The professional wrestling world is, historically, shrouded in secrecy. In decades past, people in the wrestling business guarded its secrets fiercely, not wanting to let on that the outcomes were predetermined, the storylines pretend, and the wrestlers themselves working together rather than against one another to tell an athletically based story in the ring.
Times have changed. Vince McMahon is alternately blamed and credited for ushering in the era of sports entertainment, which carries with it the acknowledgment that pro wrestling isn’t exactly legit sport, in favor of selling it as an entertainment brand. Since then, dirt sheets like The Wrestling Observer and shoot interviews, then Internet wrestling websites, documentaries and wrestling podcasts have blown the lid off of what wrestling is. The surprise, and perhaps chagrin of traditionalists, the fan base has remained committed in part for the intrigue of reading backstage rumors and speculating not about who will win a fight, but what management and writers might determine as their next creative decision.
And then there are urban legends.
Urban legends exist in most any walk of life. We hear a story that captures our interest and seems like it could be true. It remains a mystery for the refusal of anyone concretely in the know to confirm or refute it. In the wrestling world, for example, it was rumored and believed by many that Jerry Lawler and Andy Kaufman were in cahoots for the entirety of their rivalry. But sending Kaufman to the hospital in an ambulance in that era? Lawler striking Kaufman when they visited David Letterman’s show? These developments were outlandish and elaborate enough to raise questions and be the subject of different theories until Lawler came clean that it was all a work decades later.
This article takes a look at 15 unresolved urban legends in wrestling, and ones I don’t suspect we ever will know the full truth of.
15. Did The Macho Man Deflower Stephanie?
In 1994, The Macho Man Randy Savage defected from WWE to the competition, WCW. It wasn’t the most amicable split, with Savage leaving fairly abruptly, and purportedly doing so based on differences of opinion about how he should be used. Savage saw himself remaining an in-ring star. Vince McMahon allegedly wanted to use him in a legend’s role as a color commentator and ambassador for the company. So, Savage left and would be a major player for WCW as it was competitive with WWE for the years to follow.
That Savage and the WWE would have a rough relationship in the aftermath makes sense enough. However, as the company brought back Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Ric Flair, and a cast of other guys who’d left them for WCW at one point or another, Savage’s name was notably missing. Particularly after the Hall of Fame gathered steam and became a meaningful part of the WWE landscape, Savage’s absence became increasingly noteworthy because he was so popular and so great at what he did. He wouldn’t end up being inducted until years after he had passed way.
One popular urban legend as to why Savage was so estranged from WWE was that his differences with Vince McMahon were more than personal. The rumor goes that he engaged in sexual activity with a teenage Stephanie—an unforgivable sin that meant WWE would never give him the satisfaction of celebrating his legacy while he was alive.
14. Was Brock Lesnar Supposed to Squash Daniel Bryan?
2013 was a dominant year for Brock Lesnar, summed up by two epic performances. First, he was the man to end The Undertaker’s WreslteMania undefeated streak at WrestleMania XXX. From there, Lesnar did the unthinkable when he not only defeated but squashed John Cena in the main event of SummerSlam to capture the WWE Championship.
Cena getting so thoroughly destroyed was out of character for WWE’s booking team and raises the question—was Cena always earmarked for that spot? More to the point, Daniel Bryan won the WWE Championshp at WrestleMania only to have to relinquish it that spring due to injuries. Had Bryan not been hurt, would he have played the sacrificial lamb for Lesnar?
While we’ll never know for sure, and Cena getting dominated offered a unique spectacle, given Bryan’s size, selling ability, and popularity at the time, there’s little doubt he would have been about equally effective in that spot.
13. Did Hulk Hogan Intentionally Screw Sting At Starrcade?
Starrcade 1997 saw the long awaited blow off match between WCW Champion Hollywood Hogan and the returning Sting. Things got complicated, though. With the signing of Bret Hart, fresh off the Montreal Screwjob, WCW felt compelled to work his story into the main event picture and scrapped whatever was originally planned in favor of Hogan beating Sting off of the referee’s fast count, after which Hart would storm the ring to not allow this injustice, force the match to restart, and see Sting reign victorious.
In addition to the plan itself being too convoluted for its own good, things went haywire when Hogan pinned Sting and pinned him off of what was in no way a fast count. The pin made Hogan look like the true winner and Hart look crazy for demanding the match restart. Questions have persisted about why this happened. One explanation suggests that referee Nick Patrick forgot to count quickly, another that Sting forgot to kick out of what wasn’t supposed to be the final pin.
Another theory holds that Hogan didn’t want to lose this high profile match, or particularly was disappointed that Sting had let himself go physically during his time off. Regardless, the urban legend goes that Hogan conspired with or even paid off Patrick to give a regular count on the pin, or even went up the chain to get the finish changed, in any case screwing Sting out of looking strong in what should have been a spotlight moment.
12. Did Bret Hart Know About The Montreal Screwjob In Advance?
Speaking of Bret Hart and screwjobs, he was famously the victim of The Kliq, Vince McMahon, and Earl Hebner’s collaboration to make it look like he submitted Shawn Michaels in Canada to drop the WWE Championship to him at Survivor Series 1997. Hart had downright refused to job to Michaels for the title in Canada, and from his account, intended to simply vacate the title the next night, on his way out the door to WCW.
Over the years, a conspiracy theory has taken shape: maybe Hart was in on the Screwjob.
It’s a problematic theory for what were, by all accounts, real tensions between Hart and Michaels, for everyone involved keeping the secret (if it exists) for nearly 20 years now, and for no one else close to the situation seeming to have known about it. Still, the Screwjob did help build Hart’s legacy and lend him extra momentum heading into WCW, while giving WWE a cutting edge story and helping launch the Mr. McMahon heel authority figure character. It just so happened that Hart had a camera crew following him around to to film a documentary at the time, and they got a hell of a story out of this twist.
So could it all have been one of wrestling’s most cunning worked shoots, with Hart aware of and perhaps even cooperating with his perceived enemies? It doesn’t seem likely, but the urban legend persists.
11. Just How Far Did Sunny Go For Substances?
Sunny has engaged in her fair share of questionable behavior, including sleeping around with wrestlers even when she was in a committed relationship with the late Chris Candido, and struggling with substance abuse. Whatever you might think of Sunny, to her credit, she has generally owned up to her transgressions, never claiming to be a saint or even justified in all of her actions.
A story has followed her about her time in ECW, however, that raises questions. Allegedly, she offered up and ultimately agreed to sexual acts in exchange for drugs. The most pervasive story has her negotiating with Sabu to get her hands on some pills, with acts ranging from exposing herself, to performing ‘favors’ for Sabu. A number of ECW alumni have corroborated the story, while Sunny herself has denied this one, making it one of the more salacious unconfirmed rumors in wrestling.
10. Was Chris Jericho Supposed To Main Event WrestleMania 2000?
WrestleMania 2000 isn’t remembered all that fondly, and one of the contributing factors was the complete absence of one-on-one matches, including the main event. Lots of critics suggest the show should have seen The Rock challenge Triple H for the WWE Championship, heads up. Instead, the two were involved in a Fatal Fourway that also featured The Big Show and Mick Foley.
But was Foley always supposed to be in the mix?
Earlier in the year, Foley lost what was billed as a retirement match to Triple H, which would theoretically take him out of the running for a WrestleMania match. In the meantime, early promotional materials for the show didn’t reference Foley, instead picturing the other three headlineers and Chris Jericho.
So was Jericho, a rising star in 2000, originally supposed to be the fourth man? That’s what the urban legend says, and there is a reasonable amount of evidence given his trajectory at the time, the publicity shots, and McMahon notoriously going back and forth on how and whether to push Y2J.
9. Was Hulk Hogan Vs Zeus The Original WrestleMania VI Main Event?
Hulk Hogan stepped away from his regular headlining role for a bit coming out of WrestleMania IV, leaving Randy Savage with the world title while he spent time filming No Holds Barred. His film opponent, Zeus, played by Tiny Lister, wound up crossing over into WWE as the promotion concocted a story that he was jealous and/or lost his mind and decided he should challenge Hogan for real, largely playing the same character he had in the movie in WWE.
Zeus was built as a monster, and rumor has it that he was originally penciled in to face Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania VI. Given the main event we did get—Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior—it stands to reason Zeus may have ben the original plan, to avoid the kind of face-face match WWE generally avoided, and to go with a more traditional formula of Hogan vs. a super-sized monster. It makes sense enough, too, that WWE changed directions because Zeus wasn’t a trained wrestler and needed thorough protection in tag team scenarios to function in WWE, let alone at the main event level for the months that he did.
8. Was Vince Russo Sent To Kill WCW?
In the heat of the Monday Night War, one of the most shocking defections of all was not a wrestler bouncing from one company to the other, but rather Vince Russo leaving WWE for WCW. Russo wasn’t a a household name at that point, but was a key creative contributor for WWE whose wild ideas and investment in giving stars at every level something to do helped make the Attitude Era as successful as it was. The general consensus is that Russo was a prolific idea generator who needed someone with better judgment like Vince McMahon to filter out the bad ones and make the most out of the ones that had potential. So, while Russo was an important part of WWE’s success, he wound up being a detriment to WCW.
One theory was that Russo’s poor work for WCW was by design. The rumor goes that McMahon sent him to WCW with the intention of him rotting the product. This could mean that Russo intentionally tanked the show, but the logic here suggests more so that Russo just did his thing without anyone to rein him in and the results took WCW’s creative from bad to much worse.
7. How Often Did Big Van Vader Wash His Gear?
While a lot of urban legends are only supported by a small handful of conspiracy theorists or people from outside the business rumors of Big Van Vader’s poor hygiene have been supported by quite a few first-hand sources.
The story goes that, as a big, heavyset man, Vader was prone to not smelling great after a match. This issue was allegedly compounded by him not washing his gear as often as his colleagues would have liked. Stories of Vader’s stench come from a variety of colleagues and promotions, but the issue seems to have come to a head in WWE, where Shawn Michaels and The Kliq used it as a sticking point for why Vader shouldn’t be a top guy or go over HBK at SummerSlam 1996 as he was allegedly originally supposed to.
6. Was Sid Vicious Supposed To Win The WCW Championship At Starrcade 1993?
The story of Sid Vicious getting into a real life hotel brawl with Arn Anderson is well documented. The issue between the two allegedly started over a an argument about whether Ric Flair should still be main eventing, as Vicious indicated he was taking the spot from younger guys while Anderson took up for his friend. The issue escalated to scissors getting involved and Anderson in particular suffering a high volume of stab wounds. Vicious would be released from the company as a result.
Rumor has it that, had Vicious not gotten into trouble, he was actually slated to win the WCW Championship at Starrcade that December. While WCW hadn’t really started telling that story in earnest, Vicious played the number two heel behind the champ, Big Van Vader, for the preceding months. That story had more or less run its course, and a face turn and run with Vader was a logical enough progression for Vicious.
The irony of the situation? In losing his job as a result of a fight that started over Ric Flair’s main event legitimacy, Vicious ended up giving up his biggest main event opportunity to Flair himself, who wound up headlining Starrcade and beating Vader for the title.
5. Was Hulk Hogan Supposed To Get His Win Back From Brock Lesnar?
When Brock Lesnar debuted on the WWE main roster, he went on absolute tear, decimating The Hardy Boyz, winning King of the Ring, and ultimately unseating The Rock as WWE Champion. Along the way, Lesnar also destroyed Hulk Hogan, bearhugging arguably the top legend in the business into unconsciousness.
It was rare for Hogan to put over someone this strongly. Consider his short-term runs years later when he purportedly politicked to ensure he’d defeat Shawn Michaels and later Randy Orton. Maybe Lesnar was just different, even then, and Hogan agreed to serve the greater good in helping to establish the new monster.
Another theory suggests that Hogan agreed to put over Lesnar decisively with the understanding that he’d come back to beat him later on. We may never know whether that’s true, but Hogan never did get his win back. Maybe that was a change in plans or Hogan was lied to. Or maybe, if the promise was there, sheer happenstance got in the way. Hogan was gone from WWE a little while later and only came back for a few more short runs, all during the gap when Lesnar had left wrestling and thus couldn’t return the favor even if he wanted to.
4. Did John Cena Ruin Alex Riley’s Career?
Alex Riley got off to a pretty hot start with WWE, playing The Miz’s protégé as an up and coming heel, and then battling against his mentor as a rising face. All of a sudden, Riley slipped down the ranks, though, before finding himself working as a color commentator for NXT. While it could have been dismissed as a change in career path for him, his new role was undermined by his social media presence as he tweeted about wanting to be allowed back into the ring.
Rumor has it that John Cena politicked against Riley to stunt his career. The alleged story goes that Riley responded poorly to a rib, and thus Cena made him disappear. Ryback, for one, has supported the theory and taken up for Riley as the wronged party. Interestingly, despite getting his release from WWE, Riley has remained mum about the issue, perhaps in the interest of one day making it back to his old spot.
3. Were We Supposed To Get Tugboat: Iraqi Sympathizer?
Hulk Hogan had a history of his closest friends turning on him and becoming his arch-rivals. It happened with Paul Orndorff and Andre the Giant; it happened with Randy Savage and Sid Justice; heck, in WCW, even Brutus Beefcake would take a stab at challenging the Hulkster.
In the early 1990s, Tugboat—who’d arguably go on to greater fame in WCW as the infamous Shockmaster—made his debut and was quickly aligned with Hogan. The friendship didn’t amount to too much as the big guy suffered a kayfabe injury at the hands of Earthquake and disappeared for a bit. He’d later tease turning heel by going after Hogan in a televised battle royal but there was little follow up. The next things fans knew, Tugboat was rebranded as Earthquake’s partner Typhoon, but the heel pair didn’t have much to do with Hogan from there.
Rumor has it that the original plan was to push Tugboat strongly as Hogan’s pal, only for him to turn on The Hulkster for a rivalry that would reach its peak at WrestleMania 7. Some of these rumors go so far as to suggest that Tugboat would take on the Iraqi sympathizer gimmick that Sgt. Slaughter wound up playing (or that he may have been the backup choice if Slaughter didn’t come back to WWE). Whether WWE decided Tugboat wasn’t ready for that spot, just preferred Slaughter, or if this is all a figment of fans’ imagination remains a mystery.
2. Did The Von Erich Boys Kill A Cat Backstage?
There are multiple rumors floating around the Internet about Kerry or Kevin Von Erich killing cats for fun—each of them grotesque, none of them firmly substantiated.
These urban legends range from Kevin swinging a cat by its tail against a wall to kill it, to Kerry or Kevin throwing a saw blade at a stray, Kerry applying the family’s signature iron claw and legitimately crushing a cat’s skull.
While none of these stories have been confirmed by reputable sources, there are those parties who indicate the Von Erichs had a mean streak in them and that they would abuse substances that might make them more prone toward animal cruelty as sport. Hopefully these urban legends aren’t true as they reveal a much darker side to the well loved family that ultimately endured so much tragedy as it is.
1. Did Andre The Giant Weigh More Than Anyone Thought At WrestleMania III?
At WrestleMania III, Andre the Giant was billed as weighing in at five hundred pounds. That Hulk Hogan could pick him up for a body slam was undeniably impressive (if not unprecedented, as WWE tried to sell fans on at the time). This match, and more particularly that moment of the slam went a long way toward cementing Hogan’s legacy as wrestling’s own super hero and far and away the top star of his day.
But how much did Andre the Giant actually weigh at? The five hundred pound mark is generally considered about right, but when Hulk Hogan hit the interview circuit in the years to follow he indicated that that was an underestimate. More particularly, he suggested that Andre weighted upwards of seven hundred pounds by that stage in his life.
The seven hundred pound mark sounds inflated, but might Hogan, who actually picked up the big guy, know best? Or is he only trying to build up his own legend? Thirty years later and over two decades after Andre passed, it’s impossible for us to know for sure.
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