Professional wrestlers aren’t so removed from actors and actresses. Don’t get me wrong—wrestlers, especially at the highest level, are tremendous athletes and endure incredible physical punishment that distinguishes them from most thespians. Add onto that life on the road and the concerns of cultivating a sustained character that will last them for months, if not years. Moreover, there are certainly those pro wrestlers who are limited in their acting skills who can basically only portray emotions like rage that befit their profession of choice.
Actors aren’t the characters they play. While glimmers of real personality can come through in the right role, by and large actors are plugged into roles they can effectively play. Not so dissimilarly, wrestlers don’t always pick their personas, or have ones that reflect who they are in real life. There are on air bad guys who are, in fact, very nice people, on the flip side, there are faces who are actually pretty big jerks in real life.
While wrestlers, like any celebrities, can’t expected to put their best face forward all the time, there are those wrestlers particularly well known for being unkind, rude, or downright douchebags in real life. Such behavior especially sticks out when wrestlers douchebags to their own fans.
Whether it’s speaking out directly against fans, shunning their pursuit of autographs or photos these are the wrestlers who treat the people who love them best poorly. This article looks at fifteen wrestlers who have proven themselves complete douchebags to their fans.
16 Scott Hall
In the mid-1990s, Scott Hall became one of the most popular wrestlers in the world under the Razor Ramon gimmick in WWE. While he worked as a heel for the overwhelming majority of his career thereafter, he was among the vanguard of cool heels. That included moving more merchandise as a front man for the nWo than he ever did as Ramon, besides starting a shtick of polling the audience about whether they’d come to the arena to support Hall and the nWo or lame old WCW (spoiler: the fans sided with him).
Despite the connection Hall built with the audience, he was notorious for being pretty lousy to them. In his book, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, Hart recounts Hall leaving fans waiting for autographs only to snub, and there are numerous fan accounts of him either no showing or cutting out early from signings—a real disrespect for his fans and their time.
15 CM Punk
CM Punk engendered a unique and fervent brand of support from his fans. Whether they liked him for his straight edge lifestyle, for his gift for gab, or his skills as an in ring performer, Punk’s fans were loyal, heated, and vocal in the arenas and on the Internet in support of their hero.
For as popular as Punk was at a certain point, there are a quite a few accounts of him being less than kind to his fans in return. There are accounts of him shunning autograph seekers and blowing off fans who try to talk to him after shows. All of that’s not to mention his social media presence, which it would be generous to call surly.
To his credit, Punk has made no bones about having an edge to him. He’s also called out in the inappropriateness of fans approaching wrestlers at inopportune times and in presumptuous fashion, fairly enough noting that wrestlers don’t necessarily owe fans anything.
14 Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns is a controversial figure in WWE to be sure. He debuted with the white hot Shield stable that impressed in the ring and quickly garnered a cult following. In the immediate aftermath of the stable, he got pushed as a top singles star and the fans turned on him.
The turn is understandable. Reigns was probably the least popular Shield member, at least with smart fans, and certainly the least experienced wrestler. For him to get the first main event opportunities felt unjust, and like the powers that be were catering to a big guy with the right look over better prepared talents.
To be fair, Reigns hasn’t exactly ingratiated himself to smart fans, either, calling them out and poking fun at them in interviews and on social media. In a recent incident, a fan tweeted, implying Reigns was like the Street Fighter character Guile, with a GIF of him having trash thrown at him. Reigns tweeted back, antagonizing him for being a wrestling fan and being into video games. Whatever the recipe for being fan friendly may be, Reigns does not seem to have found it.
13 Bill Watts
Bill Watts was known as a tough guy, and as much as he was an in ring wrestling star in his day, He was quite arguably even more successful as a wrestling mind. He ran the successful and critically revered Mid-South territory in the 1980s. The promotion thrived on a combination of a hardnosed style and simple, compelling storytelling.
One of the widely mythologized elements of Watts’s leadership was that he wanted his wrestlers to be known to the public as legitimate badasses. That reportedly included a mandate that if any Mid-South fans challenged them to a fight, they were not to back down. On the contrary, they were instructed to stand up and fight, and they were expected to win or else they’d might as well not report for work. This philosophy seemed to have worked for cultivating a rough-edged culture around the territory, but it didn’t exactly put the fans or their safety first.
12 Ric Flair
Few will argue against Ric Flair being one of the greatest all around performers in wresting to ever live. No doubt, Flair believes in himself, too. He won’t shy away from praise and accolades, and all indications are that he has always wanted to live all aspects of his gimmick—partying, spending money like there’s know tomorrow, and truly believing that he was the best in the business.
For all of his well earned ego, Flair’s been known not to be the nicest to fans. There are stories of him mouthing off to fans, including stories of fans whom he refused to sign autographs for after they said something he didn’t like, besides a recent video of him dressing down a bartender before he was asked to leave. Fortunately, most of Flair’s fans probably love in part because of, not in spite of, his ego.
11 Kevin Owens
Kevin Owens plays an awesome heel, terrific at trash talking, bruising offense, and retreating in convincing fashion to sell his character. He’s an old school heel, though. While it’s come into vogue for wrestlers of all face-heel persuasions to “play nice” in public and on social media. Perhaps it’s a result of coming up through the indies, but that is not Owens’s styles.
Owens has been known to talk back and to block anyone who offends him on Twitter, rather than playing the diplomat. On top of that, there was a now infamous incident when he yelled at a kid in the crowd who tried to high five him, because he was wearing a Roman Reigns t-shirt. The issue prompted the kid’s mom to go to social media and suggest Owens had traumatized the boy. Owens never made a move to apologize.
While Virgil was never a blow-away star in the professional wrestling business, he did manage a solid decade in the limelight working with WWE and later WCW. He had a brief, memorable face run in the early 1990s but is best remembered as a bit of a stooge for Ted Dibiase’s Million Dollar Man character, and later for the nWo.
Virgil’s character was all about doing anything for a payday, regardless of his dignity. According to a number of his contemporaries, the man himself wasn’t so different. Fans tell tale of him, to this day, demanding money for autographs or photos and a story broke on Deadspin in recent years about him hitting up some fans for a ride. All signs suggest Virgil views marks in the purest sense—as dedicated fans who will shell out money and services for him.
There are a lot of wrestlers who seem to recognize a power differential between themselves and fans. Up to a point, that’s fair—fans pay to see wrestlers, not the other way around. Moreover, it’s understandable that some wrestlers turn up their noses at fans who act like they have inside knowledge, or who use backstage terminology without fully understanding it or having earned the right.
Few wrestlers reach the level of out and out disdain of JBL. Particularly in appearances on WWE Network’s Bring it to the Table, he’s made no bones about referencing smart fan mannerisms and pointing out how asinine he feels they are. Not least of all, he questioned people who refer to The Undertaker as “Taker,” referencing that The Deadman was one of the groomsmen at his wedding and he still calls him the more formal, full Undertaker.
7 Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar is a once in a lifetime pro wrestler. He has such an outstanding look for a wrestler, nearly unbeatable power and athleticism, plus the real world credentials of a UFC champion and NCAA amateur wrestling champion.
As if all of that didn’t make it intimidating enough for a fan to approach Lesnar, you can add on the fact that he’s not known to be very friendly to those fans who do reach out. To be fair, wrestlers have their right to privacy and to be left alone. Lesnar is reportedly in a class all his own, though, when it comes to outright ignoring fans who flock him and his real life wife, Sable, at airports and other publications. Fans suggest he looks right through them, not going so far as to dignify the fact that they’re even there.
6 Bob Backlund
Bob Backlund was one of the greatest WWE Superstars of all time. His career included the second longest WWE Championship run ever (behind only Bruno Sammartino), in addition to the remarkable accomplishment of reinventing himself nearly a decade later as a manic heel character that was also successful, and also won the world title in 1994.
Backlund was a very popular wrestler, especially in the 1970s and early 1980s. But he wasn’t always the nicest to his fans. In particular, Tommy Dreamer has oft repeated a story of waiting outside an arena to get Backlund’s autograph. Backlund reportedly saw Dreamer, acknowledged, and told him he’d be outside to sign in a few minutes. From there, he left the kid waiting for over an hour before coming outside again, only to blow off Dreamer and tell him he’d catch him the next time.
A silver lining to this story? Dreamer says that once he made it as a wrestler, he never left a signing or a photo shoot until every last fan was satisfied. Having met him after an independent show, I can confirm the guy waited around and was gracious to everyone who wanted to meet him.
5 Bubba Ray Dudley
Though Bubba Ray Dudley became an international superstar in WWE, became a world champion in TNA, and is currently plying his trade in ROH, he initially rose to prominence as a star for ECW. There, he rose from a full crop of Dudleys to become the most prominent of all and help pave the way for him and Devon to have a long, celebrated career well outside the confines of ECW.
How did Bubba Ray become so successful? One of the key elements of his act—really, everywhere but WWE—was riling up the crowd. In ECW in particular, that included getting right in fans’ faces, cursing them out, and picking fights. He transcended the wrestling heel to be someone fans actually wanted to hit—a shtick that was a little too ugly (and open to lawsuits) for WWE.
4 New Jack
New Jack has a rough reputation in wrestling for being a bit of a loose cannon and a violent dude. Despite a lengthy career amidst a number of major independents, his biggest claim to fame may be the “Mass Transit Incident.” Untrained 17-year-old Eric Kulas, known as Mass Transit, fibbed his way into getting to work an ECW show—claiming he was older and fully trained—as a last minute replacement for Axl Rotten. Jack gave him a stiff beating that culminated in blading him very deeply so that he bled badly. New Jack got on the mic—to be fair, likely as not in character—and told fans he didn’t care if Kulas died.
This wasn’t the only time New Jack pushed the limits of violence. It’s rumored that he’s faced more lawsuits than any other wrestler for physical altercations with fans for never backing down, and often instigating fights.
Batista became a top tier star in the mid 2000s, rising up alongside John Cena and Randy Orton as a top guy for his generation of WWE guys. Rumors abound that he developed an ago, and by the late stages of his first WWE run wasn’t very popular among his colleagues, which led to a shoot fight between him and Booker T.
In his second run, Batista was particularly unpopular with the fans and didn’t hesitate to return any ill will they sent her way. He won the 2014 Royal Rumble in what looked as though it was designed to be a hero’s return to the company. The crowd booed him aggressively, though, and Batista responded by flipping off the crowd. In a visit to Chris Jericho’s podcast, The Animal also made light of fans’ sensibilities, in particular mocking fans who referred to him as Blue-tista when he wore blue tights for a PPV match.
2 Mark Henry
Mark Henry has worked for WWE for a very long time—over two decades at this point. He’s ranged from happy go lucky face to bad ass heel to whatever you’d call his sexual chocolate gimmick. He’s been a lower mid card guy and he’s been a world champion.
Given how long The World’s Strongest Man has spent in the limelight, perhaps it’s to be expected that fans have very different accounts of what he’s like in real life. While some fans report him to be friendly and willing to wait around to take photos with and sign autographs for fans in all sorts of situations, there are other a number of other accounts floating around the Internet of Henry being surly to fans who approach him, and even at one Axxess appearance. This may be a matter of some fans catching him on a bad day, but regardless, the reputation is out there.
1 Hulk Hogan
It’s tough to argue that there’s ever been a bigger star out of the professional wrestling business than Hulk Hogan. In the 1980s and early 1990s he was the most popular wrestler who had ever lived. In the late 1990s he became one of the business’s top heels. From there, he’s been in and out, largely as a nostalgia figure, more often than not warranting a huge reaction.
There are ways in which Hogan has been kind to his fans, including his well documented hesitation at turning heel lest he disappoint all of the kids who looked up to him and reports of him never being too busy to shake hands or pose for a picture back in the 1980s.
More recently, however, he’s notorious for charging fans big money for the chance to interact with him, including charging high sums for autographs and photos at every opportunity. A guy has to make a living for sure, but Hogan seems to have turned pretty cut throat about using his fans to rack up paydays.