At one time or another, most wrestling fans reach a point when they find themselves having to justify their fandom. Whether to a friend, family member or complete stranger, professional wrestling tends to come under a type of scrutiny that invites questions like, "you know it's fake, right?" and "what do you like about it, anyway?" When WWE programming features a compelling storyline with a real issue at stake that is resolved through an exciting match, the questions are easy to answer. Too often, though, that's not the case.
Through the juvenile sense of humour of Vince McMahon and, let's be honest, some lazy story-telling, WWE content has come to rely less on telling a captivating story in the ring and more on cheap laughs, shock moments and crudeness. Nowadays, there seem to be numerous times during the average Raw that a wrestling fan would likely be ashamed to explain the content they were watching to a wrestling newbie. But gross-out segments are nothing new in WWE, where sports entertainment has always been a pillar of a product that values comedic elements and bizarre components in the same vein as exciting in-ring action.
As you probably know all too well, these elements don't always hit the right note. McMahon and WWE writers can often be guilty of, at best, littering their programming with lame, unfunny humour and, at worst, some downright offensive and cringe-inducing content. Vomit, degradation, racism and even necrophilia have all been featured on WWE television under McMahon's watch, showing that pretty much anything goes if the Chairman finds it entertaining. That also means that Vince, himself, has used TV time to further his own arrogant vanity, often at the uncomfortable expense of his real-life employees. Yep, it can be painful watching WWE sometimes. Here are 15 of the worst examples.
15 Poor Trish Stratus
Back in early 2001, Trish Stratus was still a relatively new addition to the WWE main roster. Fans had yet to see her in-ring savvy and were only exposed to her, ahem, T&A. At the risk of sounding crude, its worth noting that this was actually the named of a suggestively titled tag team, comprised of Test and Albert, that Stratus managed early in her run. From there, she moved on to storyline involvement with Vince McMahon. Although the McMahon connection helped jump start a major in-ring push, it came with a cost.
Stratus entered the McMahon angle as the Chairman's mistress, emerging after Linda McMahon had been institutionalized following Vince's kayfabe divorce request. But in the days before the women's revolution, she was booked to be subservient to him. When he turned on her to make her a babyface, that's when the degradation began. At various points in the storyline, Stratus had sewage dumped on her by Stephanie McMahon and was made to strip down to her bra and panties by Vince and bark like a dog in a particularly hard to watch segment.
14 Big Show's Spiked Burrito
At its best, WWE's brand of lame, sophomoric humour produces an eye roll or two and probably a guffaw from Vince McMahon in the back, but is ultimately harmless. At its worst, it can serve to undercut booking by turning a storyline or wrestler into a joke. Take the Big Show, for example. As an impossibly large seven-footer with remarkable athletic prowess, it was no surprise when he debuted in WWE as a force of nature. Where once protected, however, it was only a matter of time before Paul Wight became one very big gag.
It was bad enough to have Big Show doing impressions of other WWE superstars, but toilet humour? Things reached a new low for the former Wichita State basketball star during a feud with Eddie Guerrero in which the popular Latino Heat superstar gifted the big man with a laxative-laced burrito. The ensuing digestive consequences played out both in the ring, where Show was shown battling his opponent and his own bowels, and backstage, where WWE couldn't resist a backstage skit with Show on the toilet with giant-sized fart sounds coming out of the stall.
13 Tommy Dreamer Will Eat Anything
By the time Tommy Dreamer made his way to WWE, he had already ruled in the Land of Extreme as an ECW icon. In ECW, he blossomed from an afterthought to a main event talent thanks to memorable feuds with The Sandman, Raven and the Dudley Boyz which typically positioned him in the role of lovable underdog. But all that meant in Vince McMahon's WWE was that Dreamer had made his name in a rival promotion and, thus, wasn't up to the standard of a homegrown main-eventer. So instead of an everyman hardcore hero, Dreamer was left to earn TV time through other means.
One such means was by eating gross things. In a mercifully short lived gimmick pulled right out of the Fear Factor reality series, Dreamer was actually paid to consume items like his own hair clippings and hot dogs that had fallen to the arena floor. The character, if you can even call it that, reached its stomach-churning peak when Dreamer actually drank the tobacco juice - chew and all - of a visibly disgusted "American Badass" Undertaker.
12 Vince's Exclusive Club
Only out of the egocentric mind of Vincent Kennedy McMahon could the "Kiss My @$$" Club emerge. Initially developed to punish members of the losing Alliance side from the Invasion storyline, McMahon took what one might figure to be a group dedicated to sucking up to The Chairman in an all too literal direction. Those unfortunate enough to count themselves among the club's memberships had to actually kiss McMahon's bare behind, often under threat of termination.
Even within the context of the kayfabe WWE narrative, there remained something uneasy about watching the real-life head of the company instruct his employees to pucker up and kiss his bare posterior on live TV. This is especially true of Jim Ross, a member of the club who also has been known to have had a rocky relationship with McMahon behind the scenes. Even if you didn't find yourself asking uncomfortable questions like how much choice did club members actually get in puckering up, it was still inherently icky to watch McMahon seductively shake his hips while dropping his trousers.
11 Snitsky Punts Lita's Baby
To truly understand the full extent of the inanity of Gene Snitsky's angle with Kane and Lita, some exposition is required. During 2004, Kane and Lita engaged in a storyline whereby the Big Red Machine impregnated the popular Diva by assaulting her and later were married thanks to Kane winning a stipulation match over Matt Hardy for that right. On an episode of Raw, Lita lost the baby after Kane accidentally fell on her following an attack from the debuting Gene Snitsky, which also coined his famous phrase, "It wasn't my fault!" The angle actually turned Kane babyface and even united him and Lita in their shared hatred of Snitsky.
This brings us to a notorious edition of Chris Jericho's "Highlight Reel" talk show. On it, Snitsky taunted Lita over the death of her unborn baby by bringing a fake baby to the ring and proceeding to punt it into the crowd. Though the angle was meant to be shocking, the whole storyline had been so over the top that it mainly generated laughs and even a celebratory reaction from the fan who caught the baby. Nowadays, any WWE retrospective of the angle has emphasized the campy aspects and essentially buried any efforts to make the punt seem serious or dramatic.
10 The Kennel Match
A bad storyline can sometimes be salvaged if it results in a great match, and vice versa. But when a bad storyline culminates in an equally awful in-ring spectacle? That's when everyone loses. The feud between the Big Boss Man and Al Snow was built around Snow's dog Pepper, whom the Boss Man abducted. During a scripted dinner meet-up between the men to discuss the situation, the feud took a disgusting turn as the heel Boss Man revealed that he had actually cooked Pepper and was feeding him to Snow.
As one would imagine, this set Snow off and fanned the flames of a feud that, quite frankly, no one wanted to see. Things only got worse when the battle between the two built to a "Kennel from Hell" gimmick match at Unforgiven in 2009. In case you haven't heard of such a match - and why would you have since there was only one - it featured Boss Man and Snow battling within two steel cage structures as a pack of actual Rottweilers stood guard on the outside. What sounded pretty awesome on paper quickly turned into an unintentional joke as the dogs began humping each other and defecating on the mats during the match. The only saving grace for this eyesore was that the double-cage structure affected visibility and partially blurred some uninspiring in-ring action.
9 Vince Vs. Stephanie
WWE has been going to the well with McMahon family feuds for almost two decades now, so it's no surprise that Vince and Stephanie once engaged in a heated feud, complete with a pay-per-view singles match. What is surprising is just how brutal and vicious the father/daughter match was. The two had been at odds with Vince playing his heel Mr. McMahon character and Stephanie booked as the babyface General Manager of Smackdown. Specifically, Stephanie's decision to grant Undertaker a shot at Brock Lesnar's WWE Championship prompted Vince to challenge his daughter to an "I Quit" match at the 2003 No Mercy PPV.
If male-on-female violence can prove hard to watch, what do you make of father-on-daughter violence? Instead of finding an out in having the match happen or playing it safe, Vince was booked to be merciless against Stephanie. Though she clearly went along with the match structure, it was no easier to swallow a beatdown that featured gratuitous chokeholds, slaps, Steph being thrown by her hair and even a pipe attack. As if brutalizing his daughter wasn't enough, the match would also see Vince palm-face his wife Linda to the ground soon after she threw in the towel to prevent further damage to her daughter. Scripted? Yes. Uncomfortable nonetheless? Definitely!
8 Bastion Booger
When the rather obscure, mid-card gimmick of Friar Ferguson was pulled off TV following complaints from a bevy of religious groups, Mike Shaw was left a pro wrestler without a character. The portly 400-pounder, who passed away in 2010, probably would've taken just about anything offered by the writing staff to remain in the mix. And he pretty much did. His Bastion Booger character had all of the dignity and class that the name would suggest.
The overtly crude Booger was pretty well offensive to all senses, wearing an ill-fitting singlet with parts of his hairy, overweight body poking through various openings. Beyond appearance, though, WWE (then WWF) effectively doubled down on the character's grossness by having Booger disgustingly mangle food in his mouth and rub it all over himself. He once chomped down on dog treats while doing commentary. But as queasy as fans may have gotten watching him, that feeling didn't compare to that of any opponent of Booger's who was exposed to his gag-inducing, Banzai Drop-like finisher.
7 Rest in Peace, Paul Bearer
There is little that WWE holds sacred, and even real-life wrestler deaths are no exception. Then-announcer Vince McMahon interviewed the widow of Brian Pillman live on Raw just days after his death and WWE ran an Owen Hart memorial show 24 hours after he died during a high-risk stunt that the company had coerced him into trying. Even more disgustingly, numerous instances of exploiting the 2005 death of Eddie Guerrero were low-lighted by an in-ring segment where Randy Orton told Guerrero's real-life friend Rey Mysterio Jr. that “Eddie ain’t in heaven. Eddie’s down there – in hell.”
Still, you could argue that WWE's treatment of Paul Bearer in the aftermath of his portrayer William Moody's death in 2013 takes the cake. To be fair, his family gave the company their blessing to use his death as a means of furthering the feud between the Undertaker, a long-time Bearer associate, and CM Punk. But any line that may have still existed was trampled over as Punk's manager Paul Heyman impersonated Bearer while Punk spilled out what was supposedly Bearer's ashes onto the Deadman. While the angle fit into the gimmicks of Undertaker and Bearer, it was way too much far too soon and just came off as being in excruciatingly bad taste.
6 Old Men In Evening Gowns
WWE Hall of Fame wrestling legends Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco share over 70 years of service in WWF/E, with Patterson having served as Vince McMahon's right-hand man and Brisco a long-time road agent. If you think that would be enough to protect them from humiliating themselves on-screen, you clearly don't know Vinnie Mac. In the aftermath of the Montreal Screwjob, as McMahon became 'Mr. McMahon', Patterson and Brisco were thrust into the role of the Chairman's comedic heel stooges. Their lackey gimmick brought them each a Hardcore title reign, but left them exposed to plenty of physical pain and even more shame.
Patterson was the first ever Intercontinental Champion and Brisco has a seemingly endless array of tag team title reigns in various promotions to his credit. But the first picture of the two that comes into most fans' heads happens to feature them clad in evening gowns. The low point of their role as stooges came when the two men were feuding over the aforementioned Hardcore title during the period in which the belt was contested under 24/7 rules. When a brawl between the men spilled into the women's locker room, the pair, both of whom were approaching 60 at the time, were booked in a hardcore evening gown match - on a King of the Ring pay-per-view, no less.
5 The Heidenreich Incident
WWE's obsession over big, jacked up dudes helped propel Jon Heidenreich into the main event scene on Smackdown in the mid-2000's. Bursting onto the scene with a ready-made feud against the Undertaker, Heidenreich arrived with a creepy, unbalanced gimmick in which he would recite his own unsettling poetry then randomly attack wrestlers, fans and announcers. While the talent-deficient Heidenreich mercifully never beat Undertaker in a major bout, nor did he get a widely rumoured WrestleMania match against the Deadman, he did create one eternal WWE moment - for better or worse.
Early in his run on Smackdown, Heidenreich attacked commentator Michael Cole and read him some poetry. If that doesn't sound overly menacing or threatening, then it bears mentioning that the poetry recital took place after Heidenreich had abducted Cole and taken him to an isolated, darkened arena restroom. Moreover, the uncomfortable scene featured 'Little Johnny' leaning in tight to Cole as the long-time voice of WWE was forcibly pinned against the stall. The backstage segment has remained a notorious part of WWE history and has since been remembered as a low point.
4 The Boogeyman
Marty Wright was something of a late bloomer in wrestling years, getting his start in the industry after his 40th birthday through the fourth season of Tough Enough. As a matter of fact, Wright was cut from the competition after admitting his age, which happened to be five years past the cut-off. With his upside as a WWE prospect limited, he managed to strike gold through his mesmerizing and haunting "Boogeyman" persona, first in OVW and later being fast tracked to the main roster. Without a ton of televised matches or a meaningful upward push, Wright found another way to make a name for himself.
The Boogeyman character was never going to reach the main event, but it certainly did stake out a place on weekly TV for Wright. The bizarre madman with wild face paint forged his reputation on terrifying opponents and fans alike by eating handfuls of worms and stuffing them down the throats of his rivals. Evidently to show that he wasn't merely a one-trick pony, the Boogeyman even chowed down on the mole on Jillian Hall's face - that being a gross WWE angle unto itself, biting the fake growth off entirely.
3 Katie Vick
As the widely negative response to Jinder Mahal's recent racist Smackdown promo on Shinsuke Nakamura proves, WWE can't simply air offensive content and justify its presence as coming from a bad guy. This isn't anything new. The same problem cut short the controversial main event run of Muhammad Hassan and, further back, even caused problems for Triple H. Now the Executive Vice President of WWE, Triple H was once embroiled in a feud with Kane that ventured into necrophilia.
Back in 2002, the headline feud on Raw involved The Game and the Big Red Machine and was evidently deemed to need a little extra juice behind it. So a story emerged that Kane had dated a cheerleader named Katie Vick who was later killed in a car accident. Triple H, then the heel world champion, went on Raw and alleged that Kane had 'romanced' Vick after her death, going so far as to simulate intimate acts on a dummy donning a cheerleader outfit that had been placed in a casket. Even for a company that was just getting to the end of the Attitude Era, this was pretty extreme.
2 Vince Drops an 'N'-Bomb
There arguably isn't another word in the English language that carries more hatred, born out of centuries of racism and discrimination, than the N-word. Prominent white people like Michael Richards, Paula Deen and John Mayer have found themselves under fire by merely uttering the word in public. Then there's Vince McMahon. At the 2005 Survivor Series pay-per-view, the WWE Chairman actually thought that it would be funny to script himself shamelessly spouting out the taboo term.
In a backstage segment with John Cena, then sporting a rapper gimmick, McMahon surprised the 'Doctor of Thuganomics' by asking "what's good in the hood?" When a taken aback Cena said something about defending the WWE title, a smiling McMahon replied with a terrible racial slur. African-American superstar Booker T, along with his wife and fellow on-screen character Sharmell, was then booked to walk by, overhear the term and respond with his catchphrase, "Tell me he didn't just say that!" The eccentric billionaire clearly knew that the word would cause a bit of a stir, but evidently anticipated that it would generate more laughs than scorn.
1 Mae Young Gives Birth to a Hand
By naming its recent women's tournament in her honour, WWE finally did right by wrestling legend Mae Young. It is unfortunate, however, that this type of esteemed recognition had to come in death after she was treated as anything but a legend by WWE in life. Largely because she gamely played along, the company was only too eager to make a mockery of her and even expose her to in-ring violence. But as far as infamous moments go, even baring her "puppies" or being power-bombed through a table doesn't compare to giving birth to a hand.
In one of the most notorious storylines in WWE history, Young was placed in an unlikely romantic pairing with Mark Henry. Their on-air romance featured scenes of the World's Strongest Man and the septuagenarian in bed together and even produced a storyline pregnancy, complete with a televised delivery. As if things couldn't get any weirder, grosser or more juvenile, Young bizarrely pushed out a hand. You can't make this stuff up.