Things don’t always go out exactly the way we plan them, and this applies to the smallest personal decision all the way up to business executives making moves that cost billions of dollars. Somewhere in between your plan to save up for a new car and a Fortune 500 CEO’s plot to handle a massive merger are the blueprints Vince McMahon spends each day crafting for his WWE Universe. Like any other theoretical concept getting put into action, some of McMahon’s ideas don’t have the same effect on his audience as expected.
In fact, given the volatile nature of McMahon’s own psyche and the way his fans react to it, there have been more than a few instances when the WWE Universe reacted in a manner polar opposite to what the penholders were hoping for. The good news for McMahon is that nine times out of ten, he and his writers have been able to adapt to whatever bizarre responses the audience has thrown at them. Of course, that other 10% can be pretty difficult to watch, as the WWE executive can at times be unforgiving to an audience that isn’t doing what he wants them to.
For better or worse, one thing that remains true about WWE is that no matter what, it’s some of the most unpredictable television out there. Luckily, this fact can never change, no matter how hard McMahon tries to fight against it—his fans wouldn’t allow it, even if he tried his damnedest. Keep reading to learn about 15 ridiculous WWE mistakes that achieved the exact opposite of what was intended.
15. Brock Lesnar Makes Triple H Tap Out
Depending on the given storyline, Triple H is either an evil tyrant using his power to be the biggest villain in modern day WWE, or a valiant hero genuinely fighting for what he considers “best for business.” Back in 2012, the latter persona was in full effect, as HHH feuded against The Beast Incarnate Brock Lesnar, who, regardless if he’s heel or face, doesn’t change much about his character: he’s a monster, plain and simple. When Lesnar made his much-ballyhooed return to WWE in 2012, heroic boss HHH was having trouble keeping him in line, leading to a match between the two at SummerSlam 2012. After a grueling contest, Lesnar forced Triple H to tap out to the Kimura Lock, which was supposed to make the crowd feel bad for The Game, having fought his heart out to protect his company’s honor. Instead, they mockingly chanted “You Tapped Out!” Maybe they didn’t get the memo Trips wasn’t the bad guy that month.
14. Roman Reigns, The Superman
It’s hard to find a superstar with a more dichotomous experience to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin than the self-professed Big Dog, Roman Reigns. Where Austin became a massive face by acting like a heel, WWE has done absolutely everything in their power to get Reigns cheered by at least one damn person, and yet he still remains the most hated man in professional wrestling. Not even two WrestleMania main events against bona fide legends have done anything to endear the crowd to Reigns, and at this point, the harder he’s pushed as a hero, the more powerfully fans reject him with defiant boos. By now, it’s hard to imagine WWE coming up with any way to turn this trend around, though it seems like Vince McMahon is still going full steam ahead with the idea.
13. Brock Lesnar Calling Out Goldberg
As Brock Lesnar’s encounter with Triple H should have made clear, the mere fact he’s a destructive force of nature through and through hasn’t exactly made the erstwhile Next Big thing a villain in WWE. Oftentimes Lesnar is a bad guy, or at least supposed to be, but his inherent domination of all those around him has built up a solid fan base that will cheer the man pretty much no matter what. That goes double for any people who feel they have a personal connection to Lesnar, for example the residents of Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he was billed as hailing from for most of his career. Somehow, Vince McMahon didn’t consider this when having Lesnar and his manager Paul Heyman call out Goldberg during an episode of Raw taped from the city, earning powerfully loud cheers and pointed chants suggesting that “Goldberg Sucks!” McMahon was so mad about the backfire he allegedly cut the segment short on the spot, cueing Lesnar’s music as a sign Heyman should stop talking and get the hell out of there, immediately.
12. WWE Wanted Randy Orton, Fans Wanted Batista
From the very beginning of his career, Randy Orton was selected as a potential major star in the making. Fans might have found him bland and boring in the ring and on the microphone, but Vince McMahon clearly saw something special in the guy, pushing him to the main event and making Orton the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history at SummerSlam 2004. Granted, he lost the gold to Triple H barely a month later, yet the subsequent feud between the two was nonetheless supposed to make him a star. Things had to change fairly soon, though, because it became overwhelmingly evident the WWE audience had someone else in mind for the role Orton was given, and his name was Batista. By Survivor Series of that year, the first time WWE hinted at the idea Batista could branch away from Triple H as well, the reactions he was getting pretty much forced WWE to make the switch. Considering this was back when McMahon still listened to his crowd, Batista soon found himself in the main event of WrestleMania.
11. Introducing “Diamond” Dallas Page As A Bad Guy
Let’s face it—Vince McMahon never gave his competition anywhere near the respect it deserved. Never was this more clear than whenever a WCW wrestler made the jump to his WWE Universe, always needing to start over pretty much from the bottom up. This included some of the biggest stars in WCW history, like everyman hero “Diamond” Dallas Page. Of course, fans who only watched WWE didn’t quite get this impression of DDP upon his arrival, which came as a creepy pervert stalking The Undertaker’s wife Sara. Were this the persona of a completely new wrestler, it would obviously be a gimmick fit for a major heel, yet given DDP’s career up until then, when he was revealed as the culprit, the crowd went wild. By and large, people continued cheering Page even as WWE attempted pushing him as a heel, until the confusing disconnect grew so strong it basically ended his career.
10. No Justice For Hulkamania
To most wrestling fans, the 1992 Royal Rumble was about one thing and one thing only: “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair entering at number three and surviving over an hour to win it all. However, there was a whole lot more going on during that match, not to mention what happened immediately afterwards. Flair eliminated Sid Justice to win the bout, moments after Sid had in turn eliminated Hulk Hogan. The catch is that Flair could only manage victory with the help of a bitter Hulkster, who grabbed Sid’s hand and puled him over the top rope in an act of jealousy. No one is exactly sure why WWE thought Hogan would come out of this event still a hero, yet that seems to have been the intention when he and Sid got into a shoving match after Flair left to celebrate with his new WWE Championship. Instead, crowds reacted with outrage, furious Hogan would be so blatantly jealous and ruin a rising superstar’s chance at the gold.
9. Sid Ends The Boyhood Dream
Speaking of the Psychotic One, getting the audience at the 1992 Royal Rumble to turn against Hulk Hogan wasn’t the only time Sid Vicious had fans cheering for him when they were supposed to be booing. Just under five years after the first incident, Sid challenged Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship at Survivor Series 1996, entering the match as an evil monster ready to destroy a babyface hero. During the contest, Sid scared HBK’s manager/mentor Jose Lothario so badly he suffered a heart attack, and yet the Madison Square Garden crowd responded with the same raucous applause they had been offering for Sid’s every move. Aside from one notable female fan in the audience who shrieked with horror as Sid toppled her hero, the assembled audience reached an absolute fever pitch when the Vicious warrior dropped Michaels with a Powerbomb and won the gold, slowly turning into a tweener from there out of sheer necessity.
8. Santino Was Such A Good Underdog That Umaga Became A Star
Despite the unfortunate circumstances of Umaga’s demise, the brief tenure of the Samoan Bulldozer remains highly lauded for how successful it was in spite of many factors going against it. Front and center was the issue Umaga’s throwback gimmick was more than a little racist, implying savages not only still existed in this world, but also represented a good portion of his homeland. Part of what made Umaga a hit anyway is that his opponents were perfectly picked out to make him a monster, chief amongst them the ultimate underdog, Santino Marella. During his debut, Santino was a random fan plucked out of the crowd given the opportunity of a lifetime, which he took advantage of by defeating Umaga for the Intercontinental Championship. In their subsequent rematches, however, Umaga absolutely demolished poor Marella, unexpectedly earning huge cheers for doing so. Because Santino wasn’t catching on as an underdog in the traditional sense, a new element was added to his character, hence the bumbling comedian fans would soon fall in love with.
7. Hulk Hogan Meets Jake Roberts
In the modern era, almost everything WWE airs on its television programming is filmed live, including every single item on our list except this one. Back in the 1980s and earlier, the company would film live events and then edit them for broadcast, with some events not airing until months after they were originally taped. Other segments were scrapped entirely due to bad crowd reactions, like when Superman-styled hero Hulk Hogan came face to face with someone even cooler than him in Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Naturally, things between the two got somewhat heated, leading to Roberts slapping Hogan and planting him with a DDT…and the crowd went wild. This was wholly unexpected by Roberts and Hogan, not to mention Vince McMahon, who thought the idea of fans turning their backs on the Hulkster was unthinkable, unspeakable, and most of all, unfit for television.
6. Bray Wyatt As The New Face Of Fear
With The Undertaker presumably having entered retirement and his kayfabe brother Kane stepping away from the ring for politics, the WWE Universe and indeed wrestling in general are lacking in a literal monster haunting their ranks. Sure, there are physical beasts like Brock Lesnar or Braun Strowman, but when it comes to more traditional horror, no one has quite been able to pull it off in some time. The closest WWE has come is Bray Wyatt, who nearly became the new terrifying menace in wrestling through his early character work as a vicious and manipulative cult leader. There have been times in Wyatt’s brief history when it looked like he could actually replace the Dead Man, but thanks to a few recent total misfires, it feels like that ship has completely sailed. First, there was the horrible failure of his WrestleMania match against Randy Orton, then the next month’s House of Horrors match sealed the nail in the coffin. What was once a monster is now a complete joke.
5. Blue Chipper Rocky Maivia
Quite frankly, WWE shouldn’t have been all that surprised when their attempt at turning Randy Orton into a plucky babyface started collapsing. After all, they had the same thing happen last time a third-generation superstar was pushed as a happy-go-lucky goofball, and it didn’t work then, either—even though the most electrifying man in sports entertainment was in the role. As a smiling babyface blue chipper, Rocky Maivia received absolutely no love from the WWE Universe, who reacted to his increasing success not with sympathetic cheers but violent cries of “die, Rocky, die.” In classic Vince McMahon fashion, WWE tried fighting against this perception by pushing Maivia harder and making him Intercontinental Champion, which only made the boos louder and angrier. Thankfully for the entire entertainment world, Maivia knew things weren’t working out and took a few months off, coming back strong as a bitter villain angry the crowd had rejected him.
4. Austin 3:16
For as iconic and celebrated as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s iconic King of the Ring victory speech has become, one element of the promo is generally overlooked: Austin was supposed to be a bad guy when he made it. Mere minutes before saying the sentence that started Austin’s path to becoming the biggest hero in WWE history, he beat the ever-loving crap out of reformed hero Jake “The Snake” Roberts, and had spent the past few months wrecking havoc against the friendly “Wildman” Marc Mero and Caribbean hero Savio Vega. In a traditional sense, everything about Austin’s speech was a promise he was going to keep being the meanest heel in the business, and yet something about his poise, delivery, and the crowd he delivered it to instead made Austin a bigger hero than any of the goofs he was rallying against.
3. Stone Cold Shakes Hands With The Devil
Just shy of five years after “Stone Cold” Steve Austin became the biggest face in WWE history by giving a passionate speech as a heel, the company decided it was time to bring him back to the dark side via a handshake with his archrival. In most circumstances, Austin turning his back on the fans and aligning with Vince McMahon would have been the ultimate act of selling out, but once again, WWE overlooked an integral detail in planning for Austin’s transition. The switch was supposed to go down at WrestleMania X-Seven, and for the most part it did, but instead of booing the hell out of Austin for his betrayal, joining forces with the man he hated most earned Austin a massive round of cheers. As Austin and McMahon inflicted more damage on The Rock and then shook hands, the response only grew louder and more positive, and it took months of Austin acting like the biggest jerk possible to actually get people to boo him.
2. Daniel Bryan, The B+ Player
Ultimately, the entire mistake that is Roman Reign’s career barely has anything to do with The Guy himself. There were countless missteps along the way, but the nail in the coffin was arguably the 2015 Royal Rumble, which Reigns ironically won with little effort. Of course, therein lies the problem, as the entire WWE audience wanted desperately for Daniel Bryan to achieve the honor instead. Further, they wished all of Reigns success had gone to Bryan, which soon was revealed as outright impossible in light of Bryan’s injuries and retirement. Oddly enough, Bryan had only become so damn popular by WWE constantly telling fans he was less talented than he is, branding him as a B+ Player and blatantly saying he was unprepared for main events. This backfired spectacularly as WWE tried pushing anyone else above Bryan, the one superstar fans wanted to see.
1. Accidentally Making A Star In 18 Seconds Or Less
Even before WWE tried convincing fans Daniel Bryan was a B+ Player, they had already made a few bizarre mistakes with the man’s career. The first sign Vince McMahon and company might not understand what they had with the former American Dragon came during the opening match of WrestleMania XXVIII, when Bryan lost the World Heavyweight Championship to Sheamus in all of 18 seconds. The moment was supposed to brand Bryan as unprepared for his fame and turn Sheamus into a huge upset hero, but what actually happened was crowd backlash so severe it hijacked the entire Showcase of Immortals, not to mention Raw the next night, plus virtually every segment that would involve Bryan from then on. In trying to dismiss Daniel Bryan’s talents, WWE made him the biggest star of the modern era, and the sad thing is, they refused to accept it.
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