Controversy and currency make strange bedfellows in professional wrestling.
Eric Bischoff might have leaned hard on the alliterative phrasing when flogging his "Controversy Creates Cash" book during and after its release, but the message simplified a philosophy far more complicated than it may have first appeared.
Manufactured controversy is amazing. It makes a pre-determined product feel real, dangerous and unpredictable. It's also incredibly hard to pull off because everybody's seen and done everything that even the coolest work you've ever seen is getting unpicked on Twitter as you read these words. Unfortunately, this cold reality creates the need for promotions to push things beyond the performative and closer to reality than should be necessary. The controversy follows, but rapidly becomes the sort that organisations would rather gets forgotten that forged into history.
Contests getting violent, exploitative and/or legitimately dangerous, booking decisions existing to troll paying punters rather than "putting smiles on faces", or even wrestlers attempting to kill the game and being accused of killing the entire business, there are plenty of ways to skin the controversial cat. But this lot provide a compelling argument for why it's sometimes not worth the hassle.
10. Jeff Hardy Vs. Sheamus (WWE SmackDown, July 24th 2020)
Jeff Hardy's issues with substance abuse have featured far too prominently in pro wrestling over the years.
It's not a surprise that nobody seemed to learn anything from the horrendous night Hardy main evented a TNA pay-per-view in no condition to perform, but when stories of his recovery were used for inspirational fodder in 2020 there was a creeping unease that was rapidly vindicated during his SmackDown feud with Sheamus.
'The Celtic Warrior' framed him for a hit-and-run and forced him to take a drug test just so Vince McMahon could re-run an old segment where somebody gets a face full of p*ss, and the two eventually had this payoff in a bar.
Surrounded by his vices and forced to engage in the sort of match that those vices often medicated, Hardy was put in an unenviable and unpleasant position during a period in which WWE were allegedly attempting to be the escapist nonsense the world needed. Vince McMahon called the whole thing pre-determined to avoid paying tax in 1989 - why did this sh*t have to be so real 30 years later?