Back in the day, pro wrestling fans enjoyed the product on a more superficial level. Some believed wrestling was real, and those who didn’t generally accepted it as entertainment, and didn’t necessarily invest a lot of energy in considering what was going on behind the scenes. Dirt sheets like The Wrestling Observer clued in some more hardcore fans to what going on in the locker room and in behind closed doors meetings. For the most part, though, the realities of the wrestling business were a complete mystery.
Things have shifted, however. The rise of the Internet has made dirt sheet style information all the more accessible, and a combination of tell-all books, documentaries, and wrestling podcasts have brought even casual wrestling enthusiasts into the realm of so called “smart fans.”
Still, there are those matters we aren’t so sure about. There are fan theories that have gained traction despite not having much substantiation by any reliable source. There are confusing moments in regards to creative decisions or strange happenings on air that have never been fully explained. And there are those stories put forward by some parties in the know, but not necessarily confirmed to the fullest degree by people who ought to know the truth of the matter. These dynamics are particularly prevalent for WWE, which has the strongest shield up to protect corporate privacy and for which the ultimate head of the company has remained in control for over thirty years, and isn’t exactly forthcoming with his secrets. This article takes a look at fifteen dark urban legends that have risen out of WWE, which we fans hope are not true.
15. John Cena Bullied Alex Riley
Alex Riley looked to be a star on the rise. He was heavily featured in the season two edition of the original NXT series. From there, he was paired with The Miz during the build to and throughout his main event run. Finally, he split from his kayfabe mentor and the two feuded for a period of weeks, with Riley even scoring a clean pin in their first one on one match. In the end, Riley looked like he was set up for at least an upper mid card spot along the lines of a John Morrison or Kofi Kingston, if not a bigger push toward the top of the card.
Then Riley’s momentum stopped. He was off TV, then relegated to broadcast role for NXT. In the end, he did get back in the ring for developmental, but was largely treated as an enhancement talent.
Riley hasn’t spoken much about his career trajectory, but there’s an urban legend that he ran afoul of John Cena. In particular, it’s theorized that Riley didn’t respond well to a rib, and that Cena decided to politick against him in response. Ryback has spoken out in support of this theory, and in support of Riley.
14. Vince McMahon Had His Way With The Divas’Locker Room
In the late 1990s, Mr. McMahon emerged as a not just a broadcast, but an on air authority figure to match his real role at the head of the company. He heeled it up in this role to make major contributions to the heel authority figure archetype and influence dozens of characters across promotions over the years to follow. One of his character traits was that he was a horny old man, and he got involved in storylines that saw him linked to Trish Stratus, Candice Michelle, and Sable among others.
It’s only natural that rumors would emerge about McMahon being sexually involved with a number of his employees over the year. McMahon even went so far to allude that this may be true in an interview with Playboy, furthering the urban legend that he worked his way through the women’s locker room with a vengeance at one point. We’d like to think that the heelish mannerisms McMahon showed on TV were more character than reality, though. While he may have had some indiscretions, it’s fans’ general hope that he was more faithful to his wife than not over the years.
13. JBL Inappropriately Hazed His Colleagues
At his peak, JBL was a big bully of a character, who used his financial wealth outside the ring and size in the ring to assert his will on others. Over the years, rumors have persisted that the bully persona may well reflect the reality of who he is. There are infamous incidents of him—potentially at management’s encouragement—taking liberties with ECW alumni like Public Enemy, The Dudleys, and The Blue Meanie. Moreover, he’s been heard barking at others in his color commentary role, including an instance when he was purportedly advised to lay into Cody Rhodes so that he’d show more fire in his guest commentary. You can add onto all of this the infamous incident of him picking on Joey Styles, only for Styles get him to back down by punching him in the face with all he had.
In more recent times, accusations have come out from Justin Roberts, and rumors have swirled about JBL bullying play by play man Mauro Ranallo. Given JBL’s track record, this urban legend may well have some credence. We’d have to hope, both for WWE as a company and JBL as a man that these stories are exaggerated or not entirely founded.
12. The Fabulous Moolah Pimped Out Her Proteges
The Fabulous Moolah ran women’s wrestling for a period of time. She was not only one of the most prominent female wrestlers in the world, but also the woman responsible for coordinating booking for a high profile roster of performers, which notably included Wendi Richter.
As Moolah approached the end of her life, rumors became more and more prevalent that she’d not only been a trainer, mentor, and booking agent for the talents she was affiliated with. The urban legend is that she was also their pimp, making arrangements for male wrestlers or even management to sleep with her girls. There hasn’t been a credible source to confirm the allegations, but they certainly would tarnish the legacy of this particular legend if they are founded.
11. Jim Ross Cost Buff Bagwell His Career
Buff Bagwell was a rising star for WCW, and a number of fans projected that he would thrive in WWE, where his physique and big personality would earn him opportunities. Bagwell had a catastrophically match with Booker T in his WWE debut—the lone match truly branded as a WCW contest in Raw history. From there, an infamous story tells of Bagwell’s mother contacting Jim Ross to effectively call in sick for her adult son. Ross took exception, and this was a key strike Bagwell’s wrestling career taking a nosedive.
In more recent interviews, Bagwell has claimed that at least Ross, if not more management figures, conspired against him. He cites that his match with Booker T was foolishly booked in Washington, when the company was returning to WCW’s old home base in Atlanta where they would have had a hot crowd just a week later. Even more to the point, he’s claimed that Ross’s story about his mother is completely fabricated. It’d be a shame to think this was true, but Bagwell seems adamant and claims he’ll never forgive JR for ruining his career.
10. The Macho Man Deflowered Stephanie McMahon
Randy Savage was a true stand out for WWE. He was on the short list for the best workers the company had in the 1980s, and was quite arguably second to only Hulk Hogan as the biggest WWE star of his day. However, WWE relegated him to a broadcast position long before Savage felt he was ready for retirement. Worse yet, after he defected to WCW, Savage wound up being far and away the most famous and most talented former star WWE didn’t welcome back into its fold—not even for a Hall of Fame induction until after he’d passed on.
An urban legend suggests that Vince McMahon didn’t only resent Savage going to WCW, but had a personal grudge against him. More to the point, the rumor is that Savage had intercourse with teenage Stephanie McMahon. No one close to the situation has substantiated this story, and of all of the items on this list, its one that can probably be most safely filed away as wild speculation. Just the same, no one close has outright refuted it, either, and it would explain why McMahon wouldn’t do business with such an popular star.
9. Management Tried To Break Up Paige And Alberto Del Rio
Paige and Alberto Del Rio had one of the highest profile relationships in wrestling. They coupled up when Del Rio was in his second stint with WWE, and when he developed a particularly poor reputation with management for perceptions he was lazy and partied too much.
Del Rio seemed to drag Paige down with him, as she fell out of management’s favor, too, and fell subject to a number of Wellness Policy suspensions. After Del Rio left WWE, he claimed that WWE went so far as to actively try to break up the company. This purportedly included placing the two performers on different brands so they’d have less time together and making more subtle allusions that Paige’s career would be better off without him.
While few would question that WWE would have preferred Del Rio not influence anyone else in the roster, fans would hope that the company would truly try to purposefully break up a real life romantic couple.
8. WWE Lied About Why It Moved WrestleMania VII
In follow up to a successful WrestleMania VI show at the Toronto Sky Dome, WWE booked WrestleMania VII for the Coliseum in Los Angeles, another stadium level venue with comparable seating to the more contemporary WrestleMania venues. The main event WWE cast for the show was Hulk Hogan vs. Sgt. Slaughter, with the former playing cast as a turncoat Iraqi sympathizer and the WWE Champion.
WWE claims the angle got too hot, and they ultimately had to move venues to a smaller arena in order to provide proper security. It has been speculated, however, that this isn’t true at all. The urban legend goes that WWE changed venues because ticket sales were running behind. This is WWE at its most disingenuous, both misleading fans about how over the Slaughter angle was, and their own drawing power.
7. Yokozuna Had An “Accident” In The Ring
Maybe it’s because of his impressive size, and the prospect of just how disgusting it would have been but rumors have persisted that Yokozuna was defecated mid match. The urban legend indicates he and his opponent still needed to finish the match, despite the stench and the unsanitary situation. Fans would, of course, hope this wasn’t true. This is particularly so considering that some of Yokozuna’s primary offensive maneuvers included a leg drop and his finisher, The Banzai Drop, each of which saw him bring his butt very, very close to his opponent’s head.
There is some support for the urban legend. Bret Hart wrote in his book about Yokozuna getting sick from the food on a tour of India. The Hitman indicated that he pitied the big man’s poor opponents who still had to get in the ring with him under those circumstances.
6. John Cena Politicked Against Mickie James And Kenny
Mickie James and Kenny from the Spirit Squad were known to have been an item for some period of time in the mid-2000s. They’ve each cited that the end of the relationship came when James had an affair with John Cena. Cena hasn’t publicly commented on the matter. One has to assume that’s, in part because he was still married to his first wife at that time.
Rumor suggests that James saw the affair as more than a fling, but the start of a relationship. The story goes that James was shipped off to SmackDown to separate her and her drama from Cena. Meanwhile, Kenny, who was understandably upset, also suffered career failures for running afoul of the franchise player. While the reason for Kenny getting de-pushed remains subject to rumor, it is clear that he went from a rising star to a guy who struggled to get TV time, and lost in low profile matches when he did.
5. Jimmy Snuka Murdered His Girlfriend
Just as WWE’s national expansion was getting off the ground, a scandal arose when Superfly Jimmy Snuka’s real life girlfriend Nancy Argentino was found dead in their hotel room. The case was a bit of a mess, which included Snuka substantively changing his story between statements. It was clear that she died as a result of head injuries, and the prevailing theory was that it was a result of some violent act on Snuka’s part.
Besides the speculation that Snuka was a murderer, it’s widely rumored that WWE marginalized Snuka’s role in the company—despite being very over and talented—for fear that he might go to prison. In an odd turn of events, Snuka wasn’t charged for over 30 years. By the time he finally did go to court he was deemed unfit to stand trial. He’d pass away a few months later.
4. The Roster Couldn’t Be Trusted In Las Vegas In 1993
WrestleMania IX went down as one of the least impressive shows in the history of the brand. Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior were out of the ring. Ric Flair had gone back to WCW, and Andre the Giant had passed away. Hulk Hogan’s act felt completely played out, and while Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were rising they hadn’t yet peaked as faces of the company. The net effect was a show without a sense of star power, not to mention a show with few-to-no strong matches.
There’s an urban legend that some of WrestleMania IX’s shortcomings were the fault of the roster at hand, however. This was the lone ‘Mania ever staged in Las Vegas, and it’s rumored that the wrestlers of the day couldn’t be trusted to stay professional in Sin City. The story suggests that they partied a little too hard and a part of the event’s shortcomings was connected to Superstars working unprepared if not hungover.
3. Randy Savage Locked Miss Elizabeth In Her Locker Room
Randy Savage was notorious for being fiercely protective of his real life partner and kayfabe manager Miss Elizabeth. It has been widely speculated that storylines of him jealously defending her against George the Animal Steele, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, and others were all natural extensions and exaggerations of Savage’s real personality and dynamics with Liz.
Some stories go so far as to suggest that Savage went to some absurd extremes backstage. In particular, a number of parties have suggested Savage locked Elizabeth in the locker room or in a closet to keep other men away from her when he couldn’t directly been around. Savage’s brother, Lanny Poffo has denied these claims, but rumors persist about the extremes the Macho Man was willing to go to.
2. Kevin Sullivan Cursed The Benoit Family
Kevin Sullivan had a history of working dark characters, starting in Florida, moving on to WCW in watered down versions of his villainous persona at the fore of the Three Faces of Fear and the Dungeon of Doom. He was married the manager known as Woman. In addition to wrestling, Sullivan was the on and off creative head for WCW, and went so far as to book his wife into an angle with Chris Benoit. The idea was that the story would play with reality. Sullivan and Benoit would feud, and Benoit would, in kayfabe, steal Sullivan’s wife. Sullivan went so far as to encourage the two to hold hands and otherwise act like a couple in public, to further sell the angle.
The creative choices came back to bite Sullivan when life imitated art, and Woman really did leave him for Benoit. Chris and Woman—real name, Nancy—wound up married and had a child. A decade later Benoit murdered his wife and child, then committed suicide in one of wrestling’s most infamous tragedies.
Fans who bought into Sullivan’s devilish old character theorized that the murder-suicide may have somehow been a result of Sullivan’s machinations. Some went so far as to say Sullivan in fact committed the murders as revenge for Benoit stealing his wife. In a visit to Jim Ross’s podcast, Sullivan discussed the absurdity of it, though Ross suggested the fan theory’s a credit to how well Sullivan had played his character.
1. Zack Ryder Was Buried For Getting Himself Over
Zack Ryder had an inauspicious start to his WWE run. After debuting as half of The Major Brothers, he and Curt Hawkins were rebranded as lackeys to Edge. While that run got them a chance to sit under the Rated R Superstar’s learning tree, earned them a tag title run, and got them guest spots in main event matches, Ryder wasn’t exactly cast as a star. His rebranding as a Long Island bro seemed like a death knell for him.
Against the odds, Ryder got himself over, in particular via bold use of YouTube and social media to build a grassroots campaign for himself. It seemed WWE was ready to reward his efforts when he was pushed in a program with US Champion Dolph Ziggler, and ultimately took the US Championship off of him at TLC 2011.
However, Ryder’s success was cut short as he promptly dropped the title to Jack Swagger, and went on to be cast as a loser, including playing Kane’s victim during a new monster push. The urban legend goes that Vince McMahon and company ultimately decided to punish Ryder for getting himself over, against the company’s plans. Hopefully, the de-pushing of Ryder was less a matter of scheming against Ryder, more a matter of poor execution on the part of creative.
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