Back in the pre-Internet days, back in those days before Vince McMahon told us all that we must be tired of having our intelligence insulted, many fans who hadn’t been smartened up thought it was all cut-and-dry — the babyfaces are as heroic in real life as the heels are despicable. But as we’ve read and heard numerous times since then, that isn’t necessarily the case. The virtuous good guy with the unbreakable spirit may be a drunken racist off-camera, while the hateful bad guy on TV may be a sweetheart to the fans and a swell guy during long road trips, cracking up his colleagues with his sense of humor.
Today, we shall be looking at a list of people connected with WWE in the past and present — not all of them wrestlers — and ranking them in terms of how despicable they were in the real world. We’re going to be counting down all manner of backstage politicians, racists, two-timers, homophobes, jerks-to-the-fans, and maybe even all of the above. These are all heels in real life based on the stories we’ve heard and, at times, their own admission, and they have few, if any, mitigating factors that partially make us forget about their negative behavior toward colleagues, fans, and/or the business.
Who’s the biggest real-life WWE villain? Read on, and we’ll tell you.
20. SCOTT STEINER
He’d rank higher if we counted his time in WCW, but as far as his WWE career goes, Scott Steiner was far from being a saint. The Big Bad Booty Daddy of unscripted, unintelligible, and/or nonsensical promos, Steiner established his jerkass persona from the moment he returned to WWE in 2002, audibly demanding “gimme a f—in’ mic!” on live TV before cutting his first Big Poppa Pump-era WWE promo. Take note that he was supposed to be re-debuting as a babyface.
Needless to say, the former WCW World Champion was a huge bust in his WWE return, and while his backstage issues in WWE weren’t as plentiful as they were in WCW, he did make physical threats to Hulk Hogan (via Hulk’s wife, who was shaken up by the incident) right ahead of WrestleMania 31. He’s also gone on repeated Twitter rants complaining about his former companies (both WWE and TNA), and most recently he took shots at Goldberg and his inclusion in WWE 2K17, complaining that he too should be in the game, and that he’d “beat that bald-headed bastard in the virtual world.”
19. BOB HOLLY
What’s the matter, Bob? What is it that makes you such a humorless curmudgeon? It must be that awful (yet apparently reality-based) stock car racer gimmick, and that woefully punny ring name of Thurman “Sparky” Plugg you debuted in WWE with.
Of course, being dead-serious to a fault isn’t Holly’s only qualifier for “despicable” status. It hardly is. What we could mention, however, is the disproportionate retribution Rene Dupree got for incurring a hefty speeding ticket while driving a rental car registered under Holly’s name — a series of extremely stiff shoot punches and kicks at a house show match. You’ve also got the infamous case of Holly shooting on Tough Enough contestant Matt Cappotelli, and for what reason? To toughen up the young rookie and force him to take things more seriously.
18. BUBBA RAY DUDLEY
While his longtime friend and tag team partner D-Von Dudley appears to be a nice guy outside the ring, Bubba Ray Dudley has developed quite a reputation as a bully, and you should see what we did there. And you ought to hear D-Von testify about how Bubba Ray lives up to his TNA ring name in private – “he’ll be the first to tell you he’s a jerk, (and) the first to tell you he doesn’t like people.”
An ill-tempered guy backstage, Bubba Ray made sure to leave a mark before he and D-Von left WWE in 2005, legitimately punching Sylvain Grenier for blowing a spot during a match. Grenier’s tag team partner Rene Dupree claims to have been concussed repeatedly by Bubba Ray, and Chris Nowinski wasn’t long for pro wrestling due to similar reasons and the exact same opponent giving him those concussions.
Given his negative backstage attitude, it’s no surprise that post-2016 “retirement” angle, Bubba Ray is no longer connected with WWE, while legitimately retired D-Von is still working for the company as a road agent and producer.
17. CODY BARBIERRI
Cody Barbierri is not a wrestler. He isn’t a wrestling promoter or executive either. Rather, he was once WWE’s social media manager, and he had briefly gained notoriety in 2014 for being the man who made racist remarks against Alberto Del Rio, telling him to “bus his tray.” Incensed at what he thought was a negative portrayal of Mexicans as cheap laborers, Del Rio demanded an apology from Barbierri, but when he refused to apologize and instead laughed it off, he got a slap in the face for his ill-timed comments. And, as Alberto later admitted to Mexican media, that wasn’t the first time Barbierri was trying to get the much larger wrestler’s goat.
What did WWE do after getting wind of the incident? Why, they fired Del Rio, and allowed Barbierri to get away scot-free without any known punishment. Barbierri left WWE two months after the Del Rio incident, and here’s hoping we never get to see him back in the company.
Look up the word “backstage heat” in the dictionary and you’re likely to see a picture of Melina Perez. From her earliest days in WWE getting kicked out of the locker room by Lita and other female veterans, she’s had some serious attitude problems backstage, including, but not limited to: getting into a fight with Sharmell as an extension of Batista and Booker T’s real-life feud, belittling other female wrestlers and acting like a female version of JBL (read: locker room hazing and bullying) when she became a veteran, feuding with Candice Michelle on WWE’s official blogs, and being a bad influence to on-and-off boyfriend John Morrison, especially when he brushed off Trish Stratus at WrestleMania XXVII.
To be fair, Melina was a better wrestler than most of the Diva Search-dominated WWE women’s roster of the mid-late-2000s. But was it worth keeping her on the roster for a good seven years, given her unsavory backstage reputation? We think not.
15. KEVIN NASH
On the plus side, Kevin Nash has often been described as a legitimately funny guy backstage. But that’s probably the only good thing we have to say about Big Daddy Cool/Big Sexy away from the ring. We all know how he and Shawn Michaels were among the founding members of The Kliq, a real-life group of backstage buddies whose ultimate goal was to hold all the top spots in WWE, at the expense of other, oftentimes more deserving wrestlers. But by himself, he’s done his share of things to ruffle feathers and upset his fellow wrestlers and/or fans.
For a random sampling of Nash’s jerk actions outside the ring, we can start with the “vanilla midgets” comment he made about smaller wrestlers such as Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, and his general disdain for anyone under 230 pounds. You’ve also got his rude behavior toward top non-Kliq guys such as Bret Hart and The Rock, as well as his standoffish attitude toward “smart” fans. And while the jury is out on this one due to his son Tristen supposedly being the drunken aggressor, both Nash men were arrested in a domestic violence incident on Christmas Eve of 2014. Talk about not getting The Jackson 5’s message of giving love on Christmas Day.
14. DICK MURDOCH
The late Dick Murdoch’s time in WWE was rather brief, but it was long enough for numerous 1980s performers to accuse Murdoch of being a racist. There have even been claims that Murdoch was a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan, though some of his contemporaries have sort-of stepped up in his defense, suggesting that he may have been more of an Archie Bunker-type racist — a product of his upbringing, and not necessarily a mean-spirited person.
Then you’ve also got claims from black wrestlers such as Rocky Johnson, who suggests that Murdoch was especially stiff with him and other African-Americans of their era. There isn’t any official proof to this or any of the other accusations above, but most people tend to agree — Dick Murdoch might not have been very fond of black people.
13. BROCK LESNAR
Hey, at least The Beast admits it — he’s not a nice guy. Although we’re not going to call Brock Lesnar despicable because of his aloof, almost anti-social nature as a person, we’re going to mention one incident from his younger days that stands out up to this day, and the reason why this former UFC Heavyweight Champion keeps on sending those “messed-up dweebs” of WWE (Conor McGregor’s words, not ours) to Suplex City.
In 2004, Lesnar spoke to ESPN and admitted, quite casually, that he “doesn’t like gays,” adding that his interviewer should “write that down in their little notebook.” But apart from the homophobia, Lesnar has always come across as a wrestler who’s in the business only for the money, not because of a genuine love for sports entertainment. Sure, he’s not the only WWE wrestler who didn’t follow pro wrestling while growing up, but that hasn’t stopped Kurt Angle from giving it his all and loving the business, has it?
12. TEDDY HART
At 18 years old, Bret and Owen Hart’s nephew Teddy Hart became the company’s youngest-ever developmental signing in 1998. A product of the Hart family dungeon, Teddy shockingly spent four years in developmental before getting cut. He returned to WWE in 2005, appeared as a jobber, was sent back to developmental, and in 2007, he got cut a second time. Was it injuries holding him back? Bad luck? Politics?
It was none of that, as Hart’s problems were all down to his crummy attitude. There are few resources that specify just how bad Teddy’s behavior was in WWE, but if you need an indicator of what a problem man-child he was, look no further than his Ring of Honor stint, where he surprised unsuspecting wrestlers with moonsaults from the top of the cage after one match in 2003. He also reportedly did a Darren Drozdov by puking in the ring for the heck of it, and had a notable altercation with CM Punk. And he doesn’t appear to have mellowed with age, having been arrested for DWI on New Year’s Day 2017.
Oh, if only I knew as a teen what Sunny was doing backstage behind Chris “Skip” Candido’s back. We remember Tammy “Sunny” Sytch today as the forerunner of the physically-attractive Divas of the 21st century, and it was no surprise that she was extremely popular among WWE’s largely teenage male fanbase in the years immediately before and during the Attitude Era.
However, many have also claimed that Sunny was quite popular among the boys backstage, and had quite the torrid affair with Shawn Michaels, all while her boyfriend Chris Candido was actively wrestling for WWE as Bodydonna Skip. And HBK might not have been the only wrestler Sunny was fooling around with back in the day. Further, Sunny also wasn’t a pleasant character backstage, and that, together with her growing addiction to painkillers and increasing number of no-shows, led WWE to can her in 1998. Strangely, that didn’t stop WWE from inducting her into the Hall of Fame in 2011.
10. GREG VALENTINE
The career midcarder with a weather-beaten face and good bloodlines (he’s the son, and onetime kayfabe brother of Johnny Valentine) may not have ruffled as many feathers backstage as a lot of his late-’80s to early-mid-’90s WWE counterparts. But he infuriated a lot of wrestling fans quite recently, commenting at a Q&A session in 2015 that there is no place for women in the world of professional wrestling, and that if it was up to him, he’d send them all back to the strip bars and have them literally stay in the kitchen to cook and clean for the men of the house.
For those straight-from-the-’50s remarks, I’d say “The Hammer” deserves to be put in Charlotte’s Figure Eight, Sasha Banks’ Bank Statement, or Becky Lynch’s Disarm-Her. Or get a Bayley-to-Belly from Bayley, hugs not included. And since he filed female MMA fighters in the same category as women’s wrestlers, perhaps add a Ronda Rousey armbar or a flurry of punches from Amanda Nunes for good measure.
At the risk of getting an online lynching from casual wrestling fans from my home country, I’m going to say it — Batista was a different kind of “Animal” during his time in WWE. According to The Brian Kendrick, Batista decided to spite Mickie James by posting nude photos of her on the locker room walls. It’s not clear why he did this, but we’re just going to add that “The Animal” did have a reputation as a locker room player, and did have an affair with Melina during one of her splits with John Morrison, and more pointedly while he was still married to his wife, who was then battling cancer. Out of all the WWE cheating stories, few are colder.
Oh, and what about his brief 2013-2014 run in WWE, when he got VERY confrontational with fans who were booing his Royal Rumble victory? And how he never returned to WWE despite all signs pointing to his hiatus to promote Guardians of the Galaxy being a temporary one? Batista may be happy making films in Hollywood under his real name Dave Bautista, but unlike that other wrestler-turned-movie-star named Dwayne, “Boo-tista” wasn’t exactly a stand-up guy back in his WWE days.
8. VINCE RUSSO
His legacy is mostly associated with WCW, or should we say, the downfall of WCW. But we should remember that as WWE Magazine writer Vic Venom, and later on as the company’s head writer, Vince Russo was linked to WWE, and was the “architect” of the Attitude Era.
Of course, that’s what he’d say if you asked him. But as his ill-fated WCW stints had proved, Russo was a hot mess when left to his own devices, without the hands-on supervision of Vince McMahon to guide his creative hand. And if you think becoming a born-again Christian has made him more introspective about things, we shall let you know that he has hardly any regrets, bro, about his missteps as a member or leader of the creative team, bro. He does regret his involvement in the unfortunate stunt that killed Owen Hart in 1999, and for that and his general haughty attitude toward his perceived contributions to the wrestling boom of the late-’90s, he deserves his place in this list of despicable people in WWE history.
The whole J.R. Ewing-based John Bradshaw Layfield character was a brilliant heel, and proof that even if you’re on the wrong side of 30 and about a decade removed from your WWE debut, you can still become a main event star. As a commentator, JBL isn’t as bad as some fans make him out to be, though it is often “John O’Clock” on SmackDown Live, as King Ross of WhatCulture fame loves to say. But many have gone forward and told stories of how JBL is behind the curtains — a notorious bully who takes pleasure in the hazing of younger wrestlers.
Wrestlers such as Brian Christopher, Shannon Moore, Palmer Canon, Paul London, and The Miz have all been associated with these hazing and bullying stories, a lot of which supposedly involved JBL doing NSFW things to these then-youngsters while they were showering. Even established names such as Joey Styles have fallen victim to JBL’s bullying ways, with Styles having enough and sucker-punching the ornery Texan while WWE was on a tour of Iraq. The worst part of it all is that JBL hasn’t shown an ounce of remorse, explaining that he did haze rookies to toughen them up — the oldest excuse in the book.
6. SHAWN MICHAELS (PRE-2000)
The Shawn Michaels we know today is, by most accounts, a great guy. While comfortably retired, he’s still passionate about the business. He’s a God-fearing family man, and has been since becoming a born-again Christian. But in the days before his first (legitimate, prolonged) retirement, the Heartbreak Kid was an intolerable prick who wasn’t very popular in the locker room.
Back in the day, it would have taken an act of God for Shawn to job to certain people, and many claim his “lost my smile” retirement speech from 1997 was an excuse for him not to return the favor from WrestleMania XII and put Bret Hart over for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XIII. He popped pills and drank like nobody’s business, and would often show up to events completely wasted. Then there’s the general air he carried himself with in the ’90s — that of a cocky prima donna who loved playing the political game backstage with the rest of his Kliq.
5. DYNAMITE KID
Many have pointed it out — Dynamite Kid being broke, sickly, and a shadow of his once physically-imposing self is karma for all the terrible things he did during his pro wrestling career. We’ll stop short of going there, but instead focus on what kind of a man Tom Billington was to his WWE colleagues. Locker room ribs are all well and good, but Dynamite turned the rib into an act of bullying, taking his younger, more impressionable cousin Davey Boy Smith along for the ride, also introducing Smith to steroids and a hard-partying lifestyle during their Stampede Wrestling days.
The most notorious Dynamite Kid story is, by far, the incident with the Rougeau Brothers, where he physically attacked Jacques Rougeau after being falsely accused of pulling off an ill-timed rib that was actually done by Curt Hennig. Outside the ring, he was an abusive and sadistic husband to his first wife (Bret Hart’s first wife’s younger sister), going as far as threatening to shoot her. Hart also claims that Dynamite acted like an unapologetic racist when he dropped by for a visit in England in the mid-’90s.
4. BILL DEMOTT
Wrestling trainers are expected to be tough on rookies. Their job is to instill discipline while honing a youngster’s skills. But their job description should not include becoming the real-life personification of Gunnery Sgt. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket and then some. If the stories of several former FCW and NXT talents are true, then Bill DeMott, a.k.a. Hugh Morrus during his WCW and WWE wrestling days, is one of the worst bullies in WWE history.
The accusations against DeMott are manifold – it’s been claimed that he would use racist slurs at his trainees, such as calling a Middle Easterner a “terrorist” and telling black wrestler Osmund Cherry “go back to Africa.” He’d ask trainees – Luke Gallows was apparently one of them – to wrestle naked and do the Stinkface on each other. He’d physically injure wrestlers such as Ryan “Briley Pierce” Nemeth (Dolph Ziggler’s brother) in the name of training, and turn a blind eye to a coach who was allegedly taking photos of female talents in compromising positions and posting them on Facebook.
3. HULK HOGAN
Hulk Hogan the character was a hero children could relate to, and a hero parents wouldn’t mind their kids looking up to. After all, what mom and dad wouldn’t want their kids to say their prayers and eat their vitamins? And his matches were living proof that good can triumph over evil — like many kids my age, the Hulk-Up was mark-out time way back in the day, and it was a sign that the good guy wasn’t down and out after all, and was all ready to give the dastardly villain his comeuppance.
What most of us young’uns didn’t know in those pre-Internet days was that the reason Hulk almost always won had nothing to do with an iron will and superhuman abilities. Instead, this was a man who played the political game like no other, setting himself on a higher platform than the rest of the boys while making damn sure he would never job cleanly to anyone. And like many a political manipulator, he would always tell you what you wanted to hear… brother. That’s Hulk Hogan backstage for you in a nutshell, and we don’t need to remind you of the awful things he said about black people in that infamous leaked sex tape.
2. THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR (PRE-HOF INDUCTION)
When the WWE Universe saw The Ultimate Warrior get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and make what turned out to be his final RAW appearance before his tragic death, fans saw a seemingly changed man. As such, we’re referring to the Warrior who competed in WWE and WCW in the ’80s and ’90s, and made some very offensive statements in his non-wrestling life.
So let’s see: Warrior virtually held WWE up for money on multiple occasions, and when he didn’t get his way, he disappeared. He once used the death of his father as an excuse for missing a string of house shows, despite both men being estranged for several years. He brushed off a young fan’s dying wish to see him. And, in a still-notorious public appearance at a college campus, he told shocked attendees that homosexuality, or in his words, “queering,” doesn’t make the world work.
1. CHRIS BENOIT
You knew we were going to bring him up eventually. But in the context of this list, we have to once again separate Chris Benoit the wrestler from Chris Benoit the man. The wrestler we saw on television was, without a doubt, one of the most talented technical wrestlers of his generation, a true main event-caliber talent who deserved every bit of his push and his championship belts. We certainly cannot deny the Rabid Wolverine’s greatness in the ring.
The man behind the scenes, however, was a deeply troubled individual, and whether it was due to concussion-related reasons, steroids, or whatever reason, the act of killing your wife and your young child before killing yourself is something any law cannot condone. Chris Benoit’s talent knew few boundaries in his wrestling career, and it’s probably unfair that WWE continues to pretend that he never existed. But he ended his life and that of his family in the worst way possible, and that’s why he has to top this list.
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