Pro Wrestling

10 Uncomfortable Times Pro Wrestling Got Too Real Source:

Pro wrestling loves to blur the lines between fiction and reality, often bringing real life events into their regular story lines. Most of the time, these angles end up being relatively harmless, and even wildly successful. But sometimes, wrestling crosses the line, things get a little too real, and the result is often very public backlash from fans, sponsors, and concerned citizens. With that in mind, here are some “real life” angles that somebody probably should have thought about a little harder before deciding it was a good idea to put them on television.

10. Matt Hardy, Lita, and Edge

It was an open secret in WWE for a long time that Matt Hardy and Lita were a couple and deliriously happy together. In fact, Matt got himself moved from Smackdown to Raw so he could spend more time with his girlfriend, and ended up in a story line where Kane stole Lita away and got her pregnant with his child. If that weren’t bad enough, after the feud Matt took time off to heal an injury, and discovered that Lita was actually cheating on him with fellow WWE Superstar Edge. Matt started posting rants on the Internet about Edge and Lita, and refused to stop when ordered by WWE, which resulted in his termination. Meanwhile, on television, supposedly face character Lita was the subject of relentless boos from the crowd, thanks to Matt making this information public, and WWE decided the best option was to have Lita turn heel and align with Edge on TV. Shockingly, the pair worked great together, and gave Edge’s “Rated R” character the piece it needed to become a real main event star. Seeing a money-making opportunity, WWE hired Matt Hardy back and had him attack Edge (while pretending that he wasn’t under contract), resulting in a feud where the avenging hero Matt Hardy…was defeated soundly by rising heel star Edge and retreated all the way back to Smackdown. Source:

9. CM Punk Desecrates Paul Bearer’s Memory

In the lead-up to WrestleMania 29, CM Punk won the right to challenge The Undertaker by winning a fatal four-way match (yes, some years, it seems like they aren’t even trying). The next night, Paul Bearer, longtime manager of The Undertaker, passed away due to respiratory issues. The very next week on Raw, WWE ran a memorial ceremony for Bearer, which was symbolized by the urn that Bearer had carried to the ring many times as Undertaker’s manager. Punk interrupted the ceremony, and stole the urn, proceeding to use it as a weapon against The Undertaker several times over the next few weeks, including emptying its contents over himself and a beaten-down Undertaker. It was later revealed that while WWE received permission from the family of Paul Bearer to use his memory as part of the Punk-Undertaker feud, the family was not told the extent of WWE’s plans, and were reportedly shocked by the lengths Punk went to as part of the story line. WWE was roundly criticized for their handling of the situation, but all was basically forgiven in time for them to induct Bearer into the WWE Hall of Fame a year later. Source:

8. Paul Heyman Fakes A Heart Attack

In September of 2012, Jerry Lawler suffered a heart attack, collapsing at the commentary desk while Raw was live on the air. Thanks to the quick actions of WWE’s medical staff, Lawler survived (and Michael Cole earned a lifetime of credit for somehow continuing to do commentary while his broadcast partner was backstage fighting for his life), and even returned to the desk barely two months later. And because Jerry Lawler is so old school that he was a multiple-time champion before the old school was even built, he allowed WWE to use his heart attack in an angle between himself and WWE Champion CM Punk. The story was that Punk felt that Lawler wasn’t giving him enough credit for being the best wrestler in the world and longest reigning WWE Champion of the modern era. As a result, on the first night Lawler returned, Punk’s advocate, Paul Heyman, faked a heart attack in the ring while Punk looked on in mock concern. It was a terrible idea regardless, but the fact that it happened so recently after Lawler’s near-death experience made it especially tasteless. Source:

7. Goldust Breaks Up With Marlena

After the success of Jim Ross’ sit-down interview with Mankind, which helped humanize the character a great deal, WWE decided to go a different tack with a similarly crazy character, Goldust. Speaking basically out of character as Dustin Rhodes, part of the way through the interview, Goldust began berating his manager/wife Marlena, then pulled off his wedding ring, threw it at her, and left the set. The entire segment is incredibly hard to watch, and got worse in hindsight when Dustin and Marlena divorced for real two years later. And because WWE is just a bastion of sensitivity, the entire interview and split with Marlena was done to set up Goldust’s change in persona to “The Artist Formerly Known As Goldust”, which would see Dustin pair with Luna Vachon and dress up in a variety of ridiculous and occasionally humiliating costumes, as WWE used the gimmick to take shots at the concept of “modern art”. Source:

6. WCW Promotes A “Shoot” Match For PPV

Vince Russo, former head writer for WWE and WCW, is a man who took wrestling to some of the highest highs it had ever seen, but also to some of its lowest lows. One of the major complaints about Russo was that he was obsessed with breaking the fourth wall, and exposing the fact that wrestling isn’t actually real (a fact known by roughly every wrestling fan ever, and no, it doesn’t affect our enjoyment of the product one bit, so stop asking). The height of Russo’s absurdity was a match at the New Blood Rising PPV in 2000, where Goldberg “refused to take Kevin Nash’ finisher” and walked out of the match. Goldberg was portrayed as “unprofessional” for breaking from the script, which basically resulted in the commentary team and WCW in general literally telling the audience that wrestling matches are completely fake and planned out ahead of time (again, we already know this, because pro wrestling is just like every other scripted show that airs on TV, and everyone seems fine with the fact that McDreamy isn’t really a doctor). The whole “fake shoot match” is still mocked to this day, as a perfect example of Vince Russo at his absolute worst. Source:

5. Vince Russo “Shoots” On Hulk Hogan

Hey, it’s Vince Russo again! This time, at Bash at the Beach 2000, Russo kicked off what he thought was going to be his greatest angle ever. He had WCW Champion Jeff Jarrett come out and literally lay down for Hulk Hogan to pin him and become champion. After Hogan returned to the back, Russo entered the ring and delivered a scathing promo in which he mocked Hogan repeatedly, blamed Hogan’s “creative control” clause for what the fans had just seen, and stripped him of the WCW Title in the process. The entire thing was scripted, with the eventual plan to have Hogan return for a big match with whomever was WCW Champion at that point. However, during his “shoot” promo, Russo actually went off script, and said a few things that actually offended Hogan (including calling him “bald”, which had been an off-limits subject going back to Hogan’s WWF years). Hogan decided he’d had just about enough of this, walked out of the company that night, then sued Russo for what he said. No, seriously, it was a real lawsuit that dragged out in court for years. Source:

4. Chris Kanyon Takes A Big Fall

During the painful downward spiral of WCW, they made a terrible movie called Ready To Rumble (which you should never, ever watch) that featured a “Triple Cage Match”, which was literally three steel cages stacked on top of each other. After the match ended, Mike Awesome ran in and attempted to powerbomb Diamond Dallas Page off the structure, only to be stopped by Page’s friend Chris Kanyon. Unfortunately, Awesome reacted by throwing Kanyon off the cages instead, where he fell through part of the stage. The entire spot was planned and Kanyon was actually unhurt, but that wasn’t the real problem with the stunt. Slamboree 2000, the Pay Per View where this match took place was held in the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, which had also played host to WWE’s Over The Edge Pay Per View in 1999. You might remember that show as the one where Owen Hart plunged to his death from the rafters after an equipment failure. WCW running an angle where a wrestler fell from a ridiculous height was seen as being in incredibly poor taste, and WCW responded by continuing to run the angle, with Kanyon shooting vignettes from a hospital wearing a halo neck brace and talking about how he might never walk again. And then he turned on his best friend Page when he ultimately returned to the ring, because WCW. Source.

3. Chyna’s Neck Injury

In 2000, Chyna was being pushed as the star of the (relatively thin) Women’s Division, whose champion, Ivory, was a member of the terrible (in every sense of the word) Right To Censor faction. As part of their feud, Chyna suffered a neck injury following a RTC attack, and then “came back early” to face Ivory at the 2001 Royal Rumble, where she appeared to re-injure herself and collapsed in the ring. To sell the injury, Jerry Lawler left commentary to check on Chyna, who was surrounded by doctors, while Jim Ross addressed the home audience in a solemn and serious tone. The last time something like this had occurred, including similar actions by Lawler and Ross, was the tragic death of Owen Hart, who fell from the top of the arena and landed in the ring. The parallels between the real and scripted incidents were fairly obvious, and the response from fans was immediate. WWE was derided for taking the events of a real tragedy and using them as part of a wrestling story line, especially since Chyna was not actually injured at all and the entire thing was planned out beforehand.

2. Eddie-sploitation

The death of Eddie Guerrero was a tragedy that echoed around the world of professional wrestling. Eddie was seen as an inspirational figure to so many people, and his unexpected passing sent many fans and wrestlers alike into a deep depression about the state of the business. WWE ran tribute shows for Eddie on both Raw and Smackdown, and actually received an enormous amount of goodwill for how they handled the situation. In fact, the death of Eddie Guerrero was the initial impetus for the WWE Wellness program, which, while much-maligned, did put additional focus on maintaining the health of professional wrestlers. And WWE took all this positive emotion, and flushed it down the toilet by having Randy Orton cut promos against one of Eddie’s best friends, Rey Mysterio, who had won the Royal Rumble in tribute to Guerrero, where Orton flat-out stated that Eddie wasn’t in heaven, he was in hell. One episode of Smackdown even ended with Orton driving one of Eddie’s famous low-riders through the Smackdown set, which was on fire at the time (don’t ask), creating a fairly disturbing image.

1. Vince McMahon Interviews Melanie Pillman

In 1997, WWE Superstar Brian Pillman passed away suddenly the day of the Badd Blood PPV, of a serious heart condition that had previously gone undetected. It was a tragic end for the 35-year-old Pillman, who had been one of wrestling’s most unique talents over his career. In his memory, WWE decided that the appropriate thing to do would be to have Vince McMahon interview Melanie Pillman, Brian’s widow, on the Raw the day after the Pay Per View, barely 24 hours after Pillman’s death was revealed. And Vince was relentless during the interview, asking ridiculously tough and probing questions to a clearly grieving woman about subjects like allegations that her husband had drug problems, and questioning who would support the family now. Presumably, he thought that this sort of thing would look like legitimate journalism and somehow get WWE credit for doing a hard-hitting, in-depth interview before any of the real news programs. All it really did was make Vince and WWE look like monsters who had attacked a vulnerable and defenseless woman, and for that, they even “won” an award for Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic from the Wrestling Observer Awards that year. Thankfully, they quickly abandoned their policy of interviewing the loved ones of deceased wrestlers live on Raw. Source:

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.