Being a public figure can’t be easy, especially in the modern age where every little action or statement is scrutinized by hordes of social media users and pundits. People as high in the public profile as the President of United States are constantly under fire for the things they say in public and online, and sometimes the things these people say are rightfully lambasted as, well, plain idiotic.
The life of a professional wrestler is far from comfortable. Long hours on the road, sleepless nights, and the physically demanding nature of the job all make for a stressful work environment, so even the best of the best are not resistant to the urge to say something stupid.
Sometimes when we peel back the curtain and catch glimpses of the people behind the in-ring characters, we get looks at fascinating people with inspiring stories. But other times, what is revealed is an uglier side of human nature. From unfortunate tweets to less than respectful opinions of their fellow wrestlers—to pettiness, delusion, insensitivity, and outright racism and bigotry—the following 15 statements by wrestlers stand out as some of the worst.
15. Ric Flair Calls Mick Foley A Glorified Stuntman
Mick Foley writes at length in his book Have a Nice Day! about his time in World Championship Wrestling, and the forces that drove him away from the company in the early 90s. Chief among them was Ric Flair, who questioned Foley’s legitimacy as a performer.
“I don’t care how many thumbtacks Mick Foley has fallen on,” Flair wrote in his own autobiography, “How many ladders he’s fallen off of, how many continents he’s supposedly bled on, he’ll always be known as a glorified stuntman.”
Flair would go on to evoke the names of technical greats such as Verne Gagne, Dory Funk, Jr., Ricky Steamboat, and even Foley’s Attitude Era colleague Steve Austin. He concedes that Foley was a great attraction, but mainly because working for Vince McMahon made him famous.
Although the two have since come to amicable and professional terms, Flair’s discounting of a colleague’s entire career merely because it was different than his own has a certain smack of “old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn.”
14. Bret Hart Calls Seth Rollins An Unsafe Worker
In the wake of the knee injury that sidelined Seth Rollins for over six months, as many in the industry were wishing The Architect a speedy recovery, Bret Hart was sounding off on Booker T’s podcast about Seth Rollins being an unsafe worker.
Citing the accidental broken nose Rollins gave to John Cena during a match on Monday Night RAW, Hart went as far as to say he was surprised that the sloppy running knee didn’t kill Cena. He also listed the career-ending injury Sting sustained in a match against Rollins, which saw The Icon collapse in the ring after a turnbuckle power bomb. When Finn Bálor hurt his shoulder in his Summerslam match against Rollins, Hart responded simply saying “I hate to say I told you so.” In Hart’s view, Seth’s knee injury was just another example of his unsafe work.
Injuries are, of course, a part of the business. Hart seems ready to criticize Rollins, without acknowledging incidents such as when his brother Owen broke Steve Austin’s neck due to carelessness in the ring.
Rollins himself has taken the high road, saying he has all the respect in the world for Hart. One wonders if Hart is still bitter about the way his career abruptly ended due to a concussion.
13. Brock Lesnar: “I Don’t Like Gays”
In words that would make a PG-era McMahon family run for the hills, Brock Lesnar bluntly told an ESPN.com reporter in 2004, “I don’t like gays.” This remark derived from a fan telling Lesnar that her male friend thought he was cute while Lesnar was being followed for a profile by the sports website.
After dispensing of the fan with a slew of swears and homophobic slurs, he turned point blank to the reporter to almost challenge him, “Write that down in your little notebook. I don’t like gays.”
Of course, even back in 2004 it was unthinkable for a public figure like Lesnar to be so baldly hateful. He would eventually apologize for the remarks, but it is hard even now to forget his outburst. It’s worth noting that Lesnar was only 27 years old at the time—who doesn’t say constant stupid nonsense in their 20s?—and one hopes that his worldview has evolved with the times.
12. Bill DeMott Denies Harassment Allegations
Despite his also-ran status as a WCW and WWE wrestler, Bill DeMott got in on the ground floor as one of the earliest employees of the WWE Performance Center in Orlando at the inception of NXT, after a successful run as the head trainer on Tough Enough and in FCW. His tenure would be marked by controversy, with claims from NXT trainees that DeMott was a bully, physically threatened his students, and encouraged sexual harassment of the female wrestlers.
DeMott was accused of such behavior by mutliple wrestlers over the span of several years, but WWE claimed an investigation found no misconduct. DeMott maintained his own innocence steadfastly, despite resigning from the company in 2015. He attempted to look noble in doing so, saying he didn’t want to sully WWE’s name over the allegations, but one wonders why he would have resigned if he had nothing to hide.
It was inevitable that with renewed media attention the scrutiny of DeMott’s training would increase, but with his resignation he and the company were able to sweep the controversy away.
11. Ryback Pitches Himself As Credible Threat To Lesnar
Following his release from WWE, Ryback appeared on SiriusXM’s Busted Open, where he spoke at length about his pitched angle for a WrestleMania feud against Brock Lesnar. The angle involved Ryback leaving the company for six months to train at an MMA camp, attempting to make it look like he was training for a fight outside WWE, only to return and challenge Brock Lesnar to a match at ‘Mania. Apparently Ryback pitched this idea to Vince McMahon three years in a row.
It is difficult to imagine anything about this angle working. By the time of Ryback’s release, he had become a groan-inducing presence on WWE television, for his boring matches and incomprehensible promos. Even when he was more popular, his run was never anything dazzling, so to imagine that he had actually believed he was a big enough name to headline WrestleMania against one of WWE’s biggest draws is laughable.
They say it’s good to be a little cocky in the wrestling business, in order to show your worth to the decision makers, but there’s a difference between a healthy amount of confidence and outright stupidity.