Bookers have gotten a bad rap in wrestling history, not all of it undeserved. Contrary to opinion, the same things that hamper WWE today have been prevalent in wrestling almost since it started. Ignoring what the fans wanted in order to do your own thing, pushing guys despite them not being over and incredibly dumb endings. It’s been a constant in the business. Dusty Rhodes was infamous for his rough booking that included the “Dusty Finish” and other poor moves. WCW was legendary for their horrific booking and TNA has provided more than their fair share as well. Even ROH has done some bad stuff to annoy fans and harm the business itself.
WWE, as the industry leader, has to take a lot of blame for the bad stuff, of course. It’s terrible in many ways as it seems to have increased with poor decisions abounding and an apparent rise in refusing to give fans what they want. However, it’s hardly a new thing either as bad booking goes back much farther in the company’s history. Maybe it’s not a surprise when you consider the massive egos of those like Vince McMahon, Triple H, Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels and so many more. Throw those around and it makes sense that things get bad and we get poor endings to bouts. Sure, sometimes bouts have to be cut short by injury or other circumstances but too often, the incredibly bad stuff we see was what was planned out no matter what fans would want. Here are 15 of the worst finishes WWE came up with and how badly you can misjudge what fans would like to see.
15. Bob Backlund vs. Billy Graham – February 20th, 1978
Superstar Billy Graham helped revolutionize wrestling with his terrific build, colorful outfits and fantastic promos, and was an overall amazing heel. Bob Backlund was his opposite; white-meat, great worker and average on the mic but still popular. After various close calls, the two finally went at it with the idea of Backlund ending Graham’s major reign and one would expect it to be a huge finish. Instead, for the ending, Backlund ducked a punch to hit Graham with an atomic drop and then pinned him. Even back then, an atomic drop as a finisher was a reach and the fact Graham had his foot on the ropes during the pin took away from the impact. Backlund would be a success, running as champion for almost six years but the actual title victory is among the lamer in WWE history.
14. John Cena vs John Laurinatis – Over the Limit 2012
First of all, having this be the main event while CM Punk vs Daniel Bryan languished on the undercard was appalling. The match itself was a total mess with them hanging in the announcing booth, Cena hitting Laurinatis with various objects and tying him up and just dragging things out. After a messy fight, the bout ended with Big Show coming in, supposedly to attack Johnny Ace but then laid out Cena to let Laurinatis win. Nothing but pure ego around to make this happen and in a PPV main event to remind you why this feud was so loathed by so many.
13. Lex Luger vs. Yokozuna – SummerSlam 1993
When Hogan left WWE rather abruptly in 1993, Vince didn’t sweat it much, deciding he’d just select someone else and Lex Luger was the likely candidate. Reworked into an “American hero,” Lex was given the “Lex Express” bus tours and pushed as the new face of the company as he faced Yokozuna for the WWE title at SummerSlam. It was all set up, with Yoko controlling before Luger made the big comeback, hitting a major blow to knock Yoko out of the ring…and then Yoko was counted out.
All that build and push for Luger to take over at this point and instead, he won by countout so Yoko kept the title. The word is Vince wanted to save the switch for later but the backlash against Luger “choking” killed his drive and appeal with the fans, not to mention went against everything the booking had been leading to. Luger was never the same afterward and this was a key reason he left for WCW just two years later, a damaging move by WWE.
12. The Rock vs. CM Punk – Royal Rumble 2013
By January of 2013, CM Punk had held the WWE title for 434 days, a record for modern times. Many were hopeful he would keep it until Mania but of course WWE wanted to push The Rock vs. Cena II despite the fans having no appetite for it. The match itself was good, not great and as The Rock was ready to hit a People’s Elbow, the lights went out. When they came back on, Rock was down, supposedly by the Shield and Punk got the pin.
That would have been bad enough but then Vince came out to say he was going to strip Punk of the title because of The Shield’s interference only for Rock to say he didn’t want it that way. So the match was restarted with Rock hitting a spinebuster and People’s Elbow for the pin and the title. If they wanted to put the belt on The Rock, fine, but the convoluted circumstances weakened the moment and no doubt fired up Punk’s resentments that led to him leaving the company.
11. Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler – WrestleMania XXVII
You have to feel for Lawler here. He finally achieved his dream of competing at a WrestleMania but instead of a top notch opponent, he got Michael Cole. Worse, Cole was booked to actually get offense in and help make himself look stronger to take on Lawler in a battle with outside interference abounding and Lawler not even allowed to win with his famed piledriver but instead an ankle lock. It still seemed good with him celebrating only for the “RAW GM” to announce he was reversing the decision, due to abuse from the special referee, Stone Cold, to allow Cole to win. A bad result in any way but to rob Lawler of his Mania moment just makes it worse and why modern booking is such a mess.
10. CM Punk vs. John Cena – SummerSlam 2011
Many thought the “Summer of Punk” was an idea too perfect to ruin. Those people vastly underestimated WWE. After his famed “walk out” and big return, CM Punk was facing John Cena for the WWE title. The hype was huge and the push for them was top notch. The two went at it in a fantastic battle, giving it their all and actually wowing the fans before Punk hit a GTS to pin Cena who had his foot on the ropes, but special ref Triple H didn’t see it. That was a bit cheap but still nothing compared to what happened next.
Out came Kevin Nash who hit Punk with a Jackknife powerbomb and thus allowed Alberto Del Rio to cash in Money in the Bank to pin Punk for the title. Involving Kevin Nash in anything in 2011 was a bad idea and Del Rio looked totally weak in what was supposed to be his crowning moment and shafted Punk and the fans completely. Leave it to WWE to find a way to ruin a good thing bigger than anyone could have expected.
9. Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton – Battleground 2013
It’s truly remarkable to look at how many times WWE resisted the obvious of the fans wanting Daniel Bryan on top as champion. A key example was here as Bryan faced off against Randy Orton for the vacated WWE title and fans hopeful to see Bryan get the belt. The match was a great one, lots of back and forth action. Leave it to WWE to let them down as Big Show entered to turn on Bryan and lay him out with a punch. A referee came in to try and make the pin for Orton only for Show to drag him out and punch him out, then finally lay out Orton as well.
8. John Cena vs. The Miz – WrestleMania XXVII
Having the main event of WrestleMania end up in such an ugly mess was unfair for fans. The Miz and John Cena went at it in a decent match, and fans were ready for an epic finish, given that The Rock had yet to really put his stamp on the event as the host. It didn’t happen as instead both guys were knocked on the outside and counted out. That would have been bad enough but then out came The Rock who disregarded an announcement from the “Mystery GM” to have the match restarted as no-countout and no-DQ affair.
They went back at it with The Rock hitting a Rock Bottom on Cena to let the Miz get the pin and retain the title, then hit The Miz with a Rock Bottom as well. Thus, the biggest show of the year ended with The Rock standing tall in the ring over the two big guys of the company and just setting up Cena vs. Rock for the next year, a waste of Mania’s prime spot and an ugly battle to boot.
7. Dean Amrbose vs Seth Rollins – Hell in a Cell 2014
Folks have long laughed about the whacky stuff WCW did with “Warrior in the mirror” and such. Why WWE would want to replicate that in 2014 is completely baffling. Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, two guys who knew how to have a great match together, went at it inside Hell in a Cell, a match that hardly needed overbooking. But we got it with outside interference and both falling off the cell, taken on stretchers but rising to continue. Kane sprayed a fire extinguisher through the Cell to get at Ambrose as Rolins continued, Ambrose getting the upper hand and ready for the win.
Finally, the lights went out and suddenly Bray Wyatt’s lantern was in the ring showing off a hologram of the man. Wyatt then showed up to blindside Ambrose and allow Rollins to win. A cheap finish is one thing but throwing in so much is even worse and made Ambrose look weaker and Rollins look stupid and the fans hating it totally as one of the bigger jokes of the year.
6. 2015 Royal Rumble
Rarely do you see a case of a promotion ignoring what the fans want more than this. It’s become almost legendary in a way as even those who expected Roman Reigns to win the Rumble never dreamed WWE could botch it like this. First was how Daniel Bryan, the man fans wanted to see win the Rumble, was eliminated early on before Reigns entered, a shockingly dumb move. Thus, Roman never had a chance with the crowd, booed hard as he kept fighting but no one cared with Bryan gone.
Seeing Ziggler and Ambrose dumped out weakly was also terrible and the “fight against odds” of Roman against Big Show and Kane was just weak. Thus, Roman’s victory, meant to elevate him majorly, turned into a huge debacle and sparked a full-on revolt against WWE by fans. Just terrible to see and not much improvement since, marking this as a sad point for the company.
5. ECW Title, Elimination Chamber – December to Dismember
Paul Heyman reportedly broke down in tears at this and you can’t blame him. The revival of ECW under the WWE label, this PPV was a disaster with horrible matches going against what fans wanted and throwing any desire fans had for ECW down the drain. The Elimination Chamber main event was a huge clash of guys but to the disgust of fans, favorites CM Punk and RVD were eliminated early on. Thus, we were left with the Big Show, Lashley and Edge, no guys to honor the ECW faithful. It ended with Lashley spearing Big Show to win the title but a total mess to so many and a reason why the entire “new ECW” was a total debacle and one of the worst finishes to a PPV ever.
4. The Cruiserweight Open – Great American Bash 2007
Once, the WWE Cruiserweight title was a big deal, a championship that provided great action to spark up SmackDown and gave lower-rung guys a title to compete for. In 2007, the field was still strong as Chavo Guerrero defended the belt against Jimmy Wang Yang, Shannon Moore, Funkai and Jamie Noble. Just as the bell rang, Hornswoggle suddenly crawled across the ring for no reason at all. The five men put on a good battle with plenty of momentum shifts with the classic “each guy hits a finisher on the other” bit that left everyone but Noble on the outside.
With Noble down, Hornswoggle (somehow eligible because he’d been in the ring) suddenly got on the top rope, hit a “tadpole splash” and pinned Noble. That’s right, the four and a half foot comic relief character was now the Cruiserweight champion. He would “defend” the belt for a time in comic battles but eventually, it was retired and a damn shame how WWE buried a promising title in such a terrible way.
3. 1999 Royal Rumble
This is the mind of Vince Russo unhinged in WWE. The set-up was interesting as Vince McMahon had rigged the draw for Stone Cold to be no.1 in the Royal Rumble but then Shawn Michaels forced Vince to be no.2. So we had him and Austin running on the outside before Austin was taken out so Vince lounged in the announcer booth doing commentary. Austin would return to face off with Vince, battering him around the ring until The Rock came out to distract him so Vince could dump Austin over the top and win.
It was totally stupid, the crowd hated it and it was followed by the next night of it announced Vince was giving up his Mania title match shot but then Austin getting it. A convoluted way to get to the finish of Austin in the main event and could have been done a lot easier rather than having Vince win the Rumble.
2. Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan, WrestleMania XXVIII
It’s not so much the finish as the entire match itself but it still counts. On his DVD bio, Bryan says he was worried when word came of him and Sheamus being pushed down the card despite the fact Bryan was the World Heavyweight Champion and Sheamus the Rumble winner. When they heard they were the opener, the two were hopeful about putting on a great battle to kick the show off nicely and make the crowd happy. Instead, they were told the plan and while both hated it, they went through with it. So after big entrances, Daniel gave a kiss to AJ Lee then turned around, ate a Brogue Kick and was pinned in seconds. To waste these two like this is completely horrible, still one of the worst recent moves by WWE and left a sour taste in quite a few mouths.
1. Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna/Hulk Hogan vs. Yokozuna – WrestleMania IX
It’s been over 20 years but Bret Hart clearly still has serious issues about this moment. After doing a great job in 1992 as WWE Champion, Bret went into WrestleMania against the massive Yokozuna, trying to defend the title in what was going to be a massive fight against all odds. Thanks to a batch of salt from Mr. Fuji, Yoko won the title as Hulk Hogan, who had no relationship with Hart, came out to check on him. Fuji then challenged Hogan to a match, Bret waving Hogan to go on in.
Thirty seconds later, after a legdrop, Hogan had won the title and while fans there cheered, it was as bad a decision as you could make. It made Bret look incredibly weak and Yoko as well but Hogan was satisfied as he was champion once more despite having been out of WWE for the past year. It’s a fitting capper for what’s still the worst WrestleMania ever and why Hogan is so loathed by so many.
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