No other decade in wrestling history shifted the business as much as the 1990s did. In 1990, WCW was still under the NWA banner and a seemingly done Ric Flair was ceding the spotlight to Sting. In WWF, Hulk Hogan seemed to likewise give way to the Ultimate Warrior. The AWA was on its last legs while territories abounded in Memphis, Texas, Portland and Florida. There were mostly cartoonish characters around, no prime time programming and you could count on one hand the number of PPVs each year from each company.
By the end of the decade, the only major ones standing were WWE, WCW and ECW, the latter two already in their prolonged death throes. PPVs dominated every month with prime time programming and the action had gotten more serious. It’s remarkable to look at how much changed so majorly from the material to the fans’ tastes and pushing the envelope a lot more. There was a lot of good in this decade, a lot to remember and cherish from technical classics to wild brawls. But there was also a lot of bad as well, matches that were complete messes and horrible to watch.
Now, there were probably a lot of terrible ones at house shows and various indies that are forgotten but these are the bigger ones, that played out on major stages, even main events of PPVs and somehow were pushed hard. It’s notable how many came from 1995, considered one of the worst creative years ever for both WWE and WCW and indeed WCW seemed to have the edge in horrible stuff although WWF put their own up too. Here are 20 of the worst bouts of the 1990s and why that decade isn’t exactly remembered well, except for the latter years.
20 Kevin Sullivan vs. Dave Sullivan - SuperBrawl V
Among the most tasteless gimmicks ever, Evad Sullivan (he spelled it Dave because he was dyslexic) was Kevin’s dumb brother and a raging Hulkamaniac. Going at it, Dave was sloppy as hell with cheap elbows while Sullivan is infamous for his stalling and stiff work. Dave’s punches clearly weren’t even connecting as Ed Leslie interfered as well, the commentary more about Hogan than the actual match and Kevin getting the pin with a “grabbing the tights” that barely looked like it was touching Dave. A terrible feud with a terrible bout in a truly terrible year.
19 Sting vs. Antonio Inoki - NJPW 7
Part of a major deal between New Japan and WCW, this should have been a terrific battle of the young Sting and the veteran Inoki. Sadly, Inoki had a leg injury that hampered him badly, turning his offense into very stiff punches and sloppy kicks that Sting had to sell. Sting did his best with the Scorpion Deathlock and the crowd on his side, clearly in charge and seemingly on his way to victory. Then, out of nowhere, Inoki hit a sleeper hold that Sting acted was the death grip, passing out to give him the win. It was a gyp of an ending after all that, especially given the star power of the guys involved and a reason the whole WCW/NJPW partnership eventually fell apart.
18 War Games - Fall Brawl '98
Just when you thought WCW couldn’t get worse in 1998, they found a way to ruin War Games. You had three teams battling in the cage, pinfalls counted and the winner got a shot against Goldberg, which destroyed the entire concept of the match. The ugly brawl had guys slamming against the cage walls, onto the corners, no real team battle at all and flipping between rings for no reason. Hogan used a slapjack of all things to knock everyone out before Warrior showed up in a cloud of smoke, then vanished, he and Hogan getting out of the ring to brawl where Warrior tore a bicep and twisted his ankle. DDP then just popped up and hit a Diamond Cutter on Ray to win as the announcers declared it a classic event while the crowd booed mercilessly. WCW in all its finest.
17 Undertaker vs. Undertaker - SummerSlam ‘94
You had Bret vs Owen Hart in a cage match and yet this was the main event. After months of build, the Undertaker returned with Paul Bearer to take on the fake Undertaker from Ted DiBiase who everyone had known from day one was a fake. After a stare down, they “fought” which was just a lot of poor and sloppy moves, copying each other’s moveset with Taker doing Old School and more but really a poor excuse for a fight. To no shock, the real Taker hit a Tombstone to win but you could feel the crowd dying as it went on and one of the worst main events in WWE history.
16 Mabel vs. Diesel - SummerSlam ‘95
Perhaps the epitome of the horrible state of WWE in 1995 and the worst SummerSlam main event ever. Diesel wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire as champion despite the big push so Vince thought it would be good to put him against monster heel Mabel. The result was a horrid battle, slow as hell, both guys just plodding along and the fans loathing it as they went at it. It was terrible booking with Lex Luger and Mo interfering but that didn't spark it up and just highlighting how poor Diesel's run was. He finally won after a weak second rope elbow but this was a sign the "old ways" of pushing big guy battles weren't doing as much good to WWE in this decade and why the company hates 1995 as much as the fans did.
15 Sid vs. El Gigante, SuperBrawl I
Never have two minutes felt like an eternity. Two men of large size but little ability with Gigante considered the worst wrestler of all time. The rules are you win by beating your opponent down and into a stretcher but these two couldn’t even do a decent brawl. Instead, a test of strength, some shoving around and then Gigante hitting his claw finisher to pin Sid. Gigante was then beat down by One Man Gang to get the stretcher but it was more notable for fans chanting goodbye to Sid, about to jump to WWE and a sad send-off to say the least.
14 Bushwhackers vs. Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik - Heroes of Wrestling
Considered by most the worst wrestling PPV of all time, this horrific show went out of its way to provide some bad stuff with over-the-hill workers barely gelling together. As proof was this wretched tag match between the former WWE stars who seemed to have little idea what to do in the ring together. There was a clear moment of Volkoff pounding on Luke with six inches of air between them and so much stalling that it was painful. Some miscommunication led to the Bushwhackers winning but the fans were the true losers in one of the worst battles imaginable yet still not the worst on this show.
13 Rick Rude vs. Masa Chono - Halloween Havoc ‘92
These two had put on a classic battle in Japan where Chono won the NWA title so it was only natural they could repeat it with at least a decent bout. Sadly, this was 1992 WCW. The first 15 minutes of the bout had roughly a minute of real action, tons of long holds and stalling and dull as hell with a chinlock made a big deal. To give you an idea how bad this was, fans were more interested in a fight happening in the stands as being far more exciting. By the way, we had two refs, one Japanese, the other Harley Race just to make this even more “fun.” In the end, Rude was sent flying into both refs, earning the DQ, hitting the Awakening but it didn’t count. And people wonder why the NWA fell apart about this time with this as the best they could offer.
12 Jake Roberts vs. Rick Martel - WreslteMania VII
Why promoters keep going to blindfold matches is baffling as they always suck. The set-up for this wasn’t bad as Martel had “blinded” Roberts months earlier and that Roberts was to give him a taste. But like all such matches, we had two guys walking around the ring, stumbling, bumping into each other and then jerking back, nothing much else. Roberts would use the crowd to figure where Martel was for more shots yet it was slow and painful to watch before Jake finally hit the DDT to win. Just dumb idea, especially for Mania and why this stipulation never works out.
11 Triple H vs. Sgt. Slaughter - In Your House: D-Generation X
Set up by DX going against then-commissioner Slaughter, Hunter was still not the major star he would be but doing okay as European champion. The match was meant to be a huge war but instead started off slowly, with various stalling and spots obviously meant to help out Slaughter, clearly overweight and blown up early. They tried to spark it up with Slaughter taking out the timekeeper and Hunter using a chain on him but it still wasn’t clicking. Chyna interfered to get powder thrown at her. Slaughter applied the Cobra Clutch slow before Chyna hit a low blow, letting Hunter get the Pedigree to win. This went 18 minutes and could have been cut in half easily, a bad bout made worse by being dragged out so long.
10 Chamber of Horrors - Halloween Havoc ‘91
On a segment of the online show “Are You Serious,” Road Dogg stated that “logic dictates if you put eight of WCW’s biggest stars in a cage, you get something good.” Josh Matthews retorted “You’re counting on WCW using logic, there’s your first mistake.” With Sting, Vader, the Steiners, Scott Hall as the Diamond Studd and others, this should have been a fantastic brawl, but leave it to WCW to add a needless stipulation.
The point of the match was to have an electric chair lowered from the ceiling into the ring, put your opponent into it and pull the lever. In one of their usual genius moves, the production team did a long close-up clearly showing the lever in the “on” position with no effect. Finally, Abdullah was in the chair, Cactus Jack flipped the switch and the lights flickered on and off as Abdullah shook in the chair and medics came down to carry him off. Still astounding this was put together, let alone a main event battle and how 1991 was a very poor year for WCW.
9 Team Doink vs. Team Lawler - Survivor Series '94
Recipe for disaster: Doink, comic relief character the fans loathed, meeting Jerry Lawler at the height of his arrogant heel reign. This led to Lawler challenging Doink to a match at Survivor Series, getting a crew of little guys called Sleazy, Squeasy and Cheesey taking on Doink, Dink, Wink and Pink. God help us. It was just Doink and Lawler doing one move, then letting the minis run in for goofy antics and making faces and just so damn annoying to see this getting serious PPV time.
The Doinks were all eliminated with Lawler taking credit and running his teammates down so they all ganged up to hit him in the face with a pie. Meanwhile, fans were trying to rip their own eyes out rather than subject themselves to this horrible display again.
8 Hayabusa vs Mr. Gannosuke - October 29th, 1999
The next time you rail on Vince Russo for filling perfectly good wrestling matches with idiotic gimmicks, keep in mind he can’t hold a candle to Japan. Yes, they have produced classic stuff but they have also given fans some of the most utterly insane battles ever produced. Nothing is bigger than this infamous war as the two men went at it over the rights to the masked identity of Hayabusa. It was a standard match for a while before the point of it came with Gannosuke handcuffing his opponent in the corner, then pulling down his pants to insert fireworks in his rectum. Yes, that was the real stipulation, setting them off with Hayabusa screaming as they went off. Pure insanity even by Japan’s standards and one of the nuttier stunts ever pulled.
7 Al Snow vs. Big Bossman, Kennel From Hell - Unforgiven '99
On a WWE Network special, Chris Jericho summed up “guys who come up with stuff like this make my head hurt.” To top off an insane feud that involved the Big Bossman making Al Snow eat his beloved dog Pepper (I’m not making that up), the two went at it in a steel cage surrounded by another cage with dogs wandering around the ring. They two fought but the attention was on how the dogs were more interested in just lounging around, crapping and even humping on camera. The match was just an ugly battle with Bossman handcuffing Snow to the ropes but Snow escaping to retain his Hardcore title despite nearly slipping on some pee on the floor. WWE themselves don’t hold back today calling it one of the worst gimmick battles of all time which says it all and why animals and wrestling don’t mix well.
6 Chaz Taylor vs. Steve Dane, Global Wrestling
In its first year, Global Wrestling offered actual hard-hitting action and classic angles and characters to draw fans in. Sadly, in 1992 they took a jump to the whackier that would soon put them out of business. Nothing highlighted it more than this ridiculous battle as Chaz and Dane were put into a small cage lifted 175 feet up in the air over the parking lot, attached to bungee cords. They “fought” which was just some mild punches and shoves as the cage was barely big enough to hold one guy, let alone two before Taylor grabbed Dance and sent him flying out, giving him the win. Chaz would then claim to have found a “moon rock” during his travels, just making this a total joke for a promising promotion.
5 Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior, Halloween Havoc ‘98
Fans had waited eight years for the rematch of these two and it was obvious how Pat Patterson had been so badly needed planning the first one. To his credit, Hogan has actually taken the blame for a lot of the bad stuff leading up to it and how he and Warrior never got to practice as much as they should have. Still, it was a horrible mess, the timing totally off on every move, juvenile tactics like rolling to your opponent and the bit of Hogan blowing a fireball that even Hogan has to laugh at being a joke.
WCW paid millions for the Warrior and all they got was this terrible battle ending with Hogan winning after interference from Horace to “get back the win” but most everyone involved agreeing that age and circumstances turned a much-dreamed of battle into one of the worst bouts even by WCW standards.
4 Dustin Rhodes vs. Blacktop Bully - Uncensored ‘95
For their attempt at “extreme” in 1995, WCW hit the bottom big time in terms of creativity. To start this wild match, you had Dustin and the Bully wrestle in a tractor trailer driving along the country road. Dumb enough but the execution was even worse as the match was pre-taped yet looked horrible with cuts to the copter and back, the two just brawling and throwing bales of hay and Bully blading but Turner had dictated no blood so the cameras had to cut away fast, making the action look even messier. It finally ended with Bully honking the horn at the end of the truck to win and he and Dustin were soon fired for the bleeding and still one of the more baffling encounters ever.
3 Mabel vs. Yokozuna - In Your House IV
Highlighting one of the lowest-ordered shows in WWE history, this terrible battle had Yokozuna and Mabel, two guys better known for their size than real in-ring ability. To call it slow is to do it a favor, just a lot of shuffling around, crushing their weight against each other and no real spots at all. It finally got to the outside with both guys counted out together after just five minutes which was about four minutes longer than either looked like they could have gone. Yet another reason 1995 was such a bad year for the company.
2 Jake Roberts & Yokozuna vs. Jim Neidhart & King Kong Bundy - Heroes of Wrestling
It makes total sense that what remains the worst PPV of all time could have one of the worst matches ever as its main event. It was going to be just Jake vs Neidhart but then Jake cut the now-infamous promo drunk out of his groud and using his snake in a suggestive manner toward fans. When it was obvious Jake was in no condition to perform, Yokozuna and Bundy were sent out to turn this into a sudden tag match. It did little good, all four having no chemistry in the ring and clashing that was just shoving around before Bundy hit Roberts with a splash to win despite Roberts not being the legal man but just swaying around. They then dragged the promoter into the ring for a Yoko splash and a DDT while Roberts began to undress as the show went off the air. A fitting end for such a wretched show.
1 Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage vs. Alliance to End Hulkamania - Uncensored ‘96
If you ever want a key example of Hulk Hogan’s ego run amok in WCW, this is it. Hogan and Savage set against the “Alliance” which was Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Z Gagnsta, the Ultimate Solution, Kevin Sullivan, Lex Luger, Meng and the Barbarian. It took place in a three-story cage with the idea of working your way down from one level to another but even the announcers had no clue what the rules were supposed to be. Oh and the cages had stuff like frying pans hanging around to use.
It’s far, far worse than it sounds, a total and complete mess with ugly brawling, the cages designed so you could barely see anything that was going on but what was seen was horrible. Not only that, there was no tension, Hogan & Savage clearly crushing their opponents despite being outnumbered four to one and just a lot of messy fighting with powder thrown on top of all else before Ed Leslie showed up to give the faces pans to use and then Luger turned sides to use a loaded glove and help them escape. One of the utterly worst PPV main events of all time and why fans loathe the early Hogan period of WCW so badly.