The WWE is still the undisputed champion when it comes to creating top-notch content, and Vince McMahon has pledged to produce intriguing storylines even if it means sex, blackmail, kidnapping or death should be involved. The WWE Universe has lately been disparaging WWE for producing childish content but somehow lose their minds when the product becomes as edgy as it was during the Attitude Era. However, WWE still incorporates death into its storylines despite being lambasted online for the same.
Through the years, The Undertaker has been involved in umpteen storylines involving death, and upon his arrival, WWE informed its fans that The Deadman's parents had been killed as well as his younger brother. Kane, after his Diesel and Isaac Yankem gimmicks failed miserably, debuted – with a burnt face – as The Phenom's younger brother, who had survived the fire, later revealed to have been set by his older brother. Accordingly, the Brothers of Destruction is a faction consisting of a double murderer and a giant, who almost kicked the bucket because of his teammate.
Besides these absurd made-up storylines involving death, WWE has also capitalized on the real death of its employees or family members of its employees to create a new storyline or build momentum to a boring storyline. WWE has been widely criticized for the same, but it looks as though WWE creative team is not going to go easy on deaths despite the world – not just WWE Universe – looking for the next opportunity to criticize WWE. The following article will take you through 16 instances or storylines in which WWE audaciously used death in order to sell their product.
16 Vincent James McMahon's Real Death
The McMahons have been accused of being insensitive to the sufferings of its employees. However, they proved they would even shame themselves to sell their product in an episode of Raw during the Invasion angle.
Paul Heyman would suggest that Vince James McMahon only died after his son Vince Kennedy McMahon took over from him. Heyman would indirectly claim that Vince McMahon Jr. caused his father's death with the Raw commentators talking over him. Given McMahon pitched incest storylines involving his kids, this should not be a surprise.
15 Storyline Death of Big Show's Father
In hindsight, we can assure that the Big Boss Man helped Big Show's dead (storyline) father escape one of the corniest funeral speeches the world has ever seen. On a serious note, the way how WWE played out the entire segment was cringeworthy, disturbing and funny. Big Bossman would crash the funeral, and Big Show would sustain injuries whilst trying to assault Bossman. With people checking Big Show, Bossman would tow away the casket. Finally, Big Show would jump onto the casket in an attempt to rescue his father's corpse. It is a shame Big Show had to be involved in so many stupid segments and storylines.
14 The Undertaker's Storyline Murder Attempt
Though WWE only teased death in this instance, it is cryptic enough to make this list. Going through The Undertaker's storylines in 1998, it is evident that the then-soon-to-be American Badass had a strong penchant for kidnapping fellow wrestlers. One such victim was Dennis Knight, whom his satanic peers kidnapped. In a cryptic segment, The Undertaker would cut his wrist and slice into Knight's chest only to induct him into his faction already comprising weird dudes in black outfits and repackage him as Mideon.
13 Road Warrior Hawk's Storyline Suicide Attempt
Unlike Hollywood, WWE's product often blurs the line between reality and storyline, which is often why true wrestling fans have been forced to answer why they watch wrestling despite knowing its predetermined nature. That is another issue, and people, who ask that question, have a special place in hell.
In one such WWE's attempt to incorporate real life tragedies into storylines, McMahon utilized Road Warrior Hawk's real life drug issues in a storyline, and the storyline culminated with Hawk committing suicide by jumping off the titantron after being blamed for his team's consecutive losses.
12 Steve Austin's Storyline Near Death
In 1998, during The Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness run, he and Paul Bearer plotted to embalm Steve Austin alive. The duo took him to a funeral home after kidnapping him, but Kane came to Austin's rescue when The Deadman was about to cut the ceremonial blade into his chest. With the 'brothers' exchanging blows, Bearer tried puncturing Austin with scissors only for Austin to ruin their plans by waking up in the nick of time. It is the satanic storylines like these that helped The Undertaker remain relevant when WWE ventured into the Attitude Era.
11 Superstar Billy Graham's Storyline Death
Superstar Billy Graham's death was one of the earliest usages of deaths in WWF, with a Philadelphia-based newspaper even publishing his obituary. Though some fans still believe it was the media's fault, the fact that Gorilla Monsoon wrote the obituary sums up the attitude of WWE – too lazy to intend pun – even during that period. As newspapers were the most reliable source for news in the 70s, people actually bought the story only for him to return with a horrible kung fu gimmick. WWE loves crying wolf and making their fans look like idiots, don't they?
10 Utilizing the Death of Jerry Lawler's Mother
With Jerry Lawler's mother Hazel Lawler passing away halfway through the feud between the King and Michael Cole, WWE incorporated her death to get the crowd invested in the storyline.
Cole told Lawler that his mother died only after watching him lose his WWE Championship match against The Miz and managed to elicit the desired reaction from the WWE Universe; however, fans complained that Cole's comments were distasteful.
Lawler's former manager later admitted that it was Lawler's idea and not WWE's – for once, at least.
9 Sacrificing the lady McMahon
In another story involving the Ministry of Darkness, The Undertaker kidnapped Stephanie McMahon in an attempt to sacrifice her after marrying her in an Unholy Ceremony.
Bearer and his son even had her tied to The Undertaker's symbol. With the sacrifice underway, Ken Shamrock – whose sister was embroiled in a similar segment – and Big Show attempted to save the Chairman's daughter only to be attacked by the Acolytes. Steve Austin would eventually make the save after delivering multiple chairshots and stunners, but this incident remains one of the most morbid moments in WWE history.
8 Ridiculous Tim White suicide angle
Lunchtime Suicide angle ranks amongst one of the most random and pointless angles WWE has ever come up with. If WWE creative's ambition was to be denigrated online, they have succeeded at it.
WWE aired referee Tim White's continual unsuccessful suicide attempts, with Josh Matthews interviewing him every time before he attempted suicide. With his first failed attempt being staged at his bar named The Friendly Tap in Cumberland, he would go on to try rat poison and other such items before shooting the interviewer.
Nobody knows how WWE ever thought this was a good idea.
7 The Bizarre Death of Al Wilson
This storyline had almost everything that fans would take only seconds to protest against – blackmail, sex and of course, death. However, there can never be a worse way to use death in any wrestling storyline.
Al Wilson, Torrie Wilson's father, would marry Dawn Marie – with the couple wearing only underwear – after Marie had tricked Torrie into sleeping with her. Al would die on his honeymoon because of having sex with no breaks in between.
What were they smoking at Titan Towers?
6 Cheap Heat Involving Late Reid Flair
Reid Flair's drug addiction and eventual death is easily one of the most depressing stories to come out of the wrestling industry.
However, WWE unashamedly used his death to sell a rather subpar feud between Paige and Charlotte. WWE made Paige slam Reid by stating he did not have enough fight in him. Early into their respective careers, the divas could not turn down the idea, but it was later revealed that WWE did not seek the permission of Reid's parents - Reid's mother later called out WWE on Twitter, and Ric Flair voiced his frustration – before his name could be used on live television.
Talk about tyranny.
5 Vince being Vince
Vince's genius is undisputed, but this brainchild of his hugely backfired as WWE stock prices went down because of this.
McMahon's limousine exploded, and not only WWE but also a few mainstream news outlets announced his demise. The original plan was to kickstart a storyline in which his illegitimate son would be revealed a few weeks later, but his storyline death coincided with the death of Chris Benoit. McMahon appeared on television only hours later, breaking kayfabe to pay homage to the dead wrestler.
4 Katie Vick
This storyline has been branded as the worst WWE creative team has ever come up with.
Triple H accused Kane of murder and necrophilia, stating Kane's semen was found in his girlfriend's corpse though Kane defended himself declaring that him being drunk was the reason why the accident took place. To substantiate his claims, Hunter – the current COO – would put Kane's mask on and bang a mannequin inside of a casket at a funeral.
WWE Universe might even forget the rumors linking Randy Savage with Stephanie McMahon, but this disturbing storyline would haunt them for years.
3 Exploiting Brian Pillman's Death
WWE literally promoted an interview with the late Brian Pillman's widow merely hours after his untimely death, and reports suggest that their advertising tactics earned them great quarter hour rating.
The interview was rather distasteful, with McMahon – the interviewer – being insensitive to the widow. This incident splits opinion as a considerable number of fans shame his wife for tempting WWE into making this interview possible. Given the depressing life led by Pillman's children from his first marriage, it is safe to assume his second wife deserves as much blame as WWE.
The fact that Melanie Pillman had been using her unofficial widow pension from WWE to fund her drug addiction (as said by Brian daughter, Brittany only makes this segment more repugnant.
2 Lying to Paul Bearer's family
With WWE branding its product as family-friendly, this storyline was totally uncalled for. With The Undertaker and CM Punk penciled in to lock horns at WrestleMania XXIX, Paul Bearer, The Undertaker's storyline father, died, and WWE creative used his death to make the storyline more engaging. They succeeded at it, but a considerable number of fans felt that it was in bad taste. WWE had CM Punk play with the urn, which had Bearer's ashes, according to the storyline, and it was regarded as a huge disrespect to a legend.
Though the highly professional Bearer would love to be used as a part of one final WrestleMania storyline, Bearer's sons had a different opinion as they stated that what they saw on television was not identical to what WWE pitched to them.
1 An Entire Storyline out of Eddie's Death
With Vickie Guerrero willing to be involved in the storyline, McMahon cashed in on the premature death of Eddie Guerrero. McMahon had Rey Mysterio use the sympathy of fans in light of his best friend's death to win the World Heavyweight Championship. Vickie was later embroiled in the storyline as she aligned with Chavo Guerrero to shame Mysterio for making a living out of Eddie's death. WWE even had Randy Orton infamously claim Eddie was in hell.
To this day, fans still talk about this storyline as the WWE Universe feels this angle should have never made it to WWE television. Mysterio 'winning the title for Eddie' tops the list because of the extent to which WWE utilized the death of its loyal employee.