If you’ve been following WWE for any number of years, it’s likely that you know the timeline of the company like the back of your hand. The amount of content produced by WWE assures that a fan of any age can become a historical expert, able to spout off championship stats, awesome WrestleMania moments and the greatest matches of all time. The history of the WWE though is highly dependent on a number of seemingly minor circumstances that when combined together have a tremendous effect on the careers of everyone from the opening match jobber to the head of the circus carnival himself, Vincent Kennedy McMahon. An injury here and a resigning there, a change of storyline there and all of a sudden the WWE as we know it looks a whole lot different.
Men who could be considered icons are suddenly just good performers and storylines that were never thought to be possible suddenly become reality in these scenarios described. This list will focus on the 10 most interesting situations that would have changed the WWE forever. Even with this being a what-if list, the situation presented will have a certain plausibility of happening to be included, so no Undertaker vs Andre The Giant dream matches or anything like that. If you have your own suggestions for a moment that wasn’t discussed here, be sure to leave a comment and let me know how foolish I am. Without any further delay, I give to you the top 10 what if scenarios in WWE history. This is our alternate universe; not the WWE Universe, but the WW-IF Universe.
10. What if Hulk Hogan faces Bret Hart at SummerSlam 1993?
WWE: By 1993, the star of Hulk Hogan had finally started to dwindle. The WWE was beginning to push the concept of the “New Generation”, an emphasis on younger, more dynamic and athletic (doesn’t explain Kevin Nash’s push) talent rather than many of the lumbering giants of the 1980s. Men like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were crucial parts of this concept. To push the next era, Hart was booked to defeat Hulk Hogan at SummerSlam 1993 to take the title in a passing of the torch moment, as the Hitman mentioned in his autobiography and various interviews. Hogan instead decided that Hart wasn’t big enough, in size or star power, to win the title from him. Rather than dropping the title to Hart, Hogan lost the title to Yokozuna at King of the Ring before leaving the company.
WWIF: Hogan faces Bret as planned, and things go differently for the Hitman. Hart carries Hogan to a classic and ends up doing big business for the WWE by getting the rub from an icon. SummerSlam ’93 is remembered as the end of an era, rather than the awful Lex Luger/Yokozuna main event in reality. Hart’s star grows even higher and becomes one of the longest reigning champions in history. He doesn’t spend the majority of 1995 in limbo, instead feuding with Diesel and other top stars for the World Title, making 1995 a much better year for the WWE.
9. What if Triple H doesn’t tear his quad in 2001?
WWE: The 2001 WCW/ECW invasion is considered one of the most poorly booked angles in professional wrestling history and for good reason. It had the potential to be the highest drawing storyline of all time but instead failed so spectacularly that nobody speaks of it positively. The problems were numerous (where the hell was Hulk Hogan?) but one of the problems which actually wasn’t the fault of the WWE was the injury of one of their top stars and best heel, “The Cerebral Assassin” Triple H. On the May 21, 2001 edition of RAW Triple H tore his left quadricep muscle in a tag match versus Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho. At the time, the injury was thought to be a career killer. Even though Triple H returned in 2002, he was absent for the Invasion storyline.
WWIF: The Invasion storyline remains mediocre, but more logical, as Triple H sides with his wife Stephanie McMahon on the Alliance side to put his father in law out of business. Fully healthy, HHH joins the Alliance at the Invasion PPV in July instead of Stone Cold. Finally at Survivor Series 2001, Triple H is named the new captain of the Alliance, but blasts Booker T with a chair to save the WWE from extinction. This in turn leads to HHH becoming an enemy to every wrestler. The Invasion storyline doesn’t reach its full potential, but still makes more sense than WWE loyalists Stone Cold and Kurt Angle jumping ship to the Alliance. Perhaps more importantly, it continues the hottest run of The Game’s career.
8. What if Shawn Michaels never injures his back at the 1998 Royal Rumble?
WWE: The performer Shawn Michaels is perhaps the best of all time. The man, Michael Shawn Hickenbottom has had a life filled with ups and downs. In the mid to late 90s you’d be hard-pressed to find another performer with more personal issues than Michaels. A drug addiction and a prima-donna attitude made Michaels a nightmare to work with backstage. Just ask Bret Hart.
Right in the midst of this personal hell, Michaels defended his WWE Championship versus the Undertaker in a casket match at the 1998 Royal Rumble. Michaels suffered a back injury which would lead to his premature retirement after WrestleManis XIV. In his four years off from wrestling, Michaels recovered, sobered up, married former Nitro girl Rebecca Curci and become a born again Christian. Surprisingly, Michaels’s back injury could have been the best thing to happen to him. Without retirement, things could’ve actually taken a darker turn.
WWIF: HBK stays in WWE, but his painkiller addiction gets worse and worse. He never becomes a born-again Christian and most probably doesn’t marry his current wife. It’s very possible that Michaels becomes yet another tragedy in the world of professional wrestling and God knows that the world has too many already. Who would’ve thought a severe back injury could be such a blessing?
7. What if Stone Cold Steve Austin calls an audible at WrestleMania X-Seven?
WWE: Houston Astrodome, April 1, 2001. WrestleMania X-Seven, regarded as the pinnacle of The Attitude Era and the apex of North American professional wrestling. The event was capped off by a clash of the two highest box office draws ever– The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin. At the end of their masterpiece, Austin did the unthinkable and sided with his mortal enemy, Vince McMahon.
Years later on his podcast The Steve Austin Show, Austin said the thought crossed his mind to call a change of plans on the spot and deliver a stunner to McMahon, thus preventing his heel turn. If Austin did follow through on his thought, his star might have grown even higher than it already is.
WWIF: As the Houston crowd waits in anticipation, Austin stuns McMahon, maintaining his babyface momentum. He continues his feuds with either Triple H or The Rock in the Alliance storyline. Using this momentum, Austin’s massive popularity takes him to the main event of WrestleMania X8 where he faces the “Immortal” Hulk Hogan. Austin wins the match in one of wrestling’s greatest moments and fans get that ever elusive dream match.
6. What if Brock Lesnar never leaves in 2004?
WWE: It’s no secret that Brock Lesnar is not passionate about professional wrestling. He seems to like the physical performance aspect of it, but the grueling work schedule and the time away from his family limited the amount of effort Lesnar was willing to put into the wrestling business. When he was signed in 2002, Lesnar was billed as “The Next Big Thing”, a can’t-miss amateur wrestling superstar who had potential to become of the biggest stars in WWE history. He split from the company in 2004, ending his full-time wrestling career much too soon.
WWIF: Brock Lesnar stays and goes over on a departing Goldberg at WrestleMania XX. The company remains fully behind him and keeps him near the top of the card for years, probably to the point where people grow sick of him. While this is happening, a mid-carder and fringe main eventer John Cena is growing his fan base and busting his ass while never quite getting the top spot for years. The legions of fans young and new clamor for their uncrowned champion to finally take his place at the head of the company. He finally does so at WrestleMania 23 by defeating “The Beast” for the WWE Title. Yes, in this timeline, John Cena is an internet darling.
5. What if the Curtain Call Never Happens?
WWE: As WCW was gaining momentum in the Monday Night War, superstars from WWE were debating to jump ship to WCW or stay loyal to McMahon. Two of the first WWE names to join WCW were Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. With their departure, they would break up “The Kliq”, the notorious backstage group of friends who had heavy influence over the booking decisions of WWE. On the last night of their contracts, they embraced Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Shawn Michaels in the ring at the end of a live event. The problem? WWE was still trying to fool fans that heels and babyfaces were not friends outside of the ring. This in turn upset management and due to Shawn Michaels being WWE Champion, Helmsley went from possible 1996 King of the Ring winner to jobber. The winner of that tournament instead? Stone Cold Steve Austin.
WWIF: Nash and Hall exit quietly and things go as planned. Helmsley goes on to win the tournament and Austin’s rise to stardom is delayed. Helmsley goes on to challenge Shawn Michaels for the title and we see the HHH/HBK feud six years before it happened in 2002. Bret Hart versus Stone Cold at Survivor Series 1996 suddenly doesn’t look like a great draw and Austin is never given the opportunity to work at the highest level. Wrestling fans are robbed of seeing the rise of Stone Cold and the iconic “Austin 3:16” slogan is never born. Thank you, Kliq.
4. What if Vince McMahon is convicted in 1994?
WWE: For all the blunders of numerous storylines and tasteless business decisions, Vince McMahon has managed to dodge most legal trouble that has been thrown his way. At one point though in 1993, Vince McMahon was indicted by the U.S. federal court on the charges of dealing steroids to his WWE wrestlers. He was found innocent of these charges in 1994, but during that time there was a chance that the WWE would have been out of the hands of a jailed Vince McMahon.
WWIF: In this new timeline, Vince McMahon is sent to jail and the company shifts over to his wife Linda. The WWE places an even larger emphasis on smaller performers like Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels but the public’s perception of the company is in tatters. The combination of “family-friendly”(stupidly gimmicky) performers and poor public standing leads to WCW taking over much of the wrestling marketplace and putting the WWE out of business in 1997. The lack of promotional leadership from Vince McMahon is the death blow to the struggling WWE.
3. What if The Rock never makes it in Hollywood?
WWE: The leap from the ring to the silver screen is not as easy as one would think. The road to acting stardom is littered with wrestling draws who failed miserably to be big stars in Hollywood. The BIG exception though, would be The Great One, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Currently one of the highest paid actors in the world, Johnson is a bona fide media superstar. But what if his film career didn’t pan out like it did?
WWIF: Early movies like Walking Tall and The Scorpion King are financial bombs and The Rock decides to cut his losses and heads back to the WWE for good in late 2004. Rather than the up and coming Batista, The Rock wins the 2005 Royal Rumble and challenges the longtime kingpin of the RAW brand Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 21 (ironically, in Hollywood). This in turn leads to The Rock being the face of the WWE for years and elevates the company to incredible buy rates and ratings. The Rock dominates the landscape, now that Stone Cold is retired for good. With John Cena anchoring the SmackDown brand on Friday nights, the present and future icons meet at the monumental WrestleMania 25. John Cena defeats The Rock, getting an enormous rub when needed. With his longevity and unparalleled charisma, The Rock is considered far and away the best superstar of all time.
2. What if Eddie Guerrero never dies in 2005?
WWE: Of all the wrestling deaths in history, Eddie Guerrero’s death in 2005 has to rank as one of the most tragic. After winning a lengthy battle with a painkiller and alcohol addiction, Guerrero seemed to overcome his demons to emerge as one of the WWE’s top stars in the early-mid 2000s. Unfortunately, Guerrero’s recovery was too late. Due to his years of substance abuse and possible steroid use later in his life, Guerrero died of heart failure on November 13, 2005.
WWIF: Guerrero lives, resulting in a number of real-life and kayfabe changes. The WWE sticks with original plans for WrestleMania 22, with Eddie Guerrero facing Shawn Michaels. The match steals the show and is considered one of the best matches in WrestleMania history, with comparisons to Ricky Steamboat versus Randy Savage. Guerrero remains an active competitor for several more years and Vickie Guerrero never becomes general manager of SmackDown, or a regular performer for WWE at all.
Most interestingly, there’s a chance that the Chris Benoit tragedy never happens. In addition to the years of steroid abuse and concussions, the death of Eddie Guerrero took a huge toll on the psyche of Benoit. It’s not a guarantee at all, but maybe the biggest black mark on the wrestling business is avoided if Eddie Guerrero doesn’t die in that Minneapolis hotel room.
1. What if there is no Montreal Screwjob?
WWE: Anything involving the Montreal Screwjob seems to get the wrestling world in a tizzy, and for good reason. Bret Hart was the WWE champion leaving the company and Vince McMahon chose to double cross Hart by changing the finish of his title match with Shawn Michaels without telling him. There’s much more to the story, but it has been told to death already. No, what is really interesting here is a possible reality where the screwjob doesn’t happen.
WWIF: Instead of Hebner ringing the damn bell, the Survivor Series main event ends in a double disqualification and Hart vacates the championship on RAW the next night. The title goes up for grabs in a tournament to crown the new champ. Michaels wins the tournament final with the help of DX, but Stone Cold is chomping at the bit for a rematch. WrestleMania XIV goes down the same way with Mike Tyson, but after WrestleMania, Austin is left with no hot feud, due to the Mr. McMahon character never being born out of the controversy of Montreal. WCW is still doing gangbuster numbers and due to the financial slump, WWE is forced to close up shop and WCW wins the Monday Night War.
Oh my God, the Montreal Screwjob saved the company from extinction.
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