When it comes to professional wrestling, we may come for the athleticism and the action in the ring, but we stay for the characters, the storylines and most importantly, the all-encompassing tale of Good vs. Evil that rears its head in just about every match. It’s a dialed-up, theatrical battle of immeasurable proportions which, done right, can present itself as the greatest form of entertainment out there. For it to work, you need great heroes to get behind, and that’s why there are so many of them to recall from years gone by – not even taking into account today’s generation.
From Bruno Sammartino and Hulk Hogan to The Rock and John Cena, the list goes on and on, with many of those names potentially standing out to you as a childhood role model or a favorite wrestler of your own. But as we grow older, life takes control and we often find out that those athletes who portray the world’s greatest heroes on television may not be so heroic in the real world.
Nobody’s perfect, we know that. Everyone makes mistakes, but there are some mistakes that are very hard to come back from. Unfortunately, even some of those childhood heroes of ours, whom we once believed were incapable of any wrongdoing, have since revealed themselves to be capable of some despicable feats. Join us on this journey as we take a look at fifteen of wrestling’s most beloved heroes that actually turned out to be terrible human beings.
Kevin Nash is one of the best big-men in wrestling, standing at almost seven feet tall and having made his presence felt in just about every major American wrestling promotion in WWE, WCW and TNA. His time as Diesel in WWE is well-recalled, with Nash winning the Triple Crown in 1994. But it wasn’t until Nash got to WCW that he really started making some waves as a member of the nWo.
As we’ll soon see with a lot of the names on this list, having a great career doesn’t equate to a great person, however. Nash has gone on record to say some pretty controversial things over the years. His criticism over WWE’s decision to push Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit to become world champions is often called upon for its outlandish viewpoint. Nash called the athletes “vanilla midgets” and said that despite their great in-ring ability, they lacked big in-ring personalities.
This alone doesn’t make Nash a bad guy, although he must hate the current WWE roster since the majority of its stars are a lot smaller than your typical wrestler during the 90s would’ve been.
Pair these comments with Nash’s remarks about The Rock supposedly being gay, and the subtle implication that Triple H married Stephanie to move up in the ranks, and it seems Nash craves controversy - a man who doesn't care if he's hated as long as he's in the conversation.
Randy Orton is a third-generation, thirteen-time world champion in WWE, boasting fifteen years as a member of the WWE’s main roster. He has already created a legacy for himself worthy of his lineage – perhaps even exceeding those before him – with no concrete end in sight given that he won this year’s Royal Rumble match and went on to claim the WWE Championship at WrestleMania.
While Orton seems to have his wits about him now, Orton was a lot less commendable during his earlier years with the company. He took offense in 2005 when WWE Diva Rochelle Loewen didn’t recognize him backstage, and as a result, he destroyed her gym bag with a bunch of products such as tanning lotion and baby oil. In 2007, Orton caused $50,000 worth of damage in a hotel room during a tour in the UK, after which he was sent home. Orton was suspended by the WWE on three occasions across 2006 and 2007, violated the company’s Wellness Policy twice in the process.
The guy has had serious anger problems in the past, and it came to the detriment of Kofi Kingston when he botched the finish of a match in 2009, prompting Orton to kill his push out of rage.
In addition to all of this, he’s often looked down upon for being dishonorably discharged from the United States Marine Corp in 1999 for two counts of unauthorized absence and disobeying orders. Orton may have his act together now, but it was a long road to get to this point.
Whether it was infiltrating WCW on an army tank with D-Generation X, leading the past, present and future of WWE to success as the head of Evolution, or standing firmly on top of WWE as a fourteen-time world champion, Triple H’s impact in professional wrestling is undeniable.
That being said, while “The Game” seems to be doing a terrific job as he preps to take over the reins of WWE when Vince McMahon calls it a day, Triple H has developed a reputation over his full-time career for doing everything in his power to get ahead – even if it was at the expense of others.
Known primarily for burying the likes of Booker T, Sting, Scott Steiner, Randy Orton, Kurt Angle, Goldberg, Zack Ryder and CM Punk – just to name a few – Triple H is heavily responsible for a lot of wrestlers’ careers not reaching their full potential. Sure, a lot of those names became mega stars regardless, but imagine how big they could’ve been if Triple H put his ego to the side for a moment.
How did he get into a position of such power? Well, by marrying the boss’ daughter, of course. To be fair to Triple H, while a lot of people do condemn him for marrying Stephanie so he could snuggle his way into the McMahon family, there’s nothing inherently wrong with two single people coming together and forging a relationship – regardless of where they stand in terms of business.
However, rumor has it that Triple H wasn’t single when he and “The Billion Dollar Princess” first became an item. According to Chyna, Triple H was still involved with her at the time he started seeing Stephanie, which reflects quite poorly on the man’s real-life character.
Brock Lesnar has never had any issues with letting fans know he doesn’t care about them. The man is in WWE for a paycheck and that’s about it. He’s a legitimate UFC fighter and enjoys beating people up in a professional atmosphere, and his success in that field is naturally going to create a sizable ego. We’re long used to that attitude by now, and to be fair, it pairs perfectly well with the intimidation that “The Beast Incarnate” seeks to impart every time he steps foot in the ring.
The man was born to be a monster heel, and even as a pseudo-babyface right now in WWE, Brock Lesnar hasn’t changed a bit in terms of character from the man who put The Undertaker down at WrestleMania XXX or broke Shawn Michaels and Triple H’s arms in 2012. Lesnar’s problem isn’t his lack of enthusiasm for the fans or even what he does in a WWE ring, however.
The problem is his distinct distaste for the gay community. In a 2004 interview with ESPN The Magazine, Lesnar said “I don’t like gays. Write that down in your little notebook. I don’t like gays.” To be fair to Lesnar, the man seemingly doesn’t like anybody. But to single out a particular group of people like he did just doesn’t sit right, and paints the man as a very dishonorable individual.
John Bradshaw Layfield may never have been “beloved” as a singles wrestler, but his run with Ron Simmons in the APA got the two tremendously over during the Attitude Era. These were two men who loved nothing more than to drink beer, fight, and then drink some more, and the fans loved them for it. Fans who didn’t know about Bradshaw’s antics behind the scenes, that is.
It’s been long documented now, and even became one of this year’s biggest talking points, how the SmackDown Live commentator has been known to bully people in the locker room.
Justin Roberts has stepped forward with a number of stories in his recent autobiography documenting the numerous horrible things that JBL did to him – be it verbal abuse or having his personal belongings taken. The absence of Mauro Ranallo from SmackDown Live before he resurfaced on NXT was also said to be the work of JBL’s bullying backstage.
On top of that, Mark Henry, Shawn Daivari, Matt Hardy, Rene Dupree, Ivory and The Miz have all been open in the past with regards to how JBL would treat people. Since JBL and Vince McMahon seem to have a close relationship, it would appear that Layfield considers himself untouchable, and uses that to mess with those in the locker room who can’t retaliate for fear of being fired.
Greg “The Hammer” Valentine has had a very impressive wrestling career of about forty years, competing in a whole host of promotions including Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, WWE and WCW before shifting to the independent scene. He currently boasts the fifth-longest WWE Intercontinental Championship reign in history - after defeating Tito Santana in 1984 and holding the strap for an impressive 285 days. The man was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.
Despite his success in the ring, Greg Valentine hasn’t done a lot to stay relevant over the last several years. In fact, the only recent exposure he’s seen actually made him look like a sexist old man. In the summer of 2015, Valentine participated in an interview for The View, and when asked about women’s wrestling, had some pretty mind-blowing opinions for this day and age.
He’s quoted as saying “as far as girl wrestling, I would send them all out to the strip bar and fire them”, going on to add that they have terrible matches and they draw no money whatsoever. When pressed to give his opinion on women in general society, he said “they take away jobs from men that need to support their families. They should be home washing dishes and cooking and pregnant and barefoot. I love women, but they gotta realize their place. They’re not supposed to be wrestlers, they’re not supposed to be MMA fighters.” Clearly the words of an ignorant man.
As the only two-time WWE Hall of Famer in history, it goes without saying that Ric Flair is an icon. With a record sixteen world championship reigns under his belt, “The Nature Boy” spent years at the forefront of the industry before hanging up his boots and allowing his daughter to take center stage.
One thing that Ric Flair has never been accused of, however, is being a model citizen. The man has seen more than his fair share of marriages, with four divorces under his belt and his fifth marriage looming. If this isn’t a good indicator that Flair isn’t the best guy, then nothing will be.
He has dabbled with the law on numerous occasions, being charged with two misdemeanors, injury to personal property and simple assault and battery for a road rage incident in 2005. He was issued a warrant for his arrest in 2011 for being held in contempt of court for violating the terms of a settlement with Highspots Inc. regarding a loan. Charlotte Flair was even arrested in 2008 for assaulting a police officer following a fight between Ric, Charlotte and her boyfriend Riki Johnson.
Flair apparently made racist remarks to the likes of Teddy Long in the NWA, asking him if he liked working there and addressing him with a derogatory word, trying to spin a false story that Long had told a bunch of girls waiting outside that they could come into the building where they were performing before the show. These are just a handful of stories that make Flair look less like a wrestling hero and more like a contemptible human being outside the ring.
Although the “Eighth Wonder of the World” will always be recognized as an icon, and arguably the best big-man in wrestling history, André the Giant wasn’t quite as pleasant as he’s made out to be.
At a time when the over 7-foot behemoth would often compete against wrestlers of multiple backgrounds in the territory days, André had no problem with openly using derogatory remarks and racist vocabulary towards his colleagues, be it out of genuine conflict or simply for a laugh.
There are a number of stories from the likes of Kamala and Bad News Brown, confirming that André would use such verbiage in the ring, or in a demeaning manner on the likes of a tour bus. More often than not, the big man would unsurprisingly back down whenever he was confronted.
Wrestlers didn’t often take the man’s words to heart, especially in the case of Kamala whom actually befriended André, giving him an open route to the WWF, but it doesn’t change the fact that André had unforgivable prejudices that would make some fans rethink the years they spent idolizing him.
Stone Cold Steve Austin is one of the most recognizable names in WWE history. His tough-as-nails redneck character is still highly praised today for his promos, catchphrases, move-set and the performance he put in during his famed rise against authority. His heated rivalry with Vince McMahon is arguably the greatest heel-face dynamic ever to grace the industry, with Austin challenging the machine and showing no qualms with laying his hands on an authority figure.
Unfortunately, Austin’s indifference towards beating up on unlikely recipients stretched beyond the mat and into his home. In June 2002, WWE Diva and Austin’s wife Debra Marshall called police about an incident of domestic violence. Austin would be asked not to return to the house, but was arrested just two months later and charged with domestic abuse. He was given a year’s probation, eighty hours of community service and a $1000 fine, after he had already filed for divorce. Debra later claimed to have been beaten by Austin on three occasions, because of Austin's roid rage.
The “Texas Rattlesnake” will always be a legend, with his rightful place in the WWE Hall of Fame, but no man – especially one as muscle-bound as a pro wrestler - should ever put his hands on a woman. Being on steroids is no excuse, and for that, Austin has earned his spot on this list.
The late Ultimate Warrior had his redemption when he returned to WWE in 2014 to be inducted into its Hall of Fame, an astounding eighteen years after his last appearance with the company. Despite being an icon during his inaugural tenure with the company, known for his incredible physique and his unparalleled energy, The Ultimate Warrior had his issues with the WWE and left on a sour note.
Unfortunately, during this period away from wrestling, Warrior had a big mouth. As a result, he didn’t do well when exposed to the limitless spotlight the internet can provide a former celebrity looking for a glimmer of their former glory. Warrior maintained a blog on his website called “Warrior’s Machete” which showed us what kind of person we had been idolizing for all those years.
He spoke often distastefully about people from his past, blasted the deaths of Davey Boy Smith and Heath Ledger – saying that nobody should mourn a drug user, and that he essentially did his kids a favor by doing what it took to kill himself. He implied that he thought Hurricane Katrina destroying New Orleans was a good thing, and he made numerous homophobic comments.
Warrior’s blog put a dampener on the man’s legacy and eventual entry into the Hall of Fame, and the information he divulged during his ramblings make it difficult to support WWE’s annual “Warrior Award” on WrestleMania weekend since it’s named after a guy with an awful moral compass.
Dynamite Kid is fondly remembered as one of the most innovative wrestlers of all time, for his ability to merge the different wrestling styles of Britain, Canada, Mexico and Japan. His high-flying technique paved the way for a lot of the athleticism you see in the sport today. He is very close to the Hart family, given that his ex-wife Michelle was the sister of Bret Hart’s then-wife Julie Smadu.
While Dynamite Kid was a thrill to watch in the ring, the man was apparently an absolute nightmare to be married to, as some stories of how the man abused Michelle are startling. He would often wake his sleeping wife up by pointing a shotgun at his face and telling her that one day, it would be loaded.
When she inevitably left him, he dislocated her jaw and gave her fifteen minutes to round up the kids and get out of the house before he got his gun. Another chilling story involving Dynamite Kid involved tying his niece to a bed and busting her kneecaps as an insurance scam.
Whether they’re all true or just some of them, these stories don’t pop up out of nowhere, and if even a fraction of what has been reported about Dynamite Kid is true, then the man seems to be one of the most sadistic individuals ever to lace up a pair of boots, regardless of his impact in the ring.
Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka is perhaps best known as the innovator of high-flying within the WWF, with his iconic dive from the top of the steel cage at Madison Square Garden in 1982 still fondly recalled today as one of the greatest dives in wrestling history - for its death-defying nature at the time.
While Jimmy Snuka was a hero inside the ropes, the man was seemingly more of a villain outside of them. In 1983, Snuka allegedly murdered his girlfriend Nancy Argentino in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and covered it up with a story that Argentino slipped and hit her head on the concrete. It’s been said that charges against Snuka took so long to be investigated because he was such a star at the time, and that the WWE actually helped him cover the story for risk of losing a big name.
Snuka was finally booked on charges of third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in 2015, however they were dropped last December when Snuka was deemed incompetent to stand trial as a result of his stomach cancer. Snuka passed away the following month.
While we may never know what truly happened on that night in 1983, the evidence was certainly there to suggest Snuka was not completely innocent in Nancy Argentino’s death, and that the man did everything in his power to keep his responsibility under wraps.
There was once a time when Hulk Hogan was the ultimate American hero. The man was absolutely adored around the world for toppling André the Giant at WrestleMania III, among several other career highlights during his time as the biggest name in wrestling during the 80s.
Even as a heel as a member of the nWo, Hogan was the epitome of cool. The guy was a badass, and the fact that he could find a way to freshen up his character after so long as the industry’s primary “good guy” was yet another testament to his impact between the ropes.
With that in mind, the old saying goes that you can either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain, which certainly holds true for “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan.
In July 2015, audio from Hogan’s previously released sex tape was finally publicized, and although it eventually led to The Hulkster walking away with a multi-million dollar settlement, he lost his job with WWE and a huge portion of his fan base in the process. In the tape, the WWE Hall of Famer is heard going off on a racial tirade regarding a man that his daughter Brooke was dating at the time.
His constant use of racial slurs, despite being in – what he thought was – the confines of his own home, opened our eyes to the kind of man that Hulk Hogan truly was.
“The Rabid Wolverine” was the ultimate underdog in 2004, when he fought through years of hardship to win the Royal Rumble and advance to WrestleMania XX, where he defeated Shawn Michaels and Triple H to win the World Heavyweight Championship. He would have immortalized himself in that moment, supported by his many career highlights showcasing him as one of the greatest technical wrestlers ever, had he not thrown it all away during his final days.
In June 2007, Benoit would murder his wife Nancy and their seven-year old son Daniel in his home of Fayetteville, Georgia, before committing suicide by hanging on his weight machine. This remains as arguably the darkest day in wrestling history. In committing such vile acts, Benoit undid everything that would have otherwise earned him entry into the WWE Hall of Fame.
For those who believe the damage done to Benoit’s brain over the course of his career should excuse the man from this list, “The Crippler” was far from a saint behind the scenes. Despite being relatively quiet backstage, Benoit has been said to have had moments where he bullied newcomers for fun.
He and JBL reportedly bullied Palmer Canon into quitting in 2006, and Benoit was also a part of the brutal beating of Daniel Puder in the 2005 Royal Rumble match. He also kicked The Miz out of the WWE locker room during the current Intercontinental Champion’s debut year, forcing the young upstart to change in the hallway until The Undertaker invited him back in after Benoit’s death.
The Fabulous Moolah is highly regarded as one of the greatest women’s wrestlers of all time, with close to sixty years in the business under her belt for both the NWA and WWE. Many will recognize her as the record-holder for longest-reign with a women’s championship, as she carried the NWA World Women’s Championship for an astounding ten years during her first reign – although WWE acknowledges her run with the strap to be a slightly exaggerated twenty-eight years.
Aside from wrestling herself, Moolah spent a great deal of her career as a trainer and a promoter, which is where stories surrounding the WWE Hall of Famer take a seriously dark turn.
Many of Moolah’s students have come forward over the years to tell tales of how she would essentially pimp them out and provide them as sex objects to various promoters. She would often intentionally gear unsuspecting women towards drug addiction so that they could be controlled and subsequently taken advantage of. Ida Martinez, Luna Vachon, Sandy Parker and the family of Sweet Georgia Brown have all offered up examples over the years of how Moolah would completely betray the trust of those who would come to her school to be trained, instead offering them up as tribute.
Moolah put up a good front as the face of women’s wrestling during her prime, but she finds her rightful home as the most despicable person on this list for the way she treated those poor girls.