Thursday, April 7, 2022

Top Ten Things: WrestleMania Demotions

Hey everyone, welcome back to another Top Ten Things, here at

Now that this year's spring extravaganza is in the books, I thought I'd go back and take a look at some of the worst WrestleMania demotions in history.  What do I mean by that?  Well I'm talking about instances where a particular wrestler either main evented or featured very prominently in a WrestleMania one year, only to get the booking shaft at the following 'Mania.  I picked the ten fifteen 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 Demotions 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 re-ascended 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.  Or better yet, give him the role Backlund had in late 1994 - the beloved legend who snaps and turns heel and dethrones the champ.  Nah, let's stick him in the booth.  Brilliant.

6. Lex Luger - American Hero to Allied Power

In 1993 the WWF attempted to replace the departing Hulk Hogan with another musclebound American hero character, Lex Luger.  Repackaged from a silly Narcissus-inspired gimmick, Luger accepted the massive Yokozuna's bodyslam challenge on the deck of the USS Intrepid, and a new babyface challenger was created.  Luger toured the country in a star-spangled bus to promote his SummerSlam main event against Yoko, and all signs pointed to the coronation of a new champ.  But then Luger won by countout instead.  Fast-forward to the following WrestleMania season, and Luger made history by co-winning the 1994 Royal Rumble with Bret Hart, necessitating two WWF Title matches at 'Mania 10.  Luger came up short a second time thanks to poor officiating by Mr. Perfect, and his 9-month main event run in the WWF was strangely just done.  One year later he'd curtain jerk WrestleMania 11 in a forgettable tag team match with new partner Davey Boy Smith, and by September he'd leave the company entirely, ultimately better remembered for his surprise WCW Nitro debut than for his lengthy All-American Hero run in the WWF.  So much for Luger being Hogan's successor....

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

11. Daniel Bryan - World Beater to Wedged In

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?

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 for three years).

12. Shinsuke Nakamura - Rumble Winner to Barely Present

Shinsuke Nakamura's first couple years in the company were quite successful overall, as the former NJPW sensation was booked strong in NXT before a solid main roster run in 2017 and 2018.  He became the first Japanese wrestler to win a Royal Rumble (the same night that Asuka became the second), on his way to challenging fellow NJPW alum AJ Styles for the WWE Title at WrestleMania 34.  Their match left a little to be desired, a step down from their epic WrestleKingdom 10 encounter, but was still one of the best matches on the show.  Nakamura surprisingly came up short but would challenge AJ three more times that year.  Unfortunately their feud was so badly booked, based mostly around kicking each other in the groin, that by their Last Man Standing blowoff match three months later the fans didn't care much anymore.  Fast-forward to WrestleMania 35, and Nakamura was thrown into an entertaining but meaningless four-way tag team match third on the card.  A year after that he wasn't booked on the show at all, except as Sami Zayn's corner man.  This despite a golden opportunity to finally book Nakamura vs. Daniel Bryan for the first time ever, on the biggest show of the year.  As of 2022 Nakamura hasn't had a WrestleMania match since this one.  What an incredible waste of a unique talent.  Nak could be returning home to New Japan or making new waves in AEW, but he's stuck in a company that has never really known how to properly utilize him.

13. Asuka - Inaugural Rumble Winner to Battle Royal Loser

Asuka's demotion is even worse than Nakamura's.  In 2018 the Empress of Tomorrow won the first-ever women's Royal Rumble.  A singular accomplishment that can never be taken away from her or duplicated.  Charlotte or Becky could win every women's Rumble from now until the end of time, but Asuka will ALWAYS be the first.  She was riding a two-plus-year undefeated streak at the time, and all signs seemed to point to her dethroning the mighty Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania.  But then she didn't.  In the interest of building Charlotte up for an eventual match with Ronda Rousey, the company sacrificed Asuka's streak and her groundbreaking Rumble win, and Asuka spent months tumbling down the card as a result, only recovering at the end of 2018 when she finally won main roster gold, unseating Becky Lynch (with Charlotte) in a three-way TLC match.  It looked as though Asuka was finally being taken seriously again, as she even tapped Becky out at the 2019 Royal Rumble.  But with WrestleMania 35 looming and a women's matched slated to headline the show for the first time, Vince decided it needed to be as big as possible.  RAW Women's Champ Ronda Rousey would be defending against Becky and Charlotte in a Triple Threat, and apparently the Smackdown Women's Title needed to be involved too.  So Vince had Charlotte unceremoniously defeat Asuka on free television, thus canceling her planned WrestleMania title defense (likely against Mandy Rose).  Instead Asuka was tossed into the pre-show women's battle royal, which she lost to Carmella of all people.  This was disgraceful; a complete slight on one of the best and most charismatic stars on the entire roster.  Once again Asuka's stock nosedived for months until she teamed with Kairi Sane to win the Women's Tag belts in October.  Not at all a fitting way to book the first-ever Women's Rumble winner.

14. Drew McIntyre - Top Contender to Feuding With Happy

I'm not sure who Drew pissed off over the last year, but he went from being a dominant, long-reigning WWE Champion to coming up short against Bobby Lashley at WrestleMania 37, to one year later being stuck in the second-match slot against perennial midcarder Happy Corbin in a passable-at-best eight-minute affair, where the most memorable thing about it was Drew cutting the ropes afterward.  Considering how much difficulty WWE has had recently in building new stars you'd think they'd position McIntyre much more strongly on their biggest shows.  Between his forgettable SummerSlam 2021 bout with Jinder Mahal and this skippable match with Corbin, Drew needs some serious career rehab.

15. Bobby Lashley - All Mighty to Carrying Omos

Speaking of Lashley, the All Mighty went from turning in a forceful performance at 'Mania 37, beating back the aforementioned Drew McIntyre's challenge, to suffering a similar fate to Drew's at 'Mania 38.  Instead of defending the WWE Title again at the Show of Shows, Lashley was instead shoved into a second-boutNight 2 slot and tasked with trying to carry the immobile Omos to something resembling a wrestling match.  Sadly even an accomplished athlete like Lashley couldn't make the lumbering, clumsy Omos look good, and this bout died a quick six-minute death.  WWE was so focused on making Roman and Brock look unbeatable they sacrificed their next two most credible stars.

Well that's the end of the list.  What a depressing topic.  Ugh.....  Anyway, thanks for reading - comment below!  Join us on Facebook, Twitter, MeWe and YouTube!

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