Jamie Lithgow, Brian Damage and Craig Wilson
Even the most ardent of wrestling fan will admit there’s been plenty of angles that have left a sour taste in the mouth. From exploiting of tragedies to odd sexual angles, the history of the business is littered with tasteless angles. It is those moments that are the focus of this latest Top Five piece.
5. Beaver Cleavage: Could this be the Attitude Era’s top trump? We had swearing, middle fingers, nudity, porn stars, pimps, drug references, miscarriages, attempted suicides, Satanic rituals but I think the incest gimmick between Beaver Cleavage and his supposed mum, Mrs Cleavage, is quite possibly the lowest of the low. One could argue that it was merely implied, but it was heavily implied.
4. Vince and Trish: How awkward was this? Granted, Trish eventually got the last laugh, but did anyone else get the impression that Vince was taking liberties in writing himself into a romantic storyline with an attractive young lady? I get that the Mr McMahon character was a bit of a playboy, but this was just gratuitous. Was there any need to have Trish strip to her underwear and bark like a dog the week after being dumped by Mr McMahon and having shit poured over her?
3. Gulf War: Even as a kid I found this weird. I get that wrestling loves foreign heels and stereotypical characters, and I get why they occasionally try to reflect current affairs. However, tens of thousands of people (including American troops) lost their lives in the Gulf War. Despite this, and while the war was still ongoing, WWE scripted a USA vs. Iraq storyline featuring Sgt. Slaughter. Nobody can tell me that this was an artistic expression of current events; it was a profit making exercise heading into Wrestlemania VII
2. Muhammad Hassan Controversy: So WWE booked an Arab-American character to instruct a group of men who were very clearly dressed to look like Islamic terrorists, to attack his rival. Fairly controversial stuff for WWE; but if it’s okay for the likes of 24 and Homeland then why not WWE? Problem was, this angle was taped on July 4th 2005. On July 7th the London transport network was targeted in a terror attack. You would think that someone in WWE would have suggested editing out that particular angle given current events? Nope – although the angle did not air in the UK. UPN were not amused, and quite rightly so.
1. Exploitation of Eddie Guerrero: Paying tribute to your friend or a peer that has passed away is perfectly normal. Following the death of Owen Hart, Raw was dedicated to The Rocket. Before the full details of his passing were released, Chris Benoit was also afforded the same treatment. However, the repeated references to Eddie Guerrero by WWE via Rey Mysterio – and to a lesser extent Chavo Guerrero – months after his passing felt like an exploitation of Latino Heat’s death. I remain open-minded and accept that it may have been a well-meaning homage to Eddie, but it still felt like too much.
5. Oklahoma: In WCW’s dying days, the “powers that be,” namely Ed Ferrara (former WWE writer) portrayed a character named ‘Oklahoma.’ It was nothing more than a parody of the WWE’s JR Jim Ross complete with cowboy hat, barbecue sauce and JR’s Bell’s Palsy. The character was so scrutinized by fans that Ferrara quickly dropped the over the top facial expressions that poked fun of JR.
4. Mark Henry Incest Angle: Many people have forgotten this angle or just simply blocked it out. It was during the ‘Attitude Era’ when Mark Henry was a recovering sex addict and went to a therapist for help. In one of those sessions, Henry admitted to having sex with his own sister! A week later the angle was dropped and never mentioned again. I guess even the WWE had their limitations during this time period.
3. Brian Pillman’s Death: While not your typical angle per se, it was extremely tasteless for Vince McMahon to interview Melanie Pillman (Brian’s wife) only one day after Pillman’s sudden and tragic death on Monday Night Raw.
2. Fritz Von Erich’s “heart attack”: This angle was indeed one of the final nails in WCCW’s coffin back in the old territory days. After repeated tragedies in World Class with deaths to wrestlers like Gino Hernandez and multiple deaths of Fritz’s own children. It was decided that an angle where Fritz faked a heart attack was a good idea. Fans just couldn’t take anymore heartache from this wrestling family and turned away in droves.
1. Atsushi Onita Gets Stabbed: This is definitely number one on my list. Onita a Japanese wrestler tried to capitalize on the tragic murder of Bruiser Brody by staging an angle where he traveled to Puerto Rico to avenge Brody’s death only to get “stabbed” himself. The mainstream media quickly critisized the tasteless angle and Onita soon scrapped the idea.
5. Katie Vick: In October 2002, Kane began feuding with Triple H, leading to a match at No Mercy on October 20 in which both Kane’s Intercontinental Championship and Triple H’s World Heavyweight Championship were on the line. Ahead of the bout, Trips started to claim that Kane had a relationship with a woman named Katie Vick. He claimed that after Vick was killed in a car crash, Kane had sex with her. He threatened to air the footage however when it was eventually broadcast, it was Triple H, dressed as Kane, simulating a sexual act with a mannequin in a casket. Not the best angle ever…
4. “Piggy” James: Mickie James made her SmackDown debut in October 2009 with a win over Layla. Soon after, WWE Women’s Champion Michelle McCool and Layla (LayCool) began to bully her. After James defeated Layla, she was given the name “Piggy James”. This played out until the 2010 Royal Rumble where Mickie defeated McCool to win her fifth Women’s Championship.
3. Mocking of JR: Jim Ross is regarded as one of the finest announcers in the history of the wrestling business. With so many tuning in to watch the WWF, and the WCW, during the Monday Night Wars many regard him as the soundtrack to some of the finest moments in wrestling history. However, soon after jumping ship from the WWF to WCW, Ed Ferrara began to impersonate JR on WCW under the character ‘Oklahoma’ – a reference to where Jim Ross grew up. All fair in love and war and all that but Ferrara began to openly mocked Ross’ bells palsy. The facial impressions were soon dropped.
2. Fritz Von Erich’s ‘heart attack’: There isn’t a family in the history of wrestling as blighted with tragedy as that of the Von Erichs. Although family patriarch Fritz lived to the age of 68, five of his six sons preceded him in death, three by suicide. As a result, during the run of World Class Championship Wrestling, this led to many tribute shows. The tribute show to David featured Kerry Von Erich defeating Ric Flair to win the NWA title. Those tribute shows, unsurprisingly, led to a spike in ticket sales. As a result, it was decided that Fritz Von Erich do a fake heart attack angle. It didn’t get the result the company wanted and fans left in their droves.
1. Exploiting Eddie Guerrero’s Death: On November 13, 2005, Guerrero was found unconscious in his hotel room and was later pronounced dead when paramedics arrived at the scene. The autopsy revealed that he had died as a result of acute heart failure due to underlying atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. That very day, at TV tapings, Mysterio gave an emotional speech about Guerrero, and in a show of respect removed his mask (though he put his head down, so no one could see his face). A few months later, Mysterio entered 2nd in the 2006 Royal Rumble and eliminated Randy Orton last to win the match, lasting 62 minutes, to earn a title shot. Orton urged him to put the title shot at stake in a match at No Way Out and would begin making disrespectful remarks about Eddie Guerrero. Many fans felt it crossed the line as the WWE used the death as a promotional tactic.
You can read all previous Top Five pieces here.