In WWE, one rule seems set in stone: Vince’s word is law. For decades, Vince McMahon has been the undisputed boss of WWE and the last word on everything. From character to angles, guys go along with what Vince says as he cuts the checks and clearly ready to cut a guy for the dumbest and most petty of reasons. Thus, if you act up, you pay for it. Of course, wrestling is an odd beast as botches happen and guys have to adapt. Vince understands that and can be forgiving with some mistakes. But other times, a guy can go completely off script and do something unplanned that gets major notice. True, wrestling uses that as so often, what looks an unscripted moment turns out to have been planned all along and thus harder to figure out what’s real or not.
That plays in WWE as even Vince likes to present a “shoot” bit that turns out to be real. But often, you will see workers going into business for themselves, sometimes to spark up a match, other times out of a personal grudge. It’s tricky but it happens as guys can be quite daring in what they do. From promos to in-ring moments and more, it’s amazing how many times folks get away with breaking off script (although others pay a price). Here are 15 times wrestlers did something without Vince’s okay and how it shows even McMahon can’t control everything.
15 Roman’s "This Is My Yard" Promo
It’s been written how Roman Reigns just isn’t working for fans. He is a good star but Vince’s desire to shove him down the throats and make him the face of the company is just turning folks against him big time. It’s clearly weighing on Roman and thus why he seems to be acting up against some reactions in ways Vince has not approved. Once, when fans chanted “you can’t wrestle” at him, Reigns openly snapped at them to shut up and the chants stopped. He’s been known to flip them off and such and other reactions with one-liners and other bits.
The biggest was the RAW after Roman beat The Undertaker at Mania, as he was meant to cut a big promo on “this is my yard.” However, Roman just stood there, taking in the boos for a full 10 minutes, said the one line and stormed out. He’s acted out a few more times as it seems even Roman isn’t happy with how he’s pushed and responding in ways that makes Vince’s push of him as the company’s face more jarring.
14 Piper’s Paint Job
Roddy Piper always played by his own set of rules. The man has his unique style and drive that made him a standout in Mid-Atlantic and took off in WWE. From his offbeat Piper’s Pit to wild promos and acting up majorly, Piper was money in the bank and fans could never get enough of him. However, even the Hot Rod could cross a line now and then and such a case was in 1990. Piper was feuding with Bad News Brown and a big match leading to WrestleMania.
For God knows what reason, Piper decided to fire things up by painting half his body black. What he was going for is unsure, the man just looking weird as he took it to Brown and people not happy with the move, for obvious reasons. Indeed, Andre the Giant taught a lesson by replacing the wash-off paint with more permanent so Piper had to fly home looking like that. Piper’s daring made him a star but could cause Vince headaches.
13 Austin 3:16
It’s the promo that changed all of wrestling. Originally, Triple H was to win the 1996 King of the Ring but then the Curtain Call happened and he took the punishment. Thus, Steve Austin was picked, the man having altered his act to “Stone Cold.” There was really nothing much planned beyond his win but Austin knew this was his chance. After beating Jake Roberts, he moved for what Vince expected to be the typical victory promo.
Instead, Austin launched his now famed speech trashing Roberts, cursing and the phrase “Austin 3:16” introduced along with “that’s the bottom line.” It turned Austin into a star at last, fans holding up “Austin 3:16” signs as soon as the next night, and would lead to the rise of the Attitude Era and thus his going out for the promo led WWE to its mega success.
12 The Pipe Bomb
Technically, Vince gave his okay to the idea of this. But he had no idea just how far Punk was going to go with it. He thought Punk would toe the line in his promo, talk about things involving himself and his push and some shots on John Cena. But Punk took advantage to tear into Vince, the company, the fans and just about everything people hated about Vince’s “sports entertainment” work. Punk raged on Vince as a scumbag, ripped into the fans on their love of Cena and not wanting better and continuing to rampage about the state of wrestling.
It was a fantastic sight as he tore into Triple H and others and mocking how things were. While fans were riveted, Vince didn’t like it and cut Punk’s mic just as he was about to trash the “Make a Star” program. It made Punk an icon to so many but went way beyond what was planned to make Vince look worse.
11 "Sunny Days"
The relationship between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart is fascinating. They truly respected each other but just didn’t become true friends due to mutual egos. This led to their huge feud in 1997 which Bret aptly describes as “we worked ourselves into a shoot.” It was supposed to be a fair one but both men let their egos get out of control and their real-life hate taking over. This led to an on-air confrontation where Shawn made a crack about Bret “enjoying some sunny days.” This was an obvious shot at rumors of Bret having an affair with Tammy “Sunny” Sytch. Bret thought this crossed a huge line as he wanted to be a role model to his kids and denies that affair took place. This led to more heat as Vince wasn’t happy with the crossing of the line but it did lead to the heat that led to Montreal.
10 Mick Foley's Hell in the Cell Bumps
While the very first HITC match was good, the second was a classic. But it could have been bad as the Undertaker and Mankind weren’t sure of how well they could do it. Taker had a broken leg and was hampered while Foley wasn’t as hot with fans. They knew they had to do something special and so decided to start the match on top of the cage. This was their own idea, as Vince was as shocked as everyone seeing it. This led to Foley being tossed off the cage, a move Vince would never have okayed, especially at the start. Of course, this made the match an instant classic and turned Foley into an icon.
The choke slam through the roof was unplanned by both men as well along with the tacks and other brutal moments. Vince couldn’t be angry given how the fans went insane and turned Foley into a huge deal to be a star, showing how sometimes going on your own works out.
9 9 JBL beating up Blue Meanie
JBL has gotten in hot water a few times for doing stuff on his own. A key example was in 2004 when, while in Germany, he goose-stepped around the ring and made Nazi gestures. That didn’t punish him that much as he got a long title run but 2005 was much bigger. At the first One Night Stand, a huge brawl erupted between the ECW guys and WWE guys with JBL going after the Blue Meanie. For reasons no one has understood, Bradshaw took it hard to Meanie, attacking him for real and busting him open in a nasty way. That got some bad press and when Meanie came to SmackDown, he was obsessed with paying JBL back. This led to ugly clashes as JBL just wanted to show up Meanie for some reason. Why he did this is up in the air but JBL has never really needed a reason to act up on his own.
8 Mickie’s Obscene Gesture
In early 2006, Mickie James got the big push with her angle as she was set as Trish Stratus’ big fan but then turned on her. It turned out she was a nutcase stalking Trish, leading to a match at Mania. The crowd surprised everyone by cheering for Mickie whose nutty act was winning them over. At one point during the match, Trish grabbed Mickie to go for her patented bulldog. But Mickie got out of it by grabbing Trish right between the legs, Trish clearly shaken by it. She then slowly licked her palm, a move that was quite jarring to see and the subtext was obvious.
Mickie won the match and the title but some earned heat for her actions. That moment was edited out of the home video release of the match as Mickie showed playing the psycho can lead to some crazy acts.
7 Daniel Puder Showing Up Angle
Tough Enough was meant to bring up some new stars and a few faces here and there (like The Miz). For the most part, they faded fast, showing they weren’t ready for the big time just yet. Daniel Puder had some promise, a top guy with a very athletic side and was doing well in the training. WWE decided to put him up against Kurt Angle in a shoot battle to test him out. It was expected Angle would dominate but instead Puder stunned everyone by getting the better of the Olympian and nearly pinning him a few times.
Realizing they were about to see a rookie beat one of the company’s biggest stars, officials reacted fast. With Puder down, a pin was counted despite his shoulders clearly being up. Puder would win the competition but still saw his stock fall for trying to show up Angle a bit too much.
6 Saturn’s Beat Down of Mike Bell
Perry Saturn was sort of the odd man out when the Radicals came to WWE. He had success but not as much as Benoit, Guerrero and Malenko, a bit lost and his stock falling. In early 2001, Saturn was taking on jobber Mike Bell for a syndicated taping but Bell was showing his inexperience with some bad moves, including a slam that nearly dropped Saturn on his head. Never a guy known for a nice temper, Saturn snapped and gave Bell a brutal beat-down, smashing him about on the steps and outside. Thankfully, he didn’t do any real damage but clearly something had to be done. So, Saturn was punished with the storyline of treating a mop as his girlfriend. Harsh, but he has only himself to blame for letting his temper get the best of him.
5 Emma’s Win
Her recent release has many complaining about WWE dropping the ball with Emma. She took off in NXT with her whacky dancing to become a fan favorite. However, she couldn’t make that work on the main roster and sent back to NXT for training. Her “Emmalina” act had promise but just couldn’t work and most cite her exit as inevitable. Ironically, most thought Emma would have been fired already for the bizarre circumstances of August 2015.
Emma, Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Dana Brooke went at it in a good matchup. Becky was knocked in the corner with Emma making the cover and the ref hit the three count. The idea was for Becky to kick out but some miscommunication happened and so the pin was made. Thus, Emma got the win despite how Charlotte being originally booked to win. It may have added to her heat and a reason she was eventually dropped.
4 WrestleMania Blade Jobs
Back in 1992, blade jobs were not a common thing due to worries about health and WWE presenting a more family-friendly image. But at WrestleMania VIII, not one but two matches got very colorful. First, in the Intercontinental title match between Roddy Piper and Bret Hart, Bret cut himself for a nice visual that sparked up his win for the title. They got heat but Bret basically lied that it was an accident and Vince bought it as their relationship was much better back then.
Later in the show, Ric Flair also bladed during his battle with Randy Savage but was up front about it and would have been fired if not for his star power. That wasn’t the only case as during the classic match at WrestleMania 13, Bret and Austin bladed, providing the iconic visual of Austin passing out in a pool of his own blood. Vince never okayed that, but again Hart and Austin simply said it was an accident and doing the move behind the boss's back paid off, as the blood really put the exclamation point on a classic match.
3 Too Sweet
TLC 2017 was to have Finn Balor taking on Bray Wyatt. However, Bray ended up getting sick and had to bow out. Thankfully, WWE had a fine replacement with AJ Styles and he and Balor put on a fantastic match. The fans were riveted and most agree it’s an easy candidate for match of the year. After the match, the two looked to each other and then exchanged a hand-sign fans remembered as the “Too Sweet” gesture of Hall and Nash.
It had also been used by the Young Bucks and thus fans stated that this was Vince’s idea to throw it back in their faces after sending a cease and desist letter to them. Styles and Balor have confirmed Vince did not give the okay for this as it was just the two of them honoring their past connection to the Bullet Club and wanting to impress fans. It worked out to top off the fine match and neither is facing punishment to show how even Vince can show some mercy.
2 Titus’s 'Hug'
Vince McMahon is known for some odd…quirks. He has his habits, his strange behavior and such and is known for oddities like going crazy when someone sneezes around him. Among the other issues is that Vince has a thing about being touched without warning. He’ll accept a hug but only if he agrees to it and just doesn’t like surprises. Which was why Titus O’Neil crossed a huge line with Vince one night.
On a 2016 RAW, Vince was doing a big celebration with the roster for Daniel Bryan's retirementwhen Titus grabbed his arm, reportedly to let Stephanie walk out first. It was sudden but not meant to be anything serious, just Titus playing around.
Vince, however, was visibly shaken (literally) and his reaction was to hand Titus his release. Most saw this as Vince going way too far and Triple H reportedly talked Vince down to a suspension, but it was a showcase of how touching the boss without permission has some consequences.
1 The Curtain Call
Some say that Vince did give the okay on this in concept but not the spirit. In May of 1996, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were ready to jump to WCW, a move known to Internet smarks but not casual fans. On their last night with the company in Madison Square Garden, Nash lost to Shawn Michaels. Then Hall came out with Triple H and The Kliq engaged in a big hug goodbye. It was just an impromptu thing to say farewell after all their time together.
However, it was a huge shattering of kayfabe which was still held sacred back then. Fans went wild for it but Vince got huge heat for letting it happen, despite how he didn’t know it would get so extreme. With Shawn champion, Hall and Nash gone and Waltman soon to follow, that left Triple H to take the punishment. He was pushed down the card which paved the way for Austin to win King of the Ring, do that famous promo and change everything. So one night defying the boss ended up altering the landscape of wrestling forever.