WrestleMania‘s worst matches are things we try not to talk about too much this time of year.
Typically, WrestleMania is a time for reflecting the iconic, legendary moments of years’ past.
Hogan and Andre. Bret and Shawn in the Iron Man Match. The Austin Era has begun.
But this is not a typical year. It’s March 30, and most of WrestleMania 36 has probably long since been filmed with the coronavirus making a live show an impossibility.
With fans (and maybe even the company) fearing the worst from this year’s Show Of Shows, it’s as good a time as any to look back at those WrestleMania bouts we’d all rather just forget.
These are WrestleMania‘s worst matches.
6. Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts Vs. ‘The Model’ Rick Martel, Blindfold Match – WrestleMania VII
The one positive to this match is that at least neither Roberts nor Martel had to see it. Because it was a unique stinker among WrestleMania‘s worst matches.
At WrestleMania VII, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts faced off against ‘The Model’ Rick Martel in a blindfold match. The stipulation is exactly what it sounds like. Both guys in the ring, blindfolded.
In the build-up to the match, Martel sprayed Roberts in the eyes with Martel’s personal brand of perfume, Arrogance. The Snake was effectively blinded, and WrestleMania VII was a chance to settle the score.
But Jake was a little too keen on making things even-Steven. He wanted both guys to be blind. An eye for an eye? Eh? Anybody? I’ll see myself out.
The match was as disastrous as you’d imagine. For one thing, both guys could clearly see through the thing. Although Roberts made it somewhat believable by calling for directions from the crowd.
A stupid idea, and an impossible-to-execute stipulation earns this match as a spot among WrestleMania‘s worst matches.
5. Giant Gonzalez Vs. The Undertaker – WrestleMania IX
I have to imagine that when “the streak” started to become a big deal that Undertaker probably wanted this one stricken from the record.
It is undoubtedly one of WrestleMania’s worst matches.
And it’s fitting that it took place at WrestleMania IX, arguably one of the worst WrestleManias of all time.
WWE was in a tough spot. They didn’t quite know what to do with the Undertaker. The company had this unique character who, despite his dark undertones and scary demeanor, was one of the biggest babyfaces in the company. Add to that he was a veritable giant.
One of the bigger struggles in all of pro wrestling is to make a babyface out of a giant wrestler. It’s hard to build sympathy on a really big guy. So WWE did what it always does in this situation – they went out and found an even bigger really big guy.
Enter Giant Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was 8 feet tall and allegedly 450 pounds. He was a former basketball player for the Argentine national team and ha wrestled in WCW as El Gigante. Oh, and he wrestled in a flesh-colored bodysuit with abs and pecs painted on it.
To give you an idea of just how bad Gonzalez was, picture the Great Kali. Now imagine that the Great Kali was even worse.
Part of me wants to give WWE a mulligan on this one. It was one of WrestleMania‘s worst matches, for sure, but this was a time when they were still feeling out what they wanted to do with the Undertaker. Part of me wants to give them a pass.
But I’m not going to. This match sucks and is easily one of WrestleMania‘s worst matches.
4. Hillbilly Jim, Little Beaver, And Haiti Kid Vs. King Kong Bundy, Lord Littlebrook, And Little Tokyo – WrestleMania III
Oh, Vince. How you love to mock the different.
So, 1987 was a different time. WrestleMania was still in its infancy. Pro wrestling was more of a three-ring circus, WWE in particular. And, to be fair, size juxtaposition is one way to make your match different. Two little people on each team, and one behemoth on each team.
Seems natural, right? Yeah. A natural recipe for one of WrestleMania‘s worst matches.
With this one match, wrestling fans got a rare glimpse of what it’s like in Vince McMahon’s head. And one thing is as true today as it was 33 years ago – Vince McMahon thinks people who are different from him are funny.
There have been more mean-spirited matches and segments in WWE history, but this was maybe the earliest example of WWE putting together a match for no reason other than to fill time. And it’s not like WrestleMania III needed padding. It had the biggest money-making draw in history with its main event of Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. And it had arguably the greatest match of all time in Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat.
Plus, and I’m sure he was happy enough when the check cleared, but imagine being King Kong Bundy in this match. One year earlier he headlined WrestleMania 2 in a cage match against Hulk Hogan.
I hope some day this match, one of WrestleMania‘s worst matches, gets its own paragraph in somebody’s psychological work-up of Vince McMahon.
3. Bob Backlund Vs. Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, ‘I Quit’ Match – WrestleMania XI
I hesitate to put this one on the list. I’m a huge mark for Bret Hart. And, honestly, I like Bob Backlund.
But this match sucks. And it’s easily one of WrestleMania‘s worst matches.
A few months earlier, at age 45 (which was old at the time) Backlund shocked the world by beating Hart to become the WWE Champion. Backlund was the champ in the early 80s, having held the title for more than five years.
What I’m saying is, basically, that these guys could go. Bret was at the top of his game, and Backlund was having something of a career Renaissance. So it’s more baffling than anything that they completely stunk the joint out.
The action – if you can call it that – was awkward and plodding. And the finish makes me scratch my head to this day. Referee Roddy Piper put the microphone in Backlund’s face to get the official “I quit,” and Backlund said something to the effect of – and this is not a direct quote – “Blaagggh grarrgghhh.”
Piper translated that as “I quit,” and ended the match, declaring Bret the winner.
As I said, these guys were world-class wrestlers. And WrestleMania XI – one of the worst Manias ever – could’ve used a good match to liven the show up. Instead, against all odds, these two legends turned in one of WrestleMania‘s worst matches.
2. Jerry Lawler Vs. Michael Cole – WrestleMania XXVII
No, seriously. This is a thing that happened. They had a camera and they put it on PPV and everything.
WWE doesn’t often try different things. And when they do, it tends to be disastrous. Case in point, Michael Cole’s run as a heel play-by-play announcer during the early 2010s.
To put it in context, Michael Cole was the Baron Corbin of his day. Fans didn’t hate him because he was dastardly or because the story warranted it. They hated him because he was a pain and because WWE wouldn’t make him go away.
As with Backlund almost two decades earlier, Lawler was having a kind of career revival. He ended 2010 in a feud with the Miz for the WWE Championship, and you know something? It was pretty good.
Lawler wasn’t exactly having 5-star matches, but the intensity of the feud and the good will Lawler had from the fans carried it. Then Cole, who had become a notorious Miz shill on commentary, cost Lawler a title win against Miz in a TLC match. This, of course, led to their WrestleMania showdown.
With Steve Austin as the referee (hey, they had to sell this match somehow), Cole hit the ring wearing gear you’d see a junior high wrestler don, and just embarrassed the hell out of himself. It was a crappy match – one of WrestleMania‘s worst matches – and a real shame.
Jerry Lawler got one last bite at the apple and did pretty well for himself. All for this.
Perhaps the real shame is that, despite being with the company since the early 90s, this was Lawler’s only WrestleMania match. Just a shame.
1. Goldust Vs. ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, Hollywood Backlot Brawl – WrestleMania XII
Oh my God. Just – just oh my God.
When WWE gets topical, you get – well, you get stuff like this. One of WrestleMania‘s worst matches.
The Goldust character was really, really edgy for its time. He was, for all intents and purposes, gay. Although Vince McMahon pushed the phrase “androgynous” to avoid being called out for what the character really was at that time. It was an excuse to have the babyfaces get away with gay-bashing and for the crowd to feel okay in cheering it.
WWE originally intended to pit Razor Ramon against Goldust for WrestleMania XII, but Razor’s impending move to WCW put the breaks on that one. So the company scrambled and put Roddy Piper in Razor’s place. As if the match wasn’t bad enough, one of WrestleMania‘s worst matches ever, the build-up has aged really, really poorly.
Ultimately, Piper’s goal was to “make a man” out of Goldust. And then we get to the match itself, which (as promised) started in a Hollywood backlot. Getting a severe beating, Goldust hops in his gold Cadillac and drives away. So Piper commandeers a truck to give chase. But not just any truck. A white Ford Bronco.
WWE’s helicopters cover the low-speed Bronco chase. Through L.A. In 1996. During the O.J. trial.
Anyway. When they get back to the arena, Piper drags Goldust to the ring and strips him down to his underwear, revealing that Goldust is wearing a corset and lingerie. Classy.
So, to recap, we’ve got mockery of a high profile murder trial, literal gay-bashing, and kink-shaming. And there wasn’t even a pinfall. Piper humiliating Goldust in the ring was considered him winning, I guess.
It doesn’t age well, it’s incredibly uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons, and it deserves to be called one of WrestleMania‘s worst matches.
Sometimes, WrestleMania is truly the showcase of the unwatchable. That’s wrestling, though. You have to take the good with the bad.
But you’ think WWE would work overtime to keep the bad as far away from their biggest show of the year as possible.
Unfortunately, as Batman wisely said, sometimes you just can’t get rid of a bomb.
For every classic WrestleMania moment like HBK vs. Undertaker or Savage vs. Steamboat, there’s a Hollywood Backlot Brawl just waiting to ruin everything.
And given the sure-to-be-stilted nature of this year’s WrestleMania, there’s probably room for the list of WrestleMania‘s worst matches to grow.
All images courtesy of WWE.