Though I no longer follow professional wrestling regularly, I always keep an eye out on the periphery of the spectacle because I truly do believe that it is a completely unique art form that deserves more recognition. Maybe it's just the manchild in me who never got over watching the Ultimate Warrior finally topple Hulk Hogan when I was small and full of complete suspension of belief, but the combination of theatricality and athleticism has always enthralled me.
However, therein lies the problem... wrestling is basically a professional sport full of actors, and when you combine those two things you end up with some of the bitchiest and most back-stabby organizations that exist on the planet. The result of that is that sometimes superstars are just hurled aside in bizarre or vindictive manners because of politics and ratings.
Today I thought we'd look five of the worst.
Steve "Mongo" McMichael: Mike Ditka called Mongo one of the toughest players he'd ever coached while serving as a defensive tackle for the Bears. He retired from football in 1994 and became a WCW United States Champion for defeating Jeff Jarrett. He was also a member of the Four Horsemen, one of the most elite stables in wrestling history that featured legends like Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Dean Malenko.
In 1999 Ric Flair was once again a babyface taking on the NWO. Flair and McMichael squared off against The Outsiders when Hogan crashed the match to help his NWO-teammates. He succeeded by throwing bleach into McMichael's eyes, "blinding" him. That the last match of McMichael's career as the promised revenge feud fizzled when Hogan shortly turned face and WCW began its long slow slide into ratings failure.
Jeff Jarrett Double J remains both one of the most successful and most difficult to work with wrestlers in the business. Undeniably talented, he has a reputation for standing his ground that has served him well in addition to raised the tempers of his superiors.
In 1999 he agreed to drop the WWF Intercontinental Title to Chyna, the first and to date only woman to hold a major male championship belt. However, the Pay Per View took place the day after his contract expired, and Jarrett refused to perform unless paid $300,000 in bonuses he was due. After receiving his purse, the match went on as scheduled and Jarrett moved onto WCW.
When McMahon acquired WCW in 2001 he was uninterested in Jarrett. McMahon watched the final episode of Nitro on Raw, and when Jarrett was on-screen made his wishes known by publicly firing him. "From now on he'll be known as Capital G Double-O Double-N Double-E," said McMahon.
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Wendi Richter: It's not just the guys that get it bad when the winds blow south. Wendi Richter is one of the most legendary Western female wrestlers of all time, and held the WWF Women's Title twice. Despite that, she and McMahon often bumped heads over compensation, and this led to the original screwjob in major mainstream wrestling.
Richter was defending her title at Madison Square Garden in 1985 against a masked opponent called The Spider Lady. Shortly into the match Richter was pinned to the mat, but the referee quick-counted to three and rang the bell despite Richter kicking out at one. Enraged, she assaulted her masked opponent, revealed to be The Fabulous Moolah.
Completely caught off guard by McMahon's plan to strip her of the title in such an underhanded way, Richter grabbed her gear and left the WWF without a word. She was still bitter about it as recently as 2005, but did allow herself to be inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame by her old friend and teammate Roddy Piper, with whom she and Cyndi Lauper formed the potent Rock n' Wrestling connection in the '90s that helped launch WWF to the household name it became.
See also: The 3 Best Musician/Wrestling Tag Teams
Scott Hall Wrestling is full of great performers with personal demons, and Scott Hall could be their god. In the ring he was a gifted physical storyteller and a captivating promo artist. Outside... well, there's always a lot of alcohol and drugs around the business and Hall had a really hard time saying no to them.
That penchant for chemical abuse derailed his star status in WCW. During a segment on Nitro where Ric Flair was committed to a mental hospital, Hall was seen walking around the hospital doing his signature toothpick flick. It was his last appearance on WCW TV.
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Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar: It was supposed to be the biggest match in a decade. Bill Goldberg was the phenom of WCW who had destroyed some of wrestling's greatest stars with a physical brutality that was more like watching a hurricane land than one man fighting another. Brock Lesnar was the monster of WWE, a huge man of surprising agility that mixed the immense physical presence of Andre the Giant with the easy ring technicality of Bret Hart. A meeting between the two was an almost guaranteed classic.
Maybe it would have been, but word had been leaked that both men would be leaving the WWE after the match, Goldberg for wrestling retirement and Lesnar for the NFL. This effectively rendered their match at Wrestlemania XX completely pointless, and the fans knew it. Throughout the entire match an endless series of boos, heckles, and catcalls can be heard, and the sheer venom of the output clearly drives both men to the edge mentally. Both left the ring in utter disgrace after the bout, with the crowd cheering only for special guest referee Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Perhaps the most humiliating impact of the match is that in the latest WWE video game you can actually replay that match and the crowd response in the game will match the real life vitriol. That's cold, right there.