The Biggest Misfires in WrestleMania History

Stoney Keeley lists what he believes to be the five biggest misfires in WrestleMania history.

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I’m nearly 11 years into my writing career. That’s a lot of articles throughout the years. I love writing about WrestleMania – it’s the biggest pro wrestling show of the year. It’s featured iconic moments, adrenaline-pumping matches, and pop culture crossovers that make it one of the most unique nights (or two) in entertainment each and every year. If Werner Herzog is infatuated with it, you know it has a special place in the fabric of Americana. But, for me personally, I’ve really stretched the content bank thin when it comes to WrestleMania. Nonetheless, WrestleMania XL is next weekend, and it has me dancing with anticipation for the veritable wrestling holiday that is to come. I’ll write a drinking game, for sure, but the usual avenues writers go down this time of year – best matches, best moments, best shows, etc. – are all avenues I have already traveled down and then some. That’s a roundabout way of me saying, “what the hell else am I going to write at this point?

Well, thanks to our buddy Steve, I was scrolling Twitter yesterday, saw him tweet about the Triple H vs. Booker T match from 2003, and thought to myself, “holy shit what a misfire that whole thing was.” That sparked the idea that brings us here this morning. I started playing back all of the WrestleManias I remembered from my days as a wrestling fan, looking for equally bizarre misfires…matches and moments that, quite simply, just didn’t hit the way the WWE drew things up. Time gives us the benefit of hindsight in all walks of life…pro wrestling is no different. So, here’s my list. Keep in mind I’m 37 years old…the first WrestleMania I can actually remember the weekly build to was WrestleMania XIV. Otherwise, I was renting WrestleMania tapes from Mt. Juliet Video & Comics having no connection to the show and not knowing anything about the build-up beyond the little recap videos they aired before matches. If you’re wondering why there isn’t any older shit on this list, that’s why. Here’s what I came up with.

The Biggest Misfires in WrestleMania History

Turning Stone Cold Steve Austin heel (2001) – In a lot of ways, 2001 marked a transition period for the WWE. A lot of the stuff they were running throughout the Attitude Era just wasn’t sustainable. Not to mention, the sponsorship options they had the time were much more kid-friendly, so they knew they had to dial it back a bit. It wasn’t a hard PG reboot, but in some ways, WrestleMania X-Seven marked the end of one area and the beginning of another. The seminal moment in that was the idea to turn Stone Cold Steve Austin heel following his main event championship match against The Rock. Again…we’re headed in a different direction now, I can see the vision behind pulling the trigger on an Austin heel turn. But, in execution, it was a little confusing. I remember being 15 at the time and not really understanding what was happening. Maybe it was my dumb teenage brain, but I thought, “is Vince turning face?” That’s how engrained the idea that Austin was a hero was in our brains. It proved to be an arduous task to follow up on. How do you take someone so beloved and try to get people to hate him? WWE parlayed the Two Man Power Trip into the Invasion angle, and while I’ve always felt like the year was a little underrated because of all the shenanigans, nothing seemed to hit the way they wanted it to. The trickle down effect of this decision gave the dynamic of WWE programming a weird vibe for the rest of the year. If they had it to do all over again, would they run this the same way?

Triple H over Booker T (2003) – Even as a teenager watching this buildup unfold, I thought it felt a little gross. Like, “guys, we’re teetering a liiiiiiittle too close to some truly hateful shit.” To tell this story the way that they did and then to have Booker T lose the match? Tough scene, y’all. Tough scene. Now that we’re here 21 years after the fact – what would a Booker T title reign in 2003 have hurt? I still don’t get that call to this day.

The main event stipulation (2009) – The build to the main event of WrestleMania 25 between Randy Orton and Triple H was red hot. I’ll never forget Triple H showing up at Orton’s house, Orton handcuffing Triple H to the ropes and kissing his unconscious wife in front of him…I mean, hell…we were getting personal personal. It was one of my favorite WrestleMania builds ever, and then they decided to just kill the vibe with the stipulation for that match. Triple H would lose the title if the match ended in DQ or count-out. What? You’re telling me this man watched his unconscious wife get assaulted and they decided the way to go was to make the match less violent? It totally killed what would’ve been an all-timer of a bloodbath.

Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose (2016) – Y’know…I can see the vision here…but they had to know that Lesnar wasn’t going to get down in the mud with Ambrose here, right?!?! I mean, to hear Ambrose tell it, he was down to do some wild shit, but Lesnar wasn’t. The result was a lackluster fight that had me as disinterested in it as Lesnar was. They should’ve known better.

Kurt Angle’s last match (2019) – It’s nothing against Baron Corbin because I do feel like he’s had a rather underrated career so far, but this being Angle’s retirement match was stupid. It should’ve been Cena like Angle wanted.

Before you comment, no, I don’t think last year’s main event was a misfire. Last year’s main event ruled. But, if you have what you consider to be a major misfire at the Granddaddy of Them All, feel free to drop it in the comments.

Stoney Keeley is the Editor in Chief of The SoBros Network, and a Dogs Playing Poker on velvet connoisseur. He is a strong supporter of Team GSD, #BeBetter, and ‘Minds right, asses tight.’ “Big Natural” covers the Tennessee Titans, Nashville, Yankee Candle, and a whole wealth of nonsense. Follow on Twitter @StoneyKeeley.

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