The scripted element of WWE makes it unlike any other form of sport or entertainment. Wrestling is different from most sports given the scripted outcomes even though the athleticism is like any other in the genre. The wrestling industry has always been scripted, but recent decades have seen WWE take it to another level. A huge writing staff has been formed in WWE with mostly wrestlers that have experience in television shows like sitcoms, dramas and soap operas. It has been met with a widely polarizing reaction from both the fans of the business and wrestlers to speak on the experience backstage.
Many respected wrestlers like Steve Austin have expressed a disdain for the scripted atmosphere of the show. Austin believes wrestlers would be better off breaking the script and using their own voice for the betterment of their character and/or the story. There have been a few wrestlers breaking the script in recent years leading to mixed results. Some of these instances have featured it working out for them in the overall scheme of things. Others have received negative reaction from WWE with punishment or tension. We will look at both sides with ten recent times WWE broke the script for the better and ten that received major heat.
20 Better: It's Roman's Yard Now
Roman Reigns’ WrestleMania 33 victory over The Undertaker is less celebrated today, but it was a huge in the moment. WWE believed Undertaker was retiring and this was set up to have him put over Reigns as the person who now runs “the yard” of the WWE ring.
Reigns had a legendary promo the night after WrestleMania which featured him standing in the ring for nearly 10 minutes of loud boos before simply stating it was his yard now.
It reportedly was not supposed to last that long, but Roman realized how great the moment was.
This was considered among the best WWE in-ring promos of the year with less words meaning more for Reigns.
19 Heat: Brock Lesnar & Randy Orton at SummerSlam
Brock Lesnar is one of the most hated men in the WWE locker room. Most were already resentful at his attitude and schedule, but it grew to another level back at SummerSlam 2015. The main event featured Lesnar facing Randy Orton for the first time in their legendary careers.
Lesnar was meant to win via referee stoppage but he broke script with his shots being more physical than expected.
Instead of being safe with his opponent, Brock treated Orton like an MMA opponent. Many wrestlers were upset, including Chris Jericho who approached Lesnar backstage leading to a scuffle. Brock has been relatively hated by the locker room since this show.
18 Better: Braun Strowman giving Triple H an extra finisher
Braun Strowman has become a huge star for WWE on the Raw brand. Not many pundits saw it coming, but WWE has pushed him to the moon as a nearly unbeatable monster. One of his better PPV moments came at Survivor Series 2017.
Strowman and Triple H were the sole survivors for Raw’s team in their win over Smackdown. Triple H manipulated Strowman during the match leading to Braun attacking his partner after the match. Strowman delivered a second powerslam despite only one being planned. The fans ate it up and Strowman received an even bigger response than expected thanks to a good moment.
17 Heat: Neville refusing to lose to Enzo again
The current position of Neville has him sitting home waiting until his WWE contract expires. We are missing out on a great talent and it happened due to him refusing to go along with a script on one specific episode of Raw.
WWE wanted to make Enzo Amore the face of 205 Live and had him defeat Neville for the Cruiserweight Championship on PPV. The plan was for Neville to lose again on Raw, but he had an issue with his. Neville refused and asked for his release if the company didn’t want to use him in a better way. WWE refused to do this and decided to freeze out his contract.
16 Better: The Miz's epic shoot promo on Daniel Bryan
The Miz has been one of the hottest stars in WWE over the past couple of years. Very few wrestlers have benefited from the brand split as much as he has. Miz started the momentum on SmackDown when getting into a surprise feud with former General Manager Daniel Bryan.
Bryan upset Miz on Talking Smack when calling him a soft and weak wrestler. Miz struck back with one of the most passionate promos of his career ripping Bryan for taking the cushy GM job instead of going back to the indie circuit. It gave Miz enough momentum to become a top star again and the two are expected to face off soon with Bryan cleared to compete.
15 Heat: Sasha Banks shooting on Alexa Bliss in interview
Sasha Banks has had a somewhat disappointing run on Raw over the past year and a half. Vince McMahon reportedly is not a big fan of Banks leading to her receiving less opportunities than most expected. Banks has won the Raw Women’s Championship four times but has never once successfully defended it.
The most recent title loss came to Alexa Bliss. Both ladies showed a lot of intensity in promos during their feud. Banks apparently crossed the line when calling out Bliss for being a phony person with no passion for wrestling. Corey Graves implied that Banks received heat for this on the Bring it to the Table talk show. Banks has not been a main player on Raw since then.
14 Better: Chris Jericho ending match with injured Neville
Another bad memory for Neville comes when the script needed to be broken. Neville had a match with Chris Jericho on Raw that featured him suffering a brutal injury. Jericho noticed right away and tried to end the bout as quickly as possible.
Referee Charles Robinson didn’t realize, leading to an argument with Jericho in the ring.
Both men broke the script with the intense words leading to Jericho being disqualified. Jericho and Robinson made peace and ending the match early was the right call for Neville’s health. Unfortunately, Neville would miss WrestleMania 32 a few weeks later due to the injury.
13 Heat: Gail Kim eliminating herself from battle royal
Everyone loves to talk about the women’s wrestling movement in WWE today due to the divisions being great on every show. However, many talented ladies in WWE were held back due to the company not caring about the division in most prior eras.
Gail Kim is arguably the biggest example of this. During two tenures in WWE, the company never used her with much credibility. Kim felt disrespected and decided to end her WWE career by breaking the script. Gail intentionally eliminated herself from a Raw battle royal in her final match before leaving for Impact Wrestling. It got her heat, but she was just happy to get out of WWE.
12 Better: Kevin Owens' frustration with spot in draft
Kevin Owens has been one of the breakout stars for WWE following the brand split. WWE needed a new wrestler to step up as the Universal Champion when Finn Balor was injured, and Roman Reigns was in the doghouse for the wellness policy violation.
Owens was selected to have the first real reign as the Universal Champion on Raw. Part of the reason for his push was how motivated he was following the draft. Owens cut a passionate promo on the WWE Network special for the draft about his late selection by Raw. It legitimately upset him and the passion he showed gave him a bigger opportunity right away.
11 Heat: Samoa Joe trying to stop doctors from cleaning him up
The rules in WWE have changed through the years. One of the biggest changes in philosophies comes to blood. WWE tries to not show blood in their attempts to become a true PG product appealing to a broader audience without age limits like the past.
Samoa Joe found this out at NXT TakeOver: Dallas when the trainers kept pausing Joe’s match with Finn Balor to clear the blood from his face and attempt to stop it. The anger of Joe saw him playing to the crowd heckling WWE for this. It likely earned Joe a talking to backstage for showing up the trainers, but he came out okay as it didn’t stop his push.
10 Better: The Miz roasting Enzo Amore
The Miz has delivered many great promos over the past two years. While his match quality has improved greatly, the promos from The Miz are still the strongest points of his performances. Miz clearly is a great talker that knows when to take it an extra mile.
Enzo Amore felt this when The Miz verbally destroyed him in the middle of the ring.
Miz reportedly did not stick to the script when referencing Enzo’s status backstage as an outcast and how he was wasting his potential. The passion gave Miz another memorable promo while forecasted the future of Enzo failing as a wrestler.
9 Heat: Randy Orton ruining Kofi Kingston's push
Randy Orton is a controversial figure in WWE to many wrestlers and fans. The status of Orton has him as a legend in the later stretch of his career. Orton’s best days are behind him as he mostly tries to help put over new stars like Jinder Mahal.
However, the not so distant past featured Orton hurting the careers of others. During a match with Kofi Kingston, Orton broke script by calling him “stupid” in the ring during a fit of rage for a missed spot. Kingston’s huge singles push ended there with Orton essentially sabotaging him with the memorable moment. It took a few years before Kofi returned to relevance in New Day.
8 Better: Chris Jericho and Triple H bring back vintage trash talk
One of the most underrated rivalries of the Attitude Era featured Triple H and Chris Jericho squaring off. Both guys had great matches together along with highly entertaining promos in the ring. This would be brought back to the ring for a segment in 2014.
Triple H made an unscripted comment taking aim at Jericho wearing a silly scarf. Jericho decided to retort with a joke about Triple H’s tie.
Both lines were minor jabs that added some fun and nostalgia to the promo segment. They got away with it given their respected veteran reputations. It showed how a little freedom could add to a better moment for the show.
7 Heat: The Rock calling CM Punk during promo
The Rock has been known for going against the WWE script for most of his career. No one was better at improv moments on the microphone than Rock. It is part of the reason he received a chance in Hollywood where he would become a blockbuster movie star.
Rock returning to WWE for the random segment made it odd due to the current scripted element. A dark segment featured Rock cutting a promo in Los Angeles. Fans chanted CM Punk leading to Rock calling Punk on the phone and leaving a voice message. Vince McMahon was reportedly livid at Rock indulging in the chant that still haunts the company today.
6 Better: Daniel Bryan embracing hometown fans
The WWE Championship summit on Raw to take place in Seattle is remembered as an all-time great segment. Many former WWE Champions and World Champions joined in the ring before a promo between Randy Orton and John Cena selling their unification match
Fans in Seattle had no interest in this, and they decided to cheer for hometown hero Daniel Bryan all segment.
Bryan decided to respond to the never-ending cheers with a show of appreciation. The humble nature of Bryan in this segment made more fans realize how much they liked him. WWE used clips from it in many video packages since then.
5 Heat: Finn Balor and AJ Styles Are Too Sweet
Finn Balor has struggled to return to the top of the Universal Championship picture since returning to Raw in early 2017. Not only has Balor not received a rematch for the title he never lost, but he rarely gets spotlighted as a major player.
Vince McMahon is reportedly down on Finn being a main event star. One of Balor’s best matches came against AJ Styles at TLC 2017. Despite putting on a great performance, Balor and Styles received some backstage heat for doing the Bullet Club ‘too sweet’ gesture that was not part of the script. Finn seemed to suffer for it more than AJ has.
4 Better: Alexa Bliss' emotional reaction to winning Smackdown Women's Championship
The success of Alexa Bliss is one of the more unexpected stories of someone from NXT thriving on the main roster. No one expected Bliss to be a major player following a forgettable run in NXT. While she showed great character skills, Alexa never had a match on a TakeOver special.
This made it even sweeter for her when she rose to the top of the women’s division on SmackDown within a few months of the draft. Bliss showed her emotion when crying her eyes out talking about how much it meant to her to be SmackDown Women’s Champion on Talking Smack. Despite being a heel, we got to see Bliss in a relating moment that showed how much being champ meant to her.
3 Heat: Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn not taking beat down from New Day
A very public instance of wrestlers getting heat for breaking the script featured Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn being pulled from a United Kingdom tour. The issue came during an episode of SmackDown following a match against members of New Day.
WWE punished Owens and Zayn for leaving the ring after the match instead of taking a scripted beatdown at the hands of New Day. Both wrestlers missed a handful of shows from the tour as punishment for breaking the script. However, Owens and Zayn claimed it was a misunderstanding and they weren’t intentionally doing during an interview discussing the situation.
2 Better: Stephanie McMahon shutting down CM Punk chants
The chants of CM Punk haunted WWE for quite some time following his exit from the company. Punk left in hostile fashion and every wrestling fan knew about it due to the internet spreading the story like wildfire.
It led to fans heckling wrestlers and matches they didn’t enjoy with chants in support of the most hated man by WWE. Stephanie McMahon decided to address it quite a few times.
The first instance saw her refer to Punk as a quitter while the most memorable featured her referencing Punk’s UFC loss.
Both unscripted moments would shut down the Punk chants for the rest of the night and it made them a lot less for WWE moving forward.
1 Heat: Asuka hugging Charlotte
WWE reportedly went back and forth discussing the future of both ladies before deciding Charlotte Flair should end Asuka’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania 34. The match was universally praised and considered the best on the show to many pundits.
One odd aspect of the match came at the end when Asuka embraced Charlotte when they hugged in the aftermath. Asuka was apparently supposed to shake hands and show respect. Instead, she hugged Charlotte in a manner that implied she was happy to lose and end her historic streak. Asuka has been used in a much smaller role since WrestleMania including losing to Carmella.