The PG era in WWE started back in 2008 when the company switched their television rating from TV-14 to PG. Vince McMahon wanted to change the approach of WWE for many reasons. It was no longer the 90s and the style that found success in the Attitude Era did nothing but harm WWE’s reputation. The Chris Benoit incident from 2007 also influenced this, a change was needed for the company after all the backlash that followed. The mainstream perception of WWE was worse than ever leading to the company trying to no longer push the envelope. There was also the hope of bringing back younger fans and families to the audience.
Since the PG era started, WWE has banned numerous things such as blood, swearing and overly sexual content. The rules have been enforced for the most part in creating a family friendly environment. There have been a small number of instances of WWE television seeing the PG rating broken. Some of these were intentionally planned, others were done without WWE knowing and a few were complete accidents. All delivered memorable moments given how rare it was in the time frame. We'll take a look at fifteen shocking WWE moments from the PG era that actually weren’t so PG.
15 Brock Lesnar Decimating Randy Orton
Brock Lesnar has been the culprit in intentionally breaking the PG rules multiple times. Despite WWE wanting to create a family friendly product, they'll most likely give Lesnar the freedom to do what he wants. One drastic situation featured Brock getting too violent in the main event of SummerSlam 2016.
Lesnar faced Randy Orton for the first time ever and won the match by referee stoppage. The shots from Brock to Orton were very real and Orton was dripping blood all over the ring for an ugly scene. Chris Jericho even confronted Lesnar backstage in defense of his fellow peer getting bludgeoned out there. This was a terrifying situation that could have led to serious injuries for Orton. Brock’s level of violence rivaled his UFC fights of actually trying to destroy his opponent.
14 Roman Reigns & John Cena Getting Too Real
The most recent example of WWE staying away from their usual guidelines featured John Cena and Roman Reigns going at it in the ring. Both Superstars were trying to sell their upcoming dream match by getting personal with each other. Cena called out Reigns’ flaws and inability to cut a promo or be “the guy.”
Reigns responded with the lines that broke PG. On multiple occasions, Roman used the word “bi***” to describe Cena as a person. The swear word was used as an insult for Cena being a part-timer and a phony. WWE even tried to censor him the second time, but it was already too late. Cena eventually won the war of words without cursing once. It shows you can thrive in the PG environment. Reigns however selected to show he wasn’t PG.
13 Brie Bella Slip
The accidental moments of breaking PG are the most embarrassing ones. Brie Bella wasn’t too pleased when she ended up doing so on live television. During a segment on a live episode of Raw that required her sitting in the ring in a casual dress rather than wrestling gear, one of Brie’s nipples was visible. It was one of the most glaring “nip slips” to ever occur in a WWE ring.
Nudity has never been allowed in WWE, not even during the days of women dressing in scantily clad outfits. Brie unintentionally provided a rare moment of something like that happening on Raw. In various interviews since then, Bella has admitted that she was quite embarrassed of being in such a memorable moment that accidentally broke the WWE PG rating.
12 Enzo & Lana Work "Not So PG" Angle
This moment was actually recent taking place in 2016, which in truth, makes it even harder to believe that it took place. The story was straight out of the Attitude Era playbook as Lana and Enzo setup a private meetup at a hotel. You truly don't see edgy material like this nowadays.
Although the plan behind the story was a setup that saw poor Enzo once again take a beating, the before saw some edgy material between the two, such as Enzo stripping down to his boxers. Nudity is a thing of the past in the WWE, making it that much more shocking that the scene took place at all. Looking at the current creative bookings of Enzo, Rusev and Lana, they likely wouldn't mind going back to such an outrageous storyline...
11 CM Punk Mocking Paul Bearer's Death
WWE went back to the old school approach to the wrestling business when exploiting Paul Bearer’s real life death. The passing of Bearer impacted the WWE Universe considering he was the longtime manager of The Undertaker. Longtime fans will always associate the two with each other. WWE utilized this as Undertaker was feuding with CM Punk heading into WrestleMania 29.
Punk played an old school heel referencing the death of Bearer and using it against Undertaker to get heat. The one specific moment that clearly broke PG featured Paul Heyman dressing as Paul Bearer to distract Undertaker for Punk to get the advantage. Punk beat Undertaker down before emptying the ashes from an urn meant to symbolize his disrespect for Bearer’s death. It caused a stir with many fans being sickened at WWE reaching to such lows.
10 Paige Suggestively Licks Natalya
Paige has been one of the most interesting women in WWE since joining the company. Controversy has followed Paige and she clearly isn’t someone that's afraid to break rules. One bizarre moment featured Paige trying to add a new aspect to her act. Paige was wrestling Natalya on Main Event and the smaller show felt like the best place to experiment.
Natalya was stunned when Paige decided to lick her face when having her in a submission. Paige clearly didn’t warn her about this beforehand leading to the shocking moment. Nattie’s personality is the exact opposite of Paige and she has no interest in rocking the boat in WWE. Total Divas showed Natalya upset at Paige and Paige showing no regret for her role in breaking PG.
9 Chris Jericho Hitting Shawn Michaels' Wife
The feud between Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels was one of the first big angles of the PG era to push boundaries. Jericho and Michaels planned a very risky segment to get their feud really going on a personal level. Michaels was planning to leave the ring forever with his wife by his side. Jericho interrupted them and “accidentally” punched Michaels’ wife in the face when aiming for Shawn.
The punch actually landing and hitting her right in the face made for a visual that sold the realism of the story. Jericho has revealed that he and Michaels had to spend a lot of time convincing Vince McMahon to agree to this. McMahon didn’t want male on female violence to take place on WWE programming. The two legends finally convinced him to break PG and it set up a tremendous story that carried the company for a while.
8 Big Cass References Seth Rollins' Leaked Pictures
Seth Rollins became a controversial figure due to his personal life hitting the internet. The allegations of Rollins cheating on his fiancé with fellow WWE performer Zahra Schreiber led to everything getting ugly on social media. Rollins’ fiancé found revenge by leaking nude pictures of both Rollins and Schreiber on his Twitter and Instagram pages right before an episode of Raw started.
WWE didn’t reference it aside from Rollins issuing an apology online. This changed when Big Cass of all people made a joke related to it ahead of a Fatal-Four Way match for the Universal Championship. Cass made a “size matters” joke towards Seth while all of the other wrestlers in the ring laughed at him. It was a harmless joke but referenced one of the least PG stories in WWE.
7 Ric Flair Tells Natalya To Kill Herself
The antics of Ric Flair have seen him forget the rules many times. WWE struggled to keep him from breaking their guidelines when it comes to the PG era. One of the worst moments of someone breaking PG in WWE featured Flair losing his cool and going overboard in a heel promo. While working as the manager of his daughter Charlotte, Ric snapped at her opponent Natalya.
Ric went as far as to tell Natalya to kill herself on the live microphone. Charlotte even looked shocked at Ric saying that and you could tell she wasn’t happy at all. WWE was very disappointed at Flair crossing the line. Charlotte admitted in future interviews that it was tough work trying to keep her father in check while wrestling matches and working with her dad side-by-side.
6 AJ Lee Roasts Bellas
AJ Lee and the Bella Twins had legitimate heat backstage due to differing personalities. They were the biggest successes in the Women’s Division at the time competing for the top spot. AJ often held nothing back when going at the Bellas in promos. One specific moment that broke PG saw her unleash a savage promo going after all of the women in the division.
Lee didn’t respect the ladies that participated on the Total Divas reality show, especially Brie and Nikki. The non-PG line from AJ saw her say that in-ring talent wasn’t "sexually transmitted" taking a dig at the Bellas each dating John Cena and Daniel Bryan. Brie and Nikki were highly offended at such a rude comment being said to them on international television. Vince McMahon apparently loved it and endorsed this breaking of the PG rating.
5 The Rock & John Cena Get Personal
Another example of someone breaking the PG rules to insult John Cena was the return of The Rock. WWE’s biggest name took short breaks from Hollywood to appear on WWE television in a two year long feud with Cena spanning between three WrestleMania events. Both men pushed the envelope with Rock crossing the line numerous times.
Some of the non PG moments focused on Rock using the b-word to describe Cena multiple times and accusing Cena of adultery at one point. Things would get quite uncomfortable to watch due to both men losing their cool and getting quite personal. Considering Cena and Rock delivered the biggest box office match in WWE history, you have to admit that breaking PG will work in the right feud.
4 Brock Lesnar Blading
WWE has enforced a strong policy against bleeding in the ring. The protocol is to stop the match and clear any cut that is causing the blood. This is done to protect the safety of the performers and ensure nothing dangerous goes down in the ring because of it. Samoa Joe and Finn Balor could have had a classic match at NXT TakeOver: Dallas, but the match was stopped numerous times due to Joe’s bleeding.
Brock Lesnar is the one man that apparently gets the freedom to bleed during his matches. We have seen Lesnar bleed quite a few times and rumors indicated he bladed most time to intentionally cause it. Matches against The Undertaker, John Cena and Roman Reigns have each seen Brock bleed to add to the drama.
3 Paige Mocking The Death Of Charlotte's Brother
WWE intentionally planned one non-PG moment that rubbed most viewers the wrong way. The hope was for Paige to become a hated heel to put over Charlotte Flair as the new top face in the Women’s Division. Someone backstage had the idea for Paige to reference the death of Charlotte’s younger brother Reid.
Paige stated that Charlotte’s little brother didn’t have enough fight in him to stay alive leading to Charlotte attacking her for a very personal fight before their match. It was revealed that Charlotte didn’t like this idea but did it anyway since it was her job. Ric claimed he cried watching the segment unfold on television without any warning. Paige likely didn’t want to do it either. Everyone hated it, including the fans, but WWE felt it was the right call.
2 Saying Matt Hardy Killed Jeff Hardy's Dog
The feud between Matt Hardy and Jeff Hardy back in 2009 created a very personal rivalry between the brothers. There was a storyline based on Matt doing dastardly actions to Jeff out of jealousy for his younger brother becoming a bigger star. Jeff was red hot off his reign as WWE Champion and Matt turned heel in time for a match at WrestleMania XXV.
During that time frame, Jeff’s house burned down in real life and his dog unfortunately died in the process. WWE and the Hardys agreed to utilize this in the story by claiming Matt started the fire while taking credit for killing Jeff’s dog. It added a bigger personal element to the story but was in very poor taste. Any wrestler taking credit for taking the life of a dog is a horrible idea that has gone too far.
1 Randy Orton Making Out With Unconscious Stephanie
Another segment that took place on the road to WrestleMania XXV also broke PG in a shocking way. WWE decided to finally acknowledge the real life marriage between Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. Triple H came to the aid of the McMahon family after Randy Orton continued attacking them on a weekly basis. One specific moment broke PG when Orton crossed the line.
Orton handcuffed Triple H to the ropes before doing his signature moves to Stephanie. The idea of a man beating up a woman in front of her husband was bad enough, but it got worse when Orton planted a kiss on an unconscious Stephanie. It added a lot to make the storyline a heated rivalry. However, it remains one of the most shocking moments of the PG era.