Exposed! WWE's tabloid-worthy moments
As Survivor Series approaches, WWE finds itself reeling from the controversial fallout of both the “AJ scandal” and the situation surrounding rouge referee Brad Maddox.
In the wake of such unbelievable turmoil, the memories of other monumental scandals that have rocked the squared circle to its very foundation inevitably rear their ugly heads. And in the combative, emotional world that thrives on controversy itself, one thing is for certain, such outrageous situations have commanded the spotlight time-and-time-again.
But what forces have served as the greatest motivation for a scandal to occur? Is it some forbidden love that dare not speak its name, a powerful sense of greed — stronger than loyalty, friendship or even the risk of getting caught — or maybe the boiling blood shared by members of the same family?
WWE.com combs through a number of the shocking instances that have made the WWE Universe let out a collective gasp, exposing some of the most infamous scandals in sports-entertainment history.
Love, or something like it
In the modern age, perhaps there is no greater motivation for scandal than the real — or often merely suspected — love between two — or sometimes even three – people!
Yes, there have been numerous love triangles that have led to scandalous results. However, the one that could stand out as the most notorious centered around Lita, Edge and Matt Hardy. Who could forget the earth-shattering moment when Hardy learned his moonsault-wielding girlfriend had been having an affair with The Ultimate Opportunist behind his back? The news instantly sent instant buzz through the WWE Universe and the locker room and led to an out-of-control showdown between the two prominent Superstars after Hardy was first released and then re-signed by WWE.
While the scandal nearly tore both grapplers apart in a physical sense, though, it also provided widespread notoriety that ultimately helped lead to the rise of The Rated-R Superstar as one of the most controversial Superstars in WWE — not to mention another scandalous moment in the form of a “revealing,” celebration on Raw after Edge won the WWE Title.
Years later, Zack Ryder’s infatuation with the devious Eve would also cause quite the public stir. Before the very eyes of the WWE Universe, the calculating vixen used her incredible appeal to gain heightened exposure week after week, dragging John Cena and Kane into the fray as well. Eve rode the sensational situation all the way to a WrestleMania moment, ultimately kicking Long Island Iced-Z and leaving him lying in the dust while leaving millions of fans around the world saying, “Oh my!”
Not that every love scandal in WWE has been all about Eve. For instance, there was the time when two-time World Tag Team Champions Chuck Palumbo & Billy Gunn caused a jaw-dropping uproar; not as much as when Chuck opted to propose to his devoted tag team partner, but definitely when they interrupted their SmackDown union ceremony to declare their “romantic” pairing was nothing more than a publicity stunt gone too far!
To succeed in WWE, you have to use any advantage you can get your hands on, even if what you have in your grip is completely fabricated. Enter the legendary Ric Flair, who once sent shockwaves through sports-entertainment by using the combination of love and jealousy to get inside the head of Randy “Macho Man” Savage. The relentless 16-time World Champion began to spread rumors that he was had an affair with “The First Lady of Wrestling” Miss Elizabeth before she was married to Savage. Flair went so far as to publish doctored photos of them together in WWE Magazine. It was a move that literally made headlines and created a bitter rivalry between Savage and “The Nature Boy” that spread to WrestleMania and beyond.
Money, fame and power
Brad Maddox claimed he saw his opportunity and took it — referencing his controversial involvement in the Hell in a Cell WWE Title Match between CM Punk and Ryback that brought him into the spotlight. Whether there were others involved in his plot, what drove his actions is something as old as the ring itself.
As one immortalized WWE Chairman once said, “It’s all about the money!” And in WWE, that has been completely true in the case of the head of WWE, Superstars, Divas and, yes, even officials. Of all the scandalous actions Mr. McMahon perpetrated over the years, two may very well scream his monetary credo louder than the rest. First was the infamous incident in Montreal, in which Mr. McMahon cost Bret Hart the WWE Title at Survivor Series — one of the most shocking events in the history of the squared circle and a moment that many credit with helping to ignite the entire Attitude Era.
The second instance came on the very first episode of SmackDown, in the wake of the sudden merger between Shane McMahon’s Corporation with The Undertaker and The Ministry of Darkness. While perceived by many as being the new super-faction’s leader, The Deadman spoke of answering to a “Higher Power.” In the end, it would turn out to be Mr. McMahon himself, putting him into an alliance with a group that had, just recently, abducted his own daughter! When he showed the power of being WWE Chairman wasn’t enough — that he had to be something more — the power-hungry McMahon created a scandalous shockwave through all of WWE rarely seen before or since.
If there is one thing Maddox’s nefarious actions have reminded the WWE Universe, it’s that corruption is not reserved to ring warriors alone. Who could forget the moment when a respected referee, Dave Hebner’s twin brother Earl — delivered a false three-count on then–WWE Champion Hulk Hogan. His actions caused The Hulkster to lose the title to Andre The Giant, who immediately surrendered it to “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase. DiBiase was stripped of the title by WWE President, Jack Tunney, who determined the vacant title would find an owner at a WrestleMania IV tournament. (Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant eliminated each other from the tournament and Hogan helped “Macho Man” Randy Savage defeat DiBiase in the final in case you were curious how this all played out.) While no monetary figure was ever brought to light, the involvement of “The Million Dollar Man” certainly suggests Earl’s pay-off must have been substantial.
Another referee scandal came in the form of ’80s referee Danny Davis. After numerous matches in which he would clearly favor one competitor over another, the controversial Davis cheated in the Hart Foundation’s favor, allowing the pink-and-black-donned duo to capture their first World Tag Team Titles from The British Bulldogs. While he was stripped of his job as referee over the affair, the questionable tactics set WWE officiating back several years — a scandal that was further muddled by Davis’ Six-Man Tag Team victory at WrestleMania III.
Occasionally, a move in the name of fame, money and power has allowed the perpetrator to not only emerge with their reputation untarnished, but actually also served as the catalyst that catapulted him into immortality. Some of the best examples of this include The Rock’s usurping control of the Nation of Domination from Faarooq before solidifying himself as The Great One, HBK executing Sweet Chin Music on his Rocker partner Marty Jannetty on the “Barber Shop” before setting off on a journey that would lead him to the iconic status as Mr. WrestleMania, or CM Punk making his exit from WWE with the WWE Title before revolutionizing the entire squared circle.
When talking about scandals in WWE motivated by family, the first — and possibly last — word of the matter could very well be “McMahon.” That’s because the shocking events that took place between the members of the First Family of Sports-Entertainment have been second to none.
From Triple H secretly marrying Stephanie McMahon while she was unconscious and then telling her about it as she was about to marry someone else, to Shane buying WCW from under his father’s nose and Stephanie joining her brother in trying to take over the company … (deep breath) … to Stephanie betraying Mr. McMahon to launch McMahon-Helmsley Era with The Game, to a WrestleMania main event in which all four bloodline McMahons threw their support behind different Superstars; to Stephanie’s fake pregnancy … (let us catch our wind for a second) … to the uproar over Mr. McMahon’s supposed illegitimate child, to Triple H attacking Randy Orton in his home after The Viper’s onslaught on the whole McMahon clan, to many, many, many other things, the McMahons have shown without a doubt that their family is entertaining, but downright salacious, too.
But just because the McMahons are “first,” that doesn’t mean they hold a monopoly on scandalous family dysfunction. More than one tabloid-worthy story has told between brothers The Undertaker and Kane and their father Paul Bearer. This includes a series of ruthless, sensational episodes that have resulted in a burned down funeral home, a disfigured Big Red Monster, a twice-buried-alive Phenom, countless sneak attacks, even more seeming demises for Bearer, and numerous pay-per-view showdowns.
Sometimes the hatred between two Superstars is so great that family becomes just one more tool used to strike at the heart of an adversary — providing some of the most sensational scandals of them all. Case in point, while Big Show was attending his father’s funeral in the ’90s, his nemesis Big Boss Man managed to haul away the coffin with The World’s Largest Athlete clinging to the top of it.
No matter whether they are driven by love, personal gain or family dysfunction, scandals in WWE remain as memorable as they are controversial. And in the coveted spotlight that feeds on true sensationalism, the lights have never been brighter.