The old mantra is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Sadly, wrestling rarely honors that. To be fair, there are numerous times a worker or an angle is going rough but a little tweaking ends up turning it into a hit. But those are the exceptions as far too often, promoters and writers make the huge mistake of taking something that’s going great and utterly wrecking it. It’s not usually intentional, it just happens that the “improvements” backfire big time and destroy what made the whole thing work in the first place.
It’s happened countless times in wrestling, going back to the “old days” of the territories. WCW seemed to turn it into an art form by wrecking just about everything promising that hastened the company’s destruction and TNA isn’t far behind. But WWE is something else. It’s amazing to look at all the great performers, angles, gimmicks, storylines and even match types that were terrific but ending up turning into garbage. It’s not always malicious, it just happens as WWE just seems to not realize a good thing when they have it. Here are just 20 of the most famous things WWE ruined through their own fault and how rough trying to book wrestling can be.
20 The Streak
This may be a controversial thing to say but it holds true. The Streak should never have been broken. Yes, some may have dismissed it as boring how The Undertaker always won at WrestleMania but it was key to his persona, making the Deadman look truly inhuman and his bouts at the big show a key reason to tune in. Brock Lesnar was a good choice to break it as a bad-ass, believable to fans as legitimate enough to win but it still came off terribly to those watching.
The open shock of the loss led to a huge backlash with fans rightly decrying WWE for wrecking one of the most important bits of Mania. It’s robbed The Undertaker of one of the best parts of his entire persona. The Undertaker's legacy is still intact, but this was something that should have been preserved for an icon of the business.
19 The United States Championship
For years, the U.S. title was one of the big belts of the NWA and then WCW, a who’s who of great champions: Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, Magnum T.A., Steve Austin and so many more. In 2003, WWE decided to revive it for the SmackDown brand and at first it looked promising with Eddie Guerrero the first champion and it truly helped put John Cena on the map as a singles star. But since the brands merged, the belt has been more of an afterthought with title reigns being short and not leading to much of a push.
When Cena got it this last year, it was treated more like a prop than ever. It just seems the title is nowhere near the big deal it should be and tarnishes the long legacy of great champions in its past to become just a cheap trophy.
18 The Great American Bash
Speaking of WCW things WWE marred, here’s the Bash. In the mid 1980s, the Bash was a huge deal, a summer-long series of shows by Jim Crockett that did great business and home to fantastic bouts. In 1988, it became one of WCW’s first PPVs and while it had lows (1991 comes to mind), there were some great events and matches that made it a true mainstay of the company.
In 2004, WWE resurrected it and immediately made it one of the worst PPVs ever highlighted by the Undertaker/Dudley Boyz main event. The following Bash cards weren’t much better and often home to some pretty bad stuff as WWE soon treated it as a forgettable stopgap to SummerSlam. It was finally put down in 2010, showing how even WCW’s PPVs weren’t immune to WWE managing to find a way to wreck it.
Nick Dinsmore was a great talent in OVW and looked ready to ramp it up when he got called to RAW. Instead, fans groaned when he was given the gimmick of Eugene, Eric Bischoff’s “slow” nephew. Incredibly, WWE actually seemed to know what to do with it as it turned out Eugene was a wrestling savant able to mimic any worker. He really took off when The Rock made a surprise appearance to give him the rub massively.
His run was ruined when he got put in a feud with HHH that naturally ended with him coming out the worst and was reduced to a lame comedy guy. Despite feuds with Kurt Angle and others, Eugene sank fast as WWE missed what could have been a surprisingly fun worker and a great talent.
16 Christian’s Title Reign
When Edge had to retire in 2011, it was a stunning move and robbed WWE of one of their best guys. This led to Edge’s long-time friend Christian taking up his cause and soon battling Alberto Del Rio to win the vacant World title. It was a terrific moment, the fans excited and Christian ready for the big time…and just days later, he lost the belt to Randy Orton.
For WWE to just cut short a reign of such promise without even giving it a chance was ridiculous and while Christian later regained the belt, the damage was done as WWE had the perfect new face champion who crowds adored with great heat on his side and tossed it away in just days. Christian’s career never recovered and showed how well WWE can ruin almost anything.
15 Zack Ryder
It’s true Ryder isn’t a guy you’d want carrying a company as champion or headlining WrestleMania. That being said, it’s astounding how Vince makes a huge deal to the roster to “grab the brass ring” but when a guy gets massively over on his own, he gets buried. Lost for a while, Ryder took off wonderfully with his online videos and act, getting more popular than ever. He won the U.S. title and looked ready to continue his rise as a major star and success story.
Instead, WWE proceeded to have him drop the belt and then endure a horrific burial. It’s seen as a big backfire, proving to workers who’s really boss and they can’t count on getting ahead on their own. It also robbed WWE of a great act that was mega-popular, something they desperately need but refused to let Ryder run with it.
It’s truly and unbelievably amazing how WWE could finally get one of the greatest stars of all time and drop the ball with him so spectacularly. When Sting finally arrived in 2014, it was a huge deal, the one major star of his time who had never worked with WWE had finally arrived, seemingly ready for big things. Instead, WWE had him pushed down the totem pole, as rather than the expected Mania battle with Undertaker, Sting lost to HHH just to “bury” the long-ended war between WWE and WCW.
That was followed by a loss to Seth Rollins and even the greatest doubters could not believe WWE would do this. It’s obvious Vince just didn’t want to admit Sting could be that great after avoiding WWE for so long. How unbelievably petty.
Another case of a WCW star coming in and WWE ruining it. In WCW, DDP rose high with great promos, a good work style and more. He should have been a key figure for the Invasion as one of the few truly big names of WCW jumping ship at the start. Instead, he was given the dumb angle of stalking The Undertaker’s wife and was totally crushed by Taker and Kane.
That was followed by the “motivational speaker” angle that also went nowhere and DDP’s star quickly fell as he was out of the company within a year. Amazing how WWE had a guy who could have been a true leader of the Invasion and wasted him so spectacularly.
Despite how weak WCW made him look in the end, Goldberg still had a fantastic reputation as a monster who could wipe out anyone. WWE managed to ruin it from the start as Goldberg clearly came off looking the lesser in his opening feud with The Rock and not as dominant as he should have been. Having him lose the Elimination Chamber title match at SummerSlam was the wrong move.
While he did win the belt later, the potential was already ruined, his reign short and ending with HHH winning the title back. It’s probably no surprise Goldberg would leave in 2004 and has been sour about the company. WWE had one of the biggest stars around and proceeded to ruin his spot in the company worse than anyone could have imagined.
11 Tag Teams
There was once a time when the tag team scene of WWE was so strong, there was a serious push from fans for a secondary title. The tag team scene was fantastic and filled with amazing talent and the tag belts were a serious part of the card. However in the 2000s, it began to fade, even with two pairs of tag champions for the different brands as good workers would be ignored and the belts treated as afterthoughts.
Too often, the tag titles were never defended on PPV and changes that were made rarely felt that big a deal. It seems to be making a mild comeback now with the New Day but it still showcases how so many guys lost in the mid-card and are left to drift and leave a once-great highlight of WWE tarnished.
10 King of the Ring
The King of the Ring was a huge deal in the ‘90s. Sure, we had duds (Mabel comes to mind) but WWE did seem serious pushing the King up as a big star and it did help guys. Stone Cold Steve Austin used his win for the promo that changed the entire business. Even later guys like Kurt Angle got a good push with it. But after Brock Lesnar won in 2002 and was instantly a main event champ, WWE just dropped the entire thing, robbing a big PPV and a gimmick that usually gave a guy more attention.
It was rather confusing as to why this would happen as there was still potential with the tournament. It would return later and Booker T did some fantastic work as King Booker, but since then, the king moniker has gone to Sheamus and Barrett, neither of whom did much with it. The tournament just doesn't have any prestige attached to it anymore.
9 Edge vs. Matt Hardy
In a way, maybe it’s not a surprise. When Matt Hardy discovered Lita was cheating on him with Edge, he made a huge fuss and was soon fired with fans totally on his side. When he returned, it seemed to promise an epic feud. But it never came off that way with Edge clearly getting the bigger push despite Matt having the fan momentum.
It does seem that there was just too much real-life bad blood between them for the two men to be professional enough to work a feud as their matches came off messy and it was obvious Matt was used to elevate Edge to main event status. It just came off as Edge continually getting one over Matt and a great program faded to nothing.
8 The Intercontinental Title
Bret Hart nicely summed up that while the WWE title went to the biggest star, the IC belt generally went to the best worker and was seen as a huge deal. Sure, a few duds (Honky Tonk Man) but for the most part, the IC belt was home to great programs and matches from Bret/Mr. Perfect to the fantastic ladder bouts of HBK and Razor Ramon. It was a great way to elevate a worker.
Unfortunately starting in 1999, thanks to Vince Russo, the belt started to go to very unworthy guys from Road Dogg to Val Venis, Rikishi and more “quickie” title reigns that did almost nothing to help a guy or boost the belt.
It ended up being unified with the World title in 2002, robbing WWE of one of the key parts for its midcard. While it returned in 2003, it was never the same, more so-so champs and quick reigns and nowhere near the gem it once was. A damn shame to see one of the most revered titles in all of wrestling fall by the wayside.
7 Summer of Punk
This was one of the most brilliant bits WWE had done in years. CM Punk’s on-air takedown of Vince, Cena and the entire WWE machine was brilliant and coming off so real that it made him bigger than ever. He beat Cena for the title before leaving and it seemed obvious WWE would keep it up for a while to help a big return.
Instead, Punk returned after just eight days, robbing much of the drama of his comeback. Punk won over Cena at SummerSlam only to have Alberto Del Rio cash in Money in the Bank after Kevin Nash interfered. Not to mention the inexplicable loss to Tripe H at Night of Champions. This led to a regression in Punk’s momentum and while he regained the title, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as great as the program promised. Once more, WWE had a genius storyline but ruined it and no doubt played a key part in Punk’s eventual decision to leave the company.
The original Doink was a great creation of an evil clown who came out to bright music before it turned dark and foreboding. He would pop balloons in kids’ faces, do wild antics of cheating. Matt Bourne sold himself as a good worker and pulled off a wicked act. Unfortunately when he left, WWE got it into their heads to turn Doink into a “loving prankster,” missing the entire point of the act.
He would soon do comedy stuff, a ridiculous feud with Bam Bam Bigelow, adding Dink and more, turning him into a total joke. It was a shame as the act had so much potential as a heel but WWE deciding to make it a real clown just ruined it all. This just shows you that gimmicks have to be right for the performer. Doink was and always will be, Matt Bourne's gimmick.
WWE has always had a problem pushing smaller workers and it’s been openly admitted. In 2002, they began a move on “Smackdown” to change that with the establishment of a Cruiserweight title that was soon home to some hot feuds and great matches. It looked to be still doing great and WWE serious about giving smaller guys a decent shot at things. When came the decision to have Hornswoggle win the belt and proceed to feud with Chavo Guerrero that involved antics out of a Looney Tunes cartoon. It ruined any prestige the division had left. The belt was soon retired and the cruiserweights soon cut in mass layoffs.
It’s true the standing of ECW has been overinflated by a lot of fans. But make no mistake, this was a terrible move by WWE to bury what was once the company that helped change the tone of wrestling. The first “One Night Stand” was good but the attempt for a full revival was marred from the start by too much of the WWE flavor which was always the thing ECW was against.
Paul Heyman summed up best that fans would have accepted a third brand easily but slapping the “ECW” label on it was an insult. We had Big Show and Lashley as champs, the horror of “December to Dismember” and Vince himself holding the belt. It was a total, horrible mess and turned the once great organization into a total joke, ruining it and marring that great legacy ranks among WWE’s worst moves.
3 The Nexus
Their debut was one of the greatest moments in WWE’s recent history. This band of rookies suddenly burst onto the scene, beating down John Cena and literally tearing the ring area apart. It was amazing, it was incredible, as it turned them into instant stars…and WWE promptly ruined it all. Rather than be patient and build them as a true threat, WWE wasted no time having Cena taking the Nexus down and then the idea of him joining also being a letdown.
The Nexus were victims of the rushed nature of WWE nowadays, no patience in trying to let the angle run its course. Instead of getting over huge, the wrestlers of the Nexus were harmed by WWE not giving the angle the shake it deserved and remains one of the best bits the company has ever thrown away.
2 Hogan vs. Flair
This was the opportunity of a lifetime handed over on a silver platter. When Ric Flair and Jim Herd had a massive falling out in 1991, Flair left WCW as the World Champion. Thus, Vince was able to get him to WWE, setting up the dream battle fans had spent years imagining. However, things were different back then as there was no RAW or monthly PPVs. Thus the great battle of these two icons occurred at non-televised house shows and while that might have helped the business there, it didn’t make most fans happy to be robbed of the spotlight a match like this deserved.
It wasn’t helped by the backstage politics as naturally, both men assumed they would be going over and the clash of egos led to the big match being pushed back. It was to take place at WrestleMania but neither man wanted to lose there and so it had to be switched around. Amazingly, WCW actually did this much better to show how WWE dropped the ball.
1 The Invasion
It’s a fantastic irony that WCW, arguably the most ineptly run wrestling company in history, managed to make an invasion angle work with just two guys when WWE failed with an entire company. It was marred from the start as too many of the big WCW names (Hogan, Hall, Nash, Goldberg) weren’t taking part the “invaders” were basically be the B-team of WCW. Even so, the sheer amount of missteps is incredible as WCW was never given a real chance on their own without the “aid” of Shane, Stephanie, Stone Cold and other WWE defectors.
That’s not to mention how they hit upon the genius touch of ECW breaking out to attack both sides but rather than the logic of using that for a while, had them form the “Alliance” ruining what could have been weeks of great build. WWE was given a license to print money, but somehow found a way to screw it up.
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