10 Ways to Fix WWE, and Why They Won’t Work

I’ve been slacking on my blogs the last two weeks. I’ve been planning a cross-country move, setting my job and housing situations in stone, and making plans to see my niece turn one this weekend (Happy Birthday Rebecca!) But I want to give you guys something before my next big top 10.

The state of pro wrestling is currently shaky, from WWE’s financial woes to TNA’s cancellation on Spike TV. It’s leading a lot of speculation about what the future is going to hold. What network will pick up TNA, and what cuts WWE will make to the company, are hot button issues with too many variables. Because of this, many bloggers are taking to the internet to offer their own suggestions of what they believe will fix WWE and TNA’s problems.

And they’re all horrible.

The simple fact is that, we as wrestling fans, do not know how to run WWE like we think we do. Even those of us lucky and fortunate enough to say we’re in the business cannot fathom running pro wrestling on a global scale like that. It’s unrealistic to assume we have all the answers. I may have promoted shows in the past, but fixing WWE’s problems in one week is something that is leaps and bounds over my head. And if you’re reading this, it’s over your head too.

Sure, you may think you have a solution that will work, but odds are it’s not going to help. The problem is that, when fans start to claim they know how to fix WWE, the idea is always flawed in some way. They almost always involve bringing back someone or something that was a proven commodity in the past, shuffling the card, making heel turns happen on top babyfaces, and always including something that’s improbable.

Ask someone you know how they would book an episode of Raw, their own way, and the results will be unsurprising. They will push only the people they like, and bury everyone they don’t. Odds are they won’t do anything that would benefit the general population of the fans, because they have tunnel vision as to what they believe will work.

And honestly, I don’t blame them at all.

After all, you’re watching to envision your dream WWE Universe, right? Isn’t that way the video games let you book your own rivalries and you can decide who wins and who loses what matches? If you want your world champion to be Zack Ryder, you can just put a belt on him. It’s easy in the games. In real life, it’s much different.

You have to appeal to everyone: hardcore fans, casual fans, men, women, children, older people, stock holders, and the personal themselves. You also have to have everything: serious wrestlers, comedy gimmicks, big men, high flyers, brawlers, technicians, powerhouses, divas, tag teams, and a hierarchy of talent that makes sense. Why? Because everyone likes something different. You may only like big guys, brawlers, and serious workers, but other people like tag teams, high flyers, and comedy gimmicks. If you isolate them, they’ll tune out, and you hurt your audience.

See why most individuals would fail as a booker? It just isn’t possible for us to comprehend. Of course, that doesn’t stop people from trying, and often times what they come up with is genius.

Ludacris storylines with improbable outcomes, long term plans that can’t possibly work out, and forcefully pushing wrestlers with health risks are just some of the content I’ve seen spewed out onto various forums. I don’t care how big of a fan of Christian you are, if he becomes critically injured in his world title match that you insist he wrestle in, despite his doctor’s orders, you’re not going to feel very good about yourself. The selfishness of some fans is ridiculous at times.

This leads me to my topic at hand. I was shown a screenshot from what appears to be a YouTube comment. The guy named “joe hill” (too cool to capitalize) says if he owned WWE RIGHT NOW, he’d do THESE THINGS, and they will surely save the company. There are 10 of them, so let’s break them down.

 

1. Change back to WWF

His first order of business will be to change the company name. While it’s reasonable to still not be happy with the name “WWE” (I still prefer WWF myself) it’s not an option. I don’t know what the settlement details between the World Wildlife Fund and Vince McMahon’s company are, but I’m willing to wager this can’t be an overnight decision. Plus, WWE’s rebranding has been going for over 12 years now. Do you honestly think it’s a good idea to change the company name AGAIN? TNA tried it with Impact Wrestling, and look how far that got them.

 

2. Bring back the Attitude Era

This is the most common “solution” fans seem to have for solving WWE’s issues. It’s mostly based on a “PG sucks” mentality, but let’s be honest here. The Attitude Era only worked because it was risky, cutting-edge, and pushed boundaries never before pushed on television before. Bringing it back won’t create anything new or revolutionary. Remember when D-Generation X reformed in 2006? It was terrible, rehashing old outdated jokes that simply didn’t work with the times. Plus, I hate to tell the hardcore marks this, but WWE’s family-friendly appeal broadens their horizons and brings in more viewers, including the highly profitable children’s market. It may be lame at times, but it’s a much better idea than hardcore TV. And did everyone forget that among the cutting-edge storylines were some of the worst overall in-ring matches in wrestling? Countless run-ins, screw-jobs, no contests, and over-gimmicked matches may be fun for awhile, but it wears on you real fast.

Regardless, these eras have passed. The Attitude Era also only worked because of competition from WCW. Compare the “Brand Extension” feud to the Monday Night Wars, and there’s the difference. No matter how hard they tried, Raw and Smackdown were still the same company. The only way to get a pure feud going is to have the rival be another company. TNA? They tried it and dropped out after three months. Jeff Jarrett’s new promotion? Probably not for years. Ring of Honor? No.

Sorry guys, this is the reality of the situation. Your era is gone, and it’s a great nostalgic memory, but pro wrestling is an industry that always needs to more FORWARD. If you disagree with that statement, you are wrong. That’s business.

 

3. Go back to the Attitude Era arena stage

Your grand scheme to save wrestling also involves making the stage look gritty. Nice idea, and it may even save money, but it’s a far cry from being an actual solution. Plus, simple isn’t always better. WWE’s HD tron now looks high-tech and is TV friendly. It makes them look global and look like they’re #1. Do you really think it’s a good idea to revert back to a stage that’s almost indy?

 

4. Have the Attitude Intro

I get what he means, but I think it’s funny to envision the original Attitude Intro playing for Raw now, featuring guys who don’t even work there anymore. I want to assume he means “an attitude intro with the current roster in it” but I honestly don’t think a guy who can’t capitalize his own name was thinking that far ahead.

 

5. Raw will go back to Raw is War

Does it need to? No. But again, he’s trying to save the company, so reverting everything back to the old ways is his grand plan. Maybe I’m being too hard on him now.

 

6. Michael Cole will be fired.

No I’m not.

Look, I’ve never liked Michael Cole as an announcer, but I’m sick of the reputation he gets. He is a stooge, nothing more. He echoes Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn’s thoughts on air, and has done so for years. He’s told what to say and how to say it, to constantly hype the WWE App, bury people Dunn and McMahon want to mock, and argue over story points. But he also does what he’s supposed to do as an announcer – call moves and tell stories. Besides, if this genius fires Cole, who’s the replacement? Bring back Jim Ross, who has bad blood with the company? Bring up a new play-by-play guy who isn’t ready? Have it be just King and JBL? Great idea, moron.

Cole’s entire heel character was a McMahon experiment, that he had a blast with, and it went WAY overboard and only ended because Jerry Lawler nearly died on air. Have you ever heard a Cole interview outside WWE? He’s genuinely funny. Sure he’s a prick in person to fans (personal experience, and no less than five other friends experience to back that up) but he gets a LOT of unfair treatment for doing exactly what he’s told to do.

 

7. Jerry “The King” Lawler will become heel because he was best as heel. (Quotations for The King added by me)

I agree, Lawler was a phenomenal heel, but it wouldn’t work in 2014 WWE. Jerry can’t get in the ring to deliver a proper payoff to being a full-fledged heel anymore, and the fans aren’t going to want to boo someone in his current legendary status, especially given his recent health issues. This one is a good idea in theory, but there’s no way it would work.

Still, this dude may be redeeming himself.

 

8. Have John Cena turn heel, or if he refused he would be fired

Never mind.

So, you’re going to take your #1 babyface, top merchandise seller, and main draw for the harder to appeal kids and female audience, and make him into a bad guy because people like to boo him? BRILLIANT. What are you going to do when his heel antics get him over with huge babyface reactions? Turn him back? Because history indicates that you will.

Look people, John Cena grants wishes to dying children. You make him a bad guy, you ruin the single biggest charity move WWE has EVER done in one night. It’s not going to happen, get over it.

 

9. Have some old favorites return such as Vader and Psycho Sid and of course Stone Cold (his spelling, not mine)

Are they on good terms? Can they still wrestle? I’m going to guess he doesn’t know and doesn’t care. I’m also going to assume he only picked favorites of his, not everyone else’s. Again, when you book for only you, the business suffers.

Isn’t that what the majority of you complain about with Vince? That he plays favorites and only books what he wants?

 

10 Violence has resumed

I wasn’t aware it left.

 

Was I out of line here? Do you think I’m being unfair? Rather than spew hate mail in the comments, why don’t you tell me ideas that YOU have that could fix WWE? Put some thought into them, and if you honestly think they’ll work, let me know. Perhaps I will do a follow-up with your ideas. I promise I won’t rip them apart or bury anyone, and if I disagree with what you claim, I’ll tackle it respectfully. I’m just generally curious as to what you think could fix WWE, because I really don’t believe any of us have the answer.

Just remember, when you book for only you, you do exactly what you get mad at Vince for doing. Remember your audience is vast and full of diversity. Putting the world title on Dolph Ziggler and feuding him with the returning CM Punk that you miraculously managed to rehire is NOT an answer.

Otherwise, thanks for reading this pseudo-rant. I’ll be back soon with another proper blog. Any other good top 10 ideas out there for wrestling or non-wrestling topics?

Jersey Rain.

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My Top 10 Favorite Wrestling Managers

Before we get to this top 10, I want to take a moment to thank my readers for their support. I really appreciate everyone taking the time to read these blogs and leave comments, whether it’s on here, my Facebook, my wrestling group, Twitter, or otherwise. It means a lot to me that so many of you enjoy my writings, and that’s what fuels me to keep writing every week. I’m trying to focus on a once a week blog, but if I’m not feeling it that week, I’m not going to half-ass a top 10 just for the sake of having one. I want to put my all into these blogs.

I’ve received some great suggestions from readers, and a few of your ideas I want to tackle. However, two ideas I received I will have to turn down. A suggestion for top 10 hype videos in wrestling proves too great of a task to undertake, as there have simply been too many videos in the past for me to actually thumb through. As much fun as it would be, and as amazing as WWE’s production values are when creating a promotional hype video, I would not be able to get the proper research done to make the video happen. Another idea I chose to turn down was a top 10 wrestlers who are assholes in real life. This came from my “Top 10 Least Favorite Wrestlers” blog where I mentioned that this would be an entirely different list. I don’t want to disrespect any performers in the wrestling business by trashing their real life character, especially when the majority of stories regarding these incidents are hearsay. I’ve only ever met two people in the wrestling business who were assholes to me on a personal level, and I’m not going to rag on them, as they’re indy performers, and honestly, not worth a damn to you as a fan. So thank you guys for the suggestions, but I’m going to pass on those.

However, if I were to do one top 10 list every week, with just the queue ideas I have now, I have roughly three years of material to work with. So no worries! I still want your suggestions, and if it’s a list I can tackle, I will do so. And, if any of you want to become a guest contributor, let me know. We may be able to work out a deal, especially if you run a blog or podcast of your own that I could contribute back to.

With that said, let’s get to the subject matter at hand: wrestling! I’m going to try to do more non-wrestling blogs, but these always get the most readers, so an every other week rotation seems appropriate.

 

If there is one thing missing from modern pro wrestling, it’s the manager character. A good manager can make a superstar, assisting in character development both on the microphone and in the ring. They’re an attraction all to their own, and can add to the atmosphere of the show and the mystique of their wrestler. A beastly powerhouse like Brock Lesnar, who has minimum mic skills and quite frankly hates talking anyway, can get a backup like Paul Heyman to do his talking for him. A foreign character, such as Rusev, can have a translator like Lana add to his persona and get his message across in an irritating manor. A good wrestler who’s embarrassed himself on the mic with his lisp that people still mock, like Jack Swagger, can step back and let his in-ring work do his talking for him while Zeb Colter leads the crowd in “WE THE PEOPLE” chants.

Unfortunately, these are the only three real managers in WWE now. Characters like Brad Maddox and Vickie Guerrero, who made fine managers, became lost in the General Manager role, which became obsolete the instant Triple H’s authority character became prominent. It’s a shame WWE, and wrestling as a whole, doesn’t have more managers.

Thanks to the WWE Network, I’ve got my fill of managers whenever I want. The true glory days of the manager characters happened in the 1980s, so expect a lot of that on this list. And no matter what company I’m watching I truly feel like WWE got the best of the best. I’m going to count down my ten favorite on this blog.

Even though you’ll only see ten names listed, don’t get upset if a manager you liked isn’t on here. There were so many great managers that naming them all would be impossible. In fact, I really don’t recall any bad managers in this research, so there won’t be a least favorite follow-up. Even characters who irked me, like Frenchy Martin, Vickie Guerrero, or Lacey still did their jobs at ringside. In fact, irking me WAS their job, so mission accomplished!

I’m focusing on managers I watched as a new fan, and those I watched as a fan looking back, so no Classy Freddie Blassie as he was before my time, and no Larry Sweeney, who despite being an awesome character, I didn’t see nearly enough of. As a person who left us too soon, and had personal relationships with friends of mine, I dedicate this blog to his memory.

So let’s count them down,

 

MY TOP 10 FAVORITE WRESTLING MANAGERS OF ALL TIME

 

10. J.J. DILLON

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What better way to kick off the countdown than the genius behind the Four Horsemen? J.J. Dillon managed the original foursome of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Tully Blanchard. He also was present during Ole Anderson, Barry Windham, and Lex Luger’s stints as members of the faction. While Dillon served as a fine mouthpiece, he didn’t need to speak for the gifted Nature Boy, but rather to stand at ringside and assist the “Dirtiest Player in the Game” with underhanded tactics to guide Flair to victory. While Dillon is known for other wrestling accomplishments, and has managed a slew of other competitors, like Abdullah the Butcher, Ox Baker, and Butch Reed, he is best known as a Four Horsemen member, and that’s where I think he shined brightest.

 

9. MR. FUJI

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When I first started watching wrestling, I hated Mr. Fuji. I hated his smile, his laugh, his hat – everything. Once I got older, I realized his job was to make me hate him, and I ended up coming to respect him more. His broken English promos were always good for a laugh, and he had an arsenal of powerful men at his disposal. I remember Fuji best for managing Demolition, The Orient Express, and the Power of Pain, but my favorite Fuji moment was with Don Muraco. Fuji and Muraco did parody skits, like Fuji Vice, that were really funny. I don’t think they were supposed to be treated as comedy, but they came off like a Monty Python sketch. Fuji and Muraco’s chemistry was unparalleled, and is worth checking out. I have no problems putting Fuji on this list of managers because of the fond memories he gave me, just by doing his job. How about that?

 

8. SENSATIONAL SHERRI

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I admittedly wasn’t a big fan of Sherri Martel originally. I came to respect her contributions to the business shortly before she passed away, which makes memories of her bittersweet. Still, she was a sight to behold, with her facepainted fancy style. She had a good career as an in-ring competitor, but her manager style is what lands her here. From the Heavenly Bodies to Jake Roberts, Greg Valentine to Terry Funk, Randy Savage to Shawn Michaels, her list of clients reads like a who’s who of professional wrestling. R.I.P. Sensational Sherri, your voice will live on forever in the original recording of “Sexy Boy.” If you haven’t heard it, look it up.

I always wondered why the Sherri version was for the heel HBK, while the HBK sung version was for the babyface. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for a babyface Michaels to have someone singing about him, and the heel to sing about himself? Oh well.

 

7. BROTHER LOVE

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Bruce Pritchard’s Brother Love character really wasn’t so much a manager as he was a talk show host. Originally he appeared as the host of “The Brother Love Show” to mock real-life televangelists, who were under attack. Love was more of an interview gimmick character, who’s goal was to tell everyone how much he loved them, but he didn’t actually like them. His show helped further big name feuds, like Hulk Hogan Vs. Big Boss Man or Jake Roberts Vs. Rick Martel. So what’s he doing on this list?

Well, in 1990, he changed the game by managing a wrestler you may have heard of: The Undertaker. Although Paul Bearer would lead Undertaker to success, it was Brother Love who would lead him to the ring for the very first time. Love would manage a few other wrestlers in his career, but none as memorable as Undertaker. For that, I honor him here. Don’t like it? Well, it’s my list, so tough.

 

6. MISS ELIZABETH

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I cannot create a list of managers without honoring the greatest female manager of all time. The lovely Miss Elizabeth became the first lady of wrestling, and one of the biggest females in pro wrestling history. She managed all the big names – the New World Order, Ric Flair, Scott Hall, Dusty Rhodes, and Sting. But we all know her biggest role was valet of “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and she became a part of the formation and subsequent breakup of the Mega Powers, which consisted of Savage and Hulk Hogan. Hogan and Savage’s breakup and reunion moments are some of the best moments of the 1980s, but it was her love triangle storyline that culminated at WrestleMania VIII that stole the show (and everyone’s hearts).

Sadly, Miss Elizabeth passed away in 2003, leading WWE Confidential in an “investigative” report, because of the company’s heat with Lex Luger. It has since been proven that it was an overdose, and Luger played no role in her demise. Now we just need Liz in the Hall of Fame.

 

5. JIMMY HART

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“The Mouth of the South” was such an appropriate nickname for Jimmy Hart. The epitome of obnoxious antics, Hart would use every dirty tactic to pull of his victories, and played his part to perfection. His loud antics, combined with his outlandish style and megaphone, made him the quintessential heel manager. Like all the great managers, his list of clients reads like a who’s who list. He’s probably had more clients than most wrestling managers, ranging from legends like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, the Hart Foundation, and The Honky Tonk Man, all the way to AJ Styles, Kid Kash, Lance Hoyt and Samoa Joe. Almost everyone from the 1980s era WWF and Nitro Days of WCW had Jimmy Hart as their manager, and he always did a great job with every single person he managed.

The best part about Jimmy Hart is that he’s the real deal. Not only is he a Billboard Hot 100 musical artist, he also is the real life manager of Hulk Hogan, who is the biggest name in wrestling history. There is no doubt that Jimmy Hart is one of the best, just don’t mess up his hair baby.

 

4. JAMES E. CORNETTE

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Few wrestling managers have done with Jim Cornette has. Not only was Cornette a genius manager, turning the Midnight Express into one of the greatest tag teams of all time, but Cornette also ran the successful Smoky Mountain Wrestling promotion in the Midwest. Cornette had one of the best characters in wrestling history, based on an exceedingly simple gimmick – he was a mama’s boy. Who paid for his clothes? Mama Cornette. Who paid for his lavish limousine? Mama Cornette. Who gave him the money to hire so many clients? Mama Cornette did. Cornette came up with the idea, knowing that such a pansy background would get him mega-heat, and it did. Cornette is one of the greatest overall heels of all time, and it’s not hard to see why. Unfortunately, he didn’t channel his genius into his business sense, which at times was questionable. Kind of like our next entry…

 

3. PAUL HEYMAN

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Although Paul’s business skills were, to use the clinical term, piss-poor at times, he was a genius in wrestling. Stemming from his days as Paul E. Dangerously, Paul knew how to get the most out of all of his performers with a simple rule: accentuate the positives, hide the negatives. This allowed wrestlers like Sandman and Public Enemy to shine in the ECW environment, which they simply didn’t do without Paul’s protection. Paul also knew how to discover and make new talents, from his early days discovering Eddy Guerrero and Chris Benoit to the more recent rise of CM Punk. Heyman is also a fantastic manager character, building up all of his clients to disproportionately high levels and making them seem larger than life. His on-screen bigmouth attitude is the perfect marriage to Brock Lesnar’s silent killer act, and they play it perfectly.

 

2. PAUL BEARER

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Starting off as Percival Pringle III, one of the greatest gimmick names in wrestling history, the late great William Moody gained all of his fame as the ghastly Paul Bearer in the WWF. Paul’s unique character was key in the development and evolution of the fearsome Undertaker, but Bearer didn’t stop there. Bearer also managed Mankind, Vader, and was the man behind the creation of Kane. His clients were pretty out there, don’t you think? Well, the guy was a real life mortician, showing that the best characters can be brought on by real life accentuations. I really enjoyed Kane’s memorial speech for Paul Bearer at the 2014 Hall of Fame. And unlike some people, I really enjoyed the role of the urn to garner heat for the Undertaker-CM Punk match at WrestleMania 29, which was the match of the night in my eyes. I was happy to be there live. God speed, Paul Bearer.

 

1. BOBBY “THE BRAIN” HEENAN

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My all-time favorite manager is the one I would argue the hardest for as pro wrestling’s all-time greatest manager. Is there anyone truly greatest than Bobby Heenan? The Brain (or the Weasel, as he’d like to be called) was THE heel manager of the 1980s era. What set Bobby apart was what a phony he was, and how much he would lie with conviction that you believed him. I remember a writer citing a perfect example, that Bobby would be accuse someone of cheating, and give a reason to justify the actions like he didn’t wash his boots. It was ridiculous, but he said it was such conviction that you truly believed he truly believed every word. Bobby led them all: Nick Bockwinkle, who could talk as well as the Brain. Angelo Poffo, the patriarch of the Poffo wrestling family. The Blackjacks, King Kong Bundy, Big John Studd, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff, Harley Race, Mr. Perfect, the list goes on and on. Jimmy Hart may have had the most names, but Heenan had the biggest stars.

Unquestionably Heenan’s biggest client, both literally and figuratively, was Andre the Giant, whom Heenan led to battle against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III, in the match that exposed me to pro wrestling for the very first time. For that reason more than anything, Bobby Heenan is my favorite manager of all-time.

I find it amazing he has battled throat cancer for twelve years now. I hope he remains in good health and good spirits for as long as this world will have him. Keep pushing on, Bobby.

 

That ended up being a lot shorter than normal, but it was still fun to talk about my favorite managers. As some of you know, I’ve worked as a manager on the independents myself, and I’ve used inspiration from a majority of the people on this list to mold my character. Specifically, Bobby Heenan, Jimmy Hart, and Jim Cornette as I like to be the cowardly, big-mouthed, full of lies chickenshit heel that is just a blast to play. I hope to make my return to the indies sooner rather than later, and do what managers do best: entertain the fans and build up the wrestlers in the ring.

See you on the indies!

My Top 10 Favorite James Bond Movies

The following blog contains SPOILERS. Please read at your own risk.

 

Late last year, I embarked on a journey to watch every James Bond film in order. It was a fun project, because I’m a fan of the popular spy franchise, but also because there were a couple of films missing from the library of movies I’ve seen. I successfully watched all 23 Eon films, and even threw in “Never Say Never Again” for good measure. With the lone exception of the original “Casino Royale” short from 1967 (which I’ve been told is not worth watching) I am proud to say I have seen every James Bond movie.

The Bond franchise has now spawned six decades, and featured six actors as the suave MI6 agent. The majority of the films are well worth watching, although with 24 films in the can, you’re going to have some lemons in there. The movies feature global-threatening plots, crazy action, fun gadgets, and plenty of British humor. Every movie has it’s high points, even the ones that aren’t very good, and make for an enjoyable film experience.

Picking 10 out of 24 wasn’t a simple task, but I think I easily narrowed down my favorites. There are very few films I wouldn’t watch again willingly, as in not without watching them in order again, but that only counts for 5 at best. My personal preferences also have a few outside influences behind them, which I’ll address as I count them down. All bias aside, if you want a really fun film series that evolves quite well over time, I highly recommend the James Bond series. But do yourselves a favor and watch them all, in order. It’s the only way to appreciate the actors involved, and see the stories evolve over time, all coming full circle in the end. And more films are coming, so this list may even change over time!

From “Dr. No” to “Skyfall,” I am proud to count down:

 

MY TOP 10 FAVORITE JAMES BOND FILMS

 

10. ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, 1969

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Surprised to see this film on my list? You shouldn’t be. While George Lazenby will go down in history as the worst James Bond actor in the franchise, this film is one of the best, if not THE best, individual James Bond story in the entire franchise’s history.

The film evolves the SPECTRE storyline as Ernst Blofeld brainwashes women in an institute for allergy research into becoming his unwilling henchmen(women?) and spread biological warfare around the globe. Blofeld’s plans were always nefarious, but he takes it to new heights and managed to trick 007 a number of times. Fortunately, Bond is aided by a young woman named Tracy, whom he falls in love with. This takes the Bond character to new depths, as he asks Tracy to marry him, instead of his usual one night stand approach with all his girls. Blofeld kidnaps Tracy, but Bond gets the upper hand in the end by landing Blofeld in a wheelchair. Unfortunately, Blofeld gets the last laugh, when he assassinates Tracy shortly after their wedding.

This is the first (and only) film to depict Bond in a more homely manner by having him get married, and sets up the ultimate revenge plot in the following movie, “Diamonds Are Forever,” when Bond sets out for revenge against his wife’s killers. This film is one of the most emotional of the series (until MUCH later even) and is one of the few Bond movies to end on a serious down-note, that makes you need to see the next one.

Critics are harsh of Lazenby’s performance, but to be fair, he had big shoes to fill, following a legendary actor like Sean Connery. With a serious lack of acting experience, Lazenby doesn’t do an awful job. In fact, if you take away the Connery comparison and focus on this being his first real acting performance, you’ll realize he isn’t half-bad. Worst Bond choice? Sure, but awful actor overall? Hardly.

With the Lazenby casting, and the fact that this movie could stand to lose 20 minutes, I can’t rank it any higher on my list. But I need to acknowledge it, as it doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Give it another watch, and I think you’ll agree.

 

9. TOMORROW NEVER DIES, 1997

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Many people are critical of this film, because of the villain’s plot. I mean, it is pretty lame – a media mogul wants a television station in China, so he starts World War III. Yeah, far from the greatest super-villain of all time. Still, the action is insane and a lot of fun, and the opening where 007 infiltrates the terrorist trading gathering is my all-time favorite opening in a Bond movie. The theme song is one of the all-time best too. But, there’s one very important reason why this film holds a special place in my heart.

This was the first James Bond movie I ever saw on the big screen.

They say the first Bond movies you see always become your favorites. Well, this is proof-positive, because no matter how many critical reviews I read, I still go back to this film with fond memories. The self-driving car is cool, the chase scenes are action-packed, and the Bond girl is actually a strong lead. There’s a lot to like in “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

This would be Pierce Brosnan’s second role as 007, but unfortunately, his last good one, as the next two films would be largely forgettable. Still, Brosnan portrayed a great Bond, and this movie deserves more accolades than it receives.

 

8. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, 1974

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Roger Moore was probably my least favorite of the James Bond actors. George Lazenby performed the role one time, and decided himself that he wouldn’t make another film, so his one-time offense can be forgiven. Moore took the Bond role a record seven times, and was not a worthy successor to the legendary Sean Connery. In fact, some of his films rank among the very worst. “Live and Let Die” became a project in blackspolitation, with some highly uncomfortable scenes. While I enjoyed the silly sci-fi schlock, “Moonraker” was a pretty ridiculous film. Worse yet, “A View to a Kill” was a bad movie for the franchise, despite having CHRISTOPHER WALKEN as the villain! “Octopussy,” my least favorite of all the Bond movies, was also a Roger Moore movie. But, among the weaker Moore movies, there was one golden gem. Or, should I say, golden gun.

The plot centers on an assassin named Francisco Scaramanga, brilliantly played by legendary English actor Christopher Lee. He lives on an island with a creepy midget servant, and a weird funhouse full of creepy tricks. Bond receives a golden bullet, a symbol of Scaramanga’s, who uses a golden gun in his kills. This actually causes Bond to be removed from an assignment, to track down and assassinate the assassin.

The film has a lot of twists, even for a Bond movie, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. The island traps are enough to keep you up at night, and the goofy Sheriff J.W. Pepper makes his second (and last appearance) for some legitimate comedy value that’s just goofy enough to be entertaining. If you had to twist my ear to select one good Roger Moore film, this would be the one I would choose.

Ironically, it’s the last Moore film you’ll see on my list. Well, maybe it’s not so ironic, if you’ve read this far.

 

7. LICENSE TO KILL, 1989

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Released in 1989, “License to Kill” is the single most criminally underrated movie in the entire Bond franchise. It’s the first movie since “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” to actually evolve the James Bond character further and give him more depth. This is partly due to Timothy Dalton’s portrayal as 007, which in my opinion, was better than Moore’s and just as good as Brosnan’s.

The plot is incredibly simple, and somehow complex too, as it’s more character based instead of another world-ending plot afoot. Bond, along with his best friend, DEA agent Felix Leiter, capture a drug lord named Franz Sanchez. Immediately after, Bond attends the wedding of Leiter, but Sanchez escapes and murder’s Leiter’s new wife. Bond refuses an assignment in order to avenge his friend’s wife, and loses his license to kill, when M suspended him from active duty. Bond must then receive secretive help from Q in order to track down the drug lord and exact his revenge.

This is a great movie that shows Bond’s human side much better than any previous film had. Future Bond movies would involve more personal stakes, but this one really let the audience experience just how far 007 would take a personal matter, and show his loyalty to his friends and allies.

This film, more than any other film, sparked the famous theory that “James Bond” is simply a code name, not an actual person, despite this film and OHMSS’s attempts to keep the character tied as one person through constant film references and memories. Still, the theory is quite fun to explore, and Dalton’s extreme portrayal of Bond in “License to Kill” gives the theory the legs it needs to stand on.

While Dalton does a great job, he sadly only appears in two movies. “The Living Daylights” is your average Bond movie, but “License to Kill” deserves to be watched again.

 

6. DR. NO, 1962

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There’s very little I can say about “Dr. No” that hasn’t been said already. It’s the film that started it all. Without the success of “Dr. No,” there would not be a James Bond franchise. It sets up everything you need to know about the iconic spy – his mannerisms (brought to life by the brilliant Sir Sean Connery, the best James Bond of all time), his mission for MI6, and choices in women and alcohol. It also sets up the SPECTRE story arc, which would be the biggest Bond storyline in the franchise to date. Most importantly, it sets up two Bond staples: the gun barrel intro, and the artistic credit scene, which would remain prominent through the series all the way to you reading this blog.

The immediate sequel, “From Russia With Love,” does a brilliant job continuing the story, and leading to what many consider the best 007 film of all time (wait for it). Dr. No’s mysterious island sets the drama for things to come, and the 007 franchise takes off.

What more can I possibly say?

I will point out now, that I like Connery’s Bond the best. Sometimes the original can’t be beat, and I think this is a good example. Still, there are people who enjoy other incantations of Bond, but based on the character’s main profile from the books, he’s a wise-cracking smooth-talker who gets the job done. Some Bond actors feel like they try too hard to be funny (Moore, Brosnan) and while that’s partly due to corny writing, it’s also in the delivery. Connery is able to deliver dry British wit in such a perfect manner, capturing the essence of James Bond from the stories better than anyone else. This is mostly due to Connery’s natural delivery, but also because I think his series of films are the best written in the series. They exemplify classic, and they set the bar VERY high, maybe a little too high. Sean Connery IS James Bond, and will always be my favorite of all the actors.

 

5. THUNDERBALL, 1965

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In my high school senior year, I took a class called “Changing Times” that focused on pop culture in the 1960s and 70s. We had to do a video project on a film from that era, and the film I selected was “Thunderball.” My father even participated in the project (at least in the film watching portion) and it was one of the easiest projects I ever did in school. I mean, getting graded to review a James Bond movie? Best 100% grade I ever got in school!

While the underwater fight scene does feel a little drawn out (a general weakness in action movies from that time) the film is a LOT of fun. Bond really infiltrates the SPECTRE organization in this one, coming face to face with Blofeld’s number two man, Emilio Largo. Bond is also extremely funny in this movie, with Connery delivering the one-liners with a sly wink, adding to the humor. Not only is this one of the funniest films, it’s also one of the better action movies of the classic Bond films, without getting too over the top like some of the movies seem to be.

I know many people who have a low opinion on this film (looking at you fellow podcast host) but I’ve always found it to be an enjoyable adventure with high re-watchability (if that’s even a word). I’d recommend giving it another look with an open mind. Hey, these movies are supposed to be fun right?

 

4. GOLDENEYE, 1995

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If the first Bond movie you ever see really does stick with you, I can think of no better example than 1995’s “GoldenEye,” which not-so-coincidently, is the first James Bond movie I ever saw. I had a sleepover for my birthday that year, and my friend Ian bought me a VHS copy of “GoldenEye” (which I still own). We sat down in the living room with our sleeping bags that evening and I got my first taste of James Bond glory. And I liked it.

Pierce Brosnan proved to be a decent Bond in his first ever role, a role I feel he does not get enough credit for. He’s out to stop a doomsday device that will send London back to the stone-age, headed by an ex-M16 agent he “left to die.” 006 is played brilliantly by Sean Bean, and since it’s Sean Bean playing a Bond villain, I don’t need to tell you what his ultimate fate is. As this was Eon’s first 007 film in the 90s, it did not disappoint, with great special effects, action scenes, and this new technology called the “internet” playing a major role in the grand scheme. It also features Robbie Coltrane playing a former KGB operator named Valentin Zukovsky. So yes, a James Bond movie had both Hagrid AND Boromir in it. Awesome.

Of course, I need to point out that this movie also spawned one of the greatest Nintendo 64 games, first-person shooters, and overall video games of all time. I remember wasting literal days of my childhood running around shooting enemies, or shooting my friends in the awesome multi-player mode. Even if you didn’t care for the movie, odds are you thought the game was fantastic.

If you haven’t played the game, I highly encourage you to find a copy and give it a try. You won’t be disappointed!

 

3. CASINO ROYALE, 2006

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A lot of firsts for me in films can be revolved around 007. For example, the very first blu-ray I ever saw was a copy of “Casino Royale.” I wasn’t sure how I felt about a reboot into the Bond series, especially since it was a reboot taking place in modern times. I went into this movie with heavy skepticism.

I left watching one of the best movies I had ever seen.

The beginning of the film shows how 007 becomes 007. It introduces characters popular to the film franchise, like CIA agent Felix Leiter and M herself, which is Judi Dench’s M from the Brosnan series (and in my opinion, the best M in the franchise). The plot, which is based on the first book by Ian Fleming, has Bond foil a terrorist plot and then keep them from regaining their funding through a Texas hold-em tournament. The Bond character evolves again, as we learn of his weaknesses early into his spyhood, specifically falling in love with a woman who betrays him before killing herself. And since this is the reboot, the ending will make fans happy, as Bond introduces himself for the very first time as “Bond…James Bond” and we see the ironic gun barrel shot before the credits.

Daniel Craig becomes the best James Bond since Sean Connery in this one. I know some people will disagree with that, but he comes as close to capturing Ian Fleming’s secret agent character as Connery did, with just the right blend of dry wit and no-nonsense interrogation. Yes, this is partly a writing issue, as Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan’s Bonds delivered a plethora of corny one-liners, but I truly feel the writing staff worked hard to bring James Bond to life, and Daniel Craig worked very hard to fill the character’s shoes as well as his predecessors. Craig instantly became my favorite James Bond (after Connery) and I hope he continues to do an amazing job.

Unfortunately, Craig’s next Bond role would be the awful “Quantum of Solace,” which really wasn’t a very good film. Not “Octopussy” bad, but not worthy of “Casino Royale’s” follow-up. I feared what his third role into the Bond franchise would be, but my fears were quickly abolished as Craig’s third movie blew me away even more…

 

2. SKYFALL, 2012

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The fact that the newest Eon film in a franchise of 23 movies could rank so highly surprised even me. But after watching “Skyfall,” there is no denying this movie’s greatness. Not only is it a very good Bond film, with action, suspenseful scenes, and evolving the Bond character in TWO different directions (weakness and emotional states) but it also serves as a fantastic fan service movie, with throwbacks to the old M office and the Aston Martin DBS, the iconic Bond vehicle, making a surprise cameo. This film has everything a James Bond film could ever want.

Let’s take a moment to analyze what we get in “Skyfall.” We get an intense opening scene that teases the death of 007 when he’s shot accidently by a fellow field agent. We get the Adele soundtrack, which is my favorite Bond song to this day. Bond cheats death and returns when he’s ready, but shows weakness in the line of duty, forcing his records to be cheated so he can return to action. We get Ralph Fiennes, Voldemort himself, as the agent that’s teased as the villain, only to fool you in the end. We get action scenes taking place in beautifully shot locations, and a creepy as hell deserted island that’s a real thing. We also get to see Bond’s childhood home in the moors of Scotland, with a final showdown as the villain sieges the home and Bond delivers one of the best one-liners to sum up his childhood (which the movie to hear it). Did I mention the villain is an ex MI6 agent who blows up MI6 headquarters, is always one step ahead of the agents he’s attacking, and has a weird and extremely unnerving love for M? To top it off, we get the most emotional scene in any James Bond movie as Judi Dench’s M passes away in Bond’s arms, causing the audience to cry along with James. We are also introduced to two iconic characters in the Bond series, Q and Moneypenny. And of course, Gareth Mallory (Voldemort) is now M, ending on a high note that makes you seriously want to see the next one.

What else is there to say? “Skyfall” is an excellent Bond movie, erasing the memory of “Quantum of Solace” which sadly DOES tie this film to “Casino Royale,” delivers more nostalgia moments to serve the long-term fans while creating new moments to hook newer fans. By the end of this movie, everyone will be a James Bond fan, and that’s a good thing.

Let’s hope the next installment lives up to the hype of this one!

 

1. GOLDFINGER, 1964

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If there was ever a James Bond movie worthy of being put in a time-capsule, it would be 1964’s “Goldfinger.” Not only is this my favorite of all the Bond movies, but it’s also worthy of being ranked in Sean Connery’s personal favorite films he’s been in. That speaks volumes, considering how many iconic roles the Scottish actor as excelled in. This film also introduced a lot of key elements in James Bond canon, like wacky gadgets from Q branch. It’s considered by many to be the best Bond film of all time, and it’s not hard to see why.

Being only the third film in the entire franchise, “Goldfinger” had little to live up to. This movie delivers ironic scenes and characters by the dozen. Bond’s “man-talk” slap on the ass and Jill Masterson killed by suffocating in gold paint are still two scenes people talk about to this day. We are also introduced to two famous James Bond characters; mute Korean hitman Oddjob and his decapitating hat, and Pussy Galore, one of the greatest named characters in all of cinema and literature. James Bond himself is wittier than ever before, and he uses tons of lies and manipulation to keep himself alive when the odds are working against him. This is classic 007, as he uses his cunning to get himself out of hopeless situations time and time again, but in this film he really did it the best.

Goldfinger is actually a menacing villain in that he rarely gets his own hands dirty and cheats with everything he does. He actually comes up with a great plan to raid Ft. Knox and devalue the gold by setting off an atomic device, but Bond outsmarts him through seduction of Pussy Galore (you surprised?) and tricking him with the ENTIRE Knox military guards behind him. Bond becomes such a hero that he’s invited to meet the president of the United States, but the plane is hijacked en-route, leading to a final fight between Bond and Goldfinger that results in one of the better unintentionally funny deaths in a movie.

“Goldfinger” is a highly successful movie, both in box office and quality. It captures the role of James Bond perfectly and sets up all the moments and gadgets (and that beautiful car) we know and love. It’s well-written, action packed, and funny in the right ways, with crazy characters and Sean Connery’s wit. It’s my favorite James Bond movie, and it still holds up exceedingly well to this day.

 

I hope you guys all enjoyed my 007 countdown. What are your favorite James Bond movies? Leave them in the comments, and subscribe to this blog if you want to see more fun lists like this. If you have an idea for a top 10 list you’d like me to tackle, I welcome requests. I have a huge backlog of ideas though, so your idea may already be listed. Thanks for reading!

My Top 10 Least Favorite Wrestlemania Matches

The last time I blogged, I wrote about my least favorite wrestlers, as a reader request. As I mentioned, it was difficult to do, because while I may not like certain performers, I respect almost every single person to ever step foot into a wrestling ring. Their devotion to their craft is inspiring to me and makes me proud to call myself a wrestling fan. Plus, some wrestlers I didn’t care for, like the Ultimate Warrior, have passed away, so it almost felt disrespectful to talk about them negatively. But thanks to reader feedback, especially one comment from Daniel Tuma praising me for how respectfully I treated the article, it made me feel better, and for that I want to say thank you to everyone.

Now, this time we’re going to talk about bad wrestling matches, and let me tell you, I have no issues pulling all the punches when it comes to criticizing a bad match.

Let’s get something out of the way though first. Everyone can have a bad match. Everyone can have an off-day. It happens, it’s just human nature. Some days, you just aren’t 100%, and it’s nobody’s fault. The best wrestlers who ever competed have had bad matches. Ring perfectionists like Bret Hart, Kurt Angle, and Chris Jericho will all tell you stories of the matches they think sucked. The praise “he’s never had a bad match” simply isn’t true. Technical masters like Ricky Steamboat and Jake Roberts have off-days. A bad match may be harder to find for some people, but they exist. It’s just how the world works.

However, sometimes an off-day happens at the worst time, like say, on a show that people paid to see. And not just a live audience either, we’re talking people watching at home who plunked down fifty dollars of hard earned cash to see these people compete. When you have a bad match on a pay-per-view, there’s little excuse. Sure, there could be human nature elements involved, but PPV matches should arguably always be more than just okay. After all, if people are paying for the event, and you don’t give it your all, it can severely bite you in the ass.

Don’t worry though, even a bad PPV match can be forgotten about. Does everyone remember every match on an In Your House event? Not likely. What matches were at the Great American Bash ’97? Or Clash of the Champions XXV? There may have been bad matches, but for the most part, they become another forgotten piece of history.

Unless your bad match happens at Wrestlemania, the biggest show ever produced by any wrestling company in history. Now, that match will not only be remembered, but judged VERY harshly.

To be fair, there are multiple elements that go into making a bad match happen. The in-ring action is the big one, but the result and the story leading up to the match can sometimes attribute to the failure of the match quality. Sometimes the workers aren’t to blame, sometimes it’s the producers, bookers, or agents. But, at Wrestlemania, our expectations are pretty high. It’s the show of shows, the Showcase of the Immortals, so we expect great storylines, great in-ring action, and satisfying conclusions. Sometimes though, we don’t get all the pieces of the puzzle.

And sometimes, all three pieces go missing. The matches I’ve selected, are missing those pieces. In some cases, VERY badly.

Even if one of the elements of the match is decent, the others can be so bad they ruin the whole experience. But before we list them, let me make a few clarifications as to how I made my selections.

THE STORYLINE: Lots of Wrestlemania matches have happened for little reason, or just because, and sometimes the story is idiotic. But a good solid match can save a dumb story. For example, Booker T and Edge once fought over who would get to be in a Japanese shampoo commercial. AT WRESTLEMANIA. It was incredibly stupid, but it was a good match.

THE IN-RING ACTION: This is the big one, the moment that attributed to all of my choices most of all. But, even piss-poor matches can become forgotten by other elements. For example, many people say that the Kat and Terri Runnels at Wrestlemania 2000 (16) is one of the worst matches of all time. In-ring wise, it’s garbage, but it’s surrounded by a largely forgettable Wrestlemania was some bright spots (Triangle Ladder Match) and storyline involvement of Mae Young and Val Venis. It’s also, mercifully, less than three minutes. I’ve only seen this match once, and it doesn’t even stick with me. So it gets a pass.

THE END RESULT: A good match can have a disappointing finish. Many of you hated Brock Lesnar defeating the Undertaker and ending his undefeated streak, but three simple factors work in this match’s favor. It was a stellar match, it told an amazing and very emotional story, and as of this writing, it hasn’t truly had it’s payoff yet. So there’s no way I would even consider it, regardless of my feelings in the end.

In fact, sometimes a bad match and a bad result can lead to something amazing happening. Remember that 18 second debacle with Sheamus pinning Daniel Bryan? It was infuriating. But Bryan became MADE after that match, simply because it pissed off the fans so much. Sometimes, you gotta really look at the big picture and understand that pro wrestling can be quite complicated.

That said, I’ve picked 10 matches that had crappy stories, awful payoffs, and even worse, atrocious in-ring action inexcusable for the biggest show of the year. Ironically, many of these matches happened at newer Wrestlemanias, because I believe that as Wrestlemania grows, the people responsible should learn from past mistakes and do anything possible to avoid this kind of garbage from being green-lit.

Thirty years later, they still don’t get it. And so I present to you:

 

MY TOP 10 LEAST FAVORITE WRESTLEMANIA MATCHES OF ALL TIME

 

10. 25 Diva Battle Royal to crown Miss Wrestlemania, Wrestlemania XXV

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The 25th annual Wrestlemania had some problems. Not only was it wrongfully labeled as the “25th anniversary” (it was the 25th YEAR, making it the 24th anniversary) but it suffered from a painfully underwhelming main event between Triple H and Randy Orton, an exciting tag team title bout pushed off the main card, and an annoyingly short Intercontinental Championship match that was booked short to have JBL storyline quit. While there were definite highlights, like a Hardy Boy grudge match that was the best match they ever had together, a CM Punk back-to-back Money in the Bank victory, Ricky Steamboat showing us he still had it with Chris Jericho, and a 5-star classic between Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, we had to suffer through a long concert by a slightly outdated Kid Rock. Maybe this was cool a few years ago, but Kid Rock wasn’t the mega-hot commodity he had been. Still, it wasn’t a bad performance, but the performance itself ended up masking something I was actually looking forward to.

Prior to Wrestlemania, it was announced that they would crown a Miss Wrestlemania by having 25 divas clash in a battle royal. Not only would the current roster girls be competing, but several past divas were invited back for a one time appearance. Although they would show the graphic, they never formally announced anyone, and I was really excited to see which girls they got to come back.

I would never get to hear any names though. The girls all came out, did the stereotypical “dance sexy to the music” move WWE overkills on their girls, and got in the ring. I didn’t know who was even in the match until AFTER they were eliminated!

Torrie Wilson? Jackie Gayda?! Molly Holly?!?! VICTORIA?!?! ……SUNNY?!?! Are you kidding me? I was actually pumped for a woman’s match that I knew was going to be bad, despite my love for battle royals, and I was incredibly disappointed by the lack of exposure and attention to the girls. This match was a perfect example of times when WWE flat out doesn’t care about their women’s division.

Making matters that much worse is the reason why we didn’t get introductions. In order to properly introduce the girls, we’d have to say their names. And the winner of the match was going to be a surprise entrant. A past diva? A current diva? WRONG. It wasn’t even a female! Santino Marella, cross-dressing as his “twin sister” Santina, would be the last…person standing, and win the Miss Wrestlemania crown, making the other 24 girls look like goofs and throwing it all away for cheap comedy that failed to be humorous.

I love women’s wrestling, and I love comedy in wrestling. I also really enjoy Santino Marella as a character. But this match gave us none of these elements in a positive light. Worse, only three years prior, the house was torn down by Trish Stratus and Mickie James in one of the greatest women’s matches of all time. I legitimately feel bad for the girls in this match. With the lone exception of Joy Giovanni, they all deserved better than this.

 

9. The Miller Light Catfight Girls Vs. Torrie Wilson & Stacy Keibler, Wrestlemania XIX

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When I started my research for this list, I debated whether to even include this match, as it really wasn’t an official match by any means. Still, it happened, live in front of the audience, and there was a three-count, and also it was atrocious, so let’s count it anyway.

The Miller Light Catfight Girls were brought in as a cheap “celebrity” ploy with a product endorsement, and were going to battle Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler, because they’re two hot blondes and why not? What we got wasn’t even a match, but an excuse to humiliate Jonathan Coachman, and then everyone pinned Coach for the win. Uhh…

It was largely forgettable, and a poor throwaway segment, but it was a blemish on the Wrestlemania XIX card, which was nearly perfect. In fact, other than a horrible timed Nathan Jones “kick” and an awful racism storyline that hindered the World Heavyweight Championship match, this was a damn good Wrestlemania! Minus this segment, of course. And Triple H’s purple tights (seriously, look it up).

 

8. Ashley Massaro Vs. Melina, Lumberjill Match for the WWE Women’s Championship, Wrestlemania 23

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The third – and last – women’s match on my list, Ashley Vs. Melina was doomed from the get-go, as it was a poor feud centered on Ashley’s Playboy spread. WWE went through a period where every year during Wrestlemania season, one of their girls would pose for Playboy. This would lead to a feud between another girl, over self-respect and other crap, and capitalize in a match. All of these matches were awful, but I’m centering on this one because of the competitors involved.

While I’ve ragged on Ashley in the past, she was a legitimate fan who only became a diva after winning the much hated Diva Search competition. Melina wasn’t always the best diva on the roster, but she was a solid hand who the fans could get behind for better or for worse. Unfortunately, Ashley’s lack of proper training wasn’t something Melina could carry, and surrounding the ring with every other girl just to lead to catfighting didn’t add anything to this match. Fortunately, this match was kept under four minutes, and used as a buffer between the main event and Vince McMahon getting shaved bald, so not too much damage was done.

The next year, Beth Phoenix and Maria would be added to this mix for a tag team match that was a lot better. It helped to ease the pain of this match, but with Wrestlemania 24 being superior to Wrestlemania 23, it was nothing more than a band-aid.

 

7. Bret “The Hitman” Hart Vs. Vince McMahon, No-Holds Barred Lumberjack Match, Wrestlemania XXVI

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Putting Bret Hart anywhere on a “worst of” matches list feels like an absolute travesty. After rekindling his relationship with Vince, Shawn Michaels, and the WWE, it only made sense to give a storyline sendoff for the Montreal Screwjob, and let Bret finally exact his revenge on the guy who ruined his reputation, Vince McMahon. Best of all, anything would go, and the entire Hart family would be surrounding the ring, with Bruce Hart as the special guest referee. Sounds like a perfect storyline to get invested in right?

Wrong. This wasn’t the amazing worker Bret Hart we all knew and loved, this was the post-stroke cannot-bump Hitman that was painful to watch in the ring. Vince, getting up there in age, simply couldn’t work well in the ring anymore (not that he was that great to begin with). And worst of all, Montreal happened in 1997. This was 2010. Yes folks, we finally got closure on Montreal almost 13 years later. And it wasn’t worth it.

The almost immobile Bret could do nothing more than swing a chair, which is basically all that he did. Vince took his beating, the Harts beat him up, some of which were rumored to have hit Vince for real, and Bret made Vince tap out. Despite the happy ending, it was abysmal to watch, and it went on for over 11 minutes. That may not sound horrible, but it was only two minutes LESS than the Money in the Bank ladder match (which that year was universally regarded as the worst one yet). It went almost DOUBLE that of CM Punk Vs. Rey Mysterio! Fortunately, Shawn Michaels would save the event with his tearful retirement match against the Undertaker, while Bret Hart would have the worst match on the card. It’s kind of funny and ironic how that works.

Thankfully, this would be the last time Bret would be expected to compete like this. He would have some heavily protected matches after this one, but they all kept him safe and made him look decent. This one though, just sucked.

 

6. Bart Gunn Vs. Eric “Butterbean” Esch, Brawl For All Finals, Wrestlemania XV

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I am a fan of pro wrestling over boxing. When people ask me why I prefer “fake” fighting, I tell them I enjoy the theatrics, story-telling, athleticism, characters, fun, and true art form that is wrestling. If I do want to watch real fighting though, I turn on MMA. Mixed Martial Arts offers kickass fighting and intense combat, and like wrestling, shows off real men.

Boxing though, has none of this. Other than the Rocky movies, which I’m a big fan of, boxing just doesn’t excite me.

So imagine my excitement when the Brawl For All took place. Let’s break the rules of wrestling and actually let these guys beat each other up to see who the best fighter is. Oh, it’s Bart Gunn? Well, okay, let’s put him up against a REAL heavyweight boxer! 33 seconds later, KO, and Gunn’s career is over.

If nothing else, this painfully short match ruined Bart Gunn’s career and halted it from becoming whatever it was going to be, all because someone thought it would be a good idea for a non-boxer to fight a boxer. These matches are ALWAYS boring, but despite several infamous boxer matches being gigantic failures (Antonio Inoki Vs. Muhammad Ali) nobody learned. An already crappy Wrestlemania was not going to be helped by this embarrassment.

 

5. The Undertaker Vs. Giant Gonzalez, Wrestlemania IX

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Many people label the 9th Wrestlemania as the worst one in history. While it had a pretty cool setting at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, it was full of awful matches and awful gimmicks. Among the worst of the worst was this abortion between the legendary Undertaker, and the legendary (for a different reason) naked sasquatch known as Giant Gonzalez.

This was going to be a “big man” match, and the ultimate test for the Undertaker, who had never faced someone who he had to look up to before. It was billed as a gigantic battle, and hyped as one too. Unfortunately, nobody taught the lumbering giant how to wrestle, dooming this match from the start. After a disastrous run in WCW, he was signed to the WWF because he was tall. Then he was dressed up like a NAKED bigfoot! Okay, so Bigfoot doesn’t wear clothes, but at least he doesn’t wear an airbrushed ass crack. While this was better than actually being naked (I’m so sorry Dennis Knight) it was one of the worst characters the WWF had ever produced. But maybe the Undertaker could get a good match out of him?

Maybe if this was the “aging like a fine wine” Undertaker that brought us amazing Wrestlemania matches the last few years, this wouldn’t have been a problem. But this was a young, still somewhat green Undertaker, so despite his best efforts, this match went off like a fart in church. To top it all off, it was the worst blemish to the Undertaker’s 21-match winning streak: a DQ victory because Gonzalez knocked him out with chloroform. Not even his cool entrance with the raven was going to save this one. It stunk, and set a new standard for bad matches on big stages.

But, believe it or not, it would actually get worse at Wrestlemania IX…

 

4. Hulk Hogan Vs. Yokozuna, impromptu match for the WWF Championship, Wrestlemania IX

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I have a great idea! Let’s have Yokozuna, a very agile and talented big man and legitimate threat, defeat Bret Hart for the WWF Championship. Sounds good right? Well, what if after, we have Hulk Hogan come out. You know, Hulk Hogan? The guy who finally stayed out of the main event of Wrestlemania after he was in or connected to the first eight events? He NEEDS to be involved somehow, so let’s have him run out after to make Bret feel better. Wait, that isn’t enough, let’s have Bret tell him to GO GET HIM, and have Mr. Fuji issue an impromptu challenge, because Hogan’s ego caused him to refuse to put Bret over! Then, have Hogan beat Yokozuna is 22 seconds, making Bret, Yokozuna, the championship, and the WWF all look like absolute garbage in the process! Brilliant!

Over twenty years later, and this match still pisses me off royally.

 

3. Brock Lesnar Vs. Goldberg, Wrestlemania XX

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Goldberg had a one-year run with WWE, starting in 2003 with a feud with the Rock and ending at Wrestlemania XX. While his WWE run did nothing for his career, to his credit, he did the best with what he was given. WWE spend 365 days booking Goldberg like crap, but they finally gave us a glimmer of hope as his contract prepared to expire. For his sendoff, Goldberg would put over Brock Lesnar, the fasting rising star the WWE had seen in years, in a match between two big bulls that actually could move in the ring.

The story setup was simple. Goldberg punked out Brock, so Brock screwed over Goldberg in the Royal Rumble. Goldberg got his revenge by screwing Lesnar out of the WWE Championship. Lesnar begged (literally) for a match against Goldberg, and it was signed for Wrestlemania XX. It was time for these two behemoths to collide, so Goldberg could help establish Lesnar as the next true mega-star in WWE.

Only one small itty-bitty, teensie-weenie, problem with this plan: Brock quit to go play football days before Wrestlemania. Yes, I’m serious.

I don’t remember the actual timeframe, but I remember reading that Brock flat out said “I quit, I’m going to go play football” and walked out of the WWE the night after Wrestlemania. Watching Smackdown that Thursday night, I wondered why nobody in the crowd was reacting to this news, but then I rememberd Smackdown is taped on Tuesdays (the news broke after Tuesday). So that Sunday, I wondered if the fans actually knew, and would say anything. After all, 2004 still didn’t have that much dirt-sheet coverage and insider knowledge on the internet, so it was possible the news didn’t reach a lot of people.

But it did, and the fans were PISSED OFF.

They booed Brock without mercy, flooding the arena with “you sold out” chants and singing “nananana, hey hey, goodbye” to him so loud that Jim Ross was forced to acknowledge why they were chanting to begin with. It was embarrassing. The fans knew Goldberg was gone, and wanted to see Brock destroy him. But they were so pissed at Brock for walking out on them (which he did) that they sided against him, and honestly, only really popped for Steve Austin. The fans were ready to riot, so it was time for Brock and Goldberg to battle and have a great match to shut them up.

And they didn’t. They delivered one of the worst, piss-poor performances of a wrestling match I have ever seen. For an amazing talent like Brock and a powerhouse talent like Goldberg to phone it in so badly, it was embarrassing to watch as a wrestling fan. The “BORING” chants were terrible, and the fans…NEW YORK CITY fans at that…seriously wanted blood. Goldberg, despite being booked to lose, ended up pinning Brock anyway because the agents were so pissed at him they wanted to make sure he lost. The biggest pop came, not surprisingly, when Austin delivered a Stunner to Brock, which Jim Ross called “AUSTIN HAS STUNNED BROCK RIGHT OUT OF THE WWE…RING.” Awesome. A second Stunner to Goldberg, and Steve Austin (who laughed about that night for years) rode up the ramp to the crowd’s celebration.

At least Wrestlemania XX was an amazing card with amazing matches and stories, so the fans left happy. John Cena won his first championship, Undertaker returned as the Dead Man, and Chris Benoit’s career culminated in one of the greatest triple threat matches in history, a match so good the formula was copied for Daniel Bryan ten years later. By the time the show ended, the bad taste of Lesnar-Goldberg was gone.

And then, 8 years later, WWE hired Brock Lesnar back so he could end the Undertaker’s undefeated streak. Well, if you wanted to create a true genuine heel the fans would actually hate, that’s one way to do it.

Goldberg has never been seen in mainstream wrestling since, but is rumored for a showdown with Ryback at Wrestlemania 31. Color me unimpressed.

 

2. The Big Show Vs. Akebono, Sumo Wrestling Match, Wrestlemania 21

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Bad Wrestlemania moments can sometimes be attributed to three things – celebrity involvement, non-wrestling sporting events, and Big Show humiliation. However, all of these elements were washed away when Floyd “Money” Mayweather faced Big Show at Wrestlemania 24, in a match was way better than anyone anticipated. Even though Big Show lost, he told an amazing story with Mayweather and created a celebrity match that people got invested in. It was very impressive.

Too bad that same magic didn’t happen in Hollywood in 2005, when Big Show took on top yokozuna Akebono for a sumo wrestling match, because…well, I honestly don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but they were wrong. So, very, wrong.

Sumo wrestling at Wrestlemania was an even worse idea than boxing. Sure, it’s actually wrestling rather than fighting, but boxing is still popular in America. Sumo wrestling is only popular in Japan, so showcasing this match made little sense. The Japanese would have more interest in the WWE product if they involved top stars from their pro wrestling promotions, as evidenced by WCW’s partnership with New Japan. We didn’t get Jushin Lyger or KENTA though, we got a sumo wrestler nobody in America ever heard of, facing Big Show because he’s big. Oh yes, and Big Show wore a THONG.

Not only did this match feature a concept uninteresting to American audiences, it also showcased more of Big Show’s flesh than anyone, ever, would want to see. It was boring, and naturally Big Show had to do the job to the celebrity endorsement, making him look like a punk. It was awful.

The good news is, it’s rarely mentioned anymore. Once this match ended, it was quickly forgotten about. Which can’t be said for our last entry…

 

1. Michael Cole Vs. Jerry “The King” Lawler, Wrestlemania XXVII

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As I said in the beginning, there are three things that can make a bad match. A poor story, awful in-ring work, and a piss poor payoff can all be taken into account. Well, here’s a match that not only had all three of these elements, but made sure to shine a spotlight on it’s awfulness at the same time.

The story started off promising. Sure, it was going to be bad, but it had some decent promise. Michael Cole, who had developed an insufferable heel character – an actual heel you didn’t want to cheer – was feuding with his broadcast colleague, Jerry Lawler. Jerry, despite having a legendary career over four decades, had never competed at Wrestlemania, and really wanted to shut Cole’s mouth, so they were booked in a match with referee Steve Austin. This match would spotlight King, allow Cole to finally get his comeuppance, and Austin would help make the match less than awful with his involvement.

Now, while Cole actually made a good heel character, ripping on fan favorites like Daniel Bryan and acting as a constant mouthpiece for Vince to rib the fans, the fatal flaw in the plan was that he was still the main play-by-play guy. They rectified this slightly be having Josh Matthews sit in on commentary, so Cole wouldn’t have to bury the product while trying to call matches, which is a terrible idea no matter how to try to justify it. Jerry Lawler deserved this Wrestlemania moment, so he could have one more accolade for his belt, and the fans were itching to see Cole silenced once and for all. Not a great story, but at least one that will make the fans happy.

The match happened, and Jack Swagger would be involved, allowing some actual competition that Cole simply wasn’t going to deliver. King and Swagger did the real work, and Cole got in offense that the fans catcalled throughout. Finally, Lawler came back, grabbed the upper hand, and started to humiliate Cole, locking him in a submission that Cole sold like gold. He tapped out furiously, begging for mercy, crying tears, while Austin (the referee) allowed the match to continue to openly mock him. Finally, a laughing Austin called the match and celebrated with a beer with the King. Booker T, the 3rd commentator, celebrated with them, and got a Stunner. Again, silly stuff, and awful “work” involved, but it was at least a little entertaining and it was what the fans wanted. Had it ended there, this match would just be another forgotten match among the near 300 Mania matches in the history books, as one people would go “well, it was bad, but what did you expect?” All would have been well.

But then it happened. The Anonymous Raw General Manager – the laptop computer gimmick that was one of WWE’s worst ideas at the time (and had an atrocious payoff because they plain couldn’t figure out who it was), reversed the decision, and awarded the match to Michael Cole. The fans booed, because at least after such a garbage spectacle, they had a finish they wanted. But now that a Dusty Finish was happening in 2011, they booed HARD. Not the good kind of heat either, the bad “forget this product” type of heat. Really bad stuff. Even the reunion of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler calling the rest of the PPV wouldn’t help, because Jerry had lost. Rather than see a true legend get a Wrestlemania moment, and a true heel stopped in his tracks, the fans got neither. And with Wrestlemania 27 already a bottom 3 Wrestlemania in HISTORY, this didn’t help at all.

Worse, this match was one of the LONGER matches on the card. The official time is 13:46, which is about 12:46 longer than this match should have gone (I’m being generous here). Not only was it a garbage match to a garbage PPV…the BIGGEST PPV OF THE YEAR…but the storyline continued on for another YEAR AND A HALF. Cole continued being insufferable, burying the product, getting hard-ons for the Miz, and delivering the worst commentary in pro wrestling since Tony Schiavone in WCW’s final years. Michael Cole, although was a better commentator than most people would ever give him credit for, became so bad that people I know couldn’t watch the shows anymore. This wasn’t a wrestler so bad you could turn off one segment, this was the ANNOUNCER being bad. That meant the ENTIRE SHOW was unwatchable. Cole just wouldn’t quit, wouldn’t go away. He and Lawler would have TWO more PPV matches before Cole would finally sit back down in the booth for awhile. But, he would continue to bring up his win over Jerry Lawler for TWO MORE YEARS, and even compete in the Royal Rumble, becoming the single worst Royal Rumble competitor in history.

YEARS of awful television stemming from one match? I’d say that cements it as Wrestlemania’s worst match in history. After 27 years, you’d think WWE would have figured out what type of matches to put on Wrestlemania, but this was proof positive that they simply didn’t get it.

And, to make matters even worse, we finally did get Cole to drop his horrible character once and for all. How? Jerry Lawler had an on-air heart attack that he would have died from if it happened, literally, anywhere else.

Kind of makes me sick to think about it.

Those are by far my least favorite matches in Wrestlemania history. Will any matches come along to make it on this list? I sure hope not. I’d rather have some matches make it onto my other list, my best of list. But only time will tell.

Remember, everyone can have an off-day…a worker, a booker, a promoter, anyone. But when they all happen at once, good lord…it’s a train wreck you’ll never be able to turn away from.