10 Times WWE Changed Finishes at the Last Second

“Creative” sometimes second-guesses themselves, even minutes before a match takes place! Here are ten instances where WWE changed finishes at the last second.

The Times WWE Changed Finishes at the Last Moment

10. Steve Austin vs. Scott Hall at WrestleMania X8

Stone Cold Steve Austin is one of wrestling’s biggest stars of all time. So when the household name found out he was scheduled to lose to Scott Hall at WrestleMania 18, he reportedly refused.

Eventually, the decision was said to be overturned.

Steve Austin Irish Whips Scott Hall at WrestleMania 18.
Steve Austin Irish Whips Scott Hall at WrestleMania 18. [Photo: The Hollywood Reporter]
According to Dave Meltzer, WWE’s original plan was to have Hall go over to build his credibility as a returning superstar with the WWE.

 

“In particular,” Meltzer wrote, “[Hall] felt, since he had just arrived, that he had to beat Steve Austin in their match at the 2002 WrestleMania and wasn’t happy that it didn’t go that way.

“The finish of that match was highly discussed at the time, with some feeling Hall needed to go over as the newcomer, although in every version of that, it would have been due to NWO interference.”

9. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair at Hell In A Cell 2016

The Main Event of WWE Hell In A Cell 2016 featured the first-ever Women’s Hell in a Cell match. In this bout, Sasha Banks defended her WWF Women’s Championship in front of her hometown crowd.

The original plan was to have Sasha retain the title, but Dave Meltzer reported that that decision was overruled at the last minute.

Rumor has it that Vince McMahon didn’t trust Sasha Banks holding the Women’s Title at the time because he believed she was injury prone.

Ric Flair weighed in on the situation, given what Charlotte had told him about the match. According to Ric, “They took two huge spots out of the match, in the middle of the match, because they were afraid Sasha was going to get hurt.”

Sasha Banks hits Charlotte Flair with a steel chair to attempt to break the Figure 8 leg lock at WWE Hell in a Cell 2016.
Sasha Banks hits Charlotte Flair with a steel chair to attempt to break the Figure 8 leg lock at WWE Hell in a Cell 2016. [Photo: WWE.com]

8. Daniel Bryan Cash-In at TLC 2011

Daniel Bryan had his first taste of WWE gold thanks to the Money in the Bank briefcase; however, did you know he wasn’t supposed to cash in at TLC 2011 until just hours before the show?

Bryan participated in an autograph signing in a nearby city that day, so WWE pounced on the opportunity to call him to the arena solely to pin The Big Show.

According to Dave Meltzer, the original plan was for Bryan to win the title at WrestleMania 28. Still, a last-minute audible was called after Mark Henry suffered an injury, and The Big Show’s plans for a World Title program changed.

Daniel Bryan hands his Money in the Bank briefcase to the referee to cash in on Mark Henry.
Daniel Bryan hands his Money in the Bank briefcase to the referee to cash in on Mark Henry. [Photo: WWE.com]

7. Chris Jericho Wins the WWF Undisputed Championship at Vengeance 2001

When WCW was purchased by Vince McMahon and the then WWF in 2001, a tournament was booked to merge the WCW and WWE Championships.

Fans were excited about a fresh new start. However, in an interview with Chris Van Vliet in 2020, Olympic Gold medalist and WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle revealed that he was initially booked to become the WWF Undisputed Champion before Vince McMahon realized Chris Jericho would benefit more from the win.

“Vince McMahon came to me two weeks prior and said, ‘We’re going to give you the strap again. You’re going to be the Undisputed Champion.”

Angle continued, “I thought that was pretty cool, considering that the pool was Chris Jericho, The Rock, and Austin. Those three are the best of all time. I knew going into it I was going to win.

“Five days before [the show], Vince gives me a call and says, ‘I really want to give it to Jericho. I really think he could benefit from it.’

“I agreed. If anybody needs it and can run with it, it would be Chris Jericho. I was very honored that Vince had enough respect for me to tell me about the switch.”

According to Jericho, he found out he was winning the day of the show.

Chris Jericho poses as WWF Undisputed Champion.
Chris Jericho poses as WWF Undisputed Champion. [Photo: stillrealtous.com]

6. Seth Rollins Cashes In at WrestleMania 31

The ending of WrestleMania 31 offered what WWE has since dubbed “The Greatest Heist of the Century,” with Seth Rollins cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase to become WWE World Heavyweight Championship for the first time.

But, despite that, Seth Rollins reportedly found out he was cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase hours before it happened.

According to ex-WWE writer Brian Mann, Rollins had already lost to Randy Orton and assumed his night was over when he found out the news that he would be crashing the main event.

Mann also said the plan was hatched two days before the show but kept secret in case plans changed again.

Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank briefcase in the main event of WrestleMania 31.
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank briefcase in the main event of WrestleMania 31. [Photo: WWE.com]

5. 1990 Royal Rumble Match

The 1990 Royal Rumble was one of the most star-studded Rumbles. But most fans don’t know that the match’s original winner was booked to be Mr. Perfect.

Curt Hennig (Mr. Perfect) was building a lot of momentum in WWE at the time, becoming one of their most technically gifted workers. So it made sense for him to win this match.

However, plans suddenly changed before the event, and Vince McMahon decided to give the win to the WWE Champion at the time, Hulk Hogan.

Hogan was WWE’s top dog at the time, and according to rumors that have circulated over the years, he petitioned backstage that he should win the match, although he was already WWF champ.

Regardless, Vince McMahon reportedly caved into Hogan’s wishes, putting him over to build momentum toward the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan WrestleMania 6 clash that Hogan would lose shockingly.

The win built white-hot momentum for Hogan going into WrestleMania, but fans still wonder today what could have been if Mr. Perfect went over.

Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, and more competed in the 1990 Royal Rumble match.
Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, and more competed in the 1990 Royal Rumble match. [Photo: WhatCulture.com]

4. Wendi Richter and The WWF Women’s Championship Screwjob in 1985

When most fans think of WWE screwjobs, they think of the 1997 Montreal controversy involving Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. However, many fans don’t know that this wasn’t the first time Vince McMahon executed a screwjob on one of his wrestlers.

After refusing to sign a contract extension with the WWF, McMahon put Wendi Richter in a title match against a mystery opponent called Spider Lady. Spider Lady was revealed to be The Fabulous Moolah, who rolled Richter up for a small package.

Although Richter kicked out of the pin, the referee counted to three, stripping her of her title and sending her packing without the gold she planned to keep.

The WWE and Richter were able to make amends, but not until her 2009 Hall of Fame induction.

You can learn more about this infamous screwjob in our article, “Vince McMahon, Fabulous Moolah, and the Wendi Richter Screwjob.”

It was the original well-planned manipulation by Vince McMahon. Here's how he and the Fabulous Moolah screwed over Wendi Richter in 1985.
It was the original well-planned manipulation by Vince McMahon. Here’s how he and the Fabulous Moolah screwed over Wendi Richter in 1985.

3. WrestleMania IV Championship Tournament

One of the most unique WrestleMania events featured WWF’s premiere athletes competing in multiple matches in one night, all for the vacant WWF Championship.

The ending led to Macho Man Randy Savage winning his first-ever WWF Heavyweight Title. However, Macho Man’s emotional coronation was not the original plan.

The tournament’s runner-up, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, was booked to win before plans changed when the then Intercontinental Champion, The Honky Tonk Man, refused to lose to Randy Savage earlier in the year. Because of that, the bracket was changed to accommodate a babyface champion.

The bracket for the WrestleMania IV WWF Championship Tournament.
The bracket for the WrestleMania IV WWF Championship Tournament. [Photo: Sportskeeda.com]

2. The Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series 1997

What would this list be without the inclusion of the infamous Montreal Screwjob?

Vince McMahon will screw you over if you refuse to sign a contract with the WWE but refuse to drop your title at the same time. Bret Hart learned this the hard way in 1997 after refusing to drop the WWF Championship before jumping ship to WCW.

To protect the championship from appearing on WCW TV at all costs, McMahon devised a plan in which referee Earl Hebner would call for the bell when Michaels locked Hart in a Sharpshooter.

Hart was under the impression that the match would end in disqualification later in the bout. However, Hebner ended the match prematurely due to McMahon’s orders.

The infamous screwjob is the biggest double cross in pro wrestling history, with the fallout taking almost two decades to settle.

You can learn more in the most comprehensive breakdown of the most talked about wrestling conspiracy of the 20th century here.

Shawn Michaels locks in The Sharpshooter submission hold on Bret Hart moments before The Montreal Screwjob.
Shawn Michaels locks in The Sharpshooter submission hold on Bret Hart moments before The Montreal Screwjob. [Photo: SI.com]

1. The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 30

Many still can’t believe it happened.

The finish of Brock Lesnar versus The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30 may be regarded as the most shocking moment in professional wrestling history. However, the outcome of this match was not finalized until very soon before the show went on air.

WWE reportedly went back and forth with this decision before eventually deciding on Brock Lesnar being the one to end the streak.

Brock Lesnar takes down The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30, bringing his record to 21-1.
Brock Lesnar takes down The Undertaker at WrestleMania 30, bringing his record to 21-1. [Photo: WWE.com]
To this day, The Undertaker and WWE fandom are unsure if this was the right decision, as the streak was one of the most extraordinary things in all of wrestling; it was 22 years in the making.

 

Since then, The Undertaker has been outspoken about not being sure of the decision to go with Brock Lesnar but that he was the best option.

“Although I don’t know if Brock was the right guy,” Undertaker admitted, speaking with Joey Hayden of The Dallas Morning News.

“I like Brock. We are friends. I don’t know that Brock needed that win. Brock was a bona fide superstar at that point.”

One of the reasons wrestling is so addicting is because of the shocking outcomes and plot twists that even the most seasoned of fans can’t see coming. And these ten finishes changed by WWE at the last second stunned the wrestling world.

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Ethan Absler is a freelance writer covering professional wrestling for NBC Universal and The USA Network. He is an independent wrestler based out of Chicago with a degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Missouri. He can be reached by e-mail at eabsler@gmail.com.