“Oh my God! You know who that is! It’s … it’s …”
The followup to that open-ended statement has led to great moments in the world of professional wrestling. Unfortunately, it’s also led to moments that make fans angry, sad, embarrassed or downright confused.
When the arena lights black out (as they inevitably do in these situations) and the music hits, crowd reactions can vary. If The Rock, Brock Lesnar or Kurt Angle walks down the aisle, the arena is likely to shake. Replace them with a leprechaun, a giant turkey or a pint-sized clone of the Ultimate Warrior, however, and a stadium full of people can turn as quiet as a funeral.
We here at the Place to Be Nation certainly appreciate the great bombshells from the past, but we also think it’s important to remember the events that shocked us in all the wrong ways. While we hope the wrestling industry avoids similar such events in the future, the recent flop of a TNA return by UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz only served as a reminder for us not to get our hopes up when wrestling promoters promise a huge announcement. Without any further adieu, here are some of pro wrestling’s lamest surprises. This list is far from comprehensive, so be sure to head to the PTB Facebook page or hit us up on Twitter and leave some of your favorite bad wrestling surprises.
The Gobbledy Gooker (1990)
For weeks in Fall 1990, World Wrestling Federation television programs featured a giant, mysterious egg inside arenas throughout the country. The contents of the egg were left up to the viewers’ imagination. In hindsight, the fact that it was a gigantic fake egg should have been a tell-tale sign that nothing good was going to result. Yet at age 6, I can assure you I was every bit as invested in the Great Egg Mystery as WWF officials hoped. Would it be a wrestler from World Championship Wrestling jumping ship? Would I finally be able to see my beloved Sting take on my WWF heroes like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior? Or what if, 6-year-old Greg wondered (often aloud, much to my parents’ chagrin), the egg housed a debuting superstar who would take the world by storm? Could it be an elaborate trick by some nefarious villain like “Macho King” Randy Savage or “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase?
The answer to each question was a resounding “NOPE.” Instead, to my horror, when the egg hatched at the Survivor Series, we got an oversized dancing turkey. More accurately, we got Hector Guerrero (yes, of that Guerrero family) dressed in a cartoonishly large rubber turkey suit. Today, it’s easy to scoff at the notion that people were disappointed in the reveal. After all, it was a fake egg, what did we expect? I’ll certainly grant that “hatching” from the Survivor Series egg probably would’ve been a death knell for any character that emerged. But to people invested in the product at the time, it came off as a figurative slap in the face, even for those of us who had no problem accepting Dusty Rhodes dancing in polka dots.
The Shockmaster (1993)
1993 wasn’t exactly a banner year for WCW. The product changed directions numerous times, while backstage politics and bizarre characters marred any excitement that came from Ric Flair’s return or the rise of Cactus Jack. Perhaps nothing better represents the folly of 1993 WCW than the Shockmaster. Sting was, by a wide margin, WCW’s most popular wrestler. So when he promised a mystery tag team partner for the upcoming War Games match at Fall Brawl, most fans assumed he had an ace up his sleeve. What they didn’t expect was Tugboat in a Storm Trooper helmet.
At Clash of the Champions, Sting and “The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith had a face-to-face confrontation with their opponents in the upcoming bout, Sid Vicious and Harlem Heat. After a terrible electricity pun, Sting introduced the world to his surprise partner … who promptly fell through the set, lost his helmet, and stood up to awkwardly point at Sid, not unlike Chris Farley’s El Nino character.
Ric Flair’s “Oh God” could be heard over the hubbub, as could profanities shouted by some of the performers. As Sting and Davey Boy stifled a laugh, a voice recording from Ole Anderson only made things worse. This stands as one of the most hilariously low points in one of WCW’s worst years.
The Renegade (1995)
The mystery partner angle has a rich history of disappointments. As big of a joke as the Shockmaster was, it didn’t match the sheer disappointment of The Renegade. In the buildup to WCW Uncensored 1995, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and their manager, Jimmy Hart, had been promising “the ultimate surprise” and the “ultimate solution” to the alliance between Vader and the Dungeon of Doom. As if that hint wasn’t strong enough, videos then aired showing a silhouetted figure of a musclebound, long-haired man wearing tassels and snorting.
Everybody watching the shows leading to Uncensored was led to believe the mystery man would be Hogan and Savage’s old WWF cohort The Ultimate Warrior. What we weren’t told was that Warrior hadn’t actually signed with WCW. So when the time came to unveil the “ultimate surprise,” it ended up being the ultimate dud. Out came The Renegade, who walked, talked and acted like the Ultimate Warrior, only without his height, his weight, his physique or his charisma. Oh, and with a lot of smoke. It was like watching the Warrior’s little brother pretending to be him for Halloween. Needless to say, the gimmick only lasted about three years.
The Higher Power (1999)
The feud between Vince McMahon and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin dominated sports entertainment in the late ’90s and brought the WWF to new heights. The two men engaged in one of wrestling’s most entertaining feuds throughout 1998 until, through circumstances, they found themselves on the same side at war against Shane McMahon and the Undertaker’s Corporate Ministry in early 1999. For weeks, Shane and the Undertaker taunted Vince, Austin and audiences with the threat of a “higher power” (also called a “greater power”) they both served. This instantly raised fans’ eyebrows. Whose power could usurp both Shane’s and the Phenom’s? Especially since ‘Taker was in the midst of a satanic gimmick.
Well, despite his daughter being kidnapped and the violence that had commenced between the two sides, the higher power was eventually revealed to be Vince himself. While it led to one of the all-time best Jim Ross calls (“Aw son of a bitch!”) and brought McMahon back to his more comfortable role as a heel, it was still a letdown, since the swerve seemingly contradicted Raw’s storytelling from earlier in the year. Instead of (again) a debuting superstar or a new foe for Austin to fight, it was a step back to the same feud we’d seen for the better part of a year and a half prior.
Listen to Kevin Kelly’s memories of the reveal from his May 2013 PTB Podcast appearance!
Mr. McMahon’s illegitimate son (2007)
It’s safe to say the character of Mr. McMahon has taken more crazy twists and bizarre turns than just about any other. He’s feuded with his comatose wife, teamed with and brutalized his own son, and even claimed to hold a pinfall victory over “God.” Still, 2007 was strange even by McMahon standards. Mere weeks after abandoning the ill-fated limo explosion storyline, World Wrestling Entertainment began an angle revolving around something McMahon often addressed in his interviews — his loins. According to the storyline, one of McMahon’s many romantic trysts resulted in the birth of an illegitimate son who went on to work for McMahon’s own company, WWE. With me so far?
The initial plan was for up-and-coming wrestler Mr. Kennedy (TNA’s Ken Anderson) to be discovered as McMahon’s son. The character even had McMahon’s middle name! Unfortunately for WWE (and Kennedy), he was busted for using performance-enhancing drugs, necessitating a 30-day suspension. That left the story up in the air, and wrestling fans quickly began — you guessed it — making wild guesses about who the son would be. Rumors at the time included everyone from Triple H (beginning the long-rumored incest storyline, since he’s married to Stephanie McMahon) to McMahon’s longtime rival Steve Austin. On Sept. 10, 2007, McMahon’s illegitimate son was finally revealed to the world in the form of Hornswoggle, a performer who happens to be a dwarf, which WWE often uses for questionably comedic purposes. Indeed, the reveal was intended to be a knee-slappingly funny occurrence. For what it’s worth, announcer Jerry Lawler sounded legitimately amused by the announcement. Legendary play-by-play man Jim Ross, however, was less than enthused as he was forced to feign excitement over McMahon’s “little bastard.” On the bright side, the attorney representing Hornswoggle was unintentionally hilarious and I’d offer a great deal of American dollars to see him return once again.
The Anonymous Raw General Manager (2010-2012)
One of the better mystery angles WWE has run in recent years revolved around a figure known only as the Anonymous Raw General Manager. From June 2010 through July 2011, the figurehead in charge of Monday Night Raw was a mystery person controlling a laptop computer. Using heel announcer Michael Cole as a mouthpiece, the anonymous GM dropped hints each week, garnering more and more heat along the way. One such hint suggested that the GM had always hated Bret Hart. Was it Shawn Michaels? Triple H? Isaac Yankem? Nobody knew, but the guessing was fun. Like many successful wrestling storylines, this one simply went too long. By mid-2011, people were tired of the gimmick, especially since there had been little to no movement in the story, and we were no closer to finding out who the mystery person was. WWE dropped the angle and seemingly forgot about the mystery until more than a year later, when the Anonymous Raw General Manager was finally revealed … to be Hornswoggle.
The revelation not only made no sense, it went over like a lead balloon. And unlike the previous Hornswoggle revelation, this one lacked humor on any level. Another example of the proverbial ball being dropped on an angle that had the potential to be exciting.