Slammiversary but lost to him in a Steel Cage match at Victory Road.
Joining and Feuding with Fortune
Following his feud with Hernandez, Matt Morgan had a chance to finally break off on his own as a top heel in singles competition. Instead, TNA opted to lump him into another faction where he'd be a background player: Fortune.
Morgan primarily served the role of bodyguard for the group for the remainder of 2010 during their feud with the ECW originals. However, when Mr. Anderson suffered a concussion in the fall, TNA was desperate for someone to take his place as the top babyface in TNA.
His split from Fortune/Immortal regime was rather rushed but necessary in making him the new No. 1 contender to the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. He challenged for the strap against Jeff Hardy at Turning Point but fell short of victory.
He received a rematch against Hardy the following month at Final Resolution. The odds were seemingly in his favor when he appointed Anderson as the special guest referee, but he still lost the match after a replacement ref made the three-count for Hardy.
Despite his shortcomings, Morgan was quickly getting over in the eyes of the fans. This was the closest he ever came to winning a world title in a major wrestling organization.
He took on Anderson in a No. 1 contender's match at Genesis but was once again unsuccessful. Morgan still helped Anderson fend off Fortune and allow him to win the gold from Hardy that same night.
In what would be his last ever shot at the prestigious prize, Morgan lost to Anderson on the February 10, 2011 edition of Impact after a returning Hernandez got involved. This rekindled their rivalry from one year prior—this time with the roles reversed.
Morgan and Hernandez traded wins in subsequent months, with The Blueprint ending the feud victorious in a Steel Cage match at Lockdown. He'd also briefly feud with Scott Steiner, beating him at Slammiversary.
With Anderson and Sting back in the fold, TNA no longer felt it was necessary to push Morgan at the level he deserved to be at. He was out of the main event in a matter of months and before long was back to being just another guy on the roster.
Teaming and Feuding with Crimson
Matt Morgan announced his intentions to re-enter the TNA World Heavyweight Championship picture after Slammiversary. He was one of 12 competitors in the inaugural Bound for Glory Series where the winner would earn a world title shot in the main event of Bound for Glory.
Morgan fared well early on in the competition but was forced to pull out due to another injury. He was sidelined for six weeks, which meant any chance of competing in the BFGS was null and void.
He maintained a presence on TNA TV by doing commentary during the BFGS matches while out with his injury. He returned to the ring in September and immediately entered a feud with Samoa Joe.
He and Joe clashed at Bound for Glory in a Triple Threat match that also included the undefeated Crimson. Crimson, a young up-and-comer, also had an issue with Joe and emerged victorious in the Triple Threat match.
Morgan and Crimson faced off for the first time ever in singles competition at Turning Point, but the bout ended in a double disqualification. The two put their differences aside to win the World Tag Team Championship together on the Thanksgiving edition of Impact.
The dynamic duo defended their titles against all-comers in the months that followed but dropped the straps to Samoa Joe and Magnus at February's Against All Odds event. They were also unsuccessful in winning back the gold at Victory Road when Crimson turned on Morgan.
They met in a Steel Cage match at Lockdown, which Crimson won. It was obvious that the entire team and subsequent feud between the two was more about building up Crimson than it was furthering Morgan's career.
Morgan was laid out on the May 10 Impact by Bully Ray and was stretchered out of the arena, writing him off TV indefinitely. After his contract with TNA expired in June, Morgan officially became a free agent.
Teaming with Joey Ryan and Departure
In the months following his departure from TNA, Matt Morgan teased a return to WWE in interviews and on social media. After spending a few years honing his skills and boosting his credibility, it was believed that Morgan would have been a valuable asset to WWE if he made the jump.
He shocked the world when he made an appearance at a TNA house show in September. He made his official return to TNA TV at October's Bound for Glory pay-per-view, helping Joey Ryan defeat Al Snow.
As random as their partnership was, it was never once explained. Morgan made it clear he had a beef with Hulk Hogan, but why was he serving as the bodyguard for an undercard act such as Joey Ryan?
Their alliance proved to be meaningless when they failed to capture the World Tag Team Championship and quietly split up shortly thereafter. Ryan was also gone from the company by the end of the year.
Morgan made sporadic appearances on Impact throughout 2013. He came up short against Sting in a No. 1 contender's match for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship in May and failed to qualify for the 2013 Bound for Glory Series in June.
Morgan was granted his release from the organization in July.
With WWE, it was clear it never knew what it had with Matt Morgan. The company never gave him a chance to succeed on SmackDown and reach his full potential as a top-tier talent.
During his six-year stint with TNA, Morgan was given plenty of opportunities and made the most of every single one. However, TNA never followed through with any of his pushes and always relegated him back to the tag team division every time he started to get hot.
Morgan may have never been the strongest mic worker, but he improved over time and could have easily been a viable world champion by 2011 or onward. His large stature and athletic ability in the ring made him stand out, but TNA failed to take advantage of his talent when he reached the peak of his popularity.
Morgan, along with Christopher Daniels, might very well go down in history as one of the greatest wrestlers to have never won the world title in TNA. It's also a shame he'll never get his chance now that he has since retired from active competition to focus on other endeavors.
Be sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on how Matt Morgan was utilized over the course of his career in WWE and TNA. Also, include any potential Superstars or Divas you would like to see featured in upcoming editions of Pushed to Punished.
Read every archived edition of Pushed to Punished here.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and like his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.