Feuds are the fuel that run the engine of professional wrestling. They're what move stories along, they're what sell tickets and they're what add drama to our favorite form of entertainment. However, the feuds we see on television are, in general, manufactured. And, of course they are - in the end, it's really no different than a TV show or movie. Rey and Kylo Ren from the last Star Wars film might hate each other (or do they?), but their respective performers certainly don't (or don't they?).
Sometimes, though, real life gets in the way and performers do have issues with each other. It mostly involves the usual suspects: money, women (or men, possibly), politics, etc. Of course, as possibly the most fluid form of storytelling in modern pop culture, pro wrestling can take these behind-the-scenes issues and turn them into TV ratings. One only has to look at the recent suspension of Roman Reigns and how it was handled on WWE television to see that.
Over the course of pro wrestling history, plenty of performers have had issues with each other. Sometimes, it leads to horrifying conclusions, like the murder of Bruiser Brody in 1998. Thankfully, that's the rarest of rare occurrences. Also, thankfully, is the fact that a lot of these real life feuds settle down and the animosity ends and, in some instances, these once bitter enemies become good friends.
So, here are 15 real life feuds in pro wrestling that have happy endings.
15 15. The Rock vs. Triple H
The Rock and Triple H were professional rivals both on screen and behind the scenes. While the two never spewed serious hatred towards each other, their positions in the company made them direct rivals. The two came up at approximately the same time and the two were constantly trying to one-up each other. When The Rock was first making his name in the company, Triple H and his Kliq even tried to get young Rocky Maivia knocked down the card.
The two feuded for several years and made history. A mutual respect formed and Triple H and The Rock seem to be alright today. Triple H detailed his "unique relationship" with The Rock when he returned to the business in 2011.
14 14. Stone Cold vs. The Rock
Much like The Rock's relationship with Triple H, he and Austin were in direct competition for the top spot in the company and that competitiveness only escalated when The Rock turned face in 1999. Essentially, both men were hungry for the top spot and wouldn't take no.2. This is yet another case of a professional rivalry, rather than a personal one.
Tensions between the two escalated in 2002 when Austin walked out on the company and The Rock was brought onto RAW to address the matter. The Rock passionately yelled WWE was his home, and that anybody who didn't like the company could "Get the F out!" which was seen as a shot at Austin.
13 13. The Blue Meanie vs. JBL
JBL and the Blue Meanie had some tension building in 2005. JBL was known as a notorious bully backstage and one of his targets was Blue Meanie. This led to Blue Meanie bashing JBL in some interviews. When JBL got the chance to get his hands on Meanie, he acted in a very unprofessional manner. At the ECW One Night Stand PPV in 2005, the ECW originals had a standoff against guys from the WWE roster.
In the melee that ensued, JBL used the opportunity to potato Blue Meanie, striking him in the face as hard as he could. Meanie was left busted open following the brawl. Meanie's friends would avenge their friend on a later SmackDown taping when Steven Richards hit JBL with a steel chair as hard as he could.
12 12. Magnum T.A. vs. Tully Blanchard
For our younger readers, Magnum T.A. was a star in the old NWA who resembled Tom Selleck from the TV show Magnum P.I. (if you need that explained to you, you're on your own), came across as a "regular guy" and was being groomed as a future world champ. Tully Blanchard, on the other hand, was a member of the Four Horsemen and was portrayed as a rich, slick ladies man (like Ric Flair but not as loud or obnoxious).
What made this feud so intense is that, outside of the ring, these guys didn't care for each other at all. Considering they were both, more or less, "living their gimmicks", their matches showed that real-life animosity.
11 11. The Rock vs. John Cena
This is a case of how real life tension in wrestling can be a very good thing. If it was not for John Cena calling out The Rock back in 2008 for leaving the wrestling business for Hollywood, their eventual feud would have lost out on the realness that made it intriguing. Back in 2008, Cena questioned The Rock's love of the business and that was a main starting point for their 2011 feud.
The two feuded on screen for the next two years, exchanging victories at WrestleMania. Their feud included some personal shots at each other and the tension lingered between the two. By the time The Rock put Cena over at WrestleMania XXIX, their animosity had ended, as their feud allowed the two to build respect for one another. Cena has since said he regrets some of the stuff he said about The Rock.
10 10. Edge vs. Matt Hardy
While the on-screen product of pro wrestling has often been (disparagingly or not) described as a "soap opera", rarely does that description apply to events behind the scenes. That was exactly the case, however, regarding the real life beef between Matt Hardy and Edge. Mostly because, like many epic feuds, this one was about a girl.
Hardy had been dating his fellow WWE performer, Lita, since 1999. In 2004, he injured his knee and was out of action for nearly a year. While Matt recuperated at home, Lita began an affair with Edge - something Hardy was not particularly thrilled about when he found out. Hardy's confrontation of the two about the affair led to him getting released from the company. Thankfully, an online petition from fans convinced WWE to bring him back.
9 9. Ric Flair vs. Mick Foley
It's one thing to simply say something mean about a guy to his face. But, to do it in your New York Times best selling memoir? That's extra mean, dude. In his 1999 book, Have A Nice Day!, Foley reflected on Flair's time handling WCW's booking, saying "Flair was every bit as bad on the booking side of things as he was great on the wrestling side of it." That certainly had to sting a man with an ego the size of Flair's (even if it was true).
In his own book, Ric Flair: To Be The Man, released five years later, Flair shot back with "I do not care how many thumbtacks Mick Foley has fallen on [or] how many continents he's supposedly bled on, he will always be known as a glorified stuntman." Damn, son! Anyway, this led to an on-screen feud between the two in 2005, centered around this literary-based bad blood.
8 8. Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage
If you thought Foley and Flair airing their dirty laundry towards each other in book form was something, it pales in comparison to what Randy Savage. That dude hated Hulk Hogan go much, he made a dang rap album about it. No, seriously. Be A Man is an album he made and actually exists (it's also awesome).
Hogan and Savage's on-again-off-again animosity started in the 1980s during their run as the Mega Powers - and more or less resembled their on-screen conflict. Savage was convinced that Hogan had intentions towards his then-wife Miss Elizabeth, leading to a real world falling out between the two. The two would reconcile after Savage and Elizabeth's divorce, working together for years in WCW. Then, I dunno, something else happened and Savage got mad at Hogan again and made the aforementioned rap album.
7 7. Bret Hart vs. Ric Flair
When you get two outspoken individuals in the wrestling business and there's tension between them, you're going to hear a lot from them. Ric Flair wrote in his autobiography To Be The Man that Bret Hart was extremely overrated as a wrestler and nothing he did ever wowed people. He also said Hart was a poor draw in the United States and that Canadians tended to exaggerate in their praise of him because he is one of their own.
Hart fired back in his book Hitman saying Flair was a 'routine man' who basically wrestled the same match every night. He also accused Flair of sabotaging their matches in WWE to make Hart look bad while he was trying to establish himself as a top star.
Insults were traded back and forth between the two for years, before something brought them together; their families. When Ric's daughter Charlotte was to wrestle Hart's niece Natalya at NXT: TakeOver, both Hart and Flair were brought in to be in their family member's corner. The two bonded and remain good friends to this day. It's good to see these two have reconciled.
6 6. Ric Flair vs. Eric Bischoff
Ric Flair's spat with Eric Bischoff wasn't the first time that the 2-time WWE Hall Of Famer had a problem with whoever was running WCW at the time. His issues with Jim Herd - the man Ted Turner hired to run WCW after purchasing it - directly led to Flair joining the WWF in 1992. That, also, involved a lawsuit, although in this instance it was so WCW could get their world title belt back.
In 1998, Flair was taken of WCW TV by Bischoff after Flair missed a taping of WCW Thunder to accompany his son to an amateur wrestling tournament. WCW even sued Flair for damages, which was hilarious. The case was eventually settled and Bischoff and Flair even had an on-screen feud over control of WCW. There were lingering tensions when Bischoff made his way to WWE in 2002 which led to a backstage fight between Flair and Bischoff.
5 5. Chris Jericho vs. Goldberg
Chris Jericho was coming up in WCW around the time when the company was more interested in just promoting old WWE stars rather than create new ones. Except for Goldberg, of course. Goldberg was the star that WCW meant to create. Jericho was the star they created in spite of themselves. Since he knew that WCW didn't care what anybody did if they weren't related to the NWO, Jericho used the opportunity to become one of the most memorable bad guys of the Monday Night War era.
At one point, Jericho proposed a feud with Goldberg, in which Jericho would constantly call out and badmouth the former WCW champion, concluding in a PPV match in which Goldberg would simply demolish Jericho. Goldberg, however, wasn't having it. Some of that animosity then carried over when Goldberg moved to WWE - a company where now Jericho was the established star. One backstage scuffle later, and that dashed any hopes of a Jericho/Goldberg WWE feud.
Nowadays, though, the two of them are very adult about their current relationship. Jericho has been quoted as saying "Bill [Goldberg] is a good guy, man, I have nothing but love for him, nothing but respect.” Goldberg, as well, commented on the possibility of appearing on Jericho's podcast by saying "Absolutely. Why not? We’ll do a co-promoted podcast where it should be aired on both simultaneously. Yeah. No big deal. I’m 47 years old, man, I don’t hold grudges with people."
4 4. Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior
The match between these two at WrestleMania VI is a classic. Their match as Halloween Havoc 1996 is... not so classic. Their feud outside of the ring? That stuff is just weird, man.
In one of the many lawsuits between Warrior and WWE, Hogan was called to testify. During one deposition, Hogan wasn't exactly complimentary of the late WWE Hall of Famer - a subject that was brought up during Hogan's segments on the oh-so-complimentary Self-Destruction Of The Ultimate Warrior DVD. Warrior attempted to get revenge in an hour-long series of videos, accusing Hogan of drug use and mistreating his wife and lying about reconciling with Randy Savage.
As we all saw in the WWE Network documentary about the Ultimate Warrior's return to WWE at WrestleMania XXX, the two of them shook hands and made up. It was a pretty nice moment and it was nice to see it happen, especially considering Warrior would pass away nearly 24 hours later.
3 3. Batista vs. Booker T
Batista and Booker T got into a fight backstage once. It was kind of ugly. Booker was getting sick of Batista's attitude. Batista was at the peak of his career, as he had been pushed to be the face of the SmackDown brand and clearly, he felt he was above everybody else. Eventually Booker T called him out on it and said, if they wanted to settle their differences they could do it right there in the locker room.
The fight was apparently very one-sided in Booker's favor, despite Batista having the size and strength advantage. Booker has a rough background and had street knowledge Batista clearly wasn't prepared for. Needless to say, the experience was very humbling for Batista. "He took a good beating, but he's a man." Booker said in a 2013 interview.
2 2. Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart
Man, these guys hated each other.
There hasn't been a lot that hasn't been written about the situation between The Hitman and the Heartbreak Kid. Starting out as friendly rivals, their tag teams - The Hart Foundation and The Rockers, respectively - had many an entertaining match in the late 80s/early 90s. They both also began their highly successful solo careers around the same time. Eventually, they had an epic clash to headline WrestleMania XII, which saw Michaels defeating Hart for this WWE Championship in a one hour Iron Man match.
However, egos and tempers and substance abuse led to these two friends wanting to tear each other's throats out. Feelings of disrespect, jealousy and entitlement were so rampant, they each refused to lose to the other in a match of any sort. This, of course, led to the Montreal Screwjob, an event that has been talked about endlessly for the last 19 years.
1 1. Vince McMahon vs. Pretty Much Everybody At One Point Or Another
This really is the kicker, isn't it?
Let's take a look back at all the WWE stars that left the company on bad terms, only to return to open arms.
Bruno Sammartino. Bret Hart. Hulk Hogan. Mick Foley. Ultimate Warrior. It even looked like Randy Savage was about to make peace with Vince and the company where he first found fame before his untimely passing. Even "Superstar" Billy Graham has gone from badmouthing Vince to gleefully accepting a Hall of Fame induction to badmouthing him again to gleefully accepting a Legends contract.
Hell, this could be a whole other list.
The point is that good business usually trumps hurt feelings in the world of WWE.
Did we forget any? What are some of your favorite (is that the right word?) real-life wrestling feuds, whether or not they ended well? Let us know!
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