As much as we hate to admit it, pro wrestling is as fake as it comes. Indeed, while the brawling may look real inside the ring, the fights, feuds and rumbles the discipline is known for are all carefully choreographed. But that’s not to say that everything in the sport is rehearsed ahead of time. In fact, reality often comes crashing down like a piledriver – and when it does, the results are shocking to say the least. These ten unscripted, insensitive or just plain outrageous moments, for example, will leave you squirming in disbelief.
10. Brian Pillman’s widow is grilled on live TV by Vince McMahon
On October 5, 1997, emerging WWE star Brian Pillman was found dead of a heart attack in a Minnesota hotel. Naturally, the 35-year-old’s passing shocked the wrestling world, and Vince McMahon went on to devote the following night’s Raw to the newcomer’s death. However, McMahon’s coverage sensationalized the tragedy to an unfortunate degree.
During the show, McMahon in fact conducted a live interview with Pillman’s grief-stricken widow Melanie – a move many considered insensitive. And while McMahon’s probing questions about Pillman’s drug use and Melanie’s children were hard enough to stomach, her breaking voice and blatant discomfort made this scene all the more upsetting.
9. Jeff Hardy turns up to the party high
As a known drug user with a prior conviction for narcotics possession, Jeff Hardy certainly had a bad reputation. But even then few expected his personal troubles to spill over into the ring. Nevertheless, his March 2011 headlining TNA Victory Road fight saw his hidden habits emerge front and center.
Turning up strung out and in no condition to perform, Hardy was booed by the audience. And, eventually, opponent Sting had to forcibly pin the brawler just 89 seconds into the match when his behavior became unbearable. Later, Hardy was imprisoned for ten days owing to drug violations.
8. CM Punk desecrates Paul Bearer’s ashes
Many wrestlers go to insane lengths to start a feud, but the rivalry between CM Punk and The Undertaker came to uncomfortable levels in 2013. Following the death of The Undertaker’s manager Paul Bearer, in fact, Punk began using his passing as a weapon. And that’s when things got really nasty…
During their WrestleMania clash in April, CM Punk brought an urn symbolizing Bearer’s ashes into the ring before proceeding to pour its contents over The Undertaker. Understandably, Bearer’s family were furious – and they even later claimed that event producers WWE had downplayed just how far the feud would go.
7. JBL lays some very real hurt on Blue Meanie
After discovering that the Blue Meanie had badmouthed him during a 2004 interview, JBL was adamant on getting revenge. And when the two met face to face in a 2005 ECW match, the loud-mouthed businessman decided quite literally against pulling any punches against his opponent.
As a result of JBL’s real blows, then, Blue Meanie was left with very real cuts and bruises. Indeed, the damage was so severe that Meanie contemplated pursuing legal action. And while the beef did manage to stay out of the courtroom, the WWE actually exploited the drama, turning their real-life feud into a ringside storyline.
6. CM Punk and Paul Heyman reenact Jerry Lawler’s almost fatal heart attack
While commentating live on air in 2012, Jerry Lawler suffered a near-fatal cardiac arrest. And upon his return to WWE later that year, the company unwisely decided to spin his illness into a story. To this end, moreover, CM Punk and Paul Heyman were all too happy to oblige.
After several minutes of Punk admonishing Lawler’s “attention-grabbing stunt” from the ring, Heyman then upped the ante by faking a similar on-stage attack. And though this was done with Lawler’s prior knowledge and consent, the tactless moment drew the ire of both fans and former superstars like Steve Austin and Lance Storm.
5. Eddie Guerrero is “in hell”
When it comes to trash talk, it seems that very little is off the table – even a beloved wrestler’s death. Following Eddie Guerrero’s passing in 2005, for example, fellow pro Randy Orton decided to use his memory against his dead rival – not to mention Guerrero’s buddy Rey Mysterio – just months later.
Facing off during an episode of SmackDown, Orton stared Mysterio down and yelled, “Eddie ain’t in heaven. He’s down there, in hell.” Naturally, the decision to tarnish a recently departed wrestler’s legacy left many feeling uncomfortable. Even Mick Foley admitted on his blog that the incident made him feel “weird.”
4. Daniel Puder almost breaks Kurt Angle’s arm
Though pro wrestling rarely features real combat, the moves that its performers pull are still deadly when executed right. This is a fact that Daniel Puder found out when he faced off against Kurt Angle in a 2004 SmackDown battle. Indeed, his style almost left his opponent hospitalized.
Yes, after Puder executed a kimura lock, Angle was unable to tap out. As a result, the then World Champion remained trapped in Puder’s grip – the force of which almost broke his arm. Fortunately, referee Jim Korderas ended the bout before any serious harm was done, but the damage it caused to Angle’s ego was nevertheless beyond repair.
3. WCW makes light of Owen Hart’s death
In undoubtedly the most tragic moment in WWE history, Owen Hart fell to his death during an abortive stunt at an Over the Edge event in Kansas City. And although the event was truly shocking, it pales in comparison to the WCW’s reaction one year later.
As part of the company’s Slamboree 2000, in fact, Chris Kanyon was left “paralyzed” after being tossed from a three-cage structure. And not only did the scripted stunt seem like a controversial reference to Hart’s death, but it also took place in the same arena that took his life. Tragically, ten years later Kanyon was found dead, aged just 40, in an apparent suicide
2. WWE writes a real-life love triangle into the show
Throughout its history, pro wrestling has featured more love triangles than a daytime soap. Most notably, the affair between Diva Lita and WWE superstars Edge and Matt Hardy led to one of the company’s most infamous feuds. But whereas most trysts are 100 percent scripted, this romance entanglement was unbearably real.
In 2005 Hardy discovered that Lita, his girlfriend of six years, was doing the dirty on him with his buddy Edge. And rather than heal the obvious rift, the WWE actually encouraged Lita to stay with Edge before engineering a rivalry between the two fighters. Talk about art imitating life.
1. Goldust and Marlena break up on screen
During the late ’90s, WWE planned a storyline involving Marlena leaving her then husband Goldust for Brian Pillman. But following Pillman’s 1997 death, producers instead looked for a new way to separate the superstar couple. What followed was a hasty and upsetting interview that eerily predicted the demise of the couple’s relationship.
Yes, while the pair chatted with Jim Ross, Goldust berated his then wife before handing her his wedding ring and calling their marriage quits. And though the entire interview was scripted, the argument seemed to have its basis in real life. Indeed, the feuding couple broke up for real just two years later.