In the world of professional wrestling, very few friendships end with a happy ending. Even the greatest partners will inevitably find themselves at odds, be it because of a woman, a championship belt, money, or maybe just a simple miscommunication turned catastrophic when the bookers forced them to work it out in the ring. Obviously, the events that take place within a WWE ring are all scripted and in no way indicative of reality, but the truth is, true friendship in wrestling can be hard to come by, largely due to the industry’s reputation for shady dealings and backstabbing amongst even the closest of allies.
Regardless of where one works, it’s natural that people do their best to get along with his or her coworkers. A positive attitude can go a long way, and having friends in the right places can make or break a wrestler’s career. Unfortunately, some people have egos that don’t allow for many friends, and sometimes the problems sports entertainers experience in the ring can permeate through to reality and cause the closest relationships to completely shatter in an instant.
Friendship is a fickle thing to begin with, indefinable and abstract, but you know it when you feel it, and more importantly you know it’s over when you don’t feel it anymore. Nine times out of ten, something has to happen to turn a peaceful relationship into a destroyed and broken one, and the specifics are almost never pretty. Granted, it’s rarely as bad as what can happen when allies become enemies in the ring, but broken trust is nothing to scoff at, and it usually isn’t hard to tell what wrestler deserves the blame for causing these unions to collapse. Keep reading to learn 15 pro wrestling friendships that completely fell apart.
15. Matt Hardy and Edge
October 17, 1999 was a pivotal day in WWE history for many reasons, most important to this article being that four careers were made in a single match. The Hardy Boyz did battle with Edge and Christian in a ladder match for $10,000 and the services of Terri Runnels, with all of the men involved going on to become huge stars in one way or another. Matt, Jeff, Edge, and Christian all became good friends along the way, with Edge and Matt Hardy in particular often referring to one another as their best friend. At the same time Matt and Edge were becoming friends, Matt was also dating Lita, who caused the union to crash to a spectacular halt by cheating on him with Edge. Things became significantly worse for Matt when he expressed his feelings of betrayal on the Internet, getting himself fired from WWE in the process. Fans revolted and soon got Matt his job back, but the damage was done between him and Edge, and it would be years before they were friends again. That said, somehow they did eventually overcome the easiness, perhaps in part because they were so quick to work out their aggressions in the ring.
14. CM Punk and Colt Cabana
Lawsuits are notorious for tearing people and even families apart, even amongst people who seemingly start on the same side of one. CM Punk famously walked out on WWE in January of 2014, deciding to leave the wrestling industry behind entirely several months later when Vince McMahon officially fired him on his wedding day. After refusing to give any interviews for several months, Punk finally told all to his good friend Colt Cabana on his podcast, The Art of Wrestling. Included in the interview was a stunning indictment against WWE’s Wellness Policy, specifically how it doesn’t give wrestlers enough days off and often forces them to work through what could be serious injuries. WWE doctor Chris Amann wasn’t pleased with what they said, and decided to sue Punk and Cabana over the interview. Some two years later, with the lawsuit still ongoing, Cabana visited friends backstage at a WWE event, which Punk allegedly felt seriously damaged their defense. Early reports indicated it was enough for Punk to stop talking to his once close friend, but Cabana himself later told fans not to believe what they read on the Internet, so take this one with a grain of salt.
13. Steve Austin and Bob Holly
Fame is another concept that can quickly cause a person to forget who his or her friends are, and no one in the wrestling industry has experienced fame quite on the level of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The preeminent star of WWE during the company’s most popular and mainstream era, Austin transcended the sport of pro wrestling like few others have ever come close, and the entire company strongly benefited because of it. However, not everybody was happy, including Bob “Sparky Plug”/”Hardcore” Holly, who felt he lost a friend in the process. Apparently, Holly was one of Austin’s most regular traveling partners when he first entered the WWE Universe, along with Billy Gunn. By the time Austin was the world famous megastar on top of the wrestling industry, he had completely forgotten his friendships with Holly and Gunn, leaving them behind while he became more and more successful. Austin himself has never commented on the matter, presumably because he’s still too busy to bother with a small fry like Hardcore Holly even over a decade after he retired.
12. Ted DiBiase and Virgil
The WWE Universe doesn’t always have the best track record when it comes to race relationships, and the partnership of Ted DiBiase and Virgil is high on the list of reasons why. Technically, “The Million Dollar Man” employed Virgil as a manservant and bodyguard, paying him for his efforts, but it often came off on television like he was a slave, making many fans highly uncomfortable. DiBiase and Virgil were able to overcome any discomfort and form a strong union behind the scenes, no doubt emboldened by their success to ignore any negative racial connotations of the pairing. Unfortunately for DiBiase, years after both men had essentially retired, he would discover something that made him the uncomfortable one, causing him to change how he felt about his old partner. Apparently, Virgil regularly misrepresents himself to fan festivals and similar events as appearing with DiBiase, then lies and says DiBiase never showed up when in fact he was never even informed of the event existed. This could make just about anyone mad, including the famously polite and forgiving DiBiase. Why Virgil doesn’t simply advertise himself as a former challenger to the WWE Championship, the world may never know.
11. Hulk Hogan and Jesse Ventura
Wrestling is a highly political industry, and we don’t mean that in the sense that’s usually associated with future Governor Jesse Ventura. It turns out Ventura had been priming himself for decades before he actually entered Washington, starting when he was a color commentator for WWE in the late ‘80s. Naturally, he butted heads with wrestling’s other primary politician at the time, the top star who wanted everyone to follow his lead, Hulk Hogan. The main issue between them wasn’t personal, at least not to Ventura, who simply wanted to somehow unionize wrestling and ensure all WWE employees had proper benefits and were treated equally. Receiving the best treatment pretty much ever, Hogan wanted to keep things unequal, with himself alone at the top, and thus informed Vince McMahon of Ventura’s plan and got him fired over it. There’s still no wrestlers union, either. Ventura and McMahon eventually patched things up enough to work together a few times since, but The Body maintains he will never forgive Hogan for what he did, possibly because of just how many people he hurt when he did it.
10. The Fabulous Moolah and Wendi Richter
They say WWE is going through a women’s revolution these days, yet a closer look at history makes it clear women always played a pretty big role in wrestling history. Unfortunately, The Fabulous Moolah, who managed to entirely control the industry despite not being a particularly good wrestler and an even worse businessperson, usually occupied that big role. By refusing to allow any other females eclipse her, Moolah held on to the original WWE Women’s Championship for over 27 years, and even as she fast approached her mid ‘60s, she was terrified of losing her spot as the top female in wrestling. Wendi Richter was the first talent to come along so popular it looked like Moolah was finally replaced, so she conspired with Vince McMahon to create The Original Screwjob, tricking Richter into legitimately losing the title when she was booked to win. Moolah had apparently convinced McMahon the new star was asking for too much money, using a double-cross to ensure all trusts would be broken and she wouldn’t want to come back to work for WWE. Richter eventually did return decades later when inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame, but she never forgave Moolah nor even spoke to her again.
9. Matt Hardy and Paul London
Looking back on his life, it isn’t too surprising that Matt Hardy became the broken shell of himself that he is today, especially considering how his relationships tend to go. Although not entirely the same as what had happened with Edge, once again Matt let a woman get between him and someone he had a handful of great matches with, fast making them friends. This time the woman was Ashley Massaro, who briefly dated Matt shortly after she won the 2005 Diva Search. The relationship didn’t end well and London asked Matt permission to date her, which he apparently gave, only to fast find himself jealous and regret having done so. Resentment soon grew out of control, and once again Hardy lost another ally because of a particularly bad romantic breakup. In any event, this time around it was London who became far bitter than Hardy about the situation, largely due to his belief Matt was difficult to work with after the love triangle had seemingly ended. Specifically, London believed Hardy complained about him to management more than once, calling him a coward for doing so.
8. Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage
If the two biggest trends on this list have been money and women, it should only track that the two biggest wrestlers on it would define their often-tumultuous relationship through both. Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage were unquestionably the two biggest stars in the WWE Universe throughout the 1980s, making record amounts of money together as The Mega Powers, and then even more when The Mega Powers exploded because of jealousies relating to Miss Elizabeth. For whatever reason, that greed may have extended to the real world, with Savage’s infamous temper leading him to occasionally believe Hogan and Elizabeth were actually seeing one another behind his back. The Macho Man was always able to put his fears behind him whenever it looked like they could make millions together, either in WWE or when they reunited in WCW. However, whenever they stopped making money, the friendship quickly collapsed, even long after Savage and Elizabeth divorced and she was no longer a factor. It reached a point where Savage even wrote a rap song about his old friend, “Be A Man,” apparently challenging Hogan to a shoot fight. Luckily, the two were apparently able to bury the hatchet once and for all shortly before Savage passed away.
7. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels
Sometimes all it takes to become friends is shared excellence in a given field. It might not be accurate to refer to Bret “The Hitman” Hart and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels as ever having been BFFs, but there was definitely a point where the two had a great deal of mutual respect for one another as the best in the business. That time came in the early 1990s when the two were the fastest rising stars in WWE, entirely due to their incredible performances in the ring. Believe it or not, there was even a point when Hart and HBK even looked forward to working together, although their highly divergent personalities caused what was once a minor friendship to become one of the most infamous feuds in wrestling. Vince McMahon didn’t help the situation by forcing them to keep wrestling one another long after they stopped having any desire to do so, using their real life animosity to add a sense of verisimilitude to WWE television. It worked, but it also caused them to hate one another even more, to an extent there may still be some resentment between them to this day, although they claim otherwise.
6. Raven and Stevie Richards
When ECW was at its peak, it seemed like the entirely locker room was working together for the greater good of making hardcore wrestling mainstream in America. Regardless of what they did in the ring, the wrestlers all liked one another backstage and tried to make everybody a star, or at least that’s how WWE tries to frame it in retrospect. It probably wasn’t true of everyone, but it was definitely true of the wrestlers in Raven’s Flock, mostly because they were handpicked by Raven himself. Stevie Richards was his head lackey, and in many ways that made them best friends, at least while their team was together. The two were so close they were naturally paired together when they jumped to WCW, although that would also be the beginning of the end for their relationship. Richards was never quite welcome in WCW because he lied about a serious injury to get there, and with Raven on a serious amount of drugs, he started treating his dishonest lackey especially poorly. They stopped talking for a while once Richards was fired, with Stevie making the decidedly horrible choice of trying to smear Raven during interviews around the time. Amazingly, it wasn’t bad enough to stop them from eventually patching things up, and they appear to be close again today.
5. Rick Martel and Tom Zenk
Not everyone in the wrestling industry is created equally, not even tag teams. Although Rick Martel knew this when he was paired with Tom Zenk in the late ‘80s, Zenk was newer to the sport and apparently needed a crash course in his worth as a performer. At the time they became friends, Martel had just jumped to WWE from the AWA, where he was World Champion for over 500 days in a row. Zenk was pretty much a nobody, and as such, he wasn’t paid as much as Martel, even though the two were in a tag team together. It probably wouldn’t stay that way forever, because The Can-Am Connection were promised a pretty big push on arrival, but Zenk quickly ruined things by complaining about his pay. The Z-Man went so far as to threaten to quit over the situation, assuming Martel would do the same. Despite knowing it would end the friendship, Martel refused to follow suite and kept his job because of it. Weeks after Zenk left WWE, Martel formed Strike Force with Tito Santana, earning that promised big push. To this day, Martel has a reputation as an extremely nice guy with few enemies in wrestling, but even he doesn’t like looking back on his old tag team partner.
4. Leilani Kai and The Fabulous Moolah
Once again, The Fabulous Moolah rears her ugly head. It looked like Moolah might get forgotten entirely around 1988, when Leilani Kai and Judy Martin, The Glamour Girls, started proving women could not only wrestle but also do so better than some of the men, especially when placed against foreign opponents. The WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships were created pretty much just to put them over, leading to a number of incredible matches against The Jumping Bomb Angels, most notably at the 1988 Royal Rumble. The Angels won the belts at that event, leading to Moolah committing one of the worst acts on this list by tricking the Girls into winning the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships in Japan, a moment the company wanted to save until WrestleMania V. Pat Patterson refused to believe Martin and Kai when they informed him Moolah had double crossed them, and both were fired as a result. Why exactly Patterson was so quick to believe Moolah is unclear, though there’s no question why neither Kai nor Martin ever wanted to work with her again – even though she trained them both.
3. Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels
The Midnight Rockers famously and openly took their name from two of the most famous tag teams around at the time, and in doing so they were promising to continue the long tradition tag team wrestling held as being the most exciting style around. Consciously or not, they were also looking to replicate the closeness the members of The Midnight Express, Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, and other forefather teams were always able to exhibit in their matches, which were somehow better thanks to the knowledge they were actually friends outside the ring. Jannetty and Michaels kept this trend going through wild and epic parties, not to mention copious amounts of drug use. With these highly damaging and toxic activities defining their relationship, it isn’t surprising things fell apart, and the catalyst was Michaels becoming a much, much bigger star than Jannetty could ever dream of being. Both men continued their heavy drug use, as well, turning mild resentment into outright hatred and making it hard for even the highly forgiving HBK to let bygones be bygones.
2. Raven and Shane McMahon
As helpful as it can be for a wrestler to be friends with their boss, becoming close with the boss’s kids can go one of two ways. Get Vince McMahon’s daughter to fall in love with you, and you’ll become one of the most powerful athletes in WWE history. Make his son idolize you and start mimicking your most annoying qualities, and he’ll ask “Who the f— hired Raven?” when you finally get your job back years later. Well, the specifics aren’t quite so universal, but that’s what happened to Johnny Polo when Shane McMahon decided he was the coolest guy on television. Raven was in the unfortunate position of not wanting to reject his boss’s son and upset him, while he was also aware that the more Shane hung out with him, the more trouble he would be getting himself into. Amazingly, it wasn’t enough to get Raven fired, although he did eventually leave WWE because he wanted a bigger role in the company. When he returned years later, not only did Vince hold resentment over Raven’s past with his son, but Shane had grown up, made his own friends, and gotten just a bit more corporate, enough so that he no longer wanted anything to do with Raven.
1. Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon
For many decades, territorial wrestling promoters would often make themselves the top star of their company, to ensure they could never lose their most important employee to a rival. Vince McMahon was never trained to be a full-time wrestler, or he might just do that himself. Instead, he’s attempted to form close friendships with all of his top stars, beginning when he took the reigns of WWE from his father and decided to take the company international with Hulkamania. Making more money than any two people in sports entertainment ever had before, McMahon and Hulk Hogan had plenty to bond over, with bodybuilding and pro wrestling only two of their shared interests along with alleged drug use and making movies. Unfortunately, the two could never quite decide who was more responsible for the other’s success, and have been at war over the issue for many years. Hogan believes he made WWE the worldwide name it is, while McMahon argues he’s the one who created Hulkamania, and thus deserves all the credit. Although they both have a point, it may not even matter today—Vince is still upset over Hogan’s racist comments that leaked in 2015, and he has apparently refused to even speak to the Hulkster since then.