No matter what industry people work in, there are certain mistakes that can forever alter their professional lives for the worse. In the highly political professional wrestling business, rookie and experienced wrestlers alike have made decisions that almost instantly and irrevocably destroyed their chances of ever succeeding again, sometimes live on television. While a few of the stories would contend the wrestlers themselves were only partially responsible, the sadder examples we’re about to list involve wrestlers thinking they were doing something that would benefit them, only to have it completely blow up in their faces.
Nowadays, the WWE Universe is so clean and corporate that wrestlers could accidentally do something to get fired almost overnight, and that has indeed happened on more than one occasion. Back when WCW and ECW were around as alternatives, though, wrestlers could take bigger chances to shake things up, although these were naturally the same chances that could collapse and cause their fame to go down along with it. This leads to a sterile product that fans are increasingly losing interest in, but Vince McMahon wants it this way, and will keep firing anybody who goes against it in the slightest — so get used to it.
Just about every wrestler gets fired or has some other sort of down point in their lives. What’s crucial, however, is how they dust themselves off and move on. If for whatever reason they can’t, or if too many bridges were burned in the process for them to have anywhere to go once they do, one small bad decision can mean a superstar should start looking into new professions. Keep reading to learn about 15 terrible decisions that completely ruined these wrestlers’ careers.
15. Bret Hart Leaving WWE
One of the most infamous incidents in wrestling history, the Montreal Screwjob, has been discussed to death, and there’s nothing anyone can add to the story at this point. To sum it up in as few words as possible, Bret Hart’s WWE contract was nearing an end and a bidding war broke out between WWE and WCW. Hart initially chose to stick with WWE, but Vince McMahon later decided he couldn’t pay him the amount they agreed on and told him to go to WCW. The only problem was that Bret was WWE Champion at the time and needed to lose the belt before he left. Rather than discuss any of that hullabaloo, let’s focus on the bigger issue, which was that Bret never should have left WWE in the first place, under any circumstance. Anyone can understand why he did, of course, as it’s important to get paid what you feel you’re worth. However, Bret had been heavily warned that he would get lost in the shuffle with WCW, and that’s exactly what happened. It took more than a full year and a half before Bret was really in the World Championship scene again after he jumped, and almost immediately after that, an injury ended his in-ring career. He obviously wouldn’t have lasted forever in WWE, either, but at least he could have gone out with more dignity.
14. Daniel Puder Trying To Show Up Kurt Angle
The entire point of Tough Enough was to decide which untrained rookie most deserved a WWE contract, and in that vein, it makes sense Daniel Puder would think besting Kurt Angle in the ring could achieve that same goal. Angle had challenged the TE contestants to a shoot match during an episode of SmackDown, and Puder took advantage of the situation, nearly winning by placing Angle in a Kimura lock. Only through quick thinking by referee Jim Korderas was Angle able to get out of the incident unscathed. As Puder said, he was completely ready to break Angle’s arm and prove his worth if that’s what it took. He might have looked like a good fighter through the incident, but that isn’t the same thing as being a good pro wrestler. And instead of thinking Puder had skills, most insiders felt this was blatantly disrespectful and a clear cut sign he didn’t understand the business. Although Puder somehow still won the competition, he was released from WWE in less than a year, reaffirming he wasn’t meant for the company.
13. Amy Zidian Dissing Stephanie McMahon
Even before WWE introduced the Diva Search, the company had been under fire for ignoring trained female wrestlers in favor of supermodels with little or no interest in the sport. Such glam girls were obviously exceptions to the rule, yet there were also women who outright personified the criticisms, and one of them was Amy Zidian. Despite placing eighth in the 2006 Diva Search, Zidian was instantly hired and began making appearances as Jimmy Wang Yang’s manager/valet. Behind the scenes, she made some far more important connections than Yang, albeit none of them positive. After insulting Layla El, Kristal Marshall, and Vickie Guerrero, Zidian topped off her offensive streak by asking Stephanie McMahon who she was after the boss’s daughter had tried to give her some advice. It’s one thing for the Diva Search contestants to not necessarily be super fans (they can learn wrestling as they go), but to be unaware who owns the company is a faux pas on an entirely different level. That it was the last in a long line of insults only cemented that Zidian was done in the wrestling business, and she unsurprisingly hasn’t appeared anywhere since.
12. Mr. Kennedy Burning Every Bridge Possible
Few wrestlers can match Mr. Kennedy’s meteoric rise through both WWE and TNA, especially considered he came out of nowhere before climbing both companies in record time. Kennedy’s tenure in WWE was more impressive than his time in TNA, partially just because it came first, and in part because it only took him two years to go from complete obscurity to Mr. Money in the Bank. Of course, it would have been even better if he were able to transition that success into a WWE Championship run. But things don’t always work out the way they’re planned, and Kennedy found himself back in the bottom after a misdiagnosed triceps injury caused him to lose his title shot. He slowly rose back through the ranks only to run afoul of Randy Orton and John Cena, which would have been bad enough. But it was made worse by Kennedy making the situation public and claiming they got him fired. Though he was hired by TNA and achieved great success in that company as well, he went on to burn that bridge, too, by denying he had failed a drug test and running them down during independent appearances.
11. Hulk Hogan Making Racist Comments
Proving that absolutely no one is immune from making a decision to completely destroy their professional life, Hulk Hogan — at one point the biggest icon in wrestling — has been persona non grata to the WWE Universe for nearly two years now. While his advanced age and lack of options in the ring to begin with has plenty to do with it, the real reason Hogan is out of favor with the McMahon family relates to racist comments he made during a sex tape that has since leaked on the Internet. Without getting too specific, the Hulkster was upset about his daughter dating a black man and repeatedly used the n-word to discuss his feelings on the matter. Moments after the story broke, he called Triple H and admitted his fault in having made those comments, but the WWE still chose to instantly break all ties with him. Retail outlets such as Target and Wal-Mart followed suit, and it’s still hard to find Hogan toys to this day. His time in the ring may long be over, but there was still money to be made on the Hulkamania brand. Unfortunately, the man behind it threw it away because of backwards, outdated notions about whom his daughter should spend her time with.
10. Mike Awesome Jumping To WCW While ECW Champion
On the one hand, just about anybody could look at the facts and side with Mike Awesome on his so-called traitorous decision to leave ECW while reigning as the company’s World Champion. Sure, he had the highest profile of his career and probably wasn’t going to do as well in WCW as he did in ECW, but the detail people tend to leave out in castigating him is that Paul Heyman hadn’t paid Awesome for some time when he made the move. Anyone getting told they’re doing the best work of their life but wasn’t getting paid for it would want to make a change. Unfortunately, it backfired on Awesome when WCW had no idea what to do with him, as per usual. Once WWE swallowed WCW whole and obtained Awesome’s contract, there were too many ECW loyalists backstage for him to ever feel welcome again. Awesome would only stay with WWE for a few short years, never coming close to his former status or potential. To be fair, it seems like he didn’t want to, claiming the experience of working for WWE “sucked” for reasons irrelevant to his success.
9. Robbie McAllister Enjoying The Competition
From the moment Jeff Jarrett and his father started a company with the goal of competing with WWE, it’s felt like Vince McMahon’s policy towards NWA: TNA/TNA/Impact Wrestling was to totally ignore it. Fair enough, because even the biggest fans of the alternative promotion would need to admit their audiences and ratings don’t come anywhere near Vince’s numbers. All that said, there has been at least one incident that proves the WWE executives are at least aware TNA exists, and we aren’t talking about the sudden success of A.J. Styles. Back in 2006, there was an up and coming tag team of angry Scotsmen known as the Highlanders, who slowly rose through the ranks before suddenly disappearing some two years later. Part of the issue was that the team was never particularly great, but they were steadily improving, and WWE was desperate for tag teams at that point in time. So it had to take something pretty big for them to get de-pushed and erased from history. Indeed, half of the team showing up in the crowd during a TNA Impact taping mere days before WrestleMania was exactly that sort of offense. Robbie McAllister was allegedly called and told to leave the event seconds after he appeared on camera, and he did, but it didn’t save him from getting fired some five months later, never to be mentioned again.
8. Alundra Blayze Throwing Out The WWE Women’s Championship
During the Monday Night Wars, dozens of superstars bounced back and forth between WCW and WWE without it affecting their careers much in the long term. Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff were understandably upset whenever someone left them for the competition, but as they say, all is fair in love in war. Well, almost all. Something that seemed unforgivable, however, was a wrestler taking a title belt that belonged to one organization and defacing it on the other’s main TV show. And this is exactly what Alundra Blayze did when she took the WWE Women’s Championship to WCW Monday Nitro. In Alundra’s defense, she had just been fired by WWE while still the recognized champ — an act she took to be a serious insult, both personally and to women’s wrestling in general. While that may make it easier to understand her mindset at the time, it wasn’t enough for Vince McMahon to simply forgive and forget. He kept Blayze blackballed for nearly 20 years until he unexpectedly invited her back as a Hall of Famer. Despite that ultimate vindication, her time in WCW was still a complete bust, parts of it possibly even more embarrassing than getting fired as champion. (see: Oklahoma, mid-life crisis Randy Savage)
7. Eddie Gilbert Always Running Off When The Going Got Good
As far as wasted potential is concerned, it’s hard to find a wrestler who blew more opportunities on his own volition than “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert. Born into the business idolizing his father Tommy Gilbert and local wrestling legend Jerry “The King” Lawler, Gilbert got an early start at wrestling immediately after his 18th birthday. He was signed by WWE as enhancement talent in the early ‘80s, and while that probably wasn’t going to go anywhere big, Gilbert took off as a big star on the southern territories after he and the McMahons parted ways. Extremely talented as a heel or face, and brilliantly unique in the ring, Gilbert innovated countless angles and match types wrestling in Memphis, Alabama, Philadelphia, and various NWA territories, constantly keeping him on the cusp of stardom. The main issue that prevented Gilbert from becoming a true legend was that whenever he started to become successful and it looked like he was going to become a territory’s top star, he’d start no-showing or even book himself halfway across the country to skirt his duties. Gilbert may have mellowed down if he survived, but his self-destructive streak came to an early and tragic end when he passed away from a heart attack at 33.
6. Nailz Trying To Assault Vince McMahon
Enough backstage fights have happened in wrestling and been completely glossed over for fans to accept them as one of the many dark sides of the industry. Although superstars who start grappling with one another for real typically get punished in one way or another, at least if they started it, Vince McMahon and other wrestling execs actually don’t always treat in-fighting as a termination-worthy offense. Of course, an exception can be made should those wrestlers do something completely crazy, like attack Vince himself. Given his personality and how many careers he has destroyed for no reason, fans might think more wrestlers would have attacked Vince. However, there has only been one sole incident of a pro wrestler working for WWE trying to injure his boss, and the foolish culprit was appropriately already wearing his prison uniform. Well, maybe Nailz wasn’t in character when he allegedly choked Vince and demanded more money, but he probably could have wound up in a similar outfit had McMahon pressed charges. Instead, Nailz was simply fired and almost never again appeared on television outside of a lone bizarre appearance for WCW.
5. Jake Roberts Jumping To WCW
Prior to the Monday Night Wars really kicking off, jumping back and forth from NWA/WCW to WWE back to the other was just as commonplace, although significantly less of a big deal. That doesn’t mean it never backfired on the worker, though. And in the case of Jake Roberts, it did so in spectacular fashion. Roberts had been one of the top stars in WWE since 1986, and at the start of 1992, was arguably the most hated heel in the company. He wanted to move backstage, though, and when Vince wouldn’t let him, the Snake threatened to no-show WrestleMania if he didn’t get his release. Then almost immediately after that release was granted, WCW made Roberts a huge offer in the neighborhood of $3.5 million, initially making it look like he had made a great choice. Unfortunately for him, that offer was made by Kip Allen Frey, who was fired in the months between Roberts deciding to jump ship and actually being allowed to do so. The new WCW Vice President was Bill Watts, who had much less love for the Snake and who dropped his salary down to $200,000. While plenty of people would kill for that sort of cash, it was still a huge drop from what Roberts expected, and his WCW work heavily suffered for it.
4. Paige Disputing Her Wellness
By and large, we kept wrestlers breaking the current WWE Wellness Policy off this list unless it was accompanied by a particularly spectacular story. The fact is, enough past abusers have been able to control their demons and right their careers that getting caught with a violation hasn’t been enough to completely destroy someone’s life. That said, getting caught with a bunch of violations in a short period of time and then publicly denying it is an entirely different story. Paige was suspended for her first violation in August of 2016, and her second came just two months later in October. Nearly six months later, she still hasn’t made her return, and many fans think the reason why could relate to a series of tweets she had made in which she argued she hadn’t broken any rules. WWE held firm that Paige tested positive for an illegal drug, and that she had reportedly been partying nonstop with Alberto Del Rio seemed to paint the company as telling the truth. There’s still a chance for Paige to bounce back from this one, a much better chance in fact in comparison to the others on this list, but it doesn’t look too great for the Anti-Diva.
3. Steve Gatorwolf Forgetting To Dance
For better or worse, Native Americans have been part of wrestling pretty much since the sport was invented. Whether or not this goes over well with critics largely depends on whether or not the performer is actually of Native American descent — Wahoo McDaniel and Tatanka were fine because they represented real tribes, while “Chief” Jay Strongbow and Steve Gatorwolf were less respected since neither were actually Native American and simply stole elements of the culture to use for their derivative gimmicks. Or at least that’s what Strongbow did since Gatorwolf never quite got the chance. The story goes that Steve was poised to replace Strongbow as the top Native American babyface in WWE circa 1984, only for Gatorwolf to forget to do his cliché “war dance” after the match, instantly causing Vince McMahon to lose all his faith in him. Years later, Gatorwolf would commit a much worse crime by sexually assaulting a preteen girl, more or less making everyone forget about the comparatively smaller dancing mistake. Either way, his career had been over for years, showing just how important it could be to shake, rattle, and roll when the McMahons tell you to.
2. Sean O’Haire Disrespecting Tradition
Given how many obscure and archaic rules there are in the WWE locker room, it could be very easy for a newcomer to misunderstand something and get blackballed practically from their debut. For evidence of this fact, look no further than Sean O’Haire, who at one point was considered perhaps the most promising rookie in WCW. Although WWE purchased that company, O’Haire’s contract was part of the deal, and it looked like he could keep his momentum going working for the McMahon family, as well. Unfortunately, O’Haire’s chances almost immediately disappeared when in a few short weeks, he managed to disrespect both Droz and The Undertaker. Both of these performers were highly respected, albeit for different reasons, and the perceived insults were more than enough to make just about everyone in the company hate O’Haire from the word go. Amazingly, he was allowed a handful of second chances in the ring and even started developing a highly acclaimed Devil’s Advocate character, but it wasn’t enough to save his job, and O’Haire altogether left the wrestling industry by 2006.
1. Dr. D Slapping John Stossel
Considering that the entire purpose of a pro wrestler is to convince the audience that fake fighting is real, when a reporter asked a kayfabe-era performer whether or not their sport was on the up and up, it almost made sense some of them would think the correct response was a slap across the face. Well, unless they had half a brain or were in the slightest bit civilized — two concepts that were apparently foreign to “Dr. D” David Schultz. The large and imposing so-called doctor had been a big regional name and looked to continue that success into the WWE Universe, getting signed as a hot prospect early on in McMahon’s global expansion. However, Dr. D never became nearly the star that contemporaries like Hulk Hogan or Randy Savage did, despite having feuds with both men, the reason being an infamous 20/20 report by reporter John Stossel. As we already alluded to, Stossel repeatedly told Schultz he believed wrestling was fake, so Schultz slapped him across the face, causing long term damage to the reporter’s hearing. Schultz was fined and fired for the incident, and he went on to more or less disappear from wrestling within the next few years.