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It is common in fiction and reality alike for people to start off with a partner in their professional environment. This can range from perfectly normal careers, to working in stuff like tag-teams and superhero teams -- perfectly normal regardless of situation.

The problem, though, is that teams often do not stay together. Further, reality dictates that teammates cannot always share their successes after they split ways. When some of the members become notably more successful after the group dissolves while the others languish, that's a Breakup Breakout. This can be because one member is the Garfunkel, but not necessarily.

This trope is very common in music, and in professional wrestling. See also The Band Minus the Face, Breakout Character, More Popular Spinoff and Ensemble Darkhorse. Contrast with The Pete Best, which is when the left-in-the-lurch character was never closely affiliated with the soon-to-be-famous group to begin with.

Examples of Breakup Breakout include:


Advertising

  • Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal once featured three chefs on the box without much of an identity. At some point, two of the chefs were removed and the third was given a name (Wendell) and started playing a much bigger role in ads for the cereal.


Comic Books

  • Rather common in superhero teams:
    • Watchmen, arguably - Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian are government employees with a public presence, while the other former Crimebusters are unemployed, eager to reconnect with their old identities, and, in the case of Rorschach, a serial killer.
    • There's the X-Men, and then there's Wolverine.
      • Arguably this is a bit backwards as Wolverine started off as a solo character in the Hulk and most the major lifting into making him a more fleshed out character happened in the X books; without that he may have very well end up on the scrapheap.
    • Spider-Man in the last issue of Amazing Fantasy. To the extent he more or less saved the company.
    • Really, name a group whose members stick around after breaking up. One of them will probably be a big (or at least B-list) star, many of the others will languish in obscurity.
  • Part of Sidekick Graduations Stick: The sidekick becomes their own hero. At least in theory. Batman's original Robin may be an in universe example as more people trust Nightwing than they do Batman.
  • Regarding the Ultimate Fantastic Four, the Human Torch. Since the team's breakup in the Ultimatum event, Johnny's the only one to have a regular presence in the Ultimate Universe; first as a supporting character in Ultimate Spider-Man and now in Ultimate X-Men.


Comedy

  • George Carlin and Jack Burns started out as a pretty raunchy duo, but Carlin went onto superstardom after their breakup and Burns only went to mere stardom.
  • The Japanese comedy duo Honjamaka originally started as a troupe of about 10 or 11 comedians, but they only became famous after everybody left except the current two members (Ishizuka Hidehiko and Megumi Toshiaki). On top of that, they both have strong individual careers.
  • Rob Riggle and Rob Huebel was a Kansas City-based comedy duo who tried out for Saturday Night Live. Riggle got picked and despite leaving after one season, has had a strong acting career since then. Meanwhile, Heubel only seems to appear in the occasional short-lived sitcom.
    • It happened again to Heubel several years later when he got his biggest break to date as a member of the comedy troupe Human Giant featuring himself, Paul Scheer and Aziz Ansari. The show was critically acclaimed and all three got decent popularity as equals, but the show went on hiatus in 2008. Since then Scheer and Heubel have done well for themselves, but Ansari's popularity exploded after appearing in the film Funny People, the success of his comedy records and his role on Parks and Recreation.


Computers

  • Averted with Steve Jobs and Apple. Jobs left Apple in '85 after a power struggle, bought Pixar, and founded his own computer company. Apple, on the other hand, went on to have success with the Macintosh, but started floundering. But just as it was about to slip into this trope, Apple bought Steve Jobs' computer company. Jobs was then reinstated as CEO, and Apple made its comeback.
    • Played straight, however, between Steve Jobs and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Wozniak has his reputation as a jovial geek icon and oodles of Apple stock to fall back on, but he had nothing to do with the company's late 90's resurgence.


Film

  • Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were considered this for a while. Used to be that the two of them appeared together in everything - then, each going solo, Matt Damon got the Ocean's Eleven and Bourne series. Affleck landed lead roles in a number of major films, but his career never reached quite the height of Damon's. However, he's recently gone a different route by directing critically the acclaimed movies Gone Baby Gone and The Town.
  • This gets spoofed in the movie Music and Lyrics, with Hugh Grant's character being the Andrew Ridgeley of the Wham!-like band.
  • An interesting case for the main ladies of Mean Girls. After the movie, Lindsay Lohan looked like she was poised for superstardom...but things did not turn out that way and she's been struggling for roles ever since. The other ladies however did well for themselves. Lacey Chabert got into a really nice voice acting gig -- that she later dropped, Rachel McAdams managed to get into Sherlock Holmes, and Amanda Seyfried is currently the media's darling.
  • The 1928 film Our Dancing Daughters (and its two successive entries, Our Modern Maidens and Our Blushing Brides, which formed a loose trilogy) paired Anita Page, an actress with an impressive pedigree and a burgeoning career, with an up-and-coming actress who MGM had taken a liking to. The end result was that Page got upstaged by her co-star (who used the role as a launching pad to greater fame), MGM canned her three years later (despite starring in the first film with sound to win an Academy Award for Best Picture), and she more or less disappeared from acting altogether until the early 90's, whereas her co-star, Joan Crawford, went on to become a superstar.
  • Ted Healy decided to split from his back-up comedy players. Healy faded into obscurity. Not so for The Three Stooges.


Live Action TV

  • Since Fresh Prince of Bel Air went off the air the show's star Will Smith moved on to have a really successful hollywood career. His fellow cast members on the other hand seem to haven't done much or have done anything as successful as Will has done.
  • Even The Muppets have an example of this: The short-lived Muppets Tonight introduced the comedy team of Pepe (a prawn) and Seymour (an elephant). Pepe has since gone on to appear in many later Muppet projects, while Seymour vanished without a trace.
    • An earlier example can be fond to, Miss Piggy, she gained fame quickly, even though she was originally meant to be a minor character next to Rowlf alongside Janice in the Veterinarian's Hospital sketches. While the latter two have made a comeback in recent years, it is still surprising to learn Piggy was never thought of as a major character in the beginning.
  • A common theme for Nickelodeon series with young cast members:
    • Are You Afraid of the Dark? was rebooted in the late 90's, and brought back most of the Midnight Society members from the original series. However, one of the "new" society members was played by a little-known actress named Elisha Cuthbert, who shot to stardom two years later after being cast in 24. The rest of the group never achieved the same level of stardom as she did (although a couple of the cast members were able to make a servicable career out of bit parts and supporting character roles).
    • Of the teen cast members who starred on the 90's series Hey, Dude!, only Christine Taylor (who played Melody) and David Lascher (who played Ted McGriff) had anything close to successful careers. Taylor is arguably more well-known because of her marriage to Ben Stiller and her steady stream of work over the years, while Lascher disappeared during the 2000's after starring in supporting roles in a handful of teen series (Blossom, Sabrina the Teenage Witch). The rest of the Hey Dude cast, whether by choice or limitations, never acted again in any professional capacity.
    • Space Cases. Of the main cast, only Jewel Staite (who played Catalina in the first season) went on to become a greater star (via her roles in Firefly and Stargate Atlantis) after the show finished. Walter Jones (of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers fame) was relegated to bit parts and one-off appearances in various series, and the rest of the cast never bothered to do much after the series ended.
    • Kenan and Kel. Since the end of the show, Kenan has gone on to join Saturday Night Live and has been a few moderately successful films. Kel hasn't done so much.
    • From the cast of Salute Your Shorts only Blake Sennett (credited as "Blake Soper") and Christine Cavanaugh had any major notoriety after the show ended. Sennett became a musician and was the co-lead vocalist and guitarist for the indie rock band Rilo Kiley. Cavanaugh became a well known voice actor, performing the voices of lead characters for Rugrats and Dexter's Laboratory, among others.
  • In Living Color was an incredibly successful FOX series that launched the careers of several African-American celebrities (including the Wayans brothers, Tommy Davidson, Jamie Foxx and David Alan Grier) who went on to decent (if spotty) careers in film and television. Yet, the two most successful cast members who emerged from the series were a nerdy white guy with a knack for impressions and a backup dancer who left after the third season.
  • Degrassi the Next Generation, for all its controversial storylines and Long Runner status, is more well-known for being a launchpad for Aubrey Graham (a.k.a. Drake) than anything else. The only other cast member to make any impact was Shenae Grimes, who landed on The CW's reboot of Beverly Hills, 90210 after her time on Degrassi ended.


Music

 Milton: Now, let me make you an offer. You tell me everything you know, and I'll make sure you get a new identity and start your life over, while the other two get put away and never heard of again.

  • hide and Pata. In the mid 1980s, hide was the guitarist of Yokosuka Saber Tiger and about to retire to a career of hairdresser work. Pata led his own band, Judy. A little band called X needed a couple of guitarists, owing to their session guitarists having left. The rest can be considered Visual Kei history.
  • Averted by Crosby Stills & Nash after Neil Young left. All four of them did this with their previous groups to varying extents (Stills and Young with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby with The Byrds, Nash with The Hollies).
  • Justin Timberlake and N'Sync. After he split from the group, Timberlake went on a decade-plus long rise that hasn't shown any signs of slowing down, with him parlaying his fame into notable guest spots on various shows, investments in tech startups, movies and platinum-selling CD's. Lance Bass became known for being gay and wanting to participate in a space program. JC Chavez's solo career went nowhere. The rest of the members were relegated to appearances on D-list celebrity dancing competitions.
  • Inverted in the case of Rage Against the Machine; Zack de la Rocha left and had one minor single, while the rest of the band got together with Chris Cornell and formed Audioslave, which proved almost as popular as their previous gig. Played perfectly straight with Chris Cornell and Soundgarden, however.
  • The Chad Mitchell Trio had only one real breakout star, but it was not any of the original members of the group. Record execs felt the 'folk trio' fad was passing, and urged Chad Mitchell to leave the trio and perform solo. Chad Mitchell recorded a few solo albums, but has never had any mainstream success. The guy who replaced him in the Mitchell Trio, on the other hand, was John Denver. Yes, THE John Denver. He went on to become a breakout star while the others in the trio more or less retired.
  • George Michael and Wham!, to the point that Andrew Ridgeley is to music what Marty Jannetty is to wrestling.
  • Wynonna Judd has had nearly as many hits solo as she did during her tenure in The Judds. Wynonna's solo material includes several pop and AC hits, genres that The Judds never touched.
  • Curious zig-zag: In the early 1990s, there was a band in Kentucky known as Early Tymz. Its members included brothers John Michael and Eddie Montgomery, as well as Troy Gentry. Although Early Tymz was well known in the state, they were all but unknown outside it. John Michael left and began a solo career, which included several big hits in the middle of the decade. Eddie and Troy founded the duo Montgomery Gentry, which has racked up quite a number of moderate hits in the 2000s while John Michael's career pretty much came to a screeching hallt in the 2000s.
  • 1980s trio Schuyler, Knobloch and Overstreet (S-K-O) lost Paul Overstreet after their first album. He went on to become a semi-successful solo artist (racking up nearly twice as many hits as S-K-O had), and has written several songs for other artists.
  • Robbie Williams did this to Take That when he left but after their reunion, the band have eclipsed Robbie again.
    • Though of course, Take That had already split shortly before Robbie's debut single came out (he himself had of course been sacked from the band some time before), so they weren't likely to be putting up much competition(!) Of course, Robbie's successful solo career does stand in sharp contrast to the failure of the remaining members' post-split (pre-reunion) solo efforts.
  • Vince Gill became incredibly popular in the 1990s, long after he left Pure Prairie League.
  • In the same vein, Kenny Rogers left The First Edition behind to become a successful country/adult contemporary singer.
    • Was attempted by the lead singer of his first group, The Scholars.
  • The girl group Choice had a song "Key to My Heart" which appeared on the soundtrack for Kazaam. When it broke up, Sharon Flanagan went nowhere, Chrissy Conway had fair success with Christian rock group Zoegirl, and the third girl? Alecia Moore is now known as Pink.
  • Wild Orchid had a couple albums, and was reasonably successful. Stacy Ferguson left them to become Fergie and join the Black Eyed Peas. The rest? Some voicework and songwriting, at best.
  • When Sonny And Cher split, Cher went on to have a great career in music and film. Sonny went into politics. He died in 1998, after leading the charge that led to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
  • Michael Jackson. He started as a member of The Jackson 5 and later became the King of Pop.
  • Michael Nesmith had (some) commercial and (lots of) critical success after The Monkees broke up.
  • Dave Grohl, who after Nirvana broke up formed Foo Fighters, which has not had nearly the same cultural impact, but has lasted much longer and and is still one of the most popular bands around. Krist Novoselic faded from the music scene and became a politician.
  • After Kyuss broke up, Josh Homme founded Queens of the Stone Age and had far more commercial success than Kyuss ever did.
  • Subverted by both parties in the case of Dave Mustaine. He was kicked out of his old band, founded Megadeth, and Megadeth became one of the most successful bands of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal. His old band? Metallica.
  • In a rather tragic example, when the shred metal guitar duo Cacophony broke up their two members went onto two very different career paths. Marty Friedman would go on to join Megadeth for a few years as a guitarist before going solo, moving to Japan and becoming a major figure in the Japanese music world. Jason Becker on the otherhand would be diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease and is now unable to speak or play guitar. He still composes however and communicates with his eyes.
  • After the Amboy Dukes broke up, their guitarist Ted Nugent started a much more successful solo career.
  • After progressive rock band Hawkwind kicked out Lemmy Kilmister, their bass player, he started up his own band which is far better known. That band? Motorhead.
  • Possibly inverted with Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave's collabration, "Where The Wild Roses Grow", which helped give Minogue the artistic credibility she lacked, and Cave the mainstream success that had eluded him.
  • A band called Y Kant Tori Read emerged in 1988, then broke up after being unsuccessful. The lead singer, Tori Amos, now enjoys her success as an alternative singer-songwriter.
  • Destiny's Child propelled Beyonce to global stardom. Her bandmates have since carved out much lower-key but still fairly respectable solo careers but will never come as close to Beyonce.
  • Bjork went from being one of the lead singers of The Sugarcubes (which helped put Iceland on the music map) to having a more successful and arguably better solo career. You probably haven't heard from the other lead singer, Einar Örn, lately if you're not from Iceland.
  • There was once a band called Alice Cooper. When the band broke up the lead singer kept the name and went on to have a successful solo career, the rest of the members pretty much faded into obscurity.
  • Averted by The Beatles: all four had solo hits after the breakup. None came close to the overall popularity of the band as a whole, though.
  • After White Zombie broke up, Rob Zombie replaced all the band members except the drummer and renamed the band after himself. None of the other members of the band ever did anything else of note. He then did it again when the Rob Zombie (band) guitarist and drummer, Riggs and Tempesta, split to form Scum of the Earth, which did not reach nearly the commercial success that Rob Zombie, either the man or the band, did.
    • Averted with the Rob Zombie band bassist Blasko, who after leaving Zombie's band became the bassist for Ozzy Osbourne.
  • Tina and Ike Turner. At the time of the latter's death he was performing at small casinos. Of course, Ike brought a lot of that on himself, having gone from a rock legend responsible for one of the earliest rock & roll songs ever recorded ("Rocket 88") to becoming synonymous with spousal abuse.
  • After Eurythmics broke up, Annie Lennox started a very successful solo career, while Dave Stewart was limited to producing.
  • Happened a lot with former members of King Crimson. Ian McDonald (Foreigner), Boz Burrell (Bad Company), John Wetton (Asia), and Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake, & Palmer) are probably the most famous.
    • And Robert Fripp.
  • Both averted and proven with successful glam-rock group T.Rex; Marc Bolan remained the most popular face of the band, but a former keyboardist for the band had quite a bit of success when he decided to launch his own solo career. His name? Elton John.
  • Red Rider remains fairly well-thought-of in their native Canada and had a minor hit in America with the song "Lunatic Fringe", but never had anything remotely resembling the international success former lead singer Tom Cochrane would have as a solo artist with his 90's hit "Life is a Highway".
    • This isn't exactly a breakout, because both Red Rider and Tom Cochrane are remembered in America for only one song each. It's also less a breakup than a name change, as the personnel on his first "solo" album are not that different from those on the last Red Rider album - and for that matter, the band was already billed as "Tom Cochrane and Red Rider" by that time.
  • MuteMath isn't exactly a household name, but they're enjoying a comfortable level of success. 3/4 of the band consists of former members of Earthsuit, which never made it big. Meanwhile, former Earthsuit co-frontman Adam LaClave has started no less four "solo projects" since then (along with other former members), and sadly, none of them have really worked out yet.
  • The Pozo-Seco Singers were a Texas country-folk trio with a couple of minor hits in the 1960's. After they broke up, group member Don Williams embarked on a solo career. "The Gentle Giant" would notch over 50 hits on the Country Music charts, with 17 of them hitting #1.
  • To some extent this happened with Portland indie rock band Heatmiser - bassist Sam Coombs formed the fairly popular and still active duo Quasi, and guitarist/vocalist Neil Gust had the less well-known band No. 2, but the major breakout was the solo career of Elliott Smith.
  • Most people don't even know there was a third member of the Insane Clown Posse. This is because after leaving the group, John Kickjazz left the music scene entirely and returned to quiet civilian anonymity.
  • The Yardbirds, which helped launch the careers of Eric Claption, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, the latter of which formed Led Zeppelin from the ashes from the group.
  • After Cream's breakup, former producer Felix Pappalardi hooked up with blues guitarist Leslie West to form Mountain.
  • Ever heard of the Wilde Flowers? Well, they were the founding band of the Canterbury Scene. Those who jumped ship before it broke up founded Soft Machine, and the rest founded Caravan. Soft Machine itself had Daevid Allen as a founder member (he left after the first single to found Gong) and was later home to Karl "Adiemus" Jenkins.
  • Soft Machine vocalist/guitarist Kevin Ayers left after the band's first album and went on to found a whole series of self-named bands. The breakup of the first one these, Kevin Ayers and the Whole World, freed their young bass player and occasional guitarist Mike Oldfield to begin the pioneering experiment in multi-instrumentalism that would become Tubular Bells.
  • Another Soft Machine alumnus, Robert Wyatt, has gone on to a respected solo career.
  • Dance House Children was a sorta-techno band in the early 90s, consisting of brothers Ronnie and Jason Martin. After two albums, Jason Martin left to start the shoegazing/indie rock band Starflyer 59, while Ronnie Martin retooled DHC into a synthpop project named Joy Electric. Neither group has achieved much mainstream popularity, but Starflyer 59 and Joy Electric are both better known and more respected than Dance House Children was.
  • In the early 1980s, there was a New Wave band in New York called the Breakfast Club. Its drummer, for a while, was a young woman from Michigan named Madonna Ciccone. She left (recommending her boyfriend and later producer, Stephen Bray, as her replacement) for bigger and better things. The band had one hit single "Right on Track" in 1987, and then broke up the next year. While two of the members of that later lineup, Randy Jackson and E. Doctor Smith, later distinguished themselves, the others have not.
  • After country music band Boy Howdy broke up in the mid-1990s, Lead Bassist Jeffrey Steele tried a solo career that never panned out. However, he quickly made up for that as an in-demand songwriter for other people, including lots of cuts for Rascal Flatts.
  • Inverted by the alt-country bands Giant Sand and Calexico. Joey Burns and John Convertino started Calexico as a side project while they were still playing in Giant Sand's rhythm section. Howe Gelb (Giant Sand's frontman) kicked Burns and Convertino out only after Calexico became more famous than his band.
  • Britpop group Theaudience had a handful of minor UK hits in the late 90's but broke up after only one album. After the split, the band's singer, Sophie Ellis Bextor, launched an extremely successful solo career.
  • The British synthpop group D:Ream had a handful of hits in the early 90's, including a #1 single in the United Kingdom with "Things Can Only Get Better" in 1994. After the band's split, their keyboardist Brian Cox became well known as a physicist, professor and presenter of several popular BBC programmes on astronomy, to the point where being a member of a band that had a #1 single is now a footnote in his biography.


Professional Wrestling

  • In the case of a valet becoming the breakup breakout to the wrestler(s) she managed, that is Smurfette Breakout. Add valet-related examples there.
  • The Rockers are a prime example. Shawn Michaels is a huge star, while his tag-team partner Marty Jannetty hasn't been relevant in years, except as the guy that the left-behind tag-team member is always compared to. Strangely, Jannetty's status has reached the point where on his occasional reappearances he's massively over.
    • It should be noted that this was not intended to happen to Marty Jannetty, as both men were considered about equal in terms of charisma and in-ring skill at the time of the breakup. Unfortunately, Jannetty's partying lifestyle constantly got the better of him, and he gradually faded into obscurity.
    • It should also be noted that this happened to Jannetty twice. In '95 he teamed with Leif Cassidy to form the New Rockers. The team wasn't successful and Jannetty ended up being released after losing a WWF championship match to his former partner Shawn Michaels. Cassidy was sent to ECW after the breakup and was repackaged as Al Snow. He became a main-eventer in ECW and was a moderately successful mid-carder during the Attitude Era.
  • During their NWA and AWA days, Hulk Hogan and Ed Leslie were a tag team of Kayfabe brothers, known alternately as Terry & Ed Boulder, and Hulk & Dizzy Hogan. Hulk Hogan, of course, became Hulk Hogan. Ed Leslie became best known as either Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, or "that guy with no talent who only has a job because he's friends with Hulk Hogan".
  • The Hart Foundation - OK, this team had Bret Hart, who went on to become a multiple-time world champion and hall of famer, and... Who? Exactly.
  • Edge & Christian - Edge has had three times the amount of World titles Christian has, and in a bigger company at that.
    • Subverted, for Christian has held more independent titles and is a Grand Slam Champion.
    • Although it's safe to say that both were much more successful than Gangrel, who was the leader of the stable they were originally on, the Brood.
      • Gangrel was also The Jannetty to the next group, the Hardys, from when the two were briefly packaged as The New Brood.
    • Speaking of Edge and Christian, during their indy days they were part of a stable called THUG Life which also contained Rhino Richards, Joe E. Legend, Bloody Bill Skullion and Zakk Wyld. Rhino had a successful career and held the ECW World Title although he didn't come close to the success that E&C did. On the other hand, Legend only had a short stint in WWF as Just Joe, and Skullion and Wyld never did anything important enough to warrant having a wikipedia article.
  • The Hardy Boyz - Jeff Hardy was WWE Champion while Matt Hardy had the ECW Championship which is relatively meaningless in comparison.
    • Earlier in the decade it looked like Matt was the one who would become the breakout star, as he started the immensely popular Version One character while Jeff got fired. But then the Matt / Edge / Lita debacle happened and Matt's career got completely derailed, and Jeff redeemed himself. Long enough to win a World Title at least.
  • Inverted with The Radicalz: Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn. Yes, the first two went on to become major stars. Guerrero died. Benoit killed his entire family and himself. Malenko retired in the early 2000's and is still respected for a wrestler of his build and skill. Saturn disappeared, was homeless for quite awhile, and is just now granting public interviews.
  • "Stunning" Steve Austin and Brian Pillman of the Hollywood Blondes. Austin became six time WWE champion and the only man to win the Royal Rumble thrice.
    • To be fair, the main reason for this was Pillman's untimely death at age 35. At the time, both Pillman and Austin were both very over high mid-carders (Austin being only a few months into developing the foul-mouthed, beer-swilling, Anti-Hero we know him as today). In fact, Pillman's death came at the beginning stages of a feud between the two.
  • The Thrillseekers: Chris Jericho and Lance Storm. Not a total example. Jericho is the more well-known of the two outside of wrestling, but Storm was certainly not a terrible wrestler himself.
  • America's Most Wanted - One would go on to form an even greater tag team known as BEER! MONEY! The other was IWC phenomenon Braden Walker.
  • D Generation X - Not a total example as Shawn Michaels was already a big star when the group started, but of the other members of the group only Triple H discovered any real long term success.
    • The others were less successful due to backstage incidents and cases of Small Name, Big Ego. Oh, and one became so unpopular he became the Trope Namer for X Pac Heat.
      • The New Age Outlaws tag team were massively over before and after they were in DX. Separately, not quite as much. They have both stated that they're tag team wrestlers, not singles guys.
        • Billy Gunn (er, Kip James?) was the breakout of his original tag team, the Smoking Gunns. His partner and Kayfabe brother, Bart, was derailed by the WWE's foray into "real" boxing: Having won the Brawl for All, he was pitted against Butterbean in a real boxing match. Butterbean KO'ed him in 30 seconds, and that was it for Bart Gunn.
  • During the last days of WCW, AJ Styles was half of a tag team with a guy named Air Paris. Styles is a multi-time champion in TNA. Paris is currently the booker for the tiny independent promotion NAWA Ring Champions.
  • The Steiner Brothers: Scott Steiner (HUH?) became a WCW Champion in 2000 (HUH?) and worked in the WWE (HUH?) and in TNA (HUH?), while Rick (HUH?) is currently (HUH?) in a local school board (HUH?).
    • "I'M HUNGRY!"
    • Ironically, before the split, the Steiner Brothers were generally thought of as "Rick Steiner and his less-interesting brother". Then Scotty put on 100 pounds of muscle, bleached his hair, and reinvented himself as a Kavorka Man with "freaks" in every city. Rick, on the other hand, floundered about in the upper midcard and then turned heel. Although he was a pretty good face, as a heel he was a complete heat vacuum.
  • Harlem Heat: Booker T becomes a six-time, six-time, six-time, six-time, six-time, six-time World Heavyweight Champion, and who knows what Stevie Ray is doing currently. (Working for Booker at his wrestling school, actually).
  • The Second City Saints: CM Punk is a six time World Champion and one of the top faces of WWE, Colt Cabana (aka Scotty Goldman) got released from WWE after a brief run as a Jobber. Oh, and did you know there's a third Second City Saint named Ace Steel?
  • The Fabulous Freebirds were actually notorious for their refusal to break up - if a promoter tried to split the team up all of them would leave the promotion. However, Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy both had notable careers outside the Freebirds. Buddy Roberts did next to nothing outside the tag team. And when the team finally did break up for good, it was with Hayes and Gordy turning Face on Roberts. Hayes and Gordy went on to mixed success elsewhere, and Roberts retired.
  • MNM: Johnny Nitro became John Morrison, won the ECW Title, joined another succesful tag team, and is currently a upper-midcarder on SmackDown being primed for the big time. Joey Mercury... had a few spots for ROH, and later joined the Straight Edge Society. Even their valet Melina did better than Mercury, wining the Women's Title on a couple of occasions.
    • Strangely, subverted with Morrison's tag team with The Miz -- everyone figured Miz would be lost in the midcard on Raw after the tandem broke up while Morrison moved on to bigger and better things on SmackDown, but as of this writing both have firmly established themselves as on par with the top guys of their brands. They even lampshaded it when, before Bragging Rights and a scheduled Morrison vs. Miz match, the two cut dueling promos trying to declare the other one the Janetty of their team.
      • And now, with John Morrison being moved to Raw, he and The Miz have had their successes, and as of July 18, The Miz has risen to stardom by winning the Raw Money in the Bank Ladder match at the MITB PPV, not only beating six other superstars, three being former World Champions, but also John Morrison himself...did I forget to mention that Morrison has now lost five matches to The Miz in the last year?
        • It seemed that everything had come full circle with The Miz winning the WWE title after cashing in the Money in the Bank contract against Randy Orton the RAW after Survivor Series. However, the trope is temporarily back in subverted status after Morrison started a feud with Sheamus and beat him twice, the second time in a #1 Contender's Ladder's Match at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2010, which earned Morrison a WWE title opportunity in the first match of 2011. Morrison would prove a great challenge for The Miz, only losing because he missed Starship Pain through a table. Even though Miz has crashed through the glass ceiling, it would seem that Morrison isn't too far behind.
          • Sadly the competition is officially over by the end of 2011. And in an ironic sense, The Miz, after main eventing Survivor Series with The Rock, beat John Morrison to start a new pursuit of the WWE Championship while the defeated John Morrison, after long months of constant jobbing, was released from the company.
  • WCW had Three Count, a boy band stable consisting of Evan Karagias, Shannon Moore and Shane Helms. Of the three, Helms has had a moderately successful WWE career as The Hurricane and as Gregory Helms, Moore has had a WWE career but been primarily a jobber, and Karaigas hasn't done anything. Although, Helms' status of Breakup Breakout came during his WCW days, when he started using the Vertebreaker as his finisher and was given an elaborate entrance and custom theme song.
  • This has happened with Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder as the latter was been established as a hot new heel on ECW with his memorable Catch Phrase and theme music, while the former completely disappeared from WWE television and returned to FCW. Hawkins would later return as part of a very unmemorable tag team with Vance Archer which would later break up with Hawkins going nowhere on Superstars while Archer got released. However, it was during that short period of time that it would like Hawkins might have a shot at surpassing his partner as ECW went off the air and was replaced by NXT, leaving Ryder stuck on Superstars as well. However, Ryder would become an underground hit when he debuted his Web Original series, Z True Long Island Story. With a huge following on the IWC, Ryder would eventually turn face and get featured on both RAW and Smackdown as a result (Ryder recently defeated Dolph Ziggler at the WWE TLC PPV for the United States Championship), all while Curt Hawkins will occasionally make cameos on the show if he's lucky.
  • Even if he had moderate success, Billy Gunn hit superstardom in comparison to what happened to Bart Gunn from The Smoking Gunns. He also outlived Road Dogg in the WWE even if they later reunited in TNA.
  • In a "rivals" version of this, Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Psicosis. They debuted together, feuded all through Mexico, Japan, ECW, WCW... then 2001ish WCW released all their Luchadors except for Mysterio (and Juventud Guererra). Mysterio later got scooped up by WWE and eventually became a World Champion. Psicosis, on the other hand, got a short WWE run and nothing to show for it. When they met in a Royal Rumble, Mysterio just kinda backhanded Psicosis out of the ring. Mysterio's still a major superstar. Psicosis isn't as big in his native Mexico as Mysterio is in the US.
  • And of course probably the biggest example would be The Rock, who was once part of the Nation of Domination, before rising to new heights which ultimately led him to Hollywood.
    • However, Mark Henry has recently won the World Title, putting him in a clear second place.
  • The World's Greatest Tag Team: Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin. After the team split up Shelton got three consecutive victories over Triple H, became a three time Intercontinental champion, a former United States Champion and is the highlight of Money in the Bank match in every Wrestlemania (he, tied with Kane, appeared in more MITB matches than any other superstar). Charlie Haas was primary used as a jobber-to-the-stars and occasionally part of an unsuccessful make-shift tag team. He was even released and re-hired a couple times before being released (so far) for good in 2010.
    • A strange subversion here in that the WGTT actually has more drawing power than either Haas or Benjamin separately. Now that Benjamin has also been released from WWE, there's a lot of hope that the team will reunite.
  • Not to say that Chuck Palumbo has had an extraordinarily successful career, but he's had a better one than that of his tag partner in The Perfect Event, Shawn Stasiak. Palumbo had a good run as WWE Tag Team Champion with Billy Gunn, and was part of the Voodoo Murders stable in AJPW. Stasiak got to play a gimmick where he was deliberately clumsy, and now works as a chiropractor.
  • Dragon Gate had a stable called the Royal Brothers, with Anthony W. Mori, Henry III Suguwara, and Phillip J. Fukamasa. Fukamasa barely lasted an entire year, leaving Mori and Suguwara a tag team. Then Suguwara turned heel on Mori (and started using his real name Takuya Suguwara). Mori won their feud fairly heavily, and Suguwara was fired for unrelated reasons, leaving Mori as the breakup breakout. But since then, Suguwara re-invented himself on the Japanese indy scene while Mori slid down the rankings to jobber-to-the-stars. Suguwara recently returned to Dragon Gate after a half a decade absence, and is now somewhere between upper midcarder and main eventer, and leading the Real Hazard stable. A rare case of the breakup breakout situation reversing itself.
  • The British Invasion: Brutus Magnus, Doug Williams and Rob Terry. Terry, the Butt Monkey of the stable, went on to become TNA Global champion and thus far the longest reigning champion in the belt's history. Doug Williams is a two-time X-Division champion and one of the top guys of the division. Magnus has been taken off television following his PPV lost to Terry
    • However, Magnus has become a prominent midcarder after teaming with Samoa Joe and winning the Tag Team titles. Terry has been working mainly as Robbie E's bouncer and Douglass Williams hasn't been on TV in a while.
  • WWE had the Spirit Squad, a five man stable consisting of male cheerleaders Kenny, Johnny, Mitch, Nicky and Mikey. Out of the five only Nicky is still employed in the WWE and has been repackaged as Dolph Ziggler, enjoying singles success and eventually becoming a Triple Crown champion.
    • Which is strange since the whole Spirit Squad gimmick was used to put over Kenny.
  • Averted with The Acolytes/APA, as Ron Simmons (AKA Faarooq) was already a former WCW Champion prior to the team's creation. However, after the APA's second breakup in 2004, Bradshaw reinvented himself as the Corrupt Corporate Executive John Bradshaw Layfield, when he held the WWE title for almost a year.
  • Played straight with Legacy, though not in the way people expected. Ted DiBiase was initially planned to be breakout with him turning face against Randy Orton and he had starred in the Direct to Video sequel to The Marine. The plans got derailed when Orton's popularity caused him to be booked as a face against DiBiase and Rhodes. After Wrestlemania, Ted was given his father's gimmick and failed to get over even with Vigil and later Maryse by his side. Meanwhile, Cody Rhodes was drafted to Smackdown and became "Dashing". Cody's been a mainstay of the show, winning the WWE tag team championship for the fourth time with Drew McIntyre, being in World title contention, getting another gimmick overhaul, and winning a Wrestlemania match against Rey Mysterio. Rhodes won the Intercontinental Championship on an episode of Smack Down on August 12, 2011 and has become one of the top heels in the WWE.
  • The American Males: Marcus Bagwell would turn on his tag team partner Scotty Riggs to join the New World Order. The newly rechristened Buff Bagwell would become a capable hand in the nWo and would enjoy a run in the upper-midcard upon the group's dissolution until WCW was bought out by WWE. Scotty Riggs would join The Flock as a job guy for Raven and toil in obscurity upon that group's dissolution.
  • Inverted with Lay Cool. Michelle McCool was already a big player in the women's division when the team formed but Layla was mostly just there as another heel diva. She started out as Michelle's sidekick but was eventually promoted to an equal. When they split it was played straight since Layla retired Michelle and became the top face on Smackdown, until an Injury took her out.
  • Another example that includes Layla - Extreme Expose. The dance trio on ECW included her and Kelly Kelly who is now arguably the most popular diva on the roster. The other girl, Brooke Adams, who got released just after they split. She's in TNA now though so maybe she'll subvert the trope.
  • In 2004, the tag team "Los Guerreros" was broken up after Chavo Guerrero attacked his uncle Eddie. Their feud culminated at the Royal Rumble, with Eddie winning. About a month later, both of them became successful at No Way Out, with Chavo winning the Cruiserweight Championship and Eddie winning the WWE Championship. Chavo never quite became as successful as his uncle in the long run (Eddie was already more popular anyway), but was nevertheless a good wrestler.
  • Averted with the Funk brothers, Terry and Dory Jr. While Terry is more well-known than Dory Jr. for his inability to stay out of the ring and his hardcore matches, both were equally successful singles stars in their primes.
  • One odd example that's not born from either a tag team or a rivalry. In 1989 a midcarder for New Japan Pro Wrestling named Keiichi Yamada was reinvented, giving him a gimmick based on a Go Nagai anime that was getting ready to air. Today, Jushin "Thunder" Liger is one of the most celebrated, accomplished and innovative wrestlers in history while the anime series his gimmick is based on, Jushin Liger, is practically a footnote known more for spawning his gimmick than anything else.


Sports

  • Inverted with Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire; the Oakland A's "Bash Brothers". Canseco had a relatively decent career; McGwire broke the single-season home run record in 1998 that was held by Roger Maris. Nowadays, their impact on baseball can be measured for what they did after their playing days. Canseco's book "Juiced" opened the floodgates on steroid questions, which of course put McGwire in the crosshairs. As of 2011, the steroid issue has to date kept both men out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Played perfectly straight with twin brothers Jose and Ozzie Canseco.
  • Played straight with Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla during their Pirates days. Bonds became the single-season home run record holder even under questionable circumstances; Bonilla went floundering around teams looking for work. However, Bonilla does have a World Series ring (with the 1997 Marlins), while Bonds does not.
  • Speaking of the Marlins, Wayne Huizenga broke up nearly the entire 1997 World Series team.
  • Played straight with Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers. While Favre is undoubtedly a Football Hall of Fame candidate, his primadonna attitude after leaving the Packers made him look worse in the end. And the Packers have already won a Super Bowl with his replacement, Aaron Rodgers.
  • The stars of the St. Louis Rams "Greatest Show On Turf": Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Az-Zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl. Faulk is now in the Football Hall of Fame. Warner is likely shoe-in once he's eligible. Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are maybes. Proehl, although not as well-known as the other four, played in four Super Bowls and won two. Hakim did very little after leaving the Rams.
  • When Joe Montana left the San Francisco 49ers for the Kansas City Chiefs, whether he or the 49ers became the breakup breakout could be viewed either way. On one hand, Montana's Chiefs beat the 49ers every time the two teams played. On the other hand, Montana never got the Chiefs all the way to the Superbowl, and Young's 49ers won the Superbowl in 1994.
  • Inverted with the 1990's Chicago Bulls: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Michael Jordan is Michael Jordan, of course. When Michael retired from the Bulls, Pippen jumped teams. Dennis Rodman joined them for the second half of the Bulls title run, having already been on the Pistons championship teams. All three men got into the Hall of Fame regardless.
  • Averted with Karl Malone and John Stockton: the Utah Jazz were relevant almost single-handedly because of them.
  • Averted with Steve Young and Jerry Rice, although Rice had the longer career and played for three different teams.


Toyline

  • In the G.I. Joe toyline, the Cobra ninjas Slice and Dice were introduced in 1992 to offset Storm Shadow's Heel Face Turn from the Cobras to the Joes. The Slice figure had five reissues since the original, while Dice never got anything beyond his original release. It helps that Slice actually resembles a ninja.


Video Games


Webcomics

  • Megatokyo started out as a collaboration between Fred Gallagher and Rodney Caston. Rodney Caston didn't last into the more successful years of the comic.


Western Animation

  • The Venture Brothers has something like this, as the other members of the original Team Venture never achieved the same level of success as Jonas Venture and have mostly fallen on hard times.
  • The musical incidents of this are parodied in an episode of South Park, in which Stan and Kyle are a Guitar Hero duo that break up when Stan gets a sponsor, leaving Kyle playing in bowling alleys.
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