Ever since it went public declaring all its matches and proceedings being ‘scripted’ in 1989, it became a well known fact that all the matches, segments and even heated undertakings are actually a work. While it’s still real to some, WWE is an entertainment show where the booking is vital towards giving a realistic vibe to it. Most wrestlers who are put in the most seemingly heated rivalries probably share a pint after doing their jobs in the ring, as many of these wrestlers are obviously on good terms with each other having to work among themselves and travel 24/7 together. But like any other work environment, WWE also has its share of people who create beefs with each other and make it uncomfortable for others. Vince McMahon has a history of taking advantages of such feisty relationships by pitting them onto on-screen rivalries and making great money out of watching his wrestlers tear each other apart (yeah because that’s how WWE works).
Off-screen rivalries are often created due to jealousy of another superstar's status, ego clashes between the top stars and sometimes even due to working bad matches, and many times we have seen a rivalry get so heated up that kayfabe got broken and we were left contemplating on how much of it was real and how much was scripted. Personal rivalries can be a boon for the promotion if the wrestlers are going through an on-screen one as well, but sometimes have resulted in disastrous outcomes as the hatred for each other sticks with these wrestlers even after they’ve done their job. One can’t exactly figure out when a rivalry is ‘real’ or scripted, but with the boon of the internet community, many of the wrestlers personal beefs were revealed to give us an idea of what exactly goes on behind the curtains. Let’s take a look into 15 times things got personal in the WWE.
14 Randy Orton and Mr. Kennedy
Ken Kennedy had quite a relevant career in WWE, but it was cut short because of the backstage heat he got from some superstars. One of the superstars turned out to be Randy Orton, who constantly complained to management of Kennedy’s stiff working style and this only got worse after Kennedy gave Orton an awkward suplex on his already injured shoulder. Orton complained about this to management and this made for the nail in the coffin for Kennedy who was fired soon after. Bitterness still remains on Kennedy’s part, often mocking Orton’s failures on social media and being vocal about this great injustice on him.
14) Alberto Del Rio and Cody Barbierri
Alberto Del Rio was always treated like a prince as his aristocrat gimmick was pulled off splendidly and made for a solid heel run. But Del Rio saw himself get fired out of nowhere because of ‘unprofessional conduct’ towards a WWE employee. Well that employee was Cody Barbierri, who was then a part of the social media team in the production area of WWE. Apparently he had made some offensive racist comments towards Del Rio and deservedly got smacked for it, for which Del Rio would supposedly get a short suspension. But when Barbierri threatened to sue WWE, Del Rio fell victim to a horrible firing and gave an insight on WWE’s questionable policies.
13 Melina and Candice Michelle
Infamous for having tremendous backstage heat during her reign in WWE, Melina had a personality and attitude problems which no one liked and her tantrums often got her kicked out of the locker room. Candice Michelle wasn’t a fan of Melina’s antics, and in a radio interview said some nasty things about how Melina should’ve been a model rather than a wrestler. This ignited a heated exchange of blogs between the two in social media, with Melina calling Candice as only a ‘pretty face’ with no talent and Candice replying by saying Melina can’t wrestle. This feud reached its boiling point in their on-screen rivalry, with Candice having the last laugh.
12 JBL and The Blue Meanie
He might be heard shouting ‘I Love it Maggle!’ nowadays in the commentary team, but JBL was quite an ill-tempered wrestler in the ring. This was seen in the 2005 ECW One Night Stand PPV, where during a brawl between WWE superstars and ECW Guys, JBL legit punched the seemingly harmless Blue Meanie and absolutely destroyed his face. This was apparently because of some comments made by the Meanie on JBL online, regarding JBL's reputation as a bully. Well payback would be painful later on, as The Meanie’s friend Stevie Richards interfered in JBL’s match on SmackDown later on and hit him so hard with a chair that JBL got a concussion.
11 Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker
It’s no secret that Vince McMahon has been a suck-up to Brock Lesnar ever since he arrived in the WWE. Lesnar had everything Vince loved and was pushed as a superstar from day one. This didn’t bode well with The Undertaker, then portraying the Deadman Inc gimmick as he felt Brock was getting pushed over the roof and didn’t like his attitude towards it either. Things turned sour after Brock left for UFC, and at a UFC show in 2010 Lesnar and Taker (who’s a big UFC Fan) shot each other dirty looks while Undertaker was being interviewed. These two normally don’t take things personally, but the reality of their on-screen rivalry is a perfect example of a personal disliking/jealousy between them.
10 Ric Flair and Mick Foley
Two completely opposite wrestlers with one being hailed for his technical prowess and other for his impeccable courage, Ric Flair and Mick Foley didn’t see eye to eye right from their WCW days. Foley criticized Flair’s booking abilities, indicating his booking was ‘as bad as his wrestling was good’. Flair later in 2004 would reignite this rivalry, by saying that Foley’s nothing but a ‘glorified stuntsman’ in an interview which infuriated many, including Foley. They got into a backstage fight as well in 2004 in their WWE stints, and would go on to have some hard-hitting matches later on in TNA as well which would show how strong their loathing for each other was.
9 Chris Jericho and Goldberg
This personal beef dates back to the late 90s where Jericho and Goldberg were in WCW and Goldberg didn’t want to work with Jericho because he was ‘to small’. Fast forward to 2003 with both having top positions in the WWE, and the two got in an altercation in the locker room. According to Jericho, Goldberg was trying to bully him when Y2J stood up for himself and put Goldberg in a series of wrestling locks, which Goldberg couldn’t get out of. They were eventually separated, but traded some abusive language with one another, with Goldberg saying ‘Your mother is an a**hole’ which got a hilarious reaction from Booker T.
8 Booker T and Batista
Booker T is one of the coolest, laid back guys to be found in the WWE locker room, but you won’t like him when he’s snapped. Ask Batista, who was acting way too cocky being World Champion and belittling people due to SmackDown’s ratings falling after he left. Batista apparently got into an argument with the 5-time WCW champion, and it escalated to the point where they started brawling. Booker T apparently won the brawl which lasted for about 30 seconds, as his street experience helped him own the cocky Batista. WWE tried to sweep it under the rug calling it a ‘work’, but people who were there definitely testify on how Batista got his a** handed to him.
7 CM Punk and Jeff Hardy
Now this was a rivalry which blurred the lines between kayfabe and reality brilliantly and was dangerously close to ruining the public image of Jeff Hardy as a ‘hero’. The rivalry started when Punk won the World Title after cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase, which led to a series of matches. Punk soon turned heel and went all out on Jeff Hardy with his straight edge gimmick, thrashing him constantly for his drug problems.
WWE even covered Hardy getting arrested for driving under influence, and Punk was constantly cutting promos degrading Hardy for being a drug addict and how he’s better than him. Jeff claimed he wasn’t doing drugs, and even in a Youtube video where he looks intoxicated, shunned Punk for disrespecting him. This reached a boiling point in a SmackDown match, which Hardy would lose and leave WWE.
6 Matt Hardy and Edge/Lita
This love triangle destroyed a long-time friendship between Matt and Edge, both being buddies at one point. In 2004, Matt Hardy and Lita were a couple and traveled with Edge but when Matt got a knee injury, Edge and Lita traveled together, got close and became a couple. Matt was livid with this betrayal when he returned, and posted aggressive videos and writings on his site, but got himself fired because Edge was more over at that time. After working a bit in Ring of Honor, WWE would re-sign Matt as he would attack Edge, abusing ‘Adam’ (Edge’s real name) for screwing him over.
Edge and Lita got a lot of crowd backlash for this, as Hardy and Edge put on some grueling matches with Edge legit hurting Hardy at SummerSlam 2005. In the end Edge would become over because of this, and Matt would be the unfortunate loser of this tale.
5 Stone Cold and Vince McMahon
Stone Cold Steve Austin’s on-screen rivalry with the villainous Mr. McMahon is what helped WWE prevail over WCW in the Monday night wars, as this excellent showcase of rebelling against the boss’s rule and kicking ass made WWE buckets of money. This was obviously all kayfabe as both had a good relationship with each other, until 2002 where Stone Cold was frustrated over his booking and left the company without any notice. He failed to appear for a Raw event where he was supposed to put Brock Lesnar over, and this also made for a promo by Mr. McMahon stating how Austin would be missed.
This would be interrupted by The Rock, who gave a shoot promo telling Austin to ‘f** off’ and trashing him off taking his ball and going home. Austin would return to the company later, but this rivalry left somewhat of a scar between the two.
4 Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan
So yeah this is one of the cases where best friends turned into bitter enemies because of jealousy among each other. Savage and Hogan's friendship was torn apart because of jealousy on the part of Savage. He started to think that Hogan was messing around with Miss Elizabeth (his real-life wife) and the infamous promo of him turning heel has a lot of reality to it. Miss Elizabeth also apparently lived with the Hogans for a while which boiled more tension into the feud, and the drama on-screen was also followed by it off-screen. Savage held a long time grudge over Hogan and vice-versa, with both indicating their resentment towards each other in various interviews in the years to come.
3 John Cena and The Rock
The Alpha-Males of their own eras, The Rock and John Cena are probably two of the most decorated faces of the company so it’s of no surprise that they got pit against each other when The Rock returned to the company. Their match at WrestleMania was set almost a year before the event, and WWE along with two took full opportunity to advertise it as much as it can. The Rock, known for his shoot promos and smack-out style, took it upon himself to make it seem as real as possible, and the rivalry became very personal. The two exchanged words not on WWE TV, but also on social media and apparently couldn’t stand each other in the same place. The Rock said on how he ‘wanted to punch’ Cena many a times, with Cena calling the Rock a quitter on WWE and how he escaped to the fame. Even though the recent ‘teaming up’ in Wrestlemania might indicate they get along, but the battle for being 'the guy' of the company would always pit them to dislike each other.
2 CM Punk and Triple H
In the words of Punk himself, this was not Punk vs. HHH, it was Phil Brooks vs. Paul Levesque. The dislike between these two goes back to a long time back, when Punk came to the WWE and he felt to be treated as an amateur rookie by HHH. Punk’s actions only got more infuriating for staff as he blend into WWE, with Triple H especially disliking him as a person. This all culminated in 2011 where they both were put in a storyline, which soon turned very real in a promo where they both take shots at each other and a display of hatred can be seen right there.
Even after Punk left WWE, he has said of issues with Triple H, with HHH trying to act like a professional but showing tendencies of dislike as this battle of egos might be a reason on why we might not see Punk ever again in the WWE.
1 Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart
The infamous rivalry between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart blurred the lines of kayfabe and reality and created a bitter rivalry where even the sight of each other getting an upper hand could make them cringe. It all started in the mid 90s, with both HBK and Hart being the top dogs in WWE and also spectacular wrestlers who could put on 5 star matches and amaze crowds. HBK won his first ever WWE title by defeating Hart, but later refused to lay down and drop the title to him, by making it vacant and allegedly faking an injury to take time off. HBK would use his backstage politics and other tactics to provoke The Hitman, cutting a promo indicating Hart was having relations with Sunny.
Then we got the Montreal Screwjob, for which HBK pleaded ignorance on it, but later revealed he was in on it. At the time, it must have been great for HBK to screw Bret and this meant for such raw hatred that they couldn’t face each other until 2010, where WWE they ‘made up’, but one can be sure that this kind of hatred doesn’t pass away into thin air.