All it takes is one particularly great match, and an unknown wrestler can turn into a bona fide WWE superstar. Should they continue adding great matches to their resume, this superstar could soon find himself competing for the WWE Championship or even looking at Hall of Fame consideration somewhere down the line. At the same time, however, when wrestlers start putting on especially bad matches, fans can turn on them extremely fast, greatly diminishing their star power from there on.
For the most part, wrestlers who are able to reach the top of WWE have known how to make a match entertaining in one way or another. There may be some clunkers here or there, and certain WWE Champions have definitely relied on formula, yet anyone who stayed on top for long periods of time did so because he always made crowds react the way they were supposed to — until recently, that is, with Vince McMahon now running his company independently of the wants and desires of his audience.
In any event, one thing WWE fans will always be able to look forward to are good to great matches wrestled by the best sports entertainment superstars in the world. Of course, this doesn’t mean every single match on a given Raw, SmackDown, or WWE Network special event is going to go down in the history books. Terrible matches can still crop up here or there, and now that competence inside the ring is all fans have left to look forward to, poor performances can be especially shameful to the wrestlers giving them. Keep reading to remember 15 embarrassing AF matches these top WWE superstars want you to forget.
15. The 2015 Royal Rumble (Roman Reigns Eliminates Rusev To Win)
Typically, when a wrestling match doesn’t quite work, it’s primarily the athletes competing in it who deserve the most blame. In especially grand cases, however, the problem is all the way at the top of the company and relates to how WWE is being booked in general at the time. No one match better describes this problem than the 2015 Royal Rumble, which managed to embarrass practically the entire WWE roster in one fell swoop. Granted, it wasn’t any of the participants who caused the match to bomb, but rather Vince McMahon failing to realize every single person in attendance wanted Daniel Bryan to win. Instead, Bryan was eliminated about halfway through the match to little fanfare, causing the crowd to greatly turn on the match and boo absolutely every entrant from there on. The work itself was decent if uninteresting, but the extremely negative crowd response to this match should forever embarrass the entire WWE Universe.
14. Randy Orton vs. Triple H – WrestleMania 25
Select wrestlers have competed against one another so many times it can get hard for fans to keep track of their many contests. Randy Orton and Triple H are one such pairing, their careers linked as friends and foes practically from Orton’s debut. In all fairness, a couple of their matches were even pretty good, yet the highest profile of them was a total bomb in every sense of the word. The main event of WrestleMania is supposed to be the biggest and best match of the year, and with their long history, Orton and HHH should have been able to deliver that. Unfortunately for them, Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker had just put on a classic seconds beforehand, stealing their thunder and making everything in the “main event” look weak in comparison. Well, that’s Triple H’s explanation, anyway—others might argue the match just kinda sucked. Either way, neither competitor brings it up today despite the fact they still share a lot of screen time together.
13. The Undertaker vs. The Undertaker – SummerSlam 1994
On paper, the idea of two Undertakers looks like a license to print money for one Vincent Kennedy McMahon. That said, in practice, there has only ever been one true Phenom of pro wrestling, and attempting to sell a blatant and pathetic imitation in his wake will infuriate far more fans than are willing to buy it. For all his so-called promoting genius, McMahon himself didn’t realize this, hiring Smokey Mountain Wrestling star Brian Lee to serve as the second Undertaker while the first was recovering from an injury. Once the real Undertaker was back, it was natural the two would do battle, but the crowd had already so harshly rejected the fake version that WWE needed to pull an audible and yank it down from SummerSlam’s main event. Unfortunately, McMahon did no such thing, and the result was a slow, plodding failure that made the real Dead Man’s comeback cause fans to roll their eyes.
12. Trish Stratus and Bradshaw vs. Jackie Gayda and Chris Nowinski – Raw, 2002
Alright, so half of this match probably can’t be described as “top WWE superstars,” and for the other two, this was kind of the point. In 2002, Trish Stratus was a former WWE Women’s Champion already on her way to greatness, and Bradshaw was a multiple-time Tag Team Champion ready for a singles run. Jackie Gayda and Chris Nowinski had just appeared on Tough Enough and received a couple months of training in the ring. Almost anyone should be aware that hardly prepared them for a match on national television, yet Vince McMahon threw them in the spotlight anyway, and the result was Gayda falling down for literally no reason after Stratus missed a Bulldog by about three feet. That was just the worst of it, as a solid five minutes of fumbling confusion came before that, with Gayda looking terrified and confused the entire time. Bradshaw and Stratus were understandably reported to be furious afterward, and the bomb of a bout is rightly left out of both of their legacies.
11. Roman Reigns vs. Triple H – WrestleMania 32
Almost everything that’s wrong with WWE today can be summed up in one single match, and appropriately, it headlined WrestleMania. Of course, this is hardly a good thing. To put it bluntly, the contest was horrible from bell to bell, the record-setting gigantic audience had no interest in what they saw, and the ending was booed out of the building when it was supposed to be a heroic victory. In one corner, there was the WWE Champion and company COO, a representative of all things corporate and evil in pro wrestling. In the other, Roman Reigns, the only superstar in the business wrestling fans hate more than suit-wearing corporate jerks. Truth be told, neither man is necessarily a bad wrestler, and both have, in fact, been pretty great in the right circumstances. None of those circumstances were met at WrestleMania, though, with HHH deciding to work a slow-paced clod that Reigns didn’t understand how to sell.
10. Gerald Brisco vs. Pat Patterson – King of the Ring 2000
Alright, given the bizarre senses of humor exhibited by Vince McMahon and his closest allies, Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco may well look back on their Evening Gown match for the WWE Hardcore Championship and share big belly laughs to this day. That said, any other two WWE Hall of Famers likely would have walked out on the business the second their boss suggested this idea. Both Patterson and Brisco were long retired at the time, making it pointless on top of humorless, and putting them in dresses was clearly just McMahon mocking two of his most loyal employees, as he’s often wont to do. It almost feels unnecessary to say the match was awful on top of it all, more a collection of bad comedy spots than anything resembling actual wrestling. We guess that’s how WWE rewards decades of invaluable work.
9. The 1999 Royal Rumble (Vince McMahon Last Eliminates Steve Austin To Win)
Considering WWE has been on a downward spiral for quite some time now, that a recent Royal Rumble would be one of the most embarrassing matches in company history isn’t that big a shock. On the contrary, that a Rumble from the absolute peak of WWE’s powers would be just as bad or perhaps even worse is a bit surprising, and for that reason more shameful for all those involved. Granted, once again, the issue had more to do with horrible booking than any of the actual wrestling in the match itself. Steve Austin and Vince McMahon entered the match at 1 and 2, only to spend almost the full hour outside the ring, wandering back in during the last few seconds for McMahon to win. In the interim, there was a whole lot of dead space, as two or three midcard wrestlers would quickly eliminate one another before the show would go right back to waiting for the real stars to get back in the ring already. That a 53-year-old executive felt the need to defeat his entire staff is equally discomforting, albeit for entirely different reasons.
8. Randy Orton vs. Sheamus – Raw After WrestleMania 29
At this point, the Raw after WrestleMania has become an event in and of itself, with the most ardent WWE fans around all jam-packed into a slightly smaller and more intimate arena than the night prior at the Grandest Stage of Them All. This trend has been in play for decades now, yet never has it been more fascinating than the night after WrestleMania 29. Specifically, halfway through that episode of Raw, two former WWE Champions in Randy Orton and Sheamus squared off for the umpteenth time, and the crowd did NOT want to see this match go down. To make this feeling clear, the audience paid no attention to the bout itself and instead chanted whatever random nonsense came to mind over the plodding 16 minutes of nothingness Orton and Sheamus provided. “Jerry Lawler,” “Randy Savage,” “ECW,” and “End This Match” were just a few of the random chants fans contrived, leaving both competitors looking absolutely furious as they tried to perform their jobs. The work itself didn’t matter; this was a loud statement from the WWE Universe that they hated two of the company’s top stars. Bizarrely, four years later, the company still hasn’t gotten the message.
7. Kronik vs. The Brothers of Destruction – Unforgiven 2001
There were a great many things wrong with the much-maligned Invasion angle, and looking back on things, a strange number of these issues relate to The Undertaker. The Phenom’s kayfabe brother, Kane, offered less to complain about (during this era, anyway), yet he was directly involved in probably the worst major match of 2001. This is another match where half of the competitors were hardly top stars, with Kronik rarely breaking above the midcard even when still in WCW, yet the star power of their opponents should have given the match a high enough profile, to begin with. Indeed, all WWE and WCW fans had their eyes on the bout, which turned out to be a terrible thing when none of the four competitors were able to piece together a single competent wrestling move. Ultimately, only Kronik were blamed for the match failing, but The Undertaker and Kane definitely deserved some of the blame.
6. Batista vs. The Great Khali – SummerSlam 2007
Quite frankly, almost any match including The Great Khali was bound to be an embarrassment for whomever he was wrestling. WWE has never had a less mobile, more awkward athlete on their roster, and yet for some reason, this didn’t stop Vince McMahon from making Khali a World Heavyweight Champion. Fans hoping Khali’s reign would come to an end at SummerSlam 2007 would be disappointed when, instead, he wrestled a brisk and painful match against Batista, which ended in disqualification due to the cheapest cliché tactics in sports entertainment. Both of Khali’s other two Pay-Per-View title defenses were Triple Threats, meaning Batista was lucky enough to have a second opponent in the ring who actually knew how to work, putting together decent matches in spite of the World Champion. One on one, though, he had no such luck, and the result was painful to watch.
5. Scott Steiner vs. Triple H – Royal Rumble 2003
While Triple H may have wrestled a few bombs later in his career as this list has documented, the worst match of his life came at what theoretically should have been his peak. Unfortunately, as most wrestling fans are aware, Triple H’s mid-30s were, in fact, his absolute nadir as a performer, and the 40-year-old Scott Steiner was somehow even worse. Both men had decided it was more important to inflate their muscles than maintain any semblance of mobility, turning into bloated freaks who could barely snap on a headlock. At the 2003 Royal Rumble, it looked like belly-to-belly suplexes were the absolute only move Steiner could remember, and Triple H was utterly clueless on how to make up for his opponent’s shortcomings. After this atrocity, how both men kept their jobs, how they earned a rematch, and how Triple H could still wind up in another main event to this day all remain a mystery.
4. John Cena vs. The Miz – WrestleMania XXVII
For all the great work The Miz and his wife Maryse put into their recent feud against John Cena and Nikki Bella, things weren’t quite the same before the ladies got involved. Cena and The Miz had feuded multiple times prior to their recent WrestleMania 33 encounter, though it rarely got brought up on television, even despite one of these bouts headlining an earlier Showcase of Immortals. The reason no one in WWE mentioned this earlier contest leading up to the recent rematch of sorts is that it was pretty terrible. One of the largest WWE crowds in history showed absolutely no interest in the WWE Champion squaring off against the Face of WWE and was instead solely entertained by the antics of the event’s guest host and makeshift enforcer, The Rock. The Miz’s entire reign as champion had suffered due to the feeling he was second-rate in comparison to his opponents, and this match cemented that fact in every way, dragging Cena down with him rather than getting built up to his level.
3. The Undertaker vs. Yokozuna – Royal Rumble 1994
For all the stupidity of The Undertaker versus Underfaker war taking place at SummerSlam 1994, the earlier match that indirectly led to that one was an even bigger atrocity. This is despite the fact the Dead Man had an actual legendary performer as his opponent in then-WWE Champion and future Hall of Famer Yokozuna. Throw in that it was The Undertaker’s specialty casket match, and this should have all made for a winning formula. Instead, WWE decided that both men needed to look like supernatural, unstoppable monsters, and the way they made that happen required pure chaos to unfold. Most major WWE main events are bound to have a run in or two, especially when there are lax DQ rules like in a casket match. That said, there’s no explanation for why every single heel in WWE ran out to Yokozuna’s defense and helped him send The Undertaker to hell. Ridiculous and nonsensical as that is, it pales in comparison to what came next, which was Undertaker’s “soul” rising from the casket covered in green smoke, promising he would not rest in peace. It was so embarrassing that not even eight months off camera could make fans forget it.
2. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan – No Way Out 2003
When a single WWE match can be considered historic in and of itself, it’s only fair that the company would try and make lightning strike twice by way of a rematch. The WrestleMania X8 encounter between Hulk Hogan and The Rock was a genre-defining spectacle, the ultimate sign Vince McMahon’s sports entertainment had far eclipsed mere pro wrestling from days of yore. Less than a year later, they tried to do it all over again, only to find the nostalgia related to Hulkamania had worn out in shockingly fast order. Without a roaring crowd behind them, the action Rocky and the Hulkster provided simply looked like a poor rehash of years gone by. That The Rock was playing full heel at this point ruined the dynamic of a crowd genuinely choosing amongst two heroes and made it feel like they were being forced to support Hogan, which some of them simply didn’t want to do anymore. The fact of the matter is that sometimes, a perfect moment can only be achieved once, and trying to relive that glory will only make everyone look bad.
1. Randy Orton vs. Bray Wyatt – Payback 2017
On April 30, 2017, WWE produced what is almost certainly the singular most embarrassing match in wrestling history. The actual work of Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt wasn’t necessarily at fault, though neither man was able to overcome the ridiculous stupidity of their surroundings and create something watchable, either. As has become a trend with this list, the true culprit was whoever booked this garbage, which pitted the two former WWE Champions in an “abandoned” house in “the middle of nowhere.” Shoddily filmed, devoid of any stakes, and with more logical loopholes than even pro wrestling is allowed, the House of Horrors was such a massive bomb, fans at the actual arena were booing the ordeal out of the building the second its video portion ended. Not that it got any better once they actually hit the ring, as all good will had been lost by then, and the boring non-action they provided could never win back an audience that furious. And yet, Vince McMahon still thinks they’re both stars.
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