When Bill Goldberg beat Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series 2016 in a manner typically reserved for the lowliest of WCW jobbers, the wrestling world was shocked. Nobody had seen Brock Lesnar take a beating like that since…actually, there’s a strong argument to be made that Brock Lesnar had never taken a beating like that, including his run in UFC. Through all the commotion, the one sentiment that spoke louder than any other was the idea that this squash had buried Brock Lesnar. After all, how many times does a major star get absolutely destroyed in a match like that?
As it turns out, such a thing is not that uncommon. While professional wrestling organizations don’t make a habit of feeding their top stars to other wrestlers in such a manner, that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened many times before. Just as in this most recent case of a star getting squashed, the reaction is always one of complete shock. The funny thing about these squashes is that they’re not all bad. Some certainly are, but others would go on to kickstart careers, define legacies, and remind us all that professional wrestling is home to the unexpected.
Here are the top 15 wrestling stars who got shockingly squashed.
15 Kane and The New Age Outlaws (vs. The Shield, WrestleMania XXX)
Going into WrestleMania XXX, some fans feared that WWE were going to ruin the very good thing they had going with The Shield. This wasn’t based on anything that WWE had done to The Shield up until that point, but rather a general fear that WWE were going to find a way to ruin the best thing they had going for them by allowing Kane and the New Age Outlaws to either present themselves as equals or even go over the young team. What we got instead was a complete and utter domination of three WWE legends at the hands of The Shield. To be certain, this was the only way that this match could have possibly ended. It’s just shocking that WWE actually went through with it.
14 Daniel Bryan (vs. Sheamus, WrestleMania XXVIII)
By 2012, it was clear that Daniel Bryan was going to go on to do great things. Not only was Bryan far and away the single best wrestler in the company, but he was also in the midst of a heel run involving AJ Lee that saw him pioneer the “Yes!” chant, draw massive amounts of heat, and prove that he was more than just a guy that could put on a good match. Everyone knew he was going to be the next big thing. Everyone but WWE, that is. In a move that convinced some people to stop watching wrestling for a time, WWE decided to let Sheamus beat Daniel Bryan at WrestleMania in just 18 seconds. While this was the start of Bryan winning the fans' complete and utter sympathy, at the time, it was a shockingly awful squash match.
13 The Iron Sheik (vs. Hulk Hogan, January 23, 1984)
When The Iron Sheik beat Bob Backlund in 1983 for the WWE Championship, he stunned the world. You have to remember that Backlund had been the champion for years at a time when champions almost never lost and certainly never lost to such heels like The Iron Sheik. So far as anyone could figure, The Iron Sheik was about to become the company’s next big star. How wrong they were. As it turned out, WWE just gave Sheik the belt so that they could give it to their real next big star, Hulk Hogan, just a few weeks later. Hogan absolutely demolished The Iron Sheik at a time when champions didn’t get dominated and certainly didn’t lose the belt just days after capturing it. Thus began the era of Hulkamania.
12 JBL (The Boogeyman, Royal Rumble 2006)
To start this recap, let’s remind you that The Boogeyman was WWE’s attempt at inserting an awful ‘80s horror movie character into the world of professional wrestling. Let’s also remind you that in 2006, JBL was just coming off of a nearly year-long run as WWE Champion. Nobody took Boogeyman seriously and fewer people were actually entertained by him. At best, he looked like the kind of wrestler that gets beat a few times on PPV, shows up backstage a couple of times, and then quietly exits the company without anyone shedding a tear. JBL, by comparison, could still theoretically have been champion again. Despite all this, Boogeyman ended up beating JBL at Royal Rumble 2006 after only a couple of moves. Why Vince? Why?
11 Brock Lesnar (vs. Goldberg, Survivor Series 2016)
Too soon? Going into Survivor Series, nobody expected Goldberg and Brock Lesnar to be an hour-long, five-star classic that fans would be talking about for years to come. What most people did expect is for Lesnar and Goldberg to exchange a few power moves, beat the hell out of each other, and for Brock Lesnar to eventually come out on top after an F-5 or two. What we got instead was Goldberg absolutely demolishing Lesnar in a match that saw Lesnar get in zero moves of offense. If you say you saw that coming, you’re a filthy, filthy liar. Lesnar had been treated like a superhuman for years now and most people were willing to bet that he would simply never lose again. This was a truly shocking result.
10 The Honky Tonk Man (vs. The Ultimate Warrior SummerSlam 1988)
The Honky Tonk Man doesn’t get enough love. It’s not easy to be the guy that everyone is supposed to hate, and that’s exactly what he was. Roy Farris may not have been the most naturally gifted wrestler in the world, but his ability to turn what should have been a death sentence gimmick into one of the most genuinely despised characters in WWE history was simply legendary. Speaking of legendary, The Honky Tonk Man’s historic run as Intercontinental Champion had lasted 454 days by the time that he entered the ring at SummerSlam 1988, and fans were just waiting for him to finally drop the belt. Those that did predict that he would lose the title that night certainly didn’t predict that The Ultimate Warrior would destroy him in 35 seconds. A 450+ day title reigned ending in less than a minute? That’s an epic squash.
9 Sting (vs. Big Van Vader, WCW Saturday Night 1994)
Anybody who has watched a fair amount of early ‘90s wrestling will tell you that Big Van Vader is arguably the greatest big man wrestler of all time. It seems important to specify that era because watching Vader at any other time might give you that impression that he was a lumbering oaf. If you’re looking for a crash course in just how good Vader was, be sure to check out his first match against Sting in WCW. He walked into the company and handed their biggest star a beating that had some people legitimately considering the possibility that Sting had just suffered a career injury. It’s worth noting that Sting did technically win this match by DQ, but this was a shocking squash through and through.
8 Hunter Hearst Helmsley (vs. The Ultimate Warrior WrestleMania XII)
Nobody could quite believe that The Ultimate Warrior was coming back to WWE at WrestleMania XII. It seemed that he had burned every bridge there was to burn during his initial WWE run which is not something that many people with a future in WWE can lay claim to. The fact that he did return just goes to show you how desperate the company was for star power at this time. Regardless, The Ultimate Warrior was set to face young Hunter Hearst Helmsley who obviously wasn’t as big of a name back then as he is now, but was still a rising star in WWE. Despite that, The Ultimate Warrior didn’t just squash him that night; he no sold poor Hunter so much that he actually got up from Helmsley’s own finisher before Helmsley did.
7 Mankind (vs. The Undertaker, King of the Ring 1998)
Here’s one that probably doesn’t jump to mind when you think of squash matches. Instead, you most likely remember this match for those incredible bumps that Foley took which cemented his legacy as one of the toughest competitors that WWE has ever known. This is the match that made Mick Foley a bonafide legend. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a squash. If you go back and watch this encounter, the one thing you’ll notice (now that the spots are burned into your mind) is that Mick Foley gets destroyed at nearly every turn. You can count the amount of offense that he has during this encounter on the few teeth that the man has left at the end of the bout. It was total annihilation.
6 Hulk Hogan (vs. Goldberg, Monday Night Nitro 1998)
If you think that Goldberg’s squash of Brock Lesnar was bad, you clearly don’t know your Goldberg history. Goldberg has been doing nothing but squashing big name wrestlers since he stepped into WCW. Oh sure, he spent a few months squashing jobbers, but soon he was taking down champions in a matter of seconds. There was still some doubt in people’s minds as to what would happen when he faced Hulk Hogan. People were dying to see Goldberg destroy Hogan, but Hogan, in case you didn’t know, was a guy that didn’t like to lay down for anybody. He spent his career avoiding people that could theoretically beat him. That’s what made it all the sweeter when the two finally stepped into the ring together and Goldberg proceeded to do to Hogan what Hogan had done to many people’s careers until that point.
5 Kurt Angle (vs. Tazz, Royal Rumble 2000)
Do you think that Vince McMahon regrets booking decisions years down the line? It’s not something that the man talks about that often, but surely there are moments that he would go back and change if he had the chance. If there are, this one might just be one of them. If you recall, Kurt Angle was in the middle of an undefeated streak when he came into Royal Rumble 2000. Even better, he had finally managed to turn his outsider status into a benefit by figuring out how to make fans truly hate him.
At the same time, WWE had just signed ECW’s Tazz who also had a reputation for kicking ass and not losing. What could have been the unstoppable force meets the immovable object ended up being Kurt Angle losing to Tazz in about three minutes. That’s made all that much worse by the fact that Tazz went on to do nothing in WWE.
4 Buddy Rogers (vs. Bruno Sammartino, May 17, 1963)
This one is the oldest shocking squash match on this list by quite a few years, and it’s also the most interesting. There are two stories behind why this match played out the way it did. The most popular version of the tale dates back to a time when Buddy Rogers was the NWA’s best drawing wrestler. He was such a big draw, in fact, that even Vince McMahon Sr. was a fan of his. McMahon was finally able to sign Rogers for a supposedly large contract and quickly made him world champion. Sadly, Rogers had a heart attack shortly thereafter and McMahon was forced to give the belt to Sammartino instead.
Rogers tells a different story. According to him, McMahon was a bigger fan of Sammartino and managed to sign him by promising him that he would be able to beat Rogers for the title. Rogers claimed he didn’t even know he was going to lose until he got into the ring that night.
3 The Undertaker (vs. The Great Khali, Judgment Day 2006)
From the files of “Oh right, I forgot that actually happened” comes this match. If you’ll recall, The Great Khali was pretty big deal in 2006. Quite literally, actually. Vince McMahon took one look at this 7-foot monster from India and immediately started to see dollar signs thanks to the popularity of wrestling in India. In his eagerness to get The Great Khali over, he might have made a bad booking decision or two. One of those decisions is most certainly this match against The Undertaker.
The Undertaker has never opposed doing the job when called upon, but he should have put his massive foot down when he learned that The Great Khali was scheduled to destroy him in under 10 minutes at this PPV. Actually, feel free to forget about this one again.
2 Yokozuna...and Bret Hart (vs. Hulk Hogan, WrestleMania IX)
Going into WrestleMania IX, the plan was simple. Yokozuna, who was being built as a true monster heel, was going to beat Bret Hart for the WWE Championship. A couple months later, Hulk Hogan was going to beat Yokozuna at King of the Ring for the title. This was all lead to a big money match between Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart that Hart was going to win before feuding with Lex Luger. Everything was ready to go until Hulk Hogan apparently decided that he didn’t want to lose to Bret Hart despite the fact that Hogan was going to leave the company and Hart was clearly the future. As such, we got this match that saw Bret Hart lose quite quickly to Yokozuna before Hulk Hogan beat Yokozuna in under 30 seconds. In a way, Hogan squashed Hart and Yokozuna that night.
1 John Cena (vs. Brock Lesnar, SummerSlam 2014)
It’s really only been in the last year or so that John Cena has moved away from the Super Cena persona. He’ll still win a match convincingly every now and then, but Cena no longer gets destroyed for 90% of the match before winning in the last few minutes like he used to. One of the most infuriating instances of that tactic happened in 2012 when Brock Lesnar finally returned to the ring and lost to Cena despite dominating him for most of the contest. This match was a response to that atrocity and arguably the greatest squash match in wrestling history. At 16 minutes and five seconds, this is certainly one of the longest squash matches ever. Fans sat in stunned silence as they waited for a Cena comeback that never came. Instead, Lesnar dissected Cena for almost 20 minutes before mercifully finishing him.