The most shocking moments in wrestling history (20-1)

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi.

(Trigger warning: racism, drug abuse, sexual assault and harassment, murder, suicide)

20. The Sandman is crucified by Raven’s Nest (October 26, 1996)

ECW is one of the greatest wrestling promotions to ever exist and is probably my favorite promotion but they had their missteps. One of the ugliest was at their ECW High Impact event, which featured The Sandman being crucified by his rival Raven and his followers (including Sandman’s own wife and son). ECW fans (affectionately known as “mutants”) loved to watch Raven and Sandman go to town on each other but even they were stunned by what they were watching. Later in the show, Raven was forced to break kayfabe and apologize for the incident. Kurt Angle was the guest announcer for one of the matches on the card and was considering wrestling for ECW. This incident killed any interest Angle had for ECW. When the event appeared on TV, both Sandman’s crucifixion and Angle’s appearance were omitted.

19. Hulk Hogan fired from the WWE for dropping the n-word in his sex tape (July 24, 2015)

The wrestling world was shocked in July 2015 when a segment from Hulk Hogan’s sex tape was leaked and featured the Hulkster saying some utterly grotesque statements. He dropped the n-word, was repulsed by the idea of his daughter dating a black man, and even admitted to being (exact words) “a racist, to a point.” He was fired from the WWE, was ejected from the WWE Hall of Fame, and was raked over the coals by some of his fellow wrestlers (most notably Booker T and the New Day). He was eventually brought back in 2018, at the behest of Mohammed bin Salman (he was the only person Salman wanted that was still alive), but fans are still weirded out to see him back.

18. Edge and Lita’s live sex celebration (January 9, 2006)

One of the smuttiest things to ever air on WWE. Lita and Matt Hardy were both beloved by the WWE Universe, being one of the sweetest real life couples in the company… until Lita cheated on Hardy with Edge. Vince responded by firing Hardy for revealing this in public. The fans turned against both Lita and Edge, which led to them being turned heel. This wound up working well, both were amazing heels, but the fans still had it in for both of them, especially Lita. Vince leaned into that too by turning Edge and Lita into the two biggest sleazebags in the company, climaxing with this embarrassing spectacle. Edge and Lita promised fans that they would have a live sex celebration in the ring and, to the fans’ shock, it seemed like they were going to do it. This was thankfully interrupted by Ric Flair, who called Edge a disgrace and added that “he was horrible in the sack.” Lita later revealed that she hated this and only did it because Vince threatened to fire her if she didn’t. Edge later admitted he hated it too, as did John Cena. All the stress and the negative attention she got from the fans led Lita to retire shortly afterwards. She’s since returned to the ring and the fans are thankfully kinder to her.

17. Jeff Hardy main events a PPV while loaded (March 13, 2011)

Jeff Hardy is one of the most divisive wrestlers alive. He’s got talent, no doubt about that. But his personal life (particularly his drug problems) is a trainwreck and it’s derailed his in-ring work on more than one occasion. The nadir of this was his infamous match at TNA Victory Road 2011. The main event was supposed to be Hardy taking on Sting. Hardy arrived at the scheduled time but disappeared until shortly before his match. When he returned, he was visibly strung out and barely able to walk, let alone wrestle. With barely any time and not knowing what to do, Eric Bischoff sent Hardy out and told Sting to end the match as quickly as possible. The match lasted for 88 seconds and nearly a minute was Hardy trying to take his shirt off while Sting seethed. After the match was mercifully over, the fans were booing and screaming “bullshit!” Sting took one look at the crowd and yelled “I agree! I agree!”

16. The Mass Transit incident (November 23, 1996)

Paul Heyman had a problem. He was supposed to have a match between Axl Rotten and D-Von Dudley facing New Jack and Mustafa Saed but Rotten no showed. Amateur wrestler Mass Transit, who was set to face a pair of dwarf wrestlers that night, offered to take Rotten’s place. Before the match, Mass Transit asked New Jack to blade him since he’d never done it himself. This proved to be a near-fatal mistake, as the match ended with New Jack cutting Mass Transit’s forehead with a surgical scalpel. New Jack cut too deep and severed multiple arteries in his head. At this point, Mass Transit’s manager yelled “Ring the fucking bell. He’s 17!” Mass Transit was actually a 17-year-old kid named Erich Kulas who lied about his wrestling credentials, with his manager (actually his dad) backing him up. ECW got into a massive storm of trouble but that mostly died down when it came out that Kulas lied and asked to be cut. Kulas attempted to sue New Jack but it fizzled out for the same reasons. New Jack had a reputation for hurting people (beating an elderly wrestler with a pipe, stabbing a wrestler in the middle of a match, allegedly tried to kill Vic Grimes in a scaffold match, etc.) but this moment has overshadowed them all. New Jack’s last Tweet before his death was even about the incident.

15. The Plane Ride from Hell (May 5, 2002)

What happens when a bunch of wrestlers are stuck at an airport with seven hours and an open bar? One of the darkest moments in wrestling history. Coming from their Insurrextion (oof that spelling) event in London, almost the entire WWF roster was blitzed out of their mind when the plane finally took off. There were numerous dangerous pranks, with wrestlers being roofied so their hair could be shaved. A fight broke out between Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig and Brock Lesnar that nearly caused the emergency exit door to open. But worst of all was the sexual harassment. Goldust told a flight attendant vulgar things and later commandeered the PA system to sing a song to his ex-wife, who was on the flight. Scott Hall harassed an attendant too before passing out. And then there’s Ric Flair. (Seriously, skip to the next entry if it might trigger you.) Flair exposed himself to a flight attendant and cornered her, trying to get her to touch his penis. The only thing that stopped him was Goldust, who realized how fucked up what he was seeing despite being drunk. After the plane landed, Hennig and Hall were fired and Flair and Goldust were privately reprimanded (Lesnar suffered no punishment since Hennig instigated the fight). Not much was known about the flight until The Dark Side of the Ring did an episode on it, finally obliterating Ric Flair’s image.

14. WCW goes out of business (March 26, 2001)

After a few years of spiraling quality and fan desertion, WCW finally had a small burst of quality at the start of 2001. The matches were the main focus and they were great again and long time fans were hoping this was a harbinger of things improving. Alas, this was also around the time Jamie Kellner, one of the most reviled network executives to ever live, was put in charge of WCW’s channels and he hated wrestling. So, he cancelled them. This allowed Vince McMahon to swoop in and buy the company for chump change. I say this with zero hyperbole, WCW going out of business was one of the worst things to ever happen to wrestling, easily in the top five. Its last few years were mostly trash but its mid-’90s period is one of the greatest periods of wrestling to ever exist and it forced WWF to evolve. With WCW dead and buried, WWF devolved considerably with no major competition. AEW may not be perfect but it’s been keeping WWE on its toes.

13 Jerry Lawler has a heart attack on-air (September 10, 2012)

Shortly after wrestling in a tag team match, Jerry Lawler had a heart attack on-air in the middle of commenting on another match. Co-commentator Michael Cole, who had been feuding with Lawler, broke kayfabe and was visibly distraught over his attack. The episode continued, with Cole giving updates on Lawler’s condition to shell shocked fans. Lawler thankfully survived and returned to commenting a few months later. In a perverse way, this incident helped Michael Cole’s reputation considerably. Fans hated his heel run and his insipid commentary. However, his pure professionalism over the incident made it hard for fans to buy him as a spiteful little shit or hate him. It later becoming clear that Vince was the source of his worst lines (his commentary improved considerably during the half year when Vince was away from WWE) helped too.

12. The death of Nancy Argentino (May 10, 1983)

Many wrestling fans in the ’80s were confused as to why Jimmy Snuka’s push seemed to taper out after 1983 despite being incredibly talented and over with the fans. The confusion stopped when word started getting out about the death of Snuka’s girlfriend Nancy Argentino. The coroner believed it to be murder but Snuka was never charged in the ’80s. Allegedly, Vince made an undocumented visit to the Allentown police department. No one has ever spoken of what happened in this meeting but the police never investigated Snuka. All this changed in 2015, when Snuka, now in his ’70s, was charged with her death. The charges were dismissed in 2017, as Snuka was mentally unfit to stand trial. He died shortly afterwards. WWE eulogized him and called him a hero because of course they did.

11. Droz is crippled in an in-ring accident (October 5, 1999)

Droz was an up-and-coming wrestler in the WWF in the late ’90s. His gimmick was that he could vomit on command, which delighted Vince. His run ended tragically in October 1999, when a botched powerbomb from D’Lo Brown led to Droz fracturing vertebrae in his neck. He was immediately rushed to the hospital but it was no use; he was paralyzed from the neck down. This didn’t end Droz’s involvement with wrestling though. He wrote articles for WWE’s magazines and websites and was a recurring guest on the WWE Byte This! internet show. Today, Droz has made peace with his injury and holds no ill will towards Brown. He’s also gained some of his mobility back, being able to move his arms and upper body.

10. Jesse Ventura elected governor Minnesota (November 3, 1998)

The political and wrestling worlds were shocked in 1998 when former wrestler Jesse Ventura was elected the governor of Minnesota. He ran under the Reform Party ticket, beating out Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Skip Humphrey. There had been numerous promos where the wrestlers talked about running for office but no one, in the wrestling business or elsewhere, saw anything like this happening. There have been other examples of wrestlers flirting with politics (Hulk Hogan wasting time on WCW talking about running for president, Kane being elected mayor of Knox County, whatever The Rock is thinking about doing, etc.) but none have soared as high as Ventura. Also, while in office, he made fun of Virginia for wanting the 28th Virginia battle flag back and supported gay rights, which is great.

9. Mankind falls through the Hell in a Cell (June 28, 1998)

There’s been countless wrestling moments that I love but there’s none that I adore more than this moment from Mankind and The Undertaker’s instantly legendary Hell in a Cell match. Mankind and The Undertaker are brawling on top of the Cell when Undertaker choke slams Mankind. Whoever designed the Cell didn’t realize how strong Undertaker was or how heavy Mankind was and Mankind went straight through the Cell. The match had a lot of crazy stunts (this wasn’t even the first fall Mankind took in the match) but this was completely unplanned. Undertaker, Vince, and Jim Ross were legitimately afraid that Mankind was dead. But Mankind lived and was able to do the rest of the planned events for the match. After the match, Vince went up to Mankind to tell him two things. 1. He thanked him for the great match and what it would do for the company. 2. He never wanted to see anything like that again. And despite considering this my favorite wrestling moment, he wasn’t wrong.

8. The New World Order is formed (July 7, 1996)

Hulk Hogan was struggling to get over with the fans after jumping ship to WCW. WCW never cared for WWF’s style and, to WCW fans, Hogan seemingly knew nothing but that. That all changed at Bash at the Beach 1996, when Hogan turned heel and joined forces with The Outsiders Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. Fans were legitimately stunned by what they were watching. Hogan exclaimed that he, Nash, and Hall were “the new world order of wrestling,” and one of the greatest stables in wrestling history was born. The New World Order eventually became overexposed and the fans got sick of them but none of that can take away from the sure brilliance of their formation.

7. United States v. McMahon (July 5, 1994)

WWF was nearly brought to its knees in the early ’90s thanks to the Steroid Trial. Not the trial itself, it was a complete farce that ended with Vince skating by with no conviction. But public perception was a whole other story. The big wrestlers of the ’80s were out and the skinnier (but still athletic) wrestlers weren’t going over as well with the fans. The mid-’90s were terrible for WWF for many reasons but the Steroid Trial played a huge role in that.

6. The murder of Bruiser Brody (July 17, 1988)

Bruiser Brody was one of the most beloved wrestlers of the ’80s. He was amazing in the ring and was an amazing heel. Which made it all the more shocking when Brody was murdered in Puerto Rico in 1988 by fellow wrestler Invader #1. Basically every adult today knows that wrestling is predetermined but it wasn’t as well known back in 1988. Invader #1’s defense was based on Brody’s heel antics in the ring to persuade the jury that Invader #1 killed Brody in self defense (for reference, Brody was holding a picture of his son when he was stabbed; he was going to have a painting made as a vacation gift). Invader #1 was found not guilty. Wrestlers that knew the real Brody like Tony Atlas and Terry Funk didn’t get their trial summons until after the trial ended. Invader #1 won the trial but his career was dead outside Puerto Rico. American wrestlers boycotted any promotion that employed him. Atsushi Onita wanted to do a program with Invader #1 in Japan but the Yakuza told Onita that they would murder Invader #1 if he stepped foot in Japan. Onita did eventually do a program with him in Puerto Rico and it was pretty terrible.

5. The death of the Von Erich family

The Von Erich family was on top of the wrestling world in the early ’80s. Men wanted to be them and women wanted to be with them. Their feud with The Fabulous Freebirds was one of the best in wrestling history. By the end of the ’90s, all but one of them was dead. It’s one of the most horrifying curses in wrestling history. The first casualty was one that most WCCW fans didn’t know about, little Jack Von Erich Jr. He died in a freak accident on March 7, 1959, before half of his brothers were even born. He was six. The next was David Von Erich. He was an amazing wrestler, considered by many to be the best of the Von Erichs. He had many memorable clashes, against the likes of Ric Flair and Harley Race, among others. He suddenly died on February 10, 1984 in Japan. The death certificate said it was acute enteritis but virtually everyone in the wrestling industry (such as Flair and Mick Foley) believe it was a drug overdose and Bruiser Brody, who discovered the body, flushed the drugs down the toilet to keep his legacy intact. He was 25. Next was Mike Von Erich. He never wanted to be a wrestler, he wanted to be a cameraman for his father’s promotion but patriarch Fritz Von Erich forced him into the ring to replace David. Mike injured his shoulder while touring in Israel. He went into surgery but eventually got toxic shock. He tried to return to wrestling to please Fritz after he recovered but had to retire because he was in too much pain. On April 12, 1987, Mike intentionally took a fatal dose of tranquilizers and died. He was 23. Next was Chris Von Erich. He was the youngest of the brothers and the weakest. He was never able to get over like his brothers did, which frustrated him. Combined with the loss of David and especially Mike, this led Chris to take his own life. On September 12, 1991, Chris shot himself in the head. He was 21. Fritz’s wife divorced him the next year, blaming him for their sons’ deaths. Next was Kerry Von Erich. Kerry was probably the best known of the Von Erichs nationally in their lifetime. He wrestled as The Modern Day Warrior and The Texas Tornado in the WWF. That all changed when he suffered a severe motorcycle accident. He had to have his right leg amputated. This didn’t stop his wrestling, he just wore a prosthetic and never told anyone about it. He became addicted to pain killers as a result, which got him into trouble with the law. A day after his second indictment, Kerry shot himself in the chest on February 18, 1993. He was 33. He had told Bret Hart a year prior that he wanted to join his brothers and was just waiting for God to tell him when he should meet them. Fritz Von Erich passed away on September 10, 1997 from lung cancer that spread to his brain. He was 68. In his last years, with the cancer starting to addle his brain, he would berate surviving son Kevin Von Erich for not having the guts to kill himself like his brother. Kevin Von Erich has retired from wrestling but his sons are keeping the Von Erich name alive. He’s made peace with his tragic life but still misses his brothers. “I used to have five brothers, now I’m not even a brother.”

4. The death of Eddie Guerrero (November 13, 2005)

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Eddie Guerrero is the most beloved wrestler of the 21st century. The only one that comes close is Bryan Danielson. The fans always popped for him and cheered, even when he played a heel. He struggled with addiction which got him released from the WWE but got clean and returned to great acclaim. He was on track for the best run of his career. And then he died. He passed out while brushing his teeth and died in his nephew Chavo Guerrero Jr.’s hands. An autopsy revealed that it was a result of acute heart failure due to an underlying atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. The wrestling world was stunned. WWE put their storylines on hold to pay tribute to the legend. Even other promotions paid tribute. TNA, ROH, OVW, even CZW. Things got worse the next year thanks to WWE’s Eddiesploitation angle, which featured disgusting moments like Randy Orton saying Eddie was in Hell, Mark Henry saying he would spit on Eddie if he was alive, and his widow Vickie turning heel. The fans hated it, the wrestlers hated it, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon hated it, everyone but Vince hated it. A disgraceful “tribute” to one of the greatest to ever live.

3. The Montreal Screwjob (November 9, 1997)

There’s before the Montreal Screwjob and after the Montreal Screwjob. No single in-ring moment has changed the wrestling industry as much as this match did. It’s 1997 and WWF is getting its ass kicked by WCW. WWF’s champion Bret Hart is jumping ship to WCW. Vince wants Shawn Michaels to succeed Hart, winning at Survivor Series in Montreal. Hart doesn’t like Michaels but he’s OK with doing a job… until Michaels acted unprofessionally towards him again, telling him he would never have put him over. Vince is caught between a rock and a hard place. Hart refused to job to Michaels and Michaels had enough political power in the company to throw his weight around. Vince was legitimately afraid that there would be a repeat of the Madusa incident, from a few articles ago, where she threw the WWF belt into the trash. So, Vince decided to double cross Hart. Vince went behind Hart’s back and told Michaels and the referee Earl Hebner his new idea. The original plan was for the match to end inclusively and for Hart to lose the belt at a later event. Instead of that, Hebner would do a fast count when Michaels had Hart in a sharpshooter (Hart’s signature move), giving the win to Michaels. It was instantly chaotic. Hart destroyed several cameras in anger and spelled out WCW in front of the remaining ones. He punched Vince out in the locker room. Michaels was legitimately in tears over what he had to do. Hebner, who was only told of the new finish after he had promised Hart he wouldn’t screw him, fled for his life. The locker room was in revolt, with The Undertaker kicking in Vince’s door to tell him to speak to the roster. Rick Rude quit the company and Mick Foley would have if Hart hadn’t told him not to. Vince later tried to defend himself with the now infamous “Bret screwed Bret” promo. This failed miserably, which led Vince to turn heel and become one of the greatest heels in wrestling history. Hart would flounder miserably in WCW, which led to the Montreal Screwjob being his lasting legacy. One of the greatest wrestlers ever, reduced to his lowest moment. So sad.

2. The death of Owen Hart (May 23, 1999)

Owen Hart was great. He was a wonderful man, absolutely talented, and was just amazing to watch. Fans were disappointed to see him get an embarrassing gimmick called The Blue Blazer but he still made it work. Made to parody Sting and his zipline appearances, Hart would be lowered to the ground on a rope but get stuck. For the Over the Edge event, Hart was going to be lowered to the ground, get stuck three feet above the ground, have to release himself, and fall on his face. But an accident happened. Hart was released 78 feet above the ground and fell to his death. His last words were to yell at everyone below to get out of the way. He severed his aorta in the fall and bled out in minutes. His widow Martha believes that he accidentally triggered the release while trying to get comfortable in the harness. Controversially, the event would continue even after getting confirmation that Hart had passed. Martha would sue the WWF for Owen’s wrongful death after learning how flimsy the harness they had him in was. She was paid $18 million in damages and Owen Hart can never be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame since she thinks it’s disgusting to try to “honor” the person they accidentally killed. (She has no problem with wrestling itself, as some people have accused her of, she appeared at AEW’s Owen Hart Cup.)

1. Chris Benoit (June 25, 2007)

I don’t want to be writing this. I’ve read the details of this story countless times and it gives me the chills every time. The research I’ve had to do for this entry was no exception. I considered just leaving the entry blank except for the title, picture, and date. But I respect the people reading this too much to do that and I have too much self pride to do that. You’ve read the other 99 entries, you’re owed a finale.

Chris Benoit was one of the best wrestlers to ever exist, from a talent standpoint. He was never a big star but the fans adored him. Whenever he was on a show, you were guaranteed an amazing match. The cracks started to show after Eddie Guerrero’s death. Benoit and Guerrero were best friends and he was obliterated emotionally after the latter passed. He was never the same.

On June 23, 2007, Chavo Guerrero Jr. received several bizarre messages from Benoit, saying that his wife Nancy and their son Daniel were sick and he would be late to that night’s house show. He never showed up to the house show, claiming that they were really sick. He said he would show up to the Vengeance: Night of Champions PPV the next night. He never showed up for that either. WWE execs were growing more and more concerned and called the Georgia police for a welfare check. They found all three of their corpses. WWE ran a tribute show the next night eulogizing Benoit and paying tribute to his matches. During the last hour of the tribute show, the police revealed that they died on different days and believed that Chris had murdered his family before killing himself. He had murdered Nancy and Daniel the day he started sending the bizarre messages to Chavo. This caused an immediate furor throughout the media. An unfortunately large amount of people in the media think wrestling is dumb and all its fans are morons and they were practically salivating at the chance to take it down a peg, even if that involved debasing the memory of a dead woman and child.

The autopsy performed on Benoit revealed that he had a brain similar to that of a man in his ’80s with Alzheimer’s. Benoit’s high flying wrestling style, concussions, and steroid abuse did a number to his brain. One of the disturbing aspects of the story to me is one of Benoit’s last online searches. He searched for stories about the Prophet of Elijah, which involved the resurrection of a dead child. It is horrifying trying to process what was going on in his head

Chris Benoit has been practically erased from WWE history afterwards. Unless you’re looking up championship reigns, you won’t find any information about him on their site. There’s been some criticism but I can’t blame them. No one wants to be reminded of this horrific event when they’re looking up old wrestlers. WWE also banned unprotected shots to the head to try and prevent further tragedies like this. Outside of certain foreign promotions, chair shots to the head have been banned from almost every wrestling promotion in the world.

Thank you all for reading this series. From the highs and lows, wrestling has been a wild industry that I love talking about. I’m glad this series of articles has gotten so much praise.