Good storytelling in professional wrestling is a rare thing. While you occasionally receive a truly golden piece of wrestling plot like Stone Cold vs. Vince McMahon, the revival of Sting or Daniel Bryan’s “Yes!” movement, the most you can hope for is that your average wrestling storyline won’t be too painful to watch. That may sound cynical, but professional wrestling is brimming with some of the worst stories ever committed to television and the average fan lives in fear of the next moment that they are going to have to suffer through a bizarre angle that treats professional wrestling like a cartoon.
It’s why the whole show is much easier to watch if you’re a kid. When you’re young, nearly every single wrestling storyline appeals to you. In fact, the more absurd the angle is, the more likely you are to think it is the greatest thing ever. It’s kind of wonderful in a weird way to be able to sit through the strangest scenes you’ll find in any piece of entertainment and willingly eat it all up while asking for more. Of course, there comes a day when you need to confront the cold hard truth that these are the top 15 storylines you loved as a kid and hate as an adult.
15 15. Papa Shango Curses The Ultimate Warrior
Papa Shango and The Ultimate Warrior were two characters tailor-made for children. One was a mysterious voodoo priest from parts unknown who was seemingly capable of using his dark magic to win matches (though he rarely did so), and the other was a mysterious high-energy warrior who tore through the forces of evil with a fiery vengeance. They were ripped straight from the world of ‘80s cartoons, as was this storyline that saw Papa Shango curse The Ultimate Warrior with a mysterious illness that famously forced The Ultimate Warrior to be taken to the back by medical officials where he began to violently project vomit.
14 14. Hulk Hogan vs. Zeus
When you were young, the film No Holds Barred was the greatest thing ever. It was like those great ‘80s action movies that your parents never let you watch (but you still found a way to sneak in anyway) only this one featured the immortal Hulk Hogan tearing through the bad guys like you always assumed he would if he were unleashed into the world of film. At the time, of course, you had no way of knowing that the entire film was a Hulk Hogan fluff piece that may just indeed be the worst movie ever made. Because of this, it was a lot easier to get excited about seeing No Holds Barred’s Zeus step into an actual WWE ring with Hulk Hogan.
13 13. Sexual Chocolate Mark Henry
For as beloved as the Attitude Era is, it also so happens to contain some of the absolute worst moments professional wrestling fans have had to suffer through. Moments that made you realize that late ‘90s television was often a strange place that we are best to be far removed from. Moments like the evolution of “Sexual Chocolate” Mark Henry. Somewhere along the way, the WWE creative team decided that one of the most intimidating men in the world should be presented as a kinky sex addict. This started innocently enough as Henry became particularly susceptible to the advances of female valets, but escalated to a point that saw Henry spend the evening with transvestites and rely on anti-sex drive drugs.
12 12. Shawn Michaels And His Knights
The WWE was in deep trouble in the mid-90s. The company was on its last legs financially speaking, and Vince McMahon was struggling to turn a new generation of wrestlers into stars. Still, for as bad as things were, at least they could rely on such WWE staples as the traditional Survivor Series match when it came to delivering entertainment. Such was the case when Jerry Lawler and Bret Hart decided to settle their differences in a Survivor Series match. Hart would have his family by his side while Lawler would be accompanied by a team of knights because they were really playing up the king bit at this time.
11 11. Jay Leno Takes On Hulk Hogan
It was always fun as a kid to see elements of the real world infiltrate the wrestling ring. Even if you weren’t entirely sure who the people making appearances were, it was great to think “I can’t wait to see this guy/girl step into the ring and see how tough wrestling really is!” Combined with the fact that these stars' appearances would typically result in you seeing wrestling footage on the news, they were always a big deal. Of all the guest stars in pro wrestling history, though, few are more bewildering than Jay Leno.
10 10. Al Snow Eats His Own Dog
The great thing about watching wrestling when you’re young is that you never need to question why two characters are fighting. In fact, the more ridiculous the reason that two wrestlers are feuding, the better it tends to be. You didn’t want subtle rivalries built around months of storytelling, you wanted blunt plots that could easily be understood. Such was what we got when Al Snow took on the Big Bossman in the summer of 1999.
9 8. The Twin Referees
Wrestling bad guys are pure evil. They’re not just kind of mean wrestlers looking to win the title through the occasional eye poke, they are basically living super villains capable of all manners of devious plots. You don’t question what tactics they may decide to use to get their way. This was especially true of The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase who could no doubt use his infinite surplus of cash to pull off any number of elaborate schemes.
8 8. Lex Luger Loves America
While Vince McMahon may sometimes like to believe that he has the ability to eventually turn any wrestler into the next big star by just focusing on them long enough, the truth is that approach tends to only work on kids who are much easier to convince over a long period of time that a certain wrestler should be their hero. The most painful instance of such an attempt came when Lex Luger began to tour America in a bus dubbed the Lex Express.
7 7. Sgt. Slaughter Hates America
6 6. Val Venis’ Mistress
5 5. The Oddities
Is there anything worse than looking back on your awkward teenage years and trying to answer the question “What was I thinking?” It’s something that all of us must suffer through at some point, and the experience is almost always an unpleasant one regardless of what kind of teenager you are. Still, the most embarrassing retrospectives are usually reserved for those who were into things like The Insane Clown Posse and, by proxy, the professional wrestling stable known as The Oddities.
4 4. Linda McMahon’s Comatose Angle
Professional wrestling is always compared to soap operas which is, unfortunately, a pretty apt comparison most of the time. Wrestling has featured everything from resurrected dead characters, evil twins, and murder mysteries, and that’s just stuff involving The Undertaker. The most soap opera style storyline of all time, though, may just be the time that Linda McMahon went into a comatose state. This entire angle was built around a feud between Vince and Linda McMahon that involved Vince taking Trish Stratus as a mysterious and battling with his son over the rights to WCW. Every single week played out like a tribute to soap opera storytelling until the entire thing culminated with Linda standing up out of her wheelchair and giving Vince McMahon a low blow.
3 3. Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior II
Even though neither man was a great in-ring worker, there is no denying that the clash between Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VI was a truly great moment regardless of how old of a wrestling fan you were when you watched it. It was a glorious clash between the two biggest heroes in WWE on the company’s biggest stage that was just perfect, as Hogan was never matched against someone with close to equal popularity.
2 2. The Fake Undertaker
I’m just going to start this one off with an admission that I still do love this angle in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way. Still there is no denying that it is impossible to truly enjoy this one past the age of eight or so. Basically, the entire story revolved around The Undertaker (who was in full mystical dead man mode at this time) being killed by Yokozuna, Ted DiBiase, and their crew. Shortly thereafter, Ted DiBiase began to manage a fake version of The Undertaker under the claim that he was the real deal.
1 1. The Dungeon Of Doom
So, sometime in the early ‘90s, WCW decided to essentially turn their weekly show into a cartoon. This involved such memorable angles as Robocop teaming up with Sting and Vader seemingly having access to a fortress in the mountains. Things really went off the rails, though, when Hulk Hogan came aboard and started to feud with the Dungeon of Doom. The Dungeon was comprised of a group of Halloween costume villains that aimed to finally kill Hulkamania.
What was so great about this angle, or bad about this angle depending on your age, is how the entire thing kept escalating week after week. One week Hulk Hogan was infiltrating the mystical lair of the Dungeon to confront their leader and the next saw him engaging in a monster truck fight with The Giant atop a roof. The entire thing played out like a wrestling version of The Power Rangers but is somehow not even as fun as that sounds.
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