After a long, hard match, babyface and heel return to the locker room, congratulating each other on a job well done, or probably talking in a civilized manner about what could have been done better. Quite often, they laugh and joke about the night that was over a few beers, may it be at the bar or at the hotel. Yes, we all know that heels and faces may hate each other on TV, but usually get along fabulously in real life.
Then again, wrestling promotions are just like conventional offices. There are always a few workers who can't stand each other for one reason or another, and real-life friends can fall out without a moment's notice. Such is the reality of professional wrestling — sometimes, the hatred can get very real for reasons completely outside of storylines.
So are you ready to "embrace the hate," as Kane so famously said a few years ago? Here are 15 examples of how wrestlers ended up disliking, or even hating each other in real life, and the stories of why they did so.
15 BIG SHOW AND THE GREAT KHALI
As Chris Jericho put it, it was the equivalent of King Kong versus Godzilla. And it happened – the two biggest men in WWE at that time had gotten into a serious backstage argument in 2009, during a SmackDown house show. At that time, The Great Khali was frequently using an overhand chop as part of his extremely limited repertoire, and it just so happened he had stolen that move from the Big Show, who had repeatedly asked Khali not to use it. But the Punjabi Playboy took that request as a mere suggestion, and kept using that chop anyway.
According to Jericho, a heated argument between both giants over the use of the move had soon degenerated into a brawl, and there wasn’t anyone in the locker room willing to serve as the proverbial cooler heads. Both men would apologize to each other after word of the fistfight got out to Vince McMahon, but for what it’s worth, at least The Great Khali probably looked better backstage than he ever did in the ring.
14 MICK FOLEY AND RIC FLAIR
This list contains examples of hatred manifesting in backstage brawls, in online feuds, in promos, and as a result of love triangles. It also includes one example of “book wars,” if you may, an example that surprisingly involves one of the nicest guys in professional wrestling – Mick Foley. The Hardcore Legend fired the first shot in his autobiography Have a Nice Day, accusing Ric Flair of being as bad a booker in WCW as he was a talented wrestler – frustration that was born out of Foley’s frequent midcard status as Cactus Jack.
The Nature Boy would fire back in To Be the Man five years later, calling Foley a “glorified stuntman” who put himself through unnecessary risks to get over with audiences. Although the two respected WWE legends put their differences behind them a few years later, their real-life heat did give birth to a storyline pitting both men against each other.
13 CHRIS JERICHO AND GOLDBERG
The beef between Chris Jericho and Bill Goldberg went back a long way, starting when they were both in WCW circa 1998-99 – Jericho as an up-and-coming midcarder, Goldberg as the owner of a heavily-embellished winning streak that was quite impressive nonetheless. And when someone suggested to Goldberg that he feud with Jericho and sell for the smaller man, he didn’t take too kindly to that, hinting that he’d only look weak if he as much as sold a few moves for the future Y2J. On his end, Jericho felt that Goldberg was denying him a chance to move up the card.
Those problems resurfaced in 2003, when Goldberg joined WWE two years after WCW folded. Upon hearing that Goldberg was dissing his selling ability in front of other wrestlers, Jericho confronted the former Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle and turned out to be the better fighter when they came to blows. That probably humbled Goldberg a great deal, and he and Jericho were able to sort out their differences and end their four-year feud on that same night.
12 MELINA AND CANDICE MICHELLE
You know how millennials often take to the Internet, particularly social media, and get into online word wars viewable to their friends and followers? It turns out that two of WWE’s female talents had a real-life online feud of their own, and that one of them has a name that kind of sounds like “millennial.” Of course, we’re referring to Melina Perez, who plays a supporting role in two of the other real-life hatefests in this list, and her blog war with Candice Michelle in 2007.
The feud started when Michelle took to her WWE.com blog to accuse Melina of stealing one of her moves. Melina responded by posting a four-year-old photo of herself doing that move at an independent show, and it escalated from there, with one of Michelle’s blog entries failing to get approval from WWE due to the real-life heat behind the post. Both women soon took their feud on-screen, but not after making their readers wonder whether they were witnessing a work or a shoot.
We could go on about Melina’s backstage issues, but we’ve got to give chance to others, right?
11 JOHN CENA AND TYLER REKS
John Cena is beloved to (most) fans from all over the world, especially younger ones who fully buy into his mantra of “hustle, loyalty, and respect.” But if you ask Tyler Reks, the leader of the Cenation is Big Jerk John. In a shoot interview that took place a couple of years after his retirement, Reks talked about how his Burning Hammer finisher had ended up looking very similar to Cena’s Attitude Adjustment due to some execution problems in a house show match. Backstage, Cena appeared to be slightly upset as he warned Reks, politely at first, to get a new finisher.
Months later, at Bragging Rights 2010, Reks was still using the Burning Hammer, with full blessing from WWE’s higher-ups. He had landed it perfectly on Santino Marella, making him quite happy when he headed backstage. And who else was there but Cena, who allegedly grabbed Reks and screamed at him about refusing to get a new finisher, calling him an “idiot” in front of the entire locker room and refusing to accept his apology.
We're not saying John Cena buries people, but let's just say that Tyler Reks' push was dead in the water soon after that incident.
10 CM PUNK AND RYBACK
CM Punk will never hesitate to call a spade a spade. And he was given free reign to vent out against WWE when he appeared on Colt Cabana's The Art of Wrestling podcast in November 2014, confirming that WWE did fire him (on his wedding day, because Vince and Triple H are allegedly trolls like that), that WWE doctor Chris Amann had misdiagnosed a staph infection, and that he was through with wrestling. Oh, and he made a couple references about an unsafe, unskilled worker he called the "Steroid Guy."
The "Steroid Guy" was, of course, Ryback, whom Punk claimed had taken "20 years off (his) life" through his reckless wrestling style. The Straight-Edge Savior also claimed to have called Ryback out on his recklessness, to which the Big Guy supposedly acknowledged by saying he was "as dumb as f---." Ryback has tried his best to stay level-headed about the Punk issue, though there were a couple occasions when he couldn't resist trolling Punk on social media and referencing his comments.
9 TRISH STRATUS AND JOHN MORRISON
To put it kindly, Melina Perez was a heat magnet during her time in WWE. And by that, we’re talking about backstage heat, as the former WWE Divas Champion allegedly took the name of her division a bit too literally. But one person who didn’t have heat with Melina was John Morrison. And why would he? They were dating, after all, and like any good boyfriend would, JoMo only wanted the best for his girlfriend and former MNM stablemate.
That apparently included wanting Melina to team up with him and Snooki of Jersey Shore infamy as they faced off against LayCool and Dolph Ziggler at WrestleMania XXVII. But since the storyline required Trish Stratus to be the third person on the babyface team, that had upset Morrison, who reacted post-match by shrugging off Stratus and refusing a hug as they celebrated their victory. You just don't disrespect a legend like that, especially for something as petty as taking a spot that you believe your girlfriend should be in.
To her credit, Trish has been very professional about the matter, though she was clearly offended by Morrison's "cold shoulder" treatment.
8 DYNAMITE KID AND THE ROUGEAU BROTHERS
It’s sad to note that Tom Billington, a.k.a. the Dynamite Kid, is a shell of his old self, confined to a wheelchair, virtually skin-and-bones, and unable to pay for his hospital bills after suffering a stroke in late-2015. But back in his prime, Dynamite had ruffled a lot of feathers backstage in the late-‘80s, as he and British Bulldogs tag teammate Davey Boy Smith delighted in pulling cruel ribs on their WWE colleagues. But it was another legendary backstage prankster, Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, who had actually cut up the Rougeau Brothers’ clothes while they were in the ring wrestling.
When the Rougeaus got back, they immediately suspected the Bulldogs, prompting Dynamite to deck both Jacques and Raymond. And just as Dynamite wasn’t expecting any form of retribution, the Rougeaus took their revenge a few weeks later, with Jacques punching Dynamite so hard that he lost four teeth. The heat between both tag teams got to be so bad that Vince McMahon had to broker a truce, with the Rougeaus begrudgingly agreeing to help shoulder Dynamite’s dental expenses.
7 SID VICIOUS AND ARN ANDERSON
You’d need to have only “half the brain that (we) do” to pick a real-life fight with Arn Anderson. So what better person to pull off such a move than Sid Vicious? Back in October 1993, a group of WCW wrestlers were enjoying a few beers while on a German tour, telling stories and shooting the breeze while far away from home. But things turned ugly at some point that night, as Anderson took offense to Vicious making insulting comments about Ric Flair. Both men ended up throwing beers at each other, but were calmed down before everyone headed back to their hotel.
As it turned out, Sid was just getting started. He would confront Arn in his hotel room, ambushing him with a hotel chair leg when he went to open the door. And as the brawl continued in the hallway, Vicious pulled out a pair of scissors and stabbed Anderson repeatedly, sending the Enforcer of the Four Horsemen to the hospital. (Vicious was hospitalized too, having received four stab wounds.) Sid was fired from WCW soon after, though he'd be inexplicably rehired four years later after yet another fallout with WWE.
6 JEFF JARRETT AND KURT ANGLE
Love triangles can turn the friendships wrestlers have with each other in real life into hatred, and that was the case when Kurt Angle’s then-wife Karen filed for divorce in 2008, having had it with her husband’s issues with drink, drugs, and apparently, his fling with Dawn Marie, among other extramarital activities. But what was shocking was the rumor that Karen began dating one of Kurt’s best friends in the TNA locker room, fellow wrestling veteran and ex-WWE competitor Jeff Jarrett, soon after she filed for divorce.
That rumor was soon confirmed, and Jeff and Karen Jarrett got married in 2010. Angle, meanwhile, was naturally pissed-off at the fact Double J had ended up with his ex-wife, and was still more than annoyed when the new couple was flaunting their marriage in early-2011 episodes of Impact Wrestling, complaining that the Jarrett family segments made him look like a “deadbeat dad.” Don't feign surprise here — this was turned into a TNA storyline involving all three parties in the love triangle.
5 BRET AND OWEN HART
Now this one's a case of he said-she said. Bret Hart denied in his autobiography that he had any real-life heat with Owen Hart, but many have suggested that the brothers were seriously feuding in the aftermath of the Montreal Screwjob in 1997.
The story here is that Bret and Owen's brothers-in-law Davey Boy Smith and Jim Neidhart joined Bret in WCW in protest over the Screwjob, but Owen didn't, as he couldn't get out of his contract and was a key part of WWE's upper midcard. Bret's side of the story is that he and Owen were just kayfabing WWE in an attempt to get the Rocket out of his contract, but others, such as their own brother Bruce, have claimed that the Hitman legitimately threatened to disown Owen if he didn't join him in WCW.
Unfortunately, we may never know what really happened, as Owen Hart died in 1999. And even more sadly, Owen's tragic death led to even more discord within the Hart family, as both Bret and Bruce related in their respective autobiographies.
4 BOOKER T/SHARMELL AND BATISTA/MELINA
We’ve all heard of how fame could get to one’s head and turn a completely nice guy into a complete jerk. That’s what was allegedly happening to Batista in 2006, as he constantly put over Monday Night RAW, while dissing SmackDown’s product despite being signed to the brand. Overall, a lot of wrestlers were complaining that Big Dave was getting too big for his britches, and locker room leader Booker T had all that he could take, calling Batista out for his arrogance and lack of respect.
Just like many of the other incidences here of wrestlers hating on one another, the argument erupted into a brawl, and the SmackDown locker room’s attitude at that time was to “let ‘em play” – let both men have it out for a good five minutes. When the dust had settled, Booker was pretty much the conquering hero, as many had been waiting for someone to stand up to the Animal and shut him up after all those disparaging remarks about SmackDown.
As an added bonus, Booker’s wife Sharmell was involved in a related backstage incident with Batista’s then-fling Melina Perez, just one week after the boys had it out in the locker room.
3 HULK HOGAN AND RANDY SAVAGE
One of my favorite wrestling memories as a kid was watching "Macho Man" Randy Savage go mental on Hulk Hogan. Early in 1989, the "Macho Madness" took over and turned Savage into a jealous psycho who thought the Hulkster was fooling around with Miss Elizabeth, and pretty much ensuring he was the Robin to his Batman.
As we now know, the Macho Man was prone to fits of jealousy when it came to Elizabeth, and Hogan used backstage policy to ensure he remained top dog. And Savage did legitimately suspect that Liz and Hulk were having an affair, and openly accused Hogan and his then-wife Linda of encouraging Liz to file for divorce in 1992. This led to a long-running feud between both men that included Savage releasing a rap album (yes, seriously) in 2003, with a track called "Be a Man" that left no doubt as to whom he's dissing.
We're not quite sure if Hulk and Macho had buried the hatchet at the time Savage died in 2011 — the accounts vary. But it's clear that the Mega Powers did explode in real life, just as they did in storyline.
2 EDGE AND MATT HARDY
Back in the early-mid-2000s, kayfabe brothers and real-life best friends Edge and Christian were getting along famously with Matt and Jeff Hardy, and Matt’s real-life girlfriend Lita was also part of this close-knit circle of friends. But when Matt suffered an injury in 2004 and was taken off the road, that allowed Edge to swoop in and get into some shenanigans with Lita that we’re sure were more than just “Rated-R” in nature. Eventually, Matt got wind of the affair, and released a series of angry online rants at Edge and Lita that helped lead to his firing from WWE.
By that time, news of the Edge/Lita affair was common knowledge to fans, who showered the couple with jeers of “You screwed Matt!” Matt was rehired in July 2005, three months after his firing, and immediately put into a feud with Edge, one where he was undoubtedly showing how “Broken” (pardon the 2016-era pun) he was over the affair and letting real emotion color his actions and promos.
Stealing your buddy's girl? Not cool no matter how you look at it. But if that real-life feud was worth anything, it did propel Matt Hardy to the upper midcard, and solidified Edge's position as one of the top heels of the Ruthless Aggression era.
1 BRET HART AND SHAWN MICHAELS
The real-life animosity between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels is a topic we've covered multiple times on TheSportster. But to jog your memory once again, it had probably started when Bret refused membership in Shawn's backstage faction, the Kliq, in the mid-1990s. By 1997, there was no doubt that they hated each other, and it manifested in the promos they cut. Hart called Michaels out in a promo for being a bad role model to the kids by posing on Playgirl? HBK replies by saying that Bret doesn't know where Bret Hart ends and the Hitman begins. And you can't forget that little comment about Bret having some "Sunny Days," a.k.a. having an affair with Tammy Sytch.
There's also Michaels preferring to "lose his smile" and retire due to "injury" rather than drop his WWE Championship to Hart, the backstage brawl that ensued over the "Sunny Days" promo, and both men refusing to do the job for the other in the lead-up to Survivor Series 1997.
Yeah, those two guys hated each other a lot back in 1997, but it was nothing compared to Bret's hatred for Shawn for many years following the Montreal Screwjob, and the mutual dislike that lasted until they publicly made peace with each other on a 2010 episode of RAW.