The 1990s were a heck of a time for professional wrestling. The front end of the decade saw the final glory years of Hulkamania, with stars like The Hulkster, Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, Andre the Giant, and Ted Dibiase still active and aon top of WWE, while Ric Flair, Sting, and Lex Luger were at the vanguard of WCW as the promotion started the process of growing into a legitimate competitor. While the middle of the decade was a rough spot, the late stages saw the Monday Night War kick into high gear. WWE’s Attitude Era saw Steve Austin, The Rock, and D-Generation X riding high while WCW saw Sting reinvent himself in his Crow gimmick, the New World Order reinvent the modern heel stable, and the rise of talent like Goldberg, Diamond Dallas Page. That period also saw ECW come into its own as a clear number three promotion that was arguably quite influential on the national powerhouses it coexisted with.
The wildly successful acts of the 1990s drew in some of wrestling’s largest audiences on TV and in the arena, and as a result the decade produced some of the most immediately recognizable, iconic pro wrestling stars of all time. For as well loved as these star were by legions of wrestling fans, there’s reason to believe that they weren’t all so likeable in real life, or at least didn’t turn out to be after the passage of time. This article looks back at fifteen washed up 1990s wrestlers who turned out to be total d-bags.
15 Hulk Hogan
Oh, Hulk Hogan. Like so many fans from my generation, I have fond memories of not only watching him as a kid, but being inspired by him as the mid-point between super hero and sports hero in my budding understanding of the world. His WCW heel turn, to head up the New World Order worked so well for fans like me because of our long term investment in him, and I was enthralled by his performances in his new role.
All of this admiration for The Hulkster is diminished, however, for his antics outside the ring. While you can agree with claims his privacy was violated and neither his sex tape nor his repeated use of the n-word ever should have been available to the public, the fact is that these things did happen. Add to that prevalent rumors of Hogan politicking to keep himself on top and diminish other wrestlers ranging from Bret Hart to Chris Jericho to Shawn Michaels and you have a guy who has earned a reputation as one of wrestling’s biggest d-bags.
When WWE introduced Sable, briefly on the arm of Triple H before she started managing real life partner Marc Mero, it looked as though we may have a new Miss Elizabeth on our hands. She was beautiful and wore evening gowns and seemed the model damsel in distress for Mero to defend.
Things took a turn when Mero’s character became more of a jerk and, befitting the edgy Attitude Era, Sable came out of her shell as an independent woman who fought back against not only female antagonists like Luna Vachon, but against Mero himself. Before long she far outshone the wrestlers around her and WWE brought back its Women’s Championship for her.
Despite Sable’s overwhelming popularity, she had a reputation among wrestlers as very arrogant and buying into her own hype, despite never arriving as that polished of an in-ring performer. She’d ultimately part ways with Mero in real life and wind up married to Brock Lesnar. Together, the pair is notorious for blowing off fans, not only brushing past them, but having numerous accounts of standing still and completely ignoring fans asking for photos, autographs, or just to say hello in public places.
13 Ken Shamrock
Ken Shamrock was one of the first men to officially make the leap from MMA stardom into the world of pro wrestling. The credibility of his real fighting skills, plus his natural athleticism and killer look made him an instant star for WWE, and one of the most over performers of his generation not to have gotten a run with the WWE Championship.
While Shamrock would go on to a main event run with TNA and to work some indies, his wrestling career didn’t persist as long as you might expect. Rumor has it Shamrock priced himself out of the market, demanding booking fees that matched some of the biggest, most over wrestling stars of all time, which promoters just couldn’t afford or justify. Shamrock’s inflated sense of self-worth has persisted. Even in recent years, past the age of 50 and decades out of the wrestling limelight, he has persisted in suggesting he could be a huge star for WWE and would be an optimal opponent for Brock Lesnar.
12 Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash is an interesting figure in professional wrestling history. In his first run in WWE, he got pushed to the moon and was widely considered a flop as WWE Champion. He did develop his star power and charisma there, though, which transitioned nicely to him headlining in WCW as a charter member of the nWo and eventual world champion.
Nash has generally acquitted himself nicely in shoot interviews to explain why people have a beef with him, and generally default to the idea that he never took himself or the business too seriously, and people took issue with that. There does, however, seem to be at least a kernel of truth to the idea Nash was a jerk, based in the range of guys who tell stories about him. In the WWE locker room, these are stories of Nash Kliq group politicking for creative control. In WCW, these are stories of Nash burying talents he didn’t like and using his eventual role as booker to push himself. In either case, while Nash can say it was all business, it seems that his sense of business didn’t always jive with respecting or furthering the careers of his colleagues.
Virgil was never treated a blue-chip prospect, but remarkably hung around and became a pretty famous part of two wrestling boom periods. First, he starred as Ted Dibiase’s bodyguard who eventually turned face and battled his old employer. Later, in WCW, he was persistent background player who worked with the New World Order and later the West Texas Rednecks.
Despite appearing on TV for two hot promotions during two hot periods, most fans would be reluctant to really call the guy a star. Despite that, Virgil has, since retiring from full time wrestling, become notorious for charging for autographs and pictures at not only conventions, but everyday settings where he hopes his celebrity will still earn him a buck. According to Dibiase, he and Virgil had a falling out when he learned that Virgil was using his name to get bookings for the two of them on the indies—bookings Dibiase never even knew about until he received complaints afterward.
10 Bob Holly
While he’d go on to greater fame in the bleached blond Hardcore Holly gimmick, Bob Holly got his start with WWE under a race car driver character in the mid-1990s. He’d get reasonably over as a mid-card talent, and occasional contributor to the tag team ranks.
From those humble beginnings, casual fans may have been surprised to learn of rumors that Holly was a backstage bully. Holly has generally denied these claims, and called them absurd, citing his long WWE tenure as evidence that he didn’t have a bad reputation the scenes. Just the same, stories linger about Holly being stiff with young talents test them or to toughen them up, especially after he had firmly established himself as a grizzled veteran. The most famous incident under this umbrella may be his guest appearance on Tough Enough III for which he seemed to be awfully stiff with prospect Matt Cappotelli.
9 Greg Valentine
Across decades of work, Greg Valentine earned himself a reputation as a tough as nails performer and solid mechanic in the ring. The 1990s saw him on his last legs as a mainstream talent, including stints teaming with the Honky Tonk Man, and as a lower card talent who mostly put over budding stars first in WWE and then in WCW.
While Valentine may generally be respected in the wrestling world, he’s also haunted by comments he once made about female wrestlers. The rumors go that he indicated women took money from the men who really deserved and ought to be at home in the kitchen, or working at strip clubs. Valentine came from a different generation during which casual sexism may have been more accepted, besides having worked through periods when most female wrestlers legitimately weren’t as well trained. Just the same, his comments come across as mean spirited and biased, and don’t reflect well on him today.
8 Jim Neidhart
When a well established tag team splits up, it’s not unusual for one member to wind up outshining the other. Think Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty, Scott Steiner and Rick Steiner, or Billy Gunn and Bart Gunn. On different scales and to different degrees, one guy is destined for a more successful, more memorable career, while the other guy peaked as part of a pair.
Jim Neidhart was an asset to his Hart Foundation tag team with Bret Hart. In the land of the giants, Neidhart was the big guy to give the team credibility early on. As Hart struggled to find himself as an orator, Neidhart was the talker of the unit, too. But Hart’s star would rise, ultimately leading him to the top of the business while Neidhart would largely languish, generally only relevant when he could maneuver his way back into a roll of supporting or antagonizing Bret or his brother Owen.
Videos of Neidhart shooting during this past WrestleMania weekend reached the Internet, and Neidhart didn’t look good. Yes, he’d put on weight, and doesn’t seem to have aged all that well. On top of that, though, he uncomfortably, passively aggressively picked at WWE for never inducting him into the Hall of Fame. While Neidhart’s Hall credentials are up for debate, and he certainly wouldn’t be out of place relative to some of the other mid-card talent that have made it in, he nonetheless came across as a bitter old jerk in this context.
7 Paul Roma
Paul Roma’s first glimpse of WWE fame came as half of The Young Stallions, a team with Jim Powers that mostly jobbed. He eventually turned heel for a better tag run with Hercules as Power and Glory before seemingly moving on to greener pastures in WCW where he was immediately enrolled in a new version of The Four Horsemen.
Fans largely rejected Roma as a Horseman, given he had neither the star power nor the in ring talent to really fit the mold. What has infuriated fans since, however, and led to the perception that he’s a d-bag is how he has spoken about his time with the stable in retrospect. He’s repeatedly insinuated that Ric Flair was jealous of him for his youth and good looks—pure blasphemy to Flair’s many loyal fans who recognize him as the greatest wrestler of all time (not to mention one of wrestling’s most prolific womanizers). Roma hasn’t backed down from his comments, including reiterating them for a WWE Network interview.
6 Hugh Morrus
Hugh Morrus debuted as a part of Kevin Sullivan’s Dungeon of Doom stable in WCW. While he was never a truly featured player, and never broached the main event, he had better longevity in the business than most of his cohort, riding out the last six year’s of WCW’s existence before transitioning to WWE. In WWE, he only wrestled a bit, arguably rose to even greater notoriety as a lead trainer in the developmental system, as talents and fan alike learned his real name, Bill DeMott.
For years, DeMott had a mostly positive reputation as a hardnosed trainer that perception shifted however as complaints rose about DeMott not just being tough, but actively bullying and even hurting talent, not to mention purportedly engaging in activity that might be considered sexual harassment, and using offensive epithets. WWE severed ties with DeMott in 2015.
5 Hardbody Harrison
Hardbody Harrison was mostly used as an enhancement talent in the later days of WCW. He’s that rare wrestler who went on to greater fame after he’d finished his time in the national spotlight for his chosen profession. The additional notoriety was not for great reasons, though, and the truth of the matter is that calling him a d-bag is a pretty massive understatement.
Harrison claims to have started up a home enterprise centered on training women to become wrestlers. It involved the women coming to live with him and abiding by strict rules. Eventually, one or more women working with him went to the police to reveal that the arrangement purportedly included Harrison pimping them out, taking advantage of them personally for his own sexual gratification, and making them agree to pay him money any time they broke a “rule,” creating a cycle of debt. Harrison is reportedly currently serving a life sentence in prison for what was deemed sex trafficking.
For wrestling fans from the 1990s, Sid Vicious is one of the most immediately recognizable names from the business. He was a main event level talent in both WWE and WCW, and each for more than one run. He was arguably at his best as a monster heel, given his imposing physique and ability to readily channel a crazed look.
Despite, or perhaps because of his success, the general consensus seems to be that he wasn’t well liked or respected by his colleagues. He wasn’t always safe in the ring, including an ugly incident when he nearly hurt Brian Pillman badly when he misjudged the height of the steel cage he was power bombing him in—and hten recklessly delivered the move again. He had an infamous fight with Arn Anderson at a hotel in which he repeatedly stabbed the man with scissors. All of that, plus Vicious was widely reported to have a big ego, reinforced by shoot interviews long after he’d last appeared on national TV in which he stated his case that he ought to be brought back to WWE as a top level star.
3 New Jack
New Jack rose to fame via ECW, and would have to land on the short list for the promotions biggest stars who never got an opportunity with WWE, WCW, or even TNA. His absence from the biggest wrestling promotions isn’t so much a case of him being overlooked or undervalued, though, but rather symptomatic of his volatility and major companies’ reluctance to associate with him.
New Jack has a history of being outspoken to say the least, including threatening other wrestlers’ lives, admitting to intentionally hurting men, and also not having the best reputation for fan interactions. His identity is inextricable from his involvement in the Mass Transit Incident, in which he worked a substitute heavyweight wrestler for ECW, whom it turned out was not properly trained. Whlie some of the responsibility for things ending poorly clearly falls on Mass Transit who had no business getting in the ring to begin with, and lied to do so. Nonetheless, New Jack beat him viciously, including cutting him badly and letting up even as it became clear he wasn’t working with a professional.
2 Jeff Jarrett
During the Monday Night War era, there may have been no wrestler who did more to play WCW and WWE off of one another than Jeff Jarrett. After a reasonably successful mid-card run with WWE, he jumped ship to WCW for a slightly elevated run there that included running with the Horsemen. He bounced back to WWE as a more serious misogynist heel in the upper mid card. Finally, the guy jumped back to WCW for a main event run.
While you can’t necessarily blame someone for looking out for his own business interests and taking advantage of the marketplace, Jarrett’s conniving for more money and a better spot on the card reached an all time low when he reportedly held up Vince McMahon for money to get him to drop the Intercontinental Championship on his way out of the company the last time he left WWE. Add onto Jarrett’s rep that he also started dating colleague Kurt Angle’s ex-wife shortly after the divorce, and Jarrett comes out looking like a bit of a d-bag.
1 Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner had a widely respected run as a top tag team worker alongside his brother Rick throughout the 1990s, in a pairing that spanned WCW, WWE, Japan, and ECW. Afterward, Scott got a big push as a singles star in WCW as Big Poppa Pump, which culminated in winning the WCW World Championship. His time on top was a bit more polarizing, as some of his old athleticism had faded, but he certainly grabbed attention as a loud-mouthed heel.
Steiner has remained outspoken and controversial. Stories have come up of him being a backstage bully, physically manhandling smaller, weaker, or less legitimately skilled wrestlers backstage. In addition, though, he’s taken to vocally attacking people he doesn’t get along with, including bad mouthing Triple H and Stephanie McMahon regularly in interviews, speaking poorly about Hulk Hogan, and going so far as to reportedly threaten Hogan’s wife at an airport. While a lot of Steiner’s targets aren’t necessarily popular figures among the smart fans, he does nonetheless seem to cross the line and not come across as the nicest guy.
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