Some wrestlers’ noses are as brown as the leather on an old title belt.
In a business that has long relied on the ‘who ‘ya know’ factor, as well as rampant nepotism, success in pro wrestling can often be gained by having a positive relationship with the promoter. Often one performer may be pushed to Superstar status while more talented grapplers are left in his dust… simply because he’s buddy-buddy with the boss. This practice dates back to the infancy of the sport, when it was closed off from most of the public and you had to be acquainted with someone in the business to get involved.
While in the past, these types of dealings were merely brushed aside, we now live in something called ‘The Internet Age’ With the inner workings of the industry revealed on an almost hourly basis, fans have tried to peek through the curtain as who and why. What has been revealed in recent years is that some performers will kiss the equivalent of nine miles of ass… just to get one shot at glory.
So, while fans click away and connect the dots, much of what happens backstage is left with the mystery of a soap opera. Hoping to clear the air, here is a list of 15 famous brown-nosers from the world of professional wrestling.
Christian did a very bad thing. He left WWE and went to that little company down south. But then, like any good Christian, he repented.
After departing for TNA, Jay Reso was re-christened Christian Cage and had a run with the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. It was a fulfillment of a lifelong goal for the Canadian-born grappler, even though it wasn’t exactly the brass ring, or gold belt, he had been hoping to grab.
Like waking up the morning after prom, Christian realized he had made a horrible mistake. Upon his return to WWE in 2009, he wouldn’t even discuss his short tenure in TNA. Reso later said he regretted leaving his home promotion and called his time away, “a joke.”
In other words, he wanted to make it clear that his heart was always in Stamford.
After being jumped back into his old gang, Christian would soon wear the title belt in the WWE version of ECW. Since then, he has retired from active competition due to not being medically cleared to compete. Recently he has worked with his best friend, Edge, on projects for the WWE Network. Thanks to him totally renouncing his run in TNA, he’s been allowed back in the good graces of the family.
14. Bob Backlund
Bob Backlund was a virtual hand-picked choice by Vince McMahon Sr. as the perfect good guy champion. An amateur star, Backlund was a far cry from the usual outlandish personalities of the New York territory. Still, he managed to stay the federation’s standard bearer for most of the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Backlund left shortly after the title was transitioned to Hulk Hogan, as he was deemed too plain for the company’s new style.
When he returned years later, Backlund was convinced by McMahon Jr. to change his persona. And, change it, he did. In order to appease the boss, Backlund took that suggestion and went a bit too far with it. It was completely off the mark from the dignified champion he once portrayed.
The tactic worked. Years after it appeared he would be a footnote in history, Backlund regained the WWE title, albeit by transforming into a total maniac for his employer. He completely overlooked his legacy for one more run at the top, much to the satisfaction of Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
13. Bret Hart
Hard to believe it, but the Excellence of Execution makes this list.
Long before the term ‘screwjob’ was ever thrown around by the average fan, Bret Hart endeared himself to management on a regular basis. After the departure of Hulk Hogan from the WWE, Hart was able to convince McMahon that he was the right guy to carry the ball for the company.
For those who were around the company in the early ’90s, the thought of a fallout ever occuring between McMahon and his top star would seem far fetched. As documented in the film, “Wrestling with Shadows”, for much of Hart’s time with the company, he often had a father-son type relationship with the boss.
There are stories that The Hitman even took less pay in order to remain champion. In essence, this may be doing the boss an ultimate favor, working for less than value. His goodwill gesture towards the company angered co-workers, who felt it compromised their own financial leverage.
12. Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho spent his entire career trying to make it to the WWE. Through the Smoky Mountains and Mexico to ECW and WCW, Chris Irvine wanted to live out his boyhood dream of wrestling for Vince McMahon.
When the clock struck zero, it gave Jericho a role that he continues to relish to this day: WWE yes man. If any performer has draped themselves in the colors of the company more than Y2J, it would be hard to believe. Upon his dramatic entrance to his permanent home, he essentially handed the keys to his soul to the McMahon empire.
What has followed is one of the greatest wrestling careers of all time. And, many people feel the decision to make Jericho the first Undisputed Champion ever was because of his almost unwavering loyalty. At that point in his career, Jericho was closer to the McMahon clan than even more established stars of the time.
You have to give him a lot of credit for his dedication, but at times, his puppy love of the folks in Stamford was a bit too much. In more recent years, he has taken more of an individual stand. But at one time, Y2J was quick to grab a cup of coffee for the boss.
A self-appointed locker room leader, Bradshaw hasn’t made a lot of friends who aren’t named McMahon. With over 20 years in WWE, John Bradshaw Leyfield has learned that being an ally of management has its benefits.
As one of the company’s henchmen, JBL was known to strong arm personalities that were being difficult, as well as being an outspoken supporter of WWE. Any criticism of Vince McMahon or the WWE in his presence would often lead to fisticuffs. And during the Monday Night War, the big Texan would often consider anything praising WCW as fightin’ words.
Many observers say that JBL’s run on top in the company was a mere reward for his blind loyalty. Layfield had a sparsely decorated career before his huge singles push in the early 00’s. If that’s the case, then it was awfully nice of the company to let him pad his resume, after all those years of working so hard for the office.
Along with Jay Reso, Adam Copeland was reared in the shadows of a long time WWE stronghold, Toronto. As a child, he attended WrestleMania VI, and dreamed that one day he, too, would main event the mega show.
When he finally made it to the big time, all his childhood dreams came true… right there in a WWE ring. Maybe that’s why he’s so much of a company guy.
Edge has always been a favorite of Vince McMahon. Considered a sort of number one draft pick when he entered the fed back in the late ’90s, he had the look, charisma, and ring style of a Superstar.
Since then, Edge has been kept close in the fold. He was even favored over Matt Hardy during a huge love triangle scandal involving Lita. Rather than being punished for his offscreen behavior, he received the push of a lifetime.
It became pretty apparent at the time that Edge had played all the right angles, using his leverage to turn a potential negative into a positive. His backstage friendships with all the right people have paid dividends for him over the course of a long, storied career. Clearly, Copeland has the edge on other performers when it comes to getting his way in WWE.
9. Mick Foley
Mick Foley is seemingly nice to everyone. But for most of his time in WWE, Foley has gone a long way to be extra nice to his boss.
As Foley was achieving mainstream stardom with appearances in TV and documentaries, he penned the New York Times Bestseller, “Have A Nice Day!” He had three short runs as the WWE Champion and could do not wrong in the eyes of the folks at Titan Towers.
Despite most of his endeavors being rubber-stamped by management, Foley continually found it necessary to put over Vince McMahon publicly. And, he did it a lot. Always being sure to tip his cap at the WWE marketing team, Foley curried favor with the McMahons by playing the harmless, nice guy. His critics charge that some of his jolly attitude is a put on, meant to disarm the people in power.
Even today, Foley continues to play whatever role the McMahons deem he is worthy for. Some of his recent comments praising Stephanie McMahon on the WWE Network prove that he’s continuing to stay on the good side of the family. Here’s hoping he gets to stay in his current role as RAW general manager for a long time. Goodness knows, he’s earned it.
8. Sgt. Slaughter
When you’re willing to go from being a walking GI Joe to a traitorous Arab sympathizer for your boss, that’s one hell of a commitment.
That’s precisely what Slaughter did. Many stories have swirled about the strange decision to put the WWE World Championship on the aging Slaughter back in 1991. Whether it was a lack of confidence in The Ultimate Warrior or just a desire to pass the belt back to Hogan, The Sarge served the role of transitional titleholder. But, the story behind the story may be even seedier.
The gossip is that Slaughter, sensing the sunrise of his career, struck a deal with McMahon. He would agree to do a total 180 degree turn and play an Iraqi sympathizer, in exchange for the WWE Championship and lifetime employment. Supposedly, McMahon saw dollar signs in the angle, and felt like the deal was worth it. Speculation about the story has only grown since Slaughter has remained on with the company since his retirement.
Richard Remus, the man behind the character, endured some very real life backlash for donning the turban. Death threats against he and his family, as well as the McMahons, soon followed his ‘betrayal.’ So, this may be a case of being careful what you wish for. Sometimes it’s dangerous to be too good to your boss.
Everybody has a favorite workout buddy. Somebody who spots you when you do your reps, and snaps you in the ass with a towel in the locker room. Indeed, a little time in the sauna together is a great time for male bonding. Especially if it’s with your boss.
Triple H’s buddy in the early 2000s was a guy once named Deacon Batista. Many hours and many reps later, Big Dave lost the collar and became a pro wrestling wrecking machine.
Coincidence? Maybe. But many in the industry disagree.
Over the course of the next few years, Batista went from curtain jerker to main event star to Hollywood actor. He was even shoehorned into Triple H’s all-star mega faction, Evolution. The spot was originally supposed to go to another up and coming wrestler at the time, Mark Jhindrak.
Underneath Batista, is Melina. (RIMSHOT)
WWE’s locker room vixen has had her fair share of dirt shoveled on her since her departure. Stories of her sexual conquests and catty behavior towards her fellow Divas have been sprinkled through the internet rumor mill.
Fairly or unfairly, Melina is viewed by the public as a bit of a golddigger and a consummate politician. That’s why it’s no surprise that she decided to cuddle up to one of the most powerful men in wrestling. Or, at least, the powerful guy’s buddy.
The rumor is that there were sexual encounters that took place between Batista and Melina that were not necessarily based strictly on passion. A push for her boyfriend, John Morrison, and herself was part of the deal.
And while no one has confirmed the entire story, there are enough whispers that fans have started to put together two and two. Or… in this case, 1+1+1.
Melina went on to huge success in the Women’s Division, and Morrison was re-packaged as a larger than life rock star. The two have since left the company, but their departure has not stopped the rumors that Melina did the ultimate version of a ‘favor’ to get ahead.
5. Hulk Hogan
During Hulk Hogan’s initial run with the WWE in the ’80s and early ’90s, no performer had the kind of pull with McMahon that Hogan had. Holding a unique amount of leverage, Hogan was, at one time, the one worker that could have flatlined the company with his departure. While he was breaking attendance and merchandise records in the ’80s, the man behind the myth was getting drunk with power.
Observers (such as Bret Hart) have noted in interviews that Hogan had an unusual way of dealing with the federation’s chairman. Often acting as half friend, half businessman, The Hulkster would flex his creative muscle by convincing his buddy that Hulkamania was what was best for business.
Eventually, McMahon saw the ‘friendship’ with Hogan as being rather one-sided and attempted to minimize his star. Eventually Hogan, tired of playing nice with his boss, departed for WCW, where he would have more control.
4. John Cena
If there was any human being ever created to be a wrestler, it’s John Cena. No wonder he used to go by the name, The Prototype.
Cena may be the most polished product Vince McMahon has ever produced. From his size, strength, charisma, and morning show smile, the kid from Massachusetts was essentially WWE’s number one draft pick.
And, Cena has maintained that position by being a ‘company’ man.
No performer in the history of the federation has done more work outside of the ring, from the Make-A-Wish foundation to hosting the ESPYs. Cena has taken on the role of the face of WWE for over 10 years now. He’ maintained his spot by basically never saying ‘no’ to any and all things promotional.
While you can applaud his tenacity and work ethic, some of it seems a little bit for show. Cena comes off a bit like the boy running to help the teacher sharpen a pencil. At times, and fans see through it, especially when they hear stories about him being not so nice with his co-workers.
3. The Miz
For a lot of old school wrestling fans, the thought of The Miz headlining WrestleMania still leaves a sick feeling in their stomachs. He was often viewed by hardliners as a fluke, someone who made it into the business through a side door.
Despite his reality show roots, the man known to his mother as Mike Mizanin has evolved into a quality performer. Some might argue that he makes a fine mid-level heel champion. His recent runs with the Intercontinental Championship have resulted in some good feuds and intriguing matches. And, give the guy credit, he’s lasted in WWE for over ten years.
But during his reign on top, rumors abounded that it was political maneuvering that delivered him the WWE Championship. Anyone who watched him play his dual roles on MTV already saw the Miz wear two faces.
2. Triple H
You would think a guy who married into the boss’ family would automatically get the top spot, but we reserved that one for his ‘Kliq brother.’
The well-documented transformation of Triple H from pig slopping mid-carder to favorite son is enough to garner a spot on this list. In his case, being one of the most powerful men in the industry really does have a lot to do with who he gets in bed with.
As he kowtows with the rich and famous, he will forever wear the tag of being Mr. Stephanie McMahon. And while you have to give the guy credit for some of the keen moves he has made as an executive, his ascension to the throne is still met with snickers by many industry observers.
They say you can’t help who you fall in love with. Conveniently for Triple H, he just happened to fall in love with the boss’ daughter. Not long after that, he received the world title as an engagement present. Cheers!
1. Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels may think he’s cute and know he’s sexy, but his act had worn thin with many of his co-workers during his initial run the WWE.
As de facto president of perhaps the most powerful political party in history of wrestling locker rooms, The Kliq, Michaels infamously stuck closer to owner Vince McMahon than any wrestler in company history. He is often cited as the main reason why many careers were either being harmed, or hurt. On the flip side, he’s also credited with pushing McMahon to open up the industry and go full bore with the Attitude Era.
One career in particular that Michaels made sure to help was his own. He went from being a guy who was once considered too small to be a main eventer, to being mentioned as possibly the greatest performer of all time. His immense talent is part of that equation. The huge support of the WWE propaganda machine hasn’t hurt, either.
The odd relationship between McMahon and HBK has led to all sorts of speculation about why the WWE’s kingpin tolerated Michaels’ antics. The Superstar himself has admitted to being a ‘spoiled brat’ back in the ’90s, while other wrestlers have suggested in interviews that their may have been more nefarious connections between The Heartbreak kid and his boss.
Other observers, including his fellow Kliq members, have said that this was because Michaels was the first wrestler to approach Vince and make him feel like ‘one of the boys’. That open line of communication often allowed The Showstopper to get away with storyline murder, refusing to drop titles and taking time off whenever he felt wronged.
Whatever the true reason, Shawn Michaels and his amazing sway over the WWE owner tops the list as our number one office goody-goody.
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