When it’s good, a professional wrestling match can be a thing of beauty; captivating, impressive, and even emotional. But when it’s bad...oh man, is it bad. Sometimes a bad match might just be boring. Sometimes it can be very disappointing if the audience expected more. And sometimes it can make you downright embarrassed for even watching the product. While pro wrestling is hardly perfect today, you can’t really criticize the in-ring work. From the WWE, to the independents, to Japan, the quality of wrestling hasn’t been this good since, maybe ever.
But sadly, it wasn’t always this way. After a golden era of in-ring work ended in the WWE in the early 2000s, the rest of the decade was left desperately wanting more. And sadly, with a few exceptions, most promotions around the world experienced a similar nadir. There were great matches, of course. But there were also some stinkers. A lot of them. There were so many worthy candidates for “worst of the decade” that didn’t even make this list: Hulk Hogan (as Mr. America) against Roddy Piper on SmackDown in 2003, a botch-laden RAW match between Mickie James and Gail Kim, a handful of matches from the short-lived WWA promotion, and any one of the six-thousand-four-hundred-and-eighty-seven matches between Big Show and Kane. But to make it on this list, a match had to be either a crushing disappointment or so brutally awful as to make you question every decision you made in your life that led to watching such an abomination.
Read on and re-discover 20 matches since 2000 we wish we could forget.
20 Hulk Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels - SummerSlam 2005
It’s unlikely anybody can contend with Hulk Hogan for having had the most terrible main event matches ever (maybe Luger). But Hogan has been carried to good --even great-- matches in his career and if there’s one man who could carry a 52-year-old Hulkster to a great match, it would be Shawn Michaels. Unfortunately, in the summer of 2005, Michaels didn’t feel like doing that. Instead, Michaels decided to channel the sarcastic, disrespectful, and unprofessional Shawn Michaels of the 1990s. HBK bumped like crazy for Hogan. But not in a good way. Michaels bounced around the ring in ridiculous fashion, falling over in overly dramatic ways, and pulling silly faces.
It was very disappointing for fans eager to see the first ever (and only) one-on-one match between the two. But to be honest, if the match had been promoted as, “Watch Shawn Michaels be a goof,” it would actually have been pretty satisfying.
19 Torrie Wilson vs. Dawn Marie - No Mercy 2002
Late 2002/early 2003 is remembered as a golden period for SmackDown. While RAW was focused on horrendous and trashy angles and gimmicks such as Katie Vick and H.L.A., SmackDown, under the stewardship of Paul Heyman, was presenting excellent professional wrestling, largely on the back of “the SmackDown Six.” But what people often forget is that SmackDown was not immune to trash, and the trashiest, hottest garbage angle of them all, was the feud between Dawn Marie and Torrie Wilson. The feud centered around Dawn Marie pursuing Torrie’s father, Al.
Al Wilson was not an actor nor a wrestler, just a regular dude, and he was awful. And the story line was awful. And the matches were awful. And the one at No Mercy 2002 was the worst. Featuring no small amount of hair pulling, a roll-around-spot with the referee (hahaha, that’s so funny), and some awful strikes, this match sucked. The finish was sloppy, came out of nowhere. Torrie won and nobody cared.
18 The Undertaker vs. The Big Show (The Punjabi Prison Match) - Great American Bash 2006
The Punjabi Prison Match went through a lot of changes from its first inception by then-WWE writer Court Bauer. Bauer’s initial idea for a new, innovative, and frightening match was twisted and altered until we got the lame idea and structure we saw at the Great American Bash 2006. What’s worse is that the man whose signature match it was supposed to be, The Great Khali, was pulled from the card at the last minute due to elevated liver enzymes. Thus, Big Show was put into the match, even though he had nothing to do with the storyline.
Neither Show nor The Undertaker were in the best shape of their careers at this point and the match concept was confusing and lame. It was a total a clustermuck from start to finish. There would only ever be one more Punjabi Prison Match, between Khali and Batista a year later, and, shockingly, that match didn’t suck.
17 TNA Knockouts Makeover Battle Royal Match - Sacrifice 2008
The Knockouts Makeover Battle Royal marks TNA’s first appearance on this list. TNA has been a joke for the majority of its existence, but when criticizing TNA, the one thing nearly everybody has always qualified, no matter the time period, is that it’s not the talent’s fault. TNA has always had capable wrestlers, even some great ones, but they never figured out how to consistently write good storylines for them. The chief culprit here is Vince Russo. Russo loved thinking up complicated and nonsensical matches, and the Knockouts Makeover Battle Royal is a great example of this. The match involved 10 women, only one of whom, Kim, was a great worker.
It started out as a battle royal -- a normal one (not like the one we’ll see later). Then, when it got down to the final two, it became a ladder match for some reason. The finalists were Kim and Roxxi Laveaux. The match involved lots of interference from Angelina Love and Velvet Sky and Laveaux getting her head cut open accidentally. Kim won the match and with it the number one contender’s spot and Laveaux got her head shaved, for some reason.
16 Jamie Noble vs. Nidia (Blindfold Match)- No Way Out 2004
At WrestleMania VII, Jake the Snake Roberts fought Rick “The Model” Martel in a “blindfold” match. The match was not great. And never mind that they actually were wearing bags over their heads and not blindfolds, but, it wasn’t awful. There was a certain charm to it, given the characters in the match and the WWE’s more cartoonish, child-focused product at the time. However, we only ever needed one blindfold match. And we definitely didn’t need one in 2004 as part of the awful Jamie Noble vs. Nidia feud.
The WWE certainly wasn’t PG at this time, still rehashing pathetic attempts to be as “edgy” as they were in the Attitude Era, so a hokey gimmick like a blindfold match was never going to go over well. Additionally, it was a man vs. woman fight, something that many fans are just uncomfortable with. It was just the recipe for a crap match, which it was. What’s saddest of all is that Jamie Noble is a actually a very good wrestler, but he was forever being saddled with garbage like this during his time in WWE.
15 Teddy Long vs. Eric Bischoff - Survivor Series 2005
Do you know what happens when you place two people who aren’t wrestlers into a wrestling match? You get an awful match. It’s astounding that some people in professional wrestling still haven’t figured that out. At Survivor Series 2005, we got a truly atrocious bout between Teddy Long and Eric Bischoff. Teddy Long danced around and gestured to an uninterested crowd while Bischoff tried to hit him with his oh so impressive karate kicks. Bischoff eventually got the upper hand when Palmer Cannon (remember him? Yeah, nobody does) distracted the two referees (one from each brand), which makes no sense because he should have been helping Long.
Long then hit Bischoff with a shoe and then The Boogeyman came down and attacked Bischoff for some reason and for some other reason, this didn’t constitute a disqualification and Long won. Just awful. The only saving grace was that you expected garbage from this match, and it delivered.
14 Steel Asylum Xscape Match - TNA Impact January 4, 2010
January 4, 2010, was arguably the biggest night in TNA’s history. A special Monday edition of Impact aired featuring Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff’s debut. And what was the very first thing we see on this momentous edition of Impact? A Steel Asylum Xscape match. This big red structure assaulted the eyes and made it hard to see what was going on the ring. And what was going on was stupid. After a few minutes, Homicide pulled out a baton and hit everybody with it. Homicide then took forever to climb up the awkward, curved cage, which made no sense considering the match was over.
And then, Jeff Hardy, who at the time was truly one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling and easily TNA’s biggest steal from WWE, just showed up -- with no advanced promotion. And he wasn't even in the main event, but in the X Division! Everything about this was a mistake. What a way to start off the biggest Impact ever.
13 Kane & The Undertaker vs KroniK - Unforgiven 2001
Unforgiven 2001 marked KroniK’s first WWE pay-per-view, having recently joined The Alliance as part of the horribly botched Invasion angle. This match saw the Brothers of Destruction defend their WCW --yes, WCW, not even WWE-- tag titles against the once-popular WCW tag team. KroniK got over during the last days of WCW because of their funny name (haha, so clever) and the fact that they just squashed smaller wrestlers in quick matches, a tried-and-true path to success.
But by the time Vince McMahon bought WCW, KroniK’s peak was already over. Yet, they were still booked to go ten minutes against Undertaker and Kane for their first (and only) big match in the WWE. The match was plodding, slow, awkward, and clumsy. Bryan Adams delivered one of the most labored dropkicks you’ve ever seen and Bryan Clark couldn’t even take a turnbuckle bump properly. Undertaker won the match with a lousy chokeslam and the only pop came when he and Kane attacked Stevie Richards after the match.
12 The Great Khali vs. Kane - WrestleMania 23
You knew The Great Khali would make it somewhere on this list. It could have been a match against Big Show, or a match against Batista, or even another match against Kane. Or it could have been that battle royal on RAW when he accidentally eliminated himself. But seeing as how WrestleMania 23 was the biggest stage of any of these, it deserves to be on this list. This WrestleMania was promoted heavily as the 20th anniversary of WrestleMania III, and as such, the WWE wanted to recreate the Hogan-slamming-Andre spot. They wanted to do this with Hogan and (presumably) Big Show, but both had left the company just a few months before Mania. But the WWE was deadset on this idea, so they booked Kane vs. the Great Khali.
In the match, Kane bodyslammed the Great Khali to thunderous silence. We had already seen Khali take bigger bumps than this; what was so special? Beyond that, Kane is not a great wrestler and Khali was awful, so the rest of the match sucked. Khali won and everybody lost.
11 Ariel & Kevin Thorn vs. Kelly Kelly & Mike Knox - December to Dismember 2006
December to Dismember was the WWE’s ECW brand’s first pay-per-view event. It was so awful that it would also be their last. The show received very little promotion on WWE TV, and therefore, did a very poor buy-rate. Only two matches on the show were promoted ahead of time, there was acrimony backstage, and Paul Heyman left the company shortly after the event and would never officially work for the WWE again in a creative capacity.
In the middle of all of this mess was an offensively bad mixed-tag match between the Gothic duo of Ariel and Kevin Thorn and Kelly Kelly and Mike Knox. You know a match will be bad when Kelly Kelly is the standout name among the performers. What’s more is that Kelly Kelly was just starting her career, so as bad as she was three years later, she was even worse here. The match lasted nearly eight minutes and was about six minutes too long.
10 Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar - WrestleMania XX
At the time of this writing, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar have had two singles matches, and the one at WrestleMania XX was by far the worst. And that’s saying something because their other match only lasted one minute and 26 seconds. Their WrestleMania XX match would be the last either would have for years. Goldberg was finishing up an underwhelming one-year contract with the WWE in which he had been booked poorly. Lesnar had decided to leave wrestling, somewhat abruptly, annoying the WWE who felt mistreated after having invested so much in Lesnar.
Both wrestlers were unmotivated and the Madison Square Garden crowd knew both were leaving. What should have been a dream match was greeted with derisive boos from the audience. Neither wrestler reacted well to this and just continued on with the match as planned, not realizing their playing to the crowd was backfiring. In the end, the only person who got a good reaction was the ref --Steve Austin-- who stunned both men after the match ended.
9 Bret Hart vs. Vince McMahon - WrestleMania XXVI
On January 4, 2010, Bret Hart returned to RAW after a 12 year absence. He opened the show with a heartfelt, emotional, and real moment with Shawn Michaels. He ended the show with a cheesy, poorly acted, wrestling angle with Vince McMahon. And that angle would get worse. The feud involved Bret being hit by a car, faking a leg injury, and, for some reason, included John Cena’s presence. The match at WrestleMania XXVI was downright abysmal. Fans weren’t expecting much from Bret seeing as how he had retired due to concussions a decade previous and even had a stroke since then.
But even so, it was sad seeing a man who was once, arguably, the greatest in-ring performer ever, mill about the ring in jean shorts, not even being able to take a bump. What’s worst, the match was booked stupidly. Vince claimed to have paid off the whole Hart family to turn against Bret, only for them all to betray Vince. It was uncomfortable seeing this gang of people clumsily beat up a 64-year-old man.
8 James Storm vs. Chris Harris (Blindfold Steel Cage Match)- Lockdown 2007
We saw before how blindfold matches are best left to the past. Well, not for Vince Russo because, "Bro, what if we have a blindfold match in a steel cage? Bro, it’s never been done, bro!" While Jamie Noble vs. Nidia was a terrible match, they were both comedic characters so it didn’t really matter long-term. James Storm vs. Chris Harris was meant to be a serious feud, however. The two were feuding after Storm betrayed his erstwhile tag team partner in America’s Most Wanted, hitting Harris with a beer bottle and "blinding" Harris’s right eye -- hence, the need for a blindfold match. It was nine minutes long, but felt like 40. It was silly and boring, and did neither wrestler any favors going forward.
7 Christy Hemme vs. “Big Fat Oily Guy” (Tuxedo Match) - Against All Odds 2007
I mean...do I even have to explain this one? Look at the title. “Christy Hemme,” who, really, was never even a proper wrestler, vs. “Big Fat Oily Guy.” Big. Fat. Oily. Guy. In a tuxedo match. What do we have here? Inter-gender match? Check. Two non-wrestlers in a wrestling match. Check. A tuxedo match? Check. A gross, fat dude covered in oil? Check. Yup, those are all the ingredients you need for a wretched pro wrestling match. Apart from the fact that neither could wrestle, you also created a scenario in which the fans were rooting against Hemme, the babyface. Which outcome do you think the immature, toxically masculine TNA crowd favored? Seeing a big fat oily dude in his undergarments or Christy Hemme? The only amusing part of this debacle was seeing “Big Fat Oily Guy” in a thong in front of a fan holding a sign saying, “We Are Wrestling.” Sure you are, pal.
6 Scott Steiner vs. Sid Vicious vs. Jeff Jarrett vs. Road Warrior Animal - WCW Sin
WCW went out of business in March 2001. Still, they managed to have one of the worst matches of the decade. Most remember this match for Sid’s nauseating leg break. Seeing Sid stare down at his hideously disfigured leg while Steiner beat him down was bad enough, but there was more to it than that.
First, the two heels, Steiner (the WCW champion) and Jarrett, didn’t seem to care which one of them won the match, thus further devaluing the WCW title (if that was still possible).
Second, the big tease of this match was babyface WCW chairman Ric Flair’s mystery man. Flair eventually introduces him near the end of the match -- after Sid’s leg is destroyed -- and he comes down in a ridiculous mask and pseudo-straight jacket get-up and immediately turns heel and attacks Sid. How can anybody care about the heel turn of a character who was JUST introduced?
The mystery man delivers one forearm to the downed Sid and Steiner pins him. Then the mystery man takes off his mask, revealing himself to be 39-year-old Road Warrior Animal. Was it any wonder this company went out of business two months later?
5 Trish Stratus & Bradshaw vs. Jackie Gayda & Christopher Nowinski - WWE Raw July 8, 2002
This match will forever be remembered as one of the worst debacles in RAW history. Christopher Nowinski was barely a year into the business, Trish Stratus was not quite yet the great worker she would become, and Bradshaw had yet to develop his charismatic JBL character. And Jackie Gayda was...Jackie Gayda. First, the competitors seemed confused about the rules of a mixed-tag match. Second, the story of the match was Nowinski avoiding Bradshaw, which meant that Gayda had to work most of the match. And boy, was she awful.
She completely misreads Trish’s intentions when she runs at her, and side-steps Stratus, causing Trish to bounce off the ropes and do nothing. Gayda couldn’t even lock up properly! You can repeatedly see Stratus talking to Gayda, telling her what to do, but to no avail. Stratus goes for a second rope bulldog and Gayda...just stands there. Then she falls over -- on her back! -- and Stratus pins her. Jim Ross then spoke for everybody when he said, “Mercifully, this one’s over.”
4 Team 3D vs. LAX (Electrified Cage Match) - Lockdown 2007
Lockdown 2007 sure was a great event, wasn’t it? In what was another Russo classic, Team 3D (Brother Ray & Brother Devon) fought LAX (Homicide and Hernandez) in a cage that was supposedly electrified. This match was just so profoundly stupid that it defies belief. If you showed this match to somebody and gave them no context, they would likely think they were watching a parody of a wrestling match on some satirical comedy show. To watch wrestlers sell electrocution is pretty much indescribable.
Professional wrestling is a lot of things, but it not supposed to be grown men pretending to be electrocuted by a “10,000 volt” steel cage. The ‘special effects” they used, including dimming the lights and ludicrous sound effects, were at the level of an underfunded community theater. The match involved the announcers giving us a lecture on electrical current, and the crowd booing and chanting, “Fire Russo.” Team 3D won the match and we all lost 15 minutes of our lives.
3 Triple H vs. Scott Steiner - Royal Rumble 2003
This match is in contention for the worst WWE main event of all time. Scott Steiner from 1992 vs Triple H of 2001 would be an amazing match. But in 2003, not so much. Both men had grown very fond of working out and had clearly been taking their "vitamins," as their bodies had ballooned to ridiculous proportions. Even so, despite his size, Triple H was still a very good wrestler in 2003. What he wasn’t, however, was humble. He was cocky enough to assume he could get a good 20-minute main event-style match out of Steiner. Well, he couldn’t.
First, Scott Steiner as a babyface is weird; he’s just such a natural heel. Second, Steiner was sloppy as hell in this match. He botched numerous maneuvers, including a horrendous attempt at a butterfly suplex. What’s worse is that the match didn’t even have a finish! What did we get for sitting through that crap for 18+ minutes? A Triple H disqualification and a rematch at the next payper-view. Steiner was so bad in these matches that despite main-eventing in January and February, he didn’t even appear at that year’s WrestleMania.
2 The Reverse Battle Royal - TNA Impact October 26, 2006
Vince Russo. Again. Of all the idiotic "something on a pole" matches, of all the sexist women’s matches, of all the convoluted, overbooked finishes, the Reverse Battle Royal is surely Vince Russo’s crowning masterpiece. The match had three phases. The first saw 18 men starting on the outside of the ring trying to be one of the first seven to climb over the top rope and into the ring. Get it, it’s the reverse of a battle royal. That’s so clever. Instead of getting a wrestling match in the ring with wrestling moves, you got a colossal mess of dudes brawling on the outside.
Why wouldn’t they all just rush to hop into the ring? Why even bother fighting? The second phase was a traditional battle royal until we got down to two. The two then wrestled a standard singles match, with Abyss pinning Lance Hoyt. As complicated and silly as the King of the Mountain and Reverse Ladder matches were, the reverse battle royal was TNA’s worst gimmick match. And you know what the worst part was? They actually did another one a year later! Idiots.
1 Jenna Morasca vs. Sharmell - Victory Road 2009
To call this a wrestling match is an insult to the entire profession. The match featured Booker T’s wife, Sharmell, against former Survivor winner Jenna Morasca, who was in TNA because...well, it’s a mystery. It was totally unclear who was the face and who was heel (they were both heels?) and for some reason, Sharmell was in a dress.
The match begins with a lot of gesturing and then “strikes” by Sharmell. At this point, the audience realizes what they’re in for and begin to boo and pray for an out-of-body experience. Jenna Morasca "ran the ropes" in a fashion that Kelly Kelly would be ashamed of and delivered a cross-body that saw her get, maybe, five inches off the ground. And I know Morasca isn’t a wrestler, but has she ever even seen a slap? Does she know what it looks like? She looked like she was trying to shoo some flies away. The biggest bump came when Sojourner Bolt was knocked to the outside.
Oh yeah, Bolt and Awesome Kong were at ringside as seconds. Why not just have those two work the match?! Morasca pinned Sharmel in an unnecessarily sexual fashion after Kong punched Sharmell. Then, Morasca got into an argument with Kong after the match for no reason, and Kong decked her too. What an abomination.