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
This isn’t as terrible as so many of the other matches on this list but does have to rank as a pretty bad one. Indeed, Triple H and Orton themselves have said the match was marred from the start. First of all, they had the unenviable task of following the HBK/Undertaker classic and both knew there was no way in hell they could top that masterpiece. More importantly, they both admit that the stipulation of Hunter losing the title if he was disqualified was completely stupid. It turned what should have been an all-out war into a highly neutered affair and the slow pace hurt the overall battle. You could tell the two weren’t able to get into it as well as they should have, trying for something epic but could never quite make it. Triple H ended up getting the pin to retain but when the two main participants openly admit how much of a letdown a match was, you know it’s pretty damn bad.
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.
The problem with Styles as a heel is that his entire offense is based around face moves like the Spiral Tap and such while Abyss is more the natural heel with his power attacks. So fans were not into the dynamics, cheering Styles on as they fought it out and Hogan and Flair naturally inserting themselves into it. Abyss choke slammed Styles right through the ring as Hogan maced Flair like any good face would. That led to the utterly insane bit of Flair staggering around and then Wolfe being maced and tripping over Flair to fall into the hole. A perfectly good TNA match ruined by unneeded antics, a clear parable for the entire company.
18 Kurt Angle vs. Mark Henry, 2006 Royal Rumble
Angle had made a surprise jump from RAW to Smackdown to win the vacated World Heavyweight Championship in a battle royal, eliminating Henry to win so this did make sense from a storyline point. But putting it on last after both the Rumble and the Cena/Edge title rematch didn’t. Henry just dominated throwing Angle around and overpowering him with slams and such, Angle got some weak offense but Henry was in control. But then the ref was bumped so Angle used a chair and an exposed turnbuckle to weaken Henry enough to get a roll-up for the pin. Short and sour, the only reason this was on last was so the Undertaker could make a surprise return and “destroy” the ring with lightning, something fans wish he’d done before the match began.
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.
Show then just went over to tear the lock and chain off the door and walk out but JBL had managed to recover enough to crawl from under the ring to the outside. A lame finish to a match that never lived up to its cool gimmick and a good thing JBL’s reign was soon to end.
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.
A typical nWo beat down ensued until Sting swung in to save the day. Clearly, this was last just to justify the Hogan run-in and a sign of how the reliance on the nWo was starting to go bad.
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.
It was just an ugly brawl with Hogan, the hero, choking Butcher with a wire and biting him in the head. We had a sleeper, of all things, but Hogan didn’t even bother selling it before knocking Butcher down, Hulking Up, hitting the big boot and leg drop and then the pin. Butcher’s allies would come in and Randy Savage made his WCW debut by helping Hogan fight them off. In one swoop, WCW turned into the very circus they’d long been the opposite of and would lead to more rough times in the years ahead.
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.
Oh and of course Punk was the first eliminated. Also, the heels were working together which sort of defeats the “every man for himself” concept of the Chamber. Then RVD undone by Test and eventually it was Lashley versus Big Show, two musclemen, which is the opposite of what ECW was about. A bout that sums up just how horrible the entire WWE version of ECW really was.
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?
The idea was to start fighting in the top cage and work their way to the exit on the bottom. The key issue was that the fans couldn’t see a damn thing thanks to how high the cages were and their desig. It was soon clear that despite being outnumbered eight to two, Hogan and Savage were totally dominating, smashing the heels down and no-selling their offense as they moved down the cages and the announcers having to claim this was something sensational to watch. You couldn’t tell what was happening as they moved from the cages to the ring and back and Ed Leslie entering to give the faces FRYING PANS to use as Luger suddenly turned face, attacking Flair and Savage pinning Flair despite the fact they had to leave the cage to win. A complete and utter cluster-frak on every level you can imagine and amazing that this was just a few months before Hall and Nash arrived to transform everything.
12 Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Lawrence Taylor, Wrestlemania XI
Just barely behind IX as the worst WrestleMania of all time, this show had some good points (the HBK/Diesel match) but far, far more bad. Nothing sums that up more than the fact that the main event had a WWE mid-carder facing a retired football player over a goofy grudge. Pat Patterson, of all people, was the ref as Taylor came out with forearms and for a guy who could handle major NFL games, he seemed tired out fast, blowing obvious cues and Bigelow trying to do all that was possible to put him over. The crowd reaction was rough to say the least and failed to get better as it went along. In the end, Taylor hit a flying forearm for the pin to put to bed arguably the worst Mania main event of all time.
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.
It was a complete debacle, guys just fighting with no real cause, the team concept thrown out the window and without that, the match had no real flow to it. Hogan arrived to hit everyone with a slapjack but didn’t go for the pin. Instead, he waited for Ultimate Warrior to appear in a cloud of smoke then vanish in the same smoke to appear in the aisle (they actually got the Renegade back to pull this goofy stunt). Warrior then kicked down the cage wall, wrecking the point of having a cage in the first place, brawling with Hogan in the aisle where Warrior managed to twist his ankle and tear a bicep in the brawl. Everyone else was laid out but DDP rose to hit a Diamond Cutter on Stevie Ray to get the pin. In typical WCW fashion, Tony Schiavone boasted of the great event while the crowd obviously booed it hard and showed how WCW could manage to ruin anything.
10 John Cena vs. John Laurinatis, Over the Limit 2012
Let’s put this in perspective. You had CM Punk versus Daniel Bryan on this show and this was the main event. One of the most ridiculous feuds WWE has even given us led to this insane battle with Johnny Ace coming out in a full armor suit before Cena beat him down and then an airplane spin. Okay, the bit of them in the commentary booth was funny but then we had two STFs, water bottles, a fire extinguisher and then Johnny got some actual offense with low blows and brawling. We had more near escapes before Cena got Johnny into the AA only for Big Show to punch him and let Ace get the pin. Just incredible that WWE decided to put this on as the main event of an otherwise decent show, a pure comedy match with a lame finish that sent everyone home angry.
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.
Bret Hart came out and somehow got to restart it as Sting attacked Hogan, got him in the Scorpion Deathlock and Bret saying Hogan submitted. Sure, the fans cheered but nowhere near the pop had this been the massive clean victory it should have been. In one swoop, WCW killed off Sting’s credibility, helped Hogan look good and began their demise.
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.
There was talk of a “royal plan” that was basically just Mabel crushing Diesel in the corner and punches and no-selling any attacks he gave while taking quite obvious breathers including lying on Diesel yet somehow it was called a chinlock by Vince on commentary. Mo and Lex Luger would interfere with Mabel dropping a leg on Diesel on the outside and rolling him in but couldn’t get the pin. He missed a splash as Diesel hit what could quite generously be called a flying forearm off the second rope for the pin. You could feel the crowd dying as it went on and watching it today makes you amazed that WWE survived that year at all.
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.
A terrible bout that enhanced an already wretched card.
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.
To be fair, Hogan and DDP did their best to handle things and Kevin Eubanks actually showed more skill than half the guys in the ring. But that doesn’t excuse the moment of Jay Leno tagging in and slapping an armbar on Hogan for a minute. Chris Jericho loves to talk about seeing that, realizing they were doing it just so the newspapers could have a photo of Leno manhandling one of the biggest stars in wrestling and being ashamed of the business. Leno would do a low blow and pound on Bischoff before Eubanks hit a Diamond Cutter to let Jay get the pin. The nWo attacked but Goldberg (the man who should have been headlining any card at this time) made the save and we ended with Leno celebrating with the other faces. A moment that sadly sums up WCW in so many ways.
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.
Out came DiBiase’s Taker then Bearer flashing a spotlight from his urn to reveal the real Undertaker who, by being about six inches taller, was the obvious real deal. The match was horrible and slow before Taker pinned his double to end it. Believe it or not, this was the first-ever event held at the United Center in Chicago and not quite the best way to kick off such a grand arena.
4 Paul E Dangerously and Arn Anderson vs. Rick Steiner and Missy Hyatt, Great American Bash 1991
This show is infamous for how WCW fired Ric Flair just days beforehand, leaving them in the lurch when he jumped to WWE with the WCW World Title Belt. Contrary to popular opinion, no, Luger beating Windham for the vacant title was not the main event. Instead, for God knows what reason, WCW decided to put this on last. Arn looked about as happy as you’d expect having to go work for the company that just fired his best friend and then Dick Slater and Dick Murdoch came out to kidnap Missy for no real reason. It was a total mess, obviously rushed with Steiner clotheslining Dangerously for the pin and Jim Ross talking about how they were almost out of time. How this went on last is wild but sadly fitting for such a botched PPV.
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.
The Dudleyz just beat on Taker with stuff and even a sleeper hold before Taker finally beat them both down, Tombstoning D-Von for the win. Then he marched to Heyman and drove him back with a bolt of lightning before yanking the switch to drown his beloved manager. A bad match and then murder? Yep, no wonder this was voted the worst PPV of 2004.
2 Jim Neidhart and King Kong Bundy vs. Jake Roberts and Yokozuna, Heroes of Wrestling
It makes sense that arguably the worst wrestling PPV of all time had a horrid main event. It was going to be two separate matches but before his bout with Neidhart, Jake cut a promo where he was quite obviously heavily drunk (and when Jake Roberts actually LOOKED drunk, you knew it was bad) and then staggered out and used his python to make lewd gestures. Realizing they were looking at a disaster (not that the entire card hadn’t already been that way) the promoters sent Bundy and Yokozuna to combine their bout with this for a tag team match. To call it terrible is to do an injustice to terrible matches. It finally ended with Bundy splashing Roberts to pin him despite Roberts not being the legal man in the ring. A fitting end to the most atrocious PPV the business has ever seen.
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.