There’s usually always something to get excited about in the world of professional wrestling. But, unfortunately, the introduction of something new and exciting doesn’t always deliver, as WWE has botched storylines with major potential various times.
Sometimes WWE purposely doesn’t do everything they can to ensure that a storyline reaches its true potential and, other times, a storyline that doesn’t live up to the hype can be blamed on pure incompetence, among other things.
Wrestling isn’t the only form of scripted entertainment that ruins ideas with major potential, as there are a ton of examples of movies and television shows that have a ton of hype surrounding them prior to their release, but they ultimately don’t live up to that hype.
It seems like wrestling is constantly under the microscope and if something doesn’t go the way that the majority of the audience wants it to go, then WWE is on the receiving end of a ton of criticism. Sure, other forms of entertainment get criticized when things aren’t going well, but WWE seems to get the worst of it from their own alleged fans.
Unfortunately, it seems like WWE has botched significantly more storylines over the last decade or so than they ever have. That may be due to Vince McMahon getting older and losing touch with his audience. Or, it could be because of other things that no one knows about. But regardless of what the cause was, here are 15 of the most botched storylines in WWE history!
15. Original Brand Split
With WCW no longer being in the picture, WWE decided to create competition within their own company. The concept was great and they were able to stay true to their brand exclusivity rule for quite some time. But, as soon as SmackDown began getting more viewers than Raw, WWE made some drastic changes.
No one really knows why WWE didn’t want SmackDown to do better than Raw, but they did, and as a result, they began to botch the brand extension by constantly shuffling the rosters in an attempt to boost Raw’s ratings and then it eventually got to a point where everyone was just on every show.
The original brand-split could’ve been so great and it could still be going today. Of course, WWE is bringing back the split this coming July and hopefully they’ll do a better job with it this time around.
14. Anonymous Raw General Manager
The anonymous Raw General Manager storyline had quite a bit of potential, as every single wrestling fan was speculating on who it was going to turn out to be. Most WWE fans assumed that it would end up being Triple H, but they ended up being way off.
At one point, the anonymous Raw GM just disappeared from WWE television and then, during the July 9th, 2012 edition of Raw, the nameless, faceless GM returned and it was eventually revealed that Hornswoggle was Raw’s mystery General Manager. Fans were underwhelmed with the reveal to say the least.
13. ECW Revival
There was a strong push from the fans to revive the ECW brand after the success of the two ECW One Night Stand pay-per-views in the mid-2000s and WWE listened to their audience, giving them a weekly ECW television show on the SyFy Network.
Bringing back ECW could’ve been used to give wrestling fans an alternative product to WWE, similar to what NXT is now. But, did WWE do that? No. They pretty much did everything they could to make sure ECW failed.
12. The Rock vs. John Cena Rematch
WWE fans have been begging the company to turn John Cena heel for several years now and his rematch with The Rock would’ve been the perfect time to do it. But instead, they just had The Rock and Cena shake hands and hug after the conclusion of their rematch at WrestleMania 29.
For the second year in a row, Cena was getting booed during the majority of his feud with The Rock. There were some teases of a Cena heel turn in the promos leading up to the match, but, at the end of it all, we saw the same old John Cena when WrestleMania 29 concluded.
If Cena would’ve turned heel at WrestleMania 29, then it may very well have been a Hulk Hogan joining Scott Hall and Kevin Nash type of moment and WWE would’ve instantly had the hottest heel they’ve had in who knows how long.
11. Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon
Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon was a match that was over a decade in the making and when Bret made his triumphant return to WWE, the company wasted no time putting the McMahon vs. Hart feud together.
Due to a stroke that he suffered back in the early-2000s, Bret Hart wasn’t even close to the performer that he was back in his prime and, because of that, WWE decided to make the Bret vs. Vince match a no DQ match, with the entire Hart family at ringside.
The match was a complete debacle and that year’s WrestleMania, which featured the match, completely bombed on pay-per-view, mostly due to the fact that the McMahon vs. Bret storyline got worse every single week.
10. Kevin Owens’ Main-Roster Call-Up
The wrestling world was shocked when Kevin Owens defeated John Cena in his debut match at 2015’s Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. But, almost immediately after Owens defeated Cena, WWE announced that their would be a rematch at the Money in the Bank show, which guaranteed that Cena was going to get his win back.
There were some who were hoping that Owens would defeat Cena a second time and that may have been the plan at one point. But after Owens defeated Cena at the Elimination Chamber show, Cena’s merchandise sales took a bit of a hit, so WWE panicked, which is why they ended up having Owens lose to Cena in all of their subsequent matches.
If Owens would’ve never lost to Cena, then maybe WWE would have created a legitimate top guy. But, instead, Owens has been lingering in the mid-card for the majority of his main-roster run. But that could change if he ends up winning the Money in the Bank ladder match later this month.
9. Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker (WrestleMania XXX buildup)
There was a ton of real-life heat between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker prior to their historic match at WrestleMania XXX. But, did WWE mention any of it? Of course not. Why? Well, probably because the most famous out of the ring confrontation between the two was at a UFC event and WWE probably didn’t want to directly acknowledge their competitors, even though they say that they aren’t competing with the UFC.
Instead, we got the regular Undertaker stuff, which led to a complete dud of a match. Of course, everybody remembers Lesnar vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX because that’s the night the streak ended. But, the match itself, which nobody really cared about going into the event, could’ve been so much bigger than it was if WWE would have gone with the real-life angle, instead of just doing the normal Undertaker stuff.
8. nWo In WWE
The New World Order was one of the hottest factions of all-time and in February of 2002, they finally made their debut in WWE. They received a huge ovation from the crowd at the No Way Out pay-per-view in ’02 and it looked like they were going to be a long-term, main-event faction in the company.
Just a couple of weeks later, Hulk Hogan shook hands with The Rock at WrestleMania X8 and he left the nWo. Scott Hall was released from WWE shortly thereafter, and Kevin Nash was left with a new nWo, which consisted of X-Pac, Big Show, Booker T, and Shawn Michaels.
Nash ended up blowing out his quadricep shortly after Michaels joined the group and the faction was disbanded just a couple of months after its debut.
7. CM Punk’s 434 Day Title Reign
CM Punk was the longest reigning WWE World Heavyweight Champion of the modern era and how did they end his title reign? By having him lose to The Rock.
It was a big deal when The Rock ended CM Punk’s historic title reign at the Royal Rumble show in 2013, but he was only winning the title just so he could lose it to John Cena a couple of months later and everyone knew it.
While it was pretty cool to see The Rock become the WWE Champion again, it didn’t really mean a whole lot. Rock vs. Cena II didn’t really need the WWE Championship to be a big match and Punk could’ve carried the WWE Title into WrestleMania 29, before losing it to someone who could have actually benefited from beating him.
6. Brock Lesnar’s WWE Return
Brock Lesnar returned to WWE the night after WrestleMania XXVIII and he received one of the biggest reactions in WWE history once his music hit.
Upon his return, Lesnar targeted John Cena and the two men were set to wrestle each other at 2012’s Extreme Rules pay-per-view. The match was perfect, as Lesnar completely destroyed Cena. But what wasn’t perfect was the ending, which saw John Cena coming from behind to defeat Lesnar.
In Lesnar’s first year back with the company, he had already lost as many matches as he had won. But, if WWE would have used him like they’re using him now, then maybe WWE fans would’ve been more excited to see him take on The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX. But, at least WWE has finally figured out how to use “The Beast,” even though it was completely obvious from the start.
5. Daniel Bryan’s YES! Movement
Watching how WWE handled Daniel Bryan’s rise may have been the most frustrating thing in professional wrestling when it was going on. They had a potential mega-star right in front of their faces, but did they ever go with him? No.
Vince McMahon gave Daniel Bryan his WrestleMania moment at WrestleMania XXX, but it was clear that he didn’t have any big plans for him after that.
Bryan was going to have a long-term feud with Kane, which was not going well, and then he was going to be fed to Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam. Instead, Bryan got hurt and was forced to forfeit the title.
It’s hard to tell what WWE would’ve done with Bryan had he not been forced to retire, but it’s clear that, after he won the WWE Title at WrestleMania XXX, they weren’t going to do anything major with him.
4. Vince McMahon vs. Eric Bischoff
For reasons that we do not know, WWE didn’t even consider doing a Vince McMahon vs. Eric Bischoff feud. Obviously, the feud would lead to some pretty crappy matches between the two if they ever got into the ring together, but, a lot of people would’ve liked to have seen a McMahon vs. Bischoff feud take place.
Instead of a feud, we got Vince and Bischoff hugging and shaking hands on Bischoff’s very first night in the company. So, that immediately killed any hope or curiosity in a McMahon vs. Bischoff storyline, or a possible revival of the WCW vs. WWE feud, which had ended about seven months earlier.
3. The Nexus
When The Nexus debuted, it looked like WWE had stumbled upon something great, as the group full of WWE newcomers had the potential to be the hottest faction in professional wrestling. And, for a short period of time, they were.
Then there was a Team WWE vs. The Nexus match that took place at SummerSlam and going into the match, everyone said that the most logical conclusion to the match would be Wade Barrett pinning John Cena. But, apparently Cena pushed for him to be the one to take down The Nexus and that’s what ended up happening.
After The Nexus lost, they weren’t nearly as hot as they were, and then they were split off into two groups – Nexus and The Corre – both of which were disbanded shortly thereafter.
2. CM Punk Pipebomb
CM Punk’s legendary “pipebomb” promo in 2011 set the wrestling world on fire and it looked like WWE had finally found this generation’s “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
For the summer of 2011, CM Punk was, by far, the hottest WWE superstar, as he surpassed John Cena in merchandise sales. But, WWE eventually cut the legs out from under him, as they had him lose to Triple H at the height of his popularity.
Punk remained a big player in WWE until he walked out in January of 2014, but just imagine what he could’ve been if WWE hadn’t gone out of their way to kill his momentum.
1. WWE vs. WCW
The WWE vs. WCW storyline in 2001 was, by far, the biggest missed opportunity in the history of professional wrestling. We could’ve gotten big matches like Goldberg vs. Steve Austin, the nWo vs. DX, Sting vs. The Rock, Ric Flair vs. Kurt Angle. But instead, we got a watered down version of WCW, all because WWE wasn’t willing to pay WCW’s true top guys the money it would’ve taken to get them to be part of the invasion storyline.
Despite the fact that WWE completely botched the invasion storyline, there was still a ton of interest in it and the Invasion pay-per-view did one of the best buy-rates in the history of the company. But, due to Vince McMahon’s inability to think outside the box, the storyline never achieved its true potential.
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