For better or worse, Vince McMahon is well known for having a very hands-on style of managing the WWE. He always has final say on everything that happens in the promotion. Unfortunately, as a businessman in his late 60s, McMahon doesn't always do a good job of keeping up with popular culture, and he's nixed a few gimmicks and angles because he personally didn't understand them.
For example, when Paul Birchill started using a pirate gimmick inspired by Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean, McMahon canned the gimmick because he hadn't even heard of the movie and thought pirates should be heels à la Jean Pierre LaFitte (a.k.a. Carl Oulette).
He also cancelled "The Blonde Bytch Project", a parody of The Blair Witch Project starring Stevie Richards and The Blue Meanie that was to bury Sable,note Sable had recently left the WWF and filed a $110M dollar lawsuit against it on the grounds that he had never seen the movie, and therefore assumed nobody else had either.
Allegedly, the reason Raven was barely utilized during his WWF/WWE run was because McMahon personally disliked him (he was party buddies with McMahon's son Shane during his Johnny Polo period) and forbade the bookers from pushing him.
McMahon hired Ultimo Dragon because Rey Mysterio became very popular, and he wanted another flippy masked wrestler. However, he did not do the research and was unpleasantly surprised to see that Dragon wasn't flippy. He then decided that Dragon's wrestling style was completely incompatible with anyone in WWE, and went so far as to editing out the cheers Dragon got on the taped shows.
He has used his Executive Meddling to benefit as well. He did such an efficient job filtering the ideas that Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera came up with.
Russo had a pet gimmick called Beaver Cleavage (a hypersexual take on Leave it to Beaver) that he fought with the rest of Creative tooth and nail over to get on the air. When Beaver Cleavage got the negative reaction everyone not named Russo expected, McMahon himself pulled the plug and canned the character. This actually lead to Russo leaving WWF for WCW.
You remember the disaster that was the NXT Season 2 finale? All McMahon. McMahon was furious and was throwing a tantrum backstage over the fact that fans didn't vote for his preferred rookie Alex Riley, who he was high on. Instead, they voted for popular indy wrestler Kaval. McMahon basically told the seven who didn't win to go out there and beat him down. What followed next is best described as a trainwreck as no one had any clue what was happening or what to do. Some of the lowlights were Titus O'Neil no selling MVP's running corner boot and Riley delivering a Juvi Driver to his own teammate. It stunted all eight of their careers (although two of them rebounded); the winner Kaval was used as a Jobber, winning only once and fired months later under the guise of asking for his release.
For better or worse, McMahon combined all manner of meddling with the worst aspects of a Corrupt Corporate Executive in the late '80s. Rival promoter Jim Crockett at the time owned the flagship company in the NWA, which was the forerunner to WCW. In 1987, Crockett had scheduled the NWA's equivalent of WrestleMania, Starrcade, on Thanksgiving weekend, and had this year pulled out all the stops to make it as widespread and successful as a WrestleMania event. McMahon knew that Crockett was banking his company's future on Starrcade being a huge success and so he announced his own pay-per-view, Survivor Series, to air on the same day. Crockett offered to reschedule Starrcade for a different time slot so that the two didn't run head to head, confident that if fans bought both events, they'd see that his was the superior product. All well and good, except McMahon put the word out that any cable company who wanted to air Survivor Series would have to agree not to run any other wrestling pay-per-views for a month beforehand or for three months after. On top of that, any companies that did decide to run Starrcade rather than Survivor Series would not be allowed to run WrestleMania the following year. Out of over 200 national and local cable companies that had interest in carrying Starrcade, only five ended up doing so. The amazing thing is that he got away with it, especially after having laid down conditions that would have any decent anti-trust lawyer chomping at the bit. Afterwards, the cable companies asked the promotions involved never to do this kind of thing again.
If Paul Heyman is to be believed, McMahon stomped a wide mudhole in the 2006 December to Dismember ECW pay-per-view event, the last WWE event managed by Heyman. Heyman was constantly going to McMahon, begging him to let him revise the direction of the show but McMahon kept insisting his booking would work. Even The Big Show, who was the current champion at the time of the event, was eager to let Heyman's ideas flow (which primarily involved CM Punk being allowed to shine) but McMahon kept pushing his own agenda through the event. Unsurprisingly, bad booking and a weak card overall (capped off by a memorably mediocre installment of the Elimination Chamber match with an extreme gimmick bolted on) led to a massive backlash which McMahon promptly turned back onto Heyman as the culprit, dismissing him from further creative interactions with WWE.
As an aside worth mentioning, to this day the event still stands as the worst-selling pay-per-view in WWE's entire history at roughly 96,000 verified purchases. To put that into perspective, WrestleMania III holds the record for largest WWE live audience in history at over 93,000 seats sold. This show could only bring in about 3000 more views across an entire country than the number of tickets sold to a live event.
McMahon has had issues on occasion with the networks his shows aired on getting involved in the booking as well.
There was Muhammad Hassan. This could be looked at as executive meddling on both sides, as McMahon chose to still air Hassan's "terrorist attack" on The Undertaker the same day that real terrorists bombed The London Underground (London's subway). UPN's subsequent edict that Hassan would never appear on the network again forced Vince to not only remove the character, but possibly re-book the main events at two pay-per-views. At WWE The Great American Bash 2005, Taker defeated Hassan and even gave him the Last Ridethrough the stage to send him out of WWE and, in fact, into retirement.
Soon before WWE's ECW brand got underway, there were Internet reports that the Sci-Fi Channel had been trying to shoehorn sci-fi elements into this wrestling show. Cue "The Zombie" and other characters being soundly beaten by the Sandman upon the show's airing.
Among other things USA Network has been pressuring WWE into: more celebrity involvement and 3-hour Raw broadcasts. The WWE did, however, work the celebrity involvement into some genuinely amusing moments (such as John Cena being beaten by Kevin Federline, Steve-O being legitimately beaten for laughing during his match, and Donald Trump causing McMahon's infamous "bald moment").
Soon after Mr. McMahon was blown up in a fiery limo explosion, confirmation came that USA Network executives told WWE to perform a murder storyline, much to the consternation of the writing staff, McMahon himself, and half the fanbase. This made them look like complete morons when news of Chris Benoit's murder-suicide hit the airwaves a few weeks later.
Reportedly, the current angle with the new heel faction of the McMahons, Triple H and Randy Orton is the result of the USA Network wanting them on TV more. As if they needed an excuse.
The Montreal Screwjob. Arguably, one of the most notorious cases of executive meddling in WWE history. How justified or effective it was relies a great deal on whether you believe Bret Hart's or Shawn Michaels' version of the story, but as last-minute swerves go, it was a doozy.
One rumor floating around about the WWE right now is not so much executive meddling as much as tenured meddling. Some are arguing that younger talent is being buried so the older wrestlers (The Undertaker and Triple H especially and most recently, Dwayne Johnson and Brock Lesnar) can milk the last few years of their careers for all they're worth (as evidence from WrestleMania 29 in which the three main events featured four of its part-time talent). Some of it is minor (no one on the roster can have gear that looks like The Undertaker's). However, some of it's more serious (some have argued that Triple H forced Chris Masters to keep doing the Masterlock Challenge, long after it stopped being entertaining, making Masters universally loathed by fans, and possibly torpedoing his career before it could get off the ground). People are wondering why guys like Evan Bourne and Shelton Benjamin got nowhere fast in WWE, and many think it's this. The reason it seems that part-time talent such as The Rock can draw, while most of the younger full-time talent do not.
Raul D. Rice went into great detail to show just how much executive meddling Triple H did in the WWE, a few years ago.
And yet Taker has received nowhere near as much flak for this, even though he's also helping hold back talent in the women's division by having WWE keep that belt on his then girlfriend, now wife, Michelle McCool. This might be even more egregious because it buried the much more talented, popular and experiencedMickie James. Beth Phoenix might have been spared this only due to her ACL injury, so they'd taken to burying Melina. It is believed that The Undertaker gets little flak for using his pull in the company because of the many stories of him keeping other wrestlers in check.
Hulk Hogan has been faced with executive meddling, and done quite a bit of it himself over the years.
For starters, Hogan is notorious for his very limited wrestling ability. The thing is, Hogan, while never a technical wizard, could carry his end of a match. He was trained by Florida "house shooter" Hiro Matsuda, and could play the foreign big man heel in New Japan Pro Wrestling (one of the most physically demanding positions in wrestling) quite well, performing shoot-style submission moves and high impact moves like the enziguiri. But when he came to the WWF under Vince McMahon, Sr. he was told to wrestle like a generic 'big man' character, and Hogan was able to get by on his admittedly, massive amounts of on-screen charisma while letting his opponents do most of the work. Hogan's side of the story has varied between "No one ever asked me to work hard so I didn't bother" to "they wouldn't let me work hard".
WCW was so desperate to get Hogan working for them that they gave him carte blanche over the entire company. While the legendary "creative control" clause in his contract was nowhere as broad as believed (it only applied to the finish of his own matches), nobody wanted to get on his bad side for fear of reprisal from higher in the Turner hierarchy. It was a normal thing for an episode of WCW Monday Nitro to be rewritten from scratch according to Hogan's whims. This was one of admittedly many things that lead to WCW's demise.
The low point of Hogan's meddling with WCW booking was probably Starrcade 1997. After an incredibly hot slow burn of a feud between Hogan and Sting, Starrcade was set as the stage where Sting would finally get the revenge he'd been looking for for a year and a half. Instead, Hogan demanded that he would get a 3 count pinfall over Sting. A heat killing scenario in which Hogan hit his leg drop and a biased referee would count a fast pinfall, then Bret Hart would come out and restart the match was concocted. And allegedly, Hogan also privately insisted that the ref who was supposed to count the fast pinfall, not actually count the pinfall fast.
Hogan fuddled around with the finish to his match at SummerSlam 2005 against Shawn Michaels so he'd go over and there would be no "rubber match" (a rematch that Michaels could take victory in) due to Hogan claiming injury. At least this agitated Michaels enough to where he spent the entire match flopping around like a fish in a vibrant display of overselling. If Goldberg vs. Lesnar at WrestleMania XX could be seen as the deconstruction of kayfabe (that is a scripted fight without the dramatics that make pro wrestling believable), this was the reconstruction.
In a rare positive example, Hogan changed the finish of Bound for Glory 2011 so that the champion, Kurt Angle, won instead of the heavily pushed Bobby Roode. The Internet erupted in outrage. According to Scott Steiner, so did Roode himself. Three weeks later, however, Roode turned heel as a result of the loss and then proceeded to become a breakout star and the longest reigning champion in TNA's history.
Apparently the reason why he did that was so Roode wouldn't outshine him (no surprise there considering Hogan's ego) TNA had no choice due to the outrage but to give Roode the belt.
Though it wasn't all positive, as the angle absolutely destroyed any momentum that James Storm had, as he won the belt from Angle, lost it two weeks later to Roode after giving a whole speech about how he didn't have to be an ass kisser to be champ, and when the payoff match against Roode came at Bound for Glory, Roode was no longer champion.
WCW, which was broadcast on Turner Networks, was occasionally forced by the higher ups to include Product Placement in their shows. Thus, Rick Steiner was forced to debate Chucky, who shilled the then upcoming Bride of Chucky movie. Later, Robert Wuhl, the star of Arliss, had a guest commentary spot, in-character as Arliss, which was made even worse by his commentary being non-stop burial of the match he was calling (Randy Savage vs. Kidman) and pro wrestling in general.
Back in 1990, the Capital Combat PPV was done specifically to shill the movie RoboCop 2, complete with a guy dressed as RoboCop appearing on the show. Sting, who had suffered a major knee injury earlier that year while trying to attack the Four Horsemen in the main event cage match at Clash of the Champions X came out for an interview and the Horsemen attacked him and locked him in the cage at ringside.note This came right after the match where the Midnight Express had defeated NWA/WCW United States Tag Team ChampionsBrian Pillman and Tom Zenk for the titles with the Midnights' manager Jim Cornette locked in a cage at ringside. Now, a reasonable promotion would have a bunch of Faces run out to rescue Sting, but, well, this was WCW, so they had the guy in the RoboCop suit come down and rescue Sting, with the Horsemen just sort of walking away. It was incidents such as this, among others, that led to Ole Anderson, the booker at the time, later titling his autobiographyInside Out: How Corporate America Destroyed Professional Wrestling.
Both of those pale in comparison to a mind-boggling cameo by Lord Ruber on Thunder. As a refresher, Ruber is a cartoon character. On a post-nWo WCW.
Turner Networks also forced WCW to keep their shows at a PG level, which made it difficult for WCW to compete with the more risque WWF. This was in theory not a bad idea as they were counting on WWF's programming alienating their sponsors and putting WCW at a more advantageous position. However, some of the changes were somewhat silly. For example, renaming "foreign objects" (a pro wrestling term for weapons introduced into the match) to "international objects" when a directive meant to apply to CNN was applied to all Turner Networks programming by mistake.
They also nixed at least one gimmick before it started; Seven, a mysterious dream/Seven Deadly Sins character, was introduced in promos the network felt uncomfortably close to child abduction (the gimmick itself was thought to be based on the 1995 movie Powder, written and directed by a convicted child molester, and people confused the character with the director).
It has been confirmed that Cena has wanted to turn heel at some points, considering the fact that he's been a face for years (the Heel-Face Turn essentially started at Survivor Series '03 and was solidified by WrestleMania XX - and he's never made a Face-Heel Turn since then, meaning he's been a face for almost a decade). Whether he wants to now is possibly an entirely different story.
Bret Hart noted this problem in a shoot interview. It isn't whether or not Cena has ever been capable of playing heel (because we all know he can), it's whether or not he can do it now. Cena's character hinges on the kids and their dreams and being their hero and all that other good stuff. The question is whether or not he can handle the heartache of doing such a thing to said kids - much like Bret and his own Face-Heel Turn all those years ago. Unless the kids themselves start hating him too, and that's the majority of them, then he's stuck as a face.
The WWE Divas frequently faced this, as Gail Kim revealed in a 2011 interview. They were apparently told off for getting "too good" and were forbidden from punching one week and kicking the next. Johnny Ace apparently wanted more girliness in Diva matches. Kim said that she frequently had to sneak spots into her matches past the agents in fear of not being allowed to do them.
Michelle McCool revealed that she and Melina snuck a spot into their Night of Champions match where Melina was given a DDT onto the security wall. After they got backstage they were yelled at for being too high risk and "better than the guys". McCool also thanks Chris Jericho for coming to their defense.