WWE is a company that is as controversial as it is successful. The last decade has seen the organisation transform itself into one that is sensitive to major social issues and doesn't ignore the commonly accepted norms of broadcasting. However, one cannot ignore the very shady past it has, especially the kind of programming it dished out in the late 1990's and early noughties – popularly dubbed the 'Attitude era.'
While there were certain things that WWE did better then, it also produced many segments that are shocking for the utter lack of regard for social responsibility. The most disturbing aspect of this was the treatment of women in storylines. Not only were they treated mainly as objects of attraction but also made to participate in storylines that were downright offensive.
In fact, many of the segments WWE produced at the time contained behaviour by men that easily falls in the category of sexual abuse. What's worse, in many of these segments, the wrestler committing the outrage would be a face. Let's look back at 5 such instances of sexual abuse being mainstreamed by WWE.
Scott Steiner slapping Nidia
Scott Steiner was known for his incredible physique and massive biceps. He had a rather successful run with both WWE and WCW in the 90s and early 2000s. But in a rather ugly segment, Steiner is shown walking backstage and coming across his former girlfriend (kayfabe) Nidia and her new boyfriend Jamie Noble. He refuses a handshake offered by Noble and then, as Nidia kisses Noble, he slaps and grabs her posterior. Later, when Noble calls out Steiner to the ring, Steiner beats hi up and as Nidia is leaving the ring, repeats the heinous act. All this happens while he was a face and his brazen acts were cheered on by the crowd.
Trish forced to disrobe and bark
In an even more disturbing segment, WWE boss and owner Vince McMahon who plays a villainous version of himself, forces his employee Trish Stratus to take off her clothes and bark like a dog in the ring. The only thing one can say in defence of this horrible act was that Vince was a heel at the time and was trying to get people to hate him as much as possible. Still, to make a woman actually do these things in front of a live crowd of thousands of people is utterly reprehensible.
Triple H abducting Stephanie McMahon
The relationship between Triple H and Stephanie McMahon has been part of various storylines. But the kayfabe angle between the two started in a rather creepy manner. Triple H was shown taking an unconscious Stephanie McMahon, after having drugged her, in a car to Las Vegas and in that state, getting married to her. This storyline was somewhat redeemed with the whole incident being shown as a well-planned drama by Stephanie and Hunter Hearst Helmsley to trouble her father Vince. Still, to trivialise drugging, abduction and forced marriage is quite shocking.
Kane impregnates Lita
This particular storyline is as offensive as it is stupid. Of course, fans have to suspend disbelief while watching WWE but the kayfabe has to be somewhat aligned with realism. That wasn't the case with this angle. It had Lita being in a relationship with Matt Hardy and becoming pregnant. While Hardy celebrated this fact as he thought he was the father, Kane revealed that actually, it was he who had impregnated Lita, against her wishes. Now, just think about it, what do you call an act where a woman is impregnated forcibly? It's plain and simple rape. But guess what? Not only was Kane not punished, he even fought Matt Hardy in a match with the stipulation that the winner gets to marry Lita. After Kane won that match, he not only married Lita but forced her to be his companion. Incredibly insensitive and senseless!
Ric Flair forcibly kisses Becky Lynch
You would have thought that by 2016, WWE had put its offensive past behind itself since it was passionately promoting its 'Divas Revolution.' But whether it was a case of old habits dying hard or a leopard never changing his spots, there was another horrible instance of normalising sexual abuse in WWE's programming that year. During the Divas Championship match at the Royal Rumble between Charlotte and Becky Lynch, Ric Flair accompanied his daughter and was at ringside. At a crucial moment in the match, when Lynch was outside the ring, Flair forcibly kissed her to help Charlotte in the match. Again, it's something that is simply an act of sexual violence. WWE soon realised its mistake and removed that segment from the video of the match and the event. But the fact that they still allowed it, was shocking in itself.