Professional wrestling can be viewed as the perfect combination of sport and theater. It takes plenty of athleticism to pull off the variety of throws, holds and strikes performed in the ring. 'Perform' is a key word because it’s also a form of entertainment with athletes taking on a diverse collection of personalities.
It is one of the more unique forms of entertainment that is scripted ahead of time. Various promotions have their own collection of writers that not only help develop characters, but also storylines that we see in the form of matches, vignettes and other types of segments. However, the script is never followed 100 percent perfectly. Unlike television shows and movies on the big screen, this performance is live in front of anywhere from hundreds to thousands of fans.
There will be mistakes, and things happen that end up being more real than what was originally scripted. Sometimes, it works out for the best. An unscripted moment can actually lead to a superstar having an impact that cements one or more legacies in the business. Then there are those unscripted moments that are obvious disasters. A trip that leads to a wrestler falling the wrong way and injuring himself. Or someone wasn’t working at 100 percent, for whatever reason.
These moments, good or bad, are easily remembered by fans for multiple generations. This is a look at some of the most memorable unscripted moments in professional wrestling history. Real moments that ended up disastrous and others that became legendary.
16 Disaster – Vince McMahon Blows Out Both Quads
The 2005 Royal Rumble match saw two of the Ruthless Aggression Era’s biggest stars at the end of the 30-man match. Both Batista and John Cena found themselves over the top rope and hitting the floor at the same time. Referees argued to decide who the winner was. This led to Vince McMahon running down the aisle, throwing his jacket to the ground and getting in the ring. Unfortunately, Mr. McMahon might have been a little too emphatic as his legs buckled shortly after sliding into the ring.
McMahon would sit in the ring while telling officials the match would be restarted; which would be won by Batista. While fans would talk about Batista’s big win, it was overshadowed by McMahon’s injury. McMahon tore both of his quadriceps, which forced him to be seated while acting as an authority figure on WWE television.
15 Legendary – Mankind Picks Up The Rock’s Glasses
In addition to being a hardcore legend in the WWE, Mick Foley also had a memorable tag team with The Rock – The Rock ‘n Sock Connection. It was an interesting team with The Rock being the overconfident member who was forced into joining forces with Mick Foley. The two shared some entertaining moments that included the famous “This is Your Life” segment. The duo was at the peak of their popularity in 1999.
During their run on an episode of SmackDown, The Rock was delivering the final lines of his catchphrase as his sunglasses fell off of his face. The fans applauded and laughed as Foley walked over, picked them up and handed them to The Rock. The Great One would thank him in the third person. It was an unplanned, but funny little moment between the two.
14 Disaster – Andre The Giant Wrestles Under the Influence
Andre The Giant is a legend in more ways than one. While he was one of the biggest legends, literally, through the 1970s and 1980s, he was also someone known for his abilities to drink in excess. He was a man who enjoyed a fine wine, or maybe ten. He also didn’t mind working while intoxicated. In 1986, Andre certainly had a good amount before a match in Japan against Akira Maeda.
Andre was not cooperating for the match and kept shrugging away the offense from Maeda, who was considered one of the best strikers in Japan. As the match continued, Maeda was frustrated with Andre’s stubbornness. The promoters would put an end to the match as the fans were not happy with what they were seeing.
13 Legendary – Triple H Blows Quad in Match
Triple H might have developed quite a bit of power in the WWE, but he certainly earned his stripes in the business. Many people praise him for always putting the company before his needs, even if it meant working a match while injured. One of the best examples was during a 2001 tag team match where he and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin faced Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho on RAW.
After making a save to prevent Jericho from submitting Austin, Triple H was noticeably limping, but he still continued the match. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Triple H tore his quadricep off of his bone, which rolled up his leg. The unplanned injury allowed others to find spots in the main event picture. Jericho was the biggest benefactor that led to him becoming the first WWE Undisputed Champion months later. But it also gave Triple H a chance to return as a big babyface with a huge ovation upon his return.
12 Disaster – Antonio Inoki vs. Muhammad Ali
Back in 1976, Muhammad Ali was king of the boxing world. Well after his legendary fight against Joe Fraizer in the “Thrilla in Manilla”, Ali met the president of Japan Amateur Wrestling and asked for a challenge. Japanese wrestling icon Antonio Inoki stepped up. But it turns out that Ali wanted it to be fixed and not to be hit with full force. Ali’s camp demanded no kicks while standing up. They also demanded no throwing, no locking holds or any kind of strikes.
Inoki was essentially not allowed to do any of his moves. So what fans who packed Budokan Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, got to see was their wrestling icon lying on his back and kicking at Ali’s legs. By the time the fight ended, Inoki had taken some punches. Ali’s leg was damaged from the repeated kicks. The match was called a draw; still a disappointing end for many fans.
11 Legendary – Shane McMahon vs. Kurt Angle in 2001 King of the Ring
Shane McMahon was certainly a risk taker whenever he entered in-ring action. He also gained a lot of respect from the WWE Universe during a match with Kurt Angle at the 2001 King of the Ring pay per view. There was a spot during the match where Angle was going to suplex Shane McMahon into one of the glass panels on the stage. However, sugar glass was not used in the spot, and instead real glass was used without either of the men knowing.
Shane McMahon would land on his head awkwardly during a suplex, which made fans in the arena and watching at home cringe collectively. Angle recently commented on WrestleTalk TV that Shane-O-Mac wanted to do the spot again despite Angle not wanting to. It was a great match overall, but both men were hurt and needed to make a visit to the nearby hospital.
10 Disaster – Jeff Hardy vs. Sting at Victory Road 2011
Jeff Hardy’s addiction to drugs has been well documented through his wrestling career. But it gained a lot more of the spotlight during TNA Wrestling’s Victory Road pay per view in 2011. Hardy’s music hit and some moments passed before Hardy actually came out. When he did come out, Hardy nearly fell going up the ring steps and while doing his pose in the corner. It was sad because it was supposed to be a quality match against Sting for the TNA World Heavyweight Championship.
But it was obvious that something was wrong with Hardy, prompting Eric Bischoff to come out and announce the match was no-disqualification to cover up Hardy's intoxication. It was really a chance for him to communicate to Sting that he should end the match quickly. The situation led to one of the worst moments in TNA Wrestling; a main event squash. Hardy was kept off of television for about five months. But Hardy admitted that was the night all of the bad in him died.
9 Legendary – CM Punk’s Pipebomb
Fans knew that CM Punk’s contract was expiring back in the summer of 2011. But the WWE wanted to make his real-life frustrations into a wrestling storyline. This led to CM Punk being put into a WWE Championship match against John Cena at Money in the Bank. In an effort to promote the main event, the WWE gave CM Punk a microphone on live television in a June 2011 episode of RAW. Wrestling fans learned quickly how CM Punk truly felt about his status in the company.
He called out several superstars like Cena for being suck ups. He also made comments along the lines of how the company could have been better off with Vince McMahon being gone. To add insult to injury he followed it up by saying the WWE would be worse if it was taken over by McMahon's daughter and “doofus” son-in-law. While not planned and upsetting some officials, this promo did lead to Punk getting a new contract and a long championship reign.
8 Disaster – Bash at the Beach 2000
In the final years of existence for World Championship Wrestling, there were a number of moments that made the company look bad. There were infamous moments like the “Fingerpoke of Doom” or David Arquette winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship. However, at Bash at the Beach the belt was held by Jeff Jarrett and the plan was for Hulk Hogan to defeat Jarrett in the main event. After the bell rang, the Jarrett - the champion- just laid down for Hogan to get an easy pinfall victory.
Hogan then ripped the company on the microphone, claiming that it was the kind of stuff that led to WCW being in such poor shape. Later, Vince Russo would claim the match wasn’t official and went on a verbal tirade against Hogan after he left the building. This was the last time the Hulkster worked for WCW. The disaster continued outside the ring as Hogan sued Russo for defamation of character.
7 Legendary – Mankind Chokeslammed Through Hell in a Cell
Mick Foley has made a name for himself with Hell in a Cell. Fans consider his 1998 fall from the top of the cage and onto the announcer’s table as one of his most iconic moments. The match with Undertaker is often remembered as the beginning of his hardcore legacy. But one of the big moments of that match was not planned. Moments after Foley was thrown off the cell, he climbed back to the top of the cage, only to be chokeslammed through the cell.
However, the spot knocked Foley out legitimately. This led to Terry Funk running into the ring to check on Foley. Jim Ross later said in an article he wrote for FoxSports.com that the incident caused Foley to reevaluate his approach to wrestling. But the momentum from that night led to him to become one of the biggest legends out of the Attitude Era.
6 Disaster – Mass Transit
While wrestling fans are used to violence in professional wrestling, there is an actual line where we can only view so much blood. That line was crossed in Extreme Championship Wrestling in November 1996. During a house show, The Gangstas (New Jack and Mustapha Saed) squared off against D-Von Dudley and the debuting Mass Transit. He was a young man who was really only 17 years old, and who was somehow able to convince promoter Paul Heyman that he was 19 and trained.
Considering the history and reputation that someone like New Jack has, he took things a little too far with the new guy. New Jack bladed Mass Transit very deep with a knife that led to him bleeding profusely. Due to the incident, ECW was forced to cancel their first planned pay per veiw. New Jack was also arrested and tried for assault and battery charges.
5 Legendary – The Curtain Call
During a good portion of the 1990s, there was a group of superstars who had a good amount of power in the back; that group was called The Kliq. The Kliq included Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Sean Waltman and Triple H. It was a collection of heels and faces that had gained favor with Vince McMahon in real life. But one time during a non-televised show at Madison Square Garden, they all (except Sean Waltman) broke character and came together inside a WWE ring for what many fans call “The Curtain Call.”
While it upset a lot of officials and wrestlers, it did set off a chain of events that sparked the WWE-WCW rivalry that was the Monday Night War. WWE failed to match WCW offers for Hall and Nash, which allowed them to form the New World Order in WCW. Back in WWE, Michaels and Triple H were finally able to convince officials to let them work together on TV as a team, thus DX was born.
4 Disaster – Brawl for All
While WWE had a lot of memorable moments during the Attitude Era, the Brawl for All was one of their worst ideas ever put on television. In 1998, the tournament was meant to help give a big boost to “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. It was meant to be a way to build up a big match against he and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The tournament was a shoot-fighting tournament that was closer to MMA than it was to WWE.
Despite the WWE expecting Williams to win, the lesser known Bart Gunn laid Dr. Death out in the second round of their fight. This led to the WWE having to scrap the plans for Williams, who would leave the company and work for various promotions. But Brawl for All was also considered a bust as the fans were simply not entertained by the premise of the tournament. It felt slow and boring, which drew jeers from the fans.
3 Legendary – Austin vs. Hart at WrestleMania 13
One of the big matches that helped make “Stone Cold” Steve Austin a main event superstar was his bloody match with Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13 in 1997. Many fans consider the image of Austin’s bloody face screaming while he was in the Sharpshooter to be one of the more iconic moments of wrestling. However, the blood was not part of the original script. In fact, it was actually not allowed in the WWE at the time.
According to Hart, he and Austin discussed getting "juice" themselves and made the decision to add the color. Austin had never bladed before, so he trusted Hart to do it for him during the match. While it might not have been allowed before the match, no one suffered consequences from the color being added. In fact, it added to the match as both men looked strong afterward.
2 Disaster – The Shockmaster’s Debut
A professional wrestling debut is usually meant to be a very special moment for a superstar, however not all of them can go as planned. Fred Ottman was signed to work for WCW and was meant to be a mystery partner for Sting, Dusty Rhodes and Davey Boy Smith. In a segment at Clash of Champions XXIV in 1993, the three announced in front of their opponents Sid Vicious, Big Van Vader and Harlem Heat that they had a shocking mystery partner.
Ottman certainly “shocked” the world as he tripped while crashing through a wall. The Shockmaster’s helmet fell off, which led to Ottman scrambling to grab the head gear in a panic. It is still considered one of the worst moments in wrestling history and essentially affected the character long term. Ottman would then continue to work for WCW with a clumsy gimmick before he returned to WWE.
1 Legendary – Montreal Screwjob
It might not have been the prettiest way for the WWE Championship to change hands, but it was one of the most memorable moments that is still talked about today. During the 1997 Survivor Series pay per view, the WWE Championship was defended by Bret “The Hitman” Hart against Shawn Michaels. Hart’s contract was expiring, but he didn’t want to drop the belt in Canada, but the WWE apparently had other ideas.
When Michaels put Hart in the Sharpshooter, Hart’s signature submission, the referee called for the bell and ruled that Hart had tapped out. This was an awkward moment that actually affected storylines moving forward in WWE.
It also formed the heel character for Mr. McMahon, who was ringside during the Montreal Screwjob. For years, fans sent hate towards Michaels and McMahon for the incident. But the hatchet was buried when Hart returned to the company 12 years later.
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