The industry of professional wrestling relies heavily on great characters and storylines in order to maintain fan interest. And what is one thing you do to achieve that?
Keep them guessing. And that’s what past companies like WCW and ECW were able to do, and something no one has been able to do like the WWE.
The biggest surprises in professional wrestling stem from shocking appearances, and most importantly, backstabs. In life, everyone will be betrayed by friends, family members, and so many other people.
Which is why, when backstabs happen in wrestling, we relate it to real life experiences, more so than the fact it’s just storyline entertainment.
But when you give all your love and attention to your favorite wrestlers, only for them to backstab their allies and fans, it does hit you as a real-life situation. In fact, as I write this article, I have had a bad case of people stabbing me in the back. People who were significant in my life.
Which is why, when it comes to backstabs in pro wrestling, I’m able to enjoy the storyline instead of hating my favorite wrestlers who turned on the fans.
We’ve seen countless Hall of Famers do the unthinkable, and it’s something no fan could have imagined, and only something a legend could write (I’m talking to you, Mr. McMahon).
Some of the greatest moments in the history of WWE have featured some of the most shocking backstabs. But of course, some also happened in other wrestling promotions.
So with that, here are the 15 biggest unexpected betrayals in the history of wrestling.
15. Shawn Michaels on Hulk Hogan
Two of the most iconic names in the history of wrestling became a brief tag team during the summer of 2005.
Hulk Hogan made a monumental return and helped Michaels defeat Kurt Angle and Carlito in a match on Raw. After that, Michaels delivered the Sweet Chin Music to Hogan, turning heel.
No one could have seen that coming, with fans hoping these two would form a legendary tag team. The feud ended at SummerSlam, with Hogan defeating Michaels, and the Heartbreak Kid making another face turn after the match.
Michaels didn’t just backstab Hogan, but also the fans. He was just in the middle of an epic return and then did something no one expected.
14. Randy Orton on The Authority
In some ways, it was clear that Orton was ready to leave The Authority when he essentially lost his spot to Seth Rollins. But go way back, and Orton looked prepared to be an Authority member for ages.
After all, he and Triple H were part of the successful Evolution alliance, but if it happened once, it would happen again: An Orton face turn.
Once he lost to John Cena at Hell in a Cell, he snapped the following night and RKO’d Rollins, becoming a face for the first time in over a year. Orton seemed destined to be Triple H’s right hand man for the long run, which was not the case.
13. Batista on Rey Mysterio
At Bragging Rights, 2009, Batista and Rey Mysterio were two friends (and had been for a long time,) both playing the face roles for as long as any fan could remember.
But that all changed once The Undertaker defended his World Championship title in a Fatal Four-Way match, thanks to Mysterio breaking up a pinfall that Batista had on Undertaker what would have surely won the match.
Once The Undertaker won, Batista said he was sick of being stabbed in the back and brutally assaulted Mysterio, turning heel in the process. He then played bad guy for the last few months, viciously attacking opponents and insulting fans, before departing (for the first time).
12. Linda and Shane on Vince McMahon
In one of the more intriguing storylines ever, Shane and his father Vince butted heads at the seventh edition of WrestleMania. In the story, Vince was having an affair with Trish Stratus and wanted to divorce Linda, who was hospitalized with a nervous breakdown.
In a Street Fight match, Vince was relentless on Shane when Linda came out in a wheelchair, and Vince taunted his wife for having to see her son get a bad beating. That’s when Linda came out, kicked Vince in the you know what.
Shane then used his memorable coast-to-coast kick with a garbage can in his father’s face to win the match.
11. Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio
This betrayal was shocking, because both men were very close in real life, and not just in the ring and storyline. It was Guerrero’s last great feud before his tragic and untimely passing in 2005, but he sure made it memorable.
In multiple tag team matches, Guerrero abandoned Mysterio and attacked him on a May, 2005 edition of SmackDown! Guerrero also revealed that Rey’s son, Dominick, was actually his own.
They had a Ladder match for custody of the child (yeah, this storyline went a bit too far), with Mysterio winning.
10. Evolution on Randy Orton
This was my favorite betrayal in all the years I’ve watched wrestling.
Orton became the youngest World Champion at SummerSlam 2004, and successfully defended his title in a rematch on Monday Night Raw. Ric Flair, Batista, and Triple H, Orton’s Evolution allies, came out to celebrate.
Batista put Orton on his shoulders, and Triple H flashed him the thumbs up, slowly turned them upside down, and ordered an attack on Orton. Triple H was disgusted that one of his men would take his title.
To complete the face turn, Orton spat in Triple H’s face when The Game demanded Orton hand him the belt.
This alliance was one of the best, and no one thought that Triple H would bid farewell to one of his own so quickly.
9. A Hart-Breaking Betrayal
Bret and Owen Hart may have been the greatest sibling duo in the history of professional wrestling.
Which is why WWE was smart to turn it into a long-standing feud between the two best wrestlers of the Hart family. Owen was frustrated with Bret for screwing up a Survivor Series match that got Owen eliminated.
Owen would then leave matches, abandon his brother, and devastating the family. As a result, Bret tried making amends when they fought in tag team match together at the Royal Rumble. But in storyline, Hart hurt his knee during a match, and the ref stopped it, only for Owen to snap and brutally attack his brother.
Owen became a heel after this. So much for the popular cliche “Family first.”
8. A Stone-Cold Stunner
Pardon the pun, but fans were stunned when Steve Austin attacked The Rock, while both men were at the height of popularity in the WWE.
At the seventh WrestleMania in Houston, Texas (Austin’s home state), he faced The Rock for the WWE Championship. Vince McMahon came out and gave Austin a chair to use, which he did.
No one thought he’d turn to the evil side of the McMahon empire, but Austin did just that by brutally assaulting The Rock and winning the WWE Championship as a result.
Considering how he did this in Texas, while often feuding with McMahon, this was without a doubt one of the most shocking betrayals in the history of wrestling, though it did lead to some great feuds in the aftermath.
7. Seth Rollins on The Shield
The Shield started out as an incredible heel faction, but then as time progressed, they became the main faces of the WWE by feuding with Evolution/Authority.
Once Batista left Evolution, The Authority appeared to be shorthanded. Triple H initiated “Plan B” and Rollins attacked Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns in brutal fashion with multiple steel chair shots, showing where his loyalty really was.
Rollins has been a great heel since, while Reigns and Ambrose remain two of the most popular. But this was definitely not a heel turn fans saw coming.
6. A Giant Backstab
Andre The Giant was a popular wrestling machine among fans. Who couldn’t love a man that stood over seven feet tall and played a gentle giant-like character, who meant no harm?
That question was answered after a shocking betrayal of friend Hulk Hogan. Andre was working with long-time enemy, Bobby Heenan, who convinced him that Hogan wasn’t as good of a friend as he thought.
Hogan begged Andre to listen to him, but the Giant challenged him for his World Heavyweight Championship match, where he attacked him and set the stage for arguably the most iconic feud in history.
5. Triple H Has One Move for DX
Triple H was the heart and soul of the popular faction, D-Generation X. The true leader who made it all work. Without Triple H, there literally would not have been a DX. And he proved it.
All signs pointed to DX breaking up as The Corporation alliance was also beginning to take over, and one could have hoped that Triple H wouldn’t side with them.
However, Triple H helped Shane McMahon win the European Title and married Stephanie McMahon, showing his loyalty to the evil side.
4. Stephanie McMahon Betrays Her Father
Today, the McMahon Family and Triple H are part of the dominant Authority storyline, and it’s become a major success, with Stephanie showing she’s more than ready to take over her father’s role when that role becomes comes full-time.
But there was a storyline of the complete opposite almost two decades ago.
In a 1999 storyline, Triple H and Vince feuded, with Triple H and Stephanie tying the knot on-screen, but Triple H showing he drugged her and forced her into the ceremony, but this was far from the truth.
When Triple H defeated McMahon at Armageddon that year, Stephanie embraced him and told her dad the wedding was for real, making her a super villain.
3. Sgt. Slaughter on the U.S. Fans
Sgt. Slaughter may be one of the most appealing wrestlers to patriotic American fans, but his betrayal to them showed that you really can’t trust anybody but yourself.
His character was, of course, based off a very proud American soldier, but when the U.S. got involved in the Gulf War, Slaughter would actually insult the country, in a move that wasn’t the smartest choice.
Considering his character, one would think he’d try to rally the fans, but he just put down their country. Not something you’d expect to see from a Sargeant.
2. The Curtain Call
Shawn Michaels escaped brutal punishment for one of the most controversial, real-life incidents in the history of wrestling while Triple H paid the price.
Kevin Nash (Diesel) and Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) were both about to leave WWE for WCW, and it was one of the reasons the Monday Night War took off. But what happened next was unbelievable.
At night’s end, in MSG, Scott Hall and Triple H would come down to the ring following a match between Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash and embrace.
This incident will forever be known as the “Curtain Call.”
1. Hulk Hogan Turns on “Hulkamania”
Whatcha gonna do when you betray your millions of Hulkamaniacs, Brother?!?
Well, getting pelted with boos and garbage is a start. Hulk Hogan’s height of popularity in the 1980s and early 1990s was something that no other Superstar will ever reach. He put the sport on the map, without question.
When Scott Hall and Kevin Nash (in a villainous Outsiders group), revealed they had a third man waiting to join them, no one thought it would be the biggest wrestling name on the planet.
The fans erupted when Hulk Hogan came out to save Randy Savage from a beating. The fans then went into shock when he performed the Leg Drop finisher on the Macho Man, high-fived his two new alliances, and insulted the fans and proclaimed his allegiance to the newly formed “New World Order.”
This is arguably the biggest moment in the history of wrestling. Absolutely no one thought that Hogan would turn heel in his wrestling career, but he did so in remarkable fashion at Bash at the Beach in 1996.
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