A lot of great things happened in the 2010’s: C.M. Punk, Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles, Women’s wrestling being taken seriously, NXT and some absolutely incredible matches. The list could carry on for days, but let’s all do what wrestling fans do best, not dwell on any of the positive things and instead, focus on some of the worst storylines that WWE had to offer this past decade.
With a solid writing team at their disposal, it’s criminal that they can’t come up with anything better than these absolute stinkers. We’ve seen talented performers reduced to one-liners and corny gimmicks, all for the sake of a chuckle from Vince McMahon backstage.
In this list, we’re going to run down the worst storylines of the 2010s, make sure you drop your own personal lowlights in the comments below.
8. Rusev’s Love Triangles
The year is 2015, Rusev had recently made his debut in WWE as an anti-American, Putin loving heel. He ran through the roster as United States champion before being defeated by John Cena at Wrestlemania 31. Rusev’s character was in a bit of a downward slump, but Lana’s popularity was rising with the live crowds. So, despite being a real-life couple and complimenting each other very well, naturally they decide to split them up.
One night, Lana decides to come out and kiss Dolph Ziggler, and the storyline becomes a soap opera in the worst way. Lana cut numerous promos about how Rusev controlled her and to highlight her newfound freedom, but she just dressed exactly like Dolph Ziggler. This didn‘t really illustrate her point very well. Ziggler himself came across as kind of a smug heel so it was difficult to support him during this. There were some highlights in this feud, including Rusev gifting new girlfriend Summer Rae a dog which he called “Dog Ziggler,” and then throwing a dead fish at Lana.
But ultimately the storyline didn’t lead to any fulfilling mixed tag matches, because the conclusion was Lana and Rusev announcing their real-life engagement on social media. Most likely in spite of this god-awful booking. Then we never heard from it again, yet WWE have failed to learn from their mistakes as Rusev is once again involved in a storyline involving Lana’s salacious acts with Bobby Lashley. Fun for everyone.
7. Natalya Neid’fart’
I mean, what is there to say about this. I hesitated to put this on the list because someone farting isn’t really a storyline. But it’s so stupid and demeaning that it belongs here. Natalya is a well-respected women’s wrestler who spent a big chunk of her career in a time where WWE didn’t take women’s wrestling seriously.
Anyway, Natalya would fart backstage and then whoever was around her would be like “eww you farted” and make a stinky face. Sometimes she’d fart on a heel to get one over on them, or one time she lost a match because she farted in the ref’s face. This didn’t really go anywhere; she never had a “fart match” or have any fart gear or have to change her theme music to fart sounds and be called Nattie Neidfart or something.
It was a very random storyline that was repulsive when it first showed up but then just faded away. Thankfully she was able to move past this gimmick, with lesser talent this could have completely tanked their career but I think fans just wanted to forget about it and move on.
6. The CM Punk Conspiracy
The beginning of the decade received a jolt of lightning when CM Punk cut a worked-shoot promo that is still talked about to this day. This catapulted CM Punk into superstardom, with a fantastic feud with Cena that shook up a stagnating company. However, for some reason WWE saw fit for Kevin Nash to make a shocking return at Summerslam, hitting Punk with a powerbomb leading to Punk losing his championship to a cashing-in Alberto Del Rio.
The storyline started well enough with Punk and Nash having pretty good back-and-forth promos. There was some intrigue into why Kevin Nash attacked Punk and whether Triple H was involved. But then it turned out Kevin Nash texted himself.
The story just kept getting more and more convoluted and it was clear they were spinning their wheels when R-Truth and The Miz suddenly became the most dangerous threat in the history of the company, while new COO Triple H cut these irritating “aw shucks I’m just doing my best” promos that even for Triple H were very self-aggrandising. It was just a mess, culminating with a complete reset after the majority of the locker-room walked out one week. Only for Vince to randomly return the next week, and appoint John Laurinaitis as general manager, prompting the roster to return.
It’s one thing to drop a storyline when it’s in the mid-card but the entire company was involved with this conspiracy and it was never given a proper conclusion. Unless you count Triple H and Kevin Nash having a “Sledgehammer match”.
In the middle of all of this was C.M. Punk who had facilitated a fresh wave of optimism for WWE. But they ultimately fumbled the storyline making Triple H the focus instead of Punk. Punk’s character never again felt like he did in the weeks leading up to Money in the Bank.
5. Jinder Mahal wins the WWE Championship
Jinder Mahal was a lower mid-card heel who, since returning as part of the brand split, had drifted around aimlessly without any meaningful storyline. He was drafted to Smackdown after Wrestlemania 33, and he immediately won the WWE title from Randy Orton at Smackdown’s next PPV, Backlash. Even now, it just feels like a bizarre fever dream.
After joining Smackdown, Jinder teamed with The Singh Brothers. The pair proved to be very useful as they helped him defeat Randy Orton for the title win. At the following pay-per-view, he again beat Randy Orton thanks to a distraction from The Singh Brothers. Probably the peak of the ridiculousness of the whole storyline was when Jinder faced Orton once again, this time in a ￼Punjabi Prison match. Which he won thanks to interference from ￼The Great Khali.
After feuding with Randy, Jinder would move on to feud with Shinsuke Nakamura. This feud is mostly remembered for the promo where Jinder made awful racist jokes at Shinsuke’s expense. He went on to defeat Nakamura at successive ￼pay-per-views thanks to a distraction from The Singh Brothers.
If it sounds like I’m repeating myself well, that’s one of the main problems with this storyline. All his matches were the same and were just so boring at a time when there were many quality wrestlers on the show. He lost it to AJ Styles in a great match on Smackdown and then shuffled down the card to be at around the same position as he was before. Rendering the whole experiment pretty pointless.
4. Michael Cole ￼vs. Jerry Lawler
On paper this seems like a terrible idea. But, in the weeks leading to WrestleMania they actually had a decent story going. It still probably shouldn’t have been happening but Michael Cole was a heat magnet and probably the top heel in the company (2011 was rough). Jerry Lawler was beloved and could still wrestle to a high standard so there was something to be made here.
However, as soon as the bell rings at WrestleMania the story falls right off a cliff. The match is simple right? Cole heels it up for a couple of minutes, Jerry knocks him out, gets the victory and Cole eats like 15 stunners in a row from special guest enforcer Steve Austin, easy. Instead we got a 27-minute match that was truly dreadful. At the end, Lawler would pick up the victory only for The Anonymous Raw General Manager (2011 was rough) to interrupt and reverse the decision.
Somehow this feud dragged on for two more pay-per-views. First, Jim Ross returned to team with Lawler and competed in a “Country Whipping Match”. This match was obviously awful and once again resulted in a loss for Jerry Lawler. Thankfully the feud ended a month later when Michael Cole lost a “Kiss My Foot” match, but by the point the story had more than outstayed its welcome.
3. Bray Wyatt vs. Randy Orton
Honestly, Bray’s character took a huge hit when he started being “spooky” rather than a cult leader. This storyline was peak Spooky Bray with bug projections and House of Horror matches. Leading up to ‘Mania, Randy and Bray would play a strange game of one-up-manship. After Randy Orton burned down Bray’s compound, Bray covered himself in dirt only for next week Randy to return and stab the same dirt with a stake. It was like when Cartman would play as Bulrag and say he had all the powers expect both characters were Cartman.
It was all very strange, however the worst was still to come. Their Wrestlemania match was a complete stinker. Randy and Bray had no chemistry and the match is infamous for its strange imagery projected into the ring. It happened about three times, and by the last attempt the crowd were barely reacting. What’s worse is that it didn’t affect Randy at all, who just hit Bray with an RKO to reclaim his WWE title.
Following their ‘classic’ at WrestleMania, Bray would challenge Randy to a “House of Horrors” match. This match took place at Bray’s property and it was awful. The match started with Randy being shocked by a ghost tractor, this was followed by the two of them grunting around the house. They had even less chemistry inside a haunted house than they did at WresteMania. Bray drops a fridge on Randy and then escapes his own House of Horrors to go back to the arena. Somehow Randy is there to ambush him in the ring but he himself is ambushed by Jinder Mahal.
It’s impossible to describe how janky this match felt so you really have to experience it for yourself. Bray technically won this feud, but it almost completely killed any chance of him becoming a top star.
2. Bella Vs. Bella
Both Nikki and Brie Bella did a lot for the women’s division in this decade. It can’t be denied that Total Divas brought in a lot of female viewers to WWE and they both worked hard at becoming passable wrestlers. That being said, their singles feud was beyond awful. Neither of them could cut a convincing promo despite being given about a hundred opportunities to do so. Sitting through it (and reliving it via YouTube) was excruciating.
Nikki would say these ridiculously melodramatic things like “I wish you died in the womb,” but deliver them so woodenly you could only laugh at it. She even blamed Brie for their Father abandoning them as children. Brie mostly just cried or retorted with equally bad promos. To really amp up the reality T.V. feel, they brought in Jerry Springer for a segment to show how culturally relevant they were in 2014.
After all the horrible and humiliating things Nikki said to Brie, they went on to have a pretty forgettable, standard eight-minute match at Hell in the Cell. WWE were willing to give this storyline ample promo time and bring in the one and only Jerry Springer, but when it came to the match, they still weren’t ready to give women more than a few minutes. Brie would become Nikki’s personal assistant for a month, which meant that Nikki made her dress like a butler and make tea for her. How dastardly.
The feud ended suddenly when during a match with AJ Lee for the Divas Championship, Brie would forcibly kiss AJ which distracted her long enough for Nikki to pick up the victory. So not only did the ending not make any sense after all the horrible things Nikki did, we also got to see some sexual assault. What a fitting end.
1. Embrace The Hate
This is the absolute worst storyline of the decade. It’s not as stupid as many of the others but it dominated the show and was just plain boring. Kane returned with a new mask at the end of 2011 and began to feud with John Cena. He tried to get him to “Embrace The Hate,” tying into the fan’s desire for a Cena heel turn. It seemed pointless to put the mask back on Kane, let alone when he started to cut these corny promos that sucked all the life out of his renewed character.
The low-point of this story was a 10 minute promo where Kane tried to get the fans to chant “Cena Sucks” but for once they actually wouldn’t. This infamous storyline also featured Zack Ryder, who had managed to get himself so over with the crowd that they chanted his name during one of The Rock’s promos. Life was looking up for Zack, as he palled up with John Cena and got himself a sweet new girlfriend in Eve Torres.
In perhaps one of the most obvious burial of talents, Kane destroyed Zack Ryder by pushing him off the stage while Zack was bound to a wheelchair. During this feud, Cena would save Eve from one of Kane’s bumbling attacks and, in the heat of the moment, him and Eve would kiss. This led to a hilarious shot of Zack Ryder looking on from a wheelchair holding roses, just to remind you of how much of a loser he is. Somehow from that Eve became a heel and John Cena cut a frankly horrendous promo about how he “lost a broski for a hoeski.”
To put the cherry on top, the matches were terrible too. Kane had just re-masked and was supposed to be an unstoppable monster. Cena was getting ready to fight The Rock so neither man could look weak. We got a double-countout at the Royal Rumble. Then, Cena defeated Kane in a boring ambulance match that main-evented the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view. This was an absolutely horrendous feud. Not only was it boring, it completely destroyed the career of Zack Ryder who deserved much better.
With the enormous amount of programming WWE puts out every week, and their unstructured approach to writing storylines, it’s no surprise that WWE are capable of some of the worst things on television. Do you agree with these choices? What other storylines would you nominate? Let us know in the comments below.
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