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
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.
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.
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.
11 Curt Hennig
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.
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.
7 Rick Rude
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.
5 Kerry von Erich
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.
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.
2 Shawn Michaels
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.
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