Just in time to ruin Linda McMahon’s senatorial run, James Swift returns with an all new installment of THE ROCKTAGON! Prepare to pay tribute to double homicide, wallow in misogyny, and set civil rights back a good sixty years as he counts down the TEN MOST OFFENSIVE MOMENTS IN WWE HISTORY!
When you think of the terms “professional wrestling” and “cultural sensitivity”, odds are, your brain will simply flash a “DOES NOT COMPUTE” screen and leave you in befuddlement. The same way snow is an alien concept to those that live in the Gobi desert (or the way in which vagina is an alien concept to most World of Warcraft players), political correctness goes with the WWE like sniper rifles go with John F. Kennedy, as zero good can possibly come from such a pairing.
Of course, the WWE has long glorified such horrendous displays of political incorrectness. As a company sans taste of any variety, we’ve been subjected to some pretty awful displays over the years: A man having necro sex with a dead cheerleader, an eighty year old woman having an affair with a 400 pound weightlifter that resulted in the birth of Thing from The Addams Family, colonoscopy skits that mock a guy with cerebral palsy, and of course, the fact that they paid that dude from American Gladiators a quarter million a year to fuck up lines on national TV. No doubt about it, the viewing audience over the last ten years has been the Tina to the WWE’S Ike Turner.
Oh, they’ve done a plenty rotten things over the years. Beyond pissing off fans by fucking over talent, pissing on beloved promotions and performers and turning the “sport” into a glorified variety show, the WWE has also put out some things that are detestable outside the vacuum of so-called sports-entertainment. In layman’s terms, they’ve done some shit that goes beyond inanity and crosses over into the domain of flat out insulting offensiveness.
Today, I’m counting down the ten most offensive things to ever be broadcast on WWE television. These aren’t just displays of ineptitude and bad booking, those are displays of downright infuriating cultural insensitivity, angles and incidents that legitimately pissed me off for non-industrial reasons. In this installment of The Rocktagon, we’re going to take a look at ten incidents that crossed the line from dumb and shitty to odious and insulting, a shameful recapping of televised misogyny, ethnocentrism and exploitation that puts even the foulest of sensational TV to shame. I (begrudgingly) present unto thee: THE TEN MOST OFFENSIVE MOMENTS IN WWE HISTORY!
#010 Today, We Mourn a Hero. . . Who Just So Happened To Murder His Wife and Son a Couple Of Hours Ago
So yeah, you know you’ve churned out same truly rank shit when spending three hours to honor a dude that just slew his intermediate household is only the tenth most offensive thing your company has emit over the airwaves of America in the last ten years.
In fairness, however, you have to give the WWE some leeway here: sure, in hindsight, being able to piece together “hey, this dude just no-showed a major pay per view event” and “hey, isn’t it odd that both his wife and son were found asphyxiated beside his corpse?” is obvious as all fuck, but at the time, the corporate suits had to wing something together on the fly, so why not feign a little naivetÚ until the blood stains dried up?
It was exceptionally bad timing, really, since the major television “storyline” at the present involved the fake death of WWE chairman Vincent McMahon (which was an incident that was, somehow, supposed to tie into a major angle involving, of all things, the has-beens from the long-cancelled “Jackass” MTV series. Uh, don’t ask, because NOBODY fucking knows how.)
So, we’re riding the rails to a special three hour show (that was scripted to be anchored around McMahon’s fabricated demise) when all off a sudden, the news breaks that Chris Benoit is dead. And, uh, for some reason, his wife and son, too. Oh, well, I guess it’s just a coincidence that Benoit hung himself on a Bowflex and his family somehow found themselves kind of strangled to death. I know! How about we run a career retrospective instead?
Yes, hindsight is always 20/20, but at the time. . . Well, no, at the time, it was still a goddamn horrible decision. 24 hours later, McMahon issued a mea culpa, but the damage had already been done.
The WWE’S handling of the Benoit murder\suicide pretty much changed the entire dynamic of the company. Afterwards, the company adopted a “toned down” product devoid of chair shots, self mutilation, and acts of strangulation, and accusations of ‘roid rage and concussion-spawned wife and son-a-cide forced the company to adhere to a wellness policy that they still really don’t give half a fuck about. Anyway, if you flip through the channels and catch yourself wondering why all of the wrestlers are anorexics that intentionally avoid dropping one another on their heads, now you know why.
Ultimately, the “Benoit Tribute” show remains one of the WWE’S biggest examples of initiative-taking gone awry, and a decision that continues to haunt the company to this day.
#009 LOL, Ethnic Stereotyping! (Part One: The Hispanic Community)
The WWE really isn’t what you would call a company with a penchant for political correctness. This has long been a hallmark of the wrestling world, from the days of trotting about Nazi Texans, cannibalistic Samoans and poison spitting Japanese kabuki dancers; however, since the fact is we’re living in the goddamn 21st century, you would kind of think that a multibillion dollar conglomerate would, I don’t know, kind of want to play down the cultural insensitivity, right?
In 2005, The WWE trotted out a gaggle of Mexican wrestlers known as, charmingly, the Mexicools. The triad spoke in broken English, were portrayed as one dimensional day laborers, and for the love of Sweet Mary, drove to the ring on lawnmowers. After the group disbanded, it’s primary grappler, known as Super Crazy, became a figure that answer only in a subservient “Si!” regardless of conversational content.
This, of course, is not the WWE’S only foray into the world of making a mockery of crude, cruel cultural stereotypes. In 2002, the tag team of Chavo and Eddie Guerrero were marketed as “stealing, swindling and deceitful” hoodlums that conned elderly women and other uppity white folks out of their belongings in a series of promotional vignettes. Not content with simply debasing a good 400 million people across the Americas, Chavo was repacked in 2004 as a newly Caucasian apologist known as Kerwin White, a Perry Como-listening, golf caddie driving servant to the Anglos.
His ex-partner Eddie, while given a push as the company’s top star for a brief duration, was sadly stuck with a stereotypical trickster Mexican persona up until his, quite literally, dying day in the company. Of course, that provides us with a natural segue into. . .
#008 There’s nothing more tragic than a premature death. . . now, who’s ready for some suicide humor and crass exploitation of the recently deceased!
In November 2005, Eddie Guerrero suffered a heart attack and died while in a Minneapolis hotel. Obviously, such news filled the wrestling world with grief, and several shows were held in his honor.
For awhile,Eddie was treated as a figure of reverence, at a time in which the company was really burning as many sacred cows as it could. The company was going through a rough transition phase, as the WWE was changing from a Rock - Steve Austin led company to a Cena - Batista led organization. In addition, there were several shake ups in creative, and the result led to some of the company’s least consistent scripting ever. Gimmicks were given, and irrationally revoked a week later. Storylines were aborted or protracted to absurdity. Characters that really didn’t need repackaging were repackaged., resulting in the immediate squelching of several up and comers pushes.
And so, the new creative direction was having a tough time figuring out how to get this newfangled Randy Orton \ Undertaker feud hot with the fans. After weeks of ineffective promos, the powers that be took note of Saint Eddie, and decided that then was the time for a most unorthodox marketing ploy.
Keep in mind, Eddie hadn’t been dead for a month before creative decided to use his expiry as a cheap outlet for instant heel heat. Several weeks later, creative decided that respect for the dead was kind of passÚ and authorized a segment in which Orton tries to fucking kill The Undertaker with Guerrero’s signature low rider, you know, because it’s so subtle a message.
And throughout late autumn 2005, the WWE produced a number of web shorts centered around referee Tim White, and his failed attempts to commit suicide, as well as an angle in which Shelton Benjamin’s on-screen mother suffers a Guerrero-esque heart ailment. Yeah, some knee slapper, huh?
#007 LOL, Ethnic Stereotyping! (Part Two: The African American Community)
African American relations within the professional wrestling world have been, at best, fairly shaky. Seeing as how a majority of promoters in the 70s and 80s were a.) southerners, and b.) racist as all shit, very, very few black performers were given career pushes in the rock and wrestling years. Very, very few black wrestlers rose to prominence during this timeframe, and those that did were often saddled with, well, less than politically correct gimmicks. See Saba Simba (African Zulu Warrior), Kamala (Ugandan cannibal), Papa Shango (Voodoo priest) and Slick (a fried chicken eating, jive-talking hustler straight out of David Duke’s funny pages) for further validation of such racial discrimination.
The 90s were a time of acceptance, and right off the bat the legal era kicked off with WCW booker Bill Watts getting the boot for saying some really stupid shit in 1992. WCW was hit by a huge discrimination lawsuit in the late 90s, and had to pay a gargantuan sum of money to a number of ex-employees, including “Hardbody” Harrison, a wrestler that, irony of ironies, was actually indicted on owning fucking slaves in 2005. Honest to god folks, Google it.
And so, in the user-generated era, surely, WWE must have learned that racially-charged promotions are totally old hat, right?
In 2006, the WWE introduced a new tag team, consisting of two young, up and coming African American talents. As many characters in the past, they were packaged as a “street culture” team, and what element of “urban, black society” did the WWE powers-that-be decide to home in on for such fledgling talents? Why, the fact that black people commit crime!
Cryme Tyme was introduced in the mid 2000s via a number of promotional vignettes that featured the two performers mugging elderly women and hustling whitey out of his merchandise. After debuting, Cryme Tyme was featured stealing items from a number of performers on camera, and attempting to re-sell the hot goods on the black market.
Shockingly, the tag team had a fairly lengthy run in the company, which was ultimately squelched when WWE suit Michael Hayes made some fairly anti-African American comments that went public.
Of course, WWE CEO Vincent McMahon is a sort that totally respects and appreciates the black community. In fact, he holds his African American performers in such high esteem that in 2006, he made the following comment that surely demonstrates the political correctness that a multibillionaire conglomerate chairman should convey.
Hey, did I mention that McMahon is the head of a publicly traded company? Well, he is. Think about that shit for awhile.
#006 God, Homosexuality is so Gay!
I know, it is somewhat ironic that an organization dedicated to displaying oily, practically nude musclemen to the youth of America would convey homophobic sentiments, but still. Effeminate characters have long been a part of professional wrestling lore, going back to the days of Gorgeous George. However, it wasn’t until the introduction of the character known as Goldust in the mid 90s that homophobia became a major marketing angle behind the WWE’S product.
Goldust, a bisexual awards statue (no, seriously), was reintroduced in the early 2000s, and partnered with Booker T (a perennially devalued black performer) and shown in a series of skits that had the dubious distinction of being offensive to both the gay and black community. This, of course, pales in comparison to 2002’s marquee “storyline” involving the “Gay wedding” of performers Chuck and Billy, an angle that received national exposure and even an endorsement from GLAAD. In the buildup to the televised wedding, on screen personality Eric Bischoff decided to “counteract” the homophobia of the Smackdown product by introducing “hot lesbian action” to the Raw television series. This lead to a scene in which Bischoff directed two un-named women to perform lesbian acts in-ring before being attacked by two four hundred pound Samoans. So yeah, in addition to homosexual exploitation, they even managed to sneak in some objectification of women and domestic abuse in there too! Wow, that’s pretty fucking impressive to fit THAT much offensiveness in just ONE storyline.
And of course, the Chuck and Billy angle was dropped, due to outside media pressure. The wedding was interrupted by Bischoff and his “on-screen” goons, but not before Chuck and Billy “broke character” by announcing that they really weren’t gay, because, come on, that’s just wrong, isn’t it overtly defensive of your sexuality middle America?
The WWE continued to play the homosexual card, as recently as 2007, in which the tandem of Triple H and Shawn Michaels accused adversaries Randy Orton and Edge of being furtive lovers and shameful stars of the gay community. Oh, and the homophobia just doesn’t exist onscreen either. Purportedly, two athletes (Chris Kanyon and Orlando Jordan) were both fired due to their inherent, real-life homosexuality. You know, because in an industry centered around men in their underwear rubbing against each other for twenty minutes, gayness is simply something that can’t ever taint such a scrupled product.
#005 If You Want To See Some Nationally Televised Rape. . . Holla’ If Ya’ Hear Me!
In 2002, the WWE was going through some major changes as an organization.. With its number one (and really, only) competitor vanquished a year earlier, the WWE was slowly absorbing the former #2’s talents. Of the ex-WCW talents, Scott Steiner was among the most valuable assets of WCW during its dying days, so it seemed only natural that the ’E would’ve worked out some sort of big program for when he debuted with the company.
And so, Scott Steiner, a guy filled with more HGH than fucking Balco, makes his company debut, and he is immediately thrust in the middle of a bidding war between intracompany programs Smackdown and Raw. As an attempt to woo Steiner to Smackdown, General Manager (and the run-off of Linda and Vince’s genes) Stephanie McMahon promised Steiner some “Fringe benefits” if he signed with the company. And by “fringe benefits” , I mean “allowing Steiner to put his penis inside her for purposes of sexual gratification”.
On a subsequent episode of “Smackdown”, Stephanie brought out Steiner for what was supposed to be a contract signing. However, at about the midway point of discussions, Steiner decided to address the fact that McMahon reneged on her promise of poon-tang, and decided that he would “claim his prize” RIGHT THEN AND THERE ON NATIONAL TELEVISION.
Ever the romantic rapist, Steiner was more than willing to allow the fans the choice to dictate his acts of sexual assault. After asking permission from the audience, Steiner then went on to force himself upon McMahon, as tens of thousands of people cheered his attempt at pulling an Irreversible on the daughter of the company CEO.
There’s a lot of negative things you can say about the WWE fans; when 20,000 people clamor for televised rape, I think that justifies every other negative accusation you can lob at them.
#004 Vince McMahon. . . Champion of Women’s Rights
Let’s say that one day, the CEO of a Fortune 500 company is seen on camera forcing a woman to bark like a dog for his own sadistic pleasure. Or better yet, imagine the spouse of a senatorial candidate being caught on video as he demeans a woman with just about every misogynistic notion you can think of. Now, what do you think that would have on the public image of that company or its political ambitions?
Apparently, fucking nothing, because Vincent McMahon did precisely that during a 2001 storyline in which he leaves his comatose wife for a female wrestler that was approximately forty years his junior.
Now, women really aren’t treated with the utmost respect in the wrestling world: since the fan base of pro wrestling is comprised of about 90 % uneducated males, it stands to reason that things like “women’s equality” and “sexual acceptance” are, to this day, alien concepts to the WWE world. Lest we forget, this is the same company that “popularized” a tag team solely on their abilities to physically assault the fairer sex by throwing them through tables for sexual gratification.
And so, demeaning women is the du jour of the WWE. In fact, in 2009, the WWE creative committee decided to admonish one female performer’s weight gain by booking a storyline in which the 140 pound young woman was portrayed as “hideously overweight”. Yeah, way to reinforce a positive message about body image, huh?
So, how did the Vince McMahon tryst come to conclusion? With him receiving on screen oral sex from a recently recruited female employee, of course! Sure, the session was “interrupted” by McMahon’s freshly non-vegetated wife and soon-to-be senatorial candidate, but when you’re displaying women as nothing but objects capable of blow jobs, that tends to obfuscate the message about marital fidelity. And in case you were wondering, the real-life Vince has been accused of sexual harassment, in varying scopes, about twenty some odd times since 1991. Hey, but that’s the price of living in a man’s world, ain’t it Vinny?
#003 9/11: It’s Almost As Bad As A Federal Steroid Trafficking Acquittal. Like I Said, “Almost”.
The 9/13/01 Smackdown show is noteworthy for several reasons, beginning with the fact that it was aired at all. Although it was something of an obscure event, two days earlier, Saudi extremists flew two planes into the World Trade Center, killing about 2,000 or so Americans. There really wasn’t a lot of press about it, so if you forgot about it, that’s OK.
And so, just two days after the costliest act of terror in American history, the WWE held the first major sporting event post 9-11, and as expected, it was a show wrought with personal, emotional, and patriotic insight from the wrestlers, commentators, and ring crew.
Such heartfelt promos, unquestionably, including hearing Canadian born Edge say that he really doesn’t think that their should be a show this soon after such a horrific loss of life. Jonathan Bradshaw immediately retorted with the sentiment that “the middle east should be turned into a parking lot” and suggested the widespread execution of an entire ethnicity. Bradshaw would later be given a nearly year long title reign, catch heat for performing a Nazi salute during a German show, and become a regular on the Fox News Channel.
And then, there was this statement made by the gleam of McMahon’s eye, Stephanie, in which she compares the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to a 1994 steroid trafficking trial that almost brought down her father’s empire. Because, you know, the death of a couple of thousand people and an acquitted grand jury investigation from seven years earlier are totally just comparisons.
So, yeah, keep in mind, this wasn’t a statement that was made several months, or weeks, after 9/11. This was shit that aired on national television just hours after the second WTC tower collapsed. No doubt disgusted by his daughter’s totally tasteless analogy, Mr. McMahon admonished her by making her the most vocal figure on his Smackdown television series for the next three years. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!
#002 …and Booker T’s opponent this evening will be: Smug, Surreptitious White Supremacy!
The more I dwell upon it, the more I wonder why Booker T never sued the hot fuck out of his ex-employer for all of the horrifyingly insensitive things they made him do or subject himself to.
He was partnered with a homosexual S&M advocate with tourette’s syndrome. He was pounded with fruit and doused with milk during a supermarket scuffle with redneck icon “Stone Cold Steve Austin”. He was subjected to perpetual insults to his intelligence after a lackluster performance on The Weakest Link television program. His boss called him a “troglodyte”, an Asian film crew said he resembled “Buckwheat on crack” and at one point, a fan on a web call-in show addressed him as “That (not a nice word that rhymes with “bigger”) Booker T”.
Long story short, Booker T was not treated very well during his stint in the WWE, despite being one of the company’s most reliable stars and perhaps the only long-term WCW acquisition that benefit the company.
So, in 2003, it seemed as if T’s luck was turning around. He won a battle royal to secure his spot in a world title match at Wrestle Mania 19, and his opponent for the evening would be Triple H.
As in, Triple H, the blue-eyed, blonde haired, steroid-injected Nordic that just so happens to be the husband of the bosses’ daughter. Well, I’m sure that someone in such a delicate company position as Trips would refrain from turning his title defense against Booker into a horrible display of racial denigration, right?
…Well, guess not. A good four years before Imus got shit canned for his “nappy hair” comments, Triple H made such a statement AND more during a Monday Night Raw broadcast in which he insinuated that, effectively, black athletes weren’t worthy of championship status in the world of professional wrestling.
To Booker T. On national television. For ten minutes straight.
Shockingly, there was virtually no backlash from the media over the “storyline”, and Triple H received nary a “demotion” for his spiel. Despite propagating an angle centered around racial inferiority, Triple H went on to retain his title at Wrestle Mania, meaning that all of that race baiting was, for all intents and purposes, utterly and completely pointless as a storyline aide.
And the most offensive WWE moment ever is…
#001 Al Qaeda invades The WWE!
The sad thing about this is, we all saw it coming. The really sad thing is, it pretty much ended what could’ve been the most genius WWE character since Kurt Angle way before he realized his utmost potential and became a huge industry name. It’s one thing to drop a floater in the toilet, but it’s one thing to flush the commode with a hundred dollar bill atop the turd. In that, the ball dropping involving Muhammad Hassan is both a gargantuan fuck up in regards to potential as much as it is just plain corporate up-fuckery.
To being with, holy fuck, has there been a greater character concocted by the E than Muhammad Hassan? For the first time in about five years, there was a fresh, inventive, original character that could actually lend himself to some intellectual storytelling. Hassan was so awesome because it was rooted in a sort of unusually reserved realism that seemed to be anathema to the company at the time: whereas most of the new talent were cartoon characters, Hassan was actually pretty relatable, and sensibly crafted: he was a Muslim wrestler that was sick of being discriminated by mainstream America, and wanted to use his stature as a wrestler as something of sociopolitical platform for Islamic acceptance in the media. In other words: holy fuck, a GOOD idea somehow managed to worm its way out of the festering shit hole that was WWE developmental.
Right off the bat, however, we all kind of sensed the obvious would happen: apparently, the majority of the WWE fan base, the oh-so-bright jingoistic bigots they are, absolutely despised Hassan, despite the fact that he was, for all intents and purposes, a good guy. He loved America, but hated its ignorance. He was a fully formed, nuanced character, and the WWE fans, conditioned to simply yell “boo” at everything that’s different, decided to loathe Hassan the same way most NASCAR followers abhor soap.
I remember Hassan actually had a HUGE following with the “smart fans” at the time, simply because it could’ve been parlayed into something that was way more intelligent than anything the E had booked up to that point. The WWE really could have turned the Hassan character into something of an ambassador for the company, and having a Muslim world champion would give the company an incredible boast of respectability in the media for giving a minority character an atypically heroic role in a popular television show to represent a good 1.2 billion people across the globe. In other words, there was some MEGA-potential with Hassan.
Of course, the WWE faithful refused to accept Hassan (let’s face it, based on the fact that he wasn’t like the majority of them), so the E slowly transformed Hassan into a heel character. He cut promos that actually used reason on the fan base, so he was booed.. His manager Daivari spoke a different language, so he was booed. He had the audacity to stand up for his beliefs as a member of a different faith than the masses, so he was booed. Long story short, the fans are a bunch of nationalistic fuck heads, and Hassan paid the price of living in the vacuum of jingoistic American culture.
The ultimate worry, of course, was the fear that creative would just say “fuck it” and turn him into, essentially, a facsimile of a stereotypical extremist Muslim. Of course, we all sort of held on to that na´ve “common sense mentality”, since it would be kind of difficult to appease the media when you have an Italian dude pretending to be a caricature that makes a mockery of one-sixth of the world’s populace. Ultimately, it would be like TNA creating a Fred Phelps type character that blew up abortion clinics in the name of Jesus. It’s totally tasteless, it’s beyond insensitive, and it’s going to piss off scores of people.
And then, the WWE decided to go ahead and pull the trigger:
It’s bad enough that something like this was OK’D by creative (“You mean you want to have extremist insurgents run in and strangle a forty year old dude with piano wire while a dude pretends to praise Allah? Sure, what’s the worst that could happen?”), but what really pushes this one to the absolute deepest realms of offensiveness is that the very scene above was broadcast on July 11th, 2005. As in, the same day as the London terror bombings. As in, the fucking WWE heads of authority had the ability to pull the segment before it aired, you know, to kind of show respect for the people that just get immolated in the Tube.
But no, it was aired, in its entirety, across the world. On the day of horrific terrorism, the WWE decided that it was totally OK to display a simulated form of it on global television, with only a scrolling warning that read “in light of today’s events, some viewers may find tonight’s episode inappropriate.”
UPN (the American affiliate that broadcast Smackdown) went absolutely ape shit and barred Hassan from ever appearing on their network. Fearful of further media scorn, the WWE basically scripted Hassan off television, and eventually off the roster. Prior to the 7-11 bombings, Hassan was scheduled to face Batista at Summer Slam for the WWE title, and who knows where the character could be today (and how such an influence would’ve affected the company, as a whole). Hassan made one final appearance on a PPV show, and was pretty much erased from WWE history thereafter.
So, let’s count up all of the elements here: You have despicable ethnic typecasting, a gimmick that demeans an entire religion and trivializes international contention, pandering to the fan’s racial insensitivities, shameless vilifying of a foreign culture, horrific aping of real life terror, the literal destruction of a talented youngster’s career and the notion that the corporate suits are too goddamned inefficient to even edit out shit that thou know in advance is going to cause irreparable harm to the company.
How could anythingelse be considered the most offensive WWE moment of all-time?
JAMES SWIFTis a twenty-something writer currently residing in the Metro Atlanta area. His first book, “How I Survived Three Years at a Two-Year Community College”, is currently available from iUniverse Publishing. He also considers “Demolition Man” to be a better movie than “Citizen Kane”.
THE TWF "MENTAL WELLNESS TEST!"
With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).