Professional Wrestling itself is almost always this trope. While the business is still around and probably won't be dying any time soon, it is highly unlikely that it will ever be as popular as it was during its two boom periods: The Rock 'N' Wrestling Era (1984-1993) and The Monday Night Wars/Attitude Era (1996-2001) due several factors (i.e. Mixed Martial Arts' rise in popularity, the internet wasn't as widely available as it is today, DVR and social media didn't exist, not as many TV channels, people are more aware of the backstage antics than they should be and the fact that they are afraid to go beyond the status quo in order to stay relevant, WWE in particular). There are more specific entries in the folders below.
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- The Monday Night Wars put an end to shows made entirely of Squash Matches. Once shows presented quality matches on free TV, fans of either company wouldn't settle for anything else. While some may have a squash match or two to debut a new wrestler or for a joke match, a show consisting entirely of them will suffer in the ratings. And if you're a younger wrestling fan (say, ages 10 to 30), you might not even be aware these shows ever existed.
- The rise of cable television (such as TBS and the USA Network) and the World Wrestling Federation's successful national expansion (and to a lesser extent, Jim Crockett Promotions/World Championship Wrestling once Ted Turner came into the picture) in the 1980s, all but put an end to the concept of territorial wrestling promotions. In particular, the collapse of the Memphis-based USWA (United States Wrestling Association) was probably the final nail on the coffin. From its founding in 1989 until about 1995, USWA managed to make a name for itself in spite of the WWF's explosion by focusing on up-and-coming wrestlers who were looking to launch their careers and eventually join the "Big Two." Unfortunately, the Monday Night Wars dealt a significant (pun not intended) blow to the company, as they lacked both the talent and the budget to compete with the almost Pay Per View quality matches being presented on Raw and Nitro. Not helping matters was an ill-advised move to Thursday nights for their wrestling shows. Things became so bad, in fact, that by late 1996 they were reduced to doing shows in front of less than 400 people at a flea market in Memphis (if you're curious and/or masochistic, you can watch one of their final shows here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq-PNas37j4). Combined with a rather poor lineup of wrestlers, the generally poor quality of its matches, and the fraudulent convictions being allagated to the company's management; USWA folded in late 1997 and is now largely forgotten by all but a few diehard wrestling fans who remember them as a perfect representation of why territorial wrestling was unable to survive in the changing landscape of pro wrestling.
- Organic tag teams are in a severe dry spell. Tag teams that consist of people hired together specifically to be a tag team, often two people who are related (the Hardy Boyz, the Steiner Brothers) are increasingly the minority. Sometimes a team hypocritically gets a break if they are signed a new company together after being randomly put together in another. For example the Dudley Boyz were both singles wrestlers for some time before both ended up in ECW to be paired together. Then when they jumped to WWE, some people label them as a "real tag team", yet somehow don't extend the same courtesy when WWE pairs to then current wrestlers up as a tag team. Edge and Christian serve a middle ground, they formed a independent tag team pretty early in their careers, yet both still debuted as singles wrestlers. Edge got signed to WWF not very long before Christian was brought in for a storyline with him to reunite the team. This puts them to be more organic than say the Dudleys but not as much as the Hardys or the modern Usos.
Strangely enough, the majority of the blame can be placed on Shawn Michaels of all people. When the Rockers were split up, he went on to become easily one of the biggest wrestling names of the past 20 years. The big companies saw a massive star rise where a tag team fell, and have systematically broken up every organic tag team they have in the hopes of making lightning strike twice (and because "brother against brother" is such easy drama, the storyline writes itself). The tag team division is kept afloat by throwing together two random singles wrestlers together, and since WWE doesn't seem to think too highly of tag team wrestling it the first place, this doesn't appear to be changing any time soon.
It should be noted that this wasn't originally supposed to happen. Both Michaels and his partner, Marty Jannetty, were supposed to become stars, being considered equals in charisma and in-ring talent. Unfortunately, Jannetty's partying lifestyle caught up with him and he never got over. The fact that "The Shawn Michaels Effect" has occurred so often with these tag teams is the main reason why organic tag teams are in a dry spell. The Hardy Boyz, Edge and Christian (though that's arguably a subversion seeing as while Edge is the bigger star, Christian has won more independent titles and achieved what Edge was never able to do — become a Grand Slam Champion), even the Dudley Boyz have all had this happen in some shape or form and a bonafide star was made with one of them. Let's face it; the moment it became clear that Shawn was gonna go farther than Jannetty, the devaluing of tag team wrestling was all but inevitable.
- Pay-per-views in the growth of the internet age have become dying form when people could get live results as the PPV was happening. That doesn't even go into the illegal live streams. PPV purchase numbers continued to shrink year after year(and the success of something like UFC or turn around of New Japan didn't mean it could be blamed on WWE's lackluster product because they're not competition or something). In 2014, the WWE caught wind of this growing problem and decided to launch the WWE Network, an wrestling online streaming service equivalent to Netflix, that offered Pay-Per-Views as part of the package. Cable companies were not happy with this, but the WWE ultimately looks to be benefiting from this new service.
- Wrestling magazines such as WWE Magazine, Inside Wrestling/The Wrestler, WCW Magazine, Power Slam, WOW Magazine, and Wrestling Superstars have pretty much disappeared thanks to the rise of the internet. Pro Wrestling Illustrated remains though, a few organizations such as the National Wrestling Alliance have retained theirs and it took a much longer time for television or internet to outstrip magazines in Mexican lucha libre.
- WWE Tough Enough was a reality show thought up in 2001 - where a group of hopefuls would train for the chance to earn a WWE contract. It lasted four seasons but it became Snark Bait almost at once. The show's gimmick - ordinary people off the street being trained to wrestle - was Undermined by Reality. It takes years to get decent enough to wrestle on TV, as opposed to a matter of weeks. As such any winners of the show would be too green to get any kind of meaningful push. Indeed the only successful winners didn't achieve anything until they'd been in the company for years - well after the momentum from winning the show had faded. Notably a revival in 2011 instead featured wrestlers from the independent circuit in an attempt to move with the times, but it still fell headlong into the show's old trap. The winner was an FCW contestant with only a year's worth of training, and had to go back down to FCW the moment the show wrapped. When WWE aired another season of the show from the WWE Network in 2015, they returned to the old formula of untrained contestants. This version was widely panned and badly affected by WWE's decision to have the eliminations decided by public vote (meaning the contestants with the most promise still got voted off). With the ratio of successful Tough Enough contestants to unsuccessful being so high, it's clear that the show is Deader Than Disco. These days, NXT is considered the successor to Tough Enough though even that took a while to become successful.
- The use of a Kayfabe Wrestling Family seems to have become this. Aside from Kane and the Undertaker or the Dudley Boyz, who benefit from the Grandfather Clause, it's very rare to have a kayfabe set of siblings or cousins. With the rise of the internet making it easy for fans to check whether wrestlers are related or not, this storyline practice fell out of favour. And with so many second and third generation wrestlers in the industry, it's easier to use real relations in stables and tag teams. Even Edge and Christian, who were initially portrayed as brothers, were retconned into just being childhood friends as they are in real life.
- 'Models vs Wrestlers' was a go-to feud in WWE (though TNA occasionally flirted with it) in the 2000s. As the company's roster was made up of lots of models-turned-wrestlers who were usually given better pushes than actual trained women wrestlers, it became an easy storyline to make. Have a Heel woman wrestler challenge a former model for her past and mock her for it - Jazz and Molly Holly did it with Trish Stratus, Melina did it with Candice Michelle, Beth Phoenix and Natalya did it with Kelly Kelly and Eve Torres. With the rise of the internet, this kind of feud became Snark Bait almost immediately. Internet fans often sided with the heels in this situation, due to the nasty behind the scenes stories of the company favouring looks over talent. They occasionally went the other way around and had the 'model' as the heel - to evoke Cool Loser vs Alpha Bitch - but that too resulted in the heels still being sympathetic. Namely because it seemed to penalise a woman for having been a model in her past, and the undercurrent of Real Women Never Wear Dresses. In its worst incarnations, it reduced characters in the division to be the bare bones of a Tomboy and Girly Girl situation. NXT's growing women's division put an end to that, not just because of more wrestlers coming in from the indies. But defined characters beyond a woman's femininity or lack thereof started to emerge - and more meaningful feuds were built around that. WWE's latest attempt to do Models vs Wrestlers (AJ Lee & Paige vs the Bella Twins) was met with lukewarm reactions, and even the participants themselves complained about the shallow subject matter in interviews. The 2015 call-up of the NXT women saw a change in WWE that led to such archetypes being phased out. Many of the model-turned-wrestlers retired and the few that still remain have either Taken a Level In Badass (i.e. Nikki Bella) or are only used as Jobbers (i.e. Alicia Fox and Summer Rae), leaving a division that was focused primarily on wrestling. Models vs Wrestlers belongs in that mid-2000s period where the Diva Search was going on.
Divisions and Wrestling Styles
- From about 2007 until 2009-ish, the TNA Knockouts were seen as a shining star of the company. WWE had buried their own women's division with Diva Searches and endless T&A instead of actual wrestling. The Knockouts meanwhile were starting to draw a lot of attention - hiring talented women who could actually wrestle and giving them opportunities WWE weren't. The Knockouts were suddenly generating interest and Dixie Carter admitted that the women's segments were the highest rated. Cracks started to appear as early as 2008 when top Knockout Gail Kim had to re-sign with WWE because TNA weren't paying her nearly enough. Over the years more and more Knockouts came forward about financial abuse, making it clear that management didn't see them as a priority. Then the booking started to really take a nose dive - resulting in The Beautiful People dominating air time, other Knockouts disappearing from TV altogether and matches getting notably less time. The title changed hands far too often - and sometimes in horrible decisionsnote . When the women were allowed to just wrestle, things were fine. However the rise of social media and internet PPV made it easier for indie promotions like SHIMMER, Shine and WSU to reach a wider audience and promote themselves as a healthy alternative (ironically in the same way TNA had before). Likewise in WWE, women began to Take a Level in Badass. A few Diva Search Contestants started to become good wrestlers, WWE started bringing in more actual wrestlers and NXT's popularity exploded. Within WWE itself (or their developmental brand at least), women were suddenly getting extraordinary opportunities - Bayley and Sasha Banks got to main event an actual PPV, something which TNA Knockouts have yet to do. The division that was once praised as a healthy alternative to WWE found itself getting upstaged completely by the NXT women. After a mass outcry on social media in early 2015, WWE's female talent on the main roster began getting many of the same opportunities as those on NXT, being allowed to put on longer and better matches, develop actual characters, receive a new championship belt and the term "Diva" being retired. While the matches get respectable reviews, the Knockouts' days of really wowing audiences are long gone and are likely to stay that way.
- There was a time in the late 90s when garbage wrestlers were more popular in the 50 States than standard professional wrestlers. So popular that millions of young wrestling fans started having brutal matches of their own in their backyards. However, ECW folded in 2001 and within the next few years the hits just kept coming. First there were the various lawsuits from the parents of kids who maimed themselves imitating what they saw. Next Mick Foley (the most famous hardcore wrestler of all time) had to retire from active competition due to his various injuries. Then the rise in awareness of blood diseases like Hepatitis caused most pro wrestling companies to stop their performers from blading (cutting themselves on the forehead to draw blood) and blood was a major part of the attraction. Finally the death knell was the Chris Benoit tragedy (see his entry below), which caused major investigations into the WWE and pro wrestling in general. Due to the pressure of these investigations, WWE moved toward a rated PG product and banned weapon shots to the head. There still exists some traces of it like an annual Extreme Rules pay per view in WWE which features a watered down product and the indie company Combat Zone Wrestling, which is mostly looked down on by wrestling fans in favor of Chikara and Ring of Honor. Hardcore wrestling in the USA will likely never reach its old heights again thanks to safety regulations and a whole generation of wrestling fans coming of age now who have likely never seen a hardcore match.
- Another style which suffered from it was Japanese shoot-style. Puroresu companies which put realistic matches with plenty of stiff kicking and martial arts holds were a meteoric success in Japan around The '90s, and the mother of all them, Universal Wrestling Federation, broke attendance records with numbers never reached by even powerhouse companies like New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Japan Pro Wrestling doing a shared show. Figures like Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada became godlike, just like Antonio Inoki had been in the past, and they were considered not only top wrestlers, but also the top martial artists of Japan thanks to the "real fight" feel surrounding their matches. However, the ascendance of Mixed Martial Arts killed the shoot-style dead when it occupied its niche and forcing it to adapt to it. Most of the Japanese shooters failed to live up their reputation as real fighters, their companies were forced to become real and adopt vale tudo with several measures of success, and everything which was related to the U-system not named PRIDE Fighting Championships decayed and only retained small cult fanbases. Even after the MMA boom passed with the fall of PRIDE and the pro wrestling numbers rose again, the traditional, worked shoot-style done a la UWF never recovered its position, and it pretty much disappeared aside from some gimmicks on the independent circuit. As MMA is still active and modern audiences have rationalized that if they want to see something resembling a real fight they will see a real fight, it's improbable that shoot-style will ever rise again.
- T&A style matches in place of actual women's wrestling. The concept was introduced by Vince Russo as a way to have Sable in matches without having her wrestling (since she was a model, not a wrestler). Fans weren't used to seeing such beautiful women getting physical in a wrestling ring, so it was relatively popular. These days however, WWE has gone PG and any attempt they've ever made to have Fanservice matches inevitably gets backlash. This is due mostly to WWE no longer putting untrained models in the ring (every Diva has to train in developmental first) - and numerous examples in WWE, TNA and indie promotions showing women putting on stellar matches. Both the casual and hardcore fan these days wants to see actual women's wrestling, as well as interesting characters beyond a Ms. Fanservice. Case in point: Eva Marie got booed out of arenas for her lack of experience. In the Attitude Era, she would have been as popular as Sable, Debra, Terri Runnels, The Kat, etc.
- Gorgeous George rarely works as anymore, at least as originally intended. While they still pop up from time to time, merely being Ambiguously Gay isn't enough to get the crowd to hate someone, as Paredyse in Ohio Valley Wrestling taking up a gimmick similar to Gorgeous George and while not outright admitting to being gay, is directly attacking gender roles. Goldust before him had to add on a bunch of bizarre mannerisms in addition to merely being ambiguously gay, and this backfired as people ended up taking it too personally, leading to threats from gay rights groups. Thus Goldust "had" to come out as really straight in order to protect the WWF's image, as an ambiguously gay heel would tarnish it more than an incest angle, clearly.
- WCW. Once a dangerous threat to the WWF, it quickly fell apart due to catastrophic mismanagement, eventually being bought out by its arch-rival for scraps, and its disastrous final years are what many wrestling fans today think of when they hear the promotion mentioned.
- TNA used to be the alternative to WWE in Professional Wrestling, or at least the closest thing to it. It was founded by Jerry and Jeff Jarrett in 2002 in order to fill the void that WCW's death left on the business. Few people believed it would succeed, though it did have somewhat of a cult following in its early days. Between 2005 and 2009, TNA grew a pretty big beard, with a new TV deal on Spike, the establishment of the X Division, the debut of legends such as Sting and Kurt Angle and the foundation of the Knockout's Division for female competitors. ROH was a distant third, and many believed TNA had the potential to one day grow as a legitimate competitor to WWE, and they came pretty close to it.
Then Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff came in and everything went to hell. Unable to move on from their glory days, the show began to focus almost solely on Hogan and his friends and family. They tried and failed yet again to reform both the nWo and the Four Horsemen, made the other legends look like crap and Demoted all of the TNA originals to extra. Even when Hogan and Bischoff left and the company's product improved, TNA has largely been seen as a joke since then and a shadow of their former glory. They lost their TV deal with Spike and were moved to Destination America, which is seen in fewer homes than Spike since it's on a higher cable package, so they were only getting a small fraction of the views they once had. Destination America grew tired of them after a year and they then moved to Pop TV, which did nothing to regain their fanbase.
Most of TNA's stars grew tired of their mistreatment and left, many of the unique points to TNA's product that made them different from WWE have been taken on by other companies, including WWE themselves, and innovated to be far more interesting and successful than TNA ever managed. Nowadays, many fans are literally waiting for them to die, some even outright advocating it since it might be kinder to do so.
- Chris Benoit, when he was alive, was considered one of the greatest professional wrestling stars in the world. His victory at the Royal Rumble and title win at WrestleMania 20 are considered two of the greatest moments of 21st century WWE, and he cemented himself as a future WWE Hall of Famer. Then, everything changed on a fateful day in June 2007. Benoit and his family were found dead in their house, and an investigation into the murders revealed that Benoit was responsible for a double murder-suicide. Literally overnight, Benoit's reputation was destroyed. WWE quickly scrubbed any mention of him from their archives, and the circumstances of his crimes (particularly his brain damage as a result of years of steroid use and concussions) caused a firestorm of scandal. Today, when Chris Benoit's name is mentioned, people think not of his many accomplishments in the ring, but rather his actions in his final days that led to the near-destruction of the entire professional wrestling industry.
- When The Miz arrived in WWE in 2006, few people thought his career would amount to anything, given that he was seen as a reality has-been desperately trying to cling on to fame. He had already been a joke in the wrestling world because of his embarrassing run on the 2004 Tough Enough. Indeed, he was seen as just that at the beginning of his career, having a far from impressive win-loss record and humiliating himself while hosting the Diva Search. At the 2007 Royal Rumble, he was eliminated only seconds after entering the ring. He vanished from TV shortly afterwards.
The Miz re-emerged that summer on the ECW brand, being involved in a short-lived angle with the Extreme Expose before aligning himself with John Morrison. The Miz and Morrison became one of the most successful tag teams of the late-2000's, reigning for over half a year and feuding with such teams as Cryme Tyme, Jesse and Festus, and Carlito and Primo. Many of his earlier critics started to warm up to him, feeling that he had greatly improved since his debut. The next spring, The Miz and Morrison were sent their separate ways via the WWE Draft. Unfortunately for him, people didn't see much of a future for him as a solo star, and believed that Morrison was going to be 2009's big breakout. Much to the surprise of the fans, The Miz was able to carve his own path away from Morrison, and by the beginning of 2010 was U.S. Champion. He had another successful tag team run paired up with the Big Show, and was picked to be the NXT pro of Daniel Bryan. The latter gig was really able to get him over as a top heel, as his "I'm better than you" attitude towards a world-renowned independent wrestling legend earned him the ire of many fans. The Miz was able to use his newfound heat to rocket himself to the pinnacle: he won the Money in the Bank briefcase that July and took the title off Randy Orton that November. The Miz had proved all the doubters wrong, that a reality has-been could indeed find his way to the top of the wrestling world. He was The Miz, and he was awesome.
The Miz's reign was seen as weakly booked by many, as he tended to cower away from his fights and couldn't get a clean win over John Cena and Randy Orton to save his life. Nevertheless, he was able to pin Cena at the main event of WrestleMania XXVII with some help from The Rock. However, Miz lost the title to Cena a month later at Extreme Rules. Since then, The Miz's career went nowhere but down, as he lost his rematch to Cena thanks to his apprentice Alex Riley's clumsy cover-ups of Miz's illegal tactics. The fallout between the two led to a surprise upset win for Riley over Miz at Capital Punishment. The Miz and R-Truth formed a team later on called Awesome Truth, who rebelled against Triple H's heel-oppressive tenure as COO of WWE. The two got "fired" and, by intruding WWE events, they and a group of other dissatisfied heels were able to get even the faces to turn on Triple H. The Miz and R-Truth were barely portrayed as realistic threats during their run, and the final straw in his career was Awesome Truth's tag match against John Cena and The Rock, where the two were essentially squashed to death.
For a while since then, The Miz had been floating in midcard hell, often being booked like a borderline jobber. An attempt to revitalize his career by turning face went over very badly, though his return to heeldom with a "Hollywood" gimmick and winning the Intercontinental Championship did help him get in the IWC's good graces. Today, when people bring up his time as a main eventer, it is only to state how inconceivable it is that someone like him even made it that far. His WrestleMania main event, once seen as an OK, though not great, match, is recalled as one of the worst of all time, having had little purpose other than to build heat for the Cena/Rock feud (one that would be seen as a major disappointment as well), and his big championship win is only remembered for the angry, glaring facial expression made by a young girl sitting in the crowd.
- Emma became a huge Ensemble Darkhorse on NXT. Her gimmick was that of a bad dancer who thought she was good. It was silly but yet lots of fun. There was a time when she was arguably the most popular Diva at NXT. But when she was called up to the main roster, she was paired with Santino Marella as a comedy double act. Her character suffered serious Flanderization and any serious qualities were dropped - relegating her to a walking punchline. Fans quickly lost interest and Emma appeared less and less. She eventually found herself back on NXT trying to restart her career by turning heel and taking on Dana Brooke as her apprentice. This was successful enough for Emma to be called back up to the main roster in 2016 with Dana following a few months later. She was just starting to regain the momentum she lost before a back injury put her out of action. Time will tell if she fully escapes this trope, but it seems unlikely at this point.
- Zack Ryder was once an internet phenomenon. His web show Z! True Long Island Story became a massive hit with wrestling fans, despite WWE's refusal to acknowledge its existence. Eventually, they gave in, and gave Ryder the push his fans have wanted for months, all culminating with his U.S. title victory at TLC 2011. However, almost immediately afterwards, Ryder was turned into a punching bag for Kane to build heat for his feud with John Cena. He lost the title a month later to Jack Swagger, and Ryder was back to jobbing only a few months later, and any major exposure he got on TV afterwards was in a one-off angle. While Ryder has found modest success teaming with Mojo Rawley in NXT and getting way more TV time beginning after Wrestlemania 32, he might never live down become synonymous with a wrestler's chain being yanked as soon as he grabs the bone.
- Paige had a similar rise to the top as Zack Ryder and, while she didn't fall quite as far as he did, she still feels the effect of this trope. She received incredible reactions once she was signed to WWE — going from Jobber to top Face in only a matter of months. She was one of the only female wrestlers in the company at the time to have come in trained from the indies and was putting on stellar matches fitting that reputation, had an alternative look and a captivating Dark Is Not Evil Anti-Hero persona centered around not being like typical girls, all of which contrasted her from the majority of model-turned-wrestlers in the company's female division at the time and resulted in her becoming incredibly popular. There was no surprise when she was the first NXT Women's Champion and the one around whom the division was built, and she was expected to dominate the main roster the same way once she was called up. Then she did…and things started to fall apart.
She debuted and won the Divas' Championship in her first night (as current champion AJ Lee had to be taken off TV)…and proceeded to spend the next three months barely getting pushed at all despite being the champion. Her moveset became limited and streamlined like most on the main roster, and Vince McMahon's booking team presented her as a straight up good guy prodigal rookie and even borderline face in peril instead of the dark Anti-Hero that she got popular as in the first place. When she was turned heel to feud with the returning AJ Lee, the storyline devolved into lesbian pollen attacks which landed on the typical anti-sweet spot "borderline of offense and substance" WWE's "edgy" storylines in the current PC era often take, and the story arc involving The Bella Twins and Stephanie McMahon was treated as more important despite Paige and Lee battling for the championship. As this was contrasted to the growing acclaim for the efforts of the Four Horsewomen of NXT — Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte — in picking up where Paige had left off on the developmental brand, fans were again lukewarm to what Paige was doing, and people were starting to have Hype Backlash to her wrestling talents. In the end, Nikki Bella wound up with the Divas title in hand instead of either Paige or AJ.
In 2015 she was pushed as a face again, and internet fans started to turn on her as Paige had become the division's secondary Creator's Pet after Nikki. While Nikki's title reign eventually became untouchable due to WWE wanting to give her the "longest reign in history" record that had belonged to AJ, Paige was still pushed as the main and sometimes only title contender even when she couldn't appear on every show due to other commitments, and the resulting matches were lackluster at best. As the Four Horsewomen's popularity in developmental continued to grow, so did the Hype Backlash on the subject of how good Paige really was now that there were other stellar female wrestlers being pushed to compare her to — especially Sasha and Bayley, who had been producing insanely good matches and achieved universal popularity, while Paige herself entered extreme Base Breaker status. When Sasha, Charlotte, and Becky were called up to the main roster, fans rallied mainly behind Becky and Sasha while Paige and Charlotte became the championship feud in a terribly-executed angle in which Paige was meant to be the heel yet Charlotte came off so unlikeable that WWE had to book a highly controversial segment in which Paige disrespected Charlotte's dead brother Reid right in front of both her and her father Ric Flair in order to keep Paige heel — and though the matches managed to be good, they needed to be great to make up for this. Instead, the Reid Flair angle won the "Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic" award of 2015 by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter by a landslide. Between this angle and joining the cast of Total Divas, it all only lost her more respect among Smart Marks, and WWE eventually killed off her push at the end of 2015.
Nowadays, she rarely makes appearances on the major shows, her ring work is sorely lacking, her scoliosis seems to be finally catching up with her as she's becoming injury prone (she was diagnosed after a WWE trainer saw that her back looked wrong, which she disclosed in her Stone Cold Podcast interview), she seems more and more interested in outside ventures than wrestling, she entered a controversial relationship with Alberto Del Rio (see his entry below; he's 15 years her senior and still legally marriednote , it's well documented his WWE return has been mutually miserable, and now they both got simultaneous Wellness Policy suspensions together, and she got a second violation shortly after, leading some to believe that she's trying to get fired on purpose to join her recently departed boyfriend) and is reportedly a pain in the ass to deal with backstage. While Paige still has a dedicated fanbase, it seems that her days of ultra-popularity are long gone.
- Ashley Massaro was very popular when she was first introduced. She won the second Diva Search easily by fan votes and was liked for her uniquer look - as well as expressing a desire to wrestle. In her initial months, she was held up as a Diva with lots of potential. Things went downhill around the time she was chosen to pose for Playboy. After a disastrous match at WrestleMania 23 with Melina, constant injuries, as well as fellow Divas such as Michelle McCool, Layla, Candice Michelle and even Kelly Kelly putting work in to become better wrestlers, fans disappeared from Ashley's side. Then she was exposed as possibly working for a high-class escort agency and requested to be released in order to care for her ill daughter. While she attempted to make a comeback on the indies, she eventually got a reputation for no-showing events she was advertised for. Nowadays she's remembered as a representation of everything that was wrong with the Divas division in the post Lita and Trish Stratus era.
- Adam Rose's Life of the Party gimmick was quite over in NXT and fans were responding well to it. He was abruptly called up to the main roster pretty soon afterwards and, partially thanks to falling into Flanderization of the Orlando Jordan kind, it was met with apathy by the main roster crowd. Rose was Demoted to Extra within a month and the bunny in his posse became more over than he was, to the point that Rose turned on the bunny and feuded with him for a while before falling into obscurity. He seemed to be slowly climbing back up the ladder by joining the Social Outcasts, a stable comprised of lowercard stars who despite getting their asses kicked week in and week out, were pretty over with smark fans. Then, he was suspended for violating WWE's Wellness Policy for the second time and then arrested following a domestic dispute with his wife. After the charges were dropped, he requested his release from WWE. He is currently working the Independent scene under a "non PG" version of his Life of the Party gimmick, time will tell if that repairs his status.
- Candice Michelle was a participant in the 2004 Diva Search and ended up being one of the contestants to be signed. As a model and actress with no wrestling background, she was little more than a Ms. Fanservice who participated in the occasional T&A fests. Around 2007, Candice Took a Level in Badass, won the Women's Championship and proved surprisingly over, getting great reactions from fans - and critics, who noted her vast improvement in the ring. However after two injuries derailed her momentum, it was clear she wouldn't be the same again. She was released in 2009 while recovering from an injury - and even then she hadn't wrestled in months. These days she's likely to be classed in the same category as the "bad" Divas.
- Sheamus was easily WWE's biggest breakout star of 2009, winning the WWE title just six months into his debut by beating John Cena in a tables match. Since then, he was pushed as one of the company's top heels, entering a feud with Triple H that led the latter into permanent part-timer status, getting a second title reign that summer, and winnning King of the Ring that fall. Unfortunately, his momentum slipped early the next year, and he was relegated to a battle royal at the next year's WrestleMania. He was able to revitalize his career by turning face and winning the 2012 Royal Rumble. Unfortunately, that's where it all came crashing down. He beat Daniel Bryan for the World Heavyweight title in a match that only lasted 18 seconds, and the internet turned on him overnight, viewing him as another pet project of the McMahons designed solely to piss off hardcore fans. Sheamus's career stagnated afterwards, with his World Heavyweight title reign consisting of a five-month feud with Alberto del Rio, a match with Dolph Ziggler that Jerry Lawler famously attributed a blatantly pro-Ziggler crowd's chants to him, and ultimately being dethroned by the Big Show. Since then, Sheamus's career stagnated, with him doing little of note until 2015, where he debuted a new, rooster-esque look that was repeatedly mocked, and winning the Money in the Bank ladder match and cashing in on Roman Reigns at Survivor Series. Despite Reigns' unpopularity, the fans were even more upset at Sheamus being champion than him, and he lost the title back to him a month later. His League of Nations stable he formed afterwards was met with universal apathy, and didn't even last half a year before splitting up. Nowadays, Sheamus is seen as one of the most notorious examples of a Creator's Pet in WWE history, and people nowadays consider him to be a mediocre talent at best and an embarrassment at worst.
- Alberto Del Rio spent years on the Mexican circuit as Dos Caras, Jr. when he signed a contract with WWE. His Ted DiBiase meets John Bradshaw Layfield meets Eddie Guerrero gimmick was a huge hit with fans, becoming one of the most over heels on the WWE roster, winning the Royal Rumble six months into his debut, and scoring a championship match at WrestleMania 27 against Edge in what would be the latter's final match. Unfortunately, he lost, and it quickly dried up his momentum, but he was able to rebound at that year's Money in the Bank, winning the contract for the WWE Championship and ultimately cashing it in on CM Punk at that year's edition of SummerSlam. But that win instantly killed off his internet popularity, as people saw the cash-in an an attempt to bury Punk and cut off all the momentum he had from the "Summer of Punk" angle. Del Rio's booking as a champion would be very weak, losing the title to John Cena in his first defense and winning it right back from him shortly afterwards. After losing the WWE Championship to Punk at Survivor Series to start his legendary 434-day reign, Del Rio quickly faded into the background, taking a few months off to heal before returning to feud with Sheamus for the World Heavyweight title. The feud, which was quickly decried by fans as being boring and seemingly endless, failed to do anything for either man's career. Del Rio turned face not long after his feud was finished and won the WHC from the Big Show, but it bombed so badly that he went back to being a heel shortly afterwards. Del Rio would be barely an afterthought for the next year, ultimately being released after getting into a fight with a backstage worker. Del Rio was able to redeem himself the year afterwards thanks to his work in Lucha Underground and AAA as "El Patron", and eventually returned to WWE in 2015, winning the United States championship from John Cena and getting a massive pop from the crowd. But not even a day after his return, all the work he did to repair his battered image was completely undone, as the fans quickly reverted to showing nothing but apathy towards him. His involvement with the League of Nations (mentioned above in Sheamus' section) and dating Paige (see her entry above) only made things worse. Much like Sheamus, Alberto Del Rio is seen by fans as an example of an overhyped heel who failed to make any lasting impact and reeked of mediocrity, and few people will admit to having ever liked him.
Specific Tag Teams and Stables
- When The Nexus made their debut on the June 7, 2010 episode of RAW, they quickly became one of the hottest stables in wrestling history. The concept of seven little-known wrestlers and independent wrestling superstar Bryan Danielson (a.k.a. Daniel Bryan) formed from the ashes of a fake competition. For the next six months, the Nexus had a high-profile feud with John Cena. Unfortunately, that's where it all went wrong. Their first big Marquee event was at SummerSlam 2010, where they took on Cena and his own assembled seven-man team, including Bret Hart and the long anticipated return of Daniel Bryan. Unfortunately, they were quickly fed to Cena's team. After that, the Nexus angle decayed, turning into essentially a one-sided feud for Cena. Even when Cena was forced into servitude for Barrett and temporarily "fired" from WWE, he never showed any real signs of weakness. By that point, most Smarks were rooting for Nexus to win the feud and hopefully regain the momentum they lost. After Cena beat Barrett in a glorified squash "chair" match at TLC, their popularity plummeted and they were written off as another wasted storyline.
It only got worse from there. Shortly after the loss, the Nexus was taken over by CM Punk, who was doing commentary at the time and staged an attack on John Cena. Fans were initially ecstatic, as they felt that Punk would be the "savior" of the Nexus, and he would be able to right all the wrongs the group had suffered under Barrett's command. Not only did that not happen, but the redubbed "New Nexus" were buried even harder than the old one was. Punk got into a feud with Randy Orton that so unevenly favored Orton that it made the Cena-Barrett feud look competitive in comparison. Not helping is that the underlings were far less competent under Punk than they were under Barrett. Speaking of which, Barrett and two ex-Nexus members moved to SmackDown and formed the Corre with Ezekiel Jackson. Although they claimed to be a group of equals, it was blatantly obvious that Barrett was still the leader. Although it at first looked that they would capture the success that eluded the New Nexus, their booking started to go on a downward spiral culminating in a 2-minute loss at WrestleMania 27 to a stable that included, of all people, Santino Marella. Fans gave up on both stables afterwards, and by that summer they had all gone their separate ways.
Only further eroding the Nexus' legacy was the fact that the post-stable careers of most of its members amounted to nothing:
- Justin Gabriel found himself stuck in midcard hell and later be put in a bunny suit until he eventually quit for Lucha Underground.
- David Otunga slowly faded into a non-wrestling role before replacing Alex Riley as host of the Raw Pre-show and working on the side in WWE's legal department. He didn't resurface on live TV until 2016 on Smackdown to at first replace Jerry Lawler during his arrest for a domestic dispute and then permanently after the 2016 draft. Currently his announcing abilities have been described as awful.
- Mason Ryan only appeared infrequently on internet-exclusive C-shows and the NXT developmental and got one very short-lived angle with Dolph Ziggler before being released in 2014 (coincidentally, only a few months after the wrestler he's often compared to made his return after a four-year absence).
- Michael Tarver only appeared in the background of several backstage segments before leaving the company.
Many of those who did start off hot either crashed and burned or took much longer to find success:
- Wade Barrett who has been given numerous main event opportunities that failed to materialize into anything due to either injury or having the rug pulled out from under him (his "Bad News Barrett" gimmick became hugely popular with the internet, but he had this taken from him before anything came of it and left the company in May 2016).
- Ryback, the former Skip Sheffield who was repackaged into a Goldberg-clone, only to fall down the card after being desperately pushed into a WWE Title Match against CM Punk after John Cena got hurt; as of May 2016 he was taken completely off TV due to contract disputes and left the company in August 2016.
- Michael McGillicutty, repackaged as Curtis Axel whose association with Paul Heyman got him a quick ascent to the Intercontinental Title was later undermined by very weak booking against Punk. He and Ryback later formed a tag team afterwards which gained zero momentum for either of them. As of 2016, Curtis is largely used as a jobber where before the 2016 draft he was a part of the Social Outcast stable before going solo after being drafted to Raw.
- Darren Young is a slightly different case as he was in a popular tag team (which split up for no reason whatsoever by the time Survivor Series 2015 rolled around), gained minor fame as being the only openly gay Superstar on the active roster, and is currently being managed by Bob Backland though he spent much of late 2015 and early 2016 wasting away on the C-Shows while his partner Titus got a push only to have the push killed due to an altercation with Vince. Since gaining Backland as a "life coach", Darren was able to win an opportunity to challenge The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship at the 2016 Battleground (though failed to win) and has gotten somewhat popular due to improving on the mic and his wrestling ability.
- Heath Slater was quickly demoted to being a comedy jobber and leader of the Three MB and Social Outcast stables, though gained Ensemble Darkhorse status due to being a great worker and very charismatic. After a return of the Brand Split in 2016, he was given a Free Agent gimmick and was left as the only Superstar undrafted that wasn't injured or a part timer. This angle played well into his natural charisma, him getting in matches with Main-Eventers such as Randy Orton and Brock Lesnar (and The Beast actually took the time to talk to him, something that none of Lesnar's previous opponents could do), and his desire to be signed only to somehow lose the opportunity to sign a contract one way or another has gotten him hugely over with the fans to the point that on the 8/16/16 Smackdown Live, he was able to get heat on Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon, the two most popular authority figures of the New Era because they wouldn't give him a contract. He got popular to the point where he and Rhyno defeated the newly heel Usos at the 2016 Blacklash PPV to become the inaugural Smack Down Tag Team Champions to a huge ovation.
Only two members' careers (excluding the already established John Cena and CM Punk) came out unscathed: Daniel Bryan, who quickly became a fan favorite and one of the most popular wrestlers in WWE history — and the only member of the group to ever held a world title, and Husky Harris, who was repackaged into Bray Wyatt and formed his own terrorizing stable, The Wyatt Family, becoming one of the hottest heel acts in years. Even then, Bryan's long career of injuries finally caught up to him and had to retire in February 2016, and Wyatt has been continually had his chain yanked whenever it seems like he'll finally be pushed.
The final nail in the coffin to the Nexus' legacy was The Shield. Like the Nexus, the Shield was a group of vigilantes formed by a group of wrestlers from NXT, albeit this time the developmental brand incarnation rather than the competition. That being said, the Shield left a much longer legacy, largely because of better booking. The Shield's line up (Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns) remained the same throughout its entire lifespan, and the group never went lower than upper-midcard status. They were also much more strongly booked, having fewer losses and even engaging in a mini-feud with The Undertaker, to the point that they were able to turn face before their breakup. And speaking of the breakup, their split was done in one of the most high-profile and memorable angles in WWE history, rather than quietly breaking up in irrelevancy. Last, but not least, all three of the Shield's members enjoyed post break-up success (Rollins winning Money in the Bank and successfully cashing it in at WrestleMania; Reigns won the Royal Rumble, became a three-time WWE Champion, and wrestled two WrestleMania main events — despite his popularity with the fans rapidly plummeting afterwards; and, Ambrose became the most popular wrestler on the roster not named Daniel Bryan, winning the IC Title, having stellar programs with other wrestlers such as Kevin Owens, and eventually winning Money in the Bank and becoming the second man, after Kane in 2010, to cash it in on the same night to become world champion, to easily one of the loudest pops heard all year). With the Shield being a rare stable in which all of its members won the title (with all three of them holding it within three minutes of each other the night Ambrose won) and fans now stating that they corrected everything that went wrong with Nexus, the latter group is barely seen as a footnote in WWE history and essentially a prime example of how something red-hot can fizzle out rapidly if not booked correctly.
- The nWo Wolfpac (a rebel faction that split from the New World Order) sold so much merchandise and became so popular that management made them a babyface stable. Their popularity arguably exceeded that of the original nWo. During the Kevin Nash vs. Goldberg World Championship match at Starrcade 1998, the commentators had to no-sell very audible "Goldberg sucks!" chants, and the audience cheered loudly when Nash won the belt and ended Goldberg's undefeated streak after interference from Scott Hall and a taser! However, the Fingerpoke Of Doom killed any popularity that the Wolfpac had and they are more often than not stated to be stale and a ratings drain in the retellings.
- The Ascension were booked as monsters in NXT and got incredibly over by destroying other teams. When they were brought up to the main roster, they were given a lame Road Warrior knockoff gimmick and continually compared themselves to teams from the 1980s (most of which were Deader Than Disco as well), JBL constantly buried them on commentary despite being the Heel announcer, and were generally used as jobbers. They were then stuck as Stardust's Elite Mooks during his feud with Neville and Konnor was also suspended for a second Wellness Policy violation at the same time as Adam Rose leaving both men in the dark with no signs of going anywhere up the card.
- The Hardy Boyz were some of the biggest stars of the Attitude Era. Known for their extreme high spots and natural likeability, they managed to be popular with most fans. They along with Lita were some of the most recognizable faces from 2000-2002. Jeff was considered the potential breakout star of the group and indeed became World Heavyweight Champion three times. But his rampant drug problems saw him getting released from WWE twice, and TNA hiring him while he was facing drug trafficking charges didn't help matters. The low point for Jeff was a PPV main event against Sting where he stumbled out visibly high and had to be pinned quickly in a minute for his own safety. Matt looked to have a respectable singles career when the team split in 2002, adopting a 'Version 1' gimmick that proved quite popular. The gimmick was inexplicably dropped, and his career took a nosedive after a real life scandal involving Lita having an affair with Edge - which was turned into a storyline where Matt went off script and wished that the two die in a car crash. He instead became a target of ridicule for his increasingly bizarre Youtube videos and perpetually pudgy physiquenote . His low point came when he faked a suicide note. Although both brothers have attempted to work off the heat, they're both better known for their personal problems than their in-ring achievements these days. Lita has avoided this, as she managed to have a successful solo career in the women's division. She suffered real life heat due to the above-mentioned affair scandal, and had to leave WWE within a year over fan harassment. But the heat died down and moved over to Matt, and she was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014 - and has continued to work with WWE as an ambassador since.