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20 shocking discoveries in WWE history
Every significant discovery in WWE history did not occur in a vacuum.
Each revelatory moment, from the conclusion of a nefarious conspiracy to the derailing of an ongoing plot, happened for a reason. Perhaps a Superstar sought to take down a rival, or simply tried to pave an easier path to the top in WWE. Regardless of why, the unveiling of a grappler’s master plan came about because that competitor sought some huge payoff down the road — and engaged in extraordinary means to achieve it.
Naturally, some of those suspenseful exploits left the WWE Universe completely surprised when the scheme finally came together or eventually fell apart. From confrontations over championship gold to alliances changing or breaking up in real time, take a look at these 20 legendary examples of the most shocking discoveries in the history of sports entertainment.
The wheelman that ran down “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
WWE commissioner Mick Foley arrived at ringside during Raw on Oct. 9, 2000, to solve a mystery that vexed the WWE Universe for nearly a year: Who knocked “Stone Cold” Steve Austin out of action with a car during Survivor Series 1999?
Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy conceded that WWE Champion The Rock, despite plenty of evidence implicating The People’s Champion, did not do the deed. However, he did accuse Rikishi of committing the crime — and the Samoan Superstar immediately accepted responsibility.
“I did it for The Rock,” Rikishi said, confessing that he ran down Austin to clear The Brahma Bull’s path to greatness in WWE.
The capacity crowd’s cheers for the big man, who became beloved by fans worldwide for his connections to the Anoa’i family and his penchant for post-match dance parties, quickly devolved into vitriolic chants. With one confession, Rikishi became Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of the WWE Universe as well as Austin, who extracted revenge in his return to the ring just two weeks later at No Mercy 2000.
Married to the man of Stephanie McMahon’s nightmares?
With their family and friends joining them on the ring apron, Test and Stephanie McMahon prepared to exchange wedding vows during Raw on Nov. 29, 1999. But before the two lovebirds could live happily ever after, their minister suggested that anyone who objected to the proceedings should speak now or forever hold their peace.
Triple H decided to accept the minister’s invitation by playing a wedding video of his own that needed to be seen by the WWE Universe to be believed.
In fact, the video revealed The Game had already brought the bride-to-be to a drive thru wedding chapel in Las Vegas for an impromptu nuptial ceremony, thus designating Triple H as Stephanie’s lawfully wedded husband. While the tactics in which WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon received a new son-in-law did not go over well with the family patriarch, the end result left Stephanie comfortable in the knowledge that her wedding to Triple H was legit. And, given that the unlikely pairing remain married to this day, it’s clear that this shocking story ultimately wound up with a happy ending.
The hardcore home’s uninvited guests
The match between Tommy Dreamer and Raven at ECW’s Wrestlepalooza 1997 left wrestling fans stunned, but not just due to the result of that long-awaited battle’s result. Sure, The Innovator of Violence finally bested his longtime rival at the storied event. He even cemented his hard-earned victory with a memorable DDT on Raven. That image, Dreamer sitting in the center of the ring with the ECW’s faithful fans chanting the promotion’s name, should have been enough to let this moment resonate as one of the greatest in the history of sports-entertainment.
Then the lights went out at ECW Arena three times. Rob Van Dam, who appeared after the arena restored power the first time, cut Dreamer’s victory party short by crushing him with a Van Daminator. Sabu, who emerged after the second blackout, made sure Dreamer stayed outnumbered. Yet it’s the third shadowy figure to emerge that ECW fans remember best.
After the final blackout, Jerry “The King” Lawler suddenly appeared in the center of the ring and immediately started taunting the beaten Dreamer and the fans in attendance. Lawler’s hatred of the hardcore promotion brought him from the cozy confines of WWE into the den of horrors that was ECW Arena.
The Undertaker’s fiery fraternal matter
Paul Bearer tried everything he could to rein in his former protégé, The Undertaker, in 1997 after Mankind, with Bearer in his corner, failed to destroy The Deadman. Using the only ace he had left up his sleeve, the macabre manager declared that the supernatural Superstar should return to his side or else risk having his deepest secret be revealed to the WWE Universe. The Undertaker refused to comply, and Bearer carried through with his threat. The world learned shortly thereafter that The Deadman had a brother named Kane.
More importantly, The Undertaker’s long-lost relative intended to make his presence felt in WWE and seek revenge for his past family troubles. That day of reckoning came on Oct. 5, 1997, when Bearer led a Big Red Monster to ringside during the first Hell in a Cell Match between The Deadman and Shawn Michaels. The masked behemoth tore the door off the cell and laid waste to his own brother, thus removing any doubt about the existence of The Devil’s Favorite Demon.
The source of The Corporate Ministry’s power
The Ministry of Darkness joined forces with The Corporation in 1999 to create chaos in the WWE Universe, most especially for the trio of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock and WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon. With The Undertaker’s minions getting along with Shane McMahon’s corporate cronies, the odds appeared insurmountably stacked in the favor of this newly minted unholy alliance.
Things looked doubly bleak as the mega-faction introduced their mysterious leader, the so-called “Higher Power,” and announced their intentions to deliver Austin to this diabolical force. Austin presumed he could still count on The People’s Champion and Mr. McMahon for help. Yet that changed when the Higher Power finally revealed his true identity during Raw on June 7, 1999.
With his sinister side now on display, Mr. McMahon reveled in betraying the fans, his own family and everyone who supported him — all in the name of destroying The Texas Rattlesnake once and for all.
The Narcissist’s secret weapon
“The Narcissist” Lex Luger needed little prodding to recite the many traits that made him a promising talent in WWE. From his supreme confidence to his chiseled features to his powerful arsenal of maneuvers, Luger never hesitated to present himself as a total package of Superstar talent. The self-centered competitor, though, seemingly had one secret to hide until WWE commissioner Jack Tunney exposed it in April 1993.
Taken aback by Luger’s ability to knock Bret “Hit Man” Hart out cold during a WrestleMania brunch earlier in the month, Tunney opened an investigation on the egomaniacal grappler. The WWE President uncovered X-rays revealing that Luger’s forearm contained a steel plate that was surgically inserted following a motorcycle accident in 1992. While the plate served a medical purpose, it left Tunney with no choice but to force Luger to wear a pad over it in order to ensure the safety of his opponents.
The Doctor of Thuganomics takes the WWE Title for a spin
John Cena officially elevated himself to the next level at WrestleMania 21 by earning his first WWE Championship reign at the expense of JBL. JBL, of course, saw Cena’s Doctor of Thuganomics persona as a nuisance and sought to discredit the new WWE Champion by any means necessary. And a solid opportunity presented itself to JBL, who still wore the championship gold around his waist, during Cena’s attempt to introduce a new WWE Title during SmackDown on April 14, 2005.
However, The Champ stayed one step ahead of the brawling mogul. Though JBL claimed to have intercepted the box containing Cena’ new title, The Doctor of Thuganomics invited the millionaire brawler to take a look inside. JBL obliged, only to discover the box contained assorted scraps that Cena collected from local slaughterhouses in Chicago. Cena then turned his attention skyward as a new WWE Title, known now to the WWE Universe as the “spinner” design that would last for nearly eight years, descended from the rafters.
Anonymity no longer guaranteed
Of all the General Managers to impose their will on Raw, none frustrated the WWE Universe so consistently as the mysterious authority figure referred to as the Anonymous Raw GM. The Anonymous GM ran the Monday night showcase with an iron fist and from arm’s length, choosing to send directives to a ringside computer monitored by lead commentator Michael Cole. No one, neither the Superstars in the ring nor the fans in attendance, ever looked forward to a chirp playing on the arena sound system, proclaiming another order from the Anonymous GM.
So who managed to keep a firm grasp of Raw for more than a year while keeping their identity a secret? All became clear on July 9, 2012, when the Anonymous GM returned to Raw as the guest showrunner. Santino “Sherlock” Marella pursued the identity of the GM and finally found him hiding under the ring with a laptop. And who did Santino find?
Hornswoggle. The tiny troublemaker made a little more mischief in the ring after being revealed, but just shrugged his shoulders at Santino’s revelation. Besides, he’d already caused enough problems during his 13-month tenure as the GM of Raw.
A WWE savior on a biblical scale
No one knew quite what to make of a series of cryptic vignettes from late 2007 that invited the WWE Universe to “BREAK_THE_CODE” being played out on the screen. Each short video featured a fast-paced montage of computer code that rained down on the screen like a scene from the 1999 film “The Matrix” and repeated references to a “2ND COMING.”
All became clear on the Nov. 19, 2007, edition of Raw during a segment in which Randy Orton was boasting over some of his milestone victories. Orton stood at the center of the squared circle, awaiting the arrival of a marathon runner who carried a torch symbolizing The Viper’s recent rise to greatness. Due to a clothesline from a mysterious figure, that runner never made it to ringside.
Instead, Orton and the WWE Universe learned of that attacker’s identity by watching the final vignette. It decoded “SAVE_US.X29” into “SAVE_US.Y2J” and confirmed Chris Jericho’s return to WWE after a two-year hiatus from the ring.
Following in his father’s footsteps
The battles had all been fought and the victor in the Monday Night War became painfully clear in March 2001. WWE finally prevailed, overtaking WCW once and for all as the rival promotion’s dire financial straits led them to an eminent sale. While other suitors kicked the tires on WCW’s viability, only one person could bring a fitting end to the story: WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon.
During the March 26, 2001, edition of Raw, Mr. McMahon made his way to ringside and announced that he would officially purchase WCW one week later at WrestleMania X-Seven. And a McMahon did eventually close the deal.
It just wasn’t the family patriarch.
Instead, Shane McMahon appeared in Panama City, Fla., on WCW Monday Nitro to declare that he had purchased the floundering promotion and intended to restore it to its former glory — at WWE’s expense. The stunning sight of Shane McMahon on WCW programming officially brought an end to the Monday Night War, but it also commenced an impending invasion that would plague the WWE Universe for months to come.
An enhanced perception of an old “friend”
A back injury forced Shawn Michaels into retirement in 1998, but it didn’t quite erase the impact of The Showstopper on the WWE Universe. So HBK’s return to the ring as a non-competitive member of The New World Order in 2002 had the unintended effect of stealing the spotlight from Triple H’s return from an injury earlier in the year. The Game reacted by assaulting Michaels during a short-lived D-Generation X reunion, but appeared to show concern for his longtime friend when HBK was the victim of an attack in a Greensboro, N.C., parking garage one week later.
That all changed when a battered Michaels produced the security footage from the garage during the Aug. 5, 2002, edition of Raw. With Triple H promising to find out who was behind the attack, HBK provided an enhanced version of the footage that zoomed in on the assailant and adjusted the resolution enough to identify him. With the perpetrator in full view, HBK officially confronted his attacker.
“It was you, Hunter,” Michaels said.
Triple H’s actions left Michaels with no choice but to make his surprise return to the squared circle at SummerSlam 2002 for an Unsanctioned Street Fight against his former ally.
Following “The Snake” a little too closely
When Ultimate Warrior needed to understand the supernatural capabilities of The Undertaker during summer 1991, he placed his trust in the one person who Warrior saw as “living amongst the dead.” That person, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, obliged by presenting a series of tests that would determine Warrior’s readiness to comprehend the ways of the The Deadman.
However, their arrangement took a turn for the worse during Roberts’ last test. “The Snakeman,” Warrior’s nickname for Roberts, led the intense competitor into a snake-filled room to understand evil itself. Instead, Warrior found himself bit by a King Cobra and trying to escape the room before the snake’s toxins took effect.
When the eccentric strongman finally escaped, he collapsed in a heap before the feet of The Undertaker himself. Looking for help, Warrior reached out his hand for assistance only to learn that The Snake’s allegiance was with The Deadman all along.
“I’m a snake,” Roberts said. “Never trust a snake.”
A face in the crowd becomes a champion
Unimpressed by the reception he received from the capacity crowd at Raw in Milan on April 17, 2007, WWE Chairman Mr. McMahon invited Intercontinental Champion Umaga to the ring and invited anyone in attendance to step forward for a title opportunity. Mr. McMahon eventually awarded the honor to an unassuming fan from Calabria, Italy, wearing bright orange sneakers and a fashionable brown shirt.
An added stipulation turned the impromptu bout into a No Holds Barred Match, which appeared to turn the tide in Umaga’s favor. Mr. McMahon’s plan to humiliate a local would backfire, though, as ECW Champion Bobby Lashley arrived at ringside and clobbered the Intercontinental Title holder with a steel chair. Lashley then dragged the Calabria native over The Samoan Bulldozer for a title-clinching pinfall.
The rise of the underdog sent the fans that night into a frenzy, filling the arena with cheers and chants of triumphant fight songs on behalf of their native son.
The Calabria fighter’s name? Santino Marella.
The “Nature Boy” and his unnatural photos
“Elizabeth was mine before she was yours, Savage!”
Ric Flair made that outrageous claim to “Mean” Gene Okerlund during “WWE Superstars” on March 7, 1992, giving the impression that the “Nature Boy” had a relationship with Miss Elizabeth before “Macho Man” Randy Savage ever entered the picture. Flair backed up his claims with a photo of him and The First Lady of Wrestling and enjoying a tender moment poolside, complete with a bowl of fruit and towels monogrammed with the first letter of their respective names.
Watch: Flair's wildest interviews
Flair published that photo and others in WWE Magazine, but Savage, who finally curbed his temper after a few weeks, figured out where the images originated. He produced negatives of the photos to WWE Magazine showing that Flair had doctored them to superimpose himself over images of Savage. Miss Elizabeth expressed vindication as Flair and Savage proceeded on a collision course that ended at WrestleMania VIII.
Piper’s vested interest in defending his title
To officially have a match against Bret “Hit Man” Hart at WrestleMania VIII, Intercontinental Champion “Rowdy” Roddy Piper first needed to answer a challenge to his title reign from The Mountie. The two clashed during Saturday Night’s Main Event on Feb. 8, 1992, but the odds favored the crooked Canadian competitor due to his secret weapon: a cattle prod.
After saturating Piper with a cup of water, The Mountie gave the Intercontinental Champion a jolt with the cattle prod to incapacitate him for an easy victory. However, Piper endured the charge, snagged the device and used it against the challenger. Piper’s response worked; The Mountie could not come to his senses in time to kick out.
Before anyone could decide on just how he endured a cattle prod charge, Piper showed the WWE Universe how he held on by removing his shirt. Underneath it, the grappler from Glasgow, Scotland, revealed a black-and-blue rubber vest with two words written on it that explained everything. The words? “Shock Proof.”
Richter gets tangled in a web of deception
To say The Fabulous Moolah had a successful run as WWE Women’s Champion would be an understatement. Her uninterrupted reign of 10,170 days — or nearly 28 years — set the bar for championship stability and set quite a precedent for any future titleholders who followed in her footsteps.
Unfortunately, Moolah didn’t cast a shadow over Wendi Richter in 1985; she cast a web. Richter’s second title reign came to an end at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 25, 1985, against the mysterious and masked Spider Lady, though a fast count by the referee helped make that decision possible.
Upset by the result, Richter continued assaulting the new champion. She eventually unmasked the Spider Lady to reveal that it was actually Moolah in disguise. Upset by the plot, Richter stormed out of the ring. She ended her affiliation with WWE until 2010 when the totality of her career earned Richter an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame.
The cruiserweight that Chris Jericho didn’t account for
WCW Cruiserweight Champion Chris Jericho posted a rather valuable prize for the winner of a Battle Royal at Slamboree 1998. The last man standing from the 15-man free-for-all would receive an immediate title opportunity against The Lionheart himself. A fierce battle reduced the list of competitors to two: Juventud Guerrera and a masked luchador named Ciclope. Guerrera then shook his fellow finalist’s hand before eliminating himself, thus granting the luchador an immediate match with Jericho.
Watch: Malenko tames the lionheart
And before the bell could ring to start the Cruiserweight Championship encounter, Ciclope unmasked himself to reveal that he was not just any luchador. Instead, he was the returning Dean Malenko. The Man of 1,000 Holds, who made his return to the ring that night after a two-month hiatus, triggered one of the loudest ovations in WCW history when it became clear that he would finally get an opportunity to put Jericho in his place. Malenko did just that, using his patented Texas Cloverleaf to make the titleholder tap out and to clinch the championship gold.
Tazz experiences a truly extreme betrayal
A rivalry more than a year in the making finally came to a head in 1997 as Tazz, accompanied by his trusted manager Bill Alfonso, and Sabu faced off at Barely Legal, the first pay-per-view in the history of Extreme Championship Wrestling. The two hardcore titans stopped talking the talk and started putting on a tactical display that demonstrated why they were considered the most feared and revered grapplers in the company. A perfectly executed Tazzplex followed by the Tazzmission put a notch in The Human Suplex Machine’s win column, but even the brawler from Brooklyn, N.Y., admitted being eager about the possibility of a rematch.
As the two combatants shook hands, Rob Van Dam turned the tables on Tazz by attacking him from behind. Sabu joined in, turning the assault on the ECW stalwart into a two-on-one battering. The numbers game turned against Tazz in the most unlikely way imaginable.
Alfonso, who stood by Tazz’s side for the duration of his yearlong winning streak, showed his true colors by tearing off his orange shirt to reveal a Sabu T-shirt, signifying his decision to dump his suplex-savvy charge in favor of The Human Highlight Reel and RVD. It marked the end of a storied stewardship and kicked off a rivalry that would continue well into the foreseeable future.
Hulkamania goes black and white “4 Life”
Scott Hall & Kevin Nash appeared to represent little more than pests when the duo made their WCW debut in 1996. So when “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Lex Luger and Sting agreed to face Hall & Nash as well as their mystery partner at Bash of the Beach 1996, the WCW loyalists likely thought they could vanquish the renegade duo called The Outsiders before any real trouble occurred.
Watch: Hulkamania runs astray
Savage, Luger & Sting then learned the identity of The Outsiders’ mystery partner. While both sides reeled on the ring apron, Hulk Hogan stepped out from the shadows to bring the bout to a quick end. And The Hulkster most certainly did by executing an infamous Leg Drop on Savage that signaled which side the then–six-time World Champion was on. He promptly redubbed himself Hollywood Hogan and declared the arrival of the feared and revered rebellious faction known to the WWE Universe as The New World Order.
Buddy Rogers follows the money
Captain Lou Albano boasted few friends in the WWE Universe, which made him something of a questionable choice as “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka’s cornerman. With Snuka’s star shining brighter for his aerial exploits in the ring, Albano just kept tagging along while seemingly obstructing the high-flying Fijian’s path to glory in WWE.
Something about Albano’s association to Snuka just didn’t feel right to “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers in 1982. So the first WWE Champion in history did a little digging and uncovered a curious and rather immoral motivation on behalf of the Captain.
Rogers presented his findings during the Oct. 16, 1982, edition of “Buddy Rogers’ Corner.” He revealed that Albano and Snuka never had a contract in place and that Albano had been cleaning out Snuka’s bank account. “Superfly” officially ended their partnership and, with Rogers advising him, started out on his own for the first time in Snuka’s WWE tenure.