I intentionally don’t reveal much about myself publicly. The few of you close to me know that I have been a huge pro wrestling fan since Hulk Hogan burst onto the scene in 1983. I was six years-old at the time. I had no chance. I was utterly and completely hooked by the amazing world of real-life superheroes and villains.
Flash forward a few years, and I was in the ring myself. My career took off quickly, every door I tested was unlocked. It was meant to be. I looked the part, and I was a natural in the ring. Sadly, my time between the ropes was cut short by illness and injury (suffered outside of the ring). I suppose being unable to continue in my dream job could have made wrestling hard to enjoy, but it didn’t. I still love pro wrestling, WWE specifically, and can’t help but talk about it now and then.
This is one of those times.
To make this post palatable, and since this is the internet – the undisputed world-wide portal for complaining about the things you love – I’m going to start off with my Top Fiv Wrestlemania booking blunders.
1. Triple vs. Sting – Wrestlemania 31
Totes evil company boss Triple H had beaten everyone that dared stand up to him. Flattened them like bugs beneath thousand-dollar rich guy loafers. He was unstoppable, inflicting his diabolical will on anyone that crossed his path – right up until Sting, perennial purveyor of good, made a shocking return to wrestling to put Triple H in his place.
The build up to the match was excellent. Sting was positioned as WWE’s last, best hope. The fans were solidly behind the new sheriff in town.
And then Wrestlemania rolled around and it all fell apart.
After an extremely fun match that included several highlight reel-worthy spots and surprise appearances by Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and more, Sting lost. In unspectacular fashion.
It was a master’s class in terrible storytelling. Completely unsatisfying for the fans, and an insult to Sting’s tremendous legacy.
Theories abound as to why the finish went down the way it did. Some claim that Sting was just doing ‘right thing’ as it’s called in wresting – an exiting veteran putting over a star remaining on the roster. Some, and this is my personal theory as well, believe the finish was all about putting the final nail in the coffin of WWE’s long-time rival and Sting’s former (now defunct) employer, WCW – WWE symbolically beating WCW once and for all. It’s petty and bad business, but it’s hardly beyond the scope of believability that WWE would pull such a nonsensical stunt.
2. Shawn Michaels vs Undertaker – Wrestlemania 25 and 26
The match was billed as the ultimate battle between good (HBK) and evil (Undertaker).
Again, an absolutely fabulous build to the match at 25. Michaels hurling Bible verses, Undertaker being oh-so-evil.
And then the match happened. Easily one of the top five wrestling matches in wrestling history, marred by only by three absurd seconds.
For whatever reason, WWE decided that evil was going to win this battle. Is was heartbreaking for fans, and again, absolutely rubbish storytelling. Sane people don’t go to a movie to watch the Joker beat Batman, or Lex Luthor kill Superman. Good booking – especially at Wrestlemania, WWE’s marque event – should leave fans feeling fulfilled, not gutted.
And what of the rematch?
Yep. Good ol’ HBK lost that one too. Then retired. He did finally stop dressing like a early nineties Lavender Lad with a biker fetish though, so I guess that’s something.
3. Undertaker’s Wrestlemania losses
Aside from being an cat-lady-crazy weirdo and possibly a zombie, Undertaker was known for one thing above all else: a decades-long undefeated streak at Wrestlemania.
At Wrestlemania 30, Brock Lesnar ended the streak.
I’m not one of those people who feel the streak needed to last forever, just that it needed to make sense when it ended.
Brock was already well-established as world-beating bad @$$. Beating the Undertaker did nothing for him, because he was already at the top of the heap.
Undertaker’s next, and possibly final loss if he is indeed retired, took place this year at Wrestlemania 33. Roman Reigns was man to put him down.
If Roman – whom WWE is desperate to establish as a top draw – had been the first and only man to beat Undertaker, it would have shocked the world. Beating a broken Undertaker is meaningless. It doesn’t enrage fans into hating Roman anymore than they already do, or establish him as a legitimate, world-beating hero.
4. The Rock vs Hulk Hogan – Wrestlemania 18
Find a way to see this match. It delivered in almost every way. The Toronto crowd was the definition of electric, and (to WWE’s dismay) solidly behind the villain, ‘Hollywood’ Hulk Hogan.
While the match ended with a disappointing loss for Hogan (who probably should have turned in the lead up to the match), it hardly mattered because the match was so overwhelmingly enjoyable. The real booking disaster took place in the main event.
Putting aside the fact that WWE expecting anyone to follow Hogan/Rock was coo-coo bananas, the main event was seemingly booked by interns.
In what can generously be called a mediocre match, Canadian favorite Chris Jericho lost the world championship to – you guessed it – Triple H.
Sometimes matches just don’t go as planned, it’s not a mortal sin to send fans away with a sub-par main event. Sending them away with a sloppily booked match that didn’t deliver a satisfying conclusion is confounding.
5. Missed Opportunities
Selecting a single match for the fifth spot wasn’t going to be hard. Hotter-than-the-sun AJ styles’ Wrestlemania debut match loss to Chris Jericho last year and freezing out of the title match this year – after carrying the company as champion for most of the year – would easily have taken the spot.
In any case, when it comes to Wrestlemania disappointments, what didn’t happen is almost as bad the flubs that did.
Every fan will have a different list, but my top two missed opportunities are:
Sting vs Undertaker – A hotly anticipated match for over a decade, both men were healthy and active in WWE for Wrestlemania 31. For whatever reason, WWE decided fans didn’t need to see this one go down.
Hogan vs Flair – The undisputed top draws in WWF and WCW during the 80’s were both in WWF for Wrestlemania 8. Instead of cashing in on this all-time dream match, we got Sid vs Hogan in a kinda/sorta dud (customary Sid match), and Savage vs Flair. Savage/Flair delivered in most respects, but it was hard to enjoy knowing that it was only taking place because a dream match was not.
There you have it.
Until next time, battle on, wrestle-maniacs!