All of us wrestling fans have heard one refrain over and over again, wrestling is fake. While that isn’t entirely true, considering wrestlers are really pulling off magnificent feats, it is true that in most cases the ends of matches are preplanned in the back. The men involved and the powers that be do their best to craft the most entertaining match finales. As such, there are often times in which the people in the back venture to come up with new and original ways for a match to conclude and the results of these efforts can be wildly divergent. The resulting two extreme types of reactions are what inspired us to put together this list, where we look at the polar opposite reactions unique match endings can inspire.
When putting together this list the qualifications for consideration were simple. First off, we set out to find matches that ended in ways that we don’t typically see. However, we weren’t interested in things that took place after the bell rang, as those moments weren’t actually a part of the finish of the match. Then we looked at the finishes that saw fans react with joyous appreciation or those where there were stunned silence and anger.
15 Dumbest: Unseen Tap Out
When The Undertaker lost to Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX fans were shocked and dismayed. Afterwards, Paul Heyman, Brock’s mouthpiece, boasted about the victory for months on end which eventually got the Undertaker’s ire up and led to a rematch between the two. Taking place at the 2015 SummerSlam event, the bout ended when Brock passed out to his opponent which would have been fine if they hadn’t done a bunch of crap in the preceding seconds.
During that period, Lesnar had Taker in a Kimura lock when out of nowhere the timekeeper rang the bell without hearing from the ref, something that had never happened before. Turned out that Taker had actually tapped out which the timekeeper saw but the ref didn’t and he took it on himself to end the match which Lesnar accepted as he had felt the tap. Nobody in the audience knew what was happening and those at home were clueless until they revealed a camera angle that showed what was going on. It was during the confusion that Taker locked in his submission that actually ended the fight. Clearly, an effort to have Brock lose but still look strong, all that it accomplished was confusing and angering fans who wanted to see a competitive match and finish.
14 Innovative: Loose Boot
A match that a lot of people count as their favorite of all time when Kurt Angle took on Eddie Guerrero for his WWE Championship at WrestleMania XX, they put on a clinic in ring psychology. Two all-time ring generals that deserve to be enshrined in any wrestling Hall of Fame, it should be a no-brainer that they would be fantastic together. At the time Eddie was in the midst of his lying, cheating, and stealing character which led to arguably the best run of his career and he applied that ethos to this match perfectly.
Having earlier loosened the laces on his boots after feigning injury, when Kurt attempted to end the match with an ankle lock as he had done so many times previously, Eddie slipped out of his boot. Taking full advantage of the shocking turn of events, Eddie then used the moment of confusion Kurt was in to get him with a roll-up which led to a successful pin attempt.
13 Dumbest: Batista Duct Taped
Once upon a time, John Cena and Batista were in contention to be the man in the WWE but by the time they battled each other in the ring at the 2010 Extreme Rules event Cena was the top star. Working as a main event bad guy for the first time in his career, Batista was on fire and going into the match it truly seemed like anyone could win which kept people guessing right up to the end of the match. Considering that both of them had been booked as unbeatable monsters for years, it seemed like something extraordinary needed to happen to keep one of the men on the mat for a ten count.
What they came up with to end the match may have looked good on paper but had an awful execution. John Cena, the person who was supposed to be the just one, crotched his foe on the ring post. A low blow that temporarily had Batista writhing in pain, John then grabbed duct tape from somewhere (why would that be there), and used it to tape Dave’s legs together which made it impossible for him to stand. Putting aside the fact that it was a loathsome act from the supposed good guy, it went quite poorly as the tape kept ripping which meant that John took a long time to complete his act. In all reality, Batista should have been able to retract his legs multiple times over in the time it took John to get the tape to stick.
12 Innovative: Superkick for the Victory
The main event of Backlash 2007, a Fatal 4-way between Shawn Michaels, Edge, Randy Orton, and Edge, had a lot of expectations going into it and in our opinion totally lived up to them. Filled to the brim with believable false finishes, the way the match built ensured that fans around the world were on the edge of their seats throughout a lot of it. Despite the accolades we feel the entirety of the match deserves, we feel that the closing moments deserve the lion’s share of the credit. Just short of a half hour long, it ended with a flurry of finishes between the four men that were capped off by an Attitude Adjustment to Edge and then a Sweet Chin Music to Cena. You may think that means HBK reigned supreme but when he hit John, Cena dropped to the mat and landed on Orton which led to the ref counting three and John’s arm being raised.
11 Dumbest: Forklift
The empty arena match between The Rock and Mankind that aired in January of 1999 is remembered by a lot of people as a huge success for the WWE for good reason. A part of Halftime Heat, it was played during the Super Bowl Halftime Show and a lot of football fans decided to do the WWE’s bidding and tuned in, which was a huge deal. A fantastic example of the power the company held during the heights of the Attitude Era, this could be argued as a highlight for the wrestling business as a whole.
If only, the match hadn’t ended in such an unbelievable way. Booked as a falls count anywhere, no disqualification match, Mankind took a horrible beating from the great one as was usually the case with these two. Still, his never-say-die attitude allowed him to kick out, again and again, much to The Rock’s chagrin. Realizing he needed to do whatever was necessary to win after taking so many blows, Mankind would eventually get the win by dropping a skid filled with kegs of beer on top of The Rock and standing on top of it. First off, since when were you able to not be touching your opponent and still have a pinfall count? Secondly, it certainly seems convenient that there was a guy driving a forklift in the supposedly empty arena and that Mankind knew how to operate that machinery. Finally, the previously recorded match featured an awkward cut to The Rock’s face as they clearly didn’t trust Mick Foley to actually be the one to drop the forks on one of their biggest stars. In short, this finish was terrible.
10 Innovative: Ring Destruction
There are few matches that take place on WWE television that live on in infamy as in most cases the WWE reserve their big moments for noteworthy events. An exception to that rule, there was a match that aired as part of Smackdown on June 12th, 2013 between Brock Lesnar and The Big Show that is pretty unforgettable. Ending when Brock Lesnar hit his opponent with a superplex, the ring itself collapsed under the combined weight of the two titans hitting it with such ferocity. At least that is what we were supposed to think. In 2015, while on an episode of Talk is Jericho, The Big Show copped to the fact that it was rigged to happen, as many people had assumed for years. Still, the fact that websites like Sports Illustrated covered the revelation is testament enough to the legacy of the moment to us.
9 Dumbest: Stunt Double Fire
When Vampiro joined WCW, the wrestler who was previously immensely popular in Mexico drew obvious comparisons to one of the company’s most beloved figures, Sting. Initially booked as pals, it didn’t take too long for them to become enemies with the younger man turning on the Stinger. Embroiled in an intense feud that often featured fairly goofy segments that took place in graveyards, they would eventually be booked in a match that was meant to put an end to one of the participants.
The Human Torch Match as it was called meant that the bell would only ring when one of them was able to light the other on fire. While we can conceive of a few slightly entertaining ways for that stipulation to be realized, we were treated to something truly awful. Turning off the majority of the arenas lights at the outset, aside from a lightning effect, the two men fought on top of the titantron which meant that much of their fisticuffs were extremely difficult to make out. Then it happened, suddenly neither man could be seen at all for a few seconds before Vampiro lit a man who was clearly a stunt double on fire and he proceeded to leap off to the ground below. The fact that conveniently enough, there was a crash pad below and it seemed like virtually nobody but the announcers reacted really served to underscore the stupidity of it all.
8 Innovative: Twin Refs
The feud between Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan will be best remembered for their match at WrestleMania III where Hogan actually managed to bodyslam his massive enemy. We’d argue that it is a shame that another moment they shared, which took place during a taping of The Main Event, isn’t talked about more. A relatively short match, it came to an end with Andre’s arm raised after a three count was called despite Hogan very clearly getting his shoulder off the mat. With everyone in the audience utterly confused, it was soon revealed that long-time WWE referee Dave Hebner had an evil twin, Earl, who’d sold out to Andre and his alley Ted Dibiase. Seeing the two brothers locked in an argument was completely shocking and the resulting drama, including Andre handing the belt to DiBiase, perfectly led to a tournament at WrestleMania IV.
7 Dumbest: Audio Recording
An infamous match from the 1999 Royal Rumble, it has mostly gone down in history for its brutality. Featuring an insane eleven unprotected chair shots to the head landed on Mick Foley’s dome, it is difficult to ever let go of the unsettling feeling watching a beloved figure being dismantled evoked. Furthermore, the footage that was part of Beyond the Mat, a documentary that went behind the scenes and showed Mick’s wife and his two children cringing and crying with fear springs to mind first.
However, the fact that all of that damage and drama was in service of a match that ended in such a moronic way is all the more awful. Mick was world renowned for his ability to absorb punishment so everyone found it impossible to believe that he would utter I quit in the match as he had when promising he’d make The Rock do so. When the match came to an end after The Rock and his cohorts played the previously recorded audio of Mick’s threats to him, where he had said "I quit" for the first time, it was a cop out and disappointment.
6 Innovative: Austin Uses Vince’s Hand
A championship match that took place at the 1998 Over the Edge: In Your House pay-per-view, the main event between Steve Austin and Dude Love was a great example of what made the era work so well. With Austin’s sworn enemy, Vince McMahon, serving as the guest referee it certainly seemed like an impossible task for him to win. So, how did he end up pulling out the victory? Simple, Dude Love inadvertently hit his alley, Mr. McMahon, with a steel chair which completely knocked him out from a storyline perspective. Then, Austin hit Mick with a Stunner and when he tried to pin his foe and saw the ref was out, Steve dragged Vince over and counted the pin himself with McMahon’s lifeless arm.
5 Dumbest: Pampered and Powdered
One of the greatest strengths that Scott Hall, or Razor Ramon depending on the era of his career, has shown again and again is a willingness to help make stars and the ability to do so with relative ease. His involvement with the 1-2-3 Kid has to be one of the best examples of someone elevating his opponent, his future friend Sean Waltman, who he single-handedly made a star by losing a match to him.
This is wrestling though and it made perfect sense for the two to feud after that fateful event and as such, they were booked to fight at In Your House 6: Rage in the Cage. The only problem, some genius thought it would be a good idea to make it a Crybaby Match. Two men that had a great deal of chemistry with one another, the match itself was excellent but the outcome was stupid and damaging. With Razor ultimately coming out on top. He then proceeded to place his opponent, a man who was noticeably smaller than the majority of the roster, into a diaper and placed baby powder all over him. Clearly humiliating, it did the newly minted star zero favors, especially in a company where the audience had already been programmed for years to equate size with seriousness.
4 Innovative: Sleeper Hold Reverse
Bret Hart’s catch phrase, the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be may be boisterous but there is little question that he deserves the praise as much as almost anyone. That is because fans could always rest assured that his matches would not only be entertaining and involving but that we could depend on him to do truly innovative things in front of us. Case in point, the end to his Intercontinental championship match with Roddy Piper at WrestleMania VIII, where his character turned certain doom into a victory, was unique for its time. Caught in a sleeper hold by his foe, Bret used his athleticism to lift his feet, kick them off the turnbuckle and flip over Piper which allowed him to pin Roddy.
3 Dumbest: Finger Poke of Doom
A night that will live in wrestling infamy, when WCW booked a match between Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan one night involved fans wanted to see it, especially as Goldberg involvement had been teased. Former co-founders of the nWo, Nash and Hogan had split the group in half and feuded against each other for a period of time which made Kevin a popular babyface amongst the fans at the time.
Then, in a moment that a lot of people believe was a harbinger of the doom of WCW, the match began and Hogan simply poked Nash who took an exaggerated fall and allowed himself to be pinned. Heavyweight Champion at the time, in the process Nash dropping the belt in such an inglorious manner, damaged the image of the historic title. Furthermore, it brought to the fans attention WCW’s tendency to never give them the moments they desired. Finally, it marked the reunion of the full version of the nWo, a group many were sick off at the time.
2 Innovative: Chokeslammed to the Win
A match that took place in the midst of JBL’s historic and only run as a world champion in the WWE, his character was a coward that would retain his title through chicanery on a regular basis. When he was then booked into a Barbed Wire Steel Cage Match with The Big Show it, therefore, seemed like he would probably come out by the skin of the teeth. However, with this particular stipulation making it especially difficult for him to receive aide, fans around the world were puzzled when thinking of how he may pull it off. It turned out that WWE’s writers had a pretty great idea of how to do it.
Chokeslammed off the top rope by his opponent, the ring itself was scripted to give way under the force of the impact. As he lay there lifeless, Big Show forced the door to the cage open and as he was about to step onto the floor, which would make him the winner and new champion, the bell rang. It turned out that as the cameras were trained on Show, JBL crawled through the whole in the ring and scurried out from under the apron which made him the victor.
1 Dumbest: Electric Chair
Routinely referred to as the dumbest match ever, WCW’s Chamber of Horrors match is a blight on the history of professional wrestling. Featuring a bevy of the company’s biggest do-gooders at the time, Sting, The Steiners, and El Gigante, they came together to battle the combined evils of Abdullah the Butcher, The Diamond Studd (yes they put an extra d in stud for some reason), Vader, and Cactus Jack. The opening bout at the 1991 incarnation of Halloween Havoc, we can only imagine what went through the heads of the poor souls who had to follow this monstrosity.
Taking place inside of the steel cage, the powers that be felt the need to up the ante and must have had some kind of psychotic episode when coming up with the rest of what the audience was about to see. Sticking the wrestlers inside with weapons, including caskets and most notoriously an electric chair the rules of the match dictated it wouldn’t end until someone was electrocuted. Absolutely ridiculous on the face of it, everyone should have realized they were in for a spectacle but the degree of stupidity that came at the end of the match was mind boggling. Through a convoluted series of events, Abdullah ended up strapped into the chair and his own partner, Cactus Jack, hit the switch on him, losing the bout and electrocuting his alley. Worse yet, after Abdullah feebly pretended to be electrocuted, something that should have killed him, he came back to life as if nothing had happened in a mere matter of seconds and successfully beat up some security guards.
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