Once upon a time kayfabe – the act of portraying staged events as real – was an unbreakable tangent, used to try and get the audience as invested as possible in the clashes of heroes and villains. Some wrestlers refused to even break kayfabe when put in peril outside the ring, resulting in wrestlers even being stabbed for refusing to break character. ‘Mr Wrestling’ Tim Woods even refused to break character after breaking his back in a plane crash he was on with his kayfabe rival Ric Flair.
At current, WWE is firmly sat in what they have dubbed ‘The Reality Era’, with the lines between reality and kayfabe frequently blurred. On one hand, the characters and storylines on Raw, and on the other, there are backstage ‘reality’ shows like Total Divas. Some wrestlers break kayfabe seemingly for fun, often dropping in their opponents real names without actually having a point to doing so (Triple H and CM Punk for example). Real life relationships are openly acknowledged, even when they are between a face and a heel (e.g. John Cena and Nikki Bella).
Some breaks of kayfabe are considerably bigger. Often airing genuine grievances either for storyline purposes (a worked shoot) or someone going legitimately off-script and going into business for themselves. The results vary in success, some simply get forgotten, some are viewed as imitation of previous efforts, and some have changed the industry forever. Here we take a look back at the best times wrestlers have shattered the illusion of kayfabe. Whereas we recently published a list centered around “worked shoots” this one will strictly deal with moments that weren’t supposed to happen.
15. Mean Gene Drops The F-Bomb
It was SummerSlam 1989 and WWE were preparing for what was expected to be a standard backstage interview. The arrogant duo of Ravishing Rick Rude and Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan were to comment on their upcoming Intercontinental Championship defence against The Ultimate Warrior, in a heavily anticipated WrestleMania rematch.
The man to do the big interview was the WWE’s go-to man, Mean Gene Okerlund. And it would be Okerlund who ended up being the big talking point, as the clean-cut professional had a moment to forget.
The SummerSlam sign behind the three men fell down as Mean Gene was introducing his guests, causing him to lose his cool and exclaim “F*** it!” Heenan immediately walked off, either to laugh or simply knowing that the segment was unusable, and commentator Jesse Ventura made light of the situation on commentary.