The Contentious Ten 12.10.12: The Worst Dream Matches
Welcome to this week’s Contentious Ten. This week’s topic is one I’ve been working on for a while. I’ve made lists, remade them, and scrapped them and started over more than once for this one. It’s the opposite of what most of these lists are in that it’s a worst of instead of a best of. As wrestling fans, we’ve all pondered Dream Matches. These are matches that at one point or another seem possible only in our imaginations, born either from similarities between two guys or the simple fact that two guys are on top of promotions. These can be friends that we’ve never seen square off, former partners, former stable mates, or old rivals that haven’t squared off in years and years. The list that I’ve put together for you, unfortunately, is about Dream Matches that didn’t live up to expectations, and why.
Here’s the criteria forThe 10 Worst Dream Matches That Actually Happened.
-No imaginary matches
-Match between two genuine superstars
-Match underwhelmed in a big way on some level
This is not a list of matches that would be awful if they happened, so there’ll be no Undertaker vs. Haystacks Calhoun matches listed here. All of these matches happened, and more often than not on pay per view. It’s also hard to have a dream match between two lifelong jobbers, so there’s little chance of seeing Barry Horowitz vs. Dale Wolfe on the list…though The Mulkeys vs. The Ding Dongs probably would have had a chance. The match itself didn’t have to be awful, though that helps. The match could also be the result of bad build so that interest in the match was killed, and therefore the match didn’t live up to expectations because the crowd was flat. Many of these are a combination of the two. Finally, as always, the order of the matches listed comes down to my personal preference.
Matches that just missed the cut: Sycho Sid vs. Vader (In Your House 11), Hollywood Hogan vs. Kevin Nash (Fingerpoke of Doom), Kevin Nash vs. Scott Hall (Halloween Havoc 98), Bret Hart vs. Sting (Halloween Havoc 98)
Brawl For Allsize=6>
Jim Cornette called this “the worst idea that WWE ever had.”
-Shoot fight tournament
-Ideally would determine who the “real” toughest wrestler was
The Brawl For All may not seem like a Dream Match now, but you’re lying if you say that at one point or another during your childhood or teenage years, you didn’t wonder who the toughest guy really was. If The Road Warriors REALLY fought Demolition, who would win? Well, this tournament was lacking the huge main event names (thankfully) but the initial appeal was still there. It didn’t last long. Here’s a list of Brawl For All’s casualties:
Dan Severn – withdrew from the tournament, citing he had nothing left to prove.
Steve Blackmon – won in the first round, was injured doing so and had to withdraw
Marc Mero – legitimate amateur boxer whose reputation was irreparably damaged
Hawk – Went to a draw with Droz but withdrew due to an injury
Savio Vega – Aggravated an arm injury and never worked in WWE again
Steve Williams – Tore a hamstring, career never fully recovered
Godfather – Knocked out/concussion
Brakkus – lost his first match to Savio Vega, disappeared despite massive hype
Bradshaw – Knocked out/concussion
And then there’s Bart Gunn. Bart Gunn actually won the whole thing, only to be publicly beheaded by Butterbean at Wrestlemania and have any chance of cashing in on his Brawl For All “win” nullified. Jim Cornette called this “the worst idea WWE ever had.” It’s hard to argue with him.
Bret Hart vs. Hulk Hogan (9.27.98 WCW Monday Nitro)size=6>
We waited five years for this?
-Free television, not pay per view
-Nearly happened in 1993
-WWE’s face of the 80’s vs. face of the early 90’s
I’m willing to bet that most people forget that this match even happened. They probably should, because it was a colossal letdown on many levels. First of all, as was typical of the “Attitude Era” in both WWE and WCW, this match received little build. What could have been marketed as a huge pay per view showdown ended up being given away on a Nitro on a whim. Secondly, the match barely happened. We got about six minutes of Hart vs. Hogan, then Bret got “injured” and was replaced by Sting mid-match. Things like this are why I say the Attitude Era hasn’t aged well at all. From there, Hogan and Bret double crossed Sting and Bret joined the nWo. So with rumors of real heat between them for years, and a legitimate dream match on the table, this happened. We waited five years for this? I would have sooner taken the match at Summerslam 93, thanks.
Hollywood Hogan vs. Roddy Piper (Starrcade 1996)size=6>
-Feud that launched WWE’s mainstream popularity in the mid 80’s
-Over a decade without a decisive finish
Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper are two of the most recognizable names in wrestling history. Their feud in the mid 1980’s that drew in such mainstream celebrities such as Cyndi Lauper and Mr. T was a huge part of the reason that Vince McMahon was able to go national with so much success and begin his process of transforming the industry. At The War To Settle The Score, though, Hogan and Piper finished with a DQ. Then they were in a tag team match at the first Wrestlemania. Then Hogan just sort of moved on. Orndorff and Bundy and Savage and Andre were waiting. There was never a decisive finish on a big stage. Once they were both under contract to WCW in the late 90’s, this was a no brainer. For better or worse (judging by this list usually worse), WCW tried to make dream matches happen. This, however, was just painful. Painful. Absolutely painful. Piper scored a clean win over Hogan, a rarity even at this point in Hogan’s career as a cowardly heel. The match, though, was an overbooked mess and full of nWo shenanigans as per usual in WCW at the time. They would have other matches in WCW of varying quality, but their first one on one confrontation in over a decade was a massive disappointment.
The Legion of Doom vs. Demolition (1990)size=6>
Better in concept than in execution.
-Two of wrestling’s greatest tag teams
-Marred by a significant injury
Ask a fan from the late 80’s and early 90’s to name a dominant tag team that painted their faces, wore leather and spikes, were multiple time world tag team champions, and that could play the heel or face roles and you’re as likely to hear Demolition as The Road Warriors depending on whether you’re asking someone that watched the NWA or the WWF. As soon as Demolition arrived, it was clear that they were Vince’s answer to The Road Warriors. Ax and Smash didn’t have the physiques that The Road Warriors had, but they were still intimidating. The similarities between the two teams led to heated debates about which team was better, especially among ten year olds like myself and my friends. The Legion of Doom arrived in the WWF while Demolition was on the tail end of their run, and the stage was set. It had to happen. Well, it did. It probably shouldn’t have. Demolition and The Legion of Doom are two of wrestling’s greatest tag teams that engaged in some of the most boring matches ever. Part of the reason for this was that Bill Eadie (Ax) was having terrible problems with his back and just couldn’t carry his weight anymore. Smash and Crush taking on Hawk and Animal just didn’t have the same appeal or the chemistry. There were also six man variations that saw Ax, Smash, and Crush take on Hawk, Animal, and The Ultimate Warrior. It just wasn’t the same, though. This match was best left to imaginations and video games.
WCW vs. WWF (Survivor Series 2001)size=6>
How did this fail?
-The kayfabe end of the “Monday Night Wars”
-Survivor Series match
This match appears much lower on here than I initially had it slotted because the match itself is really, really good. My issue with the match is the build up to it and the fact that the winner was a foregone conclusion, and the lack of, you know, WCW involved. How did this fail? Because huge contracts awarded by WCW weren’t bought out by Vince McMahon when he purchased the company, and so the stars of WCW – Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Goldberg, Sting, Scott Steiner – were nowhere to be found. The guys that did come over, like Diamond Dallas Page and KroniK, were either booked so comically badly that they were no longer viable main eventers or were sandbagged by WWF stars (Undertaker and Kane) and made to look awful past the point of repair. That meant that “Team WCW” became “Team WCW/ECW”, and featured such legendary WCW and ECW stars as Shane McMahon, Kurt Angle, and WWF World Champion Steve Austin. These teams are just WWF A vs. WWF B. If things unfolded differently and we saw a team of Sting, Goldberg, Diamond Dallas Page, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash taking on Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, The Rock, The Undertaker, and Chris Jericho…well…that would have felt like a true dream match. And just think, DDP could have gotten injured and forced to leave, which would lead to Hogan coming down the aisle to fill in and Vince could redo the whole “But whose side is he on?” moment and have Hogan “come home” to the WWF. Hindsight booking is always easier, though. This match was doomed by finances, but was still a disappointment.
What a train wreck.
-Rematch of Wrestlemania VI main event
-Proof that lightning doesn’t strike twice
In 1990, Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior created something special. Two limited workers, both babyfaces, worked together to produce a 20 minute classic that remains one of the better matches and greatest moments in Wrestlemania’s storied history. There was never a rematch, as this was intended to signal Hogan passing the torch to Warrior and stepping out of the spotlight. History, of course, tells us that this was a farcical notion and that there was no chance of this ever actually happening. It looked good at the time, though. In their quest to destroy the World Wrestling Federation, WCW was throwing together every dream match possible. The problem was, as mentioned before, that they usually didn’t turn out too well. This match is a prime example of it. The Warrior’s run in WCW was disastrous for all involved. It involved magic, trap doors that ended careers, one Warrior nation (composed of two people), and this match. What a train wreck. The fireball that was supposed to end the match never connected with The Warrior and instead almost caught Hogan on fire in the process of throwing it. Horace Hogan was directly involved in the finish. The match ran too long and created one of the biggest disasters in pay per view history. The chemistry that existed in Toronto in 1990 was completely gone. This was obviously nothing more than a way for Hogan to “get his win back,” something odd considering the sport is scripted.
Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar (Wrestlemania XX)size=6>
The Hindenburg of wrestling matches.
-Two men on their way out of WWE
-Cannibalized by the crowd
This may be the worst match in Wrestlemania history when all things are considered. For the star power involved, this match had no right to be as bad as it was. We’ve seen on multiple occasions – Hulk Hogan, Jericho, Diamond Dallas Page, Scott Hall – that Goldberg can have good matches. We’ve seen Brock Lesnar take on Kurt Angle and Hulk Hogan and John Cena was good results as well. Throw in Steve Austin as the special referee, and this should have been a can’t miss formula. Instead, we got the Hindenburg of wrestling matches. Things went down in flames in a hurry. This remains the biggest example of the Internet influencing a match on a major stage, as news had leaked that both Goldberg and Lesnar would be leaving WWE immediately following Wrestlemania. The crowd was all over both men, meaning there were no faces to cheer for…aside from the referee. The match wasn’t very good regardless of the crowd, featuring lots of stalling and boring power based moves from each man. The high point of the match was Austin beating up both men afterwards.
Hollywood Hogan vs. Sting (Starrcade 1997)size=6>
The most frustrating thing in wrestling history.
-Starrcade 1997 main event
-Built for nearly 2 years
-WCW World Heavyweight Title match
This match was built from the second that Hogan dropped a leg on Randy Savage, turned his back on WCW, and formed the new World order with Hall and Nash. Sting lashed out at Hogan, WCW doubted Sting’s loyalty, Sting proved his loyalty, then disappeared. For over a year, Sting remained silent, watching from the rafters, and dropping in to lay a beatdown on the nWo when necessary. For over a year, WCW moved towards this match. Fans were rabid for the match, and rightfully so. The angle itself was one of the most brilliantly executed storylines in professional wrestling history. The match remains the most frustrating thing in wrestling history for me. With the build that this match got, there was only one logical conclusion – a Sting squash. Five to seven minutes, tops, with Sting no-selling Hogan’s offense, tearing through him, and making him tap out to the Scorpion Death Lock. Rumors and legends persist that Hogan ruined the ending to the match, but even without Hogan convincing Nick Patrick to botch the “fast count” that led to Hart’s intervention and Sting’s win, this match would have been unsatisfying. The match didn’t need any of that. Again, as was typical of the era throughout professional wrestling, things were overcomplicated. Sometimes it’s okay just to keep things simple. WCW didn’t, and this one left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths.
Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair (1991)size=6>
There’s a lesson to be learned here.
-The ultimate dream match of the 1980’s
Ric Flair was the face of the National Wrestling Alliance and generally regarded as one of the best technical wrestlers of all time. Hulk Hogan was the face of the World Wrestling Federation and known for being almost superhumanly strong and nigh unbeatable. This was wrestling’s ultimate dream match. When Ric Flair jumped from WCW to the WWF in 1991, the wrestling community was buzzing in anticipation to finally see this match. The debate would finally be settled. No more speculation or arguments would be necessary, we would simply know who the better ban was. They first met in Dayton, Ohio in 1991, and would compete against each other a few more times on the WWF’s house show circuit. Vince McMahon didn’t like the matches, and that was it. They were never put on pay per view together. The “dream match” fizzled and we wouldn’t see it for another five years when Hogan and Flair were both under contract to WCW. Even then, the matches weren’t that great especially considering arguably the two greatest wrestlers of all time were involved. There’s a lesson to be learned from this match – dream matches rarely live up to expectations. Everyone clamoring for that Stone Cold vs. Hulk Hogan matchup a while back should probably be very thankful that it didn’t happen. If you’re looking for Punk vs. Austin…well, maybe it’s best to let that one go, too.
Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki (6.26.76)size=6>
This settled nothing.
-The first mainstream Boxer vs. Wrestler fight
-Arguably the first major MMA fight
In 1976, Muhammad Ali was the heavyweight champion of boxing, and was one of the largest celebrities in the world. Antonio Inoki was on his way to becoming a legend as a professional wrestler in Japan. Both men were at the top of their profession and very proud of their accomplishments – rightfully so. While on a tour of Japan, Ali made an open challenge to “any Oriental fighter” to face him. The comments made headlines, and Antonio Inoki accepted. The rules were modified after Ali discovered that this wasn’t going to be an exhibition, but rather a “real” fight. Inoki was restricted in his ability to grapple and strike at Ali, but these rules weren’t made public beforehand per Ali’s requests. The match was contested under rules close to boxing, with 15 three minute rounds comprising the fight. The match was largely boring, as Inoki lay on his back and kicked at Ali’s legs. Ali only managed to throw a handful of punches. Despite mangling Ali’s legs so badly that blood clots would form and amputation was briefly discussed for one of his legs, the fight was declared a draw after Inoki had three points deducted for throwing an illegal elbow. To date, there is still speculation over whether or not the fight was a legitimate shoot fight or scripted to some degree. Regardless, the match is viewed as one of the low points of Ali’s great career and seen as a ridiculous farce for both men. This was an attempt to determine a question that still is debated today; which is more effective, boxing or wrestling? This settled nothing.
That’s the worst of the worst. No videos this week, because I didn’t want to force all that awfulness upon you. Tell me what you think I missed, what should be higher or lower, or leave your own lists and discuss the above list in the comment section below. You can find me on Twitter @GavinNapier411 and check out my new podcast on iTunes by searching for The Casual Heroes, or go to www.thecasualheroes.com and I’ll be back here in 7..6..5..