Pro wrestling is known for its outlandish characters—and that’s not just in front of the cameras. Locker rooms around the world are notoriously populated by an eccentric personalities who might make questionable decisions and are more often than not ready for a fight. Given this diverse and often as not rambunctious crew, you could say that wrestling promoters are among the most accepting employers in the world, unconcerned if someone wears his hair strangely, dresses oddly, uses foul language, or gets in a scuffle.
There are, however limits. You see, though wrestling locker rooms historically resemble the wild, wild west in terms machismo and men and women handling their own form of law and order without getting the authorities involved, there are still codes wrestlers live by. When those unofficial rules of the business are broken, or when a wrestler actively bites the hand that feeds him, there are real life consequences to follow.
It’s not common for a talent to be blackballed by a wrestling promotion, but it does happen. Yes, we might expect it more from WWE given its worldwide presence and relatively corporate culture. It’s a company that answers to an audience of millions as well as shareholders, and thus there will be times when WWE cuts ties altogether with a given performer deemed unfit to represent the company or inappropriate for the company share with its audience either now or for the foreseeable future.
Still, it’s not just WWE that’s done some blackballing, as plenty of other current and past promotions have exiled stars for a variety of reasons. This article looks at fifteen times a promotion blackballed a wrestler.
15. Jeff Jarrett By WWE
Jeff Jarrett was a mid card star for WWE in the 1990s, who enjoyed multiple Intercontinental Championship reigns. During the Monday Night War, he played WWE and WCW off of one another working two tenures a piece and bettering both his salary and his kayfabe standing with each switch until he arrived as a WCW main event star.
The way Jarrett did business may have rubbed Vince McMahon the wrong way, but was nothing compared to the way he left him the last time—reportedly holding up McMahon for money to drop the Intercontinental Championship to Chyna in his last match.
The night of the final Monday Nitro, McMahon publicly singled out Jarrett as someone he would not sign.
Ironically, Jarrett has reportedly gotten back into contact with WWE for the first time in recent weeks. After repeated suggestions he may be going through substance abuse issues, Jarrett is said to be taking advantage of the company’s offer to pay for rehab for its former employees. That might be as far as the relationship goes, though it would be interesting to see if Jarrett could newly be on the road to redemption with his old employer after nearly twenty years.
14. Mick Foley By WCW
Mick Foley had a reasonably successful run with WCW as Cactus Jack in the 1990s, first as a monster challenger to Sting, and later turning face to challenge Big Van Vader. He was never all that serious of a threat to actually win a world title, though, and spent most of his time in between one-off main event matches firmly entrenched in the mid-card or tag team scene. It was little surprise when the company ultimately let him go.
Foley didn’t make any amends with WCW when he went on to ECW and leaned heavily on his past with WCW as a defining character trait, imploring “Uncle Eric” Bischoff to give him another, and forging a heel persona around not liking ECW’s hardcore style. Foley would go on to his greatest successes in WWE as an eventual world champion. When he won, WCW reinforced its stance on him, scoffing at his title win on commentary on the assumption that no one would be interested in seeing him succeed at the main event level. Foley would, of course, get the last laugh, as the TV audience reportedly switched the station en masse and, long after WCW was sold to WWE, Foley is one of wrestling’s most recognizable legends.
13. Hulk Hogan By The AWA
Hulk Hogan is quite arguably the single most over and famous wrestler in history. Despite repeated run-ins with WWE, including contract struggles, defecting to WCW, teaming up with TNA, and most recently having a tape leaked of him using racist epithets, he always seems to find his way back to the company due to his uncanny ability to draw money and his personal relationship with Vince McMahon.
Hogan was, however, blackballed by Verne Gagne’s AWA.
As an old school booker, Gagne purportedly rejected the idea of casting a guy who wasn’t a legitimate wrestler as his top champion—thus, while Hogan main evented a number of times, he wasn’t allowed to take the top title off of Nick Bockwinkel (taking time away to film Rocky III further didn’t appeal to Gagne’s sensibilities). Hogan went off to better his fortunes with WWE just as McMahon was taking over from his father. McMahon used Hogan as his flag bearer to elevate the company in the national expansion that included acquiring or crushing most other significant wrestling promotions in the country.
Gagne reportedly went so far as to offer The Iron Sheik a handsome payday to legit break Hogan’s leg and derail his big push. The offer was emblematic of Gagne not forgiving Hogan, and consciously viewing him as what was wrong with wrestling and where it was headed in that era.
12. Paul Roma By WCW
After years on the threshold between jobber and lower mid card talent in WWE, Paul Roma signed with WCW and got an immediate push, slid into what had been Tully Blanchard’s spot in a reformed Four Horsemen group. Fans largely rejected Roma in the role and before long he was teaming with Paul Orndorff in a reasonable enough team, before occupying a more generic mid card spot.
Roma was ultimately tasked with putting over rookie sensation Alex Wright. Roma has claimed that he got mixed messages from the powers that be, but the consensus seems to be that he was supposed to put over Wright strongly, and instead called the match have himself mostly dominating before Wright scored a lucky pin fall. He was booked to lose to anyone he crossed paths with from there, before he was finally released. In the aftermath, Roma was outspoken about feeling Ric Flair was jealous of him, and that was why his Horsemen push failed. Putting himself over more than authorized opposite Alex Wright, and then disrespecting one of wrestling’s all time greats added up to WCW having no interestin working with the guy again.
11. Alundra Blayze By WWE
While some stars get blackballed for subtle reasons, or for incidents that occur behind the scenes, there may be no more public example of wrestler completely tanking her prospects with the largest wrestling company in the world than the way Alundra Blayze burned bridges with WWE.
To be fair, WWE arguably disrespected Blayze first, ostensibly cutting the women’s division out of budgetary concerns and not caring enough about her character or the women’s roster to even bother getting the Women’s Championship off of her before she left. So, Blayze showed up in WCW and, in her first appearance on Nitro, dropped the WWE Women’s Championship in a trash can.
Blayze didn’t even try to get back in McMahon’s good graces afterwards, switching careers altogether after WCW was bought out to start driving monster trucks. To the surprise of many, WWE welcomed her back into the fold with a Hall of Fame induction in 2015, but has continued to send mixed messages about how welcome she really is. She recorded a series of interviews for the Mae Young Classic that were ultimately cut and never aired. A WWE Network special about her was scheduled then repeatedly pushed back before being released in a relatively obscure spot with little fan fare. While she may not be blackballed anymore, Blayze’s standing with WWE remains less than stellar.
10. Sexy Star By Every Major Promotion
It’s rare for the wrestling world to really come together in condemning a star. If WWE blackballs someone, there’s usually the solace that performer can use his or her WWE name value to earn bookings on the independents, or their might be interest from a promotion like TNA. Every now and again, though, a wrestler does something so offensive to very sensibilities of wrestlers or wrestling promoters that means everyone rejects her.
Enter Sexy Star.
Star succeeded on the lucha libre platform for years before the El Rey Network introduced Lucha Underground to a national audience in the U.S. However, at the TripleMania event in 2017, Star made a grave misstep. In a four way women’s match, Star was booked to win, ultimately capturing the submission fall over Rosemary. Over the course of the match, Star and Lady Shani purportedly started shooting on each other—delivering real hits and holds designed to hurt the other wrestler. Rosemary seemed to get caught in the crossfire as Star defeated her with a cross armbreaker but held on and cranked the hold in shoot fashion afterward, legitimately injuring her opponent.
While Star has denied the claims afterward, video footage of the incident is pretty damning and top stars from around the world, not least of all Chris Jericho and Cody Rhodes, have vocally condemned Star. It would appear that absolutely no promotion of any significance is interested in working with her now based on violating the wrestlers’ code by intentionally hurting a colleague.
9. Lance Cade By WWE
Lance Cade was a former student Shawn Michaels in his short lived wrestling school. Out of that graduating class, which also included Daniel Bryan and Brian Kendrick, Cade looked like the surefire success for not only learning well but also having the natural size that would make him appealing to companies like WWE.
And Cade did have a reasonably successful run with WWE that included working in a successful tag team for its time alongside Trevor Murdoch, and later breaking out on his own. It looked as though Cade were on the cusp of a big break when he broke out from the team and was aligned with Chris Jericho in a main event act.
Cade was abruptly released by the company, though, and while the reasons were never disclosed with any detail, Jim Ross alluded to the fact that Cade had demonstrated poor judgment in how he conducted himself, which seemed to be linked to a medical incident on a plane. So, Cade was on the outs with WWE, and wound up passing away less than two years later, before making any kind of amends.
8. Big Van Vader by WCW
Big Van Vader was a big time star for WCW, whose tenure included dominating as the promotion’s world champion for most of 1993. He’d hit a rockier road toward the end of his time in WCW, though. Things shifted when Hulk Hogan rolled into town and Vader was largely booked as a generic monster heel set to put Hogan over. From there, an infamous backstage incident occurred in which Vader got in an altercation with Paul Orndorff. Orndorff was working backstage helping to direct traffic, and reported that Vader wouldn’t report to his duty to record promos, and disrespected Mr. Wonderful, leading to Orndorff giving him a thumping. Vader has claimed different figures from management asked different things of him and he couldn’t be in two places at once. He indicated Orndorff got physical with him and he chose not to reciprocate because he didn’t want anyone to get hurt over what he read as misunderstanding.
Regardless of where the truth lies on that particular issue, Vader was clearly on the outs with management. He would end up defecting to WWE as soon as he was able, never to be welcomed into a WCW locker room again.
7. Muhammad Hassan By WWE
Muhammad Hassan got white hot as a heel in the mid 2000s, working a gimmick as an American of Arabic descent who felt discriminated against in the aftermath of September 11th. It was a surprisingly complex gimmick for a company that wasn’t known for its subtlety in character development. Unfortunately, as time went on, the gimmick went off the rails, culminating in Hassan summon “sympathizers” who came across a lot like stereotypical terrorist figures to attack The Undertaker on his behalf and choke out The Undertaker with piano wire.
The prevailing theory at the time was that Hassan was in line for a main event and maybe even a World Heavyweight Championship push. The Undertaker incident was pre-taped and aired shortly after terrorists struck London. Consequently, advertisers were upset and UPN —which aired SmackDown at the time— called for Hassan not to appear on the show. WWE finished off the character at the next PPV as he was demolished by The Undertaker. Though Hassan was moved back to developmental for a time, there was no coming back from the incident and he’s largely unmentioned and untouchable in WWE’s version of history these days.
6. Lance Von Erich By WCCW
There are those talents who make mistakes, and those who are at least equal parts the victims of circumstances. Lance Von Erich, not so unlike Muhammad Hassan, quite arguably had the deck stacked against him in WCCW.
Don’t let the last name fool you—Lance Von Erich was not actually related to the famed Von Erich clan that ruled the roost for World Class. On the contrary, when the promotion needed another top level star to team with the boys, they introduced local athlete William Vaughan as a Von Erich cousin. That a segment fans were able to recognize him and know he wasn’t really a Von Erich, and that he wasn’t a polished wrestler didn’t derail the plan, and Lance as largely floundered in his role.
The experiment had gone badly, but to make matters even worse, Lance would ultimately defect to a rival promotion. This prompted patriarch and owner Fritz Von Erich to formally denounce Lance on TV, proclaim that he was of no relation to the Von Erich family, and going so far as to say he’d cattle prod the young man if he ever approached a WCCW show again.
5. Disco Inferno by WCW
Disco Inferno was a solid enough mid card act for WCW in the 1990s. He got over on something akin to Honky Tonk Man heat for never coming across as a particularly menacing threat, but nonetheless getting the crowd against him on account of his silliness and bravado. He was also deceptively influential behind the scenes as he moved on and off the writing team over the years, and was particularly known for pushing absurdist ideas, like having an extraterrestrial character or an invisible wrestler.
Disco was fired at one point for refusing to put over Jacqueline in an intergender match. He would ultimately get his job back, and has claimed in interviews that Sting went to bat for him. The combination of his bad rap creatively, however, plus the stink of having refused creative direction from the higher ups largely made him persona non grata for the rest of his time with the company.
4. Randy Savage By WWE
The more time has gone by, the more information has come out about Randy Savage’s departure from WWE in the mid-1990s. It seems he wasn’t satisfied with his broadcast role and wanted to be in the ring. As a compromise, Savage purportedly pitched a long retirement angle through which he’d put over Shawn Michaels, and when the idea was rejected, that was the last straw that sent him packing for WCW in an abrupt departure.
While fans can follow this reasoning well enough, many have been left scratching their heads about why Savage didn’t come back to WWE after the company bought out WCW. More conservative theories suggest Savage was still angry about how he’d been treated, and may have passed up on a Hall of Fame invite because he wanted his father and brother in the Hall, too. Others suggested WWE felt burned by Savage walking out and didn’t want to let him back in. The boldest theories suggested he’d slept with teenage Stephanie McMahon on his way out the door, and was thus was banished for life.
3. Serena Deeb By WWE
Serena Deeb was a promising prospect for WWE when the company debuted her as part of CM Punk’s Straight Edge Society. Her indoctrination included her shaving her head, which, if nothing else, gave her a distinctive look. Before her character ever really got off the ground, though, she was spotted drinking in public, and thus undermining her straight edge gimmick. Though many have balked at the decision because so many wrestlers don’t live their gimmicks to the fullest, this one seemed to stick in WWE’s craw and led to her immediate release.
It was a shame that a talented up and comer saw her career in the limelight cut short so quickly. Fortunately for Deeb and her fans, she’d get a modicum of redemption nearly a decade later when the company finally brought her back for a run in the Mae Young Classic.
2. William Regal By WCW
Though William Regal is one of the most widely respected minds in the wrestling business, he also has some blemishes on his record. There were his well documented issues with substance abuse that more than once impacted his employment with WWE. On top of that, however, he had some run-ins with management, and most notably ran into an issue when he was supposed to be squashed by Goldberg.
The most common version of the story goes that Regal was supposed to lose quickly and convincingly to Goldberg, but out of his own self-interest, or to toughen up or test Goldberg, worked a stiff match in which he delivered a lot of the offense instead. Like many matters related to WCW in this era, it appears that there’s no simple or straightforward answer. Regal claimed in his book years later that he was instructed to work a competitive match. Whether different members of the creative team wanted different things, or Regal were more consciously sabotaged, he ended up taking heat for doing what he thought he was told, and was subsequently released from the company.
1. Chyna By WWE
Chyna made her share of history in WWE as the promotion’s first regular intergender wrester, first female Royal Rumble participant, first female Intercontinental Champion, and more. For all of these accomplishments, however, the most she was referenced on WWE TV in the last fifteen years in Triple H addressing, in a shoot interview with Steve Austin, why Chyna’s not in the WWE Hall of Fame.
Hunter’s comments matched the prevailing theory that Chyna’s history of substance abuse issues, career in adult film, and early death all made her difficult for WWE to celebrate. He particularly cited that younger fans Googling her would yield unsavory results. While the rationale is logical enough, it also raises questions given people like Sunny and Sean Waltman who had not so dissimilar issues but were not blackballed the same way. It’s little wonder that other theories persist about Chyna’s blackballing being a result of Triple H’s past relationship with her—which he broke off to be with Stephanie McMahon.
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