As this writer has been working from the comfort of home for the past five years, there are certain things I don’t miss about my decade-plus working in offices. Chief among these things is office politics. And anyone who works in an office with other people can relate to this – there’s always someone who might not be better than you who nonetheless gets ahead because he or she knows how to get on the boss’ good side. And there’s always that co-worker who frequently saunters in late, sometimes hung over from some work night partying, and doesn’t always give his or her 100 percent. Next thing you know, they’ve got a promotion and a raise, while you’re still slaving away for the same lousy pay at the same lousy position. Yep, that co-worker has obviously tasted their share of figurative rear-end.
Wrestling locker rooms are no different. There are wrestlers, such as Daniel Bryan and Bret Hart, for instance, who never saw it fit to enter the world of locker room politics, yet enjoyed successful careers. But there are many others in the WWE, in particular, who can credit apple-polishing to part of, or most of their rise to prominence. That’s not to say that all these wrestlers don’t work hard or don’t give their all, but they’ve proven time and again that it’s oftentimes a case of whom you know, and not what you know when it comes to office, er, backstage politics.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at 15 current wrestlers (and occasionally, non-wrestlers) on WWE’s payroll who are, as reports have often claimed, huge butt-kissers behind the scenes.
15. The Miz
We’re glad that after years of running in place in the midcard post-WrestleMania XXVII, The Miz has become relevant again, while becoming the most must-see heel (sorry, Kevin Owens, but you come close) on WWE television, to use Mr. Mizanin’s term. The man is a brilliant heat magnet, and it’s still great watching him lower his voice as he angrily barks at babyfaces who push his buttons and set him off. Babyfaces such as Daniel Bryan during the earliest days of the late, lamented Talking Smack.
As we established above, the SmackDown General Manager isn’t one to play the politics game. Miz, on the other hand, has learned the tips and tricks of the backstage game in what has been a decade-plus run with the WWE, rising from JBL bullying victim to short-lived main eventer, slipping back to the midcard, then rising to the upper midcard, where his on-air promos represent everything Vince McMahon wants to hear from his Superstars. And that includes blaming Bryan’s high-risk style for his early retirement, while pushing his own safer, yet less-exciting style as the reason for his durability.
14. Big Cass
We wouldn’t say that Big Cass is a huge butt-kisser in the truest sense. But you’ve got to wonder, given that it was recently reported that he has negative press covfefe, er, backstage heat for a rather interesting reason – unlike most of his colleagues, he openly supports the only U.S. President to ever be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Yeah, that dude who helped Bobby Lashley shave Vince McMahon bald at WrestleMania.
We’re not going to turn this into a huge political debate, because those never end well. But think about it for a moment – Vince McMahon is a longtime Republican, and a close personal friend of the Donald. And Vince’s wife, Linda, is part of the Trump cabinet as Small Business Administration head. That shouldn’t hurt Big Cass’ push one bit, though it’s his size and look, first and foremost, that Vince believes would help him win bigly, as America’s 45th President probably would say.
13. Jinder Mahal
Last year, WWE beefed up its roster after its return to the two-brand days by re-hiring a couple of former jobbers to take up space at the bottom of the card – Jinder Mahal for RAW, Curt Hawkins for SmackDown Live. Since then, both men have switched brands, and Hawkins is still called to the task when someone needs a quick and painless win against a joke character. Mahal, on the other hand, went from “guy who’s lost to just about everyone since 2012” to WWE Champion in almost the blink of an eye, following this year’s Superstar Shakeup.
Yes, we can get that WWE wanted to book someone strong as it hopes to capitalize on its growing presence in India. But you can’t help but notice how the Modern-Day Maharaja seems to have reinvented himself in the way Vince McMahon likes to see his wrestlers, while openly embracing his new main event role, regardless of how unrealistic his rise appears in storyline. These days, nothing seems to hinder Jinder, though we’re betting that all changes at SummerSlam, as reports have suggested that’s where Mahal’s reign as champ will be ending.
12. Berkley Ottman
It’s time to completely bend the rules and move away from someone who isn’t a wrestler, but rather the non-wrestling son of one. If the name Berkley Ottman sounds familiar, that’s because his dad is the one and only Shockmaster, Fred Ottman. (And Tugboat and Typhoon too, if you’re talking WWE.) He also happens to be former WWE Superstar Cody Rhodes’ cousin, and the man who replaced legendary Mark Yeaton as WWE’s timekeeper.
As Justin Roberts alleged in his autobiography, Ottman’s problem was that he came up from NXT to replace three-decade veteran Yeaton with a sense of entitlement. He’d talk down to his coworkers and refuse to respect Roberts’ status as a veteran ring announcer, and even went to the point of making Roberts, who was already on thin ice with WWE management, look even worse to them.
Roberts’ unhappiness with Ottman, as he claims, caused some friction between him and Cody Rhodes, and while it’s not clear whether Berkley still has a head as big as his dad’s fake Stormtrooper helmet or whether he’s mellowed, it’s a safe bet he’s polished his share of apples to get away unpunished for disrespectful behavior.
11. Eva Marie
It’s a minor miracle that four years after winning a private Diva Search and showing very, very minor signs of improvement in the ring, Eva Marie is still officially employed by the WWE. Even now that she’s seemingly trying to distance herself from the company, WWE still has her as an active employee, and God knows how many times WWE tried to get a good return on investment on Ms. All Botch Everything herself.
Thanks to a Wellness Policy suspension last year, as well as her husband’s furious reaction to it, Eva Marie appears to have been on the outs with WWE as of late. But not to the point that she’s gotten fired, even if her piss-poor wrestling technique and massive unpopularity with fans should have long given WWE enough reason to sack her. We’d say she’s done her share of brown-nosing to save herself from the unemployment line, but as we hinted above, she might not care less these days, now that she’s openly trying to make it outside of the squared circle.
10. David Otunga
Can somebody tell me why David Otunga still has a job with the WWE? Really, because it boggles the mind. He wasn’t any good in the ring, he’s absolutely horrendous on commentary, and if you come to think of it, this Harvard-educated lawyer who happens to be engaged to Jennifer Hudson and a father to their young boy doesn’t really need WWE’s money. Yet he remains on the company’s payroll, telling stories on commentary that go nowhere, while still being remembered as one of the least-talented members of The Nexus.
Apparently, Otunga does get along quite well with the folks in charge of WWE, and while we’ve thoroughly trashed him for his lack of skills in anything wrestling-related, he is obviously a smart man who could help WWE down the line as part of their legal team. But his apparent membership in Mr. McMahon’s backstage Kiss My Ass Club ensures his continued employment as part of RAW‘s announce team, despite his adding nothing of value in his current role.
9. Michael Cole
Again, this is stretching it a bit, because the last time Michael Cole was in the ring, he was at the peak of his obnoxious heel run, while looking like a complete and utter fool in a series of matches against Jerry Lawler. But you’ve got to admit that Maggle has come a very long way since his days as the scrawny young dork whom Jim Ross verbally abused, and ultimately nut-shotted as part of his second heel turn (the Bart Gunn/Dr. Death angle post-Brawl for All).
Many insiders have attested to Cole’s ability to suck up behind the camera, and if recent accounts are to be believed, the voice of the WWE, for better or for worse, has some major backstage decision-making pull, and plans to focus more on his backstage duties going forward. And if you’re still not sold on these rumors and allegations, how about considering how enthusiastic Cole has been at shilling stuff, per WWE’s requests? The WWE App, Tout, the WWE Network – you name it, Maggle will shill it and then some.
8. Seth Rollins
Although Seth Rollins and Triple H have long hated each other in storyline, with the former fancying himself these days as the “Kingslayer,” the two also have a mutual admiration society of sorts in real life. That’s interesting, because it’s been claimed that Rollins and HHH did butt heads quite often in the past, back when Seth was new to the main roster and one-third of arguably the most dominant faction in recent WWE history, The Shield. But like many brash rookie/sage mentor relationships that start out rocky, Rollins and Triple H now get along famously off-camera.
However, you may think that Rollins probably is a little too effusive when it comes to praising the Game. Yes, we get that it was cool of Trips to let the Architect use his Pedigree finisher, especially when the Curb Stomp got outlawed. But you’ve got to wonder if Seth goes a bit overboard when it comes to praising his mentor – perhaps he’s somehow trying to compensate for how out-of-touch Vince might not be 100 percent sold on him due to his lack of size and tendency to get injured?
Though Lana’s obviously not toeing the line when it comes to WWE’s apparent dislike of her husband Rusev, the Ravishing Russian has come a long way since the time she had major heat with officials for going to TMZ and admitting that she and the Bulgarian Brute were engaged in real life. These days, she seems more than happy to play ball the way WWE wants to in other aspects of her career, saying what WWE wants to hear, and thereby garnering more heat with ladies such as Summer Rae and Sasha Banks.
For said willingness to play ball, Lana has been rewarded with a decent singles push, despite not having the in-ring ability of most female co-workers not named Eva Marie. So while the likes of Becky Lynch, and even Charlotte Flair get ignored on SmackDown Live, we’re seeing Lana heel it up in the blue brand’s women’s division. And while she’s lost all her attempts so far at winning championship gold, it might not be long before she finally becomes SmackDown Women’s Champion.
6. Nikki Bella
When WWE wanted to delete AJ Lee from the history books by having someone break her record for longest Divas Championship reign, they didn’t turn to the best hand. Rather, they turned to arguably the most influential women’s wrestler behind the scenes, Nikki Bella. Granted, Nikki’s ring work has improved by leaps and bounds, and while she could be too grating and too filler-heavy on the mic, she’s not as bad as many think. But certainly, there were more deserving women whom WWE could have had given that super-long Divas Championship reign to.
Evidently, this is a woman who knows that it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, and it certainly helps that she’s engaged to a man who gets along famously with the boss. And she’s also used her WWE tenure to build her brand outside of wrestling, with shows such as Total Divas and Total Bellas being certified money-makers for this remaining link to the “looks over skills” days of WWE women’s wrestling.
5. John Cena
Naturally, we can’t mention Nikki Bella without mentioning her fiancee, John Cena, and here he is, your 16-time WWE Champion who may likely be a 17-time champ in a few weeks, assuming he beats Shinsuke Nakamura for the right to face Jinder Mahal for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam. As we mentioned in the Nikki entry, Cena knows how to play ball with the boss, and that, in part, has helped him become the face of WWE for more than a decade, and always booked to look as strong as a Super Cena could be.
We’re not discounting Cena’s hard work through the years, and you know he’s busted his behind to earn his status as the original Face Who Runs the Place. But his ability to play the backstage game has also resulted in its fair share of travesties – the burial of The Nexus, as well as alleged incidents that resulted in the de-pushing of Tyler Reks and Alex Riley immediately come to mind. Of course, that’s all good with Mr. McMahon, who most likely tells Cena to “keep it up,” albeit without any racial slurs like in that infamous skit with Booker T and Sharmell.
4. Randy Orton
Randy Orton’s success as a 13-time world champion and one of the most iconic wrestlers of his generation cannot be denied. He’s far outdone his dad, Bob Orton Jr., in the WWE, like Kobe Bryant outdid his father, Joe Bryant, in the NBA. But take a minute to consider that Orton has gotten away with a TON of shenanigans in his 15 or so years as a WWE Superstar. All without getting heavily punished, if he was even punished at all.
Consider the Wellness Policy violations, the backstage and hotel room temper tantrums, pouring baby oil and lotion (or as some claim, Viper dung) into a female co-worker’s bag, making public comments suggesting that another female co-worker is the locker room bicycle. Orton has gotten away scot-free, or almost scot-free in every instance, and it appears to be due to his close friendship with former Evolution running buddy Triple H, and by extension, HHH’s father-in-law, Vince McMahon.
Even if John Bradshaw Layfield hasn’t been active in the ring for years, this one’s pretty obvious. He’s feared in the locker room as a proud, unapologetic bully and hazing ringleader, and years after terrorizing then-youngsters such as Edge, The Miz, Justin Roberts, and others, he was back in the news earlier this year for nearly driving Mauro Ranallo away from WWE. Thankfully, Mauro’s now back on NXT, where JBL can’t touch him, but the WWE Universe was so close to losing the best commentator since Good Ol’ JR’s heyday, thanks to JBL’s verbal abuse.
Of course, JBL hasn’t received more than a few slaps on the wrist for such actions, as well as other alleged cases of backstage bullying. And it’s all because he’s tight with the boss, who himself encourages these actions as a way to separate the men from the boys. It’s a sad fact of life – as long as Vince McMahon’s in charge, JBL will remain gainfully employed by the WWE.
2. Triple H
Now you may be thinking that Vince McMahon’s own son-in-law, Triple H, deserves the top spot. Even as a relative WWE newcomer, he had political clout due to his membership in The Kliq. He was oftentimes in the boss’ ear, with his precocious mind for the business in those early Greenwich Snob/DX days. And he obviously endeared himself so much to Vince that he allowed his daughter Stephanie to marry this long-haired, d**k joke-spouting, water-spewing would-be King of Kings. Yep, Trips has earned his place alright in the real-life Vince McMahon Kiss My Ass Club.
But he’s not in the top spot mainly because of the rumors that he and Vince haven’t seen eye-to-eye recently on a number of issues. Primarily, Triple H isn’t happy at how many of his NXT kids have turned out to be main roster busts, something you can chalk up to Vince’s tendency to lose interest on youngsters like kids lose interest in old toys once they get new ones.
1. Roman Reigns
I mean, who else would you have been thinking of at this point? We’ve hammered the point home ad nauseam – Roman Reigns is THE Guy in WWE management’s eyes, and it’ll take Roman going rogue a la Scott Steiner (or Paige, to use a present-day example) for WWE to sour on him. WWE loves Reigns like the Kardashian-Jenner clan loves the spotlight, and in turn, Reigns appears to love WWE’s big bosses right back. He says what he’s scripted to say, bad Looney Tunes references notwithstanding, doesn’t say a negative word about his forced push, and is definitely on Vince McMahon’s good side. Believe that.
If that isn’t proof enough for you, then consider that Reigns appears to have earned the status of locker room leader – he’s a veteran, yes, but not as tenured as many of his colleagues. That was proven in a recent report which claimed Roman took it upon himself to expel Enzo Amore off the tour bus, and later on the locker room. Reigns is clearly Mr. McMahon’s favorite “student” in his class of wrasslin’, and that’s pretty much the way they both like it.
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