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Sports-entertainment's 10 most ridiculous rivalries
Look, not every rivalry is going to be Austin versus McMahon, but there have been more than a few beefs in sports-entertainment history that were so absurd, so misguided, so unbelievable that … they ended up being kind of great.
Here, WWEClassics.com braves karate kicking ninjas, exploding speedboats and creeping witch doctors to bring you the 10 most ridiculous rivalries of all time. Just try to look away.
The Undertaker vs. The Undertaker
The lives of The Undertaker and those guys from the “Naked Gun” movies never needed to intersect. But at SummerSlam 1994, actors Leslie Nielsen and George Kennedy — sort of in character as bumbling detectives Lt. Frank Drebin and Ed Hocken — spent much of the show looking for the “real” Undertaker.
At that time, The Undertaker had disappeared from WWE after falling to Yokozuna in a Casket Match at the 1994 Royal Rumble. The Million Dollar Man reintroduced The Deadman that spring, but it was clear to everyone that this Phenom was an impostor. Things were going to be sorted out in the main event of SummerSlam when The Undertaker faced “The Underfaker,” but not before The Deadman’s return became fodder for over-the-top mugging and bad puns. As hilarious as "Naked Gun 33 1/3" was, Undertaker’s big comeback shouldn’t have been played for laughs.
Sting & The British Bulldog vs. Vader & Sid
A rivalry pitting valiant do-gooders Sting & The British Bulldog against destructive monsters like Sid & Vader should’ve been a no-brainer. WCW fans liked the good guys and loathed the bad guys and they wanted to see them go at it. Problem was, WCW was taking a “more is less” approach to everything at the time and thought it was a good idea to hype their Beach Blast pay-per-view with a terrible lead-in mini-movie.
The tongue-in-cheek vignette saw Sid, Vader, Harley Race and Col. Robert Parker crash Sting and Davey Boy’s beach volleyball party. The so-called Masters of the Powerbomb (who wore their ring gear to the ocean) gave their opponents an opportunity to back out of their upcoming match. When they refused, a little person with an eyepatch tried to blow Sting up. Literally. The guy put a bomb on The Stinger’s speedboat and detonated it. Luckily, The British Bulldog saved his tag partner in an epic Hasselhoff moment, but there was no saving this rivalry.
The Machines vs. The Heenan Family
Ever see one of those movies where the cops raid a party and a guy tries to hide by sticking a lampshade on his head? That disguise was more convincing than those donned by Captain Lou Albano’s Machines in the early ’80s.
Before Bobby Heenan became Andre the Giant’s manager, he was his sworn enemy and his goal was to get rid of The Eighth Wonder of the World. The Brain almost did it in ’86 when Andre missed a tag bout and Heenan convinced WWE President Jack Tunney to suspend him. It looked like The Weasel had dismissed the giant, but then Captain Lou Albano introduced his new tag team — a group of big dudes in masks dubbed The Machines. Coincidentally, the one called Giant Machine had a passing resemblance to Andre.
This type of thing had been done in sports-entertainment countless times (See also: The Midnight Rider, Mr. America, Stagger Lee, et al.), but The Machines kept upping the dope factor by introducing Animal Machine, Piper Machine and even Hulk Machine, which was just Hulk Hogan in a yellow ski mask. Oh, brother.
Glacier & Ernest Miller vs. Wrath & Mortis
Video games and pro wrestling should’ve gone together like chocolate and peanut butter. Alas, WCW’s melding of the two created something about as appetizing as tuna fish and sponge cake. Messy food metaphors aside, Eric Bischoff’s attempt to introduce “Mortal Kombat”-style personas to the ring in 1997 is remembered as one of sports-entertainment’s great misfires.
Who’s to blame? No one really. The competitors in the rivalry — Glacier, Wrath, Mortis, Ernest “The Cat” Miller — were all kind of awesome in a cheesy action movie way and their elaborate entrances and slick ring gear were state-of-the-art at the time. But this was 1997 and while The New World Order was flipping the script and calling out WWE Superstars on live television, Glacier and his buddies were throwing karate kicks and palm thrusts like the advanced class at Tiger Schulman’s. It wasn’t long before Bischoff scrapped the whole deal and started feeding Glacier to Goldberg on a semiweekly basis. Flawless victory.
Edge vs. Booker T
It’s a testament to the legacies of both Edge and Booker T that everybody just kind of ignores the fact that their WrestleMania 18 encounter — the first singles match on The Grandest Stage of Them All for each — was waged over a Japanese shampoo commercial.
With all due respect to the WWE Hall of Famers, we can’t let them forget this bizarre beef. It started on the Feb. 28, 2002, edition of SmackDown where Booker offered up a misguided audition for the Yakamoshi Shampoo Company. The five-time WCW Champion thought his future as a hair care spokesman was locked in — until he found out later in the evening that Edge had swiped the spot right from under him. Now it would be hard to deny the beauty of The Rated-R Superstar’s mane, but Booker was so cross that the two competitors had to settle their score at WrestleMania. Edge ultimately won the bout, but whoever saw his shampoo commercial?
Ultimate Warrior vs. Papa Shango
It’s tough to pinpoint the exact moment when Ultimate Warrior went from crazy cool to just plain crazy, but it’s possible that Papa Shango had something to do with it. Back in April 1992, the trippy witch doctor put a curse on the former WWE Champion and ruined not only Warrior’s life, but the lives of a generation of impressionable children who had spent their youths admiring the madman.
What happened was Shango’s black magic made terrible things happen to Warrior — he’d barf, convulse, etc. Then, in the middle of an interview with “Mean” Gene Okerlund, strange black goo began to drip from the intense Superstar’s head. It was admittedly bizarre, but Warrior did not handle it well. In fact, he freaked the hell out. Kids watching at home had no idea what was going, but it was about as disturbing and upsetting as seeing your dad cry. Truth be told, Warrior was never the same after that. Neither were the rest of us.
Ultimate Warrior vs. Hulk Hogan
Back in April 1990, no rivalry captured the epic scope and delirious grandeur of WWE better than the one between Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior. Fast-forward to 1998 and that same contention served to illustrate the bloated spending, shoddy production and “inmates running the asylum” aesthetic of a just-beginning-to-tip WCW.
Sad part is we asked for it. With wrestling getting white-hot in the late years of the last millennium, the return of Warrior — a Superstar who competed for poster space on every kid’s bedroom wall — was not only anticipated, it was romanticized. And then he came back with his rambling interviews, his smoke machines and his ability to live inside of mirrors and every sports-entertainment fan started wishing they could put the genie back in the bottle. Unfortunately, it was too late and we all had to enlist in the One Warrior Nation until Hogan and Warrior settled their score in a disastrous bout at Halloween Havoc 1998.
Al Snow vs. Big Boss Man
To find a bad guy as twisted as Big Boss Man, you’d have to leaf through the pages of a comic book — and not just any comic book, but one of those weird ones from the 1950s that the government banned. Think we’re exaggerating? Then you must’ve forgotten the time in summer 1999 when the gruff enforcer kidnapped Al Snow’s beloved dog, Pepper, killed it, cooked it and fed it to him. Yes, that really happened.
Why Snow ate a dish prepared by his mortal enemy is hard to understand. What was even more baffling was the rivals’ subsequent showdown — the Kennel from Hell Match. Held in a steel cage surrounded by a Hell in a Cell with guard dogs trolling the space in-between, the enclosure actually looked pretty impressive. Unfortunately, the pooches went to the bathroom all over the ringside area and the bout turned out to be one of WWE’s great debacles.
Sting vs. Vampiro
Poor Sting. The man who was once saved from a Four Horsemen assault by Robocop found himself caught up in more inane WCW hijinks in 2000 when he became the target of Vampiro. A macabre competitor who turned into The Undertaker’s non-union WCW equivalent seemingly overnight, Vampiro copped The Brood’s “blood bath,” Kane’s pyrotechnics and The Deadman’s sepulcher in his hackneyed attempt to bring down the face of WCW.
The extended saga between these “brothers in paint” was full of rank horror movie hallmarks — flickering flames, graveyard fisticuffs, foreboding crows — but no moment felt more Ed Wood than their “Human Torch Match” at Great American Bash. This car wreck found the two rivals trying to set each other on fire while brawling under the strobe light of mock thunder and lightning. Audiences were supposed to be engaged by the time Vampiro lit The Stinger aflame and booted him from the rafters. Instead, they were just glad the match was over.
Hulk Hogan vs. The Dungeon of Doom
Hulk Hogan’s bizarre war against a band of misfits dubbed The Dungeon of Doom had it all: monster trucks, leprechauns, a mummy inexplicably named The Yeti. Remembered as The Hulkster’s last great hurrah as a do-gooder before he dyed his beard and joined The New World Order, this endless rivalry began way back in 1995 when the demented Kevin Sullivan took control over wayward weirdoes like Kamala and Meng in an effort to destroy Hulkamania once and for all.
The ensuing battle played out like the type of cheapo B-movie the robots on “Mystery Science Theater 3000” used to mock, but even Tom Servo never witnessed any set as cheap as The Dungeon of Doom’s actual Dungeon of Doom. See, Sullivan and an old chalky Buddha he dubbed The Master took to hanging out in a cave that was either an undisclosed location in Parts Unknown or a refurbished Rainforest Café. Either way, it was terrible, but their rocky hideaway still provided some of the most quotably bad lines in sports-entertainment history.