WWE is the biggest wrestling promotion in the world and has transcended limits long thought to be uncrossable, but that does not mean it hasn't had its fair share of backfires. Vince McMahon himself has been at the forefront of some of wrestling's most shocking and bizarre storylines.
The controversial company has spun strange narrative webs over the decades, pushing the boundaries of sports entertainment as it has strived to make storyline blunders work. Here are five of WWE's biggest backfires as well as five strange storylines that surprisingly worked to their advantage.
10 Backfire: The Higher Power
The Undertaker's stable Ministry of Darkness was well-received by fans. The odd angle which included Stone Cold Steve Austin and the McMahons, however, stalled its momentum.
Following Vince's banishment from The Corporation in 1999, 'Taker's stable merged with them to form The Corporate Ministry. The Deadman began targeting Stephanie McMahon and The Texas Rattlesnake, claiming to be answering to a 'higher power' which turned out to be...Vince McMahon.
9 Worked: 24/7 Championship
The 24/7 Championship was ill-received upon its debut and was promptly established as a title belt which lacked credibility. Despite this blunder, some of WWE's most entertaining recent skits have revolved around the belt, drastically improving the belt's reputation in the WWE Universe.
A lot of this can be credited to R-Truth, whose comedic charisma has gotten himself and the 24/7 Championship over with fans in an unanticipated way.
8 Backfire: Anonymous General Manager
After Vince McMahon fired Bret Hart from the position of General Manager in 2010, Raw came under the rule of the Anonymous General Manager, who ruled with an iron fist and with Michael Cole as their mouthpiece.
The identity of the Anonymous GM was a mystery that was one of the main narratives in WWE going forward. The promising storyline was promptly dropped in 2011 after Triple H and John Laurinaitis returned to power, with the identity of the Anonymous GM eventually being revealed as Hornswoggle much later.
7 Worked: Daniel Bryan's NO! Gimmick
Daniel Bryan is a WWE Superstar who, given his lack of conformity to Vince McMahon's preferred formula, should never have become as successful as he is now. However, the talent of the former WWE Champion was so great that he made every gimmick work, even his strange 2012 heel turn.
AJ Lee's kayfabe rejection prompted a disillusioned Bryan to turn his back on his former gimmick, adopting a new, more cynical persona. This did nothing to dampen his momentum and led to a reign with the Tag Team Championships alongside Kane as Team Hell No.
6 Backfire: Brawl For All
Vince McMahon has tried to pursue other projects outside of wrestling before, though few of them have had as much success. "The Brawl For All" tournament in 1998 was no exception, as wrestlers fought each other in real-life boxing matches.
WWF wanted to elevate Steve "Dr. Death" Williams and planned to do so by having him win the tournament. However, a hamstring injury forced him out of the tournament during the second round and the Brawl For All was instead won by Bart Gunn. To celebrate, Gunn faced Eric "Butterbean" Esch at WrestleMania XV and was knocked out in under a minute.
5 Worked: Matt Hardy Vs. Edge
Matt Hardy and Edge's 2005 feud was uncomfortably personal. The bitter rivalry was dragged onto WWE television after Matt Hardy revealed that his real-life girlfriend and fellow Team Xtreme member Lita was having an affair with the Rated-R Superstar.
WWE has never been averse to blurring the lines of kayfabe, and the tension between the two Superstars was woven into the narrative. Edge and Lita mocked Hardy in the ring with dramatic gestures and the two Superstars fought in multiple matches at SummerSlam and Unforgiven.
4 Backfire: Rikishi Did It For The Rock
Triple H was scheduled to face The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin in a triple threat match at Survivor Series 1999 for the WWF Championship, though this bout never ended up happening. In a bizarre scene, the Texas Rattlesnake was shown being hit by a car, and his spot in the match was given to Big Show.
If that wasn't strange enough, the culprit was eventually revealed to be Rikishi, who claimed he did it for The Rock and other Samoan Superstars who were overlooked by WWE. Triple H was later revealed as having hired Rikishi to do it.
3 Worked: Nikki Bella Surpasses AJ's Reign
Nobody wanted to see Nikki Bella surpass AJ Lee's historic reign as the longest-reigning champion. It was a clear move of spite on WWE's behalf aimed at Lee and real-life husband CM Punk, and fans were vocal about wanting the Fearless One to drop the belt before that happened. So naturally, when it did, the crowd exploded.
Whilst it was controversial, this signified a moment where fans were invested in a Divas Championship match. Fans on Twitter made hashtags trend demanding Nikki and Charlotte's match take place in the main event, something that had only happened once with Trish and Lita.
2 Backfire: Big Cass Mocks Daniel Bryan's Height
Big Cass' 2018 push was supposed to be the start of something significant. The Big Bad Bambino interrupted Daniel Bryan during the main event of SmackDown and attacked him, cementing his heel turn.
The feud between Cass and Bryan was ill-received, most notably for corny segments including Cass mocking the former WWE Champion's height. His losing effort to Bryan at Money In The Bank was his last match in WWE as he was released from the company afterward.
1 Worked: Charlotte Replaces Becky
This was admittedly more Nia Jax's error than WWE's, but the decision to replace super babyface Becky Lynch in her red-hot match against Ronda Rousey with Charlotte Flair seemed like a poor decision. It made little sense narratively, as The Man and The Queen were fresh from an intense rivalry.
However, Flair's inclusion turned out to be a treat as Flair and Rousey put on a superb bout that ended in a vicious and brutal heel turn for The Queen.