The terrible ten: sure, pro wrestling has never been long on dignity, but these 10 episodes crossed the line and rank as the most embarrassing of all time

The terrible ten: sure, pro wrestling has never been long on dignity, but these 10 episodes crossed the line and rank as the most embarrassing of all time

Mike Stokes

PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING HAS never been a safe harbor for the politically correct. It’s never claimed to be high art, scholarly, civilized, or even tasteful. In fact, that’s a large part of its appeal. Heck, if you’re looking for culture, go find a rerun of “Baywatch.”

Despite the sport’s rich and glorious history of over-the-top antics, larger-than-life superstars, and in-your-face action, there are moments when professional wrestling steps over its own blurry line of proper etiquette and becomes downright offensive to even its most steadfast supporters.

Wrestling fans are willing to turn a blind eye to ludicrous notions like Rey Mysterio the giant killer or the mystery of Mr. America’s true identity. They are to watch in bemused shock and horror as King Kong Bundy bodyslams midget or Kane douses a handcuffed Shane McMahon with gasoline. They are even willing to suffer through a long list of failed gimmicks from the Gobbledegooker to Glacier as they run their pitiful course.

What wrestling fans will not accept, however, is being treated like morons, having their loyalty exploited or, worst of all being bored silly by the federations they support. As the following list of high-profile embarassments will show, there are times when even this sport should be ashamed of itself.

Muhammad Ali v. Antonio Inoki

The biggest waste of time in professional wrestling history took place in June 25, 1976, when the world’s heavyweight boxing champ, Muhanamad Ali, squared-off against grappling great Antonio Inoki before a packed house in Tokyo.

Doomed to failure from the outset, efforts to protect All from injury included stipulations that outlawed basic wrestling maneuvers such as headbutting, bodyslams, eye gouging, chops, and using elbows and knees to strike an opponent. Kicking was also illegal, unless the combatant was on the ground and was kicking only at his opponent’s legs. Inoki chose this line of attack, spending most of the excruciatingly boring 15-round match on the canvas kicking at Ali’s legs like a wounded kangaroo. While the repeated kicks did do some damage to Ali’s left knee, the i only other offense came when Inoki landed an illegal elbow to Ali’s face in the sixth round and when Ali connected with a punch in the 13th.

The most action came from onlookers throwing garbage into the ring when the match ended in a draw.

The 32,000 fans watching on closed-circuit television at Shea Stadium in New York were also treated to a similar match between Andre the Giant and journeyman boxer Chuck Wepner. While this ill-conceived event may have set the stage for an entertaining scene in “Rocky III,” it was otherwise a complete and utter failure.

Pete Rose the Chicken

It’s a sad state of affairs when baseball’s all time hits leader is reduced to flapping his arms the Famous Chicken’s costume for spare change while mediocre-at-best ballplayers are making millions.

Unfortunately, that didn’t keep WWE from taking advantage of Pete Rose’s inherent lack of good sense. Extending the feud he started with Kane a year earlier, “Charlie Hustle” showed up at Wrestlemania XV wearing the Chicken’s outfit and taunting “the Big Red Machine.”

Any hope that Kane’s eventual assault would knock some sense into Rose was dashed when the infamous ballplayer resurfaced the next year–this, time using, a decoy chicken–to catch another pounding from. Kane and a face full of Rikishi’s rear end. Hopefully, someone mentioned to Rose that betting on professional wrestling isn’t a good idea.

WCW Goes Hollywood

The only gimmick more lame than wrestlers trying to act is actors trying to wrestle. Had someone only mentioned this indisputable fact to WCW after it teamed Sting with Robocop back in 1990, the company might still be going strong today. Instead, WCW fans were subjected to ridiculous movie tie-ins such as Sling dressing like the Crow and Rick Steiner being stalked by Chucky during WCW’s final years.

The ultimate insult, however, came when gangly actor David Arquette won the venerable WCW (a then-Time-Warner company) heavyweight strap while pushing Iris horrible Warner Bros. (another Trine-Warner company film “Ready to Rumble” on unsuspecting audiences.

By abandoning its credibility in the name of corporate synergy, the WCW sold out its legacy, alienated its fans, and went belly up a year later.

Diesel and Razor, Part Deux

The suddenly floundering WWE of the mid-’90s showed just how desperate it was when it trum peted the triumphant return of Diesel and Razor Ramon.

Since the wrestlers that made those characters famous, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, were now working for the rival WCW and leading it to the top of the cable ratings as The Outsiders, fans who were curious to see how the wrestlers could be in two places simultaneously were heated to a quick lesson in intellectual property. While the trademarked characters did appear, they had different graplers–Glen Jacobs, who is now Kane as Diesel and Rick Bogner as Razor–playing the parts The idiotic stunt fell as flat as the WWE’s ratings.

Mae Young’s Pregnancy

In a storyline too twisted to warrant an explanation, Mark “Sexual Chocolate” Henry began an affair with the elderly I former ladies champion Mae Young. What began as wrestling’s answer to the quirky romance of “Harold and Maude,” however, suddenly began to feel more like “Rosemary’s Baby” when the eightysomething Young announced she was pregnant. Going into labor at ringside, Young was rushed to the hospital where she gave birth to a bouncing baby plastic hand. That’s right–a plastic hand. One theory suggests the delivery of the long lost hand was a bizarre joke indicating some unorthodox activity by a more youthful Young. If so, the joke was lost on most everyone, but mercifully the delivery ended the story line.

Billy and Chuck’s Wedding

Long before the Bravo network brought us “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” the WWE was breaking new ground with professional wrestling’s first same-sex marriage.

As the nuptials grew closer, however, Billy and Chuck both started to get cold feet. At the altar, just before the kiss, fans found out why. After months of innuendo, the ambiguously gay duo admitted they were straight. Big surprise. If it weren’t for Eric Bischoff’s excellent preacher disguise, the night would have been a total waste.

The WCW Variety Show

In yet another misguided attempt at mainstream acceptance, the WCW embarked on a late-’90s cavalcade of stars to lure a wider audience.

To seduce viewers from ESPN, athletes like Kevin Greene, Reggie White, Karl Malone, and Dennis Rodman stepped into the ring, Raiding MTV, WCW inked rapper Master P and his “No Limit” soldiers/wrestlers to a deal. For the VH1 set, WCW introduced the Demon, who was inspired by the rock group KISS. Sponsoring Kyle Petty in the NWO race car stole a few mullets from “INN, and getting “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno in a pair of tights meant network exposure.

Unleashing washed-up veejay Rikki Rachman as an out-of-place correspondent who seemed deeply embarrassed to be a part of the production helped hammer the final nail into the WCW coffin. At least the Insane Clown Posse could wrestle a little bit. The rest of the WCW variety show was senseless crap.

Prostethic Madness

Long before Zach Gowan captured the collective imagination of wrestling fans worldwide with his high-flying, one-legged maneuvers, another disabled grappler was being shown much less respect by the WWE.

In the most literal form that “adding insult to “,injury” has ever taken, Diesel stole Mad Dog Vachon’s prosthetic leg right out from under him to use it as a weapon against Shaven Michaels in 1996. (Vachon’s leg was amputated after a car struck him in 1987.) While that incident can be chalked up to tasteless fun, the gag grew old quickly when Jerry Lawler repeated it in 1998 by taking Vaehon’s fake leg during a ceremony to honor the legendary tough guy.

The Aging AWA

It’s never a good sign for a wrestling promotion when its heavyweight champions are in less danger of being pinned than they are of breaking a hip while climbing into the ring. That didn’t keep AWA legend Verne Gagne from defeating Nick Bockwinkel for the title in 1980 at the ripened age of 57. (And you thought Hulk Hogan was old.) It also didn’t keep Bockwinkel from winning and retaining the belt until he was a spry (by comparison) 53.

Just as it looked like the AWA might enter a youth movement in 1988, however, Gagne somehow managed to beat then-champion Curt Hennig at the retirement age of 65. Since the match was deemed unsanctioned, the strap didn’t change hands, but the AWA’s refusal to embrace the future remained intact.

Slaughter Defects

At the top of his game in the ’80s, Sgt. Slaughter was a beloved hard-nosed soldier right out of G.I. Joe. Even during his days as a Cobra-clutching heel, the lantern-jawed drill sergeant bled red, white, and blue.

As Taps was sounding on his wrestling career in 1990, however, Slaughter did the unthinkable–he defected. In the wake of the Gulf War, Slaughter donned an Iraqi military uniform and fought under a foreign flag.

While world tensions playing out vicariously in the squared circle is wrestling tradition, Slaughter’s slight came as real American heroes were in danger and dying. Instead of using Sarge to lead the patriotic charge, WWE issued him a dishonorable discharge.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Century Publishing

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group