Wrestling has had a long, strange history.
Over the past 30 years, the sport has completely changed in size and presentation.
There are many ways that things could have gone instead:
Vince McMahon could had gone broke shortly after buying the WWF, Hulk Hogan could have stayed in the AWA and helped bring that company to new heights or maybe Eric Bischoff could never had let Steve Austin go.
There’s a million different things that could have happened, and a million different ways they might have played out.
Here are five events from wrestling history, and a look at what may have happened had it all gone just a little differently.
The biggest story line in the history of professional wrestling should have been WCW vs. WWF.
Unfortunately, the WWF didn’t have the patience or the desire to push WCW as equals to their roster, so we got a half-hearted invasion angle that was a giant letdown for everyone.
Many fans at the time wanted the brands to stay apart until WCW could have been rebuilt. Even at that time, the real Monday Night War was a distant memory.
From 1999 to 2001, WCW was horribly damaged with terrible booking, and mismanagement at every possible level. Besides, had WWE waited a year (or spent a lot of money), Hogan, Hall, Nash, Flair, Steiner, Bischoff and Rey Mysterio would all have been free to join.
Imagine a WCW show under the WWE’s ownership. What if WWE had been able to secure a time slot for WCW?
The two could be kept apart, and once a year they could engage in huge inter-promotional matchups.
Would it have worked?
Sadly, I’d say no.
Look at some of WWE’s other big cross-promotional stories for reference. The NWO failed in their new company because, again, the WWE didn’t want other wrestlers going over on their talent.
The ECW revival also failed because Vince didn’t understand ECW.
He didn’t want a different brand that he owned not sharing his vision. Instead of a Paul Heyman-inspired product, we got a clear WWE “C” brand show that failed to excite anyone.
Ideally, WCW would have had SmackDown's time slot, but UPN (the company that aired it at the time) wouldn't have been as excited to broadcast WCW programming.
Around that time, WWE added new programming on Saturday night. Most assumed that it was going to be a WCW show, but instead it turned out to be Velocity and Confidential.
If WCW were kept separate, it would most likely have been a matter of time before Vince gave up, and just took the talent he wanted and put them on the WWE roster.
WCW wasn’t Vince’s creation. He hated that company, and in 2001 it was his to do with as he pleased.
Batista, HHH, Ric Flair and Randy Orton made up the successful heel stable of Evolution.
The group nearly had a different member after Batista went down with an injury: the relatively unknown Mark Jindrak. The company even went so far as filming vignettes with him along with the other Evolution members.
Jindrak was a tag team champion in WCW, but when they were bought out, he sat out for nearly the entire Invasion.
Due to his height and look, WWE saw a lot of potential in him. But whatever gains he had in size, he lacked in personality.
With Flair and Hunter by his side though, maybe he would have found one.
Instead, WWE just didn’t feel he was right for the group, and he stayed on the sidelines for a while longer.
Jindrak finally resurfaced, and joined a stable. However he was treated as more of a jobber than anything. Alongside Kurt Angle and Luther Reigns, the group lost most matches they were in, and were even defeated in a 3-on-1 handicap match against The Big Show.
Had Jindrak been in Evolution instead of Angle’s team, at the very least he would have been protected more. He also would have avoided his awful Narcissist rip-off gimmick the "Reflection of Perfection" on Smackdown.
Batista, on the other hand, may have never become a top star. As much charisma as Batista has, let's face it: like Sheamus, he benefited from his friendship with HHH.
It's hard to imagine Jindrak ever getting a big feud with HHH when the group collapsed. A WrestleMania main event like Batista had with him, would have been an incredibly long shot.
Had Jindrak joined, he probably would have been kicked out of the group like Sim Snuka or Manu when they joined The Legacy.
In the end, it appears that things worked out for the best.
When Batista returned, he helped make Evolution a dominant force. Jindrak on the other hand, finally became a star, albeit in Mexico.
While he never fully caught on with American audiences, the current Marco Corleone has done all right for himself.
The New World Order’s run in the WWE was troubled to say the least.
WWE made a big mistake when they quickly turned Hogan face. The man that so many people identified as the leader was now gone. Still, the coolest members of the group, Hall and Nash, were still there.
But not for long.
Hall couldn’t overcome his personal demons, and was soon released from the company.
To try and salvage the group, they dug into past associations and had The Big Show and X-Pac join. It still wasn't quite working. Their last Hail Mary was to bring in Shawn Michaels.
It was an intriguing idea. Michaels hadn’t been seen much in recent years, and he had a history with Nash and X-Pac. Even with Hall and Hogan gone, maybe they could still make this thing work.
The group then went on trying to bring HHH into the fold. They even gave him a deadline on joining. Before he could answer, Kevin Nash blew out his quad in a tag match after just coming back from injury. It was the final nail in the coffin for the once incredibly popular group.
But what if Nash hadn’t been hurt?
What makes it interesting, is that Michaels returned to in-ring action shortly after the group's demise to take on HHH (in a reversal of roles, Michaels was now the face).
Had Nash, Michaels, Big Show and X-Pac all been in wrestling shape, the group probably would have gone on for a few more months. They would have faced off with HHH in a series of matches, where he would most likely come out on top.
In the end, the result probably would have been the same. X-Pac would be released from the company, Nash is notoriously injury-prone, and HBK would have turned face.
Either way, without creative being fully behind the group it was destined to end sooner or later.
There’s no evidence that this one was close to happening, but what if Undertaker had joined WCW during the Monday Night War?
After all, countless big names from the WWF jumped ship to take advantage of Billionaire Ted’s checkbook. Even guys like Marty Jannetty, The British Bulldog and Jim Neidhart seemed to be hired solely to stick it to McMahon.
Bischoff just wanted to get his hands on anyone he could have. He surely would have grabbed Calaway if given the chance. Undertaker stayed loyal though, which is why he may be WWE’s most respected star ever.
Had Undertaker decided to join the enemy, he probably wouldn’t have done much anyway.
Sure, he’s talented, but since he couldn’t take the dead man gimmick with him, it would have been a huge blow.
The days of cheap knockoffs (The Renegade imitating The Ultimate Warrior, or The Big Bossman briefly being known as The Boss) were over. Bischoff was heavily influenced by reality type angles and using wrestler’s real names. Undertaker most likely would have gone by his real name of Mark Calaway. Not exactly terrifying.
Had he jumped anywhere from ’96 to ’98, I can’t see him ending up anywhere else but in the NWO. Most wrestlers who were a big name in the WWF ended up there (Nash, Hall, Syxx, Hennig, Rude, Savage, Elizabeth, DiBiase).
At that point though, Hogan basically ran WCW.
Look what happened to Bret Hart when a top star wasn’t in Hogan’s camp. Hart was even a bigger name than Undertaker at the time, and shortly after his debut he was saddled as a US Title contender instead of main-eventing pay-per-views like he should have been.
Undertaker is not known to play politics like The Kliq did, so Bischoff may not have ever known what to do with him.
In the end, it’s not too hard to believe that Undertaker would have been about as successful as Hennig or Hart in WCW. He’d get the occasional big match, but probably would have been jobbing to guys like Goldberg and DDP along the way.
I don't want to even imagine what Vince Russo would have done with him when he took over.
Luckily, Undertaker stayed put.
Had he left, there’d be no Streak to speak of. By staying loyal, he’s cemented his legacy in a way that few wrestlers ever have.
After the Attitude Era ended, WWE seemed to be in a rut. The ratings were falling, their competition was gone, and they weren’t creating stars like they used to.
The night after WrestleMania 18 though, a star was born.
Just one year later, Brock Lesnar was in the main event of WrestleMania, and one year later he wrestled his last match on a full-time basis.
It was an incredibly fast rise to the top, a trip that very few have ever taken. It was too much for him though, he grew sick of the travel and quit.
It was a huge blow to the company, as they'd invested so much time and money on him.
Lesnar then tried out for the Minnesota Vikings, before beginning a successful UFC career. Had his interest in wrestling not waned, it would have had wide reaching consequences on the rest of the roster.
First and foremost, John Cena wouldn’t have reached the top so quickly.
After Brock left, SmackDown was lousy.
The roster was depleted. WWE scrambled and out of nowhere, JBL was suddenly pushed to the top. Other, stranger wrestlers were introduced to fill out the roster. Guys like Kenzo Suzuki, Rene Dupree and John Heidenreich were given their shot, but weren’t in Lesnar’s league.
You can imagine that Lesnar would have been the face of Smackdown from the 2004-2007 era (unless he was traded to Raw). WWE still would have struggled to create stars though, and he would have faced the same roster of veterans (like HBK and Triple H) that Cena did.
While Lesnar is legitimately tough, he doesn’t appeal to kids in the way that Cena does. Because of this, Cena still would have become a top star. WWE probably would have kept the two on separate brands, and it would be more likely that guys like Batista and Bobby Lashley would never reached the top instead of Cena.
In the end, Cena’s rise to the top was inevitable.
The two have completely different fanbases, but with the PG era in full force, Cena would have won out in the end as the face of WWE.
It’s not hard to imagine that the two would have faced off at multiple WrestleManias though by now. It's another case where things worked out well for Lesnar and Cena, but it was the fans who were deprived of missing out on the peak years of Lesnar's talent.
How do you think things would have played out? What are your favorite "what ifs?" from wrestling?