In 2008, WWE began what is referred to as the “PG Era.” Though there was no official announcement of this change aside from the appearance of a TV-PG logo before every episode of RAW, fans that had watched through the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression Era immediately noticed the shift in content. Gone was the leniency regarding things like cursing, bra and panties matches and bloodshed. In their place was a greater emphasis on family-friendly entertainment that perhaps wasn’t quite as cartoonish as WWE during the ‘80s, but nevertheless represented a drastic shift from what came before. It was like waking up after a night of heavy drinking and trying to acquaint yourself with surroundings that seemed both strangely familiar and painfully different at the same time.
Although many felt that this change in content style was a terrible decision for WWE, the truth of it was that – like most eras in wrestling – the PG era contains both good and bad moments. Indeed, this era is responsible for giving us some of the great all-time WWE moments such as CM Punk vs. John Cena at Money in the Bank 2011, Daniel Bryan winning the WWE title at WrestleMania XXX and the dominant run of The Shield.
But when the PG era is bad, oh man is it really bad. WWE’s creative staff was deprived of the same bag of tricks that they had been working with before this era and often found themselves looking for answers and holding nothing. There is no better example of this than a bad PG-era PPV. It’s one thing to have to suffer through a bad PG RAW, but when an entire PPV bombs and can’t even bother to give us a few guilty pleasure moments as compensation, it often became simply unwatchable.
Here are the 15 most unwatchable PPVs of the PG Era.
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15 WrestleMania XXVII
When you bill a WrestleMania as “The Biggest WrestleMania Ever” and deliver a show that didn’t even feel like the biggest event of the year, that’s a problem. Having The Miz headline WrestleMania is a questionable enough decision, but filling the undercard with such contests as Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler is just sad. Even the decent matches on this card such as Randy Orton/CM Punk just felt so meaningless, which is something that you should never be able to say about a WrestleMania bout. Were it not for Undertaker/Triple H, this would in the top five worst WrestleManias ever.
14 Fatal 4 Way 2010
It’s hard to hide a thin roster. Truly great booking can certainly help, but even the best storylines need stars and, if you don’t have those, it’s hard to cover up the deficiencies. A thin roster certainly plagued Fatal 4 Way 2010, which is perhaps most historically notable for ending 25 minutes earlier than its scheduled running time. Fans in attendance were likely thrilled they had the chance to go home early, though, considering that WWE piled their biggest names in a mediocre main event and filled the rest of the card with meaningless contests designed to try to turn young acts like Kofi Kingston and Evan Bourne into superstars by the end of the show. It didn’t work.
13 SummerSlam 2015
Between NXT delivering one of the best shows in recent memory the night before and the increased media coverage that accompanied SummerSlam 2015, WWE had plenty of reasons to make sure SummerSlam 2015 blew people away. Instead, this was just one of those nights that felt like someone deflated the locker room right before the event started, and nobody was able to reach the heights they should have.
Even good matches like Rollins/Cena and Lesnar/Taker were belittled by bad match endings while theoretically great matches such as Cesaro/Owens just never reached that next level. This was a wasted opportunity.
12 TLC 2010
If you’ve ever had one of those days where it felt like you just couldn’t do anything right, then you’ll immediately be able to sympathize with TLC 2010. The event was already a little thin on paper as people weren’t exactly beating down the doors to see Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov take on The Nexus, but this proved to be one of those nights when not even WWE’s top stars could get anything going. It was like everyone was competing to see who could have the most mediocre match and everybody won. Well, everyone but the fans that is.
11 Bragging Rights 2010
Although the idea of pitting Team Smackdown against Team Raw in an exhibition contest during the time of the brand split was pretty great, WWE could just never find a way to make Bragging Rights work. It didn’t help that the team vs. team match was a resounding bust populated by mid-card talent, but the true culprit here are the WWE and World Heavyweight Championship matches that both dragged on far too long. Kane and Undertaker tried their best to make a Buried Alive match work in the PG era and just couldn’t while Wade Barrett and Randy Orton spent about 15 minutes playing second fiddle to John Cena, who was merely a manager.
10 Survivor Series 2012
A great Survivor Series team match can be a fantastic way to advance ongoing feuds or even provide unique exhibition contests between top stars. Survivor Series 2012 featured neither of these things. Instead, it gave us that painful kind of Survivor Series match that feels like someone on the creative team remembered those things still exist at the last minute and threw together everyone that wasn’t currently booked into some. Neither of the two traditional Survivor Series matches were worth half of their 20-minute running time, and neither of the two championship matches could even bother to try for something more than serviceable.
9 WrestleMania 32
Too soon? Maybe, but it’s hard to deny that the weeks since WrestleMania 32 have only made the event feel mores meaningless than it did after the show ended. While disappointing matches like Lesnar/Ambrose didn’t help, the real issue was the booking. Nearly every match ending at WrestleMania 32 was reversed in some way just a couple of weeks later, which only boosted the perception that they were the wrong decisions in the first place. Throw in some bizarre time management decisions and you’ve got an event that is almost impossible to watch all the way through and simply enjoy.
8 Over The Limit 2010
If you were to offer CM Punk/Rey Mysterio political prisoner status and allow them to be expedited from the rest of this card, then Over The Limit 2010 would be completely without merit. Well…maybe that’s not exactly true. If you look at this PPV as WWE’s way of field testing the worst possible match endings then it is actually quite interesting. From placeholder champion Jack Swagger confirming his status via a DQ win against The Big Show to Randy Orton and Edge ending at around the five-minute mark via a double-countout, you’ll gladly give everything you have just to see clean finish by the time this one is done.
7 Over The Limit 2011
If you were thinking that there is no way WWE could possibly do a worse job of booking Over The Limit 2011 any worse than they did the year before, then you don’t remember how rough WWE was during this time. Much like the year before, this card does feature one stellar match (Randy Orton vs. Christian) but is otherwise a wasteland of the awful and boring. While Jerry Lawler vs. Michael Cole in a “Kiss My Foot” match saved everyone from worst match of the night honors, overall this PPV felt like a particularly bad house show that was never meant to be seen by TV cameras.
6 No Way Out 2012
While I give credit to WWE’s booking team for making Santino Marella vs. Ricardo Rodriguez in a Tuxedo Match the second contest of the evening in an attempt to lower standards so greatly that the rest of the card simply had to exceed them, it didn’t quite work out that way. You could argue that this event was doomed the moment that WWE announced that John Cena was going to main event against The Big Show in a steel cage match filled with more stipulations than a legal contract, but that still doesn’t excuse the general lack of effort that plagued this PPV.
5 Royal Rumble 2014
When Bray Wyatt and Daniel Bryan started off this night by tearing the house down, it certainly seemed that WWE was on their way to another great Royal Rumble. Sadly, things spiraled out of control shortly thereafter. The dull title match between John Cena and Randy Orton felt like it was going to be the lowlight of the evening until the Royal Rumble match started. Fans wanted to see Daniel Bryan in the main event and, when they were denied the privilege, they quickly turned on the show by raining down boos. By the time that Batista won the match to the thrill of nobody in attendance, it was clear that WWE had a bonafide disaster on their hands.
4 Survivor Series 2013
While WWE is ultimately a television show and you can expect any television show to have the occasional meaningless episode, you would think that the company would have the good graces to make sure that their PPVs at least feel like an effort to advance the progress of the product. Instead, they filled one of their biggest shows of the year with matches that contained all of the forethought as a college exam paper started just a few hours before it’s due. There was little on this card that fans hadn’t seen a million times before, giving this show the always unwelcome feeling of tuning into a re-run when a new episode was on the schedule.
3 Battleground 2013
How do you end a match for the vacant WWE Championship without a winner? How in a million years do you ever book such a decision? We may never get the answer to that question but, thanks to Battleground 2013, fans everywhere can confirm that there is no worse way to end a PPV. Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton essentially wasted a 20-minute main event match thanks to this non-ending and, somehow, it was still better than the PG hardcore match Alberto Del Rio and RVD had for the World Heavyweight Championship. The Rhodes Brothers and The Shield tried their best to save this disaster, but it couldn’t prevent this event from being voted “worst of the year” by Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
2 TLC 2014
There was actually a rumor going around at the time of TLC 2014 that the main roster was preparing to put on a truly special show in order to one-up what the NXT roster did the night before at R-Evolution. I really hope that isn’t true as it would just make what we saw at TLC 2014 all the more sad. Matches like Eric Rowan vs. Big Show in a stairs match (whatever that is) had little chance of redemption, but even matches that had potential like Seth Rollins vs. John Cena fell flat thanks to ridiculous overbooking. There was too much talent on this card for this PPV to be as boring as it is.
1 Capitol Punishment
When WWE named this event Capitol Punishment, most fans assumed it was part of their awful attempt to overplay the presentation elements of this show taking place in Washington, D.C. In reality, we should have taken it as the warning for the death penalty that this show truly was. While the painfully patriotic overtones of this event were bad enough, they are nothing compared to the awful matches that plagued this card. Nobody is still quite sure why R-Truth headlined a PPV in 2011 against John Cena, nor are they entirely convinced that this entire event wasn’t the result of some hallucinogenic state caused by Vince McMahon taking the wrong medication.
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