The WWE is no stranger to creating its own controversy. From CM Punk’s infamous staged shoot known as the “Pipe Bomb” to Vince McMahon staging his own death via exploding limousine, there have been many cases where they push their own limits to get attention and to get a reaction out of the audience. After all, I believe Eric Bischoff said it best with the title of his autobiography, Controversy Creates Cash.
That being said, there are still things there are still things WWE is unable to show on their programs that are either too risky, vulgar, or crass. Things that if one of the many kid-friendly sponsors saw would cause them to drop their support immediately. That’s where censors come in. In an attempt to cover up any unwanted mishaps that are deemed not safe for television, the censor is able to bleep any unfitting language or have the cameras cut away from any visual that is unsuitable for air.
This has sometimes proved difficult for the WWE. With the majority of their shows being live, they have to be constantly on their toes and have impeccable timing to squash all things inappropriate. What happens when something slips through the cracks before it can be covered up? When the censor isn’t fast enough to stop instances the WWE doesn’t want to get out. From wrestlers swearing to nudity (both intentional and unintentional) to a few products that should have been examined closer, here are 15 times that WWE censors weren’t paying close enough attention.
15 Lita’s Slip Up
While the other two entries on this list involving women taking their tops off appear to have been staged, this one seems to be purely accidental. In 2005, there wasn’t a more despised heel combination than that of Edge and Lita, who were two good-looking people who were some of the most devious and cunning superstars of the time. Often cheating to gain victories over their opponents, the real-life couple would usually celebrate with some intense on-camera make out sessions. When Edge cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on John Cena at New Year’s Revolution, the Rated-R Superstar declared that he and Lita would get it on, live on TV the following night on Raw. When the night came, viewers tuned in en masse to see what they were promised giving the show its highest rating in over a year. Lita and Edge had stripped down to their underwear, they decided to take thing under the covers, preventing the fans from seeing them naked. However, during their foreplay, Lita’s breast became exposed, accidentally giving the audience exactly what they wanted, albeit for a brief moment.
14 AJ Styles’s Pants Don’t Want None
There is very little that can be done when mid-way through a match, a wrestler splits his pants right down the seam. That is exactly what happened when AJ Styles took on Dean Ambrose at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs in 2016. Thirteen minutes into the match, a hellacious body slam onto a chair ripped a sizeable hole in “The Phenomenal One’s” pants. With a tear about a quarter-inch away from where the sun don’t shine, Styles and Ambrose still had about 17 more minutes left in their match. Being that this was the main event of a live show; the censors were helpless to do anything. It seemed like the cameramen were also powerless as they couldn’t seem to get a clear angle. Just about every shot seemed to be getting dangerously close to exposing “the Butt that Runs the Place.”
13 Jacqueline’s Wardrobe Malfunction
That Attitude Era wasn’t exactly the “Women’s Revolution” when it came to the wrestling abilities of WWE’s female talent. While they had head-turning looks, Sable and Debra weren’t known for putting together any mat classics. Then there was Jacqueline, who until Ivory, Trish Stratus, and Lita joined the ranks, was the only woman with actual athletic skills in the entire division. In 1998, WWE was more interested showcasing a woman’s T&A (not to be confused with Test & Albert or Total Nonstop Action) than her technical acumen. At the UK-only pay-per-view Capital Carnage, WWE tried to have it both ways and booked a mixed tag match where Jacqueline and Marc Mero took on the team of Sable and Christian. The brief match was average at best, but it was the post-match exchange where things really took off. Blaming referee Tim White for her loss, Jacqueline attacked him by getting on top of his shoulders and punching in repeatedly in the head. Sable took this opportunity to pull Jacqueline’s shirt off, making her inadvertently flash the audience and run off in disgrace. The fiasco has been edited for the WWE network, but since the internet exists, footage will live on in infamy.
12 Mickie James And Trish Stratus Get Intimate
When Mickie James debuted in the WWE in 2005, she was instantly thrust into a program with one of the most loved women wrestlers in WWE history, Trish Stratus. James’ role had her playing Stratus’ biggest fan, who became more and more obsessed with her idol over time. The feud between the two talented women came to a head at WrestleMania 22. The match included an exchange that would be immediately edited off of every future version of the show. To get out of a headlock, Mickie grabbed Trish below the belt catching her off guard. The fanatical James then went on to lick her hand, making a “V” gesture with her fingers around her mouth. James has gone on to say she only did the move because she had thought Vince McMahon would live it. Backstage, McMahon was livid, calling the exchange crass and berating the new Women’s Champion.
11 Sid Snaps
Despite being one of the most successful big men to ever lace up a pair of wrestling boots, Sid was never known for having an impressive variety of moves. His matches never included much more than a couple of big boots, body slams, and powerbombs, and during the 1990s that was enough. However, as the new millennium rolled around the times had changed. Audiences were no longer simply impressed by a wrestler’s size, they were more interested in how well they could move. “The Master and Ruler of the World” had just returned to WCW after taking a few months off and was set to take part in a Four Corners Match against Scott Steiner, Jeff Jarrett, and Road Warrior Animal when management asked Sid to expand his move set to include some aerial offense. During the match, Sid decided to try a second rope big boot. The results were disastrous. Landing on one leg, Sid snapped both his tibia and fibula live on pay-per-view. Many TV providers did not re-air the footage due to its graphic nature. WCW, in effort to drum up some controversy of course showed it the very next night on Nitro.
10 Mae Young Doesn’t Care About Being PG
Mae Young was a once in a million-year performer. Her storied career began in 1939 and lasted all the way until her death in 2014. She became not only the oldest person to ever compete in a WWE ring, but the only superstar to ever wrestle in nine different decades. The Mae Young the WWE Universe knew was a spunky ass-kicking senior citizen who wasn’t afraid to mix it up in the ring and tell you what’s on her mind. We’ve already covered the time Young won the Miss Royal Rumble contest by removing her top and exposing a pair of prosthetic breasts. So, let’s jump to the night where Mae wrestled her final match for the WWE. When Raw went “Old School” on November 15, 2010, LayCool verbally assaulted the octogenarian, making fun of her age and the fact that she was never became champion in the WWE. When asked by “Mean Gene” Okerlund if she had anything to say, Mae did not hold back. Exclaiming, “I want you to give me a match with these s*uts!” before calling the mean girl tandem “little b******.” WWE may have been PG, but Mae’s heart was still in the Attitude Era.
9 Gene Okerlund’s Summerslam Faux Pas
In the ‘80s and early ‘90s “Mean Gene” Okerlund was WWE’s go-to guy for interviewers. Known for his great backstage interactions with legends like “Macho Man” Randy Savage Hogan, Okerlund was a perfect straight man to play against these larger than life characters. Summerslam 1989 was not one of Okerlund’s finest moments. As he was about to start an interview with the always entertaining duo of “Ravishing” Rick Rude and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan to discuss Rude’s upcoming match with the Ultimate Warrior, some SummerSlam signage behind them fell, causing a startled Okerlund to shout, “F*** it!” The camera quickly cut back to the audience where the announce team of Tony Schiavone and Jesse Ventura scrambled to make sense of it all. Never one to miss an opportunity to pick on “Mean Gene,” Ventura said it was “about time that bald-headed old man got somebody to interrupt him.”
8 Kevin Owens Defines San Diego
This one is a pretty strange entry in that it’s a censor mishap that really shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Back when Talking Smack had weekly instalments, the then-United States Champion Kevin Owens was brought on to respond to AJ Styles’ claim from earlier in the night that he was, “Ron Burgundy’s definition of San Diego.” Owens was unfamiliar with the modern classic Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and had to do a bit of research. When Daniel Bryan asked what Styles meant, Owens matter-of-factly said, “Vagina.” Whoever was in charge of the seven-second delay backstage mistimed bleeping “The New Face of America’s” response and the word was heard clear as day. Apparently, in the PG Era a clinical phrase for female genitalia is enough to make the censors clutch their pearls.
7 Booker T Is Coming For Hulk Hogan
The 1997 edition of WCW’s Spring Stampede was a pretty mundane pay-per-view. No titles changed hands and their World Heavyweight Champion, Hulk Hogan, was nowhere to be found. There is one incident from the event that has outlived everything else that happened that night. While being interviewed backstage along with his brother Stevie Ray by Gene Okerlund (who also makes an appearance on this list), Booker T went a little too far when calling out Hulk Hogan, accidentally calling him the “n-word.” A look of shame and guilt quickly washes over Book’s face, showing that it was definitely NOT planned. The gaffe was recently parodied in an in-ring segment between the New Day and the Usos when Xavier Woods cut Big E off before he could finish the infamous line. The five-time (five-time, five-time, five-time, five-time) world champion was not amused by this, stating on his podcast that his slip-up has haunted him for years.
6 Luke Gallows’ Nutty Headshot
Long before he journeyed to Japan and joined the Bullet Club, Luke Gallows was known as Festus. Paired up with fiery Southern babyface Jesse, Festus was a sedated simpleton who would explode into an unstoppable rage whenever the bell rang. Though positioned at first as strong contenders for the WWE Tag Team Championships, the duo was soon relegated to nothing more than a comedy act. Creative and everyone else involved soon stopped focusing on the two, including censors. This became prevalent when WWE released an official 8x10 of Festus. At first look, it’s just a picture of Festus performing a big boot to The Miz. However, as pointed out by Gallows in The Wrestling Road Diaries Too, a little bit of his *a-hem* “bean bag” can be seen poking out. No wonder it wasn’t long before the big man was “sacked.”
5 Jerry Lawler’s Homophobic Tirade
Jerry “The King” Lawler was one of the most polarizing figures of the Attitude Era. Sure, he is legendary for his great on-air chemistry with Jim Ross portraying a heel color commentator against Ross’ beloved face play-by-play announcer. Then there are cases like this. While preparing for a match against the controversial Goldust in the first round of the 1997 King of the Ring tournament, Lawler really let it be known how he felt about his bizarre opponent. The backstage promo he cut is deplorable. Lawler starts off by calling Goldust a “sissy,” thinking that might be a little too subtle, “The King” then calls him a, “flaming f**.” All of that before mocking Goldust’s daughter. When asked about the promo on his podcast, Lawler blamed the current PC environment on the segment not aging well.
4 Diss The Divas
It’s understandable if the name “Amy Weber” doesn’t ring a bell even to the most hardcore of wrestling fan. Weber was a contestant on the 2004 Diva Search, the same year that featured Michelle McCool, Candice Michelle, Maria Kanellis, and eventual winner, Christy Hemme. This year’s challenges ranged from trying to seduce male wrestlers to playing dodge ball. One segment, in particular called the “Diss the Diva” segment, should have been some harmless ribbing between the final four but ended up a censor’s nightmare. The bit was off to a rocky start when Joy Giovanni began to grope the other contestants. Not to be outdone, Amy Weber verbally berated Hemme and Giovanni before setting her sights on Carmella DeCesare. Spouting off in insults that would make a sailor blush, Weber said that, “having a c*** in your mouth has nothing to do with wrestling. B****.” All of which was missed by the censors when Amy first said it, and when Carmella repeated it under her breath. Needless to say, Weber was the next Diva eliminated.
3 Sin Cara’s Unfortunate T-Shirt
The words Sin Cara and botch are practically synonymous in this day and age. It wouldn’t take long for fans to realize that the masked man just didn’t have what it takes. If he wasn’t making mistakes during matches, he was sidelined due to injuries. Despite multiple starts and stops, it seemed like WWE was still was dead-set on making Sin Cara happen. Fearing that their most popular acts, Rey Mysterio, didn’t have much time left before retiring, the folks behind the scenes had pegged Sin Cara to be his replacement. They fired the merchandise machine up and churned out everything you can think of: masks, pants, armbands, toys, and shirts. One shirt gained notoriety for all the wrong reasons. Adorned with Sin Cara dripping gold, the shirt appeared to involve a massive penis sticking up from the bottom. It wouldn’t be long before the shirt was pulled from WWE’s online store, but the fact that it made it up there in the first place is mind blowing. It’s hard to say if this is the work of a designer gone rogue or simply an overlooked design flaw. But, man. There is no denying that it 100% looks like Sin Cara is a bit too happy to wrestle.
2 Vince McMahon Drops A Bomb
If it wasn’t cool when Booker T accidentally blurted the word out, it DEFINITELY wasn’t cool or when it was uttered by a sixty-year-old billionaire. In a tone-deaf interaction backstage with John Cena, who was still in his “rapper” phase, Vince McMahon asks the Doctor of Thuganomics “What’s good in the hood?” before retorting with, “Keep it up, my [N-Word].” To make matters even worse, this was all said in front of Booker T and his wife Sharmell. WWE has since deafened this, when asked about it by TMZ, a WWE rep claimed it:
“Was an outlandish and satirical skit involving fictional characters, similar to that of many scripted television shows and movies.”
Needless to say, Booker T’s response of, “Tell me he didn’t just say that!” spoke for the entire viewing audience.
1 Miss Kitty Bares All
Remember how earlier I said that during the late ’90 the WWE was more concerned with women’s physical assets than their actual talent? If you do, great job! That’s some impressive reading comprehension. If not, try and keep up. Moving on. I bring you to the 1999 installment of Armageddon, WWE’s last pay-per-view of the ‘90s. In an effort to cram as many chauvinist gimmicks they could in effort to knock feminism back to the Stone Age, WWE booked an “Evening Gown Pool Match” for the event. The Fatal Four Way pitted two talented ladies, Ivory and the aforementioned Jacqueline, against two women who had no business getting in the ring (or in this case, pool). I’ll spare you the details of the match itself, but it was a three-minute mess. Once the dust had settled, Miss Kitty had won and was crowned the new Women’s Champion. She then decided to have an impromptu celebration where she proceeded to remove her top. Somebody must have alerted Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter prior to the match, as he was at the ready to cover up the new champion just as soon as the 17,000 people in attendance and at home audience got a look.