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.
There have been a few incidents referenced online about Lesnar giving fans the finger or making rude comments. It seems his standard response is to completely ignore fans who approach him, though, acting as though they aren’t there or he doesn’t hear them. So, Lesnar’s not the guy to approach for an autograph or try to engage in conversation. Given his real talents as a fighter, he’s not someone the average joe would want to test boundaries with either.
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.
There was also an incident of a fan tweeting a selfie with Banks in public, only for Banks to respond to the Tweet by calling the fan “a creep.” For all we know, maybe the guy had it coming, but when a star puts down a fan in this manner, it doesn’t exactly make her approachable.
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.
There’s an undercurrent to Virgil’s story, though, of the guy being money hungry with quite a few accounts of him going in public, offering to sell his autograph or photo opportunities for cash. While some wrestlers greet their fans with gratitude, it seems Virgil is much more likely to view people who like him as prospective customers and quickly hit them up for money.
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.
Despite the fans’ affection, McCool has been known to give them the cold shoulder when they see her in public. In particular, there are multiple accounts floating around the internet of McCool declining to engage in conversation with fans when they recognize her, and also refusing to appear in photographs with them.
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.
Fans have called Punk dismissive and condescending; others have suggested that he plays his part, face or heel, with the public. Regardless, of the timing or reasons, the consensus seems to be that he isn’t the most pleasant fellow when fans introduce themselves.
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.
The tweets were ugly. Havok broadcasted homophobic and racist sentiments and used strong language while she was at it. Havok subsequently deleted the Tweets, apologized over social media, and explained that she’d written them when she was in a bad place, personally. The comments suggested a dark undercurrent to who Havok is as a person. While we all make mistakes, it’s conspicuous that she only withdrew them when she felt she might get her big break. Fans may still enjoy Havok’s in-ring efforts, but after this display, she became a less desirable to meet in person.
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 all Ziggler’s strengths, another side of him appeared in this past presidential election cycle and its aftermath. Everyone has their right to an opinion, and a number of wrestlers made it clear that they backed one candidate or another. Ziggler took his advocacy for President Trump to the next level, though, when he took to Twitter to goad fans into defending any opinion to the contrary, and cut them down quickly and derisively when they took him up on the offer. And so, Ziggler comes across as that guy who can’t resist stirring up a political argument and doesn’t know when to call it quits. Not the most fun guy to pass the time with.
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.
The problem is, Sable may have drank a bit too much of her own Kool-Aid. She’s notorious for actually having grown quite egotistical in real life. Fans report that she doesn’t want to engage with them, and is sometimes quite rude about it. Moreover, since she wound up marrying Brock Lesnar, there’s an extra reason not to risk getting on Sable’s bad side in person.
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.
In particular, Owens made headlines when the mother of a young fan called out Owens and WWE on social media because Owens had made fun of her son in the crowd at a live event. When the word of the interaction went viral, did Owens apologize? Nope. He doubled down on his persona as a guy fans wouldn’t want to meet by accusing the mother of being hungry for attention and fishing for free merchandise.
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.
While there does seem to be a context for Schreiber’s behavior, she also comes across as unstable and prone to deeply destructive behavior. She’s the kind of personality most fans probably want to steer clear of.
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.
Reports abound of Steiner at least being cold with fans and even fellow wrestlers of lesser acclaim at indie shows. Others report him being a physical bully, or shouting down those who dare to approach him. While Steiner is arguably quite entertaining and was a great wrestler at one time, he remains someone fans shouldn’t be too eager to strike up a conversation with.
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.
Fans report that Melina avoids contact, more often than not going out of her way to avoid any sort of interaction with folks from the crowd. Perhaps it’s little wonder, then, that she stepped away from the limelight. Melina left WWE and aside from a one-off appearance for Lucha Underground hasn’t appeared on television since. Apparently, it’s not only fans who don’t have great things to say about Melina, but other wrestlers, too, as a variety of sources report real-life tensions between her and stars like Mickie James and Candice Michelle.
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.
JBL has also been known to be derisive toward fans. Specifically, the guy seems to have a beef against internet wrestling fans and the ways in which they act like they know the business. The premiere episode of the WWE Network’s Bring It to the Table put this stance on display as JBL and Paul Heyman debated hot-button issues in a conversation moderated by Peter Rosenberg. Rosenberg is a radio personality who came from outside the wrestling business, and JBL was quick to shout him down multiple times. In particular, he gave the outsider a hard time when he referred to The Undertaker as “Taker,” implying that it was disrespectful.
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.
Still, Bella has been the subject of fan backlash, ranging from criticism of her less-than-crisp ring work, to how dating John Cena may have helped her politically in WWE. Bella hasn’t been above engaging with haters on Twitter, making fun of them for taking wrestling too seriously and lashing out at them in return for their insults. Moreover, there are multiple accounts her having poor interactions with fans in person, reportedly smirking as she ignores crowds seeking autographs and pictures.
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.
By plenty of fan accounts, Dudley’s character work wasn’t restricted to when the cameras were rolling or when he was on a microphone. There are lots of accounts of Dudley giving the fans the finger or talking down to them in person. In all likelihood, this is an extension of Dudley’s kayfabe more-often-than-not heel persona more than it is a reflection of him as an actual human being. Just the same, he’s generally agreed upon to treat fans poorly when they meet him.
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.
In particular, since she became a true mainstream celebrity, Keibler doesn’t seem to have time for wrestling fans. There are numerous accounts of her blowing off fans who are interested in talking to her, and especially if they say anything about wrestling. While her work with WCW and then WWE in many ways put Keibler on the map in terms of accessing a national audience, it would appear that she’s moved on from it, and wishes her fans would, too.
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.
It seems like Dreamer forgave Backlund a long time ago, but his story prompted plenty of other fans to report similar experiences with Backlund over the years. So, while Backlund may remain one of WWE’s truest legends, he shouldn’t be on anyone’s list of wrestlers they go out of their way to meet.
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.
While Bella garnered some good will by marrying wrestling fans’ darling Daniel Bryan, and after she retired to start a family with him, a bad reputation with fans has stuck with her. That’s not just on account of her work with WWE, but because there quite a few accounts floating around about her ignoring wrestling fans and avoiding anything more than the most cursory interactions with them.
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.
As time has moved on and nostalgia has set in, The Honky Tonk Man has the same kind of appeal as any of the outlandish characters of his day, particularly for those fans who grew up with him on their TVs. Those fans who seek him out, however, have been in for a rude awakening. Even at autograph signings—when a wrestler is paid to sit and interact with his fans—The Honky Tonk Man is reported to be rude and dismissive. A number of fans have reported that he cuts them off if they try to engage in conversation. The consensus is that he’s eager to rack up as many fans as possible so he can make as much money as possible, completely disinterested with the experience of the fans who paid to see him.
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.