The professional wrestling industry has a long history of wacky and crazy stories involving performers taking part in activities that would get the common man fired in just about any imaginable scenario. It is not all that difficult to understand how these wrestlers were able to keep their jobs, though, as a pro wrestling locker room is often filled with big egos and athletes having a “boys will be boys” mentality. It also doesn’t hurt that many of the stories that are showcased in this piece occurred well before fans would have been able to voice outrage and disgust via platforms such as social media websites.
One will, when reading these stories and then wondering how the wrestlers involved were not given their marching orders, have to remember that the pro wrestling business is much different in 2016 than it was even a decade ago, let alone than how it was back in the day. For starters, World Wrestling Entertainment is now a publicly traded company, one that has to answer to investors who could care less about what used to be allowed behind the scenes in the promotion. There is also the fact that pro wrestlers today are expected to be shining ambassadors for their companies even when they are not performing at events.
Make no mistake in knowing that each of the wrestlers involved in these tales would, at the very least, be in hot water had these incidents occurred in 2016. While it would not be a stretch to say that pro wrestling, specifically the WWE, is a better environment for performers today than it was in the past, that does not change the reality that the business and also the fans would not have been better off had “justice” been done and these wrestlers been fired. With that said, we implore those who either work in the WWE or who are trying to get into the front door of that company to behave themselves these days.
15. Vince McMahon
Of course we have to start with WWE Chairman, Vince McMahon. McMahon has, over the years, been accused of harassment against female employees and it has also been alleged that he has been a bully behind the scenes. Perhaps the most serious accusation made against McMahon came from former WWE Creative member Court Bauer. Bauer once claimed that McMahon challenged him to a drag race, a race that Bauer won. McMahon’s response, per Bauer’s explanation, was to try to run Bauer right off the road. This seems like the kind of activity that would get a chairman of a company in some trouble.
14. Jeff Hardy
The incident involving Jeff Hardy and Sting that occurred in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling in March 2011 was nothing short of disgusting. Hardy was visibly unable to perform and allegedly intoxicated, and yet he was allowed to go out to the ring for a match versus Sting that lasted roughly 90 seconds before Sting put an end to the contest. Even that embarrassing ordeal was not enough for TNA to see the writing on the wall and cut ties with Hardy for good, as the company brought the “Charismatic Enigma” back later that same year. Truth be told, TNA is lucky that a disaster did not take place back in March 2011.
What went on to be known as “The Plane Ride From Hell” is one of the craziest WWE stories you will ever read, a trek that changed many things regarding how wrestlers and other WWE personnel travel. One of the wrestlers allegedly involved with that plane ride was Goldust, who supposedly made vulgar comments toward a flight attendant and who used the PA system to serenade his ex-wife. While it is believed that the company was not pleased with Goldust, the WWE chose to allow his contract to expire rather than fire Goldust. The WWE would have gone on just fine had the company immediately fired Goldust.
12. Bob Holly
There may never again be a segment of Tough Enough that equals what occurred involving “Hardcore” Bob Holly and Matt Cappotelli during Tough Enough III. Holly, as those who watched the segment will remember, “took liberties” with the student and Cappotelli was legitimately bloodied by what had occurred in the ring. People can talk about how wrestlers need to be “toughened up” until they are blue in the face. This was an example of assault, pure and simple, and yet Holly was able to avoid being fired by the WWE and also avoid handcuffs.
11. Ric Flair
Remember that awesome storyline that involved Ric Flair eventually retiring after losing a WrestleMania match to Shawn Michaels? The argument could be made that we never should have seen that program in the first place. Flair was arrested in November 2005 following a “road rage” incident that involved Flair allegedly throttling a motorist. In Flair’s defense, those chargers were eventually dropped, but only because the witnesses failed to appear in court. Rather than punishing Flair severely for this episode, the WWE actually used it in a storyline involving the “Nature Boy” and Edge. Pro wrestling can be weird.
10. Scott Steiner
Oh, where to begin with the Superstar known as Big Poppa Pump? Scott Steiner found himself facing jail time back in 1999 after he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and making terroristic threats following an incident that involved Steiner and a DOT road worker. Steiner once cut a “shoot” promo on Ric Flair during an edition of Nitro that earned him a suspension from World Championship Wrestling. WCW nevertheless stuck with Steiner up until the day that the company closed its doors in March 2001. Firing Steiner wouldn’t have fixed WCW, but it also wouldn’t have been a huge negative.
9. CM Punk
It is the job of a pro wrestling heel to anger those who are in the audience at a particular show. Wrestlers have, at times, gone too far, and that was the case back in 2011 regarding the “Straightedge Superstar.” CM Punk was caught dropping a homophobic slur when yelling at a fan during a show that was taking place in Australia. Punk later took to Twitter to apologize for his actions, but one has to wonder if Punk would have been punished more severely had that incident taken place in 2016 and/or if Punk was not one of the top stars in the company.
8. Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels has, since returning to the WWE in 2002, been open about his religious beliefs and about how he found peace in Christianity. The Heartbreak Kid has also, to his credit, not been shy about the real drug and alcohol problems that he had in the 1990s during his first run in the company. Which tales about Michaels are real and which are not could be debated, but it is hardly a secret that Michaels had a reputation for showing up to shows “in no condition to perform” in the years leading up to his first retirement. We are glad that Michaels was not fired and also that he got his life together.
There are certain things that one should never do, even when portraying a “heel” wrestling character. Doing a “Nazi Salute” and a “Goose Step” would be near the top of the list. John Bradshaw Layfield was fired for these actions back in 2004, but it was not the WWE that did the firing. JBL had been serving as an actual financial analyst for CNBC when Layfield committed this regrettable blunder in Munich, of all places. As distasteful as this was, Layfield has continuously been embraced by the WWE and he works as a commentator for the company.
6. Randy Orton
A lot has changed in pro wrestling and in the WWE. One example is that the WWE is now responsible for an anti-bullying campaign, something that is unintentionally hilarious when you consider all that we know about the industry. Randy Orton was, during the early days of his career, somebody who apparently could have used such a campaign. Orton was allegedly not the nicest of guys backstage at events, something that former WWE Diva Rochelle Loewen discussed back in 2005. What exactly Orton may or may not have put into Loewen’s bags has been a subject of Internet debates, but his alleged actions would be worth more than just a suspension today.
5. Michael Hayes
Michael Hayes should be thankful every day that he still has a job working behind the scenes for World Wrestling Entertainment. Aside the many urban legends that stem back from Hayes’ days as a wrestler, Hayes was once suspended by the WWE after it was alleged that he made racist comments, particularly to Mark Henry. It was then reported in 2013 that Hayes was again in trouble after it was learned that he had drinks with Rosa Mendes not long after Mendes had supposedly completed a stint in a rehabilitation facility. Somebody in the WWE obviously has a soft spot in his or her heart for Hayes.
4. Harley Race
It is arguably the most well-known behind-the-scenes story involving Harley Race. Race, upset that Vince McMahon was invading National Wrestling Alliance territories in the 1980s, decided to make his way into the locker room at the WWE and then confront Hulk Hogan. It was during that confrontation when Race pulled a gun on Hogan. Just because nobody was shot or physically harmed on that day does not mean that a crime was not committed. Race not only probably should have been fired for this. He very easily could have faced time behind bars.
3. Andre the Giant
This is a story that has been “confirmed” by none other than Hulk Hogan. While Hogan has been known to stretch certain details every now and again, we are going to take him at his word here. According to Hogan, the urban legends about Andre the Giant “checking somebody’s oil” during matches are, in fact, true. For those who don’t know, “checking the oil” refers to somebody taking a finger or thumb and sticking it…well, we hope you get the idea. Yes, this is a form of assault and Andre absolutely should have been fired for this assuming that the stories are true.
2. Randy Savage
“Macho Man” Randy Savage is known today as one of the greatest performers in the history of North American pro wrestling. We also, after the fact, are aware that Savage had a dark side. It has been said by multiple individuals in the wrestling industry that Savage would legitimately lock Miss Elizabeth, his real-life wife at the time, in a dressing room before he wrestled matches because he did not want fellow wrestlers interacting with Liz. Not only is this a crazy story, it was borderline kidnapping and no wrestler would ever get away with such acts in 2016.
1. Hulk Hogan
It was all the way back in the 1980s when Hulk Hogan legitimately choked Richard Belzer out cold during an interview segment. Yes, Hogan was merely “demonstrating” a wrestling move, and accidents do happen. The Hulkster, the much bigger man of the two, should have remembered that pro wrestling is a work, and a real-life choke-out never should have happened here. The incident that left Belzer down for the count and also bleeding resulted in a lawsuit, and it is a black mark on Hogan’s resume. Hogan’s resume was put through a shredder in 2015, but he is lucky that he was not fired by the WWE in the 1980s.
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