Professional wrestling has always been controversial. It’s a scripted form of entertainment that’s portrayed as competition. This causes outsider to question and even attack the business as a whole. The type of controversy I’m going to talk about here is when storylines or gimmick, push the envelope in an attempt to get heat.
I’ll start by going back to 1991. For WrestleMania VII, Sgt. Slaughter was the WWE Champion and turned heel to go against Hulk Hogan. The issue was his character became that of an Iraqi sympathizer during the Gulf War. This causes major concerns. He was supposed to go as far as burning the American flag, but that was changed in favor of burning a Hulk Rules T-Shirt. It got to the point that the lives of himself and his family were threatened. The “Real American” Hulk Hogan won the match at Slaughter eventually went back to the American soldier gimmick, but this was controversy to the extreme at the time.
The Attitude Era itself, from 1997-2001 was full of controversial and envelope pushing gimmicks and storylines that won’t pass censors tonight, but going to that extreme was necessary for shocking value as ratings were some of the highest in history at the time. It even resulted in WWE buying out WCW to win the Monday Night War and defeat it’s main competition.
In 2002, one of the most controversial storylines of all time occured, Katie Vick. This involved around Kane being accused of murdering and raping a friend from his past. It even went as far as Triple H dressing up as Kane and mimicking the act so to speak. It was received negatively by fans and was dropped quickly afterwards. However, it left a lasting image that fans from that time period will never forget, but wish they could.
In 2005, WWE had a superstar named Muhammed Hassan, who played the role of an Arab who was born in the United States, but had been discriminated against his entire life. The gimmick got over through controversy and he was in line to win the World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam 2005. Due to a real-life tragic bombing, UPN, the network which aired Smackdown in which Hassan competed on, told WWE they wouldn’t allow the character to appear on their network. This led to the end of the character at the next PPV. He could have been something, but the gimmick was too controversial.
In 2006, Edge and Lita had a live-sex celebration on Raw to celebrate Edge’s first WWE Title win. This was the first and only time something like this has been done on television. It was one of the highest rated segments in the history of Raw, but controversial to say the least. Take at look for yourself.
Today, controversy has reared its head again. This time with Lana and Rusev. They are being promoted as anti-american Russians saying their country is superior. It’s even gone as far as to use the image of Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin. Last night at Battleground, Lana mentored “current events” to get heel heat. Some people have been saying that this is going too far with the recent tragic bombing of a passenger flight, possibly attacked by Russia. Time will tell if WWE will be forced to tone down the gimmick, but I think they should, because with it being a family-friendly globally traded company. It doesn’t need the likely negative press this could bring.
I like controversy from time to time, but not when it goes to far. Doing silly storylines is fine, but when you do things that could upset fans and outsiders alike on a national and even worldwide scale, then you need to tone it down.
Until next time, push the envelope, but not too far,