WWE may be the strongest force in the wrestling universe, but even they're not immune to outside misfortunes, be it an untimely injury or a promoter/wrestler squabble, or even a Hall of Fame shortshop falling into the Springfield Mystery Spot (wait, no, that was The Simpsons...). Point is, even a powerhouse like WWE has had to scramble to reconfigure a pay-per-view in the waning days and hours.
The recent change of the Trish Stratus/Alexa Bliss singles bout into a tag team affair at Evolution was done with a few weeks advance notice, but other times WWE has had less time to make big changes to an important match. Here are 10 times that WWE has had to make such alterations to their marquee pay-per-view matches...
10. The Ultimate Surprise (1988)
WWE themselves knew in advance that the Intercontinental title match at SummerSlam 1988 would feature a different dragon-slayer gunning for The Honky Tonk Man. Beefcake filmed an injury angle three-and-a-half weeks before the pay-per-view, where Outlaw Ron Bass cut him open with his boot spurs. The attack didn't air until two days before SummerSlam, so in an era with virtually no public internet usage, home viewers didn't know about the attack until PPV weekend.
The moment where an open challenge-answering Warrior won the belt from Honky in 30 seconds gets significantly more airplay in our memories than the angle that took The Barber out of the match. But up until that last weekend of August, fans thought they were getting Beefcake vs. Honky, with no reason to think otherwise.
9. Perfect Replacement (1992)
Mr. Perfect hadn't wrestled since SummerSlam 1991, where he submitted to Bret Hart's Sharpshooter to cede his IC Championship. Perfect took time away due to lingering back injuries, acting as Ric Flair's consultant, as well as a colour commentator. Fifteen months after that last match, Perfect would drafted back into action, this time as a babyface. And it came on very short notice.
The Ultimate Warrior was due to team with Macho Man Randy Savage at Survivor Series 1992 to face Ric Flair and Razor Ramon. However, roughly two weeks before the event, Warrior, along with Davey Boy Smith, was released from the company due to being found receiving shipments of HGH. Perfect was hastily turned face on an episode of Prime Time Wrestling that aired nine days before the PPV, accepting Savage's out-of-left-field offer to be his partner.
8. Royal Pains (1993)
The 1993 Survivor Series was due to see Bret Hart and three of his brothers doing battle with Jerry Lawler and three mystery Knights. The angle had been brewing since June, with Lawler making enemies of the entire Hart Family, so the match was contingent on The King getting his just desserts from Bret, Owen, Bruce, and Keith Hart. Then real life drama got in the way.
About a week before the pay-per-view, plans were changed when Lawler pleaded not guilty to a handful of sexually-based charges in Louisville, KY. The charges were all formally dropped in February 1994 (sans a "harassing a witness" charge that Lawler agreed to accept). As for Survivor Series, Shawn Michaels returned from a period of being on the outs with WWE to take Lawler's place, though the three masked Knights were kept, despite Shawn not sharing a motif with them.
7. Blame It On Syracuse (1995)
As summer turned to fall, Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels made a new enemy out of Dean Douglas, the former ECW "Franchise" turned demented school teacher. The two were set to do battle for the belt at the October 1995 In Your House in Winnipeg, but an incident from just over a week prior would prevent Michaels' participation.
On the night of Friday, 13 October 1995, Michaels was assaulted outside of a Syracuse nightclub by a handful of servicemen, after a verbal altercation took place inside the club. Michaels sustained numerous injuries (particularly to the face, after being kicked while down), and subsequently abdicated the belt to Douglas on the night of the show. Fellow Kliq-ster (and another Douglas nemesis) Razor Ramon faced new champion Douglas minutes later, and defeated him for the gold.
6. An Unusual Swap (1998)
With all due respect to Savio Vega, who was one of the more underappreciated talents in WWE's employ in the mid-nineties (check out his strap match with Austin), it was a little perplexing to see him in the main event of a WWE pay-per-view in 1998. Vega teamed with Triple H and The New Age Outlaws to face Steve Austin, Owen Hart, Cactus Jack, and Terry Funk in an unsanctioned brawl at No Way Out, and Vega was a fill-in for WWE Champion Shawn Michaels.
Less than a week or so before the event, Michaels (who messed up his back drastically at the Royal Rumble the previous month) was hospitalized after his back went out in his Texas home. He would be diagnosed with two herniated discs and one crushed one, and there were questions about him even making WrestleMania. The sub-in of Vega was groaned at by the fans in Houston, but there really wasn't much else that could be done.
5. That Run-Down Feeling (1999)
At least they got a notable storyline out of it. Before Survivor Series 1999, Stone Cold Steve Austin was dealing with lingering spinal injuries that would soon require surgery, as well as a lengthy rehab process. WWE continued to promote Austin as a Survivor Series World title match participant, fighting alongside fellow challenger The Rock against champion Triple H.
The vehicular mow down that Rikishi did "for de Rock" took place during the Survivor Series pay-per-view, so many Austin fans were expecting to see their hero try to regain the WWE Championship in the main event. To fill Austin's spot, Big Show, who had been on an emotional tear after body-surfing on his dad's casket days earlier, slotted himself into the main event and won the gold in what was nominally a touching moment.
4. Going Cold (2002)
Six days before the 2002 King of the Ring pay-per-view, recently-deposed half-owner Ric Flair suddenly entered into a feud with Eddie Guerrero, setting up a match between the two at the pay-per-view that was, to be fair, a little disappointing. Flair had been a heel for more than a month, and suddenly, he was back to being a babyface after a hasty push of the reset button.
The original plan for the PPV was to pit Guerrero against Steve Austin, as the two had been at odds for close to a month at the time. However, infamously, Austin walked out of the promotion two weeks before the pay-per-view, unhappy about plans for him to lose a match to Brock Lesnar on Raw (Austin was upset about the match being "too soon", with no story or promotion), and had distaste for his character's general direction at the time. Flair/Guerrero was comparably a grasp at straws.
3. The Unexpected (2007)
At Vengeance: Night of Champions, a tournament final was to take place to determine a new ECW Champion, pitting rising star CM Punk against cunning veteran Chris Benoit. To the confusion of fans in Houston that night, Johnny Nitro instead appeared as Punk's opponent, and the 15,000 on hand took to chanting "We Want Benoit". Joey Styles explained to the audience that Benoit was home tending to a family emergency, though that explanation would be edited off of subsequent releases.
Look, you know what happened. It was one of the most unforgettable days in professional wrestling history, and more than 11 years later, the details of that weekend remain tantalizing, befuddling, and depressing. Punk and Nitro (soon to become John Morrison) would have a handful of rematches for the ECW belt, and it was for the best, since they left this night deep in the dust.
2. Reign Breaker (2007)
John Cena became the first man since Macho Man Randy Savage in 1988-89 to hold the WWE Championship for more than 365 days, when he made it through Unforgiven 2007 with his reign in tact. Three weeks after that particular show (in which Randy Orton defeated him by disqualification), Cena was due to face Orton once more at No Mercy, this time in a Last Man Standing match.
Six nights before No Mercy, Cena would end up tearing his pectoral muscle in a match on Raw with Mr. Kennedy. The injury would sideline Cena for just shy of four months (he was originally expected to be out longer), and Cena had to subsequently vacate the belt. Triple H stepped in to work with Orton twice at No Mercy, including the Last Man Standing headliner.
1. Architect Deconstructed (2015)
While not as "last minute" as some of the prior entries, you *could* call it last-minute in the sense that long-term plans were stunted as the result of a poorly-timed injury. Seth Rollins had reigned as WWE Champion since WrestleMania 31, and was set to face friend-turned-nemesis Roman Reigns at Survivor Series for the belt. Reigns would presumably have won, then been cashed in on by a briefcase-toting Sheamus.
Less than three weeks before Survivor Series, Rollins would end up blowing out his knee in a match with Kane in Dublin, causing him to forfeit the belt. WWE then had to cobble together a tournament to determine a new champion, which provided the conclusion of the earlier scenario, that Reigns would win (beating buddy Dean Ambrose), before succumbing to a fresh Sheamus.