FEARLESSRiOT COUNTDOWN: Top 10 Worst New Millennium WrestleMania Matches

I love being nice, especially on this blog. This past week alone, I gushed over a TV sitcom and followed it up by complementing WWE, their wrestlers, and even their production crew for their contributions to WrestleMania history. But now it’s time to get nasty; for once, I’m going to get negative. Not everything that has happened at WrestleMania has been all Skittles and sunshine. Sometimes things get downright bad, unbelievably dull, or oftentimes, they cross the threshold into being downright ugly. And that’s just most of a WrestleManias 25 and XXVII, which are mentioned several times in the post alone. WrestleMania Week is a time for celebration, and today, we celebrate the worst of the worst of the new millennium. Maybe I’ll get around to pre-2000 WrestleMania’s next year, but for now, let’s focus on the bad matches that have happened on the show since the year 2000. And trust me, there’s plenty to choose from.

#10) Triple H vs Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 32 and Randy Orton at WrestleMania 25Screenshot (506)

We’re starting with a tie; two matches that are evidence that WrestleMania main events with Triple H in them are always better on paper than in execution. Word to Hunter; making matches longer and more drawn-out don’t always result in epicness. Matter of fact, given The Game’s WrestleMania main event resume, they sometimes result in derided dullness. His WrestleMania XX and 22 main events were fine, and his WrestleMania X8 main event wasn’t that bad, despite the bad build and Hogan & Rock robbing the crowd. But what even were his matches with Reigns and Orton? The build for both feuds are partially to blame. Hunter and Orton were at each other’s throats so hard in the build for their match that a knock-down, drag-out war was the only logical payoff. Instead, the match’s restricted rules guaranteed that we would get the exact opposite and we got a boring, traditional one-on-one slog instead. As for the WM32, I partially blame the creative team behind The Roman Reigns Experiment for putting him in no-win situations like the feud they bungled that made fans show pleasure in babyface Reigns getting his nose broken. After both of them make their admittedly awesome entrances, they close out WrestleMania with one of the most overlong yawners since the Orton match. I understand what they were going for, wishing fans to accept Reigns as someone who could hang with main event veterans, but the fans were bound to reject the decision in the first place, especially after the exhaustive pacing and never-ending runtime didn’t help the match in the slightest. Nothing against Triple H; he’s a fine wrestler. His WrestleMania main event resume is just spotty at best.

#9) Snooki, Trish Stratus, & John Morrison vs. Layla, Michelle McCool, & Dolph Ziggler at WrestleMania XXVIIScreenshot (496)

The only celebrity match on the list and a stain that has sadly not been completely washed off from the period of time when Jersey Shore was an inescapable phenomenon. MTV’s latest edition of The Hills, but worse, followed around the lives of a bunch of usually spoiled, usually drunk meatheads and hot messes as they lived in a house together in New Jersey. I despised it immediately, but the show itself was a huge success, enough to take over popular culture over the course of six seasons in three years, in fact. Pro wrestling decided to get in on the trend, creating characters based on them and even bringing in a few of its stars for cameos. Sometimes they just participated in segments, other time they actually wrestled matches. Sometimes, they did both, which is where the show’s most infamous star Snooki falls. Nicole Polizzi was a guest on RAW and got into it with Vickie Guerrero and LayCool, allowing for her to end up with a match at WrestleMania over the damn Divas Champion at the time. Just in case you needed to be reminded how seriously WWE took the division back then. Granted, the match wasn’t 100% terrible due to the returning Trish Stratus and Michelle McCool giving us a peak of what a dream match between the two would be like. But outside of that, the men weren’t even really needed, a 4’8” flash-in-the-pan reality star defeated a trained 4-time champion who was almost a foot taller than her, and for some reason, the Divas Championship continued to be disrespected as WWE apparently felt then-champion Eve Torres should just chat with The Rock backstage instead. This made about as much sense as booking Kristin Cavallari to pin Victoria in 2006. Putting aside the drama between Morrison and Trish, this match was just embarrassing.

#8) Bret Hart vs. Mr. McMahon at WrestleMania XXVIScreenshot (497)

2011 was probably too little too late to do a payoff for a storyline that happened in 1997. But when a person can hold a grudge as long as Bret Hart can, it makes conducting business sooner very difficult. Before his 2010 RAW return, Hart hadn’t appeared on a WWE broadcast since agreeing to a Hall of Fame induction in 2006, and even then, he opted out of a WrestleMania cameo the following day. Guess he had no problem collecting the ring, but expressed no interest in returning beyond that. But I guess McMahon’s knife wound was finally healed by January 2010, because he returned to guest host RAW and make up with Shawn Michaels and Vinnie Mac before getting kicked below the belt by the untrustworthy chairman. Over the coming months, Hart would try to gould McMahon into a match at WrestleMania, only for McMahon to constantly decline until Bret looked vulnerable. Well, more vulnerable than the clearly aged Hart already looked. Eventually, the match became official, and really could have benefited from happening maybe 10 or 11 years earlier. Hart could no longer bump and looked as if he could fall apart as easily as a Lego tower with most of his motions. They sent the Hart Family out as Lumberjacks, and though it was kind of fun to watch them lay into Vince, it didn’t improve the overall match quality. Vince soon tapped out to the Sharpshooter, but they probably should’ve gotten to that part sooner and spared us the one-sided slow-motion beatdown.

#7) Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker at WrestleMania XXXScreenshot (498)

This one is not just about the result. This match was truly something unwatchable. I hear Undertaker was actually concussed at some point during this match, and that’s a total bummer. But if that was the case, it certainly explains the slow, glacial pacing of this match. Watching Undertaker make the slow walk to the ring was legitimately more fun that watching the match itself. Lesnar and Undertaker had previously delivered on a pay-per-view, having faced off inside a bloody Hell in a Cell match at No Mercy 2002 during Brock’s rookie year in the company.  That was Brock at his physical peak, as well as at the level where he still clearly cared to put the work in. As we all know, his work since his return had gotten lazier, but since he’s a star attraction, they just have to grant him a marquee spot because there is money to be made. OK, makes sense. And Undertaker seems like the perfect opponent on paper, especially to make the streak appear to be in legitimate jeopardy. Plus, as mentioned before, they’re no strangers to clashing with one another on pay-per-view, with additional matches before this taking place on Unforgiven 2002 and No Mercy 2003. But it doesn’t change the fact that this match just did not deliver anything other than a shocking end result, which really isn’t that shocking when you realize that Undertaker just can’t seem to beat Lesnar unless some kind of shenanigans occur. The meat of the match was just all kinds of indigestible; it suffered from the same problem that Roman vs. Triple H did in that it was slow and sluggish, making it extremely hard to stay attentive throughout. The streak ending was just the poison cherry on top of the already-molded cake.

#6) Boogeyman vs. Booker T & Sharmell at WrestleMania 22Screenshot (499)

WrestleMania never seems to go right for so many wrestlers. We got Brock Lesnar constantly putting on showcases of boredom, Dean Ambrose usually taking mountains of punishment and coming out on the losing end, and about 80% of what the women had to work with before last year. Another perfect example? Booker T. He lost to Edge over a shampoo commercial in 2002, lost to Triple H’s racist side in 2003, was left off the 2005 show for Lord knows why, and was stunned in 2011 just for having fun. In 2006, he was going by the honorable name of King Booker. He and Queen Sharmell were highlights of Smackdown at the time, and the gimmick led Booker T to a sixth World Championship. They looked to be having the time of their life with the admittedly hokey gimmick, so viewing it made it all the more fun. Sadly, for 2006’s Chicago edition of the show, they weren’t placed into matches with higher-caliber Smackdown stars at the time like Chris Benoit or Kurt Angle or even Bobby Lashley. Nope they felt it was better to work a contest with The Boogeyman. We all know the Boogeyman was a terrible wrestler with a weird character; he ate worms, he found Jillian’s mole delicious, he had a mini double, and I think he tried to eat Trump’s toupee once. I kind of wish he succeeded with that last one. Just an all-around strange cat, good only for comedy. Did anyone laugh at this match, though? I laughed at Booker T forgetting that he has pyro in his entrance, but that was about it. It was hard to see the match early on due to Boogeyman’s red fog, but the action was a mess and I hope someone backstage at least had a decent enough level of morality and concern to offer Sharmell some Listerine after taking that nasty kiss.

#5) Terri Runnels vs. The Kat at WrestleMania 2000Screenshot (500)

WrestleMania is no stranger to women’s matches that are meant just for sexual arousal. WrestleMania XIX had a pillow fight between Torrie, Stacy, and two women from a commercial we’ve all forgotten about by now. XX had Torrie and Stacy in a similar contest, with Sable, Miss Jackie, and evening gowns added in. 22 found Torrie Wilson in another pillow fight against Candice Michelle. You know, something tells me WWE didn’t trust Torrie Wilson with putting on technical mat classics on their biggest show of the year, but still wanted to put her on the shows anyway. But even putting aside the Torrie-centric tantalization matches, women at WrestleMania have long since had to struggle for serious relevance. Probably the lowest point in that regard was Terri Runnels, a non-wrestler, vs. The Kat, a barely-wrestler. Say what you want about those other Torrie-centric matches I named; at least there were other women’s matches on those shows that were serious or competitive even a little in Trish/Jazz/Victoria, Molly/Victoria, and Trish/Mickie to balance things out. This was the sole women’s match (and sole one-on-one match) on the entire show and boy, was it…..exactly what you’d expect from a match between, as I’ve stated before, a non-wrestler and a barely-wrestler in the Attitude Era. We had them doing the type of hair-pulling and light hitting that the likes of Sasha Banks refuse to be associated with, as well as interference from The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young. Let’s just say they’ve done funnier things. This match also featured Val Venis as the referee, wearing a striped towel, and doing 2017 Earl Hebner 17 years ahead of this little segment. And despite all of this, there’s actually one other farce of a women’s match in WrestleMania history that was just as groan-worthy, but we’ll get to that.

#4) Akebono vs. Big Show at WrestleMania 21Screenshot (501)

I wonder who lied to Vince McMahon by telling him that fans wanted to see a sumo match on WrestleMania. Probably something his left-brain said to his right-brain and they agreed that it needed to happen for some reason. I feel like that’s legitimately how most of his big “money-making” ideas come from. But I guess I understand some of the logic; adding “first time ever” to something does make it sound like something you can’t miss. Who doesn’t love bragging about being able to witness the first-ever version of something? Especially in wrestling, where they’re so rare in modern WWE due to the seemingly never-ending stream of programming giving us pretty much everything. Turns out, however, this one did not pay off. It may have been the first ever sumo match in WrestleMania history, but there’s a reason there has never been a second one. First of all, sumo wrestling and pro wrestling are two very different things despite “wrestling” being the common root word in both phrases. Second of all, Big Show in a mawashi is not a pretty sight. (Yes, I looked that word up for this article, and in doing so, I also discovered “Rikishi” translates to “sumo wrestler”, so there’s that.) Third, the guy had never done a sumo match before; who went in thinking Big Show could beat a guy who was a champion at it? Fourth, how many fans of WWE were even aware of who Akebono was before this angle? I certainly didn’t, but this was the beginning of his pro wrestling career, so at least somebody got something out of it as everyone else lost a few precious minutes of their time. Big Show is another wrestler who’s WrestleMania resume is kind of a tragedy, and this may very well be his lowest point.

#3) Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal at WrestleMania 25Screenshot (502)

We now arrive at the part of the list featuring matches so terrible that they legitimately make me angry. These were the matches that made me want to do this post. The New Millennium WrestleMania Triangle of Trash, I’ve dubbed it. And we start with the low point for women at WrestleMania. I know I said something similar with the Kat/Terri match, but let me reiterate: that match was, despite being a product of the time, was a low point for the matches meant for the fetish crowd. This was the low point, period, for both the women’s farce matches and the serious ones. Honestly, the idea of a Miss WrestleMania is not a terrible one. Shawn Michaels calls himself Mr. WrestleMania; why not have a gender-swapped equivalent? You know, excluding the fact that Shawn earned that name due to his performances in big-match situations, while WWE barely ever afforded women opportunities like that. And they didn’t here either; they bought back a few former names like Torrie Wilson, Victoria, and (for some reason) Sunny to face more modern names like Beth Phoenix, Maryse, Melina, Eve Torres, Mickie James, The Bella Twins, Kelly Kelly, etc. in a Battle Royal for the crown. What went wrong? Well, 1) Women’s Battle Royals at the time were usually messes with insultingly terrible rules, 2) the women had to make their entrance to an overly long and ultimately pointless Kid Rock concert, and 3) Santino Marella posing as a woman won. This is probably the single most farcical women’s match of all-time; yes, even moreso than those two-minute nothing matches they use to shove on RAW all the time. Good thing they ditched “Santina” before the character won the either women’s belt at the time ala Harvina, but truthfully, there was no point in creating the character in the first place aside from some comedy segments surely only McMahon found funny.

#2) Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg at WrestleMania XXScreenshot (503)

They didn’t even try. Right off the bat, that’s what I hated the most about this match. People always use “They were on their way out” as an excuse, but I consider it just that: an excuse. If it was your last night in the company, why not go all out and leave the fans with something worth remembering in a good way? Instead of going out with a bang, however, they went out with barely even a whimper. It was more like soft flatulence. Brock Lesnar and Goldberg straight stunk up Madison Square Garden with this one. On paper, this was a dream match in every sense of the phrase; two hulking killers in the squared circle, both of whom had so much mystique behind them that they blew the fans’ minds and became megastars. With Goldberg on RAW and Lesnar on Smackdown, this was the biggest inter-promotional match they could have done at the time. The build-up was even pretty cool, especially with Steve Austin’s inclusion in it. Sadly for the actual match, Steve Austin as the guest referee was the highlight because nothing else lived up to the hype. The fans verbally massacred it, Lesnar and Goldberg set a world record for Biggest Combined Phoning-In of All-Time after minutes and minutes of stalling, and though it was only around 13 minutes, it felt like the total length of WrestleMania 32. Austin hit the Stunner on both of them post-match, which is the peak of enjoyment delivered by this entire thing. But it still stands as one of the least-watchable contests that WWE have ever put together. That didn’t stop them from reviving the feud and making it the Universal Title match at WrestleMania 13 years later, but again, Lazy Lesnar and Miserable Bill sell tickets, I guess.

#1) Michael Cole vs. Jerry Lawler at WrestleMania XXVIIScreenshot (504)

Only Vince McMahon himself had to have wanted to see this happen. I doubt there’s anyone else in the world who was itching to see Michael Cole ever actually wrestle a match. He’s a commentator, and sure, excluding actual former wrestlers like Jerry Lawler and Tazz, commentators have gotten in the squared circle plenty of times before. We’re seen Jim Ross compete in matches before and even Jonathan Coachman drew numbers in a couple of Royal Rumble matches. But something about Michael Cole getting in the ring just felt as off as it felt unnecessary. It felt like Vince McMahon came up with this brilliant trolling idea and his gut told him that he just had to go with it. And for being so good at getting under the fans’ skin, he was rewarded with a 15-minute match that somehow took up 30-minutes total on WrestleMania. And he won on a technicality, defeating the legendary Jerry Lawler in The King’s ONLY WrestleMania match. King may get a bad rep nowadays for his perverted ways and political views, but it was still twelve shades of bogus to do that to one of the most legendary names in all of wrestling and one of your most loyal employees outside of the year 2001. It was also a huge slap in the face to fans; it didn’t matter that this entire Michael Cole angle just made for almost unwatchable television, the thought was that as long as he was grinding people’s gears, they might as well keep it up. Also, is it just me or is Steve Austin being a guest referee in a WrestleMania match always a red flag, signalling the match will either suck or be regrettable in retrospect? Luckily, Cole never had another WrestleMania match after this, but something just doesn’t feel right about saying that their lead play-by-play guy beat a wrestling legend on a technicality, but hey, this list also featured a 4’8” reality TV star pinning a former Women’s Champion at the exact same event. What can we take away from this? Simple: WrestleMania XXVII is exactly as bad as you remember.

Honorable Mentions:

+ Edge vs. Booker T at WrestleMania X8 – This isn’t even here due to a lack of quality in the match itself; the only reason I’m mentioning it is to remind you that they were fighting over a non-existent shampoo commercial.

+ Melina vs. Ashley at WrestleMania 23 – I granted this match mercy because even though the action was your usual mid-to-late-2000s Divas fare, I noticed upon rewatch that Ashley, never regarded as a great in-ring worker, and Melina, who surpassed her by miles, actually tried to do as much as they could with the short time they were given. I can appreciate that.

+ Kane vs. The Great Khali at WrestleMania 23 – The one match on the entire WrestleMania 23 card that didn’t really seem to have a point. I granted it mercy, though, because of Kane’s Hogan/Andre homage with the scoopslam on Khali. That was kind of cool.

+ Ryback vs. Mark Henry at WrestleMania 29 – Even after watching this match over again, I completely forgot it even happened. WrestleMania 29 was such a forgettable PPV mainly because of forgettable matches like this one.

+ Rey Mysterio vs. JBL at WrestleMania 25 – First time in seven years that an Intercontinental Championship defense takes place on WrestleMania and it’s only a few seconds long. HBK and Razor Ramon did not destroy each other with ladders for this.

+ John Cena vs. The Rock II at WrestleMania 29 – Before Goldberg vs. Lesnar this year, this was easily the most pointless WrestleMania rematch of all-time, and the fact that it was such a predictable, overblown finisher showcase made this one extremely grating.

+ Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania 23 – Upon repeated viewings, I can actually stomach this match more than I could the first time. Doesn’t change the fact that it was such a letdown due to Lazy Lesnar’s commitment to phoning it in.

+ The Corre vs. Big Show, Kane, Santino Marella, & Kofi Kingston at WrestleMania XXVII – A minute-and-a-half long eight-man tag that was completely pointless and did nothing but reestablish how weak The Corre – and WrestleMania XXVII in general – was.

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