The wrestling year began as it always does – blasting off with New Japan's Wrestle Kingdom show. The event featured the first but hopefully not last encounter between A.J. Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura. But the real big news coming out of the show was the unfounded rumor that Styles and Nakamura, along with Bullet Club members, Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson were all WWE-bound. At this point, we know that Anderson has resigned with NJPW, while at least Nakamura is heading to the Performance Center.
It's the latest in a long line of rumors that may or not be true, and sometimes in the world of professional wrestling, the sweetest sounding rumors are the kind of straws that stir drinks. Other times in our favorite sport, it's the What If type of stories that captivate the fans. Clearly with Anderson staying in Tokyo, but what if it actually happened? Anderson and Finn Balor are two of the founding members of the Bullet Club - would they bring their brand of chaos to the WWE, or would Balor stay the fan favorite that he currently is?
Over the years, there have been several backstage stories that had they gone a different way could have drastically shifted the history of our sport. How different would the business look if some below items went down?
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15 What if A.J. Styles Signed His Developmental Contract?
As of this writing, the Phenomenal One made his WWE debut. But there as a time that the TNA Original was a rookie making a name for himself. In 2002, the WWE had offered Styles a developmental deal. Opting to not interfere with his wife’s plans to finish school, Styles declined. If he had signed, he no doubt would have made an impact, but with the company getting solidly and solely behind John Cena a few years later, it stands to reason to think Vince would overlook the skill of P1 in favor of Cena and Styles would not have gone on to establish himself in TNA, let alone have the company be built around him. A.J. debuted as a legend at the Rumble, he might not have become one if he had originally stayed.
14 What if Vince McMahon Signed Eric Bischoff?
Food for thought–what if the Monday Night War never happened? That is quite possibly one of the scenarios that could have happened had Eric Bischoff, a then AWA commentator been hired by the WWE in 1990. But knowing what we know about Easy E, we would have a far more terrifying industry than we do right now had he been offered that job. Bischoff most likely would have clashed fervently with Vince and lost his job. Billionaire Ted would have scooped him up at this time, now full of anger and vengeance. He would have taken what he learned under Vince and used it against him, quite possibly crushing him. But Turner networks would have still merged with AOL sending wrestling packing, leaving wrestling fans with no wrestling to watch and talents back to bingo halls.
13 What if Taker Signed with WCW?
When the Undertaker became the American Bad Ass, it was the first time we got to see the real man behind the Deadman. But those fans have forgotten about a "shoot" promo he gave during the Attitude Era – he was fed up with how Vince paid back his loyalty in favor of guys who kept leaving. At some point during this time, Bischoff also made an overture to the Phenom. With Hall, Nash, and Hart all in WCW, and HBK injured, the entire WWE was on the back of the Conscience of the WWE. Losing the Undertaker to WCW surely would have been a shockwave felt all through the WWE locker room. The company would have recovered, but the Deadman's legacy would have been tarnished and the Streak surely would have ended long before it did.
12 What if Eric Bischoff Did Buy WCW?
It's one of the great tragedies of modern wrestling competition. For years, WCW with its roots firmly embedded in the NWA had little choice but to close its doors in March 2001. We all know Vince bought the company to burned it to the ground, but before the fateful night in Panama City, Eric Bischoff had a whole business consortium ready and willing to buy the company and have Bischoff at the helm to bring the company back to prominence. Easy E has publicly stated that once AOL-Time Warner pulled the air time for WCW, the deal became DOA, paving the way for Vince to grab the competition. One would hope that over fifteen years later, WCW would have still been thriving under Bischoff and would have given people another place to work.
11 What if Sting Arrived on 02/21/2011?
It has been the dream match spoken about for years now–the Icon and the Phenom, Sting and the Undertaker! Supposedly, the cryptic vignettes with an outhouse in the middle of nowhere were hailing the arrival of the Franchise to do battle with the Deadman at WrestleMania XVII. That might have been the last time to actually have these two legends work an actual program, which is a shame. 'Taker might have even been able to convince Vince not to bury the Stinger, like he did this past year. The two have never even wrestled a televised match – try to find one on YouTube. Sting never faced off against Mean Marc in WCW and now thanks to errant powerbomb at Night of Champions the two will most likely only face each other in fans' fantasy video game match-ups.
10 What if Vince McMahon was Convicted?
A dark time in the industry was in the early nineties. WCW was still building their roster to be able to compete with WWE, while Vince McMahon had no choice but to focus more on his steroid trial, in which he was accused of distributing steroids to his wrestlers. During this time, fans got a taste of what Memphis Wrestling what would have been like on the big stage, since Jerry Jarrett was booking for WWE at the time and the plan was him to take over responsibilities wholly, had Vince been sent to the clink. One would surmise that Double JJ Sr. most likely would have had Double JJ Jr. booked to be World Champion. Considering how Jr. left the company, Vince McMahon has yet one more reason to be happy he didn't go to prison.
9 What if ECW Found a New Network?
ECW has been gone now for over 15 years, but not forgotten as fans still fervently chant "E–C–Dub" every chance they get. Paul Heyman had stated "we were too big to be small and too small to be big." That meant that they constantly needed the proceeds from one PPV and ad revenue paid in order to supplement the next few months of business. When Spike TV turned on them in favor for WWE, Heyman scrambled to find a new home. Alas, he could not. The legacy still lives on in ECW originals, as well as combatants who have come up through Ring of Honor like Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan, and AJ Styles who all undoubtedly would have called ECW home if they had the chance to.
8 What if Shawn Michaels Didn't Get Injured?
In 1998, Shawn Michaels was the most hated man in the industry, coming off of Montreal and with the WWE heading into the Attitude Era; he was one of the most attidunal stars of all time. Had an errant backdrop delivered to him at the Royal Rumble that year not given him a career–threatening back injury, there's no telling what the WWE would have and could have looked like for the four years HBK was gone. Would DX have become the force it became had it stayed just HBK with HHH as his side kick? Would the Rock still have become the most electrifying man in all of entertainment? Considering the several times Stone Cold has mentioned the great house show matches he and HBK had, we might have been robbed of an amazing feud.
7 What if CM Punk Didn't Quit?–the Original Proposed Mania XXX card
Before the Yes movement rolled into town, CM Punk shot from the hip and demanded change. Little did he know if would take him leaving to get it. Before he quit, the original WrestleMania card was one of the most abysmal in years - Punk vs. HHH for no reason at all, Randy Orton vs. Batista in the most boring main event in a long time, and for third time in four 'Manias, Daniel Bryan vs. Sheamus. Does that sound like a memorable night in New Orleans to you? Luckily Punk got fed up and hightailed it, leaving the American Dragon to breath fire on top of the wrestling world.
6 What if the WCW Invasion Worked?
One of the biggest what ifs in the history of the business is what is the WCW invasion actually worked. The bigger question should actually be what if Vince McMahon swallowed his massive ego and allowed WCW to continue to operate independently of WWE and still make him oodles of money? Perhaps the business wouldn't be the shape it is now, with consistently declining ratings. But most importantly, a lot of guys would have two giant options to continue being gainfully employed, and they could be promoted separately and feel separate as well. If you don't believe that could be possible, then check out Smackdown and Raw from the mid–aughts.
5 What if WCW Actually Defeated WWE?
Conversely speaking to what if the Invasion worked, there was a time when the WWE was getting obliterated in the ratings week after week and the product was nowhere near exciting as Monday Nitro. Between rebounding from steroid trial that took Vince's attentions away from the company and Nitro gaining traction, there was a possibility that WWE (or at least it's wrestlers) could have been working under the WCW banner. Which would have dampened the product more than the other way around considering how Bischoff didn't push anyone not named Hogan, there is still a very good possibility that the product would have suffered greatly and the AOL merger still could have left WCW closing its doors, leaving the entire industry in shambles. Despite how the product is today, thank goodness WWE won the Monday Night War.
4 What if WrestleMania was a Bust?
It’s odd to think about this now, but back in 1984 there was not one guarantee that WrestleMania would have been such a success. In fact, Vince and Linda spent almost all of the company’s money to pull the off the granddaddy of them all. Fellow promotors from all over were hoping that Vince would fall flat on his face, but luckily for fans that was not the case. If it had failed, everyone working for Vince would have most likely been black–balled, and more likely than not, the NWA would continue to be running out of low rent gyms and smaller venues, with little to no competition and perhaps little to no airtime, either.
3 What if Sting Was the nWo's Third Man?
Hall and Nash had arrived in WCW as invaders looking for a war. They had always declared that there was a third man and he'd be revealed at Bash at Beach. The original idea bantered about was that the WCW stalwart, Sting was spoken to about being the third man. Luckily for fans, he declined the offer. Sting as the third man would have been ok, but the nWo appearing as an outside faction would have been phased out instantly. The movement that it became needed Hogan to be the leader. After all, the original inception for the nWo were invaders from "up north," where Sting had never been and Hulk was always associated with. Plus, can you imagine Hogan in crow face paint hanging from the rafters?
2 What if Hogan Stayed in the AWA?
Believe it or not, Hulkamania was actually born in Minnesota, under the AWA banner. After being promised the belt, not getting it, and Verne trying to stiff the guy on royalties, Hogan left for WWE. But had Verne not been short–sighted, there's a chance that Hulkamania might have ran wild all over the AWA instead of the WWE, breathing new life into the much beloved but dying promotion. In the WWE, Vince's next best choice to rally the expansion around would have been Sgt. Slaughter, who already had crossover appeal, thanks to GI Joe. The WWE probably wouldn't have reached the heights that it did in the eighties, but with Hulk in AWA, Flair down south, and Slaughter in the north, there would have been three viable Feds throughout the eighties and early nineties.
1 What if Diesel and Razor Stayed?
It has long been documented that neither Nash or Hall wanted to leave the WWE in 1996 but were given a boatload of money and less dates and both would have been idiots not to. That being said, what if Vince matched the offer or made overtures to the Outsiders to stay–a pretty bleak future actually. No Austin 3:16, since HHH was slated to win King of the Ring and have a long feud with HBK. Perhaps HHH doesn't rise to prominence either, maybe doesn't meet and get to work with Steph, fall in love and start NXT. In WCW, there's no nWo, leaving Hogan to fall off the face of the Earth and perhaps WCW with it. The Outsiders leaving completely turned the business upside down and forced Vince to make new stars and reinvigorate the entire industry.
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