Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan was the biggest dream match imaginable throughout the 1980s. They were the champions of the two biggest companies (NWA/WCW and WWF) and fans speculated for years what would happen if they were ever in the same promotion. Well, in 1991, Ric Flair came to the WWF, stayed for a year... and never wrestled Hulk Hogan on television. The biggest Wrestlemania match possible was passed over in favor of Hulk Hogan vs. Sid Vicious, which closed out Wrestlemania VIII with a disqualification win for the Hulkster.
This was Hulk Hogan's second-straight Wrestlemania WTF. This is one of the more bizarre storylines in wrestling history. Bret Hart had just lost the world title to the monstrous Yokozuna after being blinded by salt. Yokuzuna, exhausted from the match, challenged Hulk Hogan to a world title match right then and right there. Hogan had recently come back after a long sabbatical and lost a match earlier in the night by disqualification. He accepted and pinned the massive sumo wrestler in under a minute. The popular underdog champ Bret Hart never got a rematch, the fans were tired of Hulkamania and he would be gone from the company in just over three months.
Here's another terrible finish involving Hogan and Hart. Hulk Hogan went heel and took WCW to the top of the industry, beating even the WWF. His stable, the nWo (New World Order) destroyed everyone in their path... except one man. Sting, a WCW original, sat on the sidelines for over a year, waiting for the opportunity to strike. He finally got it at WCW's version of Wrestlemania, Starrcade. This was the culmination to a long storyline, and everyone assumed it would be a happy ending for Sting and WCW. Instead, Hogan beat him up and pinned him clean. Bret Hart then came out, said Sting got screwed (even though he hadn't), restarted the match and Sting won. It was a convoluted finish and a terrible ending to a great angle.
One year later at Starrcade 1998 we'd see another terrible ending to a great angle. By this point WWF had regained the top of the proverbial mountain. WCW's only star that seemed to shift the momentum in their favor was Bill Goldberg. He was their undefeated champion who had a winning streak that lasted over a year. It finally came to a close on this night at the hands of Kevin Nash... the man who made the booking decisions. He wrote himself to win the title from the biggest star in the company, destroying any future momentum they'd have. This was only the start of the terrible decisions, as what happened next was much, much worse.
There's no "the end" in wrestling. It's episodic and the storylines continue week to week. It's often about how they follow up each action. This was undoubtedly the worst follow-up in the history of the business. Goldberg demanded a rematch against Nash. It was set for an episode of Nitro. Instead, he was "arrested" over false assault allegations. In his place was the returning Hulk Hogan (yes, again). The match began, the two circled each other for a moment and then Hulk Hogan poked his finger in Kevin Nash's chest. Nash fell to the ground, Hogan pinned him and they reformed the nWo (yes, again). This completely devalued their title and left fans feeling cheated.
This was an absolute mess. In 1998 the WWF thought it'd be a great idea to have some "real" matches. They devised the Brawl For All tournament, a series of boxing bouts where takedowns would be allowed. They thought it'd be a great way to get over "Dr. Death" Steve Williams, a new acquisition of theirs. Instead, it left several wrestlers injured, the fans chanted "boring" throughout the matches and Dr. Death lost to the eventual winner Bart Gunn, someone they had no interest in pushing. They then booked Gunn against legit boxer Butterbean at the next Wrestlemania, where he was destroyed, leaving wrestlers looking utterly inferior to "real" athletes.
Wrestling had its fair share of great celebrity appearances. This wasn't one of them. As much damage as the Finger Poke Of Doom did to the WCW title, this was infinitely worse. David Arquette (yes, the actor) won their championship in an obvious ploy to get the media talking about them. It worked, but not in the way they'd hoped. Their company was now seen like a joke and their greatest prize was nothing more than a prop.
In retrospect, this may have been the worst financial decision in wrestling history. The "Attitude Era" was WWF's most profitable period of all time, lead by the meteoric rise of their top babyface, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. The end of the Attitude Era can be traced directly to the end of Wrestlemania X-7, when Austin turned heel on The Rock and joined his arch-nemesis Vince McMahon. Viewers vacated in droves and the wrestling industry has never reached such heights again.
Thought how the WWF dropped the ball with Ric Flair in 1992 was something? In 2001 WWF purchased their rivals WCW and ECW. They had all the players and could have staged the greatest dream matches ever. Instead, their Invasion storyline was one poorly booked show after another, showcasing how superior the WWF was to its rivals. They made the competition look like a joke, which was ludicrous considering how they now owned the competition, thus making themselves look like a joke. The angle had no drama or tension and fizzled quickly. What should have been the stories and matches to keep the WWF running hot after Austin's heel turn just helped sink their ratings even quicker.
What happened to ECW after the Invasion storyline? Demand was still high for the hardcore style this company pioneered, so WWE decided to bring it back in 2006. Immediately, it was obvious it wasn't what it once was. Former owner and creative head of ECW, Paul Heyman, was still on board, so it at least had some of its spirit. That ended at the first WWE ECW pay-per-view, December To Dismember. A combination of poor promoting and poor booking lead to the WWE's worst PPV buy rate of all time. The main event was a multi-man mess that eliminated the most popular wrestlers immediately, further showing the original ECW was dead. Paul Heyman would leave the company the following day.
In the summer of 2011 CM Punk crossed over into the mainstream after an amazing promo he cut, venting his frustrations with the company. He was approached by major media outlets and was poised to be the next "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. At this point, the WWE should have put him on a winning streak to capitalize. Instead, they had him lose his title due to interference from a returning Kevin Nash (who he'd never get revenge on) and lose to company man Triple H clean in the middle (who he'd also never get revenge on), killing all his momentum. Frustrated, Punk would quit the industry a little over two years later.
Zack Ryder was a mid-card guy who barely got any television time. Instead of moping, he decided to do something about it. He made a wildly popular YouTube series that caused the fans to demand the company use him to the full capability of his talents. The company then put him in a storyline where he was made to look like an absolute fool. This destroyed morale among the wrestlers and sent a clear message to the fans: We only put over who we want to put over.
TNA began in 2002 after the demise of WCW. They strove to offer an alternative to WWE programming. They showcased young, hungry athletes that put on some of the greatest matches of the time period. They were a small company that rose slowly but surely.
Then, TNA hired (wait for it...) Hulk Hogan. Hogan brought in a lot of his friends from the '90s and even the '80s. TNA's one selling point during their early years were that they were an alternative to the WWE. Now they seemed like their retirement home. These old stars were pushed over the young ones, causing TNA to lose originals such as AJ Styles and Samoa Joe, who'd ironically go on to be bigger stars in the WWE.
Here's another sad example of TNA's preferential treatment to stars of the past. Sting was set to face former WWE star Jeff Hardy for their world title. Hardy was fired by the WWE over concerns for his health and addiction problems. Hardy showed up to this event inebriated. Instead of coming up with something else, they made him go out and wrestle. What followed is one of the most uncomfortable moments in all of wrestling lore. The main event lasted less than five minutes and ended when Sting forced Hardy to the ground and pinned him for real as he scratched and clawed at him. It showed how amateur TNA was and how little they cared for the well-being and safety of their talent.
The Royal Rumble is the start of Wrestlemania season, and fans can get quite upset when their favorite doesn't win. Never more so than in 2015 when the match was won by Roman Reigns. This was designed to make Reigns the company's new John Cena (who was the company's new "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who was the company's new Hulk Hogan). However, the fans wanted wrestler Daniel Bryan to win. Bryan was unceremoniously eliminated earlier in the event. When the fans figured out Reigns was winning instead of their hero, they violently turned on him. How violently? Reigns' relative, The Rock, made a surprise cameo and they booed Dwayne freaking Johnson for endorsing the man. The Rock was said to be quite upset at this, and fans haven't liked Roman Reigns ever since, despite the WWE still pushing him.