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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.