Wrestling is filled with a lot of egos, that comes with the territory. Ego and pride work together and can mix things up with some rough stuff as guys will clash with promoters constantly and that leads to problems. Problems that can lead to some major bad stuff. Look at Montreal for a key example of what happens when a wrestler and a promoter collide over what each one wants. It’s happened a lot, not just in WWE but other times and was pretty common in the old territory days when a guy could just jump from one place to another. In the days before contracts were the norm, there wasn’t much a promoter could do if their guy wanted to jump ship and just ply his trade elsewhere.
Even today, it can be an occurrence although a wrestler does have to make sure he has options in line before he does so. After all, crossing Vince McMahon is a very dangerous idea and a few guys have regretted it. While some waited for their contracts to run out before going, others just bolted out of the blue with no warning and often leaving things quite in the lurch.
It's hard for wrestlers today to get any leverage because everyone understands that WWE really is the only major game in town. When WCW was around, at least wrestlers had the option to work for another promotion and make just as much, if not more money. If a wrestler today were to walk out on WWE, their options are fairly limited in terms of making money in the industry. It must be something pretty drastic today for someone to walk out.
Here are 15 stars who suddenly left their companies for a variety of reasons and how much it affected them and those promotions big time.
This one is more than just a walk-out, it’s truly an epic tale. Brought in with the gimmick of a former prison inmate seeking revenge on the Big Bossman, Kevin Wacholz was set in a long feud with Bossman and then The Undertaker. In late 1992, Nailz was angered over a paycheck and stormed into Vince’s office for an argument that according to witnesses (including Bret Hart) turned violent with Nailz screaming and then smacking McMahon and trying to choke him. Needless to say, Nailz left before he could be fired and an ugly series of lawsuits with Wachloz also testifying that Vince ordered him to take drugs during the federal trial in 1994. Now retired, Wachloz shows no apologies for what he did and it remains one of the more infamous walkouts ever.
14 Rick Rude
Rude had been a star as WCCW champion but left suddenly after losing the title in 1986. He and Manny Fernandez won the NWA tag team championships and were planned for a long run but in early 1987, Rude jumped over to WWE and the NWA had to use a pre-taped non-title match with the Rock N Roll Express as the “title change.” His WWE career came to an end in 1990 as he was fired after some run-ins backstage and a pay dispute, journeying to WCW.
By 1997, he had to take time off from a back injury and began working with DX on a “pay per appearance” basis. Without a contract, Rude was able to jump to WCW, doing so in protest of the Montreal incident. He made history as the only man to appear on RAW and Nitro on the same night.
13 Randy Savage
To this day, there are arguments over why, after so long and so much success, the Macho Man walked out on WWE in 1994. Most say it was money, others that he was lured over by Hogan and the famed urban legend of Savage having an affair with Stephanie. Regardless, it was jarring for Vince to announce on the air that Savage had left and robbed WWE of one of its best performers and icons.
Savage would have a good time in WCW but it was obvious McMahon never got over his abrupt exit as Savage basically became persona non grata on various DVDs and such until his death.
12 Jeff Jarrett
Jarrett has always been intriguing in thinking he’s a much bigger star than he truly is and that ego has driven him on. After runs as IC champion, he left WWE in 1996 to join WCW, becoming a “free agent” in a feud with the Four Horsemen and holding the U.S. title. In 1997, he suddenly showed up on RAW, bad-mouthing WCW and pushing himself as a star. His tenure was good with reigns as IC and tag team champion but in late 1999, decided to jump back to WCW. Jarrett basically held up Vince for about $300,000 in order to drop the IC title to Chyna at a PPV before going to WCW, a pretty ballsy move.
11 Brock Lesnar & Goldberg
It was the walk-out that ended in one of the most bizarre battles in history. After two years as one of the biggest stars in the company, Brock Lesnar was still a dominant force and while Goldberg hadn’t been used well, he was still a huge star in his own right. After months of feuding, they were set for WrestleMania XX but behind the scenes, both men had issues with WWE’s pushes and money. Brock had grown to resent the business and also had dreams of a pro football career and thus, days before Mania, he gave his notice.
Goldberg made it clear he wasn’t going to re-up his contract either. Thus, their battle was home to a massively hostile reaction from the fans who felt betrayed at both of them and made it obvious in one of the wilder reactions ever.
10 Lex Luger
Luger had already been signed on with JCP in 1987 when he had his infamous cage match with Bruiser Brody, who no-sold everything Luger did and thus a ticked off Luger just walked out during the match. After tenures in WCW and WWE, Luger was well established. When Eric Bischoff offered Luger a modest deal to join WCW, he figured Luger would balk at the lower amount but instead, Luger agreed, putting off resigning with WWE.
Realizing he had the coup of a lifetime, Bischoff made sure Luger appeared on the very first “Nitro,” a day after he’d done a WWE house show. It truly kicked off the Monday Night Wars, a stunning move and while Luger’s career afterward would be so-so, his arrival is still a historic moment for jumping ships.
9 Sgt. Slaughter
A huge star in his time, Slaughter had joined WWE fresh off a fantastic run as the heel tag team champion in JCP and after a brief heel arrival, he was turned face for a feud with the Iron Sheik. Slaughter was taking off bigger than ever as an American hero and seemed ready to take the next step. He was so sure of it that he asked Vince McMahon for six weeks paid vacation in addition to bonuses. When Vince balked, Slaughter walked, convinced McMahon would back down.
He was very, very wrong as he was cast out, taking years on the scene like the AWA and when he did return, it was as the “Iraqi sympathizer.” Slaughter himself has acknowledged making a bad move as he made the mistake of thinking he could beat McMahon and it cost him dearly.
It’s probably a move she regrets today but was pretty bold for the time. After riding high as WWE women’s champion, Alundra Blayze, Madusa Miceli was informed the division was being phased out over budget cuts. Naturally ticked, Madusa accepted an offer from WCW and showed up on Nitro to dump the title belt into a garbage bin and bad-mouth WWE. Another move that did not please Vince McMahon as he basically blacklisted Madusa for years afterward and her failings in WCW just added to it, making this a poor decision on her part.
7 Scott Hall and Kevin Nash
It’s a walk-out that changed the course of wrestling. Hall and Nash were grousing over lack of decent pay (forgetting how they were paid better than most of the roster). Both men, however, gave verbal agreements to Vince that they were going to re-sign with WWE. All of a sudden, Hall and Nash gave McMahon their notice that they were jumping ship. Hall didn't even bother telling Vince in person, informing him via fax. The pair then showed little courtesy for the company as they pulled off the infamous “Curtain Call”. They couldn't be punished, so Triple H was basically left to eat the dirt.
The pair were immediately pushed as the Outsiders in WCW and would soon elevate WCW to its greatest heights. While Vince doesn’t seem as upset now, you can imagine his anger in the past at how these two backtracked on an agreement and defected to the rival company.
By mid-1999, it was becoming clear that the tide of the Monday Night War had turned and WCW was getting the worst of it. With the old-timers Hogan, Sting, Nash, Hall and others dominating and bad storylines abounding, a suspension of Ric Flair just made things worse so Eric Bischoff called a locker room meeting to air things out. It backfired big time as Bischoff ran down how no one outside of Hogan and Piper had ever drawn money and slammed the younger guys for not being grateful for what they had. Bischoff then literally pointed at the door and said anyone who didn’t like the situation could walk out.
Without hesitation, Raven stood up and marched out the door. Bischoff thought it was a bluff but Raven held to it, was released and soon jumped back to ECW. It showed Bischoff was losing control and that Raven wasn’t afraid to hold to his own beliefs, a bold move.
5 CM Punk
Punk was always notable for being his own guy, saying whatever he wanted at any time and not backing down. That’s what got him massively over and made him a productive champion for WWE, including his infamous “pipe bomb” promo slamming the company. However, as 2014 dawned, Punk was making his feelings more known about how he didn’t like the direction of the company.
The night after the Royal Rumble, Punk told Vince and Triple H he was going home. He was then suspended for no-showing events and was informed of his release the day of his wedding. Punk was soon all over the place bad-mouthing the company and its direction, taking to various forums to talk on the company’s treatment of their injured stars (like Punk himself) and their total lack of direction. It’s made him more of an icon than ever before and proves Punk is a guy who never backs down from upsetting the status quo.
4 Steve Austin
After four years as the biggest star in the company, Stone Cold was feeling a bit rough in 2002. He groused that he was an afterthought on the WrestleMania X-8 card. He was still hurting from various neck injuries and was making his feelings known in online postings on how he wasn’t happy with his role. The kicker came when Austin was informed of plans to lose to Brock Lesnar in an unadvertised match on RAW, an idea he felt completely wasted a potential moneymaking feud. Thus, Austin no-showed RAW and left the company, a huge move for the time. Fences would be mended for him to return a year later but the walk-out of Austin really was the final sign the “Attitude Era” was done.
3 The Ultimate Warrior
Given his amazing ego and…unique outlook on life, it’s no surprise the Warrior had a lot of clashes with Vince McMahon. Each maintained they were the ones who ended their partnership in 1991 as the Warrior left WWE right after SummerSlam despite still set for more dates. He made a return a year later, set up for a major title run against Randy Savage and the two to be partners at the Survivor Series. But, just days before the card, after tons of promotion, Warrior was suspended for using growth hormones, skipped dates in retaliation and was soon gone.
He returned in 1996 but once again, it only lasted a few months after yet another massive clash with McMahon over a breach of contract and the Warrior was gone. He had a short-lived WCW tenure that also ended badly and was basically out of wrestling until his Hall of Fame induction right before his death. All this added to the bad buzz on Warrior that still hasn’t gone totally away and how his greatness was hurt by these exits.
2 Hulk Hogan
Hogan’s first rise to fame was in the AWA, boosted to huge stardom and selling out houses against champion Nick Bockwinkel. However, Verne Gagne seemed to not understand Hogan was the future and refused to give him the title. That, coupled with a fallout over the money rights for merchandise, drove Hogan to bolt from the AWA with dates left open to sign with Vince, who did realize Hogan was the future and pushed Hulkamania to the moon.
That relationship soured in 1993 when Hogan made a big return after a year away and pushed his way to get the WWE title. However, he and Vince had a major falling out and thus, after dropping the belt to Yokozuna, Hogan left and would later join WCW. There, he had another huge falling out when Vince Russo went too far in his infamous Bash at the Beach 2000 promo and thus he left for real, suing Russo for defamation of character.
It all shows Hogan’s amazing ego.
1 The Radicalz
To many, this was pretty much the final nail in the coffin of WCW. The Monday Night War had seen a lot of twists but this was quite something else. Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn were four of the best workers WCW had and deserved a lot more. WCW ignored them for the old-timers and they were shoved around with Kevin Sullivan making it clear he wasn’t going to give them any breaks as booker (especially given how he and Benoit hated each other). So all four men went to boss Bill Busch and demanded, their releases, which they got.
Thus the January 31st, 2000 RAW opened with these four showing up in the front row and soon becoming focal points of a big feud of DX and the various faces. It boosted all four to a new level of success (Benoit and Guerrero especially) and cost WCW four guys at a bad time and truly showcased how losing some talent can hurt badly.