Michael N. Todaro
One month from today, superstars and divas from World Wrestling Entertainment will look to immortalize themselves in wrestling history and create a moment to remember at Wrestlemania XXIX from Metlife Stadium in...wait for it..."the shadow of New York City". Most of us call that shadow New Jersey. If we're fortunate, we'll get something that will be talked about in reverence the way people talk about Hogan slamming Andre, or Shawn Michaels kicking out of a tombstone piledriver, or Edge damn near killing Jeff Hardy from a ladder.
More likely though, we'll get a moment that will make us shake our heads, type WTF in bold, italic, and 72 point font if Twitter allowed it, and make us collectively wonder what were we thinking paying for this crap. This Dirty Dozen is dedicated to those moments.
Because ten is not enough.
*This is a list, not a countdown. But if this were a countdown, the first would be #1 in my book.
- Wrestlemania XV: The Big Boss Man gets hung up. Ah, yes. Russo booking at its finest, doing things for the purpose of shocking and awing the audience, whether it makes sense or not. Case in point: the only Hell in a Cell match in Wrestlemania history until last year. The Undertaker and Big Boss Man (side note: the only heel vs. heel match ever at a Mania) put up a stinker of a match that ended with...a hanging. Post-match, The Brood descended from high above the First Union Center, cracked the ceiling of the cage just enough to get a noose in, and well, hang the Boss Man on the structure as Paul Bearer (RIP) threw the switch. And as bad as the commentary was from Michael Cole (it was hideous back in 1999 too), it was made even more so that they pretty much glossed over it by the time of the main event. Oh, and did I mention THERE WAS A HANGING AT WRESTLEMANIA THAT SERVED NO PURPOSE? Sorry. Had a moment there. Boss Man was back on TV eight days later, and there was no mention of the hanging. In fact, all knowledge of said hanging has since been disavowed on WWF/E programming. Holy hell, did we let a lot of shit slide back in '99. Russo booking. Well, I guess when you're young and stupid, you're young and stupid.
- Wrestlemania XIX: Triple H, racist, buries Booker T. The moment that inspired this post. The best storylines in wrestling make you uncomfortable once in a while, whether it be the original New World Order (Rey Mysterio as a lawn dart), the Austin-McMahon affair (is Stone Cold really gonna shoot his boss?), or Trish Stratus' lesbian stalker Mickie James (this bitch right here's crazy) for example. But in that discomfort, you have fun and are entertained. When you bring race into a storyline, you make people uncomfortable, and it's neither fun nor entertaining. Case in point: Triple H getting all raycess on Booker T in 2003. He said people like him (Booker) don't win world titles (which was not only racist, but incorrect since Booker T won said world title five times before WCW got bought out. Yeah, WCW was utter shit at that point, but still, it happened, and they still count), and he's only there to make him laugh. And he should do a little dance. In a perfect world, Raycess Triple H would get his comeuppance against Booker T and lose the world title. But alas, a perfect world, this is not. One Pedigree at Wrestlemania XIX, and The Game buries another. He needed three to beat Ric Flair, and only one to beat a much younger and more athletic Booker T? Man, fuck this company. Made even worse was the fact that this in every sense of the word was a burial. Two months later, he lost in a battle royal for the Intercontinental title at Judgment Day. Politics, man. BTW: 2006. That's when Booker T finally won the world title in WWE.
- Wrestlemania 2000: Triple H, heel, wins the main event. One of wrestling's most important axioms is to send the crowd home happy. Leave them wanting more, yes. But send the in-house crowd home happy. A crappy show could be made up for in some regards with a happy ending. This is no more true than at Wrestlemania, where no matter what happened during the show, you always knew one thing to be true: the heel was going to get beat in the main event. In fifteen previous Wrestlemanias, a face won the final match every single time. But in 2000, that all changed. On a night where The Rock (who was at his absolute peak of awesomeness) should have won the WWF title, Triple H (thanks in part to a newly heel Vince McMahon) (politicked) became the first heel to win the Wrestlemania main event. A buzzkill for all, considering that (1) Triple H went over Mick Foley for the third straight PPV, (2) three of the four McMahons left heel, (3) it was all about said McMahons, and (4) The Rock won the WWF title a month later. There's a reason why Triple H has the reputation that he does behind the scenes. Things like this and the moment before it validate it. Yeah, The Rock Rock Bottomed Stephanie and gave her the People's Elbow post-match, but all the trash thrown in the ring was pretty much all you need to know how the Anaheim crowd felt about it. I mean, it was Hogan going heel in '96 rage. It should have been The Rock's night.
- Wrestlemania IX: Yokozuna wins; Hulk Hogan wins; nobody wins. In the minds of many, probably the worst moment in Wrestlemania history. Or at the very least, wrestling politics at its worst. The main event of Wrestlemania IX pitted WWF Champion Bret "Hitman" Hart against the unstoppable upstart Yokozuna, who has plowed through the competition since debuting on Halloween 1992. By winning the 1993 Royal Rumble match, Yokozuna earned the right to challenge the champ. And though Hart fought valiantly, even putting the five-hundred pounder in a Sharpshooter, the outcome was hardly in doubt (made even more so thanks to Mr. Fuji throwing salt in the eyes of Hart). Yokozuna would have become the first heel to win the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania...if it weren't for Mr. Fuji and Hulk Hogan. Hogan called bullshit on the ending, Fuji challenged Yokozuna to a title match on the spot, and well, you know how this ends. Salt in the eyes of Yokozuna, clothesline, leg drop, drive home safely. Hulk Hogan wins the title for the fifth time. Somehow, Hogan convinced McMahon that he was still the man and he should hold the belt. We can bitch about how The Rock only shows up every other week as WWE Champion, but at least he's in front of a live TV audience once in a while. From Wrestlemania IX to King of the Ring (where he was beaten by Yokozuna-with a working fireball and a leg drop, no less), he didn't show up in front of a live TV audience once. Some champion he was. Hindsight being 20/20, consider the alternative: Yokozuna could have ended Wrestlemania IX as WWF Champion. Not exactly sending people home happy, are we? While it didn't lead to the Hogan-Hart match we all hoped for, Yokozuna winning the title back began one of the best booked runs in WWF history, or at the very least one run where everything fell into place by the next Wrestlemania where...
- Wrestlemania X: Yozozuna falls flat. This may be the most unintentionally funny bad moment in Wrestlemania history, so I'm not sure if I could classify it as a worst ever. Just as Bret Hart was about to become the meat in a Yokozuna/Madison Square Garden ring canvas sandwich, the big sumo/WWF Champion raised his fist and declared impending victory, only to lose his balance, fall on his ass, and concuss himself just long enough for Bret Hart to win the match. Yup, the tenth Wrestlemania ended on THAT. (Well, that and many of the faces hoisting Hart on their shoulders Rudy style while his younger brother Owen watched from the aisle.) But still, before this, no one backed into the WWF title quite like that (or since for that matter). For the second year in a row, Yokozuna had the WWF Championship in the palm of his hand, then stupidity took over. The previous year, it was his manager. This time, it was himself. And gravity. It would be funny if it weren't so sad, as Yokozuna's weight became a liability and was in a reduced role over the next two years before being released in fall 1996. But not before history repeated itself when the former champion once again lost via gravity to future champion Stone Cold Steve Austin at the Summerslam 1996 preshow. On second thought. Yeah. One of the worst moments ever.
- Wrestlemania 21: Big Show in a mawashi. Those are those things that sumos traditionally wear and...no. Just...no. Oh, there was a sumo match at Wrestlemania 21. A sumo match no one wanted. No. Just...no. They had Trish Stratus, Lita, and Playboy cover girl Christy Hemme at the show. They all look good in a thong. And less, I presume. But... no. We get this. Just...no. When I watch Wrestlemania 21 on DVD, I reach for the next chapter button when I get to this match.
- Wrestlemania XXVII: How to piss off the paying public without really trying. Let us count the ways: (1) Put an advertised championship match on the preshow (in this case, Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus for the United States Championship). (2) Turn said championship match on the preshow to a battle royal. (3) Have The Great Khali go over in that battle royal. (Seriously. This is right up there with Viscera winning the preshow battle royal. Or Yoshi Tatsu. It's dumb.) (4) Have the host and star of Wrestlemania XXVII The Rock do a promo. This would be okay if this is Monday Night RAW, but this is a PPV. A PPV people shelled out lots of dollars for. Time is of the essence. (5) Have the World Heavyweight Championship match go on first. Way to cheapen the #2 belt in the company. By the way, that match features the Royal Rumble winner Alberto Del Rio, who by the way, loses. (I'm sorta on the fence on this, hindsight being 20/20. It turned out that this was Edge's final match, as a diagnosed spinal stenosis forced him into early retirement a week later.) (6) Snoop Dogg's "talent show" segment, complete with Zack Ryder singing Rebecca Black's "Friday". (7) The Corre gets jobbed out in 95 seconds in an eight-man tag match. (8) This should probably get its own entry: the whole Jerry Lawler-Michael Cole match. The whole thing. The pre-match, the match, the post-match (especially the post-match where the decision got reversed by the RAW GM). (9) Snooki's "low center of gravity", surprisingly not the most offensive thing at this Wrestlemania. (10) The ending(s) of the main event commit multiple Wrestlemania no-no's: (a) end in a draw, (b) restart the match under no-DQ rules, (c) telegraph the ending with said restart, and (d) have the heel go over. Of course The Miz gets the Rock Bottom and The People's Elbow at the end too, but it doesn't matter. Atlanta and the paying public are not happy. Well, some are happy that The Miz won, but probably not like that. The main event of Wrestlemania XXVII served as nothing more as a $55 ad for Wrestlemania XXVIII. Hope it was worth it. Fuckers.
- Wrestlemania XX: Boo these men. Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg could have and should have been a big deal. This was a HOSS fight. This was a DREAM HOSS fight. Irresistible force meets immovable object, as the late Gorilla Monsoon once said. A HOSS fight fit for Wrestlemania and Madison Square Garden. HOSS FIGHT. HOSS ON HOSS VIOLENCE. Of course it would help if someone other than Stone Cold Steve Austin (the referee/non-HOSS) was trying. Both Lesnar and Goldberg made their intentions known (whether they wanted to or not) that neither were coming back following the match, and the MSG crowd let them HAVE IT. And as it was their final match, neither man was interested in getting hurt. The two were treated as if they were no longer welcome in their home (or in this line of work for that matter). The result: one of the biggest trainwrecks in Wrestlemania history. While Goldberg hasn't stepped in a wrestling ring in the States since, Brock is heading to his first Wrestlemania since being booed out of the Garden. My guess is the NY/NJ crowd still hasn't let go of 2004.
- Wrestlemania XV: When keeping it real goes wrong. There has been exactly one shoot match in Wrestlemania history: the Brawl for All match between Eric "Butterbean" Esch and Bart "The Hammer" Gunn. What's Brawl for All, you ask? Well, it was a legitimate Toughman-style tournament that took place in the summer of 1998 between some of the WWF's legitimate tough guys. It was a vehicle to push "Dr. Death" Steve Williams, only Dr. Death got knocked out in the quarterfinals by the tournament's eventual winner Bart Gunn. Gunn would win $75,000, and eventually a Wrestlemania bout with the "King of the Four Rounders" Butterbean. And Butterbean put The Hammer to sleep real quick: 35 seconds in, and it was a wrap for Gunn in the match and in the States. Butterbean's left hand is what happens when keeping it real goes wrong.
- Wrestlemania VIII: Papa Shango, sick man, is slow and plodding. Hulk Hogan was wrestling his "final match" at Wrestlemania VIII against the man that eliminated him from the Royal Rumble and cost him his shot at the WWF Championship, Sid Justice. Since Justice's heel turn, he was killing fools left and right. But no one, and I mean no one, is a match for Hogan's leg drop, brother! Except for Sid, who kicks out. Huh? What? Awkardness abound. Because this was not the intended ending. Charles Wright, aka Papa Shango, another sick man as Bobby Heenan put it, runs...well, more or less plods down the ring to...well, I'm not really sure what he does. But whatever he was supposed to do, he was late getting there. But it was all forgotten moments later, when Ultimate Warrior made his return to save Hogan. Wrestlemania VIII ended with a non-finish. BLASPHEMY! In hindsight, it was a better finish than the following year's. Just saying.
- Wrestlemania XXVI: Revenge: you're doing it wrong. In the fall of 1997, Bret Hart left the World Wrestling Federation for rival World Championship Wrestling. It was the latest and biggest defection of talent to the competition since Scott Hall and Kevin Nash left for WCW 15 months earlier. Only problem was, at the time, Bret was the WWF Champion, and WWF had to separate Hart from belt before his contract ran out, and Vince McMahon would do whatever was necessary to make it happen, so a plan was concocted to screw Bret out of the title, and screw Bret they did. Well, more Vince than anyone, but still. More than a decade goes by before Bret walks through a WWE curtain again, and at Wrestlemania XXVI, we were finally...FINALLY...going to get the payoff to one of the most controversial moments in wrestling history. Well... Bret Hart won. He beat Mr. McMahon by submission. And members of the Hart family were there. That's about all the good you can say about it. It was a slow and plodding match along the pace of Kane vs. Khali from three years earlier. McMahon didn't bleed (understandable in the PG era, but it's PPV. We'd be okay with it). He barely sweat. He didn't pay nearly enough of a price for what he did to Hart. This should have been a quick and severe (or at least severe) ass kicking. We didn't get it, and the crowd was dead for it. Though, if you do have trouble sleeping at night, you can just put on this match. Just saying.
- Wrestlemania VI: Roddy Piper sets race relations back just a little bit. And by a little bit, I mean quite a lot. As I've said earlier, bringing race into a storyline takes all the fun and entertainment out of it, even if it's for the purpose of "social commentary". It just comes off as xenophobic and plays into the worst stereotypes. Case in point: the blackface. Wanna insult the African-American community? Painting your face black, or in Rowdy Roddy Piper's case at Wrestlemania VI in 1990, half your body black will do the trick for his battle with Bad News Brown. Look, Piper's far from politically correct; we get that. But this... no. Just... no. This is dumb. But at least karmic justice was served on three fronts: (1) the match was bad (1.75/5 on the Meltzer scale), (2) it ended with a double countout, and (3) Piper needed three weeks of sauna trips to get the paint off. The moral, kids: blackface is bad and tough to rub out.
I know I left plenty of bad moments out from this, but I'll try and justify some (if possible):
- The 18-second debacle at Wrestlemania XXVIII. It got Daniel Bryan over. More over than the guy that beat him, Sheamus. You know I'm right on this.
- The world tag team title match at Wrestlemania XIX was bumped for the Miller Lite Catfight Girls. Well, they're the Catfight Girls (side note: had Kane not gotten bumped off, this would be his 16th Wrestlemania appearance in a row.). Personally, I'm Team Less Filling.
- The WWF Championship tournament at Wrestlemania IV. Well, yeah, the Hulk Hogan-Andre the Giant rematch was a dud. Rick Rude and Jake Roberts did have a time limit draw. I give you that. But Macho Man won the whole thing. And it practically set up Wrestlemania V.
- Wrestlemania XI was main evented by Lawrence Taylor vs Bam Bam Bigelow. Ok, I'll definitely give you that one. All day. But... Spinderella in her prime.
- The Wrestlemania X8 main event. Yeah. They goofed that one up big time. But it was a world title match. It was DTR (dead to rights) before they went through the curtain because of a prior match: Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock.
- The Wrestlemania 25 main event. That too. In this case, The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels.
Worst Wrestlemania moment ever: did I list yours? If not, what I miss? (Cause I know I missed plenty.)