The story of wrestling is inherently about adapting on the fly and making changes when necessary. WWE and all other promotions are hoping to plan for long-term angles that go as planned. Steve Austin win the WWE championship in WrestleMania 14 shows an example of how things often go as planned, but they don’t always.
There are multiple reasons for breaking changes to major stories. Some present things outside of a company’s control, but other scenarios present something that isn’t working and requires change. The reasons with some of the more abrupt changes in direction will be examined. Each of the next big stories had sweeping changes made on the fly.
10 Revelation of the lost son of Vince McMahon
WWE put a lot of time and effort into the mystery of Vince McMahon discovering that he was the father of someone on the WWE roster that they were unaware of. The angle played out over many months with all the rumors claiming that Mr. Kennedy was set to get a big push as the newest McMahon.
Kennedy’s suspension for violating the wellness policy led to WWE having to change plans on the fly. Hornswoggle was cast instead with WWE going in the opposite direction of a new storyline moving forward. WWE wasn’t comfortable just giving the Kennedy push to another heel.
9 Dolph Ziggler/Alberto Del Rio Double Back
Vince McMahon was a big supporter of Alberto Del Rio and hoped to make him one of the best faces when he won the World Championship in 2013. Del Rio lost the belt to Dolph Ziggler via Money in the Bank, leading fans to be on Ziggler’s side.
An injury to Dolph led to Alberto fighting Jack Swagger for the number 1 contender’s spot to pass the time, but fans began booing Del Rio even more. WWE decided to do a double take when Ziggler returned and lost the title to Alberto. A combination of McMahon not trusting Dolph and fans turning on Del Rio forced the double twist of his character lineup after Alberto’s big win.
8 Kurt Angle will replace Roman Reigns in The Shield Reunion Match
WWE was forced to make a late trade with no other option when Roman Reigns suffered illness to eliminate him from The Shield’s big reunion TLC match in 2017. Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose were announced to face The Miz, Cesaro , Sheamus, Kane and Braun Strowman in a handicap TLC match.
A shocking announcement on social media days before saw Kurt Angle replace Roman and join The Shield for one night only. Angle, being the general manager of Raw face, it made sense for him to randomly join the match to prevent Rollins and Ambrose from going it alone.
7 Kofi Kingston Replaces Kevin Owens as Daniel Bryan’s WrestleMania 35 Challenger
There were no plans for Kofi Kingston to be anywhere near the WrestleMania 35 Image of the WWE Championship up to multiple unexpected variables. Mustafa Ali was replaced by Kofi in a gauntlet match and an Elimination Chamber match that saw the audience rally behind him.
Kevin Owens was the name reported to be returning as a babyface and feuding Daniel Bryan for the Smackdown top prize. WWE decided to change plans in the middle of WM’s season by building on the momentum of KofiMania and continuing Kingston’s first world title reign.
6 Braun Strowman dethrones Goldberg for the Universal Championship
Another unexpected trade from WrestleMania for a world title came a year later at WrestleMania 36. Roman Reigns was left out of the most unpredictable WM in the empty Performance Center due to the risks posed by the pandemic at the time.
WWE had to come up with a plan when Reigns pulled out of his match against Goldberg just days before the event was to be taped. Braun Strowman replaced Roman and crushed Goldberg to become Universal Champion in the most unlikely way.
5 The end of the undertaker’s streak
The most fascinating thing about The Undertaker’s undefeated streak ending Brock Lesnar in WrestleMania 30 it was the last minute it was. Undertaker has revealed that he was unaware that plans changed for him to lose until that very day.
Vince McMahon originally signed Undertaker to continue the streak until he changed his mind before the big night. Undertaker didn’t argue, but felt it was a bad move since Brock didn’t need the win to be a credible attraction.
4 Kevin Owens’ Universal Championship reign ends before he faces Chris Jericho
WWE intentionally set up the friendship between Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho in order to have a match in time for WrestleMania 33. Owens being Universal Champion was destined to go all the way to that event and lose the belt to Jericho, as their friendship dictated Owens’ successful defenses for that title.
Jericho revealed that Vince changed course during the plan and asked Goldberg to take the belt from Owens. WWE opted for Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship instead, and they placed Owens and Jericho in a mid-card match for the United States Championship.
3 Batista gets an evolution point over Mark Jindrak
The idea for the Evolution faction was brilliant, but WWE had to hit home runs with the younger talent they cast to make the roles work. Triple H as the main star and Ric Flair as the past legend provided almost perfect settings for those two spots.
Randy Orton was a great choice for the future legend, but WWE wanted two members of that side. Mark Jindrak was actually the first choice and even filmed vignettes with the group. Triple H’s veto prompted Batista to return from injury to earn the last spot in a huge upgrade for the act.
2 Seth Rollins charges MITB during Roman Reigns vs Brock Lesnar
WWE originally seen WrestleMania 31 like coronation night for Roman Reigns. The plan was for Roman to dethrone Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship, but the audience started booing him more every week from his Royal Rumble victory until tonight.
A change was made that weekend with Seth Rollins booked to cash in Money in the Bank during the main event to steal the title. WWE did not want Reigns’ first world title reign to come with booing fans. Rollins had a career-defining moment from him thanks to the last-minute trade.
1 Hulk Hogan leaves WWE’s New World Order
The arrival of the New World Order in WWE was treated as one of the biggest stories in the company’s history. Hulk Hogan was destined to stay with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall for at least a year dominating as the nWo act did in WCW to create record fan interest at the time.
However, WWE fans had a stronger nostalgia for Hogan’s babyface Hulkamania character. Kevin Nash shared on his podcast that plans changed the night of wrestling 18 when it became clear that Hogan was the hero for the fans. Hogan turned around to find mutual respect with The Rock after his classic and bested Hall and Nash in a brawl.