Six Awesome Unscripted Moments from Professional Wrestling
There was a point in history where people believed that professional wrestling matches were legitimate contests of strength and fans took it very, very seriously. Now, thanks to dirt sheets, the internet and the invention of common sense, much of the mysticism that surrounded wrestling is gone. We know it’s an act and while we wouldn’t go so far as to claim that wrestlers aren’t “actual athletes,” it’s a tad disheartening to know that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin never really hit his boss with a folding chair with the intention of rendering him dead.
But as with all well-laid plans, things can go off the tracks in the squared circle. With wrestling it can be hard to notice these events because we know it’s fake, or rather, that it’s supposed to be fake. What follows are just six such moments.
In 1997 WWE decided to tour Kuwait, presumably to beat Ted Turner to the punch. Several superstars appeared on Kuwait television to promote their matches. The biggest of these matches was slated to be The Undertaker versus Vader for the World Championship. By that time The Undertaker had established himself as a company man and Vader was all too eager to do the same.
If you don’t remember who Vader is, he is perhaps best described as the human embodiment of rage. He’s a super-heavyweight, meaning that if he gives you a spine buster, your future wheelchair qualifies for its own free power chair of electric scooter. He goes by the nickname “The Mastadon” not because of his size but because he survived an extinction event and now seeks revenge against nature itself.
While appearing on Good Morning Kuwait Vader was confronted by the most basic question a professional wrestler can be asked: is it all fake? For whatever reason this came off as a complete surprise to Vader, who decided to react in a totally rational and not at all terrifying way:
Wanting to protect the company’s image and maintain the illusion that a dead man fighting a fat guy in a singlet for a large golden belt was real, Vader flipped a table before grabbing the host and threatening to kick his ass. Apparently, assault is looked down upon in Kuwait. Vader found himself arrested and fined before being deported back to the United States. It turns out we have a precedent for that sort of thing here.
To promote the very first Wrestlemania Vince McMahon turned on the star power that was Hulk Hogan. He was sent everywhere to promote the show. Wrestlemania had to be a success because everything, everything, was riding on its success. A few scant days before the event, Hogan and his main event partner, Mr. T, appeared on Hot Properties, a cable television talk show hosted by none other than Richard Belzer.
As Belzer does his usual shtick he’s presented with the bright idea of having Hogan perform a few moves on him. Apparently, Vince never went over the unspoken rule of “don’t suffocate tiny men with your freak arms” before sending him on his way. Hogan, banking like holy hell on his job security, decides on the classic headlock. It goes exactly as planned:
Despite Belzer flailing his arms as though he’s being buried alive, Hogan holds the lock until he pulls the dead weight routine. Then he releases and Belzer tumbles to the floor like a Jenga tower on a fault line. The audience was shocked; this was supposed to be fake. As Belzer continues not to be conscious, Mr. T comforts the audience by telling them that he’s just sleeping, because apparently Richard Belzer is a dead hamster and the audience is comprised entirely of children.
Bill Goldberg’s entire gimmick was that he simply couldn’t lose. He had a massive win streak and quickly became a fan favorite, often beating opponents before they realized that he really didn’t have a gimmick at all. All this lead to Goldberg winning the Heavyweight Championship and then losing it to Kevin Nash. To summarize his career: Goldberg was the best fake-fighter in the company until he wasn’t. Way to go, WCW creative. You really earned those paychecks.
Now with his entire persona out the window Goldberg became a loose cannon in ill-fitting trunks. On one fateful night he chased down the nWo’s limo in the parking lot, forgetting that his job didn’t require him to fight machines unless they became self-aware. Had things gone according to plan, Goldberg would have smashed the car’s windshield in a display of raw animal rage. But this is Goldberg we’re talking about; even when he sticks to the script he ends a man’s career.
The spot called for Goldberg to shatter the windows with a small pipe he clenched in his fist. After roughing up a fat guy and breaking the first window, everything was going smoothly. However, he managed to drop the pipe in the process. Rather than growl, lick his chops and look incredibly constipated like he usually does, Goldberg decided to just straight up kick the rest of the windows right in their asses. Unarmed, he beat against the windows until they broke and the crowd went wild. Someone finally realized that something was amiss, however, after he started pounding the hood.
Unless Japanese engineers have finally perfected the blood-fueled Honda, this could only mean that Goldberg forgot that glass is sharp and that he was a mere mortal made of flesh and bone. He mangled his arm so severely that he was out for nearly a year, effectively neutering whatever was left of his tough guy angle.
In a sport where many men die before the age of forty the Iron Shiek has managed to defy all scientific knowledge and continues to live despite having some of the most grueling matches of the eighties. His secret is his humility, his vigor and doing enough cocaine to make Scarface look like a family comedy.
Sheiky Baby already speaks the English language with all the clarity of a broken See n’ Say, but when he’s off script and encouraged to speak his own mind it’s like a verbal car wreck. You could make a drinking game out of his shoot interviews, taking a shot every time he drops an F-bomb, threatens to rape another man, asks for narcotics or cries. By the end your liver would burst out of your body in an act of attempted suicide.
The WWE was riding high on the popularity of the Attitude Era in 1998 but faced one small problem: the roster was simply too big to feature many of their employees. To remedy this situation they threw together a tournament to showcase their legitimate tough guys in a series of real brawls that would end with the winner taking on the boxer Butterbean at Wrestlemania XV.
This was a good idea in the same sense that the Challenger almost landed. The difference between professional wrestling and professional boxing is that boxers are paid to make people unconscious with their fists. Meanwhile, professional wrestlers are paid to make their characters as convincing as possible. So, while it’s entirely possible that someone somewhere believed that Ted DiBiase really was a millionaire with a lot of downtime and violent tendencies, that wouldn’t mean much if Mike Tyson was punching the bones out of his face.
When Bart Gunn won the four rounds of Brawl for All, winning three rounds by knockout, he was deemed capable enough to take on a professional boxer. The management hoped that the bout would help legitimize wrestling as a sport and that Gunn could would stand on his feet for longer than twenty-seven seconds. Neither of these hopes were realized:
In a surprise twist that shocked absolutely no one, the professional boxer dropped his non-boxing opponent like John F. Kennedy riding in a motorcade. Brawl-for-All never happened again and Gunn was released from his contract shortly afterward.
In a 2004 episode of SmackDown! Kurt Angle challenged that season’s Tough Enough (a reality show that promises the winner a contract with the WWE) contestants to a squat thrust competition, because he moonlights as an olde-timey circus strongman or something. The contest was entirely unscripted and the winner, Chris Nawrocki, earned the right to challenge Kurt to a wrestling match, also unscripted. Kurt took this opportunity to say “Hello!” by legitimately breaking Nawrocki’s ribs before making him submit with a neck crank. After almost crippling the man, Angle challenged the other contestants to take him on. The man who stepped in, Daniel Puder, would make Angle regret that decision.
Angle most likely planned on slapping a submission hold on the green Puder, but what Angle should have expected was Puder’s secret life as a Brazillian karate master. With Angle over him, Puder managed to work him into a kimura lock. For those of you not familiar with the deadly arts, the kimura lock is how MMA fighters break each others’ arms. Puder became the human equivalent of a rusty bear trap and Angle needed a hacksaw to break away.
Not wanting to tap out to a nobody on national television, Angle went for a flimsy pin that a ref quick counted to three. Puder had lost, but only in the way that a bone-snapping man could: not at all. After shaming Angle, Puder won the Tough Enough competition. However, he wouldn’t stay with the wrestling world for long and later entered the world of MMA, where nearly tearing a man’s arm off is the equivalent of a handshake.