The 10 Most Cringeworthy WWE Booking Decisions of 2019
When all is said and done, the dog-food shower Roman Reigns endured isn't really so bad. Yeah, the idea of one grown-ass man thinking the best way to humiliate his rival grown-ass man is to cover him in ALPO is far-fetched, but at least it made sense within the context of the story being told and is the type of thing wrestling villains would actually do.
No, King Corbin's actions were but the dog chow on top of a heaping pile of bad booking decisions, horrendous matches and soap-opera atrocities that plagued WWE in 2019.
As the year comes to a close, relive the last 12 months and the absolute worst, cringeworthy booking decisions WWE Creative made and the long-term effects they may have on the company's stars, stories and overall product.
10. The Overexposure of Shane McMahon
In a company that struggled to find television time this year for Superstars such as Drew Gulak, The Revival, Shinsuke Nakamura and Finn Balor, it was Shane McMahon who dominated airwaves and earned significant victories over the likes of The Miz, Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns.
Yes, 49-year-old Shane-O-Mac, whose punches look like they wouldn't hurt his shadow, let alone a grown man.
The self-proclaimed "Best in the World" turned heel in February and assumed the role of WWE's top authority figure. He made life a living hell for the most prominent babyfaces while eating up more television time than a Triple H promo circa 2003. It was hard to sit through and even more difficult to justify. On a roster full of the most talented wrestlers WWE has ever compiled, it was the boss' son who received opportunities to headline television and pay-per-view.
By the time Owens defeated him in a ladder match on the debut of SmackDown on Fox, fans were all-too-thrilled to send McMahon packing and focus on traditional wrestlers.
9. Teasing Nia Jax vs. Dean Ambrose and Not Delivering
It became readily apparent early in 2019 that Dean Ambrose was on his way out of WWE when his contract ran out. Not only did his lackadaisical attitude signify it, but so did his booking. When Nia Jax began targeting The Lunatic Fringe and even attacked him on the January 28 episode of Raw, it appeared as though he would at least get to make a little history and be part of something interesting before he left.
Intergender wrestling had been a big no-no in WWE for well over 15 years, but with the women's revolution encompassing the company, it appeared as though officials may have been reconsidering the idea of a woman squaring off with a man.
Unfortunately, we never got the teased match between Jax and Ambrose, as WWE Creative scrapped it after a week or two of storyline development. What looked to be a banner storyline, in which former WWE champion Ambrose would have presumably put over Jax in a high-profile bout, evaporated.
Never to be spoken of again.
8. The Wild Card Rule
The Wild Card Rule that encompassed WWE over the summer and early fall of 2019 was the epitome of lazy booking. Designed to allow talent to move freely from Raw to SmackDown, it was halfheartedly defined and half-assed in its execution.
The result? Superstars such as Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and AJ Styles appearing on both brands to help bolster star power and set up matches people might actually be inclined to tune in for. While that sounds like a good thing on the surface, it essentially rendered the brand extension obsolete and ruined everything the Superstar Shake-up accomplished earlier in the spring.
WWE Creative's inability to follow its own guidelines for the rule, as well as creating stars to step up when injuries struck and thus negating the need for such a silly stipulation, made the Wild Card that much worse of an idea.
Thankfully, SmackDown's move to Fox and the second draft of the year brought an end to the nonsense and re-established the brand extension.
At least until the writing team is feeling lazy again.
7. Chad Gable Renamed
Chad Gable was one of the biggest surprises of the 2019 King of the Ring tournament, upsetting Shelton Benjamin, Andrade and Shane McMahon to earn a spot in the finals against Baron Corbin. In that match, he had fans on the edge of their seats, believing the 2012 Olympian could knock off the hated heel and earn his way to the crown.
He ultimately lost the match but had put an exclamation point on his underdog run with a legitimate TV Match of the Year candidate. With a ton of buzz and momentum on his side, it appeared as though Gable might finally enjoy a sustained push after months of going unnoticed.
Given the writing team's plans for him, he probably wished he was still invisible.
Gable revealed in a backstage interview that, after weeks of Corbin making fun of his size, he had embraced the name "Shorty G" and would use it going forward. Despite internet backlash to the horrific name, he doubled down on it during an in-ring promo designed to defend the name.
It did not work.
Neither did the new ring gear he broke out shortly thereafter, ring gear that looked more like an elementary school gym uniform than something a grown-ass man would wear in combat sports. The ridiculousness of it all essentially killed Gable's heat dead and now, just months after a magical run through the King of the Ring, he and fellow breakout star Ali are saddled in a going-nowhere tag team.
6. Seth Rollins: Becky Lynch's Boyfriend
Imagine crowning a Superstar the top face on a particular brand by defeating the until-then seemingly insurmountable Brock Lesnar, only to ensure all of his heat would be stolen by pairing him with a much more popular, beloved competitor.
That was the reality that faced Seth Rollins in 2019 as he went from the savior of the masses, dispatching the part-time monster that held the universal title hostage for months, to the weaker Superstar in a WWE power couple.
While Lynch's popularity skyrocketed, Rollins lost momentum and crowd support. Fans began booing him, seeing him as the uncool babyface champion shoved down their throats by a company with a rich history of forcing good guys on its fans. The Man's popularity failed to rub off on Rollins and only amplified how bland, underdeveloped and uninteresting The Architect had become.
The on-screen relationship was a crutch for the universal champion to lean on. Instead, it collapsed under the weight of Rollins' uncoolness and, after their partnership in the main event of Extreme Rules, disappeared from television with nary a mention going forward.
5. Helluva Bad Booking in a Cell
The Hell in a Cell match for the Universal Championship between Seth Rollins and "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt ended in a referee stoppage. Yes, you read that correctly. The most storied, dangerous and unforgiving gimmick match in WWE history ended because a referee thought Rollins had gone too far in his beatdown of the challenger.
Just to hammer home how stupid a booking choice this was, remember that this is the same gimmick match in which The Undertaker threw Mankind off the roof of the steel structure and through an announce table before chokeslamming him through said roof and 20 feet to the mat below. Barbarism has always played a major role in the match. That is its appeal. People tune in expecting to see two guys beat the unholy hell out of each other.
WWE Creative knew this but found itself booked into a corner.
The Fiend had become such a popular character, selling a boatload of merchandise and dominating social media, that management had no choice but to capitalize. It booked him in the match with Rollins despite having no clear way of getting around the fact that neither could lose because the company had its sights on a rematch in Saudi Arabia on Halloween. So, instead of coming up with a way to get out of the match before the pay-per-view, it booked an epically bad main event finish that infuriated the crowd and nearly destroyed the aura Wyatt had created for his persona.
Luckily, the creative third-generation star was able to recover and left Crown Jewel with the Universal Championship, a title he still holds as the year comes to an end.
4. Rusev, Lana and Bobby Lashley's Soapy Story
Imagine being so desperate for television ratings and a creative spark that you think the best idea is for a love triangle between Rusev, Lana and Bobby Lashley. Yes, the same Rusev and Lana who are married in real life and have been off television for months, with not even the slightest hint that there was dissension between them the last time they were on Raw or SmackDown. And, yes, the same Lashley whose natural charisma is akin to that of drying paint.
The storyline exploded onto television in September and has received significant airtime ever since as the company desperately looks to hook audiences with an Attitude Era-esque storyline. Rusev has been arrested, Lana has faked a pregnancy and, just this past Monday, Lashley proposed to The Ravishing Russian, with a wedding date set for the December 30 episode.
Perhaps the entire ordeal would have been more effective with performers more comfortable on the microphone than Lana and Lashley. Maybe a hint that Rusev and Lana were not getting along prior to their last television appearance would have lent gravity to the ordeal. Instead, WWE Creative hot-shotted a storyline that has potential but has been too hastily thrown together and horribly executed to mean anything in the long term.
Even if Rusev has been great throughout.
3. Kofi Kingston Loses the WWE Championship in Eight Seconds
Kofi Kingston's storybook run to the WWE Championship was an example of the beauty in organic booking. He was never intended to win that title or to headline WrestleMania against Daniel Bryan. The people demanded it, and when he actually captured the gold, they erupted, greeting Kingston with the type of reaction reserved for only the top stars in the industry.
After WrestleMania, he would defend his title against the likes of Samoa Joe, Randy Orton and Dolph Ziggler, winning each of those rivalries and setting himself up to defend against Brock Lesnar on October 4 as part of SmackDown's move to Fox.
Rather than allowing Kingston to be a valiant champion, fighting until his last breath to retain that title he worked tirelessly to win and defend, the company had him lose to Lesnar in eight seconds.
No, that's not typo.
The Beast dropped a charging Kingston with an F-5 and won the title, turning Kingston's dream into a nightmare and frustrating fans with the full-time Superstar taking a backseat to his part-time peer once again.
2. The Undertaker and Goldberg's All-Timer Stinker
On paper, The Undertaker vs. Goldberg is the type of dream match fans of the Attitude Era would have salivated over. In reality, it was a debacle of massive proportions and one of the worst matches in WWE history.
Take two Superstars with little in-ring chemistry, who have never wrestled each other before, and put them in front of a worldwide audience in Saudi Arabia. Throw in Goldberg getting concussed during the match and a few embarrassing slip-ups from the in-ring icons and you have a colossal disappointment and embarrassing botch-fest of a contest that really had no reason to exist in 2019.
Not to mention cries for the otherwise fondly remembered stars of a bygone era to hang up their boots and ride off into the sunset.
1. Maria Kanellis Degrades Husband Mike
It has never made sense when WWE openly embarrasses, humiliates even, one of its own performers, as it devalues them and prevents them from ever truly achieving their fullest potential. After all, Vince McMahon and Co. should want their performers to become big, money-making stars.
Yet this year saw Maria Kanellis degrade and emasculate husband Mike in a promo in which she openly accused her significant other of not being man enough to impregnate her. From there, she spent the next few weeks talking down to him, spewing orders and generally making his life a living hell. In turn, Mike's credibility was shot and, just shortly after signing a new deal with WWE, he asked for his release from the company.
It is hard to fault him.
Kanellis is a talented wrestler whose work in Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling and independent promotions speaks for itself. Even his matches in 205 Live, where he was allowed to showcase more of his abilities, are indicative of a talented wrestler without an outlet.
Despite his obvious talent and the ability to talk on the mic, he was devalued and, in 2019, debased to the point that he was a walking punchline rather than a valuable asset to the company.
The vignettes in which Maria verbally lambasted him were the uncomfortable, cringeworthy moments this list was made for.