10 Surprising Last-Minute WWE WrestleMania Card Twists

'Card subject to change' applies in these surprise opponents, impromptu matches.

WWE WrestleMania 38 Cody Rhodes Seth Rollins

Given that WrestleMania is WWE’s biggest show of the year, you would think that its card would be locked down well in advance, an ironclad contract between the company and its fans on the quality of the program it plans to deliver.

But in increasing frequency, WWE has been employing last-minute changes to its slate of entertainment to wow fans on the day of the show. These have included impromptu challenges, surprise opponents, and late additions to existing matches.

The result through the years has been mixed. Some are open secrets that deliver on the night of, while others come out of nowhere to take up a spot on the card. Some of these twists have been very well-received, while others have landed with an absolute thud and make you question what mind-altering chemicals the higher-ups were on when they booked them.

Regardless, it’s become more commonplace to expect at least a couple surprises on the night(s) of WrestleMania. But it’s fair to note that this practice goes back 30 years.

For purposes of this list, surprise entrants in battle royals don’t count (think LOD 2000 at WrestleMania 14), and the same goes for the entire WrestleMania 4 tournament, whose subsequent rounds were unknown until the night of the show. We also will disqualify Big Show challenging Drew McIntyre after the Scottish Warrior toppled Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 36, as that was a dark match that aired on Raw the day after.

Let’s get to it…

10. Crazy Old Man Vince Goes Full Shane

WWE WrestleMania 38 Cody Rhodes Seth Rollins

Shane McMahon might have been on the outs with WWE after his 2022 Royal Rumble debacle, but that didn’t stop his father from taking his place hogging the spotlight at WrestleMania 38.

Vince McMahon had been ensconced in an ongoing mentor/protégé storyline with Austin Theory, a modern-day “Chosen One” gimmick that ultimate did the current United States Champion no favours.

Theory wrestled SmackDown announcer Pat McAfee on night 2 of Mania, with the former NFL star wowing fans (once again) and defeating the brash upstart. Not content to let that slide, Vince jumped (as well as his decrepit body would allow) into the ring and challenged McAfee to an impromptu match right then and there… which McMahon (at age 76) would improbably win (with help from Theory), thus undoing the announcer’s dramatic victory and moment.

All of that would the immediately be undone by Stone Cold Steve Austin storming to the ring to Stunner everyone at ringside, thus rendering the previous 20 minutes entirely moot.


Scott is a former journalist and longtime wrestling fan who was smart enough to abandon WCW during the Monday Night Wars the same time as the Radicalz. He fortunately became a fan in time for WrestleMania III and came back as a fan after a long high school hiatus before WM XIV. Monday nights in the Carlson household are reserved for viewing Raw -- for better or worse.