The pro wrestling business is a funny one. Across promotions, millions of fans tune in and come to know a lot about the wrestlers they see on screen. They know the faces. They know the heels. They know which performers get along and work together, and which ones are at each other’s throats.
Of course, nowadays, most fans understand that what they’re seeing on TV and at the arena doesn’t represent reality. Wrestlers are, in part, actors who play specific roles to communicate the storylines that sell matches. There are times when these storylines mirror real life. Steve Austin has famously claimed that the most effective wrestling gimmicks are the performer’s real life personality, with the volume cranked up. Austin has also spoken about having grown into a close friendship with his old Hollywood Blonds tag team partner, Brian Pillman—enough so that they went from feeling relegated to a tag team, to enjoying getting over as they played off one another. Similarly, on a recent episode of the WWE Network’s Table for 3, the members of The Shield discussed growing together, and even traveling together when booked as a unit.
There are, however, those times when wrestlers’ real interactions don’t match up so well with what they’re doing in kayfabe. It’s sensible enough that on screen rivals might actually get close, as they’d spend time away from the ring plotting out matches and promos, or at least respect what one another bring to their matches. On the flip side, it’s understandable that some tag team partners may get sick of each other for their careers being bound to one another, and so having to spend so much time together.
This article looks at eight tag team partners who came to hate one another in real life, and seven on-screen rivals who were actually good friends.
15. Hate Each Other: Shawn Michaels And Marty Jannetty
From the mid 1980s to early 1990s, The Rockers were a deceptively great tag team. Nowadays they’re mostly remembered as a launching pad for Shawn Michaels, and they don’t have much championship gold on their resume. They were, however, innovative and influential for their fast paced ring work and tendency toward tandem and high flying offense.
Behind the scenes, Michaels and Marty Jannetty were friends for a time, though it’s clear they weren’t always close, and had a tendency to get one another into trouble with substance use and questionable professional choices. They went from not being great friends, to more openly not liking one another in the aftermath of their team, though. Michaels seems to have dismissed Jannetty as bitter, immature, and jealous of his success. Jannetty has claimed that Michaels left him hanging when he got rich and famous, and in particular didn’t make the time or effort to help him out when he needed it later in life.
14. Best Friends: John Cena And Randy Orton
There was a period when John Cena vs. Randy Orton was the definitive rivalry for WWE, as the two waged war in 2007, much of 2008, for a bit in 2009, and even revisited their issue from late 2013 into 2014. The two had reasonable chemistry in the ring and on the mic, and made sense as rivals given that they were largely booked as the top two stars of their generation.
For as much as their characters tended to feud, Cena and Orton are purportedly good friends who have built a mutual respect, and have each other’s backs backstage. Photos of the two hanging out have even popped up on social media, furthering the idea that this main event pair have grown into close real life friends.
13. Hate Each Other: Paul Roma And Jim Powers
The Young Stallions were never a particularly glamorous tag team, but they did occupy an interesting spot of not quite being jobbers, but also hardly ever beating anybody in late 1980s WWE programming. It’s a testament to how over the WWE brand on the whole was at the time that they became stars with name value, despite their lower card position.
Apparently, Paul Roma and Jim Powers didn’t get along so well behind the scenes. Roma has publicly criticized Powers for being lazy and unreliable, including ripping into him on a visit to Steve Austin’s podcast. For his part, Powers told Rolling Stone that Roma was egotistical, and cited them not getting along in real life as the reason why WWE split up the team.
12. Best Friends: Trish Stratus And Lita
Awesome hangs with my bestie at @ricomiccon! Took so many fun photos! They're up on the site now – tap the link in bio to check them out! – Got to meet the @strangerthingstv cast (can an adult mark out for kids??), fellow Canadian @williamshatner, and catch up with fellow Greek @davebautista, and excuse me, @realbrookeadams, where u been all my life siz? We busted into mama chat & had serious twinning vibes 👯kind of love her! – Big thanks to @primetimeappearances for busting me out of my mama bubble! Looking forward to 2018!
While the current generation of female stars are getting a lot of opportunities at the spotlight and time to have good matches in WWE, this wasn’t always the case. Indeed, prior to 2015, most fans would point to only one women’s rivalry post-Alundra Blayze that really enjoyed much success. That was the feud between Trish Stratus and Lita.
Stratus and Lita represented opposing ideologies, first with Stratus as the stuck up, beautiful blond relative to Lita as the tattooed, hair-dyed wild girl face. Over time, they’d reverse face-heel orientations, as Lita’s real life issues and on screen pairing with edge recast her as a villain, and fans openly cheered Stratus for not only playing the face, but having earned their respect by sticking with wrestling and showing so much improvement over the years. The two would feud off and on for over five years and, fittingly, Stratus’s last match as a full time performer would see her make Lita tap to a Sharpshooter.
11. Hate Each Other: Arn Anderson And Paul Roma
In 1993 WCW decided to make the most of Ric Flair’s return by reforming the Four Horsemen. Tully Blanchard was purportedly lined up to be a part of the group, but flunked a drug test, and thus had his job offer revoked. The solution to replace Blanchard as a Horsemen and Arn Anderson’s tag team partner? None other than Paul Roma.
To that point, Roma was best known for his middling work with WWE. He was neither a big star, nor known as a great in ring worker. As such, he was an awkward fit for the Horsemen spot. In retrospect, Roma would criticize the group, and particularly Ric Flair for being jealous of his youth and good looks. Flair would openly dismiss Roma’s claims and make no bones about saying that he wasn’t Horsemen material. Anderson is nothing if not a Flair loyalist, and so we can only imagine the degree to which he resented Roma taking a spot with the formerly elite stable, let alone questioning its leader.
10. Best Friends: AJ Styles And Christopher Daniels
Long before he became a break out star with WWE, AJ Styles was featured for a variety of smaller promotions, including New Japan, Ring of Honor, and TNA. In TNA in particular, though not exclusively, Styles’s journey was intertwined with that Christopher Daniels. The two teamed up at times, but are better remembered as arch-rivals—a pair of highly skilled smaller athletes who tended to produce great matches when pitted against one another in a variety of storylines over the years.
Despite spending so much time squaring off against one another, in real life, Styles and Daniels are close friends. Given their similar experiences and aesthetics, the friendship only makes sense. We can only assume Styles would love to have Daniels join him in WWE. Unfortunately, time may have caught up to the Fallen Angel, as he’s now in his late 40s. The general wisdom is that the window of his prime as an athlete, and WWE welcoming indie-bred stars failed to line up, Daniels is one of the top stars to miss out on a WWE or at least NXT opportunity.
9. Hate Each Other: Rikishi And Scotty 2 Hotty
At the peak of their popularity, Rikishi was an upper mid-card face, and had Scotty 2 Hotty and Grandmaster Sexay—Too Cool—at his side. The mini-stable was good for everyone involved, as the smaller guys lent Rikishi a clearer gimmick and more personality as a dancing big man. Rikishi lent them extra credibility for having a solid singles star affiliated with them. Rikishi would end up destroying his running buddies when he turned heel, but after that didn’t go over so well, he’d wind up his full-time work with WWE as a face and as part of a tag team with Scotty 2 Hotty that even won gold together.
It’s unclear when hard feelings may have arisen between the two. However, Rikishi failed to mention either member of Too Cool in his Hall of Fame induction speech, and proceeded to work his old dancing gimmick with his sons, The Usos, in place of the Too Cool guys on the stage. It came across as a snub. Afterward, Scotty sent out a bitter social media post, suggesting Rikishi forgot where he came from and how he got over.
8. Best Friends: Bayley And Sasha Banks
While they have portrayed a pair of friends on Raw this past year, it wasn’t so long ago that Sasha Banks and Bayley staged one of the most heated women’s rivalries of all time in NXT. Together, the two told a story of Banks asa vicious heel and Bayley as a plucky babyface. Bayley would reach the pinnacle of her NXT career when she defeated Banks in a killer match at NXT TakeOver Brooklyn. From there, the pair’s top-notch feud would earn its just desserts when they got the first TakeOver women’s main event spot at TakeOver: Respect, in the first WWE women’s Iron Man Match.
The two got one another over for bringing out the toughest, most vicious sides of each other. Ironically, by all accounts, they’re close friends in real life. It would seem they’re living proof of the old adage that wrestlers who know, like, and trust each other the best can put on great matches for knowing how far they can go and not holding back.
7. Hate Each Other: Lance Von Erich And His “Cousins”
There came a time when Fritz Von Erich’s business with World Class Championship Wrestling was growing, and he needed another upper echelon face to fill cards and team up with his sons. The choice was made to cast a local athlete as Lance Von Erich, a cousin to Kerry, Kevin, and company. The gimmick didn’t exactly take for a variety of reasons, including that the local fan base recognized him and knew his family connection wasn’t on the up and up. Furthermore, he didn’t have the charisma or talent to really win the fans over.
The experiment was a failure, and reached its lowest point when Lance ended up defecting to a rival Texas based promotion. In an unusual moment that crossed kayfabe-reality lines, Fritz went on the air to disown Lance, and deny any familial relationship. Each side purportedly blamed the other for the Lance Von Erich run going so wrong on so many levels.
6. Best Friends: Brock Lesnar And Kurt Angle
Due to the nature of Brock Lesnar’s personality, he doesn’t have too many friends in the business. Respected colleagues? Sure. Good working relationships? That’s a must; but Lesnar is a lone wolf for the most part and rarely enjoys the company of others. However, one wrestler that always had his respect and admiration was Kurt Angle. A lot of their feud in 2003 and 2004 was built on some real-life competition between them, as they would often have shoot fights (in friendly, competitive manner) to see who the better wrestler was.
Lesnar even insisted on putting Angle over when they were both wrestling at New Japan Pro Wrestling. Perhaps it’s Angle’s decorated background that instantly earned Lesnar’s respect but this is a pair that’s always gotten along backstage.
5. Hate Each Other: William Regal And Tajiri
In the late 1990s, WWE opted to book William Regal and Tajiri as an odd couple pair, that featured Regal as the prim and proper character he tended to portray, and Tajiri as his protégé, sidekick, and tag team partner who was a bit more wild. The two demonstrated good chemistry, and their offbeat friendship was a draw that worked well for both men at the time.
Apparently, the two didn’t get along so well behind the scenes, and particularly when they tried traveling together so they could gel and get to know one another more. The example Regal has spoken about most was that, when driving, Tajiri was bothered by loud music. Combine that with the language barrier between the two, and Regal described road trips as sitting in maddening silence for hours on end.
4. Best Friends: Dolph Ziggler And The Miz
Dolph Ziggler and The Miz have frequently been matched up against one another as consistent upper mid card talents for WWE over the last five years plus. In particular, they staged a terrific rivalry with one another over the Intercontinental Championship in 2016, highlighted by an excellent match in which Ziggler put his career on the line in exchange for one more title shot.
In reality, however, it seems that all the time spent in a similar position with the company, and all of those matches worked together have spurred on quite the friendship between the two Cleveland natives. Photos of the two of them hanging out away from the ring have sprouted up around the Internet, including them going to sporting events together. Ziggler was also spotted as a guest at The Miz’s wedding with Maryse.
3. Hate Each Other: Davey Boy Smith And Dynamite Kid
The British Bulldogs were an iconic face tag team of the mid 1980s, particularly noted for their rivalries with the Hart Foundation and the Heenan Family. Their run as a pair got cut short by Dynamite Kid’s health issues, as he had to work a number of their later matches with sever limitations, before having to quit wrestling full time altogether. This was a particular shame given that he was the veteran of the team and widely considered one of the best in ring workers of his day, who sadly never got a full fledged opportunity to shine in front of WWE’s worldwide audience.
Dynamite and Davey Boy Smith seemed to have gotten along well enough in their early days teaming up. Later, however, Smith purportedly made the morally dubious choice to snag the intellectually property rights to the British Bulldog moniker, meaning Dynamite couldn’t use it himself in wrestling anymore, thus cutting off his most recognizable gimmick. Smith would go on to a reasonably successful singles career with both WWE and WCW, while Dynamite was widely reported to have grown into a bitter old man who hated a lot of people in the wrestling business, and particularly Smith for the perceived betrayal.
2. Best Friends: Rey Mysterio And Eddie Guerrero
Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero came up in a similar generation of luchadors and, particularly when they each made it to WCW and then WWE, were frequently cast as wrestling rivals. The pairing made a great deal of sense, as they both had the skills and the experience jive well in the lucha libre style, and particularly the brand of hybrid lucha libre that they had helped cross over to mainstream U.S. audiences. In WWE, they most memorably feuded over the custody of Guerrero’s kayfabe biological son (Mysterio’s real son), Dominic.
The reality of the situation? All of their years on the road together and stealing the show with great matches had generated a very real, deep friendship between Mysterio and Guerrero. It was only fitting that WWE had Mysterio pay tribute to his real life friends as he finally ascended to the main event level and captured his first world championship at the WrestleMania after Guerrero had passed on.
1. Hate Each Other: Arn And Ole Anderson
The famed Anderson wrestling family has transcended generations to include a lot of excellent workers. It even weaves in Ric Flair as a kayfabe cousin. In reality, Gene Anderson was the only actual Anderson, and the many other relatives were all only related in storyline. Of them, the best remembered is probably Arn, followed by his sometimes-cousin, sometimes-uncle Ole.
Arn and Ole were a rock solid, bruising tag team that aligned with Flair en route to forming the original Horsemen. While Arn and Ole were generally portrayed as allies, they did have an eventual kayfabe falling out when the Horsemen exiled Ole from the group.
In reality, Arn and Ole seemed to get along for quite some time. Ole eventually came into power, though, as the head booker for WCW. His creative choices purportedly didn’t go over so well, and Flair and Arn resented, in particular, that he disrespected the Nature Boy in 1993. The story goes that Flair lost a loser-leaves-WWE match to Mr. Perfect, and Ole chastised him for making himself worthless in accepting that loss on his way back to WCW.
For long time tag partners and guys the general public still generally accepts as relatives, Arn and Ole are far from close, and neither seems to think very highly of the other these days.
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