In the history of pro wrestling, there have been a lot of issues with wrestlers and owners. It’s natural with so many egos around, guys clashing constantly and things getting hot. Stories are plentiful about massive backstage riffs and full on fights, not just between the talent but management as well. There have been plenty of times guys have been released on bad terms, although some are able to bounce back and mend the fences. Others however, are not and for a major reason.
Quite often, when a guy leaves a company, it’s not quietly. In fact, it can be as ugly as you can imagine. Whether the worker acts up or the boss hits back too hard, it can explode into a terrible event. WWE are the most famous, mostly thanks to Vince McMahon’s infamous pride and ego. However, plenty of other examples abound, including the “golden age” of the territories. There are so many examples but here are the biggest. The 20 ugliest breaks between workers and their companies and how nothing in wrestling, including firing/quitting, is quiet.
20 Mike Awesome/ECW
While ECW was having its issues in 1999, they managed to hit something with Awesome. Living up to his name, the man could do monster brawling then follow it with technical work before smashing a guy through a table with a power bomb. His reign as ECW champion was great and the company seemed to have him locked as a major star. But then WCW came calling and Awesome decided to pop up on an episode of Nitro while still holding the ECW title. Paul Heyman was outraged and threatened to sue with Awesome hitting right back that Heyman was holding up payments to him.
19 Lex Luger/WWE
After doing a good job in WCW as multiple champion, Luger left in 1991 to try his hand at bodybuilding. That was ruined by a motorcycle accident so Luger came to WWE as the Narcissist. It was a good act but then Vince decided to remake Luger as an All-American hero, pushed hard in a title feud with Yokozuna only to not win the belt. For the next two years, Luger drifted, feuding with Tatanka, teaming with Davey Boy Smith but there was nothing really special for him. Yet most figured he’d stick around WWE for a while due to his contract.
18 Jerry Lawler/WWE
As the biggest star in Memphis wrestling, you can understand why Lawler would stick to running things his own way too much. In 1988, he created a partnership with the ailing AWA that allowed him to be AWA champion. This led to cross-promotion with World Class and Continental and Lawler got good press defending the title across company lines. This was to lead to a “Unified” title at SuperClash III but the card was a bad one that ended with Lawler beating Kerry Von Erich after the ref stopped the match due to Kerry’s blood loss. After only a few weeks, it became clear Lawler put his stuff ahead of the AWA and they broke apart with Lawler refusing to give up the AWA title belt until he was paid, which he never was, so Lawler still has the belt today.
17 Sgt. Slaughter/WWE
Originally a brutal heel in Mid-Atlantic, Slaughter clicked as a hero in a feud with the Iron Sheik. His battles against Sheik got the fans going and as WWE took off in 1984, Slaughter was among their most recognizable faces. With his patriotic push and charisma, Slaughter knew he was a big deal and thus went to McMahon to ask for more money as well as six weeks paid vacation. McMahon was already angry about Slaughter wanting to use his likeness for the “GI Joe” cartoon and not pay WWE for it and thus fired him and went about burying Slaughter numerous times to the press.
Arriving in WWE as simply the valet for husband Marc Mero, Rena began to get major attention as Sable. Her gorgeous looks helped but so did her daring ways as she helped push the “Attitude Era” with her provocative style and outgoing personality. Fans loved watching her wrestle but then show herself off in various ways, including a Playboy spread. Mero has admitted she let the fame go to her head and listened to the wrong people too much. This led to a huge ego and clashes backstage with some nasty pranks pulled on her.
15 Lance Von Erich/World Class Championship Wrestling
The litany of woes of the Von Erich family are part of wrestling lore. Many put the blame on Fritz insisting on pushing his sons and covering for their many flaws and issues. In 1985, Mike was recovering from his near fatal toxic shock syndrome with Fritz needing to fill the gap for audiences. So, he introduced William Vaughn as Lance, a “cousin” of the family. While he had good looks and some skill, he just wasn’t at the level of the other Von Erichs and fans didn’t buy into him that much. Indeed, most of the family was adamant about not doing this but Fritz insisted. This backfired as it didn’t take long for someone in the press to figure the guy wasn’t a real relative and in these days of kayfabe, that was a huge deal.
After some great work in the AWA and WCW, Madusa Miceli joined WWE in 1993. As Alundra Blayze, she won the reactivated Women’s title and did a terrific job defending it against a variety of challengers. However, in late 1995, due to the terrible business they had that year, WWE decided to eliminate the women’s division. Naturally not happy with that, Madusa created one of the most infamous moments of the Monday Night War.
13 CM Punk/WWE
Punk was a fantastic star who, after so long struggling, finally managed to take off as a multiple champion in WWE. He also connected with fans by being himself. This great worker and talker's infamous “pipe bomb” promo took up so many issues fans had with WWE. As 2014 dawned, Punk was being more open about his lack of faith in WWE, especially their treatment of Daniel Bryan. Vince tried to cover by saying Punk was “taking a sabbatical” and most thought it was another attempt at a “walk out and return” storyline. It took months after his image was removed from the company’s website for it to sink in this was for real. Punk finally revealed he had been suspended two months for his talking out against Vince and when he tried to reach out for royalty money, was given the runaround.
12 Steve Austin/WCW/WWE
Austin has a couple of major bits to make this list. The first was how Austin was taking off in 1994 WCW, holding TV, tag team and US titles and seemingly ready for a big push. However, Hulk Hogan’s arrival shoved Austin down the card as he dropped the US title to Jim Duggan and then was fired by Fed Ex while recovering from injury. That pushed Austin to go to ECW and he slammed WCW constantly.
11 Jesse Ventura/WWE
“The Body” and Vince McMahon have had a very complicated history. Once a great star with WWE, Ventura had been forced to retire and soon became a standout as a commentator. In 1984, Ventura tried to organize a union of wrestlers but it was crushed. In 1987, Ventura agreed to waive the royalties for his appearances on home video, believing that non-featured performers weren’t paid. In 1990, he discovered they were and angrily confronted Vince about it.
10 Jeff Jarrett/WWE
A key issue of Jarrett is that the guy is a good mid-card talent but thinks he’s on the level of Hogan or Flair. That’s gotten him into some problems with his desire for more of a push, leading to an exit from WCW in 1998. Jarrett went to WWE, arriving by doing an on-air “shoot” slamming WCW and screaming about being held back. For the next year, Jarrett did well, holding the IC title and seemed to be on the rise. In late 1999, he started to demand more money with his contract coming up, too much for Vince to want to pay off. So Jarrett was ready to go but as it happened, his contract expired one day before his planned IC title defense against Chyna. Thus, Jarrett held up Vince for $300,000, threatening to jump to WCW with the IC title unless he was paid.
9 Stan Hansen/AWA
The tough Texan made no bones about being in the business for himself and using his clout to get money. In the 1980s, Hansen was one of the first American stars to realize how big you could make it in Japan as they loved his stiff style. Indeed, Hansen was making more money in Japan than most NFL players of the time. In 1985, Verne Gagne lured him to the AWA by having Hansen crush Rick Martel to win the World title. From the start, it was rough as Hansen wasn’t quite a guy to carry a company and his clashes with Gagne were numerous.
8 Mildred Burke/Billy Wolfe/NWA
It’s inevitable at least one item on this list takes “divorce” literally. Throughout the 1940s, Burke had established herself as arguably the best female grappler around, a fantastic in-ring worker and a great star. She even wrestled men several times and in the days when wrestling was more of a shoot, she handled herself well. She and Billy Wolfe had a good marriage with him promoting her around the country but Burke realized how Wolfe was cheating on her with various other women.
7 The Ultimate Warrior/WWE
When the Warrior burst upon the scene in 1988, he took fans by storm. They loved his ring entrance, his wild promos and his cartoonish antics. It led to huge success as IC champion and then WWE champion. While the heat faltered, the Warrior was still a huge deal, feuding with Jake Roberts and The Undertaker in 1991 and plans were for him to stay a key player for a while. But Warrior and Vince soon started fighting over money, Warrior demanding far more while working less dates and threatening to boycott key matches unless he was paid. Vince called him on it as Warrior was fired almost from the moment he finished a SummerSlam battle. He returned in 1992 and was being pushed to the title again. But then he was suspended for using growth hormones and decided to quit, ruining weeks of a program of him and Randy Savage teaming at Survivor Series.
6 Rick Rude/WWE
A fantastic heel, Rude was notable for being pretty hot-tempered backstage and that ego got him in a lot of trouble. It also led him to put himself first and in various hard ways. He walked out on World Class right after dropping their title, ruining plans for him in rematches. He then walked out on JCP even as he and Manny Fernandez were NWA tag team champions so they had to use a non-title match against the Rock n Roll Express for the “title change” on TV. Rude was great in WWE for several years as IC champion and a top heel. However, in late 1990, right as he and the Big Bossman were ready for a major feud, Rude walked out on WWE amid talks of failing a drug test and a row over money.
5 Wendi Richter/WWE
Long before Bret Hart, Richter knew all about getting screwed. As WWE took off in 1985, Richter was a key figure, winning the Women’s title off the Fabulous Moolah and boosted at WrestleMania. She was terrific in the ring and her stardom was rising high. Richter naturally assumed she was deserving of a raise, basically equal to what Hogan had. McMahon thought this was way too much and decided Richter needed to be taught a lesson. At a match against masked jobber Spider Lady, Richter found herself facing a familiar opponent. The Spider Lady rolled her up, Richter kicking out but the ref counted it as a pin and rang for the bell.
4 Ric Flair/WCW
Flair’s amazing skill and persona has helped make him a legend among wrestlers and fans alike. For over a decade and a half, he was the key person behind Jim Crockett Promotions, his reigns as NWA champion doing big business and was a cornerstone to WCW. When Turner took over, Flair did okay at first but Jim Herd’s bungling soon got to him. Herd wanted to change Flair’s image with the idea of him as a Roman gladiator type despite how Flair was fine as he was. Flair soon held out for more money in 1991 and Herd made the dumb mistake of firing him.
3 Hulk Hogan/AWA/WWE/WCW/WWE/TNA/WWE
Hogan may be among the biggest stars in the history of wrestling but he’s also known for his massive ego. Thus, it’s no surprise he’s ended up doing some major walkouts here and there under harsh circumstances. It began when he wanted more of a cut off his merchandise in the AWA as well as a title run but Verne Gagne refused on both. So, Hogan jumped to WWE with no notice to Gagne, leading to his massive success as the AWA soon fell apart.
After a decade on top, Hogan’s run with WWE ended poorly as he and Vince had a huge clash over money and so Hogan left in 1993 with Vince making sure he went out bad, losing the title to Yokozuna. Hogan would then have years of success in WCW but in 2000, a strange event occurred. He and Vince Russo agreed to a plan for Hogan to seemingly win a match then blast Russo and walk out. However, Russo went too far with a speech slamming Hogan and so Hogan left for real under a bitter cloud.
Hogan’s return to WWE in 2002 had some surprising success but that ended in 2003 with he and Vince bitterly arguing about money and Hogan getting the spotlight. Hogan’s TNA tenure was also rough and ended with Hogan walking out on the company and the pitiful sight of Dixie Carter literally begging on her knees for him not to go.
You can’t get much uglier than full on physical assault. Kevin Wacholz joined WWE in 1992 with the gimmick of Nailz, a former convict seeking payback on the Big Bossman. He was an imposing man who did well with the gimmick and thought he deserved more of a push. Vince disagreed and things built up to a major shouting match. That soon got completely out of control with Wacholz storming into Vince’s office, slapping him and even choking him.
1 Bret Hart/WWE
A pretty obvious top choice. When your exit creates the most infamous screwjob in wrestling history, it shows how ugly things can get. Despite some good creative work in 1997, WWE was still hurting in the ratings against WCW and Vince told Bret he could no longer afford his massive 20 year contract. Back and forth they went with Vince urging Bret to seek out a deal with WCW. However, Bret didn’t want to drop the belt at the Survivor Series to Shawn Michaels and certainly not in Canada.
What really happened is complex with both Bret and Shawn admitting “we worked ourselves into a shoot” and Triple H throwing his own two cents in. Eventually, we got the now famous sight of Shawn getting Bret into the Sharpshooter, the bell rung fast and Shawn getting the belt. Bret spat at Vince as he smashed up cameras, then punched him in the face backstage. Ironically, this would lead to WWE taking the lead in the War as the bad blood between Bret and Vince raged for over a decade. They eventually made up with Bret making a return to the company but it's still notable for how ugly things can get with major workers.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?Get Your Free Access Now!