Traditionally, pro wrestling is a business built upon closely held secrets. Wrestlers were supposed to try to convince fans that what they were doing was a legitimate sport. The business was predicated on the idea that rather than working together in the ring, they were actually fighting.
Times have changed, naturally. Vince McMahon came out and admitted that his product was sports entertainment rather than full on sport in order to work around state athletic commissions. Dirt sheets rose up, sharing backstage news and rumors, followed by shoot interviews past wrestlers recorded. The Internet and tell-all books blew things wide open, leading up to the point when WWE started releasing its own documentaries that openly discussed real life workings of the professional wrestling business. With the wrestling podcast market booming and more and more online dirt sheets out there in the world, the wrestling business is widely exposed now.
Still, there are secrets. Whether they’re particularly controversial developments, or items no one thought to discuss or ask about, there remain stories and happenings that very few fans are aware of. Whether it’s a matter of angles that were supposed to go down, personnel decisions, internal reactions to what happened in the ring, or odd structural business choices, these are secrets only people truly in the know could share. This article takes a look at ten company secrets from World Wrestling Entertainment history—and as recent as these past few years—as well as ten secrets that came out of WWE’s old competitor, World Championship Wrestling.
20. WWE: Batista Was Going To Work A Foster Child Angle
In an episode of Edge and Christian’s podcast, their friend and former WWE writer Brian Gewirtz stopped by, and the trio discussed a variety of memories from years past in WWE. One of them was Vince McMahon giving Gewirtz the assignment of writing up a backstory for Batista during his time with Evolution. As Gewirtz described it, the intention was for more stories to have stories behind them to make them more compelling for the fan. In Batista’s case, the crux was that Batista was a foster child, and his loyalty to Ric Flair in the Evolution stable came, in part, from seeing Flair as a father figure.
Gewirtz described drafting an elaborate promo in which Batista would lay out his personal history. Despite feeling proud of his effort, McMahon rejected everything he’d written flat out. In the WWE programming to follow, the only piece salvaged was Ric Flair hyping up Batista a match by reminding him of his credentials and throwing in that he was a foster child. Rather than a character-redefining moment, all it amounted to was an odd and arguably funny non-sequitur that was quickly forgotten.
19. WCW: Eric Bischoff Didn’t Want To Sign Lex Luger
When Eric Bischoff got the reins of WCW as Executive Vice President, he focused on shrewd business decisions, including cutting costs where he could. He trimmed payroll and set up the company to film batches of TV from a stationary location in Orlando. He transitioned the company toward airing monthly PPVs.
As the company began to turn a profit, Bischoff was awarded a primetime spot to air Monday Nitro opposite Raw. And right around that time, one of his top stars, Sting came to him to see if he’d consider hiring back his friend Lex Luger.
Bischoff has claimed in interviews that he didn’t want to bring him back because, despite having a good look, he was limited in the ring and known to have attitude issues. As a professional courtesy to Sting, Bischoff did make Luger an offer, but very consciously lowballed him, assuming he’d turn down the contract. To his surprise, Luger was game to prove himself and took the job, leading to his surprise debut on the first episode of Nitro. He’d wind up playing a starring role for the company in the years to follow.
18. WWE: Management Saw The Women’s Hell In A Cell Match As a Failure
2016 saw the very first women’s Hell in a Cell Match, which doubled as the first women’s main roster PPV main event for WWE. The program between Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks had reached new heights when it came to quality of in ring performance and maintaining a rivalry across a period of months. It was rumored that Triple H and Stephanie McMahon in particular championed the cause of the women getting an opportunity to close out a major show.
WWE sold the match as historic—with commentary driving that point home enough to annoy some fans. There hasn’t been another women’s PPV main event since, which seems fair enough given there hasn’t necessarily been another women’s feud compelling enough to justify the spot. Chris Jericho let it slip on a podcast, however, more of a behind the scenes perspective. He suggests everyone was in Vince’s ear suggesting a women’s main event, and the match wound up a disappointment—thus Vince can now say, ‘we tried it, it didn’t work, let’s move on.’
While this is only one man’s perspective, Jericho is known to be fairly close to Vince, and thus Y2J’s thoughts on the matter seem to represent what management, or at least Vince, really saw coming out of the match.
17. WCW: Vince Russo Went Into Business For Himself Opposite Hulk Hogan
One of the more confusing turns in WCW programming came up at the Bash at the Beach 2000 PPV. The Hulk Hogan vs. Jeff Jarrett world title match consisted of Jarrett lying down and letting Hogan pin him. Afterward, Hogan cut a promo against management on the mic, then Vince Russo came out and told the audience Hogan had tried to use his creative control to ruin the show, and he’d never be allowed to work for WCW again.
In a visit to the Legends with JBL shoot interview show on the WWE Network, Eric Bischoff commented on the incident. JBL brought up that Vince Russo claimed it was a work that went more or less according to plan; Bischoff flat out called Russo a liar. He claimed that he and Russo had conflicting ideas about how things would go down, and management approved Bischoff’s idea; then that after he and Hogan had left the venue, Russo went ahead with his own ideas anyway.
It’s unclear exactly where the truth lies, particularly given the many accounts of WCW’s disorganization. Given Hogan would later file suit based on the incident, though, and Bischoff and Russo’s respective standing in the company at the time, it would seem that Bischoff probably knows what he’s talking about.
16. WWE: Edge And Christian Got Heat For Cozying Up To Writers
Wrestler’s Court is a tradition, particularly for WWE, where wrestlers call out one another in front of their peers for perceived wrongdoings or violations of the accepted etiquette of the business. The Undertaker was most often the judge in these situations, who indicated whether the charged parties were guilty and doled out sentences like having to carry someone’s bags for a month or not being allowed to change in the locker room for a period of weeks.
On their podcast, Edge and Christian reported that they were charged with cozying up to the writing staff, in particular for gifting Brian Gewirtz an action figure, and later having dinner at his mother’s house when they were in town. Bob Holly in particular suggested this was an attempt to improve their position in the company. The guys came out mostly unscathed after putting on a shrewd comedic defense, and later bribing the judge (The Undertaker) by buying him some Jack Daniel’s. So it looks like The Undertaker was a judge who could be bought!
15. WCW: Announcers Had To Change In Public Restrooms
The late Bobby Heenan was critical of his time with WCW. To be fair, he had a long career before he took the big payday to offer his voice to company’s less than optimal product of the mid-1990s. After WCW had closed, Heenan commented on the company’s disorganization in multiple interviews. In particular he made reference to the indignity of not having locker room space delegated for announcers, and thus having to get changed in public restrooms where fans would sometimes wander in.
This company secret is particularly remarkable coming from Heenan, who was quite arguably the most famous and talented announcer the company had. If he was treated that way, you have to assume other color commentators and play by play guys didn’t get much better accommodations.
14. WWE: Steve Austin Didn’t Want To Work With Jeff Jarrett
Jeff Jarrett was a rising star throughout the ’90s, who arrived an upper tier worker and good talker. While he would ultimately headline for WCW in its final years, he never quite reached the main event level in WWE. Some of that can be attributed to management’s decisions, and how Jarrett was viewed within the company. More than one party have vocalized a more specific reason for Jarrett being held back—that Stone Cold Steve Austin didn’t want to work with him.
It’s unclear why Austin felt this way. Maybe he held a grudge from their brief overlapping times in WCW or other smaller promotions. Maybe Jarrett rubbed him the wrong way in WWE. Or maybe it’s as simple as Austin not seeing him as an opponent he’d have good chemistry with. Whatever the core reason, Jarrett would stay locked in the mid-card in WWE, leading up to his second defection from that company to WCW, after which he’d never be welcomed back.
13. WCW: Changes Were Consistently Made The Day Of A Show
WWE has been described as organized to a fault, with Vince McMahon and the powers that be trying to, if anything, exert too much control over the workers. WCW seems to have by and large had the opposite problem, of too many people in power moving in too many different directions. Wrestlers like Big Van Vader have cited issues like that, including a time when he was directed to be in two places at once, and then attacked by agent Paul Orndorff for not being where Mr. Wonderful thought he should be.
Gene Okerlund commented on a similar dynamic on the Monday Night War documentary, suggesting that he’d show up for Nitro only to find, that afternoon, the show was being completely rewritten. Okerlund and others suggested that occurences like that were the norm based on how disorganized and chaotic the company could be at its upper levels.
12. WWE: Edge Was Uncomfortable With The Live Sex Celebration
In 2006, Edge won his first world championship, unseating John Cena at New Year’s Revolution via the very first Money in the Bank cash-in. WWE followed up on the moment by casting the Rated R Superstar in a Live Sex Celebration segment on Raw, in which he and Lita stripped to their underwear and got into a bed in the ring. They were, predictably, interrupted before they could consummate things.
Edge has since commented in interviews that he didn’t like the segment, because it was tremendously awkward for both him and Lita to be portrayed that way, and particularly in front of a live arena audience. The segment drew good ratings and fit his slimy heel character at the times, but it would seem that Edge would have preferred more subtle or more wrestling centric ways of getting heat after he won the title.
11. WCW: Main Eventers Got Royalties Meant For Lower Card Guys
In his first book, A Lion’s Tale, Chris Jericho voiced quite a few frustrations about working for WCW. One of the final straws of his tenure was going to buy one of his own action figures, only to see it rung up as a Hulk Hogan doll. It’s not entirely clear if this happened by unethical design, or if it were simple error in the toy manufacturer or store’s system. Regardless, Jericho put two and two together to realize that at least a portion of the royalties the company owed him for his merchandise were going to main event stars like Hogan based on situations like that.
The incident seemed to encapsulate a broader issue of WCW disrespecting lower card talent like Jericho, placing a glass ceiling over them so the company could privilege more established stars like Hogan, Randy Savage, and Kevin Nash, and just choice few homegrown talents like Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page.
10. WWE: Bill DeMott Took Liberties As A Trainer
Bill DeMott, who was best known in the ring as Hugh Morrus, became the head trainer for WWE’s developmental system for a period of years. He appeared on camera a number of times, and was generally portrayed as the hard nosed, tough love type. Over the years, a handful of wrestlers—particularly those who never made it to the main roster, spoke up against DeMott, suggesting he was mean spirited and even a bully toward some prospects.
Things came to a head when complaints grew more public in 2015, leading to more of a public outcry against DeMott’s alleged bullying, forcing performers into unsafe drills, and turning a blind eye to (if not condoning) sexual harassment. WWE launched a formal investigation and claimed no findings, but DeMott would end up resigning in 2015, stating that he didn’t want to cause any “embarrassment or damage” to WWE. He would be replaced by Matt Bloom, who had previously worked gimmicks including Lord Tensai and A-Train.
9. WCW: Hulk Hogan Advised The Giant To Leave
Before he progressed to his lengthy tenure as The Big Show, the WWE gimmick he’s now best known for, Paul Wight portrayed The Giant. WCW made allusions to him being the son of Andre the Giant and booked him like a monster out of the gate. That included feuding with Hulk Hogan immediately, and beating The Hulkster for the world title in the main event of Halloween Havoc 1995—The Giant’s debut match.
The Giant would remain one of WCW’s few homegrown stars in that era, and play a key role fighting on each side of the New World Order angle before his contract came up. Over those initial years with WCW, he formed a friendship with Hogan, and saw him as a mentor. He’s spoken up about asking Hogan’s advice on what to do next with his career. While it probably would have been in Hogan’s best interest to keep a talent of The Giant’s unique size on the same roster, the big man professed that Hogan was honest with him—if he really wanted to become a huge star, he needed to go work with Vince McMahon in WWE.
8. WWE: Vince McMahon Tried To Work The Boys At SummerSlam 2016
SummerSlam 2016 had an unusual finish. Brock Lesnar worked the main event opposite Randy Orton, and won in dominant fashion, culminating in a brutal ground and pound assault. Orton was busted open by Lesnar’s forearm and elbow shots until the referee called for a stoppage. This was an unconventional match finish, and it was out of the ordinary for WWE to sanction the use of blood. All of that led to speculation that things had gotten out of hand and Lesnar may have started shooting on Orton, or at least taken careless liberties with him in a vulnerable position.
Chris Jericho, for one, was upset on his friend’s behalf, and according to a variety of accounts confronted Vince at the gorilla position about whether this spot were planned. When Lesnar came through the curtain, Jericho purportedly didn’t back down from a confrontation with him as well. Finally, McMahon had to openly say that it was all a work that went precisely to plan. It seemed his intention was to work everyone, including his own roster, to create legitimate questions about how dangerous Lesnar was, but he needed to blow his own cover to avoid the confrontation backstage getting any uglier.
7. WCW: Kevin Sullivan Facilitated His Wife Leaving Him
The wrestling business is known to pull from real life events every now and again. It’s a bit more rare, but not unheard of for a storyline to lead to a real life situation. Such was the case for the love story of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, though, as they were reportedly paired up on TV before they became romantically linked in real life. In a far less sweet story, such was also the case for Chris Benoit and Woman—his eventual wife, Nancy.
Woman was married to Kevin Sullivan, who was often a key booker for WCW in the 1990s. At one point, he booked his wife into a romance angle with Benoit, ostensibly to add heat to Sullivan’s kayfabe feud with Benoit. Whether Sullivan already had an inkling of something going on between the two, or life imitated art, he advised the pair to hold hands and try to look like a couple in public, even when the cameras weren’t rolling. Before long, they had actually become romantically involved. Woman would leave Sullivan and marry Benoit. Tragically, their love story had an abrupt, violent end when Benoit lost his mind years later.
6. WWE: Vince McMahon’s Bullying Spelled The End Of Mick Foley’s Color Commentary
For a brief period in 2008, Mick Foley worked the color commentary table for the SmackDown brand. While fans generally received Foley’s work in this role positively, word came out later that the Hardcore Legend was absolutely miserable in his time doing that job.
The source of Foley’s discontent, and the reason he has since revealed he quit was because of how harshly Vince McMahon berated him over his headset, trying to micromanage Foley’s commentary. When he resigned, Foley reportedly got in McMahon’s face backstage and told him he would not stand to be disrespected by that again. Reportedly, stars who didn’t know the full context, thought Foley was scary and mean at the time for standing up to the boss and speaking to him so roughly. Foley would, suitably, transition out of the role and off of WWE TV for the time by taking a beat down from Edge as the Rated R Superstar prepared for his Hell in a Cell showdown with The Undertaker.
5. WCW: Brian Pillman Was Supposed To Come Back
According to The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, by the mid-1990s, Brian Pillman saw a need to reinvent himself. As his body absorbed wear and tear, he recognized he couldn’t keep up with the fast paced, high flying style that had been his signature, besides which that work hadn’t taken him to the upper tier of the WCW roster. So, he took on the Loose Cannon gimmick, walking a line between reality and kayfabe as he behaved crazily on and off camera, instilling doubt in not just the fans but his co-workers about what he was really up to.
Both Meltzer, and Eric Bischoff who purports to have worked closely with Pillman on developing the character, have claimed a master plan for Pillman. There was a scheme for him to leave WCW and spread his wacky behavior across ECW and WWE, before coming back to WCW with an even greater sense of chaos and unpredictability around him. To avoid anyone suspecting it was a storyline, or any legal issues, WCW really did terminate Pillman’s contract. He would wind up passing away before he could ever make it back.
4. WWE: Steve Austin’s Time As An Authority Figure Ended Sooner Than He Wanted Or Expected
Steve Austin saw his wildly successful run in the Stone Cold gimmick, and indeed his wrestling career on the whole, get cut short when neck and spine issues caught up to him and forced him into retirement. In the years to follow, however, WWE found spots for him to still play a major role in WWE programming, including stings as a co-general manager and later the sheriff of Monday Night Raw. Each of these stints was more comedic than serious, but Austin’s credibility helped them come across successfully.
In the WWE produced documentary about The Rattlesnake, he discussed that he had a lot of fun in these roles, and particularly hamming it up with live audiences after the cameras stopped rolling. However, his tenure as an authority figure would end up sooner than he expected or wanted, as the creative team started to take the company in another direction.
3. WCW: Trainers Were Rough With Female Performers
Both WWE and WCW featured female talent during the Monday Night War, often playing up their sex appeal, and throwing them into matches more aggressively than in previous eras. This included rushing some women through training. On the WWE side, Finlay is credited with doing a remarkably efficient and thorough job of preparing stars like Trish Stratus for the lime light. On the flip side, WCW struggled, and performers like Torrie Wilson didn’t exactly look ring ready.
Wilson would be signed by WWE after the WCW buy out and remain with the company for years to follow. After she had retired from the ring, she made the interesting observation that WWE was a much more pleasant place to work than WCW. In particular, she cited that the trainers in WCW were much rougher with the female talent, while the WWE personnel was more pleasant to work with.
2. WWE: Edge Was Given The Responsibility Of Reinventing Hell In A Cell
In an episode of his podcast with Christian, Edge discussed his frustration when Vince McMahon told him he wasn’t allowed to use blood in his SummerSlam 2008 Hell in a Cell showdown with The Undertaker. Particularly after as long and heated a feud as the two of them had had, set to be blown off in WWE’s most violent match type, Edge felt as though he was having his legs cut out from under him.
Edge went on to explain, though, that McMahon challenged him to set the mold for what Hell in a Cell might be in a PG era over the years to follow. If the gimmick were to survive, it needed to function without gore or big falls every time. The Rated R Superstar ultimately felt honored that the boss trusted him with reinventing one of WWE’s signature matches. Fittingly, that Cell match is often considered by fans to be one of the very best without blood.
1. WCW: DDP Tried To Plot Out Everything
Diamond Dallas Page may never have been the most polished in ring worker in the world, but when WCW reached its peak in terms of notoriety and viewership, he beat the odds and became one of a very small handful of new stars to rise to the main event scene. He did so based on sheer hard work and personality. It’s little wonder that the feud credited with getting him over at the highest level was opposite The Mach Man Randy Savage. Savage selflessly put over Page, and gave him some excellent matches.
The Macho Man was notorious for planning his matches—especially major ones—to the smallest detail. While his WrestleMania III encounter with Ricky Steamboat is regarded as one of the best ever, Steamboat himself expressed frustration in retrospect about having to plan and remember every movement of the match. Whether Page learned the process of planning from Savage, or Savage simply found a kindred spirit, Page was known to plan just as meticulously, often to the consternation of his colleagues.
Chris Jericho, in particular, discussed a funny story in his podcast about Page working with Chris Benoit, and The Crippler purposefully avoiding Page all day so they couldn’t plan. Jericho implied it was about equal parts so they could call the match in the ring, and a rib on DDP.
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