When it comes to the WWE, the biggest and most memorable storylines don't always take place during a wrestling match.
Vince McMahon created the term sports entertainment to better describe his company, and often the "entertainment" part overshadows whatever matches take place that night.
And while WWE is often great at building up intrigue around a story, often times the payoff falls flat on its face for the world to see. Sometimes a story is derailed by outside forces, sometimes the company just loses interest midway through and sometimes a mystery can be set up without anybody having an idea for an ending.
Here's a look at the top 10 worst storyline payoffs in WWE history.
"IT'S ME, AUSTIN!!"
That was a surprise pic.twitter.com/bc5OykfCl3— Alex (lilchief2007) ? (@lilchief2007) December 13, 2017
"It's me Austin! It was me all along Austin!"
In 1999 WWE was right in the middle of the famous Attitude Era, with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's feud with Mr. McMahon still going strong after a full year and the Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness becoming one of the most interesting and dominant factions on the roster. But McMahon and Austin shockingly found themselves fighting on the same side when The Corporation kicked McMahon out and joined the Undertaker's group to form The Corporate Ministry.
Undertaker, who was playing a much more sinister role than later incarnations of "The Phenom," said in promos that his actions were being guided by a higher power, prompting him to kidnap Stephanie McMahon and crucify Austin on a giant Undertaker symbol. On an episode of Monday Night Raw, Undertaker decided to finally reveal the higher power to be none other than... Vince McMahon himself!
Did the story make sense? Not really, especially when you consider how much messed up stuff the Ministry was doing to Stephanie McMahon and McMahon's former enforcer Big Boss Man. Were the fans happy? Absolutely not. Not only did it kill McMahon's momentum by making him switch sides twice, but it took an otherwise interesting story and made it Austin vs. McMahon again (only this time with a handful of plot holes and leaps and logic on top of it).
Looking back, the only good that came out of it was the "It's Me Austin!" meme.
The Anonymous Raw General Manager storyline started off as one of the most talked-about mysteries of the last decade. But by the time it was over, it became an era of Monday Night Raw most fans would like to forget.
In the summer of 2010, Vince McMahon fired Bret Hart as the Raw GM and introduced that the next GM had decided to remain anonymous. So instead of a person coming out every week, a laptop was set up on a podium next to the commentary table and Michael Cole would read out the messages during Raw each week.
Trying to nail down who the GM was became a game among the fans. Sometimes he would favor the faces, yet other times the heels. Sometimes he'd spout familiar catchphrases, only for those to later be misleads.
The gimmick ran for over a year before Triple H and John Laurinaitis took over as authority figures in July 2011, with the Anonymous GM's identity never being revealed. Former WWE writers would later reveal that the writing team never had payoff to the story planned, originally planning for it to forever remain a mystery.
Maybe that was for the best, because when fans finally got the answer they were not happy. As part of the build to the 1000th episode of Raw, the show had previous general managers come back and run the show for a night. When the Anonymous GM finally got a turn it was revealed that Hornswoggle was behind it all, leading to a massive backlash from fans.
The Anonymous GM angle wasn't the first time Hornswoggle was in the middle of a disappointing storyline. In 2007, WWE started a storyline on Raw where Vince McMahon "died" after somebody blew up his limo. But the storyline was quickly thrown out following the Chris Benoit double-murder and suicide, and in its place McMahon began a story where he had an illegitimate son.
After weeks of investigation by McMahon, it was finally revealed that McMahon's son was none other than the leprechaun Hornswoggle. What would've been a big boost for one of the wrestlers on the roster (Mr. Kennedy was suspected by many to be Vince's son) was instead being given to a comedy character.
But WWE ran with the story for months anyway. McMahon booked Hornswoggle in a series of matches he had no shot at winning, including a one-on-one against the monstrous Great Khali. The program ended with neither Vince or Hornswoggle involved, but rather a Belfast Brawl between Findlay (Hornswoggle's father figure) and JBL at WrestleMania XXIV.
In 1998 the WWF was looking for a way to elevate "Dr. Death" Steve Williams up to main event status. Their solution was the "Brawl For All" Tournament, where wrestlers would put on boxing gloves and fight each other for real. Known for being a legitimate tough guy, Williams was heavily favored to win the whole thing and eventually go on to face "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
But things didn't pan out that way.
Williams suffered a hamstring injury during the second round and was knocked out by Bart Gunn, one half of the Smoking Gunns tag team. Gunn went on to win the whole tournament, defeating Bradshaw (later JBL) in the final match.
With the Williams plan derailed, WWE decided to shift directions and have Gunn in a celebrity boxing match against Eric "Butterbean" Esch at WrestleMania XV. Gunn was knocked out in under a minute, released by the company soon after and the "Brawl for All" tournament lived on in wrestling history as a bad joke.
At Survivor Series 1999 Triple H was scheduled to face The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in a triple threat match for the WWF Championship. But that match never happened, as Austin was run over by a car backstage earlier in the night.
In real life Austin was being written off television to get neck surgery, but on television the identity of who ran him over became a mystery. It took over a year, but the story was finally solved in October 2000 when the fun-loving, dancing Rikishi admitted he was the driver.
Why? Because according to him the WWE had been favoring wrestlers like Austin and Hulk Hogan over Samoan Superstars like his cousin, The Rock. The payoff was flimsy at best, but then the story took yet another turn when Triple H was revealed as the one to hire Rikishi in the first place.
Following the Nation of Domination's break-up, Mark Henry turned over a new leaf as the comedic "Sexual Chocolate" character. While the gimmick gradually became a fan favorite, things took a turn for the ridiculous when Mae Young claimed to be pregnant with his child.
Only instead of a child, Young gave birth to just a hand. Why a hand? Nobody knows.
Although to WWE's credit, they actually made a call back to the whole thing on the 1000th episode, when a man dressed up in an inflatable hand costume showed up with Mae Young claiming to be her son. So props to WWE for some continuity!
The Invasion angle is seen by many fans as the biggest wasted opportunity in WWE history. It's been reviewed, relived, dissected and debated for years and reasons for why it failed are still being talked about to this day.
To keep the long saga brief, in 2001 WWF had beaten both WCW and ECW to become the dominant professional wrestling federation in the United States. Vince McMahon purchased both company's and their assets, and stars from both promotions were brought in as an invading faction against the WWF. And while this could've made for years of interesting stories to tell, WWF decided to rush things. Most of WCW's biggest stars sat out of the Invasion due to contract issues, Stephanie and Shane McMahon were named the leaders and focal points and by the time we reached a five-on-five WWF vs. WCW/ECW match at Survivor Series, very few people from the actual defunct companies were involved.
From its inception with Shane McMahon being revealed as the new owner of WCW to that final match, the entire story was one blunder after another.
On June 27, 2011, CM Punk stunned the world when he ended an episode of Monday Night Raw with his famous "Pipebomb" promo.
The promo was the starting point of Punk's feud with John Cena, which culminated in "The Straight-Edged Superstar" winning the WWE Championship at Money in the Bank and promptly leaving the company.
Punk returned to Monday Night Raw a couple of weeks later with his WWE Championship in tow, leading to a Champion vs. Champion rematch with Cena at the 2011 edition of SummerSlam. Punk went on to win, but then things got weird.
Kevin Nash, who hadn't been with the WWE for years, ran out and attacked Punk, leaving him knocked out with a Jacknife Powerbomb. Alberto Del Rio quickly ran out and cashed his Money in the Bank contract on Punk, winning the championship as the show ended. Nash arrived on Raw the following night claiming he received a text from Triple H (who had taken over as WWE COO by that point), telling him to "stick the winner." Hunter denied ever sending a text, but Punk accused both men of conspiring against him.
Given how Nash was back and the two were attacking each other every week, it only made sense for Punk and Nash to have a match at the following pay-per-view, Night of Champions. Only instead of that, Punk was booked to face Triple H. The Game managed to beat Punk, but not before both men were attacked by Nash, The Miz and R-Truth. Punk would go on to pursue the WWE Championship again, leaving Nash to feud with Triple H.
So after stopping Punk's momentum in its tracks, the feud never led to a match and it was never explained why Nash attacked him in the first place or who sent him the text message. Confused? You should be.
In late 2016 the Bray Wyatt-Randy Orton feud showed a lot of promise.
Instead of having the two wrestle on a few pay-per-views in a row, Orton actually decided to join Wyatt as a member of The Wyatt Family, going so far as to winning the SmackDown Tag Team Championships for the faction.
Orton remained as a member of the group from October all the way to the end of February 2017. But The Viper finally showed his true colors on the Feb. 28 episode of SmackDown Live, where he cut a promo on Wyatt revealing his hatred for the family and set The Wyatt Compound on fire, presumably with the body of Sister Abigail inside.
This looked like the perfect opportunity for Wyatt to overcome Orton as the two were booked for a WWE Championship match at WrestleMania 33. But it was clear by the time that match started that the storyline was already off the rails. Bray claimed he still had the soul of Sister Abigail in him (kind of negating the whole "burning down the compound" scene) and used it to make bugs and maggots appear on the wrestling ring via a projection. But Orton was unfazed by the trick and beat Wyatt to win his 13th world championship.
Wyatt still wanted revenge on Orton, so he challenged him to a "House of Horrors" match several weeks later. The match, which was partially pre-taped at an abandoned farm house in Missouri yet somehow finished in San Jose where the pay-per-view was taking place, is seen by many as the worst of 2017. It also had a huge chunk of drama ripped out when it was quietly changed to a non-title match due to Wyatt switching rosters via the Superstar Shake-Up. What started as a slow-burning, interesting feud ended up a disappointing dud.
During his prime, Diamond Dallas Page was one of WCW's most popular babyfaces. And like so many other WCW wrestlers, once his contract was absorbed by the WWF, Vince McMahon had no idea what to do with him.
So instead of bringing him in as the "Master of the Diamond Cutter," Page started his WWF run by stalking The Undertaker's then-wife Sara while wearing a hockey mask. He eventually revealed his identity to Undertaker, saying the stalking was only done to get The Phenom's attention. The reveal itself actually made for a pretty cool moment as Page was the first big WCW name to appear on WWF television post-buyout, but fans' excitement quickly turned into confusion as this was much different than the good-guy persona fans had come to know and love. On top of that, Undertaker handily defeated Page in their first match at King of the Ring, with Sara at ringside recording the whole thing with a camcorder.
But the feud didn't stop there. Over the next several months, Page continued to obsess over Sara only to get beaten down as a result. WWF even went so far as to have Sara pin Page in a one-on-one match on an episode of Monday Night Raw.
For a man that could've easily been a WWF main event player just like he was in WCW, Page was treated like a geek throughout his time in World Wrestling Federation.