There was once a time when professional wrestling was one of the world’s best kept secrets. Many of the best would portray their characters almost 24 hours per day, seven days per week as they were out and about in the public eye. It might have been easier for some masked wrestlers, but it was a constant challenge in an effort to keep the secrets of wrestling hidden.
But over the last few years, wrestling fans have become a lot smarter. Not only have several news outlets written features about how wrestling is scripted, but fans have also been more connected with the industry thanks to wrestling insiders publishing articles about backstage rumors and news. Wrestling can sometimes become more predictable. But not all of the time.
Throughout the history of WWE, there are a number of moments where even the smartest of wrestling fans were surprised. Maybe something unscripted took place where there was a noticeable pause or awkward moments. Other times, wrestlers went off the script and did something a little unpredictable on television.
There’s also the cases of the ending of a match being changed while not telling everyone else before the match. Maybe they didn’t have the “Hart” to tell them. Yes, you can call that foreshadowing for later in this list. But the WWE has been filled with a variety of moments where there superstars have broken character on live television and the following are the top 15 of those moments.
15 Daniel Puder Tries to Make Kurt Angle Tap
Daniel Puder was already considered a tough guy for having quite the successful run in mixed martial arts. In fact, he went 8-0 in fights from 2003 to 2009. So he was considered a favorite in the $1,000,000 Tough Enough competition that ran in late 2004. One of the challenges for the competitors was to get in the ring with former Olympic gold medalist and WWE Champion Kurt Angle. Puder was the first to volunteer to show his amateur skills with one of the best in the WWE.
Apparently, the plan was supposed to be a simple pin by Angle. But Puder wanted to try and make Angle tap out to a keylock submission. It’s a dangerous submission that could have easily snapped Angle’s arm, which didn’t go over well with the WWE veteran. Angle has since had some choice words in shoot interviews about Puder. With all things considered, it’s easy to understand why Angle would bury the former Tough Enough champion.
14 Chris Jericho Gets Disqualified After Neville’s Injury
During a match earlier this year on RAW, Chris Jericho was having a match with the young upstart in Neville. It looked like it was a decent match until the high-flying Neville looked to have suffered an ankle injury. The match continued for a few moments until Neville was noticeably hurt, pointing out his ankle to the referee. Jericho then communicated that he was going to pin Neville to end the match quickly.
However, senior official Charles Robinson didn’t finish the three-count since Neville’s shoulders weren’t completely down. Jericho didn’t seem happy, so he got up and shoved Robinson to force the disqualification. Both men had a heated exchange where Jericho continued to yell “he’s hurt!” There wasn’t any heat afterwards for either Jericho or Robinson.
13 Chavo Guerrero Changes Character After Eddie’s Death
This one is a bit of a change-up from some of the other moments mentioned. Chavo Guerrero was actually transitioning from his namesake to the Kerwin White character. The storyline in 2005 was that Chavo was feeling held back because of his Mexican heritage and that he was going to join the caucasian class of society. This included wearing tennis club attire, dying his hair blonde and driving a golf cart to the ring.
But with his uncle Eddie’s sudden passing in 2005, his nephew decided that it was time to return to his heritage and his namesake. A few nights after his passing, Chavo would come on television with the familiar music and attire in an upset victory over one of Eddie’s biggest rivals in John “Bradshaw” Layfield.
12 Triple H’s Recovery for HBK’s Final RAW
Part of a wrestler’s character involves having to sell different injuries. Triple H is usually credited with being one of the best overall in professional wrestling. But the night after WrestleMania XXVI, Triple H was standing on the stage to talk about the retirement of Shawn Michaels after he lost a Career vs. Streak match with The Undertaker. But Sheamus came out and hit Triple H in the back of the head with a lead pipe.
It was a vicious looking attack and it was believed that he was done for the evening. At the end of the night after Michaels gave his official farewell, Triple H snuck up behind him and gave him a big hug. The Game didn’t seem to show effects from Sheamus’ attack. Maybe he passed the WWE’s concussion protocol just in time. Either way, it sort of broke his character’s injury angle.
11 Kofi Kingston Loses His Accent
Kofi Kingston first debuted in the WWE with a Jamaican character with a very noticeable accent. However, he was never born in Jamaica. He was actually born in Ghana, West Africa, but admits in interviews that he grew up having an appreciation for their culture – from the food to the natives’ laid-back demeanor. It was part of his character until an episode of RAW in 2009 where he accidentally lost his accent.
Kingston was trying to calm the tempers of those who would be representing RAW in a RAW vs SmackDown match at the 2009 Bragging Rights pay-per-view. Triple H then got on the microphone and asked Kingston “Aren’t you supposed to be Jamaican?” The crowd reacted as Kingston had the “deer in the headlights” look. Since his cover was blown, Kingston stopped doing the accent and announcers billed him from his native Ghana.
10 Randy Orton Consoles Shane McMahon’s Son
This one is a more recent example of wrestlers being considerate of family sitting at ringside during a match. At the 2016 Survivor Series five-on-five match between RAW and SmackDown, Shane McMahon took a nasty bump after receiving a spear from Roman Reigns. Referees and WWE doctors were able to get him out of the ring and there was some concern that he suffered a possible concussion.
Shane’s kids were sitting at ringside during the event and were obviously worried about the spot. Randy Orton was able to relay the news to Shane’s son that his dad was going to be fine and there was nothing to worry about. Considering Orton’s history and his current persona as a new member of the Wyatt Family, it was a break in kayfabe for the right reasons.
9 Michael Cole Updates Fans About Jerry Lawler’s Health
There was a time when Michael Cole was a heel play-by-play commentator. It didn’t really help considering it came across as more of an annoyance for the fans, especially when Cole was able to get a disqualification victory over color commentator Jerry “The King” Lawler at WrestleMania XXVII in 2011. A little more than a year later, Cole’s feud with Lawler would end in a way that wasn’t planned.
During a September 2012 episode of RAW, Lawler suffered a heart attack live on television. In the moments after, Cole would explain what happened to Lawler. It was obviously a tough moment where Cole was fighting through emotions to give fans updates through the night as Lawler was taken to the back by a stretcher and then taken to a nearby hospital. Cole was giving Lawler words of encouragement through the night, which officially ended Cole’s heel run.
8 The Undertakers Kneels to Ric Flair
The Undertaker has mostly been a mysterious character who doesn’t usually say a lot on the microphone. There was that period of time when he was known as The American Badass. While it gave him a lengthy run as the WWE Undisputed Champion, it’s a part of the character that’s best left ignored. Overall, Undertaker has usually shown little emotion as The Deadman.
But he has shown some human traits in recent years, including a visit with Ric Flair the night after WrestleMania XXIV in 2008. Flair had lost a match to Shawn Michaels with his career on the line. As many other veterans and current superstars were paying their respects at RAW, The Undertaker came down to the ring. After embracing the Nature Boy and noticeably saying thank you to a legend, 'Taker gave perhaps the ultimate show of respect. The Phenom knelt to the Nature Boy as a sign of respect – from one living legend to another.
7 CM Punk Hits Fan
CM Punk hasn’t quite received the best reputation when it comes to fan interaction. Many fans can recall that positive and negative experiences outside of the WWE. But for one fan during an October 2012 episode of Raw, it was a less than memorable close-up experience with the Second City Saint. Punk had entered the crowd in the closing segment of Raw with the cameras showing a number of fans trying to touch the WWE Champion.
Punk tried to shoo them away and became more perturbed in the minutes he stood amongst the WWE Universe. Finally, one fan behind him broke the last straw and Punk turned around to strike back. Unfortunately, video evidence shot by nearby fans show that Punk hit the wrong fan. The fan claimed that he was going to file charges. While Punk was a bad guy at the time, superstars are never meant to hit fans.
6 Shawn Michaels Upset About Battery Thrown At Him
In a special event to promote WrestleMania XIV, Shawn Michaels stood in a ring to help get fans excited about the upcoming main event. Surrounded by other members of D-Generation X, he was in the middle of a promo that ended up being cut short. A fan decided to throw a battery into the ring, which hit the Heartbreak Kid right in the head. First of all, it’s understandable for anyone to get upset with being hit by a battery.
Michaels decided to stop the promo and left the crowd. Vince McMahon would state in an interview for a DVD that wrestlers aren’t supposed to walk out on the audience. Granted, this was a different Shawn Michaels who was going through personal demons before finding faith as a born-again Christian.
5 Triple H Consoles Fan at Ringside
Throughout most of his career in professional wrestling, Triple H has been established as one of the most villainous characters in history. As the lead member of The Authority during a January 2015 episode of Monday Night RAW, he was sitting at ringside during a match where a young 8-year-old fan was chanting his name. Triple H tried to get him to stop, but the young fan began to cry. This led to Triple H deciding he needed to break character by putting his head against his and messing up his hair.
Triple H explained to the young fan that he was just messing around. Triple H’s wife, Stephanie McMahon, also broke character to chat with the young fan. But that’s not the end of the story. Triple H then had a security guard escort the fan and his father behind the scenes for a special meeting with The Game and his wife; proof that Triple H does have a good heart.
4 Mean Gene Okerlund Drops an F-Bomb
Booker T and WCW aren’t the only ones known for a curse word being aired on major television. During the 1989 SummerSlam pay-per-view, Mean Gene Okerlund was about to do a live backstage interview with Intercontinental Champion Rick Rude. As the announce team was sending it off to Okerlund, the camera panned out from the Intercontinental Championship as the SummerSlam sign behind them fell from the wall.
It didn’t fall quietly either and it would obviously frustrate anyone who was interrupted. Maybe Okerlund forgot the cameras were rolling live when he decided to voice his frustration with “Fudge!” Only it wasn’t the word fudge. As the film A Christmas Story would explain, it was the dreaded “F---!” The cameras then went back to the arena with color commentator Jesse Ventura having fun at his expense.
3 Jim Ross And Jerry Lawler Announce Owen’s Hart Passing
Michael Cole isn’t the first WWE announcer to have to give medical updates to a live television audience. It was a tougher situation for Jim Ross during the 1999 Over the Edge pay-per-view. Owen Hart was meant to come down from the rafters as the Blue Blazer, but there was an accident where he fell into the ring and struck his head. While the cameras didn’t show it, doctors tried to attend to Hart, and the show found itself at a standstill.
Color commentator Jerry Lawler, usually known as a heel voice on WWE broadcasts, was going to the ring to see what was going on and helping provide updates live on the air. Jim Ross was asked to give the announcement that Owen had passed away. It was a hard night where a number of wrestlers were visibly upset both at the pay-per-view and on the next night’s RAW.
2 Randy Orton Yells "Stupid!" At Kofi
Poor Kofi... It seemed like Kofi Kingston was going to be elevated up the card in late 2009, as he found himself feuding with Randy Orton, who was the top heel on RAW at the time. In a match on RAW though, Orton clearly broke character, as he was visibly upset at Kofi for missing his cue on a finish.
From the looks of things, Kofi was supposed to have his back to Orton to set up an RKO, but Kofi was in fact facing Orton. People have gone on to blame Orton for Kofi's subsequent burial down the card. After all, Kofi really didn't have a high profile singles feud following his one with Orton.
It's unclear if it was in fact Orton who got Kingston buried or if officials just soured on him as a main eventer.
1 The Montreal Screwjob
It’s hard to imagine any moment in professional wrestling history having been talked about so much as The Montreal Screwjob during the 1997 Survivor Series pay-per-view. It was the infamous match where Bret “The Hitman” Hart was defending the WWE Championship against Shawn Michaels. It was believed that Hart didn’t want to drop the title to Michaels in Canada and wanted to wait the next night and vacate it before leaving for WCW.
But McMahon might have worried about Hart, whose contract was expiring, trying to appear on WCW programming with the WWE Championship. This led to a change in the match finish where referee Earl Hebner was directed to call for the match to end once Michaels put the Sharpshooter on Hart. This led to Hart reacting out of character and spitting towards Mr. McMahon; not usually on par with his good guy gimmick.