Professional wrestling as an industry has made its living by creating controversial moments. With its scripted nature, the only way these companies can compete with mainstream sports is by balancing on that line between entertainment and obscenity.
The reason WWE has become the pinnacle of professional wrestling is that its talent and officials are constantly stretching the limits of what is acceptable. While this is WWE’s greatest accomplishment, there have been instances when WWE has overstepped its bounds.
Therefore, this list will countdown the 15 Times WWE Took Things Too Far. Whether it was the athletes of WWE or the company itself, every event on this list took place before a shocked video audience.
Included in this article we have controversial characters, outlandish moments, bad company decisions, and some seriously scandalous conduct. Also look out for several entries concerning Vince McMahon‘s own daughter, Stephanie McMahon. WWE has locked horns with the FCC in the past, but these are 15 instances where WWE may have actually crossed some line. All the events discussed in this article are taken from WWE.com or are from the first-hand knowledge of the author.
15. Chris Jericho Insults Sister Of CM Punk For Addiction Issues
It is not always WWE management who takes things too far, sometimes it is the superstars themselves. We saw an example of this in the 2012 rivalry between CM Punk and Chris Jericho. Two of the best talkers in the business, both of these men sought to outdo each other with the insults in their promos. Y2J took this a step too far when he began discussing CM Punk’s sister’s real life drug addiction. This was part of the storyline where Jericho was insulting Punk for his “hypocritical” stand on drugs and alcohol. Punk and Jericho were friends at this time, so I would guess that Y2J cleared it with his opponent before going this personal. Either way, Jericho’s comments went a little too far and turned this rivalry uglier than it needed to be.
14. Lita Cheats On Matt Hardy With Edge In Real Life Leading To An Awkward Storyline
WWE has a knack for taking real life influences and turning them into compelling storylines. This is oftentimes a good thing, as it allows the performers to feed off of their own experiences to make for a more dramatic storyline. For this entry, however, WWE decided to construct a storyline around a real-life feud that was still incredibly fresh. It is commonly known that WWE Diva Lita was having an affair with Edge while she was dating Matt Hardy. Eventually, Matt found out and Lita would officially leave him for Edge. Incredibly soon after this happened, WWE officials thought it would be a good idea to have a scripted love triangle storyline between Edge, Hardy, and Lita. This had to have been incredibly awkward for all three superstars and is just one example of when WWE took their storylines too far.
13. The Angry Foreigner Gimmick Of Muhammad Hassan
Since its inception, WWE has utilized the “angry immigrant” persona to build heat towards whatever heel they were pushing at the time. In the Cold War fervor of the 80’s it was the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff, and following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it was Muhammed Hassan. The issue with these characters is that they create the impression that every citizen from these enemy countries ardently hates the United States. These characters foster anti-immigrant feelings among the WWE fans (not always the smartest bunch) which do not go away when that character becomes a face. The Hassan character was especially heinous because it took advantage of the strong feelings of fear and inadequacy that many Americans were harboring after 9/11.
12. Stephanie’s Drugged Wedding
Nothing says a storyline that went too far like a roofied woman getting shotgun married in a fast food drive through. Such is the case with the fictional wedding of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. In one of the most famous WWE Attitude Era segments of all time, Triple H interrupts Stephanie’s wedding to WWE Superstar Test to tell her that she can’t get married because she is already married to him. He then plays a clip of him and a passed out Stephanie getting a Vegas style wedding earlier in the week. WWE appears to have some reservations on this segment themselves and on the WWE YouTube channel, the clip is cut down to show as little of a passed out Stephanie as possible.
11. Val Venis’ Backstory Of Being An Adult Performer
To get a variety of characters, WWE Creative scours the globe for unique characteristics for its superstars. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in some outlandish characters. While some of these characters quickly get ditched (think Kane as Dr. Isaac Yank’em), other outrageous characters become popular with the WWE Universe. Such was the case with Val Venis, a popular superstar during WWE’s Attitude Era. Prior to becoming a professional wrestler, Venis’ character was a famous star in that “other industry”. In order to introduce this character, WWE pulled off quite a few stunts which would be totally taboo in the modern era. The most famous of these may have been the saucy hot tub scenes Venis had with real life “other industry” star, Jenna Jameson.
10. DX (All The Time)
If you’re surprised to see DX grace this list, then you didn’t watch WWE in the 90’s. This controversial group has gotten some slack for stealing the NWO gimmick, but DX revolutionized pro wrestling in a way that was fundamentally different from the New World Order. DX wasn’t an outlaw group interested in wrestling domination, they were a group of renegades who were simply tired of being told what they could and couldn’t do. As part of their battle against the authority, DX pulled off several stunts which stretched the limits of common decency. A staple of the DX promo centered around the male anatomy, and that just gives you a taste of the kind of things DX was able to get away with. And if you’re not down with that, I’ve got two words for ya.
9. The Montreal Screwjob
I know that it’s hard to believe from some of the other entries on this list, but sometimes the WWE takes itself a little too seriously. The company is so concerned with protecting their brand that they are willing to do just about anything to maintain their public image. There is one famous incident where WWE took this public image obsession to the absolute extreme, the Montreal Screwjob. At the 1997 Survivor Series pay-per-view, Bret Hart was scheduled to take on Shawn Michaels for the WWE Championship. Bret Hart’s contract with WWE was almost up at this time, so Vince McMahon scheduled him to drop the title to Michaels. Hart refused to lose, stating he would relinquish the title upon leaving the WWE. Fearing another Alundra Blayze incident, Vince had Michaels declared the victor shocking both the audience and Hart. It is amazing to me that three grown men would allow a situation to get so bad that an incident like the Montreal Screwjob could occur.
8. Mickie James Makes Explicit Gesture To Friends During Match With Trish Stratus
To be honest, I had forgotten that this incident happened, but when my friend reminded me I just knew it had to be included. Upon Mickie James‘ debut in the WWE, she was put into a lengthy rivalry with the then Queen of the Women’s Division, Trish Stratus. The story centered around James’ obsession with Trish (of the lesbian variety), and Trish’s attempt to rebuff her (forceful) advances. Their rivalry culminated with a match at WrestleMania 22, where things got a little weird. Trish was going for her finishing maneuver when James put her hand in an inappropriate spot. This caused Trish to release her hold, and James made a specific gesture to the audience. It is still unclear whether this was planned or James did it of her own volition.
7. The “Death” Of Vince McMahon
Sometimes things are inappropriate not in themselves, but because of the environment in which they were done. Such is the case with the #7 entry on our list, the fictional death of Vince McMahon. This was done as the start of a storyline where someone was responsible for the limo explosion which “killed” the Chairman of the WWE. Unfortunately for the WWE, this was done less than a week before the tragic murder-suicide of Chris Benoit and his family. This fact was too morbid for even the WWE Creative Team and the assassination storyline was promptly canned. WWE would then make another ill-advised decision and have a whole episode of Monday Night Raw be used as a tribute to Benoit. I’m sure once the details of Benoit’s death emerged they felt somewhat foolish for praising him as a hero the week before.
6. Vince Makes Out With Trish In Front Of Linda Who Was In A Coma
Like so many entries on this list, this one centers around the McMahon family. In an apparent attempt to assuage his ego, Vince McMahon pushed a storyline where he was in an adulterous relationship with Trish Stratus. During this time, Linda McMahon was in a kayfabe coma, yet for some reason was still wheeled around the Raw set every week. During an especially cringeworthy segment, Vince made out with his mistress Trish in front of a comatose Linda. This segment reeked of a corny p*rn storyline and was simply too much. The segment was so awkward that even the shows commentators noted how awkward they were. Unfortunately, this won’t be the last time we see Vince and Trish’s “relationship” make this list.
5. Mark Henry Has A Relationship With The Much Older Mae Young
It is nice to see the elder statesman status currently being conferred on Mark Henry because he has had to put up with a lot of bullcrap during his time with the WWE. If I had to vote for the worst thing that WWE officials ever did to the big man, it would have to be the “sexual chocolate” persona. As part of this character, Mark Henry was essentially man candy to WWE legend Mae Young. That’s right, WWE Creative thought it would be a good idea to give the World’s Strongest Man a comedic persona in the middle of his prime. Not only was this terrible decision making, but it also led to some cringeworthy moments of Mae on top of Henry (and vice versa).
4. Eugene Mocks Special Needs Individuals
It’s a simple fact that there are characters and storylines which may have been appropriate at the time, but would be totally inappropriate in the modern WWE. Such is the case with Eugene, a character developed by WWE who was mentally disabled. Despite his disability, Eugene was able to transition his pro wrestling fandom into a moderate level of success with WWE. WWE created Eugene to be a sympathetic character, but as a whole, the idea of someone “playing” someone with autism goes a little too far. Honestly, I’m surprised there wasn’t some kind of reaction even then to the Eugene character. Eugene was a product of the time, and it will be interesting to see how WWE refers to this character in the new PG era.
3. Chris Jericho’s Comments About Stefanie McMahon
This entry isn’t so much a single event, as it was a series of promos which went way over the top. Y2J and Stephanie McMahon were involved in a very heated rivalry back in the day. It was clear that Jericho apparently felt comfortable enough with his bosses daughter to throw around some pretty heavy insults. Stephanie was fairly young at the time, so it’s surprising to hear some of the innuendos and comments that Jericho throws her way. Aside from the bosses daughter aspect, however, this isn’t all that surprising. Y2J has always been one to stretch the limits of what he can do and that’s part of what has made him such a great performer.
2. Ric Flair Makes Out With Becky Lynch
I debated whether to include this entry, but this recent episode was just too creepy to ignore. During a heated match between Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch at the 2016 Royal Rumble, Charlotte was saved by her father, the 16x World Champion, Ric Flair. What made this episode so weird was that Flair decided to distract Becky by giving her an unwanted kiss. This forceful kiss was very awkward, and you can imagine that Lynch wasn’t very pleased when this storyline was developed. There’s just something about a 60-year-old man sexually assaulting his daughter’s opponents that seemed out of bounds for WWE programming. Ric Flair was already on his way to becoming the Joe Namath of WWE, so perhaps we should be unsurprised that he was part of such an awkward moment.
1. Vince Makes Trish Stratus Act Like A Dog
As you’ve seen from the rest of this list, this incident was one of a long list of cringeworthy moments in the “relationship” of Trish Stratus and Vince McMahon. In order to cement Vince’s heel status (and build some sympathy for Trish for her future face turn), WWE officials decided it would be a good idea for the WWE Commissioner to degrade his mistress in front of a live audience. Some of the entries on this list have gotten less acceptable over time, but while this was going on, this Raw skit was hard to watch. Vince first orders Trish to take off most of her clothes, before making her get on her knees and bark like a dog. Vince was definitely flirting with a lawsuit on this one.
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