So much for Steve Austin leading the invasion.
Wrestling has been filled with them over the years. In fact many wrestling bookers seem to have gotten it into their heads that major surprises and shocking heel turns instantly equal ratings and renewed interest in the product.
Some of these swerves have been good. Some have only been average.
And a handful have been absolutely disastrous. These are the ones I intend to focus on.
Factoring in just how awful and counter-productive these angles were to their promotions, as well as how flat-out bad they just were, let's examine the seven worst swerves in wrestling history.
In May 2010, Kane stormed out of SmackDown to announce to the world that his brother, The Undertaker, had been violently attacked and left in a “vegetative state.”
He bravely vowed to hunt down the culprit and make them pay for what they had done.
While the storyline sounded a little melodramatic and silly—like most angles Kane gets involved with—it did present WWE with a great opportunity to get someone new over.
Perhaps fledgling heel group Nexus could be revealed as the perpetrators? Or how about Jack Swagger, then in the middle of his World title push? Taking out The Undertaker could have give him a much-needed boost.
A few months later at the SummerSlam it came out that—shocker—Kane was, in fact, the assiliant behind Undertaker's attack. Which, of course, meant fans had to suffer through the 1,476th Kane vs. Undertaker program. Sigh
Oh, well. At least it didn't drag the company down too much. Hence its lower placing.
Vince, the man pulling the strings in 1999.
In early 1999, WWE introduced “The Higher Power” into storylines.
Per the angle, this mysterious, unseen figure was behind all of the Corporate Ministry's evil deeds including the group's attempts to ruin the life of poor Vince McMahon, who was attempting to change his ways and even make peace with old enemy, Steve Austin.
This was actually a deeply intriguing angle, and speculation was rampant for several weeks about just who the figure was. Mick Foley? Jake “The Snake” Roberts? The options were endless.
Oh, and then it turned out it was, in fact, Vince McMahon himself. “It was me, Austin! It was me all along, Austin!” he memorably boasted on Raw, while J.R. acted outraged on commentary.
Yes. Once against Vince was placing himself in the middle of everything. This may have marked the point when the WWE Chairman really outlived his usefulness as an on-screen character.
It didn't help that the owner's reasons for orchestrating various events—including his own daughter's kidnapping—made no sense whatsoever.
He claimed he did it all because he wanted to screw arch-nemesis Austin out of the WWE Championship.
OK. But, why, when he was only “pretending” to be a good guy, did he help Austin keep his belt on several occasions?
This whole thing made about as much sense as a bad episode of Lost.
Longtime WCW babyface Bill Goldberg nonsensically turned heel during the main event of the 2000 Great American Bash and joined with Eric Bischoff and the rest of the bad guys.
Even by WCW's subterranean standards, this was an awful booking move. It felt like something Vince Russo had done simply so it would shock people and get them talking (probably because it was).
Unsurprisingly, Bill Goldberg hated the development too.
As the retired star noted in an interview earlier this year with PWTorch's Greg Parks, he felt his new bad guy persona hindered his work with children's charity groups like Make-A-Wish and greatly upset many of his younger fans.
Goldberg soon went to management and insisted he turn back babyface, which he did shortly after, and this whole thing was mercifully forgotten about.
In June 2007, WWE owner Vince McMahon was sensationally killed on-screen after his limousine blew up at the end of Raw. Talk about something coming out of nowhere.
Yes, TV viewers had had “Who Shot J.R?” and “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” over the years. And now they had a new tantalizing mystery: “Who Blew Up Vince?”
Of course, the whole storyline was (correctly) abandoned after the Benoit tragedy happened just two weeks later. The company simply had no choice.
But, really, should WWE have done such a controversial angle anyway?
Considering the alarming amount of real-life deaths that have occurred in the industry over the last 20 years, wasn't killing off a popular character on TV a rather tasteless and thoughtless move?
In late 2010, TNA storylines were focused on the mysterious group that were secretly planning to double-cross Dixie Carter and take over the company.
The monster Abyss served as the group's messenger, telling everyone who would listen that “they” were on their way and intended to show themselves at the Bound for Glory pay-per-view.
Come the event, it was “shockingly” revealed that "they" were Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. Yes, this was basically a tired version of WCW's New World Order storyline (seemingly the only storyline Bischoff knows how to do).
Oh, and new TNA world champion Jeff Hardy was in on it too. Lifelong babyface Jeff was woefully miscast as a heel.
To the shock of no one, this storyline failed to turn around TNA's floundering business or even really boost it in anyway whatsoever.
Indeed, continuing to build TNA around the aging Hogan arguably damaged the company even more. Cut to 2013 and TNA finds itself in a terrible state, besieged by falling ratings and sales rumors that refuse to go away.
In years to come, will we see the “They” angle and reveal as the beginning of the end?
Yes, this really happened.
In April 2000, head writer Vince Russo decided to shock the world by booking Hollywood actor David Arquette to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship title on Thunder.
(Arquette teamed with Diamond Dallas Page to take on Eric Bischoff and Jeff Jarrett in a tag match on the show, with the stipulation that the first guy to get the pin would win the belt.)
An ill-advised and disastrous attempt to get some mainstream press and buzz, Arquette's title win has become one of the most notorious incidents in wrestling, with many seeing it as the moment when the troubled promotion finally hit the point of no return.
Russo still defends it though. Of course he does.
Man, who wrote this?
Hard as it is to believe now, there was actually a point when the notorious WWE vs. WCW/ECW angle was shaping up to a major hit.
Heading into the Invasion pay-per-view in the summer of 2001, there was real enthusiasm for the program (WWE hadn't yet buried the invaders into oblivion).
Perhaps just as importantly, heel WWE champion Steve Austin had turned back babyface the week before the event.
This was a great move on the company's part. Indeed, the astounding ovation Austin received from the crowd when he stormed into the arena to save the good guys from the Alliance guys remains one of the loudest reactions ever heard on Raw.
Alas, Austin quickly turned back heel at the pay-per-view, revealing he had been with WCW and ECW all along. Which meant all the fans who had galvanized behind in the run up to the event had been totally fooled.
It also meant the WWE side lost its most effective babyface. (And sadly Kurt Angle, who stepped up when Austin defected, was not a suitable replacement or anything close to one.)
Man, no wonder the whole Invasion storyline started to fall apart soon after.
Considering the potential millions that could have been made with this angle, turning Austin may very well have been the most costly booking mistake ever.