While professional wrestling is renowned for athletic spectacles and the illusion of physical combat between competitors, it’s also entertainment akin to a soap opera. The fighting portion tends to stem from drama that leads to rivalries between those involved, and it can arise from a variety of situations. Therefore, it’s only natural that romance has always played an important part in storylines, for better or worse. What’s more dramatic than love after all?
When it comes to WWE, however, it’s worth bearing in mind that the company has mishandled couples for the most part. While some of the most beloved and popular superstars in the history of the business saw their career boosted by being part of a romantic pairing, there has been even more whose legacies were tarnished as a result. This is because WWE has often sunk to questionable lows in the name of entertainment. In this universe, relationships begin with kidnappings and end in even more confusing ways.
From monsters finding love to the birth of a large hand, there’s no gutter-level low that WWE hasn’t rolled around in at some point. With this in mind, here are 9 Couples That Hurt WWE, And 7 That Saved It.
16 Hurt: Beaver Cleavage and Mrs. Cleavage
The Attitude Era is hailed by most wrestling fans as the best and most popular in the company’s history. It was a time of controversial storylines, edgy characters, violent matches, and lots of storylines that went too far. And while there’s no denying that those years provided the most captivating and entertaining television in WWE history, it also made for some of the worst. Case in point: Beaver Cleavage and his mother, Mrs. Cleavage.
Prior to adopting the Beaver Cleavage gimmick, Chaz Warrington was Mosh, one half of the tag team The Headbangers along with Thrasher. They were a respectable duo with a cool metalhead gimmick that was very fitting for the nineties. But when Thrasher got injured, his partner was repackaged as Beaver Cleavage and it effectively killed his solo run from the get-go.
The character appeared in uncomfortable vignettes with his storyline mother, but it was implied that they were closer than your standard family relationship. Each segment was littered with innuendos and no one involved benefited. Afterwards, Warrington denounced the gimmick on-air and went by the name Chaz. Mrs. Cleavage was revealed as his girlfriend and it led to another career-killing storyline revolving around domestic abuse. Warrington’s WWE story is a prime example of the company catering to the lowest common denominator. He deserved better.
15 Saved: Sherri Martel and Shawn Michaels
“The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels is arguably WWE’s greatest ever performer. On top of being one of the wrestlers to ever lace up a pair of boots, he pioneered the generation-defining faction D-Generation X and was a central component of the infamous 1997 “Montreal Screwjob”, which to this day remains the most controversial and debated incident in wrestling folklore. As far as sports entertainers go, he’s the poster boy.
Even legends need to start somewhere and Sherri Martel was instrumental in helping HBK garner his early steam.
Prior to getting together with Michaels, Martel helped propel legends like “Macho Man” Randy Savage and “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase to immortal status in their own right. When she was paired with Michaels in the early nineties, he was an arrogant youngster with a lot of potential who was trying to find his footing as a singles star following the break-up of his hotshot tag team with Marty Jannetty, The Rockers.
While Michaels was good enough to get over on his own, Martel certainly elevated him. She was a heat magnet with a strong knack for riling up a crowd. Together, they were a hated pair. At the same time, they were secretly loved because they were so good at being bad.
14 Hurt: Kane and Lita
When it comes to some of WWE’s most controversial storylines, Kane occupies his own special niche. Throughout his career he’s been depicted as a sadistic monster with a tragic backstory and messy love life. His first love in the company was with Tori, but she betrayed him by partnering up with his former tag team partner, X-Pac. Furthermore, prior to becoming a wrestler, he had a girlfriend named Katie Vick and the less said about that storyline the better. Long story short: It involved Triple H donning a Kane disguise and a horrible, horrible skit at a funeral home.
That said, when it comes to Kane’s troubled romantic history, nothing compares to Lita. Like all healthy love stories, it began with Kane kidnapping and impregnating her. All was going well until the villainous Gene Snitsky collided with her and caused a miscarriage. For the next couple of years he maintained that it wasn’t his fault, though there was a particularly funny segment where he kicked a baby doll into the crowd. That moment sums up this entire angle.
Of course, in true WWE fashion, these incredibly touchy topics were explored in the most wrongheaded way possible. They have a history of doing that, though.
13 Saved: The Miz and Maryse
It’s hard to be a bad guy in modern WWE. For the most part, fans cheer heels because they’re more entertaining than the cookie cutter babyfaces. The Miz, though, has always possessed a talent for making people turn on him whenever he opens his mouth. However, he’s spent the majority of his career searching for that special IT factor. At least he did until Maryse entered the equation.
The reason why The Miz and Maryse have great chemistry together is because they’re a real-life married couple and this has been incorporated into their storylines. While Maryse’s role is that of an accomplice who helps her husband cheat to win matches, their public displays of affection and overall bragging about their superiority has made for some highly entertaining television. Over the past couple of years, The Miz has been on a roll and Maryse has been instrumental to that success.
At the time of writing, Maryse has been absent from television to focus on raising their newborn baby. However, it’s only a matter of time before she returns and helps her man on his quest to further glory. Until then, though, you can see them together on their own reality TV show, Miz & Mrs.
12 Hurt: Balls Mahoney and Kelly Kelly
On paper, this had the potential to be a feel good love story about two polar opposites finding each other. One was a 19-year-old supermodel who could have had any man on the planet. The other was a 40-something toothless brawler who hit people with steel chairs and fell through flaming tables. That’s the type of fairytale Beauty and the Beast-esque story wrestling fans should be telling their children about. Unfortunately, it wasn't great
Of course, this was due in no part to the performers themselves. The storyline took place in WWE’s 2007 revival of Extreme Championship Wrestling, which didn’t have anything good going for it at all. Everything about the show was C-grade and lacked any effort or focus, and this angle encapsulated the subpar quality of the ECW experiment in general. Mahoney wasn’t being used to the best of his capabilities as a lunatic, while Kelly Kelly was essentially brought in as eye-candy.
Kelly Kelly would later enter another romantic angle with a wrestler called Mike Knox, another bearded, beast-like brute. Apparently, WWE wanted us to think the character had low standards when it came to guys. Much like the way they believe their fans aren’t too demanding when it comes to entertainment.
11 Saved: Goldust and Marlena
When Goldust made his debut in the mid-nineties, there had been no other character like him in wrestling. In fact, to this day he remains one of the most original and recognizable gimmicks in WWE history, which is why he’s still employed by the company in 2018. At the time, the character’s gay undertones were quite risque, but his provocative and salacious antics in an industry that was predominantly associated with machoness and straight sexual politics was different and almost progressive. That said, Goldust was portrayed as somewhat of a creep, which undermined any progressively-minded potential the character had.
However, the biggest key to Goldust’s success in the early days was his wife, Marlena. Played by his then real-life spouse Terri Runnels, the pair were unique, bizarre, and stood out from their peers.
There hasn’t been a couple quite like them since, despite WWE’s best attempts to create further odd couple pairings throughout the years.
In one of the most dramatic storylines of the nineties, the pair were involved in a divorce angle following a storyline where Marlena was Brian Pillman’s slave for 30 days. In lesser hands, this storyline would have been disastrous. However, the sheer conviction of all those involved made it somewhat believable and engrossing, as they successfully blurred the line between reality and a work.
10 Hurt: Vince McMahon and Trish Stratus
Vince McMahon is the actual owner of WWE, but he’s also one of the company’s most popular onscreen characters. He’s embraced the role of a rich, megalomaniacal billionaire with aplomb and as such he’s been a centrepiece in some of WWE’s most popular good versus evil storylines. Of course, the line that separates the man and the character is virtually indistinguishable, and as he’s shown time and time again, he doesn’t mind resorting to spectacular lows.
If you want to see Vince at his most heinous, then look no further than his onscreen relationship with Trish Stratus. In the story, he was with the gorgeous young blonde and rubbing it in the face of his wife, Linda, who had suffered from a mental breakdown. And yes, that’s the same Linda McMahon who currently serves as a member of the presidential cabinet, in case you were wondering.
As if poking fun at mental illness wasn’t enough, though, Vince decided to go one step further by having Trish get down on the mat in front of a live audience and bark like a dog. When you consider that Vince has the final say on what makes it onto WWE programming, you have to wonder what was going through his mind when he thought this was a good idea.
9 Saved: Edge and Lita
This couple are a prime example of how an awful situation can sometimes be turned into a positive. Before they conquered WWE television together as a power couple, they had a well-publicized relationship that resulted in some bad blood between the pair, the locker room, and the fans. At the time, Lita was dating another wrestler called Matt Hardy who also happened to be one of Edge’s best friends. WWE, however, saw this scandal as a potential money-maker and decided to milk it.
Given that public perception of Edge and Lita had soured as a result of the situation, they had garnered very legitimate heat among fans, which ultimately lead to them becoming the hottest heels in the entire company -- a position in which both of them embraced and then some. They even had a live 'celebration' on Monday Night Raw, as if to rub people’s noses in their romance even further. To this day it remains one of the most watched segments in WWE history.
Since then, both superstars have been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and now they’re fondly remembered for their positive contributions to the company rather than their personal mishap.
8 Hurt: Dolph Ziggler and Lana
This one is just depressing, as it did nothing to help any character involved. It’s also a prime example of WWE’s tendency to ruin a good thing. Lana hit the scene with her real-life partner Rusev back in 2014 and ,for a year or so, they were the most exciting heel couple the company had seen for a long time. Adopting a pro-Russian gimmick which managed to get under people’s skin, their star rose meteorically until their momentum was eventually derailed at WrestleMania 31 when Rusev lost to John Cena. More bad luck was to come, though.
Immediately after Rusev’s big loss, he was put into a feud with Dolph Ziggler. Lana also left him for Ziggler, while Rusev got with a dancer named Summer Rae. For the next few weeks, we were force fed some terrible television featuring awkward romantic exchanges. Probably because Lana and Ziggler had no chemistry together and nothing about their relationship felt natural.
A few weeks after this started, Lana announced her actual engagement to Rusev and ultimately ruined the storyline, much to the relief of wrestling fans.
However, WWE weren’t happy with their public revelation because it ruined their plans -- despite the whole angle being universally panned -- and neither party’s career has fully recovered since.
7 Saved: Chyna and Eddie Guerrero
Chyna was a trendsetter for female wrestlers in the WWE. During the Attitude Era, she regularly wrestled the guys and even won the Intercontinental Championship. Bear in mind that was a period in WWE where the women didn't get on-screen time for the right reason. Chyna, though, was an ass-kicker and a badass.
All this considered, you’d think that a comedic romantic angle would have been a downgrade for a woman who was viewed as a rare equal to the men, but that wasn’t the case. When Chyna and Guerrero got together and charmed us with their “Latino Heat”, their chemistry was magical and brought out both of their personalities and then some. While Chyna had more than proven that she could get physical, her relationship with Guerrero proved that she could make us laugh as well. They stole the audience’s collective heart overnight and created some wonderful moments as a result.
It was also the turning point in Guerrero’s career, who’d been nothing more than a mid-carder until then. His pairing with Chyna made him a massive fan-favorite and he went on to become one of the most beloved superstars in WWE history. Sadly, both superstars are no longer with us.
6 Hurt: Dawn Marie and Al Wilson
If you’re ever looking for an effective way to get the one-up on your sworn enemy, then perhaps this WWE storyline from 2003 will inspire you. As the story goes, Dawn Marie developed feelings for Al Wilson, who was the father of her colleague and fellow Diva, Torrie Wilson. Naturally, this didn’t go down too well with the old man’s daughter or the WWE viewership demographic.
In the storyline, Al and Marie eventually got married, but the poor old guy passed away during the honeymoon, where he had a heart attack. There are worse ways to go, of course, but you can understand why his daughter would be upset with the woman who gave him too much action. Additionally, as part of the ridiculous angle. Marie also revealed that she had romantic feelings for Torrie, which resulted in an onscreen kiss at one point as well.
Their subsequent feud lasted nine months, culminating in a Stepmother vs. Stepdaughter match -- a first for WWE. This is yet another example of WWE creative at its most puerile, but the whole ordeal was sometimes entertaining in a trainwreck sort of way. No one’s career recovered either, but Al didn’t pass away in real life which is a positive.
5 Saved: Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth
Randy Savage and Elizabeth's onscreen chemistry was natural, but this was because they were married in real-life before their fictional relationship had officially begun. That said, fans gravitated towards them like a bee to honey; so much so that there were even tears in the crowd when they reunited following a brief storyline breakup back in the 1980s.
They were given the honor of being WWE's first ever storyline wedding and it’s arguably the only one that wasn’t cringeworthy.
As far as onscreen wrestling couples go, Savage and Elizabeth are the gold standard to which all others have been compared to since. However, it wasn’t all romance and happily ever after as the pair divorced in 1992, and Elizabeth ended up in a relationship with fellow wrestler Lex Luger. She was also Luger’s onscreen manager in WCW, but their alliance wasn’t as interesting as her and Savage’s.
While their real-life relationship wasn’t the most positive come the end, their storyline relationship captivated millions for a long-time and they made history together. When history remembers the best couples in the history of WWE, Elizabeth and Savage will forever rank among the very best of them. Wrestling romances rarely last, but these two made the most of it while they could.
4 Hurt: Billy Gunn and Torrie Wilson
As you’ve probably gathered by now, WWE has a strange history when it comes to couple relationships. We've covered a great deal of insane relationships and this one definitely matches the mould of the rest of then.
Back in 2003, trailer park trash character Jamie Noble came into some money and dumped his own girlfriend Nidia because he wanted to be with Torrie Wilson, who's a model. He offered her thousands of dollars for one night together, but she declined because was with Billy Gunn. However, this was still WWE back in the 2000s, so it was only a matter of time before she agreed to a match stipulation where, if Noble beat her man, he’d get to be with her. Gunn lost the match of course and the situation took a bizarre turn.
After losing his girlfriend to the evil redneck, Gunn went to their room to rescue her from his advances. Upon arrival, though, he found Noble getting with Nidia while Torrie was off to the site. Naturally, Gunn went towards Torrie and luckily the cameras quickly cut off from there.
3 Saved: Triple H and Stephanie McMahon
Thinking ahead long-term has never been WWE’s strongest forte when it comes to storylines. If they knew back in 1999 that Triple H and Stephanie McMahon would be together in real life in 2018, then perhaps they wouldn’t have made the origins of their onscreen romance a kidnapping and forced wedding. That’s right, they tied the knot in Vegas while she was unconscious. Their real wedding was nothing like that, though.
It didn’t take long for Stephanie to warm up to her bad boy husband, though, and from that moment on they became WWE’s ultimate power couple -- both onscreen and off. For nearly 20 years, we’ve witnessed their relationship evolve on television, from their questionable humble beginnings to becoming parents to three children and heirs to the entire WWE empire when Vince eventually steps down.
They remain a pivotal part of WWE programming as the company’s villainous authoritarian power couple, much to the ire of fans.
If Vince McMahon had has way, though, their story could have turned out differently. When Stephanie fell pregnant with her first child, her father wanted to run a storyline where he was the father. Sensible people talked him out of it eventually, but the fact it was even circulating the marketplace of ideas in the first place says a lot about Vince’s desire to push the envelope of bad taste to new lows.
2 Hurt: Billy and Chuck
Despite being an industry leader for over 35 years, WWE has never had a positive gay storyline or character. When it comes to a progressive outlook in general, the company is still playing catch up with the times. It was only a few years ago that women were given the opportunity to showcase their ability properly, but even that’s still a work in progress.
With Billy and Chuck, though, the company had the opportunity to create a positive gay tag team and promote equality. Sadly, like most things in WWE back in 2002, it quickly descended into schlock and ended up offending people. Of course, the fact that both of the wrestlers involved -- Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo -- were straight meant it would never have been sincere anyway. However, they could still have handled their relationship better by portraying it in a more positive light. Instead, commentators uttered their names with disdain and they were presented as heels.
In the end, it turned out that their relationship was one big deceiving lie they’d concocted for their own benefit. Furthermore, at their wedding, a pimp character known as The Godfather interrupted their wedding in a bid to bring them back to the straight side as well.
1 Hurt: Mae Young and Mark Henry
Al Wilson and Vince McMahon weren’t the only elderly people in WWE to get in a new relationship. In 2000, the late, great Mae Young found love with the former Olympian weightlifter, Mark Henry. Young was 77-years-old back then too, but that didn’t stop her from taking bumps through tables courtesy of The Dudley Boyz. This didn’t bode well for the child she was pregnant with, though.
There’s nothing wrong with a storyline featuring a pregnant pensioner. Old people need love too and stranger things have happened. That said, when the end results are said pensioner giving birth to a prosthetic hand, it’s hard to think of anything stranger than that. But anything is possible in the wacky world of WWE and, as we’ve discussed already, they’ve had a lot of bewildering ideas in their time. If this angle didn’t culminate with this scenario, it wouldn’t have been too awful.
That wasn’t the end of the story of the hand either. On the 1000th episode of WWE’s flagship show Raw, the hand made another appearance, this time all grown up. At least the company was willing to laugh at one of its worst decisions, even if no one else was back in the day.
Which of these couples did you dislike most? Let us know in the comments!