It’s time for this week’s thrilling installment of shocking wrestling moments.
(Trigger warning: necrophilia.)
60. Antonio Inoki fights Muhammad Ali (June 26, 1976)
Antonio Inoki is one of the most iconic Japanese wrestlers to ever live, one with very few bad matches. One of those few duds was this legendary match with Muhammad Ali. It’s a match that should be great in theory but the reality was horribly underwhelming. Inoki later claimed that he was barred from tackling, chopping, or punching Ali. So, Inoki spent a good portion of the match on his back, striking Ali’s legs. Fans in attendance were so angry that they were hurling trash everywhere. It reportedly took the janitors almost a full day to clean it up. There were riots afterwards. There have been countless rumors and theories about this match. Inoki claims that Ali had no idea the match was going to be an actual fight. Bret Hart claims that members of the Nation of Islam threatened to kill Inoki if he laid a finger on Ali. Whatever the truth is, it’s a bad match. All that said, this match had a shockingly large impact. Ali’s boxing career was never the same thanks to the strikes to the legs. On a broader level, this match had a large influence on MMA.
59. CM Punk tries MMA (September 10, 2016)
CM Punk. Whether you think he’s a golden god or an overrated dipshit, it can’t be denied that the man has talent… in the wrestling ring that is. After his tenure with WWE ended acrimoniously, the straight edge icon decided to pull a Brock Lesnar and headed for UFC. It… did not go well. In his first match, Punk was taken down very quickly by Mickey Gall. Punk tried again two years later, this time facing Mike Jackson. It didn’t go much better. Afterwards, UFC head Dana White told Punk that he probably shouldn’t fight anymore. Not since Shawn Michaels has a badass in the ring flopped in a “real” fight.
58. Hulk Hogan knocks out Richard Belzer (March 27, 1985)
To promote the first WrestleMania, Hulk Hogan and Mr. T made an appearance on Richard Belzer’s talk show Hot Properties. Belzer was skeptical of wrestling and tried to get Hogan and T to demonstrate a wrestling maneuver on him. Hogan eventually relented and put Belzer in a front facelock, knocking out Belzer. When Hogan released Belzer, he fell straight down and knocked the back of his head on the floor. He had to be hospitalized. Belzer later sued Hogan for $5 million; they eventually settled for $400,000. Belzer later used the money to help buy a house. He called it “Chez Hogan.”
57. The Gobbledy Gooker debuts (November 22, 1990)
In late 1990, a giant egg was at numerous WWF shows. No one knew what was going to hatch but fans were interested. The most popular theory was that none other than Ric Flair would hatch from the egg to make his WWF debut at Survivor Series. Instead, a giant turkey called the Gobbledy Gooker hatched from the egg. He then danced with Mean Gene Okerlund. The Gooker was meant to be the WWF’s mascot but, despite Rowdy Roddy Piper’s declaration that he “won the heart of Hartford,” he was violently rejected by the audience. The Gooker returns every so often for a quick joke, including a hilariously brief reign as 24/7 Champion. Interestingly, that year’s Survivor Series did feature the debut of a character that could be considered a mascot for WWF: The Undertaker. The Undertaker, a man not known for showing fear, was terrified that Vince would have him pop out of the egg for his debut.
56. The worst moment in wrestling history (October 21, 2002)
Genuinely feel like leaving this entry as is since all wrestling fans know about this but for the shockingly large number of non-wrestling fans that have been reading my articles: Triple H and Kane were feuding when Triple H accused Kane of murdering a girl named Katie Vick. We eventually learn that Vick was a girl that Kane liked that died in a car crash. Triple H again accuses Kane of murder and of having sex with Vick’s corpse. The next week, Triple H shows some footage showing the world the kind of man Kane was. We then get… I wish I was making this up, but we get Triple H lumbering around in a Kane mask having sex with a mannequin in a funeral parlor. (BTW, it was an actual funeral parlor. There was a funeral next door that had to hear Triple H’s love making.) It’s near universally regarded as the low point of professional wrestling and with good reason. Triple H hated doing it, Kane hated doing it, a bunch of other wrestlers hated it, viewers hated watching it, just utterly miserable trash. The only people that seemed to like it are Vince and sentient beaver Kevin Dunn.
55. The XFL folds (for the first time) (May 10, 2001)
One of the biggest busts in sports history, the XFL was supposed to cement Vince McMahon as not just a wrestling guy but as the master of sports entertainment. It instead did the opposite. Despite high initial ratings, they quickly collapsed thanks to its bizarre rules. They were both hard to follow and made actually playing the game a hassle. Vince eventually threw in the towel after only a few months. Vince tried reviving it but it had to close again thanks to Covid. Dwayne Johnson now owns the XFL and is going to see if the third time’s the charm. And speaking of him…
54. Rocky Maivia joins the Nation of Domination (August 11, 1997)
People that don’t follow wrestling are always shocked to learn The Rock was absolutely hated when he first started out. Known then as Rocky Maivia (as a tribute to his dad Rocky Johnson and grandfather Peter Maivia), his gimmick was embarrassing and the fans couldn’t stand him. Chants of “Die Rocky Die” were not uncommon when he appeared. Creative realized this wasn’t working and decided to change things. Rocky turned heel, explicitly because of the fans hating him, joined the Nation of Domination, and rechristened himself… The Rock. The turn played to The Rock’s strengths and he wound up becoming the most over man in the company (and quite possibly the most powerful man in wrestling history).
53. The InVasion (May 28, 2001)
For most of the ’90s, wrestling fans loved debating who would win in a battle between WWF or WCW wrestlers. The fans finally saw a chance of this happening when Vince bought out the WCW. Imagine Sting fighting The Undertaker or Goldberg fighting Stone Cold Steve Austin? That would have been cool. Instead, we got what is easily the most disappointing moment in wrestling history. The WCW wrestlers that actually showed up in WWF were outclassed by the WWF wrestlers. Team WCW only started getting wins once a bunch of WWF wrestlers defected to their side. Worst of all, the whole storyline seemed to be more about putting over the McMahons than the wrestlers. This had been an issue before but it had never been more apparent before than with this storyline (tragically, this isn’t even the nadir of McMahon ego tripping). They tried to goose things by adding in ECW (which Vince also bought) but that attempt quickly shit the bed when Stephanie McMahon was put in charge of ECW. Just a waste.
52. 1 Night in China (December 14, 2004)
Wrestling fans got a shock in December 2004 when they learned that a porno starring Chyna and X-Pac was released. Both wrestlers had been on a downward spiral but no one saw this coming. It’s widely regarded as one of the most uncomfortable pornos ever made, even among people that find both wrestlers attractive. The film has a bizarre framing device of Chyna and X-Pac visiting China, so they can throw “China” in the title without running afoul WWE’s lawyers. Chyna later went into a career in porn full-time, including a horrifying one based on her time with WWF. Most people regard this as the reason Chyna was never inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in her lifetime, with Triple H bluntly saying it in an interview with Stone Cold Steve Austin (that said, quite a few people think it was more because Vince was angry with her for bashing him and they were using the porn career as a smokescreen; honestly I think it’s a little bit of both).
51. The Rock and Mankind’s “I Quit” match (January 24, 1999)
The Rock and Mankind were in one of the hottest feuds in WWF when this infamous match happened. The stipulation was simple: the match would go on until one of them said “I quit.” Fans knew this would be a wild match, pitting one of the strongest men in the company against the man with the strongest pain tolerance in the company but even they couldn’t see how vicious this match would get. The match was as good and brutal as people were expecting until The Rock handcuffed Mankind. The Rock then gave Mankind eleven unprotected chair shots to the head in under three minutes. It was originally only going to be five but there was miscommunication between the two that led to this. It’s widely thought of as the most violent match the WWF would ever show. The horror was amplified when the documentary Beyond the Mat was released and it turned out that Mankind’s family was in attendance and they were legitimately afraid that he would die in the ring. The match only ended when a previous recording of Mankind saying “I quit” was played. Mankind later demanded a re-match because Mick Foley is one of the hardest motherfuckers in an industry of hard motherfuckers.
50. Shawn Michaels retires Ric Flair (March 30, 2008)
You wouldn’t think that a wrestling match could make you cry but then this amazing match happened. Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair faced off in a masterpiece of a retirement match. Michaels was as great as ever but Flair… he was wrestling like he was in the ’80s again. It’s an amazing match befitting the two titans facing off. The emotional highlight of the match was the finale, where Michaels, clearly on the verge of tears, says “I’m sorry, I love you” before retiring the Nature Boy. At the next Raw, Flair came to the ring for a send off from the entire WWE roster, his family, the other members of the Four Horsemen, old allies like Greg Valentine, and even his famous rival Ricky Steamboat. It’s one of the best send offs in wrestling history and, considering the nonsense Flair has been up to since “retiring,” the WWE is unlikely to do something like this again.
49. Abdullah the Butcher infects Hannibal Devon Nicholson with Hepatitis C (May 25, 2007)
Hardcore wrestler Hannibal Devon Nicholson was very close to being hired by the WWE in 2009, participating in 15 tryouts. WWE eventually declined to hire him when they learned that Nicholson had Hepatitis C. (The WWE had an incident a few years prior where Cowboy Bob Orton nearly infected The Undertaker with Hepatitis and they didn’t want a repeat of that.) It was later learned that Nicholson was infected after a May 2007 match with hardcore legend Abdullah the Butcher. Abdullah is one of the more controversial wrestlers out there (quite a few wrestlers objected to him getting inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame due to his bloodsports) and this might have been his nadir. Nicholson later sued Abdullah over this, winning $2.3 million in damages.
48. Jesse Sorensen breaks his neck (February 12, 2012)
Jesse Sorensen was a rising star in TNA when he wrestled at their Against All Odds PVP. He was wrestling Zema Ion when he suffered a severe injury that forced the match to end. He suffered a C-1 vertebrae fracture with spinal cord edema and there was legitimate fear that he’d never be able to walk again, let alone wrestle. TNA owner Dixier Carter took Sorensen’s mother aside and told her that she would cover the medical bills and that Sorensen would have a job for life with TNA. That was a fucking lie. They paid jack shit for the medical bills and Sorensen was released the next year. Sorensen’s mother eventually had to file for personal bankruptcy to pay for the bills. Dixie Carter already had a low reputation among wrestling fans but this turned virtually the entire IWC against her. Sorensen is thankfully wrestling again (not in Impact) and Carter is no longer in charge. Sometimes, justice is served.
47. Tank Abbott threatens Big Al with a knife (February 20, 2000)
Antonio Inoki and Muhammad Ali was a dud of a match but it’s Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels compared to this match between MMA fighter Tank Abbott and non-wrestler Big Al at WCW SuperBrawl. The match is basically your average Brock Lesnar match, except without any of the fun stuff with Tank mauling Al for four minutes. The match somehow got worse when Abbott started swearing and pulled out a knife, holding it to Al’s throat. None of this was planned. As soon as the knife got near Al’s throat, the picture transitioned to announcer Tony Schiavone, with a thousand yard stare, who tried to reassure fans that Tank was just trying to cut Al’s beard. Al didn’t have a beard. I’m beginning to wonder if Tank jobbing to David Arquette a few months later was punishment for this. Vince Russo claimed that he briefly lost his job at WCW for suggesting that Tank Abbott be WCW Champion. I can’t blame them.
46. Pillman’s got a gun (November 4, 1996)
One of the most infamous angles in WWF history, which is really saying something. Former teammates Stone Cold Steve Austin and Brian Pillman were in a savage feud that eventually crossed a line even the most bloodthirsty WWF fans were put off by. Pillman was recuperating from an injury in his home when Austin came by to attack him. Several other wrestlers were outside to protect him but Austin made short work of him. Austin eventually broke in but Pillman had an ace up his sleeve: a gun. “When Austin 3:16 meets Pillman 9-millimeter glock, I’m gonna blast his sorry ass straight to hell.” Pillman was pointing the gun at Austin while his (actual) wife and daughter were screaming. We then cut to black, picking up later with the wrestlers outside dragging Austin out of the house with Pillman pointing his gun at Austin with the intent to kill him. The WWF and Pillman both had to apologize quickly for this angle and the WWF never tried anything this wild again until October 21st, 2002.
45. Rick Rude appears on Nitro and Raw on the same night (November 17, 1997)
WCW Nitro and WWF Raw were in a savage feud in the ’90s, both airing at the same time. Fans had to make their choice which one to watch. Raw was taped ahead of time and while Nitro was live and the latter took advantage of that by spoiling Raw every chance they could get. Nitro’s trolling reached a new level in 1997 when Rick Rude appeared live on Nitro the same night he appeared on Raw. Rude was furious over the Montreal Screwjob and quit WWF. As a final fuck you to Vince, he appeared live on Nitro to make the WWF look especially bush league. WCW loved to troll the WWF but this practice backfired epically when…
44. WCW spoils that Mankind will win the WWF championship (January 4, 1999)
The first Nitro of 1999 is quite possibly the worst episode of a wrestling program ever. Goldberg’s push was derailed beyond belief and we got the absolute low point of the WCW with the Fingerpoke of Doom. In the midst of all this nonsense, Tony Schiavone spoiled that Mankind would win the WWF championship on Raw. One of the reasons why WCW eventually flamed out was that wrestlers they undervalued would jump ship to the WWF and become megastars. Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Triple H, etc. Mick Foley was one of the more epic cases, he had many great matches in WCW but he was given embarrassing angles and he eventually left. His run with the WWF (especially his feuds with The Rock and Triple H) was the stuff of legends. Eric Bischoff, on the other hand, saw Foley as a low level star (because he wasn’t in WCW) and didn’t realize just how beloved he was. When Schiavone dropped that bombshell (derisively saying “that’s gonna put some butts in the seats”), over half a million viewers switched to Raw. The match itself was amazing, with Michael Cole’s speech after Mankind won being his best bit of announcing, but the circumstances turned it into a legendary match. Years later, Tony Schiavone would admit that he would have switched to Raw if he was a fan and that Bischoff forced him to do it.
43. Hulk Hogan lifts André the Giant (March 29, 1987)
Hulk Hogan’s legendary battle with André the Giant is quite possibly the most beloved wrestling match that’s objectively bad. André could barely move and Hulk had to do all the work. But the finale, where Hulk lifts André and slams him to the mat, is legitimately amazing. Most of the people that revere this match have almost certainly forgotten everything but the finale but it’s hard to blame them. This match won the Wrestling Observer Award for Worst Match of the Year. I both understand this completely and yet still love the match.
42. Andy Kaufman feuds with Jerry Lawler on Late Night with David Letterman (July 28, 1982)
Wrestling promotions constantly try to incorporate celebrities and it almost never works. One of the reasons (beyond a sad stab at mainstream relevance) is that they’re chasing what is the absolute best example of a celebrity getting involved with wrestling, Andy Kaufman’s legendary feud with Jerry Lawler. The feud reached their apex when both appeared on Late Night with David Letterman. The appearance was planned out ahead of time with Letterman. Originally, Kaufman was going to apologize for insulting wrestling and Lawler was going to apologize for hurting Kaufman’s neck. Instead, both refused to apologize and they descended into a savage argument. As Letterman (who was not in on this) tried to go to commercial, Lawler got up and slapped Kaufman in the face. When the show returned from the commercial, Kaufman was pacing around the set and threatening to sue Lawler for everything ha had. He then went on a profane rant, threw coffee at Lawler, and ran away. People believed for the longest time that it was legitimate bad blood between them but it was a worked shoot. Lawler and Kaufman knew that apologizing to each other would hurt Lawler’s image so they decided to go in a different direction and the history of wrestling was changed forever (for both good and bad).
41. Rikidōzan murdered by the yakuza (December 8, 1963)
Wrestling has been around for millennia but what we call wrestling today is less than a hundred years old and it varies by country. American wrestling as we know it now was basically created by Lou Thesz, Mexican wrestling as we know it now was basically created by El Santo, and Japanese wrestling as we know it now was basically created by Rikidōzan. Rikidōzan was a legend in Japanese wrestling, wrestling icons from all over the world. His life was cut tragically short in 1963 when an altercation with a junior yakuza member ended with Rikidōzan being stabbed in the gut. Rikidōzan beat up the yakuza but the wound got infected and he passed a week later. His killer was given eight years in prison. After getting out, he became a major yakuza big wig… and left flowers at Rikidōzan’s grave every year. Japanese wrestling was in a state of disarray with their biggest star gone but they got a shot in the arm thanks to Rikidōzan’s two best students: Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba, who would set up rival promotions. New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Japan Pro Wrestling, two of the best wrestling promotions of all time. The memory of Rikidōzan is alive and well thanks to these promotions.