This has to be one of the strangest years in WWE history. From the signing of major new stars like Shinsuke Nakamura to events like the Cruiserweight Classic that feature talent from some of the largest indie promotions out there, 2016 has seen WWE embrace the world of professional wrestling like never before. WWE has always had a reputation for turning a blind eye to other companies, and it’s not hard to see why. After all, when you’re the major leagues of the business, why would you ever risk helping a rival company out by acknowledging they exist?
But just because the rule in WWE has always been to ignore the competition whenever possible, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t exceptions to that policy. Though it doesn’t happen often, there have been a few times in history that WWE has broken their golden rule and actually allowed some of their contracted wrestlers to work in other organizations. The circumstances that led to these appearances may vary, but they are all unified by the fact that each of these instances managed to shock the wrestling world and leave their mark on history. They are the 15 times that WWE let their talents work for other organizations while under contract.
15 Daniel Bryan Wrestles In Dragon Gate USA After Winning The United States Championship
Let’s start with a bit of a strange one. So, after Daniel Bryan was fired from WWE for choking Justin Roberts with a tie during that infamous NXT attack, there was some speculation brewing that WWE was simply working everyone and that the entire firing was done simply to bring back Bryan as a massive babyface down the road. Those who held this opinion weren’t quite sure what to think when Daniel Bryan started to work for independent companies shortly after his release. Surely WWE wouldn’t let someone they intended to bring back work for other organizations, right? Well, it turns out they might.
14 Brock Lesnar Fights At UFC 200
Though this one has recently come and gone, it’s still shocking to think that WWE let Brock Lesnar work a UFC fight in 2016. Putting aside the ramifications of what could have happened to Brock in the UFC ring as far as injuries go, there was the very real chance that Brock would simply lose this match and put himself in something of an awkward position upon his WWE return. What’s even more fascinating about this arrangement is that UFC 200 was shaping up to be something of a bust prior to Brock joining the card considering that they were without the services of Ronda Rousey, Connor McGregor and Jon Jones.
13 Christian Shows Up At A TNA PPV
Ok, so while you might be able to understand why WWE would let their wrestlers work a foreign or indy promotion due to the fact that there’s a good chance a significant chunk of their audience will never see it happen, it’s unfathomable to think that they would ever dare send one of their champions to TNA where someone might actually catch wind of the appearance and tune in for a night. Against all odds, however, that is exactly what happened in 2012 when WWE allowed Christian to show up at one of TNA’s biggest PPVs.
12 Alundra Blaze Defends The WWE Women’s Championship in Japan
11 The USWA and WWE Wage An On-Screen War
As anyone who has ever had the misfortune of watching the WCW/ECW Invasion storyline from start to finish knows, WWE isn’t necessarily opposed to developing an on-screen rivalry with another company so long as they so happen to own the other company in question and can make them look weak at every turn. Well, at least that’s what you probably think if you’ve never heard of the USWA invasion storyline that occurred in the early ‘90s. What’s interesting about this invasion story is that you’ve probably only ever seen one side of it. Remember when Jerry Lawler started that feud with Bret Hart? Well, Jerry was actually part of the USWA during that time and was allowed to work with Hart as part of a talent exchange.
10 Eddie Guerrero Returns To Ring of Honor After Being Rehired by WWE
Do you remember that time in 2001 when Eddie Guerrero was caught driving under the influence and released by the WWE? It's rarely been brought up since his death, but at the time, many Guerrero fans wondered if they were going to ever see Eddie in a WWE ring again or if he had burned the bridge for good. Well, while they were wondering, Eddie decided to work some independent events for a few months after his release. One of these events was for a little organization known as Ring of Honor that was just starting up at the time. In fact, Eddie worked their first show ever (The Era of Honor Begins), and his appeal helped spread the word of this promotion far and wide.
9 Jerry Lawler Leads An Attack On ECW
Ah yes, the other Jerry Lawler-fueled invasion of the ‘90s. If you were a WWE fan during the mid-90s, you were probably shocked to see wrestlers from a company called ECW show up on Monday Night Raw and promise to revolutionize wrestling. At best, you may have heard of ECW by this point, but given the company’s limited market, it’s doubtful that the majority of fans watching at this time had ever actually seen an ECW show previously. That being the case, it’s also highly unlikely that WWE fans saw what happened in response to this invasion.
8 Shawn Michaels Randomly Referees A Japanese Match
There’s a bit of controversy associated with this one given that nobody is entirely sure what Shawn Michaels contract status with the WWE was in 1999. Michaels briefly took part in a storyline that saw him serve as WWE commissioner in early 1999 but didn’t make many on-screen appearances that year and kind of just faded away by the time the summer rolled around. However, as it is generally believed that Michaels was a contracted WWE employee during the majority of his recovery time from that back injury in 1997, then it is also believed that he had WWE’s permission to serve as special guest referee for an FMW match that saw Hayabusa wrestle a fake Hayabusa.
7 Bret Hart Works An ECW Card For Terry Funk
If you had a dollar for every time that Terry Funk said he was going to retire from professional wrestling, you could easily begin your own retirement. With all due respect to Terry Funk, the man has wrestled so many retirement matches since the ‘70s that they’ve become something of a specialty match for him kind of like how The Undertaker is associated with Hell in a Cell battles. However, out of the many Terry Funk retirement matches, the one that stands out from the rest is his September 11, 1997, retirement match at WrestleFest in Amarillo, Texas.
6 The Undertaker Works A Major Japanese Match To Return A Favor
5 Hulk Hogan Disses The WWE Championship In Japan While He Is WWE Champion
Did you know that Hulk Hogan used to be a really, really big deal in New Japan Pro Wrestling? Not only is the man a former IWGP Champion, but many believe that had Hulk Hogan not decided to take the career path that he did with WWE that he could have easily been one of Japan’s biggest stars. If you ever need proof that Hulk Hogan was also a fan of NJPW, just watch his 1993 match against The Great Muta which shows the man busting out moves he’s never displayed in America.
4 WWE, WCW and ECW Wrestlers Work The Same Show In 2000
From 1998 to 2001, an Ohio-based wrestling promotion was hosting a Brian Pillman Memorial Show that saw various wrestlers come together to pay tribute to the man and raise money for his family. While WWE did not let its performers work these shows initially (actually, the first show was headlined by a match between WCW’s Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho), they eventually caved in and gave their consent for wrestlers like Mick Foley, D’Lo Brown and Road Dogg to work the show in 1999. However, that was nothing compared to what happened in 2000. That year, the memorial show promoters managed to bring in wrestlers from WCW, ECW and WWE together for a single event.
3 CM Punk Rescues Ring Of Honor From A Nightmare Situation
2 A WWE Wrestler Beats A WCW Wrestler For The ECW Championship
Like CM Punk returning to ROH, this is just one of those really great moments that emerged from a really bad situation. To help put this into context, we need to go back to April of 2000 when Mike Awesome made an appearance on WCW Monday Nitro despite being the ECW Champion at the time. Allegedly sick of constantly being owed money by ECW, Awesome decided to simply jump ship. The only problem with this was that WCW wasn’t sure where they stood legally on the matter of Awesome wearing the ECW belt on television. Deciding to settle the matter amicably, they let Awesome (who was a contracted WCW employee at this time) drop the belt at an ECW show in Indianapolis.
1 Vince McMahon and John Cena Work a High School Gym in 2007
When the people of Byfield, Massachusetts showed up for a Chaotic Wrestling show held in 2007 at a high school, they probably weren’t expecting anything more than your typical wrestling indie wrestling show filled with some good intentions, a couple decent matches and maybe the chance to see a future star in action. But this night became a little more interesting when it was announced before the show that John Cena was going to be making an appearance in order to sign some autographs and work as a special guest referee in the main event. Given that this wasn’t too far from where Cena grew up, it kind of made sense that he might drop in and spend a little time giving back to the fans.
What was much more unexpected was when Vince McMahon himself showed up to make an appearance in the main event. Yes, for reasons that remain unknown to this day, Vince McMahon and John Cena stood shoulder to shoulder at a random indie event held in a high school gym in 2007.
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