The root of wrestling, much like any story, is conflict. Its format is simple; the good wrestler walks into the ring, proclaiming that he’ll do whatever it takes to be the best. The bad wrestler follows shortly after, telling him all the ways he’ll never make the cut and just like that, a wrestling feud is born. It’s a formula fans have come to expect and while people generally accept that wrestling is scripted entertainment, the rivalries a mix of soap opera acting and cirque du soleil-level choreographed fight sequences, that doesn’t mean there aren’t just as many feuds backstage. In fact, in many ways, real-life wrestling feuds are even more volatile than the ones portrayed on television. Instead of being based on phony circumstances or convoluted motivations, these are deeply rooted in betrayal, disappointment and real-life hatred.
The stories are that of legend. Who could forget the epic saga that was Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels? Two very different wrestlers, one who exemplified style, the other substance, engaging in a battle of wrestling styles that ended in one of the most infamous moments in wrestling history. Or how about the tawdry love triangle that was Matt Hardy, Lita and Edge? Two best friends, torn apart over a woman, leading to some of the most intense matches the WWE has ever seen. These stories have become standard amongst wrestling fans, however, for every one you’ve heard of time and time again, there are just as many that have never made it into a dirt sheet.
The following list examines wrestling feuds you might not have heard of if you’re a casual wrestling fan. Some are based in jealousy, others backstage politics, but whatever the motivation, one thing is clear, these feuds are more intense than anything you’ve seen on Monday Night Raw.
15 Triple H and Goldberg
The heat between Triple H and Goldberg is a classic example of two alpha males who just couldn’t see eye to eye. One of the biggest conversations to come out of the WWE buying WCW in 2001 was how long would it take for Goldberg to make his debut with the company. Despite, not having the deepest arsenal of moves, Goldberg was inarguably one of the WCW’s biggest stars and it appeared as if he was set to continue his dominance in the WWE. However, that momentum came to a screeching halt when he lost to Triple H in a challenge for his World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam. It’s a moment that many pinpoint as the beginning of the end for the dominant powerhouse, leaving the company just a year later, with just as many citing backstage tensions between Goldberg and Triple H as the reason for their feud falling flat.
In a 2015 interview with SportingNews.com, Goldberg revealed he believes the reason behind Triple H’s contempt for him was his refusal to treat the WWE like a family, instead looking at it as a business decision. “I think there’s great disdain for me because I wasn’t one of their boys, because I didn’t want to play their game.”
14 Batista and Booker T
We’ll likely never know exactly what happened between Batista and Booker T during that Summerslam commercial shoot in 2006. With so many conflicting reports from different parties, it’s hard to sift out the facts from the fluff but here’s what we know for sure. Both superstars got into a physical brawl behind the scenes of the shoot, WWE.com reporting the fight lasted five minutes before it was broken up. Rumor has is it, the two came to blows after Booker T confronted the two-time WWE Champion over disrespect he had allegedly shown some veterans on the roster. Booker reportedly challenged the Animal to put his fists where he mouth was and that’s where the story kind of falls apart. While initial reports favored King Booker as the victor of the battle, Fit Finlay later argued that it was Batista who emerged victorious.
Regardless of how it ended however, Booker T has stated on the record that he still respects Batista, even if he doesn’t always agree with him. In an interview with Wrestling Inc, Booker said, “It was about respect. Even to this day I respect him and I’m sure he respects me.”
13 Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss
You’d be hard-pressed to find two women more beloved by the WWE Universe right now than Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss. Between their exceptional character work and constantly great matches, both women have solidified themselves as two of the most exciting players in wrestling today, so it’s only natural that fans would hope the three-time women’s champions would get along better off-camera than they do on. However, if rumors are to be believed, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Talk of bad blood has followed the two ever since their days in NXT after Banks left Bliss bloodied during several of their matches. However, it wasn’t until the two began feuding over the Raw Women’s Championship that rumors of their real-life beef began flooding social media.
Banks seemingly addressed them during an appearance on the post-Great Balls of Fire edition of Raw Talk where the Legit Boss absolutely ripped the reigning Goddess of the WWE to shreds, calling her a fake wrestling fan and critiquing her politicking her way to women’s gold. “She came in so fake with her fake little stories, her fake little, oh I love Matt Hardy. You can’t even tell the difference between Jeff and Matt, you idiot.” While Banks was speaking in-character at the time, her promo felt so real, it left many wondering just how much of that was coming from the heart?
12 Randy Orton and Roman Reigns
There’s a scene in the Netflix series GLOW in which a wrestler played by Alex Riley explains to one of the women that he can’t stand his greatest rival despite having worked with him for years. “You don’t have to be friends to wrestle,” he says. “We don’t like each other, but we make each other better.” It’s a situation that’s a lot more common than you’d think in the WWE, which is why rumored tensions between Randy Orton and Roman Reigns are not hard to believe. The story dates back to 2014, at the time, The Shield had just broken up and Reigns was on the cusp of receiving a monster push as a main event contender. The only person standing in his way? Randy Orton.
Things had gotten heated between the two backstage in the past after a blown spot in a six-man tag bout allegedly led to a shouting match in the back. So when their resulting brawls were criticized for being sluggish, lifeless and awkward, many speculated their lack of chemistry in the ring was due to a real-life disdain for working together. Whether there’s any truth to this, it’s safe to say both parties are much happier with their current positions in the company.
11 Rob Van Dam and Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels was just one of many people who didn’t get Rob Van Dam during his WWE run. The high-flying superstar was arguably one of the most popular players in the early 2000s, his acrobatic fighting style and likeable personality winning over fans almost immediately after his debut. However, many of the higher ups just didn’t see him as a main event talent and because of that, RVD often found himself stuck in midcard purgatory. It’s a sentiment that Michaels reiterated during a shoot interview in which he said, “The only thing that’s going to keep him from going to the bigs and being a main eventer is that he’s got to make what he does mean more,” saying that his wrestling style looks like choreography.
Van Dam confirmed tensions with the Heartbreak Kid during a sitdown of his own with YouShoot, saying HBK “dripped with insincerity.”
10 Candice Michelle and Melina
The are few women in wrestling as notorious for being a backstage headache as Melina. Throughout her seven-year career with the promotion, the five-time women’s champion is said to have rubbed just about every woman in the division the wrong way. Despite often being one of the most talented women on the roster, it’s this backstage heat that is rumored to have derailed many of her pushes as one of the top women in the company. The list of women she’s butted heads with has been numerous, however, no feud has been quite as public as her one with Candice Michelle. In 2007, Melina and Michelle engaged in a very real war of words on WWE.com, starting when Michelle accused the Los Angeles-native of stealing one of her moves. Melina fired back prompting Michelle to write a blog post so personal, that the WWE refused to publish it. The rivalry became so intense between the two, it ended up spilling over into WWE television, where they both cut increasingly venomous promos one one another. During one episode of Monday Night Raw, Melina body shamed the Playboy covergirl, making fun of her “spare tire.”
These days, both women have moved on from the WWE, Melina continuing to wrestle on the independent circuit while Michelle has stepped away from the spotlight to focus on motherhood, and while it’s hard to say how they feel about each other these days, there was a time when they were one of the most intense feuds in the Divas division.
9 Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose
There are few people as infamously difficult to work with in the ring than Brock Lesnar. The Beast Incarnate is known for his lack of collaborative effort, shooting down many a match suggestion, often while in the ring. This tends to lead to sluggish or uninteresting matches that do nothing but demonstrate the power of Lesnar. Still when Dean Ambrose was set to face The Conquerer in a No Holds Barred match at WrestleMania 32, many were excited to see what the two would come up with, expecting a brutal street fight harking back to the days of the Attitude Era. What fans got however, was a pretty standard match chock full of german suplexes.
It’s a disappointment that Ambrose says he shares with fans, admitting that he walked to the ring extremely upset, citing Lesnar’s lack of cooperation while appearing on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast. “Artistically Brock didn’t want to do anything,” The Lunatic Fringe explained. “I had a vision for that match to be the craziest thing imaginable, you know what I mean? And I was trying to pitch everything to everyone and had every idea. I put so much effort in and so much work in and other people did too and I was met with laziness.”
8 AJ Lee and the Bella Twins
AJ Lee and the Bella Twins were almost destined to hate each other. Lee, one of the most respected women’s wrestlers to ever step foot in a WWE ring, worked her entire adult life to get to the WWE, striving to bring respect back to women’s wrestling. Nikki and Brie Bella on the other hand, are more known for their drama outside of the ring as the stars of the E! reality series, Total Divas. Both ascended to the top of the division around the same time for very different reasons so when they found themselves competing for the Divas Championship, it was only a matter of time before the whole thing blew up in a blaze of glory. Their rivalry would culminate in perhaps the greatest promo in women’s wrestling history with Lee burying the entire women’s division on an episode of Raw, calling them useless mannequins saying they turned to reality television because they, “Weren’t gifted enough to be actresses and they just weren’t talented enough to be champion.”
Lee has since admitted she was speaking from the heart and during an appearance at Wizard World Comic Con, Nikki Bella admitted that she was hurt by Lee’s words and doesn’t believe they’re a fair representation of who she is.
7 Stone Cold Steve Austin and Owen Hart
Back in 1997, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Owen Hart were two of he WWE’s biggest rising stars. Both were respected wrestling technicians who had the potential to become legends of the sport. However, during a match at SummerSlam, Hart made an error that could have cost Austin everything. While performing a piledriver on the Rattlesnake, Hart dropped Austin on his head, breaking his neck and effectively ending his wrestling career as he knew it. Austin would rework his character and fighting style and go on to be one of the greatest personalities in wrestling history while Hart would sadly pass away following a tragic accident at a WWE pay-per-view in 1999 but rumors always remained that the two never reconciled after that horrifying moment.
While Austin has never outright confirmed these claims, in the book Through The Shattered Glass, written by Austin’s ex-wife, Jeanie Clarke, Clarke writes that the six-time WWE Champion never forgave Hart for the botch. She says the heart of Austin’s anger towards him was the fact that he never apologized for the error, his lack of remorse causing Austin to believe he may have done it on purpose. While it’s understandable Austin would hold hard feelings given the extent of the damage caused, hopefully those feelings have long since passed.
6 CM Punk and Jeff Hardy
You know that saying, “opposites attract?” Well, consider this the exception to the rule. There are few superstars more opposite than CM Punk and Jeff Hardy. Punk is famous for his straight-edge lifestyle, abstaining from all unnatural, mood-altering substances. Hardy on the other hand has a history of substance abuse. Hardy is known for his laid-back, artistic persona while Punk’s confrontational tendencies are that of legend. So when the two squared off over the WWE Championship in 2009, it was only a matter of time before art would start to imitate life.
Things took a turn for the nasty when Punk began incorporating Hardy’s history of drug use into his promos, calling him a drug addict and a bad role model. In 2010, after leaving the company, a video surfaced of Hardy insulting Punk, calling him a nerd and claiming that he is the one who made him a star as well as insinuating that Punk is a hypocrite for taking sleeping pills. Hardy has since changed his tune however, saying that while the two share different beliefs, he thinks Punk is “crazy talented,” in an interview with Power Slam in 2012.
5 Kurt Angle and Batista
Here’s a feud that really did take people by surprise. While Batista has been a polarizing figure in the WWE locker room, there was little talk of any tension between The Animal and Kurt Angle during their time together on the roster. So when Angle fired shots at the world champion during an interview with Men’s Fitness magazine in 2007, his comments caught many wrestling fans off-guard. In the interview, Angle called out Batista’s willingness to work with the company’s bigger stars, saying, “A guy like Batista can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. He prefers wrestling smaller guys than jacked up guys who look good to the crowd but doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
It’s important to note that this interview was conducted during a particularly tumultuous time in the Olympian’s career, having parted ways with the WWE the year before. He’s since returned to the promotion and could very well feel differently today.
4 Alberto Del Rio and Sin Cara (Mistico)
While many of the feuds on this list were born in the WWE, Alberto Del Rio and Sin Cara’s real-life heat dates back long before their contracts were signed, originating in their Lucha Libre days wrestling in Mexico. Things reportedly got so intense between them, a member of Sin Cara’s posse pulled a gun on Del Rio during a confrontation at one of their shows. The two were notorious for working stiff with each other, most notably during a match in the WWE in which Sin Cara broke his finger during a dive. When he tried to get the referee to stop the match early, Del Rio delivered an intense beatdown to the luchador, swiftly kicking him.
In an interview with YouShoot, Del Rio admitted that his aggressive tactics were due to frustrations with the wrestler, saying, “I got really mad and I threw him inside the ring and I kicked him for real. After the match I said, I’m sorry man but you’re just lazy. What happened? Where’s your heart? Where’s your pride for the business?” Del Rio says Sin Cara admitted to having lost his passion for the WWE and two weeks later, handed in his resignation.
3 Trish Stratus and Chyna
Despite having little wrestling experience of her own when she was first signed by the WWE, Chyna spent much of her career being notoriously hard on the other women in the locker room, believing, much like an episode of The Bachelor, that many of them weren’t there for the right reasons. This is especially the case when it comes to Trish Stratus. It’s a sentiment that the Ninth Wonder made perfectly clear during a 2000 appearance on Off The Record, in which she said, “Trish Stratus to me is someone that was hired with no ability and I think she was hired strictly because of her looks.” She went on to say, “Trish didn’t have to pay her dues and I still think about that and I still think that she should have to.”
During an interview on Lillian Garcia’s podcast in 2016, Stratus admitted that Chyna was “quite tough,” on her but refrained from sharing details out of respect. Stratus would of course work hard and go on to become one of the most celebrated women’s champions of all-time and one of the youngest inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame, earning the respect of many veterans. Hopefully in the end, she earned Chyna’s respect as well.
2 John Cena and The Rock
The best feuds in pro wrestling are spawned from something real which probably explains why The Rock and John Cena’s two year rivalry was one of the most electric feuds of the time. It all started when Cena made some choice words regarding The Rock’s status as a part timer, having moved on from laying the smackdown on jabronis worldwide to becoming of the most bankable actors in Hollywood. Cena spent months cutting promos calling The Rock a sellout, saying, “When it comes to Dwayne [Johnson], as soon as he got his first taste of the bright lights of Hollywood, he was out of here faster than I could say, Rocky don’t go,” during a 2012 episode of Raw.
In a 2014 interview with Muscle and Fitness magazine, Johnson confirmed that their beef was more than just for the camera. However, Cena has since said that he regrets many of the things he said, calling his comments, “The stupidest thing ever” on an episode of Talking Smack. A change of heart was likely brought on by his own part timer status, having taken an exceeding amount of time off from the business over the past two years in order to take advantage of his growing demand as a Hollywood actor.
1 CM Punk and Triple H
CM Punk has never seemed like one to respond well to authority, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s not the biggest fan of Triple H. It’s a sentiment the five-time WWE Champion made perfectly clear during a bridge-burning shoot interview on Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast shortly following his release from the WWE in which he vented every frustration that had built up over his eight years with the company. This included his resentment over Triple H, among others, not communicating with him over major decisions made about his career, such as being replaced by Randy Orton in the WWE film, 12 Rounds 2. Punk said he believes the lack of communication was due to the fact Triple H never respected him. “Hunter was gritting his teeth and I knew, he never liked me. It’s one of those situations where you always hear the stories in the dirt sheets where, Hunter says this about Punk and all this negative stuff but me and him in a room together? Never any good vibes, always negative. The way he’d always look sideways at me, the way he always treated me.” It’s safe to say this is one wresting rift that won’t be mended any time soon.