The title may be a bit much for this actual article. After all, there are probably hundreds of wrestling matches that are far more wretched that took place at house shows, not to mention the various indies. This list is more for the major matches, those put on TV and even PPV, matches that set new standards for sheer, undulated agony and standing as terrible no matter how you slice it. Some involve folks who had no business being in the ring while others were veteran stars who should have given us a lot better. While it’s tempting to fill this list with nothing but “gimmick” matches, there are quite a few regular bouts that did terrible as well.
A quick note on criteria: Some may insist on the Bryan/Sheamus WrestleMania 28 bout or Sting vs Hardy Victory Road 2011 disaster to be included. While those are both terrible, they only lasted seconds and so really don’t count as “real” matches any more than the Fingerpoke of Doom. Also, only matches involving actual rings are counted so don’t expect the Junkyard Invitational or bungee-cord jump bouts. We’re going for bouts that lasted way too long for what was given and often serving only to insult the fans who paid to watch. Of course, two rookies competing in a match in an indie promotion will be worse than these matches, but we can't go around filming every promotion.
The criteria also includes expectations for some of these matches. While we knew right off the bat that some of these matches would be bad, there are some on the list that look pretty exciting on paper, but bombed when in the ring.
So here we go with 25 matches wrestling fans will prefer to pretend never existed and stand as the worst wrestling has ever given us.
25 Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar - WrestleMania XX
Scott Keith summed it up best: As a match, bad, but as a sociological experiment, absolutely fascinating to watch. It was supposed to be a dream encounter, the monsters going at it with Brock out for revenge after Goldberg cost him the WWE title. But the whole thing was doomed from the start thanks to the breaking news of both guys leaving WWE immediately after the show. The New York crowd gave it to them big time, booing literally every move both men made and it was clear neither had any idea how to handle this.
It took them over two and a half minutes to even lock up and while they tried to play “unstoppable force versus immovable object,” it just didn’t work due to the vicious fan reaction. They did their best and actually pulled off some good stuff from a spinebuster to gorilla press and if you watch it with the sound off, it’s not as terrible as its reputation.
However, it’s still nowhere near the dream match it should have been. The crowd only popped when special ref Steve Austin hit a Stunner on both guys to end one of the oddest matches you’ll ever see in terms of fan heat.
24 Sting vs. Jake Roberts - Halloween Havoc ‘92
Bill Watts’ tenure as the head of WCW is not well remembered due to his banning moves off the top rope, strict rules, cheap pay and more. He had gotten a coup with Jake Roberts brought on and attacking Sting in a huge debut. The build was a “Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal” with a mini-movie and promising choices of a blood bath in a cage, barbed wire, I Quit, Texas Death and more.
When the time came, the wheel landed on…a Coal Miner’s Glove. Yes, a match that was only so-so in territories in the 1970s was now the main event of a 1992 PPV. The rule was a pole in the corner with a glove supposedly loaded with an object and whoever got it first could use it against their opponent. Thus, the two men just raced back and forth to the pole, yanking the other way and obviously not comfortable with this as they’d be with a regular match. It didn’t seem like a real blood feud, just two guys rushed and thus the chemistry of the battle was thrown off.
23 Michael Cole vs Jerry Lawler - WrestleMania XXVII
On his recent DVD, a big fuss is made about Lawler finally living his dream of wrestling at WrestleMania and loving it…and totally avoids talking about the actual match. There’s a good reason for that. Cole kicked off in his own glass booth as Jack Swagger attacked Lawler who fought him off to go after Cole. He beat him down for a while before Swagger helped turn the tables and get an ankle lock on Lawler then Cole actually got some offense despite logic telling he should have been getting his ass kicked.
Lawler turned the tables with Swagger tossing in the towel but special referee Steve Austin answering with a Stunner. Lawler finally got on the offense, complete with strap pulled down but for some bizarre reason, instead of ending with the piledriver as he should have, he put on the ankle lock for the victory (although the part of Austin taking his time to make sure Cole was tapping was funny) to get the win. A total letdown and that was before the “Mystery GM” announced the decision was reversed to Cole got the win. A total embarrassment and a slap in the face for Lawler to never get the shining Mania moment he deserved.
22 Hulk Hogan vs. Vader - Uncensored ‘95
Already one of the worst PPVs of all time, Uncensored saved its worst for last. Hulk Hogan was set to take on Vader in a non-title strap match, the match taking place after the debut of the Renegade soured the crowd. Ric Flair was around to take some beatings from the Renegade (yes the biggest WCW star selling for this miserable rookie) as Hogan totally no-sold Vader’s offense, including his dreaded powerbomb. Hogan then dragged Vader to hit the various corners before a masked man came out to attack.
Flair and Vader double-teamed Hogan but of course he fought them off, then tied the strap to Flair and dragged him around to touch the corners…which somehow gave him the win despite the fact Flair was not in the match. We then had the masked man attack but it was really Randy Savage instead of Arn Anderson and the faces celebrated despite the horrible battle that showed Hogan’s ego at its worst.
21 Steel Asylum Xscape, TNA Impact - January 4, 2010
This was the first match of the Impact that announced the arrival of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff to TNA…and it should have been a very ominous sign for how their reign would be. Chris Sabin, Alex Shelley, Jay Lethal, Consequences Creed, the Amazing Red, Homicide and Kiyoshi, all guys capable of putting on a terrific show no matter what.
Sadly, they were stuck in what amounted to a dome of red bars that made it nearly impossible to see what was happening inside. The guys seemingly had problems trying to climb up the dome and falling back, just fighting but troublesome due to the bad look. TV viewers weren’t much better off thanks to quick camera cuts that would give Michael Bay whiplash.
Homicide then broke out a baton and began smashing guys and thus earned the DQ…in a cage match.
20 Hulk Hogan vs. Sting - Starrcade ‘97
It was supposed to be the crowning moment of WCW, the night they put WWE down once and for all. Instead, it was the beginning of WCW’s end. After over a year of chasing, Sting was finally going to take down Hogan and the simplest fan could have easily booked this as Sting demolishing Hogan to win the title cleanly. Instead, Hogan was easily in control for most of the match, dominating Sting in and out of the ring as the fan heat died out, the encounter WCW had built up so brilliantly going down the tubes fast.
Hogan hit the leg drop and the ref made the count and fans were stunned as Sting was beaten, despite the announcers claiming it was a fast count (which it wasn’t). Bret Hart somehow got the match restarted for Sting to hit a Stinger Splash and Scorpion Deathlock for the win but the damage was done. What remains one of the longest and best builds ever for a match ended in disaster as politics ruined it all and set WCW on the road to its fall.
19 Team 3D vs LAX - Lockdown 2007
It was like Ed Wood had directed a wrestling match. The idea was that the two teams were in an “electrified cage” with the arena lights dimmed to a blue hue. Obviously, the cage wasn’t really electrified but whenever a wrestler touched it, the lights would flicker on and off and they’d shake as if they’d gotten a shock. It’s as dumb as it sounds as they would just wander around and not going off the ropes and instead of being a smart touch, it threw the whole match off.
A blade job by D-Von would have been more effective if fans could have seen it as the terrible lighting made it harder to tell what was going on and clearly, even the guys in the ring had a hard time getting around due to it. Hernandez would don “rubber gloves” to climb the cage and it was never answered how his feet and legs didn’t set the “electricity off.” He made a splash through a table as Team 3D botched a 3D off the ropes and instead just hit a regular one to win. Bad already, but the terrible lighting and laughable acting for the “electrocutions” made it even worse for a laughable battle.
18 Pat Patterson vs. Gerald Brisco - King of the Ring 2000
In their primes, Patterson and Brisco were both fantastic wrestlers and a battle between them would have been classic. In 2000, however, they were both old men who’d been jokes for a while as Vince McMahon’s stooges. Somehow, they ended up in a feud around the Hardcore title, trading it between them with Patterson getting the belt. For some reason, they were given a PPV battle for it. For some even more idiotic reason, it was made an evening gown match.
Even as a comedy match, this was painful to watch as they threw toilet paper, a banana and wigs and Patterson wearing sunglasses and Patterson shoving a tampon into Brisco’s face and poor Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler groaning over it all. Thankfully, Crash Holly ran in to pin Patterson after ripping Brisco’s dress off to end this disaster.
17 Jeff Jarrett vs. Booker T - Nitro, December 2, 2000
Who else but Vince Russo could think this up? For a 2000 Nitro episode in San Francisco, Russo decided this was the perfect way to kill the credibility of the WCW title even further than David Arquette. Booker T and Jeff Jarrett, two guys more than capable of having a regular match that would be great, came out to the ring that had four boxes hanging from the ring posts and pinfalls not counting.
The two men went at it around the ring with Booker whipping Jarrett into the corner to knock down one box which contained a blow-up doll. Booker then opened the second box to find a framed photo of Scott Hall. The third contained a coal miner’s glove which both men would use to hit each other, ruining the point of such an object. Jarrett was about to get the last box only to be attacked by Beetlejuice, Howard Stern’s midget sidekick, dressed as Superman (don’t ask). That allowed Booker to grab the last box which opened before he could remove it from the pole so the WCW title fell out of it.
16 Andre the Giant vs Akira Maeda - May 26, 1986
Reports have it that Andre was heavily drunk before this match started and when a drunk Andre didn’t want to do something, there was really nothing whatsoever you could do to change his mind. Set against Akira, a man well known for his stiff actions, things were already tense as the two went at it. What resulted was one of the uglier cases of “throwing out the script” the business has seen as Akira kicked away at Andre who just acted like he was incredibly bored by all this and refusing to sell anything. Maeda went for submission moves which Andre brushed away and Antonio Inoki came down to basically tell the two of them to cut it out.
Andre complied by lying on the mat and yelling “pin me” but Akira refused. Eventually, things turned into a big brawl for a double DQ to end a match most fans in attendance loathed.
15 John Cena vs. John Laurinaitis - Over the Limit 2012
We knew it was going to be ugly but it was still worse than anticipated. A terrible feud building to a horrible match as Bog Johnny came out in padding for Cena to smack him around for a while with nasty punches and kicks but nothing really good to push at all. They did have a funny bit inside the announcer’s booth but then just massive time wasted with two STFs, water bottles and fire extinguishers, brawling in and out of the ring, nothing approaching a real match at all. It finally ended with Big Show turning heel on Cena to punch him and let Laurenatis get the win. The real horror was that this was the main event despite the fact the same show gave us Daniel Bryan versus CM Punk.
14 James Storm vs. Chris Harris, Lockdown 2007
Blindfold matches suck. That’s a basic fact of wrestling. So why TNA would decide to put one in a cage is amazing. Harris and Storm certainly knew how to work a match together, having been tag team partners for so long and had provided great battles that year. This was not one of them. Like all blindfold matches, the first minutes were the two just stumbling around and you could hear a “we want wrestling” chant.
Storm’s hood came off but he kept putting it back on despite being the heel as they fought. They tried a reversed DDT and a cutter off the ropes but the fans had gone from booing to just silent. Harris grabbed the ref and put him in a Sharpshooter while Storm finally remembered he was the heel, removed the hood and hit the Last Call for the pin.
13 Mega Powers vs. Alliance to End Hulkamania - Uncensored ‘96
“Uncensored” had a well-earned reputation as the worst show for WCW and this bout helped solidify it. Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage faced off against the Alliance, which contained Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Kevin Sullivan, the Shark and Zeus from “No Holds Barred,” all taking place in a “triple decker tower of doom,” which was three cages placed on top of each other. The match was a mess, fans could barely see anything taking place as the idea seemed to be going from one cage to another but the rules never made clear.
What was clear was that Hogan and Savage were easily handling the much larger force. The match was terribly worked with various shots, Ed Leslie throwing the faces frying pans to use while white powder flew about like an ‘80s battle. Lex Luger suddenly turned face to help Hogan and Savage out with Savage then pinning Flair to win despite the constant talk by the announcers on how you had to escape to achieve victory.
12 Trish Stratus & Bradshaw vs. Jackie Gayda & Chris Nowinski - RAW, July 8, 2002
Yep, it’s THAT Jackie Gayda match. The Divas were getting more of a rise in WWE in 2002 with Jackie Gayda a “Tough Enough” contestant given a push against Trish Stratus, who was transforming to the great worker we know today. The two were paired off in a mixed tag team match and the results were… well, atrocious says it all.
While Trish held herself well, Jackie was totally out of her league, botching one move after another, from dodging to simple roll-ups and the laughable moment of Trish going for a bulldog off the top rope, Jackie totally missing the cue to get hit but still going down hard for Trish to pin her. It was so bad, Jim Ross actually apologized to the fans for it.
11 Chamber of Horrors, Halloween Havoc ‘91
The very first Halloween Havoc card had a cage match with “electrified wire” along the top to enhance things. So for 1991, WCW thought it perfectly logical to build on that with the “Chamber of Horrors.” Sting, El Gigante and the Steiners faced off against Cactus Jack, Abdullah the Butcher, the Diamond Studd (Scott Hall) and Vader. To win the match, you didn’t score a pinfall or force a guy to submit but rather to put him into an electric chair.
In one of those accidents they’d be famous for, the WCW cameras managed to do a close-up of the “fatal lever” that showed it quite clearly in the “on” position to no effect. The match was hard to watch because of all the action and bad camera angles and ended with Rick Steiner throwing Abdullah into the chair and Jack (somehow thinking the much fatter and darker Abdullah was Steiner) throwing the switch, leading to a burst of sparks and fireworks as Abdullah bounced around in the chair and the arena lights flickered on and off. We then had EMTs coming down but beaten up by Vader for some reason to end a match that reminds you of why WCW could so often be a joke.
10 TNA Reverse Battle Royal, October 26th, 2006
Only TNA could give us something so utterly ridiculous (yes, even more than King of the Mountain). In 2006, as part of a “Fight for the Right” tournament, the company decided to have 18 guys go at it in a turnaround of a staple of the business. The rules were that they would fight it out on the outside of the ring with the idea to climb over the top rope and into the ring itself. Once you had seven guys in the ring, it would then turn into a regular battle royal until you got down to just two guys at which point it became a one-on-one match.
It may sound terrible but it looked even worse as you had guys ignoring the most basic move of wrestling and brawling it on the outside rather than just get on the apron and climb into the ring. It was just ugly fighting and guys punching each other on the ring apron. Believe it or not, TNA actually did a couple of these.
9 Scott Steiner vs. Triple H - Royal Rumble 2003
Steiner had a big entrance to WWE in 2002 and seemed set to take on Triple H in what was supposed to be a wild and fantastic battle. Instead, what fans got was Steiner looking blown up just getting to the ring and he and Hunter having no chemistry at all. Steiner began a series of overhead belly to belly suplexes, nine in all throughout the match which should have been something cool but came off totally stupid, especially when Steiner fell down after one, showing how tired he was.
Triple was blatantly calling the spots in an attempt to salvage things but to no avail as they fought and you could clearly see HHH slamming his own head into the corner because Steiner couldn’t do it right. He went for a powerbomb but fell back with The Game on top and Hunter trying to walk out but the match going on. By this point, the fans were irate booing Steiner out of the building until Hunter hit Steiner with a sledgehammer to get disqualified. Even the biggest HHH haters have to feel sorry for him trying to make this a real match.
8 Chief Jay Strongbow vs. Don Kent - Shark Cage Battle
To highlight a big feud between Chief Jay Strongbow and “Bulldog” Don Kent, the two men were locked into a shark cage in the middle of the ring. The idea must be if a large cage could provide thrills, surely a smaller one could do better. That “logic” was proven wrong as the two men barely had room to wiggle, let alone fight, just shoving against one another, not even able to throw a decent punch due to the tight quarters and thus there was little real action.
Because pinfalls could not take place, the idea was that to win you had to escape and thus fans had to accept the idea neither guy could manage to get out of this phone-booth sized place…which was even funnier as the cage door would break open from time to time with the ref having to shut it fast. Naturally, when someone raced in to help Strongbow escape, the door finally refused to budge and it required a massive effort to get it open. Vince Russo, eat your heart out.
7 Big Bossman vs. Al Snow, Kennel From Hell - Unforgiven, 1999
The payoff to a ludicrous feud between the Big Bossman and Al Snow that involved Bossman kidnapping Snow’s dog, Pepper, and serving it to him as dinner. They were set up in what was basically a Hell in the Cell with a secondary cage around the ring and dogs also around to enhance the “danger.” The results were crap…literally as several of the dogs defecated around the ring and the cameras caught two obviously humping in the corner. The fans were hating it as the two slipped around the ring before Snow hit Bossman with Head to get the pin.
6 Christy Hemme vs. Big Fat Oily Guy - Against All Odds 2007
Usually, I’m a sucker for a redhead and thus enjoyed Christy Hemme a lot. But not even she could salvage this horrid event. In a feud no one really cared about, Christy stuck up for herself not wanting to sleep around to get ahead and the James Gang mocking her for it. She complained to Jim Cornette (then the Commissioner of the company) whose solution was to put her in a tuxedo match where the idea was to win by stripping the tuxedo off your opponent. Christy came out and her mystery opponent was introduced as the Big Fat Oily Guy from ECW and WWE, basically known for being…well, big, fat, covered in oil and usually dancing in a very thin red thong.
The only saving grace to the “match” was Mike Tenay and Don West on commentary groaning over wanting Christy to lose. Finally, Christy managed to tear off his pants, exposing him to the fans with the commentators groaning over everyone being the losers as the cameras followed BFOG out on the ramp (West: “Fire that cameraman!”)
5 Hulk Hogan vs. Warrior - Halloween Havoc ‘98
On the “Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior” DVD, Hogan actually takes much of the blame for how the most anticipated rematch in wrestling turned into a mess. Think about that; how often do you hear Hogan accepting blame for anything? Indeed, that match showcased just how important Pat Patterson’s planning was in the duo’s 1990 classic and why this could never approach that.
The fan heat was low as they came out, doing classic tests of strength and other bits but it quickly became clear their timing was utterly off. The fans were turning on this big time as it was clear they were trying to replicate the big moments of the previous match but neither anywhere near the shape to pull it off. We got interference by the nWo and brawling on the outside before the infamous moment of Hogan messing up an attempted fireball to cause the audience to erupt into laughter. Horace eventually hit Warrior with a chair to give Hogan the win.
4 Hayabusa vs. Mr. Gannosuke - October 29, 1999
When it comes to insane action and mind-blowing stipulations, American promoters can’t hold a candle to Japan. From rings set on fire to battles on actual islands, the Land of the Rising Sun has given us some matches that cross the line from just wild to utterly dangerously criminal.
Perhaps the topper has to be the battle between the masked Hayabusa (who was actually an imposter named Mr. Gannosuke) against the unmasked real Hayabusa. Confused yet? Just wait. The two went at it in a standard wrestling match until Gannosuke handcuffed Hayabusa in the corner of the ring. He then got to what was the “point” of the match, yanking down his opponent’s tights, he proceeded to stuff a pack of fireworks up Haybusa’s rear end as the fans who PAID to watch this just stared in disbelief.
Lighting it up, Gannosuke backed away as the fireworks went off, causing Haybusa to scream and shake in the corner as the announcers went wild. It was incredible, a wrestling match turned into a pure “Jackass” stunt and something so extreme it was never tried again.
3 The Bushwhackers vs. Iron Sheik &Nikolai Volkoff - Heroes of Wrestling
One would think that the main event of what is generally considered the worst PPV of all time (a drunk Jake Roberts and Yokozuna versus Jim Neidhart and King Kong Bundy) might rank high on this list. But believe it or not, that was not even the worst match of that show. Nope, that “honor” goes to this debacle, possibly the worst tag team match ever.
Volkoff did the Soviet national anthem and Sheik with his old billy club trick to kill time before the Bushwhackers came down licking fans’ heads. The stalling, was horrendous, you could tell there was about half a foot of air between Nikolai’s “kicks” on Luke, the shots stiff and ugly, no sense of chemistry whatsoever and Luke selling a weak shot like it was massive. We finally got a “hot” tag, some miscommunication letting Luke pin the Sheik and end a match that most critics cited as “minus five stars”.
2 Sharmell vs. Jenna - Victory Road 2009
The worst women’s match of all time? Definitely. The worst PPV battle of all time? That can certainly be argued as well. For God knows what reason, as their own Knockouts were needing second jobs to make ends meet, TNA decided to hire on Jenna Morasca, whose claim to fame was winning a season of “Survivor” and pushed her into real matches. Somehow, she got into a feud with Booker T’s wife, Sharmell and the result was…this.
There was weak “punching,” hair grabbing, a lot of rolling around on the mat, a “cross body” with Jenna barely off the mat, Awesome Kong on the outside to pull out Sharmell’s hair extensions and then chopping Sharmell so Jenna could straddle her for the pin. It’s far, far worse than it sounds with Kong then beating down Jenna after the match. Quite possibly the worst bout TNA has ever given wrestling (which is saying a lot).
1 Jeff Jarrett & Eric Bischoff vs. DDP &David Arquette, WCW Thunder, April 26, 2000
It’s not just that this is a bad match, which it most certainly is. It’s what it represents. And that’s the moment WCW passed the point of no return. Yes, they were bad at the time but they still had some potential to turn it around. But their decision here pretty much doomed them totally. To get some free publicity for the terrible bomb “Ready to Rumble,” WCW had David Arquette hang around and team with DDP against Jarrett and Bischoff with the stipulation that whoever made the pinfall would be WCW champion. Cue the sinister music…
Kimberly (DDP’s wife who had just turned heel) was announced as the special referee and showed bias with a five-second one count and openly refusing to make other counts when DDP covered Jarett. Bischoff and Arquette would brawl all the way to the back with Bischoff returning alone to help double-team DDP with his “moveset.” DDP came back, nailing both with a clothesline. Arquette stumbled out as DDP slammed Bischoff and Jarrett together and then took out Kimberly…with a kiss. Arquette hit a spear on Bischoff as Jarrett hit DDP with the title belt, both men making a cover and a new ref rushing in and counting Arquette’s pinfall.
And that was that. The WCW title, held by Ric Flair, Sting, Vader and so many other great workers, was now around the waist of a third-rate actor best known for marrying Courtney Cox. Russo can spin it all he wants for getting publicity and such but the effect on the company was absolutely horrible, the entire company made to look like a complete joke and was pretty much the sign the company was dead in the water. To his credit, Arquette never wanted to be champion and gave his WCW paycheck to Owen Hart and Brian Pillman’s families but still stunning to see how a company could make one move that doomed them so badly.