Given the actions of most WWE superstars, Vince McMahon might actually be the most understanding boss of all time. Of course, that’s only when you’re talking about kayfabe, as off-screen, the CEO and Owner of the WWE Universe is more widely known for his ruthless aggression than any sort of forgiving attitude. Vince has demoted, fired, and outright blackballed individuals for the most minor offenses, using his influence over sports entertainment to end more careers than any other one person.
With all that in mind, it’s always a shock when Vince and his company forgive a wrestler who wronged them in an especially public and/or damaging manner. Wrestlers have been re-hired or even inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame despite committing some pretty serious crimes, both against Vince McMahon personally and in the more literal sense of the word. As surprising as it is when Vince welcomes a former felon back into his Universe, it could be argued the returns of his personal enemies are even more shocking, regardless of how frequent they’ve been in recent years.
They say time heals all wounds, and that’s certainly been the case thus far with past and present WWE superstars. Another phrase common to those in the company is that anything can happen in the WWE Universe, a fact proven by the man in charge every time he opens his arms and his heart to people who in many ways tried to destroy him, his industry, and his reputation. Keep reading to learn about 15 outrageous acts you’ll never believe WWE forgave employees for committing.
15. Jerry Lawler – Multiple Arrests And A Scandal
The older Jerry “The King” Lawler gets, the creepier it is to hear him fawn over the twenty something female superstars that populate the WWE Universe. It only gets worse when you learn Lawler was accused of statutory rape in 1993, which caused him to miss Survivor Series that year. The case was later dropped when the alleged victim admitted to having made up parts of her story, so ultimately there’s no reason to blame WWE for forgiving him in this incident, damage to Survivor Series notwithstanding. The situation was a little different six years later when Lawler ran over a police officer’s foot with a car after refusing to accept a ticket. There were no dropped charges this time, and yet WWE didn’t react at all, allowing Lawler to resume his regular duties on Raw only six days after assaulting the officer. The King had yet another run-in with the law some seventeen years later, when he and his girlfriend were both charged with domestic abuse in 2016. The two had filed dual complaints against one another, only to drop them both days later. Again, WWE forgave Lawler almost instantly.
14. Alundra Blayze – Threw Out The Women’s Championship
In the early days of the Monday Night Wars, WCW went heavy on the offensive, striking as many blows against WWE as possible. One of the most infamous took place on the December 18th, 1995 episode of Monday Nitro, when the current WWE Women’s Champion Alundra Blayze jumped ship and reverted to her original wrestling name, Madusa. In her defense, she had been released from her WWE contract with little aplomb, effectively sending the message that Vince McMahon gave up on women’s wrestling for the time being. Offended over the move and convinced by Eric Bischoff it could reintroduce her to WCW as a star, Madusa had no problem throwing the Women’s Championship into a garbage can upon her Nitro debut. For years after the incident, the name Alundra Blayze was basically written out of WWE history, until she was suddenly forgiven and inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 2015. Blayze dug the Women’s Championship out of the trash at her induction ceremony, and has since participated with various WWE Network specials proving all ill will is truly behind them.
13. “Superstar” Billy Graham – Repeatedly Tried To Extort The McMahon’s
In the late 1970s, the bombastic claims of “Superstar” Billy Graham made him one of the first “cool” bad guys in wrestling, predicting a trend that would gradually take over the industry and play a huge role in the development of sports entertainment. WWE goes back and forth on giving him credit for doing this, largely because Graham has repaid the favor by attempting to blackmail the McMahon family on more than one occasion. The first publicized attempt came during the 1992 sex scandal, when Graham baldly lied about witnessing WWE officials abuse children on Donahue. He later admitted to making it up, but that didn’t stop him from telling more lies some two years later, when he claimed those same fictional WWE officials forced him to take steroids during his time with the company. Regardless of all the hostility, WWE had apparently forgiven Graham in 2004 when he was inducted into the Hall Of Fame. Since then, however, Graham has once again become persona non grata for making negative comments about Linda McMahon during her 2010 Senate campaign.
12. The Fabulous Moolah – Accused Of Countless Crimes
Not only was WWE always willing to look the other way on the many horrific accusations levied against The Fabulous Moolah, more than anyone else, Vince McMahon was complicit in letting her control women’s wrestling for decades, thus preventing any sort of women’s revolution from happening well before it did. Obviously, there’s no justification needed for why Vince would forgive Moolah for her wrestling-specific crimes, considering he basically let her do whatever she wanted. The full story remains shocking, though, with certain stories alleging Moolah essentially forced her students into prostitution concurrent to her greatest successes in the business. The accounts of Luna Vachon and Sweet Georgia Brown are particularly damning, with both women alleging Moolah knowingly sent them into incidents where they were sexually assaulted. Although not well publicized until the 2000s, these incidents date back to the 1970s; Moolah was the recognized WWE Women’s Champion almost that entire decade. Even years later when victims started coming forward, Moolah was never actually charged with any crimes, making it easy for WWE to move on and keep treating her like a legend.
11. Raven – Tried To Sue The Business Into Changing
Although literally hundreds of former wrestlers have attempted to sue WWE at one point or another, Raven nonetheless remains a special case for the nature of what he sued the company over. Along with Chris Kanyon and Mike Sanders, Raven argued Vince McMahon and his associates were cheating employees out of health care benefits practically since the business was created. Wrestlers for WWE have always been considered independent contractors, essentially leaving them solely responsible for their own non-wrestling related medical expenses regardless of who much time they spend in the ring. The suit was thrown out when the statute of limitations was passed, and wrestlers still don’t have any health care to speak of. Raven was released from WWE in early 2003, filing his lawsuit the next year. Blackballed from then on, he made a living on the independent scene and in TNA until getting welcomed back to film segments for the WWE Network. Though never a huge star in WWE, Raven was one of the standout talents of ECW and WCW, making him an invaluable asset in discussing the history of those companies.
10. Hulk Hogan – Outrageous Lies And Attacks On Vince
The jury is still out on whether or not to forgive Hulk Hogan for his latest controversy, getting caught on camera making racist comments about his daughter’s dating life. This is hardly the Hulkster’s first screw up, though, and history has shown it probably won’t be long before things blow over. As a matter of fact, it could be easily argued this particular scandal is low on the list of offenses Hogan made against the wrestling community. For decades prior to his racist comments, Hulk had repeatedly attempted to prove he was bigger than the wrestling industry and WWE specifically. He’s done this by jumping ship to whatever company attempts to compete with the McMahon family, often coming up with outrageous lies along the way to make himself seem like a bigger deal than he ever was. WWE initially flew the coop in the early ‘80s, welcomed back with open arms to become the biggest star of his era. He bolted again in the mid-‘90s, directly competing against Vince with WCW, but again he came back to a hero’s welcome in 2002. After a number of contract disputes, Hogan then fled to TNA and attempted to bring that promotion to prominence, only to again run back to Vince in 2014. Only time will tell if Hogan makes another comeback, but history repeating itself as it does, fans can rest pretty easy he eventually will.
9. Eric Bischoff – Going To War With Vince
It was more than a full decade ago, and fans of ‘90s wrestling are still unable to get over the shock experienced when Vince McMahon hugged Eric Bischoff on a June 2002 episode of Raw. Bischoff had spent the better part of the last decade literally trying to put Vince out of business, taking Ted Turner’s WCW to international prominence and briefly even beating WWE in the ratings. Competition is one thing, but Bischoff’s style was particularly combative, giving away Raw results on Nitro, stealing away whatever talent he could, and once even challenging Vince to a shoot fistfight. WWE responded mostly by attacking Hulk Hogan and Ted Turner, but everyone knew who was really in charge of things and therefore never imaged Bischoff would work for McMahon when his loftiest goals of wrestling world domination failed. Bischoff didn’t last in WWE forever, leaving the company in 2007 and eventually joining Hulk Hogan in TNA. Despite the pattern looking to repeat itself, Bischoff didn’t last long in TNA, either, and soon returned to WWE by way of a documentary special on the WWE Network.
8. Pat Patterson – Getting Involved With The Sex Scandal
Far more than merely a wrestler, Pat Patterson has been Vince McMahon’s right-hand man for decades, once even earning recognition as the Vice President of WWE. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Patterson held his highest positions at the same time WWE was embroiled in the 1992 scandal where a number of road agents were accused of sexual misconduct with underage ring boys. Also accused were Terry Garvin and Mel Phillips, who ultimately received the brunt of the blame and have been virtually scrubbed from WWE history to this day. McMahon and most insiders always stuck by Patterson, though, feeling Pat was unfairly targeted in the investigation because most people in the industry knew Patterson was gay. Even though evidence against Patterson specifically was shaky, he was still briefly released from the company while investigation was ongoing. As mentioned, Garvin and Phillips were never welcomed back, but Patterson returned to WWE later in the year and resumed his top level management position. Although he was never actually convicted of any wrongdoing, the scandal was nonetheless so high profile many were surprised to see Patterson forgiven so quickly and completely.
7. Bruno Sammartino – Blaming Vince For The Steroid Scandal
Reigning as WWE Champion for almost twice as long as his closest competition, Bruno Sammartino was the top star the McMahon family business for longer than any other individual. Granted, this time of success came when Vince McMahon, Sr. was in charge of what then was called the Worldwide Wrestling Federation, and if you were to ask Bruno, the elder McMahon could at times be just as controversial as his more famous son. Bruno would first come public about his problems with the McMahons in the early 1980s when he sued Vince, Sr. over unpaid wages, earning a job as a commentator through part of the settlement. He left the company in 1988, and spent the early ‘90s appearing on whatever talk show that would have him to discuss whatever anti-Vince McMahon subject they felt fit to air. Sammartino spoke out against WWE during both the steroid and sex scandals, getting especially heated during discussions about steroids and claiming the company forced his son to use the drug. For decades, it seemed like Bruno and WWE would never reconcile, until he was inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 2013. Bruno has since made a handful more appearances with the company, including accepting a statue in his image the next year.
6. The Iron Sheik and Jim Duggan – Destroying Kayfabe By Getting High
In the modern era, the dual DUI arrests of The Iron Sheik and Jim Duggan still would have resulted in the two breaking the WWE Wellness Policy and likely getting fired or sent to rehab. In May of 1987, it was arguably far worse for the two legendary superstars, considering they were arch-rivals at the time and getting arrested for doing drugs together absolutely shattered any surviving remnants of kayfabe. Sheik was fired shortly after the arrest, while Duggan was only momentarily demoted before shooting back to fame. Several months’ vacation notwithstanding, Sheik didn’t suffer too harshly either, getting rehired in February of the next year. The former WWE Champion never quite managed to reclaim his position in the main event, but Duggan was back on top in no time, winning the 1988 Royal Rumble before Sheik even made his return. Both would enjoy many more runs in WWE, eventually finding their way to the Hall Of Fame, Sheik in 2005 and Duggan in 2011.
5. Kurt Angle – Lied About Needing Time Off For Injuries
For all his expounding on intensity, integrity, and intelligence, Kurt Angle has experienced a pretty sordid and unusual post-Olympic career. Certain athletic traditionalist would argue merely becoming a pro wrestler was a waste of his amateur credentials, but WWE fans know Angle definitely made the right choice when he showed an incredible ability to adapt his skills to the sports entertainment environment. It might have been too much, too soon, though, as Angle found himself begging WWE for time off in 2006, only seven years into his career. Vince McMahon and company immediately acquiesced to Angle’s request, posting a story on WWE.com thanking Angle for everything he did and hoping he would get the medical attention he required. While most fans supported Angle at first, his actions were heavily called into question barely a month later when he signed with Total Nonstop Action and started what would ultimately be a nine-year career with that company. Occam’s razor would suggest the only explanation is that Angle straight up lied, wanting to spread his wings outside of the McMahon umbrella. Regardless of the reason, many fans thought he would never be welcomed back, until he was suddenly announced as an inductee to the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2017.
4. Sable – Sued Vince For Millions
So popular that she inadvertently destroyed her then-husband Marc Mero’s career, Sable was without question the biggest female wrestler of the Attitude Era (before you argue Chyna, keep in mind she mostly wrestled men, and we’re talking about the women’s division). Not initially hired to be a wrestler, as Sable became increasingly famous and transitioned to an in-ring role, Vince and his writers also wanted to put her in exponentially sexual situations, causing her to walk out of the company and sue for sexual harassment. Sable and WWE settled out of court in a manner of months, presumably for considerably less than the $110 million she was seeking. The details on that settlement might be unclear, but what we know for sure is that Sable returned to the company barely over four years later, engaging in what were arguably far more sexual storylines than she had ever before participated in. Though she didn’t stay with the company long, we can assume the relationship remains strong considering her new husband Brock Lesnar remains employed to this day.2
3. The Ultimate Warrior – Suing Vince And Horrific Homophobic Comments
Only a select few WWE superstars have been lucky enough to get enshrined in gold, making it an especially high honor for someone who committed as many questionable acts as The Ultimate Warrior. Starting off with his misdeeds relevant to sports entertainment, Warrior took advantage of his WWE contract multiple times throughout his career, constantly badmouthing Vince McMahon when he did so. The first incident came in 1991, when he demanded pay equal to Hulk Hogan, ultimately getting fined and attempting to resign only for WWE to deny his request. Warrior was forgiven and made his return a few months later, only to once again get in trouble with the brass when he tested positive for steroids shortly after the 1992 scandal broke. Amazingly, WWE welcomed him back again in 1996, only to change their minds barely three months later when he no-showed a number of house shows. Outside of wrestling, in 1999, Warrior made a highly controversial and homophobic speech at the University of Connecticut, highlighted by his claim “queering doesn’t make the world work.” Despite his personal and professional problems, Warrior was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014, and the next year the Warrior Award was created in his honor.
2. Steve Austin – Walking Out On The Company And Domestic Violence
Compared to some of the other incidents on this list, what “Stone Cold” Steve Austin did to WWE in the summer of 2002 really doesn’t seem that bad. What he did a few days later was pretty horrible, although WWE never really acknowledged it, glossing it over as less important than what Vince McMahon perceived as the real slight. The incident in question saw Austin walk out on the company when told he was booked to lose a match against Brock Lesnar, abruptly ending his career in the process. WWE instantly started a smear campaign, deriding Austin for “taking his ball and going home.” Once Austin got home, he apparently attacked his then-wife Debra, later submitting himself to authorities and pleading no contest to a charge of domestic abuse. Despite major public outrage over the incident, WWE begged Austin to make a return to wrestling not eight months later, when ratings were sagging and they had nowhere else to turn. Austin and WWE have had a tumultuous relationship ever since, albeit a mostly positive one, where neither his walkout or domestic violence incident ever get mentioned.
1. Jimmy Snuka – Accused Of Murder
The 2017 death of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was a tragedy to the entire sports entertainment world, but not everybody was mourning his passing for the same reason. With all due respect to Snuka’s friends, fans, and family, it can’t be ignored that he very recently escaped prosecution in a murder trial where the victim’s family still firmly believes he was guilty. In 1983, Snuka’s girlfriend Nancy Argentino died due to head injuries many attribute to Snuka, but a number of technical issues prevented him from ever being charged. The case was reopened in late 2016, at which point Snuka was too ill to stand trial. When Snuka passed several weeks later, WWE aired a tribute to his memory on Raw, noticeably earning jeers from certain fans who apparently weren’t as forgiving as Vince and the rest of the company. Although whether or not one can look past the accusations against Snuka and honor his legacy remains up for debate, WWE made their statement loud and clear, and they only waited days until after he died to do so.