Under Vince McMahon’s direction, the WWE has always tried to be a full on overall entertainment product, as opposed to just a wrestling show. With those attempts come all kinds of storylines and attempts to branch the company out into other avenues. Thankfully, most have been met with resounding success, after all the company probably wouldn’t be around if everything they did flopped.
The Chairman has always tried to find new ways to rake in revenue – promoting concerts, starting the Network, magazine publishing, and in the immortal words of Yogurt – “merchandising, merchandising, merchandising.” Whether it was a failed storyline, or attempt to branch out past wrestling, here are 15 things worth forgetting about WWE.
Vince McMahon has always liked to extend the branches of the WWE tree to all aspects of entertainment. Every so often those branches also intersect with McMahon's own personal interest. Hence, in early 1990, McMahon began a publication called Bodybuilding Lifestyles. The bodybuilding world had correctly assumed that his own group of meatheads would be coming next. While still under the Titan Sports banner, Vince McMahon created the World Bodybuilding Federation, which was intended to be an alternative to the then 44-year-old International Federation of Body Builders. Much like every other undertaking he does, Vince sought to create a new dimension to the sport and planned to introduce events that would have more prize money than the norm' and perhaps even infuse a bit of drama into the pose down performances. Unfortunately for Vince, his hobby would not see much more than a few years’ worth of shows. Despite bringing in Luger (who would suffer a motorcycle accident and not get the opportunity to perform), and Lou Ferrigno, poor ratings, Pay-Per-View buys, and more importantly getting indicated on steroid charges would spell the death knell for the WBF.
14 Diva Search
Trailblazing women of yesteryear like the Fabulous Moolah and Johnnie Mae Young had to earn their respect by being so good in the ring that they'd scare the pants off many of the men in the wrestling world. The Sensational Sherri was also tough as nails and helped pave the way for many females like Luna Vachon, Trish Stratus, and Lita. But once Trish, Lita, Jazz, and the rest of the Attitudes Era Divas called it quits, Vince decided a new type of femme fatale would dominate his locker room during the early aughts. So he seemingly handed John Laurinaitis a copy of Victoria's Secret and told to go find him those girls. Hence, the Diva Search began which was the WWE's way of finding hit women to fill the void left by Trish, without wanting to be a big time professional wrestler either. For a moment there, it seemed like Vince was trying to be a low-rent Larry Flynt, building solely off of the gratuitousness of the Attitude Era without any of the wrestling. Thankfully, even in a contest that sought to find ditzes, did actual wrestling personalities shine through, like Maria, Eve, Layla, and the Bellas.
13 Hulk's Fifth Reign
At WrestleMania VIII, Hulk Hogan wrestled his "retirement" match against Sid Justice. At the time, many fans probably did feel like it would be the last time we'd see Hulkamania run wild on wrestling's grandest stage. For a year, it actually was. In his stead, we saw a year of great wrestling from the likes of Randy Savage, Ric Flair, and capping it all off with one of the best Intercontinental Championship matches ever where Bret Hart carried his brother in law, the British Bulldog to one of the greatest WWE matches in history. Bret would lose the IC strap, but would go on to win the WWE Championship for the first time and get to headline WrestleMania IX against the mighty Yokozuna. But for some reason, while Bret was reestablishing the strap as a wrestling championship, Hulk decided to come back too, reestablishing himself as the top babyface in the company. He walked into WrestleMania IX as one half of the challengers for the tag team titles but walked out as WWE Champion, negating not only Yoko's moment to shine, but any good will Bret built during his time as the man. It was also the first time we'd see Vince shirk what was working to go back to the tried and true way of booking. Hogan, thankfully for the New Generation was gone not long after dropping the title back to Yoko, allowing the behemoth to finish his reign and once again clash with the Hitman at WrestleMania X, fully negating the most poorly booked 'Mania finish of all time.
12 The Original NXT
Under the watchful eye of Triple H, his team of coaches and talent scouts have made NXT a phenomenon in the wrestling industry, not seen since the early days of ECW. Every single die-hard fan ravenously awaits the next TakeOver event, and NXT debuts on the main roster are met with thunderous applause. That's now. But from 2010-2012, NXT was barely a hiccup on the wrestling radar. The first season of the show was a hodgepodge of wrestling and Z-Level Reality Television tripe. Wrestlers were asked to competed in non-sensical feats like Rock 'em Sock 'em fights that have nothing to do with in-ring ability. Of course, fans voices were barely heard and despite voting and cheering for Daniel Bryan every week, WWE management still elected to kick him off the show. The show, like many items on this list could have worked with a few tweaks (actually this past Tough Enough saw a lot of the tweaks NXT could have used). Other than giving us the iconic image of The Nexus taking over Raw, and the foundation of what NXT would become, the Original NXT was nothing more than a joke.
11 Choppy Choppy Pee Pee
Even some memorable moments and the stories surrounding them should best be forgotten. During the Attitude Era, the WWE's resident adult film star, Val Venis had bedded a stunning Japanese woman. But the real problem is that she was Mrs. Yamaguchi, the wife of the manager of Kaientai. The following week on Raw, in one of the more gratuitous moments of the Attitude Era or any other Era for that matter saw the Evil Japanese group attempt to actually sever a man's genitalia from his person on live television. Only to be saved by John Wayne Bobbit, a man who actually did have his member chopped off by his jilted wife in a very strange bit of cross-promotion. Actually, nothing was being promoted except how far the line could be and would be pushed during the Attitude Era. In today's family friendly entertainment, PG-rated company, this is a moment that should probably be best left as a relic of the past, along with the stereotypical Japanese bad guys, not to mention the adult film star wrestler.
10 The Lex Express
After defeating Hulk Hogan at the King of the Ring, the mighty Yokozuna would challenge anyone and everyone who thought they were strong enough to meet him aboard the USS Intrepid in Manhattan, and all who wanted to could try to slam the WWE Champion on America's birthday. When everyone failed, the reborn-as-a-patriot-Narcissist Lex Luger would succeed in slamming the massive champion. That was all the cool part. The part worth forgetting is Lex Luger, "campaigning" across the country in a giant tour bus, dubbed The Lex Express, all to get a shot at the title at SummerSlam. The whole idea was silly. No one before or since has had to traverse the country as if he was running for public office just to get a shot at the World Title. Even worse was the ridiculous music video montage showcasing Luger around the country. The '80s movie style booking somehow didn't make its way to the actual title match and Luger would only win by countout and for some reason celebrate as if he won the big one. Perhaps if he actually won the WWE Championship, The Lex Express would have been a success, but poor booking makes this one a distant memory.
Other than eventually helping bringing the charismatic Xavier Woods to the main roster, everything else can be forgotten about Brodus Clay. First, as an NXT rookie, he was paired-up with Alberto Del Rio as his big heavy. While it could have been anyone, Brodus is also responsible for delivering the blow that sealed Edge's career. Then after being taken off of TV for a while, vignettes appeared detailing this menacing new force was coming to destroy everyone. Teased for weeks by Raw GM, John Laurinaitis, big bad Brodus debuted...as a giant dancing buffoon. Rikishi 2.0 this was not and Brodus while liked by fans was clearly not going to get over as much as his Attitude Era Samoan counterpart. Bringing back NXT coach Matt Bloom to feud with and eventually tag with Brodus didn't do the guy any favours either. Perhaps the guy could have been built up as a monster the likes not seen since King Kong Bundy, but instead the powers that be thought he'd be a better fit as someone who dances badly to a remix of Ernest Miller's old theme.
8 Brawl for All
When WWE Commentator and future Hall of Famer, JBL thought it'd be a good idea to start a Hardcore division, Vince Russo thought that it would be a good idea to take a whole lot of tough guys who perform in a choreographed fight sport to engage in a UFC meets amateur style wrestling tournament dubbed the Brawl for All. For several weeks, one or two segments on Monday Night Raw were dedicated to watching guys like The Godfather, JBL, Bart Gunn, and Dr. Death Steve Williams go toe-to-toe in actual fights on a pre-booked show. Rumor has it the whole thing was meant as a vehicle to get the late, great Dr. Death way over with the masses. But then the guy got cold-cocked by eventual winner, Bart Gunn. The real issue with the whole bad idea is that no matter how tough a lot these guys were, real hand-to-hand fighters they were not and injuries mounted up as the tournament went on. Not to mention Bart Gunn's victory reward was getting fed to real boxer, Butterbean at WrestleMania. Obviously the one-and-done tournament was proof enough that this concept should have been one of the many Vince put down before it made air.
7 The Anonymous Raw GM
Because the whole concept of a General Manager/on-air authority figure wasn't antiquated enough, WWE decided to try to spice up the concept with and Anonymous General Manager. With old GM Bret Hart being taken out by The Nexus, Vince decided the next GM would be a sight unseen, just a podium with a laptop that would be manned by a heel Michael Cole. Week in, week out the familiar ding of an email message would ring throughout the arena and Cole would deliver the message: "And I Quote..." along with whatever nonsense the Anonymous authority figure could conjure up. For a little over a year, the fans were "treated" to silly situations, including Edge doing what should have been done all along by trashing the laptop. Between an omnipotent laptop, a heel Michael Cole, and the eventual reveal that Hornswoggle, of all people, was the actual person behind the dings just made a year of Raw pretty unbearable to watch.
6 Fake Diesel and Razor
In 1996, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall packed up and left the WWE for WCW, truly igniting the Monday Night War, as the nWo helped WCW gain a foothold in the ratings. In the fall of the same year, Jim Ross was a heel with his own announce table and had made the announcement that he was bringing back Diesel and Razor Ramon to the WWE. Even in the days before everyone had the Internet, it still seemed a little odd that two guys who were firmly entrenched in the hottest angle the industry had seen in years would dump all of that to return to the WWE, while the company was in the midst of a creative slump. As it turns out, Nash and Hall weren't going anywhere, but Rick Bognar (Razor), and Glen Jacobs (Diesel), had debuted in their stead portraying the characters. Whether Vince had known it was going to be a bust or not is debatable, but many fans still felt duped by the ridiculousness of it all. Even if Bognar and Jacobs could pull off serviceable versions of the characters, it was still one of the worst angles of all time.
A list like this would not feel completed without mentioning Vince McMahon's attempt at reinventing the wheel as far as American football is concerned. Somehow, the Chairman had convinced NBC to go halfsies on starting their own football league, the XFL. Right off the bat, detractors had assumed that the games would be pre-determined, which thankfully they weren't. But as far as that wheel is concerned, not a lot of people seemed to care and ratings showed that fact. Gone were penalties for roughness and the coin toss to determine who got possession. In its place, a member from each team would scramble to the ball to determine possession. Sadly, the silly "human coin toss" wasn't even replaced when one player, Troy Stark was legit injured and eventually passed away from complications to repair that injury. In some ways, Vince needed the league to fail to bring the guy back down to Earth - he did after all recently become king of the entire wrestling industry. But it should be something that should be forgotten because the last thing any of us need is Vince trying to again shoehorn his way into another sport.
4 The New WCW
Much has been said about the maligned attempt to actually keep WCW around as a brand. Nevermind the fact that as a brand, WCW wasn't viable for nearly two years. But now under the WWE umbrella, we all know that sadly all of the big stars of WCW stayed home and waited for their whopping fat contracts to expire before making the jump to WWE. No one was next because Goldberg stayed home, the Vigilante was nearly 15 years and a stint in TNA away from facing Triple H at WrestleMania, and the nWo wasn't invading for about another year. Even the Nature Boy stayed at home, while all of WCW's lesser knowns and Booker T would be all the WWE got as far as stars go. The pairing with ECW as The Alliance barely salvaged what should have been wrestling's hottest angle ever, but the first time out of the gate, Buff Bagwell had one of the saddest debuts on Raw ever and officially sealed the fate of WCW ever existing again.
3 Mae Young Gives Birth
She's unsinkable, indomitable, and a trailblazing pioneer of wrestling in general, let alone women's wrestling. If anyone could rise from the grave to live their dream of wrestling when they turn 100, it would be the amazing Johnnie Mae Young. No one expected the legendary lady to come back during the Attitude Era and get over big time. Even at 77, the elder stateswoman would prove tougher than nails, taking guitar shots to the head and famously getting Powerbombed by Bubba Ray Dudley off the stage into a table, twice. Her greatest angle during this time was her "Mae" - December romance with Sexual Chocolate Mark Henry. Things got really weird when the Hall of Famer and the World's Strongest Man announced that they were expecting. One of strangest angles in wrestling history got a whole lot stranger when Mae actually gave birth on live television...to a slimy hand. Perhaps with Vince's sense of humour he wanted to have the second most famous hand on television. But the asinine bit ended right then and there, except for Raw 1000, when Mae would appear with her fully grown hand-son.
Right before WCW was officially sold to Vince McMahon, Paul Heyman walked onto Raw, put on a headset and began to terrorize Jim Ross the same way he used to when in WCW. Heyman debuting signaled the death knell for the original ECW. But unlike WCW, the demand for ECW never faded and in 2005, under Heyman and Tommy Dreamer's watchful eye, the company was brought back for One Night Stand. In 2006, they did it again, only this time it was a launch pad for a fully-fledged third brand. Sadly, it was all a bait and switch routine. Heyman and Dreamer put together a fantastic Pay-Per-View that encapsulated all that was ECW, while launching it as a WWE-branded enterprise. But very quickly the whole project came unglued. Gone was pretty much every single aesthetic that made the original ECW so beloved and in its place was was a slightly better version of Jakked or Velocity, instead of a viable third brand. Everything that NXT has become over the past few years is what the WWE version of ECW should have blossomed into, but quickly Heyman was stripped of any kind of creative control – imagine if your baby was now under the care of a new father and you were employed by said father, so your opinion might not always, if ever be the way new dad wants to go…that was the debacle of WWECW.
1 Roman Reigns: Top Babyface
Our number one is something that plenty of fans want to forget, but it’s also something that most importantly, Vince McMahon needs to give up the ghost on. Despite chants of 'you can’t wrestle,' first and foremost – the guy certainly can go. He’s not as polished as some of his constituents, but that has always been part of his swagger. He’s a Samoan force of nature. But the guy simply can’t lead the company as top babyface when barely any fans are behind him in such a role. The powers that be took the ovation he received at the 2014 Royal Rumble and mistook that for the crowd loves Roman, as opposed to just not wanting to see Batista win the event. Unfortunately for Roman, his recent Wellness suspension should hopefully quell most of Vince’s desires to see the Samoan Badass at the top as his figurehead. Bottom line is that while he is good, it’s just too clear that he is the chosen one, and that seldom goes over well with fans nowadays when it feels undeserved. With all due respect to Reigns, he has not earned the respect of the fans the way that his world-traveled coworkers have.