Among fans new and old the Attitude Era is regularly labelled as the period of time that WWE took the most risks. Vince McMahon had his back against the wall and had to push the envelope on numerous occasions in order to keep his company afloat. All of this is true. What many people forget however is that it wasn't exactly a smooth transition from the Attitude Era right in to what many would refer to as the PG era. In fact, it was far from it. Between the racy Attitude Era and the kid friendly product that would come later, there was the Ruthless Aggression Era.
If anything the Ruthless Aggression Era found itself treading on dodgy ground on far more occasions than the era that came before it. During that time, Vince and WWE no longer had the competition they had faced before. There was no real reason for them to continue pushing the envelope so hard, aside from putting out the best product they possibly could of course. As you'll see from this upcoming list, that was very rarely the case.
From necrophilia to strip poker to terrorism, there was no boundary that WWE would not cross in an attempt to shock their audience. What's even harder to believe is that this era of shock value only came to an end around ten years ago. Here is our rundown of 15 of the most Rated-R moments from the Ruthless Aggression Era.
15 Kane Sets Jim Ross On Fire
Unfortunately for Kane, this won't be the last time The Big Red Machine makes an appearance on this list. In 2003, Kane removed his mask and for some reason WWE saw that as good reason to have him be a part of some very intense storylines. Not long after removing his mask Jim Ross had the unenviable task of conducting a sit-down interview with the The Big Red Monster.
As you'd expect, Kane was pretty unhinged and it did not go as planned. The storyline rumor was always that Kane had burned down his family home as a child. Well, if so, his fascination with fire carried on into this interview as he set JR alight once he had enough of being interviewed.
14 3-Minute Warning Attack The HLA
One of the most shocking moments of the Ruthless Aggression Era is Vince McMahon hiring his long time rival Eric Bischoff to be the Raw General Manager, which is hardly R Rated. However, something Bischoff did while in his position of power was pretty risque. On an edition of Monday Night Raw, he ushered two 'lesbians' to the ring (dubbing them HLA, or Hot Lesbian Action) who stripped to their underwear and began to make out with each other.
Just as things were about to get particularly R Rated, Eric cut in and announced that this wasn't the whole plan. Instead, he had the tag team 3-Minute Warning join him and the ladies in the ring. He then ordered the team to beat up the lesbians as Bischoff watched on from the corner laughing. Pretty messed up.
13 Kelly Kelly Expose
During the Ruthless Aggression Era, WWE tried to revive ECW. It was clear to see from day one that WWE did not know what made ECW so special and unique during the 90s. On its first edition in 2006, one segment included the debuting Kelly Kelly performing a strip tease. The segment was dubbed 'Kelly Kelly's Expose' and became a regular occurrence.
However, her then boyfriend Mike Knox would always intervene at just the right time in order to make sure the Rated R segment didn't become anything more than that. In fact, Knox started having Kelly Kelly accompany him to the ring at all times in order to prevent her from revealing her exhibitionist side while he was busy wrestling.
12 Tim White: The Lunchtime Suicide Series
Maybe the strangest entry on this list, and that really is saying something, is the web series that featured Tim White. Tim White was a long time referee with WWE and upon his departure from the ring, one thing led to another and White ended up getting his own web series on WWE.com. The series effectively joked about the former official being depressed, as each week he would demonstrate a different way that White had attempted to commit suicide, yet comically failed.
It began when Josh Matthews interviewed White in his bar, and after grabbing a firearm, he disappeared off-screen as a gun shot was heard. It would later turn out that he had accidentally shot himself in the foot in a botched attempt to kill himself. WWE dubbed the series Lunchtime Suicide and it ran for a number of weeks.
11 Kane Impregnates Lita
Time for another appearance from Kane! This one is pretty dark, but shockingly not dark enough to be the highest Kane entry on this list. Back in 2004, Lita and Matt Hardy were an item, both on-screen and off it. During a storyline, Kane kidnapped Lita, and shortly after, Lita announced that she was pregnant. A happy moment punctured by Kane who interjected to announce that the baby may be his.
Lita reluctantly admitted it may be possible due to happenings during her kidnapping. Shockingly not the only time during this feud that rape was insinuated. Later on, Matt lost to Kane in a match where Kane won Lita's hand in marriage upon victory. A clearly distressed Lita slapped Kane on an edition of Raw to which he laughed and taunted her with comments of later consummating their marriage.
10 Divas Pose For Hugh Hefner
The Attitude Era brought a tradition of WWE Divas taking part in Playboy shoots, which took off during the Ruthless Aggression Era. What Chyna and Sable started, the likes of Torrie Wilson, Maria, Ashley, Christy Hemme and Candice picked up. It wasn't even something that the women in question took upon themselves outside of the company.
WWE actively endorsed the women's spreads in Playboy and would advertise the issues during WWE shows, often using the then much seedier Jerry 'The King' Lawler to get overly excited about the release of the magazines. When a WWE Diva would be featured in Playboy, they'd of course make the cover. It was effectively a brand of cross promotion like we'd never see in today's product.
9 Muhammad Hassan Terrorism Angle
During the early 2000s, nothing was more of a hot topic than terrorism. So naturally, WWE attempted to exploit that fact. A new talent in the form of Muhammad Hassan was introduced to the Raw brand. The storyline would revolve around him constantly complaining about how the WWE and its fans mistreat him due to his origin.
What came next was some poor storytelling coupled with some extremely poor timing. On an episode of SmackDown during July of 2005, Hassan had a group of masked men come to the ring to beat down and choke out his then rival, The Undertaker. The London bombings occurred a day after the SmackDown taping. Despite that, WWE went ahead and aired the segment in the US and Canada, although thankfully Europe and Australia were spared from the distasteful part of the show.
8 JBL Chases Illegal Immigrants Across The Border
While terrorism was a hot topic back then, the border between the United States and Mexico is somewhat of a hot topic now. When Bradshaw first made the change to the obnoxious JBL character and began receiving his initial main event push, it was announced that whoever could win the 'Great American Award' would become number one contender to Eddie Guerrero's WWE Championship.
JBL decided to try and prove his worth for the award by filming himself at the US/Mexico border chasing 'illegal immigrants' back into Mexico. To make matters worse, the SmackDown General Manager, Kurt Angle, would reward him for his actions by naming him the number one contender.
7 Mickie James Inappropriately Touching Trish Stratus
In the build to WrestleMania 22, Mickie James got her first crack at the big time as she did battle with the now WWE Hall of Famer, Trish Stratus. Mickie would go on to win their battle at 'The Show of Shows' to become Women's Champion for the first time in her career. Some strange and inappropriate actions went down during the match itself.
The underlying storyline to the feud was that James actually lusted after Trish, wanting to be more than friends with her. During their WrestleMania match, Mickie grabbed Trish's crotch and made a rather vulgar gesture to the camera, demonstrating what she'd like to do to her opponent. It turns out Vince McMahon was not too happy with Mickie's ad-libbing at the time.
6 Dawn Marie Kisses Torrie Wilson
With entries like this next one on the list, it's not hard to figure out why our parents might not have wanted us watching wrestling as kids. Dawn Marie was introduced to WWE as Vince McMahon's assistant. However, she's most famous in the company for her feud with Torrie Wilson. To kick off the storyline, Marie became romantically involved with Torrie's father, Al Wilson.
This was something that Torrie was not happy about, which of course added fire to the feud. Dawn invited Torrie to a hotel room, citing that if she showed up, she'd call off the wedding. Torrie did show and things started getting a little heated as Marie effectively blackmailed Wilson into staying, and then gradually coaxed her to do other things.
5 John Cena As The Doctor Of Thuganomics
For any of you who claim John Cena has never been a heel and needs to make that turn, rewind to 2003 and take a look at some of the leader of the Cenation's work as the Doctor of Thuganomics. Before Cena was the clean cut mega star that you see today, he had to build his foundation. Well, that foundation was a white rapper who basically insulted people based on stereotypes during an era where he could effectively say anything.
Race, weight, gender. Nothing was off limits to Cena and he used all the tools at his disposable to create very morally questionable raps about his opponents. Jibes at illegal immigration and poking fun at Billy Gunn for potentially being gay are two examples of Cena taking his raps too far.
4 Vince McMahon Limousine Explosion
Back in 2007, Vince McMahon was ECW Champion for a brief period. That links in nicely to the revamped ECW brand being a terrible failure under the WWE banner. Well anyway after losing the gold McMahon felt pretty sorry for himself and announced that the following Raw would be an appreciation night dedicated to him. Despite Vince's best efforts it actually turned out to be quite the opposite as figures from his past returned to gain revenge on their boss.
The night ended with Vince stepping in to his limo only for it to explode and seemingly kill him. All a very taste less story line of course, made even more so when the faux memorial service coincided with the Raw following the deaths of Chris Benoit and his family. The story was of course nixed and McMahon revealed himself to be fine in light of the real life tragedy that had occurred.
3 The Katie Vick Segment
Another appearance for Kane on this list, although to be fair to him he's hardly the protagonist in this pretty grim tale. I'd venture to guess that If you were to ask many of the people involved in this story line this would be the one they'd like to take back more than any others. It began with Triple H accusing Kane of being at the wheel of a car during a pretty serious accident. So serious in fact that the woman in the car, Katie Vick, with him had died following the accident.
Some pretty heinous accusations already, but The Game didn't stop there. Triple H went on to claim that due to Kane's pretty dark nature he actually had sex with Katie following her death. Already a stopping point well beyond how far Triple H and WWE should have gone. But they pushed on and Triple H threw on a Kane mask and recreated the scene he had accused Kane of, climbing in to a coffin at a funeral home and humping a mannequin.
2 ECW Extreme Strip Poker
The running themes in this list have been Kane and WWE's attempts to relaunch ECW. Safe to say WWE simply didn't know what it was that made ECW so great in its heyday. Something that was epitomized perfectly by this next entry. On the relaunched ECW, WWE hosted its own game of Extreme Strip Poker.
If you're wondering exactly how extreme, when I searched that term to refresh my memory the top result for the footage on Google is a porn site. Many of the Divas engaged in the game with Balls Mahoney acting as croupier. Pretty shocking stuff for WWE and it only happened a little over ten years ago. Many of the women ended the show completely naked, but of course the necessary places were blurred out.
1 Edge And Lita Live Celebration
A fair few entries on this list have certainly been risque, but perhaps none as risque as this final one. Edge and Lita's live sex show. Edge defeated John Cena for the WWE championship and announced that the following night on Raw he and Lita would have sex to celebrate right in the middle of the ring. The pair actually began to carry out their promise, undressing each other and getting in to a bed that had been placed in ring.
Ric Flair of all people interrupted proceedings and labelled Edge a disgrace. Edge then turned on Ric who in turn had to be rescued by former champ John Cena. Cena officially brought a curtain down on the celebration by delivering an FU to Lita.