Rated R? 15 Times WWE Pushed The Boundaries In The PG Era

June 23rd, 2008. The date many a wrestling was turned away from WWE forever. The date millions of horny, blood-lusty teenage boys turned on their television sets to see a new and disappointing world in front of them. The date that the WWE, a company famous for its high levels of violence, sex and bad language, went PG. Yes, gone were the days of blood, bikini contests and Val Venis and in were the days of softer language, child-friendly storylines and Byron Saxton, the human embodiment of PG. Whether you love or hate the PG Era of WWE, you can’t deny that it’s opened plenty of opportunities for the company in terms of toy deals, merchandising and access to a much wider audience. However, sometimes the letters “PG” are just letters and WWE, either intentionally or not, broadcast content that is definitely not appropriate for a younger audience. So, since we’re all sadistic savages at heart, let’s take a look at some of the raunchiest, bloodiest and inappropriate-ist moments from WWE’s PG Era. Don’t let your kids read this one. Or do. Whatever, they’re your kids.

15 Fred Durst Flips Off The Camera

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We’ll begin with a relatively tame one.

Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, umm, “fame”, has appeared a number of times on WWE TV. He and his band provided the theme music for The Undertaker during his “American Badass” phase and appeared at WrestleMania XIX to play a number of tracks throughout the night. The Undertaker and Limp Bizkit... nope, can’t get my head around it.

Durst might have put this partnership in jeopardy at SummerSlam 2012. When the camera panned round to reveal Durst sitting in the crowd, enjoying the show (I hope, it was a pretty decent year), Durst’s immediate reaction was to raise his middle finger and show it to the camera. Back in the day, the middle finger was commonplace in WWE – I’m pretty sure it was in Steve Austin’s contract that he had to raise his every five minutes – but in the PG Era, this did not sit well with WWE officials and Durst actually left this show early, although he said this was to “beat traffic”. Yeah, sure thing, Fred.

14 The Reid Flair Incident

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Whilst not explicit in anyway, this one is just super-uncomfortable.

This incident came about during the build-up to Charlotte and Paige’s WWE Divas Championship match at Survivor Series 2015. Woah, forgot how weird it was to write “Divas Championship”. The two women were in the ring ready to sign a contract for the match, when Paige suddenly dropped the now infamous line, “Your little baby brother didn’t have much fight in him, did he?”. On the surface, this might not seem too bad, but, when you do a little digging... oh boy, it’s bad.

Reid Flair, Charlotte’s younger brother, died in 2013 after an overdose of heroin and prescription drugs. He was 25 years old. Paige was essentially mocking Charlotte’s dead brother on live TV and all of this was done without the Flair family being informed – both Ric and Reid’s mother, Elizabeth, have come out and stated they knew nothing of WWE’s plans to include their deceased son in an angle. Deliberately referencing an actual tragic death to further a weak storyline might not break any broadcasting guidelines, but it’s still shady as hell and definitely not something you would expect from a product supposedly aimed at children.

13 Ric Kisses Becky

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This one isn’t just not PG, it’s illegal.

It was Royal Rumble 2016, mere months after the “Reid Flair” name drop and Ric Flair must have thought to himself, “you know what, this company mentioned my dead son, I’m going to ruin one of their matches.” And boy, did he.

The match in question was the Divas title (still weird to write) match between Flair’s daughter, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch. The two put on a solid match playing around the fact that The Nature Boy was a constant threat of interference on the outside. When Becky threw Charlotte out of the ring and started laying into her, Daddy Flair did exactly what any reasonable individual would; he grabbed Becky, a young, attractive woman, and kissed her full on the mouth. Right, because a 66-year-old-man kissing a 28-year-old woman against her will sets a real good example for the kids. Bad Nature Boy, bad.

12 Daniel Bryan Is A “Vegan”

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Back to the silly ones now.

In late 2010/early 2011, Nikki and Brie Bella entered a storyline where they were both in pursuit of then-United States Champion, Daniel Bryan. At the time, Bryan was portrayed a nerdy, shy guy who didn’t have much luck with the ladies (which was probably Vince McMahon taking a shot at Bryan for his size and appearance), so having these two beautiful women go after him was definitely WWE’s idea of a joke. Only problem is WWE and comedy go together like a toaster and a swimming pool.

In one backstage segment, The Bellas were doing their best to court young Daniel Bryan and made constant reference to the fact that he was a “vegan.” Now, you might think this is perfectly innocent, however, when you listen to how they say it, you can definitely tell that the word “vegan” is an innuendo for the word “virgin.” Yep, WWE took the Daniel Bryan joke so far that they insinuated he was a virgin on live TV and mocked him for it. Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a virgin, this blatant sexual bullying by WWE does not sit with their rest of their PG approach and caught plenty of people by surprise, despite their attempts to disguise it. Okay, maybe “attempts” is too strong a word. They really didn’t try very hard.

11 Reigns Spears Stephanie

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Stephanie McMahon loves to take a bump at WrestleMania, doesn’t she?

Man-on-woman violence was, sadly, a staple of the Attitude Era. Women like Lita, Trish Stratus and Sable got attacked left right and centre by the men of WWE, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin stunnered just about every female member of the roster from 1998-2001 and Bubba Ray Dudley would put women through tables with powerbombs as a face. It was a weird time.

In the PG Era, however, this sort of thing is a no-go area, but apparently no one told Roman Reigns this. In the main event of WrestleMania 32, Reigns was battling Steph’s husband, Triple H, for the WWE Championship. In what was originally advertised as a No Disqualification match (this was later revised), Reigns and Trips went toe-to-toe in front of the biggest crowd in WrestleMania history, with Steph cheering her husband on from ringside. On one point, Stephanie got in the ring to argue with the referee and, thanks to a kayfabe miscue, ended getting speared out of her leather knee-high boots by The Big Dog. It was played off as an accident, but seeing a 260-plus-pound man spear a mother of three on live TV is not something WWE want to have associated with their product. Even if Steph totally deserved it; she was pretty mean to Roman.

10 Daniel Bryan “Ties Up” Justin Roberts

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The moment that almost cost WWE one of its biggest stars.

Daniel Bryan, alongside a number of future WWE wrestlers such as Ryback, Wade Barrett and Heath Slater, got his big break in the WWE as a part of The Nexus, a heel faction made up of wrestlers from the first season of NXT. Yes, I said “season." NXT wasn’t always what it is now.

On their debut appearance in the WWE, The Nexus made quite the impression; they beat up John Cena (no one tell The Club), destroyed the ringside area and assaulted a number of WWE staff, including ring announcer Justin Roberts. This would almost prove to be D-Bry’s undoing in WWE; Bryan attacked Roberts by removing the announcer’s tie and choking him with it. This did not sit well with WWE’s sponsors, who saw it as unbefitting with the company’s new PG image. In response to this, WWE fired Bryan as punishment and he would not return to WWE TV until later that year. It’s pretty strange to think that something as simple as this would result in a wrestler being fired, especially considering some of the other acts on list, but let’s all be grateful that Bryan did eventually get rehired, otherwise we might have ended up with David Otunga winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of WrestleMania XXX. And no one wants that. No one.

9 Jericho Punches HBK's Wife

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Turns out even being married to a wrestler is dangerous.

2008 saw one of the best WWE feuds of the last decade – Shawn Michaels vs Chris Jericho. The two did battle throughout the spring and summer of ’08, putting on a truly awesome ladder match at No Mercy for the World Heavyweight Championship. They had a pretty good match at that year’s SummerSlam; a triple threat also involving Michaels’ wife. Oh, wait, this wasn’t a match? Oh. Well, that’s just awful then.

SummerSlam 2008, the first major WWE show of the PG Era, saw HBK and his wife, Rebecca, take to the ring to announce Shawn’s “retirement” from pro wrestling due to a series of injuries. Since this was about Michaels’ 40th “retirement” at this point, the crowd weren’t buying it and fully expected something to happen. Lo and behold, out came Y2J to berate Michaels, insinuating that it was him that was forcing Michaels into retirement. After a verbal scuffle, the Michaelses (what the hell is the plural of Michaels?) attempted to leave the ring, but Jericho went to take a swing at Shawn. However, The Showstopper got out of the way and, instead, Jericho caught his wife, Rebecca, square in the jaw. Now, I don’t know whether or not this was meant to happen or not, but I’m pretty sure Rebecca Michaels wasn’t meant to have a legitimate swollen lip from the incident. Again, not a good message for the kiddies. Punching wives is never the answer.

8 Ambrose and Jericho’s “Tacky” Spot

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Oh, this match.

Extreme Rules 2016 was a pretty decent show featuring an awesome Fatal 4-Way for the Intercontinental Championship and a great main event between Roman Reigns and AJ Styles. Sadly, it was also host some less good matches; case in point, The Ambrose Asylum match. Essentially a cage match with whatever Vince McMahon could find lying around backstage stuck to the side of the cage, the Asylum match was poorly paced and left fans feeling pretty sleepy about halfway through. But hey, at least we got to see Dean Ambrose play with some nunchucks.

The match is perhaps best remembered for one spot; Jericho went for a Codebreaker on Ambrose, only he got caught. The Lunatic Fringe then proceeded to powerbomb Jericho onto the canvas – oh, and did I mention that the canvas had been covered in thumbtacks? No? Oh, well, there you go. Thumbtacks were a staple of the TV-13 Era, particularly any match involving Mick Foley, but a tack spot hadn’t been seen in WWE for years until this point. Seeing Y2J’s back covered in tacks was pretty cool for the older audience members, but I can imagine it was pretty shocking for any younger fans watching and definitely not something WWE want their young fans to imitate. Kids are dangerous enough already, they do not need thumbtacks.

7 Vince Drops An F-Bomb

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Because Big Vince does what Big Vince wants.

The episode of Raw immediately after Fastlane 2016 will be remembered as the day Shane McMahon made his WWE return after over half a decade away from his father’s company. In one of the best returns in recent memory, Shane-O-Mac interrupted his sister, Stephanie, and his father, Vince, to announce he wanted to have control of Monday Night Raw and take the WWE in a new direction. Evidently, Vince decided this direction would be to go back to the old TV-13 days, as he quickly responded to his son using some pretty strong language.

Vince cut a promo on his son’s chances of earning control of Raw and claimed that he was going to give his son a “f*****g beating”. He actually said the f-word, on live TV, on a PG show. Thankfully for the networks, Raw airs on a slight delay, so the curse word was quickly edited out of the actual broadcast, but footage of the 70-year-old grandfather swearing at his own son on TV has found its way onto countless YouTube channels and other video sharing sites. So, go and see for yourself what the owner of billion-dollar company sounds like when he cusses. On his own show. Come on, Vince, you were the one who made it PG in the first place!

6 Taker And Lesnar Bleed In The Cell

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Undertaker, you were in your late 40s in this match. What is wrong with you?

It’s that pesky blading again, only this time both parties are to blame. The match in question was a Hell in a Cell match at the 2015 Pay-Per-View of the same name. The match pitted The Undertaker against Brock Lesnar in what was advertised as the final encounter between the two behemoths – Brock ended Taker’s Streak at WrestleMania XXX and The Deadman defeated The Beast at SummerSlam 2015 under controversial circumstances. By controversial, I mean stupid.

The match was brilliant, one of the most brutal Hell in a Cell bouts in recent years, and perhaps one of the reasons behind this was the amount of blood shed in this match. Both men were left bloodied, including a cut to Brock that required eight stitches after the match, and apparently this sent Vince McMahon crazy backstage. However, there was nothing Vince could really do; both of the men in the match were two of his top draws and both worked part-time, meaning that they wouldn’t be around consistently enough to enforce any real punishment. So, the moral of this story is, kids, the rules don’t apply to you if you’re old and/or make Vince McMahon a lot of money. Seems fair.

5 Flair Blades For Jericho

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Ric Flair and blading – wrestling’s oldest and most successful tag team.

Blading is the practice of a wrestler making a small cut on themselves, usually on the forehead, with a concealed razor blade to give the appearance of a move busting them open. It can be quite an effective technique in building up the brutality and violence of a match and adding a sense of real-life drama to the action. Blading was banned under the new PG rules in WWE, however, no one told Ric Flair this. Or, more accurately, someone did tell Flair this and he decided to it anyway, because he's Ric freakin’ Flair.

The incident we’re referring to here took place on an episode of Raw in 2009. It was during the build-up to Chris Jericho’s 3-on-1 Handicap match at WrestleMania XXV, where he would battle Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper and Ricky Steamboat. Flair came to his fellow legends’ aide by confronting Jericho, but proceeded to get his ass handed to him in the process. Jericho beat Flair all around ringside, tearing his shirt, throwing him over the announce table and stamping on his signature Rolex watch. In the process, Flair bladed himself, opening up a nice little cut on the top of his head and covering it with blood. This is most definitely not allowed in PG Era WWE, but, as I said earlier, Ric Flair does as Ric Flair wants. Which might be why he owes so many people money.

4 Batista Blades For Jericho

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People, please, stop blading for Chris Jericho.

Yet another appearance for Y2J on this list, but the blame for this one lies solely with The Animal. The match in question was Steel Cage match for the World Heavyweight Championship on an episode of Raw in November 2008. The PG Era had only recently begun and Batista was not happy about it; the Guardians of the Galaxy star has said in a number of interviews that he thought wrestling shouldn’t be PG and that he disagreed with the company’s direction in going PG. So, Batista did what any reasonable, logically-thinking adult would. He cut himself open with a razor blade on live TV.

Batista bladed during the cage match to add a bit of drama to the high stakes match. Whilst the cut wasn’t too big or gruesome, it was large enough to land Batista in some hot water; Vince McMahon, upon learning that Batista had intentionally bladed him, fined him a whopping $100,000. Years later, Batista would claim that this moment “sucked the life out of him” and completely changed his view of the WWE. Yeah, I’d be inclined to agree if my workplace fined me one hundred grand.

3 JBL’s Gloryhole

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As if WWE needed any more reason to fire JBL.

JBL has been a regular voice on WWE TV for many years and he does a fairly decent job at playing the heel colour commentator opposite men such as Tom Phillips, Michael Cole and Mauro Ranallo, although I think he got a little too method on that last one. As a heel, JBL would often favour the heel wrestlers in his commentator, giving his own names to their moves and actions. Most of the time, this was absolutely fine, if a little annoying. However, on one occasion, this blew up spectacularly in JBL’s face.

On an episode of Raw in June 2016, the former-WWE Champion was calling a match involving The New Day. When the then-Tag Team Champions initiated their corner stomp attack – sometimes called the “Unicorn Stampede” – JBL drew comparisons to Steve Austin’s similar move, which was referred to as “stomping a mudhole.” Over the past few weeks, JBL had also taken to reminding people that a group of unicorns was a “glory”, in reference to the New Day’s unicorn gimmick at the time. Whether this was a slip of the tongue or just JBL being a moron, but, when referring to the move, the commentator tried to combine these two facts, calling the manoeuvre a “gloryhole.” Now, kids, if you don’t know what a “gloryhole” is, then I suggest you Google it, or, better yet, ask your parents. I’m sure they’d be more than happy to explain. For God’s sake, Bradshaw.

2 The Beast Bloodies The Viper

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Let’s be fair to Brock here; he had competed in the UFC just before this show. He must have gotten confused.

Brock Lesnar is a curious animal – “animal” being the operative word here. His matches often feel a little different due to the levels of brutality and real-world credibility he brings to a fight, but perhaps none were scarier than this. The main event of SummerSlam 2016 pitted The Beast against Randy Orton, in The Viper’s first big match back from a long injury-related hiatus. The match was billed as some sort of dream match, however, the ending was something straight out of a nightmare.

Orton got his ass beaten all around Brooklyn this night by Lesnar, but it wasn’t until the final stages of the match where Brock’s animalistic nature truly came out. In an attempt to create a buzz around this match, Lesnar had been ordered to forcefully cut open Randy Orton’s head with some elbows – a fact Orton learned the day of the show – and this is exactly what he did. Lesnar cut Randy open with some vicious ground and pound strikes, leaving his blood to gush all over the canvas and all over Orton’s head and body. The match was stopped after a “technical knockout” and Lesnar was declared the winner. It’s madness that Vince McMahon, a man who fined Batista $100,000 for opening a small cut on his own head, authorised this bloodbath. Ah well, at least Randy Orton got to win the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 33 as a reward for taking this beating. So, I guess it all worked out for the best. Apart from, you know, the massive cut on Randy Orton’s head.

1 Kane Kills His Dad

Yep, you read that right.

Kane’s family history is a bit like a mystery stain that’s been on your living room floor for a while – it’s messy, no one’s really sure how it got there and there’s no way anyone can clean it up. What began as a simple “brother vs. brother” storyline between Kane and The Undertaker soon morphed into a bloated mess of a backstory, to the point now where it’s almost impossible to trace Kane’s origins back to a single, tangible line. One thing we do know for sure, however, is that Paul Bearer, long-ime manager of both Undertaker and Kane, is Kane’s storyline father, having had an affair with The Undertaker’s mother. Because who wouldn’t want to get it on with Paul Bearer? Guy’s a hunk, am I right?

In April 2012, Bearer and his then-client, Kane, were feuding with Randy Orton. On an episode of Raw, Orton kidnapped Bearer (which seemed to happen a lot) and placed him in an industrial freezer. Oh, that Randy Orton and his crazy mind games. Kane would track down Bearer shortly after, apparently saving him from an icy demise. However, in one of the most bizarre swerves in WWE history, Kane looked at his manager and father and uttered the lines “I’m saving you... from me”, before pushing him back in the freezer and locking him in. Not only was this some pretty disturbing stuff, but, since Bearer sadly passed away on March 5th 2013, this was the character’s last appearance on WWE TV, meaning that, in storyline, Kane actually murdered his own father on live TV. Shocking, harrowing and completely unrelated to the storyline at the time, this has got to be one of the least-PG moments of the PG Era and definitely not something I want my kids watching. And my kids don’t even exist yet.

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