Wrestling has been around so long that new ideas are very difficult to come by. Promotions and talents will still find new ways to surprise the viewer with concepts we have never seen before but it has become a tougher feat. The nature of something existing and being out there for such a long time period has caused recycling to become more common. We see it every week with finishing moves from the past being used by today’s wrestlers. Hell, the Stone Cold Stunner has been used by so many high profile wrestlers under various names that it’s impossible to keep up.
The act of taking something old and making it new again is not a bad thing at all. The key is to add a new element to the idea and find a way to make it more relevant to today’s viewer. Storylines are the best example of that with former successful plots in the wrestling business still being able to be used effectively today. There’s the negative side as well with companies taking failed ideas or things that are no longer appealing to today’s audience and trying to force it. If you can’t learn from history, you are doomed to repeat failures and that has happened in some of these instances.
The storylines that have been stolen over the years have been met with mixed results. TNA and WCW were always criticized for ripping off WWE because they did it at the same time in a sad effort to top the competition by being just like them. The better results usually come when a promotion repeats a historically great idea and adds unique twists to the current setting. A decent amount of time adds to making the idea have more legs once out of the memory of wrestling fans. We’re going to break down all of them now and how they went down with the top fifteen wrestling storylines stolen from other promotions.
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14 Seth Rollins Dual Champion
The storyline of a wrestler looking to win multiple titles has been done numerous times over the years, but the timing was awfully suspicious when Seth Rollins defeated John Cena to retain his WWE World Championship and capture the United States Championship last year. Jay Lethal became the Ring of Honor World Champion and Television Champion just two months prior and was gaining even more popularity for being a dual champion in ROH. The short time in between the storylines would indicate WWE at least gained inspiration from the smaller company and used the champion vs. champion story to set up a main event level match at SummerSlam.
13 Eric Young as Daniel Bryan
TNA often gets criticized for their lack of originality and flat out copying of the WWE product at times. One of the blatantly obvious instances was when Eric Young became the TNA World Champion. Young is very talented and has been a respected member of the TNA roster for years, so he clearly deserved the title win but the way it went down was downright laughable. Just one week after Daniel Bryan won two matches to capture the WWE World Championship at WrestleMania XXX, TNA’s bearded fan favorite also was conveniently booked to win two matches in one night to become the new champion. Young deserved better but was sadly just chosen to be the guy best suited to rip off the Bryan title win.
12 Hulk Hogan vs. The Giant
WCW was full of ups and downs with the negative moments living in infamy for just how pathetically embarrassing they were. The worst storyline came when Hulk Hogan arrived to WCW and became the babyface world champion before the New World Order was formed. There were very few heels on the roster credible enough to challenge Hogan, so they recruited The Giant (aka Big Show) as a 7 foot tall athlete. The story was clearly going to imitate the legendary WWE angle between Hogan and Andre the Giant, but WCW made the copying even worse by introducing The Giant as Andre’s son coming to get revenge for his deceased dad. It culminated with Hogan throwing The Giant off of a building during a Sumo Monster Truck match. Seriously.
11 Team Canada
The Hart Foundation was one of the greatest factions in WWE history. Bret Hart led Owen Hart, British Bulldog, Brian Pillman and Jim Neidhart in an anti-American group focused on disparaging ungrateful American fans in favor of the international supporters. While this created tremendous success, WCW ripped it off with Team Canada to worse results. The faction had decent talent with Lance Storm as the leader and Elix Skipper as second in command. The issue was the group having no purpose at the time and basically being a poor man’s version of The Hart Foundation. TNA also stole the Team Canada concept in its early years for one of the better copied acts in their history.
11. Welcome to Asya
Vince Russo is often mentioned to be one of the most overrated minds in wrestling history. The head writer of the Attitude Era achieved success in WWE but completely failed everywhere else, including WCW. One of his worst ideas in WCW was the debut of Asya. At the time, Chyna was a huge star in WWE, so Russo figured he’d have a muscular woman rip off Chyna’s gimmick. If that wasn’t bad enough, she would be named Asya because Asia is bigger than China. The reveal of Asya as a member of The Revolution helped further sink the floundering faction.
10 Main Event Mafia vs. TNA Frontline
The creation of the Main Event Mafia in TNA was a fine idea. Former world champions and veterans Kurt Angle, Booker T, Kevin Nash, Scott Steiner and Sting joined together to create a faction that believed the young wrestlers of today were ungrateful and entitled. AJ Styles and Samoa Joe led the TNA Frontline with a combination of fellow young stars and face veterans to combat the Main Event Mafia. While the story was indeed effective and interesting, it was a bit too familiar from The Millionaire's Club vs. the New Blood in WCW. That storyline also saw the biggest veterans unite against a faction of young talent trying to break through by taking the older guys down.
9 Ryback’s Undefeated Streak
A wrestler debuting with an undefeated streak is very common, as it’s best to showcase a new performer by conditioning the audience to believe the talent is a winner. The story of Ryback just happened to be a little different from most and a bit too similar to one specific other undefeated streak. Ryback would demolish his opponents in a few minutes with a short array of power moves. Factor in the bald head and the non-organic push and wrestling fans started to revolt against Ryback due to his character being a rip off of Goldberg’s streak in WCW. Fans actually chanted “Goldberg” at Ryback for quite some time and WWE were unable to pay off the story by making him a world champion.
8 Kane’s Split Personality
You can throw a flag here because the TNA's Abyss might have copied WWE’s use of Kane years prior, but it was too blatant in this instance. Kane would see his character have a split personality in 2015 during a feud with WWE World Champion Seth Rollins. The Demon Kane under the mask and Corporate Kane in the business suit were to be different entities that Kane insisted weren’t the same person. There was a slight element of comedy to it that made it a parallel of the TNA storyline where Abyss unmasked and claimed his brother Joseph Park was a different person. Both had entertaining moments, but the Kane storyline was a definite imitation of Abyss’.
7 Megan Miller
The storylines ripped off by promotions tend to be successful and entertaining ideas that were good enough to use again. This was not one of them. TNA introduced the infamous Claire Lynch as a crazed woman claiming AJ Styles cheated on his wife with her and they were having a child together. No one bought into this and the storyline was quickly dropped for good reason. For some reason, WWE decided to do the exact same idea with physical therapist Megan Miller claiming Daniel Bryan cheated on Brie Bella with her as a part of the Bella vs. Stephanie McMahon feud. We were lucky that it was a one night storyline but still is among the worst in recent memory.
6 Vince McMahon as the Evil Boss
Vince McMahon is definitely the best on-air heel authority figure of all time and was good enough that promotions, including WWE, have been desperately trying to duplicate the storyline for years. Despite his incredible success in the role, McMahon was not a heel boss on the show until after Eric Bischoff did it in WCW. Bischoff was revealed as a member of the New World Order and become one of the biggest villains on the television program that added another dynamic of hatred to the faction. McMahon might have never tried his fortunes in such a role if Bischoff didn’t do a good job with it beforehand, showing it could be done.
5 TNA's Authority
One of the final reasons that fans quit on TNA was the promotion creating a knockoff storyline of The Authority. WWE were rolling with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon leading their powerful faction against Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and other babyface characters. TNA decided to mimic the group by having Dixie Carter become a villain and starting her own faction led by world champion Magnus playing the role of Randy Orton. It was painfully blatant and further cemented TNA as a bland version of WWE rather than having its own identity. To make matters worse, Dixie was nowhere near as great a performer as Stephanie or Triple H, so the group came off laughably bad and harmed the perception of TNA in many ways.
4 Summer of Punk
2011 featured CM Punk’s red hot summer of unbelievable promos and great matches that made him the hottest star in the industry. Punk threatened to walk out of the WWE with the WWE Championship and did so for a short time period after defeating John Cena in their legendary match at Money in the Bank. As amazing as it was, the exact same storyline was done before when Punk was in Ring of Honor. Rumors circulated that Punk was signing with WWE and won the ROH title on his assumed last date in 2005, threatening to take the title to WWE. Both storylines were superb and highlighted Punk’s best work in each promotion.
3 New World Order
The New World Order was the best storyline during the Monday Night Wars. It didn’t hit its complete potential and jumped the shark rather quickly by having too many members join the faction, but at its peak the nWo helped WCW become bigger than WWE for a few years. The idea for the group was actually a rip off of a Japanese wrestling storyline that Eric Bischoff was made aware of when UWF invaded NJPW at a show he attended. Bischoff saw how cool and surreal the idea of a realistic invasion could be. The signings of former WWE stars Kevin Nash and Scott Hall set the table for the storyline and Bischoff imitated it to get even more results.
2 Bullet Club
The Bullet Club is the story of perfectly ripping off a storyline that was already ripped off to begin with. The New World Order’s cool factor with the great merchandise, credible leaders and awesome content caused fans to adore the faction for years. You can still spot fans wearing the nWo t-shirts at live wrestling shows. The Bullet Club was basically made up of the same principles, but with the group being based on non-Japanese wrestlers pairing up to take over NJPW. The group helped further establish many of today’s stars like Finn Balor, AJ Styles, Karl Anderson and The Young Bucks. Despite not having any ties to the WWE, The Bullet Club had the hottest wrestling t-shirt in the United States for quite some time, showing just how well they did recreating an nWo-like group.
1 The Attitude Era
The Attitude Era is not a specific storyline but rather an approach with an array of storylines. WWE was doing poorly and underachieving with outdated mentalities of how to present the product. That was until they decided to feed the current climate of society by embracing a more edgy product with violence, sex and vulgarity. The thing is ECW was doing it first and achieved success as a viable wrestling promotion with their entire promotion being what the Attitude Era would eventually become. There’s no doubt ECW at the very least influenced WWE to make change. You could Steve Austin embracing elements of The Sandman’s characters, female performers showing more skin and many more stories that were first introduced in ECW.
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