WWE/TNA: The 30 Biggest Scandals in Pro Wrestling History
Given how dangerous and deadly the pro wrestling industry is, while still maintaining its share of profitability, the opportunity for scandal is virtually endless.
No story can be told about any major pro wrestling promotion without the mention of a major scandal that rocked its foundation.
Ranging from unbearably tragic to inadvertently comedic, pro wrestling scandals always serve as a humanizing reminder that the over-the-top professional wrestling business isn't any less vulnerable than similar enterprises in sports or entertainment.
30. Kharma Gets Pregnant in the Midst of a Hot Diva Run
Kia Stevens was the hottest diva in years from the moment she hit the scene as the WWE's
imposing female presence. With Kane-like domination, Stevens, known as Kharma, squashed every
WWE Diva put in her path much to the delight of viewing audiences.
But one night, Stevens was booked to kneel in the middle of the ring and begin sobbing in front of a handful of Divas, many of whom she had previously attacked.
It was later revealed that Kharma was pregnant and was forced to take a leave of absence to have her baby.
Learning their lesson form the Dawn Marie incident, Kharma is still under contract with the WWE, although her post-pregnancy future with the company remains uncertain.
29. Arn Anderson, Sid, and a Vicious Stabbing in the United Kingdom
In 1993, Sid Vicious and Arn Anderson were involved in a vicious brawl in Blackburn, Lancashire, involving scissors, that resulted in a total of 24 stab wounds, with 20 of them taken by the Enforcer.
Vicious, who was in the midst of a main-event WCW Heavyweight title push, was subsequently released by the company only to resurface in the WWE years later.
Miraculously, Anderson lived through every violent stab thrown by Sid, and both individuals were rushed to the hospital following the massacre.
28. Ken Patera and Masa Saito Arrested After Incident at McDonald's
In April 1984, former WWE Superstars Ken Patera and Masa Saito were arrested following an incident at a McDonald's where the two threw boulders at the restaurant after being refused service.
Following their subsequent battery of a peace officer, the two were arrested and sentenced to two years of prison.
27. WWE Legend Eddie Guerrero Passes Away Following Heart Failure
Popular WWE Superstar and former WWE Champion Eddie Guerrero died of a heart attack in his hotel room following a heart disease linked to steroid abuse.
Suffering from the effects of a "wrestler's heart," Guerrero died in his sleep on a day where he was reportedly scheduled to win the WWE Championship.
The WWE would not face nearly as much scrutiny for this particular death as they would for subsequent, more controversial deaths, however Guerrero was registered as yet another tally in the body count of wrestlers who died prematurely.
26. Kerry Von Erich Commits Suicide
The Von Erich family is the WWE equivalent to the Kennedys, except with more substance abuse.
Tragedies that have rocked the foundation of an otherwise legendary pro wrestling family include the childhood death of Jack Jr. followed by the premature deaths of David Von Erich, Kerry Von Erich, Chris Von Erich and Mike Von Erich, with the latter two committing suicide.
The Von Erich tragedy that was most poignant was the suicide of former World Champion Kerry Von Erich, whose struggles with substance abuse overcame him. Von Erich took his own life with a revolver gun in Denton County, Texas.
25. Donald Trump "Buys" RAW, Sells RAW
Vince McMahon's purchase of RAW, in a storyline that featured Donald Trump, was the beginning of what looked to be a hugely intriguing storyline on RAW.
Following an episode of RAW where Trump announced he was buying RAW, WWE's always-ignorant investors panicked, thinking the whole ordeal was real.
WWE's stock begun to take a hit as a result of the storyline, forcing McMahon to "buy back" Monday Night RAW on the highly rated, commercial-free episode just one week after Trump announced his purchase of RAW.
24. Rob Van Dam Pulled over for Possession of Marijuana as WWE Champion
Rob Van Dam received one of the strongest backings from the Internet crowd as a
WWE Superstar who should get a run with the company's main championship. The fans' wishes were eventually granted, following an emotional victory over John Cena at ECW One Night Stand in 2006.
Unfortunately, Van Dam was busted shortly after for possession of marijuana alongside longtime tag-team partner and ally Sabu.
The arrest would lead to the subsequent stripping of both the ECW Championship and the WWE Championships, which Van Dam simultaneously held, as well as a 30-day suspension for Van Dam.
23. Brian Pillman Dies of Heart Condition
Brian Pillman's death was one of the first major pro wrestling deaths that raised familiar questions of
the questionable lifestyle demanded by WWE Superstars, which in turn leads to a violent mix of dangerous substances.
Pillman's sudden death following a heart attack was handled rather nonchalantly by the WWE as they dedicated a segment on RAW to the fallen superstar before escaping ridicule rather seamlessly.
Following the ensuing deaths of the likes of Chris Benoit, Lance Cade and Eddie Guerrero, the company wouldn't be so fortunate.
22. Randy Savage and Stephanie McMahon's "Did They or Didn't They?"
While this particular scandal will forever remain a mystery, it is so entrenched in pro wrestling lore that it has to be considered as a scandal because of its prevailing ambiguity.
Following his departure from WWE in 1994, the smart money would have been on Savage eventually returning to the company like so many of Vince McMahon's enemies have as the returns resulted in better business for the WWE.
Despite having everyone from Eric Bischoff, to Hulk Hogan, to Sable appearing in or returning to the WWE following respective attempts to put McMahon out of business and sue the WWE, McMahon never did business with Randy Savage again following his departure.
21. Vince McMahon Accused of Sexual Assault of a Tanzabar Employee in Florida
Vince McMahon was accused of sexual harassment in 2006 after allegedly accosting an employee of a tanning salon in Boca Raton, Fla. McMahon allegedly showed an employee of Tanzabar inappropriate photographs while physically preventing her from evading his aggressive sexual advances.
No charges would be filed against McMahon stemming from the incident.
20. Lance Cade Passes Away During Linda McMahon's Hotly Contested Campaign
Lance Cade's death was sadly another in the string of premature pro wrestling deaths, however it couldn't have come at a worse time for the WWE, as former CEO Linda McMahon was neck-deep in a campaign for U.S. Senate.
The untimely death became yet another hurdle for Linda McMahon to overcome, and contributed to a continuously negative perception of the upstart candidate, who eventually lost to Democrat Richard Blumenthal.
Cade's struggles with substance abuse were well documented, as he was fired from the company after suffering a seizure on an airplane in what was easily identifiable as an incident related to the abuse of banned substances.
Cade would eventually return to the company, only to be released shortly after prior to his 2010 death.
19. Ric Flair, Scott Hall, Mr. Perfect and the Plane Ride from Hell
The plane ride from Hell was a scandal that could have been a whole lot worse than it actually was.
During an ominous plane ride in 2002, WWE Superstars treated the trip like a party cruise rather than a plane ride as unwanted sexual advances, drunken serenades, steroid abuse, and rambunctiousness defined a trip that would result in the subsequent firings of "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig and Scott Hall.
18. The Plane Crash That Nearly Claimed Ric Flair's Career
In a plane crash that nearly changed wrestling history, took the life of its pilot, and paralyzed wrestler Johnny Valentine, Ric Flair was among the lucky survivors.
Despite breaking his back in three places and being told by doctors he would never wrestle again, Flair would tweak his wrestling style and go on to enjoy perhaps the greatest wrestling career of all time.
17. Shawn Michaels Gets Assaulted by Marines in Syracuse
Shawn Michaels' cocky attitude landed him in hot water with a generous handful of Marines, who beat the former WWE Champion so badly in a bar one night in Syracuse he was forced to vacate his Intercontinental Championship and take time off to heal.
While at a bar in Syracuse, Michaels had allegedly mouthed off to a group of Marines while flirting with a lady who belonged to that party.
Following a one-sided brawl and subsequent vacating of the Intercontinental Championship, Michaels would flirt with retirement before returning for a world championship push that culminated in a WrestleMania XII win over Bret Hart.
16. Phillips Fired, Patterson and Garvin Resign Following Sex Scandal
Ring announcer Mel Phillips, former WWE Superstar Terry Garvin, and WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson were at the center of a sex scandal of 1992 as former ring attendant Tom Cole came forward alleging sexual misconduct from Phillips and Garvin.
In response to an ensuing media backlash, the allegation forced Garvin and longtime friend, and fellow homosexual, Patterson to resign from their posts while Phillips was fired.
Cole eventually came to a settlement agreement with Vince McMahon and the WWE.
15. Former Female Ref Rita Chatterton Alleges Sexual Harassment Against McMahon
Before Sable, there was former WWE referee Rita Chatterton, the first female referee in the history of WWE. Chatterton infamously appeared on Geraldo Rivera's television show Now It Can Be Told, where she claimed she was sexually harassed by Vince McMahon.
Chatterton claimed she was forced to perform oral sex on McMahon in a limousine, and also made more serious allegations of rape. No formal charges would be made regarding McMahon's alleged sexual advances.
14. Miss Elizabeth Dies Following Drug Overdose
Pro wrestling's original sweetheart, Miss Elizabeth, died following a drug overdose while at a home occupied by her and former WWE and WCW superstar Lex Luger.
Luger was found to have been an enabler of sorts, as he had provided her with what would be a toxic combination of narcotics...the abuse of which claimed her life.
Luger would be charged 14 counts of drug possession that led to a brief stint in jail followed by five years of probation.
13. Sting Defeats Jeff Hardy in Seconds at Victory Road as Hardy Battles Demons
Jeff Hardy's problems follow him wherever he goes regardless of who is foolish enough to employ him.
While with TNA/Impact Wrestlng, Hardy's problems with substance abuse hit a new low as he
worked a sham of a main event against Sting after showing up to the building in no condition to perform.
TNA was forced to compensate the 12 fans who bought the show by allowing free access to their video on-demand library for six months, and Hardy was subsequently suspended indefinitely.
Hardy has since recently returned to the company and continues to compete for Impact Wrestling.
12. Titan Sports Sues WCW over NWO Storyline
With their backs against the wall during the WCW's mid-'90s surge, Vince McMahon and Titan Sports retaliated against the WCW's red-hot NWO storyline by suing the company for portraying the principle characters of NWO (Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) as renegade WWE employees.
With Titan Sports claiming that Hall was portraying a character he made famous in the WWE, WCW countered by claiming this was a character he had previously portrayed while originally in WCW as the Diamond Studd.
After the lawsuit dragged on for YEARS, both sides agreed to settle out of court as an edict was created that WWE would have the option of buying out the company should it ever be up for liquidation.
11. Bruiser Brody Stabbed to Death Following Disagreement with Promoter
Bruiser Brody was a staple of pro wrestling in the territory era, and his life came to a tragic halt following a
bloody altercation that occurred backstage at a pro wrestling event in Puerto Rico.
Brody was stabbed to death after a disagreement with a promoter in Puerto Rico, and the fall of a popular wrestling cult icon spoke to a darker side of the wrestling business.
10. Signature Pharmacy Scandal Incriminates Multiple Top Superstars
Yet another steroid scandal, this time in 2007, resulted in an array of wrestlers suspended for
being linked to a Florida pharmacy that was a storefront for steroid distribution.
Among many of the household names on the Signature Pharmacy distribution list were Kurt Angle, John Morrison, Batista, Edge and Booker T.
The subsequent suspension of Booker T, who vehemently maintained his innocence, despite WWE going to bat for Batista who also claimed innocence, led to the departure of Booker T from the company in 2007.
This was a much milder version of the WWE's more serious steroid scandals of 1994 that almost resulted in the imprisonment of Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
9. Dawn Marie Sues for Wrongful Termination After Being Fired During Pregnancy
Former WWE Diva Dawn Marie filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the WWE that would forever make the promotion think twice about who and how they terminated.
While on leave due to pregnancy, the diva was promptly released by the company, which sparked a lawsuit and subsequent negative media attention.
Since incidents such as the wrongful termination episode also spell adverse effects for the WWE politically (i.e. Linda McMahon's campaign), it is pretty safe to assume that the company will never fire one of their female performers while pregnant again.
8. Austin and Pillman's Controversial Segment Nearly Causes Cancellation of RAW
The infamous segment shot in Brian Pillman's home in 1996, which culminated in Pillman pulling a firearm on Austin and threatening to kill the Rattlesnake, lead to severe backlash from USA network that almost resulted in the cancellation of Monday Night RAW.
Despite averting catastrophe through the wonderment of public apologies, the WWE used the buzz generated by this incident to begin shooting more real-life angles that were a far cry from its once-traditional family-friendly programming.
7. Owen Hart Dies During Entrance at WWE Over the Edge
Owen Hart's shocking and untimely death served as a reminder of the mortality of all sports entertainers--even those who live a clean lifestyle.
At WWE's Over the Edge pay-per-view event of 1999, Hart tragically fell to his death as a stunt under the Blue Blazer gimmick went awry.
Hart plummeted into the ring, landing on a turnbuckle and dying soon after. Hart's wife, Martha Hart, has since distanced herself from the WWE, and Owen's well-deserved spot in the Hall of Fame remains unoccupied due to what would be ensuing legal ramifications from the Hart estate.
6. Former WWE Diva Sable Files Lawsuit Against WWE Alleging Sexual Harassment
Sable was unquestionably the WWE's most popular Diva during their initial boom period of the Attitude Era. The polarizing Diva promptly left the company in 1999, and soon after sued the WWE, citing
Given the status of Sable at the time of her departure, such a lawsuit was unprecedented given Sable's star power. The two sides would eventually settle the lawsuit out of court, and she would even return to the WWE in 2003 before departing again.
5. The Matt Hardy, Lita, Edge Love Triangle
Matt Hardy's relationship and, for a brief stint his WWE career, were casualties of the much-publicized affair committed by then-girlfriend Lita and friend Adam "Edge" Copeland.
Hardy was fired from the company for handling the infidelity in an unprofessional matter, and Edge would go on to achieve main-event status by playing off of the real-life incident with Lita by his side.
4. Steve Austin Takes His Ball and Leaves the WWE
Steve Austin "taking his ball and leaving" the WWE will always leave a black eye on his legacy as arguably the greatest WWE Superstar of all time.
Austin was fired from the company in 2002 after no-showing an episode of RAW where he
was slated to do the job to then-upstart superstar Brock Lesnar.
Citing that the match should not be given away on free TV, especially if he was slated to lose, Austin's frustrations boiled over as he refused to show up for RAW that night in a move that resulted in his temporary demise.
Austin would return to the WWE in 2003 for a farewell tour of sorts as he wrestled one last match at WrestleMania XIX before calling it quits.
3. The Vince McMahon Steroid Trial of 1994
The WWE steroid trial of 1994 was as close to the fall of WWE's Roman empire as the company came before WCW's brief boom period in the mid-'90s.
Vince McMahon stood trial as he faced serious allegations of knowingly distributing steroids to performers.
The trial resulted in an ultimate falling out of McMahon and Hogan, and while McMahon avoided serious jail time, the WWF continued to feel the effects of the high-profile trial financially for much of the mid- to late-'90s.
2. The Montreal Screw Job Results in the End of Bret Hart's WWE Career
The Montreal Screwjob remains one of the gold standards of scandal in professional wrestling. Containing all the elements of a Greek tragedy, the events of Survivor Series 1997 gave way to the fall of a Canadian hero in his own home country.
What was supposed to be a "schmoz" finish that lead to a departing Bret Hart dropping the WWE Championship the next night on RAW, turned into a screw job finish when Vince McMahon called for the bell as Hart found himself trapped in his own finishing maneuver against Shawn Michaels in that night's main event.
The WWE used the Montreal Screwjob as the impetus of a new style of booking, where the lines between kayfabe and reality were severely blurred, while Vince McMahon opportunistically used his newfound hatred stemming from the screw job finish to create the "Mr. McMahon" character.
1. Chris Benoit Murders Family, Commits Suicide
The unprecedented and horrific double-murder suicide committed by Chris Benoit was not only a pro wrestling tragedy, but a tragedy that transcended into unwanted mainstream scrutiny.
The WWE found themselves front and center of yet another controversy, which is usually the only time pro wrestling gets such mainstream billing, as one of their longtime employees had mentally degenerated into a madman under their watch.
The threat of congressional oversight loomed ominously as more stories broke about Benoit's condition while employed by the WWE, but the WWE's Teflon infrastructure withstood the barrage of well-deserved criticism and continued to operate until the next pro wrestling tragedy came along.