The essence of professional wrestling is made up of three main categories - sex, violence and humor. Thankfully there has been no shortage of each of these types moments in WWE history. Sometimes these moments come as such a surprise that they are "blink-and-you-miss-them" type moments that viewers do not always catch on their first go-around, which require multiple watches, and for viewers to pause the screen so they an analyze closer (or keep as the background on their computers for future viewing). Whether it is a gross injury that needs to be seen to be believed, a hilarious moment that needs to be captured to share with friends, or if a slight glimpse of a wrestling goddess' body was caught, legions of fans paused their televisions during these moments to capture them forever.
Here is the list of the moments in wrestling history that caused people to say "Hey, let me see that again", "Did you guys see that?!" or "Gees, that was hot!". There's no doubt that fans have gone over these moments over and over again. With the WWE Network at your disposal, it should make it even easier to go through those moments and find some moments to pause. But we'll help you out anyway.
20 AJ Lee is a Cat
Wardrobe malfunctions are a big part of the wrestling industry, particularly for two main categories of people involved in wrestling – for the ladies in the ring performing, and for those that follow wrestling on the Internet. A “slip” is fairly common on wrestling television (which you will see return on this list), but the illustrious AJ Lee’s mishap on an episode of SmackDown in 2013 was particularly memorable. During a mixed tag-team match also featuring Dolph Ziggler, Natalya and The Great Khali, AJ conducted several villainous (and feline-esque) maneuvers to Natalya – such as biting her knee and ear, before performing a Sliced Bread maneuver to pin her opponent. After the three count, AJ propped herself up on her knees to celebrate her win.
However, AJ did not notice that her shirt had rolled up and exposed her black bra underneath her t-shirt, and had actually been this way for the majority of the match. Combine this with AJ’s seductive, cat-like movements, and you have a moment that excited many wrestling fans (whether they are a super-nerd like AJ or not).
19 Sid Doesn’t Have a Leg to Stand On
For every moment like AJ Lee that graces our television, there are also moments that are cringe-inducing. One of my first memories of being exposed to wrestling beyond the WWE that I grew up with was downloading short, low-quality videos off the Internet. I vividly remember downloading this video over 15 years ago and releasing an audible “AH” once it reached the conclusion. Sid Vicious is a wrestler who performed for all the major wrestling promotions through the 1990s and 2000s, and is one of the few wrestlers to headline both WCW and WWE’s flagship pay-per-views. Unfortunately, the final moments of Sid’s mainstream in-ring career are what he is most remembered for. During a Fatal-Four-Way Match at WCW Sin in 2001, Sid attempted an uncharacteristic high-flying maneuver from the second rope, and landed on only his left foot. Given Sid’s 6-foot-9, 300 pound frame was not normally held up by one leg, his tibia and fibula fractured, leaving his leg looking like it was dangling like a thread. Sid would not wrestle on a mainstream wrestling show again until 2012.
18 Here’s Vince!
While we have explored both the sexy and violent moments that fans have “freeze-framed” in history, we would be remiss if we did not review the unintentionally hilarious moments that have occurred on WWE program. In 2003, one of the highlighted feuds heading into WrestleMania XIX was the billed “20 Years in the Making” no-holds barred affair between Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan. The main aspect of this blood feud (excuse my pun) was the argument of who was responsible for the success of the inaugural WrestleMania, which forced these two semi-geriatric performers to showdown in a Street Fight Match. While the match exceeded expectations in terms of violence (certainly not in wrestling ability), the highlight of the match came while Vince was stalking Hogan from outside of the ring with a steel pipe he had retrieved from underneath the ring.
While waiting to pounce on Hogan (which is not nearly as sexy as the aforementioned AJ Lee’s version of a cat), Vince poked his head into view of the camera, and gave a blood-covered, devious look towards Hogan that personified his intentions to brutalize Hogan. While the match may have lacked technical prowess, it was made up for with moments like this.
17 Jeff Hardy’s Big Moment
Jeff Hardy’s wrestling career may be the biggest case of “blue balls” that has ever existed in professional wrestling – each time that he has become close to reaching his potential as a performer, his star burns out. Such was the case in TNA in 2011 while Jeff Hardy was the reigning TNA Champion, defending against Sting at that year’s Victory Road event. It was clear that Jeff was intoxicated during his entrance for the match, but it was not until he made eye contact with the camera lens that it was confirmed for everyone watching it home. Now, typically when there is a man with red face paint and rainbow-colored hair staring at you it is normal to have questions about whether they are “under the influence”. However, in this case it was more upsetting than anything.
This writer is very glad to see that Jeff is currently in a renaissance of his career back in WWE, and hopes that we never get to see this side of him again.
16 The Montreal Screwjob
The odds are that if you are this far into my article you are aware of the historical significance of the Montreal Screwjob, so I do not feel it is necessary to recap it’s impact on wrestling as we know it today. Instead, I would like the readers to imagine what it was like to view this moment live, and to think of the collective gasps of surprise from the crowd as referee Earl Hebner called for the bell in Montreal at Survivor Series 1997. Everyone in the Bell Centre in Montreal wishes that they had the ability to pause the screen to see if Bret Hart really tapped out to his own Sharpshooter maneuver. Or to see if Vince McMahon was really involved in the outcome of the match. Or to be able to watch a play-back on Bret spitting on Vince and signing the letters “W-C-W” in the air with his finger to signal his departure.
15 Tables, Ladders and Spears
This is Jeff’s second appearance on this list, and it not the last time we will see “The Rated R Superstar”, but it comes at a time when they were both young and hungry upstarts trying to make their mark on wrestling history. Let’s rewind back to one of the greatest wrestling events in WrestleMania X7 to what is widely considered one of the greatest matches in modern day WWE between three of the greatest tag teams (have I set the stage well enough for you?). The TLC II Match featured The Dudley Boys defending their tag team championships against Edge and Christian and The Hardy Boyz.
While previous matches involving these three teams had set the bar very high and changed the face of tag-team wrestling forever, it is the peak moment of this match which sticks in the mind of wrestling fans. While Jeff performed the daring task of “tight-rope” walking across ladders to reach the hanging championship belts, he was stopped by Bubba Ray Dudley who began to swing Jeff as he held onto the title belts. Unbeknownst to Jeff, Edge was perched on top of a nearby ladder waiting to spear him from 20 feet in the air, creating one of the loudest crowd reactions that I have ever witnessed. Not only did Edge and Jeff descent to the mat below, but they catapulted each other into the history books.
14 Sable Bomb(s)
Those that began watching wrestling after its popularity boom of the Attitude Era may not remember Sable, but those that were enjoying WWE programming before this will remember how desirable and popular Sable was during this period. Not only was the story of Sable overcoming the misogynistic Marc Mero a compelling situation as a viewer, but plain and simple – Sable was incredible hot! In an effort to show off to the wrestling world once she was out from under Marc Mero’s thumb, Sable debuted her newest bikini during a bikini match against Jacqueline at Fully Loaded 1998. As you can see from Jerry Lawler’s reaction, this bikini was more (or less) than anyone could have imagined. Keep in mind, this was before Sable had posed for Playboy magazine, so up to this point viewers could only imagine her curves!
13 Mae Young's Basset Hounds
There are two things that are universal truths for wrestling fans – we know that Shawn Michaels is one of the greatest performers of all time, and that no one had ever asked to see Mae Young’s puppies. For every WWE bikini contest moment which features Sable’s handprint bikini in the late 90s/early 2000s, there are also moments which strike fear into the hearts of wrestling fans everywhere, and this is that moment. During the “Miss Royal Rumble Swimsuit Competition” during the 2000 Royal Rumble, there were some jaw-dropping swimsuits that will never be forgotten (I have never been able to look at bubble wrap the same way since this event), but none were more “jaw-dropping” than Mae Young’s lack of attire. In an attempt to “show the world her puppies”, Mae Young removed her blouse and ran across the ring to expose herself. While this is not something we asked for, it did not stop most wrestling fans from pausing the moment to ask themselves “is this really happening?!”
12 Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare
Ever since Kevin Owens was signed to WWE in 2015, most independent wrestling fans have been waiting for him to return to his persona that he displayed in Ring of Honor during the latter-half of his independent career. Owens’ “Wrestling’s Worst Nightmare” personality made him the most unpredictable and vile wrestlers seen in wrestling in recent years, and fans have been salivating for him to break out into his previous actions. During an episode of Smackdown in 2017, Owens showed his true colors during a segment with Vince McMahon, when he head-butted him directly in the forehead, causing Vince to begin bleeding.
Since bleeding has become incredibly rare during WWE broadcasts, this was a very surprising moment for viewers, who could not wait to see what Owens will do next, and left them asking themselves if the bleeding was intentional or not.
11 John Cena Nose Best
Make no mistake about it, John Cena is one of the greatest performers of all time, and anyone who says differently does not have their head on straight. In addition to this, he is a tough SOB. Just watch his match with Seth Rollins during RAW in 2016 for the proof. During an in-ring mishap, Rollins’ knee collided with Cena’s nose, instantly misaligning the bones and causing blood to streak down Cena’s face, essentially rearranging his facial features for him. The slow-motion replays and screen captures speak for themselves – the pain must have been undeniable. However, Cena continued the match and posed for some lovely pictures after RAW went off the air. Without a doubt, Cena deserves respect for this show of testicular fortitude.
10 Who Needs Puppies when you have Kittens?
For those reading closely, you can see that I was clearly a wrestling fan during the 1990s, which was not short on moments featuring scantily-clad women. However, the mold was broken during Armageddon 1999 when Stacy “The Kat” Carter gave WWE fans what they have always been clamoring to see – intentional nudity. During the build-up to the “Evening Gown Pool Match”, The Kat had mentioned that she was afraid to be eliminated in the match (which can only occur when an opponent is stripped of their dress) because “she doesn’t wear underwear”.
Unfortunately for viewers, she won the match. Not being one to disappoint her fans, The Kat decided to strip off her clothes anyway, before being promptly covered up by Sgt. Slaughter and a well-placed towel. With such a massive audience watching the event, WWE decided to shock everyone by featuring nudity on its programming, and legions of wrestling fans were quick to pause this moment every chance they got.
9 Hayabusa's Accident
While WWE does supply wrestling fans with hours of programming weekly, it is important for wrestling fans to educate themselves with wrestling action from other countries. Unfortunately this also means coming across ill-fated accidents, which is the case with Japanese wrestling legend Hayabusa. During a match for Frontier-Martial Arts Wrestling in Japan, a wrestler who regularly used dangerous maneuvers like shooting star presses and 450 splashes, received a career-ending injury in front of our eyes. While attempting to perform a springboard moonsault during a match in 2001, Hayabusa slipped on the middle rope and landed on his head, cracking two of his vertebrae, leaving him paralyzed. Watching a Japanese legend’s career end due to such an unfortunate injury is heart-breaking, and serves to remind us all of the dangers of professional wrestling.
8 Stephanie Wants Your Attention
The Stephanie McMahon that we know now leads a life strictly based on business and philanthropy with efforts such as Connor’s Cure, but during 2003 during her stint as General Manager of the SmackDown brand, Stephanie had some outrageous moments that certainly are not discussed during regular board meetings. From letting John Cena spank her bottom, to being involved in “HLA”, Stephanie has had some flashes with on-screen sexuality which succeeded in shedding the “girl next door” persona from the 1990s. This was not more apparent than when an announcement about the new WWE Tag Team Championship tournament was being introduced, and the segment began with a slow camera pan up her tanned legs to show her behind in a small business skirt, after which she turned around and stated “Now do I have your attention?” Yes Stephanie, you certainly do.
7 Mankind Goes For A Ride
While we previously discussed the historical significance Edge spearing Jeff Hardy off of a ladder during WrestleMania X7, there is only one extreme move that can top this in wrestling history, and it took place during King of the Ring 1998. Just saying the words “King of the Ring 1998” makes wrestling fans think of one thing – Mankind vs The Undertaker in Hell in a Cell. While fighting on top of the caged structure, The Undertaker unexpectedly threw Mick Foley off the side of the cage, and we watched him crash through the announce table below. Only the immortal words of WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross can properly characterize the moment – "Good God almighty! Good God almighty! That killed him! As God as my witness, he is broken in half!" Any wrestling fan that has seen this moment has paused their screen in order to fully comprehend the situation, and how dangerous (and iconic) this moment is.
6 New Jack's Shenanigans
ECW was known for its violence and extreme nature, and there is not a wrestler in the company that personified this better than New Jack. One of the few main-stream ECW alumni to never debut for WWE, it is believed that New Jack’s extreme personality and wrestling style is too dangerous for WWE’s brand of sport’s entertainment. If anyone has seen a video of the “Mass Transit Incident” during an ECW house show in 1996, they would have to agree. Eric Kulas (or Mass Transit) was involved in a tag team match involving New Jack, and had asked New Jack to “help him get color” (or bleed) during the match due to his inexperience. Without getting too graphic, New Jack proceeded to cut him with a surgical scalpel, causing Kulas to bleed profusely from his forehead. This incident is only available on a grainy video from a ringside fan, which makes pausing it to view a strange experience, but one that is ingrained in wrestling history (for better or worse).
5 Brock Lesnar Flies... Sort Of
If you have watched Brock Lesnar wrestle following his return to WWE in 2012, you know that Lesnar’s wrestling style is comprised of hard-hitting suplexes and ground-and-pound offense. If you watched Brock Lesnar during his UFC career, you know that Lesnar’s fighting style is comprised of quick-moving takedowns and smash-mouth style punches. This makes the thought of Lesnar’s 286 pound frame flying through the air upside down even more surprising. I can recall viewing an old video of Lesnar during his Ohio Valley Wrestling days performing a top-rope shooting star press during training, so when he climbed to the top rope during his WWE Championship match against Kurt Angle at WrestleMania XIX, I was aware which maneuver he would be performing.
What shocked everyone watching was that Lesnar did not quite make the landing, and proceeded to land on his face, just shy of hitting Kurt Angle, and inches away from breaking his neck. It is one of the most shocking WrestleMania main event moments, and truly has to be seen to be believed.
4 The Bellas' Twins
We’ve already discussed wardrobe malfunctions, as well as intentional nudity during WWE programming, but now we get to discuss when it happens to twins. Bella twins, that is. During two separate broadcasts of RAW, both Nikki and Brie Bella experienced unfortunate clothing malfunctions during their segments, which delighted fans (but probably upset both Daniel Bryan and John Cena). Brie experienced hers during a Total Divas segment in 2013, and Nikki during a match in 2014. These are “blink-and-you-miss-it” types of moments, so it involved a lot of pausing and screenshotting by wrestling fans. In any event, while it was a little embarrassing for the twins, nobody would complain, as they all realize these things are bound to happen on live television every once in a while.
3 Triple H’s Beautiful Day
We forget that Triple H missed almost an entire year of action in WWE due to an injury in 2001 during an episode of RAW. During a tag team match involving Steve Austin, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit, Triple H tore his quadriceps muscle completely off the bone when he attempted to break up a submission maneuver.
The reason that this injury involves pausing to view is because Triple H continued on wrestling in the match, and was even put in the Walls of Jericho, putting immense pressure on his already torn muscle. We already spoke about how tough John Cena is, and I think that Triple H belongs in this club as well after this display of toughness. When Triple H is teaching toughness to NXT proteges, he can proudly look back at this moment.
2 The Austin Era
There are certain wrestling maneuvers that are seldom seen on WWE programming due to how dangerous they area for the wrestlers, and one of those specific moves is the sit-out tombstone piledriver due to the impact that it has on the performer’s spinal cords. Unfortunately for “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, this was not the case in 1997 when Owen Hart performed the move, and it essentially broke Austin’s neck, shortening his career by years due to the surgeries performed afterwards.
The tombstone piledriver is famously performed by The Undertaker, who traditionally drops to his knees while performing this move, but Hart made the decision to “sit out”, and Austin’s head was too far down, which caused the injury. Removing this move from wrestler’s arsenal is a smart move by WWE because Austin’s career was cut far too short as a result of this injury.
1 Live Celebration
During Edge’s first run as WWE Champion, he decided to celebrate in one of the most extreme ways he could think of – by broadcasting a “Live Sex Celebration” in the ring during Monday Night RAW with his on-screen girlfriend Lita. This segment obviously intrigued live audiences, as RAW TV ratings spiked up to 5.2 for the segment, and it has become one of the most talked about segments in WWE History. What has made it more iconic, is that during the “celebratory fun”, Lita was undressing under the covers, and has a “blanket malfunction” which caused her to become exposed for a moment to the camera. Like with the pervious inductions, this was a very quick moment and could not be censored on television, which required Lita fans to do some quick pausing of their recordings to catch it.