From JHawk's Beak: Professional Wrestling's Biggest Busts Volume 1by Jared "JHawk" Hawkins
Dec 25, 2005, 16:56
A Merry Christmas to the vast majority of you, and happy holidays to the rest of you.
This week, I’m going to look at what I refer to as professional wrestling’s biggest busts. These are men who either looked to have a ton of potential and did nothing with it, or others who got pushed to the moon and didn’t have the talent to do anything with it.
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.
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.
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 I remember nothing about it, except it was also the night another bust on this list debuted…
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.
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.
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.
This is one I debated throwing onto this list.
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 time 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.
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.
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. 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 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…and the trick was so mind-numbingly blown that members of the crowd were actually pointing to the plant to tell Sting where he disappeared to.
With no real blow off plan in place, they finally blew the angle off at Starrcade 1990, 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?”
Me: “Did he win?”
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 angle wasn’t any worse than anything Ole Anderson thought of.
Funny how Ole Anderson lost his booking job two weeks later.
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. Fast-forward to February 1987 when Jack made his WWF TV debut, where he sucked hard.
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. 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.
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.
That's all for this week's column, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on these names as well as suggestions for names for future editions of wrestling's biggest busts. You can drop me a line here.