As WWE fans, we all have those main event matches that will stay etched in our memories for the rest our lives. Main events are the soul and heartbeat of pay-per-views. The calibre of a main event match often embodies the importance of the very pay-per-view itself. Broadcasts are promoted & built around main events of stature that give you the customer the energy to sit through a three-hour show. But sometimes, well not sometimes, a lot of the time these main events make you wish you’d never even bought the PPV in the first place.
The amount of insufferable main events, let alone matches, fans have been forced to watch over the years is simply staggering. Sometimes they’re so bad that we as fans rebel against WWE logic and rebrand another match on the card as the main event instead.
These 15 matches are a fine selection of the worst main event matches ever to grace our televisions. It’s almost a miracle that the WWE still has as many fans as it does today with the amount of tripe we’ve had to endure. Or perhaps it’s these awful matches that keep us intrigued. Maybe sub-consciously we enjoy these horrific matches because we’re secretly intrigued to see how the company will eventually present an even worse match in the future!
Here are 15 pay-per-view main events that we wish we could unsee.
15. Randy Orton vs. Triple H – WrestleMania 25
The apprentice versus his mentor, the cerebral assassin versus the apex predator. This matchup was meant to be one for the ages, a match that was meant to stay etched in the Mount Rushmore of WrestleMania main events. However, it just wasn’t meant to be. After a feud that captivated the WWE Universe for the better part of six months, this bout was meant to tie up all loose ends and definitively give us a victor of a long & emotional feud. On the special night itself, Randy Orton and Hunter would be faced with the daunting task of following one of the greatest matches in WrestleMania history, HBK vs. Undertaker I. That had now unofficially become the main event of the night and Orton & HHH’s title match was used as a toilet break for those in attendance. Everything about this bout felt wrong, the stipulation, the spots, the crowd, everything. In the end, Hunter would go over (as normal) and retain his title in an utterly forgettable main event.
14. Randy Orton vs. Daniel Bryan – Battleground 2013
When THE top guy in the industry gets put on the self for the better part of a year, opportunities arise for the chasing pack. In this case, Randy Orton & Daniel Bryan were the fortunate benefiters of John Cena‘s absence and began to engage in what seemed like a doomed from the beginning feud. This was where the whole underdog vs. Authority feud started, eventually culminating in Bryan winning the WWE Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania, aaaah what a moment that was. Sorry, I digress. Let’s focus on this stinker first. Sometimes technically gifted wrestlers aren’t enough to salvage a boring storyline, add to that a ridiculous run-in interference and you have a failed main event. The Big Show would run down to the ring, knockout both competitors and the referee would call the match a no-contest. It’s a good way to draw heat for a heel but for the Big Show, the fans had just seen this way too many times before to care.
13. The Rock vs. John Cena – WrestleMania 29
Once in a Lifetime turned into Twice in a Year, which then nearly turned into a best out of three. For what many consider to be the biggest feud in the PG era, the sequel sure did suck. This match lacked imagination and creativity, its whole premise revolved around Cena learning from his mistakes of last year’s showdown. Essentially this was a re-run with less importance, hype and preparation. It’s pretty hard to tell a convincing story when the ending has been obvious for more than a year. The crowd knew the ending and the Rock & Cena didn’t shy away from the inevitable finish. The only thing that sustained the interest in the feud for another year was the possibility of Cena turning heel, which was of course never going to happen. The magic was gone but at least the crowd were vaguely interested in this one, purely due to the star power in the ring. But the star power wasn’t enough to save this from being a stinker. The match consisted of nothing more than a bunch of finishers and kick outs, this may as well have been an NXT training match in the Performance Centre.
12. The Undertaker vs. The Undertaker – SummerSlam 1994
Sometimes gimmicks trump quality, and the WWE felt that the rise of the Undertaker’s popularity was enough for this catastrophe to main event the second biggest pay-per-view of the year. Bear in mind the Undertaker had now been a prominent figure on WWE programming for a good four years prior to this. He was becoming a star attraction that dumbfounded children and left adults awe-inspired. However, instead of capitalising on this unique aura he had, Vince instead chose to waste one of his best assets in a mind-numbingly boring storyline. This whole feud stunk of desperation, a feud essentially between Paul Bearer and Ted DiBiase who both claimed they owned the real Undertaker. The slow burning execution of the match itself embodied the whole feud, a lacklustre affair where everybody watching at home & the wrestlers involved were eagerly awaiting the climax. As we all know, the Undertaker was able to recover from this and become one of the greatest main event talents we’ve ever seen. Phew!
11. John Cena vs. Kane – Elimination Chamber 2012
Here ladies and gentlemen is what they refer to in the business, as a ‘stop-gap’ feud. A storyline that’s used simply just to pass the time. Some even say the powers that be purposely make these stop-gap feuds so horrifically bad, to make the next planned feud look better than it actually is. If I remember correctly, this was the period of time where the WWE made a big deal over the large amount of boos Cena was starting to receive. By making a big deal out of it, they only exemplified its power. So to address the situation, in stepped Kane, the monster would tease a John Cena heel turn for two months to appease the fans, but to no avail. The feud would culminate in an ambulance match at Elimination Chamber that was a mess, it was an awfully planned match with pointless spots and meaningless moments, that did nothing for either men character wise. A throwaway match for throw away main event.
10. Team WWE vs. Team Nexus – SummerSlam 2010
For those who don’t remember, the Nexus made an earth-shattering impact in the WWE. They were a group of NXT rookies that rocked the WWE to its’ core by taking out a number of top superstars. Their antics displayed no care or regard for the PG programming status quo, making them a great hit with the adult demographic. Guided by the leadership of Wade Barrett, the group dominated WWE programming up until, yup you guessed it, Super Cena returned. In a 7-on-7 Survivor Series type match, Team WWE exterminated the existence of the Nexus, and with that went the most entertaining element on Monday nights. It wasn’t just the fact that the Nexus were banished that made this so awful, it’s the manner in how they were disbanded. The final two members were single-handedly eliminated by Super Cena in probably the most unrealistic way ever. It’s these kind of main events that add no legitimacy to the product and expose how dead kayfabe is in the modern era.
9. Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock – No Way Out 2003
Sometimes it’s best to leave historical showdowns alone, I know there’s money in stretching out feuds but from a fan perspective, once is enough. Hogan vs. Rock stole the show at WrestleMania 19, a match billed as ‘icon’ vs. ‘icon’ and despite all the hype, it superseded all expectations. Largely thanks to a ruckus Canadian crowd this bout became extremely memorable, the energy of the crowd elevated this match into the iconic bout it was promoted to be. Instead of leaving this great moment untouched and left in the Hall of Fame of WrestleMania moments, Vince decided to run a disappointing sequel. In a match that lasted just over twelve minutes, the two greats failed to rekindle any of the magic they had produced in their previous match. The Rock would go over again in a clear reaffirmation of the Brahma Bull’s new found Hollywood star power. Despite the same result, the match wasn’t the same and left a sour taste in the mouths of WWE fans.
8. John Cena vs. R-Truth – Capitol Punishment 2011
In perhaps one of the most forgettable of WWE pay-per-view concepts in history, John Cena & R-Truth locked horns in a main event for the WWE Championship that absolutely nobody remembers. In a feud where the eccentric personality of R-Truth stole the show, many were disheartened that this phase of R-Truth’s career was only rewarded with one title opportunity and a mediocre one at that. His momentum was used as a stop-gap match for Cena as he was building up towards an epic rivalry with CM Punk. The main event itself was flat, not even the importance of the WWE title could lift the crowd as they already knew the outcome of the match before the night had even started. Predictability isn’t always bad but when the execution isn’t anything special, then you can’t blame the fans for not caring. All in all, this was truly the epitome of a second-rate main event for what was basically a glorified house show.
7. CM Punk vs. Ryback – Hell In a Cell 2012
We’re starting to see a common theme here now aren’t we. What’s the point in having a b-grade PPV if you’re just going to completely further devalue it with shoddy finishes? Finishes that belong on free TV not on paid for broadcasts. Once again another Cena hiatus opened the door for others to main event, in what was already a depleted roster, there weren’t many talents ready to make the long jump to the top. So unfortunately for the WWE universe, Ryback’s push was fast-forwarded. When two wrestlers with no chemistry are forced into a feud that made no sense for either of them, there’s not much hope for a classic taking place is there. The match itself involved Punk running away from Ryback for a while then a few kicks & punches, basically practice hours. This nightmare of a bout would eventually end with Brad Maddox giving Ryback a low-blow and a fast count. The unstoppable big guy was handed his first loss in the WWE and subsequently his heir of invincibility disappeared as well as his promising career.
6. John Cena vs. Big Show – No Way Out 2012
Another example of the WWE being too reliant on John Cena. In a time where the lack of new stars was apparent. Cena’s time at the top of the mountain was constantly being wasted with meaningless feuds, feuds that became the main event because of who he was. In 2012, a rivalry that we’ve seen almost as much as Cena-Orton was reignited, much to the dismay of most of the audience. Once again, a mediocre feud main evented a pay-per-view over an outstanding display of WRESTLING between the WWE Champion CM Punk & Daniel Bryan, unbelievable. Sometimes you get the feeling that these matches are just put together for the sake of it, almost like the creative team are pulling names out of a hat whilst intoxicated. The dynamic was wrong, the steel cage stipulation made no sense and the ending was predictable. Cena as a rebel against the authority didn’t feel right and nobody really cared about ANOTHER Big Show heel turn. In the end, with a lot of help, Cena escaped the cage first and sent John Laurinaitis packing……… Now you can find the duo together on Total Bellas every Wednesday!
5. Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Justice – WrestleMania 8
I don’t really know how Sid Justice stayed in the wrestling business as long as he did, let alone get into several pay-per-view main events. In this match, he got to dance with the big man himself, Hulk Hogan. It’s just a pity that both men were dancing to different beats. Neither man has been known for his wrestling ability but the Hulkster has always had the ability to tell a story regardless of his opponent, but sometimes even the greats can’t salvage a bad booking situation. The main event was chaotic and ultimately devalued the star power of Hulk Hogan. Papa Shango would interfere in the match thus making it end by DQ, but he was meant to arrive earlier and stop Sid Justice kicking out of the revered leg-drop. Neither man looked good coming out of the match and what was a great WrestleMania, ended in disastrous fashion.
4. The Miz vs. John Cena – WrestleMania 27
It’s pretty disrespectful to paying customers when the biggest pay-per-view of the year is essentially treated as filler. WrestleMania 27 was meant to continue the tradition of larger than life matches taking place on the grandest stage of them all, however, this spectacle instead became The Rock and Cena show. The Miz, who ended up retaining the WWE Championship, was portrayed as an afterthought to the two megastars. The title match acted as a launch pad for the biggest feud of the modern era, but just because of its lucrative implications, doesn’t make this particular match worthy of main eventing a WrestleMania. The Rock’s role of the night was to be the event host but it’s clear that his only purpose for being there was to plant seeds for Wrestlemania 28. Even without the Rock’s presence, this match would have been appalling, the crowd were uninterested and the wrestlers were just waiting for the inevitable finish.
3. Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar – WrestleMania 20
Oh dear o’dear o’dear, this match was so tragic the WWE are doing it again. Now I know technically this wasn’t a main event on paper, but in real life it certainly possessed the star power & promotion of one. This was the two most pushed athletes in the WWE going toe-to-toe in a WrestleMania match that was enough to sell out Madison Square Garden but not enough to the please the crowd in attendance. The reality is, Brock Lesnar didn’t care about wrestling anymore and clearly wasn’t scared to show it. Perhaps this was a case of too fast too soon, he was pushed to the moon and showed how grateful he was by walking out on the company. Maybe Vince knew the match would be awful so he inserted Steve Austin into the match as Special Guest Referee to try and paper over the cracks, but he would find out that the cracks were just too big to hide. The match itself literally consisted of next to nothing besides an F5, a jackhammer, a few spears, boos from the crowd and oh thankfully, two stunners. When the guest referee gets a bigger pop than both participants, you know something just wasn’t right.
2. Hulk Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels – SummerSlam 2005
I literally shudder every time I reminisce about this match up. I’ve thought of every possible reason but still can’t think of a valid one as to why Hogan went over. Why on earth was Hulk Hogan winning SummerSlam main events in 2005 against a younger legend, who still had more to give to the company at the time. Backstage politics plagued the aura of this match, and in what should have been a classic, was instead a mockery of the business. Michaels who clearly didn’t like the idea of putting Hogan over, did what he does best, belittle others. The Heartbreak Kid would throughout the match oversell absolutely every single move by the Hulkster almost acting as if he’d been shot at times. Michaels’ antics devalued the win for Hogan, which was perhaps his intention but overall it devalued the whole pay-per-view. Main events have the power to make or break pay-per-views and this one certainly shattered its PPV.
1. John Laurinaitis vs. John Cena – Over The Limit 2012
Another Cena match, gosh, I know it looks like I’m picking on the guy but it’s just that he’s had so many main events that there’s so much to choose from you know? Anyway, where do we even start with this one? If you ever wanted to discourage someone from watching wrestling, this is the match to show them. When a car-wreck of a match like this headlines over CM Punk (C) vs. Daniel Bryan, you know something’s gone terribly wrong in the WWE. This match represented everything you’ve ever thought to be wrong with the WWE. John Cena the face of the company, the cash cow went from a million-making feud with The Rock to a blockbuster showdown with Brock Lesnar to an insufferable clown show with John Laurinaitis. This match resembled the stupid antics of the match Cena had with Michael Cole a few weeks earlier on RAW, didn’t the WWE learn their lesson? In the ring we saw a fire extinguisher, water, chairs and a broomsti- oh nope, that was Laurinaitis. The match finally culminated with a Big Show knockout punch to Cena thus giving Mr People Power a shambolic victory over one of the greatest of all time. Comedy at its best.