I assume when a person takes a job like league commissioner or General Manager, the first first thing they prepare for is something going wrong and making their life miserable. Anything that can go wrong, and create some sort of controversy, will come up out of nowhere and make taking that job seem like a horrible idea. From star players being caught hitting a spouse on camera or a team owner saying he does not want people of a certain race at his team’s games, controversy is never really beneficial to a sports league.
Like any sport in the mainstream consciousness, pro wrestling has had its share of controversies. From harassment suits to steroid abuse, there is a long laundry list of things that have left a dark mark on the history of pro wrestling. There is no rhyme or reason as to why something happens to create a controversy, it just happens and the only thing to do is try and weather the storm and push through it.
This list is here to take a look at some of those controversies that will remain in the minds of wrestling fans. They could be funny or horrifying, but for whatever reason, they now have their place in the history books and are used as examples for what not to do in a given situation.
19 Stone Cold/Brian Pillman Gun Segment
18 Matt Hardy/Edge/Lita Love Triangle
17 Stone Cold “Taking His Ball and Going Home”
16 Awesome Kong vs. Bubba the Love Sponge
15 Bruiser Brody Killed By Promoter
14 Arn Anderson and Sid Vicious Stabbing Incident
During a WCW tour in the United Kingdom in 1993, there was an incident that occurred after a night of drinking and arguing about the future of the business. At the time, WCW was filming many of its TV episodes months in advance in order to save money on production and allow for a more open touring schedule. This caused problems from time to time as a person shown as being a champion on one show may not have actually won it yet as the PPV where he won the belt had not occurred yet. Other times injuries caused WCW to change title holders on the fly and edit shows to fit the new lineup, an example being when Brian Pillman was injured and his fellow Tag Champion Steve Austin was paired with Steven Regal, whom he had never worked with up to that point.
13 ECW and WCW’s Fight over Mike Awesome
As the WWE was pulling away from WCW in the Monday Night Wars, Eric Bischoff was looking for anyone who could add life to the dying promotion. But since the WWE had basically all of its stars signed to ironclad contracts, he looked to a promotion he had pillaged before, ECW. He would eventually decide on offering a contract to current ECW World Champion Mike Awesome, similar to what he did with Bret Hart years prior. Awesome accepted the deal, but before anything could happen, Paul Heyman declared the deal impossible as he had a contract with Awesome’s name on it.
12 WWE Steroid Scandal of 1994
11 The Rob Feinstein Incident
10 Sting vs. Jeff Hardy at Victory Road
9 The Sandman's Crucifixion
In the early days of ECW, the wrestlers were given a lot of free reign over their storylines and characters, mostly for the benefit of the promotion, but sometimes it went too far. In 1996, the Sandman was embroiled in a feud with Raven, who had brainwashed Sandman’s wife and son. After a moment when it seemed that his son was finally coming back to him, Sandman was attacked from behind by Raven and was then propped up and crucified, complete with barbed wire, on a large wooden cross in front of the audience.
8 The Plane Ride From Hell
7 The Von Erich Family "Curse"
5 The Mass Transit Incident
While the Sandman crucifixion cost ECW Kurt Angle, the Mass Transit incident cost the promotion so much more. It involved a 17 year old named Eric Kulas offering to work a tag match with D-Von Dudley against the Gangstas (New Jack and Mustafa Saed) after D-Von’s original partner Axl Rotten could not make the show. Kulas claimed he had been trained by Killer Kowalski and that he was 19 years old, which was supported by his father and another wrestler. The Gangstas would double team Kulas and eventually New Jack would blade the young man, causing him to bleed profusely.
4 WCW/WWE Trademark Lawsuit Over Razor Ramon & Diesel
3 The Montreal Screwjob
In 1997, the WWE was in the midst of a ratings war with its chief rival WCW, which was leading the way with strong storylines featuring the nWo and great wrestlers like Ric Flair and Sting. Unfortunately for the WWE, the contract of its World Champion, Bret Hart, was an unfeasible cost (a reported 20 year deal worth millions for Hart) at a time when money was tighter than ever. Vince McMahon would give Hart his blessing to leave the WWE and sign with WCW, just as long as Bret dropped the belt before going. Unfortunately, the man Vince wanted Bret to lose to was Shawn Michaels, who Bret hated (Shawn felt the same).
2 The Death of Owen Hart
1 Chris Benoit Murder/Suicide
Over the course of three days, the WWE would face quite possibly its biggest controversy after top superstar Christ Benoit murdered his wife Nancy and son Daniel, before hanging himself. Coworkers started to get worried when Benoit did not show for scheduled house show appearances and after he had texted Chavo Guerrero that he was trying to get a new flight so that he could make it to the PPV he was scheduled to appear in that Sunday. Cops were soon asked to check on the family and the bodies were found, Nancy and Daniel were strangled and Chris hung from some exercise equipment. The night following the PPV, there was a memorial show held for Benoit but once it came out that Benoit was the one responsible for the grim scene, the WWE was quick to back away from anything he was involved with. As speculation grew as to what caused Benoit to do such a thing, blame flew everywhere from the WWE, steroids, and even massive brain damage caused by concussions. To this day, the WWE has done its best to whitewash Benoit from its history, only naming him with the smallest of whispers, and have gone to great lengths to limit in-ring concussions by banning unprotected chair shots to the head.
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