Compared to previous eras in pro wrestling history, today’s Superstars seem to get along quite well with one another. While there might be the occasional backstage incident and real-life rivalry amongst today’s WWE roster, it’s nothing compared to what used to be the case.
Vince McMahon was once a proponent of instilling a legitimate sense of competition among his Superstars, feeling that this would add to the on-screen drama. In recent years he has begun doing this less however, most likely because of the negative consequences he has seen it lead to in the past. This isn’t to say there aren’t cases of real-life hatred in the storybook pro wrestling world currently however, as there are a bunch of them. When drama hits in wrestling, it tends to hit hard, and many examples mentioned in this article are proof of that.
The current generation being less prone to real-life rivalries might be more of a reflection of the times than it is the wrestlers themselves. Nowadays bullying and mean-spirited ribs are looked down upon by many facets of society, and as such have become less commonplace in WWE’s locker room as well. JBL can probably speak at length on this fact.
Throughout WWE’s long history, here are the top 20 cases of real-life hatred that existed within the promotion:
20. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper & Mr. T
Mr. T and Roddy Piper did not get along. Roddy thought Mr.T was a prima donna and wasn’t giving the wrestling business enough respect. Things got really tenuous between the two during their worked (but maybe not that worked) boxing match at WrestleMania 2.
The entire boxing bout felt awkward, as though they were going in and out of having a worked fight and a real one, which may have been the case. Despite being a bad guy, fans began to cheer for Piper, possibly because they had clued into the real situation between the two. The angle between T and Piper was quickly dropped afterwards, and WWE turned Piper into a good guy.
Years later the two would meet at Mr. T’s Hall of Fame ceremony. Piper and Mr. T talked after the ceremony, sharing stories of how they’re both fathers and patched up their differences.
19. Mick Foley & Ric Flair
Mick Foley does not have a lot of real life rivalries in wrestling, but one he did have was with Ric Flair. The issue between the two came down to wrestling style. Many wrestlers took umbrage with Foley, and other hardcore wrestlers, using a lot of weapons and taking larger and larger bumps. While this was exciting for fans, many wrestlers at the time treated hardcore wrestling similar to how Randy Orton treats high-flying wrestling today. Flair felt that Foley’s approach to wrestling degraded it and referred to him as a “glorified stuntman”. Furthermore, Flair never really backed down from those claims later.
In 2004, there were reports of a backstage fight between the two. Flair is said to have offered to shake Foley’s hand, but Foley refused. According to one report, Flair even threw a punch. They have since patched things up.
18. CM Punk & The Authority
CM Punk is the kind of guy that tends to get upset when things aren’t perfect. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are often put in situations where they have to do what they feel is best for business, and if CM Punk disagreed with that, they would hear about.
In Punk’s famous “Pipe Bomb” promo, he noted that he doesn’t even feel WWE will improve after Vince McMahon dies, because the company will just end up being run by Stephanie and Vince’s “dufus son-in-law”. Even though the promo was delivered on WWE programming, it was clear they were in fact Punk’s true feelings. Similar feelings would be expressed on Colt Cabana’s podcast not long after Punk left WWE.
It’s believed Punk always had a better relationship with Vince than HHH. This was evident when Vince mentioned wanting to work with Punk again somewhere down the road on the Steve Austin podcast. HHH and Stephanie have yet to make similar comments.
17. Dynamite Kid & The Rougeau Brothers
Dynamite Kid was a well-known bully back in the 1980s. Bret Hart would later say he suffered from a “little man’s complex”. Evidently, Dynamite really didn’t like the Rougeau Brothers.
The two teams had heat with each other stemming from a Summerslam match where the Bulldogs refused to put the French Canadian team over. The Rougeaus then got steamed when they felt the Bulldogs had gone into their bags and cut up their clothes. In reality, Curt Hennig had done this knowing the Rougeaus would blame the Bulldogs, and because he thought it was funny.
The Rougeaus claimed they were going to tell Pat Patterson about their bags, and this led to Dynamite attacking Jacques in the back. Weeks later, Jacques gave him quite the receipt. He punched Dynamite square in the mouth with a roll of quarters, busting Dynamite’s mouth and jaw wide open.
16. JBL & Joey Styles
JBL doesn’t always get along that well with other announcers. One particularly extreme announcer wasn’t going to put up with his antics however.
When WWE went on a tour of Iraq in 2008, JBL was said to be intoxicated most of the trip, and hazing anyone he felt was beneath him. Styles has said little regarding the incident, so we’re not too sure what exactly JBL was doing that was rubbing him the wrong way, but it was enough that Joey risked his job and physical safety to get revenge for it. JBL had done something which caused discussion between the two to get heated enough that some of the wrestlers stepped in between the two. That’s when Joey sucker punched him, giving him a black eye. Afterwards, it was reported that JBL kept to himself the rest of the tour.
15. Nailz & Vince McMahon
Lots of wrestlers have become angry with Vince McMahon, but none of them took it as far as Nailz did. By some accounts, he almost killed Vince once night.
You might remember Nailz as having had a brief WWE run in the early 90s. His gimmick was an ex-con who had a grudge with the Big Boss Man. Before he got fired from the company, he was scheduled to enter into a feud with The Undertaker.
Bret Hart explained the incident between Nailz and McMahon in his autobiography. He said Nailz and Vince were having a heated dispute over Nailz’ recent pay, when a loud crash was heard. The sound was apparently Nailz knocking Vince over and beginning to strangle him. Lawsuits were launched from both sides, but none of them led to anything.
Nailz would later testify against Vince at his steroid trial, stating that Vince game him the enhancement drugs.
14. Triple H & Rob Van Dam
Triple H does not like Rob Van Dam. That fact is probably what kept RVD from being the big time WWE star that many felt he should have been. RVD has said multiple times that the only thing he and Triple H have in common is that they’re both wrestlers.
Their mutual dislike might have originated at Survivor Series 2002, during the Elimination Chamber match. RVD jumped from on top of one of the pods to give HHH the 5-Star Frog Splash. His leg landed on Triple H’s throat however, causing enough swelling that he had to spend the night in hospital. While HHH would publicly state that he didn’t blame RVD for the injury, it’s believed he secretly held a grudge against him.
Many feel that RVD would have become a much bigger star in WWE had the office gotten behind him. Triple H may have been one of the biggest factors preventing this from happening.
13. Chris Jericho & Goldberg
While they were both in WCW, Goldberg evidently refused to work a PPV match with Jericho. At the time, Jericho had been involved in many comedic skits where he would call-out Goldberg. This was supposed to lead to a PPV match between the two, but plans changed. WCW wanted Goldberg to squash Jericho on a normal episode of Nitro instead, only this time Jericho refused.
In 2002, when both were in WWE, the rivalry between them got physical. On an episode of Raw, Goldberg is alleged to have been bad-mouthing Jericho in the back, and someone informed Chris of this. He then confronted Goldberg, and heated words were exchanged. When things got physical however, Jericho just wrapped Goldberg up in a headlock and wouldn’t let go. Despite Goldberg’s size, he was no match for Jericho’s “Headlock of Doom”.
12. CM Punk & Ryback
Ryback’s character was on-fire in 2012, the same time CM Punk was WWE Champion. The two would meet at Hell in a Cell 2012, when Punk would end Ryback’s undefeated streak. A quick count by referee Brad Maddox had a bit to do with that of course.
CM Punk would later claim that Ryback was dangerous to work with, and said that he looked like he was on steroids. Ryback would counter that Punk never said anything to his face while he was in WWE. He’s also insinuated that Punk “did him no favors” while they were in WWE, which could possibly allude to Punk burying him in the back to people. Punk himself admitted to telling the office he didn’t want to work with Ryback anymore.
Ryback would make future comments referring to Punk as “fragile” and that’s why he got hurt in their matches together.
11. Matt Hardy & Paul London
These two have a lot in common, and probably would have become good friends had Ashley Massaro not gotten between them. Massaro was dating Matt, but left him for London.
Things escalated as London believed Hardy was trying to bury him in the back. When both were in Ring of Honor together later in their careers, it’s believed the company wanted the two of them to work together in an attempt to capitalize on the real-life beef ROH fans knew they had. London refused however, believing that Hardy held a real-life grudge against him and he didn’t want to work with him because of it.
Since ROH, Matt Hardy went on to reinvent himself into his “Broken” character, although he would revert to his old self after his WM 33 WWE return. London has also reinvented himself in Lucha Underground, as the leader of the bizarre “Rabbit Tribe”.
10. AJ Lee & Stephanie McMahon
It’s not hard to see why AJ Lee and CM Punk got married, they’re a lot alike in many respects. Neither of them is capable of keeping quiet if they have something to say, even if it might lead to some bitter feelings amongst people they work with.
Such was the case in in early 2015, when AJ took to Twitter to call-out Stephanie. Vince’s daughter had just tweeted a thank you to Patty Arquette for standing up for women’s rights, when AJ reminded Stephanie that women in WWE are paid a fraction of what the men are. Stephanie gave her a sarcastic thank you in response.
Not long after however, WWE did begin to put more emphasis on the Women’s Division, and the rate of women hired into WWE’s developmental program increased significantly. AJ Lee would officially retire from WWE just months after her comments directed to Stephanie on Twitter.
9. Blue Meanie & JBL
At the One Night Stand PPV in 2005, JBL felt like getting in a fight. This was the first reunion PPV for ECW, and at one point WWE wrestlers entered the ring and brawled with the ECW alumni. The brawl wasn’t so fake for the Blue Meanie however, as JBL really did lay into him pretty good. A bloodied Blue Meanie is seen visibly shaken in the ring after.
Meanie mentioned later he was considering pressing charges as a result of the incident, and this led to WWE reaching out to him. The WWE offered him a job in the company and even gave him a win over JBL in a No DQ match. He ended up reforming the BWO with Big Stevie Cool and Super Nova in WWE afterwards. Meanie stated on Jericho’s podcast that the two have since patched things up.
8. Scott Steiner & Hulk Hogan
While their hatred built in WCW, it reached a boiling point over WrestleMania XXX weekend.
Steiner blames Hogan for WCW’s demise, and many agree with him on that part. As the company had been Steiner’s main meal ticket throughout his career, he holds some resentment towards Hogan for how he wielded his creative control while there.
Steiner has even been brought up on charges of making threats towards Hogan and his family. Hogan’s wife landed in a San Jose area airport that weekend where she was spotted by Steiner, who was also flying into the area for WrestleMania weekend. Security cameras caught Steiner walking up to her and saying something, which was later believed to be a comment about killing her husband when he lands. Steiner was charged for making the threats, but nothing ever came of it.
7. Matt Hardy & Edge
It doesn’t get much more real than the rivalry between Matt Hardy and Edge in 2005.
Matt Hardy and Lita had been together for years, when Matt needed to take time off the road to heal a knee injury. During his absence, Lita began an affair with Edge. The backstage drama ultimately led to Matt being released, though the WWE universe would have none of that. They chanted for Matt at live events and ultimately got him hired back shortly afterwards. The real life drama would later be turned into a storyline feud.
Years later Lita and Edge would both express remorse for the situation, especially for it leading to Matt losing his job, albeit temporarily. In recent years, both Lita and Edge have been very complimentary of Matt’s new “Broken” persona. Edge and Christian have mentioned on their podcast that they feel the character would do great in WWE.
6. Hulk Hogan & The Ultimate Warrior
The two men who main evented WrestleMania VI together did not like each other. Even after Warrior’s death in 2014, his family still had some nasty things to say about Hogan. Warrior had a short and tumultuous run with the company, and as many people do, he felt Hogan sabotaged his career somewhat.
Their rivalry would heat up in later years, when Hogan made statements in the media about Warrior flopping as champ after WM VI. Warrior’s first ever Tweets were directed at Hogan in reference to these comments, telling him that karma was coming to collect.
At the Hall of Fame ceremony in 2014, cameras captured Hogan and Warrior talking and patching things up. Warrior’s family has since said that Hogan only did that for the cameras however, and that he never sent a card or called the family after Warrior’s passing.
5. Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage
Some say that the year long storyline involving Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan between WrestleMania IV and WrestleMania V is the greatest of all-time. WWE would certainly have trouble copying its success for many WrestleManias to come.
Behind the curtain, things were just as tumultuous between Savage and Hogan as they were on-screen. When Savage’s marriage to Miss Elizabeth fell apart, she went to go stay with Hogan and his wife Linda. Savage didn’t like this and blamed Hogan for ending his marriage.
The two would patch things up but then had another falling out in WCW, when Savage accused Hogan of sabotaging his career. It’s believed the two patched things up yet again not long before Savage’s death in 2011.
Between WrestleMania V and Savage’s “Be A Man” rap album (directed at Hogan) these two sure had an up and down rivalry and friendship.
4. Bret Hart & Hulk Hogan
Bret Hart feels Hogan sabotaged his run in the early 90s, and he’s probably right. Bret lost the title to Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX, but Hogan was right there to beat the new champion moments later. The plan at the time had been for Bret to then beat Hogan later at SummerSlam ’93. Hogan however, decided that wasn’t going to work for him. He agreed to drop the belt to Yokozuna at King of the Ring, and only after quite a bit of interference, including a fireball being projected at his face.
They seemed to get past all that while both were in WCW, and Hart even penned a nice column about Hogan in 2002. Ever since however, Hart has taken numerous jabs at Hogan, generally referring to him as self-serving.
3. Mauro Ranallo & JBL
As of this writing, Mauro Ranallo just returned to WWE programming. He’s now the voice of NXT. Earlier this year, it appeared as though Ranallo may never return to the company. Ranallo left WWE in early 2017 after an episode of Bring it to the Table aired in which JBL publicly belittled Ranallo.
WWE and Ranallo came to terms on his release from the company in April. Ranallo’s official statement after his release involved the line “it has nothing to do with JBL”. The vagueness of the statement communicated to everyone that it, in fact, had a lot to do with JBL.
WWE fans chanted for Ranallo at live events, and chanted for JBL to be fired. Finally, in late June, Triple H himself introduced Mauro Ranallo to the NXT live audience.
2. Bret Hart & Shawn Michaels
Vince McMahon pit Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart against one another. He has admitted to having done so in interviews since. He wanted their real-life hatred for one another to spill into storyline, creating a dramatic angle.
Vince encouraged comments alluding to real-life incidents to air on his television shows. These included Bret ripping Shawn for appearing in Playgirl magazine, and Shawn alluding to Bret’s alleged affair with Sunny.
Shawn threatened to quit the company after Bret attacked him in the back following his “Sunny days” comment on Raw. Eventually all that real-life animosity that had been drummed up was too much. Vince went back on his contract to Bret, but Hart refused to lose to Shawn, the Montreal Screwjob happened, and then years of hurt feelings followed.
Shawn and Bret would finally patch things up when Bret returned to WWE in 2010.
1. Bret Hart & Vince McMahon
In 1997, Vince informed Bret that he could no longer afford the 20 year contract he’d given him the year before. Bret made arrangements to accept WCW’s 1996 offer and debut for the company at the end of the year. This of course led to the Montreal Screwjob, and Bret’s long hiatus from the company.
In 1999, Bret’s younger brother Owen died in a tragic accident when he was supposed to propel from the arena rafters. Bret never approved of those types of stunts in wrestling, it only added to the bitterness between both sides.
At WrestleMania XXVI Vince and Bret would wrestle in a Hardcore Match, and Bret gave Vince some hard chair shots to the back. Vince was said to have been really feeling sore afterwards, and was absent from the rest of WrestleMania that year.
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