The WWE has been home to some of the biggest names in the history of professional wrestling. The company has employed wrestlers who have not only become iconic in the eyes of WWE fans, but in the eyes of wrestling fans the world over. Many wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, The Rock, and John Cena have become synonymous with the WWE product because of how long they worked there or because it’s the only place they’ve wrestled for. Even wrestlers like Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan, who were somewhat known for their runs outside of the WWE, have reached a level of stardom that is a lot bigger than anything they accomplished anywhere else. A lot of these iconic WWE Superstars have had some great years in the company, providing fans with many memorable moments, but they’ve also had some bad or boring ones.
A wrestler can’t be a complete success every year and some stars have experienced periods of time where they weren't having the matches and feuds that fans had grown accustomed to seeing. Other times, they’ve returned to the WWE or gone elsewhere to wrestle, only to realize their best days were behind them. The one thing that has become certain in pro wrestling is that even the greats will have their bad years.
In this article, we'll be looking back at 15 Iconic WWE Superstars from a multitude of eras in the WWE and some of their worst years as a professional wrestler; regardless of where they were employed.
15 CM Punk - 2013
It seems rather odd to have a wrestler who had two Match of the Year candidates on the list for that same year, but the fact remains that CM Punk had more bad matches than good in 2013. His first two encounters with The Rock were decent matches and his encounter with The Undertaker at WrestleMania 29 was considered a great match on a horrible show. His matches would continue to get better and better upon his return at Payback 2013, but he would peak when he fought Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam.
After SummerSlam, his promos and his matches declined greatly as he had boring bouts with Ryback, Curtis Axel, and his former manager Paul Heyman. He would have a few interesting segments and matches with The Wyatt Family and The Shield, but they weren’t enough to make up for the Heyman feud.
14 Daniel Bryan - 2015
Daniel Bryan managed to become an iconic WWE Superstar in the short amount of time he was there. From his debut in 2010 to his retirement in 2016, Bryan won every championship he could compete for and had a lot of great matches and segments involving those titles. Bryan was well-known for his popularity and his wrestling ability, but 2015 didn’t do him any favors.
When Bryan returned to the ring in 2015, his matches just weren’t the same as they previously were. He had an okay showing at the Royal Rumble, only to be eliminated rather quickly. Bryan also had a good match against Roman Reigns at Fastlane and even managed to win the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 31, making him the 26th Triple Crown Champion in WWE hsitory. However, it is there where his career would end. He wouldn’t be involved in any big angles or matches for the rest of 2015 and would retire the next year. Truly a sad and forgettable year for The American Dragon.
13 Chris Jericho - 2013
Though he was initially known as a Cruiserweight wrestler with WCW, Chris Jericho has become synonymous with the WWE. Through his on and off appearances in the WWE, Jericho has spent way more time in the WWE than he did in WCW and has been much more successful. He’s been entertaining and a highlight of the show each year he’s been with the company, but 2013 was easily his least impressive year.
Jericho returned to the WWE after a five-month hiatus and made a well-received return as the second Royal Rumble entrant. He would then go on to compete in a forgettable Elimination Chamber match and was eliminated fourth. Then, at WrestleMania 29, he lost a match against Fandango in a huge upset, only for Fandango to become a borderline enhancement talent. He had a good match against CM Punk at Payback and a decent match with Ryback, but he didn’t do anything memorable or noteworthy.
12 Stone Cold Steve Austin - 2001
Stone Cold Steven Austin was a great wrestler, so none of his problems stem from promos or wrestling matches. The main reason Austin 2001 was a terrible year for Austin was because of the Invasion angle and the heel turn that no one wanted to see. The year started off great with Austin winning the Royal Rumble for a record third time and the fantastic match Three Stages of Hell Match he had against Triple H. WrestleMania X-Seven saw him have another classic encounter with The Rock, but his heel turn and alliance with his long-time rival Vince McMahon is cited as one of the major reasons the WWE began to decline in the following years.
He would then go on to form The Two-Man Power Trip with Triple H and won the majority of championships in the WWE. The group ended when Triple H was injured, but the final nail in the coffin would be his involvement in the Invasion. Austin turned face again to lead Team WWE, but would turn heel again to join The Alliance (WCW and ECW); a group composed of two companies where Austin didn’t have much success.
11 Shawn Michaels - 2006
Shawn Michaels is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, so finding a bad year for him was difficult. However, 2006 wasn’t exactly a great year for The Heartbreak Kid.
The year started with an interesting feud between Michaels and The McMahons, which had some cool matches, but it also lead to some odd moments like Michaels joining the Kiss My A** Club and The McMahons against Michaels and God. That all eventually led to the D-Generation X reunion and the stable spent the majority of the year feuding with some combination of Vince, Shane, and The Spirit Squad. Some of the matches were good like the Hell in a Cell match, but majority of them were forgettable encounters that fans prefer to forget.
10 Macho Man Randy Savage - 1999
Macho Man Randy Savage was another fantastic wrestler who put his best foot forward everywhere he went. In the WWE, Savage had great feuds with Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Hulk Hogan, and several others. He had a great run in the WWE and carved a place in history for himself. Savage jumped ship to WCW in 1994 and would have some great feuds during that time as well, but his last year in WCW wasn’t much to speak of.
Savage returned from injury in April 1999 with a new look and a more villainous attitude. He was a special referee for a match involving DDP, Ric Flair, Hollywood Hogan and Sting. Savage would return to the ring to pursue Kevin Nash and the World Heavyweight Championship.
He would eventually win the title, only to drop it to Hogan the next night on Monday Nitro. Savage’s last match in WCW would be against NBA icon player Dennis Rodman at Road Wild.
9 Mick Foley - 2010
The Hardcore Legend has been in countless companies and has put on a ton of great matches and feuds. His runs in ECW and WWE are remembered fondly and even parts of his TNA run are considered good as well, but 2010 was quite a forgettable year for Mrs. Foley’s baby boy.
In TNA at the time, he started the year off getting assaulted by The Band (TNA’s version of the nWo) and was involved in some confusing segments with Eric Bischoff about whether he was fired or not fired. He lost to Abyss in the Eight Card Stud Tournament at Against All Odds in February. Foley then lost a career versus career match against Jeff Jarrett as a cover up for TNA almost using up his maximum amount of appearances. His last match would be against Ric Flair in a Last Man Standing Match that wasn’t as good as their encounters in the WWE.
Not that bad of a year for Foley, but not much to speak of either.
8 John Cena - 2012
John Cena has earned a lot more respect from wrestling fans in the last few years. He’s had Match of the Year candidates almost every year since 2011, he’s added a lot of new wrestling moves, and some of the people he’s put over have gone on to achieve a lot. With that being said, 2012 still wasn't a good year for the leader of the Cenation.
Cena started off the year in a storyline with Kane where he had to Embrace the Hate. Then at WrestleMania, Cena and Rock fought in the main event in a dream match, which he lost. He then defeated a returning Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules with one AA after 15 minutes of being devastated. He main evented Over the Limit fighting Johnny Ace in one of the worst matches of the year, won the Money in the Bank briefcase and failed to cash in successfully, had some decent matches with WWE Champion CM Punk, and closed out the year with a good match agaisnt Dolph Ziggler at TLC. A career year for some, but a poor one for Cena when looking at his resume.
7 The Rock - 2013
It goes without saying that The Rock is one of the greatest WWE Superstars of all-time. He almost always managed to keep the crowd entertained, but 2013 was not on par with any of his other years. As announced at the Raw 1,000th episode, The Rock would challenge WWE Champion CM Punk for the title and would end his 434-day championship reign. The buildup and match at the Royal Rumble were both average at best, but his next match at Elimination Chamber was pretty poor.
Lastly, after beating Punk for a second time, he would fight John Cena in the main event of WrestleMania 29 for the WWE Championship. Not only was this match a bland finish fest that failed to live up to the hype of their first encounter, but it's on many fans list as one of the worst WrestleMania main events of all-time. Not the best year for The Most Electrifying Man in All of Sports and Entertainment.
6 The Undertaker - 2005
The Undertaker has had a lot of ups and downs during his career. Sometimes he’s had great runs like he did as The American Badass and The Lord of Darkness during the Attitude Era, while other times he’s not been as interesting. This couldn’t have been further exemplified by the year 2005.
The year started off with two PPV matches against Luther Reigns and Heidenreich; two wrestlers who fans probably don’t remember. The Undertaker had a fantastic feud with Randy Orton that played out through the rest of the year, but that would be the best of his work in that year. He would be involved in the Muhammad Hassan storyline that failed miserably. His matches with Orton were very good, but 2005 was still a forgettable year for The Deadman; mostly because he didn’t do much against marginal talent.
5 Randy Orton - 2013
Randy Orton is another Superstar who fell victim to the year 2013. His run in the years 2010 and 2012 weren’t exactly great, but they were closer to forgettable than bad. The year 2013, however, resulted in some of the most boring, uninspired matches and feuds in Orton’s career.
The year began with an okay showing at the Royal Rumble, but would be followed up by a forgettable Elimination Chamber Match, a decent six-man tag bout at WrestleMania 29, and a forgettable Extreme Rules match against Big Show. Orton then began pairing with Team Hell No against The Shield and had some good matches, even when he began feuding with Bryan during a weak storyline, but that would be his best work during the year by far.
Orton had a shocking cash-in at SummerSlam when he aligned himself with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, which would begin a sequence of boring matches against Daniel Bryan and Big Show for the rest of the year. The year ended when Orton reignited his feud against John Cena to unify the titles and the match was good, but the majority of Orton’s 2013 was just boring.
4 Brock Lesnar - 2016
Brock Lesnar is one of the best homegrown talents in WWE history and has been a huge success. From his early run from 2002-2004 to his return in 2012 to the present, Lesnar is a proven commodity as an unstoppable beast with really good wrestling skills. His matches since his return in 2012 have all been top notch minus one or two performances, but 2016 was his worst year yet.
He had an okay showing at the Royal Rumble, only to be eliminated by The Wyatt Family and for nothing to come of it. He then fought in a triple threat number one contender’s match against Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns; which was basically a watered-down version of the triple threat match from the 2015 Royal Rumble (featuring Cena and Rollins). He then had an underwhelming match where he basically squashed Ambrose at WrestleMania, busted Randy Orton up in less than 10 minutes at SummerSlam, and lost to Goldberg in 86 seconds at Survivor Series.
3 Triple H - 2003
A lot can be said about Triple H's "Reign of Terror" which dominated the Raw main event scene from 2002 to 2005, but nothing was as bad as all the things that happened with Triple H in the year 2003.
The year kicked off with two of the worst matches of his career against Big Poppa Pump, Scott Steiner. Followed by the burial of Booker T in a feud that had far too many racial overtones. This was followed by some forgettable matches with Kevin Nash, aside from their Hell in a Cell match. Next Triple H would not only bury Goldberg, but he would do it while suffering a groin injury.
He would lose the title to Goldberg the next month, but Goldberg’s momentum wasn’t nearly as strong as it was during their SummerSlam encounter. Lastly, he would end the year as the champion by defeating Goldberg in a triple threat match. Easily the worst year in the "Reign of Terror."
2 Hulk Hogan - 2011
Hulk Hogan is the most popular professional wrestler in the history of the sport. Hogan has competed for countless titles, wrestled in several big-time companies, and is easily the most recognizable professional wrestler today. Aside from his racist comments, his legacy as a wrestler is greater than almost everyone. However, his years in TNA tarnished his legacy; specifically, 2011.
Hogan joined TNA in 2009 and would remain with the company until 2013. The majority of his time was spent as an on-screen authority figure, but he did have one final televised wrestling match in 2011. The storyline involved Hogan being the President of TNA and putting that on the line in a match with Sting at Bound For Glory. The bout was nothing pretty with Hogan doing nothing more than throwing punches and tapping out to The Sharpshooter in a forgettable encounter from a man who never should’ve got in the ring again.
1 The Ultimate Warrior - 1998
Many fans disliked The Ultimate Warrior’s WWE run in 1996 and they weren’t wrong. 1996 had a lot of bad matches and bizarre segments for The Warrior, but they pale in comparison to his WCW run in 1998.
When The Ultimate Warrior made his debut in the company, he rambled on incoherently for quite some time before getting to the point. He would emerge in the War Games match at Fall Brawl through a trapdoor, which caused The British Bulldog’s severe spinal injury, where he lost. He then wrestled a tag team match with Sting that saw his partner do the majority of the work.
However, the biggest dud came in his match with Hollywood Hulk Hogan at Halloween Havoc, which was one of the worst matches in WCW history. When talking about The Ultimate Warrior’s legacy in wrestling, it’s best to omit his time in WCW.