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Overshadowed By Controversy / Professional Wrestling

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  • The Fabulous Moolah was long considered a pioneer of women's wrestling and one of the greatest female stars of all time, recognized for having a 30-year reign as WWF Women's Champion, artificially lengthened through retroactive continuity. Her athleticism was subpar and her grappling skills were basic, but she made up for it by being a master of Wrestling Psychology and working the crowd. She was a shrewd business woman who ran her own promotion in areas where others did not realize opportunity and made lots of money off her students not just through bookings but also photography and magazine deals. She successfully fought the ban on women's wrestling in the state of New York. However, over the years, numerous allegations were consistently made against her. There are several accounts of Titi Paris being the one who was fighting the ban in New York before Moolah and the McMahons slipped in behind her and took credit for her work. Many of Moolah's trainees alleged that they were sent out to be raped, beaten, and exploited by male wrestlers and several promoters, as well as Moolah herself. She was seen as a hypocrite for her stance on lesbian wrestlers, despite it being a purported open secret that she was bisexual and sexually exploited her trainees. She lowballed the trainers and trainees who operated in her wrestling school, which itself was nothing more than a shanty barn to begin with. Additionally, it's also been alleged that she used her influence to manipulate and control the women's wrestling scene so she could remain dominant, which stagnated the NWA and WWF's entire divisions long term. Whatever her motivations, she was involved in the removal of the WWF's women's singles title from television and the discontinuation of both their women's tag team divisions. As a result of these happenings and allegations, her public image was tarnished, with many people downplaying her strengths and overemphasizing her weaknesses to suggest she wasn't even a good wrestler and her success was solely a result of her backstage politicking. In 2018, her name was removed from what was to be called "The Fabulous Moolah Memorial Battle Royal" at WrestleMania 34 after the exploitation allegations against her resurfaced.
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  • Glam Rock-themed wrestler Buck Zumhofe is better known for being convicted on multiple counts of criminal sexual misconduct than he is for his wrestling career, which itself is mostly known for being the first person Triple H ever wrestled against in WWE.
  • For years, Jimmy Snuka's career was overshadowed by accusations that he had killed his girlfriend in 1983. It wasn't until 32 years later, in 2015, that Snuka was arrested and indicted for murder charges in the case. The next year, he was declared mentally unfit to stand trial due to his dementia diagnosis, and the case was dismissed in early 2017 due to his declining health. Snuka died twelve days after the dismissal, with his legacy shrouded by the case.
  • Carlos Colón would have been known as the man who created his very own world recognized World Championship belt after decades of the National Wrestling Alliance refusing to make a black man World Heavyweight Champion. He would be known as the patriarch of a popular and talented Wrestling Family, as well as the trainer of numerous other pro wrestling stars. His promotion, CSP\WWC, was once one of the top five promotions on the planet. With wrestlers like Abdullah the Butcher, Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr. and the Invaders, CSP wound up being one of the pioneers of Garbage Wrestling and was the first promotion to use fire as a hazard. But something overshadows pretty much everything Carlos has done, everything to ever happen in WWC, and that is the death of Bruiser Brody. Brody was stabbed in the showers of a baseball stadium WWC was having a show in by José González, aka Invader #1, and died of his wound due to a delay in ambulance response as the EMTs were having trouble getting into the building due to Puerto Rico's roadways. Treatment was further delayed by them having trouble lifting Brody's three hundred pound body into the vehicle. What cements this is the trial for González being a transparent sham, with the prosecution's witnesses not receiving their subpoenas until after it was over. Savio Vega did testify for the prosecution since he was local and personally wanted González taken down, but without the off-island witnesses it was simply his word against González's. Carlos Colón himself not only testified for the defense of González, but continued to employee him after the trial, going so far as to shoot an angle that painted González as a babyface (which "won" Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards in 1989). Part of what made the angle "work" was Manny Fernandez agreeing to work with Colón and González in penance for almost killing Invader #3 in an act of Misplaced Retribution after mistaking #3 for #1 (the Invaders wore masks). What was one of the world's top promotions almost went bankrupt as most foreign and continental US wrestlers refused to have anything to do with it, and even many Puerto Rican wrestlers opted to try their luck on the independent circuit or work for new rival IWA Puerto Rico instead. But no one's career is more overshadowed than that of González himself. No less than FMW founder Atsushi Onita wanted González in his promotion, but after the Brody stabbing the Yakuza sent Onita a letter saying that if González set foot in Japan they would send González back to Puerto Rico dead. (Onita did try a storyline with González in Puerto Rico anyway, which also "won" Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic by the WON.)
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  • Axxel is generally agreed to be a good luchador. Unfortunately for him, since his 1993 debut, he's been less known for his talent than for his uncle's, Hijo del Santo's, attempts to kill his career for initially being billed as Nieto del Santo. Despite managing to keep his career going for twelve years, most of the better-known promotions have refused to book Axxel for fear of his uncle's backlash, resulting in much less exposure than a luchador of his experience would usually have.
  • New Jack is undoubtedly best known for his Ax-Crazy behavior (such as randomly beating on his good friend D'Lo Brown) his reputation for legitimately hurting opponents who cross him (such as beating pioneering Garbage Wrestler Gypsy Joe for working too stiff without permission) and the many violent incidents (one of the most notorious being the Mass Transit Incident) he was involved in, some of which could've killed his partner and himself (such as the Living Dangerously 2000 event where he pulled Vic Grimes off a 20ft scaffold onto the concrete floor, when Grimes was hesitant to take the bump, and a later incident in 2003 where he intended to kill Grimes by throwing him from an even higher scaffold).
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  • Mexican pro wrestler Juana Barraza aka La Dama del Silencio (The Lady of Silence) is known less for her wrestling career and more for being a serial killer who murdered at least 42 elderly women, to the point that her serial killer nickname La Mataviejitas ("The Little Old Lady Killer") is far more prominent in the popular consciousness than her ring name.
  • Muhammad Hassan was a highly controversial gimmick of an Arab-American heel who was angry at the United States as a whole, accusing the country of stigmatizing all Arabs in the country as terrorists in the post-9/11 climate. The gimmick is mostly remembered for an angle where Hassan sent masked men to attack The Undertaker on a taped episode of WWE SmackDown that aired on the same day as the July 7, 2005 bombings in London. Because of this, WWE was forced to fire Hassan from the company, and had his character removed after the Undertaker used the Last Ride to put him through the stage. The gimmick is also known for its Values Dissonance, as greater awareness of anti-Muslim prejudice across the country and in the Western world more generally in the 2010s made it more difficult to justify the way the Hassan character was depicted. The irony is in Ohio Valley Wrestling, he had a "Muslim sympathizer" stint, where he could be seen openly praising Allah, but on the main roster, there was nothing Muslim about Hassan,note  unless one automatically assumes anything Arab is Muslim. His memetic entrance theme, for starters, loudly blared Arabic chants to a decidedly un-Islamic arrangement (it included electric guitar). Not to mention that, in the eyes of many, associating Hassan with a terrorist attack carried out by Muslims ultimately proved him right.
  • Chris Benoit was once one of the most respected professional wrestlers on the planet. However, that changed in June 2007, when he was found dead in his home alongside his family. Local police concluded that Benoit strangled his wife and son to death before killing himself afterward. Benoit’s reputation was forever tarnished by the incident, with WWE going all-out to avoid ever mentioning him again and, after his brain was revealed to be comparable to that of an Alzheimer’s patient, speculation started running rampant over the possibility that WWE was culpable in turning a blind eye to his brain damage.
  • John Morrison and Melina's backstage heat overshadows most of the things they've accomplished in their wrestling careers. Melina slightly more so, since Morrison has gotten some of his recognition back due to his work in AAA and Lucha Underground.
  • Japanese female star Yoshiko is mainly known for the incident in 2015 where she brutally beat down fellow female wrestler Act Yasukawa in a shoot fight, breaking several bones in her face. Yasukawa was forced to retire shortly afterward, coming out of the hospital long enough to help STARDOM's USA debut and put over Kairi Hojo. Yoshiko herself would briefly retire before returning in 2016 when STARDOM was split in two over management's disagreement on how to punish her. She joined STARDOM's breakaway company SEAdLINNNG, took a less severe beating from Nanae Takahashi, and the controversy still lingers over Yoshiko.
  • Hulk Hogan was fired by WWE in 2015 after racist remarks he said years prior in a sex tape became public, as well as other homophobic statements. Try to ask anyone what Hogan was doing in WWE at the time, or anything he was up to besides fighting the tape's release and suing over its release.
  • Bill DeMott’s career in the wrestling industry came to an end when records of his highly abusive behavior as WWE's head trainer were revealed. It was not the first time such revelations had come out against him but was the first time calls to fire him became trending topics, the first time he had no explanation to defend himself besides denial of allegations, and he ultimately chose to resign.
  • Roman Reigns' WWE run was overshadowed by the extremely negative reception his work received ever since the first dissolution of The Shield, to the point that there's an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to these reactions. The enduring backlash only died down after Reigns was forced to go on hiatus thanks to the return of his leukemia in late 2018.
  • Mexican hardcore wrestler Angel o Demonio's career was overshadowed when he threw a concrete block at Puerto Rican wrestler Cuervo during a hardcore match, which almost killed him. The incident had fans and wrestlers from Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.S. outraged, with them calling for him to have his license revoked and blacklisted from wrestling promotions. However, due to Values Dissonance in Mexico, it didn't happen; other local promotions took the opportunity to promote him with the cinder block on posters, and Angel o Demonio hasn't apologized for the incident.
  • The career of wrestler Lars Sullivan was largely overshadowed by the fact that he had made a series of racist and sexist posts on a bodybuilding forum when he was younger, which were unearthed around the time Sullivan was scheduled to make his debut on WWE's main roster. Although Sullivan apologized, WWE's response was less positively received, as he was booked into a feud with Lucha House Party, a stable of Hispanic cruiserweights (of which one of its members, Kalisto, made his displeasure with Sullivan's comments very clear on social media when asked by fans) afterwards. Sullivan was eventually released from WWE, although it was apparently due to his decision to retire from professional wrestling rather than for the controversy itself. note 
  • Tessa Blanchard and Impact Wrestling got into a massive amount of hot water in 2020. During the latter half of the 2010s, Impact was rapidly spiraling into irrelevance from their days at WWE's biggest rival, and with the launch of All Elite Wrestling in 2019, it looked like they would finally be on their death bed. Because of that, Impact had to come up with a big stunt to regain relevance in an increasingly crowded field. Thus, at their Hard to Kill event that January, Blanchard was booked as one half of the first intergender match to main event a major company's pay-per-view in the US, challenging Sami Callihan for the world title, and going on to defeat him, making her the first female wrestler to win the top male title in a major promotion. Unfortunately, that which would have been a moment of glory for Blanchard, Impact, and all of women's wrestling was destroyed the day before the match, when Blanchard sent out a message on Twitter that was apparently meant to be an inspirational message to women across the wrestling world. This instead triggered a flood of backlash from women wrestlers who claimed to have been bullied by Blanchard, with some alleging she made racist remarks at them. Despite the controversy, Impact had no choice but to give her the title, as despite all the problems surrounding her, letting a man win the historic match-up would bring a whole new level of terrible optics. While the backlash died down shortly afterwards and Impact kept the title on her for the time being, it did seem to have dash any hopes that Blanchard would jump ship to AEW as had been rumored by several people, with many alleging that putting the title on her was meant to be a deterrent. (Tessa would eventually be fired and stripped of the world title on June 25 of the same year, but it wasn't because of the controversy, but because she refused to send taped promos after being left stranded in Mexico and not be able to travel to the U.S. due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.)


  • Survivor Series 1997: The Montreal Screwjob, in which Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels actually screwed Bret Hart out of the WWF Championship when Hart was leaving for WCW. There were six other matches on the card; nobody seems to remember those. For that matter, nobody seems to remember anything about the Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels match other than the finish, where Michaels had Hart in a submission hold and referee Earl Hebner rang the bell on McMahon's orders, despite Hart clearly not submitting to the hold. Wrestling fans instantly turned on Michaels, Hebner and McMahon once word got out about what had happened. More than twenty years later, the three of them still get chants of "YOU SCREWED BRET!" whenever they appear in Canada.
  • WWF's 1999 Over the Edge pay-per-view will forever be known as the event where Owen Hart fell to his death. Vince McMahon's decision to keep the pay-per-view going despite Owen's death remains one of the most controversial topics in professional wrestling circles to this day.
  • No Mercy 2002: Even the presence of a Brock Lesnar/Undertaker Hell in a Cell and a classic Tag Team match won't change the fact that this pay-per-view will always be remembered for the Triple H vs. Kane title unification match, built upon one of the most infamous angles in professional wrestling history: Katie Vick.
  • WrestleMania XIX was considered by most means a great show, with a classic main event between Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle, a show-stealing battle between Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels, the long-awaited encounter between Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan, and the final match of the Rock/Austin WrestleMania trilogy in what would be the latter’s final ever match. However, one match that people would rather forget would be the battle between Triple H and Booker T for the World Heavyweight Championship. The build-up to the match consisted of Triple H characterizing Booker with racist stereotypes of African Americans, such as talking about his real life arrest record, referencing the stereotype of blacks being violent criminals, or telling Booker to do Spinaroonies at his order, referring to how black entertainers in the Jim Crow era were often patronized by their white audiences. He even stated that people like Booker, implying African Americans, don’t deserve to be world champion. While all of that is bad in itself, what really makes this feud so hated is the fact that Triple H won the match, and waited a full minute after hitting his finishing move to pin Booker (although this was more because it took him more than half a minute to recover as Booker T had been legitimately injured by the move).
  • One Night Stand 2006, the very first WWE event devoted exclusively to the revived ECW promotion, was overshadowed by the massive amount of hatred the ECW fanbase directed toward visiting wrestlers from WWE proper, especially WWE Champion John Cena when he faced ECW favorite Rob Van Dam for the title in the main event. A fan stirred up the crowd by holding up an inflammatory sign: "IF CENA WINS, WE RIOT!" - leading to a commentator proclaiming, "Here comes the riot!" when it seemed that Cena was about to put Van Dam away. The only thing preventing a riot was a biker in a full helmet appearing out of nowhere and delivering a "spear" tackle to Cena, allowing Van Dam to pin Cena and bring the WWE Championship to ECW - and that biker, of course, turned out to be Cena's archenemy, Edge.
  • In June 2007, WWE's Vengeance pay-per-view was relaunched as Vengeance: Night of Champions. At the time, WWE had nine championship belts, and this PPV was the first time that all of them were defended on the same night. But hardly anybody remembers that, because what they do remember is that John Morrison, then known as Johnny Nitro, unexpectedly won the ECW Championship because he was booked in place of Benoit, who no-showed the event due to the aforementioned murder-suicide that took place during the time frame. Morrison has, at least for some fans, yet to live down the fact that he rose to main event status in WWE entirely because of this tragedy.
  • TNA Victory Road 2009 is perhaps one of the worst shows TNA has ever had, with the pinnacle of this debacle being the horrible Jenna Morasca vs. Sharmell match.
  • Victory Road 2011 is forever known as the night when a stoned Jeff Hardy wrestled Sting in a minute and a half long main event.
  • WrestleMania 28 was said to be one of the better Manias. It featured the highly anticipated John Cena/The Rock showdown, The Undertaker and Triple H in a Hell in a Cell, and a solid CM Punk vs. Chris Jericho match. Unfortunately, its reputation is soiled by the presence of one of the most infamous moments in WWE history, known to fans as "18 seconds." It's so named because that's how long the World Heavyweight Championship match between Daniel Bryan and Sheamus lasted. In the end, Bryan's popularity skyrocketed to astronomical proportions, while Sheamus' reputation among hardcore fans was damaged to the point of no return, not helped at all by a similar incident happening at Survivor Series 2015 in which he was also the winner.
  • CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan at Over the Limit 2012 was a sure-fire classic, being the first time the two wrestlers, with a huge fan support, had a match in WWE; unfortunately, the pay-per-view is remembered instead for the Epic Fail of a main event between John Cena vs. John Laurinaitis.
  • The 2014 and 2015 Royal Rumble matches are remembered for the tremendous backlash that ensued. In both matches, a homegrown pet project of Vince McMahon and his associates won, Batista and Roman Reigns, respectively, despite the fact that the crowd overwhelmingly wanted Daniel Bryan to win the match; unfortunately, Bryan wasn't even in the 2014 match and was quickly eliminated in 2015. The 2014 Rumble is also remembered for being the final straw that led to CM Punk quitting WWE the day afterward, while the 2015 edition is also remembered for a spot in which older stars The Big Show and Kane eliminated/buried other beloved Ensemble Darkhorses like Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose from the match as well, to thunderous chants of "PLEASE RETIRE!". It says a lot about a promotion's booking when post territory fans riot in protest to a baby face's victory.
  • Shortly after the 2014 Rumble came WrestleMania XXX, where the aforementioned Daniel Bryan finally won the gold, beating all three members of Evolution on the same night. A pretty awesome accomplishment, and surely the talk of the entire wrestling community after the fact... except that it ultimately ended up not being the sole main moment of the night. On the same night, Brock Lesnar performed an upset by very unexpectedly ending The Undertaker's WrestleMania winning streak. Naturally, that (and the now-iconic crowd shot of WWE superfan Ellis Mbeh) was the most memorable moment of the show, and what everyone was talking about afterwards. A couple of days later, The Ultimate Warrior, who had just gone into the WWE Hall of Fame days before, died, and that was then what demanded everyone's attention. As a result, Daniel Bryan's big main event win wasn't quite treated as the big deal it was intended to be at the time.
  • Perhaps the only thing fans and wrestling insiders will remember about AAA's Triplemanía XXV is the incident where Sexy Star legitimately injured Rosemary by popping her arm out of place with an armbar, as well as the ensuing uproar it caused within the wrestling industry. The story people were supposed to come away telling was legendary Masked Luchador Dr. Wagner Jr. getting unmasked by Psycho Clown. What didn't help was that the Reinas division, in general, wasn't being too well received at the time, after Ayako Hamada had a lackluster run where she won no matches ended by Taya Valkyrie, who was then anticlimactically stripped of the belt before it was given to Star, who then decided to make a big scene while under the figurative microscope. It should be noted that, outside of a few appearances in SHIMMER Women Athletes a few months afterward (under her real name Dulce García) and on Alberto Del Rio's short-lived promotion Nación Lucha Libre, Star hasn't wrestled again anywhere.
  • Impact Wrestling's Bound for Glory 2018 has been overshadowed by the aftermath of the main event of Johnny Impact vs. Austin Aries for the Impact World Championship, which saw Aries No-Sell Impact's Finishing Move the Starship Pain, point to the balcony while shouting at Impact Vice President and commentator Don Callis, and throw middle fingers at the crowd.
  • The 2018 and 2019 Hell in a Cell will always be remembered for the no contest results of the main event matches, which drew overwhelmingly negative reaction from fans. Tellingly, at the 2020 event, the headlining matches all ended with a conclusive finish.
  • WWE's events in Saudi Arabia have been largely indulged in controversy, with many angry that WWE was collaborating with a nation known for its abysmal human rights record,note  in which women and LGBT people are treated as second-class citizens, religious freedom is severely restricted, and government-approved bombings have nearly obliterated Yemen. Concerning the first such event, Greatest Royal Rumble, women were unable to perform due to religious laws that severely limited their rights in the country, Sami Zayn wasn't allowed to perform due to being of Syrian descent, as Saudi Arabia and Syria have bad relations with each other, propaganda for the Saudi government was broadcast on air, an offshoot of al-Qaeda condemned it as being blasphemous, and Titus O'Neil tripped and fell under the ring apron on his way out. About a month before another such event, Crown Jewel 2018, Saudi Arabia got into hot water on the international stage after Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist critical of the ruling government, was brutally killed allegedly on orders from Saudi's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Several companies severed their ties with Saudi Arabia and WWE faced intense pressure to move the event elsewhere, while John Cena and Daniel Bryan, two of the company's biggest stars, refused to work the show. Even John Oliver got his two cents in on a segment of Last Week Tonight. Despite the criticism and protest, the event went on as planned in November 2018 due to contractual obligations WWE had with the Saudis, and to throw more fuel to the fire, the actual contents of the show were not well-received by wrestling fans — to the point where it ran away with WrestleCrap's 2018 Gooker Award, and WWE's relationship with Saudi Arabia would "win" Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic by The Wrestling Observer Newsletter in 2018 and 2019, the only time the same tactic won the award twice.
  • The WWE Hall of Fame class of 2019 will forever be overshadowed thanks to a deranged "fan" who tackled Bret Hart while the latter was giving his acceptance speech of the Hart Foundation's induction. This led to several wrestlers and colleagues legitimately beating the crap out of the guy before he was escorted out of the building by security.


  • The WWF almost became this in the early 1990s, as the company was embroiled in a number of scandals such as the steroid trial and the sexual misconduct allegations against several of its employees. Despite some of its wrestlers openly admitting to using steroids, the WWF managed to limp away with no legal consequences, however. Wrestlers did lose drawing power, but not enough to overshadow their careers. New popular wrestlers just replaced them over time.
  • WCW and ECW both enjoyed time as the flagship of the National Wrestling Alliance before becoming successful enough to ditch the NWA. Both also went out of business in 2001, for largely the same reason. Despite their successes, both companies were financially mismanaged to the point the network cable support they earned wound up being a crutch and their respective cable partners, TNT and TNN, turned on them, blocking attempts to shop for other deals and ignoring perspective buyers before cutting the plug, resulting in the WWF picking up the rights to both feds for pennies on the dollar. As a result, both became more famous for their highly publicized poor business decisions rather for their great matches. The difference between the two is that ECW managed to keep fans talking more about its great matches than its missteps, allowing WWE to successfully launch a revival brand,note  while WCW, while also having several great matches under its banner as well, were so overshadowed by their blunders that no network the WWF worked with wanted anything to do with the brand.
  • The WCW/ECW case is mirrored by their would be successors, TNA and Ring of Honor. While RF Video decided to go with a different tone after being rejected by then most visible ECW cash in CZW, RF were still confident they could keep the revenue streams ECW brought them simply by selling the tapes of another promotion in its place. TNA, by contrast, was formed by WCW workers who decided to go with a different model entirely due to WCW's poor reputation. Still, it was ROH who managed to keep fans talking about its great matches despite one of its founders being shamed out of the promotion for his involvement in one of pro wrestling's most infamous scandals during 2004, which was the beginning of the end of its partnership with TNA, its other founder being shamed out for poor booking decisions in 2008, seven years of financial instability directly related to these incidents and a few other controversies. TNA meanwhile was criticized for its very name when it started, had its booking mocked for most of its existence, was known for Jeff Jarrett's relations with Kurt Angle's wife in 2009, and was largely held up as an example of how not to manage finances throughout the vast majority of the 2010s despite also having many great matches to its name. Time will tell if this remains true after TNA was rebranded "Impact Wrestling", but the fact that TNA was the first to need total rebrand will remain.
  • Dragondoor Project managed to establish a good roster of wrestlers from around the world such as Solar #1, Ultramán, Último Guerrero, Gran Hamada, Máximo, Shuji Kondo, Milanito Collection a.t. and Kota Ibushi. On a couple occasions it drew decent crowds but did not last long, largely because everyone was confused by a Charlie Brown from Outta Town Costume Copy Cat angle revolving around Tiger Mask and Último Dragón that featured at least a half dozen wrestlers that could hardly be differentiated from each other. Sadly most of those wrestlers were good. Xtreme Tiger was put to good use in AAA and TNA, as well as CMLL B shows. But they, perhaps wisely, ignore his Dragon Door stint, even when it would make sense to mention it.


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