Younger fans of professional wrestling have always looked at the superstars on television almost like real-life comic book superheroes who fought against super villains. Many adults can reflect on some of the stars they admired who seemed like positive role models on television. They might either be children or teenagers when they see an opportunity to have a chance to meet their wrestling heroes.
These chance opportunities can happen at a restaurant, an airport or right outside a wrestling venue. There’s that feeling of nervousness and excitement combined into a strange feeling. You build up the courage to walk up and ask for an autograph, maybe a quick picture. But the response you get is not what you expected. Sometimes, it’s a flat-out “no.” Maybe they ignore you. Other times, they just give you a dirty look. You walk away feeling defeated. That earlier combination of emotions is now replaced with anger and disappointment. “How can [insert name here] be such a jerk?”
You aren’t alone. Sure, not all professional wrestlers are like this. Even if they are, there might be a reason that isn’t being taken into consideration. That doesn’t remove the negative experience you had.
In addition to these types of circumstances, there are also past offenses that wrestlers commit that have also led to being labeled jerks. Maybe they were cheating on a spouse, caused drama backstage or some other type of offense. Fans will hear about it thanks to various wrestling news sites.
Wrestling fans like you have publicly vocalized their disdain for wrestlers they've encountered – whether they deserve it or not – giving them the label of “jerk.” There are other labels, but we’ll stay closer to the PG appropriate nicknames. The following are the top 15 wrestlers who portrayed heroes on television and who have come across as jerks in real life.
15 Billy Gunn
A legend in his own right during the Attitude Era – thanks to the success of the New Age Outlaws – Billy Gunn has had some negativity towards the fans at various signings. While that is one reason, many consider him a jerk because of what he did away from the wrestling ring. Back in 2010, Billy Gunn was caught having an affair, after his mistress brought it to the public eye.
Phone calls between the two were posted by the mistress on YouTube that revealed she let his wife know about their relationship through social media. The calls also include her threatening blackmail and him claiming that she was harassing him. However, it takes a real jerk to cheat on his or her spouse and Gunn joined that category. There was also a huge age different between Gunn, who was 46 at the time, and the mistress, 24.
14 Kevin Nash
Whether he was Diesel in the WWE or under his real name while competing in WCW, Kevin Nash was admired by a lot of wrestling fans. Nash has often made a lot of comments towards fans that were undeserving. There have been times where he has picked on certain fans for being fans of the hardcore genre. His social media account has seen him taking shots at other fans when they are criticizing something he had done in his career.
One of the other things he’s done was actually make comments about The Rock being homosexual. His comments were unwarranted at the time. Maybe he tried to take a shot against The Rock because of having some jealousy over not having been in as big of movies. Still, there’s no excuse for making accusations regarding something as personal as that. His attitude built a reputation that stuck with him for decades.
13 Hardcore Holly
Maybe one of the more underrated mid-card wrestlers in WWE, it can be easy to overlook the hard work he put into being a WWE superstar. Heck, he even got through the terrible “Sparkplug” gimmick. But fans have grown to learn that Hardcore Holly has quite the negative attitude off-screen. A big part of that comes from when he was a guest coach on the WWE’s Tough Enough show.
Matt Cappotelli was one of the contestants of the first season of Tough Enough. Holly might have gotten a little too rough with Cappotelli that included some of the stiffest shots seen. He claimed that it was meant to be a message that wrestling is a tough business. Cappotelli’s eye was swollen shut and he was bleeding from the mouth by the end of the exhibition match. Fans were not happy with what they saw because it wasn’t a necessary way to teach that important lesson.
12 Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy might not be the most popular brother in his family, but he created a dedicated following from his time in the WWE and even in TNA. People who have enjoyed seeing Matt Hardy, even before he became broken, were wanting to see him for an autograph or picture. However, a number of fans have taken to message boards to write about how he has rudely declined autograph requests.
Some fans have even claimed that the older Hardy brother has even shouted expletives at them without stopping in his tracks, even when walking into an arena before the show, where the crowd is usually mixed with a combination of adults and children. There’s never a valid reason to shout an obscenity at a kid, especially when all they are asking for is an autograph. It might have actually been better for him if he would have just kept walking without saying anything at all.
11 Randy Orton
Well before Randy Orton became a 12-time world heavyweight champion in WWE, he had a variety of personal issues during his early years in professional wrestling. Even before he started following the footsteps of his father, Cowboy Bob Orton, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps right out of high school in 1998. That military career was short when he was let go after not following orders.
There’s also the story from 2005 about how former WWE Diva Rochelle was harassed by Orton because she didn’t know who he was at first. Orton has also been quiet with the fans – whether he was a face or a heel in the WWE. It’s somewhat surprising to consider how someone with as many horror stories as Orton would have a long, successful wrestling career. Things have turned around since then, likely with age and maturity winning out in the end. By the way, recent experiences with fans approaching him have been positive with The Viper in recent years.
10 Bob Backlund
One of the memorable stories told on Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling podcast came from an interview with Tommy Dreamer. As a young wrestling fan, Dreamer was a huge fan of Bob Backlund. Well before his time as the life coach for Darren Young, Backlund was a babyface world champion from the 1970s of the WWE. Dreamer one time attended a show where he made a sign that he wanted Backlund to sign.
According to Dreamer, Backlund told him to wait outside the arena to get that autograph, but when Backlund walked out of the building, he snubbed Dreamer. He talked about how he felt hurt as a young kid both with Cabana’s podcast, but also in a column for Slam Sports – stating that he never cheered for Backlund again. That bridge was mended sometime in 2012 when the two met and Backlund apologized, later sending an autograph picture to Dreamer in the mail.
9 Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy has had quite a roller coaster of a career. While he has won world championships for various promotions, he’s had some issues. This includes failed drug tests in WWE, his 2009 arrest and the time he tried to compete at a TNA pay-per-view while obviously under some kind of influence. Regardless, he has developed quite a following of wrestling fans who consider him a hero in their eyes. The times that fans have had a chance to interact with Hardy include a few positives, but mostly negative.
There is a story one fan has shared about how he and some fellow service members in the U.S. Army were in uniform at a TNA show. Both backstage and during the show, Hardy seemed to avoid them and give them negative looks. “Brother Nero” has also been a name that has been thrown around various wrestling message boards as being short with fans or even ignoring their autograph and picture requests completely.
Bill Goldberg is arguably one of the biggest stars from WCW during the Monday Night War. A big part of that came from his unprecedented, undefeated streak of 173 matches to start his professional wrestling career. However, there were a number of other wrestlers who didn’t seem to like him behind the scenes. One of those men was Chris Jericho, who would explain his dislike for Goldberg during a 2014 episode of his podcast, Talk is Jericho.
The two actually had an issue while both were in WWE. Jericho said he confronted the former WCW World Heavyweight Champion about something he said and the two got into a fight. Jericho apparently put the former WCW powerhouse into a headlock in which he couldn’t fight his way out. It’s funny considering how Jericho’s character in WCW demanded to challenge “Greenberg,” but never actually got the chance back then to face him.
7 Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka
Jimmy Snuka was an inspiration to a lot of the high-flyers we’ve seen in the 1990s and 2000s that helped make cruiserweight wrestling as exciting as it is today. It all started with that leap from a steel cage back in 1982 against Bob Backlund. Despite being one of the fan favorites back in the 1980s, Snuka had actually come across as a jerk when fans shared their stories of trying to meet him after events.
However, there are many who were shocked to hear that he was involved with a murder investigation involving his girlfriend in a Pennsylvania hotel room. His girlfriend died from brain injuries that may have been caused by being struck with an object. While it was a cold case for more than 30 years, recent investigation has finally led to murder charges being filed against the now 73-year-old Snuka, almost not recognizable from when he was one of wrestling’s biggest stars.
6 Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels was a different man during the 1990s. His book, Wrestling For My Life, chronicled the constant attitude problems he had when he was one of the biggest stars in the Attitude Era in WWE. He also admitted to his addiction to pills and had other issues that he said made him a pretty big jerk back then. Fans who had a chance to meet him during the 1990s would tend to agree with that statement.
Wrestling fans have taken to the internet to tell others about their “horror stories” about the younger Michaels, who would attend an autograph signing event and leave after an hour while many fans were waiting. Not to mention that he was described as surrounding himself with a bubble of security guards at these types of fan functions. However, the good news is that Michaels has obviously changed shortly after finding his Christian faith. No fans have complained about meeting him at recent book signing events.
5 Dusty Rhodes
The American Dream Dusty Rhodes had famous promos from the 1980s wherein he talked about representing the working man. A perfect example was the “Hard Times” promo against Ric Flair during a feud for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship during the early days of World Championship Wrestling under Jim Crockett Promotions. Based on all of that, it might be surprising to see Rhodes on a list of real-life jerks in the first place.
Unfortunately, The American Dream has come across as a bit of a jerk to fans. There have been multiple testimonies on various message boards claiming that Rhodes had often ignored them as they tried to see him after various WWE shows. No autographs, no pictures and not even a wave to acknowledge them. While it could be cases of him being busy and not noticing, it still does come across in a negative light among the wrestling fan base.
4 CM Punk
There is a big divide among the wrestling community in regards to how they view CM Punk. On one side of the coin, his no-nonsense attitude and telling things like they are have been a breath of fresh air that many fans do appreciate. However, other fans feel that he is standoffish and comes across as a “jerk” – once again, keeping it PG. There are some who have told stories about walking up to Punk and either being completely ignored or given a look that screams, “Get out of my face.”
However, there are about as many fans who have had positive experiences when they approach Punk politely. It is understandable for a wrestler to want to be respected and to reward fans who do so, but that doesn’t take away that “jerk” image that others have assigned. Maybe part of it has to do with when you happen to run into him.
3 Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior was one of the most popular superstars the WWE had during the transition from the 1980s into the 1990s. Many fans are aware of his issues with WWE management that led to him suing Vince McMahon over millions he felt was owed to him. While Warrior was a top wrestling star, many of his peers looked down on him. Bret Hart would tell a story that led to fans looking negatively on the Ultimate Warrior.
Hart once told a story about how there was a child who was sick with cancer on a stretcher near the dressing room. He was from the Make-A-Wish Foundation and wanted to meet his hero in The Ultimate Warrior. While other wrestlers talked to to the boy, Warrior walked past the stretcher, saying to wait a minute. He never gave the child and his family that meeting, which Hart said made his dislike for Warrior grow even more.
2 Hulk Hogan
Professional wrestling, and seemingly all of pop culture, was dominated by Hulkamania running wild in the 1980s. Hulk Hogan was the biggest star who not only won world championships for both WWE and WCW, but also appeared in a number of movies that included an appearance in the Rocky franchise. Hogan was the biggest face at the time with fans – young and old – considering him a hero who was a “Real American.”
But Hogan has had a fall from grace in recent years when some of the audio from the leaked sex tape showed him making racial comments regarding his daughter dating an African-American. Obviously he had an issue about his daughter’s relationship and even admitted to being a racist. The comments going public led to him losing his Legends contract with WWE and other work. Hogan has since sued Gawker Media for the tape being leaked and won, but that has had no impact on his new reputation.
1 John Cena
John Cena has been the current generation’s version of Hulk Hogan. He has taken over the role of being WWE’s top request from the Make-A-Wish foundation with children rooting for the leader of Cenation. However, he is also not a perfect human being. In fact, Cena has actually made decisions that led to him getting a divorce from his first wife. It all started with rumors going around that he was having an affair with someone on the WWE roster.
Kenny Dykstra, known best for being a member of the Spirit Squad, publicly accused Cena of ruining his relationship with Mickie James and being responsible for him losing his job with WWE. He would later file the papers for his divorce from Elizabeth Huberdeau, who would comment that she always felt he was cheating behind her back. Some fans have felt this has ruined Cena’s seemingly perfect, clean-cut image. Whether that's enough to undo all of his good charitable endeavors is questionable, however.