It has always been tricky for the WWE to try and maintain a family-friendly image with their product, as the company has been dogged by controversy throughout its run.
The Hulkamania era contained steroid trials that threatened to derail the industry, as well as accusations of inappropriate behavior being levied towards the senior staff members of the WWF. The Attitude Era embraced a more adult theme than professional wrestling had ever seen before, but it also made it more difficult for the WWF to find sponsors.
The current WWE product is rated PG and aims to be as family friendly as possible. It seems like the company is constantly putting out fires, in the form of social media outbursts among their talent and illicit material being leaked online.
The company has tried its best to change history, which means that they will edit any of their previous or current material, in order to portray a certain image.
We are here today to look at the times when censorship was forced upon the WWE, either through internal or external forces.
From the changing of a single letter that cost them countless man-hours to the live destruction of kayfabe, here are the 15 Crazy Ways The WWE Were Forced To Censor Themselves!
15. Shaving With A Knife
There have been many prominent mixed martial artists who went into professional wrestling. They are usually welcomed due to their reputation for being tough guys while being attracted by the more lucrative deals that wrestling can offer them.
Tank Abbott joined WCW in 1999, where he quickly earned a reputation for being a scary guy, both inside and outside the ring.
There was an incident where a wrestler named Big Al did something to annoy Tank Abbot during a match. Once the match finished, Abbott pulled out a knife and threatened Al on live TV.
Tony Schiavone (one of the commentators of the match) quickly tried to cover for Tank Abbott’s actions by claiming that he was offering to shave Big Al’s beard. The problem with this statement was that Big Al was already clean-shaven.
14. The Mysterious Red Liquid
The WWE has always had a strange relationship when it comes to blood. Wrestlers will usually be fined if the camera catches them blading, which is the act of purposely cutting yourself with a hidden razor in order to draw blood from a safe area.
There have also been instances when footage is made black and white in order to obscure the color of blood.
WCW was notorious for flip-flopping on what they considered to be acceptable to show on TV. One example of this happened during the Sting/Vampiro feud, which involved red liquid being poured onto Sting while he was in the ring.
13. The Kiss Censorship
The “Kiss Distraction” spot is a moment during a wrestling match when one of the competitors is kissed by their opponent/manager, which stuns them long enough for the opponent to get the upper hand.
The WWE has been fond of the girl/girl version of this move, though the male version isn’t unheard of. The British wrestler known as Adrian Street commonly kissed his opponents in order to distract them.
The change in modern sensibilities has caused the kissing distraction to fall out of favor. One example of this happened in 2016 when a moment where Ric Flair kissed Becky Lynch during the Royal Rumble was edited out of the WWE Network replay of the show.
This was due to a backlash surrounding the incident, as it was felt that Flair was forcing himself on Lynch, even though it was a pre-planned spot that has happened hundreds of times on WWE shows in the past.
12. Get The F Out
The WWF was once a name that was shared by two companies” the World Wrestling Federation and the World Wide Fund for Nature.
The two companies used this name until 1994 when an agreement was made between the two. The WWF (the wrestling one) agreed to tone down their usage of the abbreviated version of their name in advertising and marketing.
This led to a lawsuit in the year 2000 which was followed by the company changing their name from the WWF to WWE in 2002.
The loss of the WWF lawsuit meant that the WWE was forced to censor all instances of the term “WWF” from their archival footage, especially the shows that were released on DVD.
This meant that signs bearing the logo had to be blurred and any instance of someone saying the word “WWF” had their dialogue censored so that the “F” was removed from the sentence.
11. The Censored Real Name
Balls Mahoney was a professional wrestler who was best known for his tenure in ECW. He would later join the WWE’s version of ECW when they briefly revived the promotion as a third brand. Mahoney was released from his WWE contract in 2008 and he would wrestle on the independent circuit until he passed away of a heart attack in 2016.
Balls Mahoney’s name always proved a problem for both ECW and WWE when it came to releasing action figures based on his likeness. Having a character whose name was “Balls” was probably going to prevent most retailers from stocking ECW/WWE toys.
10. WWE Gone Mild
There are a few WWE shows that will never see a release due to their content. These include Over the Edge 1999 (the show where Owen Hart died) and the episode of WWF SmackDown! where Darren Droznov was paralyzed.
There is another show that is locked away in WWE’s vault, though the reason why it will never be shown has more to do with its quality than its content.
There was once a crossover special between WWE and the Girls Gone Wild video series. This special was a pay-per-event, which was hosted by several WWE Divas. It featured the kind of content you would expect from a Girls Gone Wild show, though none of the WWE ladies got undressed, despite what the commercials said.
9. The Last Minute Character Cuts
Professional wrestlers tend to be a temperamental bunch. This has led to numerous instances of a wrestler walking out on a company due to some disagreement they have had with the higher-ups or other wrestlers, even if they are in the middle of a big storyline or feud.
The people who really suffer when a wrestler storms out of the WWE are the people responsible for making the WWE video games. They might have spent months working on adding a specific wrestler and their moves into a game, only to have to dummy them out and make them inaccessible.
One of the biggest examples of this happened in WWE SmackDown!: Here Comes The Pain, as Al Snow, Billy Gunn, Billy Kidman, Bradshaw, Hulk Hogan, Jamal, Jeff Hardy, Molly Holly, Rosie, Spike Dudley, the Ultimate Warrior, and William Regal all had to be removed at a late point in development.
8. The Elevator Entrance Music
There have been several wrestlers who have used licensed songs as their entrance music. This has gone on to be a huge headache for the WWE as they aren’t always willing to pay money to renew the license to use the songs.
The wrestler who is hurt the most by this is New Jack, as his entrance theme (“Natural Born Killaz”) used to play throughout most of his matches. This means that his matches have often been cut from ECW rereleases, as it is too much of a pain to edit around.
The Undertaker has also suffered from this, as he has used both “American Bad A**” (by Kid Rock) and “Rollin'” (by Limp Bizkit) as entrance music. These have needed to be covered with generic music during rereleases of the shows where he used them.
7. The R-Truth About Smoking
It’s a strange world that we live in, where people are fine with a wrestler pile-driving their opponent’s skull into the ground but have a problem when they smoke.
R-Truth got into some hot water in 2011, during a WWE show that was being held in the 02 Arena in London. After losing a match to John Morrison, R-Truth beat him up outside of the ring and took a packet of cigarettes from a person in the crow. R-Truth proceeded to light up and blow smoke in Morrison’s face.
This segment was actually cut out of the UK broadcast of the episode, as the WWE had received complaints from anti-smoking groups about the incident. This was due to the fact that he was smoking in front of children. R-Truth was also breaking the law, as the 02 Arena is a no-smoking venue.
6. The Mystery Of The Missing DDT
Jake “The Snake” Roberts was one of the greatest wrestlers of the Hulkamania era. The man had a charisma and presence that is seldom seen among professional wrestlers. He had a way of commanding a room with a whisper, which helped propel him to stardom.
The WWF management once planned for Jake Roberts to have a high-profile feud with Hulk Hogan. This was meant to be sparked by an incident on Robert’s “Snake Pit” segment, where he would use his signature DDT to defeat Hogan.
The footage of this segment has never officially been released. Vince McMahon wasn’t happy with the fact that the audience was cheering for Jake Roberts, instead of Hulk Hogan. The footage was buried, with the incident only briefly mentioned afterward.
5. Stop Rhyming With Venis!
Val Venis was an attempt at creating an edgier gimmick during the Attitude Era of the WWE. He was intended to be an adult film star who showed up to the ring while wearing a towel. Val Venis commonly used double-entendres and was generally a sleazy guy towards the crowd during his promos.
Val Venis returned for a brief stint in 2002, where he was now called The Big Valbowski. The reason for this change was due to WWE toning down the content of their product.
4. The Censored Grab & More
The WWE’s women’s division has never been more prominent than it is today. Women’s wrestling in the WWE has been on the same level as the men’s division, with the first female-only Royal Rumble main event happening this year.
The WWE hasn’t always been so respectful towards the women’s division, as the female wrestlers used to be little more than eye candy. The WWE has also used several “crazy lesbian admirer” storylines over the years, with the most famous one being the feud between Mickie James and Trish Stratus.
It was during their match at Wrestlemania 22 that Mickie James grabbed Trish’s private area and then licked her fingers. This scene has been removed from every home release of the event. Vince McMahon was reportedly furious at Mickie James after the incident, as he knew it would have to be edited out of every future release of the show.
3. The Mysterious Banned Words
The final word on anything that happens in the WWE belongs to Vince McMahon. He is the Chairman of the company and all decisions must go through him before they appear on the screen.
Vince McMahon’s control over the WWE has led to some peculiar decisions over the years. He has enforced an edict where the commentators are forbidden from saying certain words during matches.
The WWE commentators are not supposed to say the words like “belt” or “strap” and have to say “Championships”instead. They also cannot say “feud,” “war,” “performer,” “acrobatics,” “interesting,” “DQ,” “Me,” or “I.” A handy list of alternatives is provided, such as saying “medical center” instead of “hospital.”
2. THIS IS A STUNT
The WWE is always supposed to be maintaining the illusion that everything happening on the screen is legit and none of the action is fake or pre-determined. The only times they will drop the facade is during the most serious of moments, such as the night when Brian Pillman died.
There was one incident where the WWE threw kayfabe out of the window and outright admitted that they were doing something fake. It happened during a segment on Monday Night Raw where Kane was showing off his supernatural powers, which were carried out with special effects.
Kane used his evil magic to strike a member of the TV crew with a bolt of lightning, which set him on fire. This might have been an impressive moment if the words “This is a stunt” hadn’t been added to the screen.
1. The Channel 4 Delay
The WWF was synonymous with the Sky Network in the UK when it was first launched. The two best reasons to pay for satellite TV in Britain in the early ’90s were The Simpsons and the early WWF shows.
Everything changed in 1999 when Channel 4 (one of the free channels in the UK) bought the rights to air five WWE pay-per-view shows a year… for free. This move was originally praised by wrestling fans, as it meant that they didn’t have to pay for several shows a year, one of them being the Royal Rumble.
It didn’t take long for Channel 4 to start getting cold feet over the deal due to WWE’s provocative programming. This meant that their next show (Backlash 2000) ran on a fifty-minute delay, with the show cutting out whenever blood was shown or someone took a dangerous fall.
Channel 4 eased up on the later shows, but still maintained a delay for the most dangerous moments in each show.
Can you think of any other times the WWE was forced to censor itself? Sound off in the comment section!
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