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 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.
The image of Warrior convulsing while the creepy Papa Shango stood tall was nightmare fuel for children, but now the footage of this incident is just one of those things that you try to keep far away from your friends when you’re arguing the merits of pro wrestling.
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.
These two had a feud that lasted months despite the fact that Zeus couldn’t wrestle a match if his life depended on it. Unlike the movie, you can’t even get some guilty pleasure out of these encounters.
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.
The peak of the story is definitively the moment that Henry impregnated Mae Young who later gave birth to a human hand. If you remember loving this “funny” angle, I challenge you to sit through these segments now.
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.
However, Jerry Lawler ran into a bit of real-life trouble at the last minute and had to be replaced with Shawn Michaels. The funny thing was that Michaels was still accompanied by Lawler's knights. As a kid, you never questioned any of this, but as an adult it’s impossible not to wonder what Shawn Michaels is doing in the ring with a bunch men dressed like Game of Thrones rejects.
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.
The build to this one involved Bischoff and Hogan poking fun of Leno for several weeks before Leno finally challenged them to a match. A match that actually featured Jay Leno outwrestling Hulk Hogan via some particularly boring moves. Removed from any illusion that could possibly justify such a thing happening, Jay Leno’s wrestling appearance is simply awful.
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.
Why were these two fighting? Because The Big Bossman cooked Al Snow’s dog and made him eat it. Of course, I’m serious. Even better, the match itself took place in an elaborate steel cage match surrounded by dogs who spent most of the match defecating around the ring. The whole thing was so over the top and wacky that you couldn’t help but love it when you were younger, despite the fact it may just be the worst wrestling angle of all time.
9 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.
Take, for instance, the time that he managed Andre the Giant prior to his WrestleMania III rematch with Hulk Hogan. In order to ensure that Andre won the match, DiBiase went so far as to pay for a ref to undergo plastic surgery in order to look like David Hebner so that he could count Hogan’s defeat even if Hogan had his shoulders up. Now, however, you probably know this moment as the ultimate bait and switch.
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.
Why would he do such a thing? Well, apparently it was in an attempt to campaign to the people about how American Lex Luger really was and why he was the best guy to defeat the evil foreigner Yokozuna. It’s such a shameless attempt at trying to get a guy to the very top by stirring up patriotism that Donald Trump should be taking notes on it.
7 Sgt. Slaughter Hates America
On the opposite end of Lex Luger’s love of America was Sgt. Slaughter’s hatred of America. Having a wrestler proclaim his hatred of America in order to get cheap heat is not a new thing in professional wrestling. What was unusual was to see former American hero Sgt. Slaughter become an Iraqi sympathizer during the midst of the Gulf War, which was taking place at the time. This rather tasteless angle was meant to play off of the war in order to present the "All-American" Hulk Hogan with his ultimate foe, which worked really well if you were young enough to buy into the whole “Sgt. Slaughter really does hate America” bit. In that case, watching Hulk Hogan beat the tar out of Slaughter was a truly great and a feel good moment. In retrospect, however, it’s almost impossible to watch this angle and not feel a bit ashamed of the entire thing.
6 Val Venis’ Mistress
The Attitude Era was always something of a guilty pleasure, but if you watched it as a kid then it was more like the ultimate and forbidden fruit. Watching the absurdity that played out week after week on Raw typically provided a wealth of those moments that you were just never meant to be exposed to at a young age. Because of this, there were times when the storytelling of that era felt edgy and clever even when it really wasn’t. There are few greater examples of this than the Val Venis/Yamaguchi-San angle. Shortly after making his debut, Val Venis began to feud with a Japanese stable of wrestlers because Val slept with their manager’s wife. Because of this, the manager threatened to castrate Val in an unfortunately, memorable angle. The entire thing was grotesque, poorly written, very racist and utterly fascinating for everyone too young to be watching it.
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.
This bizarre group of freaks seemed to be WWE’s attempts to cater to the most fringe group of teenagers that they could possibly imagine. Not only was the group supported by The Insane Clown Posse, but in general they intended to represent all those who felt like an outsider. That’s great if you’re a teenager rebelling against the world, but watching a group of awful gimmicks prance around the ring to bad rap music is pretty awful today.
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.
It was so glorious in its absurdity that you couldn’t help but love it when you were young. It was an epic angle that was truly awful, but also perfect for impressionable fans.
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.
Of course, as the rivalry was particularly memorable if you were younger, then the prospect of seeing the two do battle again in WCW was just the best idea ever. While most fans were initially excited about the idea, only the youngest of viewers were able to sit through the entirety of the angle and not wonder why The Ultimate Warrior suddenly had magical powers or why Hulk Hogan used fire to defeat him during their match.
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.
Where things really go off the rails is when WWE brought in Leslie Nielsen to investigate where the real Undertaker was. The entire thing culminated in a SummerSlam moment that saw Paul Bearer “summon” the spirit of The Undertaker so that he may defeat the impostor. It was, without a doubt, the greatest thing ever as a kid.
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.