WWE: 33 Most Controversial Moments in WWE History (w/ Video)
Professional wrestling, and the WWE for that matter, is nothing without the controversial moments that it causes. Whether it is the unexpected attack, the inappropriate words or the unspeakable actions, controversy keeps the company moving forward and the fans talking.
In fact, moments of controversy are so great and valuable to wrestling fans that times without it are often deemed boring or seen as not entertaining enough.
Each fan is a little bit different. There will be some moments on here that won't be seen as that big of a deal to some, while others may be mortified by the moment. There will even be some offended by omissions to this list of 33 controversial moments in WWE (as well as WCW, since it is owned by WWE).
For any omissions to this list, I fully expect hateful comments about leaving it out. I could say something controversial to those who don't like this article, but I like my job too much to really care about your negative thoughts.
Now that I am in the spirit of controversy, let's get on with the list.
33) Stone Cold Steve Austin Stuns Vince McMahon
If we are going to talk about controversy, we might as well start off with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, who pretty much has done whatever he wanted in any part of his WWE career. Vince McMahon, previously just a play-by-play announcer, was now known to be a real-life authority figure in WWE.
McMahon progressively became more involved in storylines on-camera, building up to this moment. It was going to be a big deal when McMahon got what was coming to him and had a superstar attack him physically. Leave that job to Austin.
In a classic Austin moment, The Texas Rattlesnake was pushed too far and struck with a Stunner on the boss. In storyline, this bought Austin a trip to jail. For the fans, it was the first time a superstar had the guts to stick up to McMahon as a boss.
Most people dream about doing to their own bosses what Austin did to him. McMahon would become more involved over the years. He also ended up learning to sell better. In any event, it was the first of its kind and a very big deal at the time.
32) David Arquette Wins WCW World Title
Actor David Arquette was appearing on WCW programming to promote the movie "Ready 2 Rumble." In the movie, Arquette is an avid WCW fan that helps his favorite wrestler win the world championship away from DDP.
In this storyline, Arquette tries to help DDP win the world title. He gets looped into a match with the man scoring the winning pinfall to be crowned champion.
Both Arquette and DDP have pinfalls at the same time, but the referee counts Arquette's pin attempt first, giving him the world championship.
This may not be as controversial as it is idiotic. Even WWE has brought in Kevin Federline to have a pinfall victory over John Cena, but giving a celebrity one of the promotion's championships is a very idiotic move.
31) The MSG Incident
Actors are always told to never break character. Wrestlers are told to do the exact same thing. On a night in Madison Square Garden after a cage match, four wrestlers and close friends came out and embraced one another in the ring.
Among the men were Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Triple H. The men have been referred to as The Kliq for being so tight backstage.
The main issue with this moment is that some of them were heel and others were face. That all went out the window since contracts were running out and it seemed like the last time the group of friends would be working together.
This would be fine if it weren't for the confused fans. Did the heels turn face? Did the faces turn heel? Fans were not aware at that time of contracts, so it was a confusing moment for everybody.
30) Mae Young Bares All
Pretty much any Diva-related segment went off like this at the time. The beautiful women were gonna be shown off in sexy bikinis. Mae Young, an old legendary female wrestler, would come out to try and compete and would end up winning.
The problem tonight stemmed from The Kat winning a similar contest and taking off her top. People were shocked that it happened, but Mae Young knew how to make everyone even more shocked. Mae decided to show off her "puppies" as well live on pay-per-view.
I'm still not sure if people in WWE knew she was planning it, but the crowd in New York City were certainly surprised. Many in attendance could probably have referred to THAT, not the previous slide, as the MSG Incident.
29) Vicne Russo Gives Hogan What He Wants
At Bash at the Beach, Hulk Hogan hoped to win another world championship, taking on Jeff Jarrett. We never really knew who could win that match because Jarrett was instructed to lay down so Hogan could win the title.
Hogan didn't know about it at the time, but Vince Russo, a head creative writer, instructed Jarrett to do so.
It would later come out that in Hogan's WCW contract, he can use creative control whenever he feels like. Hogan wanted to win that night and, after arguing about it, Russo humiliated Hogan with the moment. Hogan grabbed a mic to show his displeasure.
Another moment belonging on this list would be the Nitro after, where Russo cut a promo essentially firing Hogan on live television.
28) CM Punk Gets on GLAAD's Bad Side
During WWE's recent tour around Australia, CM Punk argued with fans in a classic heel way. Things are classically more loose and easygoing in house shows, especially international tours.
Random title changes occur and breaking storylines happen all the time. Heels are more heelish and faces can do no wrong.
CM Punk, on his way out of his WWE contract, was letting his heel side hang out. He got into it with some fans and embarrassed some rowdy male fans. It was classic CM Punk, until he got into some gay slurs.
When this video went viral, it hit the desks of those at GLAAD, who have had multiple problems with things said by WWE employees in past months.
Punk immediately went onto Twitter to issue an apology for his actions, but it did throw a wrench into the "will CM Punk re-sign or not" storyline when GLAAD had to be reassured that Punk was leaving the company after Money in the Bank.
27) Billy and Chuck Get Married
Speaking of GLAAD, they weren't too happy about the fake gay wedding between Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo. The underrated tag team always had a bromance with one another that eventually led to a wedding on Smackdown.
With an old man, who turned out to be Eric Bischoff, running the wedding, Rico and Stephanie McMahon watched as Billy and Chuck were set to tie the knot, until they stopped the gimmick.
Gunn and Palumbo basically stated that they were not actually gay and were doing this for publicity. Billy and Chuck were basically Chuck and Larry before Adam Sandler and Kevin James decided to make that average movie.
26) Owen Hart's Death
The following is the footage that showed on pay-per-view when Over the Edge aired on that tragic day. You can watch as Jim Ross previews the match with a video montage about Blue Blazer, which was the gimmick Owen Hart used at the time of his death.
After that, the production team cut to a backstage interview from earlier with Kevin Kelly and Owen Hart as his masked character. You can even hear Ross say "we got big problems out here."
For the remaining seven minutes of this video, there were no shots of the ring shown. Ross is given the daunting task of addressing the pay-per-view crowd and immediately broke kayfabe.
They even try to move on by showing promos for upcoming matches later on that night. After a few minutes more with Ross, Jerry "The King" Lawler comes back and all he can say is "it doesn't look good at all."
Don't bother looking for any video of the actual fall that Owen Hart took that night. Not only is it a disgusting act to want to see it, but it doesn't exist. Hart died from his fall, which is still under speculation in the minds of wrestling fans to this day.
The device that Hart was hooked onto has been speculated and Owen himself has been said to have released himself too early. We will never truly know what caused the tragic death of Owen Hart that tragic night in Kansas City.
25) Vince Russo Wins WCW World Title
Vince Russo did some stupid things in WCW. One of them was giving the world title to himself.
The match itself is as ridiculous as the outcome. Flair locked in his Figure Four submission hold, only to have Russo refuse to tap out to it for nearly a minute and 15 seconds.
I still don't understand how David Flair touching Vince Russo doesn't break the hold in the mind of Charles Robinson. The only thing that breaks the hold from Flair is a bath of blood that comes from the sky (seriously).
It doesn't make sense at all to not only give the championship to a guy like Vince Russo, especially by having him refuse to tap out to the previous champion's powerful submission hold.
Couple all of that with the random three counts by David Flair, Russo and Robinson and this is one of the crown jewels from a "Worst of WCW" DVD set.
24) Undertaker Returns, HHH Wins WWF Title
The change in gimmicks from The Undertaker to go from a demonic phenom to a biker dude is still one of the worst decisions in terms of gimmicks that I have ever seen done in WWE history. This moment was a great example of "Good Idea, Bad Idea."
Giving The Undertaker an important moment to return was a good idea. Having him come down as a face and helping a heel win a championship match was a bad idea.
Having all of Triple H's allies attack The Rock before The Undertaker came out was a good idea. Having them ignore his shocking return while still beating up The Rock was a bad idea.
Having Shawn Michaels as a referee who is unbiased is a good idea. Having someone attack Michaels and that not count as a DQ on someone's behalf is a bad idea.
23) Andre the Giant Wins WWF Title, Gives It Away
Hulk Hogan came into his championship match against Andre The Giant as the second-longest reigning champion in WWE history. He had held the world title for 1,747 days before losing it in this match.
With Ted DiBiase and Virgil at ringside, Andre avoided losing the match once and, before hitting an awful moved that was called a "suplex," Hogan kicks out after one and a half, but the referee keeps on counting.
After this video ended, Andre sold the championship to DiBiase. This led to the championship being held up and won by Randy Savage at WrestleMania IV.
22) DX's Press Conference
Remember when D-Generation X was so edgy that they were actually inappropriate with everything they said? This election speech is a classic early DX moment.
HHH was telling us about all the words they wouldn't say, even if their discipline didn't last long, and Shawn Michaels made a Bill Clinton joke. Classic.
21) Austin Gets Crucified
It's always a pretty bad idea to bring religion, especially dark religion to the television screen. The Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness did a good job of doing so without doing much that was controversial.
When they began to sacrifice people, however, it got to be a little much. While they also did this to Stephanie McMahon, I remember being younger and watching "Stone Cold" Steve Austin strapped to a crucifix and have him hang in the air.
I can see that Austin had handles to hold onto if there was a problem with it, but it was still a very dangerous thing to do for one of their top stars.
20) Mr. Kennedy Fired
Just ask Kofi Kingston what happens when you piss off Randy Orton. Mr. Kennedy also knows how it is to feel the wrath of Orton's true anger. Orton was then, and still is, a top star with a lot of pull backstage.
After Kennedy nearly injured Orton's wrist with this move, Kennedy was fired. Kennedy had a lot of fans on his side and seemed poised for a push to the main event finally. Orton ended that on this night.
I also found it ironic that Orton wore the Carmelo Anthony jersey in this Lakers vs. Nuggets match.
19) Wellness Policy Suspensions
Once the Wellness Policy went into effect a few years ago, there were a lot of wrestlers suspended for their drug usage. Among them was Jeff Hardy, who was Intercontinental Champion at the time.
Hardy was then booked off television for a few weeks and dropped the belt. However, not everyone was suspended.
Randy Orton had multiple reports linked to him, but WWE defended his actions by saying that they were before the Wellness Policy went into effect. The timing just didn't add up, especially when Orton was in such an important rivalry with John Cena.
When Cena got unexpectedly injured, Orton was necessary to keep on television and, despite having his name on top of list of suspended wrestlers, Orton actually won the WWE Championship in October 2007.
With multiple violations, Orton was supposed to be suspended at that time.
18) Vince McMahon Wins WWF Title
Just like Vince Russo becoming a champion, why bother giving Vince McMahon the WWF Championship? McMahon won the championship on an episode of Smackdown, despite being banned from WWE TV in a storyline.
He would vacate the championship on the following RAW, which was building up to a Six-Pack Challenge at Unforgiven.
The reason for vacating the title was only explained to be because he was banned from television. If he was truly banned, then why was he on there to win it in the first place?
17) Royal Rumble Co-Winners
In the 1994 Royal Rumble, it was down to Bret Hart and Lex Luger. It was America vs. Canada. Nobody was quite sure who won the match when the two went over the top rope and seemed to hit the ground at the same time.
Camera angles were never seen from that angle, so nobody ever knew. Hart and Luger are still the only co-winners in Royal Rumble history. Keep this in mind...
Nexus debuted on an episode of RAW during a match between CM Punk and John Cena. The eight men from the first season of NXT destroyed everything in their path, doing whatever they felt like.
One of the ideas that Daniel Bryan had was to take ring announcer Justin Roberts and choke him out with his own tie. This looked very awesome, but it wasn't expected.
Roberts didn't like it much and WWE brass didn't like it even more. Bryan really was fired for this act.
Can anyone truly be angry with Bryan for this move? It lasted just a few seconds, didn't do any major damage to Roberts, added to the moment of shock, and brought out the intensity and personality that critics have sworn that Bryan did not possess.
15) Muhammad Hassan Responds to Critics
Daniel Bryan may have had critics, but nobody had more critics in the past decade than Muhammad Hassan. Hassan was actually portrayed by an Italian man who dressed as an Arabic man. In his storyline with The Undertaker, Hassan had masked men attack The Deadman in what looked nearly terrorist-esque.
The problem was outside of WWE's control when critics brought a lot of heat onto the company after the London bombings took place right before the airing of the act. The segment was taped with the regular Smackdown schedule of Tuesdays, meaning that any relation was strictly coincidence.
Hassan came out and ripped a literal shoot on reporters who criticized him. It was absolutely real. What was also real was UPN not wanting Hassan's controversial gimmick on their station anymore. It led to Hassan being released in a very controversial course of events.
14) The Rock Wins Royal Rumble, Didn't He?
The Rock and Big Show were the final two men left in the 2000 Royal Rumble. As The Rock tried to eliminate Big Show, the two both went over the ropes. Big Show fell to the floor and The Rock held onto the rope. The Rock wins the Rumble, right? Well, maybe not.
Tapes that were shown later on would reveal that The Rock's feet did actually hit the floor first. After weeks of talking about it, video proof was shown that Big Show actually did win the match. The record books still show The Rock as the winner of the 2000 Royal Rumble.
13) John Cena Wins Royal Rumble... Right?
Speaking of controversial endings to Royal Rumbles, John Cena and Batista faced one another as the last two in the 2005 Royal Rumble. As Batista went for a Batista Bomb, Cena's weight forced both men to fall backwards over the ropes and out.
After watching video proof, you can see that Batista had both of his feet hit the ground before Cena had his second foot hit the ground. With referees confused, Vince McMahon came out upset and had the match restarted. Getting into the ring, McMahon hurt his leg.
It doesn't make sense that ties in the Royal Rumble match were allowed years before, but not at that moment. Batista ended up winning the restart, much to the dismay of Cena.
If you watch Cena after the match, he seems so animated about the result that it may have been Cena that could have won that match. Either that or John Cena did a great acting job. Yeah, probably that first one...
12) Kane Wins WWF Championship
Kane was a very destructive man upon his debut. Once he was finally going after the world title, he was a force to be reckoned with. Kane faced the champion, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in a First Blood match for the title. Basically, the first person to bleed would lose.
Considering that Kane had virtually no exposed skin at that point in his career, he had the advantage. Austin was also fighting a staph infection and Kane threatened to set himself on fire if he lost.
Austin got a cut on his back early on in the match, but the commentators kept blowing that off as not bloody enough to win a First Blood Match. Someone should tell Samoa Joe about that.
It would take an attack from The Undertaker, who was aiming for Kane, to hit Austin with a plastic chair. Instead of losing the title for one day off of a scrape from the lowered Hell in a Cell, getting hit accidentally by a plastic chair is certainly the better alternative to drop a title.
11) Undertaker Gets Screwed
The Undertaker has gone his entire career in WWE without officially losing a match by tapping out. There was only one instance where The Undertaker tapped to a submission hold by Kurt Angle, but Angle was being pinned at the same time, so the match was labeled a draw.
At Breaking Point, CM Punk tried to have The Undertaker submit to his Anaconda Vise submission hold. The Undertaker countered with his Hell's Gate triangle choke.
Punk tapped to Hell's Gate to win the World Heavyweight Championship, but Smackdown general manager Teddy Long announced that the hold had been banned previously, so the match had to continue.
As the Anaconda Vice was being locked in, the bell rang and Punk ran out with the title. Keep in mind that they were in Montreal, the site of a similar moment that we will get to later.
10) Goldberg Gets Tased
Goldberg's undefeated streak was one of the most impressive streaks in wrestling history. Eventually, it had to end. It did at Starrcade, when Goldberg was tased in order to lose the title to Kevin Nash. At this point, Golberg was 173-0.
After Scott Hall tased Goldberg, Nash was able to beat him for the WCW Championship. It would be one of the rare losses in Goldberg's wrestling career.
I know that he needed to lose and fans were actually happy when he lost. Did it have to include a taser in order to happen, though?
9) Joey Styles Shoots
Joey Styles is a beloved commentator for many wrestling fans. The job he did in ECW is still revered as one of the reasons that the extreme promotion was as successful and memorable as it was.
When he came to WWE, it was a little odd. He just didn't fit. His style was more centered around the match, while WWE has always been more about the story.
Styles addressed all of this in his shoot promo that would have him quit in order to pop up to the ECW brand. His points were very valid and his argument had to have some truth to Styles' opinion on the company.
Even if Joey never really left the company and still works at WWE.com, there's gotta be a part of Styles that still lives from the ECW days that can look at WWE's style of commentary with displeasure.
8) Randy Orton: "Eddie Is in Hell"
Eddie Guerrero's shocking death meant that storylines had to be changed. Guerrero was scheduled to become a world champion but died a short time before then. It would lead to new stories being told and a new top star being developed.
It ended up being Rey Mysterio, a close friend of Eddie's. Mysterio has been criticized for using his friend's death to further the career, but the storyline as a whole rubbed many people the wrong way.
A good example of this was when Randy Orton had a segment in the ring with Mysterio and said that Eddie Guerrero was in hell. Comments like that, among others, simply don't have a place to be said.
7) CM Punk Shoots
This shoot promo has been discussed so much in the last few weeks that there isn't much more to say. We know that it was controversial.
If you don't know that, then you obviously need to listen to the promo in order to understand.
6) Big Boss Man Hanging on Hell in a Cell
Remember when we said that Austin getting crucified by The Undertaker was inappropriate? It gets worse. Try having Big Boss Man lose to The Undertaker in a Hell In A Cell match at WrestleMania XV and get a noose thrown around his neck.
Then, let's have that noose tied to the cell as the cell is risen back up to the rafters. Essentially, Big Boss Man was lynched at WrestleMania.
Even if lynching had went out of style some three decades prior, it is still a very uneasy feeling to see someone hanging in the air by a rope tied around their neck.
5) The Medusa Stunt
The Monday Night Wars have been widely publicized as WCW and the then-WWF did battle in the ratings. For the most part, it started off harmless with each brand trying to do their own thing.
The companies didn't really get into trying to acknowledge and one-up another until superstars left one company for the other. The biggest early shot was the Madusa Stunt.
Alundra Blayze was a three-time Women's Champion in WWE as they revived their women's division. Blayze, known as Medusa (abbreviated from Made in the USA), was released from her contract in 1995 while she was still Women's Champion.
Blayze was released for financial hardships and the title was defunct again until 1998. Blayze, on the other hand, would move to WCW and use her trademarked Madusa name. She brought the WWF Women's Championship belt onto her first reappearance with WCW and threw the belt in the garbage.
It was one of the most disrespectful things to do, even if it was a defunct belt, because it isn't that promotion's property. It certainly set any plans for a war into motion.
4) WWE Forgets Chris Benoit
WWE was trying to write off Mr. McMahon by having him blow up in his limo. On a night that was supposed to be a "memorial" for McMahon, it turned out to be an actual memorial for Chris Benoit, who was found dead earlier that day.
A three-hour RAW that was already planned went off without a hitch as it was all centered around Benoit.
As the night wore on and into Tuesday morning, details about Benoit's actions came to light. In order to separate themselves from such an act, WWE and Vince McMahon released that video statement before the episode of ECW.
This was the best quality I could find. While McMahon can call Benoit an all-time great on Monday, there will be no mention of him on Tuesday. Basically, WWE backed away from the messy situation and refused to acknowledge any support toward Benoit or his actions.
3) Katie Vick
This was just a sick storyline. Kane is pursuing Triple H and his World Heavyweight Championship. HHH makes up a story about how Katie Vick, a girl Kane used to date and a girl who tragically passed away, had one more romantic experience with The Big Red Machine. The problem is that Vick was not alive for it.
Yes, that's right. Kane was accused of having sex with a dead body. What made it worse was that HHH tried to dress like him to show photo evidence.
It is still viewed as one of the most twisted and insensitive storylines in recent memory. It's hard to believe anyone would be on board with such a story.
2) Wendi Richter Screwjob
Often called the Original Screwjob, Wendi Richter got a bad hand dealt to her on this night. Richter was the Women's Champion and was having trouble signing a new contract.
In a match at Madison Square Garden in 1985, Richter was slated to wrestle a masked opponent called The Spider Lady. Richter was unaware of who the woman was.
As the match went on, The Spider Lady went to piin Richter and the referee, who was in on it, counted through to end the match and take the title from Richter.
Richter would later reveal The Fabulous Moolah as The Spider Lady. Even though she was out of the loop, Richter kicked out and wanted to continue the match.
Richter would go nearly a quarter century without talking to either McMahon or Moolah. Richter has since resolved it, getting elected into the Hall of Fame last year.
1) Montreal Screwjob
What a shocker here.
Basically, it changed the way that both WCW and WWE operated. This was such a terrible screwjob to put on, especially in the home country of Bret Hart.
We have all heard this story and seen this clip. I encourage you all to look for any documentaries there.
They may not all be exciting, but there is a lot of information about the wrestling business, including this very odd and controversial moment.