You have to be either brave or stupid to stand up to Vince McMahon. In the world of wrestling, he’s the man who wields the most power, so conflicts with him normally don’t work out well for the other person.
Everyone who made it onto this list has, at one time or another, said “no” to Vince McMahon. In some cases, these were bold stars who knew that Vince had their ear. In other cases, however, they are wrestlers who simply had enough of what he was given to them. Whether it be unfair working conditions, ridiculous storylines, or payouts that failed to abide by a transparent system, some wrestlers on this list just snapped at Vince.
Contrary to popular belief, Vince rarely holds a grudge if he feels the wrestler can help make the company money, no matter if they stood up to him or not. The one person that Vince clashed with but never forgave was “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and there may have been some extraordinary circumstances in that case.
Unlike in real sports, Vince has the power to make or break a career. That’s a lot of power to wield, and it’s a frightening amount of authority to go up against. These wrestlers all did exactly that, however, and these are their stories.
15. Lance Storm – Turning Down Adult Gimmick
Lance Storm seems like a mild-mannered guy who would only clash with the boss if he felt it truly necessary. In this case, it was truly necessary.
On his podcast with Don Callis, Killing the Town, Storm told a story about how Vince wanted to give him a gimmick of a “well endowed” wrestler. As in, the fans would be able to see that Lance didn’t have a small package, but rather a large one. Storm told Vince that he didn’t see the gimmick making much sense since the fans had already seen him come out in tights, and for him to suddenly have a large package would seem inconsistent. Rather than debate with him on it, Vince agreed and the gimmick never saw the light of day.
They would saddle Lance with a gimmick of being a boring wrestler, and even as a guy who liked to dance, but never as the “large-packaged” wrestler.
14. Rob Van Dam – Turns Down Trip Overseas
Rob Van Dam had a lot of things working against him in his WWE career, but none worse than the heat he got from the company for refusing to do the 2006 Tribute to the Troops show in Iraq.
Since the show was taking place in a war zone, and WWE performers are independent contractors, participation on the tour was considered “voluntary”. With that being said, everybody was expected to volunteer. Vince and others were said to be incredibly disappointed with RVD’s decision to skip the trip.
RVD said his decision was not politically motivated, but rather he was tired from traveling and just didn’t want to go needing to rest up instead. Just a few weeks after refusing to go to Iraq, WWE presented the ECW PPV, December to Dismember. So 2006 was not a great year for RVD, in other words.
13. Legion Of Doom – Departure After Suicide Angle
By the time the Attitude Era hit, the Road Warriors had been the most dominant tag team in history. They had trouble adapting to the new tone WWE was being presented in, however.
The company turned Hawk’s real-life battles with drugs and alcohol into a storyline during this period. Hawk would appear on camera in no condition to perform and even tumbled down the Raw entrance ramp once when he was too drunk to even make his ring walk.
After the infamous angle where Hawk “fell” from atop the Titantron, both Hawk and Animal refused to continue with the storyline, ultimately leading to both of them quitting the company. It would be their final full-time run with WWE, and Hawk would found dead of a heart attack a few years later.
12. Ken Kennedy (Mr. Anderson) – Turns Down Nickname
When Ken Anderson made his WWE debut in 2005, they ended up giving him a rather odd name. He was named Ken Kennedy and would do his own introductions. While the moniker was a little off, it was much better than it could have been.
During his initial creative meeting with Vince and John Laurinaitis, Anderson suggested he use the catchphrase “Nice guys finish last, good thing I’m an a**hole”, however, WWE couldn’t have him say the word “a**hole”. To get around this, Laurinaitis suggested Anderson be named “Adam Hole”, or “A. Hole” for short. That way, Anderson could legitimately say “Nice guys finish last, good thing I’m an A. Hole”.
Vince, evidently enticed by this idea, asked Anderson for his opinion. Despite never having stepped foot in a WWE ring just yet, Anderson probably knew if he accepted the name his career was already sunk. He refused the name and they ended up going with Ken Kennedy.
11. Gail Kim – Goes Off-Script In Final WWE Match
Gail Kim was not a fan of how female Superstars were treated in WWE. She may have had a point too. Gail Kim could have been having Women’s Revolution quality matches long before the revolution took place.
Her frustration with Vince’s booking of the women caused her to quit the company in truly epic fashion. In the summer of 2011, Kim took part in a Battle Royal to determine a new number one contender for the Divas Title. She was booked to be eliminated in under a minute, though Gail decided to put her own spin on things. A few moments into the match, Gail simply dropped to the mat and rolled out of the ring.
Technically, she went under the bottom rope but the announcers said she was eliminated. She went backstage, quit the company and went back to TNA.
10. Shawn Daivari – Turned Down George Bush Gimmick
Shawn Daivari is best known for a very controversial angle he took part in from 2004 to 2005. Had he not said “no” to Vince McMahon it could have been a whole lot worse.
According to Daivari, Vince wanted his name to be something rather peculiar for this infamous angle with Muhammad Hassan. Apparently, Vince wanted to add another level to an already touchy subject by naming Daivari’s character “George Bush”.
Daivari would later say that Stephanie brought him some suggestions from Vince which included him dressing up in red, white and blue and referring to himself by the former President’s name. He told Stephanie he hated the idea and she didn’t disagree. She went back to Vince with his response and all that is known from that point on is the name was never brought back up again.
9. Scott Hall – Turned Down G.I. Joe Gimmick
Scott Hall said no to Vince McMahon in their very first creative meeting when Hall joined the company in 1992.
Vince had an idea for Scott’s character that involved playing up his family’s military background. He wanted Hall to be dressed up G.I Joe style as an All-American military good guy, similar to the likes of Corporal Kirchner, or G.I Bro (Booker T). The idea was rejected by Hall, who then suggested the Razor Ramon character loosely based off Tony Montana from Scarface. Luckily for Hall, Vince loved the character, otherwise, he would have been stuck as the latest Sgt Slaughter ripoff from the 1980s.
As Razor Ramon, Hall became a big hit in WWE. Although initially a bad guy, the fans got so behind him the company was eventually forced to turn him into a babyface.
8. Carlito – Refused Rehab Stint
Carlito probably shouldn’t have said no to Vince McMahon on this one, even if he planned to leave the company anyway.
In 2010, Carlito was released from his contract due to a violation of WWE’s Wellness Policy. WWE didn’t initially fire Carlito for the infraction, but after he refused to go to rehab (to deal with an alleged addiction to pain killers) they decided to cut him loose.
He has now been gone from WWE for seven years but Carlito has done okay for himself wrestling in his father’s Puerto Rican territory. Carlito is a big star with the WWC promotion and can make decent money without WWE.
Although he turned down WWE’s request to go to rehab, there have not been any further allegations that Carlito is abusing pain medication. Perhaps the lighter road schedule in Puerto Rico has something to do with that.
7. Abyss – Turned Down WWE Contract
The nature of Abyss’ character seems to lend itself well to a potential feud with The Undertaker. The problem is, Abyss has spent almost his entire career with TNA/Impact/GFW and has never been in the same promotion as ‘Taker.
Apparently, however, WWE made a strong attempt to bring Abyss in once, even laying out a long feud with Undertaker as his initial storyline with the company. While negotiations are believed to have gotten serious, Abyss ultimately turned down Vince McMahon and the WWE, as he wanted to stay in TNA and help it grow. While his loyalty is noble, it’s hard not to feel as though he may have made the wrong choice on that one. He doesn’t strike us as the kind of guy who would feel bad about making the choice that he did, however.
6. Mike Goldberg – Turned Down WWE Contract
In 2005, WWE was interested in former UFC commentator, Mike Goldberg. There are two parts to this story that could only happen in the world of pro wrestling.
The first is that Vince is believed to have offered a contract to Goldberg, and an additional six-figure bonus if he no-showed a UFC event on his way out the door. In pro wrestling, that sort of thing happens, but for a professional sports broadcaster, it must have seemed a little shady. Instead of accepting the contract, however, Goldberg rejected Vince and told Dana White about what had been offered to him.
The second part of this story which could only happen in pro wrestling also is that WWE was going to insist Goldberg change his name in WWE as they didn’t want there to be confusion with Bill Goldberg….
5. Jesse Ventura – Beat Vince In Court After Contract Breach
Jesse Ventura has done a lot of things in his life, but one thing he’s done which few others can attest is he took Vince McMahon to court and won.
Ventura sued Vince to the tune of $800,000 over unpaid royalty fees. In 1991, one year after having been released by the company, Ventura successfully argued to the courts that he was owed royalties from his appearances in WWE’s home video products. Ventura had also attempted to form a labor union in the company not long before his release.
Vince argued that Ventura waived those rights in his contract but the courts sided in Ventura’s favor, awarding him $801, 333.
Despite all that happened, however, Vince still brought Ventura back to the company in 1999. Vince also hired him as a commentator for the XFL. They even inducted him into the Hall of Fame class of 2004.
4. Owen Hart – Refused Love Triangle Storyline
Owen Hart turned down a proposed storyline which would have also involved Jeff Jarrett and Debra. This was during the sleaziest of the sleazy part of the Attitude Era where nothing was off limits. It was proposed to Owen that there would be a love triangle story with Jarrett and Debra playing the other parts.
Owen refused the angle as he didn’t want it to confuse his kids watching at home. He would do some silly angles throughout his WWE career, so he wasn’t above doing bad storylines, he just didn’t want his kids to see him involved with a woman who wasn’t their mother.
When this angle never came to be, the Blue Blazer gimmick was reborn. Hart had used the mask and outfit earlier in his career, and he and Jarrett would run a comedy angle with it up until Owen’s tragic death later that year.
3. Sting – Turned Down WWE Contract
Up until finally making his WWE debut in 2014, Sting was famously reluctant to sign with Vince McMahon. WWE was said to have really wanted to sign the Stinger not long after purchasing WCW in 2001. Unfortunately for Vince, Sting’s cushy WCW contract meant he could just stay at home and collect payments.
Sting said he knew he made the right choice not to sign with WWE for the Invasion angle the second he saw a segment where The Rock acted like he had never heard of Booker T before. He figured Vince would just bury the WCW guys, and that segment confirmed it for him. Several cushy TNA contracts also kept Sting in a position to say “no” to Vince for years, until finally, he ended his career with the company. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame class of 2016.
2. Shawn Michaels – Refused To Lose The WWE Title
There are precious few wrestlers who could ever refuse to lose to an opponent and keep their job, and Shawn Michaels is definitely one of those wrestlers.
Perhaps the most famous example of Shawn saying “no” to Vince is when HBK refused to drop the WWE Championship to Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13. Instead, Michaels vacated the title, seemingly because of a serious knee injury. What made people skeptical about the supposed knee injury is that he returned shortly after WrestleMania, even though it sounded as though the situation was a possible career ending injury.
Shawn also said “no” when asked to drop the title to Vader at SummerSlam 1996. Apparently, Shawn was not a big fan of working with Vader, who has a stiff style from all his years spent working in Japan.
1. Bret Hart – Refused To Lose The WWE Title
Bret Hart refused to drop the title to Michaels at the Survivor Series ’97 PPV. Earlier in the year, Vince told Bret he wanted out of the 20-year contract they had signed a year earlier, citing financial reasons. Bret was able to get the same contract offer from WCW he was offered during his last set of negotiations. The only problem was he needed to drop the belt first. Perhaps Vince should have gotten the belt off of him before telling him he needed out of the contract, but hindsight is 20/20.
Bret wanted to vacate the title on the Raw after Survivor Series, or at the very least, drop it to anyone but Shawn. As a result, a plan was put forward to make it appear as though Bret tapped out to a sharpshooter during the match, and therefore it would appear as though Bret quit. That moment will forever be known as the Montreal Screwjob.
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