Greetings, all. Hope you had a lovely Christmas, or whatever you may celebrate.
This is my fifth year in a row writing this list for WrestleCrap, and I consider the final product a pretty fair (albeit subjective) barometer of what was bad in wrestling throughout 2017. Some items were, “Bad, but I smiled.” Others were, “Bad, and I shook my head.” And a few were, “Bad, but I pretended to like it for the simple thrill of demonstrative irony.”
Therein lies the essence of the list that I try to create each year: a variety of bad things, with different shades of badness represented – some loathsome, some harmless. You will agree with quite a few items on here, I’m certain. Others you will likely disagree with vehemently. I can sense right now that #34 will be a divisive one, but I won’t budge on it. Hence the prior use of the word, “subjective”.
For 2017, I decided to alter my scope a bit, out of necessity. In previous years of doing this list, I had a tendency to include news stories that were negative, like somebody going to jail, or somebody failing a drug test, or what have you. With the benefit of hindsight, I find that including such items only made the list less fun. I’d rather just mock goofy junk, you know? I mean, had I done this list for 1993, it’d hardly be fair to equate the BS ending of WrestleMania 9 with Sid Vicious nearly stabbing Arn Anderson to death.
It’d be hard to laugh at the silliness of 2017 if I included Sexy Star breaking Rosemary’s arm, or the allegations of JBL’s backstage bullying. Is Rosemary having her arm broken worse than a ridiculous “match” inside an abandoned farmhouse? You see the needless dilemma, surely.
So for 2017, and going forward, I intend to keep the list as light-hearted as the spirit of WrestleCrap itself. What you’ll find on this year’s list are items that could potentially be worked into future inductions here at the site. Not all fifty entries will meet this precise criteria, but a pretty good number of them do. For the most part, the entries ahead met the basic criteria of, “Can we playfully mock it, without it triggering our most righteous of anger?” I feel this is the important distinction that needs to be made.
Besides, there was plenty in 2017 that could be mocked, without having to hit up the newz-sites for, as Bruce Prichard would say, “rumor and innuendo.” The TV product gave us enough technicolor drek this year.
To be fair, 2017 wasn’t all bad. WrestleMania 33, while still interminably long, was much better than last year’s show. New Japan continues churning out great shows, and has me positively hooked on the forthcoming Kenny Omega/Chris Jericho showdown. AJ Styles reigns once more as WWE Champion, after a year of the belt being relegated to some truly awful angles. Wrestlers like Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks prove that you can make a good living in the business without WWE signing your checks, opening the door for more viable wrestling away from the Stamford shadow. Podcasts like those of Jericho’s, Jim Cornette’s, Bruce Prichard’s, Tony Schiavone’s, and more offer tremendous insight into the business, as well as a number of honest-to-goodness laughs. Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate put on a true classic at the Chicago TakeOver, melding modern-day complex grappling with subtle pathos and selling. Braun Strowman became a legitimate main event monster through large-scale destruction, and a strong undercurrent of well-projected gravitas.
On the flip side, there was a whole lotta crap to be shoveled. And shovel it I did.
Any comments, questions, criticisms, and creative insults, please direct them to my Twitter, where I am apt to respond. I treat others the way I am treated, so as long as you are respectful, I shall respond in kind.
And a special thanks to RD Reynolds, Art O’Donnell, and Maffew Gregg each for reading off my tentative rankings for this list, and inspiring me with items I may have left out. Their patience and help is always appreciated.
And yes, RD will be announcing the final 10 Gooker nominees here at WrestleCrap during the first week of 2018. So be sure to come back and vote for what you think was the very worst of the very worst!
With all that said…away we go.
50. John Cena is magically a free agent
A year into the new brand split, and miraculously, John Cena was the only wrestler (out of like 60 or 70) whose brand-exclusive contract expires when it does. The blue-brander is granted the autonomy to go to whichever show he chooses, conveniently at a point when Raw, whose ratings are nearing record lows, could use a star like Cena to boost ’em. As the Church Lady would say, “How conveeeeeeenient.”
49. Cena’s pre-Battleground promo
It’s hard to imagine a day where patriotism and “foreign heels” are no longer tropes in wrestling, but they do feel a bit out of place as WWE becomes even more of a multicultural and multi-national organization. John Cena playing the 9/11 card in order to build up a middling, throwaway flag match with water-treading Rusev this past July felt like an odd juxtaposition
48. TNA airs wrong Impact in Canada
It seems like Impact Wrestling just can’t win. There are enough LOLTNA gaffes to write a 1400-page book on (RD, Bryan, I’m game – you know how to reach me), and moments like this just don’t help. Somehow, someway, Canada’s Fight Network aired the wrong episode of Impact on the night of January 12. And who owns The Fight Network? Anthem Sports, who also owns Impact Wrestling. That’s a bit troubling.
47. Kalisto’s short ride
Tipping the ambulance over with Roman Reigns inside, and then breaking the ring by superplexing Big Show. If Braun Strowman were Francis Ford Coppola, those would be his Godfather I and Godfather II. By comparison, that makes him pushing Kalisto off of a two foot stage in a teeny-tiny dumpster Godfather III. Or maybe even Twixt.
46. Did he give it six stars, or was it only five?
So Dave Meltzer, connoisseur of the pro wrestling star-rating system, goes beyond the agreed-upon five-star max to give Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega six stars for their WrestleKingdom match, followed by six-and-one-quarter stars for their rematch at Dominion. This sparks a very real debate internet-wide about whether or not those HIGHLY SUBJECTIVE ratings should be accepted by fans as legitimate, as I pray for a meteor.
45. The Bludgeon Brothers’ outfits
Two towering bad asses that look scary? Check. A team name that sounds tough, and isn’t just some lazy combination of both men’s names? Check. Intimidating theme music? Check. Costumes that compliment the wrestlers’ appearances, team name, and music? Well, not quite. Maybe Harper and Rowan should just borrow The Ascension’s gear instead of looking like they’re wearing Kane’s pajamas.
44. Slater and Hawkins: We’ll entertain you, while somebody is dying
Okay, so Roman Reigns has just slaughtered Braun Strowman in the parking lot in cold blood. Strowman is trapped in a vehicle and possibly bleeding to death. What does WWE do? They send Curt Hawkins and Heath Slater out for a match that the home audience barely sees, because they (and the fans in the arena, come to think of it) are pre-occupied with Strowman’s predicament. What are they, rodeo clowns?
43. The unimaginative Superstar shake-up
Remember the WWE drafts of yore, when Raw and SmackDown‘s rosters would be set up in two separate locker rooms, and there would be high drama whenever a name would get called? WWE decided that was too much fun, and kinda just half-assed their way through the “Superstar Shake-up” Basically, it was just a huge trade with details gradually revealed, at their leisure. Riveting.
42. Blocking the Gronky Punch
WWE had their SportsCenter moment all lined up on the WrestleMania 33 pre-show, with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski hanging out front row during the Andre the Giant battle royal. Gronk, a legitimate friend of Mojo Rawley’s, jumped the rail in order to defend his buddy, when a female security guard (who was never “smartened up”) moved to detain him. Guess she’d never seen a box of Gronk Flakes before.
41. Carmella vs. CJ Lunde
The match was sloppy enough with a badly-blown finish, but made all the more irksome by JBL (and even Byron Saxton) ragging on the attire and appearance of enhancement talent Lunde. Lunde is known better as indy wrestler Thunderkitty, and dresses like an old-timey female grappler, which gave JBL the opening to spend the entire match bashing her. Or perhaps he was just speaking for the man in his headset.
40. Poundin’ that poultry, with Enzo Amore
Enzo Amore is many things to many people. To his fans, he’s as creative a wordsmith as there is. To his detractors, he’s obnoxious. To many in the locker room (allegedly), he’s an annoyance. He’s apparently an alektorophiliac as well, given the KFC Georgia Gold spot in which Enzo tries to put the moves on some admittedly-yummy honey mustard chicken. Wonder how Colonel Norm MacDonald would’ve played that script?
39. The Dashabot 2000
There are wooden, lifeless backstage interviewers, and then there’s Dasha Fuentes, who speaks with the impeccable smoothness of a Speak ‘n Spell being waterboarded. It’s unclear why WWE insists on having interchangeably-sterile interviewers, but it really does make one miss the days of a consummate pro like Mean Gene. At least WWE Studios could use Dasha to make a feature film version of Small Wonder.
38. Lawler has a “heart attack”, and JBL falls down
Jerry Lawler’s on-air heart attack in 2012 was partially facilitated by wrestling (at age 62) in a tag match earlier that night, with Dolph Ziggler on the opposing team. That fact was brought up during a needless January “King’s Court” segment with Ziggler, which ended with Dolph kicking him in the torso, and Lawler selling like he’d had another heart attack. Oh, and JBL fell on his ass.
37. “BUUUUURN IT DOWWWWWWWN”
Seth Rollins’ theme music is a bit quirky – just three sections of amped up hard rock separated by pronounced pauses. Someone in WWE apparently didn’t care for the pauses, and the song was “improved” by some screamo-type shouting “burn it down” (the audio equivalent of having a cordless drill shoved in one’s ear) over the first pause. The phrase begs the question of why an architect would want to commit arson. Sounds counterproductive.
36. Bound For Glory 2017
Given the myriad of changes and difficulties the promotion has had in 2017, it’s no surprise that Bound For Glory was as lackluster as it was. Between Alberto El Patron’s uncomfortable promo (that was edited off of later airings), flat wrestling, and interference-laden booking, it seemed as though Impact Wrestling was apt to continue its struggles by airing a show that couldn’t help their cause.
35. Goldberg vs. Kevin Owens
Some of Goldberg’s best matches are short – his WrestleMania 33 bout with Brock Lesnar is one of my favorite matches of 2017, truth be told. However, his grueling slugfest with Kevin Owens at Fastlane, all 20 seconds of it, didn’t exactly satisfy many that watched it. There was no reason for high expectations anyway, but surely WWE could have announced a five-minute time limit ahead of time, or something.
34. “The Bar”
Nothing wrong with the hard-hitting duo of Sheamus and Cesaro as a team, aside from their name. In kayfabe, it sounds like the towering twosome were wracking their brains trying to come up with a dual moniker, and were on the verge of giving up. Then suddenly, a Ford F-150 commercial with Denis Leary’s surly voiceover played on the TV. “It is ‘the bar’? WE are the bar!”, they cried, before sharing a high-five.
33. Great Balls of Fire – the name
If nothing else, naming a pay-per-view after Jerry Lee Lewis’ signature hit opened up the floodgates of mockery – everyone on social media had a requisite, “What’s WWE’s next pay-per-view, _____________?” antiquated song title-joke to follow. If that weren’t enough, the original logo had a rather phallical shape to it, needing just four wheels to match Ace and Gary’s crime-fighting ride.
32. Alicia Fox: Facetime Distraction
There was once a match on the old NXT, where Kaitlyn faced Maxine, all the while their mentors (Alicia Fox and Vickie Guerrero) shouted instructions over body mics. It was as bad as it sounds. In 2017, WWE gave us a mini-sequel by having Alicia Fox harass boyfriend Noam Dar over Facetime (conveniently played over the Titan Tron), causing him to lose to Cedric Alexander. A waste of both airtime and data.
31. Who wants to throw veggies….at Elias?
Interrupting Elias when he’s at peak pretentiousness sounds like a good way for a babyface to shine. Leave it to WWE, of course, to overthink things by having human tundra Jason Jordan arrive with a shopping cart filled with produce, all for flinging at WWE’s drifter. Then to kill time, he did it again later. Worth asking if Jordan wore just his ring trunks when he stopped by Whole Foods that day.
30. Sarah Logan’s “game meat” promo
At first it was difficult to understand Miss Logan’s unfortunate promo, since she spoke with a put-on southern accent that was thicker than Buff Bagwell’s calf implants. She apparently said “game meat”, but many heard “gay meat”, giving the awkward moment a hook from which to hang it in place forever. Just resign yourself to the fact that she’ll be wearing bib overalls by March.
29. Shane McMahon in 2017, period
Whether he’s refusing medical help after being thrown through a car window, or warring for 40 monotonous minutes in a Hell in a Cell match, seeing 47-year-old Shane McMahon stand toe-to-toe (or rather, tucked pantleg-to-toe) with SmackDown‘s top stars feels awfully anachronistic. Credit to the man for taking the risks that he does, but the thrill is gone.
28. “Roode jumped from NXT to be at GFW”
In September, Impact Wrestling/GFW/NWA-TNA aired a pre-recorded PPV consisting of matches taped for Global Force more than two years earlier, and it just so happened that Bobby Roode (by now on SmackDown Live) was among the yellowed footage. The announcers (in a priceless moment you can hardly be mad at) claimed that Roode made the jump to GFW from WWE/NXT. C’mon, you laughed.
27. Bayley on the main roster
Bayley was once referred to as, “the female John Cena” by a number of viewers, and it was meant as a compliment. Her genuine warmth and innocence melded with her innate ability to play a determined, hard-working underdog, giving NXT audiences (especially kids) a star worth believing in. That was, until Bayley’s mojo was undone by poorly-delivered promos, and segments that undermine what make her special.
26. The women’s Money in the Bank: the aftermath, but also the promotion
Maybe it’s just the old school wrestling fan in me, but when a heel wins a match through nefarious means, it should be taken at face value as “a wicked character gleefully takes a tainted victory.” Of course, maybe WWE shouldn’t have back-patted themselves for promoting the match as an historic first for women wrestlers, painting themselves as benevolent forward-thinkers. That kinda set the bar of expectations high, didn’t it?
25. The Anthem Owl
“And fuck that owl”, said Reby Hardy, of the Impact Wrestling strigidae that ranks with other tedious wrestling mascots like The Gobbledy Gooker, Wild Cat Willie, and Todd Pettengill. For some reason, Anthem Sports and Entertainment chose to make the creature in their logo a highly-visible part of weekly Impact programming, when a better use of the owl would’ve been to upgrade the pre-existing commentary by giving it a headset.
24. Fans yelling “TEN”, “ONE FALL”, and “1-2-SWEEEEET”
Not only does wrestling have its own version of “PLAY FREE BIRD”, but it has several, and each of them are just as fresh and witty as the decades-old Skynyrd gag. Overnight, wrestling seemingly became The Rocky Horror Picture Show, complete with devotees yelling the same mocking phrases at show after show. Thing is, with Rocky Horror, the mocking phrases actually do make the show better.
23. Beach balls
I can’t imagine why WWE doesn’t take its most vocal audience members seriously. You know, the ones who want Cesaro to be WWE Champion, and vocalize said desires, then take to batting around inflatable toys when he’s in the midst of an important pay-per-view match, with gold and pride at stake. It’s a mystery, for sure.
22. Alicia Fox: “NO ONE BREAKS UP WITH MEEEEEEEE”
Alicia used the money she earned from her time as a home-wrecking wedding planner to pay her way through the Tommy Wiseau School of Acting. Not that there are many true thespians on WWE’s roster (we’ll never know with the corny scripts they’re handed), but Alicia’s hammy overacting after being dumped by Cedric Alexander made Nicolas Cage go, “Geez, pull it back a skosh.”
21. What’s TNA’s name this week?
Truly the Ed Leslie of wrestling promotions, the former TNA had experienced something of an identity crisis in 2017. In March, they became “Impact Wrestling”, before attempting to re-brand as Global Force Wrestling in June. By autumn, after a falling out with Jeff Jarrett, they were back to being Impact Wrestling once more, and maintained custody of the owl.
20. Big Cass vs. Big Show, Shark Cage Match
The crowd just didn’t care one bit about Big Show and his injured hand, nor about heel Cass, whose selling point was, “HE’S BIG AND TALL AND INTENSE, PAL!”. Putting Enzo in the shark cage (where heel managers go) only distracted from what was already a molasses-slow borefest. Even Enzo creatively escaping the cage was pointless, since he was booted down immediately.
19. Mickie is “old”
Sexually-ambiguous stalking of Trish Stratus aside, what was Mickie James’ best WWE angle? Has she even had another good one? By default, her sterile existence as “smiling babyface Diva #6,385” from 2006 to 2010 surely trumps “Piggy James”, and certainly, “Hey Mickie, you’re old!” At 38, Mickie is barely older than Asuka. Surprising that WWE didn’t inflate the number and try to claim that Mickie is 54, “for entertainment purposes.” They do that.
18. Under Siege
It’s strange how Raw and SmackDown can live in some state of detente for 11 months out of the year, before something in the October sky drives them toward unquenchable hatred toward the other brand. The most peaceable of the SmackDown brand were suddenly driven to kill all things red, while standing among the inter-brand mortal enemies they made throughout the year.
17. “I hear voices in my head, they ordered me, to torch your shed.”
Not only does Randy Orton’s box of Cuban cigars burn down Susan Ross’ father’s cabin, but he seems awful defiant about the property damage. “The Viper” not only demonstrates a complete lack of remorse or empathy for the eradication of some dead nun’s spirit, but when he films the preamble to the fire, it’s done with weird vignetted camera cuts, like something out of mid-90s MTV.
16. Fastlane 2017
It was the best non-WrestleMania March pay-per-view in WWE history, which is to say it was the only one. And it’d be the worst one, even if Great American Bash 1991 were held in March 2017. Goldberg/Owens aside, the undercard was one eight-minute slog after another, be it Cesaro/Mahal, Big Show/Rusev, or Sasha/Nia. Fastlane felt more like a 29-car funeral procession.
15. Cena points out all of Roman’s flaws
Late this past summer, WWE stuck Reigns into a short feud with Cena, who proceeds to deliver worked-shoot tirades on Reigns. Cena accused him of being Cena-lite, of not being able to cut quality promos, and noted that he failed a drug test. Given WWE’s Captain Ahab-like stubbornness regarding the Reigns uber-push, it’s a bit odd to see them say, “Yeah, we agree, he’s mightily flawed,” then push him anyway.
14. The sudden push of Jinder Mahal
From a business standpoint, it made sense – India has a population of 1.3 billion people, and it’s a fertile market for a professional wrestling empire to try and make a sizable splash in. But pushing Mahal to the title was the same as putting the WWE Championship on long-time undercarder SD Jones in 1986, had WWE just received broadcasting clearance in Antigua. Not that Mahal moved numbers, anyway.
13. Battleground 2017
When WWE split their rosters once more in 2016, cynics like myself forecasted that it wouldn’t be long before SmackDown returned to its previous role of disrespected whore sister of the family. I can’t say for sure that Battleground was the precise moment that the reversion became official, but an interminable Punjabi Prison match and the world’s slowest flag match likely aided it.
12. Ziggler rips off everyone’s entrance
Ziggler’s stated beef was that fans seemed care more for elaborate entrances than the ostensible reason that wrestlers gather at the arena (to fight), so he began ripping off the entrances of others for cheap heat. Nothing says, “He’s stuck in the midcard and we have nothing for him,” like ill-mannered, irreverent gimmick infringement that drags on week after week.
11. Brian Kendrick vs. Jack Gallagher
I’m willing to bet that some perpetual optimists out there thought that 205 Live would be a no-frills cruiserweight extravaganza, presented with the dignity of the Cruiserweight Classic. Instead, you get Brian Kendrick’s elementary mockery of Jack Gallagher, either by dressing as him, or doctoring a photo of him so that he looked like a clown, and so forth. Couldn’t have enough clown references, after all.
10. Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley, Kendo Stick Match
Whenever a well-regarded wrestler loses in less-than-optimum fashion, annoyed fans will say that they were “buried”, which is rarely true. On the contrary, Bayley was BURIED in the Kendo Stick match against Bliss at Extreme Rules. What was once a promising, beloved character was creatively unraveled throughout April and May before looking like, as Bryan Alvarez would opine, “an utter geek” in the loss to Bliss.
9. Josh Mathews vs. Jeremy Borash
Remember how great Monday Night RAW was when Michael Cole played an obnoxious heel, and defecated all over anything and everything that wasn’t The Miz? Well, okay, it wasn’t great, and it in fact detracted from the show. For some reason, Impact Wrestling got it into their heads to recreate that acrimony by having Mathews and Borash hijack the shows with grating, passive-aggressive arguing for two hours.
8. Jason Jordan is Kurt Angle’s son
There’s still the very real (and very likely) possibility that Jordan turns heel to match the negative reception he receives (Rocky Maivia Mark II, minus the once-in-a-generation charisma), but the build to the revelation promised far more. Between Kurt Angle’s nervousness, and Corey Graves having the juicy inside knowledge of an apparently dire scenario, the grand reveal deserved better than Shelton Cardboardjamin.
7. Finn Balor vs. Bray Wyatt, featuring Sister Abigail
The involvement of the unseen “Sister Abigail” has been a point of interest for many fans, with diminishing returns as the years tick by. Earlier in the fall, any remaining excitement over Wyatt’s purported mentor were dashed for good when Wyatt used his magic powers to “morph” into the wisened nun. Suddenly, the revelation that Hornswoggle was the anonymous Raw GM looked comparatively brilliant.
6. Superimposed bugs
As Bart Simpson noted, there’s nothing scarier than going to school. Bray Wyatt concurs, which is why at WrestleMania 33, he summoned insect-related film strips from his father’s elementary school science classes as part of some shrewd plan to intimidate Randy Orton. It really speaks to the awfulness of SmackDown in 2017 that Orton has two entries on this list worse than writhing stock footage.
5. Punjabi Prison Match
The visibility-blocking cylinders known as the Punjabi Prison were dusted off for Battleground in Philadelphia, because if there’s one thing every wrestler that’s billed from India knows, it’s the ins and outs of a Punjabi Prison. The only thing stopping the entire crowd from unanimously booing the match is that many fans left their seats during the bout to purchase Royal Rumble tickets at the box office.
I like the name “Emmalina” because it rhymes with semolina, which is a delicious bread that goes with any pasta dinner. Unlike semolina bread, Emmalina provided no such nourishment, as the strained hype train dragged on longer than most dictatorships. When Emmalina (long since acknowledged as a company-endorsed running joke) finally emerged, she disappeared again to reverse her makeover. Hey, did you know that Raw hasn’t had a 3.0 rating since March 2015?
3. Lavar Ball segment
Not content to just pollute ESPN and social media with his self-promotion and his eye-rolling claims, Lavar Ball brought sons Lonzo and LaMelo to Monday Night RAW, all but assuring a train wreck. Indeed, after the elder Ball’s ring entry struggles, his refusal to follow a script, and LaMelo’s shouts of a rather bad word, the family was asked to leave the building. If only WWE had done that much sooner.
2. This Is Your Life, Bayley
Booker T plainly stated, “This is hard to watch”, and he wasn’t wrong. In a showcase way too elaborate and tedious for its own good, Alexa Bliss embarrassed poor Bayley with artifacts and figures of Bayley’s past, while the crowd turned on the segment with more ferocity than any heel that Sting trusts. WWE even acknowledged the segment’s badness the following week, with Alexa having to field the on-camera blame.
1. House of Horrors
There’s a reason why our pal RD was compelled to induct it mere days after it happened. There’s absurdity, there’s “thinking outside the box”, and then there’s hit-or-miss theatricality that does nothing but miss. Between dolls hanging from the ceiling, announcers deftly segueing into the next match (despite Orton lying dead beneath a fridge), and the harsh response from the San Jose crowd, it’s no wonder Mr. Reynolds got to work immediately.
Justin Henry is WrestleCrap's inquiring newsman, thirsting for knowledge always. He enjoys the art of satire, as you'll find in many of his works here at WrestleCrap. Drop him a line on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/notoriousjrh) and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/jrhwriting)