My favorite wrestler was and still is, "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig. This guy didn't need a feud or a story to make a match interesting. Heck he barely needed an opponent. He could have sold for Michael Cole if he needed. You could put guys like Hennig, Bret Hart, Kurt Angle, and Daniel Bryan into a King of the Ring all as faces and with zero drama; and that would be my all-time favorite PPV. But, in-ring technical ability is just one half of professional wrestling. The other half, is the drama, the hype, the feud!
These are the spices that build excitement and anticipation for the big payoff. Since the dawn of pro wrestling, performers and promoters have done whatever they can to intrigue the locals and sell tickets. Ric Flair is a legend because the man sold tickets everywhere he went. The man wrestled basically the same match thousands of times but people still wanted to see it because he could cut a promo like no other. If Curt Hennig could wrestle a match on his own, Flair could promo through a feud with himself.
Wrestling history is marked with the classic feuds. Hogan and Savage, Hart and Michaels, WCW and the nWo, Austin and Vince all mark important parts of history and provided amazing moments. But of course, not all feuds are created equal.
Because wrestling is such an organic experience partly created with the audience, feuds (and everything else) don't always develop as planned. The writing team sets it into motion and hopes for the best, sometimes resulting in the worst. Also, there isn't always enough talent to go around, and mid-carders can often get lumped together for something to do (did The Goon and Duke Droese ever feud for worst gimmick?).
As wrestling has progressed, storylines have become more prevalent, with an increasing emphasis on in-ring monologues and backstage 'acting'. The feud has never been more important. With so many hours of wrestling to fill, the WWE is cycling through them at lightning speed.
So let's take a break in the action and stroll down gimmick lane, take a right onto Heat Avenue, and relive some of the very worst wrestling feuds.
20 20. Tatanka vs. Ludvig Borga
When two undefeated streaks collide, it's almost guaranteed excitement......Unless it's these two, then who really cares.
Was Tatanka a potential Hogan replacement? Hogan: unbeatable 'Real American' who Hulked up to win his matches. Tatanka: undefeated, had his own version of a Hulk-up war dance, and was an actual 'Real American'.
19 19. Nailz vs. Big Boss Man
I watched this as a kid and Nailz scared the heck out of me. He seemed (and was) so out of control and violent contrasted against the cartoony era. His signature move was choking, and he would beat jobbers by headlocking them nearly to death. It came as no surprise to find out later that he was indeed a psychopath and attacked Vince backstage.
Rewatching their Survivor Series '92 match, I forgot how well Ray Traylor sold back pain; only Bret Hart sold an Irish whip into the turnbuckle better.
Even though the feud was silly, the match was much more entertaining than you would think. The ending is hilarious as the Bossman successfully retrieves the hanging nightstick and the crowd cheers wildly as he beats down the defenseless bad guy.
18 18. Crush vs. Doink
Although he was never a star, Brian Adams had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Longest reigning WWE tag champs Demolition? He was there, at WrestleMania VII no less. He had a colorful New Generation character, and even turned heel to feud with the legendary Randy Savage. How about the Attitude Era? Well if you thought the Nation of Domination was just for black people - wrong - Brian Adams was there too. How about the infamous Montreal Screwjob? He didn't have anything to do with it, but he DID leave for WCW in protest (probably making that sweet ex-WWE salary). And of course he was one of the many mid-carders in the nWo.
Finally, when the WWE had their most cartoonish New Generation character Doink the Clown? You better believe Brian Adams is gonna get involved in that!
This feud had zero logic other than Doink playing pranks on faces, and Crush being a face at the time. Their feud climaxed at one of the worst WrestleManias of all time (IX) and their boring match ended with the odd double-Doink finish.
17 17. Chavo vs. Hornswaggle
Winner of the 2009 Gooker Award on Wrestlecrap.com, this annoying feud went on for almost the entire year. One, two, or even three funny matches would have been fine; a nice diversion before returning Chavo back to some serious wrestling. But no, we got to see a formerly respected wrestler in all kinds of humiliating situations, killing his momentum. Wearing a cow suit, wrestling blindfolded, and getting stripped down from a tuxedo to his chili pepper boxers are just a few of the many embarrassing scenarios.
16 16. Seven vs. Little Children
Dustin Rhodes returned to the WCW as the character Seven. Initially he looked pretty cool. A creepy psycho/killer that Rhodes could have pulled off well. But instead it got the WCW treatment and it all went to hell.
Being WCW, they produced some cheesy/creepy vignettes using Ole Anderson's Shockmaster voice for B-horror narration. But instead of Seven going after wrestlers, the vignettes were focused on him hanging outside of children's windows. The odd thing is that the kids weren't even scared. They would instead go towards him and touch the window where his hand was. Creepy.
15 15. Big Show vs. Randy Orton (The Authority)
They actually did this in 2013... I know the WWE pays Paul Wight a 'giant' salary so they must be trying to squeeze every penny out of him.
This feud felt so random and irrelevant. The crowd was fully into Daniel Bryan and the Yes! Movement at the time, but when it looked like Bryan was about to capture the title at Battleground '13, The Big Show appeared and ruined the whole thing. The title remained vacant as the PPV ended in a lame no-contest and Bryan was pushed aside for the aging veteran.
14 14. Undertaker vs. Undertaker
This feud had potential but WWE botched the timing and had to rush it for SummerSlam.
It started with various confusing buildup vignettes about regular folk seeing The Undertaker doing regular folk things. Ted DiBiase would then parade the fake 'Taker (who fans still thought of as real) for some squash matches. This was all fine and dandy until SummerSlam came (perhaps came a bit too fast).
When the main event of Undertaker versus Undertaker was announced, fans were not yet informed that there were in fact two 'Takers! Talk about a botch.
Here's another problem; how was that the main event over the classic Bret/Owen cage match? Well, if you understand Vince McMahon psychology that's quite easy. He loves big men (so TWO must be even better!) and hokey stories. He dislikes short people (only six feet, plechhh) who wrestle.
To top it all off with extra cheese, Leslie Nielsen and George Kennedy performed comedy detective bits during the PPV (so they could deconstruct the old-style cage).
13 13. Kane vs. Big Daddy V, Imposter Kane, Great Khali etc...
Kane has actually been awarded Worst Feud SEVEN times! You can't blame him though; he can't make chicken salad with chicken s***.
Kane is so believable as The Undertaker's brother because they are both big men who can move and work exceptionally well. Another (more unfortunate) similarity is the abundance of poor opponents they have been saddled with.
They both work best with a smaller opponent who plays up the size difference. Watching two titans slug it out is rarely entertaining. YouTuber GoodMicWork said it best, it's like watching two rhinos procreate.
I haven't even mentioned the Snitsky feud which won Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic for the miscarriage angle.
12 12. Glacier vs. Mortis
If you had a good idea in the 90s you'd better watch out or WCW might steal it! Their Nirvana/Pearl Jam ripoff themes and Mortal Kombat characters were embarrassingly close and it's a miracle they weren't sued.
WCW put a lot into this gimmick. The costume and entrance were extremely extravagant for the time, apparently costing $400,000 to produce. This was quickly dropped after only four matches, but they still pushed him with a year-long undefeated streak (ended by Buff Bagwell of all people).
The timing was odd for such a cartoonish fantasy character. Glacier's debut had actually been delayed in order to make room for Hogan's heel turn with the nWo and wrestling had suddenly gotten a lot more realistic and gritty. By the time Mortis arrived on the scene it felt very out of place.
Fun fact: Rob Van Dam was originally asked to play Glacier. Even after the position was filled they offered him the 'opportunity' to become one of the many planned MK characters.
11 11. John Cena vs. John Laurinaitis
Is the WWE sure they didn't turn Cena heel during this one? Because it sure looked like it.
If you let a non-fan watch this match out of context they would conclude that some jerk in jean shorts is sadistically torturing an obviously much weaker and defenseless older man.
Cena came off like a 'hilarious' school bully who was taking it way too far. Like long-term psychological damage and possible jail time far. He used a fire extinguisher on the guy! He put him in a chair semi-conscious to play commentary and he threw GARBAGE on him. When Laurinaitis begged for it to end, Cena rejected the offer and further tortured him with his submission hold.
The terrible feud ended with a terrible match, that was named the Worst Worked Match of the Year by the Wrestling Observer.
Extra awkward as it took place during the anti-bullying campaign.
10 10. WWE vs. The Alliance
So much potential but ultimately disappointing. The lack of true WCW icons like Sting and Goldberg was the initial problem. The confusing booking and focus on the McMahons finished it off.
Stone Cold being the leader of the Alliance felt like it was forced to make his heel turn work. The guy who won the Monday Night Wars for WWE now joining the company that once fired him?
Perhaps this feud was rushed to make up for the XFL's failure; it certainly felt that way.
Having Shane as heel and Vince as face didn't work. Vince had become the WWE's greatest heel and just finished the Stratus/Linda run that painted him as the ultimate bad guy. Fans cheered Shane from the moment he announced he 'bought' WCW and the roles felt backwards. Even more confusing is that Vince followed this angle up by trying to destroy his precious WWE with the nWo.
Just think of how much this feud could have been if it took place a year later, with Eric Bischoff signed as an on-screen character, and with the same talent the WWE signed soon after the angle like Flair, Hogan, Kevin Nash, Goldberg, etc...
9 9. Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler
There are ways to use a non-wrestler in a match, but one-on-one with a way past his prime Jerry Lawler is not one of them. The way they incorporated Snooki at WrestleMania was perfect. She could deliver a slap at the beginning, watch the wrestlers do the heavy lifting for the majority of the match, and perform her one trick at the end. It's the reason the Mr. T tag match was bearable, and his boxing match with Piper was rated -5 stars.
While it was enjoyable to watch Cole get beat up in the Lawler match, it's much more effective to just get Brock Lesnar to suplex the hell out of him over one segment. Their match and feud took up valuable time (14 minutes) that should have gone to develop new stars.
8 8. Hogan vs. The Dungeon of Doom
1995: the worst year of modern wrestling. The cartoon era was on its deathbed and refused to die with grace. The old model of Hogan versus monster heel hit the breaking point as WCW overdosed on awful with the Dungeon of Doom.
Weekly vignettes with yelling instead of acting introduced this collection of crap: The Zodiac could only shout 'Yes!' and 'No!'. The Shark ran around with his hands making a 'fin' sign. The Giant faced Hogan in a Monster Truck Sumo Match before him and the Yeti delivered the ultimate double-bear-hug.
It's incredible that only one year later, Nitro would feature the birth of cool and The Outsiders.
7 7. Undertaker vs. DDP
Sure Goldberg, Sting, and Nash were missing, but Booker T and DDP were also WCW-grown stalwarts and both very talented. A fantasy matchup with him and Undertaker could have been incredible as both were still young enough to perform. Instead, we were given hokey WWE nonsense.
DDP as a stalker? The guy was a world champion and married to a super hot Nitro Girl! It made zero sense and ruined the chance of a great run.
6 6. Zeus vs Hogan
This feud was born by combining two of Vince McMahon's wrestling passions: ambitious expansion, and monster heels.
Vince produced the film 'No Holds Barred' as a starring vehicle for Hogan a few years after his appearance in Rocky III. This film is hilarious B-movie fun featuring a "beautiful corporate spy", rival wrestling promotions, an ex-convict turned wrestling villain, and a full blown electrocution.
So at SummerSlam '89 we got the culmination of the Hogan-Zeus feud. The story being that Hogan's co-star thought HE should have had top billing instead of Hogan. So why is he still being billed as Zeus and not as Tiny Lister?
Anyways, this was the wacky world of the WWE, and we got a decently entertaining tag match with Randy Savage providing most of the wrestling and drama. Meanwhile, Beefcake spent the majority of his time blocking the camera's view of Hogan. Subconscious jealousy?
To make that SummerSlam even weirder, it was commentated by Mr. Tony Schiavone.
5 5. New Blood vs. The Millionaires Club
A lot of people blame Vince Russo for the fall of WCW, but in reality he was hampered by the creative control given to the mega powers. One famous story had Goldberg refusing to lose to Scott Steiner because Goldberg thought "in real life, Steiner would lose". Russo had the perfect comeback and asked Goldberg to go ahead and tell that to Steiner, which Goldberg wouldn't do (because Steiner is a better amateur AND professional wrestler, and is also slightly crazy.)
The WWE has always worked better because Vince has ultimate control in the battle of egos. It's the reason why a film has one director and doesn't let the crazy actors make any decisions.
Using the real-life storyline of the WCW's biggest stars enjoying ridiculous contracts while burying the young talent was a genius concept, but ended up a muddled mess. Hogan and Nash had kept the young talent down for years and weren't going to change their ways for Russo. The New Blood was never properly built up and the fans sided with the older stars instead.
One of the most awkward segments had Nash versus several of the New Blood in a Gauntlet match. The NBs rushed Nash as he dropped them one by one like Bruce Lee. Nash wouldn't actually pin any of these downed opponents, yet the ref would still count 1-2-3 anyway (never seen that before). Nash must have caught on to how bad this looked and eventually started covering them with his foot (how gracious).
4 4. Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzales
Being tall is a great attribute for a wrestler. But if that's all you got, you're not going too far.
Everything about the Gonzales feud was weird. The unexplained appearance of a nearly eight foot bodysuit wearing Argentinian at a weak Royal Rumble was odd enough. His decision to attack The Undertaker was never explained either. In fact, this event was a pretty good landmark for when the WWE started going downhill.
Their extremely plodding and boring WrestleMania IX match is often pointed to as the symbol of the entire PPV. Their SummerSlam "Rest in Peace" match was a little better. It included some nice steel chair action and Gonzales yelling at the crowd in his best Jabba the Hut voice.
3 3. Sting vs. The Black Scorpion
Poor Sting, it didn't look fun being backbone of the WCW.
Using WCW's patented cheesy vignettes and yet another instance of the Shockmaster voice, fans were introduced to a mysterious hooded man who hated Sting for an unknown reason. His interview vignette was especially weird as he had the broadcaster blindfolded and on his knees.
A Jim Ross with hair interviewed Sting (who wore an $8 tank top and NOT his championship belt.) The Black Scorpion snuck up behind and attacked with his ridiculous Karate Kid praying mantis pose while constantly adjusting his hood.
This culminated with a cage match, sort of like putting two scorpions into a tank and making them fight.
The Black Scorpion started off this epic bout by jumping around like Earthquake. I've never seen a scorpion jump, but maybe the black ones do.
Sting wins, and the Black Scorpion is revealed to be..... Ric Flair?
That's right! Al Perez was the original Black Scorpion, but he backed out at the last minute when he found out he wouldn't be defeating Sting for the World Title.
2 2. Hogan vs. Warrior II
Their second meeting at Halloween Havoc '98 is one of the worst-rated matches of all time. Their far superior WrestleMania VI bout had about the same quality of actual wrestling, but it benefited from the incredible buildup and the collision of two white-hot 'good guys'. From their run-in at the 1990 Royal Rumble, the fans were frothing at the mouth to see these two go at it. Fans were split down the middle, and it made for an incredible contest.
Of course the WCW version didn't come anywhere near that, but it could have been so much more. The crowd was actually really into the Warrior's WCW debut (except for the die-hard Renegade fans) but a truly awful build featuring incredibly cheesy acting and ideas killed it. The idea that the crowd could see Hogan's hallucinations but his cronies couldn't was classic WCW writing.
By the time Halloween Havoc rolled around the fans had lost interest. Without a hyped-up crowd, the only thing that could save this match would be Hogan and Warrior's in-ring ability......
1 1. HHH vs. Scott Steiner
You always hear "go back and watch them in Japan", but I promise that if you are only familiar with Big Poppa Pump's later work, you need to see what this guy could do.
Scott Steiner in his mullet-wearing prime was ironically a million times more of a 'genetic freak' than his blonde-haired persona. Imagine a wrestler with the wrestling skills of a Hart, the suplex-strengh of Lesnar, the attitude of Austin, and the flying ability of a luchadore. Steiner once caught Sid Vicious in mid-air, threw him over his head and backflipped on top of him. If it wasn't for the politics of WCW, Steiner could have been champion much sooner and made a much more impressive impact.
When Steiner hit the WWE to feud with 'Dipple H' he was a shadow of his former self and it was obvious he was returning too soon. They tried masking this by avoiding any actual wrestling on tv. This resulted in a confusing/boring feud that mostly involved feats of strength instead of you know, matches. Fans were 'treated' to: arm-wrestling, pose downs, push-up contests and the promise of head-to-head weightlifting.
And then came their Royal Rumble match.
Steiner's conditioning was horrible and he was out of breath immediately.
The impressive thing however, is that no matter how exhausted, Steiner kept pushing forward. While admirable, it still amounted to the most hilarious string of botches you will ever see in your life. Multiple times, Steiner's legs gave out like a newborn deer. He was so tired he forgot every move except punch and suplex, but his exhaustion saved the best for last.
During his Steiner Recliner he could only manage to lift Hunter's head, and Helmsley had to put his own arms in position. A masterpiece.
The great thing about Steiner, is that good or bad (and this was very bad) SteinerMania is always worth a watch.
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