Professional wrestlers have a passionate fan base. Their supporters shell out top dollar for live event tickets and merchandise. They devote hours each week to following their careers on TV. They scour the Internet for news and insights about the stars they love.
Every now and again, those fans have the opportunity to meet the wrestlers. Sometimes it happens at a planned autograph signing. Sometimes it’s a matter of fans waiting outside the arena in hopes of spotting their idols. Sometimes it’s run ins that happen by chance at airports or bars or gyms before or after a show.
There are those wrestlers who go out of their way to reciprocate their fans’ good wills, and are generous with their free time in having a conversation or posing for pictures. There are others, however, who are far less pleasant to run into in real life. These are the wrestlers who may blow off their fans, poke fun at their wrestling obsession, or even go so far as to go on the attack, particularly if they’re caught on a bad day.
On the topic of bad days, I offer this article with an important caveat. We all have our bad days when everything seems to go wrong, and when we aren’t our best selves, whether that means being rude to a cashier, or cutting someone off in traffic. Pro wrestlers are humans and, of course, have their bad days, too. These entries tend to be based on repeated incidents of bad interactions with fans, or particularly bad incidents.
20 Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar’s wrestling persona is that of a no-nonsense badass. The line between reality and storyline has always been thin for him, given his real-life amateur credentials and his career as a mixed martial artist. So, it may come as little surprise that The Conqueror isn’t the warmest of personalities when it comes to interacting with fans.
19 Sasha Banks
While The Boss has become increasingly popular with fans since she joined WWE’s main roster, she has a record of not being as pleasant in her fan interactions. There was one televised incident, back when she was splitting time between Raw and NXT. Banks approached a young fan who was supporting Banks’s in-ring rival Bayley, and stole her headband to mock both the fan and Bayley. The young fan openly cried in her mother’s arms on camera based on the unplanned bullying.
Virgil has been out of the pro wrestling limelight for years now, and wasn’t that well-celebrated as a star when he was in his prime. He was best-known as Ted DiBiase’s sidekick, who later had a lukewarm solo run as a face. In recent years, it has become an Internet gag for fans to post pictures of Virgil at autograph tables, with no line of fans interested in meeting him.
17 Michelle McCool
Michelle McCool grew to become a respected star in WWE, developing into a solid in-ring talent and good performer on the mic. She won the Divas Championship more than once and, for a time, was the face of the women’s division on SmackDown. Moreover, she gained an extra level of respect from WWE fans when she married one of the most universally revered WWE stars of all time, The Undertaker, in real life.
16 CM Punk
CM Punk has never denied that he can be surly and standoffish with people he doesn’t like or feels disrespected by, ranging from fellow pro wrestlers, to management, to—yes, of course, the fans.
Thus, while there are fan stories of terrific interactions with Punk, there are also a number of not-so-positive ones about him. Punk has spoken in podcasts about resenting people who don’t know him calling him by his real name, Phil. His famous Pipe Bomb promo even included a direct dressing down of fans who approach him in the wee hours of the morning at airports to ask for autographs.
Havok was an indie star who reached her peak in TNA as Knockouts Champion and a proper rival for Awesome Kong. However, her social media history followed her, and garnered significant attention from fans when Havok had a WWE tryout.
14 Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler has been a crowd favorite for years. It’s not just a result of him playing a hero on screen. He’s known to be an incredibly hard worker in and out of the ring, who arrived as a polished all-around performer.
For a brief period, early in WWE’s Attitude Era, Sable was the sexy symbol in wrestling—a vivacious star with compelling storytellers around her. Moreover, her regular dedication, “this is for all the women who want to be me and all the men who come to see me,” spoke to wide swathe of the audience. Sable was a can’t-miss talent in her era.
12 Kevin Owens
While Kevin Owens is well-respected in wrestling and most of his peers seem to have good things to say about him. For better or worse, though, he’s one of those old school guys who tends to maintain his kayfabe demeanor among people who aren’t in the business. Given that Owens has been cast as a cold, arrogant heel for the length of his WWE tenure, it should come as little surprise that he’s been less than friendly with fans during this time.
11 Zahra Schreiber
Zahra Schreiber was a WWE developmental talent who may be better known in wrestling circles for dating Seth Rollins. While Schreiber was known to be a decent of enough talent and an attractive woman, controversy seemed to follow her pretty persistently. One of the biggest: Schreiber posted photos that seemed to support Nazi culture. While she apologized and tried to contextualize her posts, the damage was done, and the scandal cost her a WWE contract. On top of that Zahra and Rollins got together due to Rollins cheating on his then fiancee.
10 Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner is famous for loud, mean, profanity-riddled rants, both in-character, and as a human being. This includes an infamous incident in which he allegedly threatened Hulk Hogan’s life when he ran into his wife at an airport, and all too many tales of fellow wrestlers who had broken friendships with Big Poppa Pump. It should come as little surprise, then, that Steiner isn’t always the most cordial guy with fans, either.
Melina played a heel for the majority of her WWE run—a manager to her real life partner John Morrison, and an eventual in-ring star in her own right. Her character was known to be hot-tempered, arrogant, and mean, and by a number of accounts, her real-life persona—at least when it comes to casual fans, isn’t so far off.
JBL was a major star for WWE with remarkable longevity. He was an active wrestler for WWE for over a decade, and has continued to thrive off and on as a color commentator for the company. Over the course of his tenure, he became increasingly outspoken about his opinions, often shouting down others on TV, and purportedly backstage.
7 Nikki Bella
Nikki Bella has been one of WWE’s most prominently featured female performers of the last decade. In the ring, she had a record-long run with the Divas Championship. Outside of it she was a featured player on the reality show Total Divas which has since spun off to a more focused Total Bellas show with Nikki a major point of focus.
6 Bubba Ray Dudley
Bubba Ray Dudley cultivated his heel shtick in the days of the original ECW. Part of what made him so successful and memorable was his level of interactions with the fans, directly calling out individual people in the crowd to insult them or cuss them out. Dudley toned down the act for WWE, but glimmers of it showed up in his work with TNA in the years to follow.
5 Stacy Keibler
Despite never being much of a wrestler, Stacy Keibler grew wildly popular based on her stunning looks and infectious personality. It’s little wonder that she transcended the wrestling world between her star turn on Dancing with the Stars, forays into acting, and, of course, her relationship with George Clooney.
4 Bob Backlund
In multiple shoot interviews, including a podcast conversation with Jim Ross, Tommy Dreamer has discussed a childhood interaction he had with WWE star Bob Backlund. Dreamer reports that he caught sight of Backlund outside the arena after a show and asked for his autograph. Backlund told him to stick around and that he’d be right back, before disappearing back inside the building.
Dreamer reports that he waited for hours, only for Backlund to come back out and completely snub him, ignoring their earlier interaction and saying maybe he’d catch him the next time. Dreamer says that the incident prompted him to always make time for his own fans after he became a wrestler, hanging out until the last autograph was signed, or photo was taken. This makes him one of the best wrestlers for a fan to run into.
3 Brie Bella
Like her sister, Nikki, Brie Bella has gotten the star treatment from WWE including a number of high profile storylines and prominent placement on the Total Divas and Total Bellas reality shows. Each Bella garnered her share of derision from hardcore wrestling fans, though, who favored talents like AJ Lee, Paige, and the newer breed of female stars who are sharper in their in-ring performance.
2 The Honky Tonk Man
The Honky Tonk Man got famous as an easy-to-hate heel in the 1980s. He looked silly, dressed up like an Elvis impersonator, and worked a less than serious in-ring style. Just the same, he held onto his Intercontinental Championship for well over a year—the longest reign in history. Fans eagerly awaited the day he’d lose.
Despite hardly ever wrestling in WWE, Sunny is undeniably one of the most important female figures in wrestling history. She became a sex symbol for the company and helped usher in the more adult-oriented Attitude Era. Indeed, critics tend to agree she has a unique form of heat that was actually problematic. Fans were so interested in her that, rather than draw attention to the men she managed, she had a tendency to overshadow them.
It’s no surprise that Sunny is still a draw at indie shows, and a popular figure at conventions and autograph signings. Unfortunately fans have reported less than stellar interactions with her. In informal settings, the word is that she tends to keep to herself and steer clear of fans. Otherwise, her behavior is said to be unpredictable, ranging from pleasant and talkative, to sullen, to downright rude. Given her well-documented issues with drug and alcohol abuse, it’s tough to say which version of Sunny might show up on a given day, and thus it's tough to predict how a fan interaction might go.
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