A world of body slams, empty threats, and doing whatever it takes to protect the people you’re pretending to hurt, the WWE Universe is truly a place where ego is everything. Reality gets checked at the door each time a professional wrestler steps into the arena, as suspension of disbelief takes over and the only thing that matters is their self-determination to become a superstar.
Naturally, this atmosphere has gotten into the heads of quite a few wrestlers over the years, with many of them starting to believe their own hype. In order to become a WWE Champion, let alone even challenge for the belt, a wrestler needs to talk a very big talk about how they’re the best in the world at what they do. Obviously, this is only true for a select number of them, and the ratio of people telling the truth is even tighter when it comes to those who keep harping their credentials in real life.
By and large, if a wrestler can’t shut up about their legacy and fame, it’s because they’re trying to convince themselves and others of something that isn’t true. Only in rare cases are they simply recounting the facts about a genuinely historic career. To separate the true legends from people who just pretend that’s what they are, keep reading for 12 wrestlers whose egos are completely out of control and 9 who actually deserve theirs.
21 OUT OF CONTROL: Kevin Nash
Almost two decades after the death of WCW, there are still plenty of fans arguing that Kevin Nash defeating Goldberg for the World Champion at Starrcade was one of the moments that killed the company. Leading the charge for the opposing argument is Kevin Nash himself, who still thinks it was a brilliant idea, mostly because he was involved in it. Nash offers the same justification for virtually every angle he was part of, no matter how badly it bombed. Even his year as WWE Champion in 1995, which lead to the lowest ratings in Raw history at the time, wasn’t that bad, because Diesel looked cool while he stunk up the joint. In fairness, Nash was always an intimidating presence, he was a big part of the nWo’s massive success, and he could even deliver in the ring when he wanted. The catch was that he almost never did, making bragging about his career feel like a man laughing at his own unearned success.
20 DESERVED: Shawn Michaels
Considering the things Shawn Michaels has said about himself, boasting that he’s cute and sexy in while singing his own theme music was really just the tip of the iceberg with his ego. Of course, most fans will readily agree with HBK’s assertion he was one of the best in-ring talents of all time. Michaels was such a great wrestler he claimed he could still make a great match with his eyes closed and arms tied behind his back. In fact, that’s essentially what he did when losing to Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV with a broken back. Does this justify the fact Michaels was an absolute prima donna at his peak, throwing literal hissy fits backstage when he didn’t get his way? Not quite, but if any wrestler could get away with it, it’s the show stopping main eventer who genuinely had the best match of the night more times than anyone else.
19 OUT OF CONTROL: The Ultimate Warrior
Now that the Ultimate Warrior has passed on, WWE has undergone a strange rehabilitation of his character, essentially erasing the most insane episodes of his life from history. The whole reason this is so bizarre is that no one suffered worse from Warrior’s egomaniacal madness than Vince McMahon. On more than one occasion, Warrior agreed to make appearances for WWE only to change his mind and decide he deserved much higher pay at the last second. Warrior’s main logic was that Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage made more money than he did, ignoring the fact they were better wrestlers, more popular, and could actually piece together a coherent interview. Aside from one or two matches where Warrior’s opponents did all the work, his matches were downright terrible, uncoordinated messes, which often felt embarrassing to watch. Just because his name is Warrior, though, he has a shiny award WWE uses to promote their “charitable” efforts.
18 DESERVED: Brock Lesnar
No, Brock Lesnar isn’t on this half of the list simply because we’re afraid he’d beat us up if he were on the other one. The fact of the matter is that Lesnar genuinely dominates whatever industry he attempts, from WWE’s sports entertainment to the MMA of UFC. After winning both real and scripted World Championships, all without breaking much of a sweat, it’s no wonder Lesnar started to view himself as worth the millions of dollars Vince McMahon and Dana White are willing to pay him. Not only is Lesnar well aware of his star power, but he also knows that when he puts in the effort, he’s one of the best technical wrestlers in the world, allowing him to ignore his career until the last second and still remain in the main even on name value alone. So long as the matches and fights he competes in also stay at a top level, Lesnar will continue to get away with his behavior.
17 OUT OF CONTROL: Jeff Jarrett
Such is the nature of sports entertainment that every person who owns a wrestling company has a chance at winning their own World Championship. Even Vince McMahon booked himself to win WWE’s top title once, but at least that only lasted a few days. In contrast, Jeff Jarrett booked himself to win the NWA Championship six times as the owner of Total Nonstop Action. Each reign also happened to be longer and more celebrated than the last, with the company ultimately presenting Jarrett as one of the greatest wrestlers in history. Of course, any organization that didn’t have Jarrett on the board of directors would likely disagree with this reputation. While decent in the ring, Jarrett simply never had the charisma to be in the main event, and TNA and WCW thusly felt second rate to WWE whenever he was on top. Not that this changed Jarrett’s mind in any way, as he kept putting himself in main events until he was ousted out of his own creation.
16 DESERVED: Bret Hart
From very early in his career, Bret “The Hitman” Hart was calling himself “the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.” Since his retirement, the first part of that claim has obviously faded out of reality, but many fans will still argue the other two remain true to this day. Truly the “Excellence of Execution” inside the ring, Hart almost never wrestled a bad match, a fact he understandably brags about during retrospective interviews on his career. Does Bret go a little bit far with things when he rags on other wrestlers and unnecessarily talks about how much better than them he is? Sure, but that doesn’t change the fact he’s mostly telling the truth when he says it. As much of a broken record as it may be, it’s also reasonable that Bret still talks about the Montreal Screwjob and his brother Owen’s death, as these are the sorts of things a person just doesn’t get over.
15 OUT OF CONTROL: Triple H
As Triple H continues to climb up the corporate WWE ladder, chances are the expansion of his ego has only just begun. The Game has had a very high opinion of himself, and the more opportunities he gets to show it, the more obvious this becomes. It all began when he started dating Stephanie McMahon and earned her father’s favor, leading to a quick rewriting of the Attitude Era that heavily inflated the importance of D-Generation X. Triple H also remained a fixture of the main event scene for decades, winning far more World Championships than most fans felt he deserved. WWE also makes announcers repeatedly refer to HHH as one of the greatest wrestlers in history with all sincerity, and many wrestlers are forced to ape similar opinions whenever the subject is broached. Some sources have even suggested shaking Triple H’s hand is a greater honor for NXT superstars than winning titles, the sort of ridiculous statement that can only come from the ego of the man it relates to.
14 DESERVED: Vince McMahon
By far the wealthiest and most successful man in sports entertainment history, it would almost be impossible to suggest Vince McMahon has an ego problem from a business standpoint. Say what you will about the muscle bound 72-year-old freak who spends all day leering at female wrestlers in the gym, but as an executive and promoter, there’s no exaggerating McMahon’s unparalleled greatness. In just a few years, McMahon turned his father’s regional wrestling company into a worldwide enterprise that’s still growing almost four decades later. Once nearly bankrupt, McMahon now bounces in and out of “certified billionaire” territory, which is the sort of massive accomplishment a businessman is allowed to brag about amongst other business people. That McMahon also chooses to brag about it on TV is his prerogative, especially when he does so on the WWE Network he owns. Even giving himself the WWE Championship for a weak wasn’t that ego-driven—he had literally owned the belt since it was created, so why not let the guy wear it a few days?
13 OUT OF CONTROL: Hulk Hogan
Once upon a time, in an era of unbridled Hulkamania, it could easily be argued the namesake of the time frame, Hulk Hogan, was entirely justified in his massive ego. During the 1980s, Hogan and Vince McMahon collectively turned pro wrestling into sports entertainment, taking a regional idea global for the first time in history. This feat was accomplished largely on the back of Hogan as WWE Champion, a title he held for four full years in his first reign. However, the powers of Hulkamania would ultimately prove limited, with Hogan’s fame gradually fading from 1990 onward. The catch is that the Hulkster himself never realized this, firmly believing himself to be the biggest icon in wrestling to the bitter end of his career. After reaching middle age, crowds inevitably got bored of any attempt at reviving Hulkamania, especially during Hogan’s worst matches. Hogan still thought he was the best, though, never accepting that his diminished skills no longer made him a viable main eventer.
12 OUT OF CONTROL: Shane Douglas
By throwing down the NWA Championship in 1994 to christen Extreme Championship Wrestling, Shane Douglas was truly making history. Of course, just about anybody else could have achieved the exact same thing in the role, and the matches they wrestled afterwards probably would have been a lot better. While Douglas’s passion on the microphone can’t be ignored, his actual ring skills started falling apart less than a year after he became the first official ECW Champ. This didn’t slow down his ego at all, as he openly boasted about being a better wrestler than Bret Hart, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, and plenty of other superstars who could actually sell out arenas while he was wrestling in a bingo hall. There’s a reason Douglas failed to catch on in WWE or WCW despite repeat attempts at both, as his character and mild talents were only suited for the small pond provided by Paul Heyman. The only catch is that it wasn’t big enough for his ego.
11 DESERVED: Ric Flair
With 16 reigns as the World Champion to his name, many of them lasting well over a full year, it’s hard to deny “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair was one of the most decorated wrestlers in history. In Flair’s own words, fans had to learn to love him whether they liked it or not, because he was the best thing going in his day. That was definitely the case as he wrestled 60 minute class matches every night—a wrestling fan who wasn’t enjoying Flair’s work pretty much had to change the channel. Of course, it’s hard for a person to call themselves a wrestling fan without falling victim to Flair’s charms. In addition to a wrestling formula so great it could bring a good match out of a broomstick, Flair had arguably the greatest microphone presence in wrestling history. This made him arguably the best in history twice over, and if he chooses to brag about that fact, it only seems fair.
10 OUT OF CONTROL: “Superstar” Billy Graham
In terms of character, image, and the ability to rock a microphone, few wrestlers were more influential than “Superstar” Billy Graham. During the late 1970s, Graham redefined what sports entertainment even was in his own image with vibrant interviews highlighting by his smooth words and the jokes of his manager, The Grand Wizard. The only catch is that Graham wasn’t that great in the ring, barely able to back up his charisma with actual good matches. While this didn’t stop him from becoming one of the best known wrestlers around and a deserving WWE Champion, it almost meant Graham had a relatively low shelf-life on top, a fact he never came to accept. For decades, Graham has continued complaining that his reign as champion wasn’t long enough, arguing his replacement Bob Backlund never should have beaten him. Especially given his mediocre in-ring talents, Graham’s ego really needs to let this one go to stop looking petty.
9 DESERVED: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Did being the biggest WWE superstar during the most lucrative period in company history give “Stone Cold” Steve Austin something of an ego? Oh, hell yeah. Granted, that same answer applies to whether or not Austin deserved the sense of self-worth, as he had more to do personally with the Attitude Era’s success than any other individual. Austin’s motto of “don’t trust anybody” was essentially the “Attitude” the era was all about, with all the biggest stars of the time frame showing some elements of the Rattlesnake’s seething personality. Unlike certain WWE stars before him, Austin could also back up his extreme popularity inside the ring, creating highly unique and innovative brawls against whatever opponent the company through at him. Austin was so good some fans overlook the fact he refused to work with or lose to lesser wrestlers, entirely because he was justified in doing so. Once a wrestler reaches Stone Cold’s rarefied level, they can do pretty much whatever they want and get away with it.
8 OUT OF CONTROL: Outback Jack
To the credit of every other wrestler on this list, though they happen to have inflated egos, at least most fans know who they are. Not so with Outback Jack, who worked for Vince McMahon from 1986 to 1988 without achieving any particularly noteworthy fame. According to Jack himself, there was talk of a WWE Tag Team Championship reign with Hillbilly Jim, but this makes absolutely no sense, as there’s no record of the two ever interacting. There’s also no record of voluminous Australian fans chanting Jack’s name, though he’s claimed such people still approached him about his career as recently as the early 2000’s. This is really hard to believe, as Jack never even participated in a memorable feud or wrestled in a match on Pay-Per-View, a true gimmicky jobber in every sense of the word. Jack is such a minor star it’s almost hard to even believe someone wanted to interview him and ask for this sort of information.
7 DESERVED: The Rock
Well before Dwayne Johnson was the highest paid blockbuster actor in Hollywood, The Rock was the most electrifying man in sports entertainment. Quite frankly, it’s hard to say the man has an “ego” per se, because he’s just so darn charming any self-aggrandizing feels entirely accurate. This was the case when he talked about being the biggest star in the wrestling world, and it remains true now that he essentially laughs off the fact he’s above wrestling and doesn’t have time to get back in the ring anymore. Granted, it’s not like Rocky is ignoring wrestling at this point in his career solely for egomaniacal reasons. It’s also a simple fact that he’s making millions more on film than he did with WWE, and in a much safer manner. That said, even if The Rock did simply decide he was more entertaining than the entire wrestling industry, well, he’d basically be right.
6 OUT OF CONTROL: Buff Bagwell
Notwithstanding whether or not he had “the stuff,” at this point, it seems pretty clear wrestling fans have had more than enough of Buff Bagwell. Once a promising young prospect in WCW, Bagwell’s potential rapidly diminished after a severe neck injury in 1998. From there on, he became an extremely lazy performer with little ability to wrestle, let alone entertain in any way. Despite this, he valued himself as one of the top performers around, a status he expected to retain when Vince McMahon purchased that company and the WWE invasion began. In less than one week, Bagwell’s ego made him a laughing stock in the new environment, as he refused to take the blame for a horrible WCW Championship match against Booker T and then had his mother call in sick for him a few days later rather than face his bosses. Of course, there’s a good chance it was Buff’s mom constantly giving him compliments that inflated his ego to such extents.
5 DESERVED: Bruno Sammartino
Of all the names on this list, Bruno Sammartino is perhaps the least likely to ever get called out for having an ego. Granted, this is only because he happens to deserve his self-satisfaction more than anyone else. In the 1960s and ‘70s, Sammartino reigned as WWE Champion a cumulative 11 years, the longest length of any wrestler by far, defining the company and sports entertainment in general across its formative decades. With this much history to his name, it seemed completely natural Sammartino would take on the McMahon family in the early ‘90s and essentially become WWE’s most outspoken rival. Sammartino’s main assertion in this public war was that his traditional way of wrestling was better than what younger folks were doing at the time, the sort of argument only a self-obsessed person could make. It just so happened many fans agreed with Bruno, or at least respected him so much they didn’t tell him he was wrong.
4 OUT OF CONTROL: Dusty Rhodes
When it comes to influence behind the scenes, there’s really no way Dusty Rhodes could have an overinflated ego. Few have more to do with what sports entertainment is today than the American Dream, who innovated countless matches and booking concepts that are now commonplace. Rhodes was also famously one of the best in history on the microphone, crafting brilliant tales of warfare with his words, packing countless fans into arenas. Unfortunately, once they got in the building, all Dusty could offer his audience was a slow, plodding match filled with Bionic Elbows and little more. There was a time in the 1970s when his style was truly unique, but by the 1980s, Rhodes was overweight and out of shape, unable to keep up with his opponents in the ring. Because he was the booker, though, Dusty kept giving himself major NWA titles, well past his expiration date as a performer. Thankfully, he eventually gave up on his in-ring career early enough that his reputation backstage didn’t suffer too badly.
3 DESERVED: CM Punk
Four years after CM Punk controversially left the WWE Universe for what looks to be the final time, crowds across the world still loudly chant his name at every opportunity they get. This is because Punk was, as he often boasted, the best in the world at what he did, especially on the microphone. Punk was also outrageously skilled inside the squared circle, able to take anything WWE threw at him and turn it into a classic. Unfortunately, Punk was never quite satisfied with his role in the company, always feeling his talents were being overlooked for part time stars like The Rock, or to sate the even bigger ego of Triple H. It’s easy to see his argument, considering his record setting 400+ day WWE Championship reign didn’t include a WrestleMania main event, because Rocky was filling that slot. In any event, the point is simply that Punk deserved at least one main event, and he’s hardly exaggerating when he complains about his talents being underutilized to this day.
2 OUT OF CONTROL: Stephanie McMahon
Okay, so no matter what Vince McMahon says about himself, he’s able to get away with it, because he genuinely did built the sports entertainment empire all wrestling fans today know and love. Not so for his daughter Stephanie McMahon, who has yet to do all that much except take credit for things she had nothing to do with and publicly embarrass the company through her actual efforts. Don’t get fooled by Stephanie standing in front of all female wrestlers employed by WWE and acting like she started the women’s wrestling revolution—those other women did all the real, hard work, while Steph just nodded in agreement after her father and husband decided they should get a chance. Let’s be clear and point out we aren’t saying those men deserve the credit for the women’s work either, just that Stephanie is one woman who had almost nothing to do with the equation, and yet she’s the one acting like it was all her idea.
1 OUT OF CONTROL: Larry Zbyszko
To paraphrase the immortal words of Scott Hall, one could watch Larry Zbyszko’s “classic” matches in fast forward, and the self-proclaimed “Living Legend” still wouldn’t move. Slow, methodical, and let’s face it, just plain dull, Zbyszko’s only true success in the ring was his feud against Bruno Sammartino in 1980. Of course, 90% of what worked about that war was Bruno, with Zbyszko basically just a warm body with a solid backstory to propel the former WWE Champion to one last run in the sun. Zbyszko himself had little to offer without his teacher’s guidance, but he still managed to win the AWA Championship about a decade later, largely because his father-in-law owned the promotion. From there, Zbyszko’s career was almost entirely dedicated to inflating his own sense of self-worth as an announcer for WCW. Rather than talk about the action in the ring, Larry would only put himself over and talk about golf, burying the product with his self-obsessed exaggerations.