The intrigue of how a hot pro wrestling angle ends is more exciting than the matches for most of us. Yet you don’t have to go back further than Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins for examples of pro wrestling angles that started off as hot and ended flatter than a pancake. It doesn’t get much disappointing than that.
It is important to keep in mind that more times than not, pro wrestling bookers tend to over-think these things and get all caught up in trying to fool fans as opposed to doing what is best for business. Even when it seems so easy, they routinely miss the mark. Remember how great the Summer of Punk started and how badly it ended?
So off the top of my head here are ten pro wrestling angles that I thought started out hot and ended flat, disappointing wrestling fans. These aren’t in any particular order of importance. These angles are moments I remember watching live thinking how great they were that failed to live up to expectations for a variety of reasons, generally the fault of the bookers or writers.
The WCW Invasion, 2001 -
We have been down this road many times. WCW invading the WWE after the sale in 2001 should have been the biggest angle in pro wrestling history. Instead, most point to this angle as the biggest booking blunder of the 21st century for Team McMahon.
Let’s face it. This one doesn’t take a whole lot of rocket science to book. Yet Vince McMahon got cute and due to ego and bad business, never gave this angle the tools it needed to succeed. Instead of picking up the big WCW stars, the WCW invasion was originally led by Shane McMahon, Booker T, and Buff Bagwell. You can figure out how this thing ended without even reading on.
All of the WWE vs. WCW matches ended with the WWE crew coming out on top with none of the WCW originals looking strong. The underlying theme here was obvious. WWE is and always was better than WCW. That is how this thing started and that is how it ended.
The irony here is that Vince McMahon later signed the bigger WCW superstars like Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Bill Goldberg, and Scott Steiner. Unfortunately those signings came after the invasion, thus costing the company millions of dollars and some potentially historic moments of pro wrestling fans.
Lita, Matt Hardy, and Jeff Hardy defeat Triple H, Steve Austin, & Stephanie McMahon on RAW, 2001 - Do you remember the night that the Hardy brothers and Lita defeated Austin, Triple H, and Stephanie on RAW? You probably don’t, but if you did you remember one of the most exciting moments in RAW history at the time of the match.
The Hardy brothers and Lita had become a hit around this time with the younger WWE audience. It was time to bump the trio up from their feud with Edge, Christian, and Kurt Angle to the Two Man Power Trip. This match resulted out of a brief meeting earlier in the show between Lita and Linda where Lita showed her support for Linda in the middle of a “divorce” with Vince. The punishment, a match with the WWE champion Stone Cold Steve Austin, the WWE intercontinental champion Triple H, and Stephanie.
The match was exciting, full of action, and told a fantastic story of the underdogs finally getting their opportunity. The match ended with Lita pinning Stephanie. Austin and Hunter obliterated the Hardy boys and even Lita in an absolutely tremendous RAW moment. It appeared that the Hardy brothers were in full feud mode now with the McMahon alliance.
Sadly that feud lasted all of about a week. Jeff Hardy defeated Triple H on the next edition of SmackDown to win the intercontinental title, only to drop it back to Hunter four days later on RAW. The Hardys and Lita had one more match against the pair as part of an eight-man tag team match but fell out of the main-event picture in the blink of an eye.
This had the potential to be a really exciting feud that never went anywhere when all was said and done.
Nexus Forms, 2010 - Up until CM Punk’s promo on RAW Roulette, this was the most memorable moment of the decade in the WWE. The night without warning that several WWE rookies jumped John Cena and CM Punk in what many described as an “n.W.o. moment.” Unfortunately that great moment never materialized the way most fans had hoped that it would.
Daniel Bryan was immediately fired from the company which took the best worker of Nexus out of the mix. So for the next several weeks Wade Barrett carried the crew with some of the best promos of the year in the WWE. Nexus destroyed everyone in their paths for about a month including several WWE legends. It appeared that nobody was stopping Nexus.
Sadly, everyone stopped Nexus. The first big WWE vs. Nexus match took place at SummerSlam 2010. This was the turning point for the angle because from here on out, Nexus were never able to regain the momentum they had when they jumped Punk and Cena back in June. Cena standing tall as sole survivor of the match completely brought this angle to a screeching halt.
Yes I know, Wade Barrett defeated John Cena at Hell in a Cell and got him in Nexus. However, Barrett and Nexus were made to look like fools and Cena never took the stips or the loss seriously. One year later Barrett is far removed from where you would have expected him to be at this point and most of Nexus are just bouncing around. I hate to say it but I have little faith that the same guys that dropped the ball on Nexus will be writing the CM Punk-Money in the Bank storyline at Money in the Bank.
Tazz debuts in the WWE, 2001 - Taz as he was known in Extreme Championship Wrestling was the franchise player of the company in 2000. That is why many were surprised, yet excited when they heard Taz (now Tazz) had signed with the WWE.
Tazz came into the company with a ton of promotion. He had several articles written about him on the website and a ton of vignettes before his debut. Tazz debuted at the Royal Rumble in New York as Kurt Angle’s mystery opponent. Tazz ended the winning streak of Kurt Angle to a huge reaction in just slightly over three minutes of dominance.
You would have expected big things for Tazz after debuting with such fanfare in the WWE. Unfortunately that never happened. Chalk it up to politics, but the Tazz was never fully followed through. The writing was on the wall when Tazz as ECW champion lost to Triple H on SmackDown for no apparent reason other than spite. From there, Tazz wound up in the intercontinental title mix and was one of only a few not to get a run with the belt during that time period. Tazz would wind up disappearing due to injury and returning months later.
Unfortunately the WWE never pushed Tazz as hard as they did before he arrived as they did when he showed up in the WWE disappointing a lot of fans who hoped to see Tazz suplex and choke his way to the WWE main-event picture.
The Radicalz invade the WWE, 2000 - If you read the wrestling newsletters or called hotlines back in 1999 and 2000 you knew what was coming. After years of being held down by politics and petty booking in WCW, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Eddie Guerrero (along with Perry Saturn) were going to get their shots in the WWE.
It all started off fantastic. All four guys appeared at ringside without warning on the January 31, 2000 edition of WWE RAW is War. The fans went crazy and immediately recognized the men and the N.W.O. moment that the WWE injected back into the Monday Night Wars. The Radicalz as they were called were “invited” guests of Mick Foley.
The Radicalz made their presence known by the end of the night. A cheap shot by the Road Dog resulted in the Radicalz jumping the guard rail and beating down the New Age Outlaws. They were instant stars in the WWE, something they had to work for in WCW over the course of a few years. Unfortunately the parade would soon come to an end.
A few days later Benoit, Guerrero, Malenko, and Saturn were offered a chance to “win contracts” if they could win three matches on SmackDown against Degeneration-X members; Triple H, X Pac, and the Outlaws. Can you guess what happened next? The Radicalz lost all three matches, including Triple H pinning Benoit who left WCW as the world champion. The air was taken out of the balloon in less than a week.
Benoit and Guerrero eventually fought their way to the top but Saturn and Malenko struggled. It took the WWE months to ruin the Nexus angle in 2010. It only took them a few days to ruin the Radicalz angle in 2000.
ECW invades the WWE, 1996 - Yes before ECW One Night Stand there was WWF Mind Games in Philadelphia, PA. The WWF was struggling to find its way while ECW became something of an underground sensation with a teenage market that the WWF couldn’t reach. In order to reach that market, the WWF partnered with ECW, giving ECW an opportunity to expose its product to a national audience. And oh yeah, WCW was kicking the WWF’s behind at this time with the start of the n.W.o. angle.
It all started in ECW when threats were issued towards the WWF for coming into ECW’s home base, Philadelphia, PA with Mind Games. A few weeks later ECW (& future WWE) stars the Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, Taz, and Paul Heyman were in the front row of the Mind Games pay per view to enjoy the show and cause a little trouble.
It didn’t take long for the fans to notice and “ECW” chants quickly broke out live in pay per view. In the pay per view opener, Savio Vega wound up outside the ring in front of the ECW crew. Sandman threw beer on Vega and a pull-apart erupted between all parties at ringside. Vince McMahon on the announce team dismissed the ECW crew as a “local, up and coming promotion.”
This should have been the start of something great. The WWF had their own invasion angle right in front of them but nothing of real relevance materialized. The ECW crew were given matches on one episode of RAW and appeared from time to time to cause trouble but that was it. A memorable debate between Jerry Lawler and Paul Heyman that resulted in nothing else is about the only real highlight here.
Ironically it was ECW that really capitalized off of this angle. ECW booked Jerry Lawler and Lawler immediately became one of the biggest heels in the company. Yet Vince McMahon and the WWE never pulled the trigger on an all-out invasion between companies. In retrospect it is interesting to think what could have happened if he did.
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The Ultimate Warrior confronts Hulk Hogan in WCW, 1998 - How could I write a blog like this without bringing up this nugget? Eight years after giving pro wrestling one of the most memorable matches in WWE history, Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior attempted to rewrite history in WCW. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t Vince McMahon holding the pencil and writing what would become a bomb of a program.
Warrior’s debut was great. Some fans were surprised, some expected it, but all went crazy when the lights went out and returned with the Warrior in a WCW ring. Warrior cut a great (but lengthy) promo on Hogan and Bischoff. It was certainly an electric moment but sadly for Warrior fans, someone turned the power off pretty quickly on this memorable moment.
See the fun part about the Warrior is watching him talk but unfortunately at some point he is going to have to wrestle. He did and his long awaited singles match with Hogan is regarded by many as one of the worst WCW main-events in history and boy does that say a lot.
Warrior only resurfaced one more time in WCW after the Halloween Havoc disaster. Depending upon who you believe either the Warrior held out for more money after the match or WCW simply stopped calling him. Either way, WCW finally moved on and spared their fans of another Warrior vs. Hogan match.
The Four Horsemen turn on Ole Anderson, 1987 - I remember watching this as a kid and getting excited seeing Ole Anderson slap J.J. Dillon moments after Dillon made fun of Anderson’s kid. Ole was always something of a bully and a bad-a$* so seeing Ole get his revenge on the Four Horsemen was a moment I was ready to pay $20 to see.
Instead, Ole wound up in a bunch of tag team matches and singles matches against Arn that never went anywhere. The angle fell completely flat and Ole bombed as a babyface. Maybe he was just too good of a heel that even when fighting the Horsemen, nobody wanted to cheer Ole? Whatever the reasons were, Ole retired less than a year later and the angle became a forgotten moment after an intense start.
Ronnie Garvin turns heel, 1988 - Ronnie Garvin
never particularly clicked as a babyface to justify the push he received by Dusty Rhodes in 1987. However, Garvin was always seen as a gritty, tough guy and a pro wrestler that could hold his own against anyone. That is why I, like many were surprised when he helped the Four Horsemen at the expense of Dusty Rhodes
The start of this angle was fantastic. Garvin entered the ring during a match at the Great American Bash 1988 featuring Dusty Rhodes vs. Barry Windham. The referee was knocked out, J.J. got up on the apron, and Garvin appeared to even the odd for Dusty. Instead, Garvin clocked the son of a plumber with his famous right hand to a huge reaction from the Baltimore crowd. The feud was on…and off.
Garvin quickly left the promotion for the WWE after the turn. Garvin vs. Dusty never got off the ground, failing to deliver on what was one of the most exciting moments in wrestling at the time.
Randy Orton is kicked out of Evolution, 2004 - This certainly won’t go down in history as the greatest angle of all time but at the time this was huge. After running around with Triple H, Batista, and Ric Flair, Randy Orton for two years, Orton was kicked out of Evolution. The thumbs up/thumbs down was a WWE moment for the ages. Unfortunately the excitement ended there for Orton.
Orton lost all of his singles matches with Triple H, thus taking steam right off of the kid who was touted to be the next big babyface of the WWE. Instead, Orton turned heel a couple of months after his final match with Triple H at the Royal Rumble, completely abandoning his big push to be the next WWE hero.
In other words, the WWE wasted an entire year building Orton’s turn just to squash Orton, and turn him heel again a few months later.
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