Editors note from the author: It has come to my attention that I made what can be construed as an offensive comment in this post. The comment has since been removed. To those that have been offended, I deeply and sincerely apologize for my error in judgment and accept whatever punishment that may result from this. I know you expect better from myself and the rest of the Masthead at Cageside Seats. Again, I apologize for the offensive comments. -Eddie Mac
Pro wrestling and disappointment go hand in hand. In a predetermined sport, getting one outcome when you fully expect another can often be gut-wrenching. Sure, said disappointment can make money, but more often than not, it costs promotions money and frustrates fans and in general create resentment. Like these stories and feuds for example. They could have been great. Or in some cases, they probably shouldn't have been thought up to begin with. Or for reasons beyond their control, they could not come to its conclusion or when they did, the payoff sucked. And that's the crux of this week's Cageside Countdown...
The most disappointing storylines in wrestling history.
As always, these countdowns are put together by a community vote, so if your favorite didn't make it or didn't get the rank you thought it deserved, well... it's your fault. Sorry. Before we get to the ten you voted the most disappointing, here are....
Ten honorable mentions. Actually, make that 11. No, how's about a dirty dozen? No. A dirty baker's dozen. Yeah. Let's do that. 13 stories and feuds disappointing enough to get a mention, but not enough to make the cut.
1. A few weeks after his longtime friend and tag team partner Edge retired, Christian won his first world championship in WWE. Regardless of circumstance, it was nice to see one of the good guys of the business get rewarded...plus it kinda helped that he was a smark favorite. Christian's first world title reign lasted all of two days. Randy Orton won the title at the Smackdown after the PPV, causing a huge stink amongst wrestling fans.
2. Diamond Dallas Page at the height of his WCW run was one of the most popular wrestlers in the world. He still very much was when he made his debut in June 2001. Seriously, listen to this pop. When you get past that pop and had been following WWF programming at the time, that's when it hits you: Diamond Dallas Page was the stalker of the Undertaker's then-wife Sara. (Editor's note from Geno Mrosko: There were some deeply offensive comments written here that have since been removed. We at Cageside Seats are sorry that they were ever made or published and promise not to let it happen again.)
3. In early 2011, CM Punk ripped the leadership of the Nexus away from Wade Barrett. The next week, he also cleaned house, forcing the crew to go under an initiation process or be kicked from the group as Wade did. Eventually, David Otunga, Michael McGillicutty, Husky Harris, and the guy who looks like Batista but was not Batista made up the New Nexus. Adding the word "new" to anything automatically ruins it: New Coke, New Foundation, New Rockers. Hell, even The New Price is Right dropped the "New" after a few years. And the New Nexus wasn't even good enough to be fed to the top guy; they were fed to the #2, Randy Orton.
4. In what seems to be the story of his WWE main roster run, Bray Wyatt had a disappointing feud with The Undertaker in the leadup to Wrestlemania 31. Proclaiming himself as the "New Face of Fear", he was going to put the original one, the Deadman, down for good. Except the Deadman wasn't quite ready to give up his place on the perch just yet, as he defeated the cult leader.
5. In fact, since Wrestlemania XXX, the Wyatt family saga has been a pretty sad one. Showing so much promise, they've been ruined beyond repair thanks to a split far before they were ready. A reunion of the group could save them, but they may be beyond salvaging.
6. When Kane returned in 2012 in a welder's mask for reasons, his first major act was to encourage John Cena to "Embrace the Hate", a reference to Cena's shirt of the month, "Rise Above Hate". Somehow in this saga, Zack Ryder and Eve were sucked into the drama as Ryder had a thing for Eve. In the end, only Cena came out the other side better than whence he came. Kane lost an ambulance match, Eve got called a "hoeski", and as for Zack... he pretty much lost everything but his job, which he has for some reason three years later because he's a glutton for punishment.
7. The runup to the sequel that almost nobody wanted, John Cena vs. The Rock II: Electric Boogaloo, should have begun with a road to redemption story that had a great first chapter: Cena lost what he felt was the biggest match of his life at Wrestlemania XXVIII. The plot gets lost almost immediately thereafter as he not only defeats Brock Lesnar just over a month later, he pretty much hangs around in the main event the entire time...often over WWE Champion at the time CM Punk.
8. The story is still being written, and it may not even end this weekend, but the story of brotherhood and betrayal between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins should have been more than about a calculating heel turned cowardly brat against a lunatic anarchist turned prop comic. But that's just me.
9. Co-winners of the 2014 Gooker Award, the seemingly improved in-ring Bella Twins has been overshadowed by a storyline that in the last 12 months included one twin turning on the other, said twin wishing she died in the WOMB, not telling things to anyone, and a reconciliation without any sort of explanation whatsoever. I believe the twins are heel, but when even the smartest minds at Cageside aren't sure, that's a problem.
10. Once a calculating manager and social media ambassador, Lana has in recent months been reduced to little more than a tired trope in wrestling: the helpless female manager that may or may not have fell in love with her charge trying to get over a nasty breakup. One by the way she initiated. I still see big things for her, but the way they're going about it just seems off. Perhaps this recent Fanpost from kmtierney can explain it way better than I can.
11. I have a gut feeling in my mind that Bray Wyatt and Dean Ambrose was put together solely for the purpose to please Internet fans. After all, they have quite the following on these here webpages. It may not be true for all I know, but their beef goes back to the Shield vs. Wyatt Family days, so this had the potential to be good. Somehow this feud began with a spectre and a ended with a blown up television. In the main event. Of a PPV. Not only were Internet wrestling fans not amused, non-Internet wrestling fans were not amused.
12. Paul Heyman is one of the greatest minds in the wrestling business. So the post-Wrestlemania XXX that Cesaro was a Paul Heyman guy should have led him to superstardom. Instead, he ended up worse off than he was when he was Antonio Cesaro, yodeler. Remember that shit?
13. What began as the most anticipated rematch in recent memory for WCW--Kevin Nash vs. Goldberg for the WCW world title a week after Goldberg suffered his first loss ever--was bait-and-switched (aggravated stalking, anyone?) to an impromptu, but long-time-coming meeting between the leaders of the nWo factions, Nash and a returning Hollywood Hulk Hogan. What we got instead was the Fingerpoke of Doom, an nWo reunion nobody wanted led by a champion less than nobody wanted, and the beginning of the end of WCW.
If you are disappointed so far, you haven't seen anything yet. Prepare yourselves, boys and girls for...
the ten most disappointing storylines in wrestling history (as voted on by you, the Cagesiders).
10. Stardust vs. Goldust.
Talk about awkward timing, right?
The sons of a son of a plumber have for years lobbied for a battle between each other on the "grandest of all stages", Wrestlemania. And seemingly, we were heading that route. Cody Rhodes, disillusioned by his and his brother's ability to defeat the Usos after repeatedly losing to them, decided he was no longer good enough to team with Goldust.
Enter Stardust, the alter ego of Cody Rhodes.
Over time, the two surely enough found tag team gold again, but just as it happened before when it was Cody, they eventually cracked under the pressure, and the feud that was destined to be was finally set to happen: Stardust, the alter ego that took over Cody Rhodes the way Hulk Hogan took over Terry Bollea, looking to eradicate the brother that just wants his family back.
Except they blew it off a month before at Fastlane in an almost meaningless match. Turned out Goldust would soon have to go under the knife. And once again, we're denied Rhodes vs. Rhodes. And now with the death of their father Dusty, it seems what could have been will remain just as it has been for years: a what if.
9. Paige and AJ.
Hey... remember that one photo where Paige was the NXT Womens Champion and AJ was the WWE Divas Champion and you thought to yourself... hey, that would be a pretty awesome feud if Paige ever gets called up. Most of you remember that picture, but for the few that don't, here you go.
See? Pretty awesome, right?
Paige indeed was called up the night after Wrestlemania XXX. In her first night in the pros, she gets slapped by AJ, then one hit kills her in like a minute and a half.. Then AJ disappears and Paige is left to wrestle the likes of Tamina Snuka (who despite having the genes, has been largely disappointing), Summer Rae (barf), and Aksana (barfo supremo). All this while having to get used to wrestling in front of thousands four or five nights a week for the first time in your life. All before your 22nd birthday. That's a hell of a lot of pressure.
Three months later, AJ returned to breathe some life in the divas division. And to one-hit kill Paige in under a minute and a half. Finally we get the feud we're all waiting for...
...with a big dose of lesbian pollen. Look, I'm all for lipstick lesbianism. There are plenty of places I can go to for that. A wrestling show that's rated PG isn't one of them. And when the lesbian overtones overshadow the talent in the ring (of which these two have plenty), that's a problem. Also a problem: the random frenemy switch. Is she or is she not her friend? Big Show would probably tell them to calm down with all these turns. If it weren't for AJ retiring, she'd be a heel right now. Or maybe even a face again.
8. Vince McMahon's illegitimate son.
As John Lennon may or may not have said once, life is what happens when you're busy making plans. In June 2007, Vince McMahon was going to off his character in the most drastic of manners: have someone kill him. Make no mistake: this was a most desperate attempt to grab viewers who tuned out of their shows in recent years. But that's another story for another day.
So after what was a disastrous "McMahon Appreciation Night", Vince McMahon walks to his limo a clearly despondent man walking the green mile. Then the limo EXPLODES, trapping McMahon in a fiery grave. But remember that quote: life's what happens when you're busy making other plans? Just as they planned to begin the storyline payoff, life happened. Or more accurately, three deaths happened: Chris Benoit was found dead in his suburban Atlanta home along with his wife Nancy and son Daniel. McMahon had to come out of that fiery grave and be the public figure in the face of tragedy. While the show was in progress, it was found that Benoit was the man responsible for the tragedy: he killed his wife and son before taking his own life.
With all the stones in the world thrown at the WWE, McMahon returned to television a little more than a month later as boisterous as ever, and the storyline pretty much resumed...only without the dead body.
That story: Vince McMahon cheated and fathered a son in a one-night stand. Oh, and his son just happens to be employed by the WWE...as a wrestler. As the weeks went on, it was rumored that the storyline bastard son to be was Mr. Kennedy. Kennedy. It made way too much sense.
But life is what happens when you're busy making plans. Right before the big reveal, Sports Illustrated dropped a huge bomb, outing people who used the online drug pharmacy Signature to score some performance enhancers. And wouldn't you know it? Ten WWE superstars were on the list, including the aforementioned Benoit. Oh, and Kennedy, real name Ken Anderson, was on the list too.
But they were gonna push this broken Ferrari to the finish line, by God. And through some guessing games, the final reveal...which could have been Triple H or The Sandman of all people... turned out to be Hornswoggle. Because of course it's fucking Hornswoggle.
Who turned out to be Finlay's son.
That is not only disappointing, but depressing.
7. WWE vs. Nexus.
One of the biggest complaints of the last decade has been WWE's inability...or reluctance to create new stars. I mean, the list is John Cena, Batista, CM Punk, and Daniel Bryan for sure, with four to eight more in the tier right under it. Best case scenario, that's about 12 guys in 10 years. In 2010, WWE had the chance to make eight guys at once. EIGHT. They ended up failing seven of them.
Less than a week after their NXT season ended, Wade Barrett and his fellow castmates unexpectedly made a statement... by completely tearing everyone and everything around them to shreds. It was about an overt act of aggression as anyone had seen in the PG era. And almost immediately, the story falls off a cliff. The NXT Eight, or the Nexus as they would be called, were the NXT Seven, as Daniel Bryan was fired for choking announcer Justin Roberts with his own tie on camera. As if they needed a reminder of the Benoit murder-suicide right in front of them. But losing their best—and by all accounts, only—seasoned performer in the group, the clan suddenly had less in-ring credibility. But that would be nothing compared to facing the brick wall that is John Cena.
The benevolent part of me would like to think that John Cena wasn't actively trying to sabotage the careers of Nexus at Summerslam (where Daniel Bryan was brought back by the way). But that's pretty much what happened. I'll let Edge, who's forgotten more wrestling than I'll ever know, do the explaining. From a December 2013 interview on the Talk is Jericho podcast:
Jericho: It was WWE Team vs. Team Nexus...and the finish boiled down to you [Edge] and me [Jericho] were in there, but it was Cena against a couple of them. John wanted to do things a certain way and we told him 'you're wrong'. Remember that? And he did it anyways, and it sucked. And then afterwards he came over to us and said 'I should have listened to you, but I wasn't seeing it that way. And sometimes you just don't see it that way, you know?
Edge: It's one of those things...where he was adamant about what he wanted to do. And I remember, I was like, 'fine, I'm out of the match by that point'.
Jericho: [Laughs] Exactly. He wanted to get DDT'd on the floor by Barrett, then kick out and beat them both. And you and I were like, 'that's the dumbest thing. That's just throwing it away for no reason'.
Edge: They should have gone over because they were so hot.
Jericho: We were fighting for Barrett to go over. And, in all fairness, where's Wade Barrett now? They should have listened to us.
Who knows what would have happened if Barrett would have gone over? But as it stands, that win basically killed the Nexus angle dead. Not even Cena being a slave for the Nexus, then being fired by said Nexus, could save this angle...which ended with Wade getting buried. Literally.
6. Triple H vs. Booker T.
Even in 2015, the subject of race is a tricky and delicate thing. Yet in the half century since the height of the Civil Rights Movement, minorities have been afforded more opportunities than ever before. But the truth is, in some areas, they're still treated as second-class citizens. One of those areas just happens to be wrestling.
In the runup to Wrestlemania XIX, Booker T won a battle royal for the right to challenge Triple H for the world heavyweight championship (last eliminating The Rock of all people). It had the makings of a Cinderella story.
Here's Booker T: growing up in the rough streets of Houston, orphaned at age 12, sent to prison for armed robbery, himself a single father struggling to provide a better life for his son, making it in the wresting business, capturing ten WCW world tag team titles with his brother Stevie Ray and winning the WCW world title five times in the company's dying days.
Here's Triple H: a man not only born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but was afforded every advantage known to man in the wrestling business, including (a) marrying the boss' daughter and (b) having wrestling royalty in your corner... oh, and (c) being handed—HANDED—the world title by Eric Bischoff when the undisputed WWE Championship became disputed.
Enter the racial overtones: Triple H, looking unimpressed at Booker T, telling his challenger that "people like [you] don't get to be world champion" and that he should "dance for his amusement". Needless to say, the comments caused a firestorm; one Triple H was savvy to put out. He was told he should carry the champ's bags. Maybe even fetch a clean towel for a buck while working in a restroom. But none of that mattered: the Monday before Wrestlemania, Booker T pinned Triple H in a tag match. The reality was setting in: maybe this supposed inferior minority may really get the best of him.
Then came Wrestlemania. Look, I wanna punch Jerry Lawler as much as the next guy for his sometime asinine commentary, but during this match, it was on a different level. Of course that didn't matter if you watched at Safeco Field that day, because you and pretty much anyone watching was hoping the uppity racist would finally get what was coming to him. Hell, Booker whipped out the Houston Hangover. THE FUCKING HOUSTON HANGOVER.
Then Triple H hit the Pedigree, wait about 25 seconds to make the cover, then won. Hunter, the racist, won.
5. WCW vs. nWo.
Professional wrestling has always operated in a cycle. It has its ebbs and flows like any other industry. In the 1950s and 1960s, pro wrestling was riding a high with the popularity of television. It struggled through the 1970s and early 1980s until the Rock 'n Wrestling Connection not only brought wrestling back into the mainstream, but to a wider audience than ever before. The early 1990s saw the industry suffer thanks in part to drug and sex scandals that made national news. The two major wrestling organizations sought different solutions to the same problem of dwindling interest in wrestling: WWF had to trot out a younger, or at least, cleaner roster. WCW decided to use the very people WWF cast aside. Sure they were past their prime, but a fresh coat of paint, and they're good as new. In the end, fans soundly rejected both their solutions.
So in 1996, Eric Bischoff sought a little inspiration: a multi-promotional war, a regular occurrence in Japan, could possibly work here in the States if the situation is right. In the spring, the chips fell perfectly in favor of WCW: Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were both on their way out... and in their prime. They wouldn't be another 80s WWF castoff, no sir. They were heading to WCW...as employees of the WWF. Kind of. Sort of. As the Internet wasn't made widely available, the storyline was perfect. They soon added the big white whale: Hulk Hogan. With a force this mighty, who in WCW could stop them?
As it turned out: nobody. For the entirety of their existences (plural), the New World Order as they were calling themselves, beat down WCW time and time again, and they would tell anyone that would listen that WCW sucked. And if you tell someone enough that WCW sucked, the fans would start to believe it. And they did. Eventually, the WCW faithful were left with two options: join the winning team or be crushed under the weight of the nWo machine. Sting was the closest anyone came to defeating the machine, but less than six months later, he too wore the letters. So did Lex Luger. And Randy Savage. In fact, with the exception of Bill Goldberg, most every main eventer wore the nWo colors or some offshoot of them. Never did the group get its comeuppance. They just drifted away without ever being soundly beaten.
It was the best story WCW ever told. They just never wrote the ending.
4. Gobbledy Gooker.
For most of 1990, a giant egg travelled through WWF shows around the world. The question on the mind of wrestling fans (besides what's an giant egg doing there): what's in the egg. The egg could have been anyone... or anything for that matter. It was even teased moments before the reveal that what's inside could have been--get this--a Playboy Playmate.
You knew disappointment was heading their way, but no one could have been prepared for the reaction when... a live turkey emerged from the egg. The Gobbledy Gooker was born to a chorus of boos. It had to be one of the tougher nights in one Hector Guerrero's life. I mean, here he is, in a turkey suit, dancing with Mean Gene Okerlund, dancing in the middle of the ring for like ten minutes while Gorilla Monsoon and Rowdy Roddy Piper do their damnest to sell the "awesomeness" of this. Jesse Ventura got out just in time, didn't he?
Anyway, this piece of awfulness lives on in a little site called Wrestlecrap, which dedicates itself to poking fun at the worst in wrestling. It's annual worst gimmick/storyline/moment award is named after the Gooker. So... legacy, you guys. Yay.
3. The anonymous RAW General Manager.
By the turn of the century, the overbearing heel authority figure ruling over a company with an iron fist had become a tired trope in professional wrestling. But we've also come to the conclusion that no matter how hard we want it to go away, it's not going anywhere.
By 2010, the authority figure trope got even more tired, especially on RAW, where the general manager position had suddenly become a revolving door. Between Eric Bischoff's firing in 2005 and the debut of the Anonymous RAW GM in the summer of 2010, nine different people assumed...wait, I forgot the guest host era... 65 different men and women assumed general manager duties, with all but eight of them assuming them for one show only. The last of those 65 was Bret Hart, who was GM for about five weeks in the spring of 2010. When Hart bailed, RAW's superstars began taking orders... from a laptop computer. I wish I was making this up.
Some anonymous figure from an undisclosed location would e-mail into RAW a match change or a stipulation or some other jazz or other while that annoying iPhone notification sound went off. You know the sound I'm talking about. Even if you don't own an iPhone, you know the sound. This went on for an entire year, then in the wake of the CM Punk walkout (the first one), the Anonymous RAW General Manager... just vanished. Into the ether.
Then in the runup to RAW 1000, past general managers were invited back for a night to... well, run RAW. One of those brought back was the ubiquitous Anonymous RAW General Manager...who turned out to be Hornswoggle. Of course it's fucking Hornswoggle.
Who also ran RAW on Cyber Monday last year in the wake of the Authority being deposed. Because of course it's Hornswoggle, even though WWE forgot continuity altogether. You can't just retcon that and not expect that to be okay. You went down that lane WWE Creative, you keep driving.
2. The Invasion.
The wrestling world was forever altered in a four day period in March 2001. On Friday, March 23, WWF announces formally that it had purchased WCW. This came in the wake of AOL Time Warner wanting to ditch any money pits from the portfolio (this was long before AOL Time Warner itself became a money pit) and new Turner programming president Jamie Kellner deciding wrestling was no longer welcome on their networks. Though the Internet was more widely available in 2001 than it was in say... 1996, a lot of people didn't hear the news of the sale until around 8pm eastern time Monday, March 26 (or more likely, 9pm eastern time, as WWF had long been stomping a mudhole in WCW in the ratings and walking it dry). Even those that did hear the news that weekend still couldn't believe it by the end of RAW and Nitro that Monday: WWF now owned WCW.
Wrestling fans immediately salivated at the thought of dream matches such as Hogan vs. Austin. The Rock vs. Sting. The Outsiders vs. The Dudley Boyz. Okay, maybe not all these, but surely as hell the possibilities were endless. The sky was the limit as to what a WWF vs. WCW battle could look like.
It turned out the limit was the sky, and there was a low ceiling. Last year, I listed ten reasons why the Invasion failed, but if you don't have time to read it, I'll summarize it for you: they got WCW's B-team, as most of their A-listers sat it out until their deals with Time Warner expired. Immediately, that reduced "the enemy"'s credibility. Also reducing their credibility: needing WWF superstars and divas to prop them up. Not that it mattered because the "invading force" known as the Alliance (which would include ECW a few weeks in) never looked like a legitimate threat to the WWF machine. In the end, the potential biggest storyline in wrestling history lasted all of eight months before it was mercy killed at Survivor Series. By four WWF guys. This was perhaps the biggest exercise in lighting money on fire in wrestling history.
1. The Summer of Punk.
And this may be a close second. Thing is, Ring of Honor basically gave WWE the playbook.
In June 2011, WWE superstar CM Punk announced that his contract was set to expire at the Money in the Bank PPV, where he would challenge John Cena for the WWE Championship. And if he didn't make it clear enough that he was leaving with the WWE title on his last night of work, he made sure to leave a burning bridge in his rear view mirror by spitting some seriously hot fire. You may remember this as "the pipebomb".
Suddenly, Phillip Brooks of Chicago, Illinois was the hottest man in wrestling. He spoke to the ills of the WWE, ills that have been sighted by MANY people, many of whom still bought tickets anyway. 20 days later in one of the most thrilling matches in WWE history, CM Punk made good on his promise right down to the letter. He defeated John Cena, won the WWE Championship, even thwarted an attempted Money in the Bank cash-in, and he took off with belt in hand, disappearing into the night, never to be seen again.
At least not in a WWE ring. Here's Punk at San Diego Comic-Con. Here's Punk on ESPN. Here's Punk doing late night TV talk shows. Here's Punk at some indy show. Here's Punk's belt in a refrigerator. Here's Punk back on WWE television eight days later.
Here's where the hottest storyline in wrestling begins to crack. Punk's not gone long. He couldn't be. WWE's second biggest show on their annual calendar was on the horizon, and they couldn't afford to have their legit world champion not on it. Not that it mattered because soon the story became more about the players surrounding the man that left the company and less about the man that left the company. While the sequel bout between Punk and Cena was solid, it was far from spectacular. To the surprise of many, Punk won again. And to the surprise of many, Kevin Nash got involved. And to the surprise of many, Alberto Del Rio stole the WWE title right out from under him.
There's a conspiracy afoot.
And here's where the train falls off the tracks: the involvement of Kevin Nash (someone who CM Punk's sister once thought was dead... guess she doesn't watch TNA) and his Kliq BFF Triple H. And when Triple H gets involved in a storyline, it immediately dies on the vine because it becomes about Triple H. Somehow, the payoff to all this is Kevin Nash texted himself to "stick the winner" using Triple H's phone, causing H to fire Nash (in reality, a write-off due to Nash not being medically cleared to compete), leading for some reason to Punk taking on Triple H at Night of Champions instead of... I dunno, trying to get his WWE Championship back.
Oh, and Triple H won.
That's how the Summer of Punk ends. All that momentum built for the better part of three months, erased in three seconds with a Pedigree because someone wanted to piggyback on the hottest story in wrestling. And all new fans WWE gained during that time? I'm willing to bet most of them left. Punk eventually did win the title back, but not until November, and despite holding it for 14 and a half months, he still played second fiddle to whatever John Cena did for the majority of it. While CM Punk's profile definitely rose, its less than desirable conclusion left many fans shaking their heads. And that's why you've voted it the most disappointing storyline in wrestling history.