Many times fans are left with their mouths agape, screaming, and/or crying about how a pay-per-view has finished. Sometimes however, people are confused, wondering what the hell just happened. After weeks of building storylines and feuds, wrestling creative decided on some rather controversial endings to several pay-per-views. A wise man once said though, “Controversy equals cash”, and in the wrestling business, it’s all about the bottom line.
From interferences, heel turns, to downright just strange booking, these are the moments that make you question everything you thought you knew about wrestling. Are there rules? Are there no rules? By the time the lights have gone out there is still disbelief in the air, fans waiting to wake up from some kind of dream. Even still, these are some of the most memorable moments to have occurred in the storied history of professional wrestling. Hate it or love it, you can guarantee that you wouldn’t forget it anytime soon.
15 SummerSlam 2016: Brock Squashes Randy Orton
Frankly, a lot of people were upset with this finish, but it is a prototypical Brock ending. No one in the building could believe that the match had just been called because Randy Orton was bleeding so badly. Was it real? Did Orton actually agree to let Brock Lesnar elbow him to the head? Someone should’ve told Chris Jericho, the answer is yes. Everyone thought if there were someone to give Brock a run for his money, it had to be Randy. The build-up gave the illusion that this would be a clash of titans. Instead it was a display of pure violence on the part of Lesnar.
Stil,l hats off to the Viper for taking the bump, adding to the already incredible lore Brock has established in his time with WWE. Truly there hasn’t ever been another performer like him, one of the most dangerous men on the planet and they certainly book him as such.
14 Royal Rumble 2005: There Can Only Be One… With No Quads
This Royal Rumble is now infamous for two reasons: one it was the first time two performers were eliminated and touched the floor seemingly simultaneously, and two the legendary moment when Vince McMahon appeared furiously to restart the match tearing both his quadriceps upon entering the ring.
The real controversy here though, is that Batista won the restarted match versus John Cena via a spinebuster allowing him a chance to later on face Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship. With so much Hall of Fame talent remaining on the roster at that time, one has to wonder whether or not the end of Evolution was really all that compelling of a story.
13 Clash of the Champions XXVIII: Hogan Takes A Heel
Anytime Ric Flair is involved in the main event, chances are there will be a controversial finish. In his many bouts with Hulk Hogan, it was the Nature Boy’s calling card to bend the rules to his favor. This time, with the WCW World Championship on the line, it was the Sensuous Sherri who did the deed for Ric, nailing Hogan with her high heel shoe behind the referee’s back causing Flair to win by count-out. After the match the announcer mistakenly crowned Flair as the new Champion, Hogan had to take back his title but was jumped by Flair and a masked man. Sting aided the Hulkster, nevertheless Ric Flair escaped with the championship belt; that’s why they call him “The Dirtiest Player In The Game”. If you want to be the man, you better have help.
12 Hell in a Cell 2014: Rollins v. Ambrose, Ambrose v. Wyatt
What could’ve been an all-time great match, not that it didn’t live up the hype there were still some great spots, was sullied by an interference. I’m not talking about Kane spraying the fire extinguisher in Dean’s face, but let me remind you that did happen. Nor was it when doctors tried to stretcher Ambrose out of the arena. Late in the match after kicking out of Rollin’s now banned curb stomp, Dean was preparing to return the favor when the lights went out. In the middle of the ring was a lantern revealing a hologram of Bray Wyatt…yawn. Wyatt would slam Ambrose igniting their feud and allowing Seth Rollins to pin Dean for the victory. We’re all still waiting for the true rematch, I wouldn’t hold your breath though.
11 Summerslam 2015: Fake Out, Tap Out, Low Blow
No one wants to see the Deadman resort to a low blow, but that’s exactly what happened last year at Summerslam when the Undertaker was outmatched once again by Brock Lesnar. Earlier in the match the referee missed Taker’s tapping out to the Kimora lock except the time keeper had rang the bell, so Lesnar released the hold. The match continued, and while the referee and the time keeper argued the Undertaker hit Brock below the belt. He then applied the Hell’s Gate submission gaining him a victory after Lesnar passed out, refusing to admit submission. Strange to see the Phenom appear so human in his old age, I suppose it was better than seeing Brock run right through him again.
10 No Way Out 2004: Latino Heat w/Goldberg Defeats Lesnar
If you’re seeing a theme here, then you’re probably realizing that any match Brock Lesnar is in might not have a clean finish; especially if he’s losing. Protecting the Beast’s image was, is, and probably always will be paramount. Nevertheless this moment was all about everyone’s favorite cheater, Eddie Guerrero. After hoisting Guerrero up for an F-5, Lesnar knocked the referee out. Attempting to capitalize on the moment, Brock exited the ring to grab his championship belt to use as a weapon. Instead he received a vicious spear at the hands of Goldberg who became involved to posture himself against Lesnar. The referee came to after Eddie reversed an F-5 into a DDT, he kicked the belt from the ring, hit the Frog Splash, and the rest is history. No one was unhappy about it, but like many of Eddie’s wins, it came with some controversy.
9 Royal Rumble 1989: Money Can’t Buy Big John Studd
In this Royal Rumble, the Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase, ran wild causing all sorts of havoc as per his usual stunts. DiBiase purchased the 30th entry into the match from Akeem almost ensuring him an easy victory. That wasn’t enough for the tyrant though, as it finally would come down to Big John Studd and himself, wherein the Million Dollar Man would offer Studd a bribe to eliminate himself. Studd refused and tossed DiBiase to win the match, it was one of the most memorable Rumble moments to date. This would even carry to the next year’s Royal Rumble, Ted DiBiase was entrant number 1 as punishment for purchasing the final entry of last year’s event.
8 Wrestlemania IX: Salt in the Eyes, Brother
Yokozuna was an unstoppable force in the WWF, partly in thanks to his 500 pound frame, but also partly thanks to his manager, the late great Mr. Fuji. Leading up to Wrestlemania IX, the dominant Yokozuna had made it clear that he had no respect for the champion, Bret Hart. During their match Hart would apply his signature Sharpshooter, yet Fuji was prepared and threw salt in the face of the champion. Yoko would take advantage and pin him becoming the new WWF World Heavyweight Champion, none were truer to the title than this giant. Hulk Hogan came to Hart’s aid, and was challenged by Mr. Fuji to an impromptu match to prove Yokozuna’s dominance. Hogan agreed, and won in 22 seconds. Fuji tried the salt but wound up hitting Yokozuna in the eyes; Hulkamania ran wild that night, dude.
7 Rock Bottom: In Your House 1998
To be fair, this wasn’t the end of the pay-per-view, so I may be bending the rules of the list. If these guys can get away with it though, so can I; sue me. With that being said, the WWF Championship match between The Rock and Mankind was one that defined their feud. Mankind clawing, literally, tooth and nail to get to the top of the industry, only to be toppled by the corporate champion… and his boss. In this match Mankind actually won, submitting the Rock to the Mandible Claw, but since the Rock passed out and didn’t tap out Vince McMahon declared that since there was no pinfall or submission he was still champion. How could you Vince? How could you take away our deranged champion?
6 King of the Ring 1993: Yokozuna’s Revenge
I mentioned the great sumo earlier almost as a preface for this match. Although Hogan won their last bout, which isn’t very controversial, it was worth mentioning as a nod to not only Bret Hart, but also a set up for a match that would essentially “kill” Hulkamania. This match was not the finish either, but come on, you’ve got to hear how this played out. Hogan could not, would not, lose cleanly and so this ridiculous instance occurred during his match with Yokozuna where a “photographer”, Yoko’s manager Harvey Wippleman, shot a fireball in his face. That’s right… a fireball. This would be Hogan’s final appearance until 2002, so yeah it’s worth mentioning.
5 No Way Out 2005: There’s Actually A Way Out
John Bradshaw Layfield, JBL, had many tricks up his sleeve, this time around he thought outside the box; or outside the ring if we’re being technical. A barbed-wire steel cage match between the Texas Longhorn of Manhattan against the Big Show. There was interference from the Cabinet, Orlando Jordan and the Basham Brothers tried to cut a hole in the cage, but were ejected by Teddy Long. With nowhere else to go, JBL was chokeslammed off the top rope and through the ring, he then crawled from underneath and out of the cage earning a victory in his title defense. The lesson here? There’s always a way out, you just have to be willing to find it.
4 Uncensored 1999: Hollywood Hogan vs. Ric Flair
Like I said before, when Hogan and Flair face off, you can bet that there will be some sort of mischief. In this case, it was also a barbed-wire steel cage match, with a first blood stipulation, for Presidency of WCW and the World Heavyweight Championship. It was thanks to the bias of referee, and Ric Flair protégé, Charles Robinson that the Nature Boy would walk away the victor. Little Naitch would not count for Hogan’s pins, nor would he recognize when Flair clearly bled first. He gave Flair a fast three count and the match to cost Holly Hogan everything.
3 Bash at the Beach 1996: nWo
“He’s the third man! Hulk Hogan has betrayed WCW!" And so Hollywood Hogan was born, as the Hulkster delivered leg drop after leg drop to an incapacitated Randy Savage, while a helpless Luger and Sting looked on in disbelief. In one of the greatest moments in WCW (and wrestling, for that matter) history, Hogan joined the Outsiders, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, to form the New World Order, an empire in professional wrestling. Trash rained down in the ring, Hulkamaniacs everywhere cried, and the future of wrestling was determined. The age of the bad guys had come, and so the Monday Night War would begin.
2 WrestleMania X-Seven: Stone Cold Heel Turn
Arguably the most stored rivalry in professional wrestling, Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon. The Texas Rattlesnake made his name by defying authority, drinking beer, and kicking ass. The ending of WrestleMania X-Seven shocked the world when the unthinkable happened. Stone Cold joined hands with Vince McMahon, as Jim Ross put it he’d aligned with the “devil himself”. Two men who represented polar opposites of the wrestling world, one blue collar, and one corporate, now one in the same. I forgot to mention the match between Rock and Austin was a classic, ending with Austin striking the Great One with a steel chair 16 times. The Rattlesnake would go on to form the Two-Man Power Trip with Triple H, but no one would forget that night April 1, 2001.
1 Survivor Series 1997: Hart Break
The top 3 are all so close, they could even be interchangeable; this finish takes the cake in my opinion because of the harsh reality that it was bad business. Vince McMahon ended the WWF World Heavyweight Championship between Bret Hart, the current champion, and Shawn Michaels abruptly. Michaels was using the Sharpshooter, Hart’s signature hold, and Vince told the referee to ring the bell even though Hart had never submitted. Needless to say this led to a rift between the Hart family and the McMahons for some time. I mean Bret spit right in Vince’s face, if that doesn’t tell you about how he reacted to it I don’t know what will.
I should also mention this is my humble opinion, there are so, so many other matches I could have mentioned. This is wrestling we’re talking about here, where demons walk the earth, lighting can strike at any time, and the forces of good and evil can settle their differences in the squared circle. If you disagree, go ahead and let me know what your Top 15 is.