By its very nature, sports entertainment (nee: professional wrestling) is a violent spectacle. After all, this is something designed to showcase two athletes trying to best each other in a physical bout using their hands, feet, technical abilities, and general intelligence. Sure, it’s pre-determined and each performer is out to look after their dance partner, but it’s at least supposed to look real even when it isn’t real. And then there are those times when “real” really does become far too real for some.
At times in the history of the WWF/E, aggressive, bloody, violent action has been embraced and championed by Vince McMahon and his industry-dominating juggernaut of a company. But then there are times where blood and brutality have been ruled as a major no-no, such as off the back of the steroid trial back in the early-1990s or in more recent years when the product is geared towards a PG audience in order to appease sponsors.
It’s in these more strict, PG-driven times, though, that there have been some moments where Vince has been famously furious at what he has seen happening in his ring, and what he has deemed excessive violence has landed some huge superstars in hot water over the decades.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at 16 times that the WWE’s in-ring action got too violent and intense for even Vince McMahon’s unique tastes.
16. CM Punk vs. Jerry Lawler
In Jerry Lawler’s Memphis heyday, The King would regularly be gushing blood by the end of his intense and aggressive matches. Obviously the current WWE product sees blood as a major no-no, but that still didn’t stop a bout between Lawler and then-WWE Champion CM Punk featuring some juice back in 2012.
During this Cage Match, Punk was thrown into the steel structure and saw Lawler reigning down stiff punches on his forehead. It was then that you can quite clearly see The Straightedge Superstar blading and giving himself some colour.
Following the match, Vince McMahon was quick to show his outrage, and Punk has gone on record to say he was fined $500,000 for the incident. Of course, that is likely to be a hugely exaggerated figure, but nonetheless, you can expect that the Chicago native didn’t get off likely when he received his pay for that show.
15. Jake Roberts vs. A Fan
Back in late 1988, Jake “The Snake” Roberts was one of the WWF’s biggest stars and most heinous bad guys. As ever with Jake at that point in time, though, his demons would often rear their head, and such was the case when Roberts got into a fight with a fan by the name of John Bartlett.
Well, it wasn’t so much a fight, more just Jake punched the guy once, which in turn ended up becoming a police matter that saw The Snake fined $10,000, given 100 hours of community service, and having to pay $11,000 of medical bills for Bartlett.
14. Daniel Bryan vs. Randy Orton
The match in question was a Street Fight that took place on an episode of Raw, and the superstars involved took the violent nature of such a bout to a level that WWE higher-ups weren’t happy with. While all of the usual weapons and antics involved with such a stipulation were utilized, it was a chair shot to the head that proved costly for Bryan and Orton.
13. Titus O’Neill vs. Vince McMahon
To say that Vince McMahon can be petty is a huge understatement – and that’s something that Titus O’Neill found out the hard way.
With all of the WWE roster out on the stage to show their appreciation during Daniel Bryan’s retirement speech, as the show went off the air, Titus made the mistake of putting his hands on Vince. Sure, it was a playful move from O’Neill, and one that Vinny Mac seemed to get a chuckle from at the time. But by the time they’d all got backstage, McMahon blew his top with Titus to such an extent that he wanted to fire him for unprofessional conduct.
Triple H would talk Vince out of that, and Titus would instead end up serving a 60-day suspension that saw him miss out on that year’s WrestleMania.
12. Finn Balor vs. Samoa Joe
During last year’s NXT TakeOver: Dallas, the main event saw Finn Balor defend his NXT Championship against Samoa Joe. Unfortunately for all involved, this hotly-anticipated match ran into problems near enough from the moment the opening bell rang.
When Joe was caught by a shot in the opening moments, the Samoan Submission Machine was legitimately busted open. With blood now a strict no-go for the WWE, and in this case NXT, the match was immediately halted while trainers tended to Joe. The match continued, but would soon be halted once more to deal with the unrelenting crimson. And again the same happened, and again, and again.
A match that many were hoping would be an instant classic ended up being hugely hindered by the insistence on stopping the bout constantly to deal with the bleeding Samoa Joe. So frustrating was this, those in attendance began to chant “F**k PG”, “Bullsh*t!” and “Let them fight” while Joe and Balor were visibly annoyed by the constant stoppages.
11. Team Raw vs. Team SmackDown
During this past year’s Survivor Series, the WWE’s two brands did battle in a traditional elimination tag bout. With Shane McMahon representing Team SmackDown, the son of Vince was majorly shook up following a Spear from Roman Reigns.
After being hit with the move, Shane O’Mac was so dazed that Randy Orton had to assure Shane’s wife and kids at ringside that McMahon was okay. As such, various reports claimed that Vince was furious at Reigns for not taking more care with his offspring.
In fairness, other reports soon surfaced to say that Roman got into no trouble whatsoever for the spot, although there are plenty of contradictory reports out there that claim Vince did indeed chew out The Big Dog and made his anger perfectly clear for all to see.
10. Alberto Del Rio vs. A WWE Employee
When Alberto Del Rio first left the WWE back in 2014, it was under a cloud of controversy.
Having been the victim of some comments that can at best be described as ill-thought-out and at worst be described as flat-out racist, Del Rio took umbrage with a WWE social media team member who spouted the ill-fated words. So much so, Del Rio actually slapped the employee in front of everyone in the catering area.
Originally, Triple H told the former WWE Champion that he’d have to be suspended for striking someone, but that was soon changed up once Vince McMahon got wind of the situation. Deeming this to be an extreme case of unprofessional conduct, Vince fired Del Rio for his actions.
9. Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage
1992’s eighth installment of WrestleMania is fondly remembered by many for two fantastic matches – Roddy Piper vs Bret Hart for the Intercontinental Title, and Ric Flair vs Randy Savage for the WWF Title. And notably, both matches heavily featured blood.
While the bloody visage of Bret Hart was let slide by Vince McMahon due to him believing it to be accidental – which it totally wasn’t – Vinny Mac blew his lid at Ric Flair gushing blood from his forehead during his match against Savage.
At this point in time, the then-WWF was a strictly no blood landscape, and McMahon fined both Flair and Savage for incorporating blood into their match at the company’s biggest show of the year… all while Hart and Piper got away with pulling the proverbial wool over everyone’s eyes.
8. Triple H vs. The Undertaker
It’s extremely rare that either Triple H or The Undertaker get into hot water behind the scenes, but that was certainly the case following their WrestleMania XXVII encounter.
In this No Holds Barred bout, this pair of locker room leaders and two icons who are as close as you can be with Vince McMahon disregarded one of the WWE’s biggest rules – no chair shots to the head.
As this excellent match hurtled towards its conclusion, this massive cardinal sin was completely ignored as The Game cracked The Phenom across the skull with a steel chair. Ever since the Benoit Tragedy, such shots have been completely outlawed. As such, despite their high standing within the company, Vince had no choice but to fine two of his most loyal soldiers.
7. Daniel Puder vs. Kurt Angle
Ah, the tale of Daniel Puder trying his kimura lock against Kurt Angle is the stuff of legend.
When Angle openly challenged any Tough Enough contestants to step up and legit try him during an episode of SmackDown. Puder, confident due to his background in mixed martial arts, stepped up to the plate. In a genuine shoot contest, Puder surprised Angle and all watching by quickly obtaining a dominant position and locking in a kimura lock on the Olympic gold medalist.
Referee Jimmy Korderas saved the day, thinking on his feet and counting Puder’s shoulders down for a 3-count even though all watching could see that clearly wasn’t the case. Angle was absolutely furious when he got backstage, as was Vince McMahon, for one of the WWE’s biggest stars could have had his arm broken on international TV by someone deemed a mere rookie.
6. Brock Lesnar vs. The Undertaker
When The Undertaker came back to battle Brock Lesnar in 2015, their rivalry ultimately ended up taking them on a trip to the ominous Hell in a Cell structure. It was during this match that the pair got into hot water with Vince McMahon for making their battle too violent.
Whilst there was no blading whatsoever in the match, both Lesnar and ‘Taker were purposely busted open the hard way. For Brock, he ran straight into the ring post in order to get some colour, while The Deadman allowed Lesnar to remove his gloves and lay in some legit head punches to bring out some blood.
So pissed off with what they were seeing, Vince McMahon and Kevin Dunn demanded that a doctor head to the ring and put a stop to the situation. When that poor doctor did manage to get into the Hell in a Cell structure, he was promptly swatted away by Brock Lesnar – which is enough to put the fear of God into any man!
5. The Undertaker vs. Mankind
The Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Mankind is legendary for its intensity and for the sick bumps taken by Mick Foley.
When Foley was unceremoniously thrown from the top of the structure and through the announce table below, the instant thought – bar fearing that Foley was actually dead – was that the match was well and truly over. Out came medical staff, and Mrs Foley’s Baby Boy was carried out on a stretcher. By all accounts, Vince and the WWE higher-ups had seen enough and the match was over.
Of course, the intestinal fortitude of Mick Foley would kick in and he’d return to the ring and insist on continuing the match… which would later see him accidentally put through the top of the Cell itself before the bout thankfully came to a close, going down as one of the most brutal matches in WWE history.
4. Daniel Bryan vs. Justin Roberts
When a bunch of upstarts from the first incarnation of NXT formed The Nexus and took over the closing moments of a 2010 Raw episode, it sent shockwaves through the wrestling industry and stood out as something truly unique at that time.
Of course, the WWE would massively drop the ball with The Nexus, and the first of the group to fall victim was future WWE Champion Daniel Bryan. During that initial Nexus attack, the stable laid out anyone and everything in their path, including the ring itself and the ringside area.
As part of that carnage, D-Bry took out ring announcer Justin Roberts, going as far as to choke Roberts with his own tie. And it was that act that was deemed too violent for Vince McMahon and the WWE, with Bryan unceremoniously fired by the company.
3. Nailz vs. Vince McMahon
Rather than Vince being furious at what he saw playing out in the ring, his anger at Nailz was all due to something that happened away from the ring, backstage.
Following his SummerSlam ’92 match against Virgil, Nailz was unhappy with the paycheck that he received for his win over Ted DiBiase’s former manservant. And by unhappy, I mean he barged into Vince McMahon’s office and demanded more money. With Vince unwilling to bump up Nailz’s pay, heated words were exchanged and the hulking Nailz went as far as to actually choke out Vince!
So shocked and angry that one of his wrestlers would actually lay their hands on him, McMahon got the police involved and promptly fired both Nailz and The Berserker, who stood outside Vinny Mac’s office to keep watch.
2. Batista vs. Chris Jericho
Jericho won the match largely thanks to cracking Big Dave with a pipe. From that shot, Batista bled, and that was when Vince lost it. Tearing into all involved straight after the match, VKM went as far as to fine Batista a whopping $100,000, while Jericho, referee Mike Chioda, and agent Dean Malenko were each fined $5,000 a piece.
Taking all responsibility for the incident, Batista actually stumped up and paid all of the fines out of his own pocket, in what was a great gesture from The Animal. Still, that didn’t mean that Vince was any less pissed off about the whole thing.
1. Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon
When it comes to wince-inducing matches, the battle between Kurt Angle and Shane McMahon at King of the Ring back in 2001 is still hard to watch to this day. And the reason for that is largely down to the absolutely brutal spots where Angle was to put Shane through part of the glass display on the entrance ramp.
Of course, the glass in question wasn’t playing by the rules and was refusing to break, meaning Angle had several horrendous looking attempts at putting Shane O’Mac through the display. So brutal was this section of the match, Vince has since talked openly about how he nearly stopped the match.
In his own words, Vince was “very, very close to walking out there and just stopping it. I was concerned that my son was putting himself in harm’s way and hurting himself just because he has the heart of a great performer.”