I'm not sure if everyone can remember the exact moment when they recall realizing that wrestling isn't exactly on the up and up. I know I don't. Objectively as an adult it's easy to see, but as a kid it can be hard to tell the difference. You want to buy in to all the spectacular action filling your eyeballs and believe all these insane characters on screen.
Sure some of it may be unbelievable, but there are indeed moments where even adults have to blink and ponder the question which goes through any longtime wrestling fans's mind. Was that supposed to happen? Whether it be a wrestler delivering a promo with an uncanny intensity or something really out of the ordinary occurring, it is possible that moments occur that make even jaded wrestling fans forget wrestling is a work.
On the other hand, there are other times which serve as a soul crushing reminder that oiled up men aren't actually being paid to legitimately beat each up over shampoo commercials or something stupid like that. It can stem from an odd character, a bizarre lapse of logic or a wrestler messing up a spot.
Just to say, we will not be including any deaths or crippling injuries into this list. With that said, here are eight moments that we knew were real versus seven moments we knew were fake.
16 Fake: Anything With The Undertaker
If we were being entirely honest, this entire list can be filled up with various moments of The Undertaker's career. But since that would be cheating, let me just pick one moment. Which one should it be though?
Maybe it should be the time where The Deadman ascended into the heavens at Royal Rumble 1994 and returned months later to defeat his impostor at SummerSlam? What about the time where he abducted Mideon and performed a satanic ritual on him to convert him to his Ministry of Darkness? Oh oh I know I know! How about the time where Undertaker made the ring collapse because of... telekinesis and lightning bolts? Listen Undertaker is my favourite wrestler of all time, but he is also the fakest character. The fact that he's been successful for so long shows just how damn good he is.
15 Real: Snake Bite
It would have pretty impressive for the WWE, especially in the late 1980s, to pull off having a fake snake bite one of their top stars and make it look convincing. As a result, they had to use a real snake and have Jake The Snake Roberts sic it on his rival Macho Man Randy Savage.
Things started off pretty good, well as good as having a snake bite you on the biceps can be. The snake had been de-venomized so there was no danger of any venom to Savage. The problem came when it was time for Roberts to pull the King Cobra off of the Macho Man. According to Roberts himself, he was having quite a bit of trouble pulling the snake away which can be seen in the broadcast by his shaking of the creature. Just like W.C Fields said, never work with animals.
14 Fake: Batista Falls Victim To The Force
Not all botches in pro wrestling make it look necessarily fake. Brock Lesnar's shooting star fail for example is a massive botch but it's anything but fake. This on the other is as fake as Nikki Bella's chest.
On the May 10th, 2010 episode of Raw Mark Henry came running down to the ring to confront Drax "Sensitive Nipples" The Destroyer, Batista. With a mighty shove, Henry sent the future superhero actor sailing across the ring. Perhaps Batista was a little too eager to be performing his own stunts in the movies because with that shove, Batista took a dive that had soccer players taking notes. To make matters worse, he fell a good couple seconds after he was pushed. Maybe Henry was using the force, that could always be a possibility. Or maybe this was just fake.
13 Real: Shane Douglas' Extreme Birth
While it didn't quite turn out that way, Shane Douglas by the looks of things was set to be one of the biggest things in 90s wrestling. That is, if his promo at the conclusion of an NWA World Championship Tournament was any indication.
Hot off his success from defeating Tazz, Dean Malenko and 2 Cold Scorpio, Douglas gave a speech in the ring where he listed off a litany of former NWA World Champions. Eventually, he just decided to screw it and threw down the title of a "dead promotion". He raised high the ECW championship instead and kicked off the birth of Extreme Championship Wrestling. Aside from Douglas, only Paul Heyman and Tod Gordon knew about this angle. Consider it the de facto funeral of a legendary wrestling "promotion".
12 Fake: New Blood Rising Debacle
While the concept of kayfabe may have died more than Uncle Ben, in the year 2000 it was still very much a thing. Wrestling fans didn't like it much when the product they were watching is shown to be clearly fake or scripted. This brings us to WCW's New Blood Rising PPV, featuring a match that infuriates fans to this day.
The main event of this PPV was Scott Steiner vs. Kevin Nash vs Goldberg, three muscle bound brutes who have all had times where they were less than professional throughout their careers. However, we didn't need to be told that by the announcers who called Goldberg unprofessional for not allowing Nash to powerbomb him. Yup, the announcers of the company flat out admitted to their audience that what they were watching was predetermined. This of course came from the brilliant mind of Vince Russo. Just after writing that sentence, Jim Cornette grew 7 feet tall and turned green. Weird.
11 Real: Brawl For All
Have you ever wanted to see JBL get beaten up? Me too. So did Vince Russo, and that's where I hope the similarities between him and myself end. Now instead of hiring some goons to attack JBL like a sensible person would, Russo had another idea. Instead he decided to book a UFC-ish tournament on WWE television starring a bunch of guys who couldn't fight with maybe a couple who actually could fight. Oh, did we mention all the fights were shoots?
So let's set the scene. Take a bunch of prideful and muscled up giants with no fighting ability, put them in a ring and have them fight on television. Not to mention that they were promoting this "real" product alongside all their other therefore "fake" wrestling. Yeah it was real alright, real damn stupid.
10 Fake: Miss WrestleMania
On paper, the Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal at WrestleMania 25 sounded like a pretty great idea. A bunch of current and former Divas all coming back at the 25th WrestleMania for a big battle royal? Why not, I've seen worse ideas. But in execution, this was horrendously stupid.
Starting off on the worst foot possible, the Divas didn't get any entrances. Now it's understandable that not every Diva in this match would get an entrance considering the amount of people. However, when you have beloved ladies like Torrie Wilson, Sunny (well at the time she was beloved by a portion of the fanbase anyway) and Molly Holly in the match and they don't get an entrance, that's already dumb. Instead of entrances for them, we got a long Kid Rock number. In 2009. Good God almighty.
To cap off the whole debacle, the winner of this match wasn't even a woman. Yup, it was a cross-dressing Santino Marella cosplaying as his "twin sister" Santina. The fact that Santina was allowed to compete in this match is clearly a display as to how incompetent WWE management is. Okay, maybe this is more real than I thought.
9 Real: The 80s Screwjob
Most people know about the Montreal Screwjob from the 1990s. What a lot of people may not know though is that WWE actually did something similar in the 1980s; 1985 to be precise. Standing in for Bret Hart in this scenario would be Wendi Richter, who was fed up with Vince McMahon's unequal pay wages for female wrestlers. While Hulk Hogan was paid $50,000 for WrestleMania, Richter was only paid $5,000 despite her being a big part of WWE's Rock and Wrestling Connection.
Not wanting to put up with her protests, McMahon concocted a scheme to get rid of Richter. By dressing up former longtime champion Fabulous Moolah as the Spider Lady, McMahon told his referee to count a non existent pin on Richter to take the title off her. Fans were confused, and Richter left the arena and WWE forever. Until her hall of fame time of course.
8 Fake: Electric Cage Match
Wrestling fans can buy a lot of things. We can buy that wrestlers hate each other for weird reasons, we can deal with guys doing complex moves for no reason but we couldn't buy the stupidity of this match. Especially in 2007.
Normally when a promotion does a gimmick match, the work hard to make it seem as real as possible even sometimes to the detriment of performers. The Elimination Chamber, the Hell In A Cell and the Inferno Match are all cases of this. TNA though decided to go completely unbelievable with their gimmick match at Lockdown 2007 and booked an electrified steel cage match. Obviously the company wouldn't fry their own performers (though we wouldn't put it past them), so instead of electricity, the arena would flicker its lights and a generic electricity sound effect would be played. And you thought WCW's Chamber of Horrors match was dumb. Well okay it was dumber but you think TNA would learn from WCW mistakes from several years prior. But oh ho ho, have they repeated WCW's mistakes or what?
7 Real: Roddy Piper Shoot
We said at the top that we wouldn't include any major injuries or deaths into the conversation of real moments here. However, people shooting on said deaths is a completely different story. And who else has the balls to do so on live television than Rowdy Roddy Piper?
During the embryonic stages of TNA, Roddy Piper made a guest appearance on one of their PPVs. It started off with the typical barbs directed to Vince Russo i.e lack of talent, idiocy and maliciousness. Things however took an uncomfortable turn when Piper blamed Russo (TO HIS FACE) for the death of his cousin Owen Hart. The entire shoot was sharp and pointed directly at the head of the most hated man in wrestling. Reports have conflicted back and forth over the years whether or not this was scripted. But one thing for sure, it felt damn real to everyone in the audience.
6 Fake: P***s Plex
How weird is professional wrestling that I have to differentiate between two different incidents involving a penis and suplexes? Well I'm not speaking about the practical joke that Mick Foley played on Al Snow at a Montreal house show in 1999, but about one Joey Ryan.
While taking on Japanese wrestler Danshoku Dino, Joey Ryan needed to summon all his power and might to defeat his dastardly foe. How dastardly is he? Well in the middle of their match Dino grabbed the junk of Ryan with the force of a million suns. However, the power of Joey Ryan's penis was too much and by summoning his power like a Dragon Ball Z character, Ryan was able to resist the grab and deliver a suplex... with his dong. Ryan received a lot of blow back for that incident but Ryan rubbed it off and continued with his career. His career has been long and hard, but this was the explosion of his notoriety. Sex jokes.
5 Real: Fighting A Giant
Now we know that Japanese wrestlers possess bravery and toughness that most other wrestlers would wish they had. Sometimes though that toughness turns into stupidity. Like trying to fight freaking Andre The Giant.
Akira Maeda was a Korean wrestler known for working a little too stiff even for Japanese standards. As a result, the legendary promoter Antonio Inoki decided to teach Akira a lesson by booking him against the monstrous Andre. Akira proceeded to kick the hell out of Andre and take him down at will, which wasn't part of the plan. Luckily for Akira, it was rumoured that Andre was drunk during the match (impressive considering his legendary tolerance) and thus was in no condition to do much punishment. The debacle was finally called off when Inoki sent people to interfere in the match resulting in a double disqualification. We would have liked to see Akira try that with a sober Andre.
4 Fake: Robocop
Yup. There's no other title that I should include at the top of this entry than just... Robocop.
In a truly bizarre concept, WCW did a tie-in PPV with the 1990 movie Robocop 2 entitled Capital Combat. For the most part the show was a regular PPV, was as regular as a PPV can be which featured John Laurinatis taking on The Undertaker with manager Teddy Long, but I digress. If you thought that was weird, you haven't seen anything until you see Robocop save Sting from the Four Horsemen who had just locked the Stinger in a cage. Not the actor who plays Robocop, but literally Robocop slow walking and all. What? If you ever wanted to hear good ole J.R say without irony "Sting has been caged by the Horsemen, but here comes Robocop!", you can hear it here.
Personally, I'm awaiting on hope that Batman shows up on an episode of Raw to solve the mystery of how Kane's burn marks healed in 2003. Until then, we have this.
3 Real: Jerry Lawler's Heart Attack
Wrestling has a propensity for wanting you to forget about the age of wrestlers. Just think about the Undertaker. Despite being in his late 40s and 50s, we still play into the belief that they are able to go up and take on men sometimes decades younger than them. In September 2012 though we got a reminder of the dangers of old men wrestling.
During an episode of Raw, Jerry Lawler teamed up with Randy Orton to take on Dolph Ziggler and CM Punk. The match went fine and once finished Lawler returned to the commentary booth as per usual. Disaster soon struck as Lawler collapsed at his chair during a tag match between Team Hell No and the Prime Time Players. Fans at home noticed the lack of commentary on the broadcast while fans in the Bell Centre all stared at the announce table.
Yes it was unveiled later that Lawler's age wasn't so much a factor in this as it was the fact that Ziggler dropped 10 elbow drops on Lawler during the match. However in the moment, we all collectively had the thought that maybe it wasn't a good idea to put old timers like Lawler in the ring.
2 Fake: Hogan Versus The Mirror
It remains one of the most non-nonsensical moments in wrestling history. And somehow, the original concept has gone on to be used again and again. The first place fans saw a wrestler having trouble with the concept of reflection can be seen in 1998 in the long forgotten land of WCW.
On an episode of Monday Nitro Hulk Hogan is staring into a mirror. All of a sudden, The Ultimate Warrior begins to appear into the mirror. This was meant to be that Hogan was hallucinating, but the problem was that the viewers at home could see him too. To make matters worse, Eric Bischoff walked in and then said he couldn't see the Warrior. So either Hogan, Bischoff or the fans are on drugs. Or the segment was a big hunk of fake. You make the call!
1 Real: The Mike Levy Incident
As much as we want to forget it, the very real fact is that wrestling is filled with scumbags and psychopaths. Case in point; Ian Rotten.
This is a long story so I'll keep it brief, as it's a little too disgusting to talk about it for too long. Mike Levy was an untrained wrestling fan who sweet talked his way into wrestling for Ian Rotten's IWA Mid-South promotion. He was supposed to be a jobber for a match against Mickie Knuckles. He did try to get some offense in and because of his poor ability, just wasn't very good in the ring, which pissed Knuckles off. Once that match was over, Rotten and several others beat Levy so badly that it was uncomfortable even for the cast iron stomached wrestling fans. You can find the video if you wish, but it's hard to watch.
This is as real as wrestling can get. Real ugly.