A highlight of the 1998 Steve Austin/Vince McMahon feud was when McMahon had his guys beat up on Austin and the next week came out with police protection to boast on having “assaulted” the Rattlesnake. Stone Cold came out and, using Vince’s own words, had the cops arrest McMahon for assault. When Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco tried to interfere, the cops arrested them too. Austin had them sit in a patrol car for an hour before dropping charges just to humiliate Vince again. It was a great bit but also showcased one of the rare times wrestling acknowledges how a criminal act has legal consequences.
It goes back to the Golden Age of wrestling and even as late as the 1970s, guys had to be a bit careful going too far with their heel ways as fans believed the act to be real. Thus, more than a few times, local police stations had to put up with fans calling to rant about a criminal act shown in the ring. That attitude has faded a bit but it’s still pushed as being real so you have lines blurred. This is the only “sport” where you can commit assault, arson, kidnapping and even attempted murder and the only punishment is a suspension before facing your victim in the ring. Every now and then, they can acknowledge that (an angle in 2005 TNA where Jeff Jarrett was arrested for attacking a “fan”) but for the most part, the actual criminal stuff is ignored as cops appear to be useless. A lot of stuff has been wild and over the top but others tried to sell as being real which just makes the of legal repercussions more notable. Here are 15 times wrestlers should have been arrested for what they pulled on camera and how nutty this business is.
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16 Much of Japanese Wrestling
When you hear of Japanese wrestling, you think great matches with fantastic moves and stars. But the fact is, so much of the business in Japan has stuff that makes WWE at their worst look sane. They had a 1992 match with barbed wire lit on fire that nearly burned those inside and set fire to the entire arena to boot. Guys have done attacks with cobras, scorpions, spiders and even eels. There have been full on sexual assaults on female workers and even times grown men have been shown attacking little girls and tossing them around like rag dolls. There have even been battles on islands with actual swords. An infamous 1999 bout had a guy’s tights pulled down so his opponent could light firecrackers in his backside which runs from assault to indecent exposure. True, the laws may be a bit different in Japan but still astounding how no one has been arrested for such massively insane stuff.
15 Terry Funk and Ric Flair
The 1989 feud between Flair and Funk is acclaimed as one of the greatest ever, so much so that you can easily ignore the criminal aspects of it. It began when Flair regained the NWA title at WrestleWar and Funk challenged him for a match. When Flair refused, Funk attacked him, hitting a piledriver on a table outside. As Funk wasn’t a contracted wrestler at the time, this makes him guilty of open assault with Flair out for months. Their feud continued in various bloody matches and highlighted by Funk trying to suffocate Flair with a plastic bag. He was suspended and fined but Flair paid the fine himself to get Funk in the ring for more wild matches.
Funk is known for truly insane behavior but this really crosses the line to brutal acts that should have landed him in jail or the nuthouse long ago.
14 Vehicular Assault
An oldie but a goodie as there’s few ways to sell yourself as a heel than trying to commit vehicular homicide. Eddie Gilbert ran down Jerry Lawler in Memphis in full view of cameras and we’ve seen numerous times in WWE from Austin crushing The Rock’s truck to the NWO smashing an ambulance with The Rock inside and more. Each time, it’s sold as being totally real with guys checking the wreck out and even cameras inside showing the carnage. Yet no one is arrested for it despite the obvious evidence and very few times (Austin run down in 1999) are the cops even shown investigating things at all. Given the amount of car crash deaths in the U.S. every year, you’d think guys would be a little more wary of the dangers of using an automobile in these things.
13 Home attacks
It’s happened so many times in wrestling and each time it’s criminal. It can be Abyss assaulting Christian at his home and trying to drown him in the pool only to be stopped by James Mitchell (“You can’t take a title off a dead man!”). It can be Edge breaking into John Cena’s dad’s house and beating him up. Or HHH attacking Randy Orton at his home. Each time, it’s the same thing, breaking and entering, trespassing, assault, maybe even attempted murder in the Abyss case. But almost never do you see the cops called in or hear of charges, just once more “payback in the ring.” Makes you wonder if insurance companies insist on a “damage done by rival” clause in their policies…
It’s an old trick, one that gets some instant fan heat and gets some major attention. A fireball can be tricky to pull off right (see Hulk Hogan’s failed attempt at Warrior at Halloween Havoc 98) but it’s a good way to get a heel off in a brutal attack. Jerry Lawler was a master of it (even as a face) with Eddie Gilbert not far behind, Skandor Akbar pulled it off on Iceman King Parsons and Sgt. Slaughter used it on Hulk Hogan in 1991.
Each time, the heel just gets away with it and sometimes, the “burn” on the other guy goes away within a couple of weeks, ignoring how it’s not just assault but you can argue attempted arson if such a fireball gets out of hand and shows how dangerous this is and yet never an arrest for it.
11 Road Warriors stabbing Dusty
Never known for playing well with others, Dusty Rhodes didn’t take it well when, as booker of JCP in 1988, the place was sold to Crockett who wanted to cut down on the blood. Dusty responded by having the Road Warriors turn heel and attack him with a metal spike, plowing it at Dusty’s eye socket to cause him to gush out blood, all on a Saturday afternoon broadcast.
The Warriors had done wild stuff before but rarely did they go for attempted murder so blatantly and were ignored in that act as Dusty wanted revenge. It didn’t work out as Dusty would soon be fired over the whole thing and go to WWE. This, some may argue, ended up being a crime in itself although not as bloody as what Hawk and Animal did.
10 Big Bossman - Funeral Crashing
One of the craziest WWE storylines ever was in 1999 when the Big Show’s father “died” (the real guy passed away years before) and the Big Bossman decided to mock him for it. Cameras showed Show and his family at the gravesite when Bossman drove up, hooked the coffin to his truck and dragged it off with Show riding on top of it. Desecration of a corpse is a serious offense in some states, not to mention reckless driving and endangerment as well as vandalism. It led to a bad blow-off match and most prefer to forget about it except for the irony of a how a guy billed as a lawman could pull off so many crimes at once.
9 Fingerpoke of Doom
Well, the fingerpoke itself may be seen as a crime to wrestling fans, that's not the kind of crime we're talking about here. The moment that led to the downfall of WCW is known for so much bad but folks overlook how you can add criminal charges to things. The kickoff was Elizabeth accusing Goldberg of stalking her (it was to be attempted rape but wisely Goldberg got that shot down) so the cops held Goldberg long enough for Nash and Hogan to do the “match.”
Elizabeth could have been arrested for filing a false police report, which is a real crime. Plus, as this was all a big ruse to put the belt back on Hogan, some might claim she was an accessory to grand fraud (with many a fan more than willing to testify they were ripped off). Of course, criminal acts are the least of the crimes this entire debacle was guilty of in the eyes of wrestling fans.
8 Austin vs. McMahon
Aside from the entry listed in the introduction, slews of the stuff Austin pulled on McMahon would have constituted criminal acts. Filling his car with cement, numerous beatings with various objects, stalking McMahon with a (toy) gun and threatening him, are all criminal acts. McMahon was just as bad with assaults and arranging for Austin to be kidnapped, plus the bit of Taker and Kane uniting to break McMahon’s leg after an encounter with Austin. The bit of Austin driving a beer truck to the ring? Even if he rented the truck, that’s still driving inside an arena and you can argue his spraying the beer around a young crowd could fall under distributing alcohol to minors.
Finally, some of the stuff he did as CEO could get him slammed with lawsuits for wrongful termination and other moves. The battle of the Rattlesnake and the evil boss launched WWE to new heights to let fans ignore just how badly both guys openly broke the law.
7 Pillman's Got a Gun
It’s one of the most infamous moments in WWE history and, to many, the true kick-off of the “Attitude Era.” After suddenly turning on friend Brian Pillman and breaking his leg, Steve Austin started going after Pillman more, threatening him in his home. Pillman was shown brandishing a gun and saying he was willing to fight back if Austin did this. Sure enough, Austin was shown breaking in, Pillman aiming and a gunshot going off before the screen cut to black.
It was an intensely controversial moment that nearly got RAW kicked off the air. Pillman could claim self-defense but still firing a gun amid a crowded home of camera and sound people was public endangerment which would have meant a jail stay. It was a pretty bold move by the company that ushered in a new era, but still a criminal act.
The Brothers of Destruction have probably committed the most brutal crimes of any wrestler in kayfabe. Kane made his debut in 1997 and from the moment he arrived he wrecked havoc on his brother. Kane was event thought to be the one who had killed The Undertaker's parents (though it was later revealed to be Taker). Kane would lock Undertaker in a casket at the 1998 Royal Rumble and burned it, which would constitute as attempted murder. Kane would turn face and would stay that way up to 2003, where his character became more evil than ever before. In his big heel run following his unmasking, Kane did the following:
- Set Jim Ross on fire
- Burned down William Regal's office
- Electrocuted Shane McMahon's testicles
- Assaulting Linda McMahon
- Forcefully impregnating Lita
Where were you, police? Throw this man in jail, he's a menace to society!
5 Outsiders Run Steiners Off the road
Much is made of how the New World Order were dominating WCW, not just on screen but behind the scenes as Hall, Nash and Hogan threw their weight around massively to get their way. In early 1997, the Outsiders were tag team champions with the Steiner brothers feuding and leading to a big match as SuperBrawl. Video was soon shown of Hall and Nash following the Steiners on the road, soon chasing them and then running their car off into a ditch.
They teased the brothers seriously injured but it turned out they were fine with no repercussions on the Outsiders for what was basically attempted vehicular manslaughter. It was to pay off in a title change but Nash got that squashed so the Steiners didn’t even get revenge for the attack, making this a waste as much as a dangerous sight.
4 Triple H's Marriage to Stephanie
This one is a bit interesting as it’s fascinating to look back at Stephanie McMahon when she was being presented as this innocent gal. A long-time relationship with Test was to end with an in-ring wedding but HHH then came out to say it couldn’t take place. He then showed video of him taking an unconscious Stephanie through a drive-thru wedding chapel to get married.
Now, it’s true Vegas is a wild town but okaying a drive-thru wedding when the bride is quite clearly unable to respond is pushing it even for them. Not to mention that’s kidnapping and more than hinted by HHH’s talk of “consummation,” rape as well. It would be subverted a bit by the revelation HHH and Stephanie were really together but still one of those bits that pushed the “Attitude” era a bit too much.
2 The Undertaker
The Undertaker may be the biggest on-screen criminal in wrestling history. Law enforcement would have to throw the book at this man. Among his crimes, on top of putting Warrior in a coffin, early in his career include:
- Kidnapping and forcing Stephanie McMahon into marriage
- Hanging the Big Bossman
- Attempting to crucify Stone Cold
- Setting Kane on fire
- Burying Paul Bearer in cement
- Admitting to burning down funeral home, killing his parents
That's a pretty strong rapsheet, which would make the most sadistic criminals a little uneasy. Through all this, The Undertaker is adored by fans! With Undertaker's record here, he should be one of the most wanted men in the world! Ah, kayfabe.
1 James Storm on Mickie James
The latest entry on this list which makes its place on top so notable. Storm and James were two of TNA’s best performers, both great and thus undeserving of this idiotic idea. As part of his bizarre “cult leader” bit, Storm started stalking Mickie as a way to get at Magnus and following her to a Nashville train station. “Security cameras” caught them on tape arguing and then Storm throwing Mickie in front of a train. Of course, the police were never called and TNA waited a few days to show the “tape” of the event before bothering to explain Mickie was just “emotionally disturbed.” Fans put up with a lot but such a flagrant act sold as being real was truly pushing it even by TNA’s standards.
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