If you've ever heard of backstage politics, that means you're probably a pretty knowledgeable fan of professional wrestling. Backstage politics is the art of rubbing shoulders with the right decision makers so that you (as a talent) get more opportunities and better results. It happens all the time and it leads to a lot of interesting outcomes on wrestling programming.
What gets lost in situations of backstage politics is the wrestler who is getting pooched over. Every match has at least two combatants. That means, if one wrestler is getting favorable treatment, the other is getting screwed. Whose fault is that? Should the wrestler getting screwed have known better?
Paranoia and bad behaviour is also a real thing in wrestling. Talent is insecure enough to make crazy choices when it comes to their wrestling careers. Those choices lead to getting fired, losing one's push from management or being blacklisted from the WWE forever. WWE can't let it's wrestlers go unpunished when they err and the easiest way to hurt a talent is to do so in a way that affects their on-screen persona.
Whether it's paranoia, bad behavior, backstage politics or a host of other mistakes made by in-ring performers or on-television personalities, someone is benefiting from another's mistake. Who gets the push when a wrestler gets pulled? Who gets paid when someone makes an accounting or contract error? Who gets the title when another man loses it?
Below are 15 examples of times when current or former WWE stars became ultimate opportunists because of someone else's mistake.
15 Kevin Nash and Scott Hall On WCW's Mistrust
After WCW scooped Kevin Nash and Scott Hall from the WWE, there was an everlasting cloud of mistrust that came with them. That's what often happens when you convince two guys to ditch their home turf for money and a guaranteed contract. After all, if they did it to one company, why wouldn't they do it to another? So, when WWE announced that Razor Ramon and Diesel were going to show up on Raw and Hall and Nash were signed in WCW, WCW panicked. They thought, how could they be in two places at once? WCW thought they were being swindled so their thought was to offer more money.
Even though the two new WCW talents were in the trailer with WCW executives, they still feared Nash and Hall were jumping back to WWE so they offered an even bigger contract, which of course Hall and Nash signed because they weren't actually leaving WCW. Hall and Nash capitalized on WCW's paranoia and the fake Razor and fake Diesel flopped in WWE.
14 Mr. McMahon Becoming a Character
When Bret Hart agreed to leave WWE money on the table and take a contract in WCW, the only thing he needed to do was drop the title before he left. Bret refused to do so in Montreal in a match with Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series. It was a huge lack of judgment by Hart who should have just dropped the belt and no one would have cared. Even he knew he couldn't leave WWE as the reigning champion.
Instead, because he was unwilling to do the deed and drop the title, he got swindled in the Montreal Screwjob and Vince McMahon became the biggest heel in WWE history. The Mr. McMahon character went on to save the WWE when pitted against Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret struggled in WCW eventually retiring due to concussion issues.
13 Chyna on Jeff Jarrett Holding Up McMahon
Jeff Jarrett was the Intercontinental Champion when his WWE contract expired and management hadn't noticed. Without a deal in place, Jarrett wasn't obligated to wrestle and drop the strap to anyone, so instead of coming to a short-term agreement, he held up WWE for a rumored $300K. McMahon had no choice but to pay it and Jarrett lost the title to Chyna.
It was a huge talent management and accounting mistake that cost WWE tons of money. Jarrett made a good chunk of change in the short term but he pretty much got himself blacklisted from ever working with the WWE again. He's struggled to keep his wrestling career going through companies like TNA and Global Force Wrestling. Meanwhile, Chyna became the first and only ever female Intercontinental Title holder.
12 Shawn Michaels on Marty Jannetty's Lack Of Recognition
Marty Jannetty made the sad mistake of overvaluing his worth to WWE. When he and Michaels were a part of the Rockers tag team, both were a bit upset that they were being short-changed on payouts. Jannetty believed Michaels was on the up and up when they mutually agreed to stage a holdout.
Little did Jannetty know, Michaels was on his way to a new singles push and WWE didn't care if Jannetty stayed or left. They refused to give him a penny more, he came graveling back and Michaels went on to become the "Sexy Boy" character that made him one of the all-time greats. Jannetty got turned on after actually thinking Michaels would go to bat for him all while he was planning on looking out for his own well being.
11 Stone Cold and Orton Pass On The Marine Movie
John Cena is a huge star. One could argue that ball might not have gotten rolling the way it did had he not landed the lead role in The Marine. Stone Cold Steve Austin was supposed to get that part but he thought it over for a while and ended up turning it down thinking he had more lucrative options coming his way.
Randy Orton was next in line but his bad conduct discharge from the Marines led to him being unable to accept the part. It eventually fell to Cena.
The movie didn't get great reviews but grossed $52.1 million and led to other sequels. It's not as if this decision hurt the careers of either wrestler but it likely cost Stone Cold and Orton a whole pile of money.
10 Daniel Bryan, Thanks To Vince Underestimating His Popularity
If it weren't for Vince McMahon completely writing off Daniel Bryan as a little man who couldn't become a huge star in WWE, Bryan wouldn't have gotten the support of so many fans in the WWE Universe and become one of the most popular talents in the history of wrestling. His "Yes" chants still echo through arenas today.
Because of McMahon's lack of confidence in Bryan, his talents, and his fan support, Bryan rallied his followers and shoved it right down the throat of every WWE brass and executive that said he couldn't do it. He headlined a WrestleMania a won the title. Unfortunately, we'll never know what kind of star Bryan could have become since he was forced to retire early due to injury.
9 Madusa Becomes Huge Star When Vince Botches Contract
In another instance where WWE lost track of the length of a talent's contract, Madusa (then known as Alundra Blayze) had been the Women's Champion in WWE when her contract expired. She wasn't at all happy WWE didn't realize what was going on and when WCW got word of the news that WWE had let this slip through the cracks, she was offered good money to come to WCW and she jumped. The catch was, she was to throw the WWE Women's Title in the trash.
She did, it sent fireworks around the wrestling industry and she became more famous in 10 seconds than she'd arguably been in her entire career. If not for that move, one could argue she wouldn't have been invited into the WWE Hall of Fame. She became an iconic figure of change in wrestling when she did what she did.
8 D-X When Bischoff Locked Them Out Of WCW
Degeneration X was the WWE's response to the NWO. During the Attitude Era when WWE was trying to earn back viewers, they staged crazy ideas and shock tv was a way of getting viewers. One idea was to have the new faction DX raid WCW offices and try to get in during a live broadcast. WCW didn't allow them access but Eric Bischoff (the man in charge of WCW back then) always looked back at that decision and regretted not letting them in for the free publicity they would have gotten his company.
The move made the members of DX immediate stars. The New Age Outlaws were just a tag team until they joined DX and being part of that raid made them household names. X-Pac became a huge hit as did Triple H as their leader. Eric Bischoff acting scared of DX was exactly what DX needed to skyrocket to fame.
7 The New Sin Cara When The Old Sin Cara Flaked
The original Sin Cara was a project of Triple H's. It was, in fact, one of his first big signings and was meant to be a coup for the WWE as it pertained to acquiring a huge Latino/Mexican star that would give WWE all sorts of exposure in a market they could use the boost. The only problem was, the original Sin Cara was a flop as a person. He was lazy, had a terrible reputation backstage and didn't work well due to early injuries.
All that said, the character had its strengths so instead of just dropping it altogether, WWE fired the original wrestler who played Sin Cara and put Hunico under the mask and asked him to take over the role. He's been Sin Cara ever since and worked for the WWE for years.
6 Kane When Fake Diesel Flopped
Glenn Jacobs has played a number of characters in the WWE. He was Isaac Yankem, The Fake Diesel and most notably, Kane. The only reason he got to play Kane was that the Fake Diesel gimmick flopped so badly, WWE needed some other role for Jacob's to play and he was too talented a big man to let go to waste.
This is one of those rare cases where the actual wrestler who flopped got a second chance and made the correction and huge hit. Kane went on to have one of the best runs for a big man in WWE history and Jacob's is a sure thing for the WWE Hall of Fame when he chooses to retire. He's been going strong now in WWE for over 20 years.
5 Barry Darsow When The First Smash Was Too Recognizable
Back in 1986, Vince McMahon wanted to create the tag team Demolition. He took two talents that were being used in other roles and put them in the roles of Ax and Smash. One was Bill Eadie (Ax) and the other was Randy “Moondog Rex” Colley (Smash). The problem was, everyone recognized Moondog Rex and couldn't buy the gimmick change. They started chanting "Moondog" when he entered the ring.
Not sure what to do, Vince simply fired Moondog Rex and took Barry Darsow from this role as Krusher Khruschev and made him the new Smash. It worked because not only did Darsow go on to have a long reign as Smash, he outlasted Ax and even when Demolition was no more, he was continually offered other gimmicks like The Repoman. This tag team also worked out for Bryan “Crush” Adams who replaced Ax when he had a falling out with WWE.
4 Chris Jericho When Bill Irwin Took The Role of "The Goon"
There are a lot of people who probably don't know this story but Chris Jericho might never have become Chris Jericho if "Wild" Bill Irwin wasn't willing to take the role as "The Goon" in WWE. This was during a time that Jericho was still working with Jim Cornette’s Smoky Mountain Wrestling and Vince was borrowing talents to make "famous jobbers" that would give the impression WWE had more than just a star squashing a nobody to offer up on tv. Jericho was slated to be "The Goon", a hockey gimmick that flopped.
Jericho was reluctant to play the role even though his Dad was connected to professional hockey. He saw the patterns that these wrestlers who accepted these wacky gimmicks were failures long-term. While Jericho gave it some thought, Bill Irwin jumped at the chance to be on WWE tv and Jericho narrowly escaped the worst potential career move of all time.
3 AJ Styles Based On Jinder Mahal's Racist Rant
If it weren't for a terrible gamble by the WWE and their push to gain heat for Jinder Mahal, it's possible AJ Styles wouldn't be the WWE Champion at this moment in time. When Styles won the title at a taped edition of SmackDown Live, no one saw it coming. Mahal was set to go into a match with Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series and head to India as the champion, representing WWE while on tour there.
But, just prior, Mahal was in a feud with Shinsuke Nakamura in which WWE tried to make the story all about race and prejudice and it backfired. Not only did Mahal not get the kind of heat WWE wanted, WWE took the brunt of the negative criticism. It could be a coincidence but if it is, it worked out well for Styles.
2 Summer Rae Based on Eva Marie's Lie
Fandango needed someone to dance with. His gimmick was a ballroom dancing enthusiast and his regular partner was originally scheduled to be Eva Marie. On paper she seemed to be the perfect fit and it was an opportunity for her to gain some exposure. The problem was, she lied about her ability to dance.
Because she was so bad, the WWE had no choice but to go with someone else and that someone else was Summer Rae. It launched her into Diva stardom despite the fact that she couldn't really wrestle and it kept her WWE career alive while she waded through waters that included other wrestlers, Total Divas on the E Network and WWE Network shows. It was only recently that Summer Rae was released. She turned a goof up by Eva Marie into a pretty decent career.
1 Stone Cold Becoming The King of the Ring
Perhaps the biggest opportunist to make this list is Stone Cold Steve Austin. It could be argued (it has been by Stone Cold himself) that if Triple H and the rest of the Kliq don't do the "Curtain Call" at MSG, Stone Cold doesn't happen.
Triple H was the guy in the Kliq who got punished for the actions of the group. Part of that punishment meant being pulled from a King of the Ring Tournament he was set to win. In his place, Austin got the rub and during that tournament, Austin 3:16 was born during an interview post-tournament victory. Austin became an immediate phenomenon and one of the most popular WWE Superstars of all time.