Controversy creates cash. That simple yet powerful statement - which is also the title of Eric Bischoff's autobiography - couldn't be more fitting when describing the nature in which the media portrays stories to the public audience today. If it bleeds it leads; it's unfortunate but it's true. The darker events are what normally kick off the evening news broadcast that we witness daily. Throughout its time the WWE has been a part of those headlines on multiple occasions for reasons that have taken place inside and outside of the world of professional wrestling. Vince McMahon and the rest of his employees might have control of what gets televised each week but what happens when the cameras turn off is a complete toss up.
While the PG Era has ushered in a more family-friendly product, the WWE still manages to surprise us every now and then with crazy stories involving their employees. I have to give Mr. McMahon a lot of credit. For the most part he has handled the events that could have destroyed his company in a calm and collective manner that many could learn from. Here are the appalling incidents and shocking moments that have changed the landscape of the premiere wrestling organization for many years to come.
15 EDGE CASHES IN
Before he cashed in his Money In The Bank briefcase, no one really knew what to expect from the stipulation that gave Edge the opportunity to challenge for any title whenever he felt like it. Edge shocked the world at New Year's Revolution in January 2006 by using his reward to challenge for the WWE Championship that night. Edge didn't participate in any ordinary title match though. Then champion John Cena had just won an Elimination Chamber Match when Vince McMahon came out and announced that Edge would be cashing in his Money In The Bank reward right there and then.
After landing two spears, Edge successfully defeated Cena to start the first of four championship reigns in his career. The crowd ate up the victory and cheered on the new champion who was portraying a heel when he won the belt. This is one of the classic moments between Edge and Cena that we've witnessed over the years.
14 JAKE "THE SNAKE" ROBERTS TURNS RANDY SAVAGE INTO SNAKE FOOD
I am not a fan of snakes plain and simple. One guy who is though is Jake "The Snake" Roberts. At least I hope he is since his nickname is The Snake after all. Roberts made a living off of carrying a live cobra around during his matches and put his pet to use on an episode of WWE Superstars. Roberts had just finished a match and began calling out Randy Savage who was commentating on the match ringside with Roddy Piper and Vince McMahon. Eventually Savage had enough of Roberts' insults and took it upon himself to jump into the ring to confront his rival.
In a promo that blurred the lines between work and shoot, Savage found himself tied up in the ropes allowing Roberts to unveil a cobra from a bag he had sitting in the corner of the ring. Savage had agreed to take a bite from the devenomized snake and went through with the stunt; the cobra bit him on the arm and the only problem was that Roberts could not relinquish his pet from Savage's arm for quite some time, causing blood to start trickling down the Macho Man's left arm. It's probably better to keep animals outside of the wrestling ring. Vince doesn't need any more trouble from the World Wildlife Fund.
13 MICK FOLEY GETS TOSSED OFF AND THROUGH THE HIAC
To this day people still talk about Mick Foley being tossed off the Hell In A Cell. It's an iconic moment in the WWE and really shows what Foley was willing to do to get over with the crowd. Anyone that witnessed this event figured that the match would be over as medical attention quickly came to Foley's side after he plummeted 15 feet and crashed through the announce table but the hardcore legend made his way back up the cage to endure more punishment from The Undertaker.
'Taker didn't let up on Foley as he followed up his first act by chokeslamming his opponent through the top of the cage, sending him, and a steel chair which landed right on Foley's face, crashing to the ring below (although that part wasn't planned). Once again the match probably should have ended hear but their was just no quit in the man formerly known as Mankind. A trip onto a bed of thumbtacks and a Tombstone Piledriver finally brought an end to the hellacious match that is one of, if not the most brutal in WWE history.
12 PAUL HEYMAN WALKS OUT ON VINCE MCMAHON
Paul Heyman might be back with the WWE but it hasn't always been smooth sailing for him in the promotion. Heyman has had multiple stints with the promotion since the original ECW went under in 2001. When Vince decided to create his own version of ECW, he let Heyman do most of the writing on the side but still oversaw all of his actions. ECW's lone pay-per-view December to Dismember was set to take place at the end of 2006.
Before the show Heyman and McMahon didn't see eye to eye on how the match involving CM Punk should have finished. Heyman advocated for Punk to eliminate The Big Show to help with his push and Big Show agreed with the idea. Of course Vince being the stubborn person he is disagreed and instead had Punk eliminated first by Rob Van Dam. The decision frustrated Heyman and led to him leaving the company unceremoniously that same night. It looks like both parties have put the incident behind them since Heyman is back in the WWE managing Brock Lesnar.
11 CM PUNK LETS THE TRUTH BE TOLD
CM Punk's infamous pipe bomb shoot in 2011 may have been worked but boy was it a thing of beauty. A promo this awesome had fans wondering whether or not the whole thing was staged. Vince McMahon's actions the week later basically revealed that the whole thing was planned nevertheless Punk's promo is still spectacular six years later. Punk dropped several names (we love you Colt Cabana but your t-shirt advertisements around Chicago are kind of weird) and mentioned other wrestling organizations, which is something that is almost never done in the WWE. The writers really hit the nail on the head with this one. If there was an award for the greatest promo ever this would definitely be a nominee. It's going to be a long time until we see a segment this great again.
10 THE KLIQ'S MSG CURTAIN CALL
We've seen some amazing stables be formed over the past 20 years but they probably didn't have the control that The Kliq had during its time. The Kliq was a backstage stable of some of the most influential men in the history of the WWE. Composed of Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Sean Waltman, the group shared immense power in the company and used their leverage to help each other thrive in the company. In 1996 Hall and Nash signed contracts with WCW, the WWE's biggest competition for a number of years. Before their departure the two wrestled their last match for the company in 1997 in an event at Madison Square Garden. Michaels, who was a face at the time, took on Nash in a steel cage match.
At the conclusion of the match the man known as Razor Ramon at the time entered the ring and proceeded to hug Michaels. Triple H entered the ring shortly after and the four stars embraced in a group hug and raised their arms up in the air, signaling the end of an era for the WWE. Nash recently revealed that they did ask for permission to perform that small stunt and the company approved. Triple H was the only one that was punished for his part in the whole thing. Sure this moment might not have the controversy that some of the other entries on our list have, but this is one of the most memorable moments of wrestlers breaking kayfabe.
9 MUHHAMMAD HASSAN'S WWE CAREER GETS CUT SHORT
The events that led up to Muhammad Hassan's release were mostly a coincidence but that doesn't mean that the WWE creative team didn't drop the ball on this one. In July 2005 Hassan's manager Daivari took on The Undertaker on an episode of SmackDown. The match took place without a hitch but the actions afterwards would end up drawing attention from media outlets all over the world. Hassan appeared on the entrance ramp and began praying to summon five men dressed in black shirts, camo pants and ski-masks. The men made their way to the ring and attacked 'Taker who was still recovering from his match. Hassan's actions appeared to be in bad tasted to the public eye because the London bombings took place three days after the episode was televised.
Like I said the fact that the bombings took place just days after Hassan's display is simply a coincidence but that doesn't excuse the WWE writers that came up with this skit. UPN, the network that televised SmackDown at the time, was pressured by a number of media outlets to remove Hassan from television. The WWE followed suit and wrote off Hassan at The Great American Bash three weeks later by having him get powerbombed off the entrance ramp by The Undertaker. Keep in mind that Hassan isn't even Arab, he's actually Italian-American. This is one of the most controversial moments in WWE history.
8 THE MATT HARDY, EDGE AND LITA LOVE TRIANGLE
It's not often that we see real life scenarios boil over into WWE programming, but when it does happen it makes for some pretty interesting television. In 2005 Lita, who had been involved romantically with Matt Hardy for several years, started dating Edge that year. The love triangle soon became an on-screen storyline and was both bizarre and entertaining. Hardy wound up being released while Edge and Lita continued to show off their public displays of affection week after week on television. Matt Hardy voiced his displeasure on social media on several occasions and can you blame him? This was the worst thing that could have happened to him. He lost his job and the woman of his dreams; let's be happy that he simply took to social media and didn't go any farther than that.
7 BROCK LESNAR ENDS THE STREAK
This didn't sit well with wrestling fans after it took place. The Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania was an iconic storyline that helped bolster The Deadman's reputation even further. Heading into WrestleMania XXX his streak was at 21 consecutive victories. Brock Lesnar would be the man to try and break the legendary streak of 21-0 and he did just that by defeating 'Taker in a 25 minute match. The result shocked the WWE Universe and left many feeling that Lesnar wasn't worthy of ending the reign of dominance at the annual event.
Vince McMahon made the final decision to have Lesnar end the streak and I guess if your boss asks you to do something, you should probably do it. At least this wasn't as bad as Roman Reigns ending The Undertaker's career. Now that is something that should have been thought over a few times.
6 THE PAIGE LEAKS
We've all heard about it at this point. Paige recently fell victim to the hacking of celebrity photos and videos that began surfacing three years ago. The hacks might replenish the male libido for some but let's not forget that this is a normal human being like you and I that has been subject to criticism for actions that should have never seen the light of day. So far the WWE has yet to comment on the situation. One thing to be thankful for is that Paige has yet to be punished for her actions and she shouldn't since this whole thing was out of her control. Yes, she probably should have never photographed or videotaped any of the explicit content in the first place but like I said the material should still be unknown to us, sadly that's not the case. It will be interesting to see how Paige's return to television goes as she is currently sidelined with a neck injury and is serving a suspension after testing positive for a banned substance this past October.
5 HULK HOGAN VS. THE GAWKER
Hulk Hogan has been banished from the WWE for almost two years. It's unfortunate and most feel that The Immortal One should be brought back to the promotion that he helped build back in the 80s. Two years ago Hogan was deep into a case involving himself and an online media company known as the Gawker. Hogan had been trying to appeal to the court that the release of a sex tape involving him and Heather Clem on the Gawker was emotionally distressful and that his privacy had been invaded. The courts wound up revealing some of the audio from one of the three tapes that were leaked on the site and that's what really landed Hogan in hot water.
Hogan made numerous racial slurs towards an unnamed African-American man that was dating his daughter Brooke at the time. The audio went viral and once the WWE heard about it they quickly terminated Hogan's contract and erased all of his likeliness from their website and so forth. The case was settled last year and the Gawker reached a $31 million settlement with the wrestling legend. Hopefully Vince can forget about this whole thing and let Hulkamania run wild in the near future.
4 D'LO BROWN VS. DROZ
Remember those old "Don't Try This At Home" public service announcements that the WWE used to air during their programs? This is one of the reasons why they showed them. During a SmackDown taping in October 1999 Darren "Droz" Drozdov was set to take on D'Lo Brown in a singles match. At one point Brown went to powerbomb Drozdov but was unable to hoist up his opponent due to the loose shirt that he was wearing. Brown was unable to perform the move correctly and accidentally dropped Drozdov on his head. The landing caused Drozdov to fracture two disks in his neck, ultimately leading to him becoming a quadriplegic.
Drozdov has made it clear that Brown was not at fault for the incident and to not blame himself for his injury. Talk about a class act. The New Jersey native has regained movement in his upper body and arms. Leave it to the professionals. Don't try this at home.
3 THE MONTREAL SCREWJOB
The Montreal Screwjob might be the most memorable moment in professional wrestling history. Referee Earl Hebner was set to officiate the match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1997. Little did Hebner know was that he would play a huge role in major incident. While Michaels was applying a Sharpshooter to Hart, Hebner, under the orders of Vince McMahon, called for the bell even though Hart never tapped to the submission hold. The ending to the match was never explained to Hart and to show his frustrations he spit on McMahon who was standing ringside. The shoot screwjob resulted in the 14-year veteran losing his WWE Championship and left many feeling that McMahon and company had betrayed one of their most loyal stars in an act that will always be synonymous with The Hitman.
2 OWEN HART'S DEATH
Tragic. That's the only way to describe Owen Hart's last few moments with us. Heading into Over The Edge 1999 Hart was using a gimmick known as the Blue Blazer, a masked superhero like character that was clumsier than Hurricane Helms. Hart began his career as the Blazer but switched between that and his King of Harts persona periodically. Most wrestling enthusiasts prefer to remember Hart as the latter since the former was a terrible use for a talent like himself. He was scheduled to take on The Godfather in a match for WWE Intercontinental Championship at the Pay-Per-View event.
While he was coming down from the rafters in a super-hero like entrance, everything seemed to be going accordingly to plan until his harness line prematurely released, causing him to fall almost 80 feet into the ring below. Hart is said to have died on the way to the hospital, but details surrounding the tragedy are still a bit unclear to this day. Vince McMahon and the WWE received strong criticism for the accident and for good reason. They continued the show despite the fact that a man had just lost his life mere minutes earlier. No one should have to go out like this and I hope that the WWE never forgets what took place 18 years ago.
1 CHRIS BENOIT'S DOUBLE MURDER-SUICIDE
This is never easy to write about. Chris Benoit didn't need a flashy gimmick or over the top mic skills to succeed in the WWE. His in-ring abilities were easily enough to get him to the mountain top on several occasions with organizations all over the world. Seeing as you're reading this list right now means that you are or have been a fan of professional wrestling at some point. Therefore you know what took place on the weekend of June 22-23, 2007. Benoit took the lives of his wife Nancy and his 7-year-old Daniel; he hanged himself on the Monday, the 24th.
Conspiracy theories still run rampant to this day about what really took place 10 years ago; it's best to just let this story run its course and simply fade out. Unfortunately that's easier said than done since something like this doesn't go away that easily. The reoccurring theme that has taken place since this event is that Benoit suffered from CTE and his brain trauma was what led to his terrible actions. People will remember Benoit for a multitude of reasons.