WWE has never been known as the height of refinement, manners, or taste. We as fans don't expect it to be. We watch for displays of aggression, for "holy sh*t!" moves, and for half-naked people, which we get plenty for either gender. We watch to have fun, and to watch other people have fun for a living.
Occasionally, though, there are moments of...well, to borrow a popular Internet meme, "fail." Not just the usual garden variety screw-ups, flubs, and bloopers, but nearly inexcusable poor judgment. Though there have been countdowns of screw-ups before on this and other sports-entertainment sites, I think each of these stand up well as examples of forehead-slapping, "how could this happen?" types of mistakes.
Employees quit or get fired in any business. Usually, they go, or are let go, and we get on with our lives. Not so in the WWE Universe.
Whenever Vince McMahon really gets upset with an employee, they get even more "star" treatment. Namely, Vince will call you out publicly, talk smack about you on a DVD, or if he really doesn't like you, he'll dedicate a whole DVD to not liking you. It all began with the infamous "Bret Screwed Bret" interview after the 1997 Survivor Series. Vince gave the interview justifying his company's actions by saying Bret was uncooperative in what he said was a pre-determined outcome. However, in Bret Hart's documentary "Bret Hart: Wrestling With Shadows," it's clear that Hart was told he would win.
About a decade later, after the WCW/ECW Invasion storyline, Stone Cold Steve Austin didn't like where his character was headed, having become a guitar-picking, Mr. McMahon-loving toadie. Austin left, and Vince once again interviewed on Raw that Austin was difficult to work with, and having Austin's friend, commentator Jim Ross tell the viewing audience that "he took his ball and went home," after Austin no-showed for that episode of Raw.
Sunny (Tammy Lynn Sytch) had been out of WWE for well over a decade when the DVD "WWE The World's Greatest Managers" came out, and Vince once again couldn't resist going into his former employee's departure, talking about how Sunny believed her own hype and had a drug problem, a segment that went on for a good five minutes.
The piece de resistance, however, was The Ultimate Warrior's DVD, "The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior", a veritable character assassination that took 180 minutes. For those of you counting, that's three hours of everyone from Vince McMahon to Tom "Brother Love" Pritchard to Triple H talking about the supposed wreck of The Ultimate Warrior's career. Jim Hellwig, who had legally changed his name to "Warrior" sued Vince over the video for ruining his career, but the case was dismissed.
And the funny thing about all of this? With the exception of Warrior, all parties that WWE has called out in such a fashion have all come back to the company. Bret was the center of the last WrestleMania; Steve Austin is hosting the upcoming USA Network re-boot of "Tough Enough;" and Sunny has been slated to be inducted in the 2011 class of the WWE Hall of Fame.
But Vince, seriously? Just let it go.
There are bad choices, then there are just sleazy choices. The Edge and Lita affair was already a real-life issue with fans, especially Matt Hardy fans. Just when you thought it couldn't get sleazier, Edge and Lita (read: WWE writers) would pull another stunt.
From Lita (kayfabe) cheating on her "husband" Kane with Edge, to Lita flushing her wedding ring down the toilet, to Lita announcing Kane was, ahem, ill-equipped, it just seemed like the storyline defined the term "ill-advised." Then, it got worse.
Edge won the World title from John Cena by cashing in his Money in the Bank contract, and decided to "celebrate" the win by having a "live sex celebration" on Raw. There it was: a black satin-draped bed, and Lita and Edge came down to the ring and began to undress each other, bumping and grinding throughout.
Making this more uncomfortable, was that viewers were aware that only scant months before, Lita had cheated in real life on Matt Hardy, her boyfriend at the time, to be with Edge. Ric Flair, then John Cena each broke up the segment, but the piece lives on in infamy.
Progressive or foolhardy? However you as a viewer perceived it, it was something that we'd never seen on WWE programming before: two men marrying each other on live TV. Out of all the weddings, both complete and interrupted WWE has put on, this was the one everyone remembers.
There once were two wrestlers: "Bad Ass" Billy Gunn (sure sounds better than Monty Sopp), and Chuck Palumbo. The WCW/ECW Invasion storyline was winding down, and WCW had excommunicated Palumbo. Palumbo teamed with Gunn and they began to make a mark in the show. However, there began to be little things that caught the viewers' attention.
Their trunks got smaller and tighter, and went from regular spandex to shiny PVC. Italian-born Palumbo's coal-black locks were suddenly platinum-blond and pulled into Pocahontas-style braids. Their music became the suggestive "You Look So Good To Me," and they got themselves a manager, a hairdresser named "Rico." Billy and Chuck began to hug and find themselves in suggestive holds. The audience was left to wonder, "What else could they possibly say, without coming out and saying it?"
Billy and Chuck answered this query by proposing to be, as they put it, "partners for life." Adding fuel to furor over the storyline was the reveal that WWE had consulted with GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) for the storyline. Would they....really?
Then SmackDown! came on and there was a gazebo set up in the ring. Stephanie McMahon stood beaming in the ring as a witness to the pair. There was even a priest! Billy and Chuck came to the ring in matching tuxedos, smiling and the ceremony began. However, midway through the vows, Billy and Chuck broke up the event, telling the crowd that their manager, Rico, put them up to it. The priest was revealed to be Eric Bischoff in a disguise and Rosie and Jamal came in the beat up Billy and Chuck.
Gunn was last seen on TNA as "Cute Kip." Palumbo has been working in his own custom bike shop.
The previous slide is what makes the current slide so ironic. The Rock was tapped to host WrestleMania 27, and immediately lit into John Cena. Cena responded by returning to his "thuganomics" gimmick, and did a rap talking about how The Rock left the fans "high and dry/To play a fairy with a tooth?" and "he wore lipstick in 'Be Cool' and a skirt in 'The Game Plan.'"
Pick a different insult, guys.
"Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase really didn't need to try to be more insulting. He was already exploiting every "fat cat" stereotype of '80s greed, being shown in limousines and Rolls-Royces, getting on the mike and insulting the fans for their lack of class and status, stuffing $100 bills in opponents' mouths, and being trailed by a silent black bodyguard/manservant Virgil (Mike Jones).
Virgil was the target of DiBiase's taunts shortly before SummerSlam 1991, being shown in segments in which DiBiase ordered Virgil to clean his toenail fungus, wipe mud off his boots, and pick up fallen money. And there was at least one instance in which DiBiase called Virgil "boy."
Virgil prevailed at SummerSlam 1991, but Bobby Heenan stepped on Virgil's victory by claiming "the next time you see that belt, it will be hanging from the mirror of a 1979 Caddy driven by Virgil."
(Video is part of a playlist; the next video is the conclusion of the match and Heenan's remarks.)
During John Cena's "thuganomics" gimmick, Vince decided to prove to the audience he could be "down" too. The video speaks for itself.
Any fan worth his salt knows about the "Montreal Screwjob:" There were agreements made and reneged upon.
A poorly-executed version of Bret Hart's signature finisher, the Sharp Shooter, was used by his opponent, Shawn Michaels. A quick bell, with Vince McMahon hustling Earl Hebner and Shawn Michaels the hell out of town. Bret Hart trying to figure out what the hell happened. This has been a long-standing example of what's wrong with WWE in some opinions.
Vince got a lot of mileage out of it: he got a heel turn for himself, a warning to the performers about going to the WCW, and years of storylines. Which brings me to...
For everything the WWE got out of the Montreal Screwjob, we got endless references to that particular night, seemingly for time immemorial. From the "Bret Screwed Bret" promo, to the creation of the "Mr. McMahon" character, to the promotion of the Bret Hart box set, the Hart Family box set, Shawn Michaels' spiritual awakening, Shawn Michaels' employment with JBL, The Hart Dynasty's appearance in the WWE, Bret Hart's return to the WWE, WrestleMania 26, and so on. It's old-fashioned ring politics, and it's been part of a good portion of WWE storylines, both directly and tangentially, for 13 years.
We get it. Vince Screwed Bret. One can hope that WrestleMania 26 was the end of the whole storyline.
Once upon a time, Vickie Guerrero was the long-suffering spouse of Eddie Guerrero, who had well-documented issues with alcohol, but had overcome them and reconciled with his family.
Vickie had a limited cameo appearance on different WWE shows during the ill-advised "Who's Domenick's real dad?" storyline, begging Eddie to not spill the (kayfabe) paternity secret involving Rey Mysterio's family. Eddie died in November 2005, and a little over six months later, Vickie found herself with a new job: being the most shrill shrew you'd ever met on WWE.
Now, I'm not going to speculate about Vince McMahon's reasoning for creating Vickie's character on the show. All I know is that the woman who is closest to Eddie's personal legacy since his passing has gone on to make out with Edge, The Big Show, Dolph Ziggler, and screech like a harpy. In short, Vickie gets paid to look like an idiot.
Maybe Vince should just consider a pension fund.
It seemed so simple: come down the line, land in the ring. Other performers had done it, including Shawn Michaels and Sting. However, due to an unforeseen problem, the stunt ended up being the end of the life of Owen Hart.
There have been many opinions about what happened that night in the Kemper Arena in Kansas City.
Though WWE cancelled some following shows and didn't release Over the Edge 1999 as a home video, the footage is still available online. Several of the following shows were canceled and Raw the following night was converted to a memorial, but many, including myself, remain of the opinion that the show should have ended the minute they realized Owen Hart had been mortally hurt. I think the fans would have understood.
A counterpoint to Over the Edge, is Vengeance: Night of Champions. Now the story is almost four years old, but at the time, no one knew what happened to cause the absence of Chris Benoit. There were calls and texts sent to several WWE employees, including Chavo Guerrero, from Benoit.
Though there were several media outlets, most notably Wikipedia, who had already had reports of the Benoit family's deaths even before Vengeance had ended, no one in the arena knew what was going on, except that Chris Benoit was supposed to face CM Punk, and they were vocal about their dissatisfaction that Benoit was replaced by Johnny Nitro, now John Morrison.
Audible during the Nitro/Punk match is the audience chanting: "We want Benoit!" Either they didn't know Benoit would not be in attendance, or they knew and didn't care.
Just like with Owen Hart's passing, they wouldn't know until the next day. Unlike with Hart, however, the crowd was recorded for posterity, and the video was marketed as usual the following month.
If there was something that should have been handled with kid gloves, it was in the coverage of the tragedy of the Benoit family. Let me just say for the record: I cannot blame WWE, the writers, or Vince McMahon for the way this all shook out. No one knew the circumstances surrounding the unexpected deaths, and there was no way to know that Chris Benoit himself may have been involved.
Let me say it again: there was no way to know.
That being said, if there was ever a string of bad luck surrounding one period of time, it was June 2007 for the WWE and more importantly, for those closest to the Benoit family.
The weekend of Vengeance: Night of Champions, the Benoit family was murdered, and not knowing Chris Benoit was involved, the WWE did what it normally does in the event of one of their performers passing: They put together a memorial show.
Vince even cleared the arena for the show, opting to make it a clip show. Under normal circumstances, it was to be expected. But these were not normal circumstances.
The facts of those deaths came to light, less than a day later.
The WWE was then forced to do something it almost never does: post a retraction.
In the end, there was no way to see the future, no crystal ball in which anyone could look to know what was going on, to know how to proceed appropriately. Given what they knew at the time, it was handled as well as could be expected.
Looking back, however, watching the tribute show is like watching a car crash on video: you know what is about to happen, and you want to say something, but you just can't.
There will always be these moments in life, not just in sports entertainment. The best thing to do is to learn from it.
I'm sorry I couldn't end this on a funnier or lighter note.