Given its existence within the entertainment business, it should go without saying that pro wrestling is a fairly cutthroat industry. There are a very finite number of spots for top tier WWE superstars, and the most ambitious superstars will do whatever it takes to get one of them. This can even mean getting involved in some shady business, like backdoor deals, secret contracts, and at times, totally screwing over their nearest and dearest friends.
When a wrestler completely betrays a partner inside the squared circle, it’s usually the source of great intrigue and a long lasting, bitterly fought blood feud. Unfortunately, when these betrayals take place behind the scenes, they tend to simply end with the cheated wrestler feeling hurt and defeated while the backstabber goes on to reach all new untold heights, with the fans are more or less oblivious to it all.
In all fairness, sometimes it really is justified to hurt the career chances of another, even a friend, because the benefits for you outweigh the negatives for them. That’s never really been the place in pro wrestling, though, so backstage double crosses generally wind up just as angry and violent as the ones scripted for our entertainment. To learn all the details on who screwed whom, keep reading to discover 8 wrestlers who backstabbed their friends to get ahead and 7 who were betrayed in the process.
15 BACKSTABBER: Kevin Nash
After having spent four years in awful gimmicks like the Great and Powerful Oz, Master Blaster Steel, and Vinnie Vegas, there’s no wonder Kevin Nash was fed up with the wrestling business. This likely made him wiling to do whatever it took to get ahead, and in 1993, having just jumped from WCW to WWE, his opportunity to stop being polite and start getting real was at an all-time high. Quickly achieving great popularity as Diesel, Nash soon used his size, success, and relationship with Vince McMahon to sway company stories and booking. He wasn’t alone, joined by Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall, and others in the Kliq, yet as the reigning WWE Champion for a full year, Nash was obviously a big part of the problem. Wrestlers like Bam Bam Bigelow, Shane Douglas, and Pierre Ouellet have all singled Nash out as someone who hurt their careers by what he was saying to Vince at the time, and the backstabbing to progress his own interests only got worse when Nash had all the control in WCW.
14 BETRAYED: Mr. Kennedy
Most of the time, career retrospectives detailing the rise and fall of Mr. Kennedy focus on the fact he’s a professional bridge burner who constantly bad mouths his previous employers. While this is accurate today, if Kennedy was telling the truth when he explained why WWE fired him in the midst of a major push, maybe his constant complaining is justified after all. According to the man in question, Kennedy was fired the same night John Cena and Randy Orton made complaints about his performance in the ring being unsafe. He also obviously argues that he was always the safest wrestler around, and that the WWE main event superstars were constantly trying to ruin him in one way or another. This is despite the fact he and Randy got along up until his last few months with the company, and contrary to Cena’s friendly reputation in general. It sounds a little suspicious overall, but maybe, just maybe, Kennedy really was screwed over.
13 BACKSTABBER: Paul Heyman
Always the greatest champion of all things “extreme,” Paul Heyman naturally took the concept of backstabbing to its furthest extent. Of course, considering he was a promoter at the time, and virtually every wrestling executive in the world could find themselves on this half of the list, it’s not like he was alone in his questionable business practices. Still, when Heyman was at his worst, he was truly one of the most vicious backstabbers in the game. No one period of ECW history makes this more clear than the very ending, when Heyman basically disappeared from his own company under the guise of seeking out “investors.” Turns out he was really just hanging out with the McMahon family and appearing in Hollywood movies, slowly setting the stage for his life after the inevitable happened and ECW went under. Heyman didn’t directly drive his company out of business and take away his employees livelihoods, but what he didn’t do anything to stop those things from happening, either.
12 BETRAYED: Shane Douglas
Given his general attitude and demeanor throughout life, it isn’t all that shocking someone would feel so inclined to step on the future “Franchise” of ECW, Shane Douglas. Then again, getting stabbed in the back had a lot to do with why Douglas turned into such a self-obsessed jerk. If the man himself is to be believed, he was on the cusp of becoming a massive main event star in WCW circa the early 1990s, only for Ric Flair specifically to intervene and cut him off at the heels. Douglas and Flair weren’t all that close, but they did share a number of mutual friends like Harley Race and Shane’s WCW Tag Team Championship winning partner Ricky Steamboat, both of whom he later blamed for failing to set Flair straight on his talents. A few years later in WWE, Shane would face similar treatment by members of the Kliq, specifically Scott Hall. By that point, though, his attitude may have been a relevant factor.
11 BACKSTABBER: Triple H
Having learned from some of the best in his buddies Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash, the current COO of WWE, Triple H, is arguably the most political wrestler ever to work for WWE. From the moment he walked in the door, HHH was allegedly trying to get on Vince McMahon’s good side, presumably all part of a plot to curtail the power he now holds. As in the case with most industries, Triple H made a bunch of enemies as he climbed up the corporate ladder, using the careers of less manipulative athletes as his stepping stones. No one is safe from Triple H’s ego inside the ring, as he’ll happily book himself into feuds where he destroys his friends and takes all the spotlight to this day. Everyone has to thank him for their job, only to go on and lose to him in their highest profile match, then get forced to essentially thank him again for beating them. Making matters worse, anyone who dares refuse hand HHH the knife he uses stab them in the back could cost them their jobs.
10 BETRAYED: Maxine
Most of the stories on this list are about the tumultuous relationships between a handful of individuals, with no outside parties benefitting or getting hurt by what happened in any way. The case of Maxine is thus special, if only because of how a completely unrelated third party received a great career boost for it. The betrayer wasn’t another wrestler, though, but rather the company she worked for. Apparently, Maxine created a gimmick that saw her wear tight fitting leather outfits and gradually climb the corporate ladder using seductive and questionable tactics. If that sounds familiar to wrestling fans who don’t even know who the heck Maxine is, it’s because the company took her idea and gave it to Aksana instead. The specifics of who exactly decided to steal it from her are dicey, as all Maxine knows is that she pitched an idea to NXT writers and a few weeks later another wrestler seemed to use it. Oh, and Maxine was soon fired for having nothing to do. Basically, wrestlers should be careful about sharing ideas, even with their bosses.
9 BACKSTABBER: Shawn Michaels
Although it was Kevin Nash who held the WWE Championship for a full year in 1995, most insiders are in agreement Shawn Michaels was the one actually running the Kliq. Considering how seamlessly HBK transitioned into the top spot as the reign of Diesel was on the downslide, it’s very easy to agree with the assessment. There’s also the fact HBK’s backstabbing diva tendencies only got worse after his friends Nash and Scott Hall left for WCW, leaving all the attention for him personally. In addition to general Kliq enemies like Bam Bam Bigelow and Shane Douglas, not to mention his involvement in the Montreal Screwjob, Michaels has also allegedly attempted to negatively impact the careers of Chris Benoit, CM Punk, Mick Foley, and Vader. The last one was most impressive, as HBK managed to stab Vader in the back live on Pay-Per-View by changing the main event of SummerSlam 1996 on the fly. Most sources say HBK’s attitude harshly changed for the better after becoming a born-again Christian, but then again, those first two examples didn’t take place until his comeback.
8 BETRAYED: Wendi Richter
Everyone in wrestling knows all about the Montreal Screwjob, yet far less people are aware it wasn’t even the first time Vince McMahon tricked a wrestler into losing a title. The Original Screwjob actually took place a solid 12 years earlier, when Vince tricked Wendi Richter into losing the WWE Women’s Championship into an “unknown masked wrestler” named The Spider Lady. Turns out it was The Fabulous Moolah in disguise, as revealed only seconds after the match ended when Richter ripped the mask off in anger. She was so furious because no one told her Spider Lady would be winning the match, something she only managed to do by force. Apparently, Vince and Moolah decided Richter was asking for too much money around the time, and rather than negotiate like businesspeople, they conspired to beat her up during a scripted wrestling match and force her out of the company. While Richter and McMahon somehow made up en route to her Hall of Fame induction, she apparently never spoke to Moolah, her former trainer, ever again.
7 BACKSTABBER: The Fabulous Moolah
Speaking of the Original Screwjob, it’s only logical to move right along to the fact WWE Hall of Famer and iconic Women’s Champion The Fabulous Moolah was one of the absolute worst friends a female wrestler could ever have. Cheating Wendi Richter out of the gold was merely the most high profile of Moolah’s many double crosses, as all of her students have horror stories about how she treated them after graduating her program. Absolutely every one of them agrees Moolah’s contractual demands on her students were insane, giving her as much as half the money they would ever go on to make. Moolah was also notorious for creating rumors about any other female wrestlers who challenged her popularity, giving Vince McMahon false information about them to ensure they would get fired and the Fabulous One would stay on top. And that’s not even mentioning what she did to The Glamour Girls…
6 BETRAYED: The Glamour Girls
Okay, so The Fabulous Moolah was generally pretty terrible to other women in wrestling, but the total BS she pulled on The Glamour Girls is really something else. So total was Moolah’s destruction of the Girls legacy that some fans may not know who they were, so to answer that question, Judy Martin and Leilani Kai were two extremely talented wrestlers who held the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship in the late 1980s. They feuded against a team called The Jumping Bomb Angels for the belts, wrestling outrageously innovative matches years ahead of anything men in the promotion were doing at the time. Eventually, this made them popular, and obviously, they wanted to keep the money they earned, so Moolah got cut out of their contracts. To retaliate, Moolah lied to the Girls and Japanese promoters, telling them WWE wanted a title change between the two teams to take place overseas. WWE, on the other hand, wanted things to stay as they were, and became furious this sudden change of plans happened without their knowledge, firing both Girls for acting on Moolah’s word. Of course, that’s exactly what she wanted to happen.
5 BACKSTABBER: Dusty Rhodes
Whether he was wining and dining with kings and queens or sleeping in alleys eating pork and beans, Dusty Rhodes always managed to present himself as a man of the people. For this reason, it’s a little hard for modern wrestlers to acknowledge he was as political as the rest of them, using his sway and influence over the NWA to damage plenty of careers throughout the 1980s. Virtually every wrestler in the game, up to and including Ric Flair, were forced to lose random matches to Dusty long past a point where his popularity justified the idea. Dusty’s friends were the ones who lost to him the most, with names like Barry Windham and Lex Luger thanking him for their careers to this day regardless of how Dusty repeatedly tried to take advantage of their fame. Maybe the willingness of those who Dusty damaged explains why people are so content to look the other way on how the American Dream was occasionally a nightmare.
4 BETRAYED: Matt Hardy
Now that WWE finally has the legal right to refer to it, a whole new batch of fans are going to start wondering what caused Matt Hardy to get so Broken (or, uh, Woken). There’s no doubt a lot of crazy went into Hardy’s career revival, yet the spark may have been an incident that happened almost a full decade earlier. In the early to mid 2000s, Hardy was dating WWE Women’s Champion and Hall of Famer Lita and best friends with future World Champ/Hall of Famer Edge. Both those relationships came to a harsh end when Edge and Lita collectively betrayed Matt’s trust by having an affair with one another. Obviously, this type of betrayal is a whole lot different than most of the others on this list, but nonetheless, the ramifications directly affected the careers of all three parties involved. By telling all on the Internet, Matt got fired, while Edge and Lita used their notoriety to become some of the biggest bad guys in the business. Maybe it’s not that different from the others after all.
3 BACKSTABBER: Vince McMahon
Forget anything this list already said about Paul Heyman being a backstabber—compared to Vince McMahon, Paul E. was basically an upstanding businessman. Not only has Vinnie Mac been know to screw over his own talent now and again, he also kinda betrayed the way pro wrestling had worked for decades back in the 1980s. By expanding his father’s regional New York company into a worldwide sports entertainment enterprise, McMahon was breaking countless silent agreements with promoters across the country and indeed the entire world. Until Vince changed the game, promoters would basically get along with each other and stick to their own territory, allowing dozens of small companies to coexist at once. Vince wanted to be the only company around, though, so he slowly invaded rival territory and took it away, something he openly acknowledged his father never would have let him do.
2 BETRAYED: Bret Hart
More than 20 years after it happened, the Montreal Screwjob is still one of the most talked about moments in WWE history, so just about everyone wrestling fan probably knows full well why Bret Hart is on this list. To recap, the year was 1997, and after months of contract negotiations, the Hitman decided to leave WWE and head for WCW. There was only one problem in that Bret also happened to be the reigning WWE Champion, meaning he had to lose the gold before heading down south. Hart refused the plan for him to do so at Survivor Series against Shawn Michaels, but Vince and HBK betrayed his trust and made sure Earl Hebner would ring the bell in their favor anyway. For decades, all three men who conspired against Bret earned boos from Canadian fans and chants about how they screwed him, and it was a fair and accurate response.
1 BACKSTABBER: Hulk Hogan
For a guy who calls everyone on earth “brother,” Hulk Hogan doesn’t seem to know a whole lot about loyalty or respect. Throughout his entire career, Hogan has been accused of cutting off the rise of any wrestler who dared challenge his status as a top star, and at times even killed the careers of wrestlers who had nothing to do with him, just because them being on the show made him look bad. While Hogan was in WWE, he genuinely was the biggest star wrestler had ever seen, so maybe there was a method to his madness. By the time he was in WCW and nWo 4 Life, though, Hogan’s decisions behind the scenes made absolutely no sense. Everything was based around him, and any wrestler he worked with would inevitably suffer for it. Worst of all was Sting, who should have had the night of his life at Starrcade ’97, only for Hogan to cause the entire event to blow up in their faces by bribing the referee. Thanks to Hogan being completely untrustworthy, WCW doesn’t exist anymore, which kinda outweighs the fact he helped build WWE.