by Kyle Childers
Sports entertainment is a product based on feuds. The conflict between performers is what drives the angles at the core of almost every wrestling program produced post 1985. The innovator of the story driven overhaul of the sport of professional wrestling is undoubtedly WWE owner Vince McMahon. If not for McMahon making his product the only game in town in the 1980s while focusing on higher production values and more angle driven direction it’s entirely likely that the wrestling landscape in 2012 would be vastly different from what it is.
Probably not the worst idea I’ve ever heard…
But being the creator of something doesn’t automatically make you the best at it and sometimes even the WWE has a feud or angle that accomplishes far less than intended. This list is five feuds from the last ten years that either did nothing to help the workers involved or didn’t have the intended effects.
5. Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena (2012)
Brock Lesnar’s return in the Spring of 2012 is easily one of the top stories of the year, sending shockwaves through the wrestling industry and that one guy in the front row into convulsions. Not only was it the first time Lesnar had been in the WWE in eight years, his intial assault of John Cena promised a follow up to an angle that occured in 2003 when young up-and-comer John Cena challenged WWE Champion Brock Lesnar for his title at Backlash 2003. However, this time, Cena was a ten time world champion and Lesnar was returning following his time in the UFC, which included Lesnar having a run with the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Where could they possibly go wrong?
Where They Went Wrong
Spoiler: Cena wins. Some may disagree that having Cena win was a mistake, after all he is the undisputed top draw the WWE has to offer.
Best in the world…at selling t-shirts.
Factor his drawing power against the fact that he just lost what he and the commentators put over as the most important match of his career against The Rock at Wrestlemania XXVIII and it’s easy to see how the creative team and Mr. McMahon would want to have Cena look strong in a high profile match. The only problem is that John Cena didn’t really need the win because he’s John freaking Cena. If watching the WWE over the years has taught me one thing it’s that nothing bothers John Cena. Well, except Wade Barrett, Cena tried to murder him.
Then again, nothing bothers Brock Lesnar either, a man one step below The Terminator in determination after he’s decided to destroy something. The weeks leading up to Extreme Rules saw Lesnar F5 Cena and negotiate his contract to include such clauses as changing the name of Monday Night Raw to reflect his starring role. When the pay-per-view rolled around, Lesnar spent most of the match treating Cena like a meat-filled punching bag, bludgeoning and blooding the former Doctor of Thuganomics for the better part of fifteen minutes (and shaking off a potential knee injury along the way) before a chain assisted right hand and attitude adjustment secured the win for Cena. After the match, Cena cut a promo that alluded to taking time off and then he totally didn’t. No, John showed up on Raw the next night, and most Mondays since, before feuding with John Laurinitis while Lesnar kayfabed time off until SummerSlam. A Lesnar victory would’ve perfectly set up Cena to take the time he probably needs while establishing Lesnar as a big deal to the young audience that has no knowledge of his previous run.
4. Kofi Kingston vs. Randy Orton (2009)
Remember 2009? That magical, unforgetable time when Jeff Hardy and CM Punk were getting their first shots at being “top guys” and Raw had guest hosts? Okay, I’ll admit that second wasn’t all that magical but it is hard to forget, mostly because the doctor told me that I had to choose between forgetting guest hosts or total liver failure.
Liver failure’s suddenly not sounding too bad…
The guest host thing wasn’t all bad though right? I mean, it did give us the return of Bret Hart, William Shatner “singing” superstar entrance themes, and R-Truth exploding. Unfortunately, of those three bright spots, only The Hitman coming back had long term implications. Another angle that failed to live up to it’s potential in a big way (even bigger than R-Truth not staying blown up somehow), started when Raw was hosted by Kyle Busch and Joey Logano who gave Randy Orton a custom stock car for some reason. Later in the evening, Kofi Kingston took it upon himself to give Orton’s new ride a fresh yellow paint job along with fancy key scratches down the side and a swanky dent from a production trunk. Kofi capped (or is it “kapped?”) it all off with a crowbar beating to the car all while screaming, “I got you Randy” approximately 43,000 times. Despite my aloof description, the segment was actually pretty good and for the first time Kofi Kingston was showing real main event potential.
Where They Went Wrong
Kofi Kingston is Intercontinental Champion in 2012. Some may say that’s a good thing but three years ago at the Survivor Series, Kofi pinned Orton cleanly to be the sole survivor on a team he captained while this year he was the fourth person eliminated from a Survivor Series match while Orton went on to again be the last eliminated.
Not only did Kofi pin Orton at Survivor Series, he also defeated him on a Raw following the event. Not bad for a guy that had been pretending to be Jamaician and representing the midcard most of his WWE career. It all came toppling down for Kofi a few blown spots and Orton victories later as he was vanquished back to the midcard in 2010 while Randy went on to win the WWE Championship for the sixth time in August. Let us take a few minutes to remember those few minutes that Kofi Kingston was a badass.
October 26, 2009—Never Forget.
3. Edge vs Dolph Ziggler (2011)
Dolph Ziggler is, perhaps, the most naturally gifted performer in WWE today. I’m not saying it’s fact, it’s really just my opinion, but watching Ziggler in the ring it’s hard to deny that with the proper push Dolph would easily fit into the WWE main event scene. Unfortunately, January 2011 was not the time for Mr. Ziggler. It’s hard to imagine that a feud between a WWE Hall of Famer/one of the best workers to come out of the WWE in the last fifteen years and a hungry, young, and naturally determined to make the most of his first main event push star would fail, but if I’ve learned two things from watching WWE over the years it’s nothing bothers John Cena and never underestimate the ability of the creative team to disappoint.
Where They Went Wrong
This feud was once again a case of the problem being the face winning. Okay, it’s not so much that the face won as much as it is how the face won, how many times he won and how little effort he put into winning.
Edge actually pinned Dolph twice between the flash and the shutter.
The feud followed the tried and true wrestling formula of a heel authority figure (Vickie Guerrero in this case) favoring a heel who is pursuing a title. When Ziggler dropped the Intercontinental Championship to Kofi Kingston, ending a five month reign, before winning the number one contendership for the World Heavyweight Championship over Cody Rhodes, Drew McIntyre and The Big Show, it seemed that the 2011 Royal Rumble would be the scene of Dolph’s first World Championship victory. As it turned out, that wouldn’t be the case. Nor would it be the case a few weeks later when Ziggler got a rematch on SmackDown. Ziggler would actually only get to lay hands on the title belt after a violation of a ban on the spear allowed Vickie to hand him the title.
I was going to link to a picture of Ziggler with the belt but this lasted longer.
11 minutes and 43 seconds later, Edge was World Heavyweight Champion again and Ziggler went tumbling back down to the midcard, a position he is only just now starting to claw his way out of. This whole thing is even more tragic when you realize that Dolph once again failed to win the big one with assistance a year later when he faced CM Punk at the Royal Rumble.
2. Booker T. vs. HHH (2003)
What can I say about this feud that hasn’t been said? I could spend this whole entry talking about the racist overtones of the angle or how Booker T. had all of the momentum in the world leading up to their Wrestlemania match and he still somehow lost to the bigoted heel but that’s not where WWE’s blowing of this feud stopped. Somehow a feud between the top heel for the better part of three years and a five time former heavyweight champion seems like a sure thing but…
Where They Went Wrong
At no point in the feud was Booker really treated like a main eventer. Sure, to earn the title shot he went over some of the bigger names in the WWE at the time but once the actual program with HHH started, Booker only had a few moments of strength before Hunter ultimately won. Wrestlemania XIX could’ve been a chance to have a face beat the dominant heel and complete his underdog tale of triumph and redemption. Instead, HHH retained his title and moved on to feud with his old pals Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash while Booker fell down the card and into Intercontinental and Tag reigns.
Then there’s this.
It took Booker T. a complete gimmick overhaul and nearly three and a half years to regain the footing he had in early 2003 while HHH had added another title reign to his list before the end of 2003.
1. Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero (2005)
Let me start this entry by saying that this feud only earned a spot not because of what it didn’t do but because of what it undid. Eddie and Rey had a long and storied history spanning multiple companies and two decades that produced some of the finest matches ever seen anywhere. Whether it was WCW Halloween Havoc 1997 or Wrestlemania 21, Guerrero and Mysterio always had amazing chemestry. It makes sense too, they were best friends in real life and had worked together repeatedly. When their feud turned from friendly competition to bitter and heated because Eddie couldn’t seem to score a victory, it provided a new slant to a proven formula.
Where They Went Wrong
They had a ladder match for the custody of a child. Let me just get that out of the way right now because that’s what happened and that’s where this is all building. The angle was going just fine until the build to Great American Bash 2005 when Eddie got all creepy and cryptic by promising to reveal a Mysterio family secret while offering to read Rey’s son Dominic a bedtime story. They went with a ladder match because Chris Hansen refused to referee a To Catch a Predator match.
Predictably, Rey won and even more predictably, Eddie reneged on his promise to keep the secret, which Eddie promised to keep if Rey beat him. Eddie revealed that Rey’s son was actually Eddie’s and Rey and his wife had only adopted him as an infant. Eventually, Eddie brought a social worker to back his claim of parental rights and that gave us the ladder match. This angle could’ve possibly been saved if they had to climb the ladder to actually retrieve Dominic but instead they had to grab a briefcase full of custody papers. Granted, it was a pretty good match and it did have Eddie freaking out over Vickie missing her cue but that’s not enough to save this.
Too little, too late, Vickie.
This wasn’t even the end of the angle. Despite Rey winning the right to keep his child in what really should become legal precedent in all custody suits, they still had one more cage match on SmackDown that Eddie won before feuding with Batista just prior to his untimely death. Really though, when it was all said and done, despite the incredible matches, despite Eddie moving into a title program that he potentially could’ve come out on top of, despite Rey eventually winning the World Heavyweight Championship the next year, no one came out of this feud any better than when it started and that can mostly be blamed on the fact that they fought over the possession of a child.
Photos 1-2, 5-7, 9-10: en.wikipedia.org
Photo 3-4, 8, 11: onlineworldofwrestling.com