WWE runs 365 days a year. Unlike any other sport or television show, the WWE juggernaut never stops, which means there is an awful lot of time to fill. It’s not like most other TV shows that simply have to fill 10-12 episodes a year. WWE and professional wrestling in general needs unreal amounts of material, especially if the company wants to keep its content fresh. Naturally, not every idea is going to be a home run. So many times in the long and storied history of professional wrestling, bookers have thrown something against the wall and it simply hasn’t stuck. Unfortunately for them, some of those times have been extremely noteworthy.
Some of the hundreds of storylines WWE churn out each and every year are going to backfire. To be fair, it’s pretty impressive how few of them backfire considering the sheer amount of content WWE puts out each week. On a regular pay-per-view week, there’s around 10 hours of wrestling programming from WWE alone. When a storyline backfires, you can guarantee it’ll be remembered though.
Whether it’s pushing a Superstar the fans don’t want, making light of a hot topic that really shouldn’t have been or simply just having a bad idea. WWE comes up with poor storylines time and time again, they always have. Here are 15 times we think their storylines backfired in a major way.
15. The Relaunch Of ECW
Taz, Bubba Ray Dudley, Rob Van Dam. Ask any Superstar that played a big part in the original ECW back in the 1990s and they’ll tell you that Paul Heyman really captured lightning in a bottle. It was something special that simply couldn’t be recreated. That didn’t stop WWE from giving it a go in 2006 though. Vince and co added the extreme brand to the two existing ones, Raw and SmackDown.
Safe to say from start to finish, four years later, it did not go well. It began when WWE originally brought the brand back for One Night Stand, which actually did go well. WWE tend to milk a good thing for absolutely everything they can though and turned it back into a weekly show. The reboot was a flop and a particular low-point was the December to Dismember PPV, which earned the lowest buyrate in the company’s history.
14. Brawl For All
Back in the summer of 1998, WWE ran a tournament that they dubbed Brawl for All. It was an odd hybrid of boxing and pro wrestling that unlike WWE’s product was neither staged nor pre-determined. It came from the mind of then writer Vince Russo, famous for having ideas that were either home runs or absolute stinkers. This one ranked in the stinker column for a number of reasons.
Firstly, WWE had little to no say on the outcome of the tournament’s matches as they were real fights. Eventual winner Bart Gunn was not exactly a top guy in the company at the time. So, when he began making light work of bigger names that obviously didn’t look good. On top of that, after winning the tournament, Gunn earned the opportunity to brawl with professional boxer Butterbean. The boxer knocked Gunn out in 35 seconds, further damaging the credibility of the rest of the roster.
13. McMahon Million Dollar Mania
Back in 2008, Vince McMahon had the rather odd idea of giving away large amounts of money to select fans. Talk about a desperate attempt to rack up some ratings. It was dubbed McMahon’s Million Dollar Mania and revolved around fans calling into Raw each week. Vince would stand on stage and take the call himself, and if the fan on the phone knew the password, they would win a large sum of money.
What had me baffled at the time is how exactly they were going to bring this shameful attempt to boost viewership to a close. Vince might be rich but even he doesn’t want to be giving his money away each and every Monday night. Well, all they did was have the stage collapse and the ‘injuries’ Vince sustained kept him off TV long enough for the baffling segment to be forgotten.
12. Fake Diesel And Fake Razor
The beginning of the Monday Night War between WWE and WCW can be traced back to a number of points. Perhaps the most significant is when Kevin Nash and Scott Hall left the former to famously join the latter. Obviously, WWE were not happy. Their way of showing that? Creating fake versions of Diesel and Razor Ramon, the characters the two mentioned names had portrayed during their time under Vince McMahon’s tutelage.
It was a terrible idea and the pair lasted around four months. Fake Diesel was actually played by Glenn Jacobs, who would thankfully go on to become Kane. Unfortunately for the man playing fake Razor, there weren’t greener pastures within the landscape of WWE.
11. John Cena And The Rock: Once In A Lifetime
At WrestleMania XXVIII, the fans were treated to a once in a lifetime match up. Two generations clashed in the main event of the night after a full twelve months of build up when John Cena faced off against The Rock. Notice, I described the match up as once in a lifetime. Most of you more hardened fans will know that the match actually wasn’t once in a lifetime.
It felt like it should have been and was even marketed as such by WWE. As it turns out, they liked the sheer magnitude of the bout so much that they showcased it again no less than a year later. Like WWE so often does, they rewrote their own history and pretended as if they had never claimed the mega match was once in a lifetime when it really should have been.
10. Rob Van Dam As WWE Champion
When the bulk of the WCW and ECW rosters arrived in WWE in 2001 and beyond, not many of them received a warm welcome. They were used as examples to show that WWE had defeated their former employers. One of those Superstars was Rob Van Dam. An undoubtedly extremely talented pro wrestler, and it seemingly took a few years for WWE to realize that.
In 2006, RVD was not only awarded the newly instated ECW Heavyweight Championship, but had also just won the WWE Title. RVD waited all that time to be the company’s well deserved top guy and then he threw it all away. After just a month with both belts, RVD inexplicably lost them in the space of a few days. A little later, it became clear as to why WWE had given up on Van Dam so rapidly, as he was suspended for violating the company’s wellness policy.
9. Muhammad Hassan Terrorism Angle
Back in 2005, the constant fear of terrorist attacks was prevalent. WWE being WWE, took advantage of this global fear and naturally made a storyline out of it. Muhammad Hassan was introduced to the fans as an Arab American who had a gripe with WWE and its fan base. Hassan complained that he wasn’t getting the same opportunities as others on the roster simply because of his origin.
Hassan did not help those stereotypical views by having a group of burly men in ski masks storm the ring and attack The Undertaker on SmackDown. What’s worse was the timing of it. The airing of the episode coincided with the terrorist attacks in London in July of that year. Safe to say we did not see much of Hassan after the extremely poor timing of that angle.
8. Sin Cara Drama
Bear with me on this one as it gets very confusing, which is part of the reason why this storyline backfired on WWE. The original Sin Cara was portrayed by a gentleman called Luis Urive, who eventually got suspended under the company’s wellness policy. WWE saw an opportunity in having a masked man suspended and pulled someone from developmental (Jorge Arias) to play Sin Cara instead.
A pretty strange decision that was made even stranger when Urive returned, donned the mask once again and began to feud with the Sin Cara that had taken his place. Eventually, Urive won the right to continue on as Sin Cara while Arias became Hunico. Unfortunately, Urive later left WWE before the company were done with Sin Cara, so Hunico returned to playing the role. A pretty big mess all told.
7. The Invasion
On paper, the Invasion of WCW into WWE was maybe the greatest thing that could have ever happened in the pro wrestling business for the fans. The biggest wrestlers from either side of the battlefield finally clashing. It could have been huge. Unfortunately, most of WCW’s biggest stars were under guaranteed contracts, meaning they could sit at home and still get paid.
Only a few Superstars made the immediate jump to WWE whereas the others didn’t show up until after the Invasion angle had come to an end. Fans were expecting the returns of Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan, as well as finally seeing Sting and Goldberg in a WWE ring. Instead they got Booker T, DDP and Buff Bagwell. Not the worst stars in the world but definitely not the megastars it would have taken to make the Invasion a bigger deal.
6. Vince McMahon Limo Explodes
WWE has proven time and time again that there are no levels they won’t stoop to in order to further a storyline. They’ve even used death on many occasions for entertainment purposes. Well, in 2007, Vince McMahon thought the idea of his very own death would boost ratings. The boss dedicated an episode of Raw to himself and at the end of it, Vince stepped into his limousine only for it to explode and ‘kill’ him.
The ensuing story was meant to be an investigation into who exactly would want Mr. McMahon dead and to find out who killed him. Once again, bad taste and bad timing struck again as the following weekend the Chris Benoit tragedy occurred. Vince appeared on Raw to announce that he was not in fact deceased and the angle was immediately scrapped.
5. Randy Orton Against Batista At WrestleMania XXX
In 2014, Batista returned to WWE after a successful foray into Hollywood. For some reason, WWE believed that the former World Champion would be welcomed back as a much bigger star than when he left. Granted most fans were pleased to see him back, but not to the level the company were expecting. Batista got pushed straight to the top. He won the Royal Rumble and was on the fast track to WrestleMania, where he would battle Randy Orton for the WWE Championship.
A pretty drab match at the best of times made even less appealing considering the alternative. Batista’s return had pushed fan favorite Daniel Bryan to the side and the fans did not react well. Bryan was famously added to the WrestleMania main event and the original plans for a Orton vs Batista closing match were thankfully nixed.
4. Kevin Nash As WWE Champion
It’s pretty plain to see that Vince McMahon likes having a top guy. One person in the company that transcends everybody else. From Hulk Hogan to Stone Cold to John Cena. There’s usually someone who Vince picks for that position. However, there are times when Mr. McMahon selects that lucky someone and it just doesn’t work out. In 1994, it was Kevin Nash.
Big Sexy earned his one and only WWE championship that he held for an entire year. A year long reign that has earned him the tag of the worst drawing champion of all time. Despite backlash and disinterest from the fans, Vince and WWE refused to cave and continued pushing Nash. Of course, he did not reach the lofty heights of the other names mentioned just previously.
3. Randy Orton Against Triple H At WrestleMania XXV
Randy Orton is undoubtedly a sure fire Hall of Famer. However, as you already have seen from this list, he’s had his fair share of backfired storylines. Many of which involve him wrongfully headlining WrestleMania. At WrestleMania XXV, The Viper had to close the show with Triple H. On any other night, especially then, a match that could draw a crowd and close a show.
Sadly for the two men in question, they had to follow what is widely considered as one of the best matches of all time–the first instalment of Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker. Any match on any card would have struggled to follow that. In hindsight, I’m sure WWE would like to have switched those two matches around.
2. The Anonymous Raw General Manager
Raw has had its fair share of General Managers. In fact, Raw will be having a new one after ‘firing’ Mick Foley just this past Monday. Let’s hope WWE doesn’t try to replace him with the anonymous Raw General Manager. One of the worst ideas in recent WWE history that ended up having absolutely no pay off. It went on for months and months. Michael Cole would read messages off a laptop from the supposed GM in regards to booking decisions.
Each message would have a hint towards an alumni or former legend that the general manager may be. Well, after all that time, the fans expecting a huge pay off until the GM was revealed to simply be Hornswoggle. He had been hiding under the ring and sending the messages from there. I really wouldn’t put it past WWE to bring back the gimmick. Let’s hope not.
1. Roman Reigns Wins The Royal Rumble
A few entries ago, I brought up Kevin Nash and Vince McMahon’s sometimes misplaced intentions to make a Superstar into a top guy. Well, there is perhaps no bigger example of that than Roman Reigns. Vince has been relentlessly attempting to turn Reigns into the next Hulk Hogan or John Cena and it simply isn’t happening. The pinnacle of this push came at the 2015 Royal Rumble.
The 30 man match bore witness to the return of Daniel Bryan and obviously the fans wanted D-Bry to win the bout. Unfortunately, Vince had other ideas and thought we’d much prefer to see Roman Reigns get his big moment. We did not. Roman’s win was greeted by resounding boos, and even a congratulatory appearance from his cousin, The Rock, couldn’t change our minds.
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