When you think of professional wrestling, the number one component in any company is what goes down inside of the squared circle. But in the WWE — where it's sports entertainment, not professional wrestling — promos are equally as important as anyone’s wrestling ability.
Think of the biggest superstars in the land of Vince McMahon. Hulk Hogan. Macho Man Randy Savage. Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Rock. John Cena. CM Punk. One of the things these individuals have in common is that they can all kill it on the microphone.
Not everyone can deliver on the stick. But it’s one thing to be bad, and another thing to make people feel downright uneasy. And that has happened quite a bit, because anything can happen with a live mic in your hand.
Is it always the talents’ faults? No. They have to say things that writers tell them to say. But there have been a number of instances where awkward moments have taken place, poor choice of words have been said and comedic flubs have been laughed at.
Sometimes it’s funny and sometimes it’s serious. Either way, every time it’s uncomfortable. Let’s take a look at 15 times wrestling promos made people feel uncomfortable.
15 The Balls Take Raw
For the first uncomfortable promo on the list, let’s go with the most recent, shall we? From the end of the college basketball season up until today, there is no more polarizing man than LaVar Ball. The father of Lonzo Ball — who was just drafted second overall in the NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers — has made a number of outrageous headlines due to some of his comments, which include saying he could beat Michael Jordan in a one-on-one game and also saying his son would take the Lakers to the playoffs despite being one of the worst teams in basketball last season.
Because Vince McMahon loves getting mainstream attention in any way he can, he brought LaVar, Lonzo and his youngest son LaMelo to Raw and featured the threesome in a Miz TV segment. The decision did pay off, as it was all on television the next day, but it wasn’t without controversy. After LaVar took his shirt off and was challenging The Miz to a fight, LaMelo uttered “beat that n**** a**” twice over the live microphone. According to Dave Meltzer, there was absolute chaos backstage and the WWE had to release a statement condemning the choice of words.
14 A Couple Of Jacka***
LaVar Ball was far from the first act to try and bring the WWE some mainstream attention. Almost exactly a decade ago, Vince McMahon decided to bring in the crew from “Jackass” to the company to help bring outside fans to the product for the summer and the SummerSlam event for that year. After promotional material — including posters — were released, it appeared the plan was to pit Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Chris Pontius and others against Umaga.
When Steve-O and Pontius appeared on Raw, it was clear that the direction was wrong as well. While their joking antics were clear during their in-ring promo, it was chalked up as something that the cast from Jackass does. But things got a little more serious — and uncomfortable — when Steve-O made a joke of getting beat down by Umaga as he failed to play dead. This resulted in Usage handing out some real-life punishment to the stunt man, resulting in a concussion. That, combined with Knoxville’s weariness to work with the WWE after Chris Benoit’s death, ended the experiment before it could be paid off.
13 Heyman’s Last Stand At One Night Stand
After The Rise and Fall of ECW DVD became one of the highest-grossing documentaries the WWE ever produced, Vince McMahon made the executive decision to bring the company back for one more show. ECW One Night Stand drew critical praise, as the unique card and carbon-copy of Extreme Championship Wrestling programming was on full display. This eventually resulted in the terrible decision to bring ECW on as a third brand, but the show itself did feature a promo that was both heartfelt and uncomfortable.
McMahon decided to give Paul Heyman a live microphone to say whatever he wanted to a fan base that he didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to. After crying and showing his adulation to every aspect of ECW, Heyman then turned his attention to the invaders, as Eric Bischoff, JBL, Kurt Angle, Edge, Jonathan Coachman and others were in attendance to boycott the show. Amongst the things that made some people cringe was when Heyman uttered “Matt freakin’ Hardy” at Edge, as the love triangle with Lita was still a fresh topic. Another statement was directed at JBL, in which he told the former APA member that the only reason why he was WWE Champion was because “Triple H didn't want to work Tuesdays.”
12 Hawk’s Suicide Attempt
Back in the days of the Attitude Era, the WWE had no problems in pushing edgy content to the forefront. But there’s a difference between edgy and distasteful, and the Legion of Doom storyline in late 1998 definitely fell in the latter category. Despite being recognized as one of the greatest tag teams in professional wrestling history, Hawk and Animal — better known as The Road Warriors — were placed in a program that took advantage of Hawk’s real life battles with drugs and alcohol.
The decision was made to portray Hawk as drunk and/or high during matches, which led to Warrior bringing in Puke, otherwise known as Droz, as the team’s third member. The decision pushed Hawk to the edge (literally) as he became suicidal. This resulted in Hawk standing atop the titantron on Raw is War screaming that he was ready to kill himself. When Puke went to help him out, he appeared to push him, which led to a far fall behind the tron. It was later revealed that Puke wanted Hawk to die so he could take his place in the Legion of Doom. Just an uncomfortable moment all around.
11 Hulk Hogan Doesn’t Memorize Scripts
Let’s shift gears from a dark segment to one of the lighter — yet still uncomfortable — moments in WWE history. After his brief WWE run with the NWO, Hulk Hogan was eventually put back into his Hulkamania gimmick and entered a feud with Vince McMahon. In the midst of his feud with McMahon — which included a match at WrestleMania XIX — Hogan was asked to cut a promo. It’s safe to say it didn’t work out as planned.
In the middle of talking about why McMahon was mad that Hogan helped bring the WWE mainstream success, he flubbed a number of lines that, when looking back, are easy to laugh at. One of the big blunders was when he said, “I was just the right guy, at the right place, at the wrong time,” instead of saying “I was just the right guy, at the right place, at the right time.” He also spoke about facing Vince McMahon when he actually meant that faced The Rock. It wasn’t uncomfortable in a bad sense, it was just cringeworthy all around.
10 Draft Day Promo, Part 1
When the WWE decided to hold a draft during the summer of 2016, many fans were eager to see which show their favorite superstars would land on. In plenty of mock drafts around the internet, Cesaro was pegged as someone destined for SmackDown Live, as it was being branded as the show that would feature the best in-ring talent. When Cesaro was instead chosen by Raw, he took his live platform and decided to voice his displeasures.
With a clear look of disappointment on his face, Cesaro proclaimed that his ability was better suited on Tuesday nights instead of on Raw, where the focus is on the authority figures more than anything else. The shoot-style promo definitely raised some eyebrows and made some backstage uncomfortable, but Cesaro has done quite well for himself.
9 Draft Day Promo, Part 2
This promo is the polar opposite of Cesaro’s, and not in a good way. While the Swiss Superman was calm and disappointed when talking about being drafted to Raw, Kalisto — who was viewed as one of the most talented in-ring wrestlers that the WWE has — was very excited to join the SmackDown Live brand. Unfortunately, he may have been too excited, as he failed to do much of anything with his backstage promo time.
Clearly looking uncomfortable with a microphone in front of his mouth, Kalisto struggled to put together one full sentence. Among the mistakes he made was messing up Baron Corbin’s name and also having a hard time finishing off his promo. When struggling to think of something to say, Kalisto capped it off with, “I’m here to stay, and I’m here to make…umm…umm…ughh…good lucha…umm…thing.” There are two words to describe it — cringeworthy and uncomfortable.
8 The Pipe Bomb Before The Pipe Bomb
In today’s day and age, the WWE loves to refer to promos that seem like they go off script as pipe bombs. But before CM Punk made his famous speech in the summer of 2011 (we’ll get to that in a bit), the word pipe bomb wasn’t uttered on WWE television. But just because it wasn’t said doesn’t mean they didn’t happen at various points in company history. Case in point number one: Joey Styles.
When the former ECW broadcaster was hired to replace Jim Ross, he definitely brought a different feel to the commentator's booth. Unfortunately, however, Vince McMahon didn’t feel Styles did an adequate job in filling in for the voice of the WWE — and after getting passed on to call WrestleMania and Backlash, the decision was made to let Styles go. But to their credit, they gave him a microphone to vent his frustrations. Before walking out, Styles made it known that he hated referring to wrestlers as “sports entertainers” and “superstars” and didn’t like how McMahon wouldn’t allow him to call moves in the ring and instead tell a story — and it certainly made people feel uncomfortable.
7 Talking Smack To Daniel Bryan
One of the greatest things that the WWE has done since the brand split is the creation of Talking Smack. While it’s blatantly obvious that wrestlers have to recite what is written for them by the creative team, the WWE Network exclusive program gives the talents on SmackDown Live a chance to cut their teeth without having to read lines that someone else came up with for them.
In what remains as arguably the greatest moment in Talking Smack history, The Miz took exception to SmackDown Live General Manager calling him soft and being a weak Intercontinental Champion. In return, The Miz fired back with one of the most passionate promos in recent memory as he intertwined real-life situations onto WWE programming. Among them were statements about Bryan lying to his fans because he couldn’t return from injury and also questioned why Bryan has yet to leave the WWE so he can wrestle elsewhere. Both Renee Young and Maryse looked a bit uncomfortable, but it still made for a great moment.
6 The Hitman Snaps
Back in early 1997, Bret Hart was in a position that he was never in before. After years of being the flag bearer of the WWE, fans began to turn their backs on him and instead align themselves with anti-authority acts like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels. On the Raw is War before WrestleMania 13, he faced Sid in a match for the WWE Championship. If Hart won, he’d defend the belt against Austin at the event, and if Sid one, he’d face The Undertaker. After both opponents interfered, The Undertaker got the last laugh and cost Hart the match.
When Raw resumed after the commercial break, Hart remained in the ring and Vince McMahon decided to enter for an interview. Instead of it being cordial, Hart shoved McMahon to the mat — something that was extremely rare at the time — and went into an expletive-laden promo about how he’s been screwed out of the WWE Championship time and time again. The Attitude Era was yet to be in full swing at this time, which made this moment even more shocking and uncomfortable.
5 Sunny Days
Since we’re already on the subject of Bret Hart, let’s stay on it. As it was stated in the previous section, 1997 was a different time for The Hitman, as he was viciously booed whenever Raw is War took place in the United States but was greeted as a hero anytime it was held out of the country. Also at this time was when his feud with Shawn Michaels was more than on-screen, as the pair of WWE stars were not fond of each other off it.
At this time, there were a lot of insults that were said on Raw that had real-life undertones. One that struck the chord of Hart in a major way was when Michaels said, “Even though lately you’ve had some sunny days…” On the surface, it doesn’t sound bad at all. But Michaels heavily implied that Hart was sleeping around with WWE Diva Sunny, and since he had a family, he didn’t take it kindly. It was yet another blow in the personal relationship between Hart and Michaels and a moment that may everyone close to them uncomfortable.
4 The Pipe Bomb
When thinking of the PG Era of the WWE, there haven’t been many memorable moments. CM Punk, however, was someone who always stood out when the product was down. Looking like the polar opposite of your prototypical WWE Superstar, CM Punk won the praise of the WWE Universe over with his indy pedigree, tantalizing promos, great in-ring ability and presence that was rivaled by none. He was always viewed as one of the top stars of the company — but once he cut his pipe bomb, he transitioned to one of the biggest stars of all time.
After John Cena and R-Truth had a tables match in the main event of Raw, CM Punk sat down on the stage and delivered what many considered his “Austin 3:16” moment. He ran down Hulk Hogan and The Rock. He named dropped Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar, two people who left the WWE on terrible terms. He viciously tore into Vince McMahon, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon who were definitely uncomfortable backstage. The star-making moment is still considered one of the best in recent memory.
3 Triple H’s Racial Undertones
By and large, Triple H is currently known as the man for the passionate fans. As the leader of NXT, he’s the reason why so many independent favorites are signed to WWE contracts and why the weekly television show is universally praised. But when he was an active wrestler, he didn’t always have that same mindset. One of those instances when he feuded with Booker T leading into WrestleMania XIX.
After starting off his WWE career as a bad guy, the former WCW stalwart won over the support of the WWE Universe and quickly became a fan favorite. When Booker T was chosen face Triple H and the Showcase of the Immortals, there was no better time to give him the World Heavyweight Championship. Instead, Triple H decided he should come out victorious, and the early stages of their feud were marred by racial undertones, which made many uncomfortable. In one promo, he uttered, “Somebody like you doesn't get to be a world champion. People like you don't deserve it.”
2 Randy Orton Disrespects a Deceased Eddie Guerrero
When Eddie Guerrero lost his life, it was a tough blow to not only the WWE, but the fan base as well. He was one of the most beloved wrestlers in the company and it affected a number of superstars in a negative manner. After his passing, the WWE wanted to keep his memory alive and decided to insert him in some storylines. When Rey Mysterio won the 2006 Royal Rumble, it was done in Guerrero’s honor, and he continued to do so up until he captured the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 22.
But the road to WrestleMania wasn’t smooth. Randy Orton, one of Mysterio’s two opponents, was positioned as one of the biggest heels in the company. When the two were dueling it out via promo on an episode of SmackDown, Orton said, “Eddie ain’t in heaven…Eddie’s down there. He’s in hell!” The crowd was in shock, and not in a good way. The entire area felt uncomfortable after that moment.
1 Going Too Far
Back in 2006, the WWE still toed the lines of an edgier product. So when Orton said those things about Eddie Guerrero, it was shocking, but not necessarily surprising. But ever since the WWE became a publicly traded company and shifted to a PG format, the over-the-top storylines and promos went on the downswing. That was until 2015, when Paige took a page out of Orton’s book.
Feuding with Charlotte over the Diva’s Championship, the creative team tried their hardest to make Paige a heel, but they did so with little buildup. Because of this, they decided to get cheap heat on the female superstar, and it turned into one of the uglier moments in recent memory. In a contract signing before their match at Survivor Series, Paige ended her promo with, “You know what Charlotte? You’re wrong sweetheart, because your little baby brother didn’t have much fight in him, did he?”
For those who don’t know, Reid Flair lost his life to a drug overdose at a young age, making it uncomfortable for everyone. Not only did Paige look hesitant to deliver the line but it eventually came out that Ric Flair wasn’t notified about the promo.
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