One of the things I hear from Smarks on the Internet all the time is complaining about how convoluted matches and their finishes can get, denying them of a clean pinfall that they want to see. The thing is, the Attitude Era was LOADED with such finishes, yet the IWC seems to be mum on that because they can’t speak ill of The Greatest Wrestling Period Ever. For the rest of this list, you’re gonna see some of the more infamous examples in my own view, especially because they were even more nonsensical. I can handle Dean Ambrose losing to Bray Wyatt because a TV monitor blows up in his face, because Ambrose’s character is a loose cannon that doesn’t think clearly, and him being his own worst enemy fits. But these matches, their buildups and their finishes made me think WWE had much less direction then than they do now. So let’s get to the middle of this list of the worst Attitude Era matches.
4. Undertaker vs Big Boss Man – WrestleMania XV
It’s difficult to say anything bad nowadays about the late Ray Traylor since he died in a particularly heartbreaking manner, and many know now that he was one of the best human beings in any wrestling locker room and someone who devoted a lot of time and money to charity. And his “Big Boss Man” character was an impressive persona back when he was portraying a heel Deep South police officer (with a pimp manager in Mr. Slick, no less) in the 80s. But then he went to WCW and became “Big Bubba” and other bad characters that did not go over well, and by the time he returned to WWE and became part of Vince McMahon’s Corporation, he was a shell of what he used to be. And what might have been the lowest point of his career was when he was the Undertaker’s annual WrestleMania victim in 1999.
First off, as was the case too often in this era, there was the question of who the fans were actually supposed to cheer for. WWE had promoted Vince and the Corporation for a year as the ultimate heel group, so were we now supposed to support Taker’s Ministry, which was basically a demonic cult that psychologically tormented not only Vince but his daughter Stephanie, who was one of the few people in the McMahon family people liked? (This was before Stephanie became the bitch heel diva fans know her as now.) That was the setup as Taker was to face Boss Man at WrestleMania inside Hell in a Cell.
The match lasted 10 minutes tops and seemed to plod on, with the cell being almost no factor during the match itself other than to have Boss Man cuff Taker to the cell so he could get some cheap shots in with his nightstick; I still don’t know if the cuffs were supposed to just rip apart like they did when Taker fell to the floor, but my gut says it was a botched move and he was supposed to rip them away later to look stronger. The Philadelphia crowd (which admittedly has always been tough to please) seemed dead for the entire match.
The only reason the cell was really put into this match was for what happened afterward: After Taker Tombstoned and beat Boss Man, Gangrel, Edge and Christian came down from the rafters to help Taker hand Boss Man from the top of the cell. Yes, again, this was apparently the group we were supposed to cheer, and they essentially executed their opponent. Because killing other wrestlers was en vogue back then, as we’ll keep seeing.
I won’t get into the details too much of the Corporate Ministry merger, because to be honest, it did make the most sense to me that Vince would have been behind everything. It was the Corporation vs. the Ministry that made no sense; were we actually supposed to root for the people that were essentially Satanists? Or did Vince Russo (yeah, this was when he was the big booker) actually think we would enjoy watching two hate groups beat on each other?
Whatever – the match was boring, the buildup was nonsensical, and it was just a bad stain on what had been one of the most hyped WrestleManias in history.
3. Chyna vs Jeff Jarrett – No Mercy 1999
Joanie “Chyna” Laurer is a cult icon in wrestling for being a female wrestler fully willing and able to get in the ring against men – even though most of her intergender matches were not that good; I mean, her best performance was probably against the Road Dogg for crying out loud. Still, people want to remember her as some type of feminist icon. And the crowning achievement of her career is supposedly when she became the first woman to win the Intercontinental Championship, taking the belt from Jeff Jarrett.
So how did she accomplish this groundbreaking event? In a Good Housekeeping match. This was basically a garbage match using “household items,” meaning we get to see Chyna mix cake batter outside the ring just so she can shove Jarrett’s face into it. Wrestling fans always like to talk about how “The Attitude Era was innovative; they took chances.” Chances like THIS?
How did the match end? Jarrett hits Chyna with the IC title belt and pins her, only for the referee to overturn it and call for the match to resume on the grounds that the belt is not a household item and thus can’t be used. So Chyna then proceeds to pin Jarrett after hitting him with his GUITAR. Even the announcers had to ask, “Is that really a household item?” as she got the pinfall. Quite frankly, there was more dignity when Jacqueline became the first woman to be Cruiserweight Champion, and she had to deal a low blow behind the referee’s back to beat Chavo Guererro for that title.
Even the buildup to the match made no sense and exemplified the Attitude Era’s philosophy of “no real good guys.” On the Raw right before the PPV, Chyna was a heel as she teamed up with Triple H in a match against Stone Cold and Jim Ross. In fact, SHE hit JR with a pedigree in the ring while Triple H and Austin took their own fight outside. Then Jarrett immediately comes out, tosses Chyna in a clothes hamper and dumps it and her out into the parking lot, and… that’s supposed to qualify for a face turn?
I haven’t found much other footage that might debunk this, but I get the feeling this match was thrown in at the last minute because contract talks between Jarrett and WWE broke down and Vince, realizing Jarrett was going to leave, came up with something to both get the belt off Jarrett and perhaps show him up a little. This was Jarrett’s last WWE match, and in fact the PPV was held after his contract expired, so he had no obligation to work the match. So he supposedly forced Vince to pay him 300 grand in exchange for dropping the belt. But if that was how the match was booked to end, there may have been more than sexism as to why Jarrett wouldn’t work the match without such compensation.
Chyna is almost certainly on the list of wrestlers fans want to see inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame; she has gone on Twitter to say she would love to come back at some point. That doesn’t seem likely any time soon, given her choice to go making XXX movies.
And the worst part of all this? The “Good Housekeeping” gimmick isn’t even the worst to make it on this list. For that…
2. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Undertaker – Rock Bottom 1998
The “Buried Alive” match has to be the worst gimmick match ever made. Here’s the setup: You lose the match, you DIE, suffocated to death under a mountain of dirt. That’s exactly how it’s promoted every single time: Each wrestler is putting his career, his very LIFE, on the line by agreeing to such a match. Except that it’s bullcrap because every wrestler who has lost a match has come back at some point with pretty much no explanation how they were resurrected. Heck, Undertaker has now been buried FOUR times, and not once was it explained upon his return how he came back to life. Taker has been in every single Buried Alive match, which the announcers bring up every time there’s been one, but they conveniently leave out, “Oh yeah, he’s not unbeaten, so that whole thing about it being all over for the loser, not really true.”
And that was the case when Stone Cold was forced into one such match at the December 1998 Pay Per View. This was the final match of the night – even though the PPV itself was named after the finishing move of The Rock, who was champion at the time even. Because this was a do-or-die situation for Austin. He HAD to put his life on the line, because he had to win in order to… have a spot in the upcoming Royal Rumble. Yeah, you got it. His prize for killing another human being at the risk of his own life wasn’t a championship or even a championship match – it was the right to be in a match where he would have to outlast 29 other men just to get a championship match. And for that, the fans had to sit through one of the most boring finishes in the history of wrestling; try to think of anything that would be less exciting than watching someone shovel dirt over another person until the referee calls for the bell – even when you have the aid of a backhoe, like Austin did that night.
Yeah, and the use of that backhoe only made the match’s ending even more dragged out than it likely could have been. Austin suddenly walked out of the arena for no given reason, Taker was lying in wait behind the grave for him, Kane appeared out of the grave all of a sudden and Tombstoned him into the grave as Austin reappeared with the vehicle. And then we’re treated to minutes of seeing nothing but the backhoe’s shovel clunking toward the grave to pour dirt in there; it looks like the guy operating the vehicle is actually having trouble getting the tool to work, forcing Austin to shout “Just dump it all in!”
That’s how the match ends. Austin doesn’t actually DO anything for the burial; he just lets another guy slowly and painstakingly shovel dirt with a big vehicle while he drinks beer and gets Earl Hebner to raise his hand in victory while Undertaker is supposedly suffocating and dying beneath their feet. No ifs, ands or buts – Stone Cold killed the Undertaker.
Of course he didn’t WIN the Royal Rumble the next month, as Vince McMahon cost him the match – only for Austin to beat Vince the next month to get that title shot back and beat The Rock at WrestleMania. And Undertaker? His death was just up and revived with no explanation about two months later, as he came back out of nowhere to announce the “Ministry of Darkness” that he had rumored to be assembling before he agreed to be Mr. McMahon’s assassin.
The worst part about this? WWE has had THREE more Buried Alive matches since. For the ridiculousness of the concept and how boring it almost always ends, there is no other gimmick match that – appropriately – needs to be buried for good.
And no, that wasn’t even the worst match I ever saw from this period. Come back next week when I give you the moment when the Attutude Era sunk to its absolute lowest.