To job, or not to job—that’s a deliberation only a handful of wrestlers ever find themselves in position to challenge. There are several reasons why a wrestler may refuse losing to an opponent. A wrestler may want to protect his or her value in the eyes of fans as well as prospective promoters. Moreover, a wrestler may flat out reject an idea because an opponent or a particular storyline doesn’t fit their persona. Occasionally a wrestler doesn’t feel they are being paid enough to put someone over. Or simply, they are above jobbing—to anyone. But alas, it not just wrestlers who refute jobbing but “management” muddies the waters as well.
Wrestling management, or bookers in the many forms they assume, can stifle rising talent with the stroke of a pen—or sledgehammer. Oftentimes bookers lose sight of a particular character’s long-term vision at the expense of a short-term gain. Likewise, they try too hard to deviate from popular consensus. Moreover, bookers placate one or more stars’ wishes. Or most nauseatingly, certain higher-ups make decisions based on stroking their own ego and self-perceived legacy.
Throughout wrestling history the egos of wrestlers and bookers with regard to jobbing have shaped the landscape. However, there’s a price for even the most established superstars who refuse to lose and the booker who gets stuck in the “now.” A wrestler runs the risk of being blackballed by promoters for further opportunities elsewhere, outright fired or included in a list—like this one—for critique and ridicule. The booker risks not only setting a wrestler back but the organization itself. The following list highlights a variety of wrestler job refusals and booking blunders throughout the years and promotions. Some refusals and bookings were benign while others altered the course of wrestling history for one or more promotions. Nevertheless, all should have given better thought about jobbing to their opponent.
Let’s see if we have this right: You’re coming out of retirement to have a retirement match? Yep, that was the gist of Triple H’s stipulation for his match against the “Unstoppable Force” Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 29. Lesnar was already on shaky ground with a loss to John Cena at 2012’s Extreme Rules upon his WWE return. And although Lesnar pummeled Triple H at SummerSlam, there was really no need for Triple H’s forced reprise and ill-conceived booking of their match at WrestleMania 29. Needless to say, Hunter went over the “Beast Incarnate” in clean fashion bolstering what every fan knows about retirement matches—they’re predictable. Triple H would face Lesnar yet again at Extreme Rules, this time with Lesnar getting help to defeat the “Cerebral Assassin.” However, Lesnar’s momentum was already slowed at this point and would take a while to recover.
We get it! The Rock is the most electrifying and sexiest man—according to People magazine—in sports entertainment today! However, the Rock’s return to the WWE on a part-time basis from 2011 to 2013 provided a quandary for WWE fans and ultimately for then WWE World Champion CM Punk. The Rock’s feud with Punk culminated in a main event world title match at the 2013 Royal Rumble that had a predictable outcome given John Cena’s Royal Rumble win—a Rock and Cena matchup at WrestleMania. Simply put, Punk—who had reigned as champion for 434 days—was seen as the springboard to set up a Rock and John Cena main event. The Rock’s booked win over Punk was a short-term gain at the expense of not only propping up a long-term talent in Punk but for a full-time wrestler who could have unseated the latter.
Obviously Ricky Steamboat and Vince McMahon differ in their accounts. However, when it all boils down, Steamboat outright refused to lose to The Undertaker as well as IRS (Mike Rotunda). Steamboat was on his way out of the WWE in the early 1990s due to his inability to secure top main event status as purportedly promised by McMahon. Nearing contract end, McMahon wanted Steamboat to job to both The Undertaker and IRS in a dominating fashion during two different segments on the same television taping—something that Steamboat objected to because of believability. McMahon threatened to fire him but Steamboat walked out instead, even though the taping was to be split up for two separate programs. Given The Undertaker’s and IRS’s pushes at the time it wouldn’t have been inconceivable for Steamboat’s domination by the two big men.
Triple H’s and the McMahon’s feud with Randy Orton leading up to WrestleMania XXV was white-hot and over the top! It was one of the few times fans could actually feel sympathetic for the McMahon-Helmsley faction given Orton’s and The Legacy’s dastardly deeds. Stephanie McMahon did take an RKO like a champ—but I digress! What was seemingly a moment for a young Orton to put the stamp on and run with his heel character on the WWE’s biggest stage turned into a predictable arc for Triple H’s champion character: sledgehammer, pedigree, middle of the ring and 1-2-3 for the win. Although Orton won the title a month later, the WrestleMania match turned into a missed opportunity as Orton and the WWE Championship ping-ponged amongst the roster over the next few years.
Like Hulk Hogan before, Terry “Bam Bam” Gordy was quite popular in the Japanese wrestling scene during the late 1980s. When Hulk Hogan and the WWE ran a joint show with All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) in 1990, Hulk Hogan was slated to face Terry Gordy. However, Hulk Hogan had recently dropped the WWE World Championship to the Ultimate Warrior during WrestleMania VI. As a result, Terry Gordy backed out of the match, citing his refusal to job in a match where a title was not on the line. AJPW founder and president “Giant” Baba was infuriated and sought a replacement for Gordy—Stan Hansen. Hansen filled in and went on to have a great match with Hogan, all the while knowing he would be jobbing to the ex-world champion.
In 1997, the WWE put on a pay-per-view event in Birmingham, England, called One Night Only. The event’s headline was Shawn Michaels challenging country hero the “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith for the European Heavyweight Championship. Making matters more personal for Smith was that he dedicated the match to his cancer stricken sister. At the show’s start Smith was told that he was to drop the title to Michaels only to regain it later down the road at a second pay-per-view in his hometown, Manchester, England. Smith went along with the job and was humiliated further with a pummeling after the match by the DX faction. Likewise, Smith’s wife and family at ringside were part of Michael’s post-match rant on the microphone. As for recapturing the title, Smith would regain it two years later—in the United States.
Similar to how the NFL Conference Championship games are oftentimes better than the Super Bowl, could the post-Mania Raw provide a wrestler a better push? The WWE booking crew must have thought so given the way AJ Styles was booked in WrestleMania 32, his first on the big stage. Already in the thick of a dream feud with the job-machine Chris Jericho, Styles’ push was looking bright and on the right track given his long-term WWE outlook. However, WWE booking pulled a big swerve and had Jericho going over “The Phenomenal One” on the big stage. Many fans continue to remark that Styles needed the match more than Jericho, who is always on the verge of bolting the WWE at any time. A.J. has done well post-Mania but Jericho’s win had to be for jobbing to Fandango at WrestleMania 29—right?
In a case where the promoter is more to blame than the wrestler, one can look no further than the Bockwinkel and Hogan feud. The feud between Hulk Hogan and AWA world champion Nick Bockwinkel was white-hot during the early 1980s. The feud eerily corresponded to the changing of the guard and the impending wrestling boom that was to take place within the next ten years. However, AWA promoter Verne Gagne had a soft spot for the older, more traditional style wrestlers. As a result, Hulk Hogan would face Bockwinkel on several occasions, coming up short for the title. Realizing that Gagne was not going to put the belt on him, Hogan bolted for the WWF. Simply put, the rest is history. Had Bockwinkel lobbied for doing the job for Hogan, wrestling’s history may have be written much differently for the AWA.
Al Perez had the looks and the right manager in “Playboy” Gary Hart. The self-proclaimed “Latin Heartthrob” was burning through the World Class territory, the NWA, the WWE and then back to the WCW. However, something was amiss as to why such a wrestling commodity was not utilized to his fullest. It all became clear during the controversial Black Scorpion angle in WCW during the late 1990s. In a punk move, Perez quit the WCW when he found out that he was going to eventually lose against Sting while playing the masked Black Scorpion. As a result, Ric Flair took Perez’s place. Unless Perez was slated to play something worse than the Yeti, he missed a golden opportunity to become a top heel as there were worse things than losing to Sting in WCW.
As the brainchild of Dusty Rhodes, the Bunkhouse Stampede was an intriguing match concept. You take a large number of wrestlers dressed in street clothes, cowboy boots, taped fists, belts and belt buckles and throw them in a ring. Much like the WWE’s Royal Rumble, the objective is to throw your opponent over the top rope to the floor, keep from going over yourself and remain the last man standing in the ring. The grand prize, depending on the format—a cowboy boot stuffed with money. The match provided great scenarios and mash-ups between various stables and individual wrestlers. Yet, Dusty Rhodes booked and won every Bunkhouse Stampede in existence from 1985 to 1988. Did “The American Dream” have to win them all with guys like the Road Warriors, Big Bubba Rogers, Nikita Koloff and the Powers of Pain competing in the events?
Nope, not even John Cena gets amnesty from bad booking decisions. Cena gets a two-for-one entry with his blemishing of Bray Wyatt and Rusev at WrestleMania XXX and 31, respectively. Wyatt and his Family were on a meteoric rise after convincing angles with Kane and Daniel Bryan. Things were looking-up further when Bray and the Family cost Cena the world strap at the 2013 Royal Rumble, thus setting the stage for a Cena and Wyatt feud. Cena and Bray Wyatt would trade wins and losses until their showdown at WrestleMania 30. However, with magnification of the big stage in mind, Cena beat Bray cleanly to derail the latter’s credibility as a real threat to anyone.
In a similar albeit predictable pattern, Rusev rose through the WWE ranks as an unstoppable monster with an undefeated record and captured the United States Championship in 2014. What made his rise all the more noteworthy was the real-word attention and antagonism that his Russian and anti-American gimmick evoked. Enter John Cena who stepped up to the challenge of the Bulgarian turned Russian sympathizer. Rusev’s getting the better of Cena in their first matchup at Fastlane foreshadowed the inevitable—a matchup at WrestleMania 31. Inevitably, Cena went over Rusev, winning the title, stopping the streak and making Rusev a mere mortal.
What do you get when a hardcore legend meets the new “It” guy in a cage match—an unplanned disqualification. A 1986 match between Bruiser Brody and Lex Luger would’ve been a dream match at another time and place. During this time however, Luger was on the cusp of supernova stardom and an NWA call-up while Brody was doing his territory rounds. The prevailing story is that before the bout an “entitled” Luger told Brody that he would be calling the match and winning it—a no-go given Brody’s veteran status. When the match started Brody offset Luger’s preplanned actions with a flurry of hard punches and kicks, thus bewildering the young star. Brody stopped cooperating altogether by not responding to Luger’s punches. Luger bolted from the ring after bumping the referee, causing Luger’s unplanned disqualification. Huss, huss turned to tisk, tisk for Brody.
Ay Dios mio! Mil Mascaras’ reputation for refusing to sell his opponents’ moves as well as snubbing clean losses preceded himself in several world and U.S. promotions. That trend appeared to take form in one of the most bizarre displays of slighting to put anybody over—pun intended—during the 1997 Royal Rumble. Contestant number eleven, Mil Mascaras hit the ring and did what all wrestlers do—grapple, hug, stomp and attempt throwing other participants over the tope rope. However, it was his third opponent elimination that proved to be a headscratcher—himself. He climbed to the top turnbuckle and splashed onto an already eliminated masked wrestler named Pierroth, thus eliminating himself. The result made Mascaras look foolish at the expense of his ego.
Wrestling and boxing have made strange bedfellows throughout history. One of the strangest cross-over events ever was when Japanese wrestling star Antonio Inoki met the challenge set forth by boxer Muhammed Ali in 1975. The build-up to the 1976 match-up in Japan was tremendous and even had an undercard wrestler versus boxer match with Andre the Giant and Chuck Wepner. However, the Inoki-Ali mix-up proved to be a ridiculous 15-round scuttle. Ali looked for a chance to punch Inoki, who crawled on his back for the majority of the match with sporadic kicks to Ali’s legs. The fight’s result was judged an “honorable draw.” There are inconsistent reasons for the outcome, some citing Inoki wanted to fight for real while Ali wanted a staged match. Would a scripted loss have damaged the greatness of either man? Not likely.
Oh look, its Triple H… again.
It’s said that history is written by the victors. Sting’s highly anticipated WWE appearance and run began with a feud against Triple H—mistake number one. That feud culminated in match between the two veterans during WrestleMania 31. The lead up to the match had a Monday Night War feel, almost fifteen years later—mistake number two. And without fail, the wars were recreated like a bad Revolutionary War reenactment with past nWo and DX members mixing it up and Triple H getting the win—mistake number three. In addition, there was a nonsensical handshake at the end between Triple H and Sting, signifying the war’s end. Sting’s loss to Triple H tarnished and wasted what could have been a great set-up for a run with—and an understandable loss to—The Undertaker.
He was “Cool, Cocky and Bad” but the Honky Tonk Man’s Elvis impersonating ego got the best of him when pitted against a Little Richard look-alike in 1994. The Honky Tonk Man was an established star from his WWE run with the Intercontinental Championship in the late 1980s. During his WWE tenure the Honky Tonk Man was adamant about losing on television as he felt losing in such a manner destroyed a wrestler’s character push. WCW wanted the Honky Tonk Man to lose a World Television Title match against champ Johnny B. Badd on a pay per view event, claiming it was not considered television. The Honky Tonk Man got “All Shook Up,” refused to do the job and simply walked out on the company. Suffice to say, he was fired.
Stan Hansen was splitting time in both the AWA and AJPW during the mid-1980s. During that time Hansen would lasso the AWA world title from Rick Martel. Almost seven months later, AWA promoter Verne Gagne wanted Stan Hansen to drop the title to veteran Nick Bockwinkel. However, there was a problem. Hansen had already committed to matches in Japan as the AWA champion and their associated paydays. He walked out on his slated title drop and instead went to Japan to defend the AWA belt amid being stripped of the title. The AWA threatened to sue Hansen for his continued use of the belt in events. In “Stone Cold” Steve Austin fashion, Hansen ran over the belt with his truck and mailed it back to the AWA.
“The Mountain from Stone Mountain” Jerry Blackwell singlehandedly saved the American Wrestling Alliance (AWA) when a certain six foot eight, 300-pound blonde haired wrestler from Venice Beach, California, bolted for the WWE in the early 1980s. However, Blackwell was the complete opposite of Hulk Hogan—if you didn’t know that already—standing at five-ten and weighing more than 470 pounds. Blackwell’s stature played a substantial part in Bruiser Brody’s refusal for Blackwell to pin him cleanly during their feud—something that AWA promoter Verne Gagne was well aware. Count-outs and disqualifications were the norm as they waged their bitter and bloody war across the AWA territory. As a result, their feud was never brought to a true conclusion and Blackwell’s credibility as the AWA’s face of the company was blemished.
AWA promoter Verne Gagne was old-school. Although he knew top-draws when he had them, Gagne had an affinity for technical wrestlers over brawn. That’s why he saw it easy to call for the tag team of the Fabulous Ones, Steve Keirn and Stan Lane, to beat the Road Warriors—clean! Needless to say, Hawk and Animal were against the finish, even if it was a switcheroo between Keirn and Lane leading to the win. When the match between the two teams transpired, Keirn and Lane were expecting to win the match. However, the Warriors went “off script” which in turn changed the match into an actual old-school donnybrook when the Ones caught on. The Fabulous Ones would reduce their AWA appearances soon thereafter. Considering later losses to the WWE’s New Age Outlaws, a loss to Chippendale look-alikes wouldn’t have been so bad—would it?
For most of the early 1980s Bob Backlund reigned as WWE world champion, fending off villains like Jimmy Snuka, Jesse Ventura and Sgt. Slaughter. But the shift to more charismatic and larger than life wrestling personalities was simmering. As a result, newly minted WWE owner Vince McMahon wanted Backlund to turn heel and lose the title to burgeoning star Hulk Hogan. Blacklund refused and caused McMahon to scramble for a bizarre triangulated angle involving the Iron Sheik. The Iron Sheik won the championship from Backlund, thus serving as the changeover piece for Hulk Hogan’s first title win. On the other hand, Backlund missed out on a big payday and toiled in mid-card mediocrity until the mid-1990s when he returned the WWE and enjoyed moderate success—as a heel wrestler!