You would think, for an event with as much history and spectacle as WrestleMania, WWE would ensure that every match on the card was something special. And maybe that is their intent, but in practice, WrestleMania has seen just as many downright terrible matches as it has five star classics. And while WWE will trumpet their WrestleMania successes to the ends of the earth, their gruesome failures also deserve a spotlight of their own, if only so that WWE can attempt not to repeat these horrible mistakes in the future.
10. The Undertaker vs Giant Gonzalez, WrestleMania IX
Honestly, most of Undertaker’s early WrestleMania matches could go on here, because it really wasn’t until he changed into BikerTaker that he turned into a shockingly good worker and started getting matched up with talented opponents. Seriously, the first dozen or so years of Undertaker Streak matches are a combination of squash matches, aging veterans giving him the rub, and big, fat guys. Pretty much up until WrestleMania X-7 there isn’t a single Undertaker WrestleMania match that we’d actually recommend you watch, aside from the one bright spot against Diesel at WrestleMania XII. That said, at least a couple of them deserve special mention for being horrible, the first being this abomination against Giant Gonzalez, whose chief asset as a wrestler was being really tall. This is the only Streak match where The Undertaker didn’t actually defeat his opponent, winning by DQ when Gonzalez attempted to suffocate him with an ether-soaked rag. Also working against this match was the lack of atmosphere, as WrestleMania IX took place outdoors, in the middle of the afternoon in sunny Las Vegas, which kind of ruins the mystique of Undertaker’s classic entrance (a mistake WWE would replicate at WrestleMania 31 in San Francisco, but at least they waited until it was close to dusk for Taker’s match).
9. Earthquake vs Adam Bomb, WrestleMania X
On a show where a ten-man tag match had to be cut for time due to some pretty awesome matches running way too long, it’s baffling that this didn’t also hit the cutting room floor. This was less a match than a confusing segment that lasted less than a minute and somehow ended with Earthquake pinning Bomb in just over thirty seconds. That time is approximate, of course, because it’s hard to tell when the pre-match shenanigans, featuring Bomb’s manager Harvey Whippleman threatening Howard Finkel, end, and the match itself begins. We’ve actually spent more time talking about the match than it takes to watch it happen. The best part is, the entire thing didn’t actually end up mattering, because Earthquake left for WCW shortly after, bringing whatever feud was ongoing to a hasty conclusion. We’re not saying the ten-man tag would have been any better (in fact, it almost certainly would not have been), but when they were setting up WrestleMania, couldn’t they have just cut this one ahead of time?
8. Kane vs Chavo Guerrero, WrestleMania XXIV
For some reason, WWE is obsessed with records for shortest matches, because who cares about match quality if you can shock the world by having something end in 11 seconds instead of the decent match the fans expected? That would come back to bite them a few years later, but this egregious excuse for a match was pretty much the point where WWE’s revival of ECW as a legitimate third brand was killed off for good (although it would continue to exist as a walking corpse for another two years before giving way to NXT). Fans of the “new” ECW were already concerned when supposed pillar of the brand CM Punk lost the ECW Title to perennial midcarder (at best) Chavo Guerrero, and then after Guerrero, while ECW Champion, entered the Royal Rumble, whose prize had up to that point included the ECW Title as a potential option for the winner. But the end of ECW’s relevance was made pretty clear when Kane appeared in the ring and chokeslammed Chavo, winning the match in under a dozen seconds. It should also be noted that Kane wasn’t even actually part of the ECW roster at that point. There were still memorable moments for ECW over the rest of its life, but it was never again treated as being anywhere close to equal with Raw or Smackdown, and the ECW Title was no longer denoted as a “World” title, both internally, and by fans.
7. The Boogeyman vs Booker T and Sharmell, WrestleMania 22
So help us, we liked The Boogeyman. He was interesting and unique and had a cool entrance, and sometimes that’s enough. But even we will admit that he was a really bad wrestler, which made his initial push, where he was beating former World Champions like JBL and, in this case, Booker T, in under five minutes, a bit odd. The reason behind the short matches, of course, is that The Boogeyman simply wasn’t experienced enough or in good enough shape to have longer ones. Sure, the King Booker gimmick was mostly supposed to be a joke, but Booker T turned it into something special, and in fact, he would ride it to a World title later that year, which makes this glorified squash match where he and his wife both got dominated by Boogeyman even more ridiculous in retrospect. And just to make things worse, Sharmell was most definitely not a wrestler (in fact, she would have one of the worst professional wrestling matches in history a few short years later in TNA, so imagine how much worse she was at this point), so the match ended up being partially un-funny comedy bits and the rest Booker T being forced to sell like he was taking the worst beating of his long career.
6. Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar – WrestleMania XX
The real shame of this match is that it probably could have been a good “power vs power” match, had Brock Lesnar not announced three days before the show that he was quitting to join the NFL. Alas, that’s what occurred, and the MSG fans in attendance were absolutely brutal towards this theoretical dream match. After a few abbreviated attempts at proceeding as if the crowd was not raining down boos on the whole thing, any attempt to have a good match went out the window, which Lesnar especially appearing rattled by the overwhelmingly negative reaction, which was so pronounced that WWE blatantly edited the audio before releasing the show on DVD. The match broke down into a slow and boring brawl, which mercifully ended with Goldberg getting the victory, only to have special referee Steve Austin deliver Stunners to both men, emphatically sending them out of WWE for good (or so we thought, in Lesnar’s case).
5. Jake Roberts vs Rick Martel, Blindfold Match, WrestleMania VII
The story leading up to this match was that Roberts had been blinded by Martel’s “Arrogance” cologne, and wanted the Model to suffer the same way he had. Presumably, the idea was that Roberts, having already experienced blindness, would believe he had the advantage. The concept of the match actually makes sense from a certain point of view, but the execution was ridiculously terrible. In fact, having both men actually wear real blindfolds rather than just pretend that they couldn’t see might have led to a slightly better match (but only slightly). Either way, due to the gimmick involved, both men spent the entire match pretending to fumble around blindly, which means there is roughly thirty seconds of actual wrestling which occurs during the entire match, and most of that is the sudden finish, with Roberts hitting a DDT for the win. It’s one thing to wrestle badly, it’s another thing to have an entire eight minute match without much actual wrestling occurring.
4. The Undertaker vs The Big Boss Man, Hell in a Cell, WrestleMania XV
We mentioned earlier that most of the Undertaker’s WrestleMania matches could make this list, but this one deserves its own spot on the list for so many reasons. We were in the height of the Ministry of Darkness feud with The Corporation that would soon turn into a merger between the two factions and quickly spiral out of control, and somehow, an embattled Vince McMahon decided the best way to get The Undertaker off his back was to send The Big Boss Man against him. While Boss Man was one of the most under-rated big men of his day, that day had been several years prior to the Attitude Era, and with The Undertaker still operating under his original gimmick, which included slow, methodical wrestling, this looked like a bad idea from the second it was announced. Perhaps suspecting this might be the case, WWE threw the match inside Hell in a Cell, which at the time still had massive credibility as a place where brutal, unforgettable matches took place. It did not help, the match was terrible, the crowd didn’t particularly want to cheer the unlikable Boss Man or the downright Satanic Undertaker, and the whole thing ended with the Boss Man being hung by his neck from the top of the cell in one of WWE’s less tasteful visuals. There’s a reason (several, actually) why this match almost never gets mentioned in the context of WrestleMania, The Undertaker, The Streak, or Hell in a Cell.
3. “Miss WrestleMania” 25-Diva Battle Royal, WrestleMania 25
Despite women’s wrestling in WWE being at a low point for many years following the Attitude Era, the idea of a special 25th anniversary battle royal featuring Divas from the past wasn’t the worst idea in the world, and instantly had fans hoping for an appearance from someone like Trish Stratus or Lita. Unfortunately, they (and several other well-regarded former Divas) turned down the invitation, but there were still some notable names from the past, including Torrie Wilson, Jackie Gayda, and most shockingly of all Sunny, who had been basically exiled from WWE for years. The only problem is, nobody watching knew who was even in the match, because rather than give them all short entrances in order to at least garner some nostalgia pops, WWE had all the competitors enter the ring while Kid Rock played a concert on the entrance ramp. And then the match was won by Santino Marella, who had dressed up in drag and was pretending to be his sister, Santina. The whole thing was a big, unfunny joke that didn’t go away after WrestleMania, with Santina Marella becoming a regular character on Raw.
2. Sheamus vs Daniel Bryan, WrestleMania XXVIII
Remember what we said about WWE’s obsession with short matches? Well, it reared its ugly head another time, only in this instance, WWE would pay for that decision for several years after the fact. Daniel Bryan had cashed in Money in the Bank a few months earlier to become World Heavyweight Champion, and reinvented himself as an arrogant jerk who only really cared about himself, but somehow had attracted the attention of AJ Lee. Meanwhile, Sheamus had won the Royal Rumble and was actually hitting his peak as a potential main eventer. And with Bryan one of the best wrestlers in the world and Sheamus no slouch himself, fans were hotly anticipating their WrestleMania match (especially since, the year prior, a US Title match between the two Superstars was completely bumped from WrestleMania and turned into a pre-show battle royal). Instead, the entire match consisted of Daniel Bryan turning around from a kiss from AJ directly into a Brogue Kick, losing the match and the title in thirty-eight seconds. Fans were decidedly displeased at being denied what could have been a pretty good match, and things sort of snowballed from there, kicking off what would come to be known as the “Yes!” Movement the next night on Raw and, well, things worked out in the end for Bryan, but not before he was put through this utter humiliation of a match.
1. Jerry Lawler vs Michael Cole, WrestleMania XXVII
As always, we feel like we need to apologize for reminding people that this match was real and actually happened. At a certain point, WWE decided to turn Michael Cole, their lead play-by-play announcer, heel. And it was entertaining for a while, mostly because it was limited to NXT’s infamous third season, which everyone, both inside WWE and out, made fun of on a regular basis. But the character became a full-time fixture on Raw, combined with the equally annoying Anonymous Raw GM, played by a laptop that only Cole had access to. And as things dragged on, fans started demanding that the increasingly irritating Cole receive some sort of comeuppance. At last, it looked like WWE color commentator Jerry Lawler would get that opportunity at WrestleMania. Fans were actually interested in this, because even at his age Lawler was still a surprisingly decent wrestler, and it was expected that he would be more than up to the task of taking Cole to the proverbial woodshed. Instead, they were presented with Michael Cole actually dominating Lawler for long stretches of a very bad match that dragged on forever, and when Lawler ultimately gained a pinfall thanks to the help of special referee Steve Austin, the Anonymous Raw GM immediately broke into the celebration and declared Cole the actual winner by DQ, denying the fans any possible catharsis at having finally seen Cole get what he deserved.