It may not be totally fair to judge the selfishness of some wrestlers. The business has always been about taking care of number one and getting yourself put ahead. Guys have to go through a lot to make it to the top so it makes sense that when you get there, you do what it takes to hold onto the spotlight. More than one guy has talked in radio interviews of how everyone knows there’s a hierarchy and their place on it. For the most part, it can work out okay but sadly, there are too many cases of guys who put their own interests ahead of the rest of the locker room and it ends badly.
That’s more true when the star has a major position with the company, champion or even booker. The chances of things going badly just increase and can lead to major disaster. Throughout wrestling history, there have been guys who go into business for themselves and use their clout to keep on top while shoving others down. It continues throughout the business, not just in WWE but elsewhere and while bosses do their best to keep control, when a wrestler becomes too selfish to let go of things, it can lead to bad stuff. Here at fifteen cases of wrestlers who cared more for their own standing than what was best for the business and fans and quite often ended very badly.
15 Bret Hart
Some may do a double-take on this one but it has to be said. Yes, Bret did specialize in giving the rub to guys well and did a great job in his tenure as multiple champion in WWE. There is the issue of how he seemed to get more selfish about “his place” and trashing guys who could beat him despite how over they were. But the fact remains that so much of Montreal rests on Bret’s shoulders. I get he had his pride and all but for a man who claimed to love the business so much, Bret had to know the massive damage his leaving WWE as champion would do for the company. He knew Bischoff would be crowing about signing the WWE champion, even giving up the belt wouldn’t have stopped that and it would have been a terrible blow for WWE.
In no way was what Vince did right but the fact remains Bret’s own pride and ego got in the way to convince him it was right to keep the title over the company’s standing and that led to the mess of Montreal and its effects on Bret’s life.
14 Bruiser Brody
What sets Brody apart from most of this list is that he openly acknowledged how he was in it for himself. Brody worked for just about every single promotion and territory at one point or another from the Northeast to Texas to Florida and fans turned out in droves. But Brody was always clear that he wouldn’t job, he insisted on going over any talent in his way and would be prone to leaving abruptly to jump somewhere else and leave things hanging. More than one promoter would complain about Brody leaving business worse than he found it by making all their guys look weaker and had several altercations, including his infamous 1987 battle with Lex Luger in Florida. Brody never made apologies for it, openly stating that wrestling was a business and the point was to make money. Sadly, he never got to enjoy those earnings as he was stabbed to death in Puerto Rico in 1988. That just adds to his legacy as a man who played the game pretty well and being so honest about his selfishness just adds to his mystique.
13 The Road Warriors
When the Road Warriors burst upon the scene in 1982, they were like nothing else seen before. From the leather outfits to face paint to in-your-face promos, they rocked the industry and became instant stars. With that success came some swelled egos as the team soon became infamous for taking it hard and stiff on opponents with jobbers literally in fear of being hurt badly but the Road Warriors wouldn’t mind it. They also started to really throw their weight around, backed by their heat with fans to change things.
That’s not to mention the drug abuse that continued when they joined WWE as they reportedly wouldn’t do proper jobs there or really work to get guys like The Rockers over. They openly refused to lose the titles on TV to the Natural Disasters, doing it instead to Money Inc at a house show. Their end would be sad but the Warriors were often their own worst enemy as their beliefs of being the best got to their heads and not caring much about the damage they did, real or otherwise.
12 Buddy Rogers
Buddy Rogers was one of the first truly flashy heels wrestling has known, fantastic on the mic and backing it up in the ring and for that, he should always be credited. However, this meant Rogers was one of the first to use his newly found clout with fans to get his own way. During his reign as NWA Champion, it seemed Rogers favored northeastern promoters over others and on a few occasions, he’d rub shooters like Karl Gotch the wrong way and get a broken hand out of the deal. He only agreed to drop the title to Lou Thesz under the threat of giving away his $25,000 title bond to charity.
When Rogers dropped the WWWF title to Bruno Sammartino in 1963, he wasted no time putting out the story of having been recovering from a heart attack that hurt Bruno’s win. He would later feud with Ric Flair over the “Nature Boy” name with rumors of Rogers actually wanting to go over in at least one match over the much younger challenger. A trailblazer for heels, Rogers’ own attitude outside the ring could give his arrogant persona a run for the money.
11 Fritz Von Erich
In his wrestling days, Fritz played the evil German heel and did a good job but never got the NWA World Title. That may have played a part in how things turned out as he would start World Class and waste no time pushing his sons as the big stars. While WCCW saw massive success, Fritz’s refusal to flex and grow more held them back as he insisted “Dallas is big enough” even when the company could have blossomed further.
The bigger issue was that Fritz was insistent on putting his sons ahead of everyone and while the crowds responded well, it also meant turning a blind eye to the drug issues that would soon engulf the company and hurt everything. That meant covering up stuff like Kerry stoned out of his mind against Ric Flair with the story of “wrestling with the flu” and insisting on poor Mike getting into wrestling despite clearly no business being in the ring and especially after almost dying. His hard nature was a key factor in the stunning tale of WCCW and the family’s fall from grace and how so many sins can be laid to one man’s ideas of how to do business.
10 Jerry Lawler
Fans today know “The King” by his commentary stuff, maybe the occasional bout. They don’t quite realize that for decades, Lawler was THE man in Memphis wrestling and that counted for the title scene. Yes, he had a personal stake in things but the fact remains that during the time Memphis wrestling was a major promotion, Lawler held the Southern/USWA championship a total of 80 times. That’s not a typo or mentioning numerous runs as tag team champion and even AWA champ.
There, his ego got big as he would feud with Kerry Von Erich and win the WCCW title but never give up the AWA belt in return. He had fantastic feuds in that time but Lawler would always be the one coming out on top and his antics could get out of hand. His attitude has softened with age and his standing as a legend but looking back over his career, Lawler took the “King” label a bit too literally and tarnishes some of that crown.
9 Mil Mascaras
“The Man of a Thousand Masks” is regarded as one of the first to bring lucha action to the United States. But while he may be a hero and even icon to his Mexican fans, the stories of Mascaras’ selfish nature abound in the States. In his first book, Mick Foley talks of a televised bout where Mascaras refused to sell anything, even a backbreaker and Foley had to do his best bumps to entertain. Superstar Graham backs it up with how even in his prime, Mascaras refused to sell properly in a title match and in his own book, Chris Jericho says stories of Mascaras are actually downplayed. It’s one thing for the superhero act to work in Mexico, quite another in a midcard bout in the U.S. and just makes Mascaras look more the selfish a-hole than a legend.
8 Kevin Nash
Given all the terrible gimmicks he had to put up with (Oz, Vinnie Vegas), maybe it’s no surprise that when Nash hit the big time, he was unwilling to back down from it for anyone. It may be a bit unfair to blame his reign as champion for all of WWE’s bad business in 1995 (having Mabel as a contender hardly helped) but Nash made it worse with a lazy attitude, more into partying, not turning in decent work and leading to more of a mess.
His tenure in the New World Order started great but as he gained more power and popularity with guys, it got worse as, along with Hogan, he was playing Eric Bischoff like a fiddle. From ending Goldberg’s streak and the fingerpoke to crushing younger guys in a single match, Nash could never give a break to anyone or put guys over. That he would continue to act such a huge deal in his later days, when injuries and such had taken their toll, just came off crazier as “Big Sexy” is better known for his ego than any actual wrestling skill.
7 Triple H
He grew up idolizing Ric Flair and came under the tutelage of Shawn Michaels at his Kliq height. Is it any wonder Hunter turned into a show-boating politician? Contrary to belief, the man was always destined for stardom way before he hooked up with Stephanie, he proved that with DX and his own rise as singles star. But it can’t be denied that his relationship with Stephanie gave him a hell of a lot more power to throw his weight around and dominate as champion from 2002-2005. There were slews of great guys who could have gotten title runs like Jericho, Booker T and RVD but HHH not only beat them but seemed to go out of his way to bury them all.
That included Randy Orton’s terrible face turn that ruined his drive for years and HHH getting the belt back fast. His long promos became annoying as even lower-run guys like Eugene could face being shoved down and beaten bad just so HHH could get over more. He finally let that go in 2005 by putting Batista over nicely and while he would pop up again with a reunited DX and another run as champ, it wasn’t as terrible. Yes, he gets a lot of time today as the evil boss but has also helped push NXT to prominence, showing he has business savvy. Still, his selfish nature haunts him as a guy who thinks himself as the center is “what’s best for business” and why it’s an uphill climb for fan respect given his past.
6 Shawn Michaels
It speaks volumes that HBK today is the first person to acknowledge what a totally selfish jerk he was in his wrestling days. Maybe it was having WWE wash out the Rockers’ tag title reign to backstage politics or just his own pride but in the 1990s, Shawn started throwing his weight around big time. His skills as performer and star added to his clout as he soon formed “the Kliq” and for a couple of years practically ran the company, refusing to do jobs.
A great moment in their 2011 DVD has Bret Hart accusing Shawn of saying he would only defend the WWE title against Kliq guys, Shawn replying that he doesn’t remember saying that but given his attitude then, he doesn’t at all doubt he did. That attitude would play up more such as refusing to put Davey Boy Smith over in a match the Bulldog dedicated to his dead sister, the infamous “lost my smile” bit rather than the rematch against Bret for the title and the antics with DX that pushed things to a new level. Shawn got more respect following his 2002 return, putting guys over and acknowledging his past which is why he’s lower on this list and yet still some heat over his self-centered past.
5 Dusty Rhodes
Another case of a fantastic performer and talker who sadly put himself ahead of others too much. Dusty had success booking in Florida despite how he would have himself at the center of things. It just increased as he would work in Jim Crockett with his long feuds with Ric Flair, pushing himself against the Four Horsemen, beating the much younger Lex Luger for the U.S. title and bringing back his old “Midnight Rider” act. That’s not to mention pushing the “Dusty Finish” so often that it would be named after him and insisting that Crockett’s second-ever PPV, the Bunkhouse Stampede, end with him winning the main event.
He would get fired after doing an angle of himself bloodied by the Road Warriors for a WWE run where he insisted on pushing son Dustin a lot. That carried to WCW with more clashes with bosses and with Flair (reportedly, Dusty wanted Flair to lose the title in a five minute match against Rick Steiner) that just hurt business more. The man is a great legend of the sport when it comes to promos and ring work but his booking decisions are the stuff of legend in the very wrong way.
4 Jeff Jarrett
Having an ego and putting yourself ahead as the best is nothing new in wrestling. In fact, it might be encouraged. But Jarrett takes that attitude in the entirely wrong direction. The man is a good worker and a decent upper-midcard talent but is under the delusion he’s on the same level of huge fan heat/stardom as The Rock or Stone Cold. It built up slowly before WCW where he was pushed hard and boasting of his greatness and stories of him backstage not wanting to lose the belt.
It was TNA that truly put Jarrett’s ego on full display as he would dominate the main event scene and the NWA title to a ridiculous degree. His feud with Raven in 2003 ended in a match with Jarrett beating Raven against odds that would make John Cena back down despite how over Raven was with crowds. It was annoying as hell to see TNA held back by Jarrett’s belief that he was the reason fans were tuning in when there were so many other guys able to do it instead. The classic case of a guy who thinks he’s a much bigger deal than he truly is.
3 Verne Gagne
Gagne was a terrific athlete and his skills in both wrestling, training and promoting the AWA cannot be ignored. But neither can the fact that he is one of the worst cases ever of the old mentality of “keeping the belt for yourself” that the business has ever known. He held the title a total of 10 times, including one solid reign from 1968 to 1975 and while he can defend it as doing good business the fact is that considering all the great talent in the AWA, having the boss keep the belt that long was pushing it in ego.
It was just as bad in business as Gagne was old-school and refused to see how wrestling was changing in the 1980s, not wanting to give Hulk Hogan a fair cut off the sale of t-shirts so Hogan left for WWE. Gagne would often fail to sign guys to contracts due to the money involved and that led to a mass exodus of great talent. When he and Jerry Lawler embarked on their partnership for SuperClash III, Verne ended up pocketing just about all the profit money for himself and when Lawler complained about a fair cut, Verne banned him from the AWA. While it was sad seeing the company fall, Gagne was really asking for it due to his self-centered style of business.
2 Ric Flair
Some may find this a high ranking but make no mistake, Flair was as much a spotlight-hogging politician as anyone else on this list. To be fair, his reign in the 1980s was great as he would travel the territories and be top business facing guys as NWA champion while wowing fans with his fantastic promos. Things got complicated when Crockett’s JCP became the real public face of the NWA/WCW and Flair’s power grew. He had it placed into his contract that he got veto power over any title changes. That came to light when Flair refused to drop the title to Lex Luger in 1988 despite how monster over Luger was and a win would have been better for Crockett’s business. He had matches against Hawk and Ricky Morton where they had no chance of winning the belt, it was just more heat for Flair cheating to win. He did drop it to Steamboat but quickly regained it and immediately went into a feud with Terry Funk that turned Flair face. He did lose to Sting but when business got bad, he agreed to become the Black Scorpion just so he could be champ again.
Many will paint Flair in the right leaving WCW in 1991 but it was a pretty selfish move. Flair knew it would be damaging to WCW to leave and take their title belt with him, putting the organization in a bad light. But he did it anyway just to make his entrance in WWE all the more important, leaving WCW in the lurch. When he returned in 1993, he was soon champ again, pushing Vader down. Over the years, Flair would push himself as much as anyone in WCW and later insist on some spotlight time in WWE including a couple of championship runs. Yes, Flair remains one of the best performers in wrestling history but never ignore how badly he hogged the spotlight for himself over what was better for business.
1 Hulk Hogan
Terry Bollea is quite possibly the greatest backstage politician the business has ever known. There is no denying the power Hogan had in the 80s and for the most part the WWE undercard knew he was the guy fans wanted to see and they went along with it to make money. Even then, there were issues of Hogan not wanting to put guys over, always making himself the top guy but as he was the moneymaker, folks just went with it. As his heat faded with the coming of the 90s, Hogan’s selfish nature became more clear, his refusal to job even when he wasn’t the champion and insistence on the spotlight, including getting the title back at WrestleMania IX that shoved Bret down the card and not giving him the rematch promised.
It got worse as Hogan jumped to WCW and was given creative control, pushing his old buddies like Ed Leslie to main event status and making himself the Superman character southern audiences had never embraced. His heel turn was sensational and led to hot business with the New World Order but Hogan’s ego couldn’t let him give way to younger guys. His refusal to job cleanly to Sting at Starrcade ’97 ruined a year of buildup and threw WCW off badly. He lost the belt to Goldberg but always planned to get it back and in doing so, shoved WCW down more with the Fingerpoke of Doom. His tenure finally ended in a showdown with Vince Russo that made the company look worst.
Then came TNA, Hogan pushing himself from day one as the “savior” of the company, eating up precious time and later setting himself as the monster heel just like 1996 but no one was buying it. He messed up the big title win for Bobby Roode over Angle by tweeting about Roode “not ready yet” just so the win wouldn’t overshadow Hogan’s face turn on the same show. When he finally left, he did it by quitting, not getting fired and making Dixie look like a fool. Maybe the recent controversy over his racist comments is karma for his past as Hulk Hogan has a long history of not giving other guys the fair shake over himself and that may finally be coming home to roost.