The 411 Wrestling Top 5 12.01.10: Week 103 – Falls From Grace
Posted by Michael Bauer on 12.01.2010
From Brock Lesnar failing to play football and the tragedy of Chris Benoit to “Matthew” Hardy and the drug stories of Lex Luger, Scott Hall's personal demons and more, the 411 Staff ranks their top five falls from grace! Check out the full article to see who made their lists and why!
Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Wrestling's Top 5 List. What we are going to is take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, plus up to three honorable mentions. Most of our topics will be based on recent events in the Wrestling World, looking at those events that make us think of times past.
So, on to this week's topic…
Top 5 Falls From Grace
The fall from grace. The path from the top of the mountain to the lowest of lows. In sports, you look at OJ Simpson and the infamous White Bronco chase or Michael Vick and the dog fighting incidents. In wrestling, it's much harder to climb back up like Vick did. Most bad falls end up like OJ Simpson or Lawerence Taylor.
So what did our group of writers select? Let's find out…
5. Chris Benoit - For obvious reasons that I don't need to discuss further.
4. Shelton Benjamin - When The World's Greatest Tag-Team were split up during the 2004 draft, many questioned how well both members could do as singles competitors. Then, a week later, when scheduled to face Triple H, everyone thought that Benjamin was going to be buried. But, the gold standard pulled off the upset, and then went on to do it again... twice, in subsequent weeks. He was soon crowned Intercontinental Champion, and his star looked to be rising. Things then went awry, and coupled with bad luck and iffy booking, Benjamin faded into the background for the majority of his WWE tenure. Earlier this year he was unceremoniously released from his WWE contract.
3. Rob Van Dam (circa 2006) - With the 2006 WWE resurrection of ECW, Rob Van Dam was pushed hard with it. He was at the forefront of the re-emergence of the ECW banner, and consequently won the WWE Championship from John Cena at the second One Night Stand PPV, which coincidentally kick-started the brand to life. He was then declared by Paul Heyman to also be the ECW Champion by virtue of also holding the WWE Championship. RVD opted to defend the titles separately, and as a result was double World Champion (at this stage the ECW title was considered a proper World title by many). RVD was on top of the wrestling world, and nobody could stop him... except for himself. He was caught in possession of marijuana, and as a result was suspended for 30 days. What this meant in terms of WWE, was that RVD lost the WWE Championship and the ECW Championship on consecutive nights. Double Champion to off of TV in two days makes for quite the fall from grace.
2. The ECW Brand - ECW was doing WWE big business from nostalgic fans half a decade ago, so much so that WWE decided to resurrect the Extreme promotion as a third brand to run alongside Raw and Smackdown. To begin with the idea was given a major push, but then with several problems hindering its success, such as the aforementioned RVD drugs bust, Paul Heyman leaving, and top talent never sticking around for long, ECW soon became the clear ‘C' show in WWE. It was soon obvious that it was an afterthought. Not all was bad, as the show did become somewhat of a developmental show for upcoming talent, which helped establish stars on TV before they hit the major leagues of Raw and Smackdown. Stars to come from this version of ECW included CM Punk, John Morrison, The Miz, Sheamus, and most recently Ezekial Jackson. However, the show's ratings were still pittance compared to what the other shows were getting, and much lower than they had originally been. Not only that, but the ECW concept was pretty much dying in a PG era, and at the beginning of 2010, Vince McMahon put the brand out of its misery once and for all, killing ECW dead. For now, ECW is best left alone, to remain a nostalgic artefact of the 90s extreme era of wrestling.
1. Matt Hardy - In 2005 Matt Hardy was a hot commodity in the wrestling world. Due to the real life saga between him, Edge, and Lita, Matt became one of the most over faces in not just the WWE, but across the whole wrestling industry with his firing. It was only a matter of time before he was hired back, and people were seeing World Titles in Matt's future, but, it never came to pass, and after a lacklustre feud with Edge, Matt faded in mid-card obscurity. Since then Matt lays claim to having been a World Champion, even in that title was merely the WWE's ECW title, which was never thought of a ‘World' title. Then, this year, Matt took to Youtube, and attempted to get himself over again through his videos. Unfortunately, this didn't work as planned, and Matt has since seemingly gone grape crazy. He managed to somehow piss a lot of people off by the sounds of things, and got removed from WWE TV. He then lobbied for his own release via his Youtube channel, and is now a huge joke in the wrestling world. I saddens me, because I was a one time Mattitude Follower, but now, I can't take ‘Matthew' seriously and neither can anyone else.
5. Marty Jannetty - I am going here because he is the meme for all OTHER tag teamers who failed miserably in a rather decent or over tag team (when they REALLY mattered). Marty had issues but so did his partner and unfortunately they prevented a once positive singles career into pretty much a guy who is most known for going through the Barber Shop window.
4. Carlito - Someone who won the United States Championship from John Cena in his debut match became just a decent midcarder. With many in-ring skills and entertaining on the microphone; Carlito had a lot going for him. Unfortunately, some bad angles, lack of motivation or disinterest in the company caused him to become less and less used and eventually faded away.
3. Brock Lesnar - Was given the WWE on a silver platter and pushed as the next big thing. With such an in-ring talent and impressive build he could have gone to heights and put on such great matches we would still be talking about (and seeing) them today. Unfortunately, he decided to try his hand at the NFL and did not succeed. He has gone on to a rather good MMA career but this is about falls from PRO WRESTLING grace.
2. Scott Hall - The former Outsider had a good career going in the WWF and then into WCW but had his out-of-the-ring issues had not become such an issue he could have had a great career. The drugs and alcohol took a decent midcarder and kept him from being a good possible main eventer.
1. Chris Benoit - I hate going back to this but this sure fire Hall of Famer could have been the greatest "internet darling" to succeed in the biggest wrestling company in the world but we all know how this ended.
Chris Benoit - I have to admit that, when I first saw this topic, I didn't think of Benoit. However, seeing other writers list him makes me think that it would be awkward to NOT at least bring him up . . . but I'd rather not discuss it any further.
5. Gabe Sapolski - Granted, Sapolski never had any success on a national level (though he was also never really given that opportunity). However, for a period of time, he got a subculture of professional wrestling fans to think that he was god's gift to the pseudo-sport, including multiple booker of the year awards from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and rave reviews all over the map. Yet, after the conclusion of his big angles that made Ring of Honor in 2006 perhaps one of the best booked promotions in several years and after the departure of several of the promotion's key talents, ROH fell into the doldrums and Gabe was unable to get it out, leading to his termination. Though they are still relatively young, his two current projects, EVOLVE and Dragon Gate USA, have not grown to near the level of ROH or gotten near as much critical acclaim for their booking. All Gabe is nowadays is a guy with incredibly talented wrestlers who puts them in matches against one another, with the matches being great no matter what the surrounding angles are. Time will tell as to whether he'll be able to rebuild his reputation, but, for the time being, Sapolski is a guy who was riding high in terms of respect from his fans but is currently relegated to near obscurity.
4. Puroresu - As most regular readers will be able to tell you, I love Japanese professional wrestling just as much as I love American professional wrestling. However, I would be kidding myself if I didn't tell you that, from a business perspective, puroresu has really gone from the penthouse to the outhouse over the course of the past decade. The four largest promotions in the country (New Japan, All Japan, NOAH, and Dragon Gate) are still significantly larger and better off than groups like TNA, but the wrestling industry as a whole in the Land of the Rising Sun has gone from being more popular than WWE at its peak to regularly running shows that draw no more than 1,200 fans. Certain big New Japan shows still gets numbers close to those of the glory days, but, otherwise, things are grim. The majority of the decline is usually attributed to mixed marital arts outstripping wrestling in popularity, and it remains to be seen whether, now that MMA has suffered a fall of its own, puro will be able to start to climb the ladder once more.
3. Marty Jannetty - It's hard to believe in 2010, but, when Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels were originally teaming as the Rockers, many people believed that Jannetty was the more talented of the two and the one who would have a better singles career if a split ever occurred. (Note that I said "if" and not "when," because this was before the present era when a tag team's breakup is virtually guaranteed as soon as they're put together.) Of course, it is Michaels who is now a legend of professional wrestling, a hall of famer by almost any account, and a multiple time heavyweight champion, while the highlight of Jannetty's career remains his midcard feud with HBK over the Intercontinental Title seventeen years ago. Many credit Jannetty's "personal demons" as having inhibited him from every reaching his true potential, as well as setting what has to be the record for number of times being fired by WWE. This is a man who could have become just as popular as his former partner, but he apparently threw it all away.
2. Lex Luger - The story of Luger's whole career is the story of a guy who was given every opportunity in the world by wrestling promoters but never could quite capitalize. Promoters in Florida had him pegged as the next breakout star due to his physique, but his inexperience and reported problems with his attitude kept him from breaking out. He did achieve a fair amount of success in the NWA/WCW in the early 1990's, but fans never fully accepted him because they saw him as a poor substitute for Ric Flair. From there he jumped to the WWF, where the powers that be attempted to turn him into the next Hulk Hogan courtesy of the Lex Express tour. That didn't work either. Eventually Luger DID get over as a legitimate main event babyface thanks to being made into a threat to the nWo when that heel group was on the top of the world. However, Lex's run as a top-shelf headliner fizzled fairly quickly, because burned bridges prevented him from going elsewhere after WCW folded. Before long, Luger's girlfriend Miss Elizabeth was found dead in his home, allegedly next to a larger stockpile of drugs. In addition to his professional life falling apart, Luger's personal life seemed to be in shambles, and things went from bad to worse a few years ago when health issues left the former Total Package with no feeling below his waist. Fortunately for Luger, his health has reportedly stabilized and he has turned over a new leaf with a religious conversion, though he remains without a wrestling career to speak of.
1. Hulk Hogan - I don't think that it needs to be said that, for over a decade, Hulk Hogan was the biggest star that professional wrestling had ever seen. He started by breaking out in Japan and in the AWA before being the wrestler that the WWF's national expansion was built around and then revitalizing his career in the mid-1990's with a huge heel turn. Adjusting for inflation, you'd be hard-pressed to find a man who drew more money in professional wrestling, and, as a result, Hogan became a legitimate multi-millionaire. Even when it looked like the bulk of his wrestling career was behind him, the Hulkster was able to put together his "Hogan Knows Best" reality show on VH1, which was a decent success for the network. Just a few years ago, the Hulkster was incredibly wealthy and set to have a comfortable retirement if he so desired. However, Hogan then made a classic professional wrestling error, namely "booking his own divorce." Things started to go south when Hogan started to play up a storyline on his reality show where there were marital problems between he and wife Linda. As has happened several times throughout pro wrestling history, the worked discord in the family turned into real discord in the family and, before long, there actually WAS a divorce. Top that off with a settlement in a lawsuit resulting from Nick Hogan critically injuring a longtime friend of his, and Hogan now finds himself in a position where he has to continue working in wrestling in order to support his extravagant lifestyle, support his ex-wife's extravagant lifestyle (via alimony), and pay off a family that has been significantly wronged. There's no more comfortable retirement for the Hulkster, at least not for several years. That's not the cruelest part of the joke, though. The cruelest part of the joke is that, exactly when he needs it the most, Hogan's drawing power in professional wrestling has apparently vanished. Yes, he is still perhaps the most recognizable wrestler among non-wrestling fans, but Hogan's star has fallen almost to the point of being nonexistent among those who actually follow the pseudo-sport. He has joined the roster of TNA Wrestling, but his presence in the company has apparently meant absolutely nothing to the promotion's bottom line, as television ratings have only seen the smallest of bumps since he came on board, while pay per view buyrates have remained stagnant and house show attendance has, if anything, declined. Fans still have great memories of Hulk Hogan and there are still a million or so viewers following his career on TNA Impact, but a million people watching Hulk Hogan on free TV while they refuse to pay to see him elsewhere is a massive fall for Hogan, the equivalent of 1997's Brett Favre being sent to play in NFL Europe.
Bobby Lashley - Lashley seemed to get a push wherever he went. But he chose to go into MMA instead, basically throwing away the momentum he had in pro wrestling. He's an honorable mention (and Brock isn't) because he never won a world championship in wrestling and it's too early to see how his MMA career ends up.
5. Lex Luger - "The Total Package" seemingly had it all. Looks, charisma, push. Yet he could never get that one big win (and when he did get it, it was against Barry Windham instead of Ric Flair). Lex fell on hard times, including very public health and drug problems. Luger had all the potential and every opportunity in the world, and couldn't make it to the top. Oh, and there is this...
4. Kevin Nash - Nash was given some primo spots in the business—Shawn Michaels's bodyguard turned world champion, a founding-father to the nWo and plenty of opportunity to share his opinions. But Nash is 51 and still thinks he's a better performer than most of today's top stars. Nash would be Brett Favre if the WWE would let him. His perception of himself is laughable. I wonder where he lists himself on the "all time list" of wrestlers. First? Second?
3. Sunny - One of the hottest women in wrestling history. Sunny lost her husband, did ton of drugs and lost the looks that made her famous. Now she works conventions, signing autographs to make money.
2. Brock Lesnar - The difference between Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley is success. Brock was a world champion. He has amazing talent. He won the Undisputed Championship. Now he's a former UFC champion who is awaiting his medical clearance to fight again. Brock was on top of the world when he decided to leave--on his own. Imagine the legendary monster that Brock would have become if he stayed around.
1. Chris Benoit - From vanilla midget to World Champion. That's a hell of a career--a Hall of Fame career. And it was all flushed down the toilet in the worst way imaginable.
Bobby Lashley - Not exactly Brock Lesnar, was he?
Goldberg - For such a big name at one point, his send-off kind of sucked...
WCW - ...and we all know how this one ended...
5. Hulk Hogan - I was never a huge fan of the guy, but he used to be the biggest thing ever, and went to "kind of a big deal", but now I just think "please go away", and that constitutes a "fall from grace" in my opinion.
4. Scott Hall - This man has had every second chance in the world and he keeps falling prey to his demons. I really feel bad for the guy because he was a BIG part of one of wrestling's biggest angles ever and has had a five star match to his name. That's a feat not many can lay a claim to. He's blown it repeatedly in every company he's been in and burned a lot of bridges. It just seems that TNA's bridge is fireproof. Maybe they'll learn this time?
3. Ric Flair - Got the best retirement in history, complete with the respect of everyone...and then decided to come back to work. I was really hoping it'd stick as I feel he's done a lot to tarnish his career since he returned. And no, that's not a TNA bias at all; I think I'd hate a WWE return every bit as much with the possible exception of a one-off match with Jericho if it had been done at Wrestlemania 25.
2. The Hardy Boyz - I couldn't pick just one, but I used to be such a HUGE fan of both these guys. Jeff Hardy's drug habits have brought him down to a level of almost no respect from me, regardless of the fact that he can still put on a good match with the right opponent. Matt Hardy has also become the most annoying guy to have internet access and I think someone should take that away from him. I really hoped he'd hold a major title in 2005, but then he started to get sloppy. But he turned it around with a nice feud with MVP at the end of 2007. So then he decided to get a little out of shape (who am I to call anyone who wrestles for a living anything more than that?) and sloppy. It got to a point where he just bored me. Also, neither Hardy can really cut a good promo on a consistent basis. If you'd have told 15 year-old Michael Ornelas that in 2010, he'd no longer like EITHER Hardy brother, he'd have said you were crazy. But here we are and I think they're the pits. Jeff as a person, Matt as a wrestler and partially as a person.
1. Chris Benoit - I don't really want to go into this, but it's the obvious number one choice.
Chris Benoit - Everybody else had this one covered
TNA From "We are Wrestling" to "We are WWE-lite"
5. Dynamite Kid - It's funny to hear comparisons to the great Dynamite Kid. Tom Billington put on matches in the 80's that were ahead of their time. His many matches with the equally great Tiger Mask are still talked about to this day. Steroids and drug use unfortunately would aid Tom Billigton in the torturous abuse of his back. Instead of taking time off and healing properly, he would mask the pain and continue wrestling without skipping a beat. A choice that would in the future leave the high flying Dynamite Kid grounded and confined to a wheelchair.
4. Jake the "Snake" Roberts - Everybody wants to be the measuring stick when it comes to wrestling, unfortunately for Jake Roberts, many view him as an example of what NOT to do as a wrestler. Roberts wrestling career can be considered as epic as the story of Gilgamesh, just as epic are the rumors and stories of his abuse of drugs and alcohol. While Jake never really was visibly drunk or high during his WWF days, the stories ran rampant. A viewing of the documentary " Beyond the Mat" certainly doesn't paint a better picture for Jake Roberts. What is certain is that Jake Roberts had a talent and gift for the world of wrestling. Intellectual, yet dark and menacing on the microphone, gifted in the ring, a true mind for the business. It's unsure how far Jake could of gone, but I bet it would have been a lot farther if he hadn't had his issues with the often mentioned "demons".
3. The Von Erichs - At one time the Von Erichs were royalty in the state of Texas. Their story now is one of tragedy. Fritz Von Erich would go on to have four kids that would become the hottest commodity in WCCW. David would be considered the most talented when it came to in ring ability, unfortunately during a tour of Japan, David would lose his life. While severe gastroenteritis would be reported as the cause of death, rumors of Bruiser Brody flushing drugs or pills down the toilet before authorities showed up, ran like a wildfire. Mike was talented, yet he took his own life in 1987. Chris attempted to follow in his brothers footsteps, but was never able to fully realize his potential due to medication that he took as a child that stunted his growth and made his bones brittle, he took his own life in 1991. Kerry became NWA champion and WWF Intercontinental champion, but due to drug issues and problems with the law Kerry took his own life in 1993. Fritz died of Cancer on 1997. Kevin is the only survivor of the Von Erich brothers, and the keeper of the Von Erich legacy, a legacy of success and travesty.
2. Chyna - Talk about breaking the mold! Chyna achieved success in the WWE that was unimaginable and unthinkable for a female. 1st female to dominate male opponents, 1st female to become Intercontinental champion, 1st female to participate in the Royal Rumble. Come on, there are males that would kill to achieve half that level of success. Alleged drug and alcohol problems, not to mention relationship issues would lead Chyna in a downward spiral. She went from being a extremely popular WWE Diva, to a reality show star, to a sex-tape star of sorts, to an example of what it means to have a "fall from grace".
1. El Hijo del Santo - Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair in the U.S., Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba in Japan, and El Santo and Blue Demon in Mexico. All wrestling gods if I can use that term, in their respective countries. What better way to start of a career than with the name of a god. That is the way el Hijo del Santo started out, while in the U.S. it can be more of a burden to be the son of a legend, in Mexico it can be a boost, but if you don't carry the name like it should the public is sure to turn on you, just look at el Hijo del Solitario. For many years el Hijo del Santo carried that name in the best way possible, many would go on to say that while he wasn't able to achieve the popularity his father did, el Hijo del Santo reportedly was a better in ring talent. Now el Hijo del Santo has been seemingly blackballed from CMLL. He has an ongoing lawsuit with AAA, which also won't hire him anymore. He started an indy fed, "Todo X Todo" that just came and went. He now only works the occasional independent show and writes a weekly column in Mexican paper "El Reporte" where he tells of the evils of WWE, CMLL and AAA and how the beautiful sport of Lucha-Libre is now all but a memory due to the misuse and greed of promoters. Then it is revealed that he has registered wrestling maneuvers such as the camel clutch as dance steps, many finding this highly hypocritical. How do you go from carrying the torch of an icon to being blackballed from an industry? While other falls from grace maybe due to the use of substances, or bad choices, but when greed is the reasoning, that's just sad!
Robert S. Leighty Jr
5. Bret Hart - Bret went from being the hottest heel (or face if in Canada) in the WWF in the summer of 1997 and then Montreal happened. From there he was lost in WCW, had his family torn apart over his brother's tragic death, had his career ended by Goldberg, and then a bike accident caused him ever more health problems. Thankfully he was able to make amends with Vince, and give us a happier ending.
4. The Von Erich Family - The were wrestling in the South West, and biggest stars in the Dallas area before personal demons kicked in and nearly wiped out the entire family.
3. Lex Luger - He defeated Hulk Hogan live on Nitro to win the WCW Title, and seemed to reach the potential he failed to live up to for years. Then he got lazy in the dying days of WCW and seemed to resent having younger guys take his spot. Then the whole mess with the tragic loss of Elizabeth happened, and what made it even more unbearable was the 911 tapes that were played on WWE Confidential.
2. Chyna - She was the first woman to hold the IC TItle and compete in the Royal Rumble and becamea Playboy centerfold. The she started thinking she was on the same level of Rock/Austin. Once she was outside the world of wrestling things went bad for her as she had a sex tape released with X-Pac, and a joke of a reality tc star. Cautionary tale about what happens when you are no longer in the spot light and do what you can to hang on to your fleeting fame.
1. Chris Benoit - Easy number one choice as the man went from winning the World Title in a match with HHH/Shawn Michaels in the Main Event of WM XX to becoming erased from WWE history due to his violent crimes.