Research tells us that on any given day, an adult will make 35,000 decisions. That's a lot of opportunities to do the right thing or make a mistake. Fortunately, most of our decisions are simplistic in nature and not all of our decisions are the type that may affect whether or not we have employment in the morning.
For 15 wrestlers we're about to detail, they had an opportunity to make a decision that was a bit more than just what to eat for lunch or what to wear in the morning. The decisions they made were enough to warrant serious consideration about whether or not they were a good fit with the company.
When it was determined they'd made the wrong choice, they were about as close to being terminated as one might get. In other cases, the decision panned out for the best and as a result, the gamble paid off handsomely.
The WWE is known as a sink or swim company with few strikes available before being sent packing. There is always another wrestler ready and willing to take the place of someone who loses their spot. But, with that in mind, a WWE Superstar can't operate out of fear. As the saying goes, sometimes not making a decision, is, in fact, making a decision. WWE Superstars need to take risks and hope they're calculated.
Here are the stories of 15 wrestlers who made career-defining decisions. 10 of these wrestlers almost got fired. Five of them wound up being promoted.
15 Almost Fired: Titus O'Neil McMahon Grab
During an emotional segment on Raw designated to allow Daniel Bryan to say goodbye to the WWE and the WWE Universe, Titus O'Neil brain-farted and used that moment to joke around with the boss of the company. As Bryan was headed up the ramp to exit the show — after learning he'd be forced into retirement due to lingering concussion issues — Titus and Vince McMahon had an exchange that was almost as juvenile as it was harmless. It didn't matter. It was the wrong time and place and Titus paid for it dearly.
He was suspended for 90 days and missed WrestleMania. There were some in the WWE that were so upset by the lack of etiquette displayed that Titus almost lost his job completely. Dave Batista (a good friend of O'Neil) came out publicly and said that Titus should just quit, but Titus knew he'd screwed up and took the punishment like a professional. He's been struggling to gain traction since but he is still employed.
14 Almost Fired: Scott Steiner Shoot Promo
In February of 2000, Scott Steiner hopped in a WCW ring and proceeded to go on an almost incoherent rant about Ric Flair and the WCW. Throughout the promo, Steiner bashed Flair for stealing Buddy Rogers gimmick, being old and butt-kissing his way back into the spotlight. WCW probably didn't care considering they had a rocky relationship with Flair, but when Steiner proceeded to talk about how good the WWE programming was in comparison WCW and that WCW sucks, it was a moment that made WCW brass realize they might have had more than they could control on their hands.
Watching the promo back, it's difficult to tell if Steiner was trying to stay in character and just be edgy or if he was truly upset at WCW. We may never know as Steiner isn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer and his mouth may have simply gotten ahead of his brain. WCW must have thought so too. He wasn't fired.
13 Got Promoted: CM Punk Pipe-Bomb
CM Punk was unhappy in the WWE (shocker). He was about to leave when he had a change of heart and renewed his contract (probably the wad of cash the WWE gave him). One of the things he got to do was come out and air his grievances in an unscripted promo that is now commonly known as the "pipe-bomb." There was no guarantee it would work and there was a chance that Punk would come off as whiny and privileged. Instead, the somewhat risky move catapulted him to WWE stardom.
He said what a lot of people were thinking and it was uncharted territory for a wrestler to speak about things often hidden backstage. It kickstarted his return and he became a WWE Champion with an extremely long reign. Then, when things got iffy for him, he again decided again to quit and this time for real.
12 Almost Got Fired: Bill Alfonso "The Recruiter"
Former referee Bill Alfonso had become a hated character in ECW. While he wasn't a "wrestler" he knew how to make the crowd hate him and for that reason, he was wildly popular (in a heel sort of way).
Despite being a character everyone wanted to see get what was coming to him, he was also hurting his standing in ECW behind the scenes. Paul Heyman had discovered that Bill Alfonso had been part of a duo connecting with Kevin Sullivan and Terry Taylor (the bookers for WCW) to broker deals for certain ECW talents to make a move to Atlanta and get bigger money.
Before Alfonso was fired, Heyman decided to let the fans get their final joy out of seeing him beaten from pillar to post in one final ECW match. In a mixed tag team match alongside Rob Van Dam, Alfonso faced off against Tommy Dreamer and Beulah. Beulah beat and bloodied Alfonso up so badly that Heyman and the boys determined that was punishment enough and he was allowed to keep his job.
11 Almost Got Fired: Austin Takes His Ball And Goes Home
Over a decision to book Stone Cold in a relatively unadvertised match with Brock Lesnar, Steve Austin decided that the WWE was wasting his star power, packed up his stuff and left the company. He was immediately suspended and Vince McMahon came on television and publicly scolded Austin for what he'd done to the fans who were, at the end of the day, the ones missing out.
Austin did realize it was a poor decision and that he could have found a better way to show he disagreed with the company's decision. He and the WWE later worked things out, but Austin was fined heavily for his actions and his career was never really the same after that. He stayed one of the most popular WWE Superstars of all time, but also became known as a guy who could and would abandon the company and the fans if things didn't go his way.
10 Got Promoted: John Cena and Vanilla Ice
John Cena almost got fired and it wasn't even his fault. In a last minute decision, the WWE debuted Cena on SmackDown against Kurt Angle. Not really ready, the WWE thought his gimmick as an ideal physique without much character wasn't really working. Ready to call it a loss, the WWE was going to release him. Fortunately for Cena, Stephanie McMahon saw something there and in a Halloween special agreed to a promo with Cena where Cena was dressed like Vanilla Ice and performed a rap during a live segment.
It was completely different than the WWE had intended Cena to be but it worked. He took off with the fans and became the face of the WWE for years. Cena was on the verge of being let go. If his Vanilla Ice like gimmick failed, he was gone. Is was a huge risk that paid off in a major way.
9 Almost Fired: Enzo Amore, The Annoying Gnat
Triple H has gone on record to suggest that if not for he and the late, great, Dusty Rhodes, Enzo Amore would have been fired gone multiple times. Enzo never was the best wrestler, nor did he have the physique as most common wrestlers do. In fact, Enzo purposely went the other way with his character and tried to capitalize exclusively off his ability to use the microphone as a weapon.
Every time he had an internal review at NXT, he was on the cut list, but Triple H and Dusty Rhodes overruled the group. They argued that if Enzo could be this annoying to all of the staff and talent at NXT, imagine what he could get an audience to feel? Triple H was right and it proves that "The Game" has a mind for this business and knows what sells... probably better than Vince does.
8 Almost Fired: Booker T And Chi-town Heat
Sid Vicious was the reason Booker T and Stevie Ray were given a shot in WCW. Sid wanted to be in the offices of WCW as a corporate higher-up and figured if he discovered a couple talented wrestlers, he'd have a shot at being a reliable in-office talent. He brought in Booker as part of a team called Chi-Town Heat. They were two wrestlers portrayed as being right out of prison and the gimmick didn't work.
Booker T and Stevie Ray were about to get sent back to Texas when Booker pleaded with Ole Anderson. He convinced Ole that they had done their best with a terrible gimmick but that they could wrestle. Dusty Rhodes repackaged the team as Harlem Heat and they went on to become one of the most decorated tag teams in WCW history. Had Booker T not fought against a decision to can him, who knows what would have become of the five-time, five-time.... well you know.
7 Got Promoted: Brock Lesnar Leaves WWE
At the height of his wrestling career, Brock Lesnar decided he'd had enough of the WWE and refused to renew his contract. He hated the travel, he hated to workload and he wanted to try other things. It was a decision very few people in Lesnar's spot would have made because he could have been the biggest Superstar in the WWE in years.
While it appeared at first to have been a mistake (Lesnar failed in his attempt to make the NFL), he wound up in MMA and became the UFC Champion. It legitimized him as the toughest man on the planet and when he no longer felt like he wanted to do UFC, the WWE basically wrote him a blank cheque to return. He works way less, he's a massive star and he gets paid more money than he ever would have if he'd stayed.
6 Almost Fired: AJ Lee Confronts Michelle Beadle
At a Tribute to the Troops episode of SmackDown, Michelle Beadle (sports reporter for ESPN) was asked to be a part of the show. She was backstage and when she crossed paths with CM Punk, she did what she says she does with all her friends and called him a name (in a joking manner). She said, "hey, what's up F*&*face?" Punk didn't seem to care, but AJ Lee did and confronted Beadle, yelling at her in front of an entire group of Beadle's friends and surrounding WWE talent.
Beadle didn't know what to do so she says she just brushed it off. She was however embarrassed and was assured by the WWE it was not her fault. AJ Lee was let go by the WWE staff who saw the incident, but Vince McMahon overruled it based on the long-term damage the story and firing might cause the company. It was right around the time Del Rio slapped the WWE's social media manager and Vince didn't want two stories getting out in the press. AJ barely scraped by on that one.
5 Almost Fired: Triple H Curtain Call
This is the first of two entries for Triple H. He's the only wrestler honored enough to make our list twice. The first was because he was part of the infamous "Curtain Call" that included members of The Kliq. The four wrestlers (Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Triple H) went out in front of a live crowd and embraced after a match.
What was odd about it at the time was that two of the wrestlers were bad guys and two were good guys. To see them embracing and saying farewell in front of the audience broke the unspoken rule that wrestlers were to stay in character all the time.
Triple H took the heat. Michael's was the champ and too big a deal to be let go and Nash and Hall were going to WCW. Triple H lost his spot in the company standings and was forced to lose for months until the company figured he'd been punished enough to cover for all four guys.
4 Got Promoted: "Old Man" DDP Becomes a Wrestler
Diamond Dallas Page was nearly 38 years old by the time he got his in-ring wrestling career going. He had spent years as a manager and was doing alright. Not satisfied, he decided to make the career change — a change most thought was nuts and way too late in his career to work. They were wrong.
DDP chugged away in the mid-card of the company until he became the first real Superstar in WCW to get the upper hand on the NWO and it made him a fan favorite. He pulled in some of the biggest numbers during his mixed tag with Karl Malone against Hogan and Dennis Rodman and he wound up winning the WCW Championship at the age of 43. His Diamond Cutter finisher became one of the better finishes in all of wrestling and he was entered into the WWE Hall of Fame for his body of work throughout his career.
3 Almost Fired: Ric Flair No-Showed Thunder
There was a time in WCW when Ric Flair (wrestler) and Eric Bischoff (booker and man in control) were at complete odds. They legitimately hated each other. Flair publicly states he had permission from the WCW offices to take time off to see his late son Reid wrestle an amateur bout. Bischoff claims he knew nothing of that request and wanted Flair for an episode of WCW Thunder. When Flair refused to get back on a plane and show up, Bischoff made it his mission to destroy Flair's reputation in the company and bankrupt him by suspending and threatening him with legal fees.
Flair and WCW had a lengthy litigation battle until WCW finally needed Flair back due to decreased ratings. If it weren't for the failings of WCW, Flair would have been done. He wasn't good at saving his money and he was drowning trying to fight back against WCW for something that really shouldn't have been such a big issue in the first place.
2 Almost Fired: Paige Leaks and Albert Del Rio
It's not fair to fire Paige for leaked videos that someone stole off of her phone and blasted all over the internet. That was private footage and someone committed a crime to get it. One can only hope that person(s) responsible are caught and prosecuted. All that said, Paige is not exactly a model employee.
The fact that this happened to her doesn't really surprise anyone. She's got a reputation for being trouble backstage, she's hooked up with Albert Del Rio (who is about the most disgruntled ex-WWE employee ever) and she recently showed up at Impact for GFW with a mask on. This is all while she's technically still employed by the WWE. We may end up having to remove her from the list as she will probably get canned. It's really only a matter of time.
1 Got Promoted: Triple H And The Boss' Daughter
As is evidenced by his first entry on our list, Triple H really took chances with his career. The rumor that Randy Savage had a relationship with Stephanie McMahon and it got Savage blacklisted from the WWE and the Hall of Fame for over a decade, didn't seem to scare "The Game." Still, Triple H had to know that dating the boss' daughter was risky.
But, it didn't matter. He and Stephanie had a continued relationship behind the scenes for a while before finally telling McMahon who absolutely said no way! They kept hiding it and finally, McMahon caved, realizing it was better to know what was going on that be hidden from it.
It wound up being the best career move Triple H ever made. When Vince either passed the torch or dies (the latter may come first), Triple H is about to take over the WWE with Stephanie. He's cemented his place in the company for decades to come and become the second most powerful man in the WWE.