For most aspiring professional wrestlers, the dream of working for World Wrestling Entertainment is one worth achieving at absolutely any cost. It doesn’t matter what crazy nonsense Vince McMahon and company come up with, if a Superstar wants to make it in the industry, they’ll say yes to anything the titans of sports entertainment offer them. Even to a wrestler who has worked for WWE several years built up a solid foundation in the business, saying no to one of McMahon’s ideas can be a terrifying prospect, regardless of how downright awful some of his worst ideas have been.
Only a select few wrestlers have been able to turn WWE down and remained employed. In some cases, they actually got fired for daring refuse McMahon’s whims, though the truly talented performers always tend to find their way back into his employ one way or another, despite any past transgressions. Had these wrestlers simply said yes to McMahon in the first place, however, their legends may well have been tarnished. The fact of the matter is that sometimes the WWE CEO and his writing team suggest angles that could kill a wrestler’s career in an instant, and it’s up to the superstars themselves to put an end to it before they lose their livelihoods. Keep reading to learn about 15 great wrestlers you never knew had to talk WWE out of terrible ideas.
15 Dan Severn Couldn’t Be The Devil
Due to a general lack of traditional charisma, “The Beast” Dan Severn never quite became a star in WWE. There’s no doubt he looked impressive in his every appearance regardless, jacked from head to toe and at times carrying as many as four championships with him to the ring, including the NWA World Championship and several legitimate MMA titles. Instead of capitalizing on his real fighting background, the company rarely gave Severn any TV time, never able to come up with a character that made him pop. When Vince McMahon finally come up with an idea for Severn, it was to have him tattoo “666” on his head and dig into his “Beast” nickname as a devil character, joining The Undertaker’s Ministry of Darkness. Knowing this wouldn’t work at all, Severn simply left the company and resumed his careers in the NWA and the octagon.
14 Chris Jericho Was No Goon
Wrestling is a universe filled with countless what if’s both good and bad. For example, what if future WWE Champion Chris Jericho made his debut with the company a solid four to five years earlier than he did? Could he have been a major star even sooner, or would he wallow in the midcard, almost immediately forgotten? Well, ask the man himself, and Jericho will say he firmly believed the latter scenario was more likely. The reason wasn’t that the company wasn’t ready for him or vice versa, but rather that Vince McMahon initially wanted to saddle Jericho, whose dad, Ted Irvine, was once an NHL star, with a goofy hockey player gimmick a la The Goon. Given the timeline, Jericho in fact believes he was going to get the actual Goon gimmick itself, which later went to Bill Irwin. Thinking this would kill his career from the start, Jericho turned down WWE altogether and waited a few years to prove he was more than a silly gimmick before bothering with the company again.
13 Daivari Isn’t Into Imitating Presidents
In the wake of the 2005 London bombings, WWE found itself in the middle of one of its worst controversies in recent memory. A wrestler named Muhammad Hassan had “martyred” his manager Khosrow (aka Shawn) Daivari on an episode of SmackDown airing the same day as those horrific terrorist attacks, which many viewers reasonably felt to be in extremely bad taste. Hassan was written off TV almost immediately, but Daivari stuck around for a few years in roles that downplayed his origins. Daivari didn’t do this the way WWE originally wanted him to, though, which was by changing his character name to George W. Bush and giving speeches about how he loved being an American. Luckily for his own sake, Daivari was quick to point out the idea had a very short shelf life and would likely offend more than it entertained, and he somehow got the McMahons to agree.
12 Mark Henry Didn’t Like Getting Called A Gorilla
No matter how far WWE and indeed the whole world has come on the matter, there is still a long way to go before true racial equality is attained. In the WWE Universe specifically, there are still constant cries that a seedy underbelly of racism may exist on an executive level, and the careers of wrestlers like Mark Henry might prove these accusations. Granted, Henry is also one of very few black World Champions in company history, and thus a sign that minority wrestlers have indeed broken through to the main event on special occasions. However, he’s also an athlete who has endured horrifically offensive storylines, the worst of which seeing him labeled as “The Silverback,” like the gorilla. Henry briefly accepted this moniker for a while, but the racial implications ultimately started to weigh on him, and he demanded Vince McMahon and others stop using it to refer to him.
11 Ken Shamrock Didn't Want To Love His Sister
In a very similar situation to that of Dan Severn, the “World’s Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock was a readymade star that WWE simply didn’t know how to properly utilize. Unlike Severn, Shamrock at least had a few years in the spotlight as an unstoppable machine, yet his career prospects nonetheless started falling apart when WWE tried to bog him down with a character that didn’t fit his intensity. Though Shamrock was able to escape the worst of it, the entire saga involving his sister Ryan nonetheless did its toll in lowering his stock from an upper midcarder down to an almost irrelevant also-ran. Of course, there’s no telling how far Shamrock would have sank if he agreed to WWE’s initial plan with Ryan, which was to make her Ken’s sister/girlfriend. This almost made sense, as Ryan (aka Alicia Webb) was in fact Ken’s real romantic partner, playing his sister on TV, but even so the Shamrock’s both agreed this idea was offensive and could never work, turning it down outright.
10 AJ Lee Wasn’t That Kind Of Crazy
It takes a great deal of courage for an entertainer to admit they struggle with mental illness, and to claim crazy is their superpower takes things a whole lot further. AJ Lee proved she wasn’t messing around on the subject by using that phrase as the name of her autobiography, in which her issues with bipolar disorder and how they influenced her time in WWE are a major focus. Included in the discussion is an angle she found greatly offensive. For whatever reason, WWE wanted AJ’s character to have a bizarre hallucination about space dinosaurs and leprechauns. It was one thing for the company to have AJ’s character act unhinged and even “crazy” at times, but the Geek Goddess felt this development would have trivialized and mocked her real disorder. The fact it also had nothing to do with wrestling also may have been a contributing factor in why it made her so angry she had to refuse the whole idea.
9 “Stone Cold” Steve Austin Almost Had Some Real Bad Names
There may never be a WWE Superstar who defines a generation in the same way as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. In his name alone, Austin was able to evoke a menacing quality few Superstars can capture, and the intensity of his words coupled with a never-ending quest for chaos made him the most popular star of his era by far. However, there was a legitimate chance none of it ever would have happened had Austin allowed WWE to control his destiny from the start. After a stint as “The Ringmaster” wasn’t working, Austin asked for a name change to fit a more vicious character. Little did he know, WWE would respond with even more ridiculous monikers than the one making him sound like a circus emcee, including Chilly McFreeze, Fang McFrost, Otto von Ruthless, and Ice Dagger. Austin turned all these ideas down, however, opting to come up with his own moniker, and it’s a good thing he did, as Stone Cold struck gold none of the others would have touched.
8 Steve Austin Knew Wrestling Brock Lesnar On Raw Was A Waste
When Steve Austin’s biggest problem with WWE was a few bad name suggestions, all he had to do was come up with a better alternative, and the company saw things his way. Oddly, it was after Austin became the biggest star in history that WWE stopped being so agreeable, ignoring his cries that a random match against Brock Lesnar on Raw would have been a huge waste of everyone’s time. Ultimately, Austin himself might disagree with winding up on a list like this one, as he would later admit to handling the situation rather poorly. While it’s true his decision to walk out on WWE rather than lose to Lesnar was quite extreme, this doesn’t change how stupid an idea it was for the company to turn their biggest star into a random jobber. Austin-Lesnar had serious Pay-Per-View potential that WWE was throwing away, and only Stone Cold had the courage to tell them this.
7 CM Punk’s WrestleMania Dreams Were Triple H-Free
For all his attempts at being the coolest guy in the room, CM Punk was like most wrestlers in that he long dreamed of being in the main event at WrestleMania. Punk would never get the chance during his time in WWE, though he did compete in a number of high profile matches at the Grandest Stage of Them All. The Straight Edge Messiah could have had one more WrestleMania contest under his belt if he wanted to, as well, though he chose against it given the proposed opponent: his real-life enemy and former boss, Triple H. The suggested match would have occurred at WrestleMania XXX, two months after Punk walked out on the company. In fact, the idea WWE was working towards this payoff was part of why Punk was fed up and felt the need to leave in the first place.
6 Mr. Kennedy Was A Jerk, But Not An A-Hole
Given his propensity for burning bridges, Mr. Kennedy/Mr. Anderson doesn’t get mentioned by WWE much these days, and understandably so. However, things could have been significantly worse for the former United States Champion had he accepted the original gimmick the company suggested to him. When Vince McMahon asked Kennedy if he had any catchphrases, he responded, “Nice guys finish last and thank God I’m an a**hole.” McMahon liked it in theory, but the PG era meant it was a no-go, and thus the idea needed work. Right hand man Johnny Ace stepped in and offered the idea Kennedy go by the name “Adam Hole,” and thus could end his tag line “thank god I’m an A-Hole.” After a brief awkward silence, Kennedy mumbled out an excuse about how that sounded like a flash in the pan gimmick and he wanted to stick around, and lucky for him McMahon agreed and took the stupid name out of consideration.
5 Edge Made Sure Vince Russo Could Hear Him
Outside of being able to move around in the ring with a small modicum of grace, the most important quality a pro wrestler needs is the ability to connect with an audience through their words. Leave it to Vince Russo to try and take this away from a budding star before he even debuted, and true to form, he was going to try this on a future Hall of Famer. According to eventual 11-time World Champion Edge, the infamous WWE/WCW/TNA writer felt the Rated-R Superstar was never good on the microphone, and thus wanted to introduce him as a deaf/mute who would thus never once speak during his time in the company. This would have vastly diminished Edge’s prospects, especially considering it was his personality that elevated him from a mysterious newcomer to a bona fide star. Aware of this need to talk with the crowd, Edge turned down the idea from the beginning, a smirk and “you think you know me?” directed at Russo implied, albeit not stated.
4 Bret Hart Screwed One Brother To Put Over Another
Prior to the Attitude Era, the WWE Universe could be an extremely cartoony place, populated with larger than life characters performing inhuman antics inside a wrestling ring. At the top of the company, however, there was a strong influence of traditional normalcy in Bret “The Hitman” Hart, a five time WWE Champion who experienced his longest run with the gold throughout 1994. Hart’s main competition at this time was his jealous younger brother, Owen, though had WWE had their way, their legendary feud may have never happened. Instead of going with Owen, Pat Patterson and Vince McMahon wanted Bret to feud with his older brother, Bruce. With all due respect to Bruce, Bret knew this was a horrible idea, as his elder sibling was far less skilled in the ring, and might have been too old for a full-time run on top. Ultimately, the decision proved beneficial to fans everywhere, as Bret and Owen wrestled some of the decade’s greatest matches.
3 Owen Hart Didn’t Want To Cheat On His Wife
Despite Owen Hart’s reputation as one of the most natural heel performers in his family, not to mention the many practical jokes he played on coworkers in real life, the Rocket was nonetheless also respected as a consummate family man. Owen’s passion and love for his wife Martha was especially revered, albeit not always respected, at least not by men like Vince McMahon, who never saw the sanctity of marriage as much of a concern in the first place. In line with this divergent view, McMahon once pitched an idea that would have seen Owen’s tag team with Jeff Jarrett start to deteriorate when Hart started showing signs of affection towards Jarrett’s valet, Debra. Owen turned the idea down, though, refusing to cheat on his wife even in a fictional manner. There’s also the fact angles like that were horribly cliché, especially in the Attitude Era, and it wouldn’t have helped any of the involved parties.
2 Brock Lesnar Wasn’t Interested In Killing Shane McMahon
With his crossover legitimacy through UFC, Brock Lesnar is the highest profile star in WWE today, but this doesn’t mean the company always knows how to use his notoriety in the best way. Case in point, the original plans for WrestleMania 33, an event where Lesnar would ultimately win the WWE Universal Championship. Now, had Lesnar simply refused to appear lest he won the gold, fans would probably still be complaining about his antics to this day. That’s not what happened, though, as Lesnar simply turned down a really, really bad idea, and wound up winning the belt that night instead almost by chance when his program with Goldberg started to take off. Before that happened, WWE originally wanted Lesnar to wrestle Shane McMahon, an idea the Beast Incarnate immediately refused. Regardless of what happened with Goldberg later, Lesnar saw no point or benefit to him tossing McMahon around the ring like a ragdoll, and he’s right in that there was nothing to gain from such a match.
1 Stephanie McMahon Stops Her Father From Doing The Unspeakable
Ninety nine times out of one hundred, when a WWE superstar has to talk management out of a bad idea, what this really means is that they have to talk the McMahons out of an idea. Only in extreme cases is it a McMahon trying to talk another writer out of a particularly objectionable storyline, although in these cases, they are indeed still trying to convince other McMahons they’ve gone too far. So far as we know, this has actually happened a single time, yet it was grandiose enough to fit the family name. During Stephanie McMahon’s first pregnancy, her father Vince wanted to run an angle suggesting she didn’t know who the father was, which would ultimately end with the reveal Vinny Mac was his grandchild’s dad, all along. Stephanie was rightly disgusted and shocked at the idea, refusing it outright, and it has never been suggested her children were anyone but Triple H’s since they were born.