In the annals of WWE history, there are dozens of epic rivalries with hundreds of amazing matches that are looked back on fondly as reasons people watch wrestling to this day. Whether technical masterpieces, brawls, hardcore contests or aerial acrobatic displays the WWE has offered up such a great variety of matches to entice fans of multiple generations to become lifers. Feuds and matchups like Triple H vs Mick Foley, Steve Austin vs Vince McMahon, Bret Hart vs Owen Hart, Rock vs Austin, Randy Orton vs Christian, Shawn Michaels vs ‘Everybody But Hulk Hogan’, all keep people coming back to WWE to see two huge personalities payoff their conflicts in satisfying ways. These are not those.
What we’re looking at here are those matchups that never clicked correctly. When certain superstars were matched up, whether only in a single feud or over and over again through the years without ever having a great match to their names. All these wrestlers can be argued in some way to be ‘great’ but these are the times they were a part of stinkers and underwhelming, wasted opportunities that we’d rather forget and certainly do not want to see again anytime soon.
Some of these matches produced botchy. inept performances from usually reliable wrestlers. Others took great rivalries and wasted them on underwhelming matches that left fans and probably Vince regretting the investment. And some are just overdone, bland pairings that we’d watch only if we were strapped to a chair with our eyes pinned open. Prepare to wince at the mere thought of watching any of these matches rearing their ugly heads again.
15. John Cena & Randy Orton
Never have two superstars been pushed so hard by WWE, finally brought together for that ultimate fight, and delivered such tepid, forgettable matches. In fact the only match the two came close to being quite good in was their Unification Championship Tables, Ladders & Chairs match at TLC 2013, except it ended in a botch where Cena headbutted his way through a table and the crowd never let up in blasting the pair due to this being at the height of Daniel Bryan-mania. Nobody wanted them and WWE was hell-bent on going through with it, which is an unfortunately common recipe for WWE’s anti-success.
Cena and Orton have also tried to act as though their rise through the ranks marks them as some kind of polar opposite nemeses, however, the crowds simply don’t care. In the 2011 Royal Rumble Orton and Cena came face to face in what was supposed to be an epic staredown moment except the crowd didn’t make a peep. They tried it again with more crickets later which only made it sadder.
14. Kevin Owens & Chris Jericho
Chemistry in hilarious segments is one thing and it gave us the excellent months leading up to the Festival of Friendship, but come WrestleMania these two were in one of the most anticipated matches in years and were expected to deliver huge. On top of delivering a match that simply didn’t live up to the year of hype it had going into it, the recent WWE 365 showed Vince McMahon outright telling Kevin Owens after that match that he explicitly didn’t like what they put up on the night, leaving Kevin Owens deeply stung.
Jericho may be running with his most charismatic and hilarious reinvention yet but looking closer his match quality in that time has unfortunately not matched the builds. As we continue down this list it will unfortunately not be the only time we see either of these world-class superstars mentioned.
13. Big Show & Kane
Both these big men have been able to have great matches in the right setting. Big Show and Braun Strowman tore it up this past year and Kane was stellar in the 2001 Royal Rumble and when he went solo in a TLC match for the tag team championships in 2002, and again against Daniel Bryan in his one and only title defense of 2014. But put these two together in a match and you are practically guaranteed a stinker.
Outside of the odd occasion, Kane bodyslammed Big Show, there is nothing to remember from any of the clashes between these two except that it usually devolved to a choking contest. If that’s your thing have at it but when two men of such massive proportions can’t somehow live up to the spectacle expected of them for more than a decade it’s best if Vince simply stops pairing them up together.
12. Dean Ambrose & Brock Lesnar
They’ve only gone around once but the fallout from their WrestleMania 32 match has been felt long after they disappointed on the grandest stage of them all. The setup where Ambrose actually threatened to use a chainsaw against Brock had people calling for this match to completely steal the show but it went off with minimal hardcore shenanigans and ended very quickly compared to expectations. Never has hardcore been so tame.
Further tarnishing the match was when Dean Ambrose, then the WWE Champion, went on the Stone Cold Steve Austin podcast and straight up accused Lesnar of being lazy and not wanting to try anything in the match. This honesty mostly backfired with Dean getting backlash over the comments and being accused himself of resting on his laurels. There is unlikely to be another match between the two given Brock’s status so at least another underwhelming match can be avoided.
11. Kevin Owens & AJ Styles
When this feud materialized this year everyone was expecting these two to tear down the house. We knew they were being paired just to keep them away from the world title situation with Jinder Mahal so we consoled ourselves that at least we’d be getting this dream contest. But through a combination of not meeting the lofty expectations, match endings falling apart and others having non-finishes, we were left with a series that nobody really got to enjoy since it ended up being made to get Shane McMahon involved.
Kevin Owens and AJ Styles is a PPV headliner most times, but with both of them mid-carded by the Jinder Mahal push and Shane McMahon being shoehorned in as the beneficiary of the series it crumbled under the weight of what it was meant to do for anyone but the two guys involved. The botches, missteps, and underwhelming results only furthered the impression, leaving most to be less excited about a future matchup between the two.
10. Bayley & Alexa Bliss
For all the good character work Alexa Bliss has accomplished since being called up the one area she isn’t excelling as well with is between the ropes. Several times now she’s had decent singles PPV matches drop in quality from botches and miscommunications between her and her opponents, none moreso than Bayley.
Bayley is clearly capable of having excellent matches, her NXT run and a handful of main roster matches prove it. Against Alexa, though the two seem unable to click and so when their feud isn’t working on top of that it compounds into outright bad matches that the two can’t afford to keep delivering. Bayley and Alexa’s kendo stick match was the worst, combining a nonsense story with Bayley unable to inflict violence despite being employed as a wrestler and being in a wrestling match involving a weapon. Alexa capitalized in an unconvincing fashion that hurt both of them, although Bayley far more.
9. Dean Ambrose & Chris Jericho
Mitch the Potted Plant was the best thing to come out of the Dean Ambrose and Chris Jericho feud. The worst? The Ambrose Asylum match. With weapons strewn about the top of the cage, some wacky and some more traditional, the majority of the contest involved the two of them half-heartedly climbing for weapons between long breaks of lying on the canvas as the crowd slowly realized it just wasn’t going to get better.
This example adds to the opinion that for all the fun comedy schtick Chris Jericho brought during his latest WWE run his in-ring skills aren’t holding up when between the ropes. When you can only have a ‘pretty good’ match at WrestleMania with AJ Styles, a bad hardcore match with Dean Ambrose and a weak blood feud payoff with Kevin Owens it sticks out like a sore thumb. Here’s hoping that his Wrestle Kingdom 12 match with Kenny Omega turns that trend around.
8. Matt & Jeff Hardy
Chemistry as a team does not always translate to chemistry as opponents, and in WWE, The Hardy Boyz have never been able to hit top gear together despite multiple matches together, the main example coming in their WrestleMania match.
In Impact Wrestling during the Broken Matt Hardy saga the two actually had a few excellent brawls, but in WWE their chemistry disappears. Perhaps it’s a legacy from their formative years where they can’t tailor their ingrained instincts into WWE style matches but whatever the reason each time these two met one on one it underwhelmed and usually had one or two glaring botches that just didn’t happen when they each versed anyone else.
7. Bray Wyatt & Randy Orton
Such good chemistry as members of the Wyatt Family was utterly wasted by a terrible, over-cluttered WrestleMania match. Bray and Randy were not only unable to give the WrestleMania crowd interesting sequences between the ropes but they also had to take coffee breaks throughout the match so Bray’s ‘projections’ could flash onto the ring and pretend that we were in that creepy part of the Willy Wonka tunnel. Capping it off with a thoroughly unnecessary championship win for Randy Orton only further soured the match.
They followed that up with a somehow even ‘gimmickier’ House Of Horrors match that made several cardinal sins that WWE is far too fond of. Having nonsensical camera angles and ‘atmosphere’ shots as well as ‘spooky’ music and only ending after they both hopped into taxi’s and just drove to the arena to finish the match anyway killed the live crowd and any interest these two may have had for people to see them fight again.
6. Dolph Ziggler & Dean Ambrose
Another disappointing outing for Dean Ambrose, this time at SummerSlam against Dolph Ziggler in another match people were expecting to steal the show. This match played to neither man’s strengths, with Dolph on offense using long rest-holds while Dean simply hit his big sequence for an anticlimactic Dirty Deeds paint-by-numbers finish.
This title match may prove to be the last one of Dolph’s career, with Vince no doubt unhappy that you could be so underwhelming on the second biggest PPV of the year after being given the shot to impress. It ultimately felt like the match was a placeholder for Dean and in no way reflected the prestige of the WWE Championship it was supposed to represent.
5. Triple H & Randy Orton
Triple H has a tendency to get into matches and try to make the drama work around his style of fighting rather than having his style conform to the urgency of the story or to match his opponents if they don’t immediately click. In matches against Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley his style worked wonders, but against his greatest student in Randy Orton, it resulted in plodding, slow matches that dragged down shows that they were main eventing.
Triple H and Orton not only had instances where they didn’t click on having good matches, they actually caused lasting damage. Orton went for an RKO during One Night Stand 2008 and Triple H launched him over the top rope to the floor where he broke his collarbone, ending the match minutes later. But the greatest travesty these two inflicted on the fans was the WrestleMania 25 main event. Following a blood feud that practically demanded uber-violence, they were hamstrung by a stipulation barring Triple H from getting disqualified at the cost of losing his championship, reducing the match to a regulation bore-fest that sunk the show completely.
4. Dolph Ziggler & Shinsuke Nakamura
There has emerged a pattern on Smackdown that is both a nuisance to incoming NXT talent and an unfortunate blemish on Dolph Ziggler’s spiraling career trajectory. NXT wrestler with big hype is introduced with lots of fanfare, gets interrupted by Dolph Ziggler claiming he’s the best in the world and is finally gonna prove it, new guy has an underwhelming match with Ziggler that shortcuts both guys momentum. Tye Dillinger, Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, it’s getting bad. Nakamura’s was the worst though simply due to his gravitas in NXT being cut off at the knees right from the get-go.
Between the terrible pre-match interactions in the lead-up and finally the match which just couldn’t get into a groove it’s a telling indictment that it’s now better to avoid Dolph Ziggler if you want to excel. That was the opposite case a mere couple of years ago. Nakamura still hasn’t fully recovered and Dolph looks rougher by the day.
3. Paige & AJ Lee
These two great women’s wrestlers were on the wrong…. part of a book from the start. On their first night interacting together, Paige used her regularly brutal looking Paige-turner finisher on AJ who either fell too slowly or Paige fell off mid-move and it looked so bad that Vince immediately made Paige come up with a new finisher in The Ram-Paige.
After that the two kept having matches together, trading the Divas title back and forth but never getting together to have a match as good as these two could deliver. Some of the promos were good, although the faux friendship angle only diluted the fans investment or outright confused things, so when the two went their separate ways after a few months of clumsy matches we were all better off.
2. Randy Orton & Sheamus
Bad chemistry doesn’t always manifest as outright botches or terrible mistakes that derail matches. Sometimes two wrestlers simply can’t maintain a pace or don’t have ring-psychology that meshes well no matter how many times they try. Such is the case between Randy Orton and Sheamus, two wrestlers who can be great but when facing off together bring a crowd to a standstill or outright rebellion.
This all culminated at the post-WrestleMania XXIX Raw when Orton and Sheamus faced off for what felt like the 100th time and the crowd was having none of it. Orton and Sheamus traded endless knee-drops and chin-locks until the crowd began chanting for anything but the in-ring action. Chants for referee Mike Chioda and all 3 members of the Raw commentary table visibly upset the two wrestlers to the point they looked incredulous over the reactions.
1. Scott Steiner & Triple H
This legendarily bad series of matches upon Steiner’s return to WWE under his new Big Poppa Pump persona could have been great. The lead-up shenanigans were fun with Steiner outmuscling Triple H in arm-wrestling contests and posedowns, but when these two met at the 2003 Royal Rumble it all fell apart. Steiner was under an injury cloud which didn’t help but even that doesn’t excuse the lack of cohesion going on here. The simplest moves were botched time and time again to the point Steiner has come out after the fact to claim Triple H was trying to tank his WWE return, and the evidence supports that a fair bit. By the end of the contest, the fans were booing the repetitive, uninspired botch-fest and rightly so.
The pair had one more go around at the following PPV and it was a shade better than the abysmal first effort but still absolutely not worth the price of admission. Neither man could have been happy for this debacle of World Championship matches and the result was Steiner never seeing the main event again. Triple H, of course, was fine.
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