WWE is not a company where the same punishments are handed out equally for all Superstars. Wrestlers who have proven to the company they are "over" and can draw money will receive lesser punishments than those who have not. If a WWE Superstar is not popular, doesn't sell merchandise, doesn't draw on PPV etc, they don't have any leverage if they do something wrong. Those Superstars are a dime a dozen and can easily be replaced if they do something wrong.
While it takes a lot for it to happen, a popular WWE performer can be fired as well, however. WWE must determine if the money they might lose via a PR backlash to not firing someone is less than the money they would lose from firing the Superstar. For that reason, some of WWE's worst behaving Superstars have avoided being fired despite constantly engaging in activities which would cause others to be released.
In this article, we place a spotlight on eight WWE wrestlers who got fired for making horrible decisions and another eight who were able to get away with it.
16 The Ultimate Warrior - Got Fired
The Ultimate Warrior was fired following a financial dispute with Vince McMahon in 1991. The story according to WWE (as documented in The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD) is that Warrior was upset at his payout from his WrestleMania VII match with Randy Savage and held Vince McMahon up for more money. According to Vince and WWE, Warrior was threatening not to perform at his SummerSlam match that year if he didn't receive more money. Vince, under duress, obliged to Warrior's demands but fired him immediately after the PPV.
While Warrior was a draw for the company at the time, his reign as champion had not gone as well as the company had hoped. Warrior's decision to ask for more money than he was worth at the time most likely prevented him from making much more money in the long run.
15 Randy Orton - Got Away With It
Randy Orton has gotten away with numerous instances that less-over wrestlers would simply not. There are rumors of all kinds of nasty behavior from Orton. Accusations include defecating in a Diva's bag, insulting fans online, burying other wrestlers, and even failing multiple Wellness Policy violations.
One of the bigger offensive moves Orton has made in his career which can be confirmed, however, is when he made public statements in regards to Kelly Kelly. Orton publicly stated that Kelly had slept with at least ten of the wrestlers backstage. While Orton has consistently shown he has no idea regarding what information should be expressed publicly, privately, or just in one's head, this was probably his biggest offense.
Since Orton's a giant star, however, he was not punished (publicly anyway) for his comments.
14 Abraham Washington - Got Fired
If you want to know why WWE is so hesitant to give Superstars a live mic, Abraham Washington provides an excellent example.
On Monday Night Raw from July 30th, 2012, Abraham Washington made light of Kobe Bryant's sexual assault case from 2003. Washington commented that his client, Titus O'Neil, was "like Kobe Bryant at a Colorado hotel, unstoppable!".
He was fired 11 days later, though he claims his joke wasn't the cause. According to Washington, he posted a supportive message in regards to Linda McMahon's senate campaign and WWE employees were told not to make public statements about her campaign. While WWE might have told him that was the reason, it's very likely the Kobe comment was the real catalyst.
In general, if you're a young guy trying to make it in the wrestling industry, insensitive jokes on a live mic aren't going to help you get there.
13 A.J Lee - Got Away With It
ESPN personality, Michelle Beadle, was covering WWE's Tribute to the Troops show in 2013. While backstage at the event, she said hello to CM Punk in a way that may have misinterpreted.
As Punk was walking by, Beadle said "hi f***face" in a playful manner. Punk and AJ Lee would later claim they felt she had disrespected them in some manner. Lee then apparently got all up in Beadle's face about speaking disrespectfully to her boyfriend. Rumors were that WWE Executives were furious with AJ for causing a scene in front of ESPN and NBC reporters. It is said that some wanted AJ fired while others felt that firing her would only put more of a spotlight on the incident.
Punk and AJ wouldn't last long for the company anyway. The infamous CM Punk and WWE fallout would happen a year later.
12 Mr. Perfect - Got Fired
Curt Hennig returned to WWE in January 2002 at the Royal Rumble. He promptly got himself fired five months later.
Hennig's release from WWE came due to his involvement in the infamous "Plane Ride From Hell". Of all the things that happened on the epic nine-hour alcohol-fueled flight, Hennig's was the most dangerous. As the plane was flying over the ocean, Hennig thought it would be a good idea to have a full-on amateur wrestling contest on the plane with Brock Lesnar. Hennig was seen as the aggressor and was released, while Lesnar was not punished.
Both Lesnar and Hennig are from Minnesota, have amateur wrestling backgrounds, and to the extent that Lesnar is said to be capable of having friends Hennig was one of his. The two were competitive with each other, however, and Hennig chose a particularly poor time to challenge Lesnar's abilities.
11 Titus O'Neil - Got Away With It
Titus O'Neil was almost fired for grabbing Vince McMahon by the arm and pulling him over to him during the closing moments of Raw. The incident happened on a Raw from February 2016. O'Neil meant the act as a playful, friendly, type of action but Vince was irate backstage and wanted him fired.
Triple H is said to have talked Vince out of firing O'Neil. While this is just speculation, the large amount of charity work O'Neil does for the company has PR value for WWE and that would be lost if he was released under such circumstances.
Originally, WWE suspended O'Neil for 90 days but would later reduce the punishment to 60. Since returning from suspension, O'Neil has resumed his normal charitable activities and appears to be making the transition towards being a manager.
10 Iron Sheik - Got Fired
While this story doesn't get much attention in modern times, when it happened it was a huge deal. Iron Sheik got fired for being caught driving in the same car as his then-rival, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan in 1987.
The story goes Sheik pressured Duggan to let him ride in his rent-a-car and Duggan begrudgingly gave in. They were pulled over for a routine police check and low and behold, Sheik had cocaine on him. Duggan also had some marijuana. They were arrested and Vince McMahon was infuriated at the lack of adherence to kayfabe.
While Vince initially told everyone he fired both wrestlers, Duggan was quietly rehired when more details of the story got back to Vince. Duggan feels that he was never pushed as fully as he could have been after the incident, however.
9 Lio Rush - Got Away With It
22-year-old Lio Rush almost got fired from WWE not long after debuting in NXT. The talented youngster made the mistake of making light of WWE releasing Emma earlier this year.
Emma was released after wrestling back-to-back matches against Asuka. Rush joked on Twitter that Emma "wasn't ready for Asuka" and that was the reason for her release. Several WWE and NXT Superstars chirped back at him for being so cold in response to someone losing their job. In particular, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, who are also from Australia, publicly blasted Rush for his joke.
Eventually, William Regal had to tell people to stop hating on Rush for the comment. There had been rumors WWE was going to let him go as a result, but he's still appearing on NXT live events.
8 Highlander Robbie McAllister - Got Fired
Attending a live TNA event is a bad decision under normal circumstances but it is especially bad when you're a contracted WWE performer at the time.
In early 2008, McAllister was shown live on-air during the TNA event and both he and his brother would be released later that year. Contrary to popular belief, neither he nor his storyline cousin, Rory, were released right away. They were taken off of television, however, and would be part of the next round of cuts that August.
Robbie has said that he was not happy in WWE at the time and perhaps he was subconsciously trying to get himself fired. He's also referred to his decision to attend the TNA event as a poor move, however, so he might have conflicting feelings towards what happened.
7 JBL - Got Away With It
There are numerous occurrences JBL has participated in or said throughout his career that he could have been fired for. The numerous reports of bullying and physical assault would get JBL released in today's WWE, but he's a throwback to a bygone era of wrestling where bullying and hazing were commonplace.
JBL got away with laying a legit beating on the Blue Meanie in 2006. The incident took place at the first ECW One Night Stand PPV. It was during a segment where WWE guys and ECW guys were brawling in the ring. Meanie can be seen with a bloody and busted up face after the melee.
After Meanie indicated he was thinking of suing WWE for the incident, the two sides agreed to a deal which brought Meanie back into the company along with his bWo pals.
6 Rowdy Roddy Piper - Got Fired
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper returned to WWE in 2003 to play a role in the Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon storyline. Unfortunately, Piper had conducted an interview with HBO before he returned but the interview would air after he was back in WWE. His comments during the interview would cause WWE to fire Piper just months after he re-debuted for the promotion.
In the interview, Piper discussed how often when he was working in the wrestling industry and how he didn't like the person he'd become abusing drugs during these times.
After the interview was aired, WWE released Piper and made a statement that they did not want to assist him from engaging in any further self-destructive behavior. Years later, Piper would assert that HBO took his comments out of context in order to make the wrestling industry seem as bad as possible.
5 Hardcore Holly - Got Away With It
On the third season of Tough Enough, contestant Matt Cappotelli was beaten up badly during a match with Hardcore Holly. The beating was bad enough that it led to Cappotelli bleeding and was the focal point of an episode.
In any other profession, what Holly did amounts to a physical assault. In wrestling, however, it is sometimes just referred to as "working stiff". Holly, as with JBL, had developed a reputation as a guy who would occasionally work a little stiff with his opponents in the ring. Despite the beating, Cappotelli would go on to win that season of the show along with John Hennigan.
Unfortunately, while in WWE developmental, he revealed he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The tumor was successfully removed in 2007.
4 Nailz - Got Fired
Nailz decided to physically assault Vince McMahon in 1991. It wasn't a great career move and was basically the end of his career aside from one match in WCW.
Evidently, Nailz was not pleased with the financial compensation he had received from the company and decided to have a rather aggressive discussion with his employer about it. Bret Hart would write in his autobiography years later that he heard Nailz yelling at McMahon for about 15 minutes and then heard a loud crash. That crashing sound was Nailz knocking Vince over and beginning to choke him.
Lawsuits were launched from both sides. Nailz would also testify against Vince at his steroid trial, claiming Vince gave him illegal enhancements. He ended up coming off as a heavily biased witness, however.
3 Shawn Michaels - Got Away With It
The best example of how some wrestlers are treated differently than others in WWE is the Madison Square Garden "Curtain Call".
On May 19th, 1996, Diesel (Kevin Nash) and Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) wrestled their last match for WWE. It was a house show at Madison Square Garden. At the end of the show, HHH, HBK, Razor, and Diesel broke character and celebrated together in the ring even though they had been rivals just moments earlier. The incident was viewed by many as the ultimate betrayal of wrestling's forth wall.
Shawn Michaels was WWE Champion at the time and the Outsiders were on their way to WCW. The only person WWE could punish for the incident was Triple H. While Michaels seemingly walked away from the incident without punishment, Triple H had his big push delayed by a year as punishment.
2 Chyna - Got Fired
Chyna might not have lost her job in 2001 had she not said something to Vince McMahon. It is said that Chyna was sent home in 2001 following a private meeting with McMahon where it is believed she told him she was having trouble dealing with Triple H having left her for Vince's daughter, Stephanie. After the meeting, Chyna was sent home and told her services were not required.
If Chyna had played ball, as others have, and said she was certain she could be professional about the situation there is a good chance she'd have kept her job. Several wrestlers who were the third person out in a WWE love-triangle have managed to stay employed this way, although those cases did not involve the boss's daughter.
Unfortunately, Chyna's life spiraled down after. Sadly, we lost Chyna to an accidental drug overdose in April of 2016.
1 Triple H - Got Away With It
Triple H seduced his boss's daughter while in a relationship with one of his other employees and not only got away with it but ended up with the cushiest position in the industry not already occupied by a McMahon.
Evidently, by the time Triple H and Stephanie became an item, he and Vince had already established a close professional relationship. It is believed Triple H and Stephanie began seeing each other at some point during 2000 while their on-screen relationship developed.
In fact, Triple H and Vince McMahon would end up in an on-screen feud with each other around the time Triple H was most likely seeing Stephanie behind Chyna's back. If he and Stephanie hadn't already been seeing each other by then, it would have been just after. We might never know if Vince already knew Triple H was dating his daughter at the time of their rivalry in 2000.