There is little denying the dire state of the WWE product these past couple of years. Fans have been left disillusioned and things culminated with a controversial WrestleMania that saw the main event jeered by the record number in attendance, and not for the first time. WWE’s relentless attempts to force Roman Reigns as the face of the company are often cited as the problem but it is much more widespread and runs deep into theit philosophy and behaviour both on and off screen.
With record low ratings, fan disapproval, and stock prices falling, even WWE themselves have noticed a problem with how they operate. Shane McMahon’s return was a result of this, and he acknowledged as much on television, and even Triple H has admitted in interviews that they are struggling to figure out the changes needed to fix the problem. Not that there is much of a sense of change found in the weekly product as it appears to steamroll ahead with its plans regardless.
While the company itself may make you feel voiceless, there is some solace to be found – you are not alone. Several past employees and WWE legends are equally critical and disgruntled, and not shy about sharing these opinions. These legends do not all necessarily hate the company, as you yourself may not, but they are not afraid to point out its shortcomings.
Known as ‘the Ninth Wonder of the World’, Chyna’s career has been defined more by her doomed real life relationship with Triple H (and, of course, her adult career).
She has thrown some very serious allegations of abuse at her ex and high ranking member of the corporate ladder Triple H, as well as lengthy claims that he cheated on her with now-wife Stephanie McMahon. This is, in her claim at least, the reason behind her departure and seeming removal from history.
Furthermore, this controversy and her later career choices have also seen WWE refusing to consider her for the Hall of Fame despite the support from other legends and her accomplishments warranting it. She is not quiet about her disapproval of both the double standards and personal vendetta the McMahon family displays towards her.
14. Daniel Bryan
Most wrestling fans know the saga of Daniel Bryan’s attempts to be medically cleared to compete by WWE, a feat that would eventually turn up fruitless as he retired back in February. Bryan had no problem taking his issue to social media, talking about his clearance by independent doctors and his desire to perform during his plight.
What many missed though was that his open nature extended to criticizing the company for its inability, or plain refusal, to create new stars. During a promotion of the latest WWE 2K video game, Bryan labelled the reliance on old stars worrying. He explained that the current crop of talent is as good, if not better, than the previous and just need giving some time on television.
13. AJ Lee
AJ Lee will not find herself acknowledged on WWE television any time soon, and not just because of her marriage to CM Punk. AJ was often critical of her fellow ‘divas’, specifically the ones she felt didn’t have any talent. Her infamous take on the pipebomb promo was really the pinnacle of her voicing her issues with the likes of the Bella Twins and the Total Divas.
Her biggest criticism of WWE came in response to Stephanie McMahon congratulating Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech on equality for females. As McMahon thanked the actress for highlighting the issue, AJ replied pointing out that despite high merchandise sales and segment ratings, the women were way behind the men on pay in the WWE. That’s a fact that remains true to this day.
12. CM Punk
The Straight Edge Superstar and the WWE had major issues throughout their time together that Punk was never shy about expressing. Most notably, the pipebomb promo that shook the wrestling world to its foundations called out WWE for its shortcomings. The problems would eventually boil over and lead to Punk quitting the company over his unwanted storyline with Triple H.
He has since gone on to the infamous ‘tell all’ episode of Colt Cabana’s podcast, where he laid out years of problems ranging from booking to alleged medical malpractice. Not even a self-imposed refusal to speak of wrestling can truly keep him from having a dig, recently commenting on how UFC look after their injured stars unlike his “previous employer.”
Goldberg’s WWE run may be something he would want to forget, despite capturing the World Heavyweight Championship, and he doesn’t mind saying why.
Goldberg has gone on record describing WWE’s behind the scenes dealings as “bush-league” and the talents as “a bunch of fraternity boys.” He has particular animosity towards Triple H and Chris Jericho, the former of which he considers to be the big reason behind his less than successful tenure with WWE although relations have smoothed slightly over the years and the two are now on speaking terms.
Even so, Goldberg still feels the McMahon family and their company are attempting to diminish his legacy and impact on the business due to him being a WCW product – a sentiment that few would likely deny, especially given his lack of involvement in last years WWE vs. WCW angle between Triple H and Sting.
After recently unsuccessfully suing the company over their use of wrestlers as independent contractors rather than employees – and as such, not being responsible for healthcare – it is perhaps an understatement when Raven considers himself “persona non-grata” in WWE’s eyes.
Additionally, Raven talks of his time with the company in explicit detail when interviewed including tales of being fired for sleeping with members of the office, Vince disliking him for being drinking buddies with his son Shane, and criticizing the current product for its lack of psychology and storytelling.
9. Shane Douglas
Shane Douglas’s time in WWE was far less impactful as he was saddled with the terrible teaching gimmick Dean Douglas, a short-lived experience that has left him spiteful towards the McMahon empire.
Like many past stars he has openly made a point about WWE’s recent problems, even describing the business as “on its ass” with the industry leaders only scraping figures in the 2s. He has described the current lackluster product as reflective of both WWE and WCW’s inability to give fans what they want as the opportunity that let ECW take off in the first place.
Not one to throw out empty criticisms, Douglas points out that it pains him to see such a talented generation of performers all hampered by WWE’s philosophy of straitjacketing their stars with teleprompters, dictated moves, and “only four minutes to do them in.”
8. Vince Russo
While many internet fans will question Russo’s place on a legends list, there is no denying his impact on the wrestling business whether you are a fan of his or not. As a head writer in both WWE and WCW during the biggest boom in the industry, he was in charge of such storylines including the Austin vs. McMahon rivalry, Undertaker and Kane’s feud, the rise of The Rock and Mankind and their record holding ‘This Is Your Life’ segment, among others.
The divisive writer has thrown out a plea to Vince McMahon, both privately and publicly, to see him return to creative to help turn around the rut they are in. While not everyone would want to see it happen, few would argue that his criticisms are anything other than the truth.
A lack of character development and consistency is the main gripe the outspoken New Yorker has with WWE right now but he has plenty of other problems with the storytelling and even structure of the mammoth slog that is the weekly three hours of Monday Night Raw.
7. Jim Ross
He may be best known as Good Ol’ J.R., one of the greatest commentators in history but Jim Ross has worn plenty hats in his time. A former head of talent relations, a part of the booking committee, and a current podcast host, Ross has plenty of experience to draw from just in his career in wrestling.
His weekly podcast often sees Ross analyzing the current state of the WWE product. While he may sometimes come across as touchy about fans criticizing the show, he has no problem doing so himself.
Whether it be voicing his belief that Roman Reigns needs to turn heel to get over, a failure to put importance on championships, and most frequently his opposition to their ’50/50′ booking style and how it benefits nobody. Not to mention his personal tales of victimization during his time in WWE.
6. Jim Cornette
When people talk about legendary managers, one of the names that always crops up is Jim Cornette. He once served on the WWE booking committee as well as running OVW as a WWE development territory where he fostered a class including John Cena, Randy Orton, and Batista.
Despite all this, his hatred for the WWE is palpable. While some write him off as a bitter old legend who seems to hate everything currently in professional wrestling, he makes some perfectly valid points among his more outrageous and controversial statements.
He has outright accused WWE of “killing the wrestling business” and openly hates the ‘sports entertainment’ genre of wrestling, and has made some very damning comments about working with Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in his Ring of Honor days. Arguably, his most indisputable argument is his analogy of the WWE Hall of Fame as nothing more than a money spinning PR stunt that shuns all talent not created by the company themselves unless it benefits them by targeting the local area the ceremony takes place.
Given Batista’s accomplishments and his brief return to the company two years ago, you would think he would be on good terms with his former employer, and perhaps he is, but you wouldn’t believe so if you listened to him speak about them.
Over the years he has criticized their creative department in several ways, including their handling of close friend Titus O’Neil and going public about his suggestion his big return take place as a heel – something they were eventually forced into due to crowd reaction anyway. He is openly not a fan of John Cena or The Miz, and even blamed the company’s unpopular PG direction as the reason for his departure and subsequent refusal to watch.
4. Billy Graham
Many credit ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham as one of the biggest revolutionaries in professional wrestling history, with his incredible physique and flamboyant style on display years before Vince McMahon would turn the business towards ‘sports entertainment’.
Oddly enough, despite being a pioneer for this direction change, Graham doesn’t seem overly fond of where it has taken the product. Despite signing a legends deal last year, his Facebook page is littered with lengthy negative posts about current goings on and stories from times gone by.
A recent example would be his strong criticism of the Shane McMahon/Undertaker match from WrestleMania 32. Most notably, the death defying dive from the millionaire, labeling it an unnecessary ego trip and telling a story about him offending British Bulldog over dress code in the mid 90s. Not one to avoid controversy, he has also weighed in on the Roman Reigns situation, pondering whether WWE will “force feed him down the fans’ throats as a babyface, as [they have] done with Cena.”
3. Bret Hart
Bret Hart’s relationship with the company famously soured over the course of one night in Montreal back in 1997 and despite making up with the company and those involved in the Screwjob incident, ‘The Hitman’ still has plenty of problems with the machine.
That has never been more prevalent than it was this year, as he took shots at WrestleMania from all angles. In the build-up he condemned the poor job developing Roman Reigns and labeled the card the worst in WrestleMania history. The show itself did little to sway his stance, as he labeled the opening Ladder contest “a prop match” and agreed with many fans hard stance against the hokey use of legends coming out to bury the current talent.
2. Mick Foley
Foley’s relationship with WWE this past decade has been a heavily fluctuating one. He has been very vocal about the company, both pouring on praise for aspects like the rise of the Four Horsewomen and NXT while simultaneously unleashing scathing attacks on their creative department. Not that any of this has stopped the two parties working together on occasion, with Foley being utilized effectively in some top stories as well as the odd comedy appearance.
His most famous rant against the company was in response to the 2014 Royal Rumble event, where Daniel Bryan was omitted from the match causing huge fan backlash. Foley penned a Facebook post asking if the “WWE hates its own fans” and threatening to destroy his TV in protest – a promise he would follow through on later that month.
1. Stone Cold Steve Austin
The biggest star in wrestling history has never been known as the shy and retiring type. Austin’s feud with Mr. McMahon may have been an on-screen storyline but their relationship behind the scenes has also seen plenty of turbulence including the Rattlesnake walking out on the company in early 2002.
Austin is on good terms with the McMahons nowadays but is very honest and frank about their shows. Not only does he review most major events on his podcast with some of the top online wrestling writers, he talks very openly about issues with the booking both from an internal perspective during his time wrestling and as a viewer now.
This stance is why there was such anticipation for the WWE Network live editions of his show with guests including Triple H, John Cena, and Vince himself. Even on their platform, Austin probed the stars on real issues himself and fans have such as their treatment of Cesaro, three hours being too long for Raw, diving ratings, an inability to create new stars, and the taboo subject of CM Punk’s exit and subsequent accusations about the company.
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