In just a month from this writing, WrestleMania will be upon us once again, as we prepare to watch the 33rd iteration of WWE's "Grandest Stage Of Them All." Although many thought it would be another one of the then-relatively youthful Vince McMahon's flights of fancy and something that might not stick, Vince helped this make-or-break blockbuster make it in the long run. And while WrestleMania usually delivers and provides some quality wrestling from some of the WWE's biggest stars, there are also some clunkers, which include, but are not limited to: the three-city debacle of WrestleMania II, the "toga party"-themed WrestleMania IX, the Bam Bam vs. LT-headlining WrestleMania XI, and just last year, the Triple H vs Roman Reigns snoozefest-headlining WrestleMania 32.
There are also some performers who arguably don't deserve to be on such a grand stage, and it may be because of three things — they're celebrities or sports stars who don't wrestle for a living, they don't have the star power required to be in such a big match, or they plainly, absolutely suck in the ring. We're going to focus on the latter two, especially the last one, and though there will be some exceptions in this list for those who main evented, we're going to mostly stay clear and not mention celebrities and non-wrestling pro athletes. That means no Shaquille O'Neal and Floyd Mayweather, and apologies to all you Jersey Shore haters out there, no Snooki either.
So who was the worst wrestler (or non-wrestler of note) ever to set foot in the ring at WrestleMania? Keep on reading through these bad 'Mania moments and we'll tell you.
16 BORIS ZHUKOV - WrestleMania VI
Despite having had his heyday at a time when it wasn’t uncommon for big, brutish wrestlers to be lacking in the skill department, kayfabe Russian Boris Zhukov (or James Harrell as he’s known in real life) wasn’t that bad. But he was the guy taking the pin in one of the shortest matches in WrestleMania history, as The Bolsheviks (Zhukov and an aging Nikolai Volkoff) lost in just 19 seconds to The Hart Foundation, who were being built up at WrestleMania VI as a threat in the tag team division.
Following their embarrassment at the hands of The Hart Foundation, Volkoff and Zhukov had quietly parted ways when the latter had left WWE. Zhukov would stick around and would soon be relegated to enhancement duty in singles, getting the no-ring-music treatment despite once having a bit of a push as one-half of a tag team.
15 SAPPHIRE - WrestleMania VI
Up to now, it’s still a bit sad having to write about this, as all four competitors in the match in question (plus Miss Elizabeth, who was in the babyface corner) have since passed on. But in an example of why women’s wrestling was in such a sad state in the early-‘90s, one shouldn’t look much further than Sapphire, a veteran of the business who was nonetheless all of 55 years old when she joined WWE in late-1989 as “The Common Man” Dusty Rhodes’ valet.
With Sapphire and Dusty taking on “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Sensational Sherri in a mixed tag team match at WrestleMania VI, we got to see some good wrestling from both men, as well as Sherri, who was one of the few women in her era to be both a capable manager and wrestler. Sapphire, on the other hand, was mainly in there for comedy purposes, using her weight advantage in a cliched way and executing an already-antiquated airplane spin on Sherri as her lone highlight in the match.
14 CORPORAL KIRCHNER - WrestleMania II
With WWE having canned Sgt. Slaughter due to problems with his side deal with G.I. Joe toymaker Hasbro, fans had to settle for this consolation prize – a Brand X substitute by the name of Corporal Kirchner. While he was a flag-waving military babyface with real-life military experience like the Sarge, that was probably the only thing this lowly maggot had in common with Slaughter. He had no charisma, little in-ring skills, and he also happened to be way too stiff in the ring for many wrestlers’ likings.
Kirchner was at his peak at WrestleMania II’s Chicago leg, where he defeated Nikolai Volkoff in just two minutes in a flag match, getting the kayfabe Russian bloody but not really showing much else. After his feud with Volkoff ended, he would float around in WWE’s midcard before serving a drug suspension in 1987 and leaving the company soon after.
13 MABEL/VISCERA - WrestleMania X, 2000
At WrestleMania X, the late Nelson Frazier Jr. was pretty unwatchable as Mabel, the larger half of Men on a Mission. He was extremely close to topping the half-ton mark, and with his youth and inexperience combining with his massive weight, he was known for being just as reckless as he was unrefined. We could go on about just how reckless he was as a young big man, but his first WrestleMania moment came at the tenth iteration, as he and Mo went on to defeat The Quebecers for the WWE Tag Team Championships. Via count-out, that is, per the match’s stipulations. Yuck.
Six years and an ill-fated main event push later, Frazier was back at WrestleMania 2000, this time much-improved (though still leaving a lot to be desired) under the ring name Viscera. He was one of the entrants in the Hardcore Championship Battle Royal, which, once again per stipulations, allowed him to hold the belt for six minutes, before losing it to the much smaller Funaki.
12 LAWRENCE TAYLOR - WrestleMania XI
Though he was a celebrity competing in a ‘Mania match, we’re including legendary NFL linebacker Lawrence Taylor in here, because he main-evented WrestleMania XI, which many, but not all long-time fans see as the worst of all time. Instead of having Shawn Michaels and Diesel’s WWE Championship match headline the grandest stage of them all, WWE instead went with Bam Bam Bigelow vs. LT because of the mainstream sports attention they were expecting to receive. They did get that attention alright, but it wasn’t of the good kind, as most mainstream sports news outlets felt that having Taylor compete in a scripted sport cheapened his status as an NFL icon, and the NFL’s status in general.
Yet, we’re not ranking Taylor as the worst WrestleMania competitor of all time, as we have to give some credit to how he took his training for the Bam Bam match seriously, and didn’t look as bad as one would expect from someone with zero pro wrestling experience whatsoever. (In other words, much better than NBA stars Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone during their WCW stints.)
11 S.D. JONES - WrestleMania I
The old expression tells us that it takes two to tango, and in the context of WrestleMania I, it takes two to triple the length of a match that's supposed to take eight seconds. That's the length WWE wants you to believe it took for King Kong Bundy to squash jobber deluxe Special Delivery (S.D.) Jones, but anyone watching that match will tell you that it took closer to 24 or 25 seconds for the near-500-pound Bundy to put Jones away.
Not only was Bundy taking too long to set up for his Avalanche; it also appeared as if Jones was trying to drag out the match by overselling and refusing to set himself up for the big man's finisher, perhaps refusing as well to swallow his pride as a job guy. All told, it was Bundy over Jones in about 40 percent of a minute, and NOT eight seconds.
10 UNCLE ELMER - WrestleMania II
Ugh, those early WrestleManias. As an adult looking back at some of the less-memorable ‘Mania matches of my childhood, some of the entries in here are positively cringeworthy, and make me wonder if there was something in my glass of milk that made me cheer these big, almost-talentless lugs. Case in point would be Hillbilly Jim and his kayfabe family – while Jim was tolerable to a certain extent, his cousins were the drizzling shizzles, especially the biggest one of them all, the “fried pig part”-eating, television wedding-having Cousin Elmer.
At 6’10” and 450 pounds, the late Stan Frazier, who played Cousin Elmer, was a huge man, but like many other 400-plus-pounders of his era, his moves and skills were quite limited. In his WrestleMania II match against “Adorable” Adrian Adonis, Elmer badly botched a leg drop, and had no chemistry with his flamboyant heel opponent, making for one of the worst matches of one of the worst ‘Manias of all time.
9 THE BUSHWHACKERS - WrestleMania V, X-Seven
As The Sheepherders, New Zealanders Luke Williams and Butch Miller made up one of the world’s most vicious tag teams. But since WWE back in those days equated the word “savage” with Samoans, they brought The Sheepherders in as The Bushwhackers, giving them a goofy gimmick where they’d hit the ring with distinctive arm movements, lick each other, their fans, and their heel opponents, and frequently stink of sardines. And they did get a decent push at first, with Cousin Luke and Cousin Butch, as they were now called, feuding against the newly-“Americanized” Fabulous Rougeaus.
The Bushwhackers would beat the Rougeaus at WrestleMania V, and despite Jacques and Raymond Rougeau doing their best to make the 40-something Luke and Butch look good, they just couldn’t. For the majority of their WWE run, The Bushwhackers were in the bottom half of the tag team card, and would eventually be best-remembered as a comedy team. This was only solidified by their appearance at WrestleMania X-Seven’s Gimmick Battle Royal, where they fought against the likes of The Gobbledygooker, Hillbilly Jim, The Goon, and Barry Darsow as Repo Man.
8 BOBBY HEENAN - WrestleMania V
We do not argue with the assertion that Bobby “The Brain” Heenan was, is, and will always be one of the greatest managers in WWE history. He was a master at attracting heel heat, was money each time he took to the mic, and could truly make bigger stars out of anybody, even the likes of one Terry “The Red Rooster” Taylor – a talented wrestler given a gimmick no one could take seriously on their most serious day of the year.
Eventually, the Brain and the Rooster would fall out with each other, and this led to both men having a match at WrestleMania V. Thirty-two seconds after the bell rung, the match ended in Rooster’s favor, and while Heenan did have some experience in the ring aside from his well-documented work as a manager, he was 45 years old with years of ring rust and a nagging neck injury. And there’s your proof that the Red Rooster gimmick did no favors to the two men who were involved in it.
7 KING KONG BUNDY - WrestleMania I, II, III, XI
To quote WhatCulture's King Ross, Vince McMahon likes big sweaty men, including muscular stiffs ranging from Ultimate Warrior to Ted Arcidi, or out-of-shape monsters ranging from Yokozuna to King Kong Bundy. Listed at 6'4" and 460 pounds, Bundy was the preeminent monster heel of his time, but sadly, his size was the only thing worth noting about him. He had a limited moveset, limited stamina (thus making him especially unwatchable in longer matches), and three bad WrestleMania matches to his name.
In all fairness, his cage match against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania II was quite good for what it was. But his 'Mania resume also includes a 25-second (NOT eight-second) squash of S.D. Jones, a six-man mixed (one big man, two midgets per team) tag match at WrestleMania III which ended with a stiff attack on Little Beaver that may have contributed to the latter's premature death almost a decade later, and a piss-poor match against The Undertaker at 'Mania XI where, as an even-slower and less-skilled version of his younger self, he became another statistic as the Phenom kept extending his streak.
6 MR. T - WrestleMania I, II
We mentioned that we will largely be excluding celebrities from this list, but if you’re a non-wrestler main-eventing two consecutive WrestleManias, you’ve got to get some consideration. For all you young ‘uns out there, Mr. T was best-known in the 1980s as the evil boxer Clubber Lang in Rocky III and B.A. Baracus in The A-Team, and he was a close personal friend of his Rocky III co-star, wrestling megastar Hulk Hogan. As such, the man born Lawrence Tureaud got to tag with the Hulkster against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff at WrestleMania I, and fought in a boxing match at WrestleMania II’s New York leg, both in the main event.
You’ve got to consider the mitigating circumstances here – the people Mr. T was in the ring with helped keep things watchable and disguise his lack of wrestling experience and ability. But at the end of the day, he was not a wrestler, and to paraphrase him, we pity the fools who think his ‘Mania main events are mat classics worth looking back on.
5 VICKIE GUERRERO - WrestleMania XXVI
In a recent article, this writer talked about some of the ways WWE exploited dead wrestlers, and Eddiesploitation took up a significant share of the entries. Not included there was one particularly infamous moment of Eddiesploitation at WrestleMania XXVI, as Vickie Guerrero sought to pay tribute to her late husband Eddie in a ten-Diva tag team match that was all over the place in terms of execution.
Yes, that match was indeed a stinker that has since gone down in infamy. But nothing compared to the final moments, as Michelle McCool almost looked like she was calling the finish in the ring, leading Vickie to the opposite corner as she prepared to execute the Frog Splash. With Kelly Kelly lying down in the ring, Vickie did it – the worst Frog Splash in the history of Frog Splashes, and a throng of apathetic fans who were probably thinking one thing – Eddie wouldn’t have wanted it that way.
4 THE KAT AND TERRI RUNNELS - WrestleMania 2000
When we think of nepotism in wrestling, we usually think of children of famous wrestlers who get a push in the business because of their famous parents, despite how it seems like their wrestling parents didn't pass the wrestling gene on to their offspring — think David Flair and Lacey Von Erich, for example. But it may also include being in a relationship or married to someone in the business, as we saw with Stacy Carter, a.k.a. The Kat. The then-wife of Jerry "The King" Lawler had this to thank for her inexplicable one-and-a-half-year tenure in WWE, and she was a true Kat-astrophe in the ring, with her match against Terri Runnels at WrestleMania 2000 being one of the worst 'Mania matches of all time.
Runnels, who was married to Dustin "Goldust" Runnels, and therefore was daughter-in-law to Dusty Rhodes at the time she joined WWE in the mid-1990s, wasn't any good in the ring herself. But we won't include her in any talks of nepotism, as she did have charisma and some promo ability, two things which The Kat didn't have.
3 THE GREAT KHALI - WrestleMania 23, XXVIII, XXX
The WWE has employed a good number of seven-footers or near-seven-footers, but for every Big Show who turns out well, we get about two or three wrestlers like The Great Khali. And if you come to think of it, the WWE Universe had to suffer through so many years of Great Khali matches, including three on WrestleMania, pre-show matches not included.
First, you’ve got his universally-panned stinker win against Kane at WrestleMania 23. You can also include his numerous appearance on pre-show battle royals as an intermission – by that time, WWE had pretty much given up on Khali as a main event talent, with “talent” used in the figurative sense of the word. Then you’ve got the 12-man tag match at WrestleMania XXVIII, where he was part of Teddy Long’s losing team against John Laurinaitis’ team. Last, but not least, you’ve got Khali at the first-ever Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania XXX. At that point, there were only two things keeping him employed with WWE – his size, and his drawing power with Indian audiences.
2 GIANT GONZALEZ - WrestleMania IX
Pity poor Undertaker in the early-mid-'90s — at that time, he was still a young and up-and-coming big man, and his WrestleMania win streak was years upon years away from reaching the epic proportions it eventually did. But 'Taker was so unfortunate to be saddled with feuds against jokers such as Ted DiBiase's Undertaker (a.k.a. Brian Lee, a.k.a. The Underfaker), Mabel (a.k.a. Viscera and Big Daddy V), and before those two, Giant Gonzalez.
Billed at eight feet tall, Giant Gonzalez was, in fact, 7'6" ex-Argentine basketball standout Jorge Gonzalez, who was Ted Turner's pet project in WCW after he had failed to crack Billionaire Ted's Atlanta Hawks. But in WWE, he was no better than he was in WCW as El Gigante, which is to say he was abysmal in the ring, and the real kicker was the nude bodysuit with airbrushed muscles and body hair he wore in WWE, and I'm just one of many who still cannot unsee that outfit. And since WWE still wanted Gonzalez to look strong, they had him lose at WrestleMania IX match via DQ when he had to resort to using chloroform on the Deadman.
You have to wonder why they even bothered with this guy, who still ranks as arguably the worst wrestler to ever take part in a WrestleMania match.
1 MICHAEL COLE - WrestleMania XXVII
Wonder how “vintage” Michael Cole looks like in the ring? We’ll give you an idea – garish orange singlet, headgear that makes Ron “Faarooq” Simmons’ pre-Nation of Domination gladiator helmet look badass, and possibly the worst wrestling we’ve ever seen from anyone in WrestleMania’s long history. At least Giant Gonzalez, King Kong Bundy, and some of the others in this list had the size. Cole is, in comparison to your average WWE Superstar, a scrawny dork, and he had absolutely no idea how to properly execute moves or how to sell against Jerry Lawler at WrestleMania XXVII. Yet they still had him controlling the match, and worse, they still had him winning via Dusty Finish.
For those who conveniently buried this match in the deepest recesses of their bad wrestling memories, the reason we saw Maggle up against The King was simple – it was the culmination of their feud, where Cole had mocked the real-life death of Lawler’s mother, and also exploited the similarly true-to-life tension between him and his son Brian Christopher. But we’ll end this entry on a positive note – it was Cole’s composure and transparency in keeping fans updated following Lawler’s September 2012 on-air heart attack that had finally put an end to his extremely polarizing heel run.
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