For something that isn’t “real,” professional wrestling can be pretty messed up.
The humble days of wrestlers travelling around various countries and putting on entertaining showcases for adoring fans are well and truly gone, with the physical appearance of a character is no longer enough to satisfy the masses.
Who knew that the enhancement of protagonists such as Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage and Ric Flair in the 80s, along with storylines and prominent character trains, would transform the humble pastime of wrasslin’ into what we have witnessed especially in the past 20 years.
There may have been some shocking wrestling moments in the 80s through to the mid-90s, but the establishment of a lawless mindset in WCW which eventually led to WWE countering with its Attitude Era, along with the added brutality of ECW, paved the way for some serious adults only entertainment.
With WWE and WCW constantly battling it out to see who could push the envelope the furthest in order to gain ratings supremacy, all rules were quickly thrown out the window. Although things started off defiantly cool, characters and storylines transgressed way beyond anything that could be considered child-friendly programming.
Suggestive phrases, violence, bloodbaths, offensive stories, naked women – yep, those old fellas from the 1920s sure would have been proud.
Factor in the uprising of hardcore wrestling, which had begun in the early 1990s with Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling and paved the way for some incredibly gross scenes, and you’ve got a catalogue of moments that belong in horror films or on programs resigned to the ‘adult’ channels.
Although WWE, by far the largest professional wrestling company on the planet, supposedly produces PG content in the modern day, some of the most sickening and offensive wrestling moments have come from the mind of Vince McMahon.
But hey, at least they evened it up with a substantial amount of female exposure, right?
These are the top 25 rated R moments in professional wrestling history.
25. Dawn Marie and Torrie Wilson’s Hook-Up
WWE had built a solid catalogue of racy content before Torrie Wilson’s feud with Dawn Marie, but what would transpire between the two would make all previous acts of exposure look like children’s educational programming. Dawn Marie began a kayfabe relationship with Torrie Wilson’s father, Al Wilson, in 2002 that led to the two Divas meeting at No Mercy in a match that Wilson won. Soon after her defeat, Marie and Al were engaged. Knowing Wilson was desperate to stop her father from making what was in her eyes a mistake, Marie admitted she had grown romantic feelings for Torrie and offered to call off the engagement if the two spent the night together. At that year’s Armageddon, Marie revealed the footage of her and Wilson stripping down to their underwear and exchanging a passionate kiss before Al called for the tape to be cut, much to the dismay of the audience.
24. Kane Sets Jim Ross On Fire
Kane had a very successful run as The Undertaker’s demonic brother, but comic relief and weak storylines meant that Kane would need to be reinvented. Following being unmasked in 2003, Kane became significantly more unstable believing everyone was laughing at his appearance and began senselessly attacking anyone in his path. As part of his rebirth, Kane would savagely attack Stone Cold Steve Austin who had attempted to convince Kane that the fans cared about his ability rather than his looks. As Jim Ross interviewed and attempted to reason with The Big Red Monster, Kane again lashed out by dousing good ol’ JR in gasoline and setting him alight. Although clearly staged, the promo came as a shock to fans that had seen WWE’s content become significantly less risqué in recent years.
23. Jake Roberts’ Snake Attacks Randy Savage
A major phobia that is the premise of many popular horror movies is ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes. While maybe not deathly afraid, Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ presence caused many fans to feel intimidated just by carrying his scaly pals to the ring. During 1991, it was planned that Sid Justice would be bitten by one of Roberts’ snakes as part of their rivalry; however, an injury to Sid meant that Macho Man Randy Savage would have to step up to the plate. Having lost a retirement match earlier in the year, Savage was resigned to commentary when Roberts began goading him into the ring. After a brutal attack, Savage was trapped between the ring ropes as Roberts let his accompanying cobra sink its teeth into Savage’s arm to the horrified screams from crowd members. Although the snake was devenomised, Roberts had great difficulty getting the snake to detach which caused Savage severe discomfort.
22. Puke Killed Hawk
There wasn’t a whole lot that offended wrestling fans during The Attitude Era, but the infamous storyline that showcased the real-life issues with drug and alcohol that affected legendary Legion of Doom member Hawk became too real. The storyline started off controversial enough, with Hawk showing up to matches under the influence and demonstrating suicidal tendencies. As a result, a third member, Puke, was added to The Legion of Doom in order to bring some stability. The storyline led to a suicidal Hawk climbing to the top of the titantron and threatening to kill himself, as Puke climbed after his teammate in what was perceived as an attempt to save him. Puke then proceeded to throw Hawk over the side, making it appear as though Hawk had taken a deathly fall with the help of special effects, and admitted to enabling Hawk’s drug addiction in order to kill him and take his spot in the tag team. The story became too much for both Hawk and his partner Animal, who both quit WWE shortly after.
21. Mickie James and Trish Stratus
During a storyline which quickly went from Mickie James posing as Trish Stratus’ biggest fan to Mickie wanting to have a lesbian relationship with Trish, Mickie began showing off a more devious side that climaxed (pun intended) at WrestleMania 22. The feud, which is regarded as one of the best women’s feuds in history, boiled over with James capturing the WWE Women’s Championship for the first time on the Grandest Stage of Them All, but that’s not what got people talking. As Stratus set her opponent up for the Stratusfaction, James blatantly grabbed Stratus’ crotch before eying down the camera and provocatively licking in between her fingers to insinuate a sexual act. Vince McMahon was so furious that after he scolded James, he ordered for the gesture to be edited out of future video releases.
20. Katie Vick
Not only was the Katie Vick storyline between Kane and Triple H incredibly lame and in poor taste, it resulted in the single most awkward segment of all time during which Triple H, while donning Kane’s mask, simulated sex with a mannequin in a coffin meant to represent Katie Vick. The story started with Triple H revealing that Kane was a murderer, having killed his high school sweetheart named Katie Vick. Kane went on to tell the full story, which involved him and Vick going to a party, having too much to drink and Kane swerving to miss an animal on the road while driving and crashing, leading to Vick’s death. Triple H just happened to also mention that the autopsy found Kane’s semen in her body, beginning awkward claims of necrophilia. This all culminates in Triple H’s Academy Award-winning re-enactment that ends with The Game literally screwing Vick’s brains out.
19. Vince McMahon Threatens The Undertaker’s Family
We all know Vince McMahon is willing to do some pretty terrible things to get a reaction, but this was just all-round wrong. A main feud on SmackDown! in October of 2003 was Mr McMahon vs The Undertaker, sparked by McMahon interrupting Taker’s WWE Championship match causing him to lose. After Taker won a handicap match to setup a Buried Alive match against Vince at the upcoming Survivor Series pay-per-view, he was given time off until the event by new SmackDown! GM, Paul Heyman. After learning of the news, McMahon turned almost demonic, pulling at his hair and making threats you’d expect to hear being read out as evidence in a courthouse, all before threatening to murder Heyman by choking him to death. To quote the boss of WWE: “You see, terrorists are going to burn down The Undertaker’s house. His children are going to be kidnapped. His wife, she’s going to be raped by a motorcycle gang right in front of The Undertaker.”
18. Lollipop ‘Accidentally’ Loses Her Top
When Jeff and Jerry Jarrett launched TNA under the NWA banner, it was originally promoted as a more adult-oriented promotion given its weekly pay-per-view status, allowing for just about anything to happen. Aside from some slightly more raunchy content and fouler language, the events didn’t deliver much more than you could find on WWE or WCW a few years previous until one of the NWA/TNA dancers appeared topless. Lollipop, known for regularly sucking a lollipop (solid writing), accepted an open challenge from Glen Gilberti and Holly Wood for any woman to fight Wood. After some typical cat fighting, one of Lollipop’s nipples became exposed before Wood completely yanked the top off all together. What an angle.
17. The Undertaker and Mankind’s Hell in a Cell Match
The 1998 Hell in a Cell match at King of the Ring is arguably the most infamous wrestling match of all time, raising the bar for the amount of personal abuse taken in one match. The first major bump came when Mick Foley and The Undertaker were brawling on top of the cell; soon after the cage almost gave way underneath the pair’s footing, Foley was thrown off the top of the 16-foot high cell (22 feet including the angle of the fall) onto the Spanish announce table. Foley was placed on a stretcher and wheeled out of the arena before returning and again climbing the cell. The Undertaker performed a planned chokeslam onto a chair on top of the cell on Foley; however, the roof gave way and Foley took another large fall to the canvas with the chair landing on his mouth, resulting in him being genuinely knocked unconscious. The match finally concluded after Foley was chokeslammed onto thumbtacks. Foley suffered a dislocated shoulder, a severe concussion, numerous lost teeth, internal issues and plenty more cuts and bruises.
16. The Plane Ride from Hell
It doesn’t get much more rated R than the Plane Ride from Hell in 2002, a flight following the end of a WWE European tour that featured several infamous incidents that resulted in hefty penalties. While the late Curt Hennig challenging Brock Lesnar to a wrestling match which needed to be separated by several wrestlers and officials was bad enough, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Dustin Runnels, aka Goldust, attempted to serenade his ex-wife, Terri Runnels, over the plane’s intercom system which had to be put to an end by Jim Ross and eventually resulted in Goldust’s dismissal. Michael Hayes took a shot at Bradshaw, aka JBL, which resulted in Hayes being knocked unconscious and Sean Waltman cutting off his mullet in his sleep. Scott Hall was terminated for his excessive drinking upon seeing an open bar. To top it all off, Ric Flair strutted around in nothing but his ring robe and began flashing flight attendants with hopes of getting lucky. What a fun ride.
15. Joey Mercury’s Face Explodes
It’s a miracle there aren’t more instances like what happened to Joey Mercury in the 2006 Fatal-Fourway Ladder match at Armageddon considering the brutal nature of ladder matches. Along with partner Johhny Nitro, MNM participated in the match against Paul London and Brian Kendrick, Dave Taylor and William Regal, and The Hardy Boyz. During the match, Mercury was the subject of an unfortunate incident that saw him be struck in the face with a ladder, causing a surreal image as his severely broken nose and orbital bone painted a grotesque and bloody picture. Leaving the match immediately, Mercury was rushed to the emergency room and received over 30 stitches. The incident led to Mercury, an admitted drug user, becoming addicted to painkillers, resulting in his termination in 2007.
14. Miss Kitty Purposely Exposes Herself
Nothing quite personifies The Attitude Era for women like Miss Kitty’s 1999 Armageddon Women’s Championship victory. Facing Ivory, Jacqueline and Barbara “BB” Bush in a Four Corners Evening Gown Pool match refereed by The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young (good god, Vince), Miss Kitty claimed the win and the championship by stripping her opponents of their gowns. As part of her celebration, Miss Kitty began to strip from her dress and flashed her bare breasts to the crowd, marking the first instance of intentional nudity on WWE programming in the United States. Preferring not to wear underwear, Stacy Carter later revealed she didn’t like that WWE insisted she wore underwear for the match and felt it wasn’t fair on both her and the fans – so she flashed her breasts.
13. The Kat Purposely Exposes Herself Again
Back to our good friend Miss Kitty, now renamed The Kat, who returned to create another piece of wrestling genius by once again intentionally exposing her breasts to the crowd at Insurrextion in 2000. Following a bikini arm wrestling match (Vince. Come on. VINCE.) with Terri Runnels, which The Kat won thanks to Mae Young dumping water over Terri as a distraction, Terri took out her frustration by undoing the fishing wire that was holding up the flimsy piece of cloth covering The Kat’s chest. While initially attempting to cover up, The Kat began to parade her breasts for the crowd and then-husband Jerry Lawler, who sounded as though he may go into cardiac arrest.
12. Heidenreich and Michael Cole
WWE’s attempts to push their new psychotic character, Heidenreich, in 2004 resulted in what is easily one of the most awkward pieces of professional wrestling television. Heidenreich had already established a creepy persona, interfering in random matches and reciting angry poetry; all while managed by Paul Heyman, no less. During an episode of SmackDown!, Heidenreich attacked commentator Michael Cole and dragged him into an arena bathroom, giving the camera the perception that Cole was being sexually assaulted while being read poetry. Bizarrely, the scene led to Heidenreich feuding with The Undertaker. Go figure.
11. The Great Muta vs Hiroshi Hase
When a contest births a scale that is used to rate how much blood is lost in a professional wrestling match, you know there was probably a lot of blood. That would be an understatement in this case, as The Great Muta’s face became coated in a thick darkish-red that even began covering Hiroshi Hase with every exchange. Although some fans have claimed to have seen bloodier matches, this 1992 bout goes down in history for the invention of The Muta Scale, which set the bar dangerously high for all matches involving the crimson mask.
10. Lunchtime Suicide
There is often some sort of reasoning behind most terrible storylines and angles, but there is none when it comes to veteran WWE official, Tim White, repeatedly attempting to kill himself as part of a regular WWE.com series called Lunchtime Suicide. The series spawned from an interview during the 2005 Armageddon pay-per-view featuring White and Josh Mathews. The pair chatted away in the Friendly Tap, a bar White owned, discussing the injury that put White out of commission three years earlier. The interview quickly grew darker, with the obviously intoxicated White explaining how his wife and friends had left him and detailing his struggles with medical problems. White then pulled out a rifle and ordered Mathews to leave before walking out of the camera’s sight. Mathews began to scream as the gun went off, indicating that White had committed suicide. It was later explained that White dropped the gun and shot himself in the toe; however, WWE continued to air minute-long sketches of White trying to kill himself by ingesting rat poison, hanging himself, dropping a toaster in a bathtub and cutting his wrist. There were a total of 16 suicide attempts in all.
9. Sid Vicious and Arn Anderson
Wrestlers are often known to disagree behind the scenes, especially in the 1990s, but the altercation between Sid Vicious and Arn Anderson while the pair was working in WCW reached a whole new level. While spending some downtime in a bar while touring the UK, Sid and Anderson engaged in a drunken argument that went along the lines of Anderson claiming Sid was not “Four Horseman material” and Sid accusing Anderson of never being able to draw money. Later in the evening, Sid visited Anderson in his hotel room with an unconfirmed object and beat him with it. In retaliation, Anderson grabbed a pair of scissors which Sid eventually took from his grasp, proceeding to stab Anderson twenty times, while Sid himself was stabbed four times. After the brawl was broken up, both were rushed to hospital having lost a significant amount of blood. Sid would lose his job with WCW and the incident sparked Sid’s “Psycho” moniker during his time with WWE.
8. Nick Gage Severs An Artery
While CZW had toned down the constant blood brawls, the 2009 edition of the Tournament of Death played host to one of the most sickening incidents in history. As Nick Gage was thrown through a number of the 200 light tubes lining the ropes, he was stabbed in his underarm and consequently severed his brachial artery, resulting in an instant and significant blood loss. Hardcore wrestling is no stranger to arteries being cut open, but Gage’s experience is regarded as arguably the worst. Although he initially wanted to continue the match, Gage made it to the back and was airlifted to hospital and rushed into the operating room. Despite the serious injury, Gage returned to CZW just one week later.
7. Pillman’s Got A Gun
The infamous “Pillman’s got a gun” angle in 1996 is known for the significant real-to-life controversy it caused, and is often credited for officially kicking off The Attitude Era which led to WWE prevailing in the Monday Night War against WCW. Brian Pillman and Steve Austin were initially aligned together before splitting due to Pillman beginning to favour Austin’s nemesis, Bret Hart. After several weeks of feuding, Austin decided to track down an injured Pillman in his home as a camera crew captured Pillman’s friends and family protecting him. Austin eventually broke into the house and was met by Pillman producing a 9mm pistol. The camera feed was disrupted and faded to black, as Vince McMahon reported that he had heard “a couple of explosions” while fans around the world sat in disbelief. Transmission returned to show Austin being dragged from the house with Pillman screaming obscenities, including dropping the f-word which couldn’t be edited out due to it being live television. WWE received significant backlash, none more so than from the USA Network that broadcasted the event, having not been informed about the use of a gun beforehand.
6. Sick Nick Mondo’s Weed-Whacker Spot
To make something perfectly clear, deathmatch wrestling is stupid. It has always been stupid and it always will be stupid. Proof of this is Sick Nick Mondo’s match against Wifebeater (what a name) at Combat Zone Wrestling’s inaugural Tournament of Death Final, billed a 200 Light Tubes and Barbed Wire Ropes Deathmatch. CZW was known for being ultra-violent in its early years, but the final straw would feature a spot that is straight out of a horror film. While the continuous light tube shots received by each of the competitors were bad enough, Mondo found himself prone against the ropes while Wifebeater ran a weed-whacker across his exposed abdomen. In the DVD released at the end of his short five-year career, Mondo confirmed the weed-whacker spot was the most pain he felt in his career.
5. Live Sex Celebration
There’s nobody better at pulling off rated R like the Rated R Superstar, Edge. Like something straight out of a softcore x-rated movie, Edge and Lita decided to celebrate Edge’s first WWE Championship victory in 2006 with a live sex celebration the following night on Raw. After some incredibly awkward simulated foreplay, in which budding young men everywhere were treated to some accidental Lita boobage, Ric Flair interrupted the proceedings by criticising Edge’s sexual abilities before being on the receiving end of a con-chair-to. The segment earned Raw a 5.2 rating, the highest in over a year at the time.
4. The Sandman’s Crucifixion
As Raven’s feud with The Sandman intensified in 1996, having already begun with Raven brainwashing The Sandman’s real-life son Tyler into joining his cult, the pair faced off in a number of bloody matches. However, the most graphic was yet to come. After The Sandman claimed a victory, Raven would attack from behind and, with the assistance of Stevie Richards and the Blue Meanie, dragged a wooden cross out from under the ring and proceeded to tie up The Sandman before carrying him out of the building. It would be the first time the ECW fans were left speechless and after ECW officials realised they may have gone too far, Raven was ordered to break character and apologise to the crowd. As it turns out, this was the one show the religious Kurt Angle attended having been invited to join the company by Paul Heyman. After the incident, Angle threatened to sue Heyman and ECW if they ever showed the footage of him at the show.
3. Jacqueline Loses Her Top
Jacqueline Moore is no stranger to wardrobe malfunctions, but the seemingly scripted moment at WWE’s UK-only pay-per-view Capital Carnage takes the cake. After losing a mixed tag match when Sable picked up the pinfall victory, Jacqueline became enraged and attacked referee Tim White. As White stood up, Jacqueline clung to the ref and found herself positioned on his shoulders, allowing Sable to approach from behind and tear away Jacqueline’s loose-fitting top to expose her bare chest. The ‘mishap’ is credited as the first time WWE would show intentional nudity on any of its programming.
2. Mass Transit Incident
Graphic blood loss aside, the infamous Mass Transit Incident has become part of pro wrestling folklore for the circumstances that culminated in the violent display. At an ECW house show in late 1996, ECW owner and booker Paul Heyman was facing a dilemma: Axl Rotten had been scheduled to take with D-Von Dudley in a match against New Jack and Mustafa Saed, but could not attend due to having no means of transport to the show. Eric Kulas, a 17-year-old fan of the hardcore company, managed to convince Heyman he was a 19-year-old trained wrestler, of which he was neither. Performing as Mass Transit, Kulas asked New Jack to cut him open before the match as he had never done it himself. Complying with Kulas’ request, New Jack began to cut his forehead during the match, severing two arteries that caused significant blood loss and led to an unsuccessful lawsuit against Heyman and ECW.
1. New Jack Stabs William Jason Lane
No stranger to controversy, New Jack found himself in boiling hot water after a match for the Thunder Wrestling Federation against William Jason Lane in 2004. Claiming that Lane had punched him in the face twice and had been doing cocaine and drinking backstage, Jack took the opportunity to pull out a ‘metal object’ from his attire and proceeded to stab Lane 14 times. The event’s promoter, Maurice Williams, claimed that his promotion was family friendly and featured no blood when interviewed by police, prompting officers to believe the attack was unplanned. New Jack faced numerous charges including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault to commit murder.
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