You may have noticed by now that life isn’t fair. Sometimes, you can do everything right and still end up losing. Other times, you can do everything wrong and come out on top. The most frustrating example of life’s unfairness usually has something to do with comparisons, however. There is nothing more annoying than doing nearly everything the same as someone else and then watching as they get ahead and you fall behind. More often than not, such things happen because someone along the way is playing favorites.
In WWE, that someone is usually Vince McMahon. WWE may have a board of directors and stock brokers but they are essentially still a dictatorship that lives in the iron fist of Vince McMahon. As such, there have been more than a few instances over the years of problematic superstars who become household names because they are the Vince’s favorite wrestlers and just as many instances of troubled performers who are pretty much let go the instant that they do something wrong. Is that fair? Not even close. But hey, it’s not about what’s fair or what’s not, it’s about the eight troubled star Vince McMahon put up with and the seven that he immediately fired.
15 Put Up With - Pat Patterson
Pat Patterson’s wrestling days were pretty much over by the time that Vince McMahon Jr. took over, but that didn’t stop Patterson from causing Vince plenty of trouble over the years. In 1992, ring announcer Murray Hodgson accused Pat Patterson of sexual harassment. Patterson soon became the centerpiece of a sex scandal that put the WWE in a very negative public light just as the company was trying to distance themselves from the steroid trials. At the time, Patterson was fired along with the other men directly accused as part of the charges.
However, Patterson was the only one of the accused who was immediately rehired after the charges were dropped. So why did Vince rehire Patterson and nobody else? Simply put, it’s because Patterson was integral to McMahon’s operations and everyone else was disposable.
14 Fired - Ahmed Johnson
Here’s one that we should all be grateful for. When Ahmed Johnson debuted, many fans correctly identified him as one of “Vince’s Picks.” This club is typically reserved for stars who have bodybuilder physics and little else. Still, WWE have managed to turn such people into stars by teaching them how to talk, build a character, and wrestle. The problem with Ahmed Johnson was that he couldn’t wrestle. Actually, the real problem was that he kept injuring people. Vince kept Johnson around for as long as he could, but before too long, Johnson’s in-ring problems, awful promos, weight gain, and general attitude problems forced Vince to give up on one of his picks. Actually, Ahmed Johnson is one of the few favorites of Vince McMahon that the boss gave up on so quickly.
13 Put Up With - Davey Boy Smith
At a time when WWE fans were quick to support large wrestlers with natural charisma, Davey Boy Smith became a bonafide star. No, the man known as The British Bulldog wasn’t necessarily a great wrestler, but he had a lot of muscles, an accent, and a dog, which is really all you needed back then to win over the fans. Unbeknownst to many of those fans, Smith also had a big substance abuse problem. Steroids, pills, booze...Smith was down for anything that could make him bigger or make him feel better.
Bret Hart even stated that Smith was so high during their SummerSlam 1992 match that Bret had to almost literally carry him during the bout. Despite all of this, Vince McMahon rehired Smith on three separate occasions following notable instances of attitude problems and drug problems. We guess The British Bulldog sold a lot of t-shirts.
12 Fired - Lance Cade
While many didn’t look at Lance Cade and see a future superstar, Cade was seemingly a reliable mid-card act. He had a good look, his matches weren’t awful, and the fact he was trained by Shawn Michaels - and got to work with him from time to time - certainly didn’t hurt his career prospects. Actually, Cade was seemingly on the verge of a main event push in 2008 when he was booked to be Chris Jericho’s protege. Soon after the start of that angle, however, Cade was released from WWE. In the coming weeks, it was revealed that Cade had suffered a seizure on a plane as a result of his drug habits. While WWE usually suspends wrestlers for first-time drug violations, Vince fired Cade soon after the incident. It’s believed that the firing was the result of the embarrassment the Cade incident caused Vince and WWE.
11 Put Up With - Eva Marie
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Vince McMahon catches word of an attractive young fitness model and decides to turn her into a professional wrestler despite the model’s complete lack of professional wrestling experience. While this set-up has worked in the past (Trish Stratus) it more often than not leads to untalented performers clogging up the roster. What’s strange in the case of Eva Marie is that there have been many good reasons to fire her over the years, and Vince has seemingly ignored all of them. Eva can’t wrestle, but Vince didn’t mind.
Eva was drawing heat for her attitude issues following her “rise to fame” on Total Divas, but Vince didn’t mind. Eva even violated the company’s wellness policy during a hot angle and was still kept under contract. Even now, Eva has basically cut off her ties with WWE and the company hasn’t formally released her. What’s up with that?
10 Fired - Sunny
Of course, Vince McMahon doesn’t always put up attractive women who also happen to be walking disasters. In her own way, Sunny revolutionized the way that WWE used their female performers. There had been attractive female performers in wrestling before Sunny, but WWE never really sexualized them the same way that they did with Sunny. Sunny soon became something of an early viral sensation who inspired a certain demographic to tune into Raw each week to watch her. Despite this, it was Sable - not Sunny - who was pushed to the moon as WWE’s resident blonde bombshell. Actually, it seems that Vince decided to head all trouble off at the pass after hearing about Sunny’s painkiller addiction and confrontations with Sable. Considering how popular she was, Vince gave up on Sunny pretty quickly.
9 Put Up With - Randy Orton
Randy Orton was seemingly destined to be a major WWE star. He had the family name, good looks, and was even pretty good in the ring from a young age. WWE gave Orton an incredible gimmick (Legend Killer), main event push, and World Championship reign by the time that Orton was 24. However, if you really want to know just how much Vince loves Orton, you have to look at all the sins Orton has committed that Vince has forgiven. In his career, Orton has not only gotten into confrontations with fans but even violated the company’s wellness policy three times. WWE eventually removed one of Orton’s wellness violations in an effort to avoid releasing the superstar as part of their former policy. Orton’s cleaned up his act over the years, but he’s enjoyed quite a few second chances along the way.
8 Fired - D.H. Smith
Before you start thinking that every member of a famous wrestling family just gets to do whatever they want in WWE, let’s look at D.H. Smith. As the son of Davey Boy Smith, you’d think that Davey Boy Smith Jr. would have had an easy road to stardom in WWE. That wasn’t quite the case. Not long after Smith’s WWE debut, he was suspended for 30 days due to a violation of the wellness policy. While Smith wasn’t fired right away, he was busted down to dark matches and the development territory. Shockingly, Smith climbed out of this darkness as a member of the Hart Dynasty. Despite the team’s success, the word was that Vince just never considered himself to be a fan of Smith. As such, Vince soon broke up the team, busted Smith down to dark matches, and fired him soon thereafter.
7 Put Up With - JBL
During the Attitude Era, JBL’s old-school antics made him a beloved character who drank beers and kicked ass just like Stone Cold Steve Austin. Over the years, though, WWE changed and JBL didn’t. In recent years, it’s become clear that JBL serves as WWE’s unofficial bully-in-charge. JBL has harassed quite a few different wrestlers and personalities over the years, but is famous for his bullying of The Blue Meanie (who he hated for being fat), Josh Matthews (who he saw as an easy target), and Joey Styles (who he just disagreed with on just about everything). In some ways, JBL is the last remnant of the old days of wrestling. All reports suggest that Vince likes it that way. Vince has always loved “boys being boys” and has apparently grandfathered JBL in as the living embodiment of that lifestyle.
6 Fired - Brad Maddox
Brad Maddox enjoyed a strange WWE career. He wrestled under some truly awful gimmicks while he was in WWE’s developmental territories and was eventually promoted to the main roster as a referee. He then enjoyed a brief run as Raw’s general manager which was arguably his career highlight. During this time, rumors started to emerge regarding Maddox’s backstage heat. Some said he had a bit of an attitude problem, but the general message seemed to be that Maddox hadn’t won over Vince McMahon and other key members of management. The word was that Maddox lived on the fence between “fired” and “employed” with McMahon just waiting for a reason to let him go. Maddox gave him that reason when he used the phrase “cocky pr***s” during a dark match. It might seem like a little thing, but it was enough for WWE to justify firing Maddox.
5 Put Up With - Scott Hall
Scott Hall was always a talented wrestler, but he also benefited from his decision to join WWE in the early ‘90s when the company was shaking their steroid image and trying to promote new stars. Hall was a big guy with a good look, but he didn’t scream “steroids.” That convinced WWE to give him a big push and Hall’s brilliant portrayal of the Razor Ramon gimmick helped make him a star. Even at this point in his career, Hall’s legendary substance became an issue. Late in his initial WWE run, Hall was suspended for six weeks due to his uncontrollable drug use. WWE fought hard to keep Hall, but he jumped to WCW where his substance abuse only grew worse. Despite this, Vince welcomed him back to WWE in 2002. Even after he left WWE, the company helped Hall back on his feet time and time again and let him make on-screen appearances from time to time.
4 Fired - Lex Luger
It feels like Lex Luger was identified as “the guy” wherever he went. In NWA/WCW, Luger received an almost instantaneous main event push as he worked programs against Sting, Ric Flair, and Ricky Steamboat. When he left WCW to join Vince’s bodybuilding program, Vince immediately pushed him as the program’s biggest name. Even though the WBF fell apart, Luger was moved over to WWE where he received another main event push. Luger always struggled with substance abuse issues and attitude problems that slowly ruined his relationship with Vince. In this case, Vince pretty much gave up on Luger the moment that he jumped ship and appeared on Nitro just eight days after wrestling on SummerSlam. However, what really made Vince forever write-off Luger was his involvement in the death of Mrs. Elizabeth. Apparently, Vince never forgave Luger for how much he let drugs control his life.
3 Put Up With - Shawn Michaels
Fans have long speculated that Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels might have a...special personal relationship. That might be a bit of a stretch, but given just how often Vince has forgiven Shawn over the years, we’d believe just about any rumor regarding the two. Shawn Michaels will be the first to tell you that he was a toxic presence during his main event run in the mid-nineties. Shawn complained about everyone, was constantly in trouble, began to rely on drugs, and had trouble getting along with anybody that wasn’t in his close group of friends. Despite all of this, Vince kept pushing Shawn and allowed him to return from things that most wrestlers would have been instantly fired for. Shawn eventually turned his life around, but he was as troublesome as any wrestler ever was in his younger days.
2 Fired - Raven
Raven’s initial run in ECW is one of the best runs a wrestler has ever enjoyed. At a time when ECW was changing the way that pro wrestling was booked and presented, Raven led the charge by constructing a punk rock/grunge character who didn’t seem interested in winning, losing, or whether or not he suffered. He just wanted to cause pain. Raven continued his excellent run in WCW (at least at first) and was brought into WWE in 2000. According to Raven, everything went downhill immediately. Apparently, Vince even asked someone who hired Johnny Polo (Raven’s old WWE gimmick).
Vince warmed up to Raven when he learned to appreciate Raven’s creative mind and even made him a booker. However, Raven was fired after just a couple of months into his booking career for a “misunderstanding of the company dating policy” and for getting drunk with Shane McMahon. Given Vince’s fondness for the whole “boys will be boys” lifestyle, we’re guessing he just never liked Raven.
1 Put Up With - Stone Cold Steve Austin
Let’s be clear about one thing: if you run a professional wrestling company and you so happen to employ a performer who goes on to be as successful as Stone Cold Steve Austin, you’re probably going to learn to be pretty lenient towards some of his worst tendencies. Hey, that’s what happens when a guy goes on to become arguably the most profitable professional wrestler in the history of the business. Even still, it’s pretty amazing that Austin’s reputation and standing with the WWE have survived the devastating series of incidents that occurred in 2002. First, Austin refused to lose to Brock Lesnar on an episode of Raw and got into a shouting match with Vince McMahon before walking out of the company on a moment’s notice. Then, Austin was charged with beating his wife, WWE’s Debra Marshall, who also publicly stated that Austin’s violence was due to the amount of steroids he was taking at the time. Despite all of this, WWE fans and Vince McMahon quickly learned to forgive Stone Cold and forget these things ever happened.
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