In the world of sports entertainment nowadays, every single wrestler needs to have at least some acting experience. At the very least, they need to understand that they’re playing a role. Fans know that Bryan Danielson isn’t really an evil vegan named Daniel Bryan, but that is the current character choice for the WWE Champion. Brock Lesnar, the character, is a fierce competitor who might rip your head off if you look at him the wrong way. But from plenty of his contemporaries' accounts, the real Brock Lesnar isn’t that bad of a guy.
Sorry to break kayfabe, but The Undertaker isn’t dead at all, nor is Kane severely scarred by fire. All of these guys and girls are playing roles in Vince McMahon’s grandiose stories, and all of the rosters of the years get to have their say in Vince’s storytelling. Whether or not he runs with his team’s choices is his own prerogative.
Conversely, every so often his employees do their best to veto some of his creative choices. For every Katie Vick that makes it to the show, there are plenty of storylines over the years that Vince turns down. There are also plenty of storyline ideas that wrestlers have balked at doing. While ultimately wrestlers have to do what the boss says, everyone has that line that they don't want to cross. When fans hear of the ideas pitched to them, we can't say we blame them. That being said, here are 20 times WWE wrestlers turned down a storyline backstage.
20 KO Had No Interest In The League Of Nations
Kevin Owens had a long career in the indies under his real name, Kevin Steen, before Triple H and NXT came calling. He is still the only NXT World Champion to debut on the main roster and instantly defeat a top guy in John Cena. Oddly enough, Owens was asked to be part of a group that all got to whomp Cena at one point or another - the League Of Nations.
The group was not known for their separate thrashings of Cena. Instead, they were seen as a massive flop. Owens was supposedly sick the day the group was formed on Raw and politely declined membership the next week.
19 Y2J Vs. Balor Club
Fans all over the world always come up with dream match scenarios. Thanks to WWE gobbling up every territory, we got to see plenty of dream matches over the years. We got another one late last year when the first two leaders of the Bullet Club did battle – AJ Styles vs. Finn Balor.
The match was supposed to be Balor and Bray Wyatt, but due to illness, Wyatt was kept home. Originally, Vince had reached out to Chris Jericho to do the deed, but Y2J turned down the offer in favor of his tour with Fozzy. Hopefully the WWE explores this idea again at some point.
18 Neville Wouldn't Lose To Enzo Again
There was a lot of talk throughout 2014 and still to this day about CM Punk walking out of WWE over the creative direction of his character. He wasn’t the first, nor would be wind up being the last. But his mouth couldn’t stay shut about his ordeal – perhaps that’s why he was the highest profile example of such.
Neville was one of the first breakout stars of NXT. He headed to Raw to become the Man That Gravity Forgot and eventually the King Of The Cruiserweights. But when he was booked to look at the lights to the polarizing Enzo Amore more than once, the sensational high-flyer couldn’t take it anymore. He walked out on the WWE but was kept under contract until it ran out. He has yet to officially comment on why he left, but many believe this was the reason.
17 CM Punk Leaves Over WrestleMania Plans
Several guys on this list simply walked out on the WWE instead of doing business. None were higher up on the card at the moment they walked out than CM Punk. The guy for all intents and purposes practically begged to be the top guy, was made the top guy, and seemingly couldn’t take it when he was passed over for a WrestleMania main event spot yet again.
When the plans for WrestleMania XXX were revealed to him (he was set to do battle against Triple H), he bailed on the company, unhappy with the treatment of his character, and the company’s treatment of several top stars at that time in general.
16 Eric Bischoff Unknowingly Turns Down Invasion Angle
Every wrestling fan is pretty much in agreement that the WWE's invasion angle involving WCW and ECW was a major flop. One of the main reasons why it was, is that the storyline essentially turned into another McMahon family feud, with Shane and Stephanie as the authority figures for the alliance, intent on putting their father's company out of business. The WWE did in fact have Bischoff in mind as the figurehead of the invasion angle.
However, when WWE reached out to Bischoff offering him an on-screen role, Bischoff was not aware of the role WWE had in mind for him, and turned them down. Thus, Bischoff unknowingly turned down an angle that could've been far better with him involved.
15 Sting Turns Down A Chance To Face The Undertaker
As Sting was winding down his wrestling days in TNA, there was only one match that fans wanted out of him before retiring. They wanted that long dreamt about match with The Undertaker. The opportunity was there back in 2011, as Sting's TNA contract was up and WWE reached out to him with the intention of Sting against The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVII in Atlanta, the home of WCW, seeming like a dream scenario. However, much like in the past, Sting didn't feel comfortable going to WWE yet and thus, the match never happened.
Ironically, when WWE did have the opportunity to do the match after Sting came to WWE a few years later, they opted for Sting against Triple H instead.
14 Stone Cold Walks Out
For anyone that has ever listened to two episodes of Stone Cold’s podcast, then you know every other episode he likes to mention he regrets leaving every other episode. But shortly after WrestleMania X8, heading into the King Of The Ring that year, the Texas Rattlesnake was gone.
Austin has consistently stated he would have done things differently. He had no interest in jobbing out to Brock on a Raw without any buildup to the match. Austin has always maintained that he would have done business had there been some buildup to a proper payday, but being fed to the kid wasn’t the Rattlesnake’s idea of a good time at the office.
13 Batista The Angry Kid
For some reason, Batista wasn’t allowed to be just a jacked-up Animal who tore into his opponents with the Batista Bomb. There had to be some kind of a storyline for his ruthless aggression. The Boss wanted to explain that Batista was a man who became who he was because as a kid, he was in and out of foster homes. There was more to it than that, but that's basically the jist of it.
While that would have explained a lot about Batista, The Animal vetoed the idea, thinking it would be the downfall of his WWE run before it started. Considering how popular the guy was and still is (except during the height of the Yes Movement), he was clearly right.
12 The Rock Turns Down A WrestleMania Headlining Match
For seven years, The Rock didn't appear on any WWE programming. After a few appearances in 2004, The Rock focused on his Hollywood endeavors, but the WWE was determined for The Great One to return at WrestleMania 21 in Los Angeles for a major angle. While The Rock pitched the idea of working with Sting, that couldn't happen. So the WWE pitched the idea of The Rock returning to challenge a heel JBL for the WWE Championship.
With The Rock not committed to WWE, he felt winning a title wouldn't make much sense so he passed on the offer. It was probably for the best, as WWE got to make a new star out of John Cena, with Cena ultimately defeating JBL.
11 Shawn Michaels Won't Come Out Of Retirement
Shawn Michaels remained retired from the WWE for eight years, before making his in-ring return this past year at Crown Jewel. Considering how that match was received and given the event's venue, it's all the more disappointing to hear that HBK turned down a far better comeback angle not that long ago.
It was pitched for HBK to take on AJ Styles at WrestleMania 33 in what truly would've been a dream match scenario. On the Sam Roberts Wrestling podcast, Michaels commented: "They didn’t have an opponent for AJ at WrestleMania. I said that I hadn’t been asked because I hadn’t—but then I was.”
It's a shame HBK wasn't yet keen on coming out of retirement.
10 Kane Turns Down Ending The Streak
The Undertaker's streak lived on for over 20 years and before it ultimately ended to Brock Lesnar, there were several names over the years that were tossed around to possibly end it. While Kane was initially expected to defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania XIV, it's unknown whether that was the time Kane turned down the idea. When 'Taker returned to his Deadman persona for WrestleMania XX, the idea was for Kane to defeat his brother on the grandest stage and end the streak right there. However, Kane declined the offer, out of respect for his kayfabe brother. Thus, the streak lived on for another 10 years.
9 AJ Lee's Rejected Gimmick
Right smack in the middle of the Cover Girl Diva Era was a girl who not only could be a cover girl for the geek generation but was a solid worker too. AJ Lee garnered a massive following playing the crazy act to a hilt. Her fans adored her almost as much as CM Punk.
One reason to admire her though happened off screen. She put her foot down on incorporating escaping from a mental ward as part of her character. It was one thing to call her nuts, but another to insinuate that she had legitimate mental health issues, when so many people struggle with mental illness every day.
8 DDP Ending Goldberg's Winning Streak
Throughout 1998 in WCW, two stories were running concurrently with each other – the rise of Diamond Dallas Page and Goldberg’s winning streak. The two storylines and babyfaces collided at Halloween Havoc. Yes, cable networks turned off the feed, but it’s been 20 years since, so if you haven’t watched the match yet, you should.
Goldberg won the match and it would be a few more months until the streak would end and DDP would win his first title. If DDP didn’t speak up, things could have been different. He was actually booked to end the streak at Havoc. Page’s reasoning was that he didn’t want the heat of ending the streak, and decided it wasn't his time yet.
7 Randy Orton Ending Undertaker's Streak
The Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak is still heralded to this day. The debate still goes on to this day if it should have ever been broken or not. In 2005, nearly ten years before it ended, was when the streak became The Streak. It all started with Randy Orton. As he was gearing up to take on the Phenom, he had begun to mention that ‘Taker was undefeated.
Orton was supposed to be the guy to end The Streak. But The Legend Killer, who had been famously a handful backstage, had started to mature a little bit. He knew that there’d be a whole ton of heat on him for ending The Streak. He thought better of it and started on his road to a legendary status just by knowing better.
6 Dustin Vs. Hulk
On Something To Wrestle With...Bruce Prichard, Brother Love himself once gave a different idea for WrestleMania IX – Hulk Hogan vs. Dustin Rhodes. The company had always had an interest in Dustin since his brief time with them a few years earlier. Bruce has the whole idea mapped out in his head and told listeners using his great Dusty impression. But when it came time to pitch Hogan the story, the Hulkster pulled the old “that doesn’t work for me, brother,” citing Dustin’s physique as the reason.
If you ever wanted to see this match, it did finally happen - on WCW Thunder in 2000.
5 Nexus Changes
When the Nexus debuted, they caused a big stir in the business. It was surprising watching them lay the beat down on John Cena and lay waste to anything and everything that wasn’t tied down. The attack was so graphic that WWE briefly fired Daniel Bryan to keep their sponsors happy. They were intended to win the showdown at that year’s SummerSlam, which is something guys like Edge and Chris Jericho pushed for.
Cena, on the other hand, just wasn’t feeling it, and pushed even harder for the decision to be changed. Considering what became of every member of the original Nexus, except for the newly rehired Bryan (who actually defected to Team WWE in that SummerSlam match), it’s hard to argue against Cena. However, since they weren’t booked strong, no one bought into them being strong.
4 Brock Works With Who Brock Wants To Work With
It’s no secret that the admiration between the WWE and Brock Lesnar runs deep. Lesnar is very careful with who he works with and when. A lot of fans and even some wrestlers might not like it. But Brock brings the mainstream appeal and legitimacy to the WWE that Vince always craves.
That does lead to a lot of smaller guys not necessarily getting their shot. Finn Balor, for instance, was denied his return match for the Universal title based on his size. Sure, it’s all a work, but Finn getting his shot was a ready-made storyline that only saw fruit once Roman Reigns won the belt.
3 Abyss Vs The Undertaker
There was a point in its history where TNA didn’t seem like such a joke. Guys like AJ Styles, Bobby Roode, and Samoa Joe were leading the charge for the young guys. Kurt Angle was the veteran helping them along, and then there was the hardcore freak, Abyss. To date, he’s one of the few TNA originals who never left the company and is still there.
Abyss was firing on all cylinders back in 2006, so naturally, WWE tried to come calling. They came calling in a big way - offering the monster a WrestleMania match with the Undertaker in Detroit. One might think that Abyss would’ve jumped at the chance. But the monster chose to stay and help TNA grow. To his credit, this was during one of their better times.
2 Rob Van Dam Rejects Heel Turn In 2014
RVD has always been one of the most honest wrestlers out there and he's made it no mystery that he was disappointed in his last WWE run. For his 2014 run with the company, the idea was pitched for him to turn heel and align himself with Paul Heyman. However, given that RVD was only on a short-term deal, he didn't see what purpose that would serve.
Once RVD turned down the idea, the WWE eventually came up with other associates for Paul Heyman, such as Cesaro. It's unlikely a heel turn would've done much for RVD's latest WWE stint.
1 Vince Is The Party Bunny
Adam Rose and the Exotic Express was a great idea for fans of all ages to get behind. Over the few years he was around, a veritable who’s who of future main roster stars were Rosebuds. At one point or another, Braun Strowman, Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss, Elias, and even James Ellsworth in a hamburger suit got to ride the party bus with Adam Rose.
Even Vince McMahon was tapped to be a Rosebud. For a time, Rose had a Bunny running around with him. As the Bunny was getting more and more involved the thought was floated out there that the Chairman himself should be the guy in the costume. According to Rose, he had wanted his fellow countryman, Justin Gabriel, to play the part, and cooler heads prevailed to make sure that happened.