Like most people with good taste in entertainment, I'm a fan of superhero comic books. One of Marvel Comics' coolest ideas was their 'What If?' line of books. This on and off again series would take moments in time throughout the company's history and spun them off in a different direction. Some of the books included if the spider bit someone else other than Peter Parker or if Captain America had lived in the Civil War era. While pro wrestling can never replicate the insane tales of those stories (God knows promoters have tried), we can still have some pretty interesting plot twists in this modern circus. With the amount of creative changes Vince McMahon does in the time it takes to relieve ourselves, some of these could actually seem quite possible.
Just a simple turn here or a twist there and we're living in a completely different reality than the one we have now. Icons of the industry get lost in the shuffle because of a management bungle while the power struggle between WCW and WWE swings different ways. The effects of these changes not only affect wrestling storylines and companies, but people's lives as well. While some people will die in these twists of fate, some lives that were lost in our regular timeline will have never died. As the WWE has said several times over the years, anything can happen in sports entertainment.
Now then, let's get to it. I present to you the top 15 what ifs in professional wrestling history.
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15 Owen Hart Says No To The Stunt
It was wholly unnecessary and one of the dumbest decisions made by the WWE. As part of a comedic angle, Owen Hart was supposed to descend from the ceiling of the Kemper Arena in Kansas City only to have his cable snap. Hart tragically died at the age of 34.
But what if Hart absolutely refused to do the stunt? I imagine that while he never would have been the face of the WWE, I do think that he would have had at least one World Championship reign before he called it a career. Also, he would have been comfortably entered into the Hall of Fame with no controversy.
It's possible that Owen might have helped Bret mend the bridge with WWE sooner than he did but that's more unlikely than what I mentioned above.
14 Goldberg's Streak Lives On
One of the very few times an undefeated gimmick worked, Bill Goldberg played his part as an unstoppable badass who ripped apart anyone in his path. Then he got shocked by a cattle prod and lost his WCW World Championship to Kevin Nash at Starrcade 1998. Huh?
If Goldberg's streak had lived on a little while longer and was instead broken by a younger talent like a Chris Jericho, the fingerpoke of doom would have been averted and the war between WCW and WWE would have been competitive for far longer than it was. The company would also have another star on their hands instead of wasting the streak on an old and tired Nash.
13 Shawn Michaels Doesn't Injure His Back In 1998
At Royal Rumble 1998, Shawn Michaels suffered a severe back injury which would put him on the shelf for years. The injury gave him time to re-evaluate his life and quit his self-destructive lifestyle. You can see where I'm going with this.
If the back injury never occurs, HBK likely continues with his drug addiction and never gets the help he needs and a result, Michaels becomes yet another wrestling tragedy. This one however, is the one that prompts Vince McMahon to crack down on the drug use of his wrestlers and we see something similar to their current wellness policy much earlier than in our actual timeline.
12 Nash and Hall Stay In WWE
WWE was dealt a significant blow in 1996 when two of their biggest names, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, defected from the WWE to take up jobs in WCW. This would lead to the nWo and WCW totally whipping Vinnie Mac's ass and nearly putting him out of business.
But what if The Outsiders decided to stay in WWE? Well, the nWo would have never gotten off the ground due to lack of WWE stars coming over and WCW would have been stuck in a rut with Hulk Hogan never turning heel.
The Monday Night War then never heats up and while both Nitro and Raw remain on the air, no war really takes place and WWE takes over around 1998-1999 due to the rise of Steve Austin and The Rock.
Speaking of that Rattlesnake...
11 Steve Austin Stays In WCW
It is Eric Bischoff's biggest mistake ever. In 1995, Bischoff fired an injured Steve Austin because he thought he had nothing to offer WCW aside from being a good mechanic in the ring. Oops.
But what if Bischoff didn't have his head up his ass that day and kept Austin around? Well essentially he wouldn't have handed ECW and later WWE a nuclear warhead of pro wrestling talent.
In the late 1990s WWE would have been forced to fast track The Rock to the top under his Rocky Maivia character and the fans would have turned on him even worse than they did in the regular timeline. Yup, Rocky Maivia would have been the late 90s Roman Reigns.
More tragic than that, the Stone Cold character is never born under WCW's suffocating management and is stuck in mid-card limbo and only occasionally gets cracks at the main event level. Think of a Dolph Ziggler-esque position for Austin. Urghhh.
10 The Undertaker Loses His Streak Early On
We all know that pro wrestling promoters can tend to be notoriously short-sighted. That just makes the Undertaker's WrestleMania undefeated streak that much more incredible. For 22 straight WrestleMania appearances The Deadman was flawless. But what happens if he lost to Jake The Snake Roberts? Or Kane? Or... or... (vomits) Giant Gonzalez?
Well then the whole jig would be up. Undertaker would have still been one of biggest legends in all of wrestling, but his career (especially in his later years) would have lacked a spark that the streak allowed him to have. Let's just hope that WWE wouldn't have decided to book a Giant Gonzalez/Undertaker rematch years later at WrestleMania XX or anything like that. I really don't want to vomit again.
9 Paul Heyman Never Went To ECW
In 1993, Paul Heyman came into ECW as lead booker under owner Tod Gordon. Under Heyman's leadership, the ragtag groups of misfits became the number three promotion in the United States, mighty impressive considering his competition were the giants WCW and WWE. But what if Heyman never entered the Land of the Extreme?
Without Heyman's creative vision, Eastern Championship Wrestling never finishes its metamorphosis into Extreme Championship Wrestling. Not only do stars like Steve Austin and Mick Foley not have a chance to hone their skills in the promotion, but Vince McMahon has no template to follow for the Attitude Era and WWE suffers an identity crisis in the late 90s. The end result of this is...
WCW wins. Fatality.
8 Eddie Guerrero Doesn't Die In 2005?
While it's hard to deal with what ifs involving death, the ramifications of Guerrero's passing in 2005 just affected so much in the WWE. Due to years of substance abuse, Eddie Guerrero tragically passed away in 2005 from heart failure just when it seemed like he finally had his life under control. What if he had lived?
In the short-term we are treated to an absolute classic at WrestleMania 22 in the form of Shawn Michaels vs. Eddie Guerrero. This was HBK's planned match before Guerrero died and instead we got Mr. McMahon vs. The Showstopper.
In the long term, this great tragedy prevents the biggest black eye in wrestling's history; the Chris Benoit double murder/suicide. The psyche of Benoit was not only rattled from years of concussions but also the loss of his close friend. It's highly possible the Benoit saga would have been avoided if Guerrero lived.
7 Sting Signs With The WWE In 2001
While Sting may have only signed with the WWE in 2015, that doesn't mean the company didn't try numerous times years before that to sign The Stinger. One of their first attempts was in 2001 in order to have him part of the Invasion storyline but Sting refused to sign.
What if he did though?
WCW would have had their knight in shining armor for the Invasion storyline for sure but also in the long term we would have seen classics featuring Sting versus Shawn Michaels, The Rock, John Cena and you guessed it, The Undertaker.
But instead Sting's WWE career is defined by losses to Triple H and Seth Rollins. That's just as good right?
6 The Montreal Screwjob Doesn't Happen
You all know how the Montreal Screwjob went down so I'm going to attempt to sum it up as concise as possible.
Vince screwed Bret. Done? Done.
Instead of Vince McMahon screwing over his longtime employee and World Champion on his way out the door of his company, the match goes to a double disqualification as it was told to Bret. Bret vacates the title the next night on Raw and Shawn Michaels wins a tournament to crown a new champion.
Since the Vince McMahon character never spawns from the controversy though, Stone Cold is left with no grand villain to feud with after WrestleMania and WCW lands the kill shot to put WWE out of business. Kind of sad isn't it?
5 The Rock Doesn't Make It In Hollywood
Listen up, freaking everybody loves Dwayne Johnson. If you're a wrestling fan, you love him for ground-breaking work in the late 90s and early 00s as one of the best pro wrestlers of all time. Then he went to Hollywood and eventually became one of the biggest damn stars in THAT industry too. But what if he didn't?
His early films were pretty underwhelming, so he absolutely could have returned to WWE in the mid 2000s and once again take over the company. This could have left guys like John Cena and Batista's pushes to the top stunted and they could have been left in the midcard for years. But we would have had The Rock, so works out pretty good eh?
4 Vince McMahon is Prosecuted
This may be new info for those not versed in wrestling history, but Vince McMahon almost went to jail. Seriously, not for a storyline but arrested by real cops who weren't just local indie wrestlers hired for Raw.
In 1993 Vince McMahon was indicted by the Feds for distributing anabolic steroids to his wrestlers, which is a crime. He was acquitted of the charges due to a lack of evidence and weak testimonials but what if he was actually prosecuted?
The company would then have presumably fallen into the hands of Linda McMahon. Obviously not quite the boisterous and bold personality that Vince is, there's a good chance that the company may have sunk without Vinnie Mac. The mid 90s were after all the worst period for the company financially and without McMahon there, it could have been the shot that took down the King Kong of pro wrestling.
3 Hulk Hogan Stays With WWE In 1993
Before Hulk Hogan's racism scandal blew up last year and ousted him from WWE, he was essentially playing an ambassador role to the company and staying out of the ring. Would you believe that he was offered that role way back in 1993 and turned it down? But what if he didn't?
Rather than signing with WCW, Hogan could have stayed with the company he helped make famous and leave WCW out of the mainstream spotlight. While WWE's mid-90s programming might not have improved at all, WCW would have never gotten Hogan's spark which was needed to launch the Monday Night War. And thus, we never get the greatest boom period in pro wrestling.
2 Time Warner Doesn't Merge With AOL
In WCW's darkest hour, Ted Tuner was the Atlas holding up their world on his shoulders. Then, Atlas had the carpet pulled out from under him and couldn't keep WCW on life support because of his lack of power in the new Time Warner/AOL conglomerate.
But what if the two companies didn't merge? Well, Turner Broadcasting under Ted Turner's command would prop up WCW, Weekend At Bernie's style despite the money pit it had become.
Even with losing $62 million in 2000, this was still not much money for a huge corporation like Turner Broadcasting. It's plausible to think that Turner could have kept WCW in business long enough for the company to catch fire again and reignite the Monday Night War. Either way, the war would have at least dragged on longer than it did.
1 Vince McMahon Doesn't Get Into Pro Wrestling
Like it or not, Vince McMahon Jr. is the primary reason why any of this cornerstone of American pop culture called pro wrestling exists as we know it. But what if the McMahon family patriarch decides to go for a bodybuilding career rather than becoming a pro wrestling promoter? God knows Vince likes showing off his body and flexing.
While it's possible that Vince McMahon Sr. would have eventually gone national, it's hard to think he would have embraced the Rock N' Wrestling of the 1980s due to his attitude of not letting his talent branch out to other forms of media. As a result, pro wrestling remains a popular, but very niche market (more so than it is now) which doesn't become the juggernaut it is today. And then I don't have a job, so that of course is worst of all. Duh.
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