July 13th 2015 was a very important date for women’s wrestling. It was on this day’s episode of Monday Night Raw that Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch were called up to WWE’s main roster from the developmental NXT brand, and Stephanie McMahon proclaimed that they would help start a ‘women’s revolution’ in WWE.
Since that day, despite a few hiccups and teething pains, few people could argue that the women’s division in WWE hasn’t improved by leaps and bounds. It wasn’t so long ago that the ladies matches would last 2-3 minutes tops, and they were still being used mostly as gorgeous props for the men-folk to parade around. But now? Charlotte and Sasha were the main events in a major PPV inside the Hell In A Cell. Several Raw and Smackdown episodes have featured women’s matches in their main events too. And the recent Elimination Chamber PPV had three women’s matches on the card; the most of any WWE special event in history.
Unfortunately, this article isn’t about all the great things happening with women’s wrestling at the moment. We just felt it was important to spotlight these improvements first, though, before we delved into the dirty, misbegotten and plain terrible storylines that divas in years past have been subjected to. This article will show you exactly what WWE is taking great pains to distance themselves from, and it’s for good reason. This list involves sexism, misogyny, chauvinism… and an alarming number of fake pregnancies.
You have been warned!
15. Natalya Can’t Stop Farting – 2012
As far as immature and ill-conceived storylines go, Natalya’s 2012 struggle with flatulence has to be one of the very worst. Nattie Neidhart has always been one of the most talented WWE divas in-ring and she will always have the benefit of her lineage (her father is Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart and her uncle is Bret Hart). But she has long struggled with connecting with the audience in any real, sustained way. So, naturally, back in 2012 WWE’s writers gave her a storyline that was sure to be a hit: she became unable to control her gas. Wait. What?!
Nattie would fart backstage when she was warming up, or cut one loose in the ring while performing a submission move. The terrible stench of her gas made Santino Marella throw up, made Hornswoggle faint and made referees cover their noses in disgust.
In the end, the ‘storyline’ was mercifully dropped with minimal fanfare, but we can’t help thinking some pretty irreversible damage was done to her character. Surely there’s no way Nattie doesn’t regret saying yes to this fiasco?
14. Chyna ‘Re-Injures’ Her Neck – 2001
Joanie Laurer left a lasting impression on the pro-wrestling business, and even though her life ended in sad circumstances, most fans prefer to remember her as she was in her pomp: WWE’s Ninth Wonder Of The World, Chyna. She was a huge star during the Attitude Era, and was the figurehead of the women’s division at that time.
During a storyline in which she went up against Ivory, a member of the group ‘Right To Censor’, Chyna ‘injured’ her neck during an attack by the heels. She then defied expectation and came back early to face Ivory at Royal Rumble 2001. Sadly, WWE then chose to play out a pretty tasteless angle in which Chyna ‘re-injured’ her neck and collapsed in the ring. Jerry Lawler then left the commentary booth and got in the ring to check on Chyna, who was surrounded by doctors, and Jim Ross addressed the WWE Universe in the solemn tone normally reserved for when genuine injuries occur. The previous time they acted like this on TV? When Owen Hart tragically died at the Over The Edge PPV in 1999.
13. Paige Brings Up Reid Flair’s Death – 2015
From something silly to something very serious, this regrettable storyline development upset a lot of people, and for good reason.
Reid Flair was the son of the legendary Ric Flair, and he died in 2013 at the age of 24 after an accidental heroin overdose. This tragedy was then used as fuel for a fictional wrestling story whenever his death was brought up by Paige, who was feuding with Charlotte, Reid’s sister and Ric’s daughter. Charlotte said that she was living out her baby brother’s dream, so was fighting for him, to which Paige replied ‘Your little baby brother didn’t have much fight in him, did he?’. Charlotte was visibly shaken during the segment, so it was obvious how much this hurt her.
Depending on whom is to be believed, Charlotte might have suggested this herself, and as strange as it might sound, it isn’t unusual for wrestlers to say real-life things are fair game for inclusion in storylines. But Ric Flair was quoted as saying Charlotte simply didn’t want to rock the boat by saying no to the idea, and that he wasn’t told ahead of time about it, so was reduced to tears whenever he heard Paige’s words. Charlotte and Reid’s mom Elizabeth was also unhappy, tweeting that WWE’s writers were lazy and that it was ‘cruel’ and ‘sad’.
12. Lana/Dolph vs. Rusev/Summer Rae – 2015
This godawful storyline from 2015 is a textbook example of an idea that was flawed from the start and helped no one involved in the debacle.
‘The Ravishing Russian’ Lana and ‘The Bulgarian Brute’ Rusev have been one of WWE’s most enjoyable double acts ever since they debuted in 2014. They are brilliant examples of how to make the cliched notion of the ‘foreign heel’ work in the modern day and WWE has utilized them excellently. Well, aside from this bizarre few months in which they broke the couple up for little apparent reason and had them pair off with Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae. And fans scratched their heads in bemusement.
It didn’t help that fans were (mostly) all aware that Lana and Rusev were an item in real life as well, but the complete lack of chemistry between Lana and Ziggler was a problem too. The fact that Rusev was injured at the time and had his girlfriend stolen by Dolph, who was meant to be the virtuous babyface, was also ill-advised. Thankfully, the whole thing was scrapped in September and Lana returned to TV in November as a heel, aligned with Rusev again. Phew.
11. Stacy Kiebler’s ‘Pregnancy’ – 2000
To the mainstream media, Stacy Kiebler is probably best known for dating George Clooney for two years between 2011 and 2013, and for appearing on Dancing With The Stars in 2006. Bruno Tonioli said she was a ‘weapon of mass seduction’ after her samba dance routine, and he wasn’t far wrong; her impossibly long legs and natural beauty made her a big star in both WCW and WWE from the late ’90s to the mid-2000s.
As ‘Miss Hancock’ in WCW, Kiebler wore business suits and danced provocatively on the announcer’s table, and always gave the crowd a flash of her panties whenever entering the ring. This was during the Monday Night Wars, people. Sex sold! Her main storyline during this period was a tad questionable, though.
She briefly dated David (son of Ric) Flair on-screen and off, and when she was kicked in the stomach during an intergender tag team match, revealed herself to be ‘pregnant’. Flair then proposed, thinking he was being honorable, and they had a ‘wedding’ on an episode of Nitro in which she revealed he wasn’t really the father. Then the story was dropped entirely without warning and she was taken off TV. What a mess!
10. ‘Piggy James’ – 2009
‘Be A Star’ is WWE’s anti-bullying initiative, a program that aims to encourage young people across the world to treat each other with respect and tolerance through education and grassroots initiatives. The company hypes this a lot, and is forever sending superstars to schools to give ‘anti-bullying’ talks to the kids. This is a great thing for WWE to do, no doubt. But how does it line up with the on-screen product WWE puts out there? Aren’t most of the heels basically bullies, who exert their physical dominance on the good guys?
Let’s take you back to 2009 to show you an example of WWE’s bizarre attitude to bullying. Michelle McCool and Layla El were ‘LayCool’ at this point, a two-woman team that dominated their division…and bullied the hell out of Mickie James, whom they dubbed ‘Piggy James’. Layla dressed up as Mickie in a fat suit, and they showed pictures of her on the TitanTron with her face superimposed onto a pig.
9. Mae Young Gives Birth To A Hand – 2000
Mae Young was an influential pioneer in women’s wrestling. She helped popularize it during World War II and went on to train many generations of wrestlers, before becoming beloved to a whole new generation of fans during the Attitude Era, where she appeared as half of an elderly comedy act with her real-life best friend The Fabulous Moolah. Mae was already in her late 70s at this point, yet was power-bombed through tables, showed razor-sharp comic timing and a willingness to do anything creative gave her. Which included becoming pregnant with Mark Henry’s baby and giving birth backstage… to a disembodied rubber hand.
We swear this is the last bizarre pregnancy entry in this list. Promise. But rumour has it that when Vince McMahon was asked ‘why did Mae give birth to a hand?’, he simply laughed heartily and replied ‘Because it’s a hand!’
Regardless of the reasoning behind this baffling decision, it’s gone down in history as one of the dumbest things WWE have ever put on TV. It made no sense at all, and crucially, wasn’t funny in the least (which was what they were going for, we imagine). They did try to rescue things in 2012 whenever Mae’s ‘son’ appeared on Raw; a grown-up guy in glasses dressed in a silly hand costume. Although, to be honest, that wasn’t very funny either…
8. PMS And Meat – 1998
Terri Runnels, Jacqueline and Ryan Shamrock formed a stable in 1998. Their name? Pretty Mean Sisters.
PMS. Get it?!
This was the Attitude Era at it’s very worst, people. While it is mostly remembered as a boom period with countless megastars born and awesome storylines galore, there was a fair amount of questionable, vaguely misogynist nonsense too. During the PMS run, Runnels claimed to be ‘pregnant’ and then ‘miscarried’ when she was knocked off the ring apron. Apparently she begged writer Vince Russo not to run this angle, as her real-life daughter was in elementary school and would face awkward questions about the whole tacky affair, but she lost the battle.
Then PMS recruited Meat aka Shawn Stasiak, a male superstar who they used for ‘sex’. They would force him to do their bidding, and the story even got to the point where Meat was too exhausted from satisfying Terri sexually that he would lose his matches. Mercifully, PMS disbanded after less than nine months together.
7. Vince McMahon Degrades Trish Stratus – 2001
Back to the Attitude Era again now, with more uncomfortable misogyny from Vincent Kennedy McMahon, who it sometimes felt like had it written into the contracts of any prospective diva that, at some point, they were going to have to kiss him on live TV. Oh dear.
Now, we get that Vince was the ultimate villain in WWE at the time. He was the very worst example of a domineering, bullying boss who everyone wanted to see get his comeuppance. And when he was going up against other men, it made for great television, as the world could live vicariously through the likes of the blue-collar Stone Cold Steve Austin. But when he would routinely degrade Trish Stratus by dumping sewage over her, or forcing her to kiss him backstage, or by making her strip to her underwear in the ring and bark like a dog? Well, that just wasn’t acceptable. At all.
The angle was widely criticized, of course, and even though Trish would gain some sort of revenge by slapping Vince at WrestleMania 17, it wasn’t nearly enough to make up for what he’d done to her. It was this moment that Trish herself chooses to remember the story by, as it is when she stood up to her bully and went on to forge a wrestling career of her own. This is admirable, but we’re not sure it forgives the ugliness that occurred during the angle.
6. HLA – Hot Lesbian Action – 2002
In 2002, business was down for WWE. The Attitude Era had come to a close and they were scrambling for ways to get eyeballs on the product again. On Smackdown, Billy & Chuck, a homoerotic tag team, were preparing for a televised wedding ceremony. Eric Bischoff, General Manager of Raw, wanted something to compete with this for ratings. WWE Creative’s answer? Hot Lesbian Action. Seriously.
Two indie wrestlers (Looney Lane and Savvy) from Ultimate Pro Wrestling were drafted in, and a whole episode on Raw was structured around the possibility of two lesbians having sex in the middle of the ring! They began undressing and kissing… before they were attacked and beaten up by Rosey and Jamal, a heel tag team. Lane even suffered a cracked rib in the process.
The backlash from the angle was strong, with broadcasters in the US cutting the beating out of the episode, and Sky Sports in the UK cutting the entire segment entirely. This wasn’t just regrettable; this was disgraceful.
5. Winter Brainwashes Angelina Love – 2010
Angelina Love is one of the biggest success stories of TNA’s Knockouts Division. She has held the Championship six times and is one half (with Velvet Sky) of the successful heel group The Beautiful People. But her storyline with Winter in 2010 was just bizarre and ill-conceived from the get-go.
Winter was a Gothic presence, who initially appeared only in the mirrors Angelina was looking in (of course). After a few weeks of this vaguely supernatural hokum, Winter was seen for the first time by other people when she saved Angelina during a backstage brawl. Angelina went on to win the Tag Team Championships with her ghost buddy, who then proceeded to brainwash her with drinks of what Winter called her ‘medicine’. Angelina became like a zombie, who was impervious to pain and did Winter’s bidding. Oh, and Winter kissed a zombified Angelina once and said they were time-travelling vampire lovers. So there’s that.
4. Dawn Marie And Al, Torrie Wilson’s Father – 2002
We mentioned before that 2002 was a bad year for WWE, business-wise. Well, it was also a pretty abysmal year in terms of the storylines too, and Smackdown’s preposterous nine-month feud between Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie is a great example of that. After all, it did end with an elderly man ‘dying’ of a heart-attack after a night of vigorous love-making with a sexy WWE diva. And that elderly man was Al Wilson, Torrie’s real-life father. Who is very much alive outside of WWE-land. Oy vey!
It’s kind of mind-boggling to think of how WWE managed to convince Torrie and her father, who wasn’t involved in the wrestling business in any way before this storyline, to go through with everything. But hey, money talks, we suppose!
Perhaps the nadir was when he and Dawn Marie were ‘married’ live on Smackdown… in their underwear. Naturally. Or maybe the worst was when Dawn said she had developed feelings for Torrie and said she would call off the wedding in exchange for one night of passion in a hotel with her. Either way, at least Torrie was able to gain vengeance for her slain father by defeating Dawn Marie in a PPV wrestling match. Ahem.
3. Eve Torres, Kane And John Cena Ruin Zack Ryder – 2012
Eve Torres won the WWE’s Diva Search contest in 2007, earning herself a contract. She went on to become the first woman to win the Divas Championship three times, but retired from wrestling in 2013 to become a woman’s self-defence instructor and actress. Her WWE career was fairly short then, but very sweet.
Except for that horrible storyline involving Eve, John Cena and Kane. You know, the one that completely derailed Ryder’s promising career?
Ryder was on the rise in 2012, successfully convincing WWE to give him a push as the US Champion after his hilarious YouTube show ‘Z! True Long Island Story’ became a hit. He entered into a storyline relationship with Eve, and looked like a smitten puppy-dog the whole time. Then Eve kissed John Cena, confessed to the Bella twins that she had never liked Zack and was only using him for publicity, and cost Ryder a Wrestlemania victory. Then kicked him in the nuts for good measure. Oh, and somewhere in amongst this, Kane threw a wheelchair-bound Ryder off the Raw stage. Eve came out of the storyline okay, but Ryder never recovered.
2. The Dixie Carter/AJ Styles/Claire Affair Angle – 2012
Ah, more worse-than-soap-opera melodramatics and sordid sexual antics! This time from the world of TNA Impact Wrestling. You’re welcome, everyone!
AJ Styles is currently one of WWE’s biggest stars. He recently concluded his first lengthy run as WWE Champion, and is one of the focal points of the Smackdown brand. His first year in the company has been a revelation, especially considering many thought he would never get to WWE after so many years as ‘Mr. TNA’. We hope WWE never put him through anything as godawful as this affair/fake pregnancy angle with Dixie Carter and Claire Lynch. What is it with wrestling and fake pregnancies?!
Dixie, TNA’s real-life President at the time and on-screen figure of authority, was insinuated to be having an affair with Styles. The segments featuring the two on the microphone were cringeworthy, as neither had the necessary abilities to sell this dreadful story. Things then got worse when they revealed that they weren’t having an affair, but rather helping a pregnant addict (Claire) overcome her issues. Styles was supposedly the father… but then, guess what, she wasn’t really pregnant! Good Lord, what a disaster.
1. Alundra Blayze Takes Out The Trash On WCW TV – 1995
Alundra Blayze was inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2015. As a pioneer of women’s wrestling in the 1990s, her induction was probably long overdue. After all, she held the WWF Women’s Championship three times in her run with the company, igniting the division during a time when it was floundering. However, what she did on her first night in WCW following her departure was extremely controversial. In fact, it ensured she was blacklisted from WWE for nearly 20 years!
During the Monday Night Wars, the 1990s ratings battle between WWF and WCW, it became common to see superstars defect to the rival company. In the mid-90s, before WWF turned the tide in their favour, the big bucks offered by WCW tempted many top stars to go that way. Blayze was no different, and when she was released by WWF in 1995 she was quickly snapped up by WCW. She made a surprise appearance on an edition of Monday Nitro in December, under her old ring name Madusa (which she had used during a previous stint in WCW). However, she had the WWF Women’s Championship with her, which she promptly threw in the trash on live TV!
People in the business were furious, as this was seen as a huge sign of disrespect. Blayze has said that she was told to do it by WCW, and if she didn’t, she would’ve been fired. She also felt there was an element of sexism to it; if she was a man, she believed it would’ve made her a star and she would’ve been on the cover of every magazine. Regardless, this act is what she is most remembered for, for better or worse.