Times change as do the way we view behavior. Stuff that in the 1980s went over perfectly okay would be seen as very harsh today. That includes wrestling as fans may think some angles are wild today but they have nothing on the stuff in the ‘80s. From WWE’s cartoon characters to the wild stuff going on in the smaller territories, wrestlers got into things that would never fly today. That includes drugs as the mentality for that was a lot different in the 1980s. Plus, guys pushing things a bit too far when kayfabe was still king.
Some guys would have gotten away with it still thanks to their talent and standing. Hulk Hogan comes to mind there. However, others would have gotten punished far more harshly today. From drug use to behavior outside the ring to their various actions and attitudes, guys would never have gotten away with the stuff today that they did back then. Here are 15 famous workers who would have been shown their walking papers for their actions today and shows how much times have changed.
15 Andre the Giant
Like many on this list, Andre would have gotten over because of his act. He was a novelty because of his size, a great attraction and fans enjoyed him a lot. However, when you’re someone that huge, you just do whatever the hell you want and promoters back then were willing to look the other way of Andre’s actions. That includes the legendary stories of literally drinking guys under the table, showing up for matches massively hungover and even taking a dump in the middle of a bout. That stuff just wouldn’t fly today as Andre’s behavior would also cause issues with his clashes with bosses and demands for more attention at times plus his decline in health in his later days. As great a sight as he was, Andre’s behavior and lack of real skills would have gotten him axed from today’s WWE as he was hardly a “gentle” giant.
14 Jake Roberts
Vince McMahon himself summed up that Roberts had the amazing gift to be totally high or drunk and yet give no sign of it. So when he was obviously intoxicated, you knew it was bad. His ring skills and uncanny ability on the mic would have gotten The Snake some great push yet those addictions would have been too much to ignore. That’s including how he brought that giant snake around wherever he went and caused way too many issues with co-workers backstage.
Jake is up front on his wild behavior and how it caused way too much of a mess with his personal life and co-workers as well. Getting into the ring with a guy visibly drunk was always dangerous and while he hid it well, Jake was still risking it way too much. As great a performer as he was, Jake’s actions today would have gotten him the DDT from the front office fast.
Harley Race summed up how Vader was always his own worst enemy. His stiff work in the ring added to his appeal but also caused problems. Breaking the back of a jobber, tearing off Mick Foley’s ear and more, Vader could really hurt a bunch of guys and not care too much about it. That led to plenty of conflict including how he was fired from WCW after beating up Paul Orndorff backstage. Vader didn't do too much partying but he could get into his fair share of hard stuff afterward that only added to his terrible attitude.
Vader could get right into the faces of anyone, including bosses as he demanded a lot more than he should have gotten in booking and success and his short fuse made him harder to work with in the ring. That contributed to how poorly he came off at times as Vader was a great monster heel yet his attitude helped drive him down with some firings and would have done it a lot faster in WWE.
12 Stan Hansen
Hansen was a lot of things. For starters, he was a great worker, a brutal guy and a fantastic selling act. He was also renowned as a complete and utter lunatic whose behavior behind the scenes was amazing. Stories of Hansen’s partying ways are plentiful as he was liable to go off on a guy with little warning for a huge beat-down. His work in the ring could be brutal and stiff, most notably when he took Vader’s eye out of the socket in a match in Japan. Hansen also played by his own rules, holding his commitment in Japan above any other dates and liable to walk on a company without warning.
Then there was how Hansen loved to play up his image of the “crazy cowboy” way too much with his barroom brawls and other stuff and not quite a guy you wanted on TV. As much as fans would love his style, Hansen’s behavior would have gotten him sent off into the sunset fast in today’s WWE.
11 Curt Hennig
Another case of a guy who would have gotten over nicely thanks to his fantastic ring work and great mic skills but other factors working against him. Hennig was a great guy as Mr. Perfect and his work in the ring would push him. However, his backstage antics would have landed him in way too much hot water for today’s strict environment of WWE, especially his history of pranks. He instigated the feud between the Rougeaus and the Bulldogs by slicing up the former’s outfits and blaming it on the latter. He also took a dump right under the ring while waiting to interfere during a match and helped drive the infamous “Plane Ride From Hell” mess. All that made him a bit of a legend but also antics that wouldn't go over well in today's more PG-rated WWE world. Hennig's addictions would also hurt him and that, combined with those brutal pranks that would divide the locker room would have made Hennig’s run with WWE shorter and far from perfect at all.
10 The Junkyard Dog
Even at the absolute height of his career, the brutal truth was that JYD was one hundred percent charisma. He was just a terrible worker, blowing up way too early in matches and thus Bill Watts had him booked in short squash matches to make sure he wasn’t exposed. That wouldn’t play as much today with fans more interested in the details of a match and would be slamming him. There were also the Dog’s issues with drugs leading to conflicts backstage and how his eating could get out of control to the point of ballooning to 400 pounds.
With WWE so big on health and conditioning today, it’s impossible to see JYD keeping up with that as the man was also known for missing dates at the last minute. His charisma would push him a bit but that failure to keep himself in health would keep the Dog out of today’s WWE.
Stories abound of how unpopular Sid was backstage. While he had a great look and some drive, he was offset by his bad ring work that messed things up. He nearly broke Brian Pillman’s neck with a botched powerbomb and was way too sloppy with other guys while he had to be carried to a decent match. More famous are the clashes with other guys backstage and the ugly brawls abounding. That includes the infamous fight with Arn Anderson in 1993 with Sid trying to use a squeegee as a weapon and getting himself stabbed with scissors. Throw in botched promos, more brutal stuff in the ring and snapping at anyone at the most random moment and you can tell Sid’s work wasn’t that great. The man was a bit too “psycho” for his own good and Sid would have been fired a lot faster in today’s WWE than he was already back then.
8 The Road Warriors
Hawk and Animal truly changed the game in terms of wrestling with their presentation. The makeup, the leather, the no-selling, the strong offense, it was unlike anything seen before and got them insanely over. That would carry today, but they were also notorious for their party attitudes. They could also be too stiff for their own good, legitimately hurting guys in the ring and smashing others up and they didn't even care if they injured someone, which wouldn't make them many friends. The two also had a reputation for going their own way a bit too much. They famously double-crossed Verne Gagne with a shoot in the ring and refused to drop the tag titles to the Fabulous Ones and played politics too much with their work in Japan that would anger today's booking planners.
Throw in Hawk becoming more unreliable due to injury and drug addictions and for all their fantastic stuff in the ring, it’s hard to see the Warriors reigning as well in WWE today.
7 Rick Rude
An amazing heel and good worker, Rude took off with his egotistical ways driving great matches in WWE and WCW. However, steroid use contributed to his harsh attitude that led to more than a few rumblings backstage. Rude was pretty much in it for himself as he walked on World Class to jump to the NWA and then left them despite being a tag team champion. His clashes in WWE led to his dismissal and then in WCW, he left them in the lurch after nearly beating the crap out of Erik Watts in a backstage fight. His temper was notorious as he could snap at any moment backstage and that led to way too many clashes with other guys as well as the higher-ups. As fantastic a worker as he was, Rude’s record shows that “the Ravishing One” wouldn’t have lasted long in today’s WWE with that attitude and an ego extreme even by wrestling standards.
6 Brian Pillman
Even before his “Loose Cannon” act, Pillman wasn’t exactly the most stable individual. A common joke about him is that all those letters in “Penthouse” were real and written by Pillman. He was a wild party animal with multiple affairs on the road, too many to keep quiet. Pillman also had a sharp temper with some nasty brawls against other workers and even regular folks. How much of his Loose Cannon act was tolerated by WCW is still debated, most thinking Eric Bischoff had no idea and just claims he did. If that’s the case, then Pillman would have been axed for such things as breaking character in the middle of the ring and assaulting Bobby Heenan without permission.
Throw in his crazy actions and how his addictions led to his early demise and it’s hard to see Pillman lasting long in today’s WWE before he was cut as a danger to himself and others.
5 Kerry von Erich
As great an athlete as Kerry was, he, like his brothers, was pushed a bit too much by their father. Fritz was infamous for turning a blind eye to the drug issues of the workers in World Class and the death toll of the company is proof of that. Kerry was the worst of the brothers with his constant womanizing and drug abuse, including the classic story of Ric Flair having to carry a stoned Kerry for an hour-long match. Stories abound of Kerry showing up drugged out of his mind for bouts and making idiotic mistakes while letting his dad cover for him. That’s not to mention how unreliable Kerry could be as even when he knew he was a key main event guy for his territory, he openly risked his life for things like his motorcycle accident and showed no real care for his health afterward. His addictions and issues led to Kerry just being way too unreliable to count on and would have gotten him axed quickly today.
4 Bill Watts
Watts was a good worker in his prime as a classic tough guy cowboy type. He was much better known for his great work as a booker, often a genius coming up with fantastic stuff to push workers wonderfully. However, Watts’ attitude could be a bit too old-school for his own good. Calling him a racist might be a bit much but he honestly didn’t see the issues of dropping the N-word or C-word at various times, it was just normal behavior for him. A man used to running things his way, Watts was a terrible people person, as proven by his run with WCW where he clashed with a corporate structure and others calling the shots.
His old-school booking drove away business and his push of his untalented son, Erik, was a bad idea. His brief WWE run in 1995 shows how bad Watts worked with others and would have led to a faster firing today.
3 The Dynamite Kid
An absolutely brilliant worker, Tom Billington is better known for his horrible behavior outside the ring. Incredibly short-tempered and brutal, Kid could go all out on other guys, taking shots totally out of bounds and without permission to injure guys. There’s also how he would pull “pranks” that bordered on outright criminal behavior such as drugging a guy’s drink before he went driving on a cold winter road at night. Add in bar brawls and harsher stuff with women and even Kid’s skills in the ring couldn’t save his job. His physical risks ended up costing him his career, his marriage and good will and landed him in a wheelchair for life.
It’s sad that a man who was such a fantastic worker in the ring could be undone by his own brash ego and hard style. However, it fits that Dynamite could fizzle badly if he was in today’s wrestling world.
2 Shawn Michaels
On one of his DVDs, Michaels is completely up front on how he and Marty Jannetty should have been fired a dozen times for the crap they pulled. Their hard party ways were wild in WWE as they would actually show up for shows drunk. What saved them was how they blew away fans and co-workers alike with their sensational ring work. The Rockers were terrific in matches but those party attitudes got them in hot water and didn’t make many friends. It got worse with Shawn’s own ego taking off in the mid-90s and his power play moves wouldn’t go over as well today. His great ring work and his heat from the fans would have saved Shawn a few times but not forever as that jerkiness would have gotten him on the red carpet too many times to survive. That Shawn himself admits just how much of an a-hole he was sums it up as his career wouldn’t have lasted as long today.
1 The Fabulous Freebirds
Their hard-partying ways are still legendary in the business. Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts tore down the house in the ring but also busted up more than a few bars outside it. While they could get away with it in Texas, that wouldn’t have played as well in bigger areas. Their run with WWE in 1984 was quite brief as Vince had no stomach for their ways that went against the “family friendly” image WWE cultivates even more today. That’s not to mention their personal attitudes as well with infamous pranks. One incident alone would have gotten them axed when they stepped off a plan in Israel and immediately trashed the waiting Jewish fans with “You SOBS killed Jesus!”
They were fantastic performers but those harsh party attitudes would lead to major trouble for them, too much for today’s more PC world. The Freebirds were a wild bunch but perhaps a bit too wild to pull off today’s setting properly.