With 2023 coming to a close, it’s time to reflect on the past 12 months for both the good and the bad in AEW and WWE. Welcome to the annual 4 part Biggest Blunders and Greatest Wonders of the Year lists!
To find the full lineup of articles, click on the following links:
This post in particular (as the headline states) will be starting the WWE section with the worst of World Wrestling Entertainment and the Biggest Blunders list.
What a roller coaster year this was for WWE. There are so many high notes to come in the Greatest Wonders list, but rather than end on the bad news, let’s get those disappointments out of the way first. And boy, were there certainly more than a fair share of those along the way, too.
This means the top mistakes, flubs, mess-ups, bad booking decisions, terrible ideas, awful matches, crappy company strategies, unfortunate circumstances and anything else along those lines.
As a reminder, this is quite obviously opinion-based, even though I do try to factor in the general consensus from others (as far as I’m aware), too. I invite everyone to chime in with their own ideas of the worst things from WWE in 2023 in the comments below!
Without further ado and in no particular order, let’s get started…
Cody Rhodes Loses at WrestleMania 39
This list isn’t in order, but if it was, this would top it. There wasn’t anything that took the wind out of my sails more this year as a fan as night 2 of WrestleMania. After a series of some disappointments that really flew in the opposite direction of how great night 1 was, the biggest blow was watching The American Nightmare come up short.
Not only was it disappointing to not see him win the title, but the way it was done was so bland, and ultimately, for what purpose? So they could come up with the b.s. response of what we all knew was “wait 12 months and maybe, we’ll do a repeat, milk this for another Mania, and it won’t mean as much, but hey, at least Roman Reigns will have broken some other records in the meantime.”
Awful. Following it up with the distraction of a Brock Lesnar feud, which could have worked SO MUCH better if it were for the title, where Cody’s immediately faced with the biggest challenge to his title that could possibly happen, would have been so much better.
Cody spent the majority of the year bouncing around random feuds, repeatedly reminding people that he needs to “finish the story”, but either coming up with excuses for why he wasn’t going after the title until Mania season, or just flat out being booked where we were all supposed to put on our blinders and not realize that was happening. For instance, why would Cody not want to be in the Money in the Bank ladder match and earn a title shot against Roman? Oh, because he just randomly wants to fight Dominik Mysterio way more? Come on. Lame. Just admit you’re killing time for an entire year, at best.
Speaking of which…
The Bloodline is Stagnant and Stuck in a Holding Pattern
Part of the frustration of Cody not winning the title was that we all knew Reigns was guaranteed to hold it until at least WrestleMania 40. That meant the entire rest of the year was a waste of time for him. No challenger would stand a chance.
Now, the best case scenario would have seen WWE present storylines that made people question that, and once a month or so, The Tribal Chief would have been in jeopardy of dropping the title. Instead of that, WWE said in a transparent way through their actions, rather than their direct words, “Since nobody is going to believe Roman will be dethroned, and he clearly won’t, let’s just not have him appear for 90% of the year. That’ll be much easier to not have to try to think of any way to book him.”
Rehashing the Jey Uso turn had SOME positives (that will be brought up in the Greatest Wonders list), but it also had some major negatives. For instance, Jimmy Uso looks like a complete tool and nowhere near as good as he did coming into Mania. Solo Sikoa beat John Cena, sure, but has he really seen any true progress, or is that one win supposed to be the only thing he did this whole year?
The storyline has grown stale. Reigns is never there. When he is, it doesn’t mean anything, as we’re just waiting to see who he fights at WrestleMania, and even then, we’ll be biting our nails in hopes the belt changes hands. But not in a good way of “I want it to happen even more than ever and I’m so glad they made me wait”. Just in the sense of “Can we PLEASE move on from this and stop ruining a great thing that is overstaying its welcome?”
Vince McMahon, the TKO Merger and Layoffs
On the subject of overstaying your welcome, we have to talk about how Vince McMahon sold WWE. Although we don’t know the ins and outs of this process, and it’s likely we won’t ever fully know everything, it comes across like a situation where he was ousted, got so annoyed with that that it triggered his massive ego, and rather than to bow out gracefully years ago or just step aside now to avoid causing more problems, he opted to seize control, forego passing the torch to his family, sell the company, keep himself in a position of power and take what was a family business that was SO IMPORTANT before, and just say “A bigger paycheck matters more to me. Let’s let some other people run the ship.”
That mustache alone is worth having its own category on this list, but I’ll loop it in here. He looks ridiculous.
With the Endeavor merger and the creation of TKO, we’ve yet to see the full fallout of what this all means, but one thing that has come through has been a series of layoffs, continuing this awful trend that not only has WWE been doing since 2020, but far too many companies during what we should call a Second Great Depression with this horrible economy.
Somehow, companies are reporting record profits, yet firing people like crazy and claiming they don’t have the funds. They don’t want to hire anyone to work at a livable wage, then complain “nobody wants to work”. It’s disgusting, and seeing that happen in WWE, where corporate speak nonsense is tossed around about “synergistic restructuring” and all, just to try to fancily soften the blow of what we all know means “cutting employees and forcing the remainders to do the work of multiple people” just doesn’t sit well with me.
Firing someone like McKenzie Mitchell? Terrible. Laying off entire divisions? Gross. All the while, keeping Vince in a position of power, despite all the allegations and problems, as if that’s okay?
I hate to see how this trend is going to continue heading into 2024. While I’m glad the company didn’t sell to Saudi Arabia, I still think we’re looking at a bad outcome in all this. I could very well see a situation where we’re looking at 2023 and thinking that it was the “before times” when things hadn’t fully crossed over and become a bigger mess, where we have even more advertisements bombarding us, a bigger focus on pure money numbers with little care about the quality of the show, and even more cutthroat firings and so on, all in the name of “business is business.”
Here’s hoping I’m wrong, and this year’s trials and tribulations were the rough patch before it all gets significantly better for all parties who deserve it.
Shane McMahon Tears His Quad at WrestleMania
We can’t talk poorly about Vince McMahon without bringing up the contribution Shane McMahon had for WWE this year!
This was a situation that was both bad in terms of just a botched execution, but also hilarious in how bad it was, so its inclusion on this list isn’t as serious of a problem as the others above and some others below. But if we’re talking Biggest Blunders, this was about as massive of a blooper reel moment as you could get.
When last we saw Shane, it wasn’t a great showing. He had popped up at the Royal Rumble, caused a commotion, and was effectively forced to take time off and step aside. His return could have, and should have, been a way to rectify that and turn things around in a much more positive impression.
Instead, he IMMEDIATELY tore his quad. This led to some improvisation from Snoop Dogg, which was awkward, but greatly appreciated, as he tried to save the segment. If it had gone down as planned, it wouldn’t have been anything great, assuredly, so this might be a better WrestleMania moment in the long run for just bombing.
Kofi Kingston Botches at Royal Rumble Again
Another straight-up flub, but less funny, was Kofi Kingston botching his Royal Rumble spot for the second year in a row.
After so many years of pulling off crazy feats to save himself, last year, Kingston finally slipped up. It was horribly deflating, but he had a chance to redeem himself this year, only to fail again. That was even worse than the first time, as it gave off the impression maybe he shouldn’t be doing these spots anymore.
They weren’t even the most complicated ones he’s ever pulled off. But whether it was just the fates messing around or a sign that he’s lost a step, I’m hoping he doesn’t give up, and he manages to do something worthwhile this year to make up for the past two.
At the moment, he hasn’t even been declared for the Royal Rumble match, but since virtually no one has, there’s still time to cook up something great. Just…you know…practice it ahead of time a bit? We can’t have a third strike in a row.
Everything with Schism
Hit Row was arguably the worst faction of the year, but they didn’t do anything. Schism, on the other hand, was constantly on television, stinking up the joint across the board in every which way. Nothing with the gimmick progressed in a positive direction. It only went backward and crumbled.
One element of which was Rip Fowler and Jagger Reid announcing on Twitter that they planned to leave WWE once their contracts were up, creating a ticking clock situation.
In the meantime, they would go on to have lots of in-fighting, which did no favors for anyone, rather than becoming an interesting story. At best, they managed to kick The Creed Brothers out of NXT, but they still kept popping up, just to culminate that feud in getting their contracts reinstated, just to leave for the main roster. But hey, The Dyad left instead, so…yay? Victory?
Joe Gacy continued all year to cut the same awful promos he’s been doing since day one. I don’t buy into anything he says, and it just comes off like a discount Bray Wyatt to me, or like the worst type of acting you see in B-movies, but not even in a “so bad it’s good” type way. Things have only gotten worse for him since leaving Schism, as his current gimmick is even more eye-rolling.
And then, there’s Ava Raine. Arguably the worst in-ring performer on any of WWE’s rosters this year. She’s been in the system for how long, and this is all the progress she’s made? It wouldn’t be as bad if she were at least an entertaining character or good on the mic, but she doesn’t have those skills, either. And now, she’s effectively the secretary of Shawn Michaels on screen, but even that role feels like “something to do” so that they don’t have to release her and upset her father.
What an absolute dud of a year for Schism, which never should have been as big of a focal point on NXT given what the group actually put out there for content.
Austin Theory Gets Buried With John Cena Feud
What’s a surefire way to kill off someone’s momentum? Have someone show up not too long before WrestleMania, cut a promo about how even if they win their match, they’ll still be a failure who can’t cut it, and then, put zero effort into counterbalancing that with solid booking going forward.
John Cena didn’t have to bury Theory like that. What was the benefit? Isn’t there a school of thought that you should hype up your opponent so when you beat them, it means more, and if they beat you, you don’t look as weak? Instead, Cena pulled the curtain back and said to the audience “I don’t think this guy has what it takes, and I want you all to know that. Watch him fail after I put him over merely because I was told to.”
Theory fizzled out after that. No effort was put into giving him a solid feud for months. Now, he’s just a tag team guy alongside Grayson Waller, who is very clearly the bigger focal point.
It’s almost as if the Cena match was the last attempt WWE was willing to try with Theory, and then, opted to tread water with him until they picked a new champion. This year wasn’t a great follow-up to 2022’s fiasco with the Money in the Bank briefcase, making me assume 2024 won’t be a good one for Theory, either, sadly. I wonder what it’s going to take for him to get back on track.
If you’re looking for someone to be “the future”, you have to also write off Matt Riddle after this year. He just couldn’t stay out of his own way.
Numerous backstage issues, behavioral problems, online controversies and eventually, reported failed drug tests and a lack of progress (or even willingness, maybe) to rehab those irresponsibilities ultimately added up too much and he was given the axe.
Riddle at one point seemed poised to be a world champion. Even though he had his detractors, people like Shawn Michaels and Randy Orton were able to turn their ships around. There was hope that Riddle would do the same. Instead, he just took all the momentum he had gained in 2022, steadily nosedived in 2023, and was released from the company.
What a waste.
Ronda Rousey, Shayna Baszler, and Everything with the 2 Women’s Tag Team Championship Titles
Transitioning from one former UFC fighter to some others, let’s talk about how lackluster Ronda Rousey’s career was this year!
When your main goal is to have a tag team title run with Shayna Baszler, only for both of you to get injured prior to WrestleMania, not even really compete in your match, disrupt all the plans of the tag title run, and then, you ultimately do get to win it, you unify the NXT Women’s Tag Team Championships…and promptly abandon the tag titles cause it’s time for SummerSlam and we have to rush to tell this story, which ends up being poorly done, a rough match, and adios.
Did Baszler really get anything out of it? I don’t think so. She’s in no better of a spot now than she was this time last year. Did Rousey get anything out of it? Well, she got to leave the company, so that’s something.
But the entire women’s division—both sets—stunk up the joint this year. It wasn’t just Ronda and Shayna.
Fallon Henley and Kiana James had a stereotypical “can they coexist?” story for about a month before dropping the belts to Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn, who were drafted to SmackDown just to lose to Ronda and Shayna and then disappear for the rest of the year, for the most part. What gives?
The main roster wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders, either. Becky Lynch and Lita held the titles long enough to spark the Trish Stratus feud, which arguably went way too long. They dropped the belts to Raquel Rodriguez and Liv Morgan (because Raquel is the perpetual go-to women’s tag team champion with a new partner every couple months), and within a few weeks, Morgan goes down with an injury. Ronda and Shayna win, and again, within a few weeks, drop the belts back to Raquel and Liv, who don’t get any time to celebrate, as they drop the titles again, Morgan’s injured, and one half of the team who beats them (in this case, Sonya Deville) ends up injured right after, too!
They’ve even put an eye on the reality of the situation and alluded to the belts being cursed by Fyre and Dawn, which is equal parts funny and sad that it’s been such a struggle this year.
Main Roster Call-Ups Who Haven’t Succeeded
Sometimes, Superstars graduate from NXT and thrive on the main roster, like how we’ve gotten good things out of Bronson Reed, Zoey Stark, Dragon Lee, Grayson Waller and Diamond Mine.
Unfortunately, that success isn’t always the case, and there were a handful of wrestlers who flopped after being called up.
I don’t put too much blame on Pretty Deadly. An injury effectively pulled the rug out from underneath them for a few months. But as previously mentioned, Alba Fyre and Isla Dawn were a nonfactor.
Another team that cannot seem to get started is Indus Sher. Why call up Veer and Sanga to not do anything with them, tease every few months that they’re going to show up, and then keep putting them on the back burner? I don’t get the strategy here.
Nor do I get the strategy behind announcing Von Wagner and Xyon Quinn are free agents, only to NEVER put them on the roster. Or, for that matter, Odyssey Jones, who has been rumored to be both tapped for an inclusion in the Bobby Lashley and Street Profits stable (which is messy as is; are they heels or faces? Can they actually win a match or what?), or, from other sources, Jones has been passed on for this opportunity. We haven’t seen anything of him outside of an appearance or two, so it’s as if he wasn’t even on the roster this year.
And poor Cameron Grimes waited so long in NXT, doing nothing while watching the clock for his call-up, just to be sidelined as someone they didn’t want to invest time in. He barely ever wrestles, and when he does, he tends to get the jobber entrance and lose. That’s not a good sign for his future.
- Bray Wyatt’s passing obviously isn’t a “blunder” in any sense of the word, but if we’re talking about the “worst” things that happened associated with WWE this year, this is obviously #1. Just like the Jay Briscoe passing in ties to AEW, if there was one thing that we could go back in time and change from happening, none of the other stuff matters as much as it would be to stop this from occurring. Awful.
- Quincy Elliott was around this year, did nothing good, and then, only went on to seemingly justify being released.
- Scrypts. Everything with Scrypts. Teaming with Axiom temporarily, turning on him, managing OTM. All of it. No thank you.
- Did you know Raquel Rodriguez has a back? Well, that’s all her character development! She can smile, flex her back muscles, and……………….hey, look over there! *runs off*
- Remember the stupid way Roxanne Perez lost the NXT Women’s Championship? The angle where she was suffering from anxiety and then was arguably happy to see Indi Hartwell win it? Oh, and Hartwell was injured, so she immediately had to vacate the title. Ouch.
- The NXT North American Championship couldn’t settle on anything. Whatever WWE wanted to do with that Wes Lee vs. Mustafa Ali vs. Tyler Bate story turned into tossing Dragon Lee in there, and Dominik Mysterio, who had some good moments, but they kept going back to this Lee/Lee/Ali thing, only for Ali to get released before his match, Wes to get injured before his match, and now, Dragon Lee has the title that he lost multiple attempts to win, and it all feels like it wasn’t remotely the plan, but just the best case scenario to move on to something else. Dragon Lee is great, but I’m curious what the actual layout of this was supposed to be.
- Next in Line is still stupid and not producing any talent. What is the overall purpose if these people are signed to do-nothing contracts where they continue to NOT be in WWE, and then, just fizzle out of existence? Sign them to the Performance Center or don’t sign them at all. Placing “dibs” on them, but allowing them to go other places, defeats the purpose, and I hope WWE isn’t wasting money on these people that they could have used to keep some of those fired employees.
Stay tuned for the flip side of this with the upcoming Greatest Wonders of the Year post.
What do you think were the biggest mistakes and worst things to happen from WWE this year? Drop your list in the comments below!