The first edition of our Job Opportunities column took a look back at 10 of WWE’s most memorable losers who’d go on to become huge stars in professional wrestling. After a week dipping into the fountain of youth that is World Championship Wrestling, we decided to go back to WWE and explore the lush history of the Worldwide Leader in Enhancement Entertainment.
So, as promised, here are ten more faces you would’ve never guessed would become some of the biggest stars in pro wrestling and sports-entertainment. If you dig these columns and want to see them continues — and lord knows they can — drop down into our comments section to let us know, and to share in the conversation about the sports of kings’ most unsung heroes. At some point we’ll get to, “memorable losers who never became big stars,” and you might see your friend’s uncle in here.
Up first this week is Keith Davis, a young Vanilla Ice approximation from Fayetteville, North Carolina, with the unlucky job of wrestling Razor Ramon. If Davis’ unique brand of looking like he’s about to die during every move looks familiar, that’s because he’d eventually come into his own as Cameron North Carolina’s own Jeff Hardy, future 3-time World Champion — 6-time if you count TNA, and 7-time if you count OMEGA — and legendary tag team specialist.
In case you didn’t notice, that’s him and his brother opening the swinging doors at King of the Ring 1995 at the top of the post. That’s a beautiful WWE career trajectory, isn’t it? From opening doors for Ahmed Johnson to being a 9-time Tag Team Champion.
Jeff’s brother Matt never got a generic Candyman-adjace jobber name like, “Keith Davis,” so I’m sure he looked and acted completely normal. Let me take a long sip of coffee while I scroll down to the next picture, where I’ll-
Young Matt Hardy is an absolute riot. If you watch any of the “before they were stars” videos about the Hardys from when they were little wrestling fans or backyard wrestlers or local indie wrestling entrepreneurs — around the time when Matt was calling himself “High Voltage,” which would eventually be ruthlessly lifted from his demo tape for a terrible tag team … yes, WCW could’ve had Matt and Jeff Hardy instead of Robbie Rage and Kenny Kaos — Matt was OBSESSED with this old-timey wrestler muscle pose that made him look swoll. He LOVES IT.
Here’s a quick comparison shot of him from his Raw debut against an enslaved Nikolai Volkoff for comparison.
Note: Ted Dibiase putting a ¢ on Volkoff’s trunks instead of a $ is one of the great low-key classist burns of all time.
I won’t try to pull the “guess who this is” bit, because there’s only one person in the history of wrestling who looks like this, but yeah, long before he was Syxx of the nWo or X-Pac of D-Generation X, site favorite Sean Waltman was making his Raw debut as the “Kamikaze Kid.” By the time he steps into the ring with Razor Ramon they’re just calling him “The Kid,” and when he scores what’s still the biggest upset in Raw history (non-Santino Marella division), he earns the “1-2-3” before it.
Sadly the “Club Kamikaze” from Raw a few years later wouldn’t get the same nomenclature change, and would become “Kaientai” instead of the far superior 1-2-3 CLUB. It’s either the best faction ever, or where Dick Tracy arrests a mathematician gangster.
Mike Dalton And CJ Parker
Here’s a two-for-one from the earliest days of NXT at Full Sail.
If you followed NXT before it got wildly popular, you got to know the future New Japan Pro Wrestling star Juice Robinson as CJ Parker, an average, nondescript guy named after Pamela Anderson’s character from Baywatch. He’d finally make a dent in the ecosystem of NXT by growing out his hair, wearing it in dreadlocks, and stanning for the environment. Now he’s a gaijin heartthrob who loves to say curse words to the camera whether he wins or loses!
Mike Dalton is also pretty recognizable as the mild-mannered Canadian who’d transform himself into Tyler Breeze, arguably NXT’s first truly great character who combined a love of fashion with having watched Zoolander too many times and being trained by Lance Storm. It’s a way better combination than you’d expect.
Did You Know?: Before joining the UFC, little known Chicago-area wrestler Chick Magnet Punk appeared on an episode of Sunday Night Heat to lose to the older, balder version of Val Venis! Crazy, right?
But yeah, nine days before the “Summer of Punk” would transform him from independent wrestling favorite to cult hero, CM Punk stopped by Stevie Richards’ Sunday night WWE brand. You can watch it here, if you’ve never seen it. Punk would have some false starts after signing, showing up with Mickie James as his manager and using a guillotine leg drop as his finisher, but would eventually find his feet in the WWE version of ECW. From there he just leaned into his Straight Edge lifestyle, spent a little time as a cult leader, and then rose to a 434-day WWE Championship reign as the leader of a Cult of Personality.
Val Venis grows weed now, so he’s also doing pretty well for himself, by the way.
Four years before Punk popped up on Heat, Punk’s greatest ROH rival, Samoa Joe, made an appearance on a 2001 episode of Jakked. He takes on Essa Rios, which you can see here, and looks way more like Kazuchika Okada than SAMOA JOE. Joe with blonde hair is a lost treasure.
Incredibly, despite being widely known as one of the best wrestlers in the world for most of the mid-2000s (and a successful run in TNA, including a top-tier feud with Kurt Angle), Joe wouldn’t make it onto WWE branded television again until 2015’s NXT TakeOver Unstoppable, and wouldn’t debut on ACTUAL WWE TV until January of 2017.
Kenny Omega might’ve shown up to AEW’s Fyter Fest dressed like Akuma, but here he is in WWE’s old Deep South Wrestling developmental promotion looking more like Dan.
While Omega was never really a “jobber” in the classic definition of the term, he certainly lost more matches in DSW than he won to a number of future big WWE names like Matt Striker, Vladimir Kozlov, and Eric Escobar. Who needs Kenny Omega on a roster, anyway? You’ve got ERIC ESCOBAR to call up!
It took beloved veteran Mercedes Martinez 17 years to make it onto WWE TV proper as a competitor in the 2018 Mae Young Classic (where she took on fellow Job Opportunities star Meiko Satomura) but she showed up much earlier on job duty in this Sunday Night Heat bout against Victoria.
As an added “before they were stars” bonus, listen for Nicki Minaj during Victoria’s entrance theme. Yes, that’s actually her alongside The Hood$tars. Between Nicki and t.A.T.u., Victoria was the original musical hipster of WWE.
Sure, we mentioned AJ Styles’ appearances in the final days of WCW in the WCW edition of Job Opportunities, but no discussion of pre-TNA AJ Styles is complete without mentioning his random appearances on job duty in the World Wrestling Federation.
His most famous appearance is against The Hurricane on an early 2002 episode of Jakked, but you can also find footage of his 2001 tryout dark match against Rick Michaels online. WWF said “we don’t want none” at the time, but eventually Styles realized they were just looking scared, cause they don’t really want none.
Saving the best for last, here’s RUDY RUDE, the noise Scooby-Doo makes when he’s celebrating. Here’s a link to his match with Perry Saturn from 2001 if you’d like to see him get his Rudy Rude candy ass kicked. Isn’t “Rudy Rude” what the No Limit Soldiers shouted?
Rudy would get a few more chances as enhancement talent on WWE TV, and each time they’d get a little closer to getting his name right. Eventually he became “Bobby Rood,” like Bobby gave birth to a kangaroo baby in the past tense, and later he’d team with future Sanity leader Eric Young — identified jokingly as “Sting’s younger brother” because of his hair — as “Bobby Rude.” A year or several of killing it in TNA helped them settle on “Robert Roode,” and then Bobby Roode, and then Robert again. Fingers crossed he resurfaces on Raw one of these days as RUDY ROODE.
That’s it for this week’s look back at some of WWE’s most memorable losers (who became major winners), so remember: anything is possible, and that really terrible guy losing to Val Venis on Heat might end up being the post-Bryan Danielson, pre-Shane McMahon Best in the World one day. Meet them and hype them up now, when it won’t cost you more than ten bucks.