It isn't easy to create a genuinely great wrestling match. The task is difficult for any wrestling company to pull off because a great match involves several other factors other than the participants involved. The right story has to be in place. The build-up has to be impressive and the match has to deliver on expectations that match that build-up. The participants have to be in tip top shape for the match and have good chemistry. The crowd has to be on fire with eager anticipation to see an amazing contest. These are just a few factors that make for a great match. All of the right pieces have to come together for a match and when they don't, the results can be devastatingly disappointing.
Any match can look good on paper. It's the execution that matters the most. Sometimes, the execution is impossible to get perfectly right on a certain night. The right ideas may not come together. One night, the competitors may not gel well together for any reason ranging from bad chemistry to one guy working with a bad injury. Sometimes, the contest just wasn't meant to be a great contest. Whatever the reason may be, there are a lot of great matches out there which had potential to be great, but ended up being rather disappointing. Worse than disappointing. A lot of them just outright sucked. Here are just a few examples.
Essentially, the rematch to John Cena vs The Rock was a match that was 3 years in the making. Say what you want about giving a feud that much build, but it was an interesting experiment for WWE to try out. Intrigue filled the air when the two first locked eyes on the road to WrestleMania XXVII. Then, they had a solid contest at WrestleMania XXVIII. Maybe not a wrestling tour de force, but it was a great spectacle of showmanship due to the atmosphere it generated. For WrestleMania 29, the WWE Championship helped raise the stakes. By all accounts, the match was setting up to be bigger and better than the last. Unfortunately, the sequel turned out to be a boring retread of the prior year's match. It was as if the Mania 28 match was copy and pasted onto Mania 29, only to much less exciting results.
Mr. Perfect and Shawn Michaels were always phenomenal athletes, but in 1993, both men were in the prime of their careers. When the two were booked to face off for the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam 1993, excitement filled the air. WWE just knew that they had a classic in the making on their hands, so much so that the match was built as one of the best IC Title matches ever before either competitor stepped in the ring. Add to the fact that HBK's bodyguard, Diesel, played the wild card in all of The Heartbreak Kid's matches. We were set for an interesting affair on our hands at SummerSlam. However, when the match took place, the two were far from being in top form. Perfect was working with an injured back, but Michaels just couldn't mesh with his opponent well. The match was filled with sloppy spots and botches galore. A minute into the match, we saw an awkward bump that even the commentators struggled to cover for. Worst of all, for a match with such a big build, it ended underwhelmingly in a countout with Michaels strangely rolling over the referee as Diesel threw Perfect into the ring post. This match was such a mess.
12 13. Kurt Angle vs Samoa Joe - Hard Justice 2007
When Kurt Angle first entered TNA in 2006, he had a classic trilogy of awesome matches with Samoa Joe. When their 4th match came around in 2007 at Hard Justice, it was set up to be even better. The stakes couldn't be any higher as every title in TNA (and the IWGP Championship that Angle won in Japan) was on the line. Before anyone asks, yes, it was a long convoluted road that graced these men with so many championships at once, but that's beside the point. With so many stakes on the line, this should have been their best match yet. It wasn't. In fact, out of all the times they faced off, it might stand as their worse. The match was overshadowed by a storyline involving Kurt's then-wife, Karen, who had supposedly divorced the man and showed up to the event with a new beau. The match was sullied even harder by a big dumb swerve ending that you just know had the Vince Russo seal of approval. The overbooking and bad storytelling helped turn a potentially great match into a dud.
11 12. The Miz vs Damien Mizdow - Raw, April 2015
In 2014, Damien Sandow's comedy act as The Miz's stunt double became one of the hottest acts in WWE. It was never supposed to be, but when you've got lemons, why not make lemonade? When the two finally broke up after Wrestlemania 31 in 2015, WWE had the opportunity to make a new star out of Damien Sandow and make a great match out of a hot feud. Instead, they rushed a trilogy of matches between the two, all relatively short ones at that. The two traded wins on the April 6th and April 13th episode of Raw and then the feud ended with The Miz winning an April 20th Raw match for the rights to The Miz name. Afterwards, both men fell into obscurity for the rest of 2015. Sandow got the worse end of the stick. As over as he got the year before, he went back to doing impressions like Macho Mandow in a jobber's role before he was released in 2016. WWE had a feud so hot that people were willing to throw their money at it, but because they never had plans for either man, they gave it away three times on free tv in unremarkable presentation.
10 11. Hulk Hogan vs Kevin Nash - Nitro, Jan. 4th, 1999
We all know about the much maligned Fingerpoke of Doom that took place during Hulk Hogan vs Kevin Nash on the January 4th, 1999 edition of Monday Night Nitro, but a lot of us forget that this match-up had potential to be great. Hogan and Nash were respectively leaders of the nWo Hollywood and nWo Wolfpac, two groups who had been feuding for several months. Nash himself was still fresh off of ending Goldberg's undefeated streak a week prior and Hogan was off the heels of a failed run for US Presidency. This could have been a huge match for its story alone, but WCW decided to chuck all of that ready-made potential out the window in favor of a wacky angle that lost several WCW audiences to WWE.
Icon vs Icon. The Showstopper vs Hulkamania. Two legends finally colliding with each other after spending decades at the top of the industry. SummerSlam 2005 was host to what was predicted to be a long overdue classic and by all means, it should have been a classic. In fact, it would have been a classic if Hogan didn't balk out of the program's original plans. Originally, the two were booked to wrestle a trilogy of matches. Hogan would've won the first at SummerSlam (which he did), Michaels would have won the rematch in a steel cage the next month, and a third match would take place the following month. The trilogy plan was nixed and denied by Hogan, who just wanted to beat Michaels and walk away with his win. Not taking kindly to taking a burial from Hogan lying down, Michaels made an absolute joke of the match by overselling every chance he got while Hogan looked visibly frustrated. If nothing else, the match is so bad that it's entertaining and it's kind of a guilty pleasure.
9 9. The Undertaker and Kane vs The Wyatt Family - Survivor Series 2015
The story going into this was actually really interesting. Despite all of the damage The Wyatt Family's characters had taken at this point in time, they surprisingly made for a legitimate threat to The Brothers of Destruction after the trio attacked and carried out the limp body of The Undertaker at Hell in a Cell 2015 and then Kane the next night on Raw. When the duo resurfaced on WWE television the next month, the Survivor Series match was set on the 25th anniversary of The Undertaker's debut. The Wyatt Family didn't even have to win this one. As long as they made for formidable opponents and put on a good match with The Deadman and The Demon, their credibility would remain intact. Instead, the brothers absolutely washed the Wyatt Family in their most dominating hour. The Family got virtually no offense and suffered an embarrassing defeat. The match was too one-sided to be entertaining and The Wyatts, as always, looked like a bunch of goofy losers.
8 8. Hulk Hogan vs The Warrior - Halloween Havoc 1998
Hulk Hogan vs The Ultimate Warrior from WrestleMania VI may have not been a great "wrestling" match, but it sure was an incredible sports entertainment match. The awe-inspiring atmosphere, the electric energy, the sheer showmanship...it all came together perfectly that not and many fans expected the same thing to happen at Halloween Havoc 1998 for the rematch 8 years later. If nothing else, this has to be the perfect antithesis to their Mania match. While that match was one of the best matches in wrestling history, the rematch is one of the worst. While Hulk Hogan has admitted he thinks the bad match was his fault for botching the finish, the match was bad enough before the finish that Hogan isn't the only one to blame. There's a lot we can say about this match as a whole, but let's just lay this thing to rest and call it dreadful because no better word can describe the whole contest.
7 7. John Cena vs JBL - WrestleMania 21
It's amazing to think that John Cena has remained the face of the company for as long as he has given his coronation ceremony at WrestleMania 21 felt so uneventful. After unseating JBL of his unprecedented 280-day reign as WWE Champion, Cena was a made man in WWE, but the match that made him the man was nothing to write home about. Admittedly, many of the problems with this match have to do with the fact that the match was rushed due to time constraints and so the pacing was often off between Cena and Bradshaw's chemistry. Still, when a match is made to appoint a wrestler as the company's new face, that match needs to be nothing less than great and this match was so far from it.
6 6. Goldust vs Stardust - Fastlane 2015
WWE had been teasing the Rhodes brothers match for several years. The brothers squared off during the Royal Rumble matches in 2009 and 2013. Cody Rhodes eliminated Goldust in both scenarios. Then, later in 2013, the two helped reignite the tag team division together after they defeated The Shield for the Tag Team Titles. After losing them in early 2014, Cody Rhodes emulated his brother's gimmick to revamp their act. Now with his new Stardust persona, him and his half-brother recaptured the titles by the end of 2014. When they lost the titles, distension was teased between the two. After their father Dusty Rhodes failed to bring peace between the two, Goldust and Stardust were booked to finally face off at Fastlane 2015. Great build-up, great story...not so great of a match. The crowd was virtually dead for the match and the match felt lifeless until Goldust won with a roll-up. It felt like the two competitors were holding back and saving their best for an inevitable rematch. After Stardust attacked Goldust later backstage after the match, it was speculated that a rematch would be made for the upcoming WrestleMania to book-end the feud, but the feud was never revisited after Fastlane. In the end, Rhodes vs Rhodes felt like a pointless affair and a wasted opportunity.
5 5. Roman Reigns vs Dean Ambrose - Survivor Series 2015
Going into Survivor Series 2015, we all knew the finals of the WWE Championship Tournament had to be between former Shield mates Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. How could it not be the final. Brother vs Brother. The story writes itself with little to no build. As predictable as the match-up came to be, there was a lot of intrigue as to how the match could turn out. Could there be a surprising swerve? Could Ambrose shock everyone and come out on top? Whatever could've happened story-wise, the match between two guys who know each other so well has to be great, right? Wrong. This was more due to time constraints than the fault of either man, but the match was rushed into a 9 minute bout. The two did what they could, but a story as well documented as theirs deserved more time and the time they were given couldn't give the two any justice. Plus, the match ended with the predictable ending of Reigns winning and Sheamus cashing in his Money in the Bank case, something that had been long speculated for weeks at this point. Maybe their rematch will be a better contest.
4 4. Triple H vs Randy Orton - WrestleMania XXV
The build-up to Randy Orton vs Triple H was one of the best build-ups to any WrestleMania main event. Randy Orton was molded into the ultimate threat to the McMahon family and Triple H swooping in as their savior made for compelling television. We saw these two gunning for each others necks in the ring, out the ring, and even a memorable home invasion. On principle, these two should have tore each other apart while simultaneously tearing the house down at Mania. Instead, the two wrestled your average and methodical wrestling match and while that may be fine for some, this match with this sort of build-up needed to be more than that. I'm not saying this needed to be a bloodbath (let's remember WWE is PG after all) but this needed to be a hard hitting slobberknocker of a bout between two men who hated each other. The DQ stipulation did the match no favors and held back the match's full potential. It didn't help that the bout had to follow up the exhilarating contest between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker that took place right beforehand.
3 3. Brock Lesnar vs Dean Ambrose - WrestleMania 32
The way that this match was being set up, this No Holds Barred Street Fight was primed to steal the show at WrestleMania. In the weeks leading to the show, it was captivating to see how The Beast would knock down The Lunatic Fringe with everything he's got only for Ambrose to use his never-say-die attitude to claw his way back to his feet. And the teases suggesting that Ambrose would throw everything from a barbed wire bat to a chainsaw at Lesnar made the match must see tv. What we actually got at Mania was a typical Brock Lesnar match. "Suplex repeat" with very little offense from Ambrose. In the offense that he did get, Ambrose did not use any of the weapons that fans most anticipated to see in action. Lesnar put Ambrose away with ease and the devastating loss derailed Ambrose's momentum catastrophically. What makes this match even worse is when Ambrose admitted on Stone Cold's podcast that when planning the match, Lesnar shot down all of the cool stuff that Ambrose wanted to do. It just makes you yearn for what this match could've been had Lesnar been willing to play ball.
2 2. Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar - WrestleMania XX
The recent rematch between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar that ended in 1 minute and 26 seconds has divided audiences as to whether or not it was a good call. One thing that we can all agree on is that no matter what, the rematch was better than their first WrestleMania XX encounter. The match was built as two monstrous juggernauts finally colliding and their feud on the road to WrestleMania was exciting to watch develop. Then, the match came and it was a disaster. When news broke out that both men were leaving the promotion immediately after the match, the fans had no one to root for and ended up booing both men. Since the two were on their way out and being heckled by fans, the two were unmotivated to put on a good contest. What we got was a series of overlong staredowns, rest holds, and a crowd bored to death. It took Stone Cold stunning both men after the match to bring them back to life.
1 1. Sting vs Hulk Hogan - Starrcade 1997
The build-up to Sting and Hulk Hogan's Starrcade encounter is undoubtedly one of the greatest build-ups to any match in wrestling history. It's too bad that the match couldn't deliver the same type of awe. For over a year, Sting stayed out of action as the nWo ran rampant around WCW. Sting had a drastic change in character as he silently intimated the nWo for months until he finally got his World Title match with the leader, Hollywood Hogan, in the main event of Starrcade. Everything about the build-up felt huge, but the match fell flat. The two just didn't mesh well together. Hogan was the kind of showman who usually needed to be carried to a good wrestling match and after not wrestling for more than a year, Sting was in no condition to carry anyone. The actually match was bad enough, but it was the overbooked ending that made the match leave a bad taste in the fans' mouth. It has been widely speculated on how the ending was supposed to go down, what went wrong, and why it was booked as such a screwy ending to begin with. But in any case, the fans saw Hogan win cleanly only for Bret Hart to intervene and help Sting "win" by submission. 18 months of storytelling was destroyed and nothing was resolved as the title was vacated the next night.
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