Whether you call it sports entertainment or professional wrestling, the industry has had a very shady past that has seen death, drugs and personal life disasters. The WWE can trace its roots back to the early 1950s when current Chairman Vincent K. McMahon's grandfather, Jess, promoted wrestling in the northeastern United States. The company morphed over the decades. Once a mom and pop professional wrestling promotion, the WWE is now a publicly traded company that is worth billions of dollars.
Since taking over the company in the 1980s from his father Vincent J. McMahon and changing its name from the World Wide Wrestling Federation to the World Wrestling Federation, McMahon Jr. has worked tirelessly to build an empire. There were casualties along the way, both literally and figuratively, along with plenty of scandals that made the front pages of newspapers around the globe.
Many of the unsettling facts about the WWE have been covered up, ignored or removed from history by the company as best it can be. The WWE has been the only real major player in professional wrestling since 2001, when it acquired both WCW and ECW. That doesn't mean people have forgotten some of the brand's hardest truths and moments during its history.
15 Yokozuna's Weight
According to many of the dirtsheets out there, the WWE encouraged wrestler Yokozuna to gain weight when he began with the company in 1992. The Yokozuna-gimmick was that of a large champion sumo wrestler. Rodney Anoa'i was the man tasked with the Yokozuna-gimmick and it was one he lived 24/7. As the WWE Champion between 1993-94, he was pushed as a giant monster heel, which he was. But Anoa'i's weight continued to balloon, and it took his life in 2000 at just 34-years old. He got bigger to live the gimmick only to die because of it. At the end of the day, this pressure on Anoa'i to gain extra weight for a character ultimately cost him his life.
14 Harassment and Bullying
The wrestling business is full of rough and tough dudes and dudettes, and ribbing other wrestlers isn't uncommon. Some ribs can be quite extreme and go too far. But what happens when the fun and games becomes bullying? John "Bradshaw" Layfield is well-known as one of the lead instigators of bullying in the WWE. In his book, former WWE ring announcer Justin Roberts indicated he had been harassed by JBL for years. JBL even took to Twitter to call Roberts an "idiot" in April 2017, proving he is still bullying him and they don't even work together anymore. More recently, JBL has had issues with play-by-play announcer Mauro Ranallo, who suffers from bi-polar disorder. No matter how you stack it, JBL's behavior isn't him being a heel, just a jerk.
13 Burying Wrestling Territories
Although Vince McMahon says that old-time wrestling promoters put themselves out of business, many wrestling fans don't see it that way. In the 1980s, McMahon began his national expansion, hiring talent away from other wrestling companies. He also invaded the traditional areas of wrestling companies, taking it from a regional business to a national one. In 1983, McMahon coaxed a blonde haired, golden tanned wrestler by the name of Hulk Hogan to New York from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Hogan had been the star face of Verne Gagne's AWA. Despite Hogan and Gagne having personal issues and the latter being unsure of giving the former the company's world title, the group was doing record business. But Hogan's departure along with a host of other AWA wrestlers and announcers with him brought the company to its knees. The AWA struggled on until 1991 before it closed its doors. A number of other companies suffered similar fates.
In February 2016, McMahon personally suspended black wrestler Titus O'Neil for 60 days. O'Neil apparently got on McMahon's wrong side when he grabbed the chairman's arm as the two walked up the entrance ramp. Fan theories claim this was a direct result of McMahon's racism. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. But there is no denying that the history of WWE has been riddled with racism. From actual in-ring segments to backstage altercations, race has always been a hot button issue.
11 Violence Against Women
During the Attitude Era of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the women of the WWE took a beating. Many times, those beatings came at the hands of men. One of the most memorable moments of man and woman violence came when Bubba Ray Dudley powerbombed an elder Mae Young from the second rope through a table. While WWE has changed their policy on violence towards women, they cannot escape the past and the image they once portrayed. The company essentially taught young men that it was OK to lay hands on a woman if she got on your bad side.
10 Steve Austin Pulls A Gun
Most people remember the Steven Austin-Brian Pillman gun storyline, and some believe it to be one of the best angles not to get a payoff. What gets overlooked is the October 1998 Raw episode in which Austin pulls a gun on McMahon in the middle of the squared circle. As Austin pulls the trigger, a BANG 3:16 flag comes out, but the visual of McMahon being murdered on his knees Gangland-style was there for everyone to see. McMahon was so frightened from the incident he peed himself in the ring before getting a Stone Cold Stunner as thousands of fans cheered on. Once again, not the best image to leave upon an impressionable audience.
9 "Live Sex Celebration"
In 2006, Edge won the WWE Championship from John Cena after cashing in his Money in Bank contract to face the champion. The next night on Raw in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Edge and Lita had a "live sex celebration" in the middle of the ring. The segment accumulated a reported 5.2 rating. As we all know, McMahon is all about the rating. Of course, this serves as another raunchy example of WWE pushing the envelop. This is also a reminder of the infidelity that occurs backstage as this pairing was direct result of Edge cheating on Matt Hardy.
8 The Plane Ride from Hell
The Plane Ride from Hell has gone down in WWE folklore due to its sheer craziness. The May 2002 flight saw Brock Lesnar and Curt Hennig wrestle amateur around the plane, Michael Hayes and JBL get into a fist fight after drinking too much and Dustin Runnels sing to his ex-wife Terri Runnels in an attempt to win her back. The flight was a collection of wrestler debauchery that featured WWE stars with plenty of personal drug and alcohol problems. Hennig died less than a year later from acute drug intoxication. Meanwhile, Scott Hall and Sean "X-Pac" Waltman have had their substance abuse problems well documented. According to Waltman, wrestlers were taking GHB, "gettin pilled-up" and doing whatever they wanted on the WWE chartered flight which featured an open bar. Two flight attendants would later file a lawsuit against the WWE after being harassed by a naked Ric Flair. The company settled out of court.
7 Wrestling Murder Cover-Up
Although he never made much of an impact in WWE rings in the 1960s, Carlos Colon became the most famous wrestler in Puerto Rican history. Colon allegedly controlled the island as the top wrestler, and his influence over the police following Bruiser Brody's murder allowed Jose Gonzalez to walk free. Gonzalez stabbed Brody in the shower of the Bayamon baseball stadium over a disagreement between the two. Some reports indicate Gonzalez had had it in for Brody since the two first tangled in the 1970s for the WWWF. Regardless, Colon was induced into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014.
6 "Macho Man" Randy Savage
In 2014, the WWE released "The Randy Savage Story" on DVD. Until then, the WWE hadn't mentioned the wrestling greats name since he walked out on the company in 1994. For 20 years, McMahon reportedly had strange reactions to anyone who brought up Savage's name. Although it hasn't been proven, rumors have circulated for years that Savage and McMahon's daughter Stephanie, now married to Triple-H, had some kind sexual relationship prior to the wrestler leaving the company for WCW. McMahon had been preparing Savage for a major role in management despite the wrestler not wanting to hang up his boots. In the end, Savage walked away from the WWE and never set foot in one of the company's rings again.
5 Owen Hart Died on PPV
In May 1999, Owen Hart fell to his death on the WWE's Over the Edge pay-per-view in Kansas City, Missouri. Playing the Blue Blazer character, Hart was repelling from the ceiling of the arena when his harness released, sending him crashing into the ring. Despite being rushed out of the squared circle to an ambulance and a large blood spot being visible on the mat, the WWE show continued. This has been debated ever since as there are those who believe that the remainder of the event should have been called off due to the situation. Meanwhile, there are those (McMahon included) who feel that Owen would have wanted the show to continue.
4 Sexual Abuse
In 1992, the WWE was at the center of a child sex case after ring boy Tom Cole accused the company's Terry Garvin of sexual harassment. Pat Patterson and ring announcer Mel Phillips were also implicated. Patterson was the only one of the three brought back to the company later on, and the only one McMahon defended. To many, Pat Patterson is a hero but in reality, the man would often push sexual activity on wrestlers during his tenure. The face that McMahon has kept Patterson by his side for so long is certainly something disturbing.
3 Steroid Trial
McMahon was indicted by the United States Federal Court in 1993 over distributing steroids. Many close to McMahon have stated the wrestling impresario was afraid he would be convicted. Some even say he was preparing the WWE for his eventual time in prison and was putting personnel in place to run the business. McMahon was acquitted in 1994, but wrestlers looked legitimately smaller for some time to come afterwards. The company was also shaken financially after millions of dollars were spent on McMahon's defense. Nowadays WWE performers are said to be "steroid free" but with the way some of these guys look, it is hard to believe.
2 Jimmy Snuka
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Jimmy Snuka was on top of the wrestling world in the early 1980s, but in May 1983, his rise to the top took a major hit. At 1:50AM on May 11th, Snuka's girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, was pronounced dead after being taken to a local hospital near Whitehall Township, Pennsylvania. Snuka's explanations of Argentino's head injuries were strange, but somehow, Snuka was not indicted for her murder at the time. According to news reports, McMahon was present during Snuka's police interview and did all the talking. In Snuka's book, he wrote that McMahon entered the interview with a large briefcase, and the wrestler eluded to the promoter leaving it with authorities, possibly with cash inside, when they left. With Argentino and Snuka both dead, it looks like McMahon is the only one that may know the truth about her death.
1 Christ Benoit Murders
In June 2007, WWE wrestler Chris Benoit murdered his wife and son before killing himself. Benoit had been wrestling for decades and had a very aggressive style. Reports stated Benoit's brain "resembled an 85-year-old" due to the amount of head trauma he had taken. Benoit was also taking steroids and due to the autopsy revelations on his body, the WWE began to take their wellness policy more seriously. Benoit's brain also made the WWE rethink their policy on concussions and address head injuries more strictly. There is no denyign that the Chris Benoit case is the most disturbing thing about any WWE Superstar.