Welcome to another edition of THE FIVE COUNT, my semi-regular column where I countdown five places, people, or moments in professional wrestling history. Today is quite a dandy. Over the years, lists of the greatest WWE wrestlers have been counted down numerous times. We’ve marveled over the amazing accomplishments of the greatest superstars over the past fifty odd years of World Wrestling Entertainment. We aren’t going to be talking about those guys today. We are going to be talking about the guys that, at one point, Vince McMahon (or somebody high up in Titan Towers) THOUGHT would be amongst Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, and The Rock on the list of greatest stars of all time but fell widely off the mark. Yes, it’s time to discuss the Biggest Busts in World Wrestling Entertainment history and we’re going to start with a guy whose entire WWE career you might have missed if you ran into the kitchen to grab a soda during a commercial break for Smackdown!
5. Hade Vansen
(December 2008 to January 2009)
On the December 12th, 2008 edition of WWE Smackdown!, a mysterious figure named Hade Vansen emerged, threatening to take down The Undertaker. Vansen said he was was going to lead a series of oddballs and freaks to take down the WWE’s beloved Deadman. According to interviews with Vansen after his release of WWE, the culmination of this storyline was supposed to be The Undertaker squaring off with Vansen at WrestleMania XXV. However, just as soon as he arrived, he was gone. After one vignette, the angle was dropped quietly. And only four weeks after he made his auspicious debut, Vansen was flat out released from WWE with little rhyme or reason. Truly, a one hit (?) wonder. Some say that the Vansen-Taker program was dropped because Vince McMahon thought Vansen was too small. It’s hard to judge a character based on one ninety second promo but it seemed like Vansen’s promo style seemed to borrow all the worst qualities of Wade Barrett’s interview style and Christopher Daniels’ “Fallen Angel” persona. And the proposed storyline with a parade of circus freaks trying to take down Undertaker sounds like something Taker might do… when it was 1994 and he was still trying to prove himself as a big name in the WWF. But it’s not exactly the storyline for him in the revered, living legend stage of his career he was already at in 2009.
Either way, Vansen’s quick dismissal from the company seemed to work out best for all involved. Even if he had actually gotten in the ring and competed against The Undertaker, who’s to say the storylines would have fared better than any number of forgettable feuds the Undertaker was involved in during the mid ’00s (Heidenreich, Luther Reigns, slumming Dudley Boyz, and Voodoo using Booker T)? Vansen works today as an actor in Los Angeles and the guy who replaced him as The Undertaker’s opponent at WrestleMania XXV? None other than Shawn Michaels. I think that ended up being a pretty good match, if I recall correctly.
4. Kenzo Suzuki
(June 2004 to July 2005)
#4 on our list probably had the most successful career and is actually the only one to have any sort of marginally successful career in wrestling after his WWE days. By normal mid ’00s, forgettable WWE mid-carders standards, Suzuku had an OK albeit short run in the company. He had a three month run with the WWE Tag Team Championship and got to have brief feuds with John Cena, Rey Mysterio, and Rob Van Dam. He even got to compete in a Royal Rumble which is way more than anybody else on this list can say. The reason why he’s on the list is for what he was supposed to do when he came to WWE in 2004. Kenzo Suzuki was suppposed to debut as Hirohito, an Anti-American Japanese patriot out for revenge. And if rumors are to believed, he was supposed to face Chris Benoit for the World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam 2004 and some say, might have been penciled in to win the damn thing. Instead, a minor furor broke out over the proposed character and Suzuki’s gimmick was retooled to become a slightly less offensive Japanese stereotype. When he debuted in the Summer of 2004, instead of going against the World Champ, he went against Billy Gunn.
Tag Team Titles run aside, Suzuki didn’t do much of note in WWE other than to prove to a 16 year old Connor McGrath that just because a wrestler was Japanese that doesn’t automatically make him more exciting than your average American wrestler (I guess 16 year old me was as racist as Vince McMahon in his own way!). Suzuki suffered an injury in early 2005 and was sent back to development for more seasoning and then (noticing a theme here) got released a few months later. Suzuki went back to his native Japan where he’s become a fairly successful star in All Japan Pro Wrestling. Meanwhile, the guy who DID end up beating Future Murderous Psychopath Chris Benoit? That would be a 24 year old Randy Orton. So if you hated watching Randy Orton vs. John Cena at the Royal Rumble the other night and wondering who to blame for that match then you could very, very indirectly (and probably unjustifiably) blame poor Kenzo Suzuki!
3. Nathan Jones
(March to December 2003)
With the exception of Hade Vansen and Kenzo, everybody on this list had a million dollar body and twenty five cents skills. That certainly rings true for #3 on our list, “The Colossus of Boggo Road” Nathan Jones. Jones debuted in the build up to WrestleMania XIX as the protege of the Undertaker (debuting in storylines involving Taker also seems like a common theme here…) in his battle against The Big Show and A-Train. Jones was scheduled to debut on the biggest stage in wrestling as Undertaker’s partner against Show and A-Train. However, at the eleventh hour, it was decided that Jones didn’t have enough in-ring experience to compete on the Biggest Stage in Wrestling, and he was taken out (in storyline) by The Full Blooded Italians before the match. Jones ended up briefly feuding with The FBI before being sent down to WWE’s then development territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling for seasoning.
Jones returned as a monster heel in November 2003, with a gimmick based on his legit past as a man who served seven years in Australia’s most notorious prison, Boggo Road Gaol, for armed robbery. He was immediately placed as a protege of another one of the greatest bad asses in WWE history, Brock Lesnar. Jones also had one of the greatest talkers in wrestling history, Paul Heyman as his mouthpiece. But even all of that couldn’t hide the fact that Jones could barely walk across the ring without tripping over his shoelaces. He was truly one of the worst wrestlers I’ve ever seen lace up the boots. Even if he showed up in Wrestling On Fire (check out my reviews every Monday morning!), he’d stand out as woefully subpar. Tired of the rigors of the road, Jones quit the WWE at the end of ’03. It was a merciful end to a career that was the definition of “all sizzle, no steak.” Jones has found a calling as a tough guy bit actor in action movies and Heyman, Lesnar, and Undertaker have all made us forget that they were ever associated with Nathan Jones.
(November 1996 to July 1998)
Brakkus might be the best example of being the wrong guy at the wrong place at the wrong time. A former bodybuilding champion, the monstrous German was trained by Dr. Tom Prichard and “The Best There Ever Is, The Best There Ever Was, The Best There Ever Will Be” himself, Bret Hart. His classmates in wrestling school? None other than future World Champions Mark Henry and The Rock. I don’t think there was a doubt in Vince McMahon’s mind that Brakkus would become a Future World Champ like his wrestling school compadres. But a funny thing happened while Brakkus was learning the ropes… the Attitude Era began. Ten years earlier (and perhaps even ten years later), a lumbering, monosyllabic German behemoth might have had a shot at becoming a big time player in the World Wrestling Federation. However, in the hard hitting, hard spoken Attitude era, he was scheiße out of luck. It also didn’t help that Brakkus didn’t seem like a particularly good (or even serviceable) worker despite his impressive wrestling school pedigree.
(Speaking of Pedigrees…)
After a debut vignette, where he threatened WWF stars Vader and then reigning King of The Ring, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, McMahon sent Brakkus down to the minors. He had a run in the USWA, where he was inexplicably part of their bizarro world version of the Nation of Domination and then had a somewhat memorable feud with Taz in ECW. Brakkus finally made his in-ring debut in July 1998 as part of the infamous toughman competition, Brawl For It All. According to his first round opponent, Savio Vega, Brakkus was unaware that the contest wasn’t worked until moments before the bout. Needless to say, Vega won the first round match on points, giving Brakkus a bloody nose in the process. A few weeks later, Brakkus squashed Savio’s Los Boricuas ese, Jesus Castillo but by then it was too little, too late for Brakkus’ WWF career. He was released from WWF and retired not long after.
1. Tom Magee
(October 1986 to August 1989)
If there was ever a case of a can’t miss prospect in the WWF who missed and missed pretty widely then it’s Tom Magee. Like Brakkus, Magee arrived in the wrestling world with some famous proteges. Magee trained under one of the greatest wrestling trainers of all time, Stu Hart in the infamous Hart Dungeon. Magee was a championship strongman, winning Canada’s Strongest Man Competition three times, and being the runner up in the 1982 World’s Strongest Man Competition. Magee was an Adonis (Greek God not Adrian) with rock star looks and that had promoters all over the world salivating. Not only that but he had incredible agility for a man that was 6’4″ and 275 pounds. He made his debut on February 22nd, 1986, not in a smoky bingo hall or mostly empty rec building, but in the main event of an All Japan Pro Wrestling show against one of Japan’s biggest stars, Riki Choshu. Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer marveled that Magee, “was the greatest combination of strength and agility the business had ever seen.” This was all after only his first match! The legend of Magee’s combination of power and agility spread across the wrestling world and in 1986, he was named Runner Up for PWI’s Rookie of the Year behind Lex Luger.
Seven months after his in ring debut, Magee auditioned for the mighty World Wrestling Federation at a television taping in Rochester, New York. His opponent that night was none other than Stu Hart’s son, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, already an established mid-card heel. The fact that Magee was paired against Hart (a guy who was about to win the WWF Tag Team titles) rather than a jobber barely clinging to his own job speaks volumes. Hart wisely told Magee to give him his three best moves and he’d lead the way. Magee impressed the crowd right away by doing a backflip into the ring and landing on his feet. Magee and Hart produced a match so good that it stole the show and became a part of folklore as one of the greatest matches you’ve never seen. Backstage, Vince McMahon and his right hand man Pat Patterson gushed in excitement over Magee, thinking they had found the WWF’s star of the ’90s (in actuality, I guess the star of the ’90s might have been in that match but it was Magee’s opponent!) . McMahon allegedly claimed repeatedly, “That’s my next world champion!” about Magee. He was immediately signed to a WWF contract.
Even the most hardcore WWF fans must be wondering by now, “Well, how come I don’t even remember this guy! I don’t remember seeing him at all.” That’s because the now dubbed Mega Man Magee never even really got out of the starting gate. Upon being signed, he was sent to work on the C-Level house show circuit touring high schools and armories (outside of the spotlight of the bigger shows starring Hogan, Andre, and Macho Man, et al), with veteran workhorses like Terry Gibbs and Iron Mike Sharpe. It didn’t take long to realize that underneath the spectacular surface, there was very little there with Mega Man . Magee’s offense looked awkward and unrealistic. He may have had amazing agility but he looked awkward moving around a wrestling ring and he sold his opponent’s offense about as well as Leonard Nimoy Sings Supertramp.
By the middle of ’87, it was clear that Magee wasn’t quite the star of the future that McMahon envisioned. Dave Meltzer said Tom Magee might have been the one instance of a guy getting worse as he got more experience in the wrestling ring. A long haired, eccentric young musclehead out of Texas calling himself “The Dingo Warrior” replaced Mega Man Magee as the diamond in Vince McMahon’s eye. Mega Man Magee somehow bounced around WWF, off and on, for two and a half more years. He never rose above the opening match on the third tier house shows. By the end of his WWF run in the summer of 1989, Magee was even losing to the likes of Barry Horowitz and Jim Powers, the type of wrestler who’d originally been assigned to make Magee look good.
By the time Magee left WWF, the now named Ultimate Warrior was well on his way to becoming a WWF World Champion and getting a future WWE Hall of Fame induction. Mega Man, like a few other dudes on this list, went on to appear in minor roles in a couple of B action movies. Most notably appearing in one of the worst (greatest) action movies of the ’90s, Stone Cold, duking it out with “The Boz” Brian Bosworth. He then went back into the much more welcoming world of bodybuilding, where he works as a personal trainer at the world famous Golds Gym in Venice Beach, California (right near the boardwalk, brother). Mega Man Magee might have fell into relative obscurity but he’ll forever be remembered by hardcore wrestling fans of the ’80s as the guy who came out of nowhere to become “The Next Hulk Hogan” only to drop off the radar just as quickly.
Next Time on The Five Count… We’ve seen many countdown of the greatest moments in WrestleMania but we’re going to give you a countdown of the Five Greatest Moments in the history of the monthly PPV before WrestleMania over the past eighteen years. It’s The Five Best Moments of WWE’s February PPVs!