In this day and age, just about any professional wrestling fan is well aware that sports entertainment isn’t a legitimate sport, nor are the personas that wrestlers put on representative of their actual thoughts or personalities. However, within the framework of a business that has writers crafting storylines and bookers dictating the outcomes of matches, there are nonetheless those time when things to off the rails. This is even the case for WWE, the largest wrestling company in the world, notorious for the strictest scripting and micromanagement of talent.
Once you stop and think about it, it’s not unreasonable that matches and promos would veer off course. While bookers decide outcomes and sometimes finishing moves, and agents help work out the mechanics of a match, there’s still a lot left up to the talents at hand to either work out plans in the back or call things on the fly. In a business so built on physicality, it’s not unusual for something to go wrong and change the course of a story WWE aimed to tell. On the mic, newer wrestlers often have to memorize lines, while veterans have more latitude. Regardless, someone can forget or mis-deliver a line and really change the tone of what was written for them.
Sometimes going off script results in an awkward segment and sometimes it necessitates bigger changes in plans. Other times, it can even work out for the best, as something unexpected and good comes to light. This articles takes a look at 15 incidents from the past few months of a WWE segment going off script.
15. Roman Reigns Forgets His Line Opposite John Cena
The build to No Mercy 2017 was an unexpectedly heated one, as WWE opted to hotshot two dream rivalries for what was generally considered a B-level PPV. Least expected—because it looked like a surefire eventual WrestleMania match—was rising face of the company Roman Reigns facing off with the incumbent, John Cena. The two had a heated war of words over social media and on the mic leading up to their match.
The promos between the two were not only mean spirited, but walked the line of making allusions to real life criticisms of one another. Cena generally got the better of these exchanges, most notably during a contract signing staged for Raw in which Reigns visibly forgot what he was supposed to say, and Cena openly called him on it. While the moment was a bit uncomfortable, it also may have gotten more attention and more heat for the rivalry because of how it actually played out.
14. Braun Strowman Switches Garbage Trucks
The wild main event to TLC 2017 included a schism developing between Braun Strowman and his teammates, before they wound up beating him down and throwing him in the back of a garbage truck. Strowman would be missing from TV for a week to follow before returning when he climbed out the back of a garbage truck to confront The Miz, one of his saboteurs.
As a number of careful observers noted, it wasn’t the same garbage truck that drove Strowman for his return—it wasn’t even the same color. While it would, obviously, stretch anyone’s belief to suggest Strowman had actually been in the back of a truck for a week, returning this way brought up different questions. First and foremost, why would Strowman decide to get into another garbage truck just so he could climb out and storm the ring? The choice wound up raising more questions than it was worth for a silly way of making an entrance.
13. Paige Is Nervous To Be Back
Paige had a tumultuous year-plus away from the ring in WWE. During this time, she not only underwent neck surgery, but also endured Wellness Policy suspensions, had compromising videos and photos of her leaked to the public, and had a publicly volatile relationship with Alberto Del Rio. For a while it was unclear if Paige would ever return to a WWE ring again. She did come back, though, and got slotted into a featured spot as the leader of the new Absolution stable.
Paige got a big reaction from the crowd when she first made her surprise return on Raw, but spoke with an unmistakable lilt of nerves in her first promo. She copped to feeling nervous in comments made afterward, and that’s understandable enough given her big opportunity, and appearing in front of a live crowd again after a long time away. However, the tremor in her voice as she proclaimed she was back undermined the badass new direction for her character, veering off course of what WWE had designed for her.
12. Elias Gives Finn Balor An Ugly Guitar Shot
While Finn Balor’s main occupation for the summer into the fall was feuding with Bray Wyatt, he had a brief program, mostly on Raw opposite Elias during the summer months. While Balor could generally be considered a different echelon of star, the dynamic worked as WWE still tried to figure out how to use The Demon King since returning from injury, and while Elias was still a fresh face.
The program included a Raw match in which Elias delivered the old Honky Tonk Man/Jeff Jarrett spot of smashing a guitar over Balor’s head. Guitar shots, while not the safest, can look and sound terrific when the instrument properly explodes over someone’s head. In this case, the shot just looked stiff and awkward as the guitar bent and crumpled but didn’t really give, and it looked as though Balor may have really been hurt in an uncomfortable moment.
11. Rollins And Ambrose Hug Too Soon
The summer of 2017 saw the slow reunion of Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose as former running buddies turned arch rivals, inching back toward friendship. In particular, they banded together to even the odds against The Miztourage, and then The Bar before finally working together to clear the ring of their adversaries. After weeks of teasing the old Shield fist bump, with one man or the other always backing away, they finally did it in a terrific moment. Less than a week later, they teamed up to capture their first tag titles as a pair.
WWE’s artful, patient build nearly went awry, however, when the two worked together briefly in a post match brawl only to hug one another. It’s a natural enough physical movement that faces engage in after succeeding together. It felt off for characters still struggling to regain their trust with one another, though, and rumor has it that management was very upset with the pair for mistakenly going off script.
10. Things Get Ugly For Cesaro’s Teeth
Cesaro and Sheamus—The Bar—have emerged as one of the best tag teams to emerge out of the trope of two guys thrown together, who can’t get along. They’ve gelled into a cohesive unit, highlighted by their inspired matches with The Hardy Boyz and The Shield.
The Bar dropped the Raw Tag Team Championship to Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose at SummerSlam 2017, and got a rematch at No Mercy. Both matches were fantastic, but the latter is bound to go down infamy for a key spot in which Cesaro smashed into the ring post. It looked as though he’d knocked out his front two teeth, and commentary tried to sell that he’d had them kicked out. The reality would come out later that the teeth were impacted—smashed up into his gums. It’s a testament to the Swiss Superman’s toughness that he stuck it out and finished the match without incident.
9. Daniel Bryan’s Music Doesn’t Hit
Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn recently invoked the ethos of Daniel Bryan’s “Yes! Movement,” in choosing to occupy SmackDown, wearing “Yep!” t-shirts. Like Bryan had railed against The Authority, Owens and Zayn claimed that Shane McMahon conspired against them. It was a cute enough spin on Bryan’s history and befitting Owens and Zayn’s heel characters. The only problem? When Bryan made his entrance to confront the heel duo, his dramatic appearance was undermined when his music didn’t hit. The result was awkward and off, throwing off an otherwise compelling segment among three great performers.
The segment just goes to show how much WWE has engrained entrance music into fans’ psyches as a part of every major star’s arrival. Without it, the best laid plans fell off course for this big promo segment en route to the Clash of Champions PPV.
8. Stephanie McMahon Mixes Up Her Brother’s Name
Survivor Series 2017 was focused on the storyline of the Raw roster warring with the SmackDown roster. It was a fun angle that underscored the degree to which the roster split was working, because seeing stars from opposing brands interact really did feel special. The story did also call on the performers involved to keep track of a lot of moving parts. Stephanie McMahon’s role included supporting the Raw roster, undermining Kurt Angle as her general manager and Jason Jordan as his kayfabe son, endorsing her husband Triple H to join the team, and keeping her brother and the SmackDown team in her crosshairs.
Maybe it’s all the names and enemies on different fronts, but in an awkward moment, Stephanie referred to her own brother Shane as “Kurt.” Surely, she just had Angle on her brain as she cut her multifaceted promo, but the off-script mistake was nonetheless confusing and distracting.
7. Randy Orton Almost Kills A Singh
As WWE opted to push Jinder Mahal as a world champion in 2017, there was the challenge of him shifting quite suddenly from the lower mid card to the main event scene. As such, it was important for him to have a reason he could suddenly be competitive with better established stars, and having the Singh Brothers back him up was one of the main tools the company used.
The Singhs never had much chance to get over on their own, but were effective distractions and nuisances to help Mahal steal wins. Randy Orton got pretty stiff with the smaller guys, though, most notably including an ugly throw into a table on one after which he visible winced because it was such a bad looking bump. To their credit, the Singhs seemed to embrace their role as cannon fodder to get Mahal over.
6. Paul Heyman Doesn’t Send His Congratulations To The Engaged Couple
In the build to Survivor Series 2017, and a champion vs. champion match between Brock Lesnar and AJ Styles, Paul Heyman served in his typical role as hype man. He talked about how Lesnar would dominate, per usual, only to have the most unexpected distraction from his promo. In the live audience, a man proposed to his girlfriend, and when she agreed, a segment of the crowd erupted in a “She said yes!” chant.
Heyman veered off the charted course for his promo, demonstrating his quick thinking and oratory skills. He seamlessly shifted to the happy couple, claiming that she’d only said yes because she’d never been close to Lesnar. He went on to warn anyone against interrupting him again. This was a fun heelish moment, facilitated by Heyman’s experience and unparalleled ability to speak off the cuff while staying in character.
5. The Hardys Get Screwed In An Iron Man Match
At the Great Balls of Fire PPV, The Hardy Boyz faced off with The Bar for the Raw Tag Team Championship. The match included a moment in which Matt seemed to score a pin on Sheamus, but were not awarded a fall, much to the confusion of the crowd.
It seems likely that two things happened here as referee’s first moment to check the pin looked like a count, but wasn’t, so as the crowd chanted along for the one-two-three, they were actually a beat ahead. It also looked as though Cesaro may have been slow to break up the pin. Regardless, what seems to have been intended as a run of the mill false fall turned into the most talked about and controversial moment in the match after these small mistakes veered off script.
4. The Shane McMahon-AJ Styles Promo Snafu
WWE constructed an interesting three-way program in the late stages of the summer. Shane McMahon was playing an authority figure and a face who had done battle with AJ Styles months earlier and had rising tensions opposite Owens. Styles and Owens were mostly feuding with each other, but the Phenomenal One still had residual tension with the boss’s son, and Owens felt Shane screwed him more than once.
In the heat of this issue, Styles and McMahon got into a verbal back and forth in the ring, only to be interrupted by Owens. Only Owens’s arrival didn’t happen on cue, as the men in the ring seemed to stall, waiting for something to happen for an awkward few seconds before Owens’s music hit. McMahon and Styles each seemed a little thrown and a heated moment lost some of its sizzle here.
3. Kurt Angle Accidentally Drops An F Bomb
Kurt Angle is generally regarded as one of the greatest all around stars in wrestling history, having successfully transitioned from a star studded amateur career to picking sports entertainment incredibly quickly. Angle enjoyed longevity, too, working a full time schedule for a solid 15 years, including more time with TNA than WWE, before returning home to the company he started with in early 2017.
Angle made immediate sense as Raw’s general manager for his popularity with fans, this talking skills, and the credibility that came with his stardom. Even a star of his caliber isn’t above the occasional misspoken word, however. Angle got a little tongue tied hyping the SummerSlam main event Fatal Fourway, saying we should all “look forward to Sunday” but instead saying something like “foo* forward,” which came across more like an f-bomb than the word he’d intended. Paul Heyman sold the slip as such, recoiling at the mention of the word in an unintentionally funny moment amidst a very serious program.
2. The Ball Family Is A Disaster
LaVar Ball–the patriarch of the basketball playing Ball family that sent Lonzo to the Lakers this year—was out to publicize his family in force this past year. While his main objective may have been setting up Lonzo for the NBA Draft, younger brother Lamelo came along for a guest appearance on Monday Night Raw.
Celebrity appearances on WWE programming tend to be uneven. The visitors have varying levels of professionalism and familiarity with the WWE product. The Balls made for one of the most disastrous WWE guest spots ever. LaVar came across as a bit overly aggressive to the point of being a bit embarrassing, while it was LaMelo who’d steal the show by ad libbing his encouragement of Dean Ambrose to attack The Miz by saying, “beat that [n-word]’s ass.”
Reportedly, WWE had planned for the Balls to play a part at ringside for the next segment but scrapped all plans immediately. In the follow up, WWE released a statement apologizing and claiming no responsibility for LaMelo’s words.
1. Kofi Kingston Struggles With Geometry
The New Day and The Usos had a tremendous feud in 2017, including a number of excellent matches, highlighted by their Hell in a Cell showdown. The two teams even engaged in a rap battle on SmackDown. While this sort of contest doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, it’s a tribute to the big personalities and talking skills of all parties involved that it ended up being a decent enough segment.
There was one regrettable moment, however, as Kofi Kingston delivered a line that clearly hadn’t been professionally written for him, suggesting that The Usos were heading to a stop sign by describing it as “a red hexagon.” A stop sign is, of course, actually shaped as an octagon. The mistake may have gone by unnoticed, but The Usos expressed confusion, and Kingston doubled down, suggesting maybe they didn’t follow what he was saying because they hadn’t gone to college.
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