April 1st is April Fool’s Day and it is a long held tradition in all forms of media to put out false stories to try and catch out and entertain the unsuspecting masses. It’s a fun distraction for a few hours once a year.
Wrestling being wrestling though, the truth is very often stranger than fiction. With that in mind, we look back at ten outrageous stories from the last few years that you would totally dismiss as a prank if they had dropped on April 1st.
AEW’s Chris Jericho A Guest On Austin’s WWE Network Show
We published this article on April 1st 2021. On April 2nd 2021 it was announced that Chris Jericho would be the next guest on Steve Austin’s WWE Network show, Broken Skull Sessions.
That would be Chris Jericho, arguably the biggest superstar for WWE’s biggest competitor for two decades.
If that isn’t worth rewriting this list for, what is?
The Big Show Is All Elite
This one was so shocking partly because it was dropped casually out of absolutely nowhere, and partly because it was the living embodiment of a well trodden meme. ‘Steve Austin is All Elite’…’Shane McMahon Is All Elite’, we have seen them all. The humour coming from the fact that the names involved were so wedded to WWE that the thought of them moving to their latest opposition was just outrageous.
Well, Big Show was one of those names. Having been with the company for 22 years, he was sure to be one of the many names associated with, and loosely contracted to, WWE long after their retirement. Then the graphic dropped, Paul Wight was All Elite and we suddenly realised that even WWE’s sacred cows were not even completely out of reach.
Jerry Lawler turns up in ECW
Back in the late 1990s, the renegades in ECW were busy sticking middle fingers up at the long-held traditions of the wrestling establishment. ECW were brash, rude and proudly counter-culture. If you were part of that established order then you were fair game for ridicule. And when looking at the old guard, what promotion represented that than the USWA and it’s old school, southern ‘rasslin product? By far the biggest USWA star of all time, Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler embodied each and every one of those ‘good ol’ boy’ traditions. As such, he was always the first man to take aim at ECW with what seemed (and was) a real and heartfelt loathing of everything they and their cast of misfits stood for?
Imagine the collective shock then when The King himself appeared at ECW Wrestlepalooza in 1997 to align himself with Rob Van Dam and Sabu to lead an anti-ECW charge. The results were spectacular. Nobody could have been more of a heel to those ECW fans than the ‘phony’ old Lawler. Nobody saw it coming and most wouldn’t have believed it if they hadn’t seen it with their own eyes.
Brock Lesnar returns to WWE
Lesnar left WWE under a huge cloud in 2004. After only two years with the company, he had become amongst the biggest stars in wrestling with WWE strapping the entire company to his ridiculously wide shoulders. He left abruptly after WrestleMania XX to pursue NFL and ultimately MMA. He also took a brief sojourn to NJPW which resulted in a legal battle with WWE and even more bad blood between the two. They say that there are never any burned bridges where Vince McMahon and money are concerned, but this one seemed to be smouldering as much as any.
Fast forward to 2012 and the night after WrestleMania 28. John Cena is stood in the ring the night after his loss to The Rock in the highest grossing wrestling PPV in history. How do you top that? Enter The Beast! Lesnar returned to Raw and quickly dispatched The Champ as the crowd shuddered with disbelief.
He’s Not A Mountie…He’s The Ring Of Honor Champion
If you are old enough, cast your mind back to late 1993. You are watching the WWF in its most cartoonish period and one of the acts that pops off the screen is a heel duo known The Quebecers. Hugely entertaining as they are, the pair are the embodiment of camp silliness. Fast forward another year or so and one of these men, Pierre, is playing a pirate running around stealing people’s jackets.
OK, now go forward a massive 23 years and Pierre, who has been almost completely absent from wrestling suddenly re-emerges as PCO, a grizzled, tough veteran who seems to have an almost psycopathic need to prove he still has gas left in the tank. Within weeks or bursting back into the limelight at Joey Janela’s Spring Break, PCO is then announced to have a contract with Ring Of Honor, long thought to be the most straight laced wrestling focused promotion in the world. It gets weirder. In December 2019 he defeats Rush to win the ROH World Championship. Yep. 26 years after his WWE debut, Quebecer Pierre becomes the champion of the most straight-laced wrestling promotion in the world.
Imagine if Adam Bomb came back next month and won the NXT Championship. It isn’t far off being the same thing. One can only hope….
Bret Hart And Shawn Michaels Mend Their Fences
We all know the story of the ‘Montreal Screwjob’ in 1997. It does not remotely need covering again except to say that the aftermath saw the existing hatred between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart cemented seemingly forever. Hart had deep-held and justified grudge against those he percieved to have ‘screwed’ him and brought about the issues that plagued the next few years of his life. Numerous times he was invited to appear on WWE television again.
That all changed in late 2009 when it was announced that Bret Hart would make a long-awaited return to Raw during the first show of the new year. When that show rolled around, the first music the live crowd heard was that of the Hitman who hit the ring to deliver a long overdue speech to his adoring fans. The already surreal moment took a further turn when Shawn Michaels himself came to the ring. After teasing tension, the two megastars shared mutual apologies and embraced in a moment dripping with realism and emotion. If you managed to stop the bottom lip quivering during this exchange then you are made of sterner stuff than this writer.
CM Punk: UFC Star
CM Punk was always something of a reluctant WWE star. Marching to the beat of his own drum during his tenure in the company, the tension between the two parties finally came to the boil in January 2014 and resulted in leaving the company and to date, wrestling altogether (Other than that stint as a guest host on WWE Backstage, which is worthy of an entry on this list itself).
By the end of that year, with his name still very much in the spotlight, it was announced by UFC President Dana White that CM Punk would be joining the company and would soon make his MMA debut on the main card of a PPV.
Over the years, many WWE stars had flirted with MMA and professional fighting. Steve Williams, Haku, Bart Gunn, Kurt Angle and of course, Brock Lesnar; wrestling history is littered with stories of legitimate tough dudes. CM Punk was absolutely not one of them.
The whole enterprise was always destined to fall as flat as a pancake. It took an absurd three years for Punk to make his debut in the Octagon. When he did, he was submitted in little over 2 minutes by the unknown Mickey Gall. It took him almost two years to go again when he faced another Mike Jackson at UFC 225. This second bout resulted in another loss, this time on a judge’s decision and with that, the experiment was over. Just because the entire project was a massive flop, it doesn’t detract from how crazy the initial story was.
Paul Heyman And Eric Bischoff Announced As Heads Of Raw & SmackDown
In Summer 2019, WWE were eagerly anticipating the launch of SmackDown on one of the USA’s major TV networks, Fox, later that year. Behind the scenes, these changes required an increase in experienced personnel with their hands on the wheel. Completely out of nowhere one midweek day, WWE casually dropped a press release to announce that WWE would be bringing in new off-screen heads of Raw and SmackDown in an attempt to differentiate the brands ever further in business terms. And oh yeah, those positions would be held by former ECW owner Paul Heyman and WCW Executive Producer Eric Bischoff respectively. Hang on….what? Where did that come from? The gasps of fans didn’t last long. Bischoff was gone mere weeks into the job with Heyman following him a few months later. That last part was not remotely shocking to long time fans.
He’s All That: Freddie Prinze Jr. Joins WWE Writing Team
In the late 90s, there were few bigger young Hollywood stars than Freddie Prinze Jr. Through his roles in the ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ movies and ‘She’s All That’, he was right in that teen heart-throb spotlight. I hate to talk badly about a guy who is seemingly a lovely bloke but it is fair to say that his career went downhill from there. As awesome as he was as Fred in the Scooby Doo movies, his 15 minutes came and went. Even still, it would have taken a real leap of logic to suggest that his next role in 2008 would be as a staff writer on WWE’s creative team. How the heck did that happen?
The Ultimate Warrior Is Inducted Into The Hall Of Fame
It is very fair to say that for a long time, The Ultimate Warrior was persona non-grata in WWE. The stories of his outrageous behaviour were legion. From demanding pay-offs to appear at a PPV, through to refusing to lose matches and throwing around some very distasteful slurs in his private life. It takes a special kind of bad relationship with WWE for it to result in the company deciding to release a DVD to tell the tale of your fall from grace.
In April 2014, it was announced that he would be inducted into the Hall Of Fame. While he had mended his bridges with the company to the extent he was featured in the video game the year before, imagine trying to tell anyone (Including Vince McMahon and Warrior themselves) a few years before that he would be on the fabled stage the night before WrestleMania to accept that fabled ring? It was a staggering turn around. In typical Warrior fashion, the story has been further immortalised after Warrior’s passing mere days after his induction and the creation of The Warrior Award to honour deserving individuals each year at the Hall Of Fame ceremony. Pull the other one!
Vince Russo Returns To WWE…For A Cup Of Coffee
This one is just plain funny. Vince Russo jumped ship from the WWF to WCW in the autumn of 1999, declaring himself as the architect of the ‘Attitude Era’ and the man who would bring the recent glory days back to WCW.
He didn’t. In fact, by the time WCW folded little over a year later, Russo was long gone, with his ideas exposed as one absurdity after another in the desperate search for relevance and ratings.
Remarkably, in 2002, it was announced that he would be returning to WWE as a part of an expanded writing team. It did not go well. According to Russo himself, his stint lasted a grand total of one meeting. Before he had even completed his flight home, Vince McMahon had called to tell him he had changed his mind and the grand return would not be happening as planned, bro.