WWE blurs the line between fiction and reality more than any other form of entertainment. This is most likely a consequence of having spent so much of the industry's early years attempting to convince the public everything we saw was real.
This is where the term "marks" comes from. It was a derogatory term meant to indicate the fans were actually being conned into believing the fake wrestling show. The term has continued to be used in the modern era as a way of insulting someone who is found to be taking the business too seriously. "Oh he's just a mark for himself" would be a comment someone like Shawn Michaels would make about someone like Bret Hart as a result of taking the wrestling business too seriously. As it turns out, many wrestlers are "marks" for themselves. This has caused numerous bizarre events to take place both on-camera and backstage. Many of the entries in this article involve a wrestler in someway taking themselves too seriously.
Wrestling is also able to cover up many of their real mistakes by claiming they are fake as well. Some entries in this article involve a wrestling match or segment going completely off the rails, only for the company to claim they planned it out that way all along.
15 Real - Royal Rumble 2005 Ending
Much of what happened at the end of the 2005 Royal Rumble match was very much real. The match ended when John Cena attempted to counter a Batista Bomb into a Headscissors. The pair botched the spot and they both ended up spilling over the top rope. Things would take a bizarre shift once Vince came out.
Vince McMahon stormed out from the back to re-start the match but blew out both of his quads on the way. He then had to sit in the ring and order the match to be re-started. His quad injury and his instructions to Cena and Batista to re-start the match were all very much real. Vince's real-life injury is something that the WWE will want us to forget about, especially with it taking place at such a crucial moment.
14 Real - Jake Roberts' Cobra Tearing A Chunk Out of Macho Man's Arm
After Macho Man had been defeated in a career versus career match at the previous WrestleMania, Jake Roberts had to do something to cause Savage to come after him. On one episode taped for WWF Superstars, Macho had enough and ran to the ring to confront Jake. Jake was able to subdue him and tied Macho up in the ropes. He then brought out his cobra who proceeded to bite Savage on the bicep.
Even though the snake was not venomous (its venom had been removed), Jake would later say he had trouble getting the snake to let go of Macho's arm. The result was many wrestling fans watched a real snake eat a chunk out of Macho Man's arm. Surely, it's a real moment we'll never see again.
13 Scripted - Hulk Hogan's Comments at Bash at the Beach 2000
Contrary to popular belief, everything Hollywood Hulk Hogan said at Bash of the Beach 2000 was scripted. Not everything that happened at the event was scripted mind you, but Hogan's involvement was.
For those fortunate enough to not have been watching this abysmal show, Jeff Jarrett laid down during his title match with Hogan and allowed Hulk to pin him. Hogan then took his title belt and left. His understanding was that he would come back a short while later and claim to still be the real WCW Champion. Hogan and Eric Bischoff would later say that they felt the angle had gone well. Then they would hear later in the show, Vince Russo made some comments which they were not aware he was going to make. This led to a lawsuit between Hogan and Russo. The angle never played out as Hogan and Bischoff believed it would.
12 Real - Vince Russo's Comments at Bash at the Beach 2000
Unlike Hollywood Hogan's comments at the event, the ones made by Vince Russo were very much real. The lawsuit they led to was also very real. Vince Russo was a big proponent of breaking down the 4th wall in wrestling. His plot lines and gimmicks frequently allude to the fact that wrestling is fake. He made this abundantly clear at Bash at the Beach 2000 as well.
Russo talked openly at the event about how Hogan had creative control in his contract and had decided he was going to win the World Title that night so there was nothing anybody in the company could do. Russo buried Hogan and said he would never be back in the company. His comments were clearly based on his real beliefs, which is what Hogan would later contend in court.
11 Real - Matt Hardy, Lita, and Edge Storyline
There was nothing fake about the Matt Hardy, Lita, and Edge love triangle. One can be forgiven for believing it was all a work at the time, however.
At the first One Night Stand ECW Pay-Per-View, Paul Heyman became the first person to mention the name Matt Hardy since he had been fired just weeks prior. Hardy was fired for making public comments about his longtime girlfriend Lita, having an affair with Edge. Fans had become aware of the real behind the scenes story and began chanting for Matt Hardy during Edge and Lita segments.
WWE would respond by hiring Matt back and turning the real-life storyline into an on-screen one. That everything happened exactly how a fake wrestling angle would have was purely coincidental, however. Now some 13 years later, the issue seems to have finally been put to rest.
10 Scripted - Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman
One part of the famous Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman rivalry that gets overlooked is that Kaufman actually presented the idea to Vince McMahon first. Kaufman had wanted to do the whole angle on Vince McMahon's programming but Vince declined. He then made contact with Memphis wrestling and the rest is history.
At the time, the wrestling business made an effort to pretend to the public that it was a legitimate sport. Andy Kaufman always created the impression that everything he was doing was a legitimate sport even when he was wrestling women for the inter-gender championship. That's why it was never revealed that Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman were actually friends until it was mentioned in the Man in the Moon movie based on Kaufman's life.
9 Real - Alexa Bliss Drafted to Main Roster
Alexa Bliss was drafted to SmackDown as part of the WWE draft in 2016. This was right at the beginning of the second brand extension era - needing more talent up on their main roster.
Everything about Alexa Bliss' reaction on July 19, 2016, was real. She had not been informed beforehand that she was going to be drafted to the main roster and few thought it would be the case. Bliss was not one of the featured female performers in NXT at the time and was spending most of her time managing Blake and Murphy. Of course, everything would work out amazing for Bliss who would go on to win the SmackDown Women's Title just four months later. As of this writing, Bliss is the current Raw Women's Champion and has enjoyed a successful year and a half on the main roster.
8 Real - Jim Ross Drafted to SmackDown
In 2008, well-respected broadcaster, Jim Ross, was drafted from Monday Night Raw to SmackDown. Much like what would later be the case with Alexa Bliss, Jim Ross was not informed beforehand that he would be switching brands.
After his name appeared on the screen indicating he was SmackDown bound, Ross was heard saying the line "I'm standing up". One could perhaps assume that a high-ranking WWE official was in his ear at the time telling him to stand up.
While Ross would actually go on to give SmackDown a more important feel, at the time it could've been seen as a demotion for Ross, especially considering how he'd been treated by the company in the past. His reaction, including responding on air to comments made in his headset - was very much real.
7 7. Scripted - Vince Russo's WCW
When Vince Russo accepted the job as head writer for WCW in 1999, he set about to destroy wrestling's forth wall as best he could. Russo's booking frequently admitted to wrestling being fake and blurred reality and fiction storylines.
While these types of gimmicks and storylines can be interesting when done sparingly, Russo really went to town with them. It went so far that Russo was going to put the WCW championship on MMA fighter Tank Abbott. That's about the time when Turner executives decided that maybe they had made a mistake in hiring Russo.
Russo’s time as head booker for WCW is widely regarded as one of the worst periods of wrestling history. Some have even gone as far as to say that Russo was sent to WCW by Vince McMahon in order to destroy it.
6 Real - The Brawl for All
Unfortunately, the Brawl for All was real. The actual contests were real but WWE fully intended for the tournament to turn into something fake.
The year was 1998 and while the curtain had been pulled back on the wrestling industry, there still wasn't a lot of backstage knowledge out there at the time. Fans knew the Brawl for All was different but at the time doubt in its authenticity existed, even if said doubt was mistaken.
What WWE had intended was for "Dr. Death" Steve Williams to win the tournament. WWE felt with his amateur wrestling background he would just walk through the competition. That's not what happened, however, and instead, Bart Gunn knocked him out in the Quarter-Finals en route to winning the tournament. Butterbean then promptly knocked Gunn right out of the promotion at WrestleMania.
5 Real - Mark Henry Enters the Elimination Chamber Early
In 2015, WWE held an Elimination Chamber match for the vacant Intercontinental Championship. During the match, Wade Barrett tackled Dolph Ziggler into the pod occupied by Mark Henry. The impact broke down the glass and allowed Mark Henry to enter the match early. What fans didn't know was that this was all unplanned and Henry was not supposed to enter the match early. While seemingly Henry could have just stayed in his pod, he evidently felt that was too unrealistic. Henry's early involvement in the match necessitated some improvisation from the others involved.
What followed was confusion and Dolph Ziggler badly trying to gain control of the match and get it back to the script. There were some awkward moments before that could happen, however. Ryback would go on to win what would become one of the least enjoyed Elimination Chamber matches of all time.
4 Scripted - Chris Jericho and Kenny Omega Twitter Feud
In October, Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho engaged in a Twitter beef. With Omega being an NJPW guy and Chris Jericho being a WWE guy, nobody felt the beef would lead anywhere.
Then at Power Struggle 2017, Chris Jericho appeared on the big screen and challenged Omega to a match at Wrestle Kingdom on January 4th, 2018. While fans had thought Omega and Jericho were engaging in a beef on Twitter between two guys from different companies, they were actually building up an NJPW storyline. Even the most learned fans were fooled.
As of this writing, Jericho is expected to return to WWE in 2018 and his match with Omega is believed to be a one-time deal. According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Jericho was motivated to be involved in a match similar to Mayweather vesus McGregor, where fans believe it could never happen.
3 Real - Brock Lesnar Pummelling Randy Orton in SummerSlam Main Event
In the main event of SummerSlam 2016, Brock Lesnar beat down Randy Orton's head with a flurry of elbows. The result was the match being stopped in under 12 minutes and Randy Orton laying in a pool of his own blood.
While certain parts of this incident were staged, what was entirely real were the elbows Lesnar was using to crush Randy Orton's skull. WWE has a "no blood" policy at the moment, which means any blood that does occur in a match has to be "accidental". This means that using a razor blade as previously been done in wrestling was out of the question - it would confirm the blood in the match was done on purpose.
Instead, it was agreed that Lesnar would open up Orton "the hard way". On the plus side, Lesnar was able to open Randy Orton up, but on the flipside, he may have done his job a little too well.
2 Real - Daniel Puder Puts Kimura on Kurt Angle
On an episode of SmackDown in November 2004, Daniel Puder put Kurt Angle in an awkward position. This was during the fourth season of Tough Enough and Kurt was serving as an instructor of sorts.
Angle announced in the segment that the contestants were going to have a shoot match with him. Angle was probably assuming that the contestants knew this meant an amateur wrestling bout and not an MMA one. Daniel Puder didn't get that memo.
Puder ended up putting Angle in a Kimura Armlock while Angle was on top. The quick-thinking referee decided to count Daniel's shoulders to the mat and award the bout to Angle. That Puder's shoulders weren't actually down was another matter. Angle was said to be furious backstage, and with reason, the angle could have potentially broken his arm.
1 Scripted - Live Attendance Figures
When Vince McMahon proudly announced that WrestleMania III had broken the largest indoor attendance record, most people just took him at his word. The company announced that the event for March 29, 1987, drew an attendance over 93,000. As it turns out, many people believe that number is not real.
Some say the real number is closer to 75,000, though others contend getting close to 90,000 was not outside the realm of possibility.
WWE was found to be inflating their live attendance numbers for WrestleMania 33 as well. According to a report from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, WrestleMania 33 was attended by 63,000, while WWE claimed the attendance to be over 75,000. While WWE has never officially admitted to inflating their attendance numbers, some say they defend the act of doing so by saying the live attendance figures are part of the entertainment factor.