The most exciting form of storytelling in wrestling features the booking of feuds between interesting talents opposing each other. At the end of the day, fans pay to order PPVs or attend live shows in order to see the matches. Television was designed to build up to the big matches that get fans interested enough in tune into the important shows. Feuds are always hit or miss like anything else in wrestling and the payoff typically dictates why. Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels, Daniel Bryan and many others saw their “WrestleMania moments” become memorable due to being the culmination of a great feud.
Sadly, not all feuds have the same results due to the wrong person going over. The wrestling business features many variables that can ruin a great story. Politics or money may see a higher paid talent or someone that possesses more power backstage go over a more deserving talent. We’ll look at some of the tales of the worst moments in wrestling history featuring a bad decision being made at the end of a great story. The entire business could be different today if some of these happened to end differently. These are the top twenty times the wrong wrestlers came out on top of a feud.
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20 Triple H vs. Sting
The most recent instance of a big feud ending in disappointing fashion featured Sting making his WWE debut against Triple H. Wrestling fans waited decades to see Sting come to WWE but it didn’t happen until 2014. Sting finally arrived to take the war to Triple H and it culminated in an attraction match at WrestleMania 31. The story transitioned from Sting being a vigilante who was standing up for what’s right to another WCW vs. WWE rivalry.
History has taught us Vince McMahon has a strong stance on wanting WWE talent to look superior to anyone made in WCW. There was a slate of WCW main event stars that failed in WWE such as Scott Steiner, Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page. This was one of the reasons Sting showed a reluctance to make the jump and his fears were right. Sting lost his first WWE match and only WrestleMania bout to the heel in a decision that disappointed most fans. It was clearly the wrong decision and something that will always be remembered as having the wrong person win a feud.
19 Big Show vs. Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar got the better of Big Show at most points in their careers except the most important time. The Beast was undefeated for months heading into Survivor Series 2002 as the WWE Champion but took this first pinfall defeat to Big Show. Paul Heyman turned on Lesnar and aligned with Show. This was meant to put Brock over the top as a face and establish Heyman as his main villain but the timing was off.
Big Show has been granted many opportunities at trying to gain credibility as a main event performer but it always flopped. The first person to defeat Lesnar in a feud should not have been Show and it proved to be a wasted moment. You can only have an undefeated monster get defeated once and it shouldn’t have been by a lackluster midcarder. Show lost the title to Kurt Angle about a month later and was relegated down the card within two months.
18 Randy Savage vs. Diamond Dallas Page
One of the best feuds during the Monday Night Wars in WCW featured Randy Savage help make Diamond Dallas Page a credible main event face. Page developed momentum as a fan favorite but he was a long ways away from the top of the card before entering a program against Savage. Aside from Sting vs. Hulk Hogan, this was the best feud in the WCW vs. nWo war. They always had great matches and added a sense of realism through intensity.
The best moments featured Page earning an upset win at the start of the feud on PPV and dressing as La Parka to shock Savage for another win on an episode of Nitro. Savage ended up getting his revenge by winning the feud at Halloween Havoc 1997. Page only gained momentum and blossomed into a star but he clearly deserved to win the feud with the way the story played out. The New World Order continued to battle Page but he seemed to always take the loss against the heels.
17 Kevin Nash vs. Goldberg
Another interesting WCW feud that ended with the wrong person winning featured Goldberg facing off against Kevin Nash. Goldberg was the undefeated champion running the main event scene in WCW as the first homegrown star to break out in years. Nash turned face following the split of the New World Order, allowing him to lead the face Wolfpac version of the faction. The big man became a beloved figure thanks to microphone time and being away from Hulk Hogan.
Nash ended the streak at Starrcade 1998 thanks to interference by Scott Hall to win the title. Goldberg’s streak was ended in a silly manner and that wasn’t even the worst part. Nash would go on to lose the title weeks later by enduring the Fingerpoke of Doom to Hogan as a ruse in them forming the elite nWo. Why book Goldberg’s legendary streak to end if this was the plan? Something special ended in the most atrocious of ways and hurt his character and the company going forward.
16 Big Show vs. Sheamus
Sheamus' title reign in 2012 was designed to make him a star. Everything backfired from his WrestleMania XXVIII win over Daniel Bryan into a long reign of irrelevant matches against the likes of Alberto Del Rio and Chris Jericho. The late-year feud saw Sheamus surprisingly drop the World Championship to Big Show. No one would have expected WWE to drop their experiment of making a new star by having him lose to a veteran very few still cared about.
This was among the more bizarre feuds because they actually had great chemistry and delivered a few good matches. Unfortunately, the most memorable match in the series happened to be the worst of the bunch. Show defeated Sheamus in a Chairs Match by using a comically large steel chair at the TLC 2012 PPV. Sheamus definitely didn’t thrive as a World Champion but this was the wrong choice in ending his reign. Big Show winning a feud over a star in their prime is always a terrible decision booking wise.
15 Triple H vs. Booker T
Triple H will be the most frequent name on this list and we all know why. The reign of doom featured Triple H dominating the title picture on Raw from 2002 to 2006. His heel character grew stale and repetitive but he always managed to get the better out of the majority of faces challenging him. One of the biggest offenses featured Triple H’s feud with Booker T heading into WrestleMania XIX. Booker’s momentum grew to the point where fans wanted to see him become champ, so the match itself made sense.
The issue started with the story in play. Triple H implied a black person like Booker would never beat him and people like Booker are below him. The promos were so offensive that you assumed Booker had to win the title with no other option. How can you have a racist heel win the feud over the beloved face at the biggest show of the year? WWE managed to look like fools by having Triple H retain yet again and Booker was never able to get his revenge.
14 Randy Orton vs. Christian
Christian winning his first WWE World Championship in 2011 by defeating Alberto Del Rio for the vacant title was a special moment. Fans reacted accordingly to a star they’d watched for over a decade finally achieving the biggest dream of his career. The optimism ended abruptly as Christian lost the title to Randy Orton just days later on SmackDown and the two entered a long feud. They actually had great chemistry and delivered great matches but the results always disappointed.
Orton dominated the feud and won just about every singles match between the two. The only notable Christian win was due to spitting in Orton’s face and getting a DQ victory after Orton snapped. Orton still beat him following the match and got the upper hand every single time. The stale career of Orton and the great character work by Christian made it the right time to give Christian the feud victory, but instead he continued to get hit with the RKO out of nowhere.
13 Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage
Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage were the two greatest wrestling stars of the 80s and found themselves in various feuds over their careers. We have seen them both work the face and heel characters from each perspective but Savage never came out on top at the end of it. Their most memorable feud featured Hogan defeat Savage at WrestleMania V after Savage turned heel out of jealousy for assuming Hogan lusted after Miss Elizabeth.
Another instance took place in WCW with the face Savage challenging the newly turned heel Hollywood Hogan and the nWo. Savage once again looked like the fool by having Hogan easily win the feud like old times. The talent and star power of Savage deserved to be elevated at some point over Hogan in one of their many feuds. Hogan’s political power in both companies likely stopped it from happening and that could be a reason why Savage spent a large part of his life despising The Hulkster.
12 Kurt Angle vs. Samoa Joe
The signing of Kurt Angle by TNA in 2006 was the most exciting time in company history. Rising stars like Samoa Joe provided optimism for the future of TNA and a star like Angle becoming the face of the franchise was perfect. Angle and Joe was a dream match for years with both men at the top of their game around the time the signing was made. TNA didn’t wait long enough to build up such an important match and made it Angle’s first program.
Joe suffered his first loss in TNA by losing to Angle in their dream match battle. They would exchange wins until Angle won the feud in an Iron Man Match. The matches were highly entertaining and lived up to expectations, but it hurt Joe’s career. Everyone expected Joe to become the next big champion but his push was stalled following the losses to Angle. The two stars continued to feud for years through different eras, but Joe never looked equal to Angle following the first feud ended.
11 JBL vs. Eddie Guerrero
Eddie Guerrero’s main event push in 2004 is remembered fondly by wrestling fans for finally getting to see the supremely talented veteran get his chance as a top guy. Guerrero defeated Brock Lesnar to win the WWE Championship and scored a huge victory over Kurt Angle at WrestleMania to retain the title. It made no sense why JBL of all people was the one to win the belt off of Guerrero. Bradshaw was a lifelong midcarder and received an instant push into the title picture after a character change.
JBL represented a wealthy arrogant heel that Vince McMahon loves in a heel gimmick. The title change occurred just a few months following the character’s debut and JBL held it for almost an entire year. Eddie was moved out of the main event scene and continued to have stellar matches in the upper midcard. SmackDown started to go downhill with JBL as the champion and there’s no doubt the show would have been better with Guerrero on top.
10 John Cena vs. Edge
The best feud of 2006 featured John Cena getting his first true rival as a main event World Champion. Edge was the first man to use the Money in the Bank contract and used it to end Cena’s first title reign at New Year’s Revolution 2006. The title change was shocking and provided huge entertainment value. Raw’s ratings spiked big time on the night after the title change and numbers were up with Edge.
WWE didn’t want to stray away from their Cena vs. Triple H main event for WrestleMania 22 and that forced Edge to drop the title back to Cena after just a few weeks. The two feuded again later in the year with many great PPV matches. Their feud ended with Cena winning an epic TLC Match in Edge’s home of Canada. The work Edge delivered at that time was extremely special and they should have gone with him getting the win over Cena in their feud.
9 Alberto Del Rio vs. Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler is currently in WWE purgatory as a talented wrestler that no one cares about. It feels like it's been decades since Ziggler was last relevant but it wasn’t too long ago that fans absolutely adored him. Ziggler cashed in Money in the Bank to become World Champion defeating Alberto Del Rio on the night after WrestleMania 29. The incredible moment resulted in arguably the biggest pop in wrestling history.
Fans hoped this would lead into Ziggler becoming the new big star in WWE but a concussion destroyed any chance he had. Ziggler missed some time with the injury and dropped the title right back to Del Rio in his first PPV defense. The two feuded for quite some time but Del Rio came out the victor. This led to fans starting to lose faith in Ziggler and becoming apathetic towards Alberto. Both men would have been better off if Ziggler went over and continued his title reign rather than going back to a stale Del Rio.
8 Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Orton
The occasional returns of Hulk Hogan to WWE through the years always gave fans a good moment but it didn’t do much for the rest of the roster. One of the worst occasions took place in 2006 when Hogan wrestled his big match of the year against Randy Orton. The story of the past vs. the future usually culminates with the younger talent pulling off the victory at the end of the feud.
Hogan used his political power and star value to force WWE to give him the win once again. Orton looked silly losing to a 53-year-old but Hogan had to go over as usual. Following the win, Hogan left the company and had a falling out, demanding more money for a WrestleMania appearance the next year. WWE needed Orton to look credible as he entered a bigger position in the company going forward but the loss to Hogan harmed the way he was viewed. Hogan refusing to do business the right way caused another instance of the wrong man winning a feud.
7 The Rock vs. Mick Foley
One of the best feuds of The Attitude Era took place through many violent matches involving The Rock and Mick Foley. The wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat captured the moment of Foley getting hit in the head eleven times with a steel chair by The Rock and Foley’s kids crying in the crowd while watching their dad get brutalized. That just represented how all fans felt watching the matches as Rock won the feud through brutal means.
Foley became a tremendous sympathetic figure and fans rallied behind him during that time frame. The Rock was obviously a bigger star with a higher ceiling but the flow of the story should have presented a different outcome. Foley should have won his feud with Rock and moved into a triple threat match with Rock and Steve Austin at WrestleMania XV. The match would have been more dynamic and the story would have been pulled off better with Foley winning his feud over Rock in 1999.
6 Triple H vs. Chris Jericho
Triple H’s heel work in 2000 was on another level, as he matured into an overall great performer. The loss of Steve Austin for the majority of the year with a neck injury forced everyone to step their game up. Chris Jericho was one of the names to become popular and make a name in WWE. A fateful episode of Raw gave us an insight into Jericho’s popularity when he seemingly defeated Triple H to win the WWE Championship.
The title change was a bait and switch and the decision was reversed. Jericho still gained a lot of credibility that night showing just how much fans cared about him. The feud stemmed from Jericho hilariously insulting Stephanie McMahon on a weekly basis and making Triple H his new enemy. Both men got the best out of each other and entered many great battles. Triple H came out on top at the end every time but Jericho had more momentum that was more or less squandered.
5 Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart
The hatred between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart backstage led to magical television. We could see how much they genuinely disliked each other and it made the storytelling that played out on Raw become far more realistic than what was the norm. The in-ring talent of both men was very similar in terms of bringing a more athletic style than the big man but their differences in personalities caused friction.
There reached a point where WWE was no longer big enough for Michaels and Hart. Vince McMahon ended up deciding to let Bret go due to his contract being too much and the company headed in a new direction. Their final encounter came at Survivor Series 1997 where both men refused to do the job. Hart was leaving for WCW following the show and McMahon made the drastic decision to “screw” him out of the title. The Montreal Screwjob lives on forever but Bret definitely should have won the feud. Michaels had jumped the shark on screen and was a huge jerk backstage at that point. Steve Austin or Ken Shamrock would have been a better option to defeat Hart anyway.
4 Sheamus vs. Daniel Bryan
We all remember the horrible moment at WrestleMania XXVIII that saw Sheamus defeat Daniel Bryan in 18 seconds to win the World Championship. It’s no secret that Vince McMahon never truly saw Bryan as a top star until the end and it was showcased here with Bryan suffering the humiliating loss on the biggest stage. This led to fan revolt in changing the futures of both men involved.
Fans rallied behind Bryan for being mistreated and cheered for him to get a bigger push until it actually happened. On the other end, Sheamus’ career went downhill with the crowd resenting him for his role in the match. The feud continued with most of the live audiences leaning towards favoring Bryan in the matches. Sheamus retained the title in a classic 2 Out Of 3 Falls Match at Extreme Rules but it was the wrong decision. A double turn with Bryan winning could have saved Sheamus’ relevancy and given us more years of Bryan being a main event face.
3 John Cena vs. Wade Barrett
A young wrestler getting the opportunity to wrestle John Cena is usually a great thing for their careers. Kevin Owens recently debuting on the main roster in a trio of matches against Cena caused him to become a big deal in WWE. This isn’t always the case and you can ask Wade Barrett for the proof. The Nexus was the hottest angle in the company with Barrett as their leader. Barrett had huge potential and had a few high profile matches against Cena.
Anyone with a brain would have had Barrett win the feud through nefarious means to become the top heel in the business, but Cena, of course, went over at the end. Barrett’s career trajectory no longer looked like a future world champion as he quickly declined into just another guy on the show. WWE never was able to develop Barrett into a top guy and he recently left the company out of frustration. You can’t help but wonder how different his career would have played out with a win over Cena.
2 nWo vs. WCW
The hottest angle in WCW history featured Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan leading an invasion. Everyone was fascinated by the introduction of the New World Order trying to take over the company. It was unlike anything else in the business and delivered highly entertaining content every week. The problem is the nWo become too strong. The heels won the majority of matches to stay dominant and they ended up making the WCW roster look like weak goofs by proxy.
Aside from Sting, Goldberg, Lex Luger and Diamond Dallas Page, anyone wrestling the nWo would get destroyed. This led to most of the roster petitioning to join the faction and the group adding too many members. The angle that delivered the most success to WCW also helped cause the company’s demise. Politics and greed started to poison WCW and the angle that should lead to the home promotion eventually winning instead saw heels continue to go over until it was no longer relevant.
1 Triple H vs. CM Punk
WWE’s squandering of CM Punk’s momentum in 2011 goes down in the history books among the biggest failures in modern wrestling history. The worst part of the booking saw Punk lose the title to Alberto Del Rio thanks to Kevin Nash attacking him. Sloppy booking took the championship off of Punk to set up a program against Triple H. The real life drama between the two played out on camera with intense promos setting up a huge match.
The semi-retired Triple H made his return to the ring just to beat Punk and the feud ended right there. They ended up making peace on camera and teamed against R-Truth and The Miz. Punk would go on to win the title again with a yearlong reign as champion but it just wasn’t the same as his red hot summer. The loss harmed Punk’s momentum and made him look lesser than Triple H. One of the major reasons Punk walked out on WWE was due to his continued hatred of Triple H and not wanting to work with him again as planned in 2014.
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