Sometimes in wrestling things don’t always pan out how you wanted them to. Some of the time its intentional but it can also be completely organic. No matter how much planning for an event or no matter how many writers have carefully crafted the perfect storyline it can all change in minutes if the crowd decides that’s not what they want anymore.
The best two examples of this are Bret Hart v Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13 and The Rock v Hollywood Hogan at WrestleMania 18
The planned one!
Bret Hart v Steve Austin
This all started at the 1996 King of the Ring, a now defunct tournament where Austin picked up the win. Austin was a heel, and called Bret out during his victory speech. Bret was inactive at the time but returned in October of the same year to have a match with Austin at that years Survivor Series event. Austin got the win over Hart but their rivalry continued through to January 97’s Royal Rumble where in the main event of the 30 man match Bret and Austin were the final two participants. Hart thought he had the win as he eliminated Austin by throwing him over the top rope, however the referees waved off the victory as none of them had seen Austin be eliminated as they were trying to break up a brawl at ringside (wrestling eh?!)
Bret, still the babyface of the company, won the WWF title at the next PPV only for Austin to cost him that title the next night on Monday Night Raw by interfering in a match between Hart and Sid.
This led to the submission match at WrestleMania with UFC fighter Ken Shamrock as the special guest referee. As expected Bret made his entrance to the ring to a decent reaction, he was still the good guy in all this going against the heel Austin who kept finding ways to to cost Bret his matches and end his title reigns. Austin’s style of wrestling isn’t what you would call technical and this was more a case of he could beat you into submission rather than tap you out with a hold like the much more clinical Bret Hart could.
The match went for just over 22 minutes with both Austin and Hart getting in plenty of offence. There came a time in the match where Austin needed to get some colour (bleed) as the planned finish of the match was for Bret to apply his submission finisher (The Sharpshooter) and for Austin to pass out form the pain rather than say “I Quit” or to tap out. This keeps Austin looking strong but still gave Bret the win. Originally Austin was reluctant to do a blade job on himself, usually done by using a small piece of a razor blade to cut yourself on the forehead to start bleeding as owner Vince McMahon didn’t want it to happen. Bret made the decision to cut Austin himself so Austin would not get any repercussions from the boss!
The finish went as planned with Austin passing out from the pain. Bret after months of frustration snapped and kept attacking Austin after match had finished. This caused the crowd to turn on him as planned and Austin laying face down in his own blood was the new hero.
Not only one of the best double turns in wrestling but one of the best matches WWE has ever produced. I highly recommend finding it on the WWE Network or other outlets as its definitely some of the best story telling you’ll see for that era.
The unplanned one!
The Rock v Hollywood Hulk Hogan
The Rock was a face at the time and Hogan was still trying to be heel in the ill fated NWO WWE run that if we are honest, did not pan out like Vince McMahon had planned.
The start of this feud was The Rock refusing to have a photo taken with Hogans son. Leading to the The Rock insulting Hogan. The next episode of Raw saw The Rock interrupt Hogan while he was addressing the crowd and challenged him to a match. Hogan accepted and the two shook hands in the ring. The Rock kept hold of Hogans hand before pulling him towards him to hit him with his Rock Bottom finisher and leave him in the ring.
While this match did not have the same storyline build up as the Bret v Austin match 5 years previous, it was sold as “Icon v Icon” with the immortal Hulk Hogan taking on the new face of the company in The Rock.
A few days before the event, the two met to plan out the match. Initially The Rock and Vince McMahon wanted to have a complete rehearsal in the ring for the match itself, only for Hogan to refuse as he did not want to risk injury by taking a bad bump and jeopardising the match. Also, he felt he wouldn’t be able to get into it as it wouldn’t be the same without the crowd there to feed off.
Hogan is supposed to be the bad guy here with The Rock the face of company but come the time for the two to make their entrances the crowd had other ideas.
Hogan seemed genuinely surprised at the reaction he got from the crowd, almost throwing him off guard. The Rock came down to less cheers than he would have liked but still a decent reception.
They stared each other down for a good few minutes while the 68,000 capacity crowd chanted wildly for both. Hogan pushed Rock to the floor and the crowd went wild. This was not what was supposed to happen and both of them knew it. Shortly afterwards the crowd started a “Rocky Sucks” chant as Hogan pushed him to the mat again. This was the moment they both knew the match wasn’t going to go as planned. You can see The Rock switch roles from face to heel and start to lead the match basically. In wrestling the heel tends to lead the match. This is something that The Rock does extremely well and all Hogan has to do is go along with it. The Rock still gets the win but the double turn comes from the crowds reaction rather than anything pre planned.
The reaction to Hogan was so strong that he was sent to get his famous red and yellow ring attire from his Florida home and come straight back despite the fact that WrestleMania was held in Toronto some 1,200 miles away. Hogan noted that this round trip that Vince McMahon sent him on cost around $18,000! All for a different coloured ring attire due to the strength in the crowds reaction!