10 Kayfabe-breaking moments from WWE history

Kayfabe. It’s the je ne sais quoi of pro wrestling, that air of ‘admitted fakery’ that allows us to suspend disbelief and accept that undead zombie (Undertaker) and post-apocalyptic warriors (the Ascension) really do lace up a pair of boots and wrestle to fulfill their evil destinies.

It’s also one of the most confusing things for a non-wrestling fan to understand. “You know those punches are fake, right?” Yes, we wrestling fans are well aware that the performers are following a script and that they take pains not to hurt each other.

But by the same token, why don’t those people complain about Robert Downey Junior in the Avengers franchise? After all, that armor is ‘fake’ and just a computer generated image.

Kayfabe, loosely defined, is anything that happens in a wrestling show that is scripted and not ‘authentic.’ For example, when Braun Strowman was stuffed into the back of a garbage truck, and then returned driving the same truck a week later, we as fans accept that Strowman is an unstoppable monster who can’t be killed by conventional means.

Kayfabe can also refer to the words spoken by a wrestler. When Rick Rude declared, “I must be in Ohio, because all I see are a bunch of fat, out of shape hicks,” he wasn’t making a declaration of fact, he was speaking in kayfabe.

So kayfabe is an essential ingredient in pro wrestling, and the performers go to great lengths to make sure it isn’t broken. But despite their best efforts, sometimes the fourth wall comes crashing down and kayfabe is sundered as surely as a steel chair over the victim of a Van Damminator.

Here are ten times Kayfabe was broken in WWE history, in no particular order.

#1 The Kliq’s curtain call at the Garden

Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall embrace in the ring after Nash and Hall
Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall embrace in the ring after Nash and Hall’s final WWE match.

In our earliest kayfabe busting moment, we go back to the New Generation era of WWE. During this time, the company’s top stars were Shawn Michaels – the then-WWE Champion, Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall, and Kevin “Diesel” Nash. Along with Triple H, who had recently been hired by WWE, they formed the “Kliq.”

The Kliq was not an on-screen wrestling stable. In fact, in wrestling storylines Nash and HBK were enemies, and Razor Ramon was a face while Triple H was a heel. Hall and Nash had just signed contracts with WCW, and on the last night with WWE both HBK and Triple H came into the ring to hug it out.

The event was not televised but was captured by wrestling journalists and fans on camera. WWE never officially acknowledged the incident, though Triple H would comment on it during a worked shoot interview.

These days, the incident would probably not have caused a ruckus, but at the time Vince McMahon was terribly angry at the wrestlers for breaking kayfabe. HBK was the champion, Hall and Nash were gone from the company, so McMahon reportedly told Triple H he would have to ‘learn to eat s*** and like it, kid.”

Triple H went from a King of the Ring hopeful winner to being jobbed out to the Godwins. Of course, things worked out well for The Game in the end.

This was one of the earliest incidents of kayfabe being broken and the fans in live attendance had to question what had just transpired before their eyes.

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