Recently, WWE confirmed that AJ Styles will be taking on none other than Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 33. While there are some who believe that this match can exceed expectations, many more fans see this contest as a direct slap in the face to AJ Styles. After Styles spent the last year cementing himself as one of the best wrestlers in the world, you would think that WWE could find a way to reward him with a WrestleMania match that is more than an excuse to get a McMahon on the card. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that's going to be the case.
Then again, what else did you expect? WWE has been misbooking their best wrestlers since the very first WrestleMania. Through a combination of bad long-term booking decisions and short-sighted matchmaking, WWE has turned putting the right wrestler into the wrong match into a WrestleMania tradition. When you take a look at all the times WWE misused one of their biggest names, you start to realize that AJ Styles' impending match against Shane McMahon is far from the worst thing WWE has ever done to one of their stars come WrestleMania season. These are the top 15 times WWE wasted a great wrestler on a bad WrestleMania match.
15 Stone Cold Steve Austin: vs. Savio Vega (WrestleMania XII)
WrestleMania XII came at an odd point in Stone Cold Steve Austin’s WWE career. He had just adopted the Stone Cold moniker and hadn’t yet cut his famous Austin 3:16 promo. WWE knew they wanted to do something with the emerging star, but they weren’t quite sure what that was yet. Even though Austin’s first WrestleMania match came at an awkward time in his career, it’s painful to see just how little WWE had for him to do here. Austin walks to the ring with Ted DiBiase (a manager he didn’t need), wearing the Million Dollar Belt (a belt that meant nothing), and continues his uneventful feud with Savio Vega during WWE’s biggest show of the year. Surely, someone had to realize that Austin deserved better.
14 Owen Hart: vs. Skinner (WrestleMania VIII)
If you don’t remember the brief WWE career of Skinner, you’re one of the lucky ones. The best way to describe Skinner is as the embodiment of every redneck stereotype. He spit tobacco, wore tattered clothes, and seemingly made his living by hunting alligators or crocodiles or...something. For some reason, WWE booked Skinner as an undefeated wrestler when he first entered the company. That streak ended shortly before WrestleMania VIII when Skinner lost to Bret Hart. His consolation prize was to lose to Owen Hart in under two minutes at WrestleMania. How did Owen Hart get involved in this? On a card that could have benefited from a few more well-wrestled matches, WWE wasted Owen’s natural talent on a meaningless match against a guy that wouldn’t be in the company that much longer.
13 Ricky Steamboat: vs. Matt Borne (WrestleMania I)
The first WrestleMania may very well be the most historically significant wrestling event in the history of the business, but it’s also an awful overall card. The highlight of the evening was Hulk Hogan’s celebrity filled main event. Everything else on the show is largely forgettable. Even by WrestleMania I standards, though, Ricky Steamboat’s match against Matt Borne is a real head scratcher. Steamboat was in the prime of his in-ring career at this point, and WWE decided to utilize his considerable talents by having him wrestle the guy that would become Doink the Clown years down the line.
There were several better Steamboat opponent options on this card that WWE decided to book against less capable wrestlers. We can only assume someone at the company didn’t believe in Steamboat.
12 Mankind and The Big Show: Special Referee Match (WrestleMania XV)
Here’s a rare case of two wrestlers in the same WrestleMania match who were wasted by WWE. WrestleMania XV is an Attitude Era WrestleMania through-and-through. What that means is that it features a lot of bizarre booking decisions that highlight the crash TV style the WWE product was focusing on at that time. WrestleMania XV suffered from general poor planning, but this match is downright bizarre. WWE chose to book the very popular Mankind against The Big Show who had just jumped ship from WCW a month before. That’s not necessarily a bad idea, but the two were forced to wrestle for the chance to be a special guest referee later in the night. These two were just not capable of working a good match together and neither got the chance to really further their career in any real way.
11 Ted DiBiase: vs. Brutus Beefcake (WrestleMania V)
There is nothing more frustrating than being a fan of Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase’s early career work. Despite the fact that DiBiase was clearly an incredibly talented heel who could get just about any crowd to hate him, he was a great bad guy at a time when all bad guys existed to be fed to Hulk Hogan so that Hogan could grow stronger. Because of this, guys like DiBiase rarely got the opportunities they deserved. While DiBiase had to endure a few awful WrestleMania matches in his career, this stands out as one of the worst. DiBiase was firing on all cylinders by the time that WrestleMania V rolled around, but he was still forced into a match against Brutus Beefcake. This match was never going to be good, but it was also pretty pointless.
10 Brock Lesnar and Goldberg (WrestleMania XX)
The second double wasted opportunity on this list is also one of the most infamous matches in WrestleMania history. Going into WrestleMania XX, WWE knew that Goldberg was on the way out. They figured that they could just feed him to Lesnar in order to cement Lesnar as a monster heel. However, WWE soon learned that Lesnar planned to leave WWE following WrestleMania XX. Rather than change their course and avoid a disaster, WWE opted to steer right into it. As a result, we got this match that was highlighted by the live crowd mercilessly booing both competitors. The smart thing to do would have been to split these guys up and use them to put over people that would still be in the company, but WWE just wasn’t that smart.
9 Mr. Perfect: vs. Brutus Beefcake (WrestleMania VI)
We swear we’re not picking on Brutus Beefcake. It just so happens that he was involved in some really awfully booked WrestleMania matches against opponents that clearly deserved more than the opportunity to wrestle Hulk Hogan’s friend. While Beefcake’s match against DiBiase felt insulting, this one is somehow even worse. Shortly before WrestleMania VI, The Ultimate Warrior ended Mr. Perfect’s undefeated streak.
Still, Perfect was in a prime position to begin the second stage of his career by participating in a memorable WrestleMania encounter. Instead, WWE booked him to lose - yes, lose - against Brutus Beefcake on the biggest show of them all. Forcing Perfect to battle the always boring Beefcake is bad enough, but booking him to lose that match? At some point, common sense should prevent such stupidity.
8 Chris Jericho: vs. Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat (WrestleMania XXV)
WrestleMania XXV was an interesting show. Were it not for the fact that the card contained Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker’s epic encounter, it would likely be remembered as one of the absolute worst WrestleManias of all time. While the card wasn’t polluted by awful matches, it was loaded with little disappointments. Take, for instance, the match that saw Chris Jericho take on Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, and (basically) Mickey Rourke. WWE wanted to capitalize off of Rourke’s role in the movie The Wrestler, so it made sense that he would make an appearance at WrestleMania. So far as anyone can figure, the plan must have been for Jericho to wrestle Rourke. When that didn’t happen, Jericho was pitted against three aging legends. Despite Ricky Steamboat’s best efforts, nothing could save this match from feeling like an extended awkward celebrity appearance.
7 The Undertaker: vs. Big Bossman (WrestleMania XV)
Generally speaking, The Undertaker is a professional wrestling treasure. There’s just something special about seeing him make his way to the ring. It doesn’t matter how many Undertaker matches you’ve seen, the feeling remains the same. That’s especially true of Undertaker’s WrestleMania matches which, despite the loss of the streak storyline, still feel like events that are bigger than the show themselves. Even though the streak wasn’t really a big deal by the time that WrestleMania XV rolled around, The Undertaker was still undefeated. As such, he deserved more than a meaningless Hell in a Cell match against Big Bossman at WrestleMania. Hell in a Cell matches were still a big deal at this time, which makes it that much worse that WWE decided to use one at WrestleMania as part of a segment that could have easily been done on RAW.
6 Rick Rude: vs. Jimmy Snuka (WrestleMania VI)
Rick Rude, much like Ted DiBiase, is a guy that WWE just never seemed to know what to do with. They knew that Rude had a great character, a tremendous physique, and well above-average ring skills, but when it came time to actually write meaningful storylines for him, WWE’s creative team seemingly collectively shrugged their shoulders. Even though Rude carried Ultimate Warrior to a great match at WrestleMania V, WWE still saw fit to reward him with a throwaway encounter against Jimmy Snuka at WrestleMania VI.
This match was seemingly shoved into the final card so that Rude would have something to do on the show. While it’s nice that WWE felt that Rude deserved a WrestleMania paycheck, it would have been even nicer if they had seen fit to put him in a match that represented his talent.
5 Dolph Ziggler: w/Michelle McCool, and Layla vs. John Morrison, Trish Stratus, and Snooki (WrestleMania XXVII)
WWE has resorted to the bottom of the barrel when trying to get celebrities to make WrestleMania appearances, but they never reached further than they did in 2011 when The Jersey Shore’s own Snooki made her in-ring debut. Following weeks of build-up, the stage was set for Snooki to team up with Trish Stratus and John Morrison to take on the team of Dolph Ziggler, Michelle McCool, and Layla.
While you could argue that everyone in this match not named Snooki deserved better, it’s Dolph Ziggler that stands out as the real victim here. This should have been the point of Ziggler’s career when WWE helped establish him as an incredibly capable young worker by giving him a meaningful WrestleMania match. Instead, he got Snooki.
4 The Shield: vs. Kane and The New Age Outlaws (WrestleMania XXX)
The booking of The Shield is one of the best things WWE has ever done. No, seriously. From the day that Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose stepped into the company to the day that Rollins betrayed the group, WWE treated The Shield like they were the most dominant group on the roster. They were rewarded for their efforts with three of the company’s biggest singles stars. Actually, this WrestleMania match feels like the single biggest misstep in the history of The Shield’s group run.
In retrospect, it seems clear that WWE knew they wanted to book The Shield against Evolution, but wouldn’t be able to build that match up during WrestleMania. Instead, they opted to pit The Shield against The New Age Outlaws and Kane. As nice as it was to see The Shield squash this group of heels in under three minutes, it would have been even nicer if the group’s last WrestleMania match had actually mattered.
3 Jake Roberts and Rick Martel: Blindfold Match (WrestleMania VII)
The blindfold match is one of those concepts from the good old days of pro wrestling which has thankfully fallen out of fashion in recent years. Just as the name implies, the idea behind this match is that two wrestlers put on blindfolds - or masks - and attempt to wrestle each other. At best, it’s a comedy match. At worst, you get to watch two wrestlers stumble across the ring for several minutes. The worst case scenario happened here as two great WWE talents - Rick Martel and Jake “The Snake” Roberts - were forced to settle their differences with blindfolds on their head. Even if it wasn’t obvious that the blinders were fake, these two guys deserved the chance to have an actual match.
2 Kurt Angle: vs. Kane (WrestleMania X8)
There’s actually a pretty good story behind this one. According to rumors that emerged quite a few years after WrestleMania X8, WWE’s original plan was to have Sting under contract by WrestleMania season. It’s not known if that story is 100% true or not, but all signs point towards it being accurate. It doesn’t really matter, of course, because we all know that Sting wouldn’t appear in WWE for quite a few years. Of course, now that Sting was out of the picture, WWE still needed to find something to do with his planned opponent, Kurt Angle. Yes, we could have had Kurt Angle vs. Sting at WrestleMania X8. Instead, we got Kurt Angle vs. Kane in a match that seemingly came out of nowhere and contributed nothing to the show.
1 Stone Cold Steve Austin: vs. Scott Hall (WrestleMania X8)
Sting’s absence wasn’t the only disappointment to come from WrestleMania X8. No, we’re not talking about the Chris Jericho/Triple H main event that fizzled out; we’re talking about Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Scott Hall. When WWE knew that some of the big name WCW talents they weren’t able to sign for the invasion storyline were going to be available for WrestleMania X8, they started to put together a few “dream match” scenarios. One of those scenarios involved Stone Cold Steve Austin battling Hulk Hogan. While that match would have been a showdown between arguably the top two draws in wrestling history, the honor of wrestling Hogan instead went to The Rock.
Stone Cold’s consolation prize was Scott Hall. The problem here was that Austin clearly didn’t want to wrestle Hall, and Hall was at a point in his life where he wasn’t really up to having a great match with anyone. For Stone Cold’s second-to-last WrestleMania match, this was a dud.