Ever since the end of the Monday Night Wars, wrestling as a whole has seen a decline in popularity and the WWE is a clear example of this. Simply comparing the quality of WWE today to the Ruthless Aggression Era will demonstrate how far the WWE has fallen since then. Monday Night Raw, while still retaining its title as the biggest wrestling show in the USA, has seen decreasing ratings year after year. Friday Night SmackDown, which at one point outshined Monday Night Raw, is now another wrestling show the likes of WWE Main Event or Superstars. The roster of 2006, that was packed with multiple main-event level talents like John Cena, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, Edge, Batista, Randy Orton, and Rey Mysterio has been reduced to a show with a handful of active main event wrestlers while the rest of the “main eventers” are upper midcarders at best.
Overall, aside from the quality of women’s wrestling and the emphasis on legitimate tag teams, the WWE of today is nowhere near the WWE of the last two periods of wrestling. Both the Ruthless Aggression Era and the Attitude Era were greater periods of enjoyment for wrestling fans the world over. While they both lacked certain qualities, they still produced better storylines, promos, and occasionally better matches than what the WWE does now. And while many would claim that this is the fault of the wrestling talents themselves, it would only make the most sense that this be an indictment of the WWE and their failure to create superstars.
Over the last ten years, countless opportunities to make small names big and make big names bigger have been wasted and it has ultimately resulted in what we see today. This current roster with a weak main event scene is mostly a result of the WWE making odd decisions and neglecting to elevate talent. And to further illustrate this point, this article will focus on some of the biggest booking mistakes that the WWE has made over the years that has ultimately crippled their main event scene and resulted in a lack of interest in the current product. Sometimes it’ll be one particular storyline, other times it can be an entire PPV, and in the worst cases it can be a sustained period of negligence.
Let’s take a look.
25 WrestleMania XXVII
Perhaps one of the most disappointing WrestleManias of the modern era. A promising United States Championship match moved to the pre-show, the multi-man tag match was a joke, the celebrity guest match was unnecessary, the main event was a clustered mess, and perhaps the biggest waste of time was the Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler match. Despite all these travesties, this WrestleMania did have some great things going for it like the Triple H and Undertaker match, the CM Punk and Randy Orton match, and the Edge and Alberto Del Rio match. Unfortunately, these matches wouldn’t be enough to save this PPV. The rest of the card was either filled with missed opportunities or utterly pointless matches.
Not the worst WrestleMania of all time, but surely one that’s closer to the bottom than it was the top.
24 Brock Lesnar Returns, Then Loses
Even though he lost the match, the WWE did a good job of making Brock Lesnar look like the strong MMA badass he was in the UFC. With that being said, it was still a dumb decision. After making his return the night after WrestleMania, Lesnar was booked for a match against John Cena at the Extreme Rules PPV; a match he would lose following a steel chain to the skull and an Attitude Adjustment to the steel steps. For what reason, we have no clue. Lesnar had just came back after an 11-year absence and for him to lose to Cena in his first match back served no purpose except making Cena look good.
This looks even worse when the following year, the WWE was using a storyline that Cena had the worst year of his career after only losing one match clean to The Rock and not regaining the WWE Championship. A pretty good “worst year” when compared to others.
23 Neville Losing the King of The Ring Finals
After making his debut on Raw, the WWE placed Neville in the King of the Ring tournament. This would’ve been a good first accomplishment in his WWE career and would’ve been something kinda big that the commentary team could mention all the time had he won the match. Instead, Wade Barrett won the match and all Neville has going for him up to this point is a Slammy Award for “Breakout Star of the Year,” an award that realistically should’ve been given to Kevin Owens. The King of the Ring already didn’t mean much when this tournament was announced, but it meant even less when Wade Barrett won considering the fact that he just lost the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania after a boring championship reign. You don’t give a loser an accomplishment and expect him to make compelling television out of it.
Hopefully, Neville will win a title before the end of the year to give him some credibility. Or at least be involved an interesting storyline.
22 CM Punk’s 434 Day Championship Reign
Putting the belt on CM Punk after taking a way a lot of his momentum was dumb, but at least Punk was rightfully booked in the main event scene; or so we thought. After main eventing the 2011 TLC PPV, Punk would be placed somewhere in the middle of PPVs for the better part of his championship reign. The only times he did main event were either when The Rock was fighting him, John Cena was fighting him, or there wasn’t any other choice. Now in some cases, there were legitimate reasons why he shouldn’t main event like The Rock versus John Cena at WrestleMania 28, which had bigger stars involved and was the most anticipated match that year. Other than that, Punk never got the chance to be a true main event star because he was rarely ever in the main event. The man with the crown jewel of professional wrestling was no different than a midcarder. All so WWE could have Cena main event matches against guys like Big Show and John Laurinaitis. Yikes.
21 The Shield's First Loss on SmackDown
Taking the most popular and dominate faction in years and having them lose clean for the first time on SmackDown definitely is problematic. People were complaining when John Cena defeated the group by disqualification, but nothing compares to this.Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns would all lose to the team of Randy Orton, Kane, and Daniel Bryan. This just didn’t make any sense. They could’ve saved that first loss as a group for their match against The Wyatt Family, who were also damn near invincible as a group at the time. Instead, the WWE just wasted what should’ve been a huge moment on the B-Show. For what reason, no one knows.
20 Christian's Two Day World Heavyweight Championship Reign
Following the retirement of Edge, Christian won the World Heavyweight Championship in a ladder match against Alberto Del Rio. This was the first time Christian ever won a world championship in the WWE and was a great moment when it happened. What happened next was simply appalling. Five days after the Extreme Rules PPV, Christian lost the World Heavyweight Championship to Randy Orton on SmackDown. This really didn’t make any sense because it accomplished nothing in the grand scheme of things. All it did was give Orton another championship reign he didn’t really need, while taking away Christian’s spotlight for little to no reason. While their feud was entertaining, it could’ve been just as entertaining if Christian held the belt for longer than five days. After turning heel and regaining the belt for 30 days, Christian would lose his championship to Randy Orton yet again and wouldn’t have another world title again. A wasted moment for such a great wrestler.
19 The Wyatt Family vs. The Brothers of Destruction
After The Wyatt Family attacked The Undertaker and Kane, wrestling fans were hoping that the WWE would stick to the theme of the Survivor Series PPV and make this match a 4-on-4 elimination tag team match. This would require that The Brothers of Destruction find two more opponents, but that would’ve been a great opportunity to bring in some other well-known wrestlers. Instead, what we got was a regular tag team match that ended with The Undertaker winning after about two minutes of competing in the match. This was WWE’s chance to rehab Bray Wyatt’s character by having him beat The Undertaker and the WWE made the safest choice possible instead. A win for The Undertaker that made him look no different in the eyes of fans was a loss for The Wyatt Family that made them look even less intimidating than before.
18 Triple H and Randy Orton at WrestleMania XXV
A feud with an excellent buildup that had years of animosity coming to a head is the perfect description of the Triple H and Randy Orton feud heading into WrestleMania. Orton won the Royal Rumble that year, Triple H became the WWE Champion later, and the table was set for a feud that would’ve been made greater with a no disqualification match of some kind.
Instead, the WWE opted for a stipulation where Triple H would lose the title should he get disqualified or counted out. And to make matters worse, The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels had one of the greatest matches in WrestleMania history and stole the show; making it that much harder for Triple H and Orton to follow up. The end result was a lackluster match with a crowd that was too tired to care.
17 Bobby Lashley Loses the ECW Championship to Vince McMahon
One of the worst decisions WWE could’ve made with the ECW brand and their championship. After losing a three-on-one handicap match against Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, and Umaga, the WWE somehow justified the idea of Vince McMahon becoming the ECW Champion instead of Umaga. A monster heel with legitimacy was overlooked in place of putting the belt on a bald old man. Vince was the main person advocating for Bobby Lashley to become the champion and to only do that to make him lose and give the belt to himself was another footnote in the downfall of WWE’s ECW. And not surprisingly, the ECW brand went even further downhill as result of this.
16 December to Dismember
Remember that downhill spiral that the ECW brand was experiencing, well it all started here folks. A regular tag team match that had nothing to do with ECW, a pointless match with Balls Mahoney and Matt Striker wearing tights three sizes too small, another pointless tag team match with Elijah Burke, a boring mixed tag, and a terribly booked main event made this event one of the worst PPVs in WWE history. The fans were chanting for CM Punk all night heading into the main event, only for him to be the first person eliminated from the match. Ironically enough, both Paul Heyman and then-ECW Champion Big Show were advocating for CM Punk to win the ECW Championship, but McMahon said no in favor of Bobby Lashley; a man he would later screw out of the championship just to put it on himself. McMahon also wrote Sabu out of the match too, which only angered the ECW fans heading into the main event.
15 Seth Rollins' WWE Championship Reign
How WWE turned the biggest and most surprising Money in the Bank cash-in of all time into a boring championship reign of a weakling who could do little to nothing on his own is beyond me. Almost everything after Rollins’ Money in the Bank cash-in failed to make him look like a genuine star. His first title defense would be in a steel cage match with the RKO banned against Randy Orton. The match would end after Rollins got the help of J&J Security and Kane to help him win the match. This one title defense would mark the beginning of Rollins’ booking as a weak champion who would look worse as the championship reign progressed. After months of looking like a joke of a champion, Rollins would be forced to vacate the title due to injury.
This doesn’t even include all the TV matches he lost including a match against his own security team. A great start ruined by bad booking and an uneventful ending. At least Rollins can redeem himself by turning face when he returns.
14 Triple H defeating Sting at WrestleMania 31
Considering that Seth Rollins would go on to beat Sting to retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, this makes Sting’s loss to Triple H look even worse. After an epic debut at the Survivor Series PPV, wrestling fans everywhere were clamoring for Sting to have his first match in WWE on the grandest stage of them all and Triple H would’ve been a great first opponent to defeat. It’s just too bad he lost after a sledgehammer shot to the skull. I guess that’s what happens when you make a feud about WWE vs. WCW; the WWE needs to win. Now had Sting won his match against Triple H, then lost to Rollins at Night of Champions, both guys would look much better because of it. Instead, Sting’s run in WWE was nothing short of reassurance of all his fears of coming to the company after the Monday Night Wars.
13 Ryback losing to CM Punk at Hell in a Cell 2012
The biggest problem with this match isn’t that match itself, which could’ve been a great WrestleMania match had both guys held their respective streaks until WrestleMania. The problem with this match is that it happened too soon. After gaining more support as a monster babyface week after week, Ryback was pushed into the main event title picture way too soon as a replacement for John Cena for the Hell in a Cell Match against then-WWE Champion CM Punk. When the match took place, the crowd was somewhat dead, the match wasn’t that good, and Ryback lost his undefeated streak following a screwjob by Punk and referee Brad Maddox. WWE could’ve protected both guys by having them fight other people, but ultimately ruined Ryback’s momentum just for the sake of Punk having a more important title match. It’s also worth noting that Ryback would go on a PPV losing streak that didn’t end until Extreme Rules of 2013. A really bad call by WWE.
12 Alberto Del Rio Beats John Cena for the US Championship
The John Cena United States Open Challenges were a great opportunity for WWE to set up another potential star by having them possibly defeat John Cena for the title. It’s just too bad that WWE failed to make the most out of Cena losing clean. After regaining the United States Championship from Seth Rollins, Cena issued his last open challenge at the Hell in a Cell PPV and would lose clean to a returning Alberto Del Rio. Unfortunately, that is where the excitement stopped for Del Rio. His next title defense would be a decent match with Jack Swagger, a rematch with Cena, and a match against Kalisto where he lost the title to him. A pretty poor follow-up to one of the greatest United States championship reigns in years. And considering that Kevin Owens, Neville, Cesaro, and Rusev were all passed over as people the WWE could’ve had beat Cena, Del Rio winning the United States Championship was just a dumb move.
11 The World Heavyweight Championship Money In the Bank Ladder Match of 2013
To have this match take place, just for it to never become a real factor in the main event scene was beyond ridiculous. In a match with mostly never before world champions, the fans were ready to see who among the participants would win the Money in the Bank briefcase and go on to most likely win the World Heavyweight Championship. And this is where the mistakes begin. To start things off, the winner of the match was Damien Sandow; a weird choice considering Cody Rhodes, Wade Barrett, and Dean Ambrose were all participants. Sandow also never really discussed the Money in the Bank briefcase after his one-month feud with Rhodes. Lastly, he failed to win the championship after cashing in and losing to an injured John Cena. Now, Cena did lose his Money in the Bank title shot a year before, but that was done as catalyst for CM Punk turning heel. The only thing this accomplished was months of wasted hype.
10 Everything About Cesaro at WrestleMania XXX
All that momentum that Cesaro had after winning the inaugural Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal practically spelled it out for WWE that they needed to turn Cesaro face and let him be the upper midcarder that fans wanted him to be. Instead, the WWE kept him heel and paired him with Paul Heyman who was getting heat at the time for always mentioning how Brock Lesnar broke The Streak. They also changed his entrance theme to what can only be described as a collision of sirens and seemingly made him decrease the amount of times he would do his signature swing.
Why? Just why?
9 The End of the John Cena-Kevin Owens Feud
Kevin Owens made his in-ring debut in convincing fashion by defeating John Cena at the Elimination Chamber WWE Network Special. Cena would win the rematch at the Money in the Bank PPV and this would set up a final match at the Battleground PPV for the United States Championship. After losing the NXT Championship to Finn Balor a few weeks earlier, the next logical step would be placing the title on Owens, who was one of the best wrestlers on television at the time. Regrettably, this would not occur as Owens lost to Cena via tapping out. He would win the Intercontinental Championship two months later, but it wasn’t as interesting as what could’ve happened with this feud. At the time this seemed like a stupid decision and after Cena’s title reign as US Champion ended, it actually looks like an even worse decision.Yet another red hot addition to the roster that the WWE decided should lose to Cena. To paraphrase Michael Cole, “Vintage WWE.”
8 Ending The Streak With No Payoff
Ending The Streak was one of the most shocking moments in the history of the WWE and the hate that Brock Lesnar did it made him the most hated wrestler on the roster for a while, but that eventually faded. After defeating John Cena for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, the crowd seemed to like Lesnar even more despite ending The Streak. The same thing would apply when Lesnar faced Roman Reigns at WrestleMania, the man originally planned to beat him for the title until the fan reactions caused WWE to rethink their decision. To this day, Brock Lesnar has never lost a match clean since ending The Streak and has yet to pass on his momentum to another wrestler on the roster. All of this at the expense of The Streak and The Undertaker with no payoff in sight. And at this point, it won’t have the same impact it would’ve had at WrestleMania 31.
7 Bray Wyatt Loses to John Cena at WrestleMania XXX
Bray Wyatt was on a roll at the beginning of the road to WrestleMania that seemed like it was setting him up for a big win. The Wyatt Family had toppled Kane, Dolph Ziggler, Daniel Bryan, and The Shield and had their sights set on destroying John Cena’s legacy. And then John Cena won and The Wyatt Family have been falling further and further down the totem pole ever since. Even worse was the fact that John Cena won the WWE Championship from The Rock the previous year, which only further demonstrated that he didn’t need the win to maintain legitimacy, but Wyatt did to maintain the legitimacy of himself as a character and his group. To this day, The Wyatt Family have never recovered.
6 Ziggler Never Regaining the World Heavyweight Championship
After cashing in the Money in the Bank Briefcase on Raw, Dolph Ziggler was concussed by Jack Swagger and wasn’t able to defend his belt for an entire month. At the next PPV, the WWE had Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio do a double turn resulting in a heel Del Rio defeating the injured babyface in Ziggler. With booking like this, you would think the WWE was setting the stage for Ziggler to win the title again, right? Well you’d be wrong. Instead, Ziggler would lose his rematch due to interference by AJ Lee, his girlfriend at the time and after this match, Ziggler would never get another one-on-one world championship opportunity again. That all happened in 2013…It’s 2016 and his chances at main event status are far worse now.
5 The 2015 Royal Rumble Match
Despite what some fans say, Roman Reigns winning the match wasn’t as bad of a decision as they thought; especially when you consider Daniel Bryan winning would’ve meant a match against one of the stiffer workers in the WWE after having neck and shoulder surgery. With that being said, almost everything else in this match was bad. The Miz and R-Truth starting the match for no reason, Bubba Ray Dudley with R-Truth as the resident Devon, Daniel Bryan being in the match for about five minutes, Big Show and Kane completely dominating everyone after months of obscurity, the completely obvious conclusion that Reigns would win, and almost everything else in this match made this match an atrocity. Fans were angry the previous year when Batista won the Royal Rumble and Daniel Bryan wasn’t even in the match, but at least that match had some things going for it. There was almost nothing worthy of praising in this match and the fans revolted because of it.
4 Summer of Punk
After the pipebomb promo in Las Vegas, CM Punk broke through the brass ring of the WWE by defeating John Cena for the WWE Championship and seemingly leaving with a blaze of glory in Chicago. All that was left was for WWE to bring him back when the time was right and use him to his fullest potential. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the case as CM Punk would come back a week after “leaving” the company, lose the title to Alberto Del Rio, and lose clean to Triple H and was almost immediately cooled off right when he was the hottest topic in the wrestling world. By the time he regained the title, it was nowhere near as special and he barely fought in the main event of PPVs as the champion. As a result of their booking, they reduced CM Punk from a superstar who could surpass Cena to a number two star at best. All that momentum gone for no reason whatsoever.
3 The WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament of 2015
An almost completely predictable tournament with a Money in The Bank cash-in that no one wanted is the complete summary of the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament that ended the Survivor Series PPV in 2015. From the moment Seth Rollins vacated the title and the tournament was announced, almost every fan saw where this was going. Fans knew that Roman Reigns would be fighting Dean Ambrose in the main event of Survivor Series and many people were expecting one of the two to turn heel. What we got instead was an anticlimactic, confusing, and typical WWE match with Reigns winning the championship with confetti raining down everywhere. Then, following a run-in with Triple H, Reigns lost the title to Sheamus. WWE had a genuine opportunity to change things up and make the most out of a bad situation, and they instead chose the safest option they could. A product that used to be edgy and not-so predictable had almost officially become a boring series of shows that almost anyone can predict. A truly shameful turn of events.
2 The Return of The Authority
By the time Survivor Series 2014 came along, The Authority had run its course in the WWE and wasn’t adding anything of value to the show besides two inconsistent characters who were heels one minute and faces the next. So after The Authority fell out of power, it was greatly welcomed by the fans. Then, for no real justifiable reason, The Authority made their return after one month of being out of power. And as a result, we have seen storylines way to similar to each other occur each year. First Daniel Bryan fought against The Authority, then Big Show, then Daniel Bryan again, then John Cena, then Dean Ambrose, and now we have Roman Reigns fighting to overcome the odds heading into WrestleMania. These shifts of wrestlers fighting The Authority would be welcomed if the babyfaces got longer championship reigns and The Authority changed some of their tactics, but they haven’t changed anything in the last two years of their existence.
This is one of the main reasons why the superstars and the WWE overall can’t really progress. This is a faction that has run its course, but just won’t go away and the product has only suffered for it.
1 The Nexus
In a rather mundane year for the WWE, they managed to shock the world with the debut of a deadly rookie group called The Nexus. They attacked current rosters members, legends, and any other WWE personnel they could get their hands on and looked like a legitimate badass group who could go on to win all the titles and be completely dominant. Then they lost at SummerSlam, kept losing and gaining members almost every month, only won the tag team championships, and eventually split into two lesser groups called The New Nexus and The Corre; neither of which ever really accomplished anything of real importance. A group with the potential to reach nWo levels of success was rendered to a midcard group and a flash in the pan. A true travesty.