Everyone like surprises, as long as they’re good and don’t aggravate any pre-existing heart conditions. And to be fair, wrestling has had its share of well-crafted surprises over the years, such as WCW’s reveal of The Third Man, or basically every time The Rock shows up unannounced. However, there have been a great number of times where surprises in wrestling have turned out to be disappointing, unfulfilling, or just really terrible, and those are the ones we’ve chosen to focus our attention on today.
10. Jimmy Snuka
By and large, mystery partners in wrestling suck. This is because if they were any good, nobody would bother with keeping them a mystery, because there’s more money in promoting a big return rather than keeping the audience guessing. Inevitably, any mystery partner will either be unsurprising, disappointing, or both. Such was the case at the 1996 Survivor Series, where WWE was hyping up a mystery member of the Survivor Series team led by Savio Vega. The fact that the team already contained Vega, Flash Funk, and Yokozuna (in one of his last matches before he was fired for being way too fat) should have suggested that the match (and consequently the mystery partner) wasn’t going to be all that important, but they were making it sound like a big deal, talking about someone who was incredibly important in the history of Madison Square Garden, where the PPV was located. Of course, in the end, the mystery partner was revealed as Jimmy Snuka, already well past his prime, and while he got a decent nostalgia pop, he didn’t exactly help the ongoing perception that WWE was still stuck in the past compared the a hot WCW product. Meanwhile, the match ended in a No Contest finish when everyone just started brawling, and was quickly forgotten.
9. Kane Is A Murderer
In an effort to halt a ratings slide that had persisted ever since the Attitude Era ended, WWE decided to try and make the product “edgier”. Claiming to draw inspiration from popular shows like The Sopranos and Six Feet Under (no, seriously, that’s what they actually said), WWE came up with a bunch of crazy angles involving subjects like Hot Lesbian Action, the Billy and Chuck fake gay wedding saga, whatever the heck the Al Wilson-Dawn Marie storyline was supposed to be, and most infamously, the revelation by World Heavyweight Champion Triple H that Kane had murdered his teenage sweetheart in a car accident, and may or may not have had sex with her corpse. WWE treated it as a huge mystery, too, ending an episode of Raw with Triple H accusing Kane of murder just as the show ended, then leaving viewers to speculate for an entire week (which mostly resulted in people asking “Hey, wasn’t Kane supposed to be locked away from society for the period in between when he burned his parents’ funeral home down and when he debuted at Badd Blood ’97?”) before dropping the bombshell about Kane’s alleged crimes. Then Triple H created a fake video of himself in a Kane mask pretending to have sex with a mannequin. The whole thing was as enthralling as it sounds, and much like most of the “edgy” content WWE attempted in that time period, went over with the fans like simulated necrophilia in church.
8. Austin Joins The Alliance
To say that Steve Austin’s heel turn after WrestleMania X7 did not go well was probably an understatement, as it became more and more clear that WWE actually had no plan beyond the turn itself, which seems like a bad idea when you’ve decided to turn the most popular star of the generation heel. To make matters worse, his team with Triple H was cut short due to HHH suffering a massive quad injury, and with The Rock off filming a movie, there were no strong faces to oppose Austin. So, WWE panicked and jump-started the WCW Invasion angle, months ahead of schedule, because the solution to not having a plan is apparently to change to a different and equally unprepared plan. But with both Austin’s heel run and the Invasion itself floundering out of the gate, WWE looked like they might still be able to salvage things by having Austin return to his ass-kicking face character against the invading force, even having him wrestle with the moral dilemma the week before the InVasion PPV. Then, at the show, Austin, the man whose entire character motivations were created from the well-publicized anger he felt at being unceremoniously fired by WCW, turned on WWE and became the leader and sole important wrestler in the WCW/ECW Alliance. The fans got to be dismayed at Austin’s actions for a second time in only a few months, and with the entire angle now revolving around WWE wrestlers, the Invasion was on its way to an agonizing death that would take the rest of the year to play out fully.
7. The Shockmaster
Remember how we said that mystery partners suck? Well, this one sucked for the usual reasons and a whole new one as well, becoming one of the most infamous bloopers in wrestling history. You see, for an upcoming WarGames match, Sting’s team needed a final member, and they had promised someone who would “shock the world”. As we all know, that turned out to be The Shockmaster, who was actually a large, fairly bad wrestler better known as Tugboat from his time in WWE. The disappointment of Sting’s ultimate plan revolving around a guy who used to wear a striped sailor shirt and yell “Toot-toot!” would have been bad enough, but then fate stepped in and made things even worse. The Shockmaster’s entrance involved him crashing through a fake wall, which unbeknownst to him, had been reinforced earlier in the day. When the time came, The Shockmaster burst through the wall…then tripped on a cross-brace he hadn’t expected to be there. The moment was ruined, half the people involved broke character on camera, and yet WCW still went through with including him in the match. Frankly, though, given that The Shockmaster’s costume consisted of a furry cape and a Stormtrooper helmet covered in glitter paint, we’re not sure there was any way his surprise reveal wasn’t always going to disappointing, whether he fell or not.
6. Who Ran Over Stone Cold?
So, in 1999, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was forced to have neck surgery that he had put off for years in order to become the biggest star in wrestling. And WWE decided that the best way to write Austin off TV was to have him attacked by a mysterious assailant, so that there could be a ready-made feud for Austin if and when he returned. However, when Austin did make his comeback, it appeared as if the writing team had no idea who they actually wanted to be responsible for the hit-and-run attack. So, to kill time while they thought up a solution, Raw GM Mick Foley began investigating the crime, with all the evidence he gathered seeming to point directly at one person: The Rock. Frankly, it probably should have ended up being The Rock anyway, but WWE decided to go full M. Night Shyamalan and have a last-second twist, revealing that the fun-loving Rikishi had actually been the culprit, for reasons that were both confusing and silly, and involved WWE’s pattern of racism towards the Samoan people somehow. The surprising outcome was as well-received as you could imagine, and a few weeks later, Triple H revealed that he’d actually been the mastermind behind the whole plot, which at least led to some good matches, if not exactly managing to save the entire storyline.
5. Vince’s Son
To fully cover this wretched angle, we first have to mention that the concept of Vince McMahon’s alleged illegitimate son was actually a reboot of another angle that was supposed to have a surprise twist, where Vince McMahon faked his death via an exploding limousine in order to get some sort of advantage that was never made quite clear. That angle, fortunately or unfortunately, was cancelled when, a week later, the Chris Benoit incident occurred, making WWE running an angle about Vince’s death seem more than a little tasteless. So, instead, they waited a few weeks and re-wrote the entire thing to be about Vince’s bastard child. After weeks of speculation, WWE literally had a lawyer play a roster-wide game of “Guess Who?” in order to slowly reveal Vince’s biological offspring to be…Hornswoggle, the midget leprechaun who hung out under the ring. To be fair, it was originally supposed to be Mr. Kennedy, before he managed to go on TV in the wake of the Benoit incident and say some things that made WWE look incredibly bad. Still, as a back-up plan, Hornswoggle was quite possibly the worst choice they could have made (although another fairly cringe-worthy option that was allegedly considered was Triple H, whom you may recall is married to Vince’s daughter). To make matters worse, WWE dragged out this angle for months before finally revealing that it was all a ruse, the point of which was never really explained.
4. Savio Vega
Listen, apparently a lot of our readers actually like Savio Vega, so we don’t want to be mean, but he will almost certainly go down in the books as the worst mystery partner ever. Headed into the No Way Out Of Texas PPV in 1998, the show was supposed to be headlined by Steve Austin, Mankind, Terry Funk, and Owen Hart facing D-Generation X, consisting of WWE Champion Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and the New Age Outlaws. There was just one problem: Michaels had suffered a crippling back injury the previous month at the Royal Rumble, one which would force him to retire (until an actually miraculous comeback several years later), and WWE decided that it was more important to save whatever Michaels had left for the big WWE Title match at WrestleMania XIV. So, they started advertising a mystery opponent, one from Austin’s past, who had actually had some success against him. That man was revealed to be Vega, who had basically been a non-factor in WWE for months, but to be fair, did beat Austin in a Strap Match that one time a couple years earlier. As heavily hyped mystery partners go, this has to be the worst, especially since it was literally the main event of the final PPV before the Austin Era kicked off for real.
3. The Black Scorpion
WWE isn’t the only wrestling company to massively disappoint their fans with terribly underwhelming surprises, and one of the dumbest “surprises” of all time has to come from the ranks of WCW. Fearing that Sting’s reign as WCW Champion was growing stale, WCW searched for someone, anyone, who could step up and become a new challenger for their top babyface. Then, they had the brilliant idea of a masked character, known as the Black Scorpion, who would tease Sting with mysterious promos about their shared past, leading to a marquee match on PPV and, hopefully, an extended feud. The only problem was, WCW started the angle without actually deciding who would play the Scorpion, and spent most of the build to the match with mid-level wrestler Al Perez under the mask, while booker Ole Anderson’s voice, electronically altered, cut promos from backstage. When the time came for the actual match, WCW threw up their hands and went with the only possible wrestler who could fit the backstory created by the Scorpion and also have a great match with Sting. Yes, the Scorpion was quickly revealed to be none other than Ric Flair, but not after some truly embarrassing theatrics involving multiple potential Scorpions and cheesy WCW production values leading up to the match. Sure, nobody was complaining about more Flair-Sting matches, but after all that build-up, it was definitely the least interesting result.
2. The Gobbledy Gooker
So, as a promotional tactic to sell the 1990 Survivor Series PPV, WWE began carting around a giant egg and promising that a big surprise would break out of it at the show. Whatever was going to be in that egg was expected to be a big deal, since WWE put most of its power behind talking about it, so anticipation was actually high going into the PPV. Honestly, in retrospect, we’re not sure what else people truly expected to break out of an egg at a Thanksgiving show, but in one of wrestling’s most infamously dumb moments, a wrestler in a cartoonish turkey costume emerged and began to dance along to “Turkey in the Straw”. It’s still not clear if WWE intended the Gobbledy Gooker (who was actually Hector Guerrero, a member of the legendary Guerrero family of wrestlers) to be anything more than a one-time joke, and frankly, we can’t see any way in which a wrestler in a turkey costume could have been a full-time participant in wrestling match anyway. However, after so much promotional effort was put into this stupid egg, we really can’t believe that the best surprise WWE could come up with was the Gobbledy Gooker. On the bright side, The Undertaker debuted at the same show, so at least WWE technically delivered a decent surprise, even if he didn’t come from an egg.
1. The Higher Power
At the height of Attitude Era silliness, it looked like the long-running storyline involving the Ministry of Darkness and The Corporation was finally coming to a head. After Steve Austin rescued Stephanie McMahon from the infamous “Black Wedding” and became a hero in the eyes of longtime enemy Vince McMahon, Vince was removed from the Corporation by his son Shane for being too distracted by the Undertaker’s attempts to kidnap Stephanie. Then, Shane quickly merged the Corporation with the Ministry to create a massive super-group known as The Corporate Ministry, saying that it had all been a plan to oust his father so that Shane could have control. But that wasn’t all, as The Undertaker revealed that there was a “Higher Power” behind the entire plan, whose ultimate goal was the destruction of Steve Austin. Go ahead, guess who that could possibly be. In fact, the identity of the Higher Power was so obvious that Eric Bischoff actually spoiled it on Nitro without having any information ahead of time. And indeed, in a reveal that somehow managed to both make perfect sense and absolutely no sense at all, Vince McMahon was revealed as the Higher Power, with the now oft-repeated line “It was me, Austin! It was me all along!”