World Wrestling Entertainment is a large corporation that is worth more than $1 billion. They are the largest professional wrestling promotion – even if they prefer the term “sports entertainment” – by an extremely large gap. With that in mind, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that Vincent Kennedy McMahon has a certain image that he wants his product, and his talents, to present to the fans.
Talents include not only the wrestlers competing in the ring. It’s a larger scope that also includes the commentators, those who run the backstage interviews, the authority figures, referees, managers and valets. Essentially, anyone who appears on the television screen is considered a talent under the WWE banner. That means they are subject to some of the rules that will be mentioned in this article.
It’s not uncommon for employers to establish rules that they expect their employees to abide by. That doesn’t mean that breaking any single one is going to result in immediate termination. Then again, that would depend on the rule in question. Some will lead to a strike against a talent’s record – enough of them will eventually lead to termination.
But then there are the things that most employers, like the WWE, doesn’t really like to see their talents do and don’t necessarily punish. Some of these are likely more annoying to the WWE officials than anything else. Whatever the reason or punishment is linked to each of them, the following is a list of 15 different things the WWE hates their talents doing.
15 Drinking alcohol close to an event
This one shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who watched Jeff Hardy attempt to compete under the influence at TNA Wrestling’s Victory Road 2011 pay-per-view. An employer should have the rightful expectation that their talents would not come to work under the influence. However, it has to be placed as one of the rules in the company’s Talent Wellness Policy. Among the common sense rules, the consumption of alcohol within 12 hours of an event is listed.
The idea is likely to prevent the WWE from having an incident similar to the one that TNA Wrestling had in 2011. It is an unlikely situation, but one that has happened a few times in the history of wrestling. The last thing needed is someone having done a few shots of whisky before going down to the ring impaired; putting the others in the ring in immediate danger.
14 Looking at the camera during backstage interviews
WWE has been accused of having some quirky rules when it comes to the way things are delivered in matches and promos. Even the way a talent positions themselves in a backstage interview is a big deal for the officials. According to wrestling writer and podcaster Jason Solomon, WWE wrestlers have been told not to make eye contact with the camera during backstage interviews. This sounds like a silly rule to enforce, but track how often it happens on Raw, SmackDown or NXT.
This isn’t necessarily a rule that will get someone immediately punished. It’s just a matter or preference. Yet some of the best backstage interviews have involved making eye contact with the camera to break the fourth wall – i.e. Dusty Rhodes’ “Hard Times” promo. The reasoning behind a rule like this probably has to do with overdoing it to a point where looking at the camera doesn’t seem as special.
13 Referee-factored finishes at live events
It’s funny how common it was to see referees get bumped or physically involved in a WWE match during the height of the Attitude Era. Then again, this was easily the kind of spot that fans found annoying more than they thought it made the match exciting. That might have been part of the reason why the live event memo from 2016 made it clear that referees were not allowed to be a factor in how a match concludes at live events.
The reasoning mentioned in the memo is somewhat of a head-scratcher. The memo reads “it is important to keep their credibility.” It also asks the wrestlers not to be put the referees in a compromising situation. This is sports entertainment, where the fans who buy a ticket know full well, at least those older than an adolescent, that a match is a scripted play disguised in a venue of combat.
12 Certain outside projects
Part of being a WWE Superstar is being marketable. John Cena is someone who has transcended sports entertainment and rose to pop culture fame through movies, television shows and other media. Obviously, some outside projects receive the blessing of WWE officials. The WWE allows Xavier Woods to have his “Up Up Down Down” video game channel on YouTube, and Zack Ryder did have a long-running YouTube series in “Z! True Long Island Story.”
But there is still that image that the WWE wants their talents to abide by, even if some of the projects would have been allowed during, let’s say, the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression eras. Because of WWE’s current TV-PG rating, nothing considered risqué or too sexual is allowed for WWE talents. Kelly Kelly was released in 2012 because of a calendar project where the officials didn’t approve of her image and she refused to call it off.
11 Saying the word “wrestling”
This one is going to seem like the most interesting, and possibly moronic, rule for WWE talents. Part of the company’s namesake is in fact wrestling. But in 2011, reports came out that Vince McMahon wanted to do away with the term wrestling. Instead of being called World Wrestling Entertainment, it would simply be named WWE, McMahon’s focus being on entertainment beyond the wre-, er, sports entertainment ring.
WWE’s brand is meant to include things like movies, cartoons and other media. That’s a big reason for the rise in WWE Studios. But it’s also hampered the flow of the commentary significantly. It’s a big reason why some announcers like Joey Styles were not exactly happy during their WWE tenure. However, there seems to be more to getting rid o the terms wrestling and wrestler. The former Brodus Clay said in VOC Nation that calling wrestlers “superstars” was “for a tax break.”
10 Breaking kayfabe
The term kayfabe dates back decades where wrestlers are expected to remain in character at all times in the public eye – not just on television, pay-per-view and live events. It still continues today, although it is a lot harder with the “secret” of wrestling being scripted having been out in the open for several years. It also doesn’t help that WWE’s Total Divas reality-show does show a lot of behind-the-scenes moments that question if kayfabe is still important.
However, the WWE has had issues with superstars breaking kayfabe through social media. While Lana was in an on-screen relationship with Dolph Ziggler in 2015, she posted an announcement of her engagement to real-life boyfriend Rusev. That led to her receiving some backstage heat. There was also that Twitter post by Titus O’Neil showing Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman together with other superstars touring Rome, Italy, like friends, despite a heated television feud.
9 Saving or taking certain photos, videos
Earlier in the article, it was mentioned that the WWE would like to see their talents maintain a certain image. One that is consistent with their TV-PG rating. After all, the WWE wants to attract and maintain younger viewers as a family-friendly show. Still, the superstars are adults who have their personal habits that won’t always align with PG standards. And, like any normal human being, they make mistakes that are regrettable.
More so in recent years, photographs and videos of certain superstars have been leaked online. Nude videos and photographs have been shown to the public, not with the wrestler’s consent. The WWE may not like the idea their talents are taking provocative images of themselves on cell phones, but it’s not like the superstars in question meant for the public to see them. Superstars like Paige and Xavier Woods were not punished for a leak of them together earlier this year. Seth Rollins wasn’t punished too harshly for his ex-girlfriend releasing his nude pictures back in 2015, although there were rumors of him being fined.
8 Dating Certain Co-Workers
It is not uncommon for an employer to make a rule that employees are not allowed to date others within the work place. The issue is that there could always be some form of drama when there is a fallout in the relationship. The WWE usually doesn’t try to stop a relationship from forming unless there are concerns about someone’s well-being – a perfect example is the ever changing situation involving Paige and former WWE superstar Alberto Del Rio.
An additional rule was implemented in 2015 that said talents could not date office staff or producers; which can put professionalism at risk. Then again, there are plenty of stories of workplace romance that most of us have seen or heard about in various types of industries. Those employers likely have a rule like this one that can sometimes be conveniently ignored.
7 Making political statements
This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. A lot of employers generally do not like seeing their employees deciding to use company time and resources to make political statements. NFL teams, and a good portion of fans, did not like seeing players like Colin Kaepernick take a knee during the National Anthem during the 2016 regular season. Something like that wouldn’t likely be possible in the WWE and not just because the anthem is rarely played live on television.
But the WWE is often viewed as a conservative workplace. Talents have been punished for making certain political posts that go against conservative mindsets. Part of that is because the WWE certainly has ties to U.S. President Donald Trump and his current administration. It certainly wouldn’t help the WWE’s relationship with Trump’s party if a talent went on a liberal rant on Facebook or Twitter.
For decades, pro wrestling matches have used blood as a way to help heighten the brutality of specific matches. There was a time when it was common for main event matches or bouts with a “no disqualification” theme to see at least one, if not both parties, bleeding after being hit with a chair or another kind of foreign object. This was often done through the act of blading; using a blade to cut the forehead to create a bloodflow.
This act was banned by WWE in 2008 when the company decided to go with a TV-PG rating. Not allowing blood has seen wrestlers be fined for blading, including a $100,000 penalty to Batista in 2008. There are times when blood will happen, albeit the hard way. The WWE has contended that they try to limit the redness as fans thought there was blading during the WrestleMania 31 match between Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns.
5 Chair shots to the head
Many sports have found themselves under the microscope of those worried about the long-term effects of concussions. Football tends to have the brightest light shined on it; especially after a recent study found that 99 percent of deceased NFL players donated to the research had suffered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Pro wrestling has earned a lot of attention after Chris Benoit committed double murder and suicide, with belief that he had too many concussions that affected his mental state.
Since then, the WWE has made a focus to ban unnecessary hits to the head. That means removing the classic chair shot to an opponent’s head. Usually one of the spots seen in hardcore matches, it seems to be linked to the number of concussions that wrestlers have suffered over the years. Now some have gotten away with using it – i.e. Triple H and The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXVII, although the company claimed both wrestlers were fined for chair shots.
4 Using the belt as a weapon
There was once a time when the heel wrestlers would often use the championship belt as a weapon to score an easy win. Or use it as a prop to get themselves disqualified as an easy way out to preserve their championship reign. However, this is really just another branch of the concerns that many professional sports organizations – WWE included – have regarding concussions and traumatic brain injuries.
Just like the previously mentioned chair shots towards the head, utilizing the belt as a way of attacking an opponent have been banned by the powers that be. In all honesty, it’s actually not a bad idea. Consider how much it costs for the WWE to make the actual championship belt. If it breaks, it means having to spend money to replace the title. And it’s very unlikely the WWE is going to reuse a damaged title to bring back the Hardcore division. Speaking of championship belts …
3 Don’t call in a “championship belt”
Of all of the “curse words” the WWE has in a list given to all of the talents, the term championship belt seems like the stupidest one to ban. First of all, that’s essentially the form the championship has been in for decades. In fact, a championship belt is usually the form of a title in not only pro wrestling, but in other combat sports like boxing and mixed martial arts. Then again, the reasoning that has been explained makes some sense.
The term belt is more associated with the fashion accessory that prevents your pants from falling to your ankles. When competing in the WWE, the prize is a championship. It’s weird to say you’re coming after someone’s belt. It might work for a clown gimmick who likes to play practical jokes. This idea of not calling it a championship belt has been brought up during interviews with the likes of CM Punk and Matt Striker over the years.
2 Impromptu promos
This one will likely be partially, if not completely, blamed on the “pipebomb” that CM Punk dropped on the WWE Universe in 2011. Leading up to a WWE Championship match at the Money in the Bank pay-per-view in Chicago, Punk had a chance to vent a little bit on why he was allowing his WWE contract to expire at the time. But it was certainly not a planned promo by any means. That was noticed when Punk went on about how the company would be better off if Mr. McMahon was deceased, followed by mocking Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
Since then, there seems to be a bit more focus on preventing anything like this from happening again. The 2016 leaked memo to WWE talents reveals that there should be no impromptu promos by any of the WWE talents – even at the sometimes more leisurely live events. If someone wants to do a promo, it has to be approved by a producer ahead of time. In the end, can anyone really blame the WWE for making this a rule?
While certain wrestlers are allowed to utilize their version of the piledriver – like Kane and The Undertaker, there has been an embargo on the maneuver that started back in 1997 when Stone Cold Steve Austin was injured by a botched piledriver in a match against Owen Hart. Still, the Tombstone Piledriver must be considered a safer version that can only be done by the likes of The Deadman.
For the most part, wrestlers are not allowed to use any form of a piledriver in matches. There was the one time when CM Punk pulled it out during a match with John Cena in 2013, but consider that an exception. According to the previously mentioned live shot document leak from last year, the piledriver has been banned for use by WWE talents. This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last classic move to be banned by WWE officials.