It has long been said that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this axiom is certainly one way to explain the actions and behavior of Vince McMahon, the owner and CEO of the WWE Universe. Despite unmatched success in almost every facet of sports entertainment, McMahon also has a reputation for being, shall we say, “unhinged” in a personal and professional sense. Oh hell, let’s face it—the guy is next level bonkers crazy sometimes, and almost everyone to work for him admits he can be a challenge to understand no matter how long they know him.
Given McMahon’s power, he’s able to get away with acting like a maniac pretty much without repercussions. Even the wrestlers who stood up to Vince and won were unable to change much about how he behaves towards everyone else. On top of that, there are also the dozens of wrestlers who tried standing up to Vince and failed, sometimes getting punished for daring suggest his megalomaniacal behavior is anything out of the ordinary. At the same time, however, Vince is simply so damn bizarre his employees can’t help but keep calling him out on it anyway, knowing full well they could lose their jobs in the process.
Vince McMahon is so averse to people telling him he’s doing something wrong one of his most repeated catchphrases is “don’t cross the boss,” because after all, he “has the brass to fire your ass.” That may be so, yet proud, annoyed, or simply confused wrestlers have been unable to stop themselves from telling McMahon he’s simply out of his mind, at least once in a while. Keep reading for 15 stories about pro wrestlers getting fed up with Vince McMahon’s BS.
15. The Road Warriors – Hated The Puppet And Drunk Angle
Considering they have a reputation as one of the greatest tag teams in wrestling history, The Road Warriors two stints in WWE make absolutely no sense. Though they were pushed on arrival each time they appeared, even becoming two-time WWE Tag Team Champions, Vince McMahon decided he needed to add something to their act before they could truly become famous. Of course, this was the same act that already made Hawk and Animal big stars in the AWA, NWA, and Japan, which simply required they look big, mean, and menacing. Always looking for something more, McMahon thought they should also have a puppet. When said dummy, “Rocco,” failed miserably in their 1992 run, McMahon decided to replace it with something else for round two in ’97—a whole punch of pills and booze, used to suggest Hawk was a severe drug addict. The first time, the Road Warriors just thought it was stupid. Second time around, they took it as personally offensive, quitting the company in protest when McMahon wouldn’t drop it.
14. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin – Wouldn’t Lose On Free TV
Without question, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was the biggest star WWE had during their most profitable era, and a large part of his fame came in relation to the Rattlesnake’s confrontations with Vince McMahon. While the two were constantly at one another’s throats inside the ring, tensions were considerably more relaxed behind the scenes, where Austin and McMahon became great friends as they raked in the dough as arch rivals. That doesn’t mean things were always perfect between them, though, as Austin and McMahon’s relationship would deteriorate as Stone Cold’s time in the ring was winding down. Wanting to make a new star, McMahon suggested Austin lose to Brock Lesnar, and idea that indeed sounds like it could main event any day of the week. The problem was McMahon wanted it to happen on a random episode of Raw, and wouldn’t budge when Austin argued it was a Pay-Per-View caliber bout. Because the boss wouldn’t listen, Austin responded true to form by flipping him the bird and walking out the door.
13. Lord Alfred Hayes – Furious His Pay Was Cut
In all fairness to Vince McMahon, it isn’t always all that easy to control the fates of hundreds of people by way of becoming their employer. As the CEO of a billion-dollar company that leads an industry, McMahon needs to make difficult decisions all the time, especially when business isn’t all that hot. This was very much the case in the mid-1990s, when Hulkamania was fading away, and before the Attitude Era began. To prevent WWE from bleeding money, McMahon had to make cuts all over the place, including the paycheck to one of his most loyal employees in Lord Alfred Hayes. McMahon and Hayes sat side by side for years as the hosts of Tuesday Night Titans, and the affable British presenter also hosted countless interview segments on various other WWE programs, and felt a cut in his pay at that point was absolutely insulting. Refusing to listen to any excuses, Hayes simply walked out on the company when he heard the news, allegedly to the deep disappointment of his former boss.
12. Josh Mathews – Thinks Vince Is Out Of Touch
To some WWE fans, a young Josh Mathews was the closest thing the company had to an announcer who could actually replace Jim Ross. Others would probably say that’s going way too far, albeit with the caveat he was at least better than Michael Cole. There is also a third contingent who might think the idea is wholly ridiculous, and if nothing else, Mathews’s current tenure in TNA/GFW/etc. indeed shows little remains of the promise he once displayed. That said, part of the reason Mathews lost his vigor may not be his fault, as he was openly upset with WWE during his last few years in the company, hence why he prefers working elsewhere today. According to Mathews, McMahon’s direction was the thing he hated most, calling his former boss entirely out of touch and saying he no longer knew or cared what fans wanted to see. No wonder he prefers going to work for someone else.
11. Rob Van Dam – On The Meaning Of The Word “Volunteer”
Merely donating large amounts of time and money to charity doesn’t mean Vince McMahon necessarily understands the concept. Take for example the yearly Tribute to the Troops specials, where WWE superstars volunteer their time to go overseas and entertain the men and women of the United States armed forces. On paper, that sounds great, until you hear the “volunteer” part is apparently just a ruse, and the wrestlers are pretty much forced to be there. That’s what Rob Van Dam says, anyway, as he once got into a loud and public argument with McMahon about the company demanding he attend an event he was told was optional. Before anyone says RVD is a jerk for refusing to help out a charity, keep in mind wrestlers have very few days off, this was during the holiday season, he had already made plans with his family, and again, McMahon said it was not obligatory all wrestlers were involved. With the whole story, it’s hard to blame Van Dam for standing firm and staying home that Christmas.
10. Pat Patterson – Enough Of Your Son-in-Law Already
Barring any immediate members of the McMahon family, Pat Patterson might just be the next most important figure in WWE history. Far more than simply the first ever Intercontinental Champion, Patterson has held an integral role backstage as Vince McMahon’s right-hand man, at once getting named Vice President of WWE. Patterson wrote hundreds of storylines, scripted countless matches, and influenced the careers of pretty much everyone to work for the company from the late-’70s all the way to 2004. Though he still holds a highly revered role in WWE history to this day, Patterson’s prominence backstage took a dive a little over ten years ago when he told McMahon something everyone else was afraid to do—that WWE ratings were on a downslide, and Triple H was the reason why. Rather than listen to his most loyal employee, McMahon ignored Patterson outright, causing the WWE legend to momentarily walk away from his duties for several years.
9. Jeff Jarrett – Pay Me Right Now Or Else
In a manner of speaking, Jeff Jarrett has spent the past 15 years giving it his all to call Vince McMahon out on the fact WWE are the undefeatable giants of pro wrestling. Quite frankly, Jarrett’s attempts at turning the NWA, TNA, or GFW into legitimate competition to the WWE Universe have all been a bust, yet this doesn’t change the fact Double J at least has one major victory over his former boss-turned business rival. Back in 1999, Jarrett was ready to leave WWE and head to WCW for the second time, causing a problem for McMahon in that Jarrett was also the Intercontinental Champion at the time. The plan saw for Jarrett to lose the belt to Chyna at No Mercy, but his contract technically ran out the day before, and WWE owed him thousands of dollars in royalties and other fees on top of that. Knowing McMahon’s history with this sort of thing, Jarrett demanded he receive a massive lump sum said to be in the neighborhood of $250,000 before hitting the ring and doing his job. With his hands tied, McMahon handed over the money.
8. Goldberg – WWE Didn’t Get It
One of the keys to a truly perfect comeback is choosing the right time to make it, and the second time around, Goldberg picked absolutely the perfect moment to recapture his fame. Unfortunately, that very sentence reveals he wasn’t so lucky the first time around, although Da Man himself feels it wasn’t his fault that his first year in WWE was a massive bomb. Despite a brief reign as World Heavyweight Champion, it’s true that Goldberg really didn’t make much of an impact from 2003 to 2004, simply looking like any other babyface wrestler chasing after the big bad that was Triple H and Evolution. Speaking candidly on the subject, Goldberg was quick to point out Vince McMahon simply didn’t get his character at all, as the whole dynamic should have been the other way around entirely. For this reason, Goldberg avoided comeback talks for a full decade, not changing his mind until McMahon did the same and finally figured out the winning formula: Goldberg destroys everyone with ease, and they all count the piles of money.
7. AJ Lee – Women’s Revolution? Yeah, Right.
Although it’s definitely true that women in wrestling today have it better off than they did ten years ago, not to mention 20 or 30, there’s still a long way to go before gender equality exists in the WWE Universe. Sure, select female WWE superstars are appearing in higher profile matches and angles than ever before, even main eventing Pay-Per-Views for the first time in history. However, it would seem the company nonetheless maintains a wide gap in the pay rate between men and women, at least according to former Divas Champion AJ Lee. Shortly after Stephanie McMahon wrote a tweet in support of Patricia Arquette’s pro-equality message at the 2015 Academy Awards, Lee replied with a laundry list of signs women weren’t equal in the company Stephanie’s father owns. Vince himself soon wrote a tweet claiming he heard the complaints and was going to work on the women’s revolution, albeit without mentioning AJ directly. Regardless of whether or not he meant it, AJ didn’t get to reap the rewards, as she was out of the company no more than two months later.
6. CM Punk – Employees’ Medical Needs Are Ignored
Truth be told, there’s a good chance WWE officials were in no way surprised when AJ Lee would publicly call them out on continuing to treat women unfairly despite a so-called revolution. After all, this is the woman married to CM Punk, another superstar who has loudly and publicly accused WWE of countless misdeeds, walking out on the company over these complaints a little over a year before his wife did the same. The most damning of Punk’s accusations towards WWE is that the company repeatedly ignored what turned out to be serious medical issues, putting his life at risk rather than give the guy a night off or two to see a doctor. Punk also didn’t appreciate the fact his paychecks were getting smaller, and easily saw that his year-plus-long reign as WWE Champion was an attempt to placate and silence him without actually fixing any problems. It didn’t work, and Punk doesn’t seem likely to look back on his choice to leave wrestling with regret.
5. Raven, Kanyon, and Mike Sanders – Wrestlers Shouldn’t Be Independent Contractors
From early on in their relationship, Raven and Vince McMahon didn’t get along particularly well, due to the ECW legend’s friendship and perceived negative influence towards Vince’s son Shane. As for Chris Kanyon and Mike Sanders, there’s a good chance McMahon never thought much about either one of them at all, as they barely worked for him and kept a fairly low profile when they did. Even so, Kanyon and Sanders joined Raven in suing Vince in 2008 over the fact they, along with all WWE superstars, had been classified as “independent contractors” rather than regular employees. This meant McMahon never had to provide health insurance or offer other benefits full-time staff are supposed to receive. Ultimately, a judge threw the case out for passing the statute of limitations, but it was still a bold move to try and take down one of the least fair rules McMahon has made an industry standard.
4. Jesse Ventura – Don’t Lie About Contracts
Look, Vince McMahon didn’t exactly become the most famous promoter in wrestling history by being honest. The entire purpose of sports entertainment is a lie, so it should be no surprise the man in charge of the biggest wrestling in company also tells tall tales to his employees on a regular basis. Jesse Ventura found this out the hard way in 1987, when McMahon told him only “featured” performers received royalties on video releases, meaning commentators like him wouldn’t get paid for him. Four years later, Ventura was informed literally everyone featured on a video has the option to receive royalties if their contract calls for it, and felt that McMahon having told him otherwise amounted to outright fraud. Not only did a federal jury agree with Ventura, but they also awarded him over $800,000 to fix McMahon’s wrongdoing.
3. Kofi Kingston – Physical Confrontation With The Boss
By and large, the wrestlers detailed on this list stood up to Vince McMahon in a non-physical way. Angry words that may have held the impact of punches were easily exchanged, yet only a select few who were truly furious with McMahon have seen the need to actually punch him in the face. One such athlete was Kofi Kingston of all people, who Chris Jericho once explained got into a fistfight with the boss over a perceived insult to his talents. In fact, Jericho was actually the instigator, telling Kingston he had to stand up for himself after Vince’s mockery, lest the perception stick and it ruin his career. Amazingly, Jericho turned out to have been right, as Vince apparently laughed the situation off after their brief scuffle, and Kingston’s tenure in WWE has gone pretty well ever since.
2. Bruno Sammartino – Decades Of Bad Blood
Despite having been the biggest star Vince McMahon, Sr. ever promoted, Bruno Sammartino never quite got along with the man’s son, Vince, Jr. From the very beginning, there was bad blood over Senior bilking some of Sammartino’s paychecks, and Junior didn’t make things any better with his wild ideas about making wrestling more mainstream, and perhaps a little bit adult in the process. They briefly tried working together in the ’80s, but Sammartino soon left WWE over concerns the company was getting too offensive, a stance he continued holding for almost 30 years. Sammartino’s animosity towards McMahon was naturally at its worst during the Attitude Era, when WWE took a notably sex, drugs, and rock and roll approach to sports entertainment, all things a traditionalist like Sammartino felt had no place in the genre he made famous. Recently, Sammartino finally cooled his stance on the idea Vince was killing his profession, lulled by Triple H into accepting a Hall of Fame induction
1. Bret Hart – The Montreal Black Eye
Fans and employees of the WWE Universe will never forget one of the most talked about real life wrestling events to this day, the Montreal Screwjob. Even those who weren’t alive when it happened can probably give the full run-down of how WWE Champion Bret Hart was ready to jump ship to WCW, but had to defend his prized belt against Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series 1997 before he could do so. Vince McMahon wanted Bret to lose and he refused citing a creative control clause in his contract, so the WWE exec and HBK conspired to trick the Hitman into looking like he submit when he actually didn’t. All these years later, there’s no point in discussing who was right or who was wrong, let alone any alternatives that might have fixed the issues in a more professional way. What we can do it talk about the outcome, which for Bret Hart included standing up to McMahon’s nonsense in the most literal way he possibly could, punching his boss in the face and giving him a black eye.
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