The wrestling couple. As much as we might like to say that professional wrestling is merely a choreographed, scripted sport of tough athletes testing their mettle against one another, this is not always (rarely?) the case, at least in North America. The wrestling couple is a tried and true staple of pro wrestling. And when that couple happens to be a real life one as well, we fans are all the more enthralled. Pro wrestling has often been called “soap opera for men”, and the fact that a pro wrestling wedding routinely does huge ratings numbers only supports this claim.
But as with all aspects of pro wrestling, the couples behind the scenes –the ‘real’ couples– are far more interesting than their on-screen equivalents. Even more interesting when off-camera couples become real life couples, or vice versa. And of course, there have been a lot of wrestling couples throughout history. When you’re on the road 300 days a year, it’s only natural you would begin to date somebody who is on the road with you. Though, this too can often cause problems; the wrestling business is no friend to long term, monogamous relationships. In any event, it’s rare that a wrestling couple will elicit a shrug from a die-hard fan; we often love them or hate them. So here we have 10 of the most loved and hated couples in wrestling history.
20. Hated: Lex Luger & Elizabeth
Miss Elizabeth and Lex Luger’s relationship was nothing short of disastrous. Miss Elizabeth began dating Luger sometime after the two had been paired together on WCW television, and after her divorce from her second husband, Cary Lubetsky. By the time they were an on-screen pair (1999), Liz had been a heel member of the nWo and had lost all the innocent charm she had in WWE in the 1980s. Luger’s body was ridiculously bloated from steroid use and neither they, nor WCW as a whole, were entertaining to watch. But the real reason so many wrestling fans wish these two hadn’t got together is because both of their personal lives were a mess.
Luger was arrested several times in 2003 for, among other things, domestic battery and DUI. Their relationship came to a tragic end when Elizabeth died shortly after these incidents of “acute toxicity” from painkillers and vodka.
19. Loved: Macho Man & Miss Elizabeth
This couple was wrestling royalty: “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Elizabeth. Universally remembered fondly by fans of wrestling during the boom period of the 1980s, Macho Man and Elizabeth were actually a bit groundbreaking in that Savage began in WWE as a heel wrestler, but Elizabeth was a sympathetic babyface. But then Savage turned face in ‘87, won the title in ‘88, turned heel again in ‘89 and dumped Elizabeth, before memorably reuniting with and proposing to her at WrestleMania VII (they were already married in real life).
Behind the scenes though, Savage was very jealous and overly protective of Elizabeth. Thus, Savage being jealous of Hulk Hogan and Elizabeth’s relationship was drawn from the real life dynamic between the two. They divorced in 1992.
18. Hated: Enzo Amore & Liv Morgan
Enzo Amore was universally loved while on NXT and he was a solid babyface during his first year on the main roster, too. Very few wrestlers today manage to be loved by children and adults alike, but Enzo did. Past tense. Something changed and we all began to grow tired of Enzo’s over-the-top shtick. This, coupled with reports of backstage antics, getting kicked off a tour bus by Roman Reigns, and bragging about the money he spent on his ticket to Mayweather-McGregor, made ‘Zo more hated than loved. He was seemingly punished by WWE creative, only for him now to be a very successful heel.
During all of this, he was dating Liv Morgan. The jealousy of being Liv’s boyfriend alone was enough for many us to detest Enzo, but after recent rumors –strongly hinted at by Liv herself on social media– of Enzo cheating, how could you possibly like Enzo? So sure, it’s not that we hated the couple, just Enzo. But now that Liv has dumped him, I guess she’s single again. There’s hope, guys (not really).
17. Love: Daniel Bryan & Brie Bella
Sure, we might have hoped that some of Daniel Bryan’s otherworldly wrestling talent would have rubbed off on Brie Bella, but at least she tried, right? Now she’s retired and the proud mother of their daughter, Birdie. As much as we might roll our eyes at some of their hippie-dippie attitudes and actions, both Bryan and Brie seem like genuinely good people who want what’s best for the world. And things haven’t always gone Bryan’s way in life, with his father’s death shortly after his marriage to Brie, and then his premature retirement.
Even if Bryan never does wrestle again (at least, in a WWE ring) we can remember his unlikely rise to the top of the wrestling world, and the almost equally unlikely accomplishment of a guy who looks like him, marrying a woman who looks like Brie. That’s something to give hope to all us average guys.
16. Hated: Charlotte & Bram
The relationship between Charlotte Flair and Bram is one we kind of hate retroactively. They were only married for two years and divorced in October, 2015, so their marriage pre-dated the height of Charlotte’s fame. Indeed, by the time Charlotte debuted on the main roster, she was effectively separated from Bram. It was shortly thereafter that Bram was charged with two felony counts of domestic battery by strangulation and false imprisonment. The victim was reported to be Bram’s then-girlfriend, not Charlotte, his soon to be ex-wife.
The charges were later dropped, but the whole incident colored how we see Bram. Subsequent behavior, such as getting thrown off a tour for Pro Wrestling NOAH, has also contributed to a generally negative image of Bram. It seems best that Charlotte is rid of him.
15. Love: John Cena & Nikki Bella
Oh sure, the “John Cena Sucks” brigade will pretend to hate John and everything he does, but let’s be honest with ourselves for a hot minute. John Cena is a good dude. He works really hard, he’s loyal to the WWE, and he’s granted more Make-a-Wish wishes than anybody else in history. And with Roman Reigns being shoved down our throats as the new face of the company, we’re starting to realize how lucky we had been with Cena.
So yeah, a lot of us booed at WrestleMania when Cena moved forward with the least surprising proposal in history, but if you watch that segment back, almost everybody cheered when Nikki said yes. Yes the WWE is monetizing their relationship for Total Divas, and yes, we’ve probably seen both of them on our screens more than we would have liked over the years, but the facts are they’re both better people (and wrestlers) than we often give them credit for being. And they love each other. Good for them. Not to mention, their marriage will make John Cena, Daniel Bryan, and John Laurinaitis all part of the same family, which is just…wow.
13. Hated: David Flair & Stacy Keibler
It’s not David Flair’s fault that he was thrust onto television way too young and was subjected to some of the worst plot lines late-era WCW had to offer. But it’s not our fault either and we had to watch that garbage. At the tender ages of just 20, David Flair and Stacy Keibler’s real life relationship was the basis for their on-screen relationship (despite David’s character dating Daffney at the time). They then rushed into a pregnancy angle, a miscarriage angle, and then Keibler (then known as Ms. Hancock) admitting she faked the pregnancy. Vince Russo writing at its finest.
But for all the on-screen garbage with which we had to put up, what was most galling was the same thing at work with Enzo and Liv Morgan, i.e. how can SHE be with HIM??? I mean, Keibler went on to date George Clooney! David Flair to George Clooney, imagine that. But let’s hate no longer; they both appear to be happily married to other people, so good for them.
13. Love: Ric Flair & Wendy Barlow
Charlotte now has two divorces under her belt, but just like with world title reigns, she has a long way to go to catch her father. Ric Flair has had four divorces and is moving towards marriage number five. In normal circumstances, it would be entirely reasonable to be cynical and pessimistic about marriage number five, but even if it too does end in divorce some day, we still should all love Wendy Barlow.
Barlow played Ric’s valet, “Fifi the Maid,” in WCW in the mid-’90s and now she’s Ric’s fiancé. In the recent 30 for 30 episode on Ric Flair, Flair credited Barlow with turning around and even saving his life. Ric went deep into an alcoholic depression after the death of his son Reid (Charlotte’s brother). He said he would drink from morning to night every day. But Barlow helped him curb his drinking and learn to love life again. She saved Ric’s life, and for that reason, we love them as a couple. Let’s hope the fifth time’s the charm!
12. Hate: Alexa Bliss & Buddy Murphy
File this under the “How did HE get HER?” category. Alexa Bliss is exactly what she says she is: a Goddess. And Buddy Murphy is…wait, who is Buddy Murphy?! Well, he’s a former NXT tag champion (along with Wesley Blake) and has done nothing since their valet, Bliss, joined the main roster and far surpassed anything he ever did. The two are engaged to be married.
Maybe Murphy is a really nice guy. Maybe he cooks her meals and massages her feet. Maybe he’s real smart and has a great side hustle selling repaired vacuum cleaners. I don’t know. But if a woman as talented and gorgeous as Alexa Bliss has to be with any dude, why is she with this dude? I just don’t get it.
11. Love: Booker T & Sharmell
It’s not so much that we love Booker T and Sharmell. We don’t really love Booker Huffman and Sharmell Sullivan-Huffman, either. Who we love is King Booker and Queen Sharmell. The two wed in 2005 and rarely has a marriage had such a positive effect on a wrestler’s work. Booker, always talented, had sunken into a funk after his initial push as one of WCW’s big stars in the WWE ultimately failed. He had been relegated to fighting over shampoo. But in 2006, he improbably turned everything around after winning the King of the Ring and rechristening himself “King BOOKER.” He went on to win the World Heavyweight Championship and they both went on to entertain us greatly. Whether or not the royal gimmick was Booker’s, Sharmell’s, or somebody else’s, it was great to watch.
10. Hated: John Morrison & Melina
This is a rare instance of us hating a couple largely because of the actions of the woman involved, not the man. For starters, Morrison and Melina (along with Joey Mercury) were good heels in the mid-late 2000s in the WWE, so it’s good that we hated their on-screen personas. But behind the scenes, the two had a fair amount of drama. The story here is that Melina cheated on John Morrison/Nitro/Mundo/Impact/Hennigan with Dave Batista. Rather than fly off the handle and attack Big Dave or simply dump Melina, Morrison seemingly acted like a civilized adult and even managed to work things out with Melina (at least for a while).
But in the macho atmosphere of the WWE, it’s rumoured that Morrison’s reasonable behavior hurt him and Vince McMahon lost respect for him. Morrison was further hindered when Melina would run her mouth on social media about the WWE. Johnny seems to be doing better now since he left WWE (2011) and Melina (2015) and is now engaged to fellow wrestler Taya Valkyrie. Melina still occasionally wrestles in the independents.
9. Love: CM Punk & AJ Lee
AJ Lee’s on-screen character was infamous for cycling through boyfriends, but in real life, April Mendez Brooks is the wife of Phil Brooks, aka CM Punk. The two were married in 2014. While we might well be jealous of Punk for this, we can’t say we don’t love them as a couple. Both were well-loved by fans during their time in the WWE. And neither seem willing to take any guff. Whatever you think of Punk’s leaving the WWE and going to the UFC, you can’t say he’s not principled. And now he and his wife can reminisce about their time in WWE, discuss how glad they are to be gone, and share their love of comic books and nerd culture. Chant “CM Punk” as much as you want, but would you give up that life?
8. Hate: Steve Austin & Debra
Steve Austin and Debra were a bad match on camera and a bad match off of it. The two married in 2000 during the height of Austin’s popularity. We all remember WrestleMania X-Seven and the Austin-Rock main event, arguably the greatest night in WWE’s history. But we often forget that the build to that main event wasn’t great. It stuttered when Mr. McMahon made Debra, acknowledging her as Austin’s wife, The Rock’s manager. Debra was wooden as always and nobody seemed comfortable with the angle. Then after Austin’s ill-fated heel turn, he was permanently paired with Debra. But this was not the “Stone Cold” Steve Austin we wanted to see.
In 2002 we got a Steve Williams (Austin’s real name) that nobody wanted to see. He was charged with misdemeanor assault for beating Debra. He pleaded no contest. Debra later attributed Austin’s violence to steroid and drug use. Austin has never discussed the incident specifically but has stated that he was in a bad place and drinking too much during this period. They divorced in 2003.
7. Love: Johnny Gargano & Candice LeRae
There’s not too much to explain here. Have you ever seen Johnny Gargano wrestle? Have you ever seen Candice LeRae wrestle? It’s hard not to love them. The WWE has huge trouble in getting faces over, but both Johnny and Candice have got over as white meat babyfaces at every level so far. The two have wrestled, together and on their own, on the indies for years and have now made it to NXT, with the WWE acknowledging their relationship onscreen during the Mae Young Classic. They got married in 2016.
The two make an adorable couple and we all wish them the best for years to come. But, if Candice ever does decide to dump Johnny, let’s hope she doesn’t do it the same way Tommaso Ciampa dumped him.
6. Hated: Paige & Alberto Del Rio
Oh boy. The only good thing I can say about this relationship is that it’s over. The ex-wife of Alberto Del Rio/Alberto El Patron (real name José Alberto Rodriguez) filed for divorce from Alberto in June 2016, citing adultery. But Alberto claims they had been separated since 2015 and the two have since been in a nasty custody battle. Presumably, the woman with whom Alberto is alleged to have been adulterous with is Paige. The two quickly became engaged and then things started to happen.
Alberto left the WWE in September 2016 and repeatedly insulted and criticized the company on social media, making things awkward for Paige. They often appeared in videos together, seeming to be inebriated. Then there was a bizarre incident at an airport where one of them maybe assaulted the other. Or a fan? Or were assaulted? It’s still not clear, but what is clear is that this was a bad relationship and it finally ended in late 2017.
5. Love: Matt Hardy & Lita
“Team Xtreme” thrilled and delighted us during the Attitude Era with their death-defying stunts and cool look – mesh shirts were cool in 1999, okay? Don’t ask why. With Lita and Matt Hardy as the couple and brother Jeff repeatedly referred to as the “eligible bachelor” by Jim Ross for reasons that still aren’t clear, the group dynamic worked perfectly. Though the large male teenage fan base was lusting over Lita, they respected her athleticism, too, and didn’t enviously hate Matt because he was also cool and entertaining.
The two dated for six years, but sadly the relationship ended in 2005 with a fair bit of drama. But now Matt is married to Reby Sky, and they have since made a very entertaining couple. Meanwhile, Lita went on to
4. Hate: Edge & Lita
Lita went on to briefly date Edge. Indeed, it was, of course, Lita’s affair with Edge that ended her relationship with Matt Hardy. Now, having your girl cheat on you with one of your best friends sucks, but in this case, there was actually a positive for all three involved. Matt was re-hired by the WWE after the affair became public knowledge and his chaotic return was one of the more memorable moments in Raw history. Edge and Lita, in turn, became super-hot heels and it helped launch Edge to main event status; he won his first world title shortly after this. If Lita was ever fully comfortable to the misogyny she/her character faced, I don’t know, but she was great at playing up the “cheating harlot” character.
Edge and Lita’s onscreen romance lasted longer than their personal one, but the two remained friends and worked great together; and thus, as heels, were hated by the fans. Lita would go on to date CM Punk for a few years and now Edge is married to Beth Phoenix.
3. Love: Miz & Maryse
Had this article been written two years ago, these two might well have been in the “hated” column. But now most of us love these two together. Since Maryse’s return to the WWE on the Raw after WrestleMania 32, The Miz has seen an astonishing career revival. Pairing The Miz with Maryse, his real life wife, gave his character an intangible boost. It seems to have given both The Miz and Mike Mizanin a boost in confidence and since then he knows his character as well as anybody else and has put in the hard work and intense performances to make him a main event level talent again.
2. Hate: Triple H & Stephanie McMahon
Of course, we had to see “The Authority” on this list. We all hate them, and they know that, and they’ve leveraged it to their advantage. The sneaky, ego-driven wrestler that married the boss’s daughter? The sleek, corporate, PR-speaking suit that hides behind her big, tough husband? What’s not to hate?
They’re an example of life imitating art as they began dating after they were paired together on screen. Yes, perhaps there were some things they could have handled better, like their relationship with Triple H’s ex-girlfriend Chyna. And maybe they did politic too much backstage. Nevertheless, they might well be fine, nice, moral people in real life, but that doesn’t really matter. We will always hate them when they’re onscreen together. And they love that.
1. Loved: Davey Boy Smith & Diana Hart Smith
Has there ever been anybody in the history of pro wrestling better at looking concerned than Diana Hart Smith? The Intercontinental Title match at SummerSlam ‘92 at Wembley was one of the greatest matches of all time. But as great as Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith were inside the ring, Diana was just as great outside of it. The repeated cutaways to Diana looking worried sick for her brother and husband never got old and added greatly to the match. She seemed to be convinced it was real.
We don’t need to dwell on the ill-conceived heel run she had with Bulldog a few years later, but she did play her part excellently as Mrs. Stampede in 1997 at In Your House: Canadian Stampede (in front of one of the hottest crowds ever). And let’s also not dwell on their divorce a few years before Bulldog’s death. Let’s just hope that if Harry Smith/Davey Boy Smith Jr. ever returns from New Japan, we get to see mother Diana looking concerned again some day.
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