For the most part, wrestling fans realize that the wrestling shows they see live or watch on TV are just that, shows. A mixture of athleticism and soap opera, pro wrestling lives on the essence of kayfabe, or the scripted portion of the show and matches. Matches have predetermined spots and outcomes, wrestlers are playing characters, albeit exaggerated versions of themselves at times, and the moves are choreographed in order to be as safe but as realistic as possible. It is sort of like being told as a kid that Santa is really just your parents, when you are told by either another kid or an adult that wrestling is fake. Yet even knowing that, we still watch it because wrestling allows us to take a break from our daily lives and enjoy a couple hours of in-ring action and exciting storylines, though for some people it is still real to them dammit.
Yet there are those moments where even the most jaded fans say, “hey that wasn't supposed to happen” or “is this real?” These “shoot” moments are a rarity for most major wrestling promotions, because it usually means something has gone wrong and the show is off the rails. It could be an in-ring injury or a wrestler losing his composure and taking it out on whoever will listen to him while he’s talking into a mic. Other times it involves a fan trying to become a part of the action, to much disastrous results. This ranking is here to cover some of the moments where wrestling got real or seemed too real i.e. "worked shoots."
So sit back and enjoy this ranking and if you have any other moments that you remember or want to say how you feel about the ranking, please feel free to share them below in the comment section.
15 Matt Hardy/Edge/Lita Love Triangle
As was written in a previous article about the greatest controversies in pro wrestling, there was a moment where a common wrestling storyline became reality when Lita and Edge started an affair behind Matt Hardy’s back. In a moment that could have become incredibly uncomfortable in watching a man’s longtime relationship crumble in front of his eyes, fans instead were treated to some of the most honest, albeit exaggerated storytelling from these three performers. The WWE played it well in giving Hardy an outlet to air his grievances and in turn, it created one of the greatest heels in recent memory in Edge.
14 Eddie Guerrero/RVD Ladder Match Interference
You never know what is going to happen on live TV, especially a program that can be as chaotic as a wrestling show. This was never truer than during a ladder match for the Intercontinental Title between Eddie Guerrero and Rob Van Dam on Raw. The match was going accordingly until Eddie began his climb to the top of the ladder after laying out Van Dam. A fan then decided to break one of the cardinal rules of wrestling, where the fans stay in audience, otherwise they get beat up. At that point, a fan jumped the barricade, ran into the ring, and knocked the ladder over with Eddie still on it. Unfortunately for the fan, Eddie landed on his feet and proceeded to hit and kick the intruder before security got the idiot out of the ring.
While this is not the first incident of a fan going after a wrestler and paying dearly for it, you can find Youtube videos of fans fighting Jeff Jarrett or Scott Hall stomping the head of a fan who tried to attack Hogan when he joined the nWo, among others, but this may be one of the most blatant and physical altercations between a wrestler and a fan. It just gives fans that are thinking about doing the same a thought that maybe it is not the best idea to try and insert oneself into a situation that they clearly do not belong.
13 Bash at the Beach w/ Hogan and Russo
WCW was in dire straits in 2000, everything from show attendance to TV ratings and PPV buyrates were down, so the company was trying anything to peak fan interest. Unfortunately, WCW head booker felt that solution was in the form of this infamous fake-shoot incident. Basically the backstory of what happened was Russo tried to improve moral in the back with all of the wrestlers, who despised Hulk Hogan and how he used his creative control clause to keep himself in the main event scene. Hogan needed time off to heal from injuries so it was decided to have him take some time off but in a way that would make Russo seem like a hero to everyone and keep Hogan out of everyone’s hair for at least a few months.
Hogan came out to the ring ready to fight Jeff Jarrett for the World Title at Bash at the Beach. Jarrett and Russo came out and Jarrett begrudgingly laid down in the center of the ring and Russo yelled at Hogan to pin him. This was all after a staged backstage argument between Russo and Hogan concerning the finish of the match, which was done solely for the sake of the other wrestlers to see it and hopefully believe what was going to happen in the ring was actually real. Unfortunately the plan fell apart after Hogan left and Russo cut a scathing promo on the hall of famer, which was not part of the plan. Hogan then left the company, suing Russo for defamation of character.
12 Paul Heyman Shoots on TNN
In the tail end of its run as a promotion, ECW felt that it had found its lifeboat when it landed a TV deal with TNN. Unfortunately, it was a match made in hell as TNN imposed strict content regulations on the previously outrageous promotion and promoter Paul Heyman. Worse yet, TNN did basically no promotion for ECW when it was on the network, despite it being the network’s highest rated show. To add insult to injury, ECW announcer Joey Styles was constantly forced to promote the following show for the night, Rollerjam.
The final straw though was when TNN began publicly courting the WWE for a TV deal, incensing Heyman who could do nothing outside of sue the network for contract breach. Heyman would then go on live TV and cut a promo on the network denouncing it and its tactics of using ECW as a guinea pig to see if a wrestling show could be successful on the network. Heyman tore into the company and the WWE, telling them to get ready for the biggest lawsuit of their lives and declaring to the fans watching at home “that this is definitely a shoot.”
11 Scott Hall’s Debut in WCW
In the beginning of the Monday Night War, both the WWE and WCW were looking for ways to stand out. Well, it is safe to say that Eric Bischoff and WCW fired the first big shot against the WWE when during a midcard match on Monday Nitro, fans in attendance turned away from what was happening in the ring to see a familiar face walking down through the crowd towards the ring. Soon Scott Hall, formerly Razor Ramon in the WWE, stepped over the guard rail and demanded a microphone. He would begin a promo running down WCW saying, “you wanted a war, well you got one,” heavily implying a WWE invasion of WCW and causing fans to wonder if it was really happening.
The moment would be a huge jumping off point for WCW, as in the coming weeks, Kevin Nash would join Hall as they began to tear apart WCW before eventually aligning with Hulk Hogan to form the nWo, sending WCW into a huge lead in the Monday Night War.
10 Joey Styles Quits Raw
After signing a five-year deal with the WWE after their ECW One Night Stand PPV, Joey Styles was sent to be a commentator on Raw, working with Jerry Lawler and Jonathan Coachman. It was short lived though as only a few months later Styles took to the ring to vent about the lack of real wrestling in the WWE and that sports entertainment was nothing compared to what defunct promotions like ECW had accomplished in its heyday. In reality Styles was just stepping down from the Raw job so that the returning Jim Ross could have his old spot back and Styles went on to commentate on the WWE's version of ECW alongside Tazz. Yet even though it was a worked shoot, Styles was able to bring back a bit of the realism that fans had grown to love in ECW, and by going after his workplace in such a way made fans interested in seeing if the new ECW could stack up to what it once was.
9 Eddie Guerrero Coffee Promo
By 1998, Eddie Guerrero had established himself as one of the best technical wrestlers in the world. Unfortunately, you couldn't tell, as he was never given ample opportunities, forever stuck in the mid-card. So when Guerrero asked Eric Bischoff for his release and the conversation went south, Guerrero decided to tell the world what happened. On live TV during Nitro, Guerrero came to the ring in street clothes carrying a cup and his luggage. He would go on a rant about his position in the promotion and what had happened when he talked with Bischoff, namely how coffee was thrown at him. So to top off the promo, Guerrero poured coffee on himself to save Bischoff the hassle and take this job and shove it before leaving the ring and the promotion for a few months.
8 CM Punk Impersonates Jeff Hardy
In 2009, CM Punk and Jeff Hardy were embroiled in a feud over the World Heavyweight Championship. The focus of the feud involved the differing lifestyles of both competitors with Punk being straight edge while Hardy was seen more as a free spirit. At the culmination of the feud, Punk beat Hardy in a loser leaves the company match, which was done in part to allow for Hardy to recuperate from injuries. A month later Hardy would be arrested for drug possession and trafficking at his home in North Carolina.
Yet to the shock and amazement of fans, Hardy’s music began to boom at a Smackdown taping and a figure soon appeared on the ramp doing the same entrance routine that Hardy was known for. Unfortunately for those fans, it was soon apparent that this was not Hardy making a triumphant return, but rather CM Punk dressed as Hardy, even wearing his same face paint. Punk would then run down Hardy in a promo, going over his recent arrest and saying that he was a poor example of someone the fans should be emulating, instead of the straight edge Punk.
It was a great promo that broke that barrier between shoot and kayfabe where Punk and the WWE were able to run down Hardy who had recently signed with TNA, while still keeping Hardy a face in the eyes of WWE fans due to Punk’s actions. In the hands of a lesser speaker the whole incident might have fallen flat on its face, but Punk was able to sell the idea to the audience concerning his arrogance as a straight edge browbeater and the fact that maybe, just maybe, he was right about his lifestyle in comparison to Hardy’s.
7 Jeff Hardy vs. Sting, Victory Road
At TNA’s Victory Road PPV in 2011, Sting was scheduled to defend his World Title against Jeff Hardy. Unfortunately, Jeff’s drug addiction was getting the better of him that day and he showed up hours late to the show. When Hardy was sent out to the ring it was obvious that he was still high as a kite and in no condition to wrestle a full match. Unfortunately there was still a good portion of time left before the PPV could end so something had to be done in an attempt to put this situation out of its misery.
So before the match started Eric Bischoff came to the ring and whispered into both men’s ears, presumably to tell them to hurry it the hell up, before announcing that the match was being made into a no disqualification match. Sting would knock Bischoff down with a punch and then tried to quickly get a hold of Hardy to end the match. Unfortunately, Hardy was not having any of it and did not seem to understand the seriousness of the situation he was in, so he toyed with Sting and the fans in attendance for a few seconds by faking that he would throw his t-shirt into the crowd. A visibly frustrated Sting would soon grab Hardy and hit his Scorpion Deathdrop finisher before pinning Hardy, holding him down against his will in order to end the match.
Fans in attendance booed loudly as the main event they paid to see was under two minutes long and began chanting “bulls@#!” to which Sting audibly shouted back at them “I agree!” Hardy was sent home after that to allow for him to get his demons in check and TNA was criticized heavily for allowing to the ring in the first place.
6 Eric Bischoff Revealing WWE Results
It is the greatest blooper in wrestling history; everyone should know the name of the Shockmaster. In what was supposed to be the debut of the next big main event star, Shockmaster fell through the wall he was meant to smash through, falling on his face, his glitter Stormtrooper helmet falling off of his head, instantly going from stud to dud. Yet the shoot portion in this incident came from the live mics of the other wrestlers who were a part of the segment: Booker T, British Bulldog, and Ole Anderson, in particular. After he falls, the wrestlers could be overheard a variety of things including Bulldog saying “he fell flat on his a$$,” Booker T asking the important question of “who is this is mother-----,” and Ole Anderson who provided the voice for the Shockmaster, but did not see what happened asking someone backstage while on mic “what, did he fall?” It is honestly amazing that the wrestlers were able to keep a straight face as the incident occurred, though mainly that could be seen as trying to salvage the now laughably looking PPV main event they were scheduled in.
4 Ric Flair Return Promo, WCW
Ric Flair had always had a tumultuous relationship with WCW, battling with nearly every creative head or promoter the company had after Jim Crockett Promotions was bought out by Ted Turner. Yet one moment that really stood out was when Flair was off WCW TV for months after a dispute arose surrounding Flair going to his son’s wrestling tournament and missing a taping of a WCW program. He had given advance notice that he would be gone, but Eric Biscoff claimed he never received it and sued Flair for breach of contract. The two sides would go back and forth months while Flair’s stable the Four Horsemen would be in a transition phase in his absence.
Flair would then make his return to Nitro in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, where longtime friend Arn Anderson was announcing his retirement and that there was going to be a change to the Horsemen lineup. Flair would then come down to the ring and the crowd erupted in deafening cheers.
Flair came to the ring and was soon brought to tears by the response he received before going into a speech about his career, the Horsemen, and his recent issues with the company. It was about at this time that Eric Bischoff began to walk to the ring and Flair went on a vicious rant towards Bischoff and telling Bischoff to fire him if he did not like what he was saying. It was a revealing moment as to the issues Flair faced in the promotion that he helped build up in years prior and the issues he would face in the years to come due to backstage politics.
3 Vince McMahon buys WCW
Even though the ratings war had died down, it was not until 2001 that Vince McMahon finally conquered his greatest foe and purchased WCW. Vince being Vince, decided to let his ego run full bore when he simulcasted from Cleveland where Raw was airing and Panama City, Florida, where Nitro was having its last episode. He would poll fans in attendance whether certain wrestlers should be fired or not, saying he had their careers in his hands. He then outright fired Jeff Jarrett in the middle of Jarrett’s Nitro match, in retaliation to Jarrett leaving the WWE on bad terms a couple years prior. Overall it is understandable that an egotist like Vince would act this way after beating a rival who tried to put him out of business, but he went full on Mr. McMahon in reveling in his victory.
2 CM Punk's Pipebomb
Many 'smart' fans knew CM Punk was at odds with the WWE, questioning whether or not he would resign with the promotion once his contract expired. Yet no one expected what would actually happen when Punk interfered in a match Cena was having, laying him out before heading up the ramp and sitting down while holding a microphone. In a moment that basically aired the thoughts of every smarky internet fan, Punk ran down Cena, Vince McMahon, and the WWE as a whole. He said hi to his friend Colt Cabana while talking about the brass ring that always seemed to be pulled out of reach in favor of lowering it for Cena. He talked about anything that seemed to pop into his head before finally being cut off when he mentioned the WWE’s Be A Star program.
In a matter of minutes Punk cut a promo that had many wondering if it was real. Punk was allowed to do something that not many in the industry get to do by airing his grievances on national television and in turn became one of the hottest commodities in pro wrestling. There was a frankness to his speech that made it believable and it made the idea of watching wrestling without knowing what would happen next seem possible again after so many years of predictable storylines.
1 Montreal Screwjob
The most famous betrayal in pro wrestling history is easily the greatest shoot in wrestling history as well. After failing to come to a clean finish between the Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels WWE Title match at Survivor Series, it was decided by Vince McMahon that he needed to get the belt from Bret at any cost. So at the end of the match when Shawn locked in Bret’s own finisher the Sharpshooter, referee Earl Hebner called for the bell claiming that Bret had tapped, which he clearly had not. Bret, under the assumption that the match would end in a DQ after run-ins from the Hart Foundation and DX, was incensed and began immediately tearing up the ring and surrounding area after spitting on Vince.
Bret would then begin signing the letters WCW in the air letting fans know where they could find him wrestling next. The moment was a turning point in the Monday Night War because now Vince McMahon was something more than a commentator or behind the scenes owner, now he was the face of pure evil that screwed over a beloved wrestler in his home town in order to put the belt on Bret’s most hated rival. In the interviews that followed Vince would reveal some of the reason why things happened the way that they did, giving fans the infamous line of “Bret screwed Bret.” It was a moment that will live in the annals of pro wrestling history as the moment that was truly real and broke down all barriers for fans watching then and still to this day.