The WWE makes a big deal these days pointing out that they are programming appropriate for the entire family, highlighting things like their Make-A-Wish visits, anti-bully campaigns and help fighting breast cancer. They also make an effort to let the public know they are serious about concussion, drug abuse and keeping their wrestlers healthy.
Even today, things slip through the well-regulated cracks and you get the occasional chairshot to the head, as happened with Roman Reigns and Sheamus at the recent TLC pay-per-view and wrestlers still bleed unintentionally once in a while. Turn the clock back a little bit and you’ll find a time when the WWE actually embraced things that made them more cutting edge.
The WWE called Monday Night Raw during The Attitude Era a PG-13 program, but if you take a look at its product during that time, there were plenty of segments that were R-Rated, carrying over to their even raunchier pay-per-view and home videos. While business was up during this time, there were a lot of parents and veteran wrestlers who were vocal at their displeasure of the content at the time.
Even Vince McMahon reportedly didn’t like the direction his show was taking and once the competition was gone, he returned to the more family-friendly fare that he built his empire upon in the 1980s. Yes, they’ve cleaned up their act, and adult programming rarely ever happens these days, so now is as good a time as any to look back at 19 of WWE’s Most R-Rated Moments.
19 Vince McMahon degrades Trish Stratus
Back in 2001, when WWE was in full-on anything goes mode, women were fair game when it came to just about everything the men were doing in the ring, and sometimes more. Flaunting his power, the Mr. McMahon character was harshly criticized for making Trish Stratus crawl around the ring, screaming “bark like a dog” at her. Stratus did so, and also stripped to her black undies when McMahon demanded she do that as well. Perhaps the segment was tasteless, but it can also be seen as the promo that kept Linda McMahon out of the US Senate. When she was running for office, her opponents continued to show this clip of Stratus asking if the people of Connecticut would want someone who thought this was acceptable entertainment running their state. Perhaps this means Stratus got the last laugh.
18 Girls Gone Wild... or Mild
If you’re doing a PG-rated thing in an R-rated atmosphere, is it still R-rated? That’s a question viewers had to ask themselves after watching the WWE’s one-time-only teaming with Girls Gone Wild in co-promoting a GGW special. Along with providing advertising during Monday Night Raw, the WWE sent a “special attraction” of Torrie Wilson and Nidia to have a sexy bikini contest, which ended up being as sexy as watching your grandmother try on one-piece swimsuits. The participants showed no skin and reviews were hugely negative. It was so lame that many people thought Dawn Marie’s crowd flash to promote the event during an episode of Smackdown was far more racy. Still, it was a GGW program. WWE would never team with such a company these days.
17 Kiss My A$$ Club
The Mr. McMahon character has blurred the line of real life Vince and character Vince so well that fans assume he is the same evil maniac at the office that he is in the ring. Sometimes, he did things he obviously wouldn’t do at Titan Tower, but simply by the fact he OK’d it, he had a few screws loose. Vince McMahon’s “Kiss My A$$” Club was a surreal trip into Vince’s mind, where he enjoyed forcing people to literally kiss his bare butt on TV in order to keep their job. It came off as more funny than disgusting with William Regal, Jim Ross and Shane McMahon all joining the club against their will. McMahon’s comeuppance was a taste of Rikishi’s stinkface.
16 Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar: Hell in a Cell
This is the most recent entry on this list and a very R-rated situation in a world of family-friendly PG entertainment. Everybody knows Lesnar was the guy to end the streak at Wrestlemania in New Orleans a couple years ago to start the feud and this match at Hell in a Cell seemed a little like a desperate attempt to get people to subscribe to the WWE Network. There was more blood in this match than has been seen in a WWE ring for years with both guys sprouting gushers during the contest, to the point Lesnar was dripping blood onto the mat several times. Lesnar also tore the ring apart, exposing the wooden base underneath the padding and slamming Undertaker onto it. For sheer brutality, it was not PG-rated.
15 The Al Wilson Storyline
As the story goes, Torrie Wilson’s stepfather Al was backstage at a show visiting Torrie and just happened to be around when they were putting backstage vignettes together. His awkward delivery struck a chord with someone backstage and he became a fixture on TV for several months, culminating with a marriage to Torrie Wilson’s arch enemy, Dawn Marie. During the storyline, which ended with Al dying while doing it, Al was seen in various stages of undress, much to his stepdaughter’s dismay. This is just something the WWE wouldn’t attempt these days.
14 The Introduction of The Thong
When the question of “When did the Attitude Era?” really start, a lot of people point to the bloody battle resulting in the double-turn of Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13, but if you were up late to watch The Slammy Awards a night earlier, you’d probably just say it was that whole weekend. In a “Miss Slammy” contest, the WWE took their growing stable of divas, including Sunny, Marlena and Sable, put them in tiny bikinis and paraded them out for the audience. All participants were wearing thongs meaning WWE showed multiple women’s butts on TV for the first time. Since The Attitude Era was built on sexual innuendo, there’s a good argument it started on Slammy night in Chicago.
13 Chairshot Nightmare
Mick Foley spent years making a name for himself as Cactus Jack on the indy scene and in ECW (we’ll ignore his WCW days) before making it to WWE, where they promptly changed his name to Mankind. Once the WWE saw that violence equaled ratings, we saw a return for Foley to his hardcore roots and this was the case at the 1999 Royal Rumble in his extreme match with The Rock. We stopped counting around 15 chair shots given by The Rock, and these weren’t the protected shots to the back you see these days. The Rock smashed Mankind in the head again and again with a steel chair. The tragedy of this is that you can see Foley’s kids watching their dad get beaten in the documentary Beyond the Mat. Foley credits this match, and their reactions, to toning down his act.
12 The Kat vs. Terri Runnels saga
They were never going to have five-star matches and did have the acting chops to land a supporting role in a high school play, but Mrs. Jerry Lawler and Mrs. Dustin “Goldust” Rhodes didn’t let their lack of experience stop them from engaging in an entertaining feud in 2000. In Europe, an arm wrestling contest between the two ended up with The Kat losing her top, exposing her chest. Back in the United States the duo fought in the only “thong stinkface match” in the company’s history at Summerslam. Jerry Lawler’s wife won, but how can you say anybody loses in a match like this, including the audience.
11 Benny Hill Would Be Proud
You just needed the goofy Yakety Sax theme song to make this entry something straight out of The Benny Hill Show, and to top it off, it took place in England! Jacqueline was in the midst of her feud with Sable at the time the WWE was presenting the UK-only pay-per-view Capital Carnage in 1998. Jacqueline was wearing a loose tank-top throughout the mixed tag-team match she was having and it was clear to even a blind man she wasn’t wearing a bra. Following the match, Sable ran up to Jacqueline and ripped the tank top off, while Jacqueline was on referee Tim White’s shoulders. White ran around in circles, resulting in the longest scene of nudity on WWE programming ever.
10 Those Are Some Shot-Guns
Twenty years ago, when there were still local independent television stations, WWE used these to promote their product and one of the last programs shown was Shotgun Saturday Night, designed to be shown to an older audience who didn’t want to see Saturday Night Live. On the debut episode, The Flying Nuns, a tag team who went on to become The Headbangers, were seen and then never heard from again. Terri Runnels also flashed Goldust’s opponent, The Sultan, who later became Rikishi. The home audience couldn’t see the pasties, but the live crowd got an up close and personal look at the woman then known as Marlena. Shotgun Saturday Night never caught on and was cancelled within a year.
9 Undertaker vs. Mick Foley: Hell in a Cell
Jim Ross has had plenty of famous calls during his Hall of Fame career and is known for coining phrases like “slobber knocker” but it’s his call of the WWE’s most brutal match ever, “As God as my witness he is broken in half!” He was talking, of course, about the Hell in a Cell Match between Mankind and The Undertaker. That statement was after Mankind was thrown off the top of the cage, a planned spot according to Mick Foley in his autobiography. A few moments later, Foley fell through the top of the cage onto a steel chair, which was unplanned. The blood flowed, the thumbtacks were used and, almost as an afterthought, The Undertaker won. This is probably one of the most replayed matches in WWE, and with good reason. For sheer violence, it’s R-rated all the way.
8 And Then There Were Breasts
The Attitude Era could have easily been booked by 15-year-old boys because it really just became about upping the level of violence, more adult language and lingerie everywhere you looked. This era featured a lot of matches with stipulations that simply would never happen today and the most notorious was the evening gown swimming pool Women’s Championship match pitting champion Ivory against The Kat, BB Bush and Jacqueline. In the build-up for the match, The Kat said she wouldn’t wear anything underneath, but after winning, stripped off her dress to show a bra and panties. She didn’t stop there, taking off the bra and giving WWE it’s first intentional nudity.
7 Climb Aboard the Ho Train
The WWE was already moving out of the goofy characters of the 1980s who were garbage men, rich guys, hillbillies and cowboys. When the WWE started getting more adult in the mid-to-late ’90s, characters usually had an adult-themed bent to them and nobody embodied that change of style more than The Godfather. Having already struck out as Papa Shango and Kama, the real-life Charles Wright finally struck gold as, of all things, a pimp who would bring his “ho’s” to ringside. These ladies were mostly made of strippers from whatever town the WWE was visiting that day. This is the kind of programming that WWE wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole these days.
6 The Antics of D-X
At its fullest, the D-X stable consisted of Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Chyna, Road Dogg, Billy Gunn and X-Pac. They ruled the roost, got the most screen time and got away with the most adult material on the roster. There was a stretch of time where it was hard to tune into Monday Night Raw without seeing Michaels, Triple H or Chyna waving their butts around for the camera. They also pushed the envelope when it came to the language and sexual double entendres, once prompting a USA Network memo that D-X made fun on television the next week. Odds are, you’ll never see another group that is able to act likes these did in a WWE ring anytime in the foreseeable future.
5 No Contest For This Wet T-Shirt
Once upon a time, in a world before Blu-Rays and before DVDs, the world watched their movies on VHS tapes. The WWE turned out these tapes frequently, usually as a special compilation of matches, an old pay-per-view or an original biography. One of the few tapes that was an original was Divas in Paradise, blatantly a rip-off of the Making of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue specials that were popular at the time. It was a “behind the scenes” look at the making of the Divas calendar, with each women getting a few minutes of screen time. Trish Stratus was the newest diva, who hadn’t done much except a little managing at the time, was seen in a tight white T-shirt. It got hotter when she took a hose and soaked herself...
4 Not All Skin is Good Skin
The WWE has never been a company to rest on its laurels, especially with its creative presentation. Even if we’ve seen it before, they’ve always got to go bigger, louder and during the Attitude Era, more sexual. At Royal Rumble in 2000, the WWE needed to follow-up on some recent pay-per-view nudity and held a Miss Royal Rumble bikini contest. As expected, the crop of divas at the time wore skimpy bikinis that barely allowed them to appear in public. Mae Young, who was over 80 years old, entered the contest and took her turn last. During her little humorous dance, Young pulled her one-piece down, exposing her very, very, very, very old breasts. After the show, the WWE claimed it was just a makeup job and we saw prosthetics, but knowing Young’s propensity to go off-script, we know better.
3 The Wetter the Better
The ring was covered with 15 super soakers and at least a dozen five-gallon buckets full of water when Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle, fighting for something to do with Playboy Magazine locked up to begin WWE’s only “Wet and Wild” Match in history. The wrestlers, wearing white tank top and shorts (obviously alluding to wet T-shirt contests despite the fact both were wearing bra and panties) were completely soaked within a few seconds. It was only a few seconds longer for the referee and front-row fans to be just as wet. The end of the match came when Wilson did a stinkface on Michelle and rolled her up for the very wet pin.
2 Throw Your Hands in the Air
She’s now only known as Mrs. Brock Lesnar, but for a few years in WWE, there was no hotter female commodity than Sable. She was married to wrestling Marc Mero at the time and the duo were in storyline that had them at odds over Sable’s increasingly sexual antics. At the Fully Loaded pay-per-view in 1998, in a bikini contest against Jacqueline, Sable pushed the nudity envelope further than it has been before, when she took off her T-shirt to show nothing but hands painted on her breasts. The crowd went nuts, but ironically, Sable lost since she wasn’t wearing a bikini. Nobody seemed to mind the defeat.
1 1. The R-Rated Superstar Proves It
As icons like The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin were fading in the latter parts of their career, the WWE needed to build new champions and one of the guys who got a turn with the ball was Edge. After a highly publicized real-life affair with Lita, the WWE incorporated it into a storyline and cast the two as forbidden lovers. After a defense of his title at a pay-per-view, Edge announced the next night on Raw he’d hold a live sex celebration to close the show. Around 10:55 p.m. that night he and Lita were in a bed, in the middle of the ring, legit pulling each other’s clothes off. Proof was when the sheet was pulled to the side showing Lita was actually topless. Think about it...the WWE was OK with its champion pretending to have sex in the middle of the ring. Toss in the nudity and you know why Edge’s nickname was the R-Rated Superstar.