Professional wrestling has been around for a long time, and things have sure changed since the beginning. Aside from the wrestlers themselves going from huge blobs of bulk to steroid nightmares to guys and gals today that could double as bodybuilders or models, we’ve seen a steady evolution in gimmicks and angles as well.
Some of these changes have been for the better, like increases in production value, special effects, technology, and the importance of good acting that make stories more interesting and entertaining. Yet other aspects have become more difficult as time has passed too, and coming up with new, exciting storylines is a good example. In addition to the general ability to create unique angles, today’s ultra-politically-correct societal attitude has added to the challenge too. Things that used to fly 25 or 15 or even five years ago might be frowned upon - or worse - today, especially with WWE’s recent move toward PG programming. Thus racism, sexism, xenophobia, and general prejudice - even in jest - are immediately met with forceful blowback, and especially as social media and the Internet become larger and larger parts of our lives.
This might appear to dampen the fun a bit (and it sometimes does), but in many cases, the lack of ability to pursue some gimmicks and angles is probably for the best. Wrestling got away with a bit too much at times, and seeing some of the past content can be legitimately shocking to those that didn’t witness it at (or live during) the time it occurred. Here are the Top 20 Offensive Wrestling Moments That Would Never Happen Today.
20 Stone Cold’s Second Amendment
During the great Austin-McMahon rivalry of the late ‘90s, one of the biggest moments culminated in Stone Cold “kidnapping” Vince and dragging him into the middle of the ring, but instead of laying a beat-down on him, Austin pulled out a gun, held it up to his boss’s head, and pulled the trigger - only to reveal it was a toy containing a flag that said, “BANG 3:16.”
19 Seven’s Seven Minutes of Fame
Prior to the 1999 WCW return of Dustin Runnels (F.K.A. Goldust), the promotion began airing creepy vignettes of a character named Seven, a white-faced figure shown lurking outside of a child’s window at night. But in what way, exactly, was this supposed to be creepy? They were likely going for the monster-under-the-bed approach, but the whole thing, especially Seven requesting the child “join [him] in complete bliss,” was a lot more like something a child molester would say. (What do small children have to do with wrestling anyway?)
18 Kai En Tai’s Dub Trouble
Generally speaking, the Asian community are pretty good sports when it comes to stereotypes and humor. But at some point, you gotta believe people will get offended. When the Japanese stable Kai En Tai made its debut, there was probably support of the group from Japan’s abundant wrestling fans - until the group quickly turned into a big joke.
17 Billy & Chuck’s Non-Marriage
16 JBL’s BS Salute
When John Layfield became the J.R. Ewing-esque heel John Bradford Layfield, his first promo saw him literally kicking out illegal Mexican immigrants attempting to cross the border. And yet this still wasn’t the most racist gimmick of his career. Once, during a match, JBL went for some cheap heel heat by goose-stepping around the ring while repeatedly doing a flat-armed Nazi salute. This move is tasteless and offensive in general, but the fact that he chose to do it in Germany made the action so much worse.
15 Rowdy Roddy Gets Racist
14 Hawk Takes a Dive
When it comes to humorous topics for angles, suicide and real life drug struggles don’t sound like good ideas. Yet that’s exactly what WWE did during their Attitude Era, which saw Road Warrior Hawk (Michael Hegstrand) taking part in an angle that involved his actual addiction problems, as well as suicidal tendencies. It culminated in November of 1998 with Hawk climbing to the top of Monday Night Raw’s giant TitanTron screen during a (kayfabe) suicide attempt, and his teammate, Puke, pushing him off of it. Puke then said he was enabling Hawk’s drug issues in order to replace him.
13 Jake’s Snake Meets the Earthquake
In the early ‘90s, Jake the Snake (just before turning heel) had an ongoing feud with Earthquake, which culminated in the latter entangling the former in the ropes, dragging a bag supposedly containing Jake’s beloved pet snake Damien into the middle of the ring, and “squashing” it with a pair of Earthquake splashes, as a horrified Jake the Snake (and the audience) could only watch.
12 Sgt. Traitor
11 Owen’s Homophobic Chant
Back in the old days, wrestlers could basically get away with saying anything, including a certain homophobic slur that would occasionally find its way into a match. During a WCW Power Hour back in early 1991, Owen Hart was facing a pink-clad Rip Rogers, and Hart began the match by making a hand gesture that insinuated Rogers was gay and leading the crowd in a vulgar chant of “F----t! F----t!”
10 Virgil the Manservant
9 Vince Dogs a Diva
The WWE Divas might not get the respect they deserve as performers, but women have still come a long way in the world of wrestling. “The women were simply storylines, they were on the side. Now, we are actually a viable part of the program,” Trish Stratus said in a recent interview. And she should know: only 20 years ago, Mr. McMahon himself involved her in one of wrestling’s worst offenses. In an attempt to humiliate Trish, Vince demanded she strip down, get on all fours, and bark like a dog.
8 Waldo Von Erich’s Anti-Semitic Sentiment
Want to know what got people in the 1960s all riled up? Poorly-timed holocaust jokes. Yet that’s exactly what former “German” (actually Canadian) NWA/WWWF wrestler Waldo Von Erich went for during a televised appearance in Buffalo. “What’s the difference between an apple pie and a Jew?” he asked. Without repeating the tasteless punchline, let’s just say it involved an oven.
7 Vince Drops the Bomb
6 Muhammad Hassan’s Bad Timing
Enemies of America have always been used as heels in wrestling, and Muhammad Hassan, an Arab-American character who debuted with WWE a few years after 9/11, is just another example, except a few things went wrong with this gimmick. First, instead of giving the role to an actual Arab, it went to Mark Copani, who has an Italian heritage. Casting decisions like this have come under fire in recent years. But the worst part of this character had nothing to do with Copani himself. On July 4, 2005, Hassan faced The Undertaker and after Hassan’s 2-on-1 partner was bested, he began praying.
5 Wrestling’s Rebel Yell
Here’s one that’s difficult to cite as a single moment. But hey, the title doesn’t say each entry has to be one specific instance, so sue me. Following the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, the citizens of this country rallied against what many deemed a Southern symbol of historic hate - the Confederate Flag - which was subsequently banned in numerous places across the country.
4 Goldust’s Black Face Becomes Blackface
Dustin Runnels played numerous characters throughout his wrestling years, but none more popular than Goldust. Although he sometimes dressed in drag (an un-PC move that wouldn’t win him a lot of fans today), his getup almost always involved some combination of black and gold face paint in addition to whatever he was wearing. On one occasion though, Goldust took it too far.
3 Kurt Angle and Sharmell
2 Tim White’s Career Suicide
1 Triple H Desecrates the Dead
Triple H made a lot of claims about Kane during their feud back in 2002, but none more heinous than his accusation that Kane committed necrophilia with the corpse of an unrequited love, Katie Vick, following a car accident. To make matters worse, Triple H showed a video of Kane (actually himself in a mask) sneaking into a funeral home and desecrating the corpse (a mannequin) of Vick. And this wasn’t the typical brief allusion; it was an excruciatingly-long, seven-minute video showing Triple H fondling the deceased’s breasts, removing and smelling her undergarments, taking off his own shirt, mounting the body, and claiming to have “screwed [her] brains out.” The video aired with a disclaimer, but the public outrage was still massive, and most fans shunned the angle. With the WWE currently in PG-mode, there’s virtually no chance of a despicable event like this happening today.
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