Sunday, July 22, 2018

Top Ten Things: Disappointing Wrestling PPVs

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at!

Today's topic is something we can all relate to as wrestling fans.  You're all set up in front of the TV, maybe with a beer in hand, maybe some popcorn, maybe a slice of pizza, maybe a nice wholesome bowl o' broccoli.  That warning screen flashes, instructing you against the unauthorized reception of the upcoming broadcast, and the anticipation has reached a fever pitch.  You can't wait to see three or four hours of wrestling awesomeness unfold before your eyes.......And then you're treated to sports-entertainment shit sandwich.  Nothing about the show lives up to your expectations.  Your world crumbles around you.  And you're goddamn pissed.  The following are ten examples of such an experience for me.....

10. WrestleMania IV

After the unequivocal success (both commercial and critical) of WrestleMania III, the WWF had their work cut out for them to somehow make the followup even bigger than the Hogan vs. Andre-headlined blockbuster.  They decided that a first-time-ever WWF Championship tournament would do the trick, and booked a brilliantly-executed swerve to vacate the Title.  This 14-man tourney would be the centerpiece of WrestleMania IV, but the card would include a staggering eighteen scheduled bouts (only sixteen took place due to tournament draws) over a period of four hours.  If that sounds like an overloaded show, that's because it was.  There were simply too many matches crammed into this PPV and thus nothing got enough time to shine; the tournament final was given a skimpy nine-and-a-half minutes, making it the shortest WrestleMania main event ever until 1993.  Where WrestleMania III featured both an in-ring masterpiece (Savage vs. Steamboat) and a tremendously entertaining spectacle (Hogan vs. Andre), 'Mania IV boasted no truly memorable bouts, and aside from Randy Savage's Championship coronation in the finale, boasted nary an historic moment.  Couple all this with a largely uninterested live crowd comprised mostly of business guests of Donald Trump's, and what ensued was a dull, dreary WrestleMania that served as the WWF's worst PPV of 1988.

9. Great American Bash '88

The NWA's third-ever PPV event featured two huge firsts, Ric Flair defending the World Title against his former Horsemen protege Lex Luger, and a monumental five-on-five war inside a three-decker steel cage.  Going into this I couldn't wait to see how this incredible, foreboding structure would be utilized, and I anticipated the company's new top babyface dethroning the heel Champion.  Well, Luger came up short of the Title in just about the stupidest way possible - the Maryland State Athletic Commission stopped the match because Luger was bleeding from the forehead, despite Luger having snared Flair in his Torture Rack finisher.  And the Tower of Doom as it was called consisted of the two teams essentially trying to race each other from the top cage to the bottom so they could each run away from the battle.  This match was both boring and confusing to watch.  Elsewhere on the card we got two very good tag team matches, neither of which had a clean finish, and a Barry Windham-Dusty Rhodes US Title match involving a heel turn that made no sense, from someone not involved in the match whatsoever (Ronnie Garvin).  The nonsensical booking turned what should've been a pretty great show into an overthought calamity with almost no satisfying finishes.  Fortunately the company would refocus under the new Ted Turner regime and string together several great PPVs over the next year and a half.

8. Survivor Series 1990

The 1990 edition of this Thanksgiving PPV introduced a new wrinkle.  Not only would we be treated to the usual series of team elimination matches, but the survivors of each bout would meet at the end for a climactic Survival Match.  Also the company teased the debut of a new character for weeks leading up to the event, as a giant egg appeared on WWF television  and would apparently hatch at the PPV.  The resulting show featured abbreviated elimination matches, the one involving WWF Champion the Ultimate Warrior stuck in the opening slot, and the big egg-hatching reveal turned out to be a man in a turkey suit dancing with Gene Okerlund.  The Gobbledygooker was never involved in any match or storyline going forward and served no purpose whatsoever.  Finally the big Survival Match main event went a scant 9:31 and played out like a warmup showcase for Warrior and Hulk Hogan.  This PPV was a poorly assembled mess except for the debut of The Undertaker, the only good thing it's remembered for.

7. Survivor Series 2015

Seth Rollins' knee injury in November 2015 came at a most inopportune time.  With John Cena and Randy Orton already on the shelf, Daniel Bryan out indefinitely with concussion issues, and Brock Lesnar in between major PPV appearances, Rollins was left carrying the company on his back.  He was set to defend the WWE Title against former Shield pal Roman Reigns, in what was expected to be Reigns' long-awaited (or long-dreaded) crowning moment.  But Rollins blew out his knee and would require surgery to repair it, putting him out of action for six months.  But the exciting news was that instead of a one-on-one main event, Survivor Series would now include a tournament to crown a new Champ.  The first two rounds of this 16-man bracket would be held on RAW and Smackdown, with the final four taking place at the PPV.  This tourney opened up many possibilities for some new faces to be included in the WWE Title mix.  While the semifinal participants were pretty much a foregone conclusion, we now had the possible main event of Roman Reigns vs. Dean Ambrose - a huge first-time match between best friends.  What's more, the fans had really taken to Ambrose as their new chosen hero, long ago forsaking Reigns.  The time seemed right to turn one of them against the other, and it made much more sense for Reigns to be the heel than Ambrose.  But what we got at Survivor Series were three tournament matches, all of which ran under fifteen minutes, with the tournament final going an anemic NINE minutes.  Aside from this we were also treated to a traditional Survivor Series match, the participants of which were not announced until immediately before it started.  Plus there was an Undertaker & Kane vs. Bray Wyatt & Luke Harper match to celebrate 25 years of The Undertaker, when there could easily have been a 4-on-4 battle.  But all this paled (no pun intended) in comparison to the stupidity that followed the main event.  Reigns had finally won the WWE Title and was in mid-celebration, having just speared Triple H out of his shoes, when Money in the Bank winner Sheamus leveled him with a Brogue Kick and cashed in to steal the Championship.  This is the same Sheamus who one hour earlier had suffered an embarrassing loss in the 5-on-5 match, but was now supposed to be seen as Championship material.  Here was a long-irrelevant (through no fault of his own) heel being positioned as a top Champion simply because the company didn't have anyone else for this spot.  RAW's ratings took a nosedive in the wake of this catastrophe, and eight months later Reigns is as unpopular a supposed babyface as ever, while Sheamus is barely ever featured on WWE programming.  That the best match of this PPV was a middling Charlotte-Paige bout speaks volumes of how disappointing it was.  This is what happens when the company books a PPV using zero imagination.

6. Survivor Series 1999

A year after the WWF abandoned the Survivor Series concept completely in favor of a tournament to crown a new World Champ, they announced that the 1999 edition would feature several traditional elimination matches.  On top of that, the company's top three stars, Triple H, The Rock and Steve Austin, would compete in a Triple Threat match for the WWF Title.  This sounded like quite a promising event.  Aaaand then the lineup was announced.  Nearly every prominent star would be participating in a regular singles or tag match, the only elimination match built around an actual feud was Team Big Show vs. Team Bossman, and the only elimination match with solid workers was Edge, Christian and The Hardy Boyz vs. Too Cool and The Hollys.  Everything else felt thrown together in five minutes.  The British Bulldog had just presumably begun a feud with Test, but was instead captaining The Mean Street Posse against fellow heels Val Venis, Mark Henry, Gangrel and Steve Blackman (Test however was nowhere to be found on this card despite having been announced to marry Stephanie McMahon in two weeks).  Kurt Angle would be making his WWF debut against non-factor Shawn Stasiak.  Kane and X-Pac would have a plain ol' singles match instead of captaining teams.  I was no longer all that excited for this show, and despite my lowered expectations it was STILL a massive letdown.  The four elimination matches were given a total of 34:37, or an average length of 8:39.  The Big Show-Bossman match was changed to a 1-on-4 handicap match and was over in less than 90 seconds.  The Kane vs. X-Pac match ended in a disqualificaton in under five minutes.  And the big main event?  Yeah, Steve Austin needed spinal fusion surgery as it turned out, and the WWF waited until the PPV itself to change the match, booking the infamously stupid "Who Ran Over Austin?" angle to write him off TV.  In his place was The Big Show, who was booked to win the WWF Title, and who went on to have a three-minute stinker against the Bossman at the following PPV.  Literally everything about this show was wrong.  One would presumably have to expend real energy to put together a show this poor.  I'd blame it all on Vince Russo, but he'd jumped to WCW two months earlier.  So apparently no one was driving the bus.  To this day the 1999 edition stands as the worst Survivor Series PPV of all time.

5. Royal Rumble 2014

This one might have pissed me off more than anything else on this list, and I'm quite sure I'm not alone.  From the summer of 2013 through January of 2014 WWE fans almost universally rallied behind valiant underdog Daniel Bryan in his quest to become WWE Champion.  He'd beaten John Cena for the belt at SummerSlam but fell victim to a Randy Orton MITB cash-in, and got repeatedly screwed in subsequent attempts to regain the belt.  WWE figured they'd just dump him back into the midcard after that, feuding him against the Wyatt family for two months.  His big blowoff match against Bray Wyatt was announced for the Rumble, but Bryan wasn't announced for the Rumble match itself.  Still fans everywhere assumed he'd be a surprise entrant, win the Rumble, and go on to challenge for the WWE Title once again at WrestleMania.  But the company banked on returning star (soon to be movie star) Batista, assuming fans would flock in droves to see Big Dave take down The Authority at the Show of Shows.  Only problem was, no one was all that interested in cheering on the 45-year-old who'd left the company four years earlier.  The fans picked Bryan to be their conquering hero, and WWE wasn't going to tell them any different.  So when the Rumble match neared its completion (after an hour-plus of "We Want Bryan" chants) and the number 30 slot turned out to be not Daniel Bryan but Rey Mysterio, the audience went ballistic.  It was obvious by this point that Batista would be winning the Rumble and going to WrestleMania, and the fans turned on him with a vengeance, even cheering then-heel Roman Reigns (Oh dear God, the irony) once the match came down to him and Dave.  Batista took the Rumble, and in subsequent weeks the live crowds hijacked the bejeezus out of every RAW.  With the 2014 Rumble WWE had the chance to listen to what its audience was clearly telling them and call an audible.  But Vince McMahon in his tenacious stubbornness booked a truly baffling Rumble PPV, one that would likely be remembered as a classic had the last five minutes played out differently.

4. King of the Ring 2000

I recently talked about this one in my History of WWE King of the Ring piece, but it had to be included here.  In 2000 the WWF was firing on all creative cylinders.  New additions to the roster over the previous six months rounded out the strongest midcard in years, if not ever, and The Rock-Triple H feud carried the company through the spring.  The roster was in such good shape that the King of the Ring field was expanded to 32 participants, with the first two rounds taking place on RAW and Smackdown.  Eventually the field boiled down to Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Kurt Angle, Rikishi, Val Venis, and for some reason Crash Holly and Bull Buchanan.  Still that was a helluva good eight-man bracket going into this PPV.  But of my three favorite wrestlers in the tournament at the time (Benoit, Jericho and Eddie), not one made it out of the first round, and not one tournament match lasted even ten minutes (The longest, Angle vs. Jericho, was a first-round match).  And the company crammed eleven matches on the card, including a pointlessly convoluted DX vs. Dudleys Handicap Tables Dumpster match, and an embarrassing Brisco vs. Patterson Evening Gown Match.  The main event was also the blowoff to the epic Rock vs. Triple H feud, except The Rock won the WWF Title in a six-man tag by pinning Vince McMahon.  This was an absolutely dreadful PPV with only three decent bouts and was noteworthy only for Kurt Angle's coronation.  It was truly mindboggling how a company doing so well at the time could produce such drivel on this particular evening.

3. WrestleMania XXVII

I was truly excited going into WrestleMania 27.  I really was.  We were given the promise of three new top heels, a fresh main event with a first-time WWE Champion, and what should've been a potential show-stealing US Title match.  The buildup to this show was first-rate, with The Miz taking the company (and mainstream media) by storm with his natural heel charisma, both Triple H and The Undertaker returning from hiatus to hopefully deliver an epic contest, and the CM Punk-Randy Orton feud yielding some excellent promo segments.  Plus, possibly biggest of all, The Rock returned from a seven-year absence to host the show!  And then the show happened.  The Rock took up 15 full minutes at the start of the PPV to....get the audience excited for the show they were about to watch, I guess?  Two of the three new top heels lost clean while the third only won after a match restart, due to The Rock's involvement.  Taker and Triple H did put on a pretty epic, if overlong, match.  And due to time constraints an eight-man tag was cut to 90 seconds, a six-person tag featuring Jersey Shore's Snooki was cut to three minutes, and the potential US Title show stealer was bumped to a dark match.  This all could've been forgiven if the main event really delivered.  But it didn't.  At all.  The Miz looked totally out of place in this spot, while John Cena got his bell rung early and stumbled through the sixteen-minute farce of a headliner.  Then after a double countout The Rock restarted the match (Apparently the host has that sort of power?) and Rock Bottomed Cena, costing him the bout.  As The Miz celebrated his victory The Rock laid him out as well, and the biggest PPV of the year closed with both main event participants laying at the feet of a WWE retiree.  How charming.  This was one of the few PPVs where I legitimately felt ripped off for having ordered it.  All the ingredients were there for a top-notch show, and WWE seemingly went out of its way to sandbag the whole thing.  I honestly can't explain it any other way.  No one with an iota of sense about pro wrestling, sport-entertainment, or basic storytelling could be this incompetent.

2. Invasion

Considering how cosmically disappointing the Invasion angle turned out to be, it's only fitting that its official kickoff be included high on this list.  The WWF had purchased WCW in March of 2001 and along with its vast tape library and brand name, came its current talent roster*.  *Minus just about every WCW star anyone gave a shit about.  Vince and the USA Network had hoped to create a WCW spinoff show but after the abysmal response to the Booker T-Buff Bagwell match, the network pulled the plug.  Instead the paper-thin WCW roster was combined with the ECW contingent to create The Alliance, who laid siege to the homegrown WWF roster, leading to the Invasion PPV.  The centerpiece was a ten-man tag match pitting Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Undertaker and Kane against Booker T, Diamond Dallas Page, Rhyno and The Dudley Boyz (So basically five WWF guys against two WCW imports and three WWF guys).  The match ended with Steve Austin turning on the company that made him a multi-millionaire pop culture icon, and thus began the trend of the WWF propping up The Alliance with its own name talent.  Since almost all of the WWF's top names were in the main event, almost the entire undercard was comprised of filler matches (The APA vs. O'Haire & Palumbo; Billy Gunn, Big Show and Albert vs. Kanyon, Shawn Stasiak and Hugh Morris; Earl Hebner vs. Nick Patrick???).  Aside from the entertaining ten-man tag, the only standout, and the one match this PPV is really remembered for, was the blazing Jeff Hardy-Rob Van Dam Hardcore Title match.  The rest of the show was entirely skippable, but could've been absolutely epic if the WWF had spent the money on WCW's top names (who were content to sit out the rest of their Time-Warner contracts).  Instead the Invasion Angle was doomed from the start and nearly the entire Alliance roster got lost in the shuffle over the next four months.  This is what happens when one books a program based on one's ego.

1. WrestleMania XV

The year 1999 saw the WWF reach new heights in mainstream popularity.  Merch sales were through the roof, numerous WWF stars graced magazine covers, and that year's WrestleMania promised to be one of the most memorable yet.  With Steve Austin and The Rock, the company's two biggest stars, on a collision course for the WWF Title, The Undertaker competing in a Hell in a Cell match, and newcomer The Big Show facing Mankind in a dream match of sorts, I said at the time "There's no reason this can't be the best 'Mania ever."  But then Vince Russo's "Crash TV" booking spun completely out of control, resulting in abbreviated bouts, nonsensical finishes, the last-minute swapping of two midcard champions, a boring-as-Hell in a Cell, and a wholly forgettable PPV outside of the main event (which was far from Austin and Rock's best effort).  The Showcase of the Immortals felt like a poorly-thought-out B show and it was clear the Russo Era had overstayed its welcome.  But it would be another nine months before the WWF fully righted the ship and got back to being an actual wrestling product.  I can't recall another PPV where my expectations were so high going in, and so dashed coming out of it.  WrestleMania XV was the most disappointing PPV of all time.

Well, there's my list of supreme wrestling disappointments.  Comment below with your thoughts and any shows I missed.  Join us on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter (@EnuffaDotCom)!

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