WWE’s Most Controversial Moments: Scandals And Shocks

1 weeks ago By Jhon Woug

Spectacle theater has always meant the combination of athleticism and dramatic storytelling, and professional wrestling has been at the forefront of this genre, and it is WWE, or World Wrestling Entertainment, that brought these moments to an audience captivated, shocked, and even outraged worldwide. While many have become legendary for their impact and entertainment value, others have become infamous because of the controversies they started. Flagged herein are some dark moments that have hit WWE, regarded as scandals and shocks conditioned to last deep into the minds of the wrestling fraternity.

The Montreal Screwjob
One of pro wrestling’s biggest scandals occurred on November 9, 1997, during the Survivor Series pay-per-view event in Montreal, Canada. It’s a night when Bret “The Hitman” Hart faced off against Shawn Michaels for the contested WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and the match ended under one of the most surreptitious circumstances: the Montreal Screwjob.

Vince McMahon reassured Bret Hart, who was leaving WWE to join rival WCW, that he would not drop the title in his home country. However, at the match, McMahon ominously gave the referee the nod to wave the bell, as Michaels had Hart argued in the sharpshooter; Hart had not submitted. The live crowd and people watching were stunned. Hart knew he had been screwed, so he spat at and then knocked over various equipment around the ring.

The Montreal Screwjob exposed the backstage realities of pro wrestling and rifted a deep abyss amid Hart and WWE. It also went on to give birth to the character of Mr. McMahon, which led Vince to play the evil boss—an act that later would become the critical component in WWE’s storyline mannerism during that period.

The Chris Benoit Tragedy
In June 2007, one of the most respected wrestlers in the business – Chris Benoit – was embroiled in a tragedy. Found dead in his house together with him were his wife, Nancy, and their seven-year-old son, Daniel. Further investigation showed that Benoit had killed his wife and son before taking his own life. This sent shockwaves through the WWE as much as the larger sports world. The event underscored enormous pressure points on the WWE concerning current wellness policies, the human cost of being a professional wrestler, and possibly the link between repeated head trauma in the form of concussions and violent behavior. The tragedy also caused WWE to nearly wipe all such references to Benoit from its programming and history, with that situation being highly controversial up to today.

The Steroid Scandal
The early 1990s were when WWE was embroiled in a major scandal, only one bigger yet, about the use of anabolic steroids by the wrestlers. Then, in 1993, a federal grand jury indicted Vince McMahon for allegedly distributing steroids to his performers. The subsequent trial staged in 1994 became one of the most worldwide-publicized cases then, which brought massive negative publicity to WWE. Numerous wrestlers, such as Hulk Hogan, even individually testified to their having been doping and the trend of taking such recreational drugs in wrestling. In the end, McMahon was found innocent, though his public image and WWE were impacted tremendously by the event that raised very high levels of stringent drug tests and rules from McMahon’s side.

The Katie Vick Angle
In 2002, WWE had an excruciatingly disturbing and controversial angle with Triple H and Kane. The angle was about the death of Kane’s high school girlfriend by the name Katie Vick, whom he murdered in a drunken-driving incident. In a series of segments on the show, Triple H, posing as Kane, was shown entering a funeral home and simulating sex with a mannequin, done up like the Vick above.
The angle was met with widespread revulsion, and its criticism came from fans, media, and even wrestling industry members. It’s ultimately later pointed out to be one of WWE’s lowest moments in terms of creative decision. The backlash was so severe that WWE quickly dropped the storyline and has largely avoided mentioning it in subsequent years.

The Plane Ride from Hell
In May 2002, WWE furnished its talent with a plane back to the United States after a tour of Europe. Unruly behavior, excessive drinking, and serious misconduct by several wrestlers turned that flight, called the “Plane Ride from Hell,” into a nightmare.
Incidents such as Ric Flair flashing his private parts to the flight attendants, Brock Lesnar and Curt Hennig fighting to such an extent that they almost seriously damaged the airplane, and wrestler-drugged rumors harassing other wrestlers indeed had consequences. The WWE employees resulted in several suspensions and firings, with lawsuits adding to its name. This incident highlighted the lack of professionalism and discipline in WWE’s ranks.

The Death of Owen Hart
On the night of May 23, 1999, WWE experienced one of its darkest nights when Owen Hart died in an accident at a pay-per-view event, Over the Edge. He was to come down in grand style, with entry from high up on the rafters, using a harness and cable; this was to be part of his superhero stage character, Blue Blazer.
Something went wrong, and Hart fell 78 feet to the ring, suffering fatal injuries. The event resumed shortly after, a move that drew intense criticism. After Hart’s death, his family filed a lawsuit and seriously questioned the safety of wrestling stunts; only then did WWE reschedule and rethink their strategies on risky maneuvers.

The Death of Eddie Guerrero
Shockwaves went through professional wrestling after Eddie Guerrero died suddenly in November 2005. A hugely charismatic and well-loved performer, Guerrero was discovered dead in his hotel room, with acute heart failure as the cause of death—linked to previous problems with substance abuse. His death essentially called his followers’ attention to the physically and mentally challenging profession that wrestling entails, in addition to the long-lasting implication of chemical substance and performance-enhancing drug abuse. WWE quickly paid tribute with a series of shows and segments in line that honored Guerrero’s memory, and his death amounted to a strong emphasis on the wellness and health of the WWE performers.

The Saudi Arabia Controversy
Of more recent memory, however, has been the series of controversial business relationships between WWE and the nation of Saudi Arabia. In 2018, WWE formed a long-term deal with the Saudi General Sports Authority for the shows of Crown Jewel and Super ShowDown. Such events have come under flak for the very reason that they have been held in a country that is otherwise not exactly clean on matters relating to human rights, specifically women’s rights and freedom of expression, and LGBTQ+ issues. The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi only added more animosity to the flames, with many fans and the media urging WWE to cancel its relationship with the Saudis. Without question, WWE chose to move forward instead, stating their relationship as a lucrative, contracted one, which is very controversial today.

The Monday Night Wars and WCW’s Demise
The phase that Monday Night Wars witnessed is an example of fierce competition between Monday Night Raw, operated by the WWE, and Monday Nitro, operated by WCW, during the late 1990s. The ‘war’ is associated with controversial tactics from both sides. The brilliant Eric Bischoff, who dominated WCW, used to go to the tatami to spoil the show of his ar- rival live on air by telling the character of the hacker what the results were for the already taped results. The WWE would respond by producing edgy, provocative content during its ‘Attitude Era.’ The culmination of this rivalry came upon buying WCW in the year 2001, and it gave a surprise to the world of wrestling. The Monday Night Wars were directly proportional to the upliftment of pro-wrestling on the one hand, and indirectly caused the downfall of WCW on the other, which paved the way for less competition and completely changed the means by which wrestling is seen.

Women’s Revolution and Controversies
One of the most welcome changes in the past few years has been recently made in WWE through Women’s Evolution. This movement was aimed at a high profile in women’s wrestling. Well, not without its controversies, as the first-ever women’s match to be staged there in 2019 was both hailed as groundbreakingly significant in terms of culture and criticized as a PR gesture among ongoing human rights issues in the country. Moreover, WWE has had a target through the years with its treatment of females; it placed them in demeaning storylines and pushed the idea of “Divas” instead of athletes. The shift from the Divas era to the Women’s Evolution has been about overcoming these controversies and working hard to try and portray women as equals.

WWE history is just a blend of victories and controversies, and the knack this company has to mix class athleticism with soap opera drama has, in over two decades, furnished some indelible footprint benchmarks in eternal sports entertainment. Equally, it has had scandals and a couple of shocks, all conjuring scrutiny, criticism, and reform. From the Montreal Screwjob to the Chris Benoit tragedy and steroid scandal, all the way down to the Plane Ride from Hell and beyond, still.

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