In June of 2008 the WWE officially announced on their website that their programming had been officially deemed "PG" by their network of distributers.
This meant WWE would be forced to tone down their references to sexuality or violence during Raw and Smackdown. The company would no longer be able to have risqué or controversial storylines that could be considered not "family friendly". Basically everything that had been so popular about the company's "Attitude Era" was now off-limits.
While the change put limits on the content WWE would be able to produce moving forward, it also opened a lot of doors for them in terms of sponsors. The WWE earns a good deal of revenue through the production of toys and action figures for kids, something that would be jeopardized if the programming itself was not something parents would let their kids watch. Plus many advertisers will shy away from placing commercials on programming that isn't geared towards a PG audience.
So while fans have been complaining about the PG-era for the last 8 years, the WWE shareholders are not, and that's the bottom line.
Unfortunately it doesn't seem as though WWE will be coming out of its PG shell anytime soon. As a publicly-traded company it would be tough to convince shareholders that dropping the PG label, and losing sponsorship revenue in the process, is the best long-term strategy for the company. So get used to wrestlers using phrases such as "Tater Tots" because that kind of dialogue isn't going away anytime soon.
Here are 15 wrestlers who never would have made it in WWE's current PG era...
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15 The Godfather
Charles Wright portrayed numerous bizarre characters in WWE, but none were as non-PG as the Godfather.
The Godfather was a pimp; someone who makes money by offering protection to prostitutes. While on WWE programming this character was portrayed as a fun-loving "good guy", the reality of the sex trade is thought to be less jubilant and light-hearted.
The character evolved as Wright was still known as "Kama", a member of the Nation of Domination from 1997-98. During the final days of the stable, Wright began smoking a cigar and wearing clothes more reminiscent of a pimp. Then once the Nation finally split up for good, Charles Wright went full-blown into the Godfather character. He even formed a tag team with Val Venis for a time.
Unfortunately, as was the case with Val Venis, the WWE changed directions with the Godfather character in 2000. The change in both characters is largely thought to be from complaints issued by the "Parents Television Council" (PTC). The Godfather became "the Good-father" and joined the Right to Censor (RTC).
Wright now manages the adult establishment "Cheetahs" in Las Vegas.
14 The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust
Granted, the modern version of Goldust is performing in the PG-era, but "the Artist Formerly Known as Goldust" certainly would not have been able to. Actually, most versions of Goldust would not be suitable for a PG-program.
During the Attitude era, the Goldust character took on a bit of twist. Instead of dressing in all gold, Dustin Runnels would be dressed up as various bizarre characters. Usually there was some type of bondage or S&M component to what he was wearing as well. He broke up with Marlena (Terri Runnels) and paired up with Luna Vachon. Then he began dressing up as versions of his opponents, until eventually abandoning the character altogether.
Goldust's original character would definitely not qualify for PG either. When he debuted as the character in 1995, it was unlike anything else happening in wrestling at the time (or ever). Goldust was an ambiguous character who preyed on his opponent's homophobia to gain an advantage. That kind of thing would not go over well nowadays.
13 Joey Ryan
Joey Ryan has appeared on WWE television sporadically throughout the years, but never in any prominent way. He has been used as "enhancement talent" on several occasions, the first time being back in 2005.
Currently Ryan can be seen wrestling for Lucha Underground, having debuted during the show's second season.
Ryan's gimmick isn't so much of an adult star, even though he has been sponsored by "YouP***" in the past, he is more of a guy who just looks and acts a lot like an adult star. Before matches Ryan will often coat his hairy torso with oil, and occasionally he will offer females the chance to "go on a moustache ride".
In the Japanese promotion "DDT", Ryan was involved in a comedy match that contained a spot where Ryan used his penis (unexposed, thankfully) to overpower Danshoku Dino. Video of the move went viral and earned Ryan media coverage in Vice, Rolling Stone and other mainstream media outlets.
12 Beaver Cleavage
Oddly enough, the performer who portrayed "Beaver Cleavage" has wrestled a couple of matches this year on SmackDown. Charles Warrington, better known as Headbanger Mosh, also portrayed the rather unique Beaver Cleavage character in 1999.
The character didn't last long, nor should it have. In fact Beaver Cleavage didn't survive past the vignettes introducing the character, which might be a record.
The gimmick was a takeoff of an old TV show "Leave it to Beaver", only in WWE's version Mrs. Cleavage was a very voluptuous woman. Beaver and his mother would exchange uncomfortable sexual innuendos that usually centred around Mrs. Cleavage's large breasts. It was not WWE's finest contribution to pro-wrestling.
Warrington would show up on RAW weeks after the vignettes and blasted the character in a work/shoot style promo. He changed his name to "Chaz" for a bit until ultimately reuniting the Headbangers with Thrasher.
11 Muhammad Hassan
Not only would this character not make it in the PG-era, he was too much for a non-PG product as well.
The WWE had done similar storylines to this in the past without receiving similar backlash. In the buildup to WrestleMania 7, Sgt. Slaughter portrayed an American military man that had turned his back on the United States and was siding with Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. Apparently that was just fine. But when Muhammad Hassan portrayed an Arab-American who was sick of the prejudice he felt in the United States, the TV networks were having none of it.
The primary reason for the WWE backing away from the character was an episode of Smackdown that was taped on July 4th 2005. On the show the Undertaker defeated Davairi but on the outside Hassan began to "prey" until a handful of masked wrestlers wearing camo came out and attacked the Undertaker. 3 days later the London Bombings took place, with the angle airing on television afterwards.
The mainstream media picked up on the story, referring to Hassan's character as a terrorist. UPN, the networking airing Smackdown at the time, put pressure on the WWE to eventually drop the character.
10 Miss Kitty
Stacy Carter, the performer who portrayed Miss Kitty, was introduced to the pro-wrestling business by her one-time husband Jerry Lawler. There is a 20-year age difference between the two, something that would become a trend in Lawler's personal life.
Miss Kitty was a WWE performer from 1999-2001, during a period of women's wrestling characterized by "Bra and Panties" matches. Carter went beyond the call of duty during a match against Terri Runnels at Armegeddon 2000. Her and Runnels had been feuding since WrestleMania, resulting in many matches and segments that involved the two ripping each other's clothes off. It wasn't really the kind of thing they have Charlotte and Sasha Banks doing today.
During their match on the PPV, Runnels ripped Carter's top off and exposed her breasts. Carter was supposed to cover up and act embarrassed, but evidently she called an audible and decided to let loose and be proud.
Imagine that moment for the wrestling fan who had seen so many Bra and Panties style matches during that era. They saw clothes ripped off all the time but always believed they'd never get to see full boob. Then, finally on one glorious PPV, it happened, they went full boob!
9 Naked Mideon
Dennis Knight did a lot of things in the WWE, but none of them harder to live down than "Naked Mideon".
Knight debuted in the WWE in 1996 as one-half of the Godwins. The team would go on to have a moderate amount of success, and are 2x former Tag Team Champions.
Knight would join the Undertaker's "Ministry of Darkness" in 1998. He began carrying around an eyeball in a jar and was now named "Mideon".
When the Ministry disbanded the Mideon character seemed to disappear for awhile, only to resurface in a most disturbing way. Mideon began interfering in matches dressed only in cowboy boots, a fanny pack, and a cringingly hard to see thong. The visual made one believe they really were watching a naked Dennis Knight streaking through the ring area.
The character never really did anything beyond that. He just showed up looking like he was naked, left, and eventually was released from his contract in 2001. That is the story of Naked Mideon.
8 The Original Dudley Boyz
The Dudley Boyz gimmick was created long before Bubba Ray and Devon joined the stable, though those two would certainly take it to new levels.
The gimmick was that each member of the Dudleys had been fathered by "Big Daddy Dudley", who was a travelling salesman. As Big Daddy Dudley traveled the United States on sales trips, he would father children all across the country. Some of these kids were very far from being PG.
There was the mute "Sign Guy" Dudley, who storyline suggested was the result of Big Daddy's visit to an insane asylum. "Dances With Dudley" was the result of Big Daddy's trip to a Native American reservation, where Joey Styles remarked that he "Poked a Hontas". But probably the least PG was "Big Dick Dudley", a rather large gentleman, who was said to be from Big Daddy's steamy romance with the Holland Tunnel.
7 Val Venis
By 1998, WWE's "Attitude Era" was in full-swing, and nothing encapsulated this more than the debut of Val Venis.
Venis' character was introduced to the WWE audience for weeks before his eventual debut on May 18th 1998. A series of vignettes aired which made reference to Val Venis' day job as an actor in adult movies. His theme music was a generic version of every song ever heard in the background of a 1970s adult movie, he came to the ring wearing a towel, and his finishing move was named "the Money Shot". There is no way any of this would make air today.
The character was portrayed by Sean Morley so well that it became a huge hit with fans.
Unfortunately after a couple of years WWE decided to change the direction of Val, ultimately leading to the downfall of the character.
After losing the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam 2000, Venis turned heel and joined "the Right to Censor", a faction that sought to protect WWE viewers from non-PG content.
6 New Jack
Jerome Young, aka New Jack, would never make it in any wrestling promotion that needed to maintain a PG rating. It is not in him to do.
New Jack was never a guy that was going win over fans with a Dean Malenko vs Eddie Guerrero style match. He got over by jumping off of high places and landing through multiple tables. New Jack got big ovations by running in during matches and hitting opponents with a diverse range of weapons. And anytime New Jack picked up a microphone he said something that would infuriate people.
New Jack, and partner Mustafa, would drive Smoky Mountain Wrestling fans into a frenzy with racially charged promos. Once New Jack even gave a shout-out to O.J Simpson and famously commented something along the lines of there being "two less to worry about".
WWE never signed New Jack, not even to take part in the ECW One Night Stand PPVs. They were never going to risk him being near a live microphone.
5 Brian Pillman
Brian Pillman was years ahead of his time. He never had to perform in a PG environment, it's not certain that he would want to either, as most of the storylines he was involved in tended to be very adult-oriented.
Pillman's short career in the WWE involved two very non-PG storylines. The first was in November of 1996, when he was feuding with his former tag team partner Steve Austin. The WWE shot a series of segments from Pillman's home, where Austin was set to confront him. Pillman then pulled out a gun and let the live audience know what Austin was in for if he broke into his home. Austin did manage to break into Pillman's house, but just as he was to confront the gun-wielding Pillman, the camera feed cut away.
The WWE later apologized for the storyline.
The backlash to the gun angle didn't stop the WWE from using Pillman in risqué storylines however. In his feud with Goldust, he "won" Marlena by defeating Goldust. Marlena was forced to spend 30 days with Pillman, and evidently this required her to have a sexual relationship with him as well. This was all documented in vignettes dubbed "Brian Pillman's XXX Files". Unfortunately Brian Pillman died before it could be revealed that Marlena was a willing participant and planned to betray Goldust.
4 The Johnsons
Many wrestling fans try to pretend that TNA Wrestling doesn't exist. When they hear that a wrestler has signed with the promotion they just pretend that they don't exist either. This is because TNA has continuously buried the wrestling business simply by putting out an embarrassingly bad product for an extended period time.
Nothing better illustrates this than Richard Dick Johnson and Rod Johnson, collectively known as "the Johnsons". This ridiculousness would debut on TNA's first ever PPV, possibly as a way to lower the expectations of fans who would continue to follow the promotion.
The Shane Twins were dressed in flesh coloured full-suited spandex outfits and were meant as a wrestling version of a penis joke.
The two wrestlers would go on to sign with the WWE and became known as "Gymini", because they were twins and looked like they went to the gym a lot. As a gimmick it was a significant upgrade, but it still wasn't any good.
WCW used to just let Konnan say whatever he wanted to. If you're Turner Broadcasting, letting someone like Konnan just say whatever he feels like is not a good idea, but it sure made for some great television!
Konnan's most infamous line on an episode of Nitro he made towards Lex Luger. He told Luger he could not only "peel his potatoes" but also "toss his salad". The latter being a term for a sexual act often performed in prison. The censors took note of what Konnan said and WCW was not happy. Konnan apparently told management he didn't think they would understand the term, which became somewhat popularized by an HBO special on prisons.
Not surprisingly, WWE chose not to pick up Konnan's contract when they purchased WCW in 2001. Konnan and a live microphone in front of a PG crowd is not something the the WWE will ever be likely to do.
2 The Iron Sheik
The Iron Sheik is an amazing human being, and an even more incredible Twitter account.
Sheik is someone Vince McMahon will always feel indebted to. The story goes that before the Iron Sheik was scheduled to drop the World Championship to Hulk Hogan, AWA promoter, Verne Gagne, offered Sheik $100,000 to break Hogan's leg during the match. Sheik promptly got on the phone and told Vince McMahon about the offer instead of taking the money. For that alone the WWE will probably always have a place for the Iron Sheik, but they will never give him a microphone in front of a PG crowd.
Since retiring from the ring, Sheik has gone on to become something of a celebrity for his obscene rants and social media posts. Sheik really enjoys letting people know that, should push come to shove, he will "make them humble".
1 Roddy Piper
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper is a professional wrestling legend. He also would never have made it in the modern day PG-rated WWE.
For those of you with the WWE network that have gone back and watched some of Piper's old stuff, you might notice he was not afraid to drop derogatory terms for homosexuals. He first started doing so during his feud with "Adorable" Adrian Adonis in 1987. Piper had left the company to make movies, and in the absence of "Piper's Pit" Adonis began "the Flower Shop" as a replacement interview segment. Upon Piper's return he began berating the flamboyant Adonis, usually referring to him as several names that could not be used on WWE programming today.
Piper would later engage in a similar feud with Goldust that culminated in the "Hollywood Backlot Brawl" at WrestleMania XII. While Piper's language was a little toned down for this feud, it was still not anything you could put on modern day WWE programming.
Piper's comments were more of a reflection on the times than on Piper himself, but all the same, Piper wouldn't last 20 minutes before getting himself fired in the PG-era.
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