Fame and success can change a person. Sports and entertainment are filled with stories of folks who were nice and normal but then became successful. That led to many turning into total jerks and massive egos and quite a few times, that behavior ruined them. As wrestling combines both sports and entertainment, it’s no surprise it happens there. Dusty Rhodes once said “If you don’t have the ego to think you’re the best, you shouldn’t be in the business.” But some just take it way too far and come off as total jerks. True, wrestling is packed with egos but a few have it way too an extreme.
Some are able to overcome that and acknowledge how bad they were. But most just keep up their behavior and defend themselves on it. A few remain stars, others were brought down by their escapades but they showcase how when a person gets to be famous, they can let their behavior get out of hand majorly. Here are 15 wrestlers who turned into massive jerks after they got famous and shows how the business can alter folks for the worse.
15 Roman Reigns
Maybe it’s understandable. Much has been made of how Vince McMahon is intent on shoving Roman Reigns down on fans no matter what. He seems to think Roman can be the face of WWE, a standing most can’t buy. That’s led to a massive backlash as the man meant to be the big babyface of the company instead gets the biggest boos around. So maybe you can get why Roman is worn down and taking on a major jerk attitude. He clashes with others and seems to think he’s okay to do what he wants because of how he’s Vince’s favorite. He was caught on Twitter bragging about his pay and seems to be clinging to how he can still get a huge push despite the bad reactions. Roman already has a huge climb winning over fans but making himself out to be more of a jerk does him no favors and how his push is hurting in more ways than one.
14 Randy Orton
A major part of a 2009 DVD documentary has Orton up front on how much of a jerk he became when he hit it big. He was a rising star from the start in OVW and then in WWE, rising up nicely as IC champion and huge respect against Mick Foley. His run as World champion was cut down by his bad face turn but still showcased how talented Orton was and a rising star. Rising with it was a serious ego with Orton throwing his weight around backstage and demanding more pushes, more money and more attention. A telling moment on the DVD is Triple H (no stranger to ego himself) recalling Orton being young and thus immature and Hunter snapping “hold old do you have to be before you stop using that excuse?”
Orton does still flare up but also seems to have cut down a bit on the behavior and even understanding others more yet should be remembered how big a jerk the Viper was.
13 Brock Lesnar
At least he’s honest about it. When Brock broke out in 2002, he was a fantastic sight, a muscle man but technical worker who could even take off the ropes for moves. He was soon pushed to the title with clean wins over Hogan and the Rock and did big business. It did lead to a serious attitude and clashes backstage. That of course culminated in Brock leaving just after Mania to try his hand in pro football. This coincided with some disparaging remarks to ESPN on gay people and most fans saw him as getting too much of a push in UFC due to his fame.
His returns to WWE have him holding a title despite not being a regular worker and while his ring work remains good, it doesn’t excuse his harsh treatment of others. Brock really is one of the bigger recent stars but also a guy who let his fame consume him more.
Goldberg is a great example of lightning in a bottle. He just clicked as this silent monster destroying all in his path, WCW pushing him to US and World champion. The fans loved him in the early going, chanting his name and enjoying his bouts. But as his fame grew, so did Goldberg’s ego and attitude. When Chris Jericho rose up as a challenger, Goldberg refused to make a bout between them a major deal, openly saying Jericho (a proven vet by then) wasn’t “at my level.” He never fully apologized for the kick that ended Bret Hart’s career. He also made it clear his career was about the money more than love of the business. That carried in his WWE run with he and Jericho having a real fight and walking out in a huff. His latest run has Goldberg still on top and there are reports of him still having a big ego so he may be a huge star, but also a jerk.
When you start off as “Leviathan” and “Deacon Dave,” you can only look up when your career improves. Batista was rough but clicking better as he joined Evolution and catching on with fans. His work as World Champion was good as it’s telling he and Undertaker clicked into a fantastic feud and won respect for handling himself well with others. But Batista soon got a reputation as a nasty jerk behind the scenes holding his push as proof of his stardom. He and Booker T got into a real fight that led to Booker kicking his butt in front of everyone else.
Batista’s clashes got worse and worse leading to his walkout. When he returned in 2014, he was meant for the main event and not happy the Daniel Bryan push froze him out. This led to more arrogant behavior before he walked out. Right now, Batista is handling the Hollywood scene and doing much better there and most in WWE are more than happy to never have him back.
10 CM Punk
Punk will defend this on the idea of “better to be a jerk and real than be nice and a fraud.” But that doesn’t excuse that a man hailed by so many fans pretty much disdains them. Punk always had a great attitude as he rose up first in ROH and then in WWE. But as he took off more, Punk started rubbing a lot of folks the wrong way. He seemed to buy into the hype of him being so over with fans and used that to get away with a lot of crap. Fans put up with it then because of Punk’s anti-establishment ways and taking it to Vince McMahon. But since his leaving WWE, the perception is now becoming that Punk is just a total jerk. He dismisses fans who come up to him, brags about himself in interviews, runs down others and despite his failure in UFC, still seems to hold he’s a huge star. It’s a shame as Punk got over great but now shows he doesn’t seem to care for the very fans who made him a success.
9 Kevin Nash
People who know Kevin Nash insist he’s actually a pretty cool guy and love to hang with him. But that doesn’t change the fact that when he got famous, Nash turned into a huge jerk. Maybe it was because after gimmicks like Oz, he had to keep to the spotlight when WWE pushed him to the top. But it led to Nash bragging about his standing and soon flaunting his power. In WCW, it got worse, Nash famously slamming Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero and others as “vanilla midgets” and his time booking had him in the spotlight way too much. The man just comes off obnoxious ranting about his greatness despite his famously bad ring work and making it all about him. He may be fun to listen to but Nash is also a huge jerk despite his party style and one that did a lot of damage to his companies in the process.
8 8 JBL
He’s always had a bit of a jerk mentality. In various gimmicks, Bradshaw had a good, rough and tumble style and known for getting stiff in the ring. But his main event push in 2004 just unleashed a horrible side that made him unbearable. This was a man who did a Nazi bit in Germany and somehow avoided punishment for him. Stories abound of his antics and bullying, his “hazing” of rookies bordering on criminal assault. He broke The Blue Meanie’s nose in a brawl and that’s just the stuff fans hear about. The man bad-mouths people, holds himself up and despite doing things that should have gotten him fired, continues to work as a commentator. Despite his decent ring work, JBL is known as a guy whose ego turned him into one of the worst bullies in the business and in a bad way.
7 The Ultimate Warrior
The Warrior was always a unique individual with his great look, muscles, wild mannerisms and insane promos. But he also got a huge ego thanks to his mega-push as IC and WWE champion and didn’t go over well with others. Bret Hart told a story of the Warrior refusing to meet a dying fan and others claim the man bad-mouthed them constantly. He would go on the attack and be unprofessional, refusing to do jobs and holding up Vince for money. Several times, he just walked out on WWE despite huge pushes and even days before a SummerSlam match that WWE had hyped up for weeks. That’s not to mention the clashes with others in WCW and then his tirades with people in the years afterward. Thankfully, the Warrior mended fences just before his death to let his legacy improve but still he's remembered for his horrible behavior.
Melina got over fast in WWE with her fantastic looks, outfits and that split-legged ring entrance. She morphed from just a valet to a wrestler and turned into a worker so top-notch Bret Hart praised her. But with that success came a huge ego and belief she was deserving of bigger stuff than she was getting. She was highly unpopular in the locker room with a famous case of being kicked out and told to change in the hallway. Numerous Divas have bad-mouthed her attitude in interviews and railed on her horrible antics. Reportedly, she was put into a “Wrestler’s Court” and made to cry with bad-mouthing but no one felt sorry as she had trashed all of them at once time or another. She was let go from the company and looks like a woman who took the “Diva” label a bit too literally.
5 Lex Luger
The issue with Luger was that from the start, he was pushed hard by promoters who wanted the next Hogan. He won a title in Florida just weeks after his debut, never paid his dues and that led to his major swelled head. In Jim Crockett Promotions, he was hooked with The Four Horsemen, over well with his looks and strength but the refusal to have him beat Flair for the title hurt his standing. Luger’s ego grew more and more, wanting a big shot and many joke his early “Narcissist” character in WWE wasn’t too far from the real guy. He kept it up in both WWE and WCW and still clung even as his star faded.
Luger’s issues are well known with his ego and problems outside the ring and he still seems to cling to having been a huge deal to make his career more a "could have been" than what he really accomplished.
4 Enzo Amore
The inspiration for this list, Enzo is getting huge buzz regarding his recent heat backstage. The guy is talented and took off in NXT thanks to his brilliant mic work. He and Cass led that into WWE although a concussion slowed his drive. Still, Enzo is pretty over and one would think he’d be rising up more. But reports are gathering on how Enzo is the classic case of a guy who believes his own hype. He truly believes his mic heat makes him bigger than more experienced stars despite being a below average wrestler.
He’s been overheard on his cell phone bragging about how much money he makes and boasting of his greatness. This has led to a huge backlash against Enzo from the locker room that’s jeopardizing his standing. If he’s given the boot, it’ll be his own fault for believing himself a much bigger deal than he is and turning into a huge jerk.
When WWE hired Marc Mero in 1996 (to a ridiculously huge contract), his then wife Rena came along. Soon, as Sable, she was getting attention with her great looks and outfits. She soon moved on to become a wrestler and impressing with some moves to win the reactivated women’s title. In so many ways, she set the stage for many a female worker to follow. She also got famous posing for Playboy to thrill male fans. But it also led to Rena getting a huge diva attitude, carrying herself over so many others and flaunting her power. She left in a huff in 1999 and filed a lawsuit against WWE apparently pushed by a need for attention.
Sable returned in 2003 and in a WWE Magazine article, openly admitted she’d been listening to the wrong people and let her ego get out of control. Since 2004, she’s been out of wrestling totally and seems to realize it’s better that way so at least she knows how bad she was.
2 2 Shawn Michaels
An interesting case in that Shawn is among the most infamous jerks in wrestling but openly acknowledges it. He was always cocky starting out, he and Marty Jannetty doing wild stuff as The Rockers but they were wilder outside of the ring. Shawn admits the two should have been fired a dozen times for their crap but saved themselves with their great work. When Shawn went solo, he used that arrogance to be a top heel and flourished with his talent. But he was also one of the most detested guys backstage, refusing to do jobs, always upstaging guys and using his political clout to keep himself on top. He used people, turned on others and had to make it about himself no matter what.
It took hitting bottom with addictions to shift about and his fantastic work since 2002 won fans and co-workers (even Bret Hart) back to his side. That Shawn is the first one to talk about what a total jerk he was speaks volumes and shows how much he’s changed since those days.
1 Hulk Hogan
Hogan was never exactly what one would call humble to start with. He was brash and had an attitude and it led him to early success as a strongman. His role in “Rocky III” had him as a totally over the top egotist and he ended up playing that more as WWE Champion. But while he played up being a huge hero, Hogan was known for his horrible jerk behavior behind the scenes. He always demanded to go over, hated giving anyone a rub and the few times he lost a belt, it was always under circumstances to still make him look the hero.
It got worse as Hogan’s power over WWE waned and then in WCW. He still insisted on being the hero even as fans got tired of his act and always being in the spotlight. His work as a heel was great but also hurt such as refusing to let Sting beat him cleanly at Starrcade ’97 which led to major issues with WCW. Even in TNA, Hogan was continuing this, with his tweet on Bobby Roode not ready to win the title ruining months of build. That’s not counting his personal issues that are well known and how Hogan will sadly be known for his ego and issues as much as his star power.