Wrestling is a strange business and made stranger by the fact that the outcomes, characters, and plot lines are decided by “the booker.” In a perfect world, the booker would be a rational individual who realizes that ridiculous gimmicks are bad for the sport. All too often, however, the booker is a vindictive jerk who uses his power to punish, what he sees, as infractions. Here are the five dumbest examples of wrestlers getting punished in the ring for all to see.
Perry Saturn: Perry Saturn was an undeniable talent. His tag work as part of the Eliminators in ECW is some of the best ever. He was also an underappreciated solo wrestler. In 2001, Saturn was wrestling a jobber named Mike Bell. Apparently, Saturn thought Bell was disrespecting him. Some say Saturn felt this guy was not selling his moves like he should, while others say Bell botched a move and hurt Saturn. In any case, Saturn lost his temper and began beating this guy up for real.
Neither man was injured but the WWE felt Saturn deserved to be punished. How did they do it? They forced him to fall in love with a mop. Instead of fining him, WWE had Saturn sustain “head trauma” (bet they wouldn’t do that today), fall in love with a mop named….Moppy and randomly say “you’re welcome.” As ridiculous as this was Saturn got this crap over and used this gimmick for several years.
Lana: Sometimes the WWE tries to incorporate real life into wrestling thus having Lana as Rusev’s manager. In real life, Lana and Rusev were a couple so it made sense to have them together on screen. In 2016, the WWE started a storyline where Lana left Rusev for Dolph Ziggler and Rusev turned to Summer Rae as his manager. All well and good except in the middle of the storyline Lana leaked on social media that she and Rusev had gotten engaged, thus destroying the angle.
In retaliation, the WWE would have Summer Rae dump Rusev on television and fully destroy him to the point it felt like McMahon as delivering the promo himself. They then brought back the Rock who had a good-natured segment where he made fun of several superstars backstage. It stopped being good natured however when he goes to Lana. Implying he and Lana had had sex, the Rock ripped into Lana for quite some time punishing her for her infraction.
Owen Hart: Owen Hart was one of the best wrestlers of his generation and a famous prankster. From wearing clown noses during matches to hitting Mick Foley with bags of packing peanuts during hardcore matches, Hart often pushed the line of wrestling reality. Strangely, this is not what he got punished for. Owen was in a difficult position in the fall of 1997. His brother Bret had lost the belt in the “Montreal Screwjob” and left for WCW. Owen, a very faithful family man, had refused to do an angle where he had an affair with Debra McMichael.
In retaliation, the WWE stuck him with the Blue Blazer gimmick, a wrestling superhero. Owen was a consummate professional and one of the best there ever was and looked at the character as a challenge. Owen, of course, got the gimmick over but it would be to his own detriment. While preparing to make an entrance from the ceiling, the harness holding Owen would fail and he would fall to his death. It is still one of the most tragic things to happen in the wrestling world.
All of WCW: When the WWE bought WCW in 2001, it should have been a golden age for wrestling. Austin V Goldberg, The Rock V Chris Jericho just to name a few. The angle started badly when the WWE refused to pick up any of the high priced contracts. Therefore many of the people who embodied WCW like Sting, Goldberg and Kevin Nash, weren’t used until later. Worse the WCW roster was always treated as inferior to the WWE roster and regularly jobbed to them or was in insipid storylines.
Diamond Dallas Page was booked as a stalker just to get squashed by the Undertaker. Scott Steiner was booked as the blandest hero in the world just to get squashed by Triple H. Even Sting, upon finally making his return never got a decent storyline or push. The bad blood between the companies prevented booking that could have made a lot of money. The treatment of WCW during the Invasion storyline and even how Sting was booked in 2015, it’s clear McMahon still has a dislike of WCW.
Triple H: It’s hard to remember a time when Triple H wasn’t on top but at one time he was just a mid-level guy called Hunter Hearst Helmsley with three powerful best friends: Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall (The Kliq). It was 1996 in Madison Square Garden and it was well known that Kevin Nash and Scott Hall had already signed with WCW. In fact, earlier in the night when Scott Hall lost his match, the crowd chanted “you sold out,” prompting Scott Hall to begin to reply to the crowd and having his mic silenced.
In the main event, Shawn Michaels beat Diesel (Nash) to retain the WWE title. Then something strange happened, in what became known as “The Curtain Call” Shawn Michaels (the face) went over and hugged and kissed Nash (the heel). Suddenly, Scott Hall (also a heel) ran down and embraced both men and lastly Triple H did the same. Vince Mcmahon was livid. He couldn’t punish Hall and Nash (they were leaving) and Michaels was the champ and difficult to punish at the best of time so all the punishment fell on Triple H. It’s been said that McMahon knew The Kliq had something in mind, but he felt pressure from veterans to punish the heavily disliked group.
Plans for Triple H winning the 1996 King of the Ring were scrapped and went to another relative unknown, Steve Austin. Triple H spent the rest of the year as a jobber and fighting in demeaning matches like the Pig Pen Match (see last week’s article.) Towards the end of 1996, Triple H would win the Intercontinental Title with the help of his manager Mr. Perfect. In 1997, the wrestling world would be introduced to Degeneration-X and Triple H would win the King of the Ring.
There’s an old saying that business should never become personal. These examples not only show that business CAN become personal but that it can cost you money, or even, a life.