You may have heard the phrase, "Don't cross the boss." Never has that been more prevalent for those who have worked for Vincent Kennedy McMahon. Vince McMahon is the end all be all of the WWE. He's responsible for who gets pushed, who gets buried and who gets to hear the infamous words, "You're fired!" If a wrestler commits a transgression, that wrestler could find himself or herself in hot water and punished in some sort of way by the chairman himself. Of course, Vince isn't looking to fire wrestlers and free them to work for a rival promotion whenever they screw up in his eyes, but Vince isn't afraid to level a punishment of some sort either. However, in McMahonland, clearly not all punishments are the same.
When an all out firing isn't an option, Vince McMahon can levy a punishment that some may even consider worse. These punishments can negatively affect the careers of wrestlers in WWE and elsewhere as well. Placing a horrible gimmick on someone, i.e. Perry Saturn falling in love with a mop, a complete de-push (see: Shinsuke Nakamura), or an absolute firing (see: Eva Marie), can occur when these wrestlers anger the boss in some way. These punishments can kill a superstar's momentum in WWE or even hinder them from finding work or getting over in other companies if they choose to leave or get released from WWE.
While sometimes Vince laying the smackdown on certain wrestlers is understandable, there are plenty of times Vince's punishments go beyond what is necessary. In some cases, the punishment doesn't fit the crime or is just cruel and unusual. This article is about these punishments. Here are the 15 times WWE went way too far with their punishments.
15 Kevin Owens And Sami Zayn Sent Home
Despite Owens becoming Universal and United States Champion, and Sami Zayn finally getting some character development from his shocking heel turn, reports of the two real life friends being unhappy in the company are circulating throughout the internet. That brings us to the recent European tour. During a match between Sami and Kofi Kingston, Owens and Sami were supposed to allow The New Day to “feed” off of them. Instead, Owens and Sami simply left the ring in retreat without suffering the beatdown from the good guys. Whether they refused to listen to direction or they simply forgot is unknown, but Vince apparently wasn’t happy and sent Owens and Zayn home from the tour early.
Although there are rumors that Owens and Zayn haven’t been easy to work with lately, it seems a little harsh to kick them off the tour without even a warning. Unless there is more to this story, it sounds more like an honest mistake than a deliberate defiance of authority. Owens and Zayn have always been professional, and certainly they wouldn’t intentionally sabotage The New Day, whom everyone seems to get along with.
14 Daniel Bryan Fired For (Kayfabe) Choking Out Justin Roberts
Daniel Bryan finally reached the main roster of WWE Raw during The Nexus’ brazen attack on John Cena and invasion of Raw, but the aftermath was even more alarming. Daniel Bryan apparently went too far on the attack, choking out Justin Roberts with his own tie. The action was deemed too violent, and Bryan’s punishment was his immediate release from WWE. Outrage hit the internet, and Bryan was forced to return to the indies where fans greeted him wearing neck ties in a show of support. Eventually, WWE re-signed Bryan, and the rest is history. Still, the initial punishment was beyond stupid.
I suppose this is why we can’t have nice things. Wrestlers are finally allowed some freedom, and then get fired when they go too far. And how is choking someone with a tie worse than kicking someone in the head? The ridiculousness of Bryan’s firing was off the charts, but at least the company came to their senses eventually.
13 Emma’s “Shoplifting”
It may be all about Emma, but she still needs to pay for her items. While Emma was still employed by WWE, Emma was arrested for allegedly shoplifting at a Walmart. She reportedly stole an iPad case, but her lawyer stated that she simply forgot to scan the item at the self check-out before leaving the store. Before the charges could be dismissed, Emma was released by WWE.
WWE hates bad press and even more so when the bad press stems for an illegal act. WWE wasted no time for the facts or an explanation to come out before releasing Emma which seemed a little premature and harsh. By all accounts, the incident appeared to be an honest mistake that can happen to anyone. Luckily, WWE concluded this as well, as surely Emma has enough money to pay for a $25 iPad case. Emma’s release was eventually overturned, but jeez. Jump the gun much?
12 Jimmy Jacobs Is “Too Sweet”
To say WWE is aware of the Bullet Club is an understatement. They fully know who they are and have threatened them with a cease and desist order for the usage of the “Too Sweet” hand gesture made famous by the Kliq and The New World Order. The Bullet Club fired another shot across the bow of the WWE when they “invaded” the parking lot of a venue which hosted a WWE event. Of course, this didn’t sit well within WWE, and when WWE writer and former Ring of Honor wrestler Jimmy Jacobs took a picture with the Bullet Club, he was the WWE’s first victim.
Jimmy Jacobs was fired for the picture he took with the Bullet Club, most of which are his friends, making him an example to anyone that crosses WWE. I get that WWE doesn’t want to legitimize a rival promotion, but this punishment seemed over the top. Most casual WWE fans have no clue who Jimmy Jacobs even is, so they wouldn’t have even made the connection to WWE and The Bullet Club. Just to fire Jacobs without even a warning isn’t too sweet at all. It’s too harsh.
11 William Regal’s King Of The Ring To Fall From Grace
William Regal is one of the most respected WWE Superstars of all time. Even though he was treated like a complete joke in WWE at the beginning, he eventually started to gain some serious credibility. He faced off against Triple H and even won the prestigious King of the Ring tournament in 2008, making CM Punk tap out to win it. Finally, with Regal’s King of the Ring win, it seemed like William Regal was going to be a World Title contender.
Then, Sports Illustrated named ten WWE superstars that received steroids, and Regal was one of them. Regal was naturally suspended which totally makes sense, but Regal’s push was completely besmirched. Regal had to essentially lose his push because of the violation which seemed a little too extreme, especially since other Superstars, not going to name any names, still had their push waiting for them when they returned from a similar suspension.
10 1o. Unprotected Chair Shots To The "Head"
WWE should be applauded for their efforts to curb CTE and concussions in wrestling, but some issues can be taken with this “Concussion” policy. The policy basically bans any chair shot to the head and is punishable by a fine. It sounds good and admirable, but what constitutes an unprotected chair shot to the head is a little vague.
During the Attitude Era, chair shots to the head were as common as a headlock. Just ask Mick Foley. Having those banned isn’t the issue. What is the issue is when these shots are blocked by the hands of wrestlers, thus avoiding contact to the head or face. To me, that’s not an unprotected chair shot and even less so during the “Street Fight” match between Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton. Essentially, Bryan ran into the chair, which was held up by Orton, hands first. Still, both Orton and Bryan were fined, which is ludicrous. Shots directly to the cranium being banned, sure I can get with that. Shots blocked by the hands is a different story. Bryan being fined for a “chair shot,” which he basically walked into and blocked with his hands? I say, “No! No! NO!”
9 RVD Dropping His Titles
Rob Van Dam’s career went from on fire to slow burn after he was pulled over for speeding in 2006. RVD plays a pretty mellow character, but that character turned out to have a little more truth than fiction to it. Police found RVD with marijuana in his possession and was subsequently arrested. WWE began their own investigation and suspended Rob Van Dam for 30 days for the Wellness Violation.
The suspension was understandable, but RVD lost more than just 30 days without pay. “The Whole Dam Show” lost both the WWE World Title and the ECW Heavyweight Title, and he’s lucky he wasn’t fired as well. RVD’s main event push pretty much ended after that arrest which completely sucks, since it was only pot. Did Roman Reigns lose his main event push for his Wellness Violation?
8 WWE’s Wedding Gift To Lana And Rusev
Rusev was the massive, anti-American foreigner heel, and Lana was the beautiful blonde model. Both are the male and female archetypes that Vince loves. So what happened? Rusev and Lana, a real life couple, did the unthinkable. While they were feuding on screen, Lana decided to post pictures of their wedding on social media, showing them very much in love. Of course this “CRUSHED” kayfabe, and both Lana and Rusev got heat for it. Their pushes stalled and were separated on screen despite being on the same brand.
This depush for Rusev and Lana is totally absurd. For one, Randy Orton and even Triple H have broken character before with zero consequence. Two, WWE frequently states that these are characters being portrayed on WWE programming. How is posting pictures on social media deserving of character suicide when your bosses are actively breaking kayfabe and, in some cases, actively admitting to it?
7 Titus’ “Unprofessional Conduct”
Titus O’Neil has an amazing physique, he’s over with the fans, and gave WWE some positive press with his Celebrity Dad of the Year award. Despite all of that, Vince McMahon hasn’t shown himself to be a fan of the Titus Brand. Vince was furious with Titus for not being eliminated from the Royal Rumble fast enough, which is insane, but even worse was Titus’ suspension for “unprofessional conduct.”
In a very bizarre incident during Daniel Bryan’s retirement on Raw, O’Neil had a “playful altercation” with Vince McMahon, resulting in O’Neil’s initial 90-day suspension. Seemingly everyone was as confused by the suspension as Titus was, especially considering the hefty 90-day suspension. O’Neil’s job was in jeopardy prompting Dave Batista, who is close friend of Titus, to defend him. O’Neil’s suspension was reduced to 60 days, but unless Titus knocked the Chairman out, this suspension was way too stiff, almost putting Titus Worldwide out of business.
6 "Piggy James"
Mickie James poured her blood, sweat and tears into the business, showing the world that the women of WWE were more than just eye candy. Mickie took the helm of the Women’s Division that Trish Stratus helped build, and continued to set the bar high for female wrestlers. However, after Mickie entered into a relationship with John Cena, her career (and the division for that matter) took a turn for the worst.
Apparently, after Cena and Mickie broke up, Mickie needed an Attitude Adjustment. Mickie was shipped to SmackDown and buried by Michelle McCool in one of the most embarrassing moments for any WWE Diva. Mickie entered the “Piggy James” feud with McCool where McCool made fun of Mickie’s weight in a tasteless angle/feud. I get that Mickie may have lost it when Cena and herself broke up, creating a pretty awkward work environment, but resorting to humiliating her in front of millions of people for months and then releasing her shortly after is probably the ultimate #LOLCENAWINZ.
5 Roman Reigns' Public Humiliation
There can be no doubt that Roman Reigns is “The Guy” of WWE. He’s main evented three WrestleManias and seemingly another is on the way. So, when Roman Reigns violated WWE's Wellness Policy, WWE could have easily swept the situation under the rug. To WWE’s credit, they did the right thing and suspended The Big Dog for 30 days. However, the suspension just wasn’t enough for VKM.
Vince has spent a lot of time building up Reigns as "The Guy," and this violation was a blemish on that work. After Reigns’ suspension, Vince McMahon demanded that Reigns apologize to the entire locker room as if the suspension wasn’t punishment enough. Reigns like a good little pup, apologized, and after some brief jobbing returned to his overpushed form. Love him or hate him, the public humiliation was pretty cringeworthy and went way too far. Believe that!
4 Jim Ross Fired After Moderating A Slobberknocker Of A Panel
Despite being one of the best wrestling announcers in history, WWE sure does treat Jim Ross like a government mule. Good ol’ J.R. was given the impossible task of controlling a drunk Ric Flair during a 2013 event promoting the WWE 2k14 video game. Naturally, the Nature Boy was stylin’ and profilin’ after more than a few cocktails and acted completely belligerent during a Q & A moderated by J.R. When word reached Vince, he was less than happy and fired the one responsible for Ric Flair’s terrible behavior – J.R.
Vince and the WWE have a history of dumping on J.R. for whatever reason, and this was the excuse that they were looking for to fire him. How on Earth can any one man be responsible for controlling Ric Flair’s drinking habits? Bah Gawd!
3 The Curtain Call
The Kliq basically controlled WWE, holding down whoever they didn’t like and pushing their buddies to the top. When Shawn Michaels and Triple H lost their real-life friends, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, to WCW it was an emotional time for them. The “Curtain Call” incident at Madison Square garden occurred after the show when HBK and Triple H broke kayfabe and embraced each other, despite being onscreen rivals. Vince may have given his blessing after being informed in advance of the stunt, but he soon regretted this when many old-timers were furious at this breach of then-sacred kayfabe. While he couldn't punish HBK, Vince was able to reduce The King of Kings to a lowly peasant.
While nothing happened to Shawn Michaels, Triple H spent much of 1996 jobbing all over a group hug. His push to an almost certain King of the Ring win and WWE World Title went to Stone Cold Steve Austin instead. In actuality, punishing Triple H actually worked out great for both WWE, and Triple H, who eventually rose to the top at the perfect time. Still, it’s odd that a rising star like Triple H would have to suffer through such a risky string of losses all over a hug.
2 Serena Deeb, This Bud Is Not For You
As outspoken and influential as CM Punk was, he couldn’t keep his fellow Straight Edge Society members from being unexpectedly released from WWE. Serena Deeb joined Punk’s SES faction, and even shaved her head for the gimmick. However, because Deeb didn’t live the gimmick outside of work as well, she would be released from the company.
If you’re portraying a straight edge gimmick, it’s probably not a good idea to partake in “beer thirty” as often as she did. Serena Deeb admitted to having a drinking problem, in WWE’s defense, but to be fired for having a drink after work seems a bit much, straight-edge gimmick or no. Heaven forbid they just give her a new gimmick and help her to get her habits under control.
1 Alex Riley Says It To Cena's Face
Alex Riley was the sidekick for The Miz and friends with John Cena during a time when both Miz and Cena were main eventing WrestleMania. Riley would turn on Miz and a huge push seemed on the horizon. A-Ry had some pretty decent mic skills and had some strong backstage allies, until Cena and Riley had a backstage falling out.
Riley wasn’t afraid to say it to his face and got on Cena’s bad side after some sort of backstage dispute with Riley telling Cena off. Details of the incident are sketchy, but Riley’s push came to a screeching halt immediately following the incident. I get that Cena is the top guy, but really? Really? Really? Apparently, hurting Cena’s feelings is a death sentence for a wrestler's WWE career. I guess Riley should have said it behind Cena's back instead.