The number of people that provide input into a wrestling match on WWE television is shocking. Of course, the wrestlers in the match have to give their thoughts since they are doing the work. Vince McMahon is the one making the decisions so his vision is what everyone follows on how to tell the story. Various other backstage minds such as writers and producers will try to add ideas into the mix. One specific agent is tied to every single match. That makes it even worse when something goes wrong in a match on live television for the biggest promotion in the world.
Wrestlers make mistakes or get hit with bad luck just like the rest of us do at times in our own jobs. The fact that they only get one take on live television makes it even more likely for errors to occur. We'll take a look at recent incidents over the past decade that featured WWE stars ending up in a bad spot. These matches all had things that broke the script whether it was a screwed up finish, an injury or talents going into business for themselves. We'll break it all down with the fifteen instances of WWE matches going off script in recent times.
15 Sami Zayn & KO Sent Home
The most recent popular instance of a match going off scripted saw Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn get suspended by WWE. Zayn faced off with Kofi Kingston on an episode of Smackdown during WWE’s United Kingdom tour. The follow up of the match saw an awkward moment where Owens and Zayn ducked out before getting attacked by New Day.
WWE punished Owens and Zayn due to claiming the duo went into business for themselves by refusing to take the scripted beat down. Owens and Zayn claim they were told otherwise and were not supposed to get attacked. WWE sent both Owens and Zayn home early from the United Kingdom tour as a way to let them know this would not be tolerated. Both guys seem to be back in their prior storyline so the punishment was only for a couple of days.
14 A.J. Styles/Luke Harper Battle Royal Controversy
It feels like such a long time ago, but Luke Harper was in the WWE Championship picture earlier this year. A battle royal on SmackDown with the number one contender spot on the line featured Harper and A.J. Styles both eliminated at the same time. That was supposed to be the story as each man had a referee declare them the victor.
However, the replay footage clearly showed that Harper won the match due to Styles' feet hitting the floor first. WWE went through with the storyline trying to convince fans that both guys touched the floor at the same time. Styles won a singles match between the two the following week to get the future title shot. This was one of the final relevant moments for Harper before he fell lower down the card until he was off television.
13 Drew McIntyre TakeOver Injury
The tremendous NXT Championship bout between Drew McIntyre and Andrade “Cien” Almas at NXT TakeOver: War Games may have been the best match during Survivor Series weekend. Almas shocked the world by winning the NXT Championship in a match that very few expected to have a title change. Both men put on a great performance, but the ending was not great for McIntyre.
Drew suffered a serious injury and you could see the pain on his face after the match. WWE doctors were checking on McIntyre for quite some time as Almas celebrated his win on the stage. McIntyre looked heartbroken knowing he will likely be in need of surgery and will miss some time from the ring. Some people believe that wasn’t supposed to be the finish, but Drew ended it early due to knowing he couldn’t compete any longer.
12 Nia Injures Bayley To Ruin SummerSlam Plans
The Women’s Division has evolved into finally being treated with respect in recent years. Two of the ladies to benefit from this change are active stars Bayley and Nia Jax. Both ladies are favorites of WWE management but a match between the two in August went awry. Bayley won it to become the number one contender for a Raw Women’s Championship match at Summerslam against Alexa Bliss.
A botch in the match saw Jax accidentally injure Bayley to keep her out of action for a couple of months. WWE had to change the booking for Sasha Banks to face Bliss at SummerSlam. Bayley returned faster than most expected, but it looked awful at the time. Nia has been accused of being reckless in the ring in some of her other matches. This was a horrible example of how plans can change for a wrestler getting injured.
11 Braun Giving Triple H Another Powerslam
Unscripted moments could be positive in the WWE landscape in the right setting. The end of Survivor Series 2017 featured Triple H turning on Kurt Angle and upsetting Braun Strowman in the process. Strowman destroyed Triple H to a big ovation from the crowd shocked at what they were witnessing. You could see them call an audible in the ring after Strowman hit his first running powerslam on Triple H.
Chants of “one more time” saw Triple H get back up faster than most would follow a running powerslam. It was done to make the moment even bigger for Braun giving the fans what they want. There is no real timetable as to when or if Strowman faces Triple H in a match, but the two powerslams helped establish it as a story that could lead to a big attraction.
10 Chris Jericho and Charles Robinson Battle Following Neville’s Injury
Neville endured heartbreak in 2016 when suffering an injury at the worst possible time during a Raw match with Chris Jericho. It was a few weeks before WrestleMania 32 and caused Neville to miss the Intercontinental Championship ladder match on the big show. However, there was more controversy involved with Jericho and referee Charles Robinson.
Jericho tried to get a quick pinfall to end the match, but Robinson didn’t realize what was going on. This led to Jericho getting into Robinson’s face and shoving him to get disqualified. Robinson cursed in reaction to Jericho continuously pushing him around. It was a shocking incident to see on Raw and Neville’s injury got lost in the shuffle. Robinson appeared on Jericho’s podcast shortly after as both men cleared the air and are still friends today.
9 Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor: The Classic That Could Have Been
NXT TakeOver: Dallas featured the main event of Finn Balor defending the NXT Championship against Samoa Joe the night before WrestleMania 32. The match started hot with Joe getting accidentally cut open with blood pouring out of his head. It excited the crowd as both men started off an incredible pace along with Joe’s crimson mask.
Unfortunately, WWE stayed true to their rule of wanting blood banned from matches. The match would get stopped numerous times as doctors trained to prevent Joe from bleeding. Balor and Joe showed all the makings of a special match with an incredible start, but the doctors stepping in prevented it from hitting that next gear. Despite the match being good, you have to wonder what would have happened if not for the doctors having to break up the momentum.
8 Kevin Owens Accidentally Wins The United States Championship
Battleground 2017 featured a bizarre moment between Kevin Owens and A.J. Styles. Owens defeated Styles to win the United States Championship via a unique pin fall. The referee counted three due to having to treat it like a shoot, but the finish of the match was to have Styles retain the title he won shortly before that match. Owens dropped it right back to Styles in a triple threat match on the following SmackDown.
The WWE 365 special looking at the past year of Owens’ work confirmed that the finish at Battleground was a screw up by the two wrestlers. WWE easily switched the title back to Styles and continued with the story. It wasn’t a big mistake in the overall scheme of things but could be considered one of the most embarrassing unscripted moments since it was a drastic difference from the intended finish.
7 Alex Riley Accidentally Eliminates Himself In Royal Rumble
The worst instances of a match going wrong in unscripted manner will come when the wrestler screws it up and hurts the overall plan involving others. Alex Riley learned this the hard way at the 2011 Royal Rumble. This moment saw Riley accidentally slip off the ring apron to eliminate himself from the Royal Rumble match earlier than expected.
Riley was supposed to play a role in The Miz eliminating John Cena to set up their WrestleMania XXVII match months later. Instead, Riley had to come back out from the back to distract Cena for Miz to get the elimination. Cena was reportedly the biggest critic of Riley backstage for years after this moment to hurt his standing in the company. Riley’s mistake here may have screwed up his entire career in the long haul.
6 Cameron Forgetting How To Pin
Cameron was one of the worst wrestlers to be employed by WWE in recent years. The company featured her on Raw and SmackDown because she was a part of the first season of Total Divas. Sadly, her lack of in-ring skills hurt her in every aspect of the business. Cameron wasn’t good enough to compete with the other wrestlers and WWE removed her from Total Divas since her reality life wasn’t that exciting either.
One all-time worst moment for Cameron came during a match against former tag team partner Naomi. Cameron tried to get the pin fall cover despite the fact that Naomi was face first on the mat. The yells from Cameron at the referee to count it made the world realize she forgot how pin falls worked. Cameron would never rebound as she spent the rest of her career in developmental before getting released.
5 Charlotte Fails To Get The NXT Win
The final NXT match for Charlotte Flair took place in a Fatal Four Way match against Becky Lynch, Emma and Dana Brooke on an episode taped before the first huge TakeOver Brooklyn show. Fans were stunned when Emma somehow won the victory when Lynch was unable to kick out of a pin fall. Becky was hit hard before the pin and Dana blew the spot by forgetting to break it up in time.
WWE has trained their referees to count the pin as if it is real since they sometimes don’t know the finish and it is the wrestlers’ jobs to get it done correctly. Emma winning was the final result as Charlotte looked upset at the match not going according to plan. Both Charlotte and Becky destroyed the heels after the match getting their moves in. Charlotte’s theme played with her standing tall despite not winning as planned.
4 A.J. Styles' Pants Rip When He Wins WWE Championship
A.J. Styles splitting his pants in the main event of a PPV would have been a humiliating memory for most men, but it just showed how great he was. Despite the embarrassing moment likely bothering him for the rest of the match, Styles put out an incredible performance to defeat Dean Ambrose at TLC 2016 to win the WWE Championship.
The moment was forced to become part of the memory as cameras couldn’t escape filming the huge rip in the back of Styles’ pants. Luckily, the match turned out to be an outstanding bout that cemented A.J. as the best wrestler in the company. Styles joked about the mishap following the show but all anyone wanted to talk about was how great a wrestler he was. This botch truly summed up the greatness of A.J. Styles in the least likely of ways.
3 Gail Kim Eliminating Herself From Battle Royal
One unscripted moment featured Gail Kim ending her WWE career in a shocking way. WWE would treat the Women’s Division with little respect back in 2011. Gail realized her career was going nowhere and requested a release from her contract to head back to Impact Wrestling shortly after. Kim decided to eliminate herself from a Battle Royal rather than let another woman throw her out of the ring.
According to Gail, no one backstage even cared and she was granted her release. Kim continued her career in Impact adding more accolades as a rare bright spot in that company. WWE likely would have been livid if a male wrestler did the same thing. It shows how little effort and care went into the booking of the women’s matches.
2 Randy Orton Buries Kofi Kingston
One of the biggest mysteries in WWE is why Kofi Kingston’s push was halted in 2009. Kingston had an incredible moment at Madison Square Garden putting Randy Orton through a table. It was the perfect moment to elevate someone into the main event picture. Kofi even scored a big pin for his team in a Survivor Series match by pinning Orton on television to watch the match.
A match between the two on Raw a few weeks later ended in completely different fashion. Orton was seen visibly upset yelling the word “stupid” at Kingston. Following this incident, Kofi moved back into the mid-card picture for a long time treading water until New Day formed. Orton got upset at Kingston blowing a spot in the match and this seemed to convince management Kofi wasn’t ready for the big spotlight.
1 Randy Orton/Brock Lesnar SummerSlam disaster
SummerSlam 2016 ended in a horrifying manner when Brock Lesnar decimated Randy Orton. Fans were visibly uncomfortable as Orton was bleeding buckets after getting busted open the hard way from the shots of Lesnar. It was different from anything in WWE as Lesnar was delivering stiff shots with the strongest of intent to the head of a brutalized Orton in the middle of the ring.
WWE ended the match via referee stoppage. Chris Jericho almost got into a fight with Brock backstage when confronting him for the way he was recklessly going after Orton. Recent interviews have shown Orton didn’t appreciate how the match went. No one can blame him as it looked more like a wild animal attack rather than a wrestling match. Lesnar breaking the script with extra hard hits led to a scary moment for WWE.