Everyone knows wrestling is scripted by now. The old criticism of the wrestling business being “fake” is no longer a popular argument against it. Fans used to buy into the show being potentially real, but those days are long over. The rise of the internet and information being passed along has changed it all. From WWE documentary projects to shoot interviews and podcasts, we know all of the backstage stories. That has, however, led to a new culture of fans being jaded. Everything that appears on television is assumed a scripted work, but there have been some times where reality takes place in wrestling.
The real moments unfolding are usually things getting out of hand or something going wrong. Someone going against the script is the typical method of reality coming into play. There have been instances of a storyline allowing wrestlers to get real in a more positive light. Freedom on the microphone can deliver impressive results of the talent showing their genuine emotions and feelings about the subject in mind. We’ll look at various times in wrestling history that left us wondering just how much of this was planned out ahead of time. These are the fifteen most shocking moments in wrestling that turned out to be real.
15. Vince McMahon Fires Jeff Jarrett
The final episode of WCW Monday Nitro featured Vince McMahon finally ending the Monday Night Wars by purchasing WCW. Nitro and Raw aired as a simulcast with McMahon addresses the fans of both companies throughout the shows. The segments typically featured him commenting on various WCW stars and one occasion stood out. McMahon saw footage of Jeff Jarrett backstage at WCW and flat out told us that Jarrett would never return to either company.
It has been almost sixteen years and we have not seen Jarrett return to WWE at all. Jarrett held McMahon up for money on his final night in WWE in 1999. As the Intercontinental Champion, Jarrett demanded a lot of money or he was going to take the title over to WCW. WWE paid him the money but it ended up burning his career. McMahon legitimately fired Jarrett when we all thought he was just making a snide comment in heel character.
14. APA Destroys Public Enemy
Bradshaw (JBL) and Faarooq (Ron Simmons) were two of the toughest members of the WWE roster. The company put them together as a tag team that would become the memorable APA. WWE unofficially made them the locker room leaders stepping to anyone they felt was stepping out of line. One tag team that became highly unpopular among the locker room was the Public Enemy.
Following a failed stint in WCW, Johnny Grunge and Rocco Rock reached a deal to enter WWE. Public Enemy reportedly complained backstage and showed a great deal of ego. The APA beat that out of them by decimating them in a hard-hitting match on Sunday Night Heat. Fans were confused at the hits being much harder than usual, but it still appeared to be part of the show. Nope, it was Bradshaw and Faarooq teaching Public Enemy a lesson. To add insult to injury, Public Enemy would get fired a few weeks later after the real beat down that went down in the ring.
13. Old Woman Wants To Fight Hulk Hogan
The heel run of Hulk Hogan as Hollywood Hogan in WCW is underrated when historically breaking down the greatest villains of all time. Hogan is regarded as arguably the greatest face due to his iconic run in the 80s in WWE. His heel run in WCW was equally as impressive on the other end. Fans often threw garbage into the ring at Hogan and celebrated like their local team won the World Series whenever a face defeated him.
The perfect example of Hogan’s incredible heel heat was an old woman wanting to punch him in the face. Hogan went ringside to get in the face of the fan trashing him and an elderly female fan sitting in the front row started swinging her fists at him. The veteran wrestling genius of Hogan made him play it up for a little while to create an entertaining moment. It came off so well that many believed it was scripted it, but it was a very real and hilarious.
12. Randy Orton Yells At “Stupid” Kofi Kingston During Match
Randy Orton is known for having a short temper and being difficult to deal with backstage. That aspect of his personality can carry over to the ring, as seen during his feud with Kofi Kingston. WWE was pushing Kingston hard as a future top face by feuding with the established Orton. Kingston scored a victory and a few landmark memories getting the better over Orton to make fans take notice.
One specific moment saw it all come crashing down during a Raw match against Orton towards the end of their feud. Kingston and Orton had an awkward exchange that led to Kingston standing up when Orton appeared to be setting up a punt kick. Orton instead hit him with the RKO and looked livid. The vocal Orton started yelling the word “stupid” at Kingston. This wasn’t part of the show with the heel insulting the face. Orton was legitimately upset. Kingston’s push ended and he went back down to the mid-card.
11. William Regal Gets The Better Of Goldberg
WCW instantly saw something special with Bill Goldberg that led to his undefeated streak making him a top star. The formula saw Goldberg win all of his matches in dominating fashion. Opponents would be lucky to get in a move or two before losing to Goldberg’s signature finishing moves. Many of the wrestlers in the locker room resented Goldberg, for not only getting a top spot early into his career at their expense, but for having a huge ego about it.
William Regal entered a match with Goldberg on Nitro with the intention of knocking down that ego. As a veteran with a shoot wrestling style, Regal took the fight to Goldberg by using tougher moves and delivering stiffer hits. To his credit, Goldberg kept up with Regal and broke out a few new moves. The match still looked horribly awkward with Regal doing things Goldberg wasn’t expecting before losing as planned. WCW fired Regal shortly after.
10. Gail Kim Eliminates Herself From Battle Royal
The current rise of women’s wrestling in WWE has given us the best matches the division has ever seen. Performers of past eras struggled to get treated like athletes and the ladies on television were typically showcased for their looks. Gail Kim was a victim of this during both of her tenures in WWE. The company rarely gave her television time and a push seemed completely out of the question at any point of the second stint.
Kim was fed up of being disrespected and treated like a secondary performer, despite having arguably the most talent in the division. During one of the many filler battle royals the female performers would take part in, Gail randomly eliminated herself from the match by just rolling out. Fans took note of it online and assumed a storyline was coming. This was actually a real moment with Kim making a statement before requesting her release to head back to TNA.
9. Scott Steiner Trashes Ric Flair On Live Microphone
The final years of WCW were all over the place. Wrestlers basically did whatever they wanted with the powers that be writing the shows at the last minute. This would surprisingly help make one of the last main event stars for the company. Scott Steiner becoming a singles star with a new look led to a character change that blurred the lines of script and reality.
Steiner started to develop a loose cannon aspect to his character, showing that he was impossible to control. This happened to be the real story as shown with some of his shoot promos. Steiner absolutely buried Ric Flair during a promo for no reason on an episode of Nitro. The personal insults from Steiner were held in for years, going back to Flair allegedly sabotaging his singles push in the early 90s. Steiner cut the promo of his own accord, going after Flair as part of their personal hatred.
8. Charles Robinson Curses Out Chris Jericho
A recent incident that fans were confused by featured an unfortunate injury to Neville. The talented high-flier suffered an injury during his match with Chris Jericho on Raw. Jericho tried to end the match by rolling up Neville with the hopes of referee Charles Robinson counting the pin to get Neville out of the ring. Robinson didn’t count to three to continue the match, with the idea of getting to the planned finish.
Jericho responded by getting into the face of Robinson and shoving him very hard. WWE referees are instructed to protect the integrity of the finish by calling a disqualification if a wrestler crosses the line. Robinson called the disqualification and started cursing back at Jericho. Everyone was shocked seeing the referee curse out the wrestler. Jericho and Robinson appeared on his Talk is Jericho podcast discussing the issue and letting the world know that they are friends who got lost in the heat of the moment.
7. JBL Beats Up Blue Meanie During Brawl
The first ECW One Night reunion show featured the stars of ECW getting the spotlight for one more night. WWE made huge money, the fans had the time of their lives and the wrestlers put on a great show. Everyone had a great night but one person. The Blue Meanie saw his face turn red at the hands of a beat down from JBL.
Many of the WWE heels invaded the show with the hopes of shutting down the night for ECW, as well as setting a selling point for WWE fans that knew nothing about ECW. The two sides had a huge brawl in the final segment of the show. JBL cornered Meanie and started punching him brutally enough to bust him wide open. The two had a checkered past with JBL being upset at Meanie calling him a bully in shoot interviews. JBL broke character and went to beat the hell out of his former enemy. Both men claim to be on good terms today as friends putting it all in the past.
6. Mick Foley Falls Through Hell In A Cell
Every Attitude Era fan remembers the defining moment of Mick Foley’s tough night against The Undertaker inside of the Hell in a Cell structure at King of the Ring 1998. Undertaker throwing Foley off the cell onto the announcer’s table is the visual most-associated with the match and Foley’s career. That wasn’t even the scariest spot of the match. Both wrestlers planned for that moment, but the next shocking fall in the match was a huge surprise.
Undertaker hit Foley with the Chokeslam on the top of the cell. That was expected but no one thought the cage could collapse from the weight of the move, causing Foley to land in the ring. Foley names that as the hardest hit of the match that really pushed him to the limits. Fans will always think of the toss off the cage, but the falling through it is the moment that unfortunately made it a real night of pain for Foley.
5. Shane Douglas Throws Down NWA Championship
The legacy of ECW is still alive on the WWE Network with the extreme moments being a selling point for WWE. We may not have the history of ECW if not for the shocking moment of Shane Douglas throwing the NWA Championship belt to the mat. Douglas won a tournament for the NWA Championship at the ECW Arena but was already the ECW Champion too. During his promo following the NWA Title win, Douglas threw the belt down and said it was worthless.
It led to the name change of ECW going from Eastern Championship Wrestling to Extreme Championship Wrestling. The rest is history, with ECW embracing the extreme and revolutionizing the industry. NWA officials had no clue Douglas was going to insult their championship and treat the belt like garbage. A representative is seen at ringside completely shocked at wrestling becoming too real in the worst of ways for him.
4. Bart Gunn Wins Brawl For All
The concept of the Brawl for All is one that fans are still trying to figure out. Obviously, WWE is a worked promotion with just about everything that takes place on the show being heavily scripted. The Brawl for All was advertised as a real tournament of wrestlers with backgrounds in boxing and other fighting worlds competing against each other to win $100,000. WWE desperately wanted Dr. Death Steve Williams to win the tournament.
As a close friend of Jim Ross, Williams came into the company with a world of hype behind him. WWE fully expected him to destroy the field with his background as a shoot wrestler. They were proven wrong when Bart Gunn of all people knocked out Williams. Instead of WWE pushing the chosen one, they were forced to pay the prize to a lower tier talent that struggled to get television time. This was a real occasion that WWE likely regretted not scripting.
3. Vince Russo’s Shoot Promo On Hulk Hogan
Bash at the Beach 2000 will always be a legendary moment in the history of WCW. The company was in bad shape with time ticking out. Vince Russo had the power at this time and looked to try to change their luck with a worked shoot storyline. The plan was for them to use Hulk Hogan in order to use his reputation as someone refusing to lose to the on-screen product, with Jeff Jarrett lying down to give Hogan the win without a match taking place.
Russo was then to cut a shoot promo running down Hogan leading to a payoff down the line. No one knew about the plan but Hogan and Russo. The worked shoot quickly turned into a complete shoot when Russo’s insults hit home and pissed off Hogan enough to quit the company. Hogan sued Russo for defamation of character. It appeared Russo unleashed all of his real feelings about Hogan and the reality caused a big problem for everyone involved.
2. Snake Bites Randy Savage
Jake “The Snake” Roberts was already one of the most intimidating wrestlers during his prime. It went to another level when the actual snake he would take to the ring entered the picture. Roberts would use the snake to have fun as a face, but it could become terrifying when he played a heel. One horrifying moment saw Roberts have Randy Savage trapped in the ring ropes.
The snake was placed on Savage to bite his arm. WWE planned that out due to the snake not being venomous. However, the real moment saw the snake grab hold of Savage’s arm with the bite and not let go. Savage started to bleed and underwent the pain of the moment to sell the angle. WWE didn’t expect that to happen and the terrifying visual shows exactly why. Luckily for Savage and WWE, he didn’t suffer any serious damage from the bite.
1. CM Punk vs. Triple H Promo Battles
The incredible rise of CM Punk in 2011 blurred the lines of reality and script. Punk started cutting shoot promos running down the people in charge of WWE and it caused the fans to get behind him. The momentum made Punk the most popular star in the company for a while, with his big mouth causing big improvements to the product. Punk entered a storyline with one of the names he insulted when Triple H became his on-screen boss.
Both men went back and forth for weeks trading very personal jabs. Punk showed no respect for Triple H as a person. Triple H showed no faith in Punk as a main event star. They were intense, but we all believed it was just for the storyline. The realistic elements playing out on television were indeed real. Punk and Triple H loathed each other for many years, with it culminating in Punk walking out on WWE. You’ll be hard-pressed to find two guys that hated each other more in wrestling and it actually played out on television for a short time period.