It can be hard to work for Vince McMahon. The man is smart in a lot of ways in wrestling. He’s proven that with his great work over the years and how he basically rules the wrestling world. But he’s also known for snap judgements, ignoring anyone’s advice but his own and doing his own thing too much. Far too many times, WWE has pushed the wrong guy because of what Vince wants and if you cross him, it’s a bad thing. That’s proven in who has been cut as so many guys have gotten the axe from WWE, often in very bad ways and not deserved. Too many firings are just not justified and Vince can even regret a few.
It is interesting how even some of those fired can admit it was for the right reasons and not hold a grudge. Others, of course, can rant and rave and even be pushed by it to try and succeed elsewhere. It’s bizarre that some of those fired end up working for WWE all over again and putting this ugly incident behind. Vince can regret some openly but other firings he can hold himself to still be justified. Here are 10 wrestlers Vince regrets firing and 10 axings he stands by as part of being the boss.
20 REGRETS: Mickie James
Thankfully, WWE is correcting this with James’ recent return but it doesn’t take away how bad this was in the first place. Signed in 2005, James took off with her act as the nutty stalker of Trish Stratus and their Mania match had the crowd firmly on James’s side. She took off as a multiple champion with her terrific style and ring work to shine well. However, she also had to endure stuff like the “Piggy James” angle that both she and fans hated. In 2010, James was cut in a wave of layoffs with word of WWE not happy with her wanting to get into country music and some heat with John Cena.
She traveled to TNA to win several titles and establish herself as a huge name in wrestling circles. That WWE has brought her back shows they regret their earlier cutting of James and are ready to make up for it by pushing her.
19 STANDS BY: Bill DeMott
Best known as Hugh Morrus in WCW, DeMott was a burly worker famed for his stiff manner and some wild battles. Retiring, he moved to a position as a trainer and looked to be doing well with it. As FCW turned into NXT, DeMott was one of several guys used to train these rookies and prepare them for the world of WWE. However, stories soon surfaced of how DeMott was taking “hazing” way too far, overheard using homophobic slurs and condoning sexual harassment with the trainees. It got further with reports of him slapping some guys and even making advances on the women.
When several wrestlers went public, the reaction on social media was huge and slamming DeMott massively. He announced his “resignation” but it was quite obvious he’d been given the axe. No surprise Vince stands by it, as assaulting the workers is not a good thing for your company.
18 REGRETS: EC III
WWE really missed the boat here. Michael Hutter showed real promise in OVW, a good talent in the ring and rising on the mic. He was named Derrick Bateman and soon clicking as a heel. In FCW and then early NXT, Hutter seemed a guy who just needed that little turn to boost him to the big time. But he was cut without warning, WWE seeming to not see any potential in him. Traveling to TNA, Hutter was remade into Ethan Carter III, the “nephew” of Dixie and soon positioned as an arrogant rich guy. At first rough, Carter soon rose up into a great main event star, TNA champion and fans backing him majorly. He’s one of the stars now of TNA/GWF, a guy who showed he could hang on top and do a great job and could have been something big for WWE. EC III could have been among the big stars of NXT and WWE just gave him away, a misfire for the company.
17 STANDS BY: Jeff Jarrett
It’s more of a “banning” than a firing but it still counts as something Vince stands with. Jarrett had established himself as a good midcard star in the South when WWE hired him in 2005. His gimmick as an aspiring country music star was whacky but still not bad, as he had a run as IC champion and was a good heel. But in 1996, as WWE underwent bad economic times, Jarrett demanded way more money than he deserved and was let go. He returned in 1997 as part of a bit with the NWA and had a good run as tag team champion with Owen Hart.
But in 1999, Jarrett decided to accept a big contract from WCW and held up Vince for $300,000 in order to drop the belt to Chyna. When WWE bought WCW in 2001, Vince made it clear right off there was no way in hell he’d take Jarrett on again. Jarrett would be pushed to create TNA and rule it as champion as Vince is quite obvious on how Jarrett ranks high on the list of people he’s more than happy to brag about letting go.
16 REGRETS: CM Punk
Vince and Punk always had a tricky relationship. He respected Punk’s past work in ROH and thought he could be a star in WWE as well. After a rough start, Punk rose up in ECW and then in WWE, including his epic year-long run as champion, a move that many were surprised Vince went along with. He gave Punk chances to break the rules with the “pipe bomb promo” and other bits that elevated WWE up big time. But Punk also became angry over the direction of the company, both with him and Daniel Bryan and Batista’s push in 2014 was the last straw.
Punk was gone although it was clear it was as much a firing as him quitting. In a true case of pique, Punk’s termination papers showed up on the day of his wedding. Punk has since gone on to some fame in UFC but more importantly, is regarded as a hero to wrestling fans and WWE would have done a lot better keeping him on.
If nothing else, firing a guy on his wedding day was a bad move and something Vince should feel ashamed over.
15 STANDS BY: Teddy Hart
He may be one of the biggest wastes of talent in wrestling history. As a member of one of the most famous families around, Teddy had the drive, the training and the name to make himself a star. But he was also cursed with a horrible attitude, massively egotistical and clearly thinking himself a bigger deal than he really was. He was given training in 2002 but was released after some screw-ups and clashes with others. He then had the infamous ROH cage match where he no-sold injury with some moonsaults and puked in public. He returned to WWE in 2005 and maybe if there was a NXT then, it might have worked out. But despite good work with Harry Smith, Teddy’s old issues continued and he was once more fired. He’s bounced around since, burning bridges everywhere and Vince is just one of many promoters happy to wash his hands of Hart.
14 REGRETS: Shane Douglas
Shane Douglas is a tricky figure. Some claim he’s his own biggest fan, overhyping his abilities and standing in the business. But few can deny in 1995 he was quite skilled and charismatic, proving that in ECW. So for him to be saddled with the terrible “Dean Douglas” character in WWE was a shame. Worse was how Douglas ran afoul of the Kliq and soon pushed down the card. He had a fifteen-minute run as IC champion before dropping it and quickly shoved out of the company. Douglas has never held back slamming Vince and WWE and his later runs in ECW showed how good he could still be. The guy was quite talented and while putting him in the main event would be a bit much, he could have been a great mid-card heel to push the company up majorly. Yet WWE let all that go, yet another reason 1995 was a bad year for the company.
13 STANDS BY: Carlito
Vince can be a cold SOB; he openly admits it. But at the same time, he’s surprisingly helpful, offering free rehab to wrestlers with addictions and wanting them to get help. But sometimes, addicts just can’t accept what’s offered to them. Carlito was the son of legendary Carlos Colon and got over well in WWE with his skills and good promo work. He had runs as IC and US champion and a tag champ as well and a dependable guy. But Carlito’s drug use was soon out of control and he kept breaking the wellness policy. WWE gave him chance after chance but he refused and was let go.
Carlito is up front on how WWE was right to do so as he needed a wake-up call, getting himself clean and sober. He made a return in 2014 to induct father Carlos to the Hall of Fame and seems open to a return to the company. So it’s not only Vince who stands by this firing but Carlito himself agrees he deserved the axe.
12 REGRETS: Cody Rhodes
One would think that being the son of Dusty Rhodes would mean a job for life in WWE. Cody was good in various roles, great as IC champion and really took off as a heel. He was boosted well, had the charisma, the skills, all of it to be a real star. But WWE just kept ignoring his abilities and pushing him lower and lower down the card. Even Dusty’s support couldn’t help much and when he died, Cody lost both a father and his biggest cheerleader. It sunk to him doing the infamous “Stardust” act with brother Dustin that most thought was a waste of his talents.
Finally, in 2016, Cody demanded his release and WWE basically had no problem releasing him, a move many derided as a bad decision. That’s been proven true as Cody has taken off huge in Ring of Honor, with “The American Nightmare” becoming World champion and a big star. For WWE to let go of a guy who is now one of the hotter acts in the business stands as one of their worst decisions of recent years.
11 STANDS BY: Umaga
On the one hand, it’s a tragedy. On the other, it’s obviously not WWE’s fault and many say they were in the right on this. Edward Fatu was a member of the famed Anoa’I family, a tough guy and got over right away as this painted savage. He had a run as IC champ, feuded with John Cena and got over with his look. But he was also a major drug addict and failed the wellness policy a few times to get suspended. Umaga was offered the chance to go to rehab on the company’s dime but he constantly refused. Another failure had him once more refusing and it became obvious he just wasn’t going to accept help.
It was sadly clear a tragic end was coming and WWE didn’t want it happening on their watch and so fired Umaga. Just six months later, Fatu was found dead of a heart attack, stemmed from a drug overdose. It may be cold but Vince had to see the guy wasn’t going to change.
10 REGRETS: Alberto Del Rio
This is a bad one on two occasions. True, Del Rio was already a tough sell, the charisma and look but not quite the backing needed to get the fans behind him for a main event run. A face turn didn’t do him any favors either despite his good work in the ring. But it got really bad press for WWE when Del Rio was fired for slapping a guy backstage over a racial slur. True, you shouldn’t hit someone in authority but it was provoked and most backed Del Rio majorly in the issue and it made WWE look bad. He did return for another run but that ended with a sudden exit amid talk of broken promises of a push and breaking the Wellness Policy.
Del Rio is now in GFW as champion and proving himself a far better star than in WWE, making this another case of WWE making a short-sighted decision that lost them a star and made them look bad in the process.
9 STANDS BY: Kurt Angle
Angle’s recent return to WWE shows there’s no bad feelings about this. But it was a major deal in 2006. For six years, Angle had been one of the top guys in the company, a brilliant worker who even fought through massive injuries to be a multiple champion and star. But he was having issues with his temper and some rows backstage combined with his refusal to seek help for them. WWE was seriously worried something could happen to Angle and when he put his foot down about refusing help, they axed him. Angle jumped to TNA and while he had great success, he also endured several DUI arrests and an ugly divorce.
This seemed to prove WWE was right to let him go as a rougher schedule could have made it worse. Indeed, after the Benoit tragedy, many were speculating Angle could have been another wrestling tragedy and even he seems to acknowledge leaving WWE at that time was a good move overall. Today, he’s better suited for a GM role as Vince firing him may have saved Angle’s life.
8 REGRETS: Mr. Kennedy
Ken Kennedy might be the ultimate example of a man who seemed to have “mega-star” written all over him only for circumstances to end it. The man had the look, the great promo skill and the ring style to take off. He was given push after push in WWE but each time, a suspension or injury would ruin it. He had to give up his MITB briefcase and the entire “Vince’s secret son” angle was dropped when he had to take time off. WWE finally got tired and fired Kennedy. He moved to TNA where as Mr. Anderson, he reigned as champion and showed off as a star at last. True, he hit issues again with his injuries and personality but still had plenty left in the tank.
WWE clearly could have used him a bit more and they have stood by others with the same problems so it's a shame Anderson could never get that same shot to boost himself up at last.
7 STANDS BY: The Ultimate Warrior
On the “Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior” DVD, Vince discusses the issues of the Warrior in 1991. Despite bad business with him as champion and his bizarre reputation, Warrior was demanding way more money and control over himself. This led to him trying to hold up the big SummerSlam match for a payday. When he finished, Vince brags “I could not wait to fire him.” Warrior was gone and WWE acknowledged it. He returned in 1992 for a run and it’s a bit up in the air whether he ended up quitting or was fired for various issues and Vince making a real stand for it. One last run in 1996 followed which again ended with a “quit/fire” situation that ended up ruining Vince’s plans. They managed to make peace just before Warrior’s death yet Vince still paints himself in the right letting the guy go in the first place despite the bad blood that followed.
6 REGRETS: Austin Aries
Austin Aries had a great resume when he joined WWE. He had fantastic runs in ROH and TNA, a champion in each and was terrific in the ring. He was also killer on the mic, a great character and his mix of promo work and fantastic matches made him a true standout for fans. Aries was soon the rising star of the new Cruiserweight division and everyone expected him to get the title and be the face of 205 Live. Which was why his sudden firing was so shocking to so many. The immediate talk was Aries was asking for his release as he was frustrated by his direction. However, it’s now clear he was fired as he was not liked by management over his attitude. Stories do abound of Aries acting up but he has made it clear he wanted to stay with WWE.
Currently under a non-compete clause, Aries seems ready to hit the indies and it’s astounding that WWE is letting such an amazing talent with a passionate following go after the build as they could use someone with spark to rise up well.
5 STANDS BY: Zahra Schreiber
WWE can put up with a lot from their ladies. A whole lot but sometimes, things can be way too harsh. Such was the case with Zahra Schreiber who was given a nice push in NXT, looking hot with her lush hair and bevy of tattoos. Also helping was her relationship with Seth Rollins which got some buzz and seemed to be carrying her over. Things got wild when Rollins’ fiancée, angry about the affair, published nude photos of the two which got them in hot water. But then someone dug up some old posts by Schreiber that contained Nazi imagery. She’d deleted them but nothing is truly gone on the Internet and as soon as they hit, the outrage was huge. She was fired and WWE has to go along with it as defending someone promoting Nazi imagery is a bit much.
4 REGRETS: Kharma
In 2010, WWE grabbed a major coup in signing Awesome Kong. The massive worker was respected for her great power and skill and had just come off an epic run in TNA. She was set up in a great way, attacking Divas and pushed as a monster. But when Kharma announced she was pregnant, Vince reacted badly by having her “cry” in the ring and then announce it before taking a leave of absence. By reports, Vince was not happy Kharma did this after all the work WWE had building her up. When she returned (after suffering a miscarriage), it was for an ultra-short run before being released.
It’s a real shame as she could have boosted the Divas up more as a great worker and letting go a woman after a tragedy like that makes Vince look even more like a jerk. Nothing awesome in how this woman was treated in being released.
3 STANDS BY: Jim Cornette
On the one hand, Vince seemed to like Jim Cornette. The Louisville Slugger was respected for his sharp mind and a true creative force who helped WWE a lot behind the scenes. The problem is that Cornette lacks that little voice in your mind that tells you when it’s time to shut up. His outspokenness rubbed Vince the wrong way a lot as well as how Cornette loved to shoot his mouth off to any “dirt sheet” guy on how bad WWE really was. When he was put in charge of OVW, it seemed like a great fit, his creative force guiding several careers and making them spark. But it came to a head when Anthony Carelli (known now as Santino Marella) openly laughed at The Boogeyman at an OVW event. Cornette (an old-styled guy) chewed Marella out then slapped him in the face. That was a major crossing of the line and Cornette was fired. He defends himself but few others do as striking the workers is a major no-no and thus McMahon puts up with Cornette’s screaming at WWE to defend this firing.
2 REGRETS: Bret Hart
Vince has gone on record time and again saying he didn’t want to do it. He liked Bret Hart, really respected and liked him. He took a chance on Bret as champion in 1992 and was rewarded and even when things got bad, Vince still wanted Bret around. He saw him as a star who always did his job, even when Vince had his desire to push others like Diesel. Vince wanted him to stay in WWE and even when Bret was weighing offers to leave. He signed Bret to a massive 20-year contract in order to offset the three-year, $9 million offer Bret got from WCW. A year later, Vince told him he couldn't pay it and told Bret to pursue the offer from WCW again. So Bret was on his way out.
Of course, the big problem was Bret refusing to drop the belt to Shawn in Montreal and Vince doing the screwjob. Again, Vince says he wishes he could do it differently but at the time, felt it was needed. They’ve mended fences since but clearly Vince wishes he didn’t give Bret the send-off from WWE that he did.
1 STANDS BY: Nailz
Yeah, it’s hard to imagine Vince not still glad about this one. Kevin Wacholz had been hired on in 1992 as Nailz. The idea was he was a convict at the prison the Big Boss Man worked at and had come seeking revenge for his treatment. This led to some hard matches with Nailz in full orange gear and attacking Boss Man, including a “nightstick match.” But Wacholz was upset about his low pay and felt he needed a bigger push. He came to Vince to talk about it and things…escalated. Many is the time a worker has had issues with McMahon but this was something else as before anyone knew it, Wacholz was across the desk and strangling Vince hard. He had to be dragged out by security and naturally tossed out of the company fast to become persona non grata in wrestling. So Vince has no qualms over sending this guy his pink slip and should be lucky he didn’t become a con for real.
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