An epic build should lead to a surge of interest in a match, and in-turn the wrestling promotion booking the match should reap the rewards when the eventual PPV buy-rate comes in.
Over the years, particularly in top wrestling companies such as WWE and WCW, a wrestling company has presented a thrilling build that has engaged the fan-base, yet the quality of the match itself has failed to meet expectations, and in-turn has left fans extremely disappointed.
So, with that being said, let’s look at 10 matches that had the biggest build but ultimately flopped.
10: The Undertaker vs. Kane (HIAC ’10)
In 2010, WWE decided to revisit The Undertaker and Kane rivalry one final time. The feud incorporated prior lore of their iconic feud, and WWE even decided to bring back Paul Bearer.
When WWE booked the two to face off inside Hell in a Cell, fans were excited, as this marked the first time that the two legends would face off in the notable match type. Unfortunately, whilst the build to the match was incredibly entertaining, the match was a dud. It was apparent that both men were way past their prime, and it was a basic, traditional TV match that just so happened to be inside the Hell in a Cell structure.
Dave Meltzer, from the Wrestling Observer, would rate the match just half a star, which was the lowest rated PPV main event of 2010 for WWE.
9: AJ Styles vs. Edge (WrestleMania 38)
At last, WWE were going to deliver AJ Styles vs. Edge in 2022, and they were going to do it on the grandest stage of them all. Heading into the match, there was an expectation that the match would be an all-time classic. Both men were tremendous in-ring talents, and Edge had recently turned heel, and Edge had typically delivered his best work when portraying a bad guy.
The match itself was a complete let-down, and fans were utterly speechless with how lacklustre the match was. The two just never seemed to click in the match, and their chemistry was kind of awkward.
Subsequent matches between the two former World Champions weren’t much better, and it could be argued that their matches, particularly the one at WrestleMania 38 was amongst the biggest disappointments in recent memory.
8: Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar (WrestleMania XX)
The stand-out feud heading into WrestleMania 20 was between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar. The feud was intense, compelling, and the involvement of Stone Cold Steve Austin only added to the excitement for the match.
Despite fans expecting an epic war inside Madison Square Garden, it was leaked before the show that both men were leaving the company after WrestleMania. This meant that the loyal WWE fans wanted no part of the match, and they decided to heavily boo both men. This threw Goldberg and Lesnar off, as they both stalled for an endless amount of time, as the fans, as well as guest referee, Stone Cold became increasingly frustrated.
Goldberg ended up getting the win in a lifeless match that didn’t feature a single memorable spot.
The post-match angle saw Austin lay out both men with Stunners, which of course, received one of the largest pops of the entire PPV event.
7: Chris Jericho vs. Kevin Owens (WrestleMania 33)
To state that Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens carried RAW in late 2016 would be an understatement. Their pairing was unbelievable, as every single segment between the two hit a home run, and there was a vocal push from the audience to see the two collide in the main event spot of WrestleMania 33.
An eventual break-up of the duo was teased for months, and when Owens finally turned-on Jericho in the acclaimed Festival of Friendship, fans were convinced that this was going to lead to a spectacular match at WrestleMania 33, with Jericho getting his revenge.
Ultimately, WWE would decide that the match would go on second, and whilst initial plans called for the match to be for the Universal Title, this was later changed, and Owens would drop the title to Goldberg, meaning that the match would now be for Jericho’s US Title.
The second match on a show is typically a tough spot to be in, and Jericho and Owens found it difficult to get the crowd going. The two had a standard match, that was by no means awful, yet it just fell flat with the crowd.
The match itself was loathed by Vince McMahon, and McMahon hated the match so much that he refused to speak to Owens following the encounter.
Jericho has since reflected on the WrestleMania matchup, and the inaugural Undisputed Champion offered an honest insight on an episode of Talk is Jericho:
“Now if you know anything about placement on a wrestling show, if you’re not last, you want to be first. If you’re not first or last, you want to be the semi-main event. Other than that, it’s pretty much a quagmire, unless you can get a good spot like Shawn and I did…”
“But we had 29 minutes. This did not have that. It was scheduled for 15 minutes, and don’t forget, it takes a minute and a half to walk to the ring. It was just a match that was just there. And it really bothered me because that story was one of the best, if not the best story, of that whole WrestleMania season. I still think the Festival of Friendship was still one of the best segments in ‘Raw’ history”.
6: Daniel Bryan vs. The Miz (SummerSlam ’18)
When Daniel Bryan was cleared to wrestle in 2018, one of the matches that fans wanted to see was Bryan vs. The Miz. A showdown between the two had been building for around two-years, and it escalated when The Miz cut an incredible shoot promo on Bryan during an episode of Talking Smack.
The match would finally go down at the 2018 SummerSlam event, and fans expected the match to be one of the strongest matches on the card, yet it was a match that was relatively basic in nature, and for whatever reason, the crowd didn’t seem too invested in the in-ring action.
The Miz would manage to get the win via underhand tactics, and this would allow the feud to continue for the next few months. The quality of the SummerSlam match seemed to lessen the excitement from the fans for the feud, as their subsequent matches suffered from a lack of buzz, and before fans knew it, WWE were going in a completely different direction with both of their respective characters.
5: Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins (TLC ’18)
The feud between Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins that took place between 2014-2015 was outstanding. The two had amazing matches, and their feud was a great showcase for both men. In 2018, the two would feud once again, but this time the roles would be reversed. Ambrose would now be the heel, whilst Rollins would be the babyface.
The feud began when Ambrose turned on Rollins, and the two were to settle their issues at the TLC PPV in a match for the Intercontinental Title.
Due to how heated the feud was, and due to how acclaimed their prior matches were, fans were anticipating a match of the year contender, yet the match they got wasn’t even the match of the night.
The main issue with the match was that this was supposed to be a blood-feud, yet for whatever reason the match started with a lock-up. The action wasn’t representative of the story that WWE had told, and this led to the crowd turning against the match. The crowd would heckle the two wrestlers with chants of “this is boring”, and it was hard to disagree, as it was truly one of the most uninspiring matches of the calendar year.
4: AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (WrestleMania 34)
The idea of AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura colliding in a WWE ring at one time seemed like an impossibility; however, in 2018, WWE committed to booking the match.
Nakamura would win the Royal Rumble and would challenge AJ who was WWE Champion at WrestleMania 34. The anticipation surrounding this match, particularly from those fans on social media, was insane. Fans expected greatness, and they truly believed they were going to witness one of the greatest matches in WWE history.
Ultimately, the match was passable, yet it wasn’t a classic matchup by any means. According to AJ during an appearance on After the Bell, fans had set their expectations too high when it came to the match:
“Expectations are way too high. I know Nakamura thought so too because no matter what we would have done in that match, the expectations were way too high. Here's what a lot of people don't understand. Crowd, fans, the WWE Universe, New Japan and all that stuff, their fans are everything. They're everything. They set the tone on what is a great match. It's how they respond to it, and in Japan, they're so respectful. When they do respond, it's huge. Wow, this is such an amazing match, but had that same match been done in a WWE ring without the same response, it's not going to be declared as that great of a match…
“Fans are everything. They dictate a great match. It's just the reality and the truth of the whole thing, and a lot of people don't understand. The expectations were so high because of what we did at Wrestle Kingdom…”
3: Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso (SummerSlam ’23)
The 2023 SummerSlam main event saw a new match type debut in WWE. Roman Reigns and Jey Uso would collide in a Tribal Combat, and WWE would explain that a Tribal Combat match would see no disqualification, and no outside interference.
When this was announced, it added to the excitement for Reigns vs. Jey, because fans had become accustomed to Reigns’ matches ending with outside interference, yet with this new stipulation, WWE would hopefully deliver something new and unique.
However, when Solo Sikoa randomly interfered in the match, fans were stunned.
WWE had decided to outright ignore their own stipulation, likely because they couldn’t come up with a different way to book the matchup.
The interference from Sikoa, as well as Jimmy Uso later in the match ruined what could have been a match of the year contender, and it’s hardly a surprise that fans labelled the match as one of the biggest blunders of the Triple H Era to date.
2: Triple H vs. Randy Orton (WrestleMania 25)
WWE’s ability to tell compelling, gripping stories was on full display in early 2009. Triple H vs. Randy Orton had been a feud that WWE had done an endless number of times, yet thanks to a strong storyline which saw Orton target the McMahon family, The Game vs. The Viper at WrestleMania 25 for the WWE Title was one of the most anticipated matches on the entire show.
Due to the personal nature of the feud, fans wanted a match that pushed boundaries, and fans wanted to see the two legends rip each other apart on the grandest stage.
However, in a questionable move, WWE added the stipulation that if The Game was counted out or disqualified, then he would lose the WWE Title.
Due to this restrictive stipulation, the two would have a standard matchup that could easily have been found on any other PPV event. Fans were deflated following the match, and the quality of the match pretty much ended any hype that was left for the feud.
1: Hollywood Hulk Hogan vs. Sting (Starrcade ’97)
Starrcade 1997 was to see WCW’s biggest match ever, as Sting would challenge Hollywood Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Title. This was a match that had been built up for over a year, and the excitement for the match was shown with the buy-rate, as Starrcade 1997 attracted a buy-rate of 700,000, making it the most successful WCW PPV of all time.
Unfortunately, the match was one of the biggest disappointments in pro wrestling history. The match was a slow, plodding affair, and the finish should have been Sting prevailing over WCW’s biggest heel, yet WCW made such a complex mess of one of the easiest booking decisions in their infamous history.
During the match, Hogan executed a trade-mark leg-drop on Sting, and pinned Sting 1,2,3. Bret Hart then claimed that the referee performed a fast-count, which baffled fans, as the count was a standard count that would be seen in any typical WCW match. The match was restarted, and Sting then won the match via the Scorpion Deathlock to win the WCW Title.
It took Bischoff over 25-years to finally admit that Hogan was responsible for the bizarre booking in the match, and this is what Bischoff had to say during an interview on WWE Legends:
“Despite the fact that Hulk Hogan did have creative control, and he never exercised it, he never threatened to use it, he had never implied that he might, it was like, ‘Yeah, it’s there, but it’s not,’ except for that night. And because Hulk wasn’t feeling it, he called an audible and it was a mad scramble.”