As the owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, and therefore about 90% of professional wrestling history, Vince McMahon is easily the most powerful man in the business. Considering McMahon has held this position pretty much from the day he took over his father’s company back in the early 1980s, just about every wrestler worth mentioning has either worked for him or at least thought about doing so at one point. Of course, not everyone has the same strategy when it comes to dealing with authority, so the mere fact McMahon was the boss didn’t necessarily mean he was in charge.
Plenty of the most famous pro wrestlers in WWE or elsewhere achieved that status in part due to their strong personalities. Even a good number of grapplers who failed to become famous were intimidating in size, meaning few of them were used to getting pushed around and being told what to do. Disagreeable people of this nature need to get along with their bosses if they want to stay employed, but this doesn’t mean they have to constantly buck to McMahon’s power and do every single thing he asks, or even demands.
The truth is, many of the pro wrestlers who stood up to Vince and told the boss he was wrong have been some of the most legendary names in the business. For every great decision McMahon has made, he’s also made countless questionable ones, and sometimes, a wrestler’s ability to differentiate the two managed to save their career and McMahon’s empire. Other times, wrestlers seem content to be happy little worker bees, rushing to answer every beck and call the boss has in store for them. Keep reading to learn about 8 pro wrestlers who do whatever Vince McMahon tells them and 7 who DGAF.
15. DOES WHAT HE’S TOLD: Kane
From the very moment Glenn Jacobs walked into a WWE arena dressed as an evil dentist, insiders could probably predict he was the sort of employee who did whatever Vince McMahon was going to ask. Jacobs kept that appearance going when he mimicked Kevin Nash as the Fake Diesel, earning all the wrong kinds of hatred from crowds he presumably just wanted to entertain. Finally, the subservience paid off when Jacobs was rechristened Kane, beginning the run of his life through hellfire and brimstone. Not that the questionable character choices would end there, as it was Kane who lived through the Katie Vick saga, when Jacobs was accused of necrophilia and murder. Regardless of whatever came before it, hearing that was their next role would make any sane person quit his or her job immediately, and yet Kane has kept at it more than a decade after, still doing whatever he’s told.
14. DGAF: Jesse Ventura
Having successfully transitioned from pro wrestling to politics, Jesse Ventura is one of the few former WWE employees to become more powerful than Vince McMahon. Not that this change in the power structure necessarily affected their relationship, as The Body had always been one of the rare wrestlers entirely willing to cross the boss. Right from the beginning, Ventura was ready to challenge McMahon’s way of doing business by trying to unionize with his coworkers, something WWE still doesn’t allow to this day. When that didn’t work, Ventura took McMahon to court over royalties, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars as the court found in his favor. At the time, McMahon said he was never going to work with Ventura again, presumably fearful he’d keep doing things his own way. Of course, it was Ventura doing whatever he wanted that made McMahon change his mind, happy to have a U.S. Governor in his Hall of Fame.
13. DOES WHAT HE’S TOLD: The Big Show
Standing over 7 feet tall and semi-accurately referred to as the world’s largest athlete, it would be easy to assume The Big Show has never once done anything he didn’t want to do. On the other hand, there’s significant video footage showing he once danced around in a diaper while in his 40s because his bosses made him, pretty much blowing that theory out of the water. Granted, it’s perfectly possible Big Show had no qualms making the infamous Baby New Year video, not to mention getting covered in sewage, dragged across a cemetery on a coffin, or even having Val Venis point and laugh at his “little show.” That said, it’s a lot harder to imagine any of these moments were his ideas, and there’s a good chance not everyone would agree to any one of them, let alone all of them. And yet, The Big Show did it all with a smile, simply because his boss thought it would be funny.
12. DGAF: Hulk Hogan
To this day, WWE fans occasionally debate whether Vince McMahon is responsible for Hulk Hogan becoming an international superstar or vice versa. There’s no denying Hogan was already a considerable star for his time in AWA and Japan, and his appearance in Rocky III did more to kickstart his fame than anything that happened inside a ring. On the other hand, Hulkamania happened after he signed with WWE, so McMahon definitely deserves some credit for the equation. In any event, Hogan himself has always believed he was more integral to the process than McMahon could ever be. Therefore, the Hulkster never had any problem in standing up to the boss when things weren’t going his way. This practice continued years later all the way up through the early 2000s, with Hogan repeatedly leaving WWE for their rivals each time his relationship with McMahon went sour.
11. DOES WHAT HE’S TOLD: William Regal
While working for WCW, Lord Steven Regal was a highly respected wrestler, albeit one who was rarely elevated from his opening match status save for a few rare occasions. Part of the problem was that Regal suffered a number of drug and alcohol abuse issues, making him untrustworthy to company officials. Despite an embarrassing incident getting Regal fired from down south, Vince McMahon was willing to take a number of chances on his rehabilitation. Multiple relapses weren’t enough for McMahon to give up, simply suspending Regal and making sure he got the help needed. In return for these great favors, Regal has done whatever McMahon demanded, from wearing a Las Vegas showgirl outfit all the way to literally kissing McMahon’s ass in the middle of the ring. Regal has fully cleaned himself up and regained his respect, yet he still does whatever he’s asked, never forgetting the assistance McMahon gave him.
10. DGAF: Jim Ross
One might expect Vince McMahon would pick from the other half of this list when deciding who got to sit next to him every week at the commentary desk. McMahon has certainly taken that route with his current announce booth, sending Michael Cole and JBL as avatars who say exactly what Vince wants. During the Attitude Era and slightly beforehand, though, the person calling the action was also one of the few brave enough to call McMahon out on his nonsense. Jim Ross managed to ascend high up the ranks of WWE without ever turning into the corporate drone McMahon wanted him to be, explaining the tenuous relationship the two have long shared. Fans respect JR on a level McMahon has always strived for, meaning McMahon couldn’t simply fire him until a replacement was found. Even then, some serious corporate nonsense had to go down for WWE to oust JR.
9. DOES WHAT HE’S TOLD: Goldust
At the time Dustin Rhodes was born, his father Dusty was on the cusp of taking over the wrestling world. By the time young Dustin was 10, his father was the NWA World Champion and one of the most popular superstars the industry had ever seen. With that sort of upbringing, Dustin easily could have assumed the world was his oyster and accepted whatever roles his father would offer. Based on his first runs in WCW, this could have made Dustin a star, but things went south between the Rhodes and the power structure in that company, sending the younger family member to WWE, where he became Goldust. Suddenly, Dustin was no longer the son of a legend and instead became The Bizarre One painted in gold and playing sexual mind games. Dustin was more than simply willing to be Goldust — he excelled at it immensely, and to this day performs whatever absurd antics McMahon tells him to.
8. DGAF: The Ultimate Warrior
With all due respect to his legacy, saying The Ultimate Warrior didn’t “give a f***” might be giving the man a little bit too much credit. While Warrior most certainly stood up to McMahon in ways few others would dare, in his case, it might have been more sheer insanity than any sense of doing what he thought was right. One thing Warrior does have in common with the others on this list is that his disagreements with McMahon were largely about his own worth. There’s no denying Warrior’s popularity was a force of nature, and his ascent up the WWE food chain was so fast, people who missed it still don’t understand what a sensation he was. However, the immediate failure of WWE after Warrior bested Hulk Hogan for the World Championship was a clear sign Warrior wasn’t the top star he thought he was.
7. DOES WHAT HE’S TOLD: Mark Henry
An avid fan of bodybuilding and weightlifting for as long as anyone has documented, Vince McMahon obviously had interest in the World’s Strongest Man from day one. McMahon was so fascinated by the young Mark Henry’s strength that he offered him a $1,000,000 contract and then went on to regret the decision for almost an entire decade. To punish Henry for Vince’s own mistake, McMahon forced the former weightlifter through a succession of atrocious gimmicks. At first, Henry was sex obsessed, unknowingly dated a transgender woman, and possibly committed incest. Then, things only got worse from there when he dated Mae Young. Rather than quit and give up his massive contract, Henry survived through it all with a big smile on his face. Ultimately, he was rewarded with the Hall of Pain World Championship run, which actually has some fans thinking it may have all been worth it.
6. DGAF: CM Punk
“Cult of personality” is a term usually used to describe dictators, and the way Vince McMahon rules WWE hasn’t been that far off from such a term. Of course, ask the average wrestling fan who comes to mind when they hear that term, and the masses will chant back with a resounding “CM Punk!” Not only is Punk so popular, his name still fills WWE arenas some three years after he walked out, Punk achieved this status by becoming the “Voice of the Voiceless” and refusing to live within the corporate box McMahon was forcing him into. Far more than a mere character, Punk kept that reputation going in the real world by walking out on the company and continuing to trash them whenever asked about his exit during interviews. Considering all that came before McMahon fired Punk on his wedding days, it would be fair to say the Straight Edge Superstar really doesn’t GAF about his former employers today.
5. DOES WHAT HE’S TOLD: Pat Patterson
A walking contradiction, Vince McMahon has been described both as someone who hates yes men and as someone who surrounds himself with stooges ready to do whatever he says. McMahon and his sycophants can say whatever they want about him, but the mere fact one of his best friends has been publicly described as his “stooge” pretty much says it all on that regard. Pat Patterson is an absolute legend within the wrestling business both for his time in the ring and behind the scenes, yet the fact remains his entire career as a road agent has been spent saying and doing exactly what his boss wanted him to. Having a best friend like Patterson works greatly in McMahon’s advantage, as the boss can take partial credit for his most creative employee’s ideas, and Pat won’t ever stop him from doing so.
4. DGAF: The Rock
To Vince McMahon, the only thing more powerful than political clout, like Jesse Ventura’s, is control over the mainstream media. As the highest paid actor in Hollywood, it’s fair to say The Rock has more than accomplished such a takeover, and McMahon has responded by giving The Great One free reign to do whatever the hell he wants. In an era when every promo is scripted down to the last word, Rock is still allowed to speak freely and has, on several occasions, stopped Raw dead in its tracks to play around with his millions and millions of fans. Though McMahon and his son-in-law Triple H have reportedly been unhappy with this practice, it hasn’t stopped them from letting The Rock repeat this time and time again. Unless The Rock’s Hollywood star suddenly starts to fade, it’s unlikely they’ll ever really care what he does.
3. DOES WHAT HE’S TOLD: Triple H
If being one of Vince McMahon’s employees wasn’t enough to make Triple H do whatever he want, marrying the boss’s daughter pretty much sealed the cake. Granted, by now, Triple H is probably the second most powerful person in the WWE Universe, meaning his own opinions are sometimes as important and game changing as McMahon’s. However, he was never going to get to a position like that without spending years doing exactly as he was told. Even after Triple H had won over Stephanie McMahon’s heart, her father forced him to participate in the Katie Vick angle, where HHH willingly hopped into a coffin and raped a mannequin. Most wrestlers with the slightest shred of dignity would have turned that one down hard, regardless of whether or not they got to take over the business one day for doing it.
2. DGAF: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
On camera, no one on this list has caused more trouble for Vince McMahon than “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. During the Attitude Era, Austin vs. McMahon was easily the most exciting and fascinating feud in the WWE Universe, possibly making it the highest viewed war in all of wrestling history. Behind the camera, things were apparently much the same, with Austin only agreeing to raise hell in a manner he found true to his character. Once the Attitude Era was over, McMahon thought Austin had lost some of his edge and started trying to boss him around. Naturally, this made Austin leave the company outright, not returning until he could start getting his way again. To this day, despite his retirement, Austin still stands up to McMahon and questions him on his worst decisions, as witnessed on an episode of The Stone Cold Podcast.
1. DOES WHAT HE’S TOLD: John Cena
Several things in WWE changed considerably between the Attitude Era and the current PG Era, not the least of which was how the top star in the company is perceived. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was an outlaw in every sense of the word, giving authorities the middle finger before sending them to the mat with a Stunner. In contrast, the new top star in wrestling, John Cena, politely opens the door for his boss’s wife, lets the whole McMahon family inside before him, and then signs an autograph for a kid who happened to be watching the ordeal. This might be a slight exaggeration of things, but the point is Cena is the type of guy who will do absolutely anything the boss asks. 16 World Championships have done nothing to change this status, as Cena still stands ready to defend WWE and every single move of McMahon’s whenever tasked with doing so.