Wrestling has always lived off making guys on screen much different than in real life. In the old days, guys pretended to be heels as much off screen as on and thus fool fans better. Today, WWE likes to put a better face on things with wrestlers in a good light but you can’t totally hide their behavior. Vince McMahon openly shows how much of a jerk he can be despite some good moments here and there. It’s quite common for a guy to be a hero on screen but a total scumbag out of it and with how wrestling tries to keep up appearances, it’s easy to mix it up a lot.
Some folks are better than others in showing their real side. Fans can talk constantly about meetings with wrestlers they admire but are brushed off. At the same time, folks with bad reputations turn out to really be good people willing to help out. Some can change like Randy Orton who was a huge jerk in his early career but later adjusted himself to being a better person. But some can be just as bad as they’ve always been, if not worse. Here are 10 wrestlers who were as huge jerks off screen as they were on and 10 who only played being jerks on screen which shows how tricky it is to judge sometimes.
20 REAL LIFE: Batista
Maybe it was the fact that Batista entered wrestling late and was pushed fast. That might have added to his ego and made it harder for him to get along with people. But that doesn’t excuse Batista’s amazing jerk behavior for much of his WWE tenure. Fan stories abound of Batista brushing off requests for autographs and acting mean outside the ring and fellow workers not quite praising him majorly. It got worse when he published his autobiography where he singled out wrestlers for their own crap for some cheap shots. He also wrote about his relationship with Melina when he was married to a woman fighting cancer.
His return to the company in 2014 just solidified his reputation as fans booed his being elevated to the WrestleMania main event right off and Batista ripped into them for their reaction. He also started demanding a title run and more TV time and money. This led to him leaving and while he’s now a hit in Hollywood with “Guardians of the Galaxy” Batista’s reputation among wrestling fans isn’t that good.
19 ON SCREEN: Kevin Owens
In his ROH tenure as Kevin Steen, Owens was known as an arrogant jerk putting down other workers constantly and slamming them majorly as he reigned as champion. That’s continued in WWE, a man willing to turn on best friend Chris Jericho to get ahead and his heel promos are a major part of any RAW. See him in interviews out of character, such as his shoot stuff, and Owens is calm, respectful and while sarcastic, still far from his on-screen persona.
Check out the Kevin Steen Show and you’ll see how Owens conducts himself as a true professional who loves the business. He backs it up with a great demeanor with fans, always giving autographs and cordial to those willing to have a nice chat. Whatever his last name, Kevin is a classic case of not judging a guy by his on-screen persona.
18 REAL LIFE: CM Punk
He would no doubt claim that “better to be honest and a jerk than nice and be a fake.” True, Punk is revered by fans for his great ring work, amazing character and also standing up to Vince McMahon. However, Punk’s attitude and brash ego has led to him coming off as a major jerk to many. Fans who hope to get his autograph are let down as a guy who got over majorly on fan support basically brushes off those same fans when they come up to him. His “pipe bomb” promo rubbed a lot the wrong way with him being so open on how much the company sucked and singling out other workers as not up to his standards.
It’s continued since he left WWE as he’s famously turned interviews into an open invitation to slam people and is constantly railing against reporters being ‘idiots” for asking him the wrong questions. Bob Holly, of all people, has slammed Punk as a scumbag who made a 12-year-old kid cry by not giving him an autograph. That a man who counted on huge fan support to be a star refuses to give those fans the time of day labels him one major jerk.
17 ON SCREEN: Bray Wyatt
It truly is astounding how massively different Bray Wyatt is off camera. The former Husky Harris throws himself totally into this bizarre cult leader, his promos hypnotic to watch and a great worker too. He’s made himself a wicked heel whose unpredictable behavior makes it harder to root for. Listen to a Bray interview outside the ring and you’ll be amazed at how he’s concise, quiet and insightful. He doesn’t do the act outside as fans who come up to him for autographs are greeted by a nice guy who takes time out to talk to them and do his best to give them a thrill in meeting them. Even better is that while he does not his rough spots with the company, Bray refuses to blame Vince McMahon or creative but simply roll with it. That’s no doubt a reason he’s so popular in WWE as Bray proves the old adage of how the worst characters are played by the nicest people.
16 REAL LIFE: Bubba Ray Dudley
Bubba Ray Dudley might be one of the best tag team wrestlers through the 1990s and even well into the 2000s. He’s won tag team gold for every major wrestling promotion and was able to win his world championships for TNA Wrestling. However, Bubba is also known for a very rough manner as proven by how his promos in ECW almost caused literal riots. That’s carried through as his ego and brash manner rub many the wrong way. Fans talk of how they’ve tried to get autographs or photos and Bubba has responded from everything from a “get lost” to threatening physical violence. He’s also been criticized by workers like Rene Dupree and Randy Orton of Bubba working too stiff and brushing off their accusations of being too nasty. It looks like the old “Bully Ray” nickname might have been more on the mark than most thought.
15 ON SCREEN: Triple H
For a long time, Hunter had the reputation of one of the most hated guys in the business. His hogging of the spotlight, burying others, it was easy for fans to hate him. However, Triple H has gotten kudos from fellow workers for giving his all in matches and also helping guys out in programs and character. His move to more of a management position in WWE has given fans a side of him that surprises. That was true with the famous image of him breaking character to hug a crying fan at ringside. Or helping give Connor the Crusher a good trip and even “pinning” Triple H in the ring.
Biggest of all has been how Triple H has championed NXT and pushed it hard. Almost everyone involved with NXT has credited Hunter with giving them the chance to grow and develop as he truly loves the business and wants it to continue. While he gets slammed on his ego still, most in the business agree that in real life, Hunter has grown to be a great guy who wants to help others and help WWE grow.
14 REAL LIFE: JBL
There’s no surprise he’s on this list. John Bradshaw Leyfield always had a rough style as a brawler and it led to a rise in his fame but also a harsh attitude backstage. That was true in the early going with his partying and stiff mannerisms and often demanding more from creative. He got in hot water doing Nazi salutes in Germany yet WWE still gave him a long run as champion. That was marked by him bad-mouthing fans and getting into plenty of fights. He attacked the Blue Meanie for real over some slight and even moving into announcing wasn’t enough to stop his majorly unpleasant behavior.
Stories of JBL bullying are constant and have now erupted again with the reports of his bullying of announcers and others which makes it amazing he has a job. He has a great commentating style and good in the ring but most will state that JBL’s real persona is far more a brutal jerk than he can be on screen for sure.
13 ON SCREEN: Nikki and Brie Bella
For most of their careers, The Bella Twins have played massive jerks and egotists. They used that from the start, switching places and running down other Divas constantly. Nikki’s long reign as Divas champ showed that off with her mocking opponents and Brie helping her out. Likewise, Brie’s infamous party mode gave fans the idea the duo had to be just as conceited off screen as on. But then, stories are common on how well they get along with other ladies and are involved in a lot of charity work. In a 2012 interview, they went out of their way to praise other women in the business and the closest they came to an insult was simply saying “no comment” when asked about Maria.
Brie is winning praise handling her pregnancy and Nikki also for her engagement to John Cena and so it seems the Bellas are really twice as nice outside the ring as they aren’t on screen.
12 REAL LIFE: Kevin Nash
Nash could be an odd duck in many ways. Many who hung out with him talked about him being a pretty cool person and great to know at parties. However, it’s obvious how Nash’s ego and need for attention led to bad behavior. His rush to fame went to his head fast and gave him an aura of self-entitlement. That included throwing his weight around, especially in WCW as his self-serving booking and demands to always be on top not only made him unpopular but also hurt the company.
He famously derided Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero as “vanilla midgets”, claiming neither deserved a spot at the top despite each being far better in the ring than Nash was. His partying didn’t help either with brawls and “pranks” that made him even more enemies. From WCW to WWE to TNA and others, Nash has made a career of acting like he’s the top dog in the company and his mistreatment of others adds to his already bad reputation.
11 ON SCREEN: Kane
After years of failed gimmicks, Glenn Jacobs finally latched onto Kane and became a major star, He was a terrific worker for his size and has spent nearly 20 years as one of WWE’s biggest stars, mostly a heel. He’s a monster who gets into wild brawls and often sadistic behavior that terrifies fans and makes him easy to boo. As far as Internet fans are concerned, Kane is one of the absolute best guys you can hope to meet outside the ring. Jacobs is actually quite intelligent and well-spoken outside of his mask and has been known to have long talks with fans and sharing insight in the business. Almost no one has said any bad things on him as he truly loves the business and does his best to make it shine. Currently, Jacobs is ready to run for mayor of Knox County and proving that this monster is a true sweetheart off-screen.
10 REAL LIFE: Brock Lesnar
At least he’s honest about it. Brock was pushed out the gate in WWE in 2002 and it no doubt added to a pretty swelled head that made him stand-offish to others and rude to many. He had a great bit going for a while with Kurt Angle but his decision to leave WWE with almost no warning in 2004 did not win him many fans. His tenure in MMA was marked by interviews of him grousing, bad-mouthing the company and often trashing others. At other times, he would go through interviews saying little more than “I don’t want to answer that.” It’s continued in his return to WWE with reports of his ego behavior and running down Goldberg, Undertaker and Cena among others. While he’s popular with the fans, Brock openly acknowledges he’s not in this to make friends and his jerk persona takes away some of the heat of his great ring work.
9 ON SCREEN: The Rock
It’s well known how WWE tried to push Rocky Maivia as a classic babyface but the fans couldn’t stop it. The Rock summed up his transformation and how he wanted it to be “an a-hole but a cool a-hole” and that made him a true superstar. Even as a face, the Rock played himself as a jerk who just happened to have funny lines putting down people that the fans loved. It also led to his massive success and it would be easy to slam the Rock as selfish and wanting to be on top. Likewise, you’d expect his Hollywood stardom to go to his head and thus be quite demanding when he came back to WWE. Instead, most agree the Rock is as great to enjoy in real life as he can be on TV. He’s always posing for photos with fans, even while working out and no stories about him blowing up on set or not. He even took time out to officiate the wedding of a fan, showcasing what a nice guy he is. Being a jerk made the Rock a star but in real life, he’s far from it.
8 REAL LIFE: Ric Flair
Eric Bischoff summed it up best in a locker room meeting: “Ric Flair does what he wants and folks let him get away with it because he’s Ric Flair.” In his prime, Flair had no equal, a fantastic worker, genius on the mic and able to wrestle over 300 days a week, twice on some days. But the brutal truth was Flair was as much of a spotlight-hogging politician as Hogan or Triple H at their worst. He kept the title on himself constantly despite how it could hurt business for Jim Crockett and stories abound of Flair rubbing folks the wrong way with his party style.
It’s kept up in his later years, Flair still slamming guys and his own ego leads to plenty of clashes. While many can still hail Flair’s fantastic work in the ring and in his prime, it doesn’t excuse his selfish manner, admitting cheating on his wife for years and putting down other guys so The Nature Boy isn’t that great on his own.
7 ON SCREEN: Charlotte
In contrast to her father, Charlotte is truly a great gal off-screen. She’s said she finds it easy to play up being an arrogant heel as many assume she must be like that in real life. Indeed, when she first started in NXT, she tried to play up being an earnest babyface but it just didn’t take. It was when she began to emulate her father in arrogant behavior that she took off as a multiple time champion. Reports are plentiful of how humble Charlotte is backstage and still wanting to learn more of the business instead of assuming she knows it all.
She always takes the time to sign autographs and meet with fans and professional in meet-and-greet events. Her fellow female workers praise her for making sure they have great chemistry and always giving her all in the ring. She also keeps herself clean, not having the party antics of her dad and that makes for a showcase of how she keeps the best parts of her dad’s legacy but leaves off the worse.
6 REAL LIFE: New Jack
The fact the man has legitimate brain damage and is quite possibly a lunatic plays into things. But by all reports, New Jack was like this long before any of that. In ECW, he was famed as a brawler who would bring a cart of weapons to the ring and wildly battling other guys. But New Jack also rubbed plenty the wrong way with his antics. There was beating up elderly Gypsy Joe for not selling right and picking a fight with The Junkyard Dog when the latter visited an ECW show.
Obviously, there was the Mass Transit incident where his bloody beatdown of a young worker nearly put ECW out of business. Also stabbing another wrestler multiple times and various bits that got him arrested. He may be crazy but that’s no excuse for his incredible jerk behavior.
5 ON SCREEN: Ted DiBiase
At first a classic babyface, Ted DiBiase made himself a great heel in Mid-South and that pushed him to WWE. As “The Million Dollar Man,” DiBiase was a great heel, getting fans going as an arrogant rich man who bragged he could buy anyone and carrying himself like his namesake. He pushed himself well with his ego and brashness and backed it up with great work in the ring such as his tag title partnership with IRS. Behind the scenes, DiBiase was known as a good man who was a good pal to others.
It helped that he turned to religion and even became a Christian minister as he kept up his work in WWE. This gave him a good persona and reputation as he did his best to help out other workers having some problems. While he was the arrogant rich jerk on screen long before Vince McMahon took on his persona, DiBiase was richly known backstage as a good man.
4 REAL LIFE: The Fabulous Moolah
This is a tricky one. In her lifetime, Moolah was hailed for her ring work, reigning as women’s champion for nearly 30 years. Top notch and a great star, Moolah was always ready to give her all in the ring and did a lot of promotion for other female wrestlers. That’s where things get rough as more than a few ladies have stated that Moolah basically “pimped” out her girls to promoters in exchange for money and favors. Those who wouldn’t comply were blackballed and bad-mouthed with Moolah trying to wreck careers. It didn’t make her very popular and it haunted her reputation for a while.
When Wendi Richter wanted more money from Vince McMahon, Moolah conspired with Vince for a screwjob where, as the masked Spider Lady, she pinned Richter and got the belt back. Stories abound on how terrible Moolah could be in demanding to be on top and even getting women hooked on drugs and it's sad to think in real life, she was hardly fabulous at all.
3 ON SCREEN: Stephanie McMahon
Since her rise from innocent lady to the “Billion Dollar Princess,” Stephanie has excelled being a heel on screen. She’s arrogant, bossy, flaunts her beauty and more and her relationship with HHH has led to some clashes and a lot of hate from fans. But stories abound that Stephanie is a truly great lady off screen who cares for her employees. The vast majority of WWE’s divas openly give Stephanie major credit for helping them out, giving them a boost and really joining with HHH in making the women of WWE mean something. A good mother, Stephanie is known to help out some workers with family problems. She also leads WWE’s work in charity, including the various Make-A-Wish kid greetings with wrestlers and really wants to make her company work. She may be a queen bitch on screen but in real life, Stephanie is more of a sweetheart than you’d think.
2 REAL LIFE: Hulk Hogan
Is this a shock? The stories of Hogan’s ego are countless and while he has some defenders, his shortcomings are evident. At least in his WWE heyday, Hogan being on top all the time was defensible due to his box office appeal. But as time went on, Hogan’s ego and need to always be on top of things just got worse and worse. It got even more pronounced in WCW as he ruined things like the big Starrcade showdown with Sting because he had to be on top and his political games hurting the company badly. Hogan demanding he get the big paydays and the constant spotlight over the more deserving guys on the roster is cited as a key reason WCW fell apart.
Then there’s his personal life which has become tabloid fodder from his treatment of his now ex-wife to being rather too close to daughter Brooke to lawsuits and finally the infamous tape of him using the N-word that’s caused him to be dumped by WWE. It’s sad that Hogan’s legacy has to be tarnished by his bad off-screen behavior that ruins the image of him as wrestling’s superhero.
1 ON SCREEN: The Miz
This is a guy you just figure for absolute sure has to be a jerk. He played off it as a reality TV guy and into WWE and early stories of some clashes behind the scenes. He just makes a perfect heel, arrogant and obnoxious and even as his ring work has improved, fans just hate him so much. But by all reports, in real life, Mike Mizanin is one of the nicer guys you’ll meet in the business. Those who were on “Tough Enough” talk warmly of how Miz was cordial and really helpful giving them advice on how to handle the business.
He doesn’t make a huge deal of it but does take part in charity stuff and has been known to help out with his hometown Cleveland’s charity work, especially his beloved Indians and Cavs. He gives his all and can be warmer than expected with fans. While he’s the biggest on-screen jerk on WWE TV today, outside the ring, The Miz is one of the best guys to know.