There is a fine line between mixing real life and the characters we see the WWE promote on television. Often times that line gets crossed. Vince McMahon is always looking to find engaging stories and ideas and sometimes real life is stranger than any fiction his writers could come up with. Does that make it ok to bring the personal side to the creative side?
Some wrestlers are ok with it. Others, not so much. And, it doesn’t often appear to be a fair tradeoff if you’re a talent looking to enhance your career. Just recently we saw what happens when a wrestler doesn’t do what they’re told. Kevin Owens (and Sami Zayn) got sent home from the UK tour. We don’t know if this was based on personal issues but Owens has been asked by WWE before to include his personal life in the storyline. Is it fair of one side to ask and the other never to complain?
There have been wrestlers in WWE over the last twenty to thirty years who have been asked to do things they likely aren’t comfortable with. Sometimes they follow instructions and sometimes they decline but rarely does Vince McMahon not get what he wants. Below is a list of 15 times the WWE blurred the lines between real life and storylines. The company abused their power and potentially forced these WWE Superstars into including their families, personal demons or outside personas when it wasn’t likely in their best interest to do so.
Should the WWE be viewed as disgusting in that way? Should they be ashamed of themselves? Wrestlers get punished all the time for not following orders. Who is there to punish the company when they abuse their power?
15. Charlotte Forced To Address Brother Reid’s Passing
There are things you say and then there are things you don’t say and whether it was Paige who came up with the idea to mock Reid Flair or it was the WWE, it was still extremely low class. Charlotte and Paige were trying to build heat for a match at Survivor Series and during the contract-signing started chirping. When Charlotte made a comment about how she fights for her family and their legacy, Paige said something to the effect that there wasn’t much fight in her brother Reid.
The comment was extremely distasteful because not long before their feud, Reid had overdosed and passed away which was crushing for the Flair family. There was no reason for Paige or the WWE to go there if even Charlotte had given her the ok (which there is speculation she did). Some stories just don’t need that extra bark.
14. Shinsuke Nakamura Has Racist Promos Targeted At Him
The WWE was trying to build heat for a match between Jinder Mahal and Shinsuke Nakamura. Seemingly unsure if the two wrestlers could generate enough buzz on their own, WWE decided that a good idea would be for Mahal to mock Nakamura for his race, skin color, looks, trouble speaking English and more. In two successive weeks of in-ring promos, Mahal poked fun at Nakamura and mainstream media had a field day calling out the company for it.
It was even more ironic because Mahal is of international heritage and likely faces the same discrimination Nakamura would. Using cultures to create characters is not new to the WWE, but to blatantly call out someone’s differences because of their culture doesn’t get done very often and never should. WWE realized their mistake and stopped doing it but they didn’t apologize for poor judgment.
13. Rey Mysterio And Eddie Guerrero Fight Over Rey’s Son
The WWE ran an angle where former tag partners Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio would face off to see who the better competitor was. Unable to accept defeat, Guerrero turned on Mysterio and began a feud that got quite personal. After threatening Mysterio that he’d have his “secret” revealed, Eddie told the world that Dominick (Rey’s real-life son) was Eddie’s son. Eddie revealed more details about his “son” in the following weeks leading to Summerslam.
Dominick was brought on television and played up the angle in pretty dramatic fashion. Some might have considered that to be a bit much but the WWE felt it was good drama and seeing as how the Mysterio and Guererro families were so close in reality, they didn’t see the issue. Some call this good drama, others called it unnecessary.
12. Shawn Michaels And God
When Shawn Michaels left the WWE, he wasn’t exactly the poster child for good behaviour. He retired due to a back injury and in his absence found God and faith with his family that put him in a much better personal state than he’d been in years as an unhappy WWE talent. When his injury had healed enough to return, he was once again one of the best in the world but he had some things he’d no longer involve himself in.
One thing that he didn’t oppose because it was so over the top, was when Vince pitched Shawn Michaels teaming with God to wrestle Vince and Shane. It was a blatant shot in the face to Michael’s faith but Michael’s knew it would come off as silly and it did.
11. LOD’s Hawk Forced To Act Out Drinking Issues
In 1998, the WWE decided to repackage the Legion of Doom (LOD) and as part of that angle, they focused on one of the original members’ (Hawk) struggle with alcohol and substance abuse. The story was meant to dig into Hawk’s real-life struggles and it was written so that Hawk would get tanked on tv, threaten to end his life on Raw and get shoved off the TitanTron.
Former partner Animal took real offence to the whole idea. He called WWE wrong for hitting so close to home, disrespectful and just another case of the WWE thinking they can do whatever they want. He feels like it’s a shame the WWE doesn’t often show the same level of respect for the wrestlers as the wrestlers tend to show each other.
10. Jake Roberts Called A Bible-Thumper
When Jake Roberts returned to the WWE for his second stint in 1996, he still wasn’t quite right with his battle against addiction. He was trying to use his connection to God and newfound faith as a way to overcome his demons and the WWE completely exploited his troubles.
At King of the Ring, when he lost in the finals, Steve Austin called him out for his religion and used it as a platform to launch his career. Austin said,“You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn’t get you anywhere! Talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16… Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your @$$!” Probably not something that Jake Roberts needed at a time he was his weakest but it worked out great for Austin who became one of the biggest stars in WWE history.
9. Bray Wyatt Uses Reign’s Daughter in Storyline
In an effort to get under the skin of Roman Reigns during their feud back in 2015, Bray Wyatt held up a photo of Reigns’ daughter and essentially threatened to ruin Reign’s personal life. It wasn’t a terribly logical storyline and it was eventually dropped without really going anywhere but it was further proof that WWE had no qualms about using a 5-year-old child as the basis for an on-camera story.
There’s no word on whether or not WWE planned to actually ever bring her on television, and hopefully Reigns would have thought better of letting them but he wasn’t really in a position at that time to go against the WWE’s ideas. He was still at the start of his major singles push and it could have hurt his chances if he was considered “unwilling” to go with the flow.
8. Miz And Maryse Standing Up For Unborn Baby
Knowing what we know about The Miz (and his history on reality tv), involving his personal life in a storyline is probably not a big deal for him. He and his wife are working on a new show for E-Now! and to do a show like that your life needs to be fairly transparent. Still, it didn’t take long for WWE to use the news of their pregnancy in a storyline and to some that might be considered too much too soon.
Within days of the announcement, Enzo and others started mocking The Miz and recently Baron Corbin used The Miz’s wife to build heat for their match at Survivor Series. It led to a pretty shoot-style response from the “Hollywood A-Lister” with a little foul language on the part of The Miz, which is very much unlike him.
7. Kevin Owens Has to Talk About Son Being A Cena Fan
Kevin Owens might be in a bit of hot water with the WWE right now for “going into business for himself” but one has to wonder where the ethical line is considering the day he debuted on the main roster his son was being brought into the story.
After Owens defeated John Cena in his debut, Owens had to explain why he hated Cena so much. The beef for Owens was about the fact that his son Owen loved John Cena and considered himself a huge Cena fan. Owens was supposed to make the fans believe he was jealous that his own son might love Cena more than he loved his own father. Some might consider this harmless and others might concern themselves with what a young man at home might think when his dad goes on tv and trashes his wrestling hero.
6. Dawn Marie Dates Torrie Wilson’s Father
If you’re like many who tried to forget this one, there was a storyline back in 2002 where Dawn Marie started dating Torrie Wilson’s father “Al”. It was all a ruse to get Torrie to pay attention to Dawn and ended in the infamous hotel room scene between the two women. When all was said and done, Dawn Marie married Al and he died on their honeymoon from “being over-worked”. Yes, someone thought this was a good idea.
The original plan was to have Al fake his death, Torrie visits his open casket at the funeral, apologizes to him and he would sit up and cut a heel promo calling her a terrible daughter. Proud of himself, he would walk out the front door and get hit by a bus. I’m not sure if this idea is more distasteful because it was supposed to talk about Torrie and her father or if it was one of the dumbest ideas ever conjured up.
5. Undertaker’s Ex Is Stalked By DDP
If you ever wanted to see how badly the WWE wasted some of WCW’s top talents when they arrived, look no further than what WWE did with Diamond Dallas Page. After being a blue-collar babyface in WCW, Page was asked to debut as the stalker of the Undertaker’s ex-wife Sara. He followed her for months at live events and at home and it was becoming almost disturbing.
The WWE ended the storyline in a match between Sara and Page in which Undertaker had finally had enough, ran from backstage and laid a beatdown on Page allowing Sara to pin him and take the win. WWE buried Diamond Dallas Page, brought Undertaker’s then-wife into the storyline and no one was better off for it. It was stupid more than it was tasteless.
4. John Cena And Nikki Bella Get Engaged
John Cena and Nikki Bella’s relationship has been in front of the camera for years. To say that fans were surprised when Cena got down on one knee and asked Nikki to marry him at WrestleMania would be ignoring the fact this is the kind of storyline WWE eats up. We don’t know who suggested it but a good chunk of the build-up to the show was The Miz and Maryse versus Cena and Bella and it was all to get to the proposal moment the WWE Universe could see coming from miles away.
This one wasn’t so much invasion of someone’s private lives but a waste of time for most of the people involved, especially when you consider for years Cena never wanted to get married again. It felt a bit less than genuine. The whole thing was months in the works if you watched Nikki’s reality show.
3. Cena Calls Out Reigns On Wellness Policy Violation
The John Cena and Roman Reigns feud that was written to reveal the new face of the WWE and allow John Cena to pass the torch got pretty heated. In what fans and media called “worked shoots”, the WWE wanted to add a sense realism to the promos and Cena and Reigns went off on each other for what fans knew were real-life backstage issues.
Reigns had failed a wellness policy test, was suspended, and he wasn’t necessarily the best speaker in the business. Meanwhile, Cena had built a reputation for holding back new talents in order to get himself over in matches he didn’t need to win. He was also a part-time talent. The Internet went crazy over how real these promos were and whether they were scripted or not.
2. Goldberg Wrestles For His Son
Goldberg hadn’t wrestled in over a decade but there was an opportunity for him to return to the ring and he did so, in part because he wanted his son to see him wrestle just one time and give him a hero he could look up to.
During the entire feud between Goldberg and Brock Lesnar, Goldberg was booked as a huge monster, beating “The Beast Incarnate” twice in mere seconds. He eventually lost out in his final match and after Raw the next night, addressed the crowd and brought his son into the ring thanking the fans. The WWE didn’t play the father/son angle as much as they probably could have but they didn’t shy away from it either. Contrary to most of the other cases on this list, Goldberg might not have come back if he wasn’t allowed to showcase his son.
1. Daniel Bryan Constantly Talks About Forced Retirement
The news was just released that Daniel Bryan is actively trying to get medical clearance so he can make a return to the ring. He’s not shy about telling everyone who will listen that he’s not terribly happy in his role as SmackDown Live general manager and would rather be an in-ring talent. On the WWE’s side, they don’t seem too shy about drawing attention to it.
They’ve had The Miz call him out, other wrestlers make reference to it and they’ve done documentaries on the WWE Network about his status and condition. No one seems to know for sure if WWE will allow him to wrestle at some point or if he’ll have to go somewhere else to do so but every time it seems to come up in storylines or backstage interviews/promos, it’s awkward for everyone.
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