Most people agree it takes a certain type of egotistical personality to enter any facet of the entertainment industry. In the very least, entertainers need to accept that bright lights and flashing cameras will follow them wherever they go, and it’s reasonable enough that some of them might enjoy the idea. When it comes to pro wrestling, the concept of “the spotlight” is pretty darn literal, with no wrestlers shining brighter than those standing inside the squared circle.
There’s nothing wrong with a wrestler basking in the glow of a roaring crowd after a hard fought victory—as a matter of fact, that’s the whole point of sports entertainment. On the other hand, should a wrestler jump into the ring and assert themselves in storylines they have absolutely nothing to do with, or stick around way past their expiration date refusing to give up the attention for someone new, Vince McMahon and his associates start to have problems.
The worst part of it all is that most wrestlers who can’t help themselves from being the center of attention at all times almost always get away with it, no questions asked. Obviously, McMahon and company have to sign off on this, but the weird thing is, they often do without any hesitation. Perhaps part of the problem is that McMahon himself is guiltier of this trend than anyone else. For all the details on who we mean, keep reading to learn about 15 wrestlers with negative reputations for stealing the spotlight.
15 Jeff Jarrett
With TNA/GFW/Impact Wrestling/etc. often being seen as second rate to WWE, it’s only appropriate that Jeff Jarrett’s attention hogging likewise be inferior to the true stars on this list. In one way or another, everyone else mentioned on these pages at least deserved on World Championship reign and/or main event, just not necessarily the sheer number of them they received. By contrast, it could easily be argued Jarrett never truly earned a single one of his five WCW or six NWA World titles in the slightest. Quite frankly, Jarrett never possessed the look, attitude, or skills of a main event talent, and that applies to his technical wrestling ability and performance on the microphone. The only thing Jarrett did have was a close friendship with WCW booker Vince Russo, followed by a controlling ownership in TNA, of which he used to become the focus of those respective promotions.
14 The Fabulous Moolah
Credit where it’s due, The Fabulous Moolah refused to give up the spotlight longer than any other wrestler in known history. All right, so maybe that isn’t the best superlative an athlete could achieve, and WWE likes to spin it into something more positive, noting she reigned as Women’s Champion for 27 years. Here’s the thing about that—throughout those 27 years, there were totally other women more deserving of the title than she was. In fact, given Moolah’s incredibly low level of actual wrestling talent, lack of a marketable look, and mediocre at best promo skills, it could be argued almost any other female wrestler should have been champion instead. And that’s when she was at her peak. Moolah used her relationship with the McMahon family to stay in the spotlight into her mid 70s, a solid 25-30 years longer than her average male counterpart even stays in the ring.
13 The Rock
It doesn’t matter if a wrestler happens to be the most electrifying man in sports and entertainment; if his or her coworkers feel like they’re hogging the spotlight, they’re going to speak up. Granted, this didn’t happen during the bulk of The Rock’s actual wrestling career, when he was easily one of the most talented and popular superstars around. Even if he was given more screen time than anyone else, most people thought it was totally deserved. On the other hand, when The Rock made his sudden return to WWE in 2011 after seven years in Hollywood, then subsequently main evented two WrestleManias in a row and won the WWE Championship in one of only five matches he wrestled that decade, it was a little harder to rationalize his success. Well, to the full-time WWE wrestlers who were complaining, anyway. In Vince McMahon’s eyes, he was simply putting the belt back on his highest profile star.
12 Dusty Rhodes
To most wrestling fans, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes is a legend beyond reproach, and with good reason. Rhodes reigned as NWA World Champion three times throughout his career and won countless other titles en route to greatness, mostly on the basis of his incredible microphone work, which truly was amongst the best the business has ever seen. For all his strengths, though, one fact about Dusty Rhodes that can’t be ignored is that he wasn’t quite as good in the ring as some of his contemporaries. Ric Flair, Terry Funk, Randy Savage, Harley Race, Ray Stevens, and Arn Anderson are just a few of Rhodes’s rivals who dwarfed his abilities from a technical standpoint, yet Dusty happily booked himself over them all. This brings us to the whole point—in addition to being a great talker, Dusty was also a legendarily innovative booker, writing countless storylines for the NWA in the 1980s. Naturally, whenever Rhodes dreamed up a particularly brilliant idea, he decided he should be the one to benefit from it.
11 John Cena
As the so-called “Face of WWE” for at least the past 12 years, it could be called “basic thuganomics” that John Cena would appear in countless main events over that time. Even tying Ric Flair’s record with 16 World Championship reigns feels somehow appropriate with the extent of Cena’s mainstream fame compared to his contemporaries. Well, they would, anyway, were he still a full time wrestler. Up until recently, there wasn’t anything wrong with Cena being promoted as WWE’s top star—that’s exactly what he was. However, Cena has reached a point where he only wrestles a handful of matches each year, yet the company still treats him as the most important wrestler alive year round. Granted, in comparison to some other names on this list, Cena hasn’t thrown around his backstage pull all that much, only getting promoted as Superman on Vince McMahon’s whim, but that hasn’t made it any less boring for long term fans to watch.
10 Kevin Nash
The career of Kevin Nash has at times been a roller coaster ride, once veering from the brink of termination to suddenly becoming one of the most popular superstars in the WWE Universe. While doing so, Nash also began a career long reputation of undeservedly holding his boss’s favor, and getting them to give him rewards he didn’t necessarily deserve because of it. First, there were his issues in The Kliq backstage at WWE, where he allegedly influenced Vince McMahon to giving him a year long World Championship reign, despite the fact ratings kept going down the whole time he wore the gold. The tendency only got worse when Nash jumped to WCW and eventually became that company’s lead booker, cutting out the middle man and allowing him to grant himself five subsequent World Championships. His inaugural title win also saw Nash defeat Goldberg and end his winning streak, arguably the most direct case of a wrestler stealing spotlight on this list.
9 Jerry Lawler
Again and again, this list is going to prove that it’s good to be The King, as it’s generally a position near the top of a given wrestling promotion’s corporate structure that makes all this spotlight hogging possible in the first place. Therefore, it should almost be a given that Jerry “The King” Lawler would make his way to these pages. As one of the main color commentators for WWE over the past two decades, we can’t fault Lawler for talking about himself now and then at ringside, but that’s not why he’s here. No, Lawler’s spot was cemented not working for Vince McMahon, but while performing in his own Memphis based promotions, like the CWA and USWA, the latter of which saw him reign as World Champion a whopping 28 times. Lawler continues main eventing shows in Memphis to this day, despite being in his late 60s and having suffered a terrifyingly public heart attack.
8 Steve Austin
Without a doubt, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was the most popular professional wrestler of the Attitude Era, the time frame WWE’s ratings were higher than ever. The catch was that Austin achieved this rarified status in part through a kick, wham, Stunner to just about every other superstar working for the company at the same time he was. Even wrestlers significantly lower than Austin on the food chain could have a random match interrupted so he could run out and beat everyone up for no reason, and while the fans ate it up, there were definitely a few people backstage furious he was allowed to run roughshod over the entire WWE Universe. There were also a few rumors during Austin’s WWE Championship reigns that he refused to lose to one wrestler or another, mostly just so he could elongate his own time on top. Oh, hell no.
7 Shane Douglas
In the extreme, hardcore world of ECW, it was a technically proficient wrestler named Shane Douglas who held the World Championship significantly longer than anyone else. Douglas called himself “The Franchise” of ECW, and by most accounts, he completely bought into his own hype, truly believing himself to be the greatest star of the promotion the entire time he was there. To be fair, throughout his first couple ECW Championship reigns, he might have actually been right, but Douglas collectively held the belt for almost three years, just under twice as long as The Sandman, who held the belt for the second longest. That’s way too long for any one performer in an allegedly innovative promotion, which should have given the gold to any number of more unique, creative talents at least once in a while.
6 Ric Flair
Given his status as quite arguably the greatest professional wrestler of all time, fans of “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair tend to look the other way when it comes to his questionable backstage politics. In one way or another, Flair remained on top of the wrestling industry for almost 30 full years, and talent alone isn’t what allowed him to do so. At many points throughout his career, Flair was also very influential to the booking in NWA and WCW. In fact, he was the head booker on more than one occasion, and we’ll give you one guess as to who he generally believed to reign as World Champion. It’s not like Flair didn’t deserve it, of course, but the fact remains he was the person in charge, deciding he also had to be the top star of the company. The mere fact fans actually wanted to see it doesn’t make it any less of a classic attention hog maneuver.
5 Larry Zbyszko
Every wrestler on this list to steal a their spotlight in a promotion that has since went out of business probably deserves a little bit of the blame for that organization closing its doors. More so than anyone worker for ECW or WCW, however, Larry Zbyszko can directly be blamed for the death and dissolution of the AWA, a company that prospered for approximately 30 years before he reared his ugly head as its World Champion. Zbyszko was a decent wrestler who knew who to make people hate him, but he simply didn’t have the charisma or star power to serve as the center of a national company. Granted, there weren’t very many options available for the AWA, but even if there were, Zbyszko’s status as the son-in-law of owner Verne Gagne probably would have meant he would reign as champion for about two years either way.
4 Hulk Hogan
Whether or not WWE would have become the global sensation it is today without the influence of Hulk Hogan will forever remain a mystery. There’s no denying that the onset of Hulkamania was exactly what it took for Vince McMahon’s regional company to set off into the stratosphere, but people will forever argue that there may have been some other superstar able to do the same thing. On the other hand, everyone agrees it had to be the Hulkster who turned his back on the fans to form the nWo in WCW, but that didn’t stop them from complaining he completely monopolized the spotlight after doing so. Hogan’s dominance over WWE was already starting to drag on fans by the early ‘90s, when he was refusing to step out of the spotlight for younger stars, and another five or six years later, those feelings were obviously intensified. Forming the nWo extended his career a little bit, but not enough that he deserved to be WCW Champion for basically the next three years with only small transitional champs between his never ending reign.
3 Shawn Michaels
Similar to Ric Flair, when Shawn Michaels’s spotlight hogging tendencies were at their absolute worst, he may well have been the greatest wrestler in the world. However, unlike Flair, contemporaries still found cause to complain about HBK’s backstage antics, because boy howdy was the guy a douchebag. Constantly strung out on drugs, HBK knew he was the best wrestler around, and he wanted to make sure everyone else knew it, too. Eventually, this desire took way of refusing to lose the WWE Championship on more than one occasion. When not even Vince McMahon would allow him to get away with this stubborn pettiness any longer, Michaels pretended he suffered a severe knee injury rather than lose the gold, so his character would never lose face. Of course, that would have meant being out of the spotlight, so he quickly revealed it was a ruse weeks after vacating the gold gracefully. Thankfully, HBK’s worse inclinations would calm down significantly for his second run in the company.
2 Triple H
Since the days of Caesar, critics have warned that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and yet no one in the WWE Universe thought to question why Triple H was asking Vince McMahon about his backstage duties from the days he was a lowly Connecticut blueblood. The higher up the card Triple H has risen, the more interested he was in McMahon’s thoughts and opinions, and before long, the inverse was true, as well. Triple H likes pointing out his first WWE Championship reign came before he and Stephanie McMahon were even dating, and that’s true, but it doesn’t change the fact 12 out of 14 (thus far) came afterwards. Even when Triple H hasn’t been reigning as champion, if he’s on television, one better believe it’ll be in the top spot, or at least the most talked about for weeks and months to come. Should Triple H one day inherit WWE as is predicted, he might just find away to make this trend get worse.
1 The McMahon Family
For as bad as wrestlers have been about refusing to give up the spotlight over the years, none have been worse about the trend than the people in charge of the industry. Initially, Vince McMahon, Sr.’s policy was that wrestling promoters shouldn’t be seen on their own product, but it would turn out his son feels the exact opposite. Unfortunately for wrestling fans, Shane and Stephanie McMahon have more in common with the old man than their grandfather, following in Vince, Jr.’s footsteps to take the center of attention at absolutely every opportunity imaginable. It would be one thing if they were announcers, managers, or even old fashioned wrestling authority figures like Jack Tunney, only weighing in when absolutely necessary. However, all three McMahons have held major titles in WWE, with Vince in particular once reigning as World Champion. Considering he was never even trained to wrestle, there’s no denying that was the ultimate example of spotlight hogging in sports entertainment history.