From retail workers to bankers, everybody has been in trouble at work. It’s a part of life, a rite of passage, albeit it a pretty unpleasant one. Nobody is exempt from such a thing, not even professional wrestlers. Although WWE was once closer to an eternal party than a business, it has been trying to establish itself as a serious company for over two decades, with a new batch of hard-to-adhere to rules introduced seemingly every couple of months. This has lead to numerous WWE superstars receiving warnings, both verbal and written, and some even being released because of their inability to stick to the rules.
Wrestlers being dismissed because of behavior and attitude problems have become more and more common the further WWE gets to a real place of business, but that’s not to say it didn’t happen at all in the past. Back in the 1980s, a couple of WWE (or WWF) superstars were released for behavior issues, though at that time you had to do something pretty bad to stand out from the cocaine addicts and the statuary rapists who made up a good portion of the locker room. Nowadays, a star can have their contract terminated for something as simple as a poorly worded tweet or something stupid they posted on social media when they were in high school. In this article, we’re going to be looking at wrestlers both past and present who found themselves in hot water with WWE management due to their actions.
Here are 15 WWE superstars who were released because of attitude and poor behavior problems.
15. Paul London
Paul London is one of the most entertaining professional wrestlers of the past two decades, both in the ring and out. Unfortunately, this desire to entertain, this inability be anything other than absolutely hilarious cost Paul London his job at WWE in 2009.
Although London was well-liked by his fellow wrestlers, he was a torn in the side of management and creative. He wasn’t shy about voicing his disapproval of storylines and would put in minimal effort if asked to do something he disagreed with.
In June of 2007, London went a step too far in the eyes of company officials by goofishly grinning at Vince McMahon on live television. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, I know, but it was in the moments before McMahon’s infamous limo explosion and all talent had been instructed to look as frightened of their employer as possible.
Nailz – real name Kevin Wacholz – spent a very small amount of time in the then World Wrestling Federation before being released. Unlike a lot of entries on this list, Nailz was not unjustly released after irritating someone in management with a small mistake. His firing was as well deserved, as his hiring was inexplicable.
For the majority of his time in the company, Nailz was frustrated by the fact the more talented and important performers earned more money than he did. He fought with Vince McMahon on more than one occasion concerning his pay and travel conditions.
During one such argument, Nailz became so infuriated that things turned physical. In a rage, he grabbed the boss man (not to be confused with The Big Boss Man, his arch-nemesis) and tossed him from his chair to the floor. Bret Hart claims to have come to McMahon’s rescue after hearing shouting from his locker room. This may or may not be true, but what is certain is that Nailz was released from his contract immediately following the altercation.
13. Juventud Guerrera
Juventud Guerrera may have gone on to great things in WWE had he been able keep himself in check. Unfortunately, he had problems adapting to WWE’s way of doing business from the get-go.
One of Juventud’s major problems was his inability to wrestle that tricky WWE style. Much like the original Sin Cara a couple of years later, he wanted to continue doing the same stuff he had done on the independents and in Mexico, which included a lot of high-risk moves. At the time, WWE was paranoid about its performers getting hurt after a series of injuries had brought some negative press to the company, so all cruiserweights were under order to tone down their high-flying antics. Most of the cruiserweight talents, fearful of losing their jobs, did what they were told. Juventud did not.
Guerrera continued to perform high-risk aerial assaults in his matches, including the 450 Splash, which he been specifically instructed not to do after a botched attempt lead to him injuring Paul London. Juventud refused to cut the 450 from his arsenal and was released in January 2006 for his insistence on going against managements’ wishes.
12. Matt Hardy
In 2005, Matt Hardy’s long-term relationship with Amy “Lita” Dumas came to an end when he discovered that she had been cheating on him with fellow WWE superstar Adam Copeland, otherwise known as Edge.
Matt reacted to his girlfriend being stolen the same way most guys would, that is to say not very well. Hardy publicly revealed the relationship online and posted a series of blogs and videos in which he said some not very nice things about his ex-girlfriend and her new lover.
While Matt’s treatment of Edge and Lita is understandable, so is WWE’s anger with him for discussing the personal lives of two performers, one of whom was bound for the main event, online. Hardy was released shortly after making the affair public knowledge, but was brought back a little while later to capitalize on the publicity and begin a feud with The Rated-R Superstar.
11. Stacey Carter
Stacey Carter, who competed in WWE as The Kat was not particularly talented in the ring,
Stacey Carter, who competed in WWE as The Kat was not particularly talented in the ring, but she did have a willingness to do anything, which was pretty much all WWE looked for in its female performers at the time. On top of that, she was romantically involved with top commentator Jerry “The King” Lawler, so there was no way Vince McMahon could not hire her.
The push she received upon debuting in the company was largely due to her relationship with The King, but Carter managed to convince herself that she had earned her success through talent and hard work.
The Kat’s money and fame (most of which actually belonged to her boyfriend) went to her head and it wasn’t long before she was making enemies behind the scenes. Carter’s belief that she was above her fellow divas eventually became too much for management to entertain and she was released from the company in 2001. Infuriated by the treatment of his young love, Jerry Lawler left WWE in protest, but returned shortly after because he discovered Carter had been cheating on him for years.
10. Jim Neidhart
In the early 90s, WWE attempted to distance itself from the drug and alcohol scandals that had hounded the company from the early 80s onwards. In order to do this, Vince McMahon introduced a number of rules regarding drugs and alcohol that most superstars were able to adjust to pretty quickly. Jim Neidhart was one of the unlucky few that couldn’t.
Still caught up in the party mentality of the previous decade, Neidhart continued to drink to excess while his co-workers abstained from alcohol or at least toned down their drinking. The Anvil was not a peaceful drunk and frequently got himself into trouble while under the influence. The combination of his massive size and gallons of alcohol had caused a great deal of damage to hotel rooms, locker rooms, and his co-workers in the 1980s, but in WWE’s new professional atmosphere such behavior would not be forgotten about after a stern talking to and an apology.
9. Teddy Hart
Teddy Hart is another member of the Hart family who was released from his WWE contract due to behavior issues.
When Hart was signed by WWE in the late 90s, he became the youngest signee in the history of the company and, because he was a Hart, great things were expected of him. He was sent to train with the legendary Dory Funk Jr. down in the “Funking Conservatory.”
Dory Funk is an old-school guy and doesn’t take kindly to being disrespected by a rookie, regardless of who their parents are, and so he did not make any allowances for Teddy Hart when he exhibited some serious attitude problems. Teddy was released by WWE without ever making a main roster appearance.
The black sheep of the Hart family was brought back to the company in 2006 and assigned to FCW, WWE’s developmental territory at the time, but he still had the same problems accepting correction and respecting authority as he had when he was 18. He was released for good in 2007.
8. Brian Kendrick
SmackDown and given a makeover. It seemed WWE had big plans for The Brian Kendrick, who had given enough of his life to the company to deserve a nice spot. He really stepped up his game in the ring during this period and impressed management to the extent that they were willing to make him the interim WWE World Champion during a Championship Scramble match in 2008.
Unfortunately, Kendrick let his success go to his head and wound up becoming the character he was supposed to be playing on television. According to sources that were backstage at the time, Kendrick would disrespect veterans, arrive late, and smoke weed in the hallways. In the summer of 2009, Kendrick’s behavior caught up to him and he was released from his contract.
7. The Ultimate Warrior
Vince McMahon did everything he could to make The Ultimate Warrior a star. Warrior was very carefully packaged and his matches rarely went over a couple of minutes, an ingenious way to hide the fact that he lacked any in-ring ability. Despite this, The Ultimate Warrior had little to no respect for Vince McMahon and frequently demanded higher fees per appearance.
This came to a head just prior to SummerSlam in 1991. Warrior made it clear to WWE that he was not happy about his compensation for WrestleMania and threatened to no show SummerSlam if he was not paid more than half a million dollars for his work at WrestleMania VII.
Not wanting that year’s hotly anticipated SummerSlam event to be derailed by Warrior failing to appear, Vince agreed to give him what he wanted but suspended the colorful character immediately afterwards. WWE refused to work with The Ultimate Warrior until the following year and he was gone from the company by the end of 1992. Warrior made a brief return to the company in 1996, though his contract was terminated when he no-showed several live events.
6. Jeff Hardy
Jeff Hardy’s inability to keep himself clean and drug free has caused him multiple problems throughout the years and has lead to his dismissal from a variety of wrestling promotions. For the sake of time, let’s just focus on his original WWE release in 2003.
For a while after the initial WWE brand split, Jeff Hardy seemed to be on the fast track to the title picture. As a singles competitor, he put on some of the finest matches of his career, including a stunning performance on Raw when he faced The Undertaker for the WWE World Championship.
Unfortunately, Hardy’s push came to an abrupt end in April of 2003, when his drug use became too much and he was released by WWE. Prior to the termination of his contract, Hardy had been forgetting important spots in the ring, alienating those who tried to help him, and no-showing events.
5. Alberto Del Rio
When Alberto Del Rio was released from WWE in 2014, the company cited unprofessional conduct as the reason for his dismissal, though it did not elaborate any further. It later came out that Del Rio had been released for striking a member of WWE’s social media team.
According to backstage sources, the social media worker in question made an insensitive joke about Mexicans, implying that it was Del Rio’s job to clean up after him in catering. The former WWE World Champion was understandably upset and gave the guy an opportunity to apologize but he refused to do so, which lead to things turning physical.
Del Rio was released from the company almost immediately, as Vince McMahon feared the assaulted employee would sue WWE if action were not taken. The social media racist left the company shortly after anyway and Del Rio was brought back at the 2015 instalment of Hell in a Cell, though he fled WWE less than a year later.
4. Daniel Bryan
As much as Daniel Bryan would like to be released from his WWE contract so he can go and wrestle elsewhere, that probably isn’t going to happen. Bryan is a massive name and WWE does not just release stars of his stature, even if they can’t compete.
However, Bryan was released by WWE back in 2010, before he had established himself as a top star. The release came just after The Nexus made their debut on the main roster, attacking John Cena and anyone else they could get their hands on. In an attempt to be as violent as possible, the young Bryan grabbed announcer Justin Roberts and strangled him with his necktie. A couple of minutes later, he spat in the face (that runs the place) of John Cena.
The combination of those acts was almost enough to give Vince McMahon a heart attack, as he had just recently decided to take WWE in a more family friendly direction. McMahon had to let Bryan go to make an example of him and ensure no other performers dared to push the company’s newly narrowed boundaries.
3. Hulk Hogan
Given everything he has done for the company and the professional wrestling industry in general, it seems weird to think that Hulk Hogan was let go from WWE. However, no amount of success in the 1980s could have saved Hogan after the transcript of his now infamous racist rant was leaked online during the summer of last year.
Hogan had been enjoying a renewed relationship with WWE at the time. He had recently returned to the company after signing with and subsequently destroying TNA. He was just settling into his role as a company ambassador when Triple H informed him that management had been warned of an impending Hogan scandal and would have to release him to save face.
To his credit, The Hulkster took his release like a man and owned up to his mistakes, although it must have hurt when the company wiped his image from the website and the WWE Network. In recent months, Hogan has made no secret of his desire to return to WWE and the general consensus is that he will be back with the company he helped build sooner or later.
2. CM Punk
The tale of CM Punk’s final few months is pretty difficult to follow. Most people assume that his time with the company came to an end when he walked out of Raw the night after the 2014 Royal Rumble, frustrated by creative plans and the never-ending stream of live events. However, Punk actually remained under contract with WWE for a number of months after his walkout.
In the weeks immediately after Punk’s departure, WWE was reluctant to talk about the situation and carefully avoided saying anything too definite whenever pressed for an answer. Vince McMahon described Punk’s time away from the company as a “sabbatical” and said that he would come back better than ever in due time. That, of course, never happened.
CM Punk was officially released by WWE in June of 2014 and received his termination papers on the day of his wedding. While Punk believes the timing to be intentional, Vince McMahon has insisted that it was purely coincidence and that he would have waited for a better time to notify Punk of his release had he known of his plans to wed.
1. Shawn Michaels
“The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels is truly one of the finest in-ring performers of all time. However, his legendary career in WWE almost never happened.
In the 1980s, Michaels, like everybody signed with WWE at the time, loved to party. Alongside his tag team partner Marty Jannetty, Michaels would indulge himself in alcohol, drugs, and women, much like he would do at the height of his fame in the 1990s.
Shortly after signing with the then World Wrestling Federation, The Rockers fell out of favor with company management due to their excessive partying. The feeling was that both men had great potential, but were wasting their talents by drinking themselves into oblivion every night. They were released in 1987 after their unprofessional behavior began to affect their in-ring work.
Thankfully, The Rockers were brought back once they restored Vince McMahon’s confidence in their ability to be professional and Michaels went on to have a great career. Jannetty, not so much.