In anticipation of yet another uninspired WrestleMania lineup, I thought I'd go back and take a look at some of the worst WrestleMania stock drops in history. What do I mean by that? Well I'm talking about instances where a particular wrestler either main evented or semi-main evented a WrestleMania one year, only to get the booking shaft at the following 'Mania. I picked the ten most glaring examples of this and I'm presenting them in chronological order. Here we go.
1. Paul Orndorff - Main Eventer to Curtain Jerker
"Mr. Wonderful" was one of the great WWF heels of the 80s. His feuds against Hulk Hogan were the stuff of legend. Unfortunately Orndorff was also kind of a split personality, character-wise. Nowadays certain wrestlers turn face and heel with the frequency of an 80-year-old with incontinence (see Show, Big), but in the 80s a character turn was a big deal. Orndorff however was unusually fickle, feuding with Hogan, befriending him six months later, turning on him again, befriending him again, etc.
Orndorff headlined the inaugural WrestleMania, teaming with Roddy Piper against Hogan and Mr. T. Despite taking the pinfall, Orndorff was featured in one of the biggest matches in company history. At 'Mania 2 though, a babyface Orndorff found himself opening the show in a totally forgettable four-minute double countout with Don Muraco. Thus the tradition of WrestleMania Stock Drops began.
2. King Kong Bundy - Caged Monster to Comedy Act
King Kong Bundy was a legitimately scary dude in 1986. He was a 6'4", 450-pound wall of humanity with a shaved head, whose finisher simply consisted of squashing a guy in the corner of the ring. He challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title at 'Mania 2 in a Steel Cage match (The first and only time a WrestleMania has been headlined by such a bout). While no five-star classic, the match cemented Bundy as an imposing threat to the Title. Fast-forward a year later, and Bundy was stuck in a goofy comedy match, teaming with two minis against perennial jobber-to-the-stars Hillbilly Jim and two other minis. After only three-plus minutes, Bundy earned a disqualification by bodyslamming Little Beaver. A far cry from nearly dethroning the WWF Champion the previous year.
3. Randy Savage - MegaPower to Mixed Tag
In terms of 1980s WWF box office draws, Randy Savage was second only to Hulk Hogan. Their MegaPowers storyline spanned nearly two years and was brilliantly executed. WrestleMania V culminated in their epic clash for the WWF Title, which is still considered one of the better main events in 'Mania history. One year later, now saddled with the cartoonish "Macho King" gimmick, Savage and his manager Queen Sherri were embroiled in a goofy midcard feud with Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire, resulting in a terrible mixed tag match at 'Mania 6. What a waste of the best worker on the 1990 roster.
4. Sgt. Slaughter - Turncoat to Panderer
Almost certainly the worst WrestleMania main event took place at VII in 1991, when the WWF exploited the real-life military skirmish in the Persian Gulf for an ill-conceived wrestling angle. Sgt. Slaughter was brought in late the previous year as a sadistic heel and became an Iraqi sympathizer on his way to winning the WWF Title. Enter American Hero Hulk Hogan to bring down the megalomaniacal traitor, and the main program for WrestleMania was solidified. Just one problem though, by the time 'Mania rolled around the Gulf War had been over for two months, and therefore the angle was no longer topical. Ticket sales stagnated and the PPV was moved from the 100,000-seat LA Coliseum to the 16,000-seat LA Sports Arena. So an argument could certainly be made that Slaughter should never have headlined a WrestleMania to begin with. That notwithstanding, by 'Mania 8 he had begged the fans' forgiveness and turned back to the good side, and was playing second-banana in a throwaway 8-man tag match alongside the Big Bossman, Jim Duggan and Virgil. That's what you call a career nosedive.
5. Randy Savage - Champion to Commentator
Man, I'm not sure who Savage pissed off, but he's the one guy on the list to twice go from headlining a WrestleMania to being totally misused the next year. At 'Mania 8, Savage reascended to the WWF Title by beating Ric Flair in a fantastic semi-main event that should've gone on last. At the time he held the record for the longest gap between WWF Title reigns (This would be shattered by Bob Backlund in 1994), and it was quite something to see him regain the belt after three years. So, how did the WWF follow this up at 'Mania 9? Was Savage in the Title picture again? Was he booked to put over a rising young star like Razor Ramon or Lex Luger? Nope. Savage was relegated to color commentary, a role he didn't much enjoy and wasn't all that good at. I'm still baffled Vince couldn't find a meaningful in-ring role for Savage in 1993-94. He could've put over some younger heels or had a great face vs. face rivalry with Bret Hart. Nah, let's stick him in the booth. Brilliant.
6. Steve Austin - Rattlesnake to Also-Ran
For the next decade, the WWF managed to find appropriate roles for WrestleMania headliners from one year to the next. Then in 2002 they had a major relapse. One of the worst ever. Steve Austin had regained the WWF Title at 'Mania 17 against The Rock in a spectacular brawl, turning heel in the process. While the Austin heel turn was ultimately a poor business decision, his 2001 Championship run included some of the best in-ring and mic work of his career. Then several months later the Austin character was rebooted as the babyface Rattlesnake, just in time for the nWo to enter the fray. The big money match at 'Mania 18 was to be The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan. The WWF Title match was Chris Jericho vs. Triple H. That left nothing for Steve Austin to do except fight Scott Hall, in a match much anticipated by basically no one. The bout went just under ten minutes and wasn't at all memorable. It's no wonder Austin went home for two weeks the next day.
7. Randy Orton - Viper to Babysitter
Another snake, another dropoff. Randy Orton had a career year in 2009, winning the Royal Rumble and enjoying multiple WWE Title reigns while becoming one of the most effective heels of the decade. At WrestleMania 25 Orton unsuccessfully challenged Triple H for the Championship in a much-maligned main event. As far as I'm concerned the match itself was fine, if totally inappropriate for the build. Triple H wasn't a likable babyface and the match should've been No DQ, but as a standalone bout it was well-worked. Regardless, the following year Orton went on second in a brief Triple Threat match with his two former stablemates Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase. Hardly a marquee match for WWE's then second-biggest full-time star. Orton went on to have a fairly successful babyface run with the Title, but this match didn't do much to boost the resume of any of its three participants.
8. The Miz - Awesome to Afterthought
I'm just gonna come out and say this - in 2011 I pegged The Miz as WWE's next "It Guy." You all did too, don't lie! The man had a great look, off-the-charts charisma, a super "love to hate him" persona, and the drive to be a media workhorse. Just watch his early 2011 appearance on Conan - he seemed like one of those WWE stars the mainstream public would've eaten up with a spoon. Heading into WrestleMania 27, something was a little off though - WWE seemed far more concerned with the following year's Rock-Cena match than with the matter at hand. Couple that with possible first-time jitters and Miz failed to deliver his end of a memorable main event, while Cena turned in an uncharacteristically weak performance. It didn't help that the show ended with The Rock laying out both guys and announcing the following night that he was challenging Cena for 'Mania 28. The Miz, despite being WWE Champion, was officially a third wheel. By the end of 2011 he'd been booked as a complete buffoon, and come WrestleMania 28 the only spot they could find for him was as a late addition to a 12-man tag match. I won't say Miz was totally blameless in his career misfortunes, but WWE's inane handling of him post-Mania 27 certainly did him no favors.
9. Chris Jericho - Savior to Fandango Fodder
In 2013 Jericho was no stranger to being poorly used on a WrestleMania card. At 'Mania 25 the company had planned for him to face actor Mickey Rourke, hoping to capitalize on the success of Rourke's film The Wrestler. After Rourke balked at the idea of an in-ring role, all WWE had left for Jericho to do was pick on a handful of 60-year-olds like Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, and Ricky Steamboat. The match was basically garbage as one would expect. But upon returning to WWE in 2012, Jericho was handpicked to face WWE Champion CM Punk at the big dance. The Punk-Jericho feud was excellently booked, and their match easily stole the show that night (Yes, I consider Punk-Jericho vastly superior to the HHH-Taker Cell match). This was probably Jericho's best 'Mania match aside from his WM19 bout with Shawn Michaels, and helped solidify Punk as a credible long-term WWE Champion. Just one year later however, Jericho was handpicked to put over a far less-deserving young talent named Fandango. The reason? Vince liked Fandango's "ballroom dancer" gimmick. Ever the good soldier, Jericho worked hard to make sure 'Dango looked like a million bucks, putting him over clean at 'Mania 29 in one of the evening's few entertaining matches. Unfortunately with Vince's attention span being what it is, Fandango's push evaporated faster than you can say "brass ring," and so Jericho's yeoman's work that night was all for nothing.
10. Daniel Bryan - World Beater to Wedged In
And finally we arrive at WrestleMania 31. In 2015, despite being WWE's most solidly over babyface by a country mile, Daniel Bryan went from singlehandedly defeating Evolution in the opener and closer of WrestleMania XXX, to being a last-minute addition to a 7-man Ladder Match for (at the time) the utterly worthless-beyond-repair Intercontinental Title. Look, I used to value the I-C Title at least as much as the big belt. It was the Championship of Workrate, worn by such legends as Randy Savage, Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart, Mr. Perfect, Shawn Michaels, etc. Unfortunately for over a decade the belt was booked as a fairly useless prop worn primarily by talent deemed Not Ready for Prime Time. Just look at the 2014 roster of IC Champs - The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, Luke Harper, Bad News Barrett. All of them had something in common: upon winning the strap they all went on horrible losing streaks, dropping nearly every televised non-title match. How was the I-C Title expected to be taken seriously?
And how did the company justify their most popular star since The Rock being shoehorned into a spotfest match for a meaningless secondary Title with six other guys? This is the guy who 'Mania 30 was BUILT AROUND. That 'Mania was the climax of an eight-month build, and while it wasn't planned that way originally, the show captured the imagination of millions of wrestling fans. Now Bryan wasn't even good enough for one of the top FIVE matches on the card? Unbelievable. Bryan of course won the I-C belt in a decent if forgettable opener (multi-man Ladder Matches are basically all the same now), and intended to truly rehab the belt into something meaningful before a concussion derailed another Title run (and his WWE career).
Well that's the end of the list. What a depressing topic. Ugh..... Anyway, thanks for reading - comment below!