For decades, wrestling has relied on twists or “swerves” if you will. They predate Vince McMahon by several years, long used in various territories to push things and people and are a key way of keeping things fresh. Sudden turns from face to heel or back again, unexpected title swaps, a wild storyline turn, when done right, a swerve can be something major. Think Hogan joining the Outsiders, Stephanie with HHH or go back further to Ole Anderson’s fantastic turn on Dusty Rhodes in 1980. It’s become more challenging with the rise of the Internet enlightening fans to rumors and other reports that give storylines away and so pulling off a big surprise twist is even more difficult. When it’s done correctly, a great swerve can invigorate the business nicely. However, for every great twist, there are terrible ones, ones that are not just stupid but downright insulting to the intelligence of fans.
It’s easy to blame a lot on Vince Russo and his obsession for “shocking swerves” but it predates him and a lot more prevalent. There are slews of times when something happens and rather than it be a shocking twist, fans are just left going “WTF?!” and not in a good way. Sometimes, it’s not totally the fault of the promoters as injuries or suspensions or such can alter an angle and need a new solution. But far too many times, it’s just plain, total, stupid stuff that makes no sense at all. Quite often, it’s to try and provide a solution to a long-range “mystery” that ended badly, showing that you should never start one of those things without some idea how it’s to end. It’s just wild to see how these turn out and while you can pick slews of examples, here are 20 of the biggest. Twenty times a “swerve” turned out horrible for almost everyone involved and just made things worse and not better.
20 The Black Scorpion
When Sting finally won the NWA World title in July of 1990, he seemed set for a good run. However, Ole Anderson’s terrible booking was a major blow with a lack of credible challengers. Thus, Ole came up with the Black Scorpion, a mysterious masked figure talking through a voicebox and dropping hints he was someone big from Sting’s past. WCW really wanted fans to think that it was the Ultimate Warrior and rumors are they seriously thought the current WWF Champion would jump ship. They touched on the Angel of Death, a former Sting partner but by that point, they had built the Scorpion up through ridiculous antics of doubles and performing magic tricks like turning a “fan” into a tiger among others. This included the insane “imposter Sting” bit at Halloween Havoc that just hurt Sid’s standing.
19 Wrestlemania IX Ending
To this day, it’s a massive bone of contention with Bret Hart and his many supporters. For months, Bret had taken off as WWE champion, doing a great job defending the belt against all comers, connecting well with fans and elevating the product overseas, especially in Canada. At Wrestlemania IX, he was set against Yokozuna, the classic “David vs. Goliath” story and a victory by Bret would cement him even more for fans as a true champion. Instead, with Mr. Fuji throwing salt, Yoko got the pin and the title and fans were rocked to see a heel victorious in the main event of Wrestlemania.
18 Goldberg Turns Heel
17 Triple H defeats Sting
16 Randy Orton’s Face Turn (2004)
It’s always dangerous to misjudge your crowds and that’s what WWE did in 2004. Randy Orton was really clicking as the heel contender for the World title and pushed more so fans responded. It seemed logical that he’d win the belt from Chris Benoit, becoming more arrogant and take over Evolution, pushing HHH out. However, WWE mistook the fan reactions to mean they wanted to cheer on Orton as a face when the guy was just so perfect as a heel.
15 The Anonymous RAW GM
Seriously, if you start a big “mystery,” you should have a way to pay it off. Time and again, however, wrestling writers and promoters have failed to heed this very simple and obvious advice. Such a case was the RAW General Manager who spoke via a computer to Michael Cole with his ultra-annoying “and I quote” line becoming a regular thing. We have moves of this GM doing everything from a fight with Edge (“why am I arguing with a computer?”) to overturning the Lawler/Cole WrestleMania match result. Fans hated it and wanted it to end with the big revelation of who the GM was.
14 Monty Brown Turns Heel
13 The Great American Botch
People may slam Lex Luger a lot today but it’s easy to forget how in the late 80s, the guy was massively over with fans. He had a great physique, could work well with others and really connected well. As 1988 went on, he was challenging Ric Flair for the NWA title and the fans were hot for him to get the belt. However, Flair had veto power and refused to do it, saying Luger wasn’t ready. Some may agree but the fact is, Luger was still the guy crowds wanted on top and a smart promoter should be able to see that’s better for business.
12 Bound For Chaos
When Hulk Hogan speaks, people listen, even when they shouldn’t. Such was the case in 2011 as TNA was building up to Bound for Glory with the big storyline of Bobby Roode challenging Kurt Angle for the TNA World Title. They had done a big “BFG Tournament” to give Roode the shot and various videos of him as a good family man and trusted figure, really pushing him hard. It was all set for him to beat Angle and be the new face of TNA. And then, days before the show, Hogan got on Twitter to talk about Roode not being ready and even dismissing him. Most believe this was Hogan playing his political games to ensure the title change wouldn’t overshadow his big face turn on the same show.
11 Vince’s Son
10 The Quintessential Dusty Finish
Dusty Rhodes didn’t come up with the finish that would bear his name but he used it so damn often that it was forever linked to him. The epitome of this was Starrcade ’85 as Dusty challenged Ric Flair for the NWA World title, out for revenge after Flair and the Andersons broke his ankle. The match was good as both men worked well together. Near the end, Dusty went for a cover and Flair kicked out so Dusty landed right on top of referee Tommy Young. The Andersons ran in to attack Dusty who fought them off. He then rolled Flair into a small package as a second referee ran in to make the three count. The crowd erupted as wrestlers raced into the ring to help celebrate, footage shown backstage of Dusty having champagne poured on his head as he enjoyed the victory.
9 Eric Bischoff as General Manager
Throughout the Monday Night War, one thing was made clear: Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff hated each other’s guts. Neither made any secret of it, they loathed each other, each taking shots on the other constantly, both on television and in court. It was bitter and brutal and the key reason the War was so amazing, you knew the feelings of hate were real.
8 Rikishi Did It For The Rock
As you can tell from this list, one of the worst moves a company can make is to set up a major long-range mystery without any plans for the payoff. Such a case was at the 1999 Survivor Series to give an excuse for Steve Austin getting neck surgery. While there was talk for a while, the mystery of who was driving the car fell by the wayside until Austin returned in 2000 and wanted to know who hit him. We got various suspects, some suspicion on The Rock until at last, the guilty party turned out to be…Rikishi.
7 ECW and WCW Form "The Alliance"
The “Monday Night War” series really sums up the key reason the Invasion was never going to work: So many of the big names of WCW like Hogan, Hall, Nash, Goldberg and Sting were simply not coming over so you had the “invaders” be the B-team of WCW. When fans didn’t seem to respond to WCW on their own, WWE went to some bad moves. First, they teased the awesome idea of ECW suddenly breaking out to take on both sides, a truly cool move that had folks excited. Then, in less than an hour, they joined WCW with Stephanie McMahon as the new “owner” of ECW, relegating the brilliant Paul Heyman to second fiddle. Thus, the entire “Invasion” became yet another act of the never-ending McMahon family drama.
6 David Arquette
The moment WCW passed the point of no return. When David Arquette first started showing up on WCW broadcasts, it was just another celebrity appearing to push the movie “Ready to Rumble.” No one expected more of that, even when Arquette teamed with DDP to face off against Bischoff and champion Jeff Jarrett in a tag team match where the winner got the belt. Instead, in what will rank as Vince Russo’s ultimate contribution to wrestling, Arquette pinned Bischoff and was named WCW World Champion. The belt that had been the cornerstone of so many classic matches and feuds was now in the hands of a third-rate actor with no wrestling experience whatsoever.
5 The New Razor and Diesel
It’s funny to look back at how so many sane, rational people in 1996 were convinced WCW was about to put WWE out of business. But there’s no denying that the arrival of the New World Order was rocking things big time as “Nitro” soared in the ratings while WWE seemed stuck despite all their great talent. In the midst of all this came a truly insane storyline as Jim Ross suddenly turned heel, blasting Vince on the mic for firing him over his cerebral palsy and somehow that was supposed to get fans to boo Ross.
He then claimed that Razor Ramon and Diesel were coming back, with fans given the wild idea that somehow Scott Hall and Kevin Nash had already gotten out of their WCW contracts for a big return. There was frantic talk on websites, push for the event, a big to-do made about a supposed appearance…
4 Screwing Over the Blondes
This was the first major case of a promotion trying to swerve the Internet fans…and given it was WCW, it should be no surprise it turned out so badly. Among their many brainfarts, in the spring of 1993, WCW decided to tape three months worth of syndicated shows in one weekend at the Disney-MGM Studios. Aside from exposing the business, it gave away months of storyline and title change plans. Among them was that by Fall Brawl, the tag team titles would be held by Arn Anderson and Paul Roma. When fans who attended the tapings exposed that on the Internet, folks weren’t happy as the titles were held by Steve Austin and Brian Pillman who, as the Hollywood Blondes, were the hottest team WCW had seen in years. Massively over as heels, the Blondes were just hitting their stride and the idea of them losing the belts went over badly.
3 They are Immortal
One of the absolute worst moments of TNA history, this was apparently meant to boost the company but only ended up sinking it further. For weeks, Abyss had been shown ranting about being under the control of a mysterious “They” and hinted that at Bound for Glory 2010, “They” would finally make their faces known. Meanwhile, Sting was ranting about Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff behind stuff as they would talk to Dixie Carter about signing papers to fire Abyss. That also involved stuff with Jeff Jarrett and others, Hogan claiming to be recovering from back surgery as the main event for BFG was Jeff Hardy, Kurt Angle and Kevin Anderson for the vacant TNA World Title. Bischoff entered with a chair, only for Hogan to come in, the two fighting…then Jeff taking Hogan’s crutch to hit Angle and Anderson and win the title. He then celebrated with Hogan, Bischoff, Abyss and Jarrett to reveal this group was “They.”
2 The Greater Power
Here’s where it became clear Vince Russo was doing more harm than good to WWE. The Undertaker had taken on a truly bizarre persona with real supernatural powers, gathering forces like the Acolytes and others to face Vince McMahon. That included kidnapping Stephanie and trying to sacrifice her with Vince actually turning to Stone Cold Steve Austin for help. Soon, Undertaker allied with Shane McMahon’s forces for the Corporate Ministry and it was soon clear that Undertaker was answering to someone he called “the Greater Power.” More wild stuff included kidnapping Stephanie again and further battles as Austin and Shane would go at it. Finally, the hooded figure of the Greater Power revealed himself to Austin who was angered at his face.
1 The Fingerpoke of Doom
Were you expecting anything else? The moment that signaled the true beginning of the end for WCW, a total twist not just on the fans but even those working in the back and a brutal turn for a year that had such promise. Days after having his unbeaten streak broken and losing the WCW World Title to Kevin Nash, Goldberg was set to regain the belt in front of a sold-out crowd at the Georgia Dome. But then he was arrested for stalking Ms. Elizabeth with Hulk Hogan arriving and somehow getting the title shot against Nash instead. We had Goldberg finally cleared and trying to get back to the arena in time…with the unintentional comedy of how the police station was shown to be right across the arena so Goldberg was held up somehow.
Hogan and Nash then got into the ring, circled each other, the crowd hot and ready…and then Hogan just poked Nash in the chest, he went down and Hogan covered him for the pin and the title. They thus jumped up to hug each other and laugh as the fans realized they’d been had. Goldberg raced in only to get a massive beat-down by the newly reformed New World Order, including a now-heel Lex Luger. They spray painted “nWo” on the title belt as the show ended. In short, rather than start the new year off right, WCW was just rehashing what they did in 1996 and thinking it would have the same success. A terrible move in so many ways that sent WCW on the spiral it would never recover from.
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