Throughout the decades, longtime wrestling fans have always heard stories of backstage bullying and certain incidents going too far. At times, some of this is put down to casual hazing or merely having younger talent or new additions paying their dues. To some of an old school mentality, that’s perfectly fine and good. And in fairness, there can be something said for playing a few pranks or ribs on newcomers in order to make them feel part of the group. But with the WWE, there are so many horrendous stories out there about incidents that cannot be described as anything but examples of extreme bullying.
Right now, there’s a huge amount of bad press on the WWE for the situation involving Mauro Ranallo, the hugely talented commentator, who is shortly to depart the company due to the actions of notorious backstage bully John Bradshaw Layfield. Ranallo, though, is sadly just the latest in a long line of individuals to be the victim of bullying over the years — which is even more ridiculous considering the WWE’s current ties to the Be a STAR anti-bullying program.
Join us now as we take a look back at 22 examples of horrific bullying within the WWE.
22. The Miz Gets Banished
It’s no secret that The Miz was on the receiving end of some serious hazing during his early WWE tenure, and part of that was the result of a simple misdemeanor from the former Real World star. When Miz was caught eating chicken in the locker room, all hell broke loose due to the fact that said chicken was being eaten over the bag of one Chris Benoit. Benoit was openly not happy about this, and then — who else? — Bradshaw chimed in and threw Miz out of the locker room.
Following that, The Miz wasn’t allowed in the locker room with the rest of the talent for 6 months, meaning he had to get changed in hallways, bathrooms, and anywhere else he could find a private spot.
21. Shane Douglas Gets Buried By The Kliq
When Shane Douglas arrived in the WWF for a cup of coffee as “Dean” Douglas in the mid-90s, many savvy wrestling fans and critics had high hopes. Sadly for Douglas, he’d soon be butting heads with Shawn Michaels and his Kliq pals.
Douglas had become a darling of the wrestling dirt sheets at this point in time, and that rubbed the Kliq the wrong way — so much so, they would purposely have bad matches with him and constantly tell Vince and the WWF higher-ups how much the former ECW Champion outright sucked.
Michaels himself would even go so far as to feign injury to get out of losing the Intercontinental Championship to Douglas. Instead, he’d forfeit the title to “Dean” only so that fellow Kliq member, Razor Ramon, could beat Douglas for the belt that very same night. Michaels would be back in action soon after and take back his championship from Razor.
20. Chris Kanyon Fired For Being Gay?
There’s sadly never going to be a definite answer on what really happened regarding the WWE firing of Chris Kanyon — real name Chris Klucsarits — but the grappler made some major claims: that he was fired from the WWE for being gay. Whilst he had yet to fully come out about his sexuality at that time, his last major appearance on WWE TV was one that saw him come out of a box (which he saw as a closet) as he was dressed up like Boy George while singing Do You Really Want To Hurt Me to the Undertaker. Several stiff chair shots would follow and Kanyon would soon be let go by the company.
In the years following that incident, the erstwhile superstar talked about how the WWE brass had wanted him gone because of his sexuality. The WWE has never really commented on the matter, and so we’ll never truly know what happened.
19. Piggy James
The treatment of Mickie James towards the end of her initial WWF/E run was absolutely diabolical. Here you had one of the most talented female wrestlers on the planet being poked fun at on global TV and labeled “Piggy James” just because she didn’t have the bag of bones figure that the WWE was looking for at the time. It’s said that the WWE brass soured on James when her affair with the then-married John Cena came to a bad end, and so on-screen jokes and sketches were concocted to force home the point that the stunning Mickie was a fat ugly mess; a point made on TV by Michelle McCool and Layla.
18. JBL Pushes Joey Styles Too Far
By now, you’ll likely be well aware of John Bradshaw Layfield’s reputation as an infamous backstage bully, and his relationship with Joey Styles is a prime example of this. The thing is, though, this was one of those rare examples where a bully actually got his comeuppance.
After much hazing during an overseas trip, the voice of ECW had finally had enough of Bradshaw’s BS. Making a stand for himself, Styles turned around and punched JBL square in the face, reportedly knocking out the former World Champion. According to various reports, this embarrassing situation caused JBL to spend the rest of the tour locked up alone in his hotel room, and he never bothered Joey ever again.
17. The Treatment Of Jim Ross
Jim Ross is the greatest commentator of all time and the voice of many a childhood, and even though he’s back under the WWE umbrella, that’s not to say that good ol’ JR hasn’t been on the receiving end of some horrendous treatment from Vince McMahon and Co. over the years.
What makes the situation with Ross even worse is that so much of it has played out on TV, such as when Vince did a JR impression that openly poked fun at his suffering from Bell’s palsy or the time that McMahon shot a skit mocking a search of JR’s ass shortly after Jim had gone through colon surgery.
Even not telling Ross — a longtime member of backstage management — about how he was being split up from Jerry Lawler and moved to SmackDown during one of the previous WWE drafts was a massive slap in the face of Jim. Then again, WCW went one further and created the Oklahoma character purposely to make fun of Jim Ross and his Bell’s palsy. Classy as ever.
16. Chris Masters Mocked For Going To Rehab
When Chris Masters first debuted on WWE TV, fans couldn’t help but be instantly amazed by the Masterpiece’s physique. Granted, Masters wasn’t the best in the ring, but he looked the part and acted the part. Unfortunately for him, though, he soon developed a painkiller addiction as well as had to endure constant rumors of steroid use. Either way, the Masterpiece did the right thing and went to rehab.
By the time he returned to WWE programming, Masters had noticeably less muscle mass — which was to be expected. Still, that didn’t stop Triple H and JBL from poking fun at Masters’ lesser frame on TV. In fact, Bradshaw would go as far as to compare him to a concentration camp victim.
15. The Hazing Of Mercury And Morrison
The tag team of Joey Mercury and Johnny Nitro (later John Morrison), collectively known as MNM, was one of the best teams of the 2000s. That’s not to say they had it easy, though. The early days of the team saw them constantly berated and mocked by Bradshaw, with him going so far as to slam their in-ring work, slate their wrestling personas, and even hammer them for not celebrating their wins enough. Mercury and Morrison soon become the regular whipping boys for JBL, and this even led to Bradshaw ordering them to steal Justin Roberts’ passport during a European tour (something which they’d refuse to do).
This treatment would continue for several years until Morrison — by that point, a solo act – stood up to Bradshaw once he himself felt he was at a level on the card where he could do so without facing any backstage repercussions.
14. Who Is Palmer Canon?
Yes, I’m sure that’s a question you’re likely asking yourself right now: just who exactly is Palmer Canon? So brief was Canon’s WWE tenure that even many longtime wrestling fans have no recollection of this superstar. Depicted as an on-screen network representative, Canon debuted on SmackDown back in 2005. Essentially, his role was to be that of a PC-championing exec who wanted to take all of the fun out of wrestling. Palmer was with the WWE for merely a matter of months before he quit in early 2006 due to bullying. His decision came about following a European tour in which he was reportedly bullied at every turn by the duo of John Bradshaw Layfield and Chris Benoit.
So impressed with Canon’s potential was the WWE that it contacted him several times to return to the company, yet he wouldn’t even respond to their calls as he was so angered by his earlier treatment.
13. Giant Bully
With a legitimate giant of a man such as Andre Roussimoff, he could literally do whatever he wanted to whomever he wanted at whatever time he wanted. Billed at 7’4” and 520 lbs, Andre was indeed larger than life. Often remembered as a friendly, caring sort who looked after his friends, there was also a side to Andre that many a wrestling superstar was unfortunate to run into. That side was an Andre that was grouchy, aggressive, and an outright bully both in and out of the ring.
Just imagine trying to have a wrestling match with a 7’4”, 520 lbs giant who was refusing to cooperate and who was instead legitimately stomping on you and putting all of his weight on your downed torso. It’s one of those situations where someone is completely and totally helpless. Many of the biggest stars of the WWF in the 1980s and early 1990s caught Andre on a bad day, and man did they know about it!
12. Shawn Michaels Kills Vader’s Momentum Dead
Having made a name for himself as an unstoppable monster in Japan and WCW, Vader was given a huge push upon signing with the then-WWF in 1996. After a stop-start first few months, the Mastodon was given a shot at Shawn Michaels’ WWF Title at SummerSlam ’96. In fact, Vader was down to actually beat the Heartbreak Kid and take his championship at the event… well, until Shawn had a classic case of ‘Shawn being Shawn’ at the last minute.
Michaels would change his mind and refuse to lose the title to Vader, even going as far as to clearly berate his opponent throughout the match. Following this, HBK would bury Vader to backstage officials and claim he was working stiff with him. And thus, Vader’s drop to midcard obscurity and Sunday Night Heat began…
11. The Treatment Of Justin Roberts
As per his recent book, Best Seat in the House, Justin Roberts has opened up about the bullying he was the victim of in the WWE, particularly during 2003 and 2004. And at the center of this treatment was none other than John Bradshaw Layfield. For Roberts, landing the gig as a WWE ring announcer was a dream come true. Sadly, this would soon turn into a nightmare. Whilst messing with Roberts’s microphone or purposely playing pranks with entrance music was one thing, it was certainly a serious case of bullying when Roberts actually had his passport stolen during a WWE tour of Europe. Due to this, Roberts had to visit the US Embassy in London to get documents issued that would allow him to leave the UK and catch up with the WWE crew back in the US. The man behind this was JBL, who gave the order to a yet-to-be-confirmed superstar to steal Roberts’s passport. Even worse, this treatment was openly encouraged by Vince McMahon himself.
10. Hardcore Holly’s Infamous Reputation
As tough old school wrestlers go, they don’t get much tougher and old school in mentality than Hardcore Holly. For Bob Holly, though, he sometimes overstepped the line and came across as a bully during his time in the WWF/E. One such instance was when he was called upon to help out a bunch of rookies during Tough Enough. Unfortunately for Matt Cappotelli, he was the poor soul who was in the crosshairs of Holly on that day.
As was broadcast across the globe, Holly put a legit beating on the young hopeful, laying into him with stiff kicks, punches, and even hair pulls. What we saw was something tantamount to an assault rather than wrestling training, and Cappotelli was left bloodied and bruised after his meeting with the infamous and tough Hardcore Holly.
9. Bill DeMott Gets Drunk With Power
When former WCW United States Champion Bill DeMott became the head trainer at the WWE’s NXT development facility, some smarter wrestling fans maybe raised an eyebrow or two. Little did we know that the former Hugh Morrus was setting himself up for a massive fall.
Now, where to begin?
Some examples of DeMott’s bullying antics ranged from Zack Ryder and Melissa Coates getting naked Stinkfaces from Luke Gallows, to Judas Devlin opening the can on DeMott’s homophobic and racist insults to trainees, to countless stories of DeMott telling performers that they’d be fired if they spoke up about his behaviour, to Sofia Cortez even getting fired for speaking up about DeMott’s behaviour. Oh, and so infuriating was DeMott and his methods, Kenny Omega — now deemed one of the finest wrestlers on the planet — quit his WWE developmental contract in 2006.
8. Bradshaw Picks On The Wrong Person
Of all the people to try and haze, it’s likely best not to do it to somebody nicknamed the Lethal Weapon. That didn’t deter Bradshaw, however.
When a drunken Bradshaw grabbed the ass of Steve Blackman in an airport, he was told not to do that again. What does that mean to any longtime bully? Of course, that means you do it again, and he was again told not to do it again — several times.
You guessed it, Bradshaw once more reached for the cheeks of the Lethal Weapon — a legitimate badass martial artist and tough SOB — only to this time be met with a flurry of fists and kicks, putting Bradshaw on his backside. The Texan bully was dragged away with Blackman shouting how he was going to kill JBL the next time he saw him. When the pair met at the next show, Bradshaw was full of apologies at the prospect of another beating.
7. Mauro Ranallo Pushed Out Of The WWE
Many may claim that the bullying antics of many in the WWF and WWE over the years were just done due to an old school mentality and as a way to have younger talents pay their dues. Those new to the company are expected to merely take what’s dished out to them and “suck it up”. The problem is, though, you don’t always know the background of the person that’s being targeted.
Where Mauro Ranallo is concerned, he’s been very vocal over the years about how he’s suffered with bipolar disorder and depression since his late teenage years… which makes it even more ridiculous of John Bradshaw Layfield to make the hugely popular Mauro the target of his most recent bullying antics. After JBL was angered by Ranallo winning the Wrestling Observer’s Announcer of the Year gong, his hazing of Mauro led to the Canadian taking a sabbatical that has ultimately led to his impending departure from the WWE.
6. Randy Orton’s #2 Special
Likely the crudest entry on this list is, yes, you guessed right, the time when 13-time World Champion Randy Orton took a ‘dumpski’ into the bag of Amy Weber.
Obviously, back then Orton was still relatively new to the business, and the majority of his championship gold lay ahead of him, but regardless, this was still a hugely inappropriate act and one of severe bullying. After all, who would be happy with someone dropping a fresh turd into their bag?
This isn’t the only example of Orton partaking in such behavior, particularly towards female talent, and this incident led to Weber quitting the company in 2005 after the WWE did nothing about it. Why was that? Well, while Weber was largely a generic, expendable diva, Orton was being groomed to be one of the biggest superstars of the next decade.
5. Rene Dupree’s Working Life Is Made Miserable
Rene Dupree is the holder of a rare accolade where the WWE is concerned; he’s the only superstar to win WWE gold while still in his teens. As one-half of La Resistance, Dupree won the WWE Tag Team Titles at the age of just 19. With a bright future ahead of the French Canadian, it looked as if Dupree was set for a long and prosperous tenure with Vince McMahon’s company. That is, until he was unfortunately moved to the SmackDown roster in 2005. It was there that Dupree ran afoul of, you guessed it, John Bradshaw Layfield.
Dupree’s career began to nosedive from there on out, although that obviously had nothing particularly to do with JBL or any bullying. What had to do with JBL and bullying, though, was how Rene’s working life was made a misery on a daily basis. According to Dupree, Bradshaw poked fun at his heritage and would commonly refer to him as a “French fa**ot” every time he saw him.
4. Daniel Puder Gets Lit Up Live On PPV
For those who’ve seen the 2005 edition of the Royal Rumble, it made for some absolutely brutal viewing at one particular point. At one point, Tough Enough rookie Daniel Puder saw Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Hardcore Holly all unload a whole bunch of legit and heavy hits on him. Sure, this was a way of sending a message to the cocksure Puder, but doing this on a live public forum wasn’t exactly a smart move from WWE, particularly in hindsight when these days, they regularly champion anti-bullying mantras.
What was Puder’s crime? Why, that was answering an open challenge from Kurt Angle during an episode of SmackDown. Angle went off script and asked anybody to step up if they had the stones to try and test him. Puder seemingly had balls like watermelons and promptly took on the Olympic gold medalist. Not only that, but Puder would best Angle and nearly break his arm!
3. JBL Unloads On The Blue Meanie
What’s so rare about the beef between John Bradshaw Layfield and Blue Meanie is that we all saw the situation play out live on PPV. At the conclusion of the first One Night Stand PPV back in 2005, a scripted brawl broke out between the ECW guys and some of the WWE crew. That was fine; that was supposed to happen. Part of that brawl that wasn’t supposed to happen was Bradshaw legitimately laying some stiff shots into poor Blue Meanie. And by stiff, I mean as legit and hard-hitting as JBL could muster.
As this played out live on PPV, millions across the world got to see Bradshaw seek out and beat up Meanie for no reason whatsoever. To smooth this over and stop any potential lawsuit, the WWE soon signed Blue Meanie to a short-term contract.
2. Dynamite Kid’s Career Of Bullying
Tom Billington, better known as the Dynamite Kid, is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time and one of the most groundbreaking and influential in-ring talents ever to grace the squared circle. As well as that, though, Dynamite was also a famed backstage bully. Mick Foley is one of the big names to openly talk about Dynamite’s bullying ways, with him doing so in his first book, Have a Nice Day. Dynamite Kid was notorious for stiffing his opponents in the ring and carrying out backstage pranks outside the ring. Then there’s the infamous story of how Billington got his comeuppance one day when he made the mistake of tangling with the Fabulous Rougeaus.
When Dynamite thought the Rougeaus had cut up his clothes — which was really done by Curt Hennig — he blindsided Jacques Rougeau and knocked over the on-crutches Raymond Rougeau. The brothers would plan their revenge, and this came a few weeks later when Jacques laid out Dynamite with a quarters-filled fist — taking out 4 of his teeth in the process!
1. The Kliq Ruins Chris Candido
Poor Chris Candido. In the Kliq-driven days that was the WWF in the mid-90s, he never really stood a chance. Candido was a hugely impressive in-ring performer, although his small size ultimately meant he was never really going to get any major success in Vince McMahon’s WWF. But away from his wrestling skills, Candido’s time in the WWF was made a nightmare by the infamous Kliq. Not only was Shawn Michaels sleeping with Chris’s longtime partner, Sunny, but Michaels and his buddies would openly mock Candido for the whole situation.
So bad did things get, Candido was reportedly talked out of suicide at several times by guys like Bam Bam Bigelow and Davey Boy Smith. The sad thing there, though, is that Sunny was supposedly sleeping with Davey Boy, too!
Unfortunately for Candido, he knew he didn’t have the stroke to stand up and call out the Kliq, and his silence on the situation only led to continued bullying and torment.