Professional wrestling, the predecessor to the product that we know now, got its start in the 1950s. Once the sport premiered on television, everything was novel and new. Watching wrestler after wrestler battle it out in the squared circle was revolutionary.
Fast-forward half a century later, and one-on-one matches aren’t as fresh as they used to be. Pro wrestling organizations like the WWE, WCW, and TNA are all too aware of that. Attempts to keep fans engaged led to the inception of events like the Royal Rumble or matches like the Elimination Chamber or Hell in a Cell.
For every match type that stuck around as a yearly mainstay WWE show, there’s about a dozen others that fell completely and ridiculously flat. [Insert gimmick here] on a pole match? Of course. Cages brimming with supposedly dangerous but obviously fake electricity? You know it. Live animals? Oh yes.
Terrible match stipulations weren’t confined to just one promotion either. Even WWE, which continues to survive as the last of its kind, has had many a match that made you cringe, scratch your head, or even both.
While many of these matches were probably trial and error for Ted Turner, Vince McMahon, and Dixie Carter, for wrestling fans they were confusing and desperate attempts to increase viewership and win the night’s ratings. Even long after the Monday Night Wars had ended, TNA and WWE continued to give us convoluted matches with arbitrary rules.
The following matches have lived on in the minds of wrestling fans everywhere as the worst stipulations in the history of professional wrestling.
17. Reverse Battle Royal (TNA, Fight for the Right Tournament 2006)
WWE’s Royal Rumble, the annual January event in which 30 (or more) men toss each other over the top rope until one wins a title match ticket to WrestleMania, is an insanely popular pro wrestling staple. Other promotions like TNA tried to capitalize on the Rumble by hosting its own somewhat related Reverse Battle Royal at its Fight for the Right Tournament in 2006.
Take everything you know about the Royal Rumble and turn it on its head. Rather than fight to get everyone else out of the ring, with this TNA event, wrestlers stood outside of the ring and tried to prevent others from getting in. If it sounds like it doesn’t make much sense, that’s because it doesn’t.
The confused fans’ reaction didn’t stop TNA from trying the Reverse Battle Royal for a second time in 2007.
16. World War 3 (WCW, 1995-1998)
TNA wasn’t the only promotion that wanted in on the Royal Rumble’s success. Shortly after the Rumble began making big bank for the WWE, WCW chimed in with World War 3. Debuting in 1995, the concept boasted twice the amount of wrestlers competing in the Royal Rumble with a total of 60 men.
Of course, it would be sheer madness to try to fit 60 wrestlers in one ring at the same time, and the squared circle would inevitably collapse. So WCW had the bright idea to host the event across three different rings.
Despite what must have been a pretty confusing night, WCW aired World War 3 every year until 1998 when the promotion smartly decided to move on to Mayhem instead.
15. Kiss My Ass Match (WWE, SummerSlam 1999-Present)
There were enough Kiss My Ass Matches throughout WWE history that Vince McMahon had his very own Kiss My Ass Club. That should say something. Everyone saw enough of McMahon’s derriere to last a lifetime, but WWE insisted on burning other wrestler’s rear ends into our retinas forever.
One such memorable match within silly stipulation occurred between Billy Gunn and the Rock at SummerSlam 1999. Gunn, who went by the name Mr. Ass, was more than used to wearing sheer wrestling trunks and mooning the crowd. He had just won 1999’s King of the Ring tournament, which the Great One was none too pleased with.
The two feuded throughout most of the summer, with the rivalry culminating with the Kiss My Ass match at SummerSlam. In the end, we didn’t see Gunn’s buns again, nor the Rock’s. Instead, Gunn brought out an overweight woman and insisted that the Rock give her butt a smooch.
WWE somehow still thinks this match type is a great idea. At this month’s Extreme Rules, Sheamus and Dolph Ziggler took part in a Kiss Me Arse Match.
14. Hardcore Evening Gown Match (WWE, King of the Ring 2000)
Evening gown matches were a dime a dozen in the WWE back in the late 1990s and early 2000s; so too were Hardcore Championship battles. At one point, the strap could be defended on a 24/7 basis, with even some Divas getting in on the action. It seemed inevitable that the two popular concepts would be combined in a Hardcore Evening Gown Match. But it didn’t take place between two Divas; rather, this featured the old Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson.
Yes, both men did indeed wear evening gowns, and yes, the rules that the winner must strip the loser down to their undergarments still applied. Pass the eye bleach.
13. Doomsday Cage Match (WCW, Uncensored 1996)
Professional wrestling has never been able to leave the four-walled cage alone. Thanks to some ingenuity on the part of WWE, we have the cage with a ceiling known as Hell in a Cell as well as the domed cage known as the Elimination Chamber. Thanks to WCW, we have the Doomsday Cage.
What’s better than one cage? Three cages, of course. That’s what WCW writers must have assumed when coining this match, which stacked three layers of cage action. Instead of just focusing on two competitors with this new match type, at Uncensored 1996, the promotion tossed in as many men in the match as possible, as the Alliance to End Hulkamania (with the Barbarian, Z-Gangsta, Meng, the Ultimate Solution, Arn Anderson, the Barbarian, and Ric Flair) did battle against the Mega Powers (Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan).
WCW certainly lived by the motto of “go big or go home” that night, but a lot of fans probably just wanted to go home.
12. Arkansas Hog Pen Match (WWE, In Your House 1995)
A long time ago, before he was ever the Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events & Creative for WWE and a lauded professional wrestler, Triple H played a British aristocrat known as Hunter Hearst Helmsley. At In Your House 1995, he did battle against Henry O. Godwinn in the first (and hopefully only) Arkansas Hog Pen Match.
This battle was mostly pretty standard, except for the fact that there was a pig pen outside of the ring complete with fuzzy little piggies. Both men went into the slop, but Helmsley was ultimately the victor, although it’s hard to say at what cost.
11. Gravy Bowl Match (WWE, SmackDown 2001)
This would be far from the last time that WWE would subject its talent to do battle in a vat filled with disgusting substances; the Gravy Bowl Match became a WWE favorite on its yearly Thanksgiving SmackDown episodes. During the Attitude Era in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the poor Divas often had to hop into pudding and any other foods or liquids that the writers thought suitable.
One such example of a gravy bowl battle occurred in 2001 between Stacy Keibler and Trish Stratus, then the Women’s Champion. Stratus put her title on the line in a match where whoever could apply wrestling holds and moves in a pool of gravy was declared the winner.
To spice up the scuffle, there was a crazy food fight that ensued before the Divas got down and dirty. Stratus won and would go on to enjoy a long career free of gravy fights.
10. Good Housekeeping Match (WWE, No Mercy 1999)
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the Good Housekeeping Match that happened at WWE’s 1999 No Mercy. Jeff Jarrett, the reigning Intercontinental Champion, was without a contract on the night of the event and would soon be leaving for WCW. Although he didn’t have to, he agreed to fight Chyna… To the tune of a few hundred thousand dollars, of course.
Chyna, who was billed as “the Ninth Wonder of the World,” was no stranger when it came to fighting (and defeating) men. Jarrett was the perfect character to play the role of the sexist pig who thought that women belonged in the kitchen. He began targeting Divas and would put them in his patented figure four leg lock.
The match itself called for the use of household objects as weapons, including, yes, the kitchen sink. Chyna ultimately took the strap and Jarrett jumped ship. WWE tried to milk the big battle between man and woman, but the whole match felt a little corny.
9. Lion’s Den (WWE, SummerSlam 1999)
Both Steve Blackman and Ken Shamrock do boast a real martial arts background. Back in 1999, WWE decided to show off the skills of these Superstars in a Lion’s Den battle. The two had previously fought in an Iron Circle match in July 1999 at Fully Loaded.
There was nothing truly wrong with both matches. However, just like when WWE tried to bring boxing to the squared circle with its Brawl for All tournament (in which the realism quashed any of WWE’s attempts to make a predetermined star out of the event), watching mixed martial arts was awkward for fans that enjoyed the scripted pageantry of an Attitude Era match. Even Shamrock beating Blackman with a kendo stick couldn’t save this one.
8. San Francisco 49ers Match (WCW, Nitro 2000)
Yes, the San Francisco 49ers are a football team. No, that’s not related to this match in the slightest. This Vince Russo-penned WCW nightmare occurred on an episode of Monday Nitro in 2000 and pitted Jeff Jarrett against Booker T.
Both men were fighting over the coveted WCW Championship. So far, so good. In order to reach the title though, instead of duking it out, the match called for Jarrett and Booker T to look into one of four boxes above each turnbuckle. Only one could hold the WCW Championship.
Wait, what? It gets even weirder. The first box released a sadly-deflated blow up doll, while Booker T revealed that box number two contained a portrait of Scott Hall. Unsurprisingly, the title was in the fourth box and Booker T somehow got the victory. What a hollow victory it was.
7. Buff Bagwell’s Mom on a Forklift Match (WCW, New Blood Rising 2000)
You can read the title again and again, but it won’t make more sense.
Somehow, back in 2000, WCW writers had the confidence to believe that putting Judy Bagwell on a forklift would keep butts in seats for its New Blood Rising show.
Granted, they didn’t ask Buff Bagwell’s mom to do this out of nowhere. She was involved as a part of a storyline between Chris Kanyon and Bagwell. Kanyon had become obsessed with Judy and even followed her around.
Bagwell did what any good son would, getting retribution for his mama. That retribution occurred, however, by Judy being placed on a forklift that ascended high above the ring. David Arquette got involved, almost costing Bagwell the match.
In the end, Bagwell rescued Judy, and that’s all that really matters.
6. Viagra on a Pole Match (WCW, Nitro 2000)
Between WWE, WCW, and TNA, there’s been an iteration of an “on a pole” match for just about anything.
The most ridiculous of these is definitely the Viagra on a Pole Match that occurred between Billy Kidman and Shane Douglas on an episode of WCW Nitro in 2000.
The storyline surrounding this feud was quite racy and probably a direct attempt to compete with WWE. Kidman had been involved with Torrie Wilson, but they later split. Wilson moved on to Douglas and the two decided to film themselves having sex.
In the tape, it’s revealed that Douglas is suffering from performance issues. And so, the Viagra on a Pole Match was born. In the end, Douglas won thanks to assistance from Wilson. The bigger reason to celebrate, though, was the end of this strange feud.
5. Kennel from Hell Match (WWE, Unforgiven 1999)
Animals and pro wrestling really don’t mix. WWE didn’t learn that lesson during its Arkansas Hog Pen Match, but then again the pigs weren’t really a direct part of the action. In the Kennel from Hell Match, that wasn’t exactly the case.
The storyline surrounding this bout is downright insane. Al Snow, a hardcore wrestler who had always been a little loopy, had traded out his mannequin head for a chihuahua named Pepper. The Big Bossman, the no-nonsense cop, began a feud with Snow and kidnapped Pepper.
Snow was distraught and begged for his dog back. He eventually did see Pepper again…in the form of cooked meat that Bossman had prepared and made Snow eat.
With a setup like that, you would think the match between Snow and Bossman would be incendiary. Instead, the Kennel from Hell Match was a cage that featured real rottweilers (and their trainers) locked within one of the cage layers. The dogs were supposed to be a ferocious threat. Instead, they just sat around and even pooped, deflating all of the energy from the battle.
4. The Lock Box Challenge (TNA, Impact! 2010)
The Lock Box Challenge sounds like it should be a game show. Dixie Carter and TNA must have agreed, because the concept certainly mimicked one.
This attempt at a match, which took place on an episode of Impact! in 2010, featured all of the Knockouts splitting into teams to access a box that would ultimately lead to the Knockouts Championship.
Four women competed on each side and started out in a tag team elimination-style match. For every pinfall, the winner received a key that could unlock one of a number of boxes. Inside, the Knockouts could receive such thrilling prizes as a chance to do a striptease and inclusion in a match to become the number one contender for the Knockouts Championship – which was insulting, considering the title itself is just a box away.
With such elaborate rules, TNA made the smart choice to never repeat the Lock Box Challenge again.
3. Electric Cage Match (TNA, Lockdown 2007)
By 2007, there wasn’t much left that wrestling fans thought you could do with a cage. Hell in a Cell and Elimination Chamber already existed. WCW’s Doomsday Cage Match happily seemed like a distant memory.
Enter TNA. The promotion had the bright idea to create a match in which LAX and Team 3D would fight in a real live wire cage. Of course, there was no way to actually electrify the cage without potentially causing severe harm to its wrestlers, so TNA just pretended.
The amount of selling that each wrestler did, as well as the terribly fake and obvious sound effects, felt like watching a cheesy horror movie instead of a wrestling match. Considering this was a highly-touted live event, fans both in attendance and watching Lockdown at home had some pretty short fuses.
2. Chamber of Horrors Match (WCW, Halloween Havoc 1991)
The fact that this WCW match took place all the way back in 1991 gives it some leeway, but not much. Once again, the Chamber of Horrors was a cage match gone wrong. It, too, featured some electrifyingly bad stipulations.
As the Diamond Studd, Abdullah the Butcher, Vader, and Cactus Jack squared off against the Steiner Brothers with Sting and El Gigante, WCW decided to put the Halloween in Halloween Havoc with shrunken heads and other horrifying decorations strewn along the cage walls.
If that had been the crux of this match, no one would remember it today. Instead, the objective was to shock opponents using an electric chair that was conveniently placed on the mat. Picture the electrocution action in the TNA cage match and now add the cheesy quality of early 1990s wrestling on top of it. The Chamber of Horrors was that, and it left fans cringing.
1. Shawn Michaels Teams with God (WWE, Backlash 2006)
By the 2000s, Shawn Michaels had cleaned up his terrible drug habit and was able to wrestle again after overcoming a career-threatening back injury. He had settled down and become a family man, and in the process became a born-again Christian.
Vince McMahon is never one to allow wrestlers’ personal lives to stay personal, so he decided to exploit Michaels’ faith at Backlash in 2006. McMahon had his son Shane as a partner, and Michaels just had God.
Yes, God. WWE didn’t go so far as to have one of its talents play such a spiritual figurehead. Instead, it was essentially a handicap match as WWE left God open to interpretation. The McMahons ultimately won, Vince got to insult God and anyone with religious faith for a while, and Michaels for some reason went along with all of it.
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