Pro wrestling is an interesting animal in that it is an industry designed on the fact that it attempts to pull one over on its audience on a regular basis. Whether this is the result of the predetermined match or a writer’s attempt to swerve the audience with a shocking ending, pro wrestling promotions are there to make the audience surprised by a given outcome. Unfortunately, some outcomes are not as well received as others for any number of reasons from a wrestler refusing to lose to someone, the booker wanting to shock the crowd in an attempt to garner attention, or backstage politics, either way there is a reason for a match to have a terrible outcome.
So with that in mind I created this ranking of the worst booking decisions in pro wrestling. These include odd title changes, nonsensical back stories for matches, and just flat out head scratchers that made fans furious, confused, or both. The matches were chosen based on how infamous they are to wrestling fans, overall impact of the result, and overall awfulness of the outcome. These are match finishes that will remain in wrestling infamy solely for the fact that they are downright rotten. Similar to how the Shockmaster is remembered for having the single worst debut in pro wrestling history, these matches remain in the minds of fans because they hit a level of sucking or “what were they thinking” that was previously thought impossible. These decisions make fans think that promoters hate them despite the fact that fans come in droves and spend millions of dollars on the industry each year.
So please read, enjoy, and let us know what you think down in the comments section. How would you have ranked these differently? Are there other matches that you felt should have made the list or that one of the entries should be ranked differently?
16 John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, Extreme Rules 2012
The WWE had all the momentum in the world going into Extreme Rules 2012. The Rock had just emerged victorious over John Cena to coincide with Brock Lesnar's WWE return. Coming out of the UFC, the WWE sold Lesnar as a legitimate fighter that could take down any wrestler on their roster. In some sort of bodily function they can't seem to get rid of, the WWE just HAD to have Cena beat Lesnar. It made no sense, sapping Lesnar's momentum before it started. It took Lesnar breaking the Undertaker's streak to finally sell him as an unstoppable force, but a lot of time could've been saved had Lesnar won his return match.
Knowing what we know now, if Cena's journey was going to lead him to redemption over The Rock at WrestleMania XXIX, shouldn't he have had a tough year in the win-loss column leading up to that match? Either way, it was a real head scratcher.
14 Tazz vs. Mike Awesome (ECW on TNN 4/13/00)
A strange incident occurred where current ECW World Champion Mike Awesome signed a contract to work with WCW, despite him still having ECW’s top belt around his waist. After going back and forth a deal was finally made for Awesome to drop the title so he could head to WCW. Paul Heyman would come up with a novel idea to have a WCW wrestler fight a WWE wrestler for the ECW Title, with the WWE wrestler in question being former ECW Champion Tazz. Unfortunately, the match between the two lasted only a couple minutes and as soon as it was done Awesome bolted from the arena as if nothing happened, in the end only harming ECW as the match was treated as a joke.
13 Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kane (Raw 6/29/98)
After a shocking win at the previous night’s King of the Ring pay-per-view, newly crowned WWE Champion Kane was scheduled to defend his belt in a rematch with Stone Cold Steve Austin in the main event of Raw. Now while the WWE could have had a chance to build upon Kane as a monster heel, they instead opted to put the title back on Austin 24 hours after he initially lost it, making Kane’s initial win seem that much more like a fluke. This was used to create a feud between Austin and both Kane and the Undertaker that ran the remainder of the year, but this could have been done with Kane as champion. They also could've just kept the title on Austin all along and make Kane's first title win more meaningful at a later date.
12 Sting vs. Hulk Hogan (Halloween Havoc ’99)
In Vince Russo’s ever long quest to show the internet wrestling community that he was listening to them and vice versa, he came up with an idea to try and remove Hulk Hogan from the spotlight for a while, while at the same time trying to raise morale in the back with other wrestlers fed up with Hogan’s backstage politics. So to write off Hogan from TV, Hogan was booked to lose against Sting at Halloween Havoc in their World Heavyweight Title Match.
So to have it come across that Hogan was fed up with Russo and his leadership, Hogan came out to the ring in street clothes before lying down in the center of the ring and asking Sting to pin him. After getting pinned he quickly got up and left the ring without talking to anyone and the announcers did not really know what to make of it or what to tell the audience. They then never referenced the incident which ultimately killed any interest fans may have had in what was happening.
11 Hulk Hogan vs. Jeff Jarrett (Bash at the Beach ’00)
In what was seemingly an attempt to lose what remaining fans WCW had, Vince Russo decided to rehash the Halloween Havoc incident with Hulk Hogan and his “creative control” clause in his contract, this time with Jeff Jarrett instead of Sting. Yet instead of Hogan laying down it was Jarrett who laid down with Russo yelling at Hogan to pin him. After the match Hogan would cut a scathing promo on Russo and the current status of WCW before leaving.
Russo would then come out and cut an even harsher promo on Hogan saying he would never wrestle in WCW again. This would ultimately be true as Hogan would become legitimately upset at what Russo said and would sue him for defamation of character. The original plan was to have Hogan leave the promotion for a bit to raise morale backstage and then have him return to face whoever was champion at that time, unfortunately Russo’s promo put a monkey wrench in the whole plan and also the little fact of the company being sold to Vince McMahon about a year later kind of dashed any hopes of the plan working.
10 Sting vs. Jeff Hardy (Victory Road ’11)
In one of the biggest headscratcher moments in pro wrestling, TNA felt that it was okay that Jeff Hardy go out to the ring to fight Sting for the World Championship in the main event of Victory Road, despite the fact that Hardy was high as a kite. So it was then decided that the main event would be cut down to as short as possible to lessen the chance of serious injury to either performer. Eric Bischoff would make his way to the ring and announce that the match was now No Disqualification, while shaking both men’s hands and whispering into their ears letting them know of the change.
Hardy would fool around for a minute with the crowd before Sting was finally able to get his hands on him and hit him with his Scorpion Deathdrop finisher. Sting would forcibly hold down Hardy as he pinned him, ending the match just shy of 90 seconds. Fans would immediately start chanting “Bull@#!t” to which an angry Sting could be seen on camera shouting “I agree!”
9 Sting vs. Hulk Hogan (Starrcade ’97)
In what is probably the most well promoted match in WCW history, Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Sting were finally set to meet each other in the ring at Starrcade ’97 for Hogan’s World Heavyweight Title after a year of buildup between the two. Unfortunately, Hogan dominated nearly the whole match from start to finish and pinned Sting in the center of the ring, to the shock of everyone hoping to finally see Hogan get what was coming to him. Apparently the referee, Nick Patrick, was supposed to do a fast count leading to newly signed Bret Hart coming out and demanding the match be restarted, in which Sting would ultimately win.
Unfortunately, Patrick did not do a fast count so the whole reason for Hart coming out did not make sense, but it is besides the point as fans wanted to see Sting get a clean win over Hogan after a year’s buildup rather than a restarted match with an impartial Hart acting as referee. The ending that unfolded made it look like the heel Hogan was screwed out of his title.
8 Batista Wins the 2014 Royal Rumble
Coming into the 2014 Royal Rumble there was no hotter wrestler in the industry than Daniel Bryan. From deafening “yes!” chants from the audience to the fact he had been trying to defy the odds and regain the WWE Championship for the better part of a year, Bryan could do no wrong. Yet that did not deter the higher ups from having returning part-timer and good buddy of Triple H, Batista, win the Royal Rumble. Many would have thought it was a long shot that a 45-year-old would win the Rumble, especially when his only involvement leading up to the match was a half-assed feud with Alberto Del Rio.
Well he would eliminate Del Rio quickly after entering the match and go on to win the match, all while getting showered in boos from the crowd despite being a babyface, who were upset that Bryan was not even in the Rumble. Batista would leave the ring mocking Bryan’s “yes!” chant by giving the middle finger to the crowd. Changes were immediately made to the storylines leading into WrestleMania and Bryan made his way into the main event for that show, beating Orton and Batista for the WWE Title by making Batista tap out in the center of the ring.
7 Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna (WrestleMania IX)
At WrestleMania IX Bret Hart was scheduled to defend the WWE championship against Yokozuna for the belt in the main event but would end up losing the match after Mr. Fuji threw salt into his eyes. After the match Hulk Hogan would run down to the ring to check on Hart and would get challenged by Fuji to fight Yokozuna right then with the title on the line. Fuji would miss with the salt and hit Yokozuna, allowing Hogan to hit his legdrop and win the title, despite not even being involved in the original match or storyline. Many saw this as a way to appease Hogan’s ego with another World Title reign before he left the promotion, but it was done at the expense of both Hart and Yokozuna who looked like weaklings beside Hogan.
6 Brock Lesnar vs. the Undertaker (WrestleMania XXX)
In another case of a part-timer getting something most felt was undeserved, Brock Lesnar would become to first man to defeat the Undertaker at WrestleMania. At that point in The Undertaker’s career, many felt that he would just win the match and remain undefeated at WrestleMania. Unfortunately that was not in the cards as Lesnar would pin the Undertaker after hitting him with a third F-5, leaving the audience stunned in silence. McMahon felt that Lesnar was the only real option for ending the Streak and felt that the press would be good for the promotion, unfortunately most did not agree with him.
5 David Arquette and DDP vs. Jeff Jarrett and Eric Bischoff (Thunder 4/25/2000)
In an attempt to get some mainstream publicity for WCW and promote their movie Ready to Rumble, the decision was made to make actor David Arquette the World Heavyweight Champion. The belt was defended in a tag match between the team of Arquette and DDP against champion Jeff Jarrett and Eric Bischoff. Arquette would end up pinning Bischoff and crowned the new champion as boos rained down upon him from the audience in attendance.
To be fair to Arquette, he did not want the belt as he knew fans would hate him and the idea of him being champion, but was eventually talked into it by Vince Russo. Arquette would lose the belt back to Jarrett at Slamboree and then donate all of the money he made with WCW to the families of Brian Pillman, Owen Hart, and Darren Drozdov.
4 Vince Russo vs. Booker T (Nitro 9/25/00)
If Arquette winning the WCW World Title was a bad decision, Vince Russo booking himself to win the belt was probably even worse. Going into his cage match against Booker T on Nitro, it would be safe to assume many had butterflies in their stomach about how the match would play out given Russo’s booking style. After run-ins from a bunch of guys, Goldberg made his way to the ring to attack Russo and just as Booker was about to leave the cage and win, Goldberg speared Russo through the cage wall and onto the outside floor, making him champion. Russo would claim that it was a fluke as he was speared through the wall, though many saw through this as a weak cover-up defense on Russo’s behalf.
3 Kevin Nash vs. Goldberg (Starcade ’98)
Going into Starrcade, World Heavyweight Champion Goldberg was undefeated at 173-0 and he was defending his belt against Kevin Nash who won the opportunity at World War III. The match seemed normal at first until there were run-ins by Disco Inferno and Bam Bam Bigelow, which distracted the referee. As that was happening, Scott Hall ran to the ring and hit Goldberg with a taser, allowing him to be hit by Nash’s Jackknife Powerbomb and pinned, giving him his first loss. Fans were irate at the dirty finish to the match. What made the ending more egregious was that Nash was head booker of the promotion and put himself in the position to end the streak, despite Goldberg being WCW's hottest star.
2 Hulk Hogan vs. Kevin Nash (Monday Nitro 1/4/99)
While Nash and Goldberg’s match at Starrcade might have been bad, it does not hold a candle to the match that many point to as the start of the downward spiral of WCW. A week after the pay-per-view, Nash came out and stated he wanted to give Goldberg his rematch after how their first match ended, but when Goldberg was taken away by police, Hogan was chosen as a replacement and a tune up for Nash.
The two would circle each other in the ring before Hogan would poke Nash in the chest, causing him to crash to the ground so Hogan could pin him and become champion once again. After that they would combine the two nWo factions amid the shower of garbage being thrown in the ring by irate fans. It was just one of many moments where the inmates ran the asylum, regardless of whether the fans liked what they were seeing or not. Fittingly, the WCW would never win in the ratings again.
1 Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart (Survivor Series ’97)
Going into Survivor Series, there was no real definite finish to the World Title match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. Neither man wanted to lose to the other but the belt needed to be taken off of Hart before he went over to WCW. Ultimately it was decided by a select few that Bret would be screwed over in the end of the match and the belt would be placed on Michaels. So when Michaels locked Bret in Bret’s own Sharpshooter finisher, referee Earl Hebner called for the bell to be rung and the match awarded to Michaels. Fans were irate about what happened and Bret went ballistic tearing up the ring. While the match would ultimately lead to the WWE taking the lead in the ratings war with WCW, the thought that there was not something better in place before the match occurred is baffling as the WWE would alienate a large portion of its Canadian fans, though it would make Mr. McMahon one of the greatest villains in pro wrestling history.
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