Pro wrestling has a long history of backstabbing, performers turning on each other, and wrestlers being sabotaged by one another. It's one of the features of the industry which leads to backstage stories being just as interesting as the ones being featured in the ring.
It seems that those who are successful in the wrestling industry will often stop at nothing to obtain and maintain such success. This article is filled with wrestlers whose careers were sabotaged because another wrestler felt they threatened their spot. It's also filled with wrestlers who were sabotaged because they didn't make the right friends, hang out with the right people, or brown-nose the right executives.
It would be nice to say this trend is fizzling out but that is not the case. Today's top Superstars are just as prone to sabotaging others as previous generations were. There is just something about the nature of pro wrestling which prevents all of the performers from playing nice with each other. Perhaps it is the way wrestling creates the illusion of reality that makes some take their role too seriously. No matter what the cause, the days of wrestlers sabotaging is not going away anytime soon.
In this article, we take a look at 15 wrestlers who had their careers sabotaged.
15 Rob Van Dam
At one time, Rob Van Dam was one of the most popular performers in all of professional wrestling. After ECW folded, it appeared RVD was on his way to becoming a gigantic star in WWE.
Then in 2002, during the original Elimination Chamber match, Rob Van Dam landed his Five Star Frog Splash directly onto Triple H's throat area, resulting in him having to go to the hospital. The move led to inflammation in The Game's throat and caused it to swell up so much he needed to rushed for medical attention following the match.
According to an interview he would give years later, Triple H didn't hold any ill-regard towards RVD for the move but many feel he did exactly that. Despite his popularity, it seemed as though RVD would always have his momentum cut off whenever he started moving up the WWE ranks. Many feel Triple H was the one behind this.
14 Kenny Dykstra
Kenny Dykstra, aka Kenny from the Spirit Squad, was released from his WWE contract in 2008 and it is largely believed this was because he was the odd man out in a love triangle which also featured Mickie James and John Cena. Kenny and James had been engaged but broke up after Kenny discovered James had been having an affair with John Cena. After word of the affair leaked, Kenny was traded to SmackDown and eventually released.
Fast forward to 2017 and both James and Kenny would be back in WWE. Not long after the Spirit Squad showed up on the SmackDown tag team scene, James spoke poorly of Kenny in the media and low and behold the Spirit Squad stopped being booked for SmackDown. You can now catch “The Squad” in Tommy Dreamer's House of Hardcore.
13 Mickie James
While Mickie James might be responsible for the sabotaging of Kenny Dykstra’s career, an argument can be made that John Cena did the same to hers.
James had left Dykstra, with whom she had been engaged in order to continue an affair with Cena. Once Cena made it clear to James that he wasn't interested in taking their relationship to the next level however, James flipped out and WWE felt it was best to get her out of the company. They didn't want that kind of drama near their big drawing card, John Cena.
It would be a long seven years until Mickie James would be back in WWE. According to James herself, she was about to leave the business altogether had the WWE not come calling for a final run.
12 Wade Barrett
In 2010, Wade Barrett was the leader of the Nexus stable. An elimination match between the Nexus and Team WWE was scheduled for SummerSlam and apparently, there was quite a debate backstage regarding who should win. Edge and Chris Jericho have talked openly in the past about how they were pushing for Barrett to get the pin over Cena to close the match but Cena was having none of it.
John managed to convince everyone he should be the sole survivor of the match and that's what happened. The result killed the Nexus’ momentum and even Cena admitted after it was the wrong move. Had this match gone down the way many wanted it to, it would have launched Barrett into the main event picture and could have arguably even led to a World Title run.
11 Ricky Steamboat
Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat could have been a World Champion but his clash with Vince McMahon ultimately led to him never being given the opportunity.
Following WrestleMania III, Steamboat was one of the hottest babyfaces in the company. He had just beaten Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Title in what many have called the greatest match of all-time. It all went downhill after for him in WWE, however, as he had the gall to ask Vince for time off. Steamboat's wife was pregnant and he wanted to spend time at home with his new family instead of traveling with WWE and building off the momentum he had from WrestleMania III.
WWE quickly took the title off Steamboat and would never again feature him prominently. Even after returning to WWE following a hugely successful NWA Championship program with Ric Flair, WWE would never push him above mid-card status.
Sting had an amazing career but it could have been even better. It can be argued the Stinger actually had his career sabotaged twice.
The first was at Starrcade '97. In his infamous match with Hollywood Hogan, the plan had been for the referee to fast-count Sting after a Hogan leg drop. Bret Hart would then re-start the match and Sting would get his epic win. The problem was the referee didn't count fast and it appeared to all of the world as though Hogan had beaten Sting clean. What could have kick started a hugely successful World Title run ended up falling flat. Sting fell out of the main babyface spot and was replaced by Goldberg a few months later.
The WWE also played a part when Triple H decided to take a crack at sabotaging Sting's career as well when he booked himself to beat him in what would be Sting's only WrestleMania match ever. This instance can be argued as a lesser case however.
9 Act Yasukawa
Granted, many of you won't be familiar with these two names but this is an interesting story.
Act Yasukawa is a retired pro wrestler who competed for Stardom. She had been born with partial blindness in her right eye which made some aspects of wrestling more difficult. Her condition was significantly worsened after a broken orbital bone suffered in a wrestling match turned shoot fight with Yoshiko.
The rumor is that Yoshiko had grown jealous of Yasukawa and when their match began to get physical, Yoshiko just went into all-out shoot mode and badly injured her opponent.
Yasukawa's injuries from the incident led to her having to retire. Yoshiko was stripped of the title and forced to retire as well. There was a ten-bell salute to commemorate her retirement (which is believed to have been forced upon her by promoters) but Yoshiko walked out in protest. She has since returned to compete in other promotions.
8 Dynamite Kid
Many find it hard to have much sympathy for the notoriously cruel Dynamite Kid, Tom Billington. All the same, he did have his career sabotaged and by his own cousin as well.
Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid walked out of WWE following an incident which involved the Rougeau Brothers jumping Dynamite. After a failed return to Stampede Wrestling, Davey Boy opted to trademark the name "British Bulldog" so he'd be able to use the name on his own. He even called promoters in Japan who had booked Dynamite to instruct them that he could not be referred to as a British Bulldog. Dynamite's career didn't last much longer anyway, however.
In an update to a decades-old story, Harry Smith (aka Davey Boy Smith Jr.) was able to obtain the trademark to the British Bulldog name in 2015 after WWE dropped the claim they had to the name as well.
7 Big Van Vader
By the time Vader arrived in WWE, he had already been a World Champion in WCW and in Japan. In fact, Vader was one of the biggest foreign monster heels in the history of New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Vader was all set to become a World Champion in WWE as well but Shawn Michaels and his "Kliq" put an end to that. Michaels was scheduled to defend the WWE Championship against Vader in the main event of SummerSlam '96. Evidently, Michaels decided he wasn't going to drop the match or the title to Vader that night as WWE initially wanted him to and so neither of those things happened.
As for Vader, despite his success in Japan and with WCW, his run in WWE in the mid 90s flopped. Many believe not winning the title from Shawn was the reason for this along with Shawn completely ripping Vader in the ring for his performance during the actual match.
6 Wendi Richter
Wendi Richter was arguably the second biggest star the company had during the "Rock N Wrestling" era. Much of Cindi Lauper's involvement in product back then was based on her wanting to help women's wrestling. After WWE signed a deal with NBC, however, MTV stars like Lauper no longer had any pull.
A contract dispute with Richter led to the original WWE screwjob. On November 25, 1985, Richter was the original victim of a WWE screw job. She was scheduled to defend her title against an opponent known only as The Spider. In reality, the Spider was Moolah under a mask and she was there to ensure Richter's shoulders were pinned to the mat for a three-count. The referee delivered a fast count, and even though Richter appeared to kick out the bell was called and The Spider was declared the new champion.
5 Alex Riley
Alex Riley is the most cited example of a guy who's career was sabotaged by John Cena. Earlier this year, Riley was a guest on the Jim Ross podcast and talked about how a backstage incident with Cena altered the course of his WWE career. He neglected to go into details about the incident but did promise to address it one day.
Without Riley's side of the story, we are left with secondhand reports about what allegedly happened. It is believed that sometime in 2012, Cena tore into Riley out frustration in front of everyone. Cena apparently was upset that he and Riley often would get out of sync in the ring together. Who can forget when Riley accidentally eliminated himself early out of the Royal Rumble with Cena looking on in shock.
4 CM Punk
Triple H was never going to let CM Punk reach the height fans wanted him to. While Punk would hold the WWE Championship for over a year, he was never the focal point of WWE's product, even during his peak. The fans may have felt he was, but he was never positioned that way by the company.
No matter how much the fans chanted for Punk, there was always a glass ceiling he would not be allowed to crash through. Many felt that Punk's main detractors backstage were Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
In 2014, Punk would have his career officially sabotaged when he was fired after walking out on the company for not being given a proper program heading into WrestleMania. The belief is that the company wanted to place him in a lower tier match at the event which caused his departure.
3 Bret Hart
Some debate can be had regarding who screwed who in 1997, but there can be no debating that Hart had years of his career ripped away from him at Starrcade '99. That was the night Goldberg mule-kicked Bret Hart so hard in the head it gave him a concussion. While he would continue wrestling for weeks after, effects from the concussion would end up ending his career. It is believed the concussions he received during this period of his career contributed to the stroke he would suffer years later as well.
Without a doubt, the Survivor Series real-life angle remains the most glorified scenario of a real sabotaging taking place. With Bret refusing to lose, the company went off script and sabotaged the end of his career. It'll forever be known as one of the most controversial events to ever take place in a WWE ring.
2 Hulk Hogan
One of the most bizarre incidents of a wrestling getting sabotaged of course had to come from the twisted mind of Vince Russo. During Hogan's WCW run, Hulk thought he was going by the script when Jeff Jarrett laid down for him. According to Hulk's knowledge, the angle was meant to cause a stir however little did he know that Russo had other motives as Vince purposely did the angle to get Hulk out of the company. Yup, that's WCW for you.
Hulk's had some bumpy incidents with Vince McMahon in the past as well that led to some booking controversies. However, in the recent incident, the company had no other choice but to release the Hulkster when he was caught using racial slurs. It remains to be seen when we'll see him back in the good graces of the WWE.
There is nobody in the history of wrestling who was severely sabotaged worse than the late Chyna. In the blink of an eye, she had everything taken from her and all so Vince McMahon's daughter could pursue her relationship with Triple H without his ex-girlfriend being around.
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are believed to have started seeing each other before Triple H ended things with Chyna. Things reached a boiling point when Chyna found a love letter written by Stephanie.
Chyna told Vince she was having trouble with the idea of Triple H and Stephanie being together and Vince sent her home to sit out the remainder of her contract, though she was told otherwise. She was officially gone from the company in 2001 and spiraled downward from that point on. We lost Chyna in April of 2016 to an accidental drug overdose.