The wrestling business doesn’t spark many meaningful friendships. Most retired wrestlers agree they can count their true friends from the business on one hand. It is the nature of the business with everyone competing with each other for the top spots and fighting to make the most money. There are only a few positions that allow a wrestler to make the big paycheck. That causes animosity with the talent having to look out for their well-being. Scott Hall stated wrestling was show-business, not “show-friendship.” The popular belief is you can either make money or make friends with one having to be sacrificed.
While that philosophy remains true in many circles, there are quite a few stories showing otherwise. There have been some friendships to last following retirement and are still thriving today. In fact, we have even witnessed stories of former rivals coming together after years of hating each other to find a common bond making peace. We’ll examine the most surprising friendships that still go on these days between pals you wouldn’t expect to enjoy each other. The old belief that wrestlers shouldn’t create friendships is ending and we’re looking at the stories to help close that statement with the top fifteen pairings you wouldn’t believe are real life friends.
15 The Rock and Steve Austin
The WWE careers of The Rock and Steve Austin basically paralleled each other for the majority of their time in the company. Both men struggled to get over in their introduction stage, started tapping into their real personalities and blasted off into the elite tier of the WWE. The argument can be made that Austin and Rock were the two most popular stars in WWE history with their success breaking records in every aspect during the Attitude Era.
Austin and Rock would compete with each other for years to be the best of the best. They traded the top spot at different points in time before transitioning outside of the WWE at the same time. Austin retired due to a neck injury and Rock began to focus on his acting career. Following their years of competition, they became good friends and their relationship was formed through respect. They don’t visit each other on a weekly basis or anything, but Austin revealed they keep in touch via text messages and enjoy the other’s company when at the same WWE event.
14 Melina and Mickie James
Melina and Mickie James are former backstage rivals who turned into friends. The two talented women represented the bridge between the next era in women’s wrestling towards the end of the reign of Trish Stratus and Lita. WWE needed new capable women that could look good and have good matches. Melina and James were at the top of that list with highly successful careers during their time in the company.
Despite their similarities and strengths, they couldn’t get along. James and Melina had backstage drama between them that spilled out over on the internet. Melina wrote blogs insulting James and Mickie would fire back through her own online posts. The two clearly couldn’t stand each other, but have since then mended the fences. Melina and Mickie are outside of the WWE, meaning they’ve crossed paths on quite a few independent wrestling shows allowing them to make peace. The former hatred has now turned into a friendship that proves petty drama can easily be resolved if both parties are open.
13 Konnan and Disco Inferno
WCW feels like an eternity ago, but some friendships still exist from the defunct promotion. Two of the most forgettable wrestlers from the time kept in touch through the years and are now working together. Disco Inferno, who had an early stint in WWE, serves as the co-host on Konnan’s Keeping It 100 podcast on Chris Jericho’s Podcast Network. Konnan also had quick stint in WWE before moving to WCW. Disco, Konnan and Jericho buddied up in WCW to avoid dealing with the other political forces working above their pay grade in the locker room.
You can tell Disco and Konnan have a unique but close friendship when listening to their banter on the podcast. They bust each other's chops, get into heated debates and provide laughs through it all. The reputation of WCW is that the wrestlers were all miserable and hated each other due to the political landscape created by the lack of leadership of Eric Bischoff. Konnan and Disco proved it wasn’t true for everyone with a humorous friendship lasting many years.
12 Batista and Rey Mysterio
No one will ever accuse Batista and Rey Mysterio of having similar wrestling styles, but they are very alike in almost every other way. Mysterio and Batista were two of the more popular members of the WWE locker room during their time in the company. It is almost impossible to find wrestlers who genuinely disliked each either man. It only made sense that Batista and Mysterio would become good friends.
The late great Eddie Guerrero helped sparked their friendship as the common friend between the two. WWE paired them together following Eddie’s death and had the pair of Mysterio and Batista win the Tag Titles, partly in tribute to him. Their bond strengthened after working together and dealing with the grief of losing one of their closest friends.
Batista and Mysterio remain friends following their WWE departures and still keep in contact. Two of the coolest guys to leave the wrestling business forming a close relationship just proves the old mindset is outdated of wrestlers not having friends after leaving the WWE.
11 Hardcore Holly and Billy Gunn
Two of the longtime WWE wrestlers to spend their careers in just about every role in the company are Hardcore Holly and Billy Gunn. Neither man ever main evented WrestleMania or won the WWE World Championship, but they were highly respected in the locker room. Vince McMahon viewed them as respected veterans and locker room leaders, two things needed for a successful wrestling company to continue thriving. Gunn and Holly typically worked with young talents WWE viewed as future stars and helped put them over.
Holly was a bit of an outcast with a reputation for being a bully at times. More people loathed him than enjoyed him. One person that found a friendship with Holly was Gunn. Perhaps it was the fact that they were among the rare wrestlers to spend such a long time with the company, but Holly actually named Gunn as his best friend from the wrestling business in his book.
10 Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair
For the longest time, there was a bit of a personal dislike between Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. Hogan and Flair worked together in WCW from the rise of the Monday Night Wars into the company’s final days. The political power of Hogan saw him dominate the WCW shows and which made former WCW top star Flair look like a joke. Hogan and the New World Order humiliated Flair countless times with the latter rarely ever getting revenge.
The older years of life have brought both men together. Hogan ran a tour in 2009 that saw Flair come out of retirement just a year after his epic WWE send off. The two legends main evented quite a few successful shows in Australia before both moved to TNA together. That was how their friendship sparked, washing away the years of bad blood. Flair credits Hogan for stepping up to be one of his best friends when Flair was in a terrible place following the death of his young son Reid.
9 Matt Hardy and MVP
Some of the best on-screen rivals find a way to become friends in real life. It makes complete sense. If one of you and one of your co-workers deliver outstanding work together, you’re likely to become buddies. That remained true for the story of MVP and Matt Hardy. Both men became the highlight of the SmackDown brand for many months thanks to their great feud. They worked together as the tag partners that hated each other and it culminated in one of the better stories told on WWE television.
MVP and Hardy earned respect for each other through the art they put together on-screen. Hardy recently appeared on MVP’s “VIP Longue” podcast in his Broken Matt character. The humorous interview showcased Matt’s new persona, but they also talked a little bit about their past together sharing many memories.
As one of the most underrated rivalries in recent history, MVP and Hardy became friends along the way.
8 CM Punk and Cliff Compton
CM Punk is one of the most controversial people in wrestling history from his early days on the independent wrestling into his final days in the WWE. The personality of Punk rubs many people the wrong way, but he did make a couple of friends along the way. Punk’s departure from the WWE and leaving the wrestling industry has ended quite a few of his friendships. Recent rumors suggested Punk has even ended his close relationship with longtime best friend Colt Cabana.
One of the only wrestlers to still remain close with Punk is a former WWE wrestler most don’t even remember. Cliff Compton worked in the WWE under the name of Domino. The tag team of Deuce and Domino flopped horribly and it saw Compton lose his only chance in the company. Something good to come out of his tenure with the WWE was a friendship with Punk. The two have attended many concerts together and grew rather close.
7 JBL and Ron Simmons
The tag team of John Bradshaw Layfield and Ron Simmons put together by the WWE saw two of the most intense and tough men in the wrestling business wrestle together. APA added very real intensity to all of their matches creating a memorable legacy together. The relationship between tag team partners usually goes one of two ways; them either being good friends or hated enemies. JBL and Simmons were legitimate best friends in the business and remained just as close following their in-ring careers.
JBL inducted Simmons into the WWE Hall of Fame with a great speech. The two apparently speak quite often and maintain a very good friendship.
Simmons and Bradshaw had many things in common aside from their toughness. Both men played college football, worked out as hard as anyone and wanted to work stiff. They served as locker room leaders enforcing rules on anyone disrespectful or stepping out of line.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find any tag team with a closer friendship than these two.
6 Trish Stratus and Lita
Trish Stratus and Lita are the two ladies most associated with women’s wrestling in WWE history. Unlike most ladies of their era, Trish and Lita had the looks that impressed WWE management, but we're also able to go in the ring. They refused to drop the ball and tried to create change for all of the women wanting to have compelling matches. The two women had classic matches and storylines against each other on numerous occasions throughout their careers.
Stratus wanted her final match before retirement in 2006 to be against Lita. It was the perfect way for her WWE career to end. Lita decided to leave the industry just a couple of months later without her friend there. The two grew even closer outside of the WWE seeing their friendship continue to develop.
Trish actually named Lita as the godmother of her son. Lita and Trish still refer to each other as best friends to this very day.
5 Ric Flair and Bret Hart
The hatred between Ric Flair and Bret Hart existed for many years due to the two legends being for critical of each other's work. Hart and Flair are on most lists breaking down the all-time greats. Sadly, they didn’t agree with the other person being included among the greatest of all time. Flair named Hart as one of the people he didn’t like working with. Hart mocked Flair’s style for being boring and ridiculed The Nature Boy for becoming a joke in the later years of his career.
Flair and Hart mended fences at some point in the past few years. They have gone on the record to say they consider the other to be a good friend now. WWE brought them both in to work during the Natalya vs. Charlotte NXT storyline and that likely is what caused the peace.
Flair’s daughter and Bret’s niece worked together to create a wrestling masterpiece and created a new friendship between former enemies.
4 Daniel Bryan and Ryback
One of the more recent stories of an unlikely friendship starting between wrestlers featured Daniel Bryan and Ryback. The odd couple appeared to have nothing in common by looking at them. Bryan was the smaller underdog having incredible matches to get noticed. Ryback was the musclehead getting pushed by the WWE with poor matches dooming him. Still, the two traveled together with Cody Rhodes and became really good friends.
Bryan frequently jokes about how difficult it was traveling together when it came to finding food options. Ryback felt the frustration of Bryan and Rhodes wanting to eat at places like Panera Bread and expressed it in comical anger. The two have a playful relationship that basically consists of Bryan poking him with banter. Ryback expressed true care and sadness for Bryan when the latter was forced to retire from wrestling due to his concussion related injuries.
Maybe we’ll see the friendship resurface on television with General Manager Bryan bringing Ryback back to SmackDown.
3 Jim Ross and Vince Russo
The Monday Night Wars truly made the employees of WWE and WCW hate each other. They were competing to be the top promotion in the industry with the idea of putting the opposition out of business. That led to many personal dramas carrying over in a petty nature to television. WWE head writer Vince Russo left the company for a bigger payday at WCW. Russo went on to completely sink WCW but used his short time in power to do many horrible things.
The worst act committed by Russo was writing the character of Oklahoma. Russo’s writing partner Ed Ferrara played an insulting parody version of WWE play-by-play announcer Jim Ross. Oklahoma not only took shots at Ross’ background and announcing style, but took it to new lows. Russo instructed Ferrara to mock Ross’ facial paralysis during his battles with Bells’ Palsy.
Many years have passed and the two are friends now. Ross has interviewed Russo multiple times on his Ross Report podcast, stating he forgives the past incidents.
2 Steve Austin and Goldberg
Many fans still believe Bill Goldberg’s push in WCW was meant to be a rip off of WWE’s Steve Austin. If it was an imitation, it was a huge success, as Goldberg became an instant hit for WCW. Many in the wrestling world wanted to see Austin and Goldberg square off, but it sadly never happened. Goldberg entered WWE the night after Austin retired at WrestleMania XIX.
Austin and Goldberg did manage to work together with Austin being the authority figure on Raw for Goldberg’s year in the company. The two became good friends and are still pretty close today.
Austin recently interviewed Goldberg for two episodes of his Steve Austin Show podcast. You could tell they have a great relationship from the laughs and repertoire they shared. The old belief was that the two would likely hate each other due to the Monday Night Wars rivalry, but they are surprisingly good friends.
1 Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart
No two wrestlers in the history of the business have intensely hated each other while working together as Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels did. The two faces of the new generation following Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior leaving WWE became natural rivals. Hart and Michaels were both smaller than the typical big man in the WWE, but made up for it with their tremendous work rate. They just couldn’t get along at all and started one of the biggest backstage wars imaginable in wrestling.
The company wasn’t big enough for the two of them and Bret left in controversial fashion with Michaels “defeating” him due to The Montreal Screwjob, adding even more hatred from Bret’s end.
Following years of insults, Hart finally made peace with Michaels in 2010. Michaels was a different person after finding religion and Hart wanted to put their past issues in the past. They ended up becoming friends again and still keep in touch with text messages.
Hell may have frozen over because most expected that would happen before Michaels and Hart would become friends in real life.