The life of a pro wrestler can be a frustrating. Especially in the WWE. The WWE is a political place that has everyone on edge. The mind games and short shelf life are two major factors that mess with the psyche of a WWE star. Superstars also happen to have large egos and more insecurity when it comes to the business aspect of the sport. It does make sense considering promoters fire or bury wrestlers whenever they chose and that can destroy a career. Everyone reacts to conflict in the workplace differently but some wrestlers have refused to do their job.
It usually isn’t an actual strike but the situations have occurred where performers used leverage, contracts or name value to stop doing what is asked of them. A contract typically means WWE has the right to make the call on what performers do, but the talent refusing can cause changes. A couple of instances saw huge names walk out of the business and unofficially quit by refusing to doing what was asked of them. That’s the most drastic circumstance. Most of the incidents just see plans change or a middle ground being met. It is usually an unpredictable precedent.
The situations are always different and there’s usually a polarizing reaction in regards to figuring out who are the right and wrong parties in the situation. Some fans and people in the industry believe the talent should do anything the employer asks since it is a business at the end of the day like any other. Others rally behind the wrestler since corporations don’t always have the best track record of doing what’s right and the talent often has a good point. We’ll look at the situations that have happened in the WWE and led to wrestlers refusing to do their jobs in various ways. Without further ado, here are the 15 wrestlers who refused to do their jobs!
15 The Rock
WWE has benefited greatly from The Rock’s massive success in many ways. No one had the inherent charisma or personality that The Rock did, but his star presence came along with the power to call his own shots at times. Rock refused to work a dream match with Shawn Michaels during HBK's return in 2002. Many fans wanted to see them grapple for the first time but Rock refused to do what was asked of him by declining to work with Michaels. During The Rock’s early days in WWE, Michaels and Triple H tried to sabotage his career and Rock took it personal. We never got the match between these two legends due to Rock flat out not going for it.
14 Buff Bagwell
WWE's purchase of WCW was meant to see World Championship Wrestling be its own brand, but a test match failed, dropping this possibility rather quickly. Buff Bagwell put out a horrible performance against Booker T in a WCW match on RAW and it convinced Vince McMahon to quit on the idea of continuing WCW. If that wasn’t bad enough, Bagwell refused to come to work the next week. Jim Ross stated Buff’s mother Judy Bagwell called Jim to inform him that her son was under the weather and couldn’t show up to RAW. Naturally, WWE fired Bagwell.
13 Paul London
The job of a WWE wrestler can get frustrating rather easily and that showed on one fateful night with Paul London. Despite being one of the most talented young stars on the roster, WWE relegated London into an enhancement talent and he was tired of it. The timeframe featured Vince McMahon faking his own death in one of the most bizarre storylines and his final walk past all of the wrestlers was supposed to be met with a serious or expressionless reaction. London stood out as the one person in the line smiling. He was released shortly after the incident.
12 Mick Foley
The Montreal Screwjob was arguably the most controversial moment in WWE history. A promoter going back on his word and lying to a wrestler about the finish of a match is unheard of and downright dangerous. Many of the performers were livid at Vince McMahon and the company for “screwing” Bret Hart on his last night in the promotion. Mick Foley actually boycotted RAW the next night by no-showing the event along with Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith. It made sense for Bret’s family to no-show, but Foley’s absence was a bigger deal. Foley wanted to quit the company but breach of contract would have prevented him from wrestling anywhere else for five years, so he ended up returning to work.
11 Jerry Lawler
The majority of names on this list feature in-ring performers refusing to have a match or storyline but Jerry Lawler is an exception. The King was a full-time announcer at his peak when he decided to stop doing his job in favor of defending his wife. Stacy “The Kat” Carter was married to Lawler at the time and he didn’t like it when WWE released her. Lawler decided to walk out with her unless they hired his wife back. Paul Heyman would end up replacing Lawler for about eight months before King returned to the commentary table. Lawler’s relationship with Carter started to crumble and he realized how sweet his job was. Luckily, Vince McMahon liked him enough to give another chance.
10 Stephanie McMahon
The most understandable incident of someone refusing to do their job in the WWE, was the time Stephanie McMahon said no to her father. Vince McMahon is known for thinking outside the box and coming up with ridiculous ideas. One of his most bizarre pitches occurred when Vince wanted to be revealed on television as the father of Stephanie’s unborn child. Stephanie was pregnant at the time and adamantly against the idea. We were spared from one of the most awkward potential storylines in WWE history thanks to Stephanie flat out shutting it down. The biggest lesson to take here is the McMahon family is the strangest group of relatives in entertainment.
9 Bruno Sammartino
Bruno Sammartino could be argued as the first big Superstar in WWE history with his dominant title reigns. That came with a great deal of power and influence given his importance on the shows. Sammartino would turn down many ideas he disliked and actually no-showed events if booked to do something he didn’t feel would be beneficial to him. Sammartino's post-wrestling career saw him become one of Vince McMahon’s biggest enemies for years and the drama during his time as a performer may have impacted that. Sammartino recently entered the Hall of Fame and is on good terms with WWE, but the height of his success led to his ego.
8 Jeff Jarrett
Jeff Jarrett has been one of the biggest enemies of the WWE for the past seventeen years and is unofficially blacklisted from the company. His decision to hold WWE up for money on his final night for the company in 1999 ensured he would never return. Jarrett was heading to WCW but was scheduled to drop the Intercontinental Championship to Chyna on his final night in WWE. Jarrett's contract expired one day before the PPV match and he demanded $300,000 to show up or he would have taken the belt to WCW. Vince McMahon didn’t want to risk it and agreed after Jarrett refused to show up without the ridiculous check in return.
7 Gail Kim
6 The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior’s career was met with a world of controversy and issues regarding his erratic behavior. One of the worst moments saw Warrior try to hold Vince McMahon up for money by refusing to wrestle in an advertised SummerSlam 1991 main event match teaming with Hulk Hogan against Sgt. Slaughter, General Adnan, and Colonel Mustafa. Hogan revealed on a WWE documentary that he wanted to lead the boys into beating up Warrior for refusing to do his job. McMahon ended up paying Warrior what he wanted for the match and would fire him following the show. Warrior’s worst moments are well documented but this was the main instance of him not wanting to do his job.
5 CM Punk
The most recent example of a wrestler having enough and refusing to continue doing his job was CM Punk walking out after the 2014 Royal Rumble. Punk always had a touchy relationship with WWE management, but his booking frustrated him to the point where he refused to work at WrestleMania XXX. For all intents and purposes, he basically turned down a seven figure payday in a main event level match against Triple H. Punk despised Triple H and was sick of Vince McMahon breaking his word on verbal agreements. His walk out is one of the biggest stories of the past decade in WWE and Punk has not looked back once since bolting.
4 Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels had a horrible attitude during his main event run in the 90s and it led to him refusing to do his job multiple times. The Heartbreak Kid developed the biggest ego in the sport and it caused animosity with the rest of the roster. Michaels refused to lose the WWE Championship back to Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13 and faked an injury declaring he “lost his smile” as a way to get out of it. Another near instance of Michaels refusing to follow orders saw reports of him refusing to lose to Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV in what would be the crowning moment of Austin’s rise to the top of WWE. The Undertaker allegedly threatened Michaels into doing what was right and HBK would do the job for Austin.
3 Bret Hart
You can’t talk 90s era Shawn Michaels without mentioning Bret Hart. The two in-ring legends absolutely hated each other during their personal rivalry at the top of WWE. Following Michaels faking an injury at the beginning 1997 to get out of losing, Bret also refused to lose to Michaels on his final night in the company in his home country of Canada. Hart stated there was no way he would lose the title to Michaels despite that being WWE’s ultimate wish. This all led to The Montreal Screwjob and the rest is history. Everyone has an opinion on whether Bret deserved the script being flipped on him, but he definitely did refuse to do his job that night.
2 Steve Austin
Steve Austin will not put up with anything he feels is unfair or disrespectful to him. Austin called his own shots in the WWE once he became the biggest star in the industry during his rise in The Attitude Era. The first big example of Austin refusing to do his job was denying a planned program with Jeff Jarrett (we don't blame him). Austin needed a new heel to feud with, but he held a grudge with Jarrett over comments Jeff made in a worked shoot promo years prior. The biggest instance, however, was Austin no-showing RAW when asked to put over rookie Brock Lesnar. Austin stated he would have put over Lesnar in a long storyline or a PPV match, but refused to do so in an unadvertised television match. He's since stated that he regrets his decision.
1 Hulk Hogan
The biggest ego in pro wrestling history being at the top of this list makes perfect sense. Hulk Hogan’s ascension to the top of the industry in the 80s commanded a great deal of leverage. Towards the end of his most successful first WWE run, Hogan won the WWE Championship at WrestleMania IX and was scheduled to lose the title to Bret Hart at SummerSlam. Hogan flat out refused, saying Hart was not in his class and instead opted to lose to Yokozuna. Hogan's WCW tenure also saw him abuse his “creative control” clasue to take very few losses. His final match with the company saw Jarrett lay down for him because Hogan did not want Jeff to beat him.
Even when he got older, Hogan didn't change. He refused to lose to Shawn Michaels in 2005 which led to Michaels hilariously overselling during their SummerSlam match.