We've seen a long and winding road in regards to the PPV/TV balance. When the WWE only had their big four (Rumble/'Mania/SummerSlam/Survivor Series) it felt just about perfect. Stories had much more time to develop and it made for satisfying payoffs. Moments like Hogan finally facing the Ultimate Warrior were epic climaxes after long periods of buildup.
WCW had already been running monthly PPVs by the time In Your House debuted and it definitely diluted the product. The Monday Night Wars devalued PPV's even further as (WCW in particular) saved their best moments for television.
Today's market has the WWE Network airing exclusives (KOTR, Elimination Chamber) and that means we sometimes get only a few weeks in between. The cards and feuds feel more thrown-together than ever, with only an altercation or two on television before the half-baked payoff.
How will the WWE's increasing emphasis towards the Network affect all of this? They haven't had a legitimate ratings rival since WCW folded so they don't particularly need to stack RAW and Smackdown. Hopefully their huge push towards the Network results in fantastic exclusive content to lure in the new subscribers (like Netflix did with House of Cards). Without the need to sell PPVs, they could even dial back the amount (though that seems unlikely).
I love looking back at PPVs (even these awful ones). It's a fantastic way to landmark a promotion's development and history. WrestleMania III had such an incredible electricity as pro wrestling was exploding into the mainstream. Contrast that with the dark times of 1995 and the SuperBowl-like production of the latest WrestleMania to see a company and sport grow before your eyes.
But we're here to celebrate the ugly. The sheer amount of PP's means there are some truly horrible wastes of money. We're talking In Your House, Uncensored, King of the Ring, Wrestling 'Classics' and anything involving the Dungeon of Doom.
So let's countdown the all-time worst wrestling PPVs.
15 Uncensored 1995
The opening match had Dustin Rhodes and Blacktop Bully battling on the back of a moving hay truck (I kid you not). Tony Schiavone provided some exciting commentary like "coming to a stop sign here....we are told we are being stopped by a church bus."
The rest of the undercard featured WWE castoffs like Jim Duggan and the Nasty Boys, as well as a boxer versus wrestler match with Marc Mero and Arn Anderson.
The gimmick of this PPV was that it had no rules, which meant as Hogan is trying to put the strap on for his match with Vader, Ric Flair is allowed to stand in the ring and threaten him with a 2-on-1 beating. But if there were no rules then why did Hogan even need to put the stupid strap on? Hogan won this match somehow by dragging Flair (instead of his opponent Vader) around the ring and touching the four corners.
The worst offense of all was the blatant lie Hogan and the WCW had perpetuated to the fans about the "Ultimate Surprise". Fans were led to believe that the Warrior would make his WCW debut but were instead given the blatant ripoff Renegade (who was actually much faster and more agile).
14 New Years Revolution, 2006
Flair and Edge had a chance to start this night off right but their match was too short and ended in a DQ.
Two Divas matches, Lawler, Viscera, and the plodding match you would expect from Big Show and Triple H filled out the rest of the undercard.
The Elimination Chamber had a few interesting moments but once it was down to Cena and two glorified jobbers (really, why would you eliminate Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels before Carlito and Chris Masters?), the fans were out of it like it was Royal Rumble '15.
For Cena-haters this night worked out pretty great. You get to watch him get beaten down and bloodied for most of the main event only to lose to Edge's Money in the Bank cash-in.
13 Halloween Havoc 1995
The worst year in modern wrestling, aka the cartoon era died a cartoony death.
Hulk Hogan was still obsessed with battling monster heels and was in the middle of his feud with Kevin Sullivan's Dungeon of Doom.
He battled the rookie Paul Wight on top of a building in a Sumo Monster Truck Match, after which, the Giant is shown to fall off the building! He shows up soon after to wrestle Hogan in the ring however, with zero mention or explanation.
To top it all, out comes the Yeti (who looks like a Mummy) to interfere as he and The Giant gang-hug Hogan to death.
12 Spring Stampede 2000
The year 2000 was arguably the best in WWE's history, but the worst in WCW's history. This PPV opens with a long video package with lots of Vince Russo's annoying screams.
Part of the Russo/Bischoff 'reset', this card had a fast pace but lots of meaningless action and illogical booking.
You can watch Luger and Flair get pounded by four mid-carders before they make a nonsensical comeback.
If you're a fan of managers taking on radio personalities, you're in luck! Jimmy Hart took on Mancow in a cat fight featuring the worst top rope splash of all time.
The Chicago crowd is their usual awesome selves and actually make it sound like an entertaining show.
Vampiro imitated The Undertaker even further by bursting through the ring to grab Sting. At least it meant Sting didn't have to lose cleanly to Scott Steiner.
11 Unforgiven 2003
Nothing much to see here, move along.
It's not that this card featured terrible matches, just boring ones devoid of drama and psychology. It felt extremely thrown together and the crowd (or the wrestlers) couldn't get into it.
Scott Steiner (again) and Test isn't going to get anyone excited. Stacy Keibler however...
Shane McMahon dealt out the majority of offense in his match with Kane before doing his predictable PPV stunt; this time it was from about 30 feet up. He missed and Kane got the win. This match did nothing for Kane's monster heel character as lil' McMahon took all the glory.
You'd think the two matches featuring Michaels/Orton, and RVD/Jericho/Christian could save the day, but nothing was clicking on this evening.
Oh, and we got the infamous announcers tag match with Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross losing to Coach and Al Snow. I don't know why the WWE has gotten the ideas that fans want to see announcers wrestling. JR belongs the announce table and Al Snow belongs in Mick Foley's joke book. Worse yet, JR was pinned by Coach thanks to interference from Chris Jericho, losing the RAW announcing job, as was the match's stipulation.
The idea of Goldberg and Triple H in the main event might be an interesting exercise in fantasy-booking but in reality they are both wrestlers that benefited greatly from their environment and fantastic talent around them. With no one to carry the match, it struggled greatly. It was like a wooly mammoth caught in a tar-pit and they struggled mightily while accomplishing very little before it was all over.
10 The Wrestling Classic : WrestleVision
Many think that this was the first WWE PPV, but it only LOOKS that way. WrestleMania actually took place half a year before this "Classic" but they look worlds apart. The first 'Mania featured celebrities, excitement, and great (for the time) production. WrestleVision on the other hand, took place in some bizarre alternate reality where Hogan wore white and Savage dressed like Dude Love.
The whole card felt like a tech-rehearsal for 'Mania produced by a high school A.V. Club. The gentle Alfred Hayes flubbed his lines twice while trying to give away a car to a fan. He asked the hilarious Chicago crowd to cheer for the prize-winner and they booed instead (obviously). While this is going on, you hear Gorilla Monsoon and many other people near cameras that should definitely NOT be audible.
Besides the production values, how about the matches? Ugh. This card was the Mos Eisley of bad finishes. You know that funny way Shawn Michaels and other heels crotch themselves on the ropes? Well in 1985, the WWE was much more serious about genital injuries and the ref stopped the match after Davey Boy Smith did the same. I still have no idea whether that part was real or not. The whole show is so surreal that it really feels like "anything can happen in the World Wrestling Federation!"
There were some exciting moments between Steamboat, Dynamite Kid and Savage, but every match was unfortunately short (in order to fit the entire tournament in).
9 In Your House 4: "Great White North"
Deep in the dark year of 1995, this is the PPV where McMahon infamously snapped at the mediocre conclusion. After Diesel and the Bulldog trudged through a match that included the Bulldog putting on the ALL-TIME WORST sharpshooter, McMahon apparently chewed Diesel out off-air in front of the fans. Diesel would lose the belt to Bret Hart at the following PPV.
If you thought WrestleMania IV was the last time you would see gigantic oafs losing in a double-countout, you were wrong. Yokozuna started his match with Mabel by lazily leaning on the ropes and would spend most of the match leaning on various other objects. Mabel actually fell over as he performed an irish-whip. This had the feel of a backyard wrestling match caught on VHS.
The double-countout finish was actually perfect as neither deserved to win.
8 Great American Bash 2004
This one sagged brutally in the middle with Billy Gun/Kenzo Suzuki, Torrie Wilson/Sable, and Bob Holly/Mordecai. Those with an overactive bladder might enjoy the ample bathroom break time, but those who came for wrestling action were left bored to tears.
JBL and Eddie Guerrero had a fairly brutal 'Bullrope' match with several great hardcore spots, but the rope tying them together ground the action to a halt. Eddie was so mobile and this kind of match really limited what he could do. The guys did their best but it felt more like a Funk/Foley match than what it could have been.
The main event was just odd. The Dudley Boyz versus The Undertaker did NOT feel PPV worthy. Heyman cutting promos during the match while trying to drown Paul Bearer in cement was bizarre and distracting.
7 Halloween Havoc 2000
More of the dog days of WCW. Scott Steiner and Jeff Jarrett near the top of the card and David Flair literally collecting Buff Bagwell's blood in a vial. After Lex Luger turned on Buff Bagwell for the zillionth time even Tony Schiavone made the comment "how many times have we seen this guy turn?"
At this time WCW had gotten away from the aging WWE stars and got right back to their love of former male strippers. Most of their new wrestlers' personalities consisted of long hair, muscles, and shorts.
6 Great American Bash 1991
The first match was typical WCW. A misused 'Stunning' Steve Austin battling in a Scaffold tag-team capture-the-flag match. This was as ridiculous as it sounds with zero excitement. The wrestlers looked terrified up there as they slowly shuffled back and forth trying not to fall off. Not even the announcer knew the match was over as he made the announcement several minutes late.
Although this card lacks wrestling entertainment, it DOES feature some hilarious early footage of eventual superstars.
Step into this time machine back to 1991 - Scott Hall and Kevin Nash are known as Diamond Studd and Oz respectively. DDP is still just a manager. Jim Ross makes the most of a terrible situation as the lead announcer and Paul Heyman cuts a promo with Arn Anderson. Terri Runnels is also here as Alexandra York, with her wrestling supercomputer.
If you've always wanted to see Giant Gonzales without the bodysuit, you can finally see it as he and One Man Gang bounce into each other like dueling blimps. If you thought Gonzales and Undertaker was bad, just add Kevin Sullivan and midgets.
During the SECOND cage match main event (featuring Rick Steiner against Arn Anderson and Paul Heyman this time), a fan's sign is clearly shown stating what everyone was thinking.
5 WrestleMania XI "What d'ya say Bret?!"
Wow, Lawrence Taylor and Bam Bam in the main event? They both performed admirably well considering the circumstances, but how did they get the spot over Diesel and Shawn Michaels? Especially considering prime-era Pamela Anderson was involved!
Shawn Michaels was on the rise after his famous ladder match. The Kliq-members had a fairly entertaining match but couldn't produce a show-stopping event to save the card.
Bret Hart saved WrestleMania XII and 13 with Michaels and Austin, but Bob Backlund and Piper sabotaged any chance of redemption here.
Piper's constant "what d'ya say?" whether they were in a submission or not disrupted the flow of the match and brought out laughter from the crowd. Backlund screamed animal sounds into the mic and apparently the match was over.
4 WrestleMania IX
The outdoor production and cheap toga party theme felt off, but the finishes were the real culprit here.
Almost every match left you with a bad taste in your mouth. Just look at the ridiculous booking.
Shawn Michaels and Tatanka wrestled to a count-out. Two Doinks beat one Crush. Razor Ramon pinned Backlund in under four minutes. Jimmy Hart tried to count 1-2-3 for his own team, leading to a Dusty finish. The Narcissist pinned Perfect despite Hennig having his foot on the rope. Undertaker...Gonzales..........Chloroform. And after all of that nonsense, we got the ridiculous ending with Hart, Yokozuna and Hogan.
3 King of the Ring 1995
Like a sports team tanking for a number-one draft pick, Vince went for a full rebuild on this one, and it stunk up the joint.
He left Luger, Bulldog, and Razor Ramon out of the tournament and had The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels eliminated in the first round! This left mid carders like Savio Vega, Mabel, and The Roadie as potential winners and the crowd HATED it. He definitely shouldn't have picked Philadelphia for this experiment. By the finals, the crowd was chanting "ECW!" You've gotta love Philly.
Bret Hart won a 'kiss my foot' match against Jerry Lawler and that was the lone bright spot of the evening.
The main event featured a Kliq screw job to Bam Bam Bigelow as Nash sabotaged the tag match with an incredibly lackluster performance (or maybe that was just the best Big Daddy Cool could do).
Vince had good intentions trying to push new talent but he counted his chickens before they hatched and got egg on his face.
2 December to Dismember 2006
The ultimate troll job to ECW fans by Vince McMahon.
The main event booking by Vince proved that ECW was dead and WWE was going to take a big dump all over it.
The most popular wrestler in the six-man main event (CM Punk) was eliminated first. The face of ECW (RVD) was next.
The next low blow was Paul Heyman being sent home by Vince McMahon the day after the PPV, citing "slumping television ratings and a disgruntled talent roster as causes for Mr. Heyman's dismissal."
Heyman, being in charge of the ECW brand was reportedly against Bobby Lashley winning the extreme Elimination Chamber championship match and wanted CM Punk to walk out with the title. It's a shame what McMahon's fingerprints did to Heyman's baby, ECW.
In typical WWE style, the wrestler with the most muscles and least talent ended up winning it all. And if you couldn't think of a worse ECW Champion, Vince McMahon pinned Lashley for the title at Backlash a few months later.
1 Heroes of Wrestling
Made in 1999 with the production values and (wrestlers) of 1989. Host Dutch Mantell is completely inaudible to start and his partner calls dropkicks 'leg drops'.
An awkward black screen with the sound of a tech setting up a microphone sets the tone for the night.
The ring announcer accidentally says the Samoan's name first, and their combined weight last, then just goes silent as he realizes his mistake. The video guys top that by showing Marty Jannetty's picture as the Samoans walk down the aisle. Both teams use the same entrance music.
Greg Valentine versus Georg Steele: If you think wrestling from the 1980s has aged badly, try watching wrestlers from the 80s who have LITERALLY aged badly. Sherri Martel is the only decent performance of the night.
The main event featured Jake Roberts giving Scott Hall a run for 'most wasted at a PPV'. His promo features classic casino-themed lines like "you got 21, I got 22!"
I've never been so happy to see Jim Neidhart in my life.
King Kong Bundy and Yokozuna were advertised to face each other but ended up joining Roberts and Neidhart, spontaneously turning the main event into a tag-team match.
The sober three look genuinely embarrassed and the ref ended up fast counting The Snake to end this debacle.
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