Wrestling fans are an extremely loyal bunch that can be depended upon to watch on a weekly basis, buy merchandise, show up at events, and support the business in almost any other fashion. Despite the fact that the die-hards typically watch every event they can get their hands on, the industry can still catch them by surprise on a semi-regular basis. After all, some of the most memorable moments fans still discuss years later revolve around shocking moments where a wrestler debuts out of nowhere or turns his back on his closest allies. Those aren’t the types of moments we will be discussing when it comes to this list. Instead, we are going to focus on crazy moments caught on camera that is connected to the wrestling business that fans will never be able to forget (even if they want to).
In order for a photo to be considered for inclusion, it needed to have been taken at a wrestling event or involve notable wrestlers. Beyond that, the criteria are pretty wide open but you won’t be finding any run of the mill photos in the entries that follow. Whether it is a photo in which a popular wrestling figure is breaking character in some sort of egregious way or a shot of a grisly injury, the result needs to be the same. We were also open to screengrabs from notable events as in a lot of cases there are still images of these events that have lived on. We have opted to exclude any photos of wrestlers who’ve died in the ring. With that in mind, let’s get to the list.
15 Streak Ending Reaction Face
When any wrestler worth his salt first gets into the business, one of the things they covet most is to win championships. Don’t get us wrong, obviously, there are some people who’ve won belts but ultimately had their career go nowhere, however generally speaking being chosen to hold a title is a big indicator that you’re good enough to depend on. Even still, not all titles are created evenly. If you listen to the talk coming out of the mouths of WWE announcers, there is nothing higher a wrestler can achieve than winning a singles world title in the WWE, but we think otherwise.
If you ask us it was an unofficial title that meant more to the wrestling world than anything else in the last two decades, the much vaunted Undertaker undefeated WrestleMania streak. Up until the moment Taker lost a mania match, there was nothing more important to fans than our hope that would never happen. That desire is memorably written all over the face of this poor shocked wrestling fan. The immortal image that has come to symbolize all wrestling fans’ disappointment that the streak was over, it is safe to say this moment will never be forgotten no matter how much we want it to be.
14 Lonely Virgil
There are a few wrestlers who’ve managed to become the focus of memes in the last several years, one of which you’ll see later in this list, and typically they are the industry’s biggest stars. Then there is Virgil, someone who is best remembered for being the manservant to Ted Dibiase before thankfully turning against him. Never able to capitalize on the momentum that moment gave him, he did little as a solo star before making his way to WCW, where he became and also ran in the nWo, which also once included his former boss, Ted Dibiase.
Perhaps, it is that lack of solos success working in concert with what must have been poor financial planning that has forced him into this situation. Someone who's become notorious for hocking autographs wherever he might be able to make a buck, he is the butt of a running joke, which is best exemplified in this photo, where he is photographed all alone. A sad image without a doubt, we’re certain his fans wished this photo and the several others like it would disappear.
13 Triple H Face
Speaking of memes, here’s the one we promised we’d be featuring, the infamous photo of Triple H’s intense face. While it seems clear that he was probably working out when the photo was taken, the over the top look on his face has caused the image to go down in infamy. Ah, who are we kidding? This popular reaction shot has gained widespread traction because of the disturbing way in which it looks like it may be a window into Triple H’s "O" face. God knows we never wanted to envision that, even though we have to admit it’s pretty funny whenever we see it used as a response.
12 Too Much Cena
There is no question that John Cena has worked incredibly hard in order to turn himself into a very powerful man, as best evidenced by his ability to lift massive men. After all, there aren’t too many guys who’ve been able to lift Big Show during his career, let alone keep him up, which proves that they aren’t relying on momentum to carry his weight. On top of the resulting strength advantages, even John’s most fervent haters have to admit that he has turned his body into a specimen to behold. That doesn’t mean that the majority of wrestling fans, which is traditionally dominated by straight males, want to see him wearing nothing more than a washcloth over his junk.
11 Generation Gap
Dean Ambrose is one of the biggest wrestling stars of his generation. With a career that is highlighted by some ground-breaking storylines already under his belt, most of his fans hope to see him continue to push the envelope and challenge the status quo. Instead, since The Shield broke up, he has been involved in some pretty cringe-worthy moments that seem beneath him. Case in point, moments like when he sprayed his foes with ketchup and mustard or when he booby trapped the Money in the Bank briefcase so Seth Rollins got splattered were both so infantile.
In a lot of people’s eyes, the moment where the lamer aspects of his character became impossible to ignore was when he was on The Stone Cold Podcast. After a show that made it clear that the legend and upstart weren’t connecting, Austin put Dean on his heels when he challenged him to up the ante. Now, we fans can no longer pretend moments like him getting coffee in the back aren’t ridiculous, in large part due to an image like this one, that so perfectly underlines the disconnect between these two.
10 Rock and Roman’s Rumble Reaction
Speaking of former Shield members that are struggling since that trio broke up, let’s look at the 2015 Royal Rumble win, the moment that has most defined the solo career of Roman Reigns, so far. Going into the event, two things seemed to be abundantly clear, Vince McMahon and the powers that saw Roman as 'the man' and a lot of fans disagreed. Someone who clearly has a lot of attributes that any company would want in a potential champion, including looks, machismo and a mystique, he only seemed to lack one imperative element, a connection to the fans.
If there was one person who had that connection in spades, it was Daniel Bryan and when he was eliminated halfway through the match, the fans in attendance were outraged. Only made worse by the eventual winner of the match, the anger was so palpable that even when The Rock came out to give Roman his seal of approval, he too was booed. With Roman bloodied and The Rock looking shocked at the people booing (which we can see happening in the background), everything about this photo is the perfect embodiment of the moment. It is written on every face we see; the emotions the fans, Roman and those who wanted him to succeed are entirely clear.
9 The Oldertaker
We discussed The Undertaker’s undefeated streak earlier in this list but now we’re going to talk about the man himself. The only reason he was able to put together such an amazing history at the granddaddy of them all, WrestleMania, is because he has been able to have one of the most consistent careers we’ve ever seen. Debuting in the WWE in 1990, he wrestled at this last year’s WrestleMania, twenty-six years later and during that entire time there is only one company that he has worked for. That will likely never be seen again, partly because his character has worked all this time as a result of the man portraying him seeming timeless. Then you see this photo of him at an airport, looking tired and old and it just takes away from the mystique he’s carefully crafted all these years. We hate that.
8 Vince Russo WCW Champion
Quite possibly, the most hated figure the wrestling world has seen since the height of the Attitude Era, Vince Russo’s career is shrouded in controversy. The head writer during the most ground-breaking era in WWE’s history, writing his impact at the time off is a disservice to his legacy and an act of rewriting history. That said, his time in both TNA and WCW resulted in some of the most reviled storylines in wrestling history.
Worst of all is his treatment of world championships, the symbols of excellence in the industry; Vince has been quoted as seeing them as nothing more than props. While reflecting on the impact that belief had on respected WCW championships, a few photos came to mind. While most of you may have expected us to include David Arquette with a championship belt, we still can’t get over the fact that he put the belt on himself. A writer without a lick of serious in-ring history, we don’t give a crap about the storyline that led to it, this image is sacrilege.
7 Judy Bagwell WCW Champion
Speaking of horrific WCW championship holders, it wasn’t just under Vince Russo’s creative leadership that their belts were pissed on. In 1998, while Russo was still in charge of WWE creative, the middle-aged overweight mother of one of WCW’s stars took part in a storyline that saw her actually opposing her son. Far from the first or last time, a wrestler’s family members got involved in their characters’ on-screen lives, this nonetheless is the most egregious. Due to the fact that someone chose to have the mother of Buff Bagwell win the WCW tag team championships with Rick Steiner, the company could never be treated as seriously again. Buff Bagwell wasn’t even that big of a star for them anyway, not that Hulk Hogan’s mom winning a belt would have been any better.
6 Claire Lynch
TNA has had their fair share of horrible storylines but the one that totally takes the cake in our minds has to be the Claire Lynch debacle. A truly abysmal event in the annals of wrestling history, this confusing story started out with accusations that AJ Styles and Dixie Carter were cheating together and ended with a whimper. Introducing Claire Lynch, a character that was at the center of all the sophomoric, Teen Mom style drama, they made the dubious choice to hire a theme park “actress” to portray her. Utterly cringe-inducing, her atrocious acting was a marvel to see but was too bad to enjoy, even ironically. If you are unaware of this angle, listen to us and steer clear of any clips because this picture will tell you everything you need to know about what made the storyline and this infamous character so lousy.
5 Bischoff and McMahon
Vince McMahon is a man unlike any most of us will ever meet. Someone who is famous for an unending work ethic, he is known to work all hours of the night in order to ensure he does everything he can to make his company succeed. Another example of what he is willing to sacrifice in order to do what he thinks is best for the WWE, Vinnie has hired people who’ve crossed him again and again if it’s right for business. Perhaps, nobody exemplifies that hiring practice better than Eric Bischoff, the man who led WCW during the only era they bested the WWE in, and is said to have tried to put WWE out of business.
Embracing him on the rampway to the ring during Eric’s first appearance, most thought that act of public forgiveness could never be outdone. They were wrong because a short time later, Eric and Vince’s daughter Stephanie, were managers of rival WWE brands and doing everything they could to undermine one another. During an odd sequence on a Halloween-themed episode of Smackdown, Eric Bischoff appeared wearing a Vince mask before taking it off and passionately kissing Stephanie. There’s nothing more we can write to point out how odd and creepy this moment was and why a lot of people wanted to wash their eyes afterward.
4 Jay Leno & Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan is arguably the biggest star the wrestling world has ever seen. A twelve-time world champion whose combined reigns lasted 3362 days, or more than nine years, his resume stacks up against anyone who preceded or followed him. Jay Leno was a talk show host and comedian without a lick of athletic notoriety and was seen by many as the lamest option for those seeking late night entertainment in a world including David Letterman. Yet, somehow this photo of Leno with a goofy look on his face getting the better of Hogan whose face is grimacing in pain actually exists. We know, we wish it didn’t too.
3 Father and Son
While it was really weird and frankly disgusting that Vince McMahon allowed a script to go forward where his daughter would make-out with his one-time enemy, things don’t stop there. We could talk about the time he actually wrestled his daughter, who was wearing a cleavage-baring outfit, in an 'I Quit' match with his wife at ringside, but that wasn’t bad enough. Instead, we’ve chosen to point to this moment where Shane “O” Mac had his face forced into the middle of his dad’s mostly nude buttocks. Sure, in the storyline Vince was supposed to think that it was HBK’s face, which also would have been weird, but in reality, he approved the script where his son’s face met his butt long before it happened.
2 Sid Vicious Leg Break
Just prior to WWE putting WCW out of business once and for all by purchasing it, one of the worst injuries we’ve witnessed in wrestling took place. Allegedly pushed by WCW management to expand his repertoire, Sid Vicious was encouraged to attempt aerial maneuvers and judging by how his first try went, the decision was ill-advised. Attempting a big boot from the second rope on Scott Steiner, he suffered a gruesome-looking leg fracture when he landed on his leg and it seemed to totally buckle. Difficult to watch, the resulting photo of the man lying on the mat, looking at his mutilated leg is sickening.
1 Owen Hart Announcement
If you’re a long-term wrestling fan who was around during the Attitude Era, we’d be totally shocked if you didn’t recognize this moment the second you saw that image. More so, if you didn’t let out a gasp of recognition or groan of some kind then we’d also be surprised. An image of Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler at the 1999 Over the Edge event, you’re looking at a photo of the exact moment the announcers were tasked to inform the audience that Owen Hart had died. Falling to his death from the top of the arena because a safety harness gave way, it was so shocking that it was, and remains difficult to accept and remember to this day.