Nobody likes getting screwed over by their employer. Nobody. But, sometimes all you have to do is look in the mirror and realize that maybe they aren't the ones who are solely to blame. The business of sports entertainment is a cutthroat industry and it never works out perfectly for absolutely everyone. These wrestlers on this list are only a handful of examples who could have made much better choices than the ones they made, like drug abuse, alcohol related arrests, breaking kayfabe on Twitter, or even subtle acts of genuine chivalry (you know who I'm talking about).
This list is also going to show a lot of the dark side of professional wrestling. Many of these names aren't going to shock you as their stories are pretty well known by now, but needless to say that they simply screwed themselves with their poor choices at the time. Others made the list simply by happenstance and went on to continue having tremendous careers well after the fact. One wrestler in particular was even blacklisted for about 20 years over a poor choice they made...
WWE is certainly not the easiest company in the world to break into and these people know that best. Most of the wrestlers featured on this list were/are pretty prominent names, too, so it just goes to show that everyone makes mistakes. It's how you deal with those mistakes that matters the most. We hope you enjoy our top 15 wrestlers who made mistakes while on their professional wrestling journey!
15 Jake "The Snake" Roberts
Nobody in the wrestling business embodies the ring psychology aspect of the business more than Jake "the Snake" Roberts. Paul Heyman described Jake as a performer who simply "had 'it,' a guy who had that intangible, a guy who truly came through the camera and captivated your attention." But personal demons -- like many others you'll see on this list -- derailed his career in the 1990s; drug and alcohol abuse practically controlled Jake's life for decades. But that's only one half of the story of how he and WWE had a falling out: in 1992, Pat Patterson stepped down as a writer for the WWE and Jake was told that he would be taking his place, but that never happened because Vince decided to keep Pat's position vacant. Jake asked for his release immediately, and he mentions in his "Pick Your Poison" DVD that he regrets ever making that decision.
14 Titus O'Neil
Talk about one of the more ridiculous ways to get suspended from WWE, right? Daniel Bryan was finishing his heartfelt retirement speech in his relatively close hometown of Seattle (he's from Aberdeen, WA), and every superstar on the roster was at the top of the ramp paying their respects to his achievements within WWE. At the very end of the show Bryan walked through the crowd of wrestlers and Vince started to follow behind. Titus, who was simply trying to show his common courtesy, allegedly grabbed Vince's arm and said, "Ladies first, Vince." Apparently Vince was none too happy with the exchange and notified Titus of his day suspension before SmackDown, causing Titus to lose his appearance -- and subsequent payday -- at WrestleMania 32.
13 Jeff Hardy
Tales of Jeff Hardy's self-destruction are a dime a dozen. I had previously written that within the span of a year Hardy went from WWE Intercontinental Champion, to a second drug related suspension, to his house burning down, all the way to a World Championship run, but his biggest downfall as a wrestler were the times that he either no-showed events or showed up in no shape to perform because of his drug habits. His "rock bottom" moment was at TNA's Victory Road PPV when he was set to face Sting in the main event, only to show up clearly inebriated and cause the match to end after only 90 seconds. He was subsequently released from TNA, but he has since been sober and has mentioned his interest in returning to WWE for one last run with the company, though it's tough to say whether or not WWE is willing to give him another chance considering his volatile history.
12 Triple H
Hunter Hearst Helmsley was set to win the King of the Ring in 1996, which was a popular tool that WWE used to show who they considered to be their next top star in the company. However, the infamous "Curtain Call" at Madison Square Garden changed history forever. Hall and Nash were leaving WWE and Shawn Michaels was the current champ, so Vince sat down with Triple H and explained that the only person that he can justifiably punish would be him. As Vince said, "You're going to have to learn to eat s**t and like it," to which Triple H agreed. He spent the next year losing just about every single match and the plan for his King of the Ring victory was immediately changed to have their next choice in line win instead: Stone Cold Steve Austin. All in all I'd say things worked out quite all right for Triple H and WWE in the end.
Lana has been a controversial figure in the WWE seemingly as soon as she made her television debut. She got over with the crowd practically immediately and things could not have been going better for the "Ravishing Russian," but a major faux pas on Twitter caused her undoing and the heat that she has been receiving backstage (and in boardroom meetings) has been palpable. Apparently her rise to fame was going so well that she was getting trained to become ring ready and fully join the roster of WWE Divas, but after she announced her real life engagement to Rusev (all while still technically in a storyline angle with Dolph Ziggler and Summer Rae), those plans were immediately tossed to the side.
10 Scott Hall
Oh boy, where to start with the bad guy? Drugs? Check. Alcohol? Check. Personal problems that destroyed his relationship with his family? Check. Scott Hall is the perfect case study for how not to let the dark side of professional wrestling take a hold of you. Sure, Hall achieved great success with WWE and WCW, but the reason for his downfall is simply because he became unreliable and solely dependent on drugs and alcohol. He became estranged from his family and barely talked to his son throughout his childhood, and as his ex-wife stated in an ESPN E-60 documentary, "Scott had a choice between his family or drugs and wrestling; you can't have both." Hall has also stated that he's wrecked about eight Cadillacs and has been arrested for DUIs multiple times, which caused him to stop driving altogether because he knows he's going to drive drunk. Who knows how his career could have been different had he made better choices from the beginning...
9 Juventud Guerrera
I know when I think of The Rock, I instantly think of Juventud Guerrera, seeing as though that they were on the exact same level of fame during their respective runs in WWE, right? After all, The Rock was a driving force during the Attitude Era, and Juvi was... not even close. While Juvi, or "The Juice" (as he likes to be called), would imitate his more famous counterpart on WCW television, this didn't sit too well with most of the WWE locker room when he signed in mid 2005, and officials were probably looking for any reason to get out from the egomaniacal trainwreck that was the Juventud Guerrera experiment. They got their chance when Juvi was asked to tone down his typical aerial assault (notably his 450 splash, which had been banned due to him botching it at an earlier event causing a several facial fractures to Paul London), and when he continued to perform them anyway, they showed him the door. The Juice only lasted about six months, while The Rock is still cookin'... well, here and there.
8 Road Warrior Hawk
Well! Yet another story of self-destruction causing a disconnect between business and personal agendas. Road Warrior Hawk was aggressive, callous, and a heavy abuser of any substance that he could get his hands on. Caught in the middle of all that was Road Warrior Animal, who voiced his opinion on the fallout from their rise to fame in WWE throughout the '80s and early '90s. Animal said that Hawk was quick tempered and would be very short with his words when it came time to talk with Vince, and one of those times didn't end so well (due to his alcohol and drug dependency issues) when he flat out quit the company over a dispute with their gimmick involving a wooden dummy named Rocco. Had Hawk realized that the Road Warriors (or Legion of Doom in WWE) could have continued being a dominant force for many years with the WWE, maybe things would have worked out better for the duo in the end. They had a short comeback stint as LOD 2000, but a controversial storyline involving Hawk's personal life caused them to quit the company once and for all.
7 Daniel Bryan
It's never easy battling your way from the independents all the way to WWE, so when you finally get a chance to crack into the industry leader in sports entertainment, the last thing you want to do is get fired for doing something that you didn't really consider to be all that bad. That was the case for Daniel Bryan, who went a little too far for Vince's liking when he choked ring announcer Justin Roberts with his own tie while the rest of Nexus destroyed the announcing area and the ring itself. Oh, and he also spit in the face of John Cena, who, much to his credit, actually vouched for Daniel Bryan when all was said and done. Bryan was eventually rehired after the incident, but not without an example being made of him.
6 Alundra Blayze
This should be a no-brainer, but it has to be said anyway. Alundra Blayze (Debrah Miceli) and Eric Bischoff knew exactly what they were doing when they had her walk out with the WWE Women's Championship belt on that fateful Monday Nitro and throw it into the garbage can on live television. The long-lasting aftermath, however, may not have been known to Miceli at the time. She had recently left WWE after they released her from her contract and folded their Women's division -- so she had little choice but to accept new employment elsewhere -- but to burn the biggest of all bridges just for a ratings stunt? Miceli was legitimately blacklisted from WWE for almost 20 years as a result of the incident, but she was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2015 where she gave one of the most memorable and heartfelt speeches of the year.
Winners of the WWE King of the Ring tournament typically went on to have pretty decent runs of varying success directly afterward, but King Mabel is widely considered to be one of the bigger flops that management had high hopes for after awarding him the crown in 1995. Kevin Nash described in a shoot interview about how unsafe Mabel was in the ring during that period, particularly with a move that required him to essentially Bonzai Drop his massive backside onto a prone opponent's lower back, which had injured Nash and several other important wrestlers on the roster. This, along with the time he legitimately broke The Undertaker's orbital bone from multiple leg drops, led to his push being thrown away completely and he was released from the company shortly after.
Yokozuna's massive weight was his blessing and ultimately his curse. Billed weights have always been a laughable part of the WWE (I mean, do they really even matter?), but I don't doubt for a second that Yokozuna went from ≈500 pounds in his debut to ≈650 pounds a few short years later. WWE intervened on two separate occasions by taking him off of television in order to lose weight, the second time being his last chance with the company. Although he managed to lose a respectable 100 pounds, he was still well over WWE's limits (and even most states' medical clearance policies), forcing WWE to release him in 1996. It was at this time that Yokozuna decided to go in the opposite direction by intentionally gaining weight in order to try to break the world record for heaviest professional wrestler of all time (his goal was to be somewhere around 850 and 900 pounds). He briefly wrestled independently until his death from pulmonary edema in Liverpool, England in 2000.
3 Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler has always had a knack of rustling the feathers of those who hold his fate in the palm of their hands, especially when he didn't hold back about his feelings on John Cena and Randy Orton. Those two have arguably been the cornerstones of the company for well over a decade now, so when he said controversial things like "... if the universe gets behind you, you become a good guy; if they are against ya, then at least you're getting a reaction and you can go out there against John Cena and take his three moves, or whatever the deal is..." and "I wanna go out there and prove that they're wrong, prove [to] Triple H that he backed the wrong guy for the last 10 years..." while referring to Orton, you can imagine how well that went over with management. Ziggler is indeed a terrific wrestler, but maybe these are a couple of reasons that he hasn't been seen in a favorable way to certain WWE officials.
2 The Ultimate Warrior
Back in the early '90s, there was a wrestler who seemed like he was shot out of a cannon once his music hit. An instant powerhouse, The Ultimate Warrior easily got over with the crowd in a matter of weeks. However, this new-found super stardom quickly went to his head as he shot to the top of the card. Because he felt as though he was easily as popular as Hulk Hogan, he threatened Vince McMahon about no-showing events for which he had been booked months in advance. In a written letter to Vince dated July 10, 1991, he demanded the following: a $550,000 bonus for working WrestleMania (VII), four days off per pay period (excluding Pay-Per-Views), and essentially the same rate of pay as Hulk Hogan for their respective television appearances, telephone hotlines, media, and merchandise sales. But because Vince is a savvy businessman, he agreed to the terms and Warrior appeared at WrestleMania and Summerslam that year, only to be suspended for 90 days immediately afterward for "unprofessional conduct." McMahon also backed out on the terms that they had just agreed to in the letters because he knew that those conditions would be null and void given the ransom effort that Warrior was threatening WWE with by no-showing events he was contractually obligated to appear.
1 Bret Hart
Bret screwed Bret. You've heard that line a thousand times before, I'm sure. But enough time has passed to let the dust settle, so let's take a look at some questions that surround the infamous Montreal Screwjob. Was Bret right in refusing to put over Shawn on Canadian soil? Did Vince step over the line when he ordered to ring the bell? If you answered "no," and "well, it's Vince, so probably," then let's take a closer look. I don't think you can argue against Bret leaving WWE for WCW's paycheck at the time, but he definitely forced Vince -- by any means necessary -- to make sure that another wrestler didn't leave his company with his belt and his pride out on the line. WWE gave Bret every chance to agree on an ending that worked for both sides, but at the end of the day Bret chose his ego over the business, which is why he takes the number one slot on our list. Bret definitely screwed Bret, and it's even more apparent when you hear what other wrestlers have to say regarding their true feelings on the Hitman.