No one likes being fired, but it happens. It can happen to anyone from the long-reigning employee of the month to the unpopular guy who people have taken over-under bets on being let go. Usually there is a reason for someone being given a pink slip and a boot out the door.
There are firings around us that don’t need an explanation as the writing was on obviously on the wall, while there are some that can come as a surprise. In the world of professional wrestling, there are often terminations that come from moments in wrestling caught by the cameras or events that happen behind the scenes with word getting out to wrestling writers.
The wrestling ring is no different from the regular office or work environment. Sometimes, different employees have different attitudes and opinions that can cause issues and that is often the case of people being deservedly fired – regardless of how big of a following a talent has with the fans or how skilled of an athlete they were in the ring.
The following 15 wrestlers deserved to be fired for legitimate reasons that are hard to defend. There are many other incidents, but the following highlights some of the more interesting and unique issues that have led to wrestlers having to find new opportunities from televised promotions.
15 Kevin Wacholz
The man known in the WWE as Nailz might not usually make a “top 15” list, but the reason for his termination is worthy of being included in this list. During his very brief run with the company in 1992, Wacholz apparently approached Vince McMahon about deserving more money under his contract. Things went south as it ended with Wacholz apparently pushing McMahon down and the two having to be separated by other wrestlers and agents. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that was the likely reason Wacholz was let go from the company.
Apparently, Wacholz held a grudge as he would testify against McMahon during a federal court case regarding the WWE pressuring wrestlers to use anabolic steroids. He was even quoted on the stand that he hated McMahon’s guts. He did have brief stints in both WCW and Japan before he would leaving wrestling and start a family business.
Cameron was never known to be one of the best female wrestlers on the WWE roster – not in recent years or ever. So fans were likely not saddened to see her name among the mass firings in May 2016, which was like the silver lining when seeing names like Zeb Colter, Wade Barrett and Damien Sandow. But let’s get back to the former Funkadactyl who debuted on WWE television as one of Brodus Clay’s dancers who accompanied him both inside and out of the ring.
After becoming a singles heel, she was known for making statements online that didn’t go over well with WWE management. But it seems one of the big problems was when she went on social media and showed her support for Ryback’s comments about the lack of equal pay in professional wrestling. She would later claim that she was trying to portray the heel at the time, but that obviously didn’t save her job.
13 Paul London
While he had great success in the WWE’s Cruiserweight Division and even in a tag team with Brian Kendrick, Paul London was let go from the company in 2008. However, it was a justified termination as there were a number of issues behind the scenes. One of the more minor incidents was when he was one of the wrestlers lining the halls in 2007 – the only one smiling – as Vince McMahon walked to his limousine that blew up.
He went against the ideas from the creative team where he was told to do a serious promo after losing the Cruiserweight Championship in 2005, but asked fans to protest the title change. There was also times he was known as a complainer by those behind the scenes that included arguments with the creative staff. Despite being talented in the ring at times, he showed a lot of unprofessional traits outside of the ring.
12 Teddy Hart
Finding a place to start with Teddy Hart’s (literal) rise and fall spans several years. He actually burned bridges with a number of companies during the early part of his wrestling career that at one time showed plenty of promise for his incredible aerial abilities. He was one of the youngest developmental talents signed by WWE before he was released in 2002 due to having a negative attitude.
His attitude problems continued during a 2003 show with Ring of Honor where he was part of a scramble cage match with several aerial artists. Despite being on the losing end of the match, Hart would climb the cage multiple times to perform high-risk moves on the other wrestlers who weren’t expecting the spots. That hurt his opportunities with other companies like TNA Wrestling. It seems like he has matured a bit as he now wrestles on the independent circuit across the globe.
11 Mr. Kennedy
During the original brand split in the WWE, Mr. Kennedy looked like he was going to be one of the brightest superstars in the company. He had a great look and also had a talented and strong voice to do promos with. Not many wrestlers are very good at doing his own introductions, which made him a very unique member of the WWE roster. However, he was his own worst enemy when it came to job security.
After coming back from an injury during a 2009 show, Kennedy apparently looked like he hurt his wrist during a 10-man tag team match. But he revealed in an interview a year later that he was criticized and accused of dropping Randy Orton on his neck. This led to him and John Cena both reportedly making claims that Kennedy was unsafe to work with and was eventually released only days after the tag team match in question.
10 Juventud Guerrera
Professional wrestling fans from the 1990s will agree that Juventud Guerrera – whether he wore a mask or went without – was one of the stars of the WCW’s Cruiserweight division that made the company extremely popular during the Monday Night War. But he had a number of problems where he actually had the dishonor of being fired by both WCW and WWE. During a tour in Australia in 2000, Guerrera was apparently under the influence of PCP and was found naked and screaming in a hallway that led to an arrest and termination.
Years later during a feud with Kid Kash for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship, Guerrera was not happy with the booking and would apparently “sandbag” Kid Kash by not cooperating in the ring and also hitting Kash with moves that he was previously told were banned. It was part of an unprofessional attitude that was only hurting his image with the company; even if he was one of the more talented cruiserweights the company had.
Leon White has been known for being a pretty stiff worker in professional wrestling history and sometimes, that got him in trouble. But one brawl in particular got cost him his job with WCW in 1995. The incident occurred backstage while he was talking with Paul Orndorff, a former wrestler who was working for the company behind the scenes. What started as a friendly conversation led to a misunderstanding, according to the side presented by Vader in 2012.
Orndorff would get up to Vader, who would slap the former “Mr. Wonderful.” It was powerful enough to knock him to the ground. Vader would be fired for the incident, but the unfortunate news was that Vader would actually lose this fight in the end. Vader claimed that he didn’t want to fight, but Orndorff would land a few good punches of his own to Vader’s face. He has said since the incident that he regrets it ever happened.
8 Honky Tonk Man
Roy Farris was once a memorable mid-carder for the WWE as he was the man to have the longest reign with the Intercontinental Championship that lasted 64 total weeks that spanned between 1987 and 1988. But he would see his career falter as he would eventually be released from the WWE in 1991. A few years would pass before fans would see him again on television with WCW for a brief time in 1994, which included a match where he faced against Johnny B. Badd for the WCW World Television Championship.
Farris admits that he wasn’t happy with not having a guaranteed contract, nor was he happy with how he was paid. This led to a conversation where he told Eric Bischoff that he couldn’t “carry Vince’s jock strap” and made other negative remarks. Bischoff apparently ranks the Honky Tonk Man as one of his favorite pink slips to sign in his career with wrestling.
The idea of a heel superstar wearing island-themed shirts and spitting chewed up apple into the faces of his opponents seemed silly at first. But ever since his 2004 main roster debut in WWE where he defeated John Cena to win the United States Championship, Carlito was able to develop himself as one of the best-rounded athletes in the company with great matches against some of the top talents in the company – virtually winning every title except a world heavyweight championship.
But in May 2010, it was revealed that Carlito committed his first violation of the WWE’s Talent Wellness Program. While that would usually only warrant a 30-day suspension with no pay, Carlito refused to go to a company-mandated rehabilitation facility to get help for the apparent substance addiction. His refusal led to him being terminated. Despite having a talented career in the WWE, this is a case of rules being rules.
6 Alberto Del Rio
While Alberto Del Rio is justified for taking a stand for the following incident, he was still deserving of being fired. Although Del Rio deserved to be fired for assaulting a coworker, it was shameful of the WWE not to fire the instigator as well.
The incident took place behind the scenes before an event in Laredo, Texas, in August 2014.
Cody Barbierri, a social media manager for WWE made a racist joke around Del Rio. The Mexican superstar would not stand for the joke and would demand an apology. When Barbierri reportedly just smiled and didn’t respond, Del Rio slapped him repeatedly.
Del Rio was released a few days later for “unprofessional conduct,” but he took the issue to court because he did not want to wait through the 90-day no compete clause. Del Rio would win and the social media manager in question apparently left the company only a few months after the incident.
All is well now as Del Rio has since returned to the WWE; Barbierri has not had the same luck.
5 Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy has not been known for using the best possible judgement, including an arrest in 2009 where police found drugs; now giving him a record that doesn’t allow him to wrestle in other countries. But Hardy’s troubles first began in 2003 when he was released from the WWE due to having failed multiple tests and refusal to go to rehabilitation. There was also the concern that his in-ring abilities were deteriorating.
In 2006, Hardy was in the middle of a run with TNA Wrestling that saw him start great but falter into old habits. He was meant to appear on the pre-show of the company’s pay-per-view in December 2005, but was a no-show. This led to a suspension that kept him off television until he was released a few months later. Hardy would go back to WWE for a few years before the problems with drug tests and him feeling burnt out came up again.
4 Scott Hall
It’s funny how the WWE’s “bad guy” from the 1990s would actually become a bad guy. His issues with drugs and alcohol, along with negative decisions, would lead to his deteriorating health – all of which are very well documented from the ESPN E:60 short documentary from 2011. Scott Hall was once on top of the WWE world, but his problems started to become apparent during his early 2000s run with the company with a match at WrestleMania X8.
There was the infamous Plane Ride from Hell where he was passed out. While not being part of any incident – one which will be mentioned later – Hall was released for a number of factors that included poor in-ring work. Hall would no-show TNA events between 2002 and 2005 before being released. He was given one final opportunity in 2006, only to get himself arrested and charged with disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest. ESPN can tell you the rest of the story with their famous 2011 short film.
3 Curt Hennig
While some names who would have been expected to be the reason for the infamous Plane Ride from Hell in 2002 were not involved (i.e. Scott Hall), Curt Hennig was surprisingly a big part of the controversy when the WWE was returning to the United States from a tour in the United Kingdom. Apparently, Hennig would try to pick a fight with WWE’s newest young star in Brock Lesnar.
The two had a brawl in the middle of the flight with Lesnar taking Hennig down and leaving the former “Mr. Perfect” unable to retaliate. The two were separated and it was a big reason why Hennig was terminated from his WWE contract.
It would be no surprise when Hennig later passed away at the age of 44 in 2003. Hennig had demons that he couldn’t shake and the Plane Ride from Hell was one of the first indicators that he had problems with addiction.
2 Kurt Angle
“It’s damn true” that Kurt Angle really made a successful transition from Olympic gold medalist to one of the most decorated in-ring competitors in professional wrestling history. Fans can recall plenty of memorable matches that were deserving of five-star ratings against names like Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, The Undertaker and many others. However, the WWE started to notice that his body was starting to wear out around 2006.
The reason that Angle was let go was because his physical health was not that great. Reasons vary from Angle not wanting to go to rehab to Angle outright quitting because he couldn't handle a full-time schedule anymore.
Angle even admitted that his body was beat up during that time. He would shortly sign a new contract with TNA Wrestling and has wrestled some quality matches. But fans who have seen him wrestle since then can agree that he hasn’t looked as good as his prime and might be wrestling on borrowed time as he continued to take bookings on the independent and international circuit.
1 Hulk Hogan
There’s no denying how big of an impact Hulk Hogan made in wrestling history as one of the first superstars to become a part of American pop culture with movies and championship reigns taking place in the 1980s and early 1990s. However, even the mightiest men in any sport can fall when they say the wrong things at the wrong time. Audio files were released during his court battle with Gawker Media where he made racial remarks regarding someone that his daughter was dating.
The aftermath of his termination in July 2015 included his removal from the WWE website, leaving the judging panel for Tough Enough and even ruined a comedy gimmick that kept Curtis Axel running “wild” with “Axelmania.”
It might have cost him work from WWE, but Hogan did win the war with Gawker, as he was awarded $115 million for damages, plus another $25 million in additional punitive damages.