Have you ever been watching wrestling and thought to yourself, “how the heck did they come up with this?” Well, everything that happens in WWE television is the idea of somebody behind the curtain. They can either be a ridiculous segment that makes you question why you still watch or an incredible moment that reaffirms why you’ve always been a fan. It had to come from somewhere. Ideas come from writers, producers, wrestlers, and of course the owner himself, Vince McMahon.
Thankfully, in recent years, a lot of wrestlers have come out in the open and have told the tales behind certain gimmicks, matches, or stories. So, I’ve been able to do some digging and have compiled a pretty hefty list that tackles the real-life stories behind the utterly fake stories of the WWE.
Whether they be good, bad, or downright ugly, there are a variety of different reasons and ways stories are created in the world of professional wrestling. Some of them stem from other plans falling through leading to some backstage scrambling, a head honcho with a harebrained idea, or an angle based in real life, I can assure you, every storyline has its own story behind it.
Here are 15 behind the scenes stories about how certain angles came to be.
15. The Balor Club Reunion
Ever since Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson debuted in the WWE, fans have been clamoring for a Bullet Club reunion within the company. We had gotten a version of later day Bullet Club when the Good Brothers teamed up with AJ Styles upon their arrival, but we had yet to see a more classic version. On New Year’s Day of 2108, fans got their wish. To do battle against Elias and the Miztourage, Finn Balor recruited Gallows and Anderson, his friends from New Japan as his muscle. Fans rejoiced and the reunion has so far been successful. However, the timing was a bit strange. Three days after their reunion, NJPW had their biggest show of the year, Wrestle Kingdom 12. The show featured the current Bullet Club prominently, with BC members competing in six out of ten matches. With New Japan more popular than ever, thanks in part to Chris Jericho taking on the Club’s own Kenny Omega, this was definitely WWE riding their competition’s coattails.
14. WWE Hired The Wrong One-Legged Wrestler
Even before he was wowing wrestling fans in the WWE with his one-legged moonsaults and never say die attitude, Zach Gowen was making a decent name for himself wrestling for TNA as “Tenacious Z.” Jim Ross got wind of Gowen, wanted to sign his as the ultimate underdog, and told John Laurinaitis to sign, “the one-legged wrestler.” Unbeknownst to Johnny Ace, there was more than one one-legged wrestler out there. Instead of signing Gowen, Laurinaitis reached out to Steve Chamberland. Despite also having one leg, Chamberland stands at 6-foot-3 and weights 275-pounds, hardly the underdog Ross had in mind. Thankfully, the backstage brass realized the mistake right before offering Chamberland a three-year contract. Laurinaitis did eventually track down the right grappler and Gowen went on to have a memorable career in WWE, working angles with the likes of Roddy Piper, Brock Lesnar, and even Vince McMahon.
13. Kenny Dykstra Strikes Out On SmackDown
Back in the days of the Spirit Squad, nobody was talking about how underrated Nicky (now Dolph Ziggler) was. No, the member with the most amount of promise was 19-year-old Kenny. When the Squad was sent back to developmental in 2006, Kenny was the only one who stayed on the main roster. Things were looking up for the youngster. He was had a great place on Raw’s midcard, was picking up wins over Ric Flair, and he was engaged to Mickie James. However, before he could truly make an impact, Kenny was moved to Smackdown where he didn’t accomplish anything. The move and the flop are due to Mickie cheating on Kenny with John Cena. Cena allegedly used his backstage clout to have Kenny switched to the blue brand, keeping Mickie by his side. Things soon turned sour for James as well. When she was with Cena, she was a champion, but once John ended things, she also got the boot to Smackdown where she was constantly ridiculed and referred to as “Piggie James.”
12. Lex Luger And The World Bodybuilding Failure
Lex Luger was never the most gifted in-ring performer when it comes to professional wrestling. He may have had one of the most incredible physiques of all time, but when it came to stringing together a series of moves and putting on a competent match, Luger didn’t have the goods. That didn’t stop Vince McMahon from wanting to sign the Total Package to a contract when his time in WCW came to an end in 1992. There was only one problem, Luger’s contract came with a no-compete clause. Needing to get Lex under contract (because, look at him!), Vince signed him to the World Bodybuilding Federation, hoping a slightly recognizable name within wrestling would give the company a boost. What’s the World Bodybuilding Federation? It was McMahon’s attempt at making bodybuilding cool. Image wrestling, but with all of the muscle and none of the action. Obviously, the new Federation was a massive flop and shortly closed. With Luger still under contract, WWE was forced to pivot and Luger was once again putting on mediocre matches inside the squared circle.
The Road Warriors are one of the greatest tag teams of all time. Hawk and Animal won championship gold no less than ten different promotions throughout their time together. There had been a few attempts to regain their former glory, the fist came in 1998 when they became LOD 2000 and added Droz to the group. This would prove to be a failure. Six years alter, after Hawk had passed away, they tried it all over again. This time, pairing the veteran Animal up with the hulking Heidenreich. On July 24, 2005, the duo won the WWE Tag Team Championship. The entire pairing was meant to do one thing: sell DVDs. One month before they won the gold, WWE released Road Warriors: The Life and Death of the Most Dominant Tag-Team in Wrestling History, a documentary about Hawk and Animal’s career. WWE was still relatively new to the DVD game and hastily put together this cash grab that paled in comparison to the original team.
10. Shark Cage: The Hot New Toy
Between November 2016 through August 2017 Shark Cages were all the rage on WWE television. They held three different matches where somebody was suspended above the ring in a cage during this time, and that’s not counting when the cages were seen on TV to promote the matches. Why the recent need for the matches? Did they get a really good deal at Danger Doug’s Shark Cage Emporium? No. It turns out that Mattel, the company who makes all of WWE’s toys, had just released the WWE Crash Cage Playset and needed ways to promote it. When the finals of NXT’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic failed to boost sails of the toy, they tried the match again when Kevin Owens wrestled Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble where Chris Jericho was caged. Apparently that didn’t do the trick either, as the 2017 SummerSlam pay-per-view saw Big Show take on Big Cass with Enzo inside the cage. The matches got worse and worse as they went on. But hey, it’s a pretty neat playset.
9. The Intercontinental Championship’s Rio Story
Most of you know the first Intercontinental Championship was Pat Patterson. You may even know that Patterson “won” the title in a fictional tournament in Rio de Janeiro where he unified the WWF North American Heavyweight Championship with the South American Heavyweight Championship. But do you know why the tournament was said to have been in Rio? Well, according to Bruce Prichard on his Something to Wrestle With podcast, “The tournament site where Pat Patterson won the Intercontinental was Rio de Janeiro was because Vince was tickled at the way Pat could not say Rio de Janeiro with his accent.” The story definitely tracks, as Patterson has a notoriously thick French Canadian accent. Also, mean ribs are part of Vince McMahon’s way of life. The false unification also allowed WWE to one up their rivals in the National Wrestling Alliance. The NWA’s secondary title was the United States Championship, hardly covering as much land as a championship that crosses continents.
8. Batista’s Too Busy For WrestleMania
When the folks backstage were originally planning the matches for WrestleMania 31, they had intended for Triple H to take on Batista in one of the card’s big name bouts. However, Dave had landed a part in the upcoming James Bond movie, Spectre and was unable to participate. This behind the scenes shake up allowed for WWE to finally get Sting inside their ring. Ever since WWE bought WCW, Vince McMahon would often try to get the Icon to wrestle for them. It seemed like it was close to happening at WrestleMania X8, where Sting was penciled in to wrestle Kurt Angle. It would be 13 long years until fans got to see the biggest WCW holdout again (because TNA never existed). Too bad we all know how it ended. Sting wrestled Triple H in a schmozy match that saw The Vigilante take a sledgehammer to the face before being buried by The Game. Had Batista not gone Hollywood, we may have even seen the dream match between Sting and The Undertaker.
7. The Inspiration Behind “100% Grade-A Pepper”
If you are a fan of ludicrous Attitude Eera storylines like Mae Young giving birth to a hand or the Undertaker trying to embalm Steve Austin, then you have to be familiar with the time Big Boss Man made Al Snow a home-cooked meal. The two were in the middle of a heated rivalry over Snow’s manager, the chihuahua Pepper. The vile Boss Man had stolen Al’s prized pooch, and when the leader of the J.O.B. Squad went to retrieve it, he was served man’s best friend on a silver platter. According to Snow, this was an instance of art intimating life. For years, there were rumors that legendary manager Mr. Fuji had done the same thing in real life. Fuji, a notorious prankster (if we can call this a prank), had gotten revenge on his former partner Professor Toru Tanaka for going behind his back by cooking up the Prof’s dog. This gave Big Boss Man inspiration for his culinary abomination.
6. Santino Knows What’s In A Name
You may not remember exactly where you were when the “Milan Miracle” happened on April 16, 2007 (I was in my college dorm room, because even during my peak partying years, I had my priorities straight), but it was a pretty big deal when Santino Marella won the Intercontinental Championship. Marella, who had never even been on WWE television at the time, was a staged plant who was able to overcome the Samoan Bulldozer Umaga and win the belt, thanks to Bobby Lashley. The character of Santino Marella was personally created by Vince McMahon as an Italian underdog, meant to inspire fans all over the world. Unsure of who would portray Marella, Mike Bucci (Simon Dean/Hollywood Nova), Ohio Valley’s talent developmental manager simply checked his roster for anyone with an Italian last name. Enter Anthony Carelli. When asked if he could speak Italian, Carelli spouted off some of the very little that he knew, but it was just enough to get him the Marella role and seven year run in the WWE.
5. The Man(taur) They Call Mantaur
During the late 80s and early 90s, Big Van Vader was one of the biggest names in wrestling to not be signed to WWE. The massive super heavyweight could not only hit hard, dish out power moves, but was capable of performing top rope moonsaults with the greatest of ease. In 1995, WWE was chomping at the bit to get their hands on the Mastodon from Colorado. Unable to do so, creative backstage did the next best thing, they created their own Vader. WWE took the relatively unknown Mike Halac and gave him the Vader treatment, but without any of the effort. The gave Halac a half man-half bull gimmick, named him Mantaur (coincidentally, Vader had been known as Bull Power and Baby Bull in Japan), put him in a singlet, and called it a day. They even took Vader’s coolest accessory, a jet black, smoking, Darth Vader-esque mastodon helmet and swapped it out for a truly terrible taxidermied bull head. Needless to say, the gimmick was a dud. A year later, WWE would finally sign Vader. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t fair much better than Mantaur.
4. Shawn Wanted The “Other” Master Of The Powerbomb
When WWE finally signed Vader to a contract in 1996, it seemed like they had big things planned for the former WCW and IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. He made a huge impact upon his arrival, and was almost immediately thrust into the main event picture to take on Shawn Michaels. The two wrestled at SummerSlam where it seemed like Vader was poised to take the crown. However, Michaels found Vader difficult to work with and too stiff in the ring. So, he used his backstage clout to pick up the win. Vader never truly recovered from the loss and would go his entire WWE career without tasting gold. Michaels eventually chose a different big man to beat him for the belt. At the 1996 Survivor Series event Sycho Sid beat the Heartbreak Kid to become the WWE Champion. Interestingly enough, Sid teamed with Vader in WCW as the Masters of the Powerbomb.
3. Tommy Dreamer Will Do Anything For A Buck
A good rule of thumb in the world of professional wrestling is, “Don’t do anything backstage that you wouldn’t do on camera.” Tommy Dreamer learned this the hard way. You see, the Innovator of Violence used to enjoy eating and drinking gross concoctions to pop the boys in the back. Vince McMahon soon got wind of this and, never one to let a disgusting angle go, made it Dreamer’s new gimmick. Before you could say, “Five second rule!,” Dreamer was onscreen drinking from toilets, eating hot dogs off the ground, and drinking the Undertaker’s tobacco spit. According to Dreamer in an interview with Under the Mat Radio, “Yeah it was gross, it was real, I got $7,000 to do it and I got to wrestle The Undertaker 3 to 4 times. So I think anyone might do the same.” So, in the end, maybe it was worth it?
2. The Mania Classic That Almost Didn’t Happen
When you think of WrestleMania matches with the best reactions, you often think of when The Rock took on Hollywood Hogan at WrestleMania X8. Over the years, the bout has become iconic and shows some of the positive ways an audience can affect a match. The crowd, dead-set on cheering for heel Hogan over babyface Rock, forced the two to switch alignment, leading to Hogan eventually returning to his classic red and yellow. It’s crazy to think that this match wasn’t what WWE had originally planned. They had wanted Steve Austin to take on Hogan. Austin allegedly flat-out refused to work with Hogan. Austin was not only worried Hogan would want to get the win, but also didn’t believe the two could put on a decent match at this point of their careers. Needless to say, The Rock stepped in and put on an absolute clinic with the legendary Hulkster.
1. Pat Patterson’s “Stupid” Idea
Along with WrestleMania, Royal Rumble is one of the most beloved annual pay-per-view events WWE has. It’s been a yearly staple for the past 30 years, dating all the way back to 1988, and its safe to say that it’s the Royal Rumble match itself that makes it all worth while. We can thank Pat Patterson for the match. The first Intercontinental Champion came up for the idea of the multi-man melee while riffing on a new take for the battle royal. However, when he presented the idea to Vince McMahon, the owner of the WWE absolutely hated it. Apparently, he didn’t think the audience would enjoy watching an hour long match. It wouldn’t be until the two met with Dick Ebersol about an upcoming USA Network special that the Royal Rumble match came to fruition. At a loss for ideas, McMahon turned to Patterson and, as Pat put it to WWE.com said, “Why don’t you tell Dick Ebersol your stupid idea.” I wonder if Vince still thought the idea was stupid in 1999 when he himself won the whole thing.
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