It’s easy to forget in today’s age of social media and shoot interviews but there was a time when a wrestler’s number one job was to protect kayfabe at all costs. They would stake their careers and sometimes, even their lives on it. For those not in the know, kayfabe is the artificial reality created within the world of wrestling, basically the idea that everything you see inside a wrestling ring is real. While you know that The Undertaker isn’t an undead demonic cult leader who just chooses to wrestle on the side, kayfabe tells us he is. When you see Sasha Banks and Bayley pummelling each other senseless at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn, you’re probably well aware that they’re best friends in real life, but kayfabe says otherwise.
It’s an art form some would say has been lost over the years. Back in the glory days of the sport, when promotions were still pretending that wrestling was 100% real, if a wrestler got into a bar fight outside of work and lost, they’d be fired on the spot, seen as having failed to portray wrestlers as the toughest guys around. During the 1975 plane crash that Ric Flair famously walked away from, another wrestler on board, Tim Woods is said to have been so committed to his character that he lied about his name to first responders so they wouldn’t know he was flying in a plane with reviled heel Johnny Valentine. He even wrestled two weeks later with a broken back just to prove he wasn’t in the crash.
These days wrestlers aren’t so committed. Thanks to social media and reality shows like Total Divas and Total Bellas which quite literally show wrestlers out of character on a weekly basis, it’s easier to separate fact from fiction in the world of wrestling. However, that doesn’t mean the powers that be want the illusion to be completely shattered for fans. Here are 15 kayfabe breaking pictures the WWE would definitely not approve of.
15 15. Wonder Strowman
Here’s one picture the WWE most definitely hopes you never see. Over the past year, the sports entertainment giant has built up Braun Strowman to be the ultimate tough guy. Often referred to as a monster among men, Strowman can regularly be seen demolishing the entire roster and sometimes, the ring as well. The larger than life athlete mostly communicating through roars and punches.
However, behind the scenes Strowman couldn’t be more different, seeming like a lighthearted jokester willing to do just about anything to get a laugh, even if it means donning a Wonder Woman costume. This isn’t the first time the behemoth has shown his softer side online either. Earlier this year, Strowman’s Tinder profile went viral after matching with a fan. His bio claiming he’s just a country boy who loves, “Lifting weights and eating steaks.”
14 14. Sasha Banks And Alexa Bliss…Friends?
As much as the WWE would probably like you to believe otherwise, the greatest feud currently going on in the WWE women’s division isn’t happening on Monday Night Raw or SmackDown Live but when the camera’s stop rolling. Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss have a longstanding history of not seeing eye-to-eye harking back to their days in NXT. So when art imitated life and the two began feuding over the Raw Women’s Championship this summer, things only intensified leading to a lot of subtweets, shots fired in interviews and promos that felt an awful lot like shoots.
The WWE made sure the audience was well aware that these two celebrated performers absolutely despised each other and pretty much always have. However, looking back at pictures from their NXT days, that doesn’t seem to have always been the case. Many candids showing happier times between the two women who are arguably the most popular in the sport. Like this one, taken hours before their WrestleMania debut, escorting Triple H to the ring at WrestleMania XXX.
13 13. The Luke Harper Fan Club
One thing wrestlers are absolutely not supposed to do is promote another superstar’s merchandise online. Even though we know that what we see each week on Raw and Smackdown is scripted, it’s hard to suspend disbelief when you see the same wrestlers who were at each other’s throats just the week before, are putting each other over on social media. So when Chris Jericho tweeted a photo featuring several members of the roster posing at WWE Headquarters while wearing Luke Harper t-shirts, higher ups couldn’t have been thrilled.
The image, which includes stars like Roman Reigns, Bray Wyatt and Cesaro, was posted with the caption “Ladies and gents, may I introduce the charter members of the #LukeHarper fan club.” However, it was deleted shortly afterwards, likely at the request of the WWE. Seeing as the image features heels and babyfaces coming together to put over one of their most underutilized superstars, it’s not hard to see why they wouldn’t want to retweet this photo.
12 12. No Selling Paige’s PTO?
This next photo doesn’t just break kayfabe but the art of wrestling as well. WWE wrestlers have a long history of working with Wizard World Comic-Con and the crown jewel of these conventions is always the meet and greet photo-op. Here, fans can ask their favorite wrestlers to do just about any pose they want with them, which judging from this photo, evidently includes wrestling holds? Here Paige can be seen putting a man (who appears to be a member of the Wizard World staff), in her patented Paige Tap Out submission hold. However, judging from the look on his face, it doesn’t seem to be the torturous experience fellow wrestlers would have you believe.
The beauty of a submission hold is that it’s supposed to be so painful that even seconds in it are enough to force your opponent to give up just to end the agony. However, between Paige’s laugh and the fan’s total no sell, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Of course, the argument can be made that the former Divas Champion was simply holding back to protect the untrained man from harm but even that is kayfabe breaking seeing as a wrestler should never want to water down their move by giving it halfway.
11 11. Braun And Sasha Get In The Holiday Spirit
That’s right Strowman, we’re not finished with you yet! As shown above, the New Face of Destruction isn’t afraid of breaking character for the sake of a funny photo op. However, this is one holiday photo that will have you feeling anything but festive. Here we can see the mountain of a man posing alongside a Thanksgiving-clad Sasha Banks in what we can only assume is a Christmas-themed nightdress?
And while the image was clearly taken behind the scenes of a holiday photoshoot from their NXT days, it’s one the WWE probably doesn’t want associated with their resident unstoppable monster. With that said, if one good thing came from it (and really, what about this photo isn’t great?) it’s the idea of a Banks-Strowman partnership, which could potentially be the WWE’s most unlikely power couple.
10 10. Swiss Superman And CrossFit Jesus Go Jet Skiing
By now, every wrestling fan knows that there are wrestlers backstage who happen to be friends (and some don't like each other). However, when wrestlers are playing faces or heels, wrestling tradition calls for them to stay away from each other in public. Even Bret and Owen Hart decided during their mid 90s feud that they would stop traveling together. But this is one bromance that knows no bounds. Seth Rollins and Cesaro go way back to their days on the indies. They both are obsessed with fitness and keeping active, but here's an image you probably didn't expect to see as Cesaro and Seth Rollins are boarding some jet skis. With The Shield entrenched in a feud with Cesaro, Sheamus and The Miz, a photo like isn't one the WWE would like to be waived around.
9 9. Lana: Announcing Engagement In Midst Of Storyline
This is one entry where we know for a fact that WWE didn't approve of this photo. Lana and Rusev had split up on screen, even though their relationship behind the scenes was getting a lot more serious.
So when Lana posted this engagement photo earlier this year to celebrate, it was fourth-wall breaking to say the least.
As anyone who watches Total Divas knows, Lana is of course American-born in real life, her given name being CJ Perry and her marriage with Rusev is now well documented, but at the time, the WWE was trying to sell the two as being bitter former allies. This photo essentially ruined the WWE's plans of Lana pairing with Dolph Ziggler to take on Rusev and Summer Rae. In fairness though, Lana did us a favor, because we were all tired of that feud anyway.
8 8. The Friendship Of Sami Zayn And Kevin Owens
With their recent on-screen reunion as friends, a photo popping up like this now wouldn't be a big deal. But you have to remember, this photo was taken while Owens and Zayn were still bitter enemies on WWE television.
Of all the people Kevin Owens has come up against during his WWE journey, his most bitter of rivals has always been Sami Zayn. The two couldn’t be more different, which is likely why they seemingly can’t escape each other. Owens is a bitter and vicious heel who believes he’s entitled to more respect than he’s been given and is determined to take his resentment out on anyone who crosses his path. Zayn on the other hand, is the ultimate underdog and one of the most beloved members of the WWE roster, willing to overcome his lack of opportunity with a can-do attitude.
Their battles have been some of the fiercest in recent memory, which is why it’s easy to forget that in real life, they’re the best of friends. Having been close for more than a decade, they even wrestled together as a tag team on the independent circuit. Still, pictures like this do little to sell the realism of their seemingly endless feud.
7 7. Roman Reigns And Braun Strowman Go Sight Seeing
If you were ranking the WWE’s best storylines this year, the feud of the summer would most definitely go to Braun Strowman and Roman Reigns. The two absolutely demolished each other in a series of intense battles that refused to stop upping the ante. Chairs were thrown, ambulances were flipped and the phrase “I’m not finished with you yet!” became an instant classic in a feud that most definitely turned Strowman into a serious contender in the title picture.
So when Titus O’Neil posted this snap of Reigns and Strowman (among other members of the WWE roster) enjoying some sightseeing while on tour in Rome in the midst of their heated program, it definitely deflated the idea that these two hated each other so much, their fury couldn’t be contained. Unsurprisingly, O’Neil quickly deleted the tweet either at the behest of the WWE or simply because of the backlash it raised from fans.
6 6. Alexa Bliss Catches A Piggyback Ride From Nia Jax
There are few people in the WWE who break kayfabe more than Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax. While the pair have spent the better part of 2017 as either untrusting allies or bitter enemies, a quick scroll through their Instagram feeds quickly settles exactly how they feel about each other. Jax and Bliss are best friends and they aren’t afraid to show it, seen regularly on social media grabbing Starbucks together, going on trips to Target and, as you can see here, giving piggyback rides.
While they’re undeniably adorable and certainly giving Sasha and Bayley a run for their money as WWE’s epitome of friendship goals, moments like Jax’s turn on Bliss in the main event of Raw are far less impactful when you see them flaunting their friendship on Snapchat and Instagram.
5 5. Between A Rock And A Rusev
When The Rock made his surprise return to Monday Night Raw in Brooklyn back in 2014, two people who certainly weren’t happy to see him were Lana and Rusev, at least on camera. While the Brahma Bull made quick work of the Bulgarian Brute, delivering quite the smackdown to the former United States champ, backstage the three seem to be on much better terms. At least according to this picture which was taken during WrestleMania XXX weekend.
And while there doesn’t appear to be any bad blood between the People’s Champ and the dominant duo, their onscreen reunion in 2016 did draw some ire from fans. When The Rock returned to Raw once again last year, he made sure to bring up to Lana the last time they were in the ring together, heavily implying that they slept together after the show. It’s a segment that drew criticism from fans for its misogynistic undertones and poor taste faster than you could say Rusev machka!
4 4. A WWE Roller Coaster Ride
Now here’s an image you don’t see every day. Just because the stars of the WWE make their paychecks by beating each other into the ground and performing insane stunts that your average person wouldn’t attempt in their wildest dreams, it doesn’t mean that they don’t like to kick up their heels and have some fun every now and again. As much as wrestling promotions would probably like to keep it a secret, wrestlers are notorious for travelling together, carpooling to get to shows and partying together afterwards as well, even if on camera they’re supposed to be bitter enemies.
Which is why, it shouldn’t be surprising to see six of the most beloved stars from the 90s enjoying a roller coaster ride together in their WWE heyday. And while Mick Foley, Edge, Al Snow, Scotty 2 Hotty and the Hardy Boyz were probably all great friends off camera, seeing as they often found themselves on opposing sides on WWE TV, this kind of shatters the illusion.
3 3. Before The Wyatt Family…
Here’s a side of the Wyatt Family you probably didn’t expect to see. On television Windham Rotunda is best known for portraying Bray Wyatt, the creepy cajun cult leader who’s never met a dreadlock he didn’t like. However, while he may rule the Wyatt Family on camera (or at least he used to), off camera, he’s a different type of family man. Here, the former WWE Champion can be seen celebrating Halloween with his brother Taylor Rotunda, known to WWE audiences as Miztourage member, Bo Dallas.
However, instead of his usual Wyatt Family garb, he can be seen looking ready for a much different House of Horrors, dressed up in a Fred Flintstone costume. Frankly, the only kayfabe explanation for this is that he’s auditioning for the next WWE/Flintstones crossover ala 2015’s The Flintstone’s and WWE: Stone Age Smackdown!
2 2. Vince McMahon Gets Buried
Never let it be said that Vince McMahon made his talent do anything he wasn’t willing to do himself. Over the course of his more than 20 year career as a televised character, the dastardly boss has done it all from busting himself wide open on numerous occasions to taking a stink face from Rikishi. And judging from this photo that also means, testing out his caskets?
The Casket Match is one of many matches closely associated with The Undertaker, including Hell in a Cell and the Buried Alive Match and it seems like this behind-the-scenes photo was taken shortly before one, showing the WWE CEO sprawled out inside the prop coffin next to a smiling Paul Bearer. Back in those days, the horror of being trapped in one of those things was one of the primary selling points of the match so to see McMahon making light of that tension, combined with Bearer looking decidedly less heelish, is probably not an image the WWE wants out there.
1 1. Triple H And Stephanie McMahon Break Character
There was a time when being a heel in wrestling meant doing whatever despicable thing you could think of to get “heel heat,” be it insulting the fans or even, children. There was that time when Ric Flair ripped the Hurricane mask right off a young fan’s face and tore it up in front of him or who could forget Sasha Banks stealing little Izzy’s hair bow and making fun of her until she cried? However, as Triple H and Stephanie McMahon show in this photo, there’s only so far they’re willing to go in the PG Era when it comes to upsetting their young fans.
During a 2015 episode of Monday Night Raw, the WWE power couple were sitting ringside when an 8-year-old fan began shouting Triple H’s name. Wanting to stay in character, the NXT leader shouted at him to stop it, saying, “I’m trying to do my job over here,” making the young boy burst into tears. Evidently that was enough to force the Cerebral Assassin to break character, consoling the fan and telling him he was only joking. The boy was even invited backstage at the end of the show to meet his favorite WWE Superstars so the lesson you should take away from this is, if you’re young and cute enough, it pays to harass WWE authority figures.
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