A big knock against WWE is that they do not plan their storylines in advance. While they rarely may have long term plans in place for their storylines and Superstars, WWE more often than not plan on a week to week basis. In some cases, WWE may not know what to do for their programming until hours before their shows. To be fair, it's hard to blame WWE for having this sort of mentality. After all, there are so many combustible elements to consider while strumming up a storyline that it is impossible to predict that every single detail will go perfectly according to plan. For starters, fan reactions have to be considered. If fans do not respond kindly to a storyline, that storyline may have to be scrapped weeks or months before it is originally planned to. Same goes for Superstars. WWE may have plans for a wrestler to be a big-time face, but if they keep getting overwhelming heel reactions from audiences every week, WWE may have to consider turning them heel. Well, unless you're Roman Reigns that is, where you get to be a babyface for the rest of your career no matter how badly you get booed.
Anyway, the worst thing that can happen during a storyline is when a Superstar gets injured before that program could kick into high gear.
Real life injuries are perhaps the most unpredictable circumstances for any wrestling storyline and could throw all plans out the window at a moments notice. Whether the injuries be short-term or long-term, last mere weeks or several months (and in some unfortunate cases, the injuries are career ending), WWE must make drastic changes to the storyline immediately. This may include incorporating the injury into the active on-screen storyline or replacing the injured competitor with a more healthy and able one. Unexpected injuries have proven to be detrimental to the fluidity and storytelling of an angle, while in some cases vastly improve angles for the better. Here are some instances where real injuries in wrestling changed the script for on-screen program.
15 Cody Rhodes' Face Injury
After being drafted to the SmackDown brand in 2010 off the heels of the Legacy stable disbanding, Cody Rhodes unveiled his brand new Dashing gimmick. The gimmick saw him play a narcissist who was obsessed with his own good looks. On the January 21st, 2011 episode of SmackDown, the Dashing One had his good looks dashed in a match where Rey Mysterio's exposed knee brace collided with Rhodes' nose, legitimately breaking it.
14 Edge Vacates Belt
It's almost ironic to think that Edge was given Mr. Kennedy's Money in the Bank briefcase because there was concern that Kennedy would be out injured for a long time when in reality, it would be Edge who would go down with the severe injury. After cashing in on The Undertaker's title, Edge went on to successfully defend the title against Batista at three straight Pay-Per-Views.
13 HBK's Return
At King of the Ring 2002, when Triple H had a confrontation with his Kliq buddies (now nWo members) Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash, it was teased that The Game might join the stable in the future. However, this was actually the beginning of the building blocks of a feud between Triple H and the nWo that eventually would have led to Trips facing Nash at that year's SummerSlam.
12 The Rock's Character Turn
Upon first entering WWE, Rocky Maivia was not as beloved by the fans as WWE would have hoped. Fans felt like the company was shoving the third generation Superstar down their throats and even started receiving "Die, Rocky, Die!" chants not long after winning the Intercontinental Championship shortly after debuting. He got the kind of reaction that Roman Reigns gets today.
11 Rey The Opportunist
In 2005, Batista was on fire in the WWE having defeated Triple H at three straight Pay-Per-Views and moving on to bigger and better things on SmackDown. Unfortunately for Big Dave, his 2006 was off to a rocky start that saw him suffer a right triceps injury following a house show encounter with Mark Henry on January 6th. This forced The Animal to vacate the World Heavyweight Championship which he defended proudly since the previous year's WrestleMania.
10 John Cena's Injury Leads To Three Rapid Title Changes
During the tail-end of summer 2007 and in the early fall season later on, WWE Champion John Cena would enter a feud with who would become his longstanding rival, Randy Orton. Their feud was meant to culminate at No Mercy when they were booked to face off in a Last Man Standing match, but on the go-home RAW show beforehand, Cena suffered a pectoral muscle tear during a match with Ken Kennedy after executing a hip toss. It didn't help that right after the match, Cena suffered a beatdown from Orton that included an RKO on the announcer's table, further aggravating the tear.
9 Ryback Gets A Chance Cause Of Cena's Injury
Another Cena injury which changed plans drastically came in 2012 during his feud with WWE Champion CM Punk. The two were expected to face off for the title in a Hell in a Cell match at the PPV of the same name. Weeks beforehand, Cena suffered an arm injury and wouldn't be able to make the event.
8 Emma's Injury Changes Dana's Plans
Shortly after WrestleMania 32, Emma had returned to the main roster with the protege she met in NXT, Dana Brooke. The two were set to be RAW's new heel duo of the Women's Division and their early sights were on a feud with Becky Lynch, but not long after, Emma suffered a back injury.
7 Dolph Ziggler's Injury
When he cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase the night after WrestleMania 29, the bodacious heel in Dolph Ziggler received a roaring babyface ovation upon winning the World Heavyweight Championship. One can argue that this response turned him babyface to begin with, but Dolph continued being a heel in the weeks afterwards.
6 Ken Kennedy Missed Championship Opportunity
When Mr. Kennedy won the Money in the Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 23, there were big expectations in place. Months beforehand, he had racked up some impressive wins against former World Champions and Kennedy was expected to win a World Title himself at one point. He was slotted to cash in his title opportunity against The Undertaker on the May 8th episode of SmackDown, but right beforehand, Kennedy sustained a triceps injury.
5 Magnum T.A.
In the 80s, there was a time when Magnum T.A. was one of the biggest stars in all of wrestling. He was quickly growing into the bonafide face of the NWA and was guaranteed to become a future World Champion within the company. Just as there were plans made for Magnum T.A. to win the United States Championship for a third time before being groomed to topple Ric Flair for the World Heavyweight Championship at Starrcade 1986, his career would come to a screeching halt following a career ending car accident.
4 Finn Balor's Injury Pushes Kevin Owens
When it comes to Superstars who have the worst luck, Finn Balor would probably rank high atop that list. When first called up to the main roster from NXT, the Demon King led a wave of momentum behind him. On his first night on RAW, he defeated the company's crown jewel, Roman Reigns, to win himself a match against Seth Rollins to dub the inaugural Universal Champion at SummerSlam 2016. Balor would win, but halfway through the match, he injured his shoulder following a powerbomb into the barricade from Rollins.
3 Triple H's First Injury Leads To Face Run
On the May 21st, 2001 edition of RAW, The Two-Man Power Trip defended their Tag Team Titles against the team of Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit. Early into the match, Trips tore his quadriceps muscle after running in to break up a submission from Jericho. Being a real trooper, Trips continued the match until the very end, but at the cost of aggravating his injury further.
2 Triple H's Injury Changes WM Main Event Plans
At New Year's Revolution 2007, Triple H and Shawn Michaels battled longtime rivals Rated RKO for the heel duo's World Tag Team Championships. 15 minutes into the match, Triple H re-injured his right quad and the match ended to an abrupt no contest because of it. Not only was DX expected to win the titles that night, but Trips himself was inked in to move on to face John Cena for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 23. The plan was for the two to have a rematch from the previous year's WrestleMania and Triple H would get his win back from the Doctor of Thuganomics.
1 Seth Rollins/Triple H Feud
Ever since the mentor turned on his protege in late 2016, it had been teased that Seth Rollins would go toe to toe with The Game, Triple H, at WrestleMania 33. When early 2017 rolled around, it looked like that match was coming to fruition. However, that match was in jeopardy when Rollins re-injured his knee during an attack from Samoa Joe just weeks before Fastlane, the penultimate PPV on the road to WrestleMania.
However, WWE decided to turn this inconvenience into a blessing. With a slight chance that Rollins could heal in time for 'Mania, the entire storyline between Rollins and Trips shifted from the basic master versus student storyline into a more suspenseful story surrounding if Rollins could make it in time for the event. Thankfully, Rollins did just that and proceeded to slay The King of Kings at the "Show of Shows".
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