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The Worst WWE Booking Decisions Of The Decade (2010-2019)

James Klonowski looks at WWE’s worst booking decisions from the decade.

This past decade hasn’t exactly been the best for WWE.

Financially wise, they’re better than they’ve ever been. However, their creative output is in the toilet. Here, I take a look at the worst booking error of each year from the 2010s. 

2010 – John Cena Needlessly Burying Nexus

Not sure what John Cena was trying to prove here, but he got it so wrong and it cost a lot of men their careers. When Nexus broke onto the scene as unruly rookies sick of WWE making fools of them on NXT, it was a breath of fresh air. It felt exciting and unnerving to watch Monday Night Raw again. They wiped out everyone from CM Punk to Vince McMahon. Then Super Cena came along with his shovel and promptly put an end to their rise. 

The fateful night of their burial came at Summerslam where Nexus challenged John Cena and a team of all-stars to a multi-man elimination match. On Cena’s side were Edge, Chris Jericho, Bret Hart, John Morrison, Daniel Bryan and R Truth. It looked destined for Nexus to pick up a monumental and career-making victory, but alas it was not to be. The legend goes that the original plan was for Nexus to go over, but Cena didn’t agree. Despite pleas from veterans Jericho and Edge, who knew it was the wrong decision, Cena stuck to his guns and Vince McMahon backed his golden goose.

Years later Cena admitted it was a mistake, but by that point it was too late. Wade Barrett would never be taken seriously again. Heath Slater remains a comedy act. Justin Gabriel and Michael Tarver were given their marching orders. Ryback did okay for himself as The Big Guy until Cena came calling again. It was just a shame Cena couldn’t see the bigger picture which was a faction full of interest not seen since the days of the NWO. 

2011 – The Summer Of Punk

Oh boy, was this one a clanger of epic proportions. It all started so well too. In fact, if WWE had stayed on course I’m convinced they’d have had another Stone Cold Steve Austin on their hands swiftly followed by a much-needed boom period. Instead, WWE flushed all of CM Punk’s momentum down the toilet in order to sell a PPV match between Triple H and Kevin Nash in 2012. Absolutely ludicrous. 

The infamous Pipe Bomb kicked The Summer Of Punk off in style. Whether it was scripted or not, we’ll never know. What we do know is it was bloody fantastic. Punk cut arguably the promo of the decade here on Raw, in what felt like an organic, off the cuff moment that wasn’t supposed to be happening. Wrestling is missing that these days. It was incredible, thought-provoking stuff. As was the entire build to Money In The Bank, where Punk was challenging John Cena for the WWE Championship on his last night as a contracted performer for Vince McMahon’s promotion.

The match was a classic. My personal favourite of the last 10 years. Punk overcame the odds before quitting WWE as their champion. It was sensational storytelling that sadly lasted all of one week. Rather than keep Punk off our screens for weeks and months, they hit the panic button and brought him back 8 days later, thus killing all the suspense and intrigue of the story. It never recovered from there and only got worse once Triple H and Nash bizarrely got involved. One of those, what might have been questions.

2012 – Having Brock Lesnar Lose In Return

This was Vince McMahon at his petty best once again. He never forgave Brock Lesnar for walking out on him in 2004, and got his revenge upon resigning him in 2012. During his time away from WWE, Lesnar made a huge name for himself with the UFC, becoming a mega box office draw. Injuries soon took their toll, and once McMahon came calling with wads of cash and a relaxed schedule, The Beast was only to happy to sign. However, it would be hard to imagine him realising his first match back would be a brutal defeat to John Cena. 

Lesnar returned to WWE the night after WrestleMania to a thunderous ovation, and laid out golden boy John Cena with a ferocious F5, setting the table for their Extreme Rules war. The first mistake WWE made with Lesnar was not bringing in Paul Heyman at the same time. They foolishly allowed Lesnar to do his own promos but quickly realised it’s not his strongest point and called in Heyman.

The match itself at Extreme Rules was a thuggish callback to the Attitude Era, which Lesnar seemed to revel in. Cena took one of the biggest beatings seen since Arsenal last played a top-six side. However, Cena (and McMahon) got the last laugh when The Champ inexplicably pinned Lesnar following an Attitude Adjustment onto some steel steps. This rendered Brock’s comeback as meaningless and just another face on the roster who couldn’t overcome Super Cena. Obviously, Lesnar would go on an incredible streak, becoming the most dominant superstar in WWE history, but Vince must still chuckle to himself at having Lesnar lose his comeback bout in WWE.

2013 – Running Rock And Cena Twice

Once In A Lifetime was the promotion behind WrestleMania 28’s main event between John Cena and The Rock. Little did we know at the time that WWE were planning the rematch for the following year. It was a bad mistake on so many levels, and one that could easily have been avoided. All they had to do was insert CM Punk to make a Triple Threat encounter for the ages.

Seeing The Rock end Punk’s historic reign as WWE Champion, and Cena win the Royal Rumble match just to set up the rematch was nauseating to watch. It was so predictable. Punk deserved to be headlining that year’s WrestleMania, and it’s still strange why it didn’t happen unless one wonders Cena has more of an ego than people believe, and he wanted his win back over The Rock. You don’t get to the top of any industry without having an ego, that’s for sure.

The match did mega box office revenue which is all McMahon will ever care about, but the action itself absolutely sucked. If Punk was in there, no doubt it would’ve been a whole lot better. Rock was gassed and injured early, while Cena was doing his best to make sure people in the nose bleed seats could hear what moves were coming next. If Punk had got his WrestleMania main event, maybe he would never have left WWE.

2014 – Ending The Streak

What on earth was going through Vince McMahon’s mind when he decided to have Undertaker’s fabled WrestleMania undefeated streak come to an end at the hands of Brock Lesnar? It was crazy. It still is the most talked-about result in WWE history, but was the media hype worth sacrificing 20 plus years of story? I’m not convinced.

It didn’t help matters that the match itself was rubbish due in large part to Undertaker suffering a bad concussion early on. It was pedestrian stuff at best. They did redeem themselves a year later inside Hell In A Cell, but by then the damage was already done.

The ending of the streak should have been kept to make a star, not get Lesnar over further. If it were me, I’d have had Undertaker lose to The Shield at that year’s WrestleMania. It would have cemented all three men as top guys forevermore, but more importantly The Streak would have remained intact somewhat as The Phenom had still never lost a one on one encounter. 

2015 – Having Roman Reigns Win Royal Rumble

There were a lot of errors made in 2015, but the one that stands out the most is Roman Reigns winning the Royal Rumble match. The favourite to win was the returning Daniel Bryan, who had relinquished the WWE Championship due to injury months earlier. This was the perfect redemption story to challenge The Beast Brock Lesnar in the main event of WrestleMania in the ultimate David vs. Goliath story.

Instead, WWE opted for Reigns, who was booed out of the building by the rabid Philadelphia crowd. Bryan didn’t even make it to the final four, he was thrown out early to leave fans even more puzzled and pissed off.

While Bryan had to settle for capturing the Intercontinental Championship in the show of shows opener, Reigns tore the house down with Lesnar in the main event before Seth Rollins cashed in Money In The Bank to steal the gold. It still would’ve been so much better had Bryan been in that position and made Lesnar tap out to complete his fairytale comeback.

2016 – Not Having Shane McMahon Defeat Undertaker

That headline may seem a little strange out of context, but hear me out. WWE were in dire straits in 2016 with half their roster out injured. It got so bad, Vince had to call his son to come out of retirement. Admittedly, Shane got one of the biggest comeback ovations of all time and truly lived up to expectations when required to do so at WrestleMania. That sensational dive from atop the Hell In A Cell structure will live long in the memory of all who witnessed it.

The story was that Shane was fed up with how bad WWE was, and wanted to make it better. He claimed to have a box full of secrets on Vince and was willing to make a deal. Ever the businessman, Vince counter-offered with a challenge. One match. One night. Against an opponent of his choosing. If Shane lost, he’d hand over the box and leave the company forever. If Shane won, he would gain control of Monday Night Raw. Shane accepted, obviously, but didn’t look too confident when his opponent was revealed to be Undertaker inside Hell In A Cell.

Shane’s opponent should have been Brock Lesnar, but that’s another story. Once this match was made, there was only one winner and that was Shane. The angle was all about how WWE had become a dire place and he was the change to give it the boost it needed. Instead, Shane lost but was given control of Raw the next night by Vince anyway. Why do we bother watching this crap?

2017 – Jinder Mahal As WWE Champion

Has there ever been a worse WWE Champion? I’m counting Vince McMahon in that question too. The Jinder Mahal experiment failed miserably and had long lasting effects that are still be felt today. Vince’s grand plan was to gain market exposure in India, but that backfired dramatically when he realised his new pet project was not a draw there.

Mahal was terrible on the microphone and even worse in the ring. He looked ridiculous and no one took him seriously. His matches with Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles were absolutely awful. His run was so bad that Smackdown’s ratings tanked and have never truly recovered.

Mahal is currently out injured and will likely never even get a sniff of the prestigious WWE Championship again, which is a blessing for all of us. Money trumps everything for McMahon, and if you wanted proof of that, look no further than Jinder Mahal. 

2018 – Baron Corbin

Christ, was this bad. Baron Corbin now gets good heat, but last year he was getting X Pac go away heat. Everyone hated him. He was boring and painful to watch. He made fans switch off in their droves. What McMahon was thinking here is anyone’s guess.

Corbkm completely destroyed Raw with his drawn-out promos, his headlock filled matches and dire personality. This went on for months and only got worse when he was put in charge of the flagship show. Because why not?

Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and Corbin was relieved of his duties by the entire McMahon family who blamed everything bad in WWE on him. They even apologised to fans and promised a fresh start in 2019 where they would listen and give the people what they want. Yeah, that didn’t go too well….

2019 – Everything

It’s impossible to narrow it down to just one thing in a year that has been arguably WWE’s worst ever. We’ve had Seth Rollins become Superman against Brock Lesnar only to then have sleepers with Baron Corbin, turn heel on the fans on social media, before turning heel on TV and becoming the most boring personality there. Cain Valesquez and Tyson Fury make their WWE debuts, Undertaker and Goldberg almost kill each other in a botch filled contest, King Corbin, Lacey Evans, The Draft and so much more.

It truly has been a miserable year for WWE. Paul Heyman being in charge of Raw hasn’t helped in the slightest. In fact, Raw has become worse to watch under his tutelage. The Rusev, Lana and Bobby Lashley story has to be the most embarrassing thing the company has ever done, and this is a promotion who had Triple H have sex with a mannequin corpse.

The only upside to 2019 is that 2020 can only get better. We don’t want any more of Maria castrating her husband, Roman Reigns being force-fed dog food or endless matches ending with a roll-up. There needs to be a major change in WWE this next decade, or by the time 2030 rolls around there won’t be a WWE.

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