If you were young enough, finding out that professional wrestling isn’t real was probably even more gut-wrenching and soul-crushing than learning that Santa Claus is just a myth. Although the athletes are very much trained, the matches that you see in WWE, TNA, and once WCW, ECW, and the like aren’t actual brawls. These men and women aren’t really hurting each other, at least not in most cases. However, accidents happen. People do get hurt.
The violence isn’t all that’s fake about wrestling. The stories are just that, stories. Couples that you see together on-screen aren’t always together in real life. Tag teams aren’t always really BFFs when the cameras aren’t rolling. Wrestlers get scripts for promos, interviews, and everything they say these days, at least in WWE. Even with all that preparation, sometimes even storylines veer off-track into completely different territory. Here are 12 totally unscripted wrestling moments that caused a lot of controversy.
12 Emma Wins the Fatal 4-Way
If you remember, for a few brief hours in 2014, Emma was fired from WWE for accidentally walking out of a store with an iPad case and not having paid for it. She had been using a self-checkout machine and simply forgot. WWE quickly realized the error and re-hired her that same day, but Emma’s career was never the same. She lost match after match in the women’s division before being sent back down to NXT.
11 The Brawl for All
In 1998, Vince Russo, one of the most infamous wrestling writers in history, dreamed up the concept of the Brawl for All, which, unlike pro wrestling, was entirely real. Competitors would box or shootfight to victory. Stars that participated included Marc Mero, Bradshaw, Steve Blackman, Henry O. Godwinn, 2 Cold Scorpio, Dan Severn, 8-Ball, the Godfather, Steve Williams, Bob Holly, Quebecer Pierre, and Bart Gunn. The tournament took place each week on Raw for nearly a month. That’s a long time for an event that no one liked.
10 Sting vs. Jeff Hardy at Victory Road 2011
In the '90s, the Hardy Boyz (Matt and Jeff) put their bodies on the line weekly in WWE. They were pioneers of the TLC match, in which they did battle at dizzying heights on ladders while beating others senseless with chairs and tables. Those kinds of matches do lasting damage. Jeff Hardy, although he had a good run with WWE, fell into a drug-fueled dark spot in his career, eventually landing in TNA.
9 Vince McMahon Tears His Quads
The Royal Rumble invites plenty of opportunities for botches and other unscripted moments. After all, it’s easy to slip and fall when you’re not supposed to, altering the course of the entire event. However, what transpired at the 2005 Royal Rumble wasn’t like that. In fact, the incident didn’t even involve an in-ring competitor at all. Instead, it was Vince McMahon who would end up injured by the time the Pay-Per-View went off the air.
8 The Shockmaster
WCW had a lot of cringe-worthy, unforgiveable, awful moments, but few are as embarrassing as the debut of the Shockmaster. Looking back, it seems unfathomable that WCW would put stock in a burly man wearing a glittery Stormtrooper mask, but he was backed by Dustin Rhodes and Sting. To make his debut, he was set to appear at Clash of the Champions XXIV on Ric Flair’s show A Flair for the Gold.
7 The Curtain Call at Madison Square Garden
In order to understand the importance of the Curtain Call, you have to grasp the significance WWE puts on kayfabe. The concept dictates that wrestlers pretend to be their character 24/7, even when the cameras aren’t rolling. You see it a lot today just as often as you see kayfabe being broken. In the mid-1990s, the Curtain Call was the greatest example of broken kayfabe that existed.
6 Droz Gets Paralyzed
If you watched WWE anytime from the end of the Attitude Era to today, you’ve seen those “do not try this at home” commercials. Yeah, they’re cheesy, but they have a point: accidents happen in wrestling all the time, even between the pros. Wrestlers get injured, their careers end, and sometimes they even die in the ring (more on that later). In the case of Darren Drozdov, also known as Droz, his career was cut tragically short when he got paralyzed.
5 Jerry Lawler’s On-Screen Heart Attack
For years, Jerry Lawler has been the snarky, woman-obsessed off-colour commentator for WWE. He’s also been insistent on never letting you forget his storied days as a professional wrestler. His most recent in-ring match was in 2011 when he competed with Randy Orton to win against Dolph Ziggler and CM Punk. Given what transpired that same night, we seriously doubt that he’s ever going to lace up another pair of wrestling boots again.
4 The Mass Transit Incident
Becoming a great professional wrestler takes years of experience, dedication, and training. That’s not to say that younger athletes can’t excel, but when you’re not even 18 years old and you have to lie about your age to get on a pro wrestling card, you’re not off to a good start. That’s exactly what Eric Kulas, more commonly known as Mass Transit, did in late 1996 to wrestle a house show for ECW. He was untrained and too young, and his vast inexperience was about to nearly get him killed.
3 The Montreal Screwjob
Honestly, you could write a book about the Montreal Screwjob (and there have been plenty of tomes published about wrestling that do discuss it) since it’s such a complicated animal. We’ll just explain it briefly: Bret Hart was the WWF Heavyweight Champion. He was jumping ship to WCW and everyone knew about it. Still, he didn’t want to give up his title. Vince McMahon, fearing Hart would leave for WCW with the WWF Heavyweight title, spoke to referee Earl Hebner to ensure that when Hart’s opponent Shawn Michaels (who was in on it), put on the Sharpshooter, that Hebner would call the match even though Hart didn’t tap so Hart would be forced to give up the title.
2 Mankind Falls Through the Cell
Is there anything Mick Foley won’t do? The man known as Cactus Jack, Dude Love, and Mankind has ripped his own body to shreds, lighting himself on fire, getting beaten to a pulp, and still getting back up for more. However, his infamous Hell in a Cell match with the Undertaker at King of the Ring 1998 had some twists and turns that both performers weren’t expecting.
1 Owen Hart’s Death
As mentioned above, accidents happen in wrestling all the time, sometimes fatal ones. Owen Hart was wrestling as his masked superhero alter ego the Blue Blazer at the time, and at Over the Edge in May 1999, he wanted his entrance to be especially theatrical and amusing, so he did what he’d done numerous times, and what other wrestlers (like Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker, to name a few) had also done without a hitch: he would grapple-line from the rafters down to the ring.
It’s unknown exactly what went wrong, and we’ll probably never know, but it’s believed that Hart activated the quick release too soon, which freed him of his harness. He toppled down 78 feet, narrowly missing a turnbuckle as his body collided with the ropes. He didn’t die on impact, but he did pass before the night was over from internal bleeding. While Over the Edge did proceed as scheduled (obviously minus Owen's match), the next night on Raw, WWE did a tribute to this wrestler who was lost too soon.
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