Wrestling has always been a scripted affair. True, it may have gotten bigger today but it’s always been a case of guys planning out matches and promos and trusting each other to get a job done right. However, at other times, things can go wrong. Promoters can be understanding of the occasional botch of a promo or a match as the guys are only human, these things happen. However, there are other times when wrestlers can go off script for the wrong reasons. Sometimes, it’s an injury or a move that ruins a plan. It can be doing something the boss gave a major no-no to and the worker goes ahead with it anyway. Or it can be going into business for themselves on a promo. Either way, many a worker has suffered for doing this and paid a price.
However, every now and then, going off script is just the opportunity a worker needs. They can make themselves a star, taking off nicely as fans respond to what they do bigger than expected. From an offhand line that becomes a national catchphrase to how an opportunity is taken advantage of, going off script has worked out for some guys. For every one who’s suffered, someone else benefits thanks to the odd way wrestling works. Here are 8 WWE stars who got in major trouble for going off script but 7 who ended up rewarded to show that fighting the system can occasionally work.
15 IN TROUBLE: Batista’s Blading
For a guy who entered wrestling late, Batista did a great job. The Animal took off with fans with his drive and passion, an easy strong man but could surprise with some great matches (such as his feud with The Undertaker). However, things could be rough with his ego and he often garnered heat backstage. In 2008, Batista was defending the World title against Chris Jericho on RAW with Jericho slated to win. The plan was Batista dominating in a cage and setting up a Batista Bomb from the top but Jericho using a metal pipe to hit him and then climb out. Batista believed that to sell it right, he had to bleed on camera, ignoring that WWE had entered a PG period. The blow was made and Jericho had the belt.
As soon as he got backstage, Jericho heard Vince screaming at Batista, outraged he had done this. Both men expected some heat but were shocked when Vince fined Batista a whopping $100,000 for it. It was a key moment to push Batista to leave the company and feel Hollywood had better bosses.
14 REWARDED: Enzo’s Push
True, in the long run, it didn’t help given Enzo’s recent ugly firing by the company. But at the time, this was a surprise. Enzo and Cass had been a good tag team, mixing well and especially loved for their on-mic ring entrance with fans chanting every word with them. When they finally split, Cass was set for the big push and it seemed to be working as he easily beat Enzo down in their bouts.
The blow-off was to be in a street fight on RAW and the plan for Cass to win. But during the match, a bad spot by Enzo caused Cass to tear his ACL, so Enzo got the win.
While Cass had to be on the shelf, Enzo was given a push by the win, transitioned to 205 and winning the Cruiserweight title. Indeed, for a short period, Enzo, who had seemed destined to sink and be released (especially given his backstage heat) was instead boosted with a title and his own WWE Network show. Of course, he blew it in the end for his assault and firing yet showed how messing it up can help you in the short run.
13 IN TROUBLE: Bart Gunn Wins Brawl For All
WWE today doesn't hold back on calling the Brawl for All one of the worst ideas ever. The plan was a series of boxing bouts in the ring with wrestlers in unfamiliar bouts and fans disliked it. The fact the fights were legit led to some injuries and would also cost them big-time. The whole thing was intended to have Steve “Dr. Death” Williams be the winner and use this push as a “tough man” to be the next big challenger for Steve Austin.
But then Bart Gunn threw it all out the window by knocking out Williams in the second round of the tournament. This of course was a disaster and went to hurt Bart as he won the tournament but his “prize” was put up against professional fighter Butterbean at WrestleMania. There, Bart was easily beaten before the eyes of the world and suffered for throwing the plans off.
12 REWARDED: Mankind’s Fall
When Mankind and The Undertaker were set up for a big battle at the 1998 King of the Ring, they were nervous. The first Hell in the Cell match had been a great affair and they were worried about topping it. Also, Taker had a broken leg which hampered his chances. Talking in private, the duo decided to break the plan of going at it in the ring first. Instead, Mankind climbed the top of the cage and Taker followed, fighting it out and then Taker tossing Mankind off the roof through the announcer table. They went at it again with an unplanned chokeslam through the cage roof.
It was a spectacle no one could forget and the fans went wild. Yes, Mick Foley suffered injuries but he also was elevated to mega-stardom and the decision to do this his own way led to one of the era’s most memorable moments.
11 IN TROUBLE: Mickie’s Grab
Mickie James had been a good worker in the indie scene and had promise when WWE hired her in 2005. She was pushed fast as a super-fan of Trish Stratus but then turned into a stalker, complete with a kiss that Trish backed up from. So Mickie attacked her in a jealous rage and earned a title shot at WrestleMania.
To the surprise of many, the Chicago crowd completely backed the psycho Mickie as she won cheers attacking Trish with wild offense.
At the climax, Trish got Mickie in a headlock and preparing her bulldog move. But Mickie broke it up by grabbing Trish between the legs then licking her palm. Mickie won the match and the title but got in some trouble for such a lewd move (which was edited out of future releases) and hampered her later runs for going a bit too far to win the crowd.
10 REWARDED: The Game’s Name
Triple H was always on the rise to stardom, long before he and Stephanie got together. He showed it from the start with his work in WWE as IC champion and later leader of DX. He had drive, passion, charisma and a good worker as well. Yet he still seemed lacking in the main event scene even after winning the title in 1999. In an interview with Jim Ross, Hunter cut loose on how big a deal he was, that people should respect him more and demanded attention. He went on to then declare “I am the f----ing game!” After the interview, Hunter was briefly in hot water for cursing on air and going too far.
But the next night, fans were holding “The Game” signs and they saw instant money. Since then, The Game has been Triple H’s main nickname, selling numerous t-shirts and pushing him to an icon with the company, proving he could deliver the goods.
9 IN TROUBLE: Puder Showing Up Angle
When “Tough Enough” went down, the idea was stars showing rookies the ropes to get ahead. It was something WWE would later use much better in NXT but the reality show wasn’t too bad. Daniel Puder had an MMA background and very promising when he was placed on the show and they decided to give him a chance in the ring with Kurt Angle.
Obviously, the idea was Angle manhandling Puder. Instead, to the shock of everyone, Puder easily got the best of Angle, using his skills to get him in rough holds and Angle looking overmatched.
The idea of a rookie cleanly beating one of the company’s biggest stars was too much to take. So, the match was ended on a lame fast count for Angle to save face. While Puder was hired, his nearly beating Angle earned him a beat-down at the Royal Rumble and a fast exit from the company, showing that you can go too far trying to win a job.
8 REWARDED: Punk’s Pipe Bomb
WWE did give the okay to this in spirit but had no idea how far it was to go. In 2011, CM Punk had established himself as a huge star with multiple titles. He was still doing great but seemed to lack the it factor at times. On RAW in June 2011, as John Cena lay through a broken table, Punk sauntered onto the entranceway, sat cross-legged and proceeded to deliver a fantastic promo. He started by saying he liked Cena as a person but hated how he was pushed. That led to a six-minute tirade where he trashed WWE completely, ripping into the Yes Men about, the fans just accepting this, Vince, Hunter, all of it.
It should have been an immediate axing but instead, Punk was pushed hard, winning the title and eventually holding it almost an entire year and fans loving it. While he left on bad terms eventually, this moment of Punk cutting loose led to him getting the push of a lifetime and still a legend to fans.
7 IN TROUBLE: Owens and Zayn Refusing To Sell
Kevin Owens has always had an independent streak and Sami Zayn isn’t much different. Both men had established careers before WWE in ROH and other places and thus weren’t the type to listen well or settle into the WWE way of thinking. For the most part, they’ve done okay with Kevin getting great stuff as champion and his feud with Chris Jericho.
But in November of 2017, the two were part of a tour through the United Kingdom with the idea of getting a beat-down from the New Day. Instead, both Owens and Zayn left the ring without the beating.
They claimed they’d been told the plan was changed and no beat-down coming but management insisted it was to stay the same. Both men were sent home although back in the program soon. Still, it showed that even today, WWE won’t tolerate workers not doing a job.
6 REWARDED: Cesaro Trashing the Draft
Many have noted how bizarre it is that Vince continually claims Cesaro doesn’t have the “It factor” despite obvious evidence. For four straight years, the Wrestling Observer named him “Most Underrated,” he was great on the mic, charisma and got fantastic pops yet WWE continually pushed him down. It came to a head in 2016 when Cesaro was drafted in the sixth round of the WWE Draft to RAW. He cut a promo for the Network where he openly trashed how low he was and how he was frustrated with his lack of direction and deserved more.
This could have gotten him in hot water for going off on his own to trash things. But instead, someone realized he had a good point. He and Sheamus were put into a program and surprised many by turning in a good series. Their chemistry was so good that they were paired up into a tag team and have since won the RAW tag titles four times. Thus, speaking out got Cesaro his best push yet and finally showing “It” at last.
5 IN TROUBLE: Flair’s Blade Job
Back in 1992, blading in WWE was seriously frowned on. They weren’t for bloodbaths usually with their “family friendly” setting and while some guys wanted to juice, there were repercussions. At WrestleMania VIII, Bret Hart and Roddy Piper went at it for the IC title with Bret doing a job. However, he lied about it, saying it was an accident and Vince bought it. But later in the show, Ric Flair also bladed as he took on Randy Savage for the WWE title.
It was clear as day as they fought with Flair (no stranger to going bloody) showing off big-time to sell it.
Savage won the title but Vince was outraged as Flair made no secret he’d done this on purpose and the boss wasn’t happy. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the fact Flair was a huge star who was still in the main event scene, he might very well have been fired.
4 REWARDED: Rock 'N' Sock Connection
Looking back, pairing up The Rock and Mankind just made sense. Two very gifted performers blasting with charisma, they made a great pair. However, it wasn’t supposed to be as the two were set into a feud, meant to fill up the mid-card. They were going at it in a promo when Rock accidentally knocked off his trademark sunglasses, throwing it all off. With a brief pause, Mankind bent over to pick them up and offer them back. With a simple “Thank you,” The Rock went right back to talking like nothing happened.
In that moment, the two showed a terrific chemistry that was sheer comedy gold. So the decision was made to have them be a tag team and it took off huge. They held the titles but more importantly, got the fans invested as it boosted both to huge success and stardom and provided one of the highest rated segments in RAW history in the “This is your life” bit.
3 IN TROUBLE: Saturn’s Beat-Down
Perry Saturn was a good worker in his prime, his stuff in ECW being a highlight. He did have some success in WCW but found himself ground down by the politics. So in 2000, he joined Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko in jumping ship to WWE. The Radicalz had a good push off the bat although Saturn was sort of the odd man out when the other three were doing great programs. In early 2001, Saturn was doing a match with jobber Mike Bell for one of the syndicated TV shows.
Bell was botching a few moves and Saturn finally snapped. He threw Bell outside and proceeded to beat him down, tossing him into the steps before the pin.
Saturn was slammed for his beating and thus punished with the idiotic story of getting a blow on the head and falling in love with a mop. It’s a clear case of a guy letting his temper get the best of him and hurt Saturn badly.
2 REWARDED: Austin 3:16
Since his debut, Steve Austin was hailed as a future superstar. Highly skilled, he was fantastic on the mic and a ready-made heel. WCW fumbled the opportunities, pushing him down despite his charisma and then firing him when he was injured. WWE also missed at first by saddling him with the lame “Ringmaster” gimmick. But Austin was determined, shaving his head for a more menacing look and turning down WWE’s stupid names (Chilly McFreeze?) for Stone Cold. Yet he still lacked that one key thing to take off.
After winning King of the Ring (thanks to Triple H punished for the Curtain Call), while getting a cut lip tended to, he heard Jake Roberts talk Bible verses. Thus, after his win, Austin made the now iconic line “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!” It instantly turned him into a huge star and kick-started the career to make him one of the biggest icons of the business and all because of one off-the-cuff remark.
1 IN TROUBLE: Triple H for the Curtain Call
This was a move that changed so much for so many. In 1996, Hunter Hearst Helmsley was on the rise in WWE, his connection to “The Kliq” getting him a big boost. The plan was for him to win King of the Ring and boost that for a singles push and maybe even a main event run with Shawn Michaels. But then came the fateful night in Madison Square Garden. As Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were leaving, it was an emotional night. After their cage match main event, Nash and Michaels embraced. Then out came Hall, Waltman and Hunter to join them, sending things off well.
But behind the scenes, things were not good. The outrage over this huge breaking of kayfabe was a major deal at the time.
Vince knew someone had to be punished in order to keep some order to things. Hall and Nash were gone, Waltman was about to follow and Shawn was the champ. That left Hunter, whose KOTR victory was called off. That let Austin win the King of the Ring and the rest is history. Hunter did get out of the doghouse thanks to his hard work to win the IC title in October but this punishment paved the way for the Attitude Era.