When fans talk about wrestling, one topic that eventually comes up is "what do you think would have happened if...?" It's natural no matter what the sport is as fans will always want to discuss the alternate history or what could have been.
But with wrestling there are so many "what ifs" that fans will always have something to talk about, some even going as far as writing alternate storylines if their "what if" had happened.
With this list I chose a few recent "what ifs" to go along with some of the most important "what ifs" in pro wrestling history. I then tried my best to decipher what would have happened if those things happened another way and the ramifications of those changes.
So please read, enjoy, and feel free to comment on what you think and any other "what ifs" that you can think of.
Let's start with a recent one with a smaller impact.
During the Armageddon PPV in 2006 the tag titles were on the line in a fatal-four way ladder match. In one spot Morrison, then known as Johnny Nitro, and Mercury had their faces over a ladder that was slammed up into them by one of the Hardy Boyz. Seconds later Mercury dropped to the outside and rushed to the back, his face covered in blood, leaving Morrison to finish the match alone. Mercury would be out for weeks and later return only for the team try and regain tag team gold, only to be released by the WWE in March of 2007.
But what if it had been Morrison instead of Mercury whose face was smashed by the ladder? Mercury would have been given the chance to showcase his singles talent rather than the other way around. Though Mercury's issues with drugs may have still caused him to be released, he also may have pushed through them and gotten clean if he saw he would be able to push his star higher. Morrison most likely would have bounced back upon his return from the injury, but he probably wouldn't have the beautiful rock star gimmick that he has now due to the facial injury.
After the first season of NXT, fans wondered what the WWE would do with the competitors that didn't win. Well the answer was a brutal attack on not only WWE wrestlers, but the WWE as a whole. Announcers, commentators, ring crew, no one was safe from the group of young wrestlers looking to make an impact. As the Nexus was formed and being led by NXT winner Wade Barrett, then later CM Punk, the internet lit up with questions about what they were going to do next. Unfortunately, the Nexus were thrown into a feud with super babyface John Cena, and their fate was sealed. Little over a year later, the group was no more.
But what if the group didn't fizzle and get buried under Super Cena and Randy Orton? The WWE could have gone so many different directions with the group of rookies out for blood, building up the separate members as legitimate threats rather than making them seem weak by only having them attack as a group. If done right, the WWE could have gotten at least another year of feuds out of the Nexus, but instead the group was made too eager like the WWE was with them, and fans saw them for what they were, young wrestlers who needed time to build up their abilities and weren't ready to take on the top guys in the WWE.
As Wrestling fans we should all know about the career of the Rock. We know he was the first third generation WWE superstar and pushed quickly up the ranks as he became Intercontinental champion within three months of his debut. He would eventually turn heel when he joined the Nation of Domination and became the Rock. The rest would be history as he flew into the main event picture, eventually becoming a multiple time world heavyweight champion, tag champion, and intercontinental champion. His feuds with Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H are said to be some of the best in history of wrestling.
But what if the Rock hadn't joined the NOD and become the “most electrifying man in sports entertainment”? At the time of his heel turn, Rocky Miavia was starting to receive chants of “Rocky sucks” and “die Rocky die” due to fans becoming bored with his vanilla gimmick, while they were becoming enamored with the gimmick of Stone Cold Steve Austin. If the Miavia would never turn heel and become the Rock it's doubtful that he would move past the midcard with the gimmick that he had. His memorable feuds with Austin and Mankind would probably have never happened and he may even have found himself future endeavored by the WWE.
If you asked wrestling fans about what they thought the most surprising heel turn in wrestling history was, you would probably get one of two answers. The first would be Stone Cold Steve Austin turning heel and joining Mr. McMahon at Wrestlemania 17. The second and by far more popular answer would be Hulk Hogan being the third man of the team with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall at Bash at the Beach, leading to the creation of the NWO. To say fans were shocked by the turn would be an understatement as they filled the ring with trash in anger at the babyface Hogan turning his back on the fans.
Yet something was recently revealed by Kevin Nash during a WWE roundtable discussion where he stated that Hogan was one of two men considered for the role of the third man, the other being Sting. Nash would go on to say that neither man wanted the part since they knew they would become public enemy number one of every WCW fan. Hogan ultimately decided to do it as he realized he needed to change his character since he was beginning to get booed more and more by WCW fans at events, similar to what is happening now with John Cena. The rest is history as the now would usher in a new age in pro wrestling and take WCW to heights it had never seen, and help beat the WWE in the ratings over 80 weeks straight.
But what if Sting was the third man? I for one think that the now wouldn't have lasted as long as it did if he was the leader. For one thing, I've never thought that Sting was a great heel and that's not a slam against him, he's just a lot better playing a face, hell even when he did join the NWO, it was the babyface Wolfpack faction. Also while Sting is good on the mic, he's no Hulk Hogan, you'd be hard pressed to find someone as good on the mic as Hogan outside of Ric Flair, so the vintage promos that Hogan cut wouldn't have the same impact if they were done by Sting. This would lead to WCW brass doing sooner what they did later by adding more and more members in order to make the group seem more powerful, but killing it as well.
After the WWE purchased its chief rival WCW in 2001, fans were left wondering what would happend with the roster of wrestlers, the annual PPVs, and the titles. Would the WWE continue to broadcast Monday Nitro or would Vince just fire everyone and keep the video library as a last insult to his main competitor. Fans received their answer in the form of an invasion angle where WCW and ECW wrestlers joined together in order to bring down the WWE. This angle had all of the ability to be great as well as make the WWE tens of millions of dollars in ticket sales and PPV buyrates.
Unfortunately none of the bigger names in WCW; like Sting, Goldberg, Flair, or Hogan, were brought over for the angle to fight with the Rock, Austin, and the Undertaker, thus making the Alliance guys seem like a minor league team taking on the world series champs. Then instead of having Bischoff or even Vince Russo being made the leader of the Alliance, Shane and Stephanie McMahon were the leaders since they were the storyline owners of WCW and ECW respectively. The angle lasted only a few months and ended when the WWE beat the Alliance in a "winner takes all" match at Survivor Series, effectively killing WCW once and for all.
But what if the angle hadn't been screwed up by shoddy writing and with the big names not being brought in? If done right the angle could have gone on for years without becoming stale, a la what All Japan and New Japan wrestling did between 2000-2002. Imagine the dream matches that would have happened if the big names were signed right from the beginning, Goldberg versus Stone Cold, Hogan vs. Stone Cold, or Sting vs. HBK could have been viewed by the fans. Not only would the fans have benefited but the WWE as well as more fans would come to see what would happen next and pay boatloads of cash to watch it. Unfortunately, the WWE squashed the Alliance and fans saw the angle for what it was, Vince stroking his ego and showing off that he had beaten Bischoff and Ted Turner.
All fans over the age of 16 should easily remember this and anyone else should know of it from the first group and the recent return of Bret Hart. In what will go down in wrestling history as one of the most controversial moments in the history of the business, Bret Hart was screwed out of the WWF title in his home country, losing to bitter real life rival Shawn Michaels who was using Bret's own finisher the Sharpshooter, when Vince had the bell rung to end the match prematurely. This event has been discussed ad nauseum by fans and people in the industry since it happened. Most agree it happened because Bret had signed with WCW and Vince didn't want him to leave with the belt. The people who knew it was going to happen included only a handful of men, all of whom would become public enemies in Canada especially, but also the wrestling world as a whole.
But what if Vince and company hadn't pulled off the Montreal Screwjob? The match would have had its original DQ ending after a run-in, with Bret Hart dropping the title later to Shawn when the WWE wasn't in Canada. Bret would have gone on to the WCW and had the career that he had and the same could be said for Shawn. One person who would have been directly affected by this change though and might still be alive today is Davey Boy Smith a.k.a. The British Bulldog.
After the Screwjob, Smith bought himself out of his contract for a reported sum of $100,000 and signed with WCW. It was here where his life would take a turn for the worse after injuring himself when he landed on the trapdoor that was used by the Warrior for disappearing stunts that he was doing at the time. Smith would be out of action for months on a laundry list of pain medications, eventually getting addicted. After apparently cleaning up and coming back to the WWE he would wrestle a few more years before dying of a heart attack caused by years of steroid and drug abuse. If the Screwjob hadn't happened, Smith most likely would have stayed in the WWE and never suffered the injury he did that led to his addiction, giving him a little more time on the earth.
Another person that would have been affected by the Screwjob happening was Vince himself. The Screwjob was the impetus for creating the Mr. McMahon character that fans would loathe with all or their might. If that character wouldn't have been created then there would be no Austin/McMahon feud which was one of the biggest factors in the WWE changing the tide in the Monday Night War with the WCW.
This subject here isn't as easy to pinpoint as the other things on this list. Probably the best place to look at was the Fingerpoke of Doom incident, there WCW showed not only its fans, but also the wrestlers in the back, that WCW was there to push its older stars and if you didn't like it, too bad. There was another moment that will be forever engrained in every fans memories as they saw Hogan poke Kevin Nash in the chest, Nash take a comically gigantic bump, Hogan pin Nash to become champ, and the NWO factions reunited. Then the only wrestler that WCW actively pushed and allowed to get over with the fans during that period, Goldberg, rushed to the ring only to get beat down, made mortal before the fans' eyes.
Now when people talk about "old" vs. "young" stars it's not about their actual age but rather their TV age, or how much fans have seen them in the main event scene or in the same feuds over and over again. Hogan, Nash, and the NWO in general had become incredibly stale at that point, yet WCW felt the need to keep them at the forefront while cutting "younger" stars down at the knees.
These guys would become frustrated and eventually join the WWE in their own time throughout different times in WCW history before and after the NWO, yes, but still due to being held down in favor of the old gaurd. See if you recognize any of these names: Steve Austin, Triple H, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio, the Undertaker, Chris Benoit. These were just a few of the guys that found fame and fortune in the WWE because the WWE saw the potential in them and allowed them to grow into main event wrestlers and all of whom listed here eventually became world champion, some on multiple occasions.
If WCW realized the talent that they had and pushed these wrestlers accordingly, there would have been quite a difference in the wrestling landscape which leads to the next slide.
When WCW was bought out by Vince McMahon, you could almost hear the gasp made by wrestling fans around the world. Many realized that the Monday Night Wars had been over for a while, but not to the extent where one company was going out of business, especially the one that had been backed financially by Ted Turner. But it happened and fans were blessed with the Invasion angle, which in hindsight isn't a blessing at all.
But what if WCW had done better to push new stars earlier or written better storylines? Most dedicated wrestling fans know that the reason the Monday Night Wars were so great was because both WCW and WWE were putting out their best efforts in order to get fans to watch their shows by having great storylines, interesting wrestlers, and just an overall great product. Yet now that WWE is the big fish, they've become complacent in how the show their product and the angles that they have now.
If WCW were still around and putting out a good product, you can be sure as hell that WWE would be doing the same thing in order to compete with them. And rather than their being one or two really good PPVs each year, almost all would be top quality for the fans to enjoy. We would be clamoring to flip channels between Nitro and Raw every week to see what would happen next, rather than hoping for a rare work-shoot promo to happen to make us remember the good ole' days.
On May 19, 1996 an event took place that would forever change the face of wrestling. At a WWE live event, heels Triple H and Kevin Nash, as Diesel, took on Scott Hall, as Razor Ramon, and Shawn Michaels in two separate matches. After the cage match between Michaels and Diesel finished, Triple H and Razor Ramon came into the ring and the group, collectively known as the Kliq, shared a group hug in the center of the ring.
This became a huge issue as the group broke kayfabe which was a big no-no at the time in the WWE. Hall and Nash couldn't be punished as it was their last match for the WWE as they were leaving for WCW, Michaels couldn't be punished since he was world champion, so that left Triple H to take the whole punishment, being made into a jobber to the stars, beating lower card guys but always losing to main eventers. He would also be replaced to win the King of the Ring for 1996.
But what if the incident never happened? This has more implications than any other incident on this list as it changed the course of the the Monday Night Wars not once but twice. Since because of this both the NWO and DX were formed after this event, each shifting the momentum for their respective company. But an immediate change was the removal of Triple H as the winner of the King of the Ring, that honor instead being given to Stone Cold Steve Austin, who upon winning gave his infamous Austin 3:16 speech, which would catapult him into the spotlight. Something that might not have happened to the extent that it did if Triple H won like originally intended. The feud between Austin and Mr. McMahon may not have happened if Austin didn't get that push and won the world title.
The Rock might not have been able to develop his heel persona as much as he did if the Nation of Domination didn't feud with DX and Triple H in particular. Nash and Hall wouldn't have made as much of an impact if they had just transferred over to WCW without the buzz/heat they garnered for their backstage politics, so the NWO may have never been formed. So from one incident WCW would gain a huge lead in the Monday Night Wars with the NWO, while the WWE would regain and then retake the lead with guys like Austin, the Rock, Mr. McMahon, and DX to pull viewers over. Who would have thought a hug would do so much?