Professional wrestling is built on the premise of predetermined outcomes. Yes, it takes tremendous athleticism and skill to do what wrestlers do in the ring, but the matches are not, strictly speaking, contests but rather performances for which someone in management, a booker, or a creative committee has decided whom will win and whom will lose. Like an actor in a movie, it’s not a wrestler’s role to determine what choices his character will make, but rather to play the part given to him, and interpret it as best he can to give fans an enjoyable experience while they’re watching.
There are, however, those times when things aren’t so cut and dry. While wrestlers generally speaking understand that they don’t have a part in deciding if they win or lose, pro wrestling is still a business for which champions and big winners tend to garner more notoriety and thus draw bigger percentages of gates and more substantial merchandise sales.
There are those times when a wrestler might foresee her character being hurt in the long term for absorbing a high profile loss, and thus be reluctant to do the favors. It’s an absurd proposition for someone just starting out, but the more clout someone has, the more viable the option can be when used strategically. On top of business considerations, there are those times when personal issues come up, and a wrestler feels insulted at the prospect of putting over a lesser star or a personal enemy.
This article takes a look at twenty different times when a WWE star refused to do a job, or at least was heavily rumored to have done so.
20 Bret Hart Refused To Lose To Shawn Michaels
In what may be the most infamous case of a wrestler refusing to do the honors, Bret Hart declined to drop the WWE Championship to Shawn Michaels on the way out the door to WCW in 1997.
On a quick glance, one could suggest Hart took himself too seriously or was being petty about a personal grudge. Still, there are factors that seem to justify Hart, at least up to an extent. Michaels had been a thorn in The Hitman’s side as their professional rivalry turned personal. Moreover, Hart was asked to do the honors in Canada. Hart claims to offered alternatives, including forfeiting the title or losing to another credible challenger like Ken Shamrock. In the end, the creative control clause of his contract should have granted him veto power.
19 Steve Austin Refuses To Work A Match With Hulk Hogan (And Lose?)
Steve Austin vs. Hulk Hogan is one of the biggest dream matches that WWE came close to putting together, but never actually went down one on one. The window for it to realistically occur was between early 2002 and 2007. Though Stone Cold retired in 2003, reports had it WWE was aiming to still make this match happen, including Hogan openly suggesting in a promo on a Homecoming special episode of Raw that the last piece of business he had in WWE was to face Austin.
Backstage leaks had it that the match actually was on the table, but neither man wanted to the do the job. For Austin's part, he has simply said he passed on a match with Hogan because he felt the match wouldn't be that good, and that he didn't have any desire to get back in the ring.
18 The Shield Refused To Lose To John Cena, Ryback & Sheamus
Late 2012 to early 2013 saw The Shield go on an absolute tear, putting on terrific six man tag team matches and beating well established stars left and right. The iconic trio has discussed in interviews that they were originally supposed to put over the team of John Cena, Ryback, and Sheamus at Elimination Chamber 2013, but dug in their heels about such a loss halting their momentum.
In the end, The Hounds of Justice got their way. They wouldn’t lose as a three man unit until the summer. There’s a real argument that early PPV wins like this one were key to laying the foundation for three main event careers.
17 Hulk Hogan Refused To Lose To Randy Orton
The summer of 2006 saw a fun storyline between Hulk Hogan and Randy Orton take shape. Building off the momentum of Hogan’s dream match with Shawn Michaels at the previous SummerSlam, and Orton’s gimmick as the Legend Killer, Hogan vs. Orton had a lot of intrigue attached to it. To add to the story, a Saturday Night’s Main Event angle saw Orton both romance Hogan’s daughter Brooke, and lay out the Hulkster with an RKO.
The program decelerated suddenly, going from one of the most featured matches on the show and a prospective main event to an afterthought. Legend has it WWE meant for Orton to go over, only for Hogan to threaten to pull out of the match, citing injury. In the end, Hogan got his win, but in a forgettable mid-card match.
16 The Honky Tonk Man Refused To Lose To Randy Savage
It seems preposterous now, but a variety of sources have suggested that The Honky Tonk Man was supposed to drop the Intercontinental Championship to Randy Savage after just a few months as champ. The story goes that Honky refused, citing that it was best for not only his character, but the belt, for him to have a longer reign.
It’s difficult to fathom why Honky would have the stroke to get his way here. If he did, indeed, refuse this job, the ripple effects were profound. Savage, instead, wound up winning the WrestleMania IV tournament for the vacant WWE Championship in a move that was undeniably better for his career. Additionally, Ted DiBiase wound up never winning a WWE Championship, and he's suggested that he, rather than Savage, was originally intended to win it at ‘Mania 4.
15 Sable Refused To Lose To Luna Vachon
Sable was an early sex symbol of the Attitude Era, and an iconic female character for WWE, rooted in her looks and provocative antics. She was never a particularly great wrestler, though, and it's well accounted that she became difficult to work with on account of her ego.
While Sable has never confirmed it, she was supposedly tasked with putting over arch-rival Luna Vachon at the Royal Rumble 1999. The story goes that Sable refused, citing all the momentum her character had built. Given how over she was, it is believable that she’d have the stroke to dictate where the Women’s Championship went at that time.
14 Jeff Jarrett Refused To Lose To Chyna (At First)
Jeff Jarrett was one of the wrestlers to benefit most during the Monday Night War, as he bounced back and forth between WWE and WCW, bettering his salary and standing in the card with each transition. His last departure from WWE during this era was an ugly one, though, that got him blacklisted from WWE for over a decade. After a lengthy storyline, Jarrett was to wrap up that WWE tenure by putting over Chyna for the Intercontinental Championship. However, as he prepared to head to WCW (for a main event push), he was resistant to putting over a woman. Jarrett purportedly held up WWE for significant money before he’d do the honors.
13 Shawn Michaels Refused To Lose To Vader
Shawn Michaels was notorious for being challenging to work with in his original run as the face of the company, with suggestions he was arrogant, insecure, and a prima donna. One of the more infamous cases of him forcing a change in plans was when he was slated to drop the world title to Vader at SummerSlam 1996.
Vader had been booked as a dominant monster who would have made total sense as champ. Michaels advocated for himself as the company’s best worker, though, and took advantage of questions about The Mastodon’s stiffness and standing to politick him out of ever getting a WWE Championship reign.
12 Rick Rude Wouldn't Put Over Hulk Hogan
Rick Ruse is widely considered one of the greatest wrestling stars of all time to have never won a proper world title. (A reign with WCW’s International title muddies the waters a little, but that’s as close as he got.) Rude however, was at one point slated for a WWE Championship program with Hulk Hogan.
In a true chicken and egg situation, reports suggest Hogan didn’t see Rude as main event material, and Rude didn’t like the idea of putting over The Hulkster. Was Hogan put off by Rude’s arrogance at not being willing to lose? Or was Rude reticent to put over a guy who didn’t think he was worthy of working him? Regardless, Rude’s approach to the situation seemed to contribute to him only ever working The Ultimate Warrior for WWE’s top prize.
11 Jean-Pierre Lafitte Refuses To Lose To Diesel
When folks think of Kevin Nash and Jean-Pierre Lafitte, it’s difficult to compare them, or really fathom Jean-Pierre Lafitte refusing to do business with Big Daddy Cool. Nash won world titles in WWE and WCW and spent most of his prime at or around the main event level. While Lafitte was certainly talented, he never exceeded the mid-card level.
In the end, this one came down to pride. Lafitte was purportedly among the number of stars who felt disrespected by and resentful of The Kliq at the time. More specifically, though, he balked at the idea of putting over Nash in his hometown province of Quebec, where he was a significant draw. Nash felt disrespected as the champ leading to real life tensions between the two.
10 Steve Austin Won't Lose KOTR Qualifier To Brock Lesnar
In the build to King of the Ring 2002, WWE planned for Stone Cold Steve Austin to put over new arrival Brock Lesnar. This was the same stretch when Lesnar, the rookie, would cleanly defeat Hulk Hogan, The Rock, and The Undertaker, so there’s a sense in which it wasn’t so preposterous for him to defeat Austin. The Rattlesnake rejected the idea of losing in a TV, King of the Ring qualifying match, though, with no real build.
Austin’s refusal to put over Lesnar in this fashion infamously led to him walking out on the company—a late career schism that tainted his final stretch as a full time wrestler.
9 Shawn Michaels Refused To Lose To Bret Hart
Bret Hart famously refused to put over Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series 1997, in part because of their long standing personal rivalry and not wanting to lose face in front of Canadian fans. Another part of the equation, however, was Hart’s perception that Michaels wasn’t willing to put him over.
In his book, Hart indicates that HBK openly stated he wasn’t willing to put over The Hitman. Additionally, it’s widely theorized that when Michaels stepped away from the ring in early 1997 because he “lost his smile” he was more pointedly taking himself out of WrestleMania 13 so he wouldn’t have drop the world title to Hart there, and thus “return the favor” from the year prior.
8 Rey Mysterio Refused To Lose To Dolph Ziggler
Rey Mysterio is generally not on the list of guys promoters consider difficult to work with. As his career went on and he built up clout, though, there is one widely recognized instance of him refusing to put over another talent. Mysterio reportedly rejected the idea of dropping his Intercontinental Championship to Ziggler in 2009, citing that he needed a longer reign for the sake of the title’s credibility, not to mention his own.
On one hand, Ziggler not picking up the Intercontinental title at that juncture probably didn’t have much effect on his long term trajectory. On the other hand, he’s a perpetual upper mid-card guy who has always butted up against the proverbial glass ceiling. One does have to wonder if this win and this push relatively early in his tenure might have helped him on his way.
7 Daniel Puder Refused To Lose To Kurt Angle (Sort Of)
In a stunt meant to demonstrate Kurt Angle’s legitimacy, he took on a series of Tough Enough competitors in shoot grappling matches on a 2004 episode of SmackDown. As would be expected, the Olympic gold medalist was largely dominant, right up until Daniel Puder caught him in a key lock. The shoot hold ran a serious risk of breaking Angle’s arm if he didn’t tap.
To be fair, these were shoot matches, and Puder hadn’t been instructed to lose. However, he had to know that hurting the main event talent wasn’t what WWE had in mind for this segment. Fortunately for Angle and WWE, the ref thought quickly and counted Puder’s shoulders down in a phantom pin to give Angle the spurious win, even when it seemed as though he’d been beat.
6 Bad News Brown Won't Put Over Jake Roberts
Many wrestlers have stories of promoters making them big promises that they later reneged on. In that tradition, Bad News Brown has claimed that Vince McMahon was going to push him in a big money feud with Hulk Hogan and potentially even give him a world title reign.
Brown could see the writing on the wall when he was booked to job to Jake Roberts at SummerSlam 1990. While Roberts was a respected star in his own right, he wasn’t a main event guy, and Brown is said to have flat out refused to take a pin from him. The compromise saw Brown instead sustain the DQ loss after using a steel chair in the match.
5 Roddy Piper Refused To Lose To Mr. T
The late Roddy Piper made no bones about the fact that he did not like working with Mr. T. Unfortunately, Piper was assigned to this particular dance partner in two of the highest profile matches of his career, having to work the unskilled, non-wrestler at back to back WrestleManias.
Rumor has it that Piper was supposed to lose his kayfabe boxing match to T at WrestleMania 2, but rejected the idea. This seems like something Piper would do, given he was notoriously protective about not absorbing pin or submission losses, and didn’t like T to begin with. The work around was for Piper ot abandon the boxing stipulation and ultimately body slam T to get disqualified.
4 Ric Flair Wouldn't Lose To Lex Luger
Ric Flair and Lex Lugeer would each wind up big time stars for WWE, and even for a brief overlapping period in 1993. They’d work together more in WCW, though, including two stints of being part of the same stable, first as Horsemen, and later in both The Alliance to End Hulkamania and as Team Package in the company’s dying days.
Early in Luger’s career, though, shortly before Flair jumped to WWE, he explicitly refused to put over Luger for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Word was that Flair saw Barry Windham as the rightful guy to pass the torch to. With creative tensions already high between Flair and the powers that be,, he turned down the idea of jobbing to Luger, through and through.
3 Hulk Hogan Refused to Lose To Bret Hart At SummerSlam 1993
Hulk Hogan was one of the biggest stars wrestling has ever seen and across multiple eras. He wasn’t at his best in 1993, though, as a talent or as a draw. By 1993, Hulkster was less awe-inspiring, and his good guy shtick had grown stale. On top of that WWE fans had a taste of Bret Hart as a champ who worked a regular schedule on the road and put on more than his share of great matches.
Hogan came back for WrestleMania IX. According to Hart’s book, he was told that though Hogan would emerge from that event with the WWE title, he’d drop that title to The Hitman at SummerSlam. Whether Hogan was never told that plan as he claims, or it was Vince McMahon playing games, Hart and his loyal fans tend to believe the narrative that Hogan refused to put him over.
2 John Cena Refused To Lose To The Nexus
John Cena has a good record of putting over less established talents at SummerSlam. In recent years, he has dropped matches to CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, and AJ Styles.
However, in 2010, Cena was the team captain for a team of inveterate stars that stood up against the heel Nexus faction in a seven on seven elimination tag match. Despite dissension in his own ranks, ultimately being outnumbered, and taking a DDT on the floor, Cena nonetheless managed to defeat Justin Gabriel and Wade Barrett to win for his team.
The loss stopped the hot Nexus faction in its tracks, hampering their momentum. Chris Jericho and Edge have commented in interviews about suggesting Cena should put them over, or at least not survive a DDT outside the ring, but Cena had other ideas. The story goes that, after the match was over, Cena conceded he’d been wrong.
1 Roddy Piper Refused To Lose To Hulk Hogan
Roddy Piper vs. Hulk Hogan was one of the most iconic rivalries of the '80s as Piper played an infectious bad guy to Hogan’s super hero act. One could argue that a part of why the story worked in its time was the intrigue that neither man could capture a decisive win over the other.
Hogan has discussed the backstage workings of the rivalry in a number of interviews. A point he continually comes back to is that Piper was so protective of his character that he’d never allow himself to be pinned. Since Piper wouldn’t do business for him, Hogan felt he could never job to Piper. The Hulkster suggests that Piper’s attitude toward jobs meant leaving money on the table as they may have been even more successful and for longer had they traded the WWE Championship back and forth between them.