Wrestling is a business, and just like any other business, you have the barracudas and the minnows and you have people who are willing to step on a few toes and screw a few people over in order to get to the top.
At times, wrestling can be a cut-throat affair, with promoters and managers – the background people –getting involved not only to sensationalize storylines, but to ensure their own client continues to climb the WWE ladder of success, making it a more lucrative business for everyone involved. Often, wrestlers themselves engage in bullying and ill-treatment of their colleagues that gets overlooked by management for one reason or another.
There are times when some of this animosity is evident and spills out into the ring. But a lot of what goes on in wrestling takes place behind the scenes, in the locker rooms and board meetings – yes wrestlers do occasionally don a suit and have to attend these cooperate affairs! But just imagine what takes place in many instances when the cameras aren’t rolling. Jealous and competitive wrestlers targeting one another and engaging in behavior that is downright ugly and of course, clashes are bound to erupt. Inevitably, someone is bound to get hurt, whether its emotionally or getting fired.
When a wrestler gets unfairly treated or fired, many people are quick to point their fingers and put the blame on the athlete, but that’s not always the case. Don’t forget that much of what happens in wrestling is scripted, and that means things often happen in favor of the people at the top. In other instances, unfair treatment is just how things pan out.
Here are 15 wrestlers who were subjected to unfair treatment during their time in the sport because, after all, wrestling is a business and it’s inevitable that some people get caught in the crossfire.
15 William Regal
Regal’s treatment in 1998 may have been as a result of alcohol problems, but in reality he was just pushed aside to make room for Goldberg – an up-and-coming wrestler at the time. WCW did everything possible to push Goldberg to the top, so naturally, Regal had to get pushed further down the pecking order. A bout took place between the two on Monday Nitro - a bout which lasted six minutes, during which Regal’s moves caught Goldberg off-guard. It was supposed to be an extremely one-sided, short match in Goldberg’s favor, but Goldberg’s limitations were exposed. Of course, the bosses weren’t happy and consequently, Regal got the boot. However, Regal later claimed that he was told to make the match competitive – you just can’t make some people happy.
You’ve got to be brave to mix business and pleasure, especially in WWE. It can be difficult to separate fact from fiction, reality from scripted storylines, and if you get the two mixed up, it could have dire consequences. That’s what Chyna discovered in 2001 when she fell victim to political power play. She was introduced into the wrestling scene as a bodyguard, to the up and coming Triple H.
However, a storyline in 1999 involved Triple H and Stephanie McMahon becoming engaged on WWE programming, then becoming a power couple. Was it just a storyline? No, it was reality, and so after a heated argument with the management, Chyna decided she couldn’t go on in the sport and terminated her contract.
13 Sean Waltman
During Waltman’s time in the sport, wrestlers would work hard and party harder. However, many weren’t punished for their out-of-the-ring antics, regardless of how outlandish and over-the-top they were. But Waltman was one of the first to be made an example. Eric Bischoff justified his decision to fire Waltman as a cost-cutting measure, and waited when Waltman was injured to give him the news. Needless to say Waltman was furious, and this started a long-running feud with Bischoff when he made the switch to WWE.
12 Dawn Marie
Now many female wrestlers have been treated unfairly, but Dawn Marie would feel she bared the brunt of this unfair treatment after being bullied by Francine Fournier, pretty much on a weekly basis. Upon retiring, Dawn Marie revealed that these bullying antics would cause her to break down in tears. She was constantly being bombarded with insults, and referred to as an "it," even when they were just yards apart from one another. Dawn Marie asked for help from the management, a plea that fell on deaf ears.
11 Mickie James
Many people may think Mickie James is bonkers. She was involved in some crazy storylines during her time in the ring, but that didn’t warrant her getting the unfair treatment that she did. Over the years, she was systematically subjected to bullying from a number of wrestlers and divas, but Michelle McCool and Layla El were perhaps the worst of the perpetrators. They would constantly mock her about her weight and refer to her as ‘Piggy James’. Although it was a storyline, James has said it was one of the most difficult ones she’d had to take, and resembled the bullying nature of mean girls in the American school system, bringing back bad memories. While Michelle and Layla only did this on-screen, this stemmed from management feeling Mickie James had in fact gained too much weight.
10 Awesome Kong
Awesome Kong was released from TNA after decking Bubba the Love Sponge. Bubba was trashing the Haiti earthquake relief efforts, something that Kong was a part of, and so Kong took matters into her own hands and gave Bubba a beat-down. Despite the fact that pretty much everyone was backing her and wanted to do the same thing, Kong was let go – let go for standing up for something that was dear to her heart and the nation’s at the time.
9 Davey Boy Smith
In 1998, at Fall Brawl, War Games clearly wasn’t scripted and wrestlers were entering the ring without knowing what was going on. This haphazard approach made the night look very amateurish and really didn’t do the sport any justice. It turned into an even more kamikaze affair when a trap door – a door that none of the wrestlers had been told about - unexpectedly opened in the middle of the ring. Smith dropped straight through the door and ended up with a spinal infection that came close to paralyzing him for life. It was a wonder that no one else sustained any injuries.
8 CM Punk
One of the biggest trash-talkers in WWE, talking smack was what Punk was known for and the reason he was adored by so many fans. It’s little wonder that the company finally snapped and handed him his termination notice. This certainly wasn’t unfair treatment, but how it was done definitely was. It was Punk’s wedding day when he was given the news. Although this was unquestionably a deliberate antic, it made Punk’s popularity grow to even further heights, popularity which he’s used to his advantage while embarking on a new career in MMA.
7 Matt Hardy
After a long layoff spent recovering from injury, Hardy returned to the ring to discover his girlfriend, Lita, was having an affair with the Edge. Unsurprisingly, Hardy flew into a rage, and was rewarded by being given his marching orders. Talk about kicking a man when he’s down. But the fans demanded he return, and that’s exactly what happened when he settled the score in a grudge match. It took a lot of public pressure for WWE to bring Hardy back.
6 Muhammad Hassan
Muhammad Hassan, who portrayed the young, angry Arab, was certainly unfairly treated by bosses and script writers who were guilty of racially stereotyping him throughout his entire – although short-lived – career. But things obviously went too far one night when Hassan ambushed and attacked The Undertaker alongside a posse of masked men, in a gimmick that was meant to simulate a terrorist attack.
This was bad enough, but as if this couldn’t possibly get any worse, the episode was aired on the same night as the July 7, 2005 London bombings. Hassan was made the scapegoat in a situation that blighted his entire career.
5 Vickie Guerrero
Now Vickie Guerrero, wife of the late Eddie Guerrero, isn’t a wrestler – more a wrestling authority figure – but still makes this list. When Eddie died in 2005, the WWE did the right thing and vowed to take care of his family for life. Vickie Guerrero was given a job for life, and that's great right? Well not many think so. The job given to her was somewhat demeaning and actually subjected her to a steady stream of ridicule. She’s been the subject of numerous insulting songs and has been targeted about her looks and weight.
4 Lilian Garcia
WWE, especially in the early days when women were introduced into the mix, has degraded a countless number of women. One such diva who has experienced the wrath of these negative attitudes is Lilian Garcia. She was constantly mocked and systematically bullied backstage for supposedly having a "horseface." Vince McMahon did nothing to stop these bullying antics - a bit of a hypocrite considering he tours schools and campaigns for anti-bullying.
3 Chris Masters
Treating Masters in such an abhorrent way about such a sensitive issue was nothing short of a disgrace. Triple H and JBL were both to blame for these antics – antics which saw the pair taunt Masters after he made his return to the ring from a stint in rehab for overcoming a painkiller addiction. He had lost a lot of weight and JBL remarked that "it looked as if Masters had escaped from a concentration camp." It’s also believed that JBL bullied Masters backstage as well.
2 Judas Devlin
Perhaps not a household name in WWE, Judas Devlin gets a mention because of the way he was treated by Bill DeMott – a head trainer with the WWE developmental system. Devlin took offence – as he should have- to DeMott’s transgressions, which included using filthy, vulgar language of a homophobic and hateful nature. DeMott is said to have threatened Devlin and other athletes who spoke out about his behavior – Devlin was one of the few that spoke up anyway, and good for him because DeMott needed to be stopped.
1 René Duprée
Now unlike the other scenarios in this article, nothing was done about René Duprée’s unfair treatment at the hands of the WWE’s resident bully, JBL. According to Duprée, JBL constantly referred to him as a “French f*****” and was also racially homophobic, making Duprée’s life in SmackDown! an absolute misery for the three years he was there. While other wrestlers would have lashed out, Duprée showed restraint and never complained, handling the situation like a true professional.