Believe it or not, there was a time when pay-per-view was not a huge thing in wrestling. It rose slowly from closed-circuit broadcasts to taking advantage of the growing reliance of viewers on cable to come across. Up until the mid-90s, it was used sparingly in wrestling. WWE had the Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam and Survivor Series. WCW had Starrcade, the Great American Bash, Halloween Havoc and SuperBrawl. It was Eric Bischoff who kicked up the standard for a PPV every month and WWE responded to it. ECW would get into the game and TNA started off by trying weekly PPVs and eventually the standard monthly ones a couple of years later. Since then, they have become the backbone of the business and something fans accept as a key part of things.
They are vital to the business, the way companies really make money and thus something to build up to. Over the decades, we’ve seen plenty of classic PPVs, cards stacked top to bottom with great matches and winning people over. We’ve also seen cards that are utterly horrific and make folks demand refunds. And then there are cases of average shows but a great main event to make up for it and send folks home happy. Which brings us to this: PPVs with main events that are just terrible. Some come off good cards, others bad ones, some are just letdowns due to the talent and build involved while others are truly atrocious. Here are the 20 worst bouts a PPV has ever ended on and make fans feel more than a little gypped at how things end up.
20 Triple H vs. Randy Orton, WrestleMania 25
19 AJ Styles vs. Abyss, Destination X 2010
The problem with this match wasn’t that the two guys couldn’t work well together, they could. The problem was that it wasn’t about AJ or Abyss, it was about Hogan and Flair. Despite being more over than anyone else in the company at the time, Styles was forced to turn heel, unsuited for it, and emulate Ric Flair. Abyss was then mentored by Hogan, including the idiotic bit of Hogan granting him his WWE Hall of Fame ring and suddenly giving Abyss power. So we had two TNA guys as stand-ins for two older stars and that led to an ugly main event.
18 Kurt Angle vs. Mark Henry, 2006 Royal Rumble
17 JBL vs. Big Show, No Way Out 2005
This was coming on the tail end of JBL’s long WWE title reign as everyone knew he was going to drop the belt to Cena at WrestleMania. So for his final blowout, they had him and Big Show go at it in a cage surrounded with barbed wire. This was meant to be a brutal and bloody affair but just came off as rather dull. They were bloodied early and the crowd chanting “RVD” shows how much they were into this. Orlando Jordan and the Bashams tried to cut through the cage but were ordered away but Jordan threw bolt cutters to JBL to use as a weapon. He used the cutters to clip some wire away so he could climb the cage but Show caught him and choke slammed him off the cage and through the ring.
16 Lex Luger vs. Randy Savage, Souled Out ‘98
Coming off the debacle of Starrcade, WCW needed something good to win fans back. Instead, they had this. The issue was that right before the match we had a truly great Bret Hart/Ric Flair match that easily could have been the main event but WCW decided on this instead. It was just a mess brawl with them in the audience but little real heat, hitting forearms and axe handles before Scott Hall and Hogan came out. Hall accidentally hit Savage so Luger got the Rack for the win.
15 Hulk Hogan vs. The Butcher, Starrcade ‘94
This was when it became obvious to everyone that Hogan’s ego was starting to take over in WCW. After sending Flair into “retirement,” Hogan pulled out the old idea of a good friend turning on him, in this case Ed Leslie, better known as Brutus Beefcake. And so the biggest card in WCW was headlined by Hogan defending the world title against a life-long mid-carder. You’d think two guys who’d known each other so long could work a decent match but you would be wrong.
14 Extreme Elimination Chamber, December to Dismember
The word is that Paul Heyman broke down in tears following this PPV and you can hardly blame him. CM Punk, Lashley, Big Show, Rob Van Dam, Test and Hardcore Holly, mostly established WWE guys were put in a Chamber in front of a crowd already pissed about the ugly show this had been. The idea was the Chamber could have weapons used in it with Test hitting Punk (the only guy clearly over with the crowd) with it to no reaction.
13 Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage vs. Alliance to End Hulkamania, Uncensored ‘96
If you ever want to see just how bad Hulk Hogan’s ego was in WCW, look no further. It was Hogan and Savage against eight guys that included Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and Zeus from “No Holds Barred.” It was a triple deck cage bout and no one had any idea how this match was going to work until literally minutes before the show started. Can’t you just feel the confidence building?
12 Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Lawrence Taylor, Wrestlemania XI
11 War Games, Fall Brawl 98
How do you screw up War Games? How do you take the coolest team wrestling match concept and turn it into a total mess? Well, in 1998 WCW sure answered that question as it was set up with three teams, WCW, nWo Hollywood and nWo Wolfpack and the idea that the guy who got the first fall could challenge Goldberg at Halloween Havoc and for the first time, it could end by pinfall and at any time, ruining the damn concept of the match.
10 John Cena vs. John Laurinatis, Over the Limit 2012
9 Sting vs. Hulk Hogan, Starrcade '97
The reason for the high ranking isn’t so much the quality as what it represents. This was supposed to be the night WCW put WWE down once and for all. Instead, it began the company’s slow, sad decline. For 14 months…14 MONTHS…WCW had brilliantly built up Sting stalking Hogan and the New World Order, adopting his Crow persona and ready to face Hogan. Rather than rush it, Eric Bischoff took his time to build suspense and ready for the huge payoff. Any newcomer could have booked the obvious; Sting completely demolishing Hogan big time en route to winning the WCW title. It was the only logical way to do it, you couldn’t screw it up.
But WCW did. Sting just walked out instead of a dramatic entrance and instead of a beat-down, Hogan dominated the bout totally, Sting missed a Stinger Splash as you could feel the crowd heat dying as the dream encounter fizzled before their eyes. Finally, Hogan hit the big boot and the leg drop and Nick Patrick made the three count to stun everyone. The announcers tried to say it was a fast count but quite obviously, it wasn’t, it was regular and thus Sting lost.
8 Diesel vs. Mabel, SummerSlam ‘95
Much has been written of the horrible state of WWE in 1995 but it might be a bit hard to blame it all on Diesel as champion. The guy had potential but was marred by horrible booking and trying too hard to be a babyface which didn’t suit him well. As proof, here is “King” Mabel, a guy elevated to main event status simply by being so huge and somehow, Vince McMahon thought this would make him a great contender.
7 Hulk Hogan vs. Vader, Uncensored ‘95
High on the list of horrible PPVs (even by WCW standards), this show was highlighted by a main event that boggles the mind. It was to be a strap match between Hogan and Vader with Ric Flair coming out followed by…okay, stay with me here. For weeks Hogan had boasted of “The Ultimate Surprise” with an outline of a guy in tassels so naturally everyone assumed it was Ultimate Warrior. Instead, out came the Renegade and the fan reaction to this obvious poser was poor to say the least.
The match was a true mess with a masked man coming to attack Hogan, Renegade pounding on Flair, no ref despite the obvious rules of a strap match, wooden chairs popping up out of nowhere and Hogan winning by…tying Flair to the strap and hitting the corners. Then the Masked Man comes out again but attacks Flair as it turns out it was Savage replacing Arn Anderson in the back.
6 Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff vs. DDP and Jay Leno, Road Wild 1998
Jay Leno in the main event of a wrestling PPV. Just let that sink in. While WWE was kicking ass in ratings, creative and stars, WCW’s genius idea was to have a main event headlined by a 50-year-old talk show host. It did make sense this took place at the annual PPV that was basically free for bikers as asking a paying audience to take this would have been too much. You knew it was going to be bad but it still didn’t help deal with the atrocity of having Bischoff’s ego running wild with Leno involved.
5 Undertaker vs. Undertaker, SummerSlam '94
This one is just ridiculous. This card had a truly fantastic steel cage match between Bret and Owen Hart that was totally logical as the main event and would have been a fantastic capper. But WWE instead went with this debacle, the finale to the “grand storyline” of Ted DiBiase supposedly having The Undertaker but Paul Bearer insisting the real Taker was coming. The storyline was “highlighted” by Leslie Nielsen going around in search of Taker.
4 Paul E Dangerously and Arn Anderson vs. Rick Steiner and Missy Hyatt, Great American Bash 1991
3 Undertaker vs. The Dudley Boyz, Great American Bash 2004
How this was the main event alone is baffling. There was a perfectly good Eddie Guerrero/JBL bullrope title match yet somehow WWE decided to have this as the topper for the PPV. The idea was the Dudleyz kidnapping Paul Bearer and Paul Heyman forcing The Undertaker to ally with them. This set up a handicap match with Bearer enclosed in a glass case that was set to fill with cement at the flip of a switch by Heyman. Rather than, say, attack Heyman, Undertaker fought the Dudleyz in an incredibly bad match with Heyman pouring cement in at random moments. Oh, by the way, the cement bits were taped earlier and leaked online before the show to give away the result.
2 Jim Neidhart and King Kong Bundy vs. Jake Roberts and Yokozuna, Heroes of Wrestling
1 Jeff Hardy vs. Sting Victory Road 2011
All the matches on this list have at least one thing going for them; they all lasted longer than two minutes. Which is why this atrocity tops them all. Reportedly, TNA officials knew Hardy was in rough shape before the match yet no idea it was this bad until he came stumbling out after a minute and clearly high as hell. Now, a sane company would have done their best to pull off some other idea like an “attack” on Hardy and needing a substitute or making it a triple threat match with someone else to cover for him. Anything but what we got. Instead, Eric Bischoff came down to talk to Hardy, Sting and the ref, clearly telling each of them how this was going to go down.
Sting and Hardy circled, threw punches, Sting hit the Scorpion Death Drop and got the pin, obviously holding Hardy down for real to keep him from kicking out. That was it. In less than 90 seconds, Sting beat Hardy, fans just staring in disbelief, unable to adjust to the fact that a modern-day wrestling promotion actually put on such a short main event for a PPV. The fans chanted “bulls***” with Sting yelling out “I agree” as he walked out and Hardy just sitting in the ring as if he expected the match to continue. It was one of the worst moves by the company and the very idea of putting it on as the main event of a PPV ensures it tops this list.
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