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Top 15 Most Unprofessional Displays By Wrestlers

Despite most of the action and drama of professional wrestling being kayfabe, there’s still a certain level of expectation that fans have, and a certain standard of performance and production they should receive. A makeshift ring can be constructed by any bum off the street (sometimes literally), but when there’s a legitimate business involved in a match, the people involved should act a certain way when they’re on the clock.

Yet throughout history there have been numerous incidents perpetrated by wrestlers that have failed to meet the mark. (For the record, we’re defining a “wrestler” as anyone who has ever physically participated in a match, even if their primary role is/was as owner, writer, etc.) This includes times when the performers didn’t show nearly enough skill, preparation, or enthusiasm, as well as times when they went way too far and/or legitimately and purposely injured someone. We’re also counting things said while the cameras were rolling, incidents backstage before or after a match, and even events that didn’t occur in the ring, but directly affected a bout or bouts.

The people, settings, and details of each of these displays may vary, but the point is the same: they’re all actions that were completely unprofessional.

15 Hulk Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels - SummerSlam 2005

via cagesideseats.com

14 Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg - WrestleMania XX

via youtube.com

Despite being only one of a dozen WrestleMania XX matches, the seventh bout, between Brock Lesnar and Goldberg, was probably the best-promoted and most highly-anticipated match of the night, as both wrestlers were set to leave the WWE afterward. However, it ended up being an enormous disappointment. Both men spent the first few minutes staring each other down and jawing back and forth, with no physical interaction. An exasperated Steve Austin had to enter just to coax the two into actually wrestling. After the fans started booing and chanting “goodbye,” “you sold out,” “boring,” “this match sucks,” “we want Bret,” and other criticisms, Goldberg eventually pinned Lesnar and won.

13 Hulk Hogan vs. Jeff Jarrett (and Vince Russo) - Bash at the Beach 2000

via thearmbarexpress.wordpress.com

The details of this one are still debated, but here’s what we know: Hulk Hogan was initially slated to lose to Jeff Jarrett (who would retain his WCW title) at Bash at the Beach 2000. Hogan allegedly had a last minute change of heart, as he wanted to finish his expiring contract as a champion, and told Vince Russo about it. When the match occurred, at Russo’s orders, Jarrett simply laid down in the ring and allowed Hulk to pin him - which was followed by a filmed “shoot” in which Hogan trashed the company for allowing such a lousy match. After Hulk left, Russo came in and declared the victory void, setting up a new title match between Jarrett and Booker T for the end of the show.

12 Sting vs. Jeff Hardy - Victory Road 2011

via cagesideseats.com

TNA’s Victory Road PPV event in March 2011 culminated in a World Heavyweight Championship match that pitted Sting against Jeff Hardy. However, on the day of the event, things didn’t go quite as planned. Hardy, who was struggling with drugs and alcohol at the time, was deemed unfit to perform just prior to the match. In response, the referee threw up the “X” sign during Sting’s entrance (signifying legitimate trouble) and Eric Bischoff called an audible. Sting forcefully pinned Hardy, and the match ended after a disappointingly-short 88 seconds. In response to this travesty of a fight, TNA went as far as to apologize to fans for “falling short of a standard” and offered six months of free access to the TNAondemand.com library as consolation.

11 The “Sunny Days” Comment

via dailymotion.com

One of the most famous real-life rivalries between wrestlers was the ongoing feud between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. What started as a minor disagreement when Michaels accused Hart of attempting to steal the spotlight following the former’s victory at WrestleMania XII, only grew when Hart accused Michaels of only wanting to work with his friends. The conflict started to boil over when Hart botched a promo by berating Michaels when Hart was the one who was supposed to receive the brunt of the abuse. However, it was a later promo that really made things personal, in a moment that was deemed by many to be the tipping point. Hart was slated to appear in the ring with the Hart Foundation, with Michaels interrupting halfway through for a rebuttal. Everything seemed according to plan at first, but then Michaels starting slurring his speech and went on a tirade against his opponent, getting overly personal with the details. The rant culminated with Michaels famously quipping, “Even though lately you’ve had some sunny days, my friend, you still can’t get the job done.” This was seen as implying Hart was having an actual affair with WWE Diva Sunny - and since he was married at the time, it created some real-life tension in the Hart Household.

10 The Montreal Screwjob

via sportskeeda.com

After the fight allowed both Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels to blow off some steam, the former attempted to bury the hatchet with the latter by saying he was willing to put Michaels over at the upcoming Survivor Series (Hart’s final match before his contract expired), if that’s what Vince McMahon wanted. Michaels responded by saying he appreciated the sentiment, but wasn’t willing to do the same if the positions were reversed. When the pre-match meeting occurred, McMahon informed the two wrestlers that Michaels would be winning Survivor Series and be the champion for the foreseeable future. Upon hearing this, Hart reneged on his previous offer and put his foot down (exercising his creative control clause), refusing to give up the belt. A plan was put into place where Hart was told the match would end in a brawl involving interference, but instead, halfway through, Michaels got Hart into the sharpshooter, and the ref rang the bell to signal the end.

9 Kane and The Undertaker vs. KroniK - Unforgiven 2001

via wrestlecrap.com

8 The MSG Curtain Call

via oddpad.com

Throughout the mid-90s, Scott Hall, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, and Sean Waltman made up a WWE backstage alliance known as The Kliq (or “The Clique”) in order to yield more power and creative control. However, Nash and Hall signed contracts with direct WWE competitor WCW in 1996, and had their final match, a house show, at Madison Square Garden on May 19 of that year. As the night came to a close, Michaels (a babyface) and Nash (a heel) squared off in the ring, which was immediately followed by Hall (also a face) entering the ring to hug Michaels. This was a sweet sendoff for the Hall, but then Triple H (then a heel) joined in by hugging Hall and Nash as well, and the four ended up embracing each other in front of the MSG crowd.

Since kayfabe was tirelessly preserved during this era, the so-called “curtain call” scandalized the WWE, especially after two bootleg video recordings of the incident emerged afterward. Although the departing wrestlers couldn’t be punished for their unprofessionalism (and Michaels, as reigning heavyweight champion, was untouchable), Triple H was demoted within the promotion. He accepted his punishment, which actually ended up improving his image overall.

7 Who Mocked J.R.?

via buzztache.com

In professional wrestling, it’s often difficult to determine where the line of appropriateness is. Numerous figures (especially heels, for obvious reasons) have said and done some terrible things throughout history, but most can be dismissed as being part of an angle. But when bits of reality are weaved into storylines, things begin to get tricky. What’s fair game and what’s in bad taste? Although wrestlers in the past have mocked legitimate injuries suffered by opponents and gotten away with it, poking fun at someone’s illness is a bad call, and this has occurred on numerous occasions. The person who received the brunt of this abuse? Jim Ross, after he became afflicted with Bell’s Palsy.

6 Rationalizing Racism

via youtube.com

Looking past all the moronic decisions Vince McMahon has made throughout his career (even the sexist actions his character personally perpetrated in order to establish himself as a heel) and the stories and dialogue he approved as head of the company, there’s one that was unquestionably over the line - even though it was so simple and quick. During a backstage segment for Survivor Series 2005, Vince walked up to John Cena and casually asked, “What’s good in the hood?” When Cena responded that he’s just taking care of business, Vince replied, “Keep it up, my n***a!” As McMahon walked away, the camera panned to an incredulous Booker T and Sharmell, with the former stating, “Tell me he didn’t just say that.”

5 Andre the Giant vs. Akira Maeda

via cavemancircus.com

4 JBL vs. The Blue Meanie, One Night Stand 2005

via streamable.com

When reflecting on his two-plus years (1998-2000) with the WWE, Brian Heffron (a.k.a. The Blue Meanie) viewed the time as positive, but said, “The only thing is, JBL [John Layfield] is kind of an a**hole.” In retrospect, burning this bridge was a poor choice, especially considering the two would meet again in the ring for the ECW One Night Stand in 2005, and JBL would exact his revenge. After breaking open one of Meanie’s fresh scars with a legitimate punch, JBL pulled Blue’s shirt over his head hockey-style and really laid into him. Heffron answered in kind, landing some legit blows of his own.

3 The Great Antonio vs. Antonio Inoki

via youtube.com

2 The Mike Bell Incident

1 The Mass Transit Incident

via grantland.com

Most of the entries on this list deal with unprofessionalism on the part of wrestlers, but here’s one that rests on the shoulders of management as well. During an ECW house show on November 23, 1996, Axl Rotten dropped out of his tag-team match against The Gangstas (New Jack and Mustafa Saed) and a 17-year-old amateur wrestler named Eric Kulas volunteered to fill in. He told ECW owner and booker Paul Heyman that he was 23 and trained under Killer Kowalski, two statements that were both false. Prior to the match, Kulas agreed to have his Ralph Kramden-esque bus driver character, Mass Transit, bladed by New Jack, something an amateur should never agree to.

After Mass Transit was bladed too deeply, severing two arteries in his forehead, New Jack proceeded to brutally beat him with every object imaginable. Once the kid laid bleeding profusely on the canvas (blood could actually be seen spurting out), New Jack used the opportunity to shout racist remarks, while Kulas’ father pleaded with officials to stop the fight. In the end, Kulas acted recklessly, New Jack acted dangerously, Heyman was a moron for allowing a fan to fight, and all three were the complete opposite of professionals.

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Top 15 Most Unprofessional Displays By Wrestlers