WWE Monday Night Raw has been on television since 1993, airing live since at least the late 90’s. It’s natural there would be some questionable content somewhere within over 2,000 hours of television, but only in professional wrestling would awful content end up quite this ridiculous.
WWE has gone PG over the last decade, attempting more and more to appeal to children and a mainstream audience in general, meaning most of the items on this list are at least a decade old. However, some segments aired only a few years ago, showing it’s possible for a program to be both kid friendly and in poor taste, as long as WWE owner Vince McMahon is writing the show. These aren’t bad matches or times the crowd was merely bored—these are examples of horrific, offensive writing, that often both mocked large portions of the audience and was genuinely degrading to the performers contractually forced to be involved.
10. Triple H Dresses Up Like Kane and Humps a Mannequin in a Coffin
Triple H is a 14-time WWE Champion and heir apparent to the company. In late 2002, he was in the midst of his sixth title reign, and feuding with Kane. Throughout the course of the feud, Triple H merged his World Championship with Kane’s Intercontinental Championship and defeated Kane for his mask, both pretty thorough signs of victory. But what fans remember is that Triple H also accused Kane of murdering a high school student named Katie Vick in a drunk driving accident, and then raping her corpse. To prove Kane’s guilt, on October 21, 2002, Vince McMahon’s son-in-law put on a Kane mask and raped a mannequin. After awkwardly humping a doll in a coffin, Triple H produced his version of a punch line, reaching into the mannequin’s head to pull out mush and exclaim, “I screwed your brains out!” No part of this compels people to watch wrestling; it’s just a disgusting failure at comedy starring the most important character in WWE.
9. Droz Murders Hawk
WWE has been criticized for using performers’ real life addictions and personal problems in storylines, especially considering doing so tends to only make the problems worse for the performer. In 1998, Hawk was member of the Legion of Doom along with Droz, Paul Ellering and Animal. Hawk, who actually suffered from alcoholism and an addiction to painkillers, was regularly shown on television acting drunk or high, eventually climbing up the Titantron in a stupor on November 16th. Droz climbed after him seemingly to help, only to push Hawk off, presumably to his death.
Although Hawk wasn’t actually killed, there is no way to look at Droz’s actions as anything other than attempted murder. Obviously, that is going way too far for a wrestling angle. On top of that, the fact the whole idea is based on Hawk’s real life problems is truly despicable. Thankfully, WWE now has their Wellness Policy, which aims to help their performers with potential personal problems rather than publicly mock them.
8. CM Punk Mocks An Actual Dead Person
WWE has a history of not knowing where the line is when it comes to saying goodbye to a deceased performer. On at least three occasions, WWE segments have been dedicated to mocking actual dead people, shortly after they actually died. First, in 1996, Jerry Lawler used Raw two days after the death of musician Tiny Tim to air clips of his Raw appearance, mostly so he could insult the late musician’s life and appearance. In 2005, months after Eddie Guerrero’s death, Randy Orton famously told Rey Mysterio he believed Eddie was burning in hell. And finally, on March 11, 2013, one week after the death of Paul Bearer, CM Punk and Paul Heyman appeared on Raw to mock Bearer’s on-screen son, The Undertaker, to his face. Each of these examples is highly disrespectful, but Bearer’s example is obviously the worst, as he worked for WWE the longest, and they waited absolutely no time before mocking his death.
7. “Donald Trump” vs. “Rosie O’Donnell”
Donald Trump is a WWE Hall of Famer. He has also never wrestled in a WWE match. The character “Donald Trump,” however, did wrestle a “match” against “Rosie O’Donnell.” Those last two sentences seem to contradict each other, but that’s wrestling. Before he was insulting minorities on his way to the Presidency, in 2007 the Donald was publicly arguing with Rosie O’Donnell, over the Miss USA Pageant Trump owned at the time.
For whatever reason, Vince McMahon heard about Trump and O’Donnell’s feud and decided to hire two wrestlers, put them in miserable costumes imitating the dueling celebrities, and have them roll around in the ring. The crowd was so enthralled they chanted “TNA,” the closest thing to WWE’s rival wrestling promotion in the United States. Bad matches happen in wrestling and the owner can’t always be blamed, but this time he stood front row center the whole match, and appeared to be the only person in the arena even slightly enjoying the show.
6. “Diss The Diva”
The WWE Diva Search lasted from 2003-2007. Winners included Christy Hemme, Layla El and Eve Torres. The competing women were put through a series of talent show style contests, the first contest culminating in a final four of Christy Hemme, Carmella DeCesare, Amy Weber and Joy Giovanni. One of the final contests the women were put through was known as the “Diss The Diva” competition, where the contestants would give each other the best insults they could think of.
On August 30, 2004, Stacy Keibler welcomed the four to the ring, and one by one the divas gave their insults. Joy started by telling Carmella too much shit flies out her mouth, and continued, “your gap is so wide you could drive a truck through there.” She went on to call Carmella weak and little before almost slapping her. Amy’s turn went similarly, spending all of five seconds on Joy and Christy before telling Carmella, quote, “having a c*ck in your mouth has nothing to do with wrestling.”
By this point, Keibler realized things had gone way too far already, but live television dictated it was time to give the mic to Carmella. Carmella mocked Amy for being rejected by Playboy, and called Joy a bad example to her children, but was nice to Christy. To thank her for her kindness, Christy used her turn to call Carmella a “c*m guzzling gutter sl*t” before bombastically Superman Punching the ring in a manner that made Roman Reigns look weak and little. Christy won the competition. Amazingly, despite this segment being perhaps the most censored in Raw history, all four would have jobs at least for the next few months.
5. The Nowinski-Steiner Debate
Professional wrestling often caters to a patriotic, All-American crowd, and while that can occasionally feel a bit jingoistic to the rest of the world, in at least one example, it made them look like morons. The War in Iraq has always been controversial amongst the American public, especially immediately after it began. Many Americans believed in supporting the troops, but not the war. Vince McMahon felt a bit differently. On April 14, 2003, WWE held a debate between Christopher Nowinski and Scott Steiner on the merits of the Iraq War. Nowinski was the evil heel claiming this war was unjust, and Steiner was the patriotic babyface, rallying on behalf of America.
There was a problem, however, in that Nowinski is an actual Harvard graduate, and Scott Steiner might not even know what Harvard is. After Nowinski made a few salient points, Steiner rebutted by referencing the wrong war, quoting Rambo, and threatening to beat up the Dixie Chicks. If the point of the segment was that there’s no reason for the war, and anyone supporting it is a moron, mission accomplished. Unfortunately given the commentary team’s response, we were supposed to receive the exact opposite message.
4. The Melanie Pillman Interview
On October 5, 1997, Brian Pillman tragically became one of the first professional wrestlers to die while still under contract with WWE. Slated to appear at Badd Blood, Pillman never arrived, succumbing to a sudden heart attack. The very next night on Raw, live via satellite, Vince McMahon himself interviewed Pillman’s clearly still heavily grieving wife, Melanie. That McMahon would even put her on the air in this condition still shocks and offends fans, and his line of questioning only made it way worse. After Vince asks her about Brian’s past with drugs, he begins asking her about her and Brian’s children, which causes Melanie to come extremely close to bursting into tears more than once. Though McMahon has done a great deal of questionable things, forcing Pillman through this interview is one of his most inhuman.
3. Vince McMahon’s Limo Explodes
WWE and others will explain that wrestling is little more than a particularly violent soap opera. As such, it makes sense they would attempt to rip off the most cliché soap opera storyline there is, and have the evil boss get murdered. On June 11, 2007, Vince McMahon entered a limo in the final moments of Raw, followed by the limo exploding into a fiery wreck. WWE.com then announced that McMahon’s body was missing, and he was presumed dead. Of course, that was a storyline, but it didn’t stop some investors from believing it, causing WWE stock to go down. Fans for the most part understood it, but felt it was too cartoonish and silly even for wrestling, while non-fans didn’t necessarily watch the program, and may have believed the report McMahon died. WWE continued with the terrible idea for two weeks, until it was dropped due to a much more pressing issue—the next item on this list.
2. The Chris Benoit Tribute Show
Chris Benoit was a champion in WWE before he shockingly murdered his wife and 7-year-old child and subsequently hanged himself. Unfortunately for WWE, the details surrounding his and his family’s deaths were not made public until over 24 hours after the fact, because if they had known this, they probably wouldn’t have aired a 3-hour long glowing tribute of Benoit on June 25, 2007. Starting with McMahon standing in an empty arena to explain the difference between his character’s fake death a few weeks ago and Benoit’s actual death, no matter what, the segment was fated to show what a horrible idea the fake death was.
When the true story behind Benoit’s last days on Earth were revealed, the episode only seemed more and more in bad taste, and by the next night’s episode of ECW on Sci-Fi, WWE was already scrambling for ways to rescind the tribute, and announced they would no longer be mentioning Benoit on television, a promise that has mostly been kept to this day.
1. Vince McMahon Forces Trish Stratus to Strip and Bark Like a Dog
Trish Stratus is a WWE Hall of Famer and arguably the greatest female wrestler in WWE history, but she started as a manager. Quickly, her beauty and charisma caused her to float to the top of the company, becoming the on-screen assistant to Vince McMahon. Trish did something to upset her boss in wrestling fashion, so on March 5, 2001, Trish called McMahon to the ring to beg for his forgiveness. McMahon came to the ring as asked, and immediately demanded Stratus get on all fours and crawl around the ring while barking like a dog. So she did. Unsatisfied despite the roaring crowd, McMahon then made Stratus take her clothes off. Eventually Stratus started crying, leading to McMahon covering her body with his jacket, and the crowd booing.
Pro wrestling is about stories, and good versus evil, and a few months later Trish got her revenge on the evil McMahon. However, countless bad characters have been villainous to countless good characters without blatantly degrading women. Making matters much worse, the live crowd completely misread this segment, cheering the hell out of Vince as he sexually abused Stratus. While McMahon’s actions in the ring that night were unquestionably horrible, the real embarrassing part of it all is the fact the fans in attendance wanted to see it.