Wrestling is a tricky business. Trying to present an entertaining show often means taking a few risks with content. And with those risks come the possibility of doing something that comes off very badly for the audience. It’s not just a bad gimmick or character. It’s an angle or another move that is hard to watch. Sometimes, it’s because it’s so bad, others because it just affects you the wrong way but either way, it’s a bit that crosses a line big time.
WWE are naturally big offenders here, especially during the “Attitude Era” where they were throwing out so much. However, other promotions have offered their own stuff that makes it hard to take seriously, not just blurring the lines for wrestling but making it very hard for fans to get into something because of how it comes off. It’s not just stuff terrible or such, it’s things that affect your tastes as a person and just don’t like to watch at all, even if they’re part of a big angle. Here are 20 examples of moments in wrestling that were not just hard to watch in quality but made the viewer downright uncomfortable seeing it and how much the lines of taste can be blurred.
21 Mark Henry’s Antics
Poor Mark Henry. A great powerhouse who would later improve into a good worker and champion, the guy had to put up with tons of crappy angles and stuff to drive fans crazy. There was him as “Sexual Chocolate” with Chyna that included being set up with a prostitute called Sammy who turned out to be a man. Then the infamous segment with Mae Young, romancing the elder woman that led to that terrible “birth” that’s cited as a low point for the Attitude Era. It was hard to watch the guy going through all this and still amazing his career got better as it went along as seeing his “sexual adventures” were enough to make you squirm.
It’s another of those cases of “who thought this up?” A capable worker and tough guy, Snitsky was soon placed in a program against Kane which included attacking the supposedly-pregnant Lita, causing her to have a “miscarriage.” Snitsky would use it as his catchphrase “it wasn't my fault” and segments that included kicking a baby doll. That was followed by giving him a foot fetish with him often shown licking the feet of women up to and including Mae Young. Pregnancy and foot fetishes are hardly the stuff wrestling fans eat up in droves and rather than being a great heel, Snitsky turned into a joke that fans much preferred not having to watch.
It was an act a bit ahead of its time and that’s what made it hard to take. In 1995, Dustin Rhodes’ character just unsettled fans with his obvious homosexual overtones, whispering, rubbing himself over and often grinding on opponents. It was a wild act but for audiences of the time, it was difficult to take that seriously despite Dustin’s amazing skills as a worker. It would get wilder when he changed his act in 1997 dressing even crazier and acting up majorly for some bizarre actions. While the act was terrific, it was a bit hard to take for fans of the time and it’s amazing it worked as well as it did.
A lot of Vince Russo’s WCW tenure was hard to watch because of its wretched quality but this was something different. Russo’s issues with Jim Ross in WWF were known with how Ross had tried to reign in Russo’s crazier ideas and Russo convinced he was held back. So in one of his first WCW moves, Russo had longtime buddy and fellow writer Ed Ferrera come out as “Oklahoma” dressing like Ross, doing an impersonation mocking Ross’ Bells Palsy and with Steve Williams as his bodyguard. It was truly insulting, especially with Oklahoma “calling” a battle royal of Mexican wrestlers for a piñata on a pole. It was Russo’s ego at work, making his issues with Ross a focus and just serving to put his company in a poorer light.
17 Mr. McMahon's “death”
Vince McMahon has pushed the envelope a lot but in 2007, he crossed a serious line. To cap off a “Mr. McMahon Appreciation Night,” Vince entered a limo which promptly exploded. It was sold as totally real with video tributes to Vince and wrestlers talking of him in somber tones. The reaction was quite bad as fans found this in very poor taste considering real life tragedies like Eddie Guerrero and Owen Hart whose emotions the angle was playing on.
It backfired big time when the Benoit murder-suicide went down and the whole thing was dropped, showing how Vince’s ego gets in the way of common sense and what fans might be comfortable watching.
16 Victory Road 2011
Arguably the worst PPV main event of all time, this ranks as one of the lowest points of TNA’s existence. It was to be a big battle between Sting and Jeff Hardy for the TNA World title with Sting coming out ready to fight. A full minute passed before Hardy stumbled through the smoke and it was quite obvious this man was in absolutely no condition whatsoever to be anywhere near a ring. His eyes were glazed, he was swaying and seemed to have no clue what was going on.
Eric Bischoff had to come out and basically tell them what to do as the main event of this PPV ended in just one minute with Sting pinning Hardy for real with Jeff not quite getting how badly he’d screwed so much up. It was putting his problems on full display for the world and an embarrassment for himself and his company.
15 Jeff Jarrett and Kurt Angle
Mixing business with real relationships very rarely ends well in wrestling and this was no exception. Kurt and Karen Angle had a troubled marriage that soon fell apart thanks to his DUIs and report of possible abuse. Karen ended up having a whirlwind romance with none other than Jeff Jarrett and it wasn’t long before that was brought into a storyline. Seeing the real life romance brought up with the two exes going at it was pretty bad to see and it just added to the tension of the battles and Karen put in danger. Sometimes it’s better to just leave the personal stuff at home.
14 Vince and Trish
Vince has half-joked about Linda being “poor dear, having to marry me” and it’s amazing what that woman has put up with. That includes the completely bizarre angle of early 2001 where Linda seemed to suffer a stroke and was put in a wheelchair. Vince soon took up with Trish Stratus and the sight of him making out with the hotter young woman in front of his “comatose” wife was more than slightly disturbing.
Vince soon turned on Trish, forcing her to strip to her underwear and crawl around the ring barking like a dog. It’s not the worst thing Vince has done and he got his comeuppance at WrestleMania but still obvious how he pushed things a bit too far for fans.
13 Anything with Judy Bagwell
Maybe on paper, it sounded funny but in execution, it turned out to be horrible. When Buff Bagwell got truly obnoxious as a heel in 1998, WCW thought it would be fun to bring in his mother, Judy, and have her chew him out on TV. That was okay but then came Rick Steiner winning the tag titles on his own and declaring Judy, a 60-year-old woman with no experience whatsoever, to be his partner. It got even crazier such as the infamous “Judy Bagwell on a Forklift” match and even played for laughs, it was hard to watch a guy’s mom used this way and embarrassing even for WCW.
12 Hawk’s Fall
The Road Warriors were regarded as one of the greatest tag teams in history but by 1998, their star power had faded quite a bit. An angle was created of Darren Droz taking the place of Hawk who was often seen stumbling to the ring and in a daze. Given Hawk’s well-known reputation for hard partying and drinking, it was a bit hard to watch. It all built to the bit of Hawk atop the titantron, a drunk mess as Animal and Paul Ellering tried to talk him down and Droz went up to get him.
Hawk took a dive with Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler selling it in hushed tones and the idea Droz might have pushed him. However, it came off so badly to fans that the whole thing was dropped and one of the sadder bits for the Attitude Era.
11 Heidenreich and Michael Cole
Another bit that WWE themselves love to make fun of was in 2005 as Heidenreich began stalking Michael Cole with the act of a psychopath, looking pretty intense about it. He grabbed Cole from the announcer booth and dragged him into the restroom, hissing about how he was going to do something very nasty with Cole. It was freaky to watch as he had Cole held by the throat, pressed up against the bathroom stall, hissing “are you ready” and…read Cole some poetry. A funny ending but just not worth all the effort and it came off terrible and not winning Heidenreich any more fans.
10 Orlando Jordan
A talented worker, Jordan was becoming a big deal in 2010 after coming out as bisexual, a pretty bold move for a wrestler. So leave it to TNA to mess it up as badly as possible. Rather than try to push Jordan as a brave man being himself, TNA had him come out wrapped up in yellow tape, often wearing a mask and squeezing lotion on himself to rub over.
It was very bad with Mike Tenay and Taz discussing how “disturbing” it was to watch. They were right but not for that reason as it was just terrible that a 2010 company was going to such outdated and cliché view of a non-straight person and fans hated it, basically ruining any chance Jordan had in the company and yet another wasted opportunity for TNA.
9 Tim White
On the “OMG” DVD, various wrestlers openly ask “who the HELL thought this up?!” In 2005, veteran referee Tim White was shown at a bar, drinking his sorrows over an injury ending his career. After talking of things being over, White was shown getting a shotgun out and a gunshot heard off-screen. Naturally, the idea of suicide was rough for any time but especially coming so soon after the death of Eddie Guerrero. It was revealed White had just shot himself in the foot and (for who knows what reason), WWE turned it into a regular online video of White trying to off himself in various ways but failing, nicknamed “Lunchtime Suicide.”
Needless to say, this was very hard to watch as White kept sending up himself as a guy who wanted to die but couldn’t and ending with him shooting Josh Matthews. An idea horrible on every level and it still boggles the mind it ever got on air.
8 Vince vs. Stephanie
You really have to wonder about Vince McMahon’s issues. To finish off a big feud he was having on camera with Stephanie, Vince challenged her to an “I Quit” match on PPV. This was coming just days before Stephanie’s real wedding to Hunter and Linda warning Vince “if she has a black eye for her wedding, so help me…” Fans can put up with a lot but seeing a father and daughter fighting in the ring is something else and it just came off badly, not heat on Vince and leaving you amazed at how the man operates. Well, at least they never went through with the proposed incest storyline when Stephanie got pregnant.
6 Vince vs. God
Like so many other things involving Vince McMahon on this list, practically everyone notes how much in poor taste this was but Vince insists it was a great thing. As he and Shane feuded with Shawn Michaels in 2006, they brought up Shawn’s new faith in God, leading to a bit of Vince challenging Shawn to partner with the Almighty against the McMahons.
We actually had a funny video of Vince in a church using holy water for the HHH spit but the “match” began with a spotlight heading to the ring, Vince yelling for “God” to back down and he and Shane beating Michaels after help from the Spirit Squad. Vince shrugs it off as “God has to have a sense of humor” but it still wasn’t that fun to watch and one suspects Vince won’t be having the last laugh.
5 Billy & Chuck
It’s not pretty but it has to be said: There is a serious air of homophobia in wrestling, as there is in all other sports. Wrestling has played with it from time to time to varying degrees but the Billy & Chuck angle of 2002 had to be the worst. After teasing it for a while, the two were ready to have a full “commitment ceremony” in the ring and while their antics weren’t as overt as they could have been, it was still a bit much for fans to accept.
That all led to the big ceremony which culminated with the two immediately saying they weren’t gay and just doing all this for some publicity. It was a bad bit really, an act that got totally out of hand and shows wrestling still has a long way to go to give gay rights more of their due.
4 Heroes of Wrestling
What is generally considered the worst PPV of all time brought a lot of uncomfortable feelings for fans already. Seeing so many stars massively past their prime and trying to keep wrestling was horrible to watch and you felt sad seeing it happen. It saved the worst for last as Jake Roberts, well known for his personal demons, did a baffling promo obviously drunk and/or stoned out of his mind. He then stumbled out to the ring, using his snake to make lewd gestures on his crotch in an audience with kids in attendance. The match was shifted to a tag bout to cover for him but clearly Jake was a total mess and to see it occur on live PPV was truly hard to watch and remains that way today.
3 Fritz Von Erich’s “Heart Attack”
The tragedies of the Von Erichs are well documented. By 1988, David and Mike were dead and Kerry was still recovering from a nasty motorcycle accident. Some have criticized Fritz for turning too much of a blind eye to his family’s problems and even promoting the big legacy of loss up for fans. Nowhere was that more evident than in 1988 when the “New Freebirds” that included Iceman Parsons and others got into a brawl with Kerry and Kevin in a cage match and Fritz entered the fray.
After being shoved and knocked about, Fritz collapsed, clutching his chest and obviously pushing the idea of suffering a heart attack. It was meant to garner sympathy but it backfired as the audience saw through it and were appalled at how Fritz was using his own family’s tragedies in this way and seeing him tended to by “paramedics” just brought up more pain for fans rather than heat.
2 Katie Vick
A telling bit on the 2006 “McMahon” DVD has just about everyone (HHH, Shane, Stephanie, Linda, Jim Ross etc...) talk of how this was one of the single most tasteless, horrible things imaginable…and Vince insists it was funny as hell. It’s one of the most infamous bits ever as HHH made up a story of Kane “murdering” his girlfriend, Katie Vick and then doing a bit attacking a dummy in a coffin complete with “I screwed your brains out!”
It was idiotic, it dragged on way too long and just totally unnecessary. WWE themselves poke fun at it today and agree it was terrible but still a moment connected with Kane and one of the lower points of a rough period for the company.
1 The Sandman Crucified
ECW was always known for pushing the limit, it’s how they became famous. It fit Philadelphia, a city well known for the most brutal and hostile fans in all of sports. But this was one time even that audience was rocked by what they saw. As part of a brutal feud between the Sandman and Raven for the ECW title, Sandman was attacked by Raven, Stevie Richards and the Blue Meanie who beat him down. They then brought a wooden cross from under the ring, tying the Sandman to it with barbed wire wrapped around his head, leaning him against the ring in a clear crucifixion pose.
For once, the ECW Arena wasn’t filled with wild cheering or booing. Just silence as even the most jaded fan was taken aback by this sight. Paul Heyman realized how bad this was and ordered Raven to go out and break character to apologize for anyone being offended. Raven and Sandman have both claimed fans took it too harshly but clearly both misread how it would be perceived. It hurt ECW as Kurt Angle was backstage at the event, talking about joining but seeing the moment drove him away. It’s the most famous example of ECW going too “extreme” for its own good.