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Three Month Rule

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In professional wrestling, anything that happened more than three months ago is no longer true canon.

Professional Wrestling's version of Negative Continuity and Retcon.

The unwritten rule states that any events that took place more than three months ago do not need to be considered Canon. This creates interesting situations where two wrestlers who were recently at each other's throats are now the best of friends. It also provides a means for the writers to not have to explain radical changes in anyone's gimmick (went from a millionaire playboy to a voodoo priest and back again? No problem!).

Japanese professional wrestling rarely uses this trope due to its usual lack of gimmicky elements and the particular star-making dynamics of the discipline; a wrestler's career is expected to be well documented from rookie status, and his alliances, enmities and changes of character are meant to fit in a realistic continuity. In contrast, Mexican lucha libre often enforces an extreme version of the rule, allowing wrestlers to re-debut with new masked identities if needed and treating every mask as if it was a different wrestler.

Note that this is different from the Seven Year Rule; after three months, the aftereffects of an angle can be forgotten, but after seven years, the angle itself can be recycled wholesale.


Professional Wrestling

  • An early storyline involving Kane established him as being a deeply disturbed, physically scarred, mute, masked monster. Throughout the years, Kane evolved from being mute, to requiring an electrolarynx to speak, to being able to speak normally. When he was eventually unmasked, his face was completely unscarred. Surprise!
    • And in Kane's 2010 feud with The Undertaker, he claimed that Undertaker removed his mask. They then showed footage of the time Undertaker did remove Kane's mask (but he put it back on the next day, it was two years before his actual unmasking). WWE probably wants people to forget about the Special Effects Failure of Kane's real unmasking.
  • Christian and Edge were initially referred to as being on-screen Kayfabe brothers when they were together as a tag team. When they semi-reunited a few years after their breakup, they were only said to be best friends.
  • Eddie Fatu started in WWE as a street thug named Jamal, and was a few years later revamped as Umaga, a Wild Samoan. It apparently runs in the family, as Solofa Fatu started out as a Wild Samoan (as half of The Headshrinkers), then became a reformed gang member trying to "make a difference", and eventually became Rikishi, the hip-hop dancing, thong-clad sumo wrestler.
  • This rule did lead to a Crowning Moment of Funny when Triple H (then a good guy) got confronted by all the crap that he pulled on his team-mates when he was a bad guy.
    Triple H: "... my bad, sorry."
  • John Hennigan was one of the contestants on WWE Tough Enough 3, and ended up winning the competition and a WWE contract. He made a couple of appearances on Monday Night Raw under his real name before adopting a series of stage names, eventually settling on Johnny Nitro. Fast forward to July 2007, when Nitro announced that he was dropping the "Johnny Nitro" name and would now go by his given name — John Morrison.
  • Also, the three months does have some leeway if there's a contract dispute, a severe injury, or a star has scheduled major surgery. In these cases, storylines simply disappear and aren't even mentioned during shows. Nowadays, the promotion will usually put up a press release on their website explaining what happened, but the in-show announcers will completely ignore it.
    • An injury or surgery can also often completely change how the crowd is to react to the wrestler in question. A main-eventer can be the dirtiest most unlikable cheater in the entire federation, get injured and be out for a while then come back as the biggest babyface around.
      • Inverted with Randy Orton, who became a heel through his infamous "Randy News Network" promos during his injury downtime.
  • One of the major positives of small independent Ring of Honor is that it does not use this rule. A lot of fans were pleased when Kevin Steen & El Generico continued to despise the Briscoe Brothers a year after their rivalry, even though both teams were now Faces.
  • ROH is not exempt though. Just one year after an extended, gruesomely violent feud that included a few cases of attempted murder (one incident including the use of Drano gel), Homicide and Colt Cabana became tag team partners to take on the partnership of Adam Pearce and Brent Albright.
  • Spike Dudley gets a random WWE title "shot" (obvious he was going to lose; the main event with current holder Kurt Angle was already being publicized). This causes the other Dudleys to turn on him out of jealousy as they had never been given a title shot, a pretty mediocre reason to break up a group, especially since Bubba had been given an equally-random title shot just months earlier.
  • When Vince McMahon revealed himself as Higher Power, his wife Linda and daughter Stephanie gave their share of power in the company to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in revenge, as the Higher Power had organized Stephanie's kidnapping by The Undertaker. At the 1999 King of the Ring, Austin lost his power in a ladder match against Vince and Shane McMahon who then held all the power over the company. Months later, Vince and Shane underwent a face turn and were feuding with Triple H. Stephanie then turned on Vince and married Triple H, forcing Vince and Shane into exile. Aside from Triple H having been a part of the same Higher Power conspiracy that set Stephanie up, albeit via The Corporation rather than The Ministry, when Triple H then took over the WWF he cited Stephanie's share of the stocks in the company... which she technically didn't have anymore.
    • In 2001, Stephanie bought ECW by selling the stock that she no longer owned.
  • Kane's 2010 rivalry with The Undertaker, which ended with Undertaker being buried alive (itself a good example of the Fleeting Demographic Rule) was brushed under the rug and forgotten when Undertaker returned around four months later. Maybe he was going to try and avenge himself, but before Undertaker could say anything Triple H waltzed in from out of nowhere and challenged him at Wrestlemania, so the whole storyline was forgotten. Though Undertaker's new theme song "Ain't No Grave" seemed to refer to it.
    • Not to mention that WWE went entirely out of its way not to acknowledge that Undertaker had already fought Triple H at Wrestlemania before (at Wrestlemania 17). In fact they made it seem like Undertaker and Triple H had never wrestled each other at all period.
  • Kofi Kingston originally debuted with a Jamaican gimmick, speaking with an accent, but eventually dropped the accent and started wearing hairstyles similar in tribal African communities. He was even being called from his home country - Ghana. This wasn't acknowledged until his partners in a team-against-team feud started to argue. He tried to calm them down in an American accent. Triple H interrupts him and asks, "Aren't you supposed to be Jamaican? What happened to your accent?"
    • Years later, in 2016, Kofi and Promoted Fanboy and wrestling cool nerd Bayley referenced it as being part of a character, as opposed to his actual identity. Earlier in that same year, The New Day tag team also referenced it via a time travel promo making an unintended stop in 2009, resulting in the return of his old theme, accent, and catchphrases.
    • This was brought up again on July 4th, 2017, during the New Day's rap battle with The Usos, where they asked:
    Jey: Hey mon, ain't you Kofi Kingston? Didn't you used to be Jamaican?
    Jimmy: Naw, you was Ja-Fakin!
  • Trish Stratus turned heel on Chris Jericho at WrestleMania XX on March 14, 2004. Exactly THREE MONTHS LATER, on June 14, it was announced on Raw that Lita was "pregnant".note  It was almost as if WWE had been waiting for the right moment to transfer the heat from Trish to the traditionally virtuous Face Lita. While not acknowledging how much time had passed since her turn, Trish pretty much nailed the irony of the situation.
    TRISH: "Imagine, and they call ME a slut."
    • Oddly enough Trish's betrayal of Jericho was brought up as a Continuity Nod when she guest hosted Raw. Only this time Trish was the face and Jericho the heel, still enforcing the trope somewhat.
  • Completely averted by CHIKARA, since they have a strong emphasis on continuity to the point that events from years earlier still play a part in whatever is happening at a given time. As an example, the debut of Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes at the end of the 2009 Season Finale Three-Fisted Tales, November 22, 2009, had roots going back to, at least 2007 and was connected to so many different storylines that time doesn't permit the listing of all of them here.
  • In 2012 Big Show managed to secure an 'ironclad contract', which made it impossible for any authority figure to unjustly fire him. In 2014 he betrayed his allies in order to prevent an authority figure's attempt to unjustly fire him.
  • From April 10 to October 22 in 2017, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman had a brutal feud in which each literally tried to murder the other (Braun overturning an ambulance with injured Roman inside, Roman later locking Braun into an ambulance and crashing it into a production truck). The feud was never actually resolved; Braun simply redirected his attention to destroying Kane and The Miz when they betrayed him and also tried to murder him by tossing him into the trash compactor of a garbage truck, (turning Braun face in the process). And then on the April 30, 2018 episode of Monday Night Raw, Braun randomly runs out to save Roman from a beat-down by Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens and Jinder Mahal, apparently solely because they're both faces now.
  • Speaking of Kevin Owens, The Prizefighter kicked off a feud in 2017 with Shane McMahon by headbutting his father so hard that he bled and giving him a frog splash. Cut to February of 2019 and guess who Vince claims is deserving of an impromptu WWE championship opportunity?
  • Cactus Jack and Terry Funk defeated WWE World Tag Team Champions The New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn) for the titles in a Dumpster Match at WrestleMania XIV on March 29, 1998. The titles were held up the following night on Raw on the grounds that Jack and Funk had used the wrong dumpster. The Outlaws defeated Jack and Funk in a cage match when the rest of DGeneration X (Triple H, Chyna and X-Pac) attacked. The following week, Cactus Jack cut a promo where he correctly labeled DX "a group of scum." Guess who accompanied Mankind for his match where he defeated The Rock for the WWE World Heavyweight Title on the January 4, 1999 Raw? This is also due to WWE acting like there was never a reason for people to dislike DX.

Live-Action TV

  • Degrassi: The Next Generation flip flops on this at times. Large Wham Episode events carry over to later seasons easier than minor interactions. The largest event to get glossed over was Craig and Manny's aborted pregnancy. However the most obvious are friendships that reappear without any word when the two had a very vocal break-up (platonic or otherwise). The more recent seasons haven't been as bad about this. There are still moments (Clare and Jenna in All Falls Down, is a minor recent example).
  • Similarly, Boy Meets World had the unofficial rule of "If it was more than a season ago (or prior to the most recent Retool), it didn't happen". Pretty much the entire first season was ignored except in a one-shot Call-Back in the fifth season finale, and several storylines in later seasons were ripped off from earlier ones. Two major Season 5 arcs (Cory and Topanga break up, Shawn gets his first serious girlfriend) had already been done in Season 3, but were treated as if they were unprecedented.

Tabletop RPG

  • In the Veluna region of Living Greyhawk there was a well-loved NPC named The Traveler who frequently (twice a year) needed rescuing from the PCs due to the dangerous places she traveled to. In Year Four of the campaign, it was ret-conned to claim that she had been evil all along. Her class, level, and spell selection changed; as did her personality. Only the name remained the same, although the Word of God insisted that it was the same NPC.