Countless wrestlers across the world dream of working for Vince McMahon and the WWE, but there are only so many of them who make it. That said, competing in the WWE isn't always rainbows and unicorns. Many of the greatest wrestlers in the company's history left WWE under bitter circumstances, and it changed the wrestling world for better or worse.
As you'll see on this list, things grew extremely complicated between Vince and some of his best wrestlers, and it led to some surprise and unexpected departures that nobody ever thought would happen. Here are the 10 ugliest departures in the history of WWE.
After an illustrious run as the face of WCW, Bill Goldberg finally joined WWE in 2003, two years after his old company was bought out by Vince McMahon. Goldberg was given a main event push from the beginning, clashing with Triple H for the World Heavyweight Championship. However, many fans turned their back on Goldberg when they learned that both he and Brock Lesnar were leaving WWE after their WrestleMania XX showdown.
Fans taunted the superstars with chants such as "You sold out," and "This match sucks." After the match, Goldberg wouldn't return to WWE for 12 years - finally burying the hatchet with fans after they gave him an ugly sendoff.
9 Hulk Hogan (Second Departure)
Hulk Hogan has left the WWE numerous times over the past three decades, but his departure from the company in 2003 may was downright ugly. It was caused by some extreme tension between he and Vince McMahon. Hogan had only returned to WWE in 2002, after a historic run with the rival WCW promotion. Fans were thrilled to have Hulkamania back, but it only lasted a year before he and Vince parted ways once again.
Apparently, Hogan was dissatisfied with where WWE was going with his Mr. America character. Vince made the decision to fire Hogan, adding another chapter to their well-documented and complicated relationship.
8 Alberto Del Rio (First Departure)
The former WWE and World Heavyweight Champion quickly got over as a heel in WWE, but Alberto Del Rio's first run with the company ended on bitter circumstances. In Aug. 2014, WWE.com announced that they had released Del Rio due to "an altercation with an employee." It was reported that Del Rio slapped the employee after they made a racist comment towards him.
The person who was slapped by Del Rio wound up leaving the company soon after as well. Del Rio would return to WWE in 2015, but the two sides agreed to part ways one year later. At least the circumstances weren't as ugly this time.
7 Dawn Marie
Dawn Marie debuted for WWE in 2002, and she stayed with the company up until 2005. Most obviously remember Marie for her long-term rivalry with Torrie Wilson, a 2019 WWE Hall of Fame inductee.
WWE released Marie in 2005 while she was pregnant. This led to a lawsuit against WWE, and the two sides reached a settlement two years after her departure. Marie worked briefly in other promotions, but she hasn't appeared on WWE since the company made the questionable decision to release her.
6 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin
Steve Austin emerged as the main face of WWE during the Attitude Era, and without him, there's a strong possibility that WCW would have come out on top in the Monday Night Wars. Austin changed everything about the wrestling world, and it's no wonder that he's widely regarded as the greatest wrestler in WWE history. But unfortunately, his career as an in-ring performer reached an ugly end in 2003.
Not only was Austin dealing with a serious neck injury, but he was also unhappy about the plans WWE creative had for him. This included Austin not wanting to lose a match to Brock Lesnar, one of the top up-and-coming superstars. A frustrated Austin eventually walked out of WWE, and at the advice of doctors, he retired in order to avoid the risk of worsening his neck injury.
5 'Macho Man' Randy Savage
Aside from Hulk Hogan, the 'Macho Man' was the biggest money draw in WWE during its boom in the '80s. Nobody could cut a promo like Savage, and the "cream of the crop" really took things to another level in the ring. But in the early '90s, Vince McMahon was looking to go with younger superstars, and he had Savage move to the broadcasting team with him. The latter wanted to continue wrestling, but Vince apparently wouldn't grant his wish.
So Savage opted to sign with the rival WCW promotion, and Vince acknowledged his departure on television. The two grew estranged from one another, but four years after Savage's tragic passing in 2011, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
4 The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior had two departures from WWE (in 1992 and '96), and they were both quite bitter and ugly. On the first occasion, Ultimate Warrior was suspended by Vince McMahon following SummerSlam 1991. The two had a bitter contract dispute, and Warrior threatened to skip some wrestling shows. He left WWE in 1992.
Four years later, Ultimate Warrior returned for a second go. However, he missed some shows following the passing of his father. But Warrior and his dad hadn't talked for years, and WWE didn't think it was a legitimate excuse. So he left the company once again, before signing with WCW in 1998. Vince and Ultimate Warrior eventually reconciled, and the latter was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014, three days before his untimely passing.
One of the most dominant and accomplished female superstars in WWE history, Chyna won two Intercontinental Championships and one Women's Championship during her career. But sadly, backstage drama and politics led to a bitter departure from the company. Chyna worked alongside Triple H, her real-life boyfriend, in the D-Generation X stable.
But The Game and Chyna eventually ended their relationship, and he went on to marry the boss's daughter, Stephanie McMahon. Some believe that Chyna was let go of WWE due to the complicated love triangle. And when she left the company in 2001, WWE stayed away from mentioning her name or career. That was until her tragic passing in 2016; and she was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2019 as part of DX.
2 CM Punk
The wrestling world was shocked to learn in Jan. 2014 that CM Punk had walked out on WWE, informing Triple H and Vince McMahon that he was simply heading home. Over time, more details began to emerge. CM Punk was officially fired on his wedding day, and the former World Champion later stated that he left to due to health reasons. He had sustained numerous injuries plus a serious infection that could have killed him.
It was also suggested that he was unhappy about not headlining a WrestleMania event. Following his departure, WWE did everything they could to avoid mentioning his name again. But the two sides have since patched things up, as CM Punk recently joined the WWE Backstage team.
1 Bret Hart
Most of you know the story by now: Bret Hart listened to Vince McMahon's advice and was about to join the rival WCW promotion. Before this, The Hitman had one last wish: To successfully defend his World Heavyweight Championship against Shawn Michaels (his real-life enemy) at Survivor Series 1997. Hart would then relinquish the title before bidding farewell.
But Vince conspired with others to double-cross Hart, and the infamous Montreal Screwjob was born. An angry Hart spat on Vince and destroyed WWE equipment, before punching out his boss backstage. Hart and WWE wouldn't officially bury the hatchet until he came back to the company in 2010.