Not everything we’ve witnessed throughout the WWE’s history was meant to happen. It is known that the company does plan ahead of time when it comes to major storylines, title changes, character development and heel turns. But these plans aren’t always executed, at least not the way WWE initially booked them. The industry is as unpredictable as it gets and one injury could change the fate of several Superstars while altering ongoing storylines. Other factors also come into play from time to time such as scheduling, fan reaction, and suspensions.
While one Superstar may be in the good graces of WWE today, one mistake could prove to be their downfall, as we recently witnessed with the team of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. Over the years, there have been numerous storylines that WWE had booked for a specific wrestler only to end up replacing them with another name.
Opportunities can be difficult to come by, which is why wrestlers have to take advantage of any potential big break in the industry. Just recently, we saw Kurt Angle replace Roman Reigns in a match after the latter was unfit to compete at the event, which worked out well for Angle who got the chance to wrestle again in a WWE ring – probably sooner than we had anticipated.
This list will have you thinking about how different WWE history could have been if plans hadn’t been changed, as we look at 15 storylines you never knew were for someone else.
15. Batista Replaces Randy Orton At WrestleMania 21
In 2004, Evolution was reduced to three members when Randy Orton was kicked out of the group. He had defeated Chris Benoit to become the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, which in turn made Triple H jealous.
As things got heated between them, it led to a feud with Orton becoming a face but he would drop the title soon afterward with Triple H beating him at Unforgiven. The feud was supposed to carry on until WrestleMania 21 but WWE was disappointed with fan reaction to Orton, who failed to flourish in his new role.
Plans were once again altered with Orton returning to his heel persona as he took on The Undertaker, while Batista took his spot to face Triple H and win the title at WrestleMania 21. Things worked out for the better since Batista became the top face in the WWE and Orton had a memorable feud with The Undertaker.
14. Jeff Hardy’s Attacker Is Matt Hardy Instead Of Christian
With Jeff Hardy‘s rise to the top in the late 2000s, he featured in major storylines, including a series of what appeared to be unfortunate incidents. The WWE Universe would come to learn that a mastermind had been behind it all. We saw the pyro going wrong during his entrance then witnessed him getting into a car accident. He was even attacked in his hotel room, which started clearing things up.
The original storyline was for the returning Christian to have been revealed as the attacker, which would have had form an alliance with former Tag Team partner Edge. When the plans leaked to the internet, Vince McMahon was genuinely upset and decided to go in a different direction with Matt Hardy replacing Christian in the storyline. A feud between the Hardyz was always going to interest fans but it was Christian who lost out, having to join the ECW brand in one of the least exciting booked returns.
13. Hornswoggle Replaces Mr. Kennedy As The Illegitimate Son
In 2007, one of the biggest storylines in WWE history had to be canceled during its early beginning following the Benoit family tragedy. With the company promoting that Vince McMahon had an illegitimate son, it was to be revealed as Mr. Kennedy.
Plans quickly changed to adjust to the ongoing events with the premise of the storyline changing as it became more silly rather than the company changing it was supposed to be. Mr. Kennedy was replaced with Hornswoggle, which probably wasn’t the brightest move by the company. During the late 2000s, Hornswoggle had been used in some major storylines for reasons that fans will never understand.
As for Mr. Kennedy, his streak of bad luck continued after being released the following year when Randy Orton and John Cena complained about him being an unsafe worker. He moved on to TNA and never reached the heights that had been expected of him.
12. Chris Jericho Becomes First Undisputed Champion Instead Of Kurt Angle
There isn’t a single WWE fan who can’t name the first ever WWE Undisputed Champion after having listened to Chris Jericho brag about it for 15 years. He defeated The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin in one night – a remarkable accomplishment that’s worth bragging about until the end of times. What may surprise fans is that Kurt Angle was supposed to have that honor, but Vince McMahon had a change of heart a week away from Vengeance 2001.
According to rumors, McMahon believed that Angle was already established as a top star and it would have made more sense to push Jericho to the top. Fans would have been excited to see either Superstar with the Undisputed Championship, but Jericho did benefit from the victory elevating his status. Kurt Angle probably didn’t lose too much sleep since he reigned multiple times as WWE Champion in the following years.
11. Mickie James Was Supposed To Be Lita’s Stalker
The storyline involving Mickie James and Trish Stratus was refreshing to see at a time when women’s wrestling had gotten dull. James made a strong impact by teaming up with the WWE Women’s Champion. It started off with James portraying an obsessed Stratus fan before she displayed signs of attraction as she began to flirt with her before they shared a kiss.
The storyline concluded with a match at WrestleMania 22 in which James won the title. What many people don’t know is that the original storyline was supposed to feature Lita instead of Stratus. Mickie James had pitched the storyline to WWE officials with Lita in mind, but once she got their approval, the switch was made for unknown reasons. It’s likely due to Lita’s involvement with Edge at the time, as well as the fact WWE always viewed Trish Stratus as the face of the women’s division.
10. Jinder Mahal Replaces Rusev To Win WWE Title
Jinder Mahal had one of the quickest transitions from jobber to a star. Earlier this year, he was involved in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal in which he lost to Mojo Rawley after having been humiliated by NFL player Rob Gronkowski.
A few months later, he was crowned as the new WWE Champion and he would go on to hold the title for 6 months before losing to AJ Styles. It’s been reported that WWE had planned for Rusev to reign as WWE Champion but once he got injured, the storyline changed with Jinder Mahal being selected.
It appears that the company wanted a “foreign” talent to feud with Randy Orton at the time, which explains why Mahal was the one to take Rusev’s spot. While the latter enjoys popularity among fans, Mahal had been mostly a jobber during his tenure.
9. SmackDown Plans Change For WrestleMania 22
When Eddie Guerrero passed away in 2005, most plans had to be changed in SmackDown. At the time, he had been feuding with Batista for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, but the next challenger was set to be Randy Orton with a title match taking place at WrestleMania 22.
Fans never go to see these plans come to fruition as Guerrero passed away and then Batista got injured, which meant that he had to vacate his title. With Batista out of the picture, WWE went a different route by having Rey Mysterio win the 2006 Royal Rumble to honor his best friend Eddie Guerrero, and he would be the one to feud with Randy Orton, as well as Kurt Angle, for a triple threat title match at WrestleMania 22.
8. Edge Takes Mr. Kennedy’s Briefcase And Storyline
Every time things were looking bright for Mr. Kennedy, things took a bad turn for one reason or another. When he the Mr. Money In The Bank briefcase at WrestleMania 23, fans believed that he finally had received his big break but it didn’t last long as he got injured. Mr. Kennedy was supposed to hold to the briefcase until he cashed it in against The Undertaker, but WWE replaced him with Edge who won it against Kennedy on Raw.
While Edge added another World title to his resume, Mr. Kennedy was released from the company soon after. Fans always wonder how different the trajectory of his career would have been if he didn’t get injured at the worst possible time. Every Superstar to win the briefcase has gone on to win the World title, which only makes matters worse for Kennedy who had been hyped as the next major star.
7. Shawn Michaels Replaces Triple H At WrestleMania 22
When John Cena won the WWE Championship, he faced many challenges from JBL, Chris Jericho, Christian, but his toughest opponent would turn out to be Triple H at WrestleMania 22.
Cena successfully retained his title to continue reigning over Raw, but the following WrestleMania was set to feature a rematch between them with Triple H making things even.
When Triple H suffered a serious injury that put him out of actions for a while, his D-Generation-X partner Shawn Michaels replaced him in the title bout although he failed to defeat Cena. While some may have anticipated the initial rematch, it certainly couldn’t have surpassed the substituted match which is now regarded as a classic by wrestling fans.
6. Ric Flair Replaces Steve Austin To Face Eddie Guerrero
In 2002, WWE re-signed Eddie Guerrero after some time away and he was tearing it up with various Superstars. At the time, Stone Cold Steve Austin was frustrated with his booking and requested to work with new faces, naming Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. He was a huge fan of their work, and WWE made his wish come true by starting a storyline between him and Guerrero.
It was short-lived despite having had a few segments at the time, one of which has become a classic with Guerrero and Austin hanging at a bar and doing some karaoke. It ended with the former attacking Austin, but he soon walked out on the company since they wanted him to lose to Brock Lesnar on Raw without any build up. Once Austin left the company, Ric Flair replaced him in the storyline against Eddie Guerrero in which they faced off at the 2002 King Of The Ring.
5. Mark Jindrak Replaced By Batista In Storyline And History
For many years, Evolution had dominated WWE by holding to several title belts. Consisting of Triple H, Ric Flair, Randy Orton and Batista, it went on to become the greatest stable in modern history. However, the fourth member of Evolution was supposed to be Mark Jindrak until the company decided that he wasn’t ready for the role, opting to replace him with Batista.
Things didn’t get any better for Jindrak in the future with his short career being largely forgotten. As for his replacement, Batista acted as the strong force to protect Triple H while teaming up with Flair to capture the Tag Team titles. It’s safe to say that Jindrak missed out on a Hall of Fame career as Batista became a multiple time champion, but it’s hard to say whether Jindrak would have gone on to replicate that same success since he lacked the needed charisma and in-ring intensity.
4. Shane McMahon Replaces Mick Foley Against Vince
WrestleMania X-Seven is one of the most beloved events of all-time with fans holding it in the highest regards. It featured several classic matches, among them was a Street Fight between Vince McMahon and Shane McMahon, which had been built up for quite a while.
While the storyline involved several Superstars, Vince’s opponent was supposed to be Mick Foley, who had the WWE commissioner job at the time. It’s rumored that Foley decided against partaking in the match as he was unfit to wrestle, especially in a match that requires him to be healthy.
While he continued to be part of the storyline, he lost out on the main role to Shane McMahon who went on to defeat his father. There have been several angles involving the McMahon family since the 90s but this contest remains the most memorable of them all.
3. Ryback Substitutes For John Cena
In 2012, Ryback got the opportunity of a lifetime once John Cena went down with an injury. WWE had been preparing to have John Cena take on CM Punk for the WWE title at the 2012 Hell In A Cell, but an injury forced them to adjust the storyline with Ryback taking his spot. Fans were disappointed to learn that they wouldn’t get to see Cena and Punk going at it — a feud that had been huge the previous year — but Ryback was still over at the time thanks to his undefeated streak.
He failed to finish the mission as CM Punk retained the title, but Ryback indicated that he should have been booked to win. Fast forward to 2017, CM Punk and Ryback have both left the company following heated disputes with the WWE, while Cena is now a part-time wrestler who appears to be transitioning into a Hollywood star.
2. The Rock Replaces Steve Austin In A Dream Against Hulk Hogan
WrestleMania X8 featured a dream match between Hulk Hogan and The Rock, which received one of the loudest fan reactions in history. It was greatly anticipated and the match didn’t disappoint, which was nearly impossible with the way fans had been amped up. Originally, WWE was aiming for an even bigger match – the biggest showdown to never take place – between Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
It’s been reported that the match was in discussion despite Austin’s lack of interest in working with Hogan, which only increased when they couldn’t agree on a finish. Rumors have it that both Superstars refused to lose the match, although Hogan was willing to against The Rock. With tension intensifying between the two iconic figures, the original plans fell through and WWE went ahead with The Rock instead of Austin. It’s a shame that we never got to see arguably the two most important stars in WWE history, even when an opportunity presented itself.
1. Last Minute Change At Vengeance 2007
The 2007 edition of Vengeance: Night of Champions is a prime example that storylines may change at the last minute. The vacant ECW Championship was on the line during the event with the scheduled match of CM Punk against Chris Benoit. When the latter failed to show up and didn’t return WWE’s calls, they had to make an emergency change by replacing him with John Morrison. Benoit was supposed to win the belt but it was Morrison’s lucky day who was pushed to the top of the brand.
It wasn’t until a day later when WWE found out that Benoit had been dead as they held a tribute show on Raw at the time when the events leading to his death had been unknown. With Morrison winning the title, he entered a feud with CM Punk over the coming months, which was initially in the books for Benoit.
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