Professional wrestling is an extremely competitive business, and we’re not just talking about what happens in the ring. Office politics play such a major role in wrestling that at certain times it’s seemed like the most important piece to a successful wrestling career was knowing how to manipulate the people in charge to best fit your interests. The more power a wrestler has the more inclined they are to use it to their advantage, which explains how Vince McMahon and Triple H have ruined a pretty significant number of careers on their own, but you don’t need to control the company to squash the people beneath you.
Wrestling is also a medium prone to rampant rumors, so all of these alleged burials can be taken with a grain of salt, but some are pretty clear-cut cases of career sabotage. The stories are usually pretty similar—a major star is either worried a rising star will take their place, or worried a rising star just genuinely doesn’t deserve the opportunity, and therefore become worried the newbie could drag them down by proxy. Whatever their reasons were at the time, keep reading if you’d like to find out why 10 major superstars have been accused of ruining the careers of smaller scale wrestlers.
10. John Cena
In order to actually affect the careers of your coworkers, you either need to have some serious power in your company, or your company just needs to really love you. As the current top star in WWE, Cena has both the power and the company support, and some wrestlers feels he’s used that power to absolutely destroy them. Tyler Reks worked for WWE as part of the ECW brand during its dying days, and briefly was a mainstay on Raw before he began having problems with Cena. Cena claimed Reks’s finishing move was too similar to his own, and reportedly told Reks, “find another finisher or you’re fired.” Reks wasn’t immediately fired, but by his estimation he was shunted down the card and let go shortly after all as a punishment for using the move.
A different wrestler named Michael Tarver was a member of Nexus when the group feuded with Cena, and Tarver alleged Cena intentionally broke his arm because he saw him as a threat. Though Tarver later took back the comment alleging he was going through personal issues when he said it, the fact it was even brought up may mean Cena is less innocent than his character tries to convince us. In addition to Tarver and Reks, Cena was also alleged to play a role in the firing of Mr. Kennedy, but that had more to do with one of Cena’s friends…
9. Randy Orton
Randy Orton is often named next to Cena as one of the biggest and most important stars in WWE today, so it’s understandable they would have comparable power. In fact, Orton’s power may be greater than Cena’s, since the two people Orton had problems with were much higher up the card than Cena’s alleged victims, and Orton definitely caused them to fall from those positions. In early 2010, Cena, Orton, and Kofi Kingston were having a triple threat match, and Kofi botched the finish of the match. Orton immediately started yelling at him live on camera, which fit the character, but apparently took a turn backstage. Kofi quickly was shunted back down the card and didn’t find his way back towards the top until recently with his partners in The New Day. A potential future star who felt Orton intentionally got him fired was Mr. Kennedy. According to Kennedy, Orton complained to management after Kennedy botched a minor move and hurt Orton. Although it was a complete accident and Kennedy apologized, he was fired soon after the incident.
8. Ric Flair
Ric Flair is often considered the greatest wrestler of all time, and as such fans didn’t really see much of a problem in him holding the NWA World title for years at a time throughout the 1980s. Once the 90s came around, the Nature Boy wasn’t quite as spry as he used to be, but he was still a major superstar and an incredible wrestler, so it makes sense he stayed in the title picture. Not everyone supported this decision, though, and included within those detractors is Shane Douglas. Week after week on ECW Hardcore TV, Douglas would deliver bitter shoot promos claiming Flair held him back in WCW and would even imply Flair did his best to get Douglas fired because Flair viewed Douglas as a threat. Whether or not that specifically is true has been disputed, but there definitely were plenty of people Flair refused to lose to, both in his glory days and later in his career. Lex Luger and Rick Steiner are just two names at the top of the list of people Flair refused to put over for the title, but most people don’t blame him on that second one, since it was all part of a weird power struggle with someone else on this list…
7. Dusty Rhodes
Despite eventually growing an incredible mutual respect for one another, for almost an entire decade Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes were constantly out to get each other both in the ring and behind the cameras. Flair refused to put over Rick Steiner at Starrcade 1988, but Rhodes only suggested Steiner win that match in the first place as an attempt to destroy Flair’s credibility. Dusty also booked himself into main events for years after he should have stepped aside and let younger talent take over, winning major titles in the NWA despite being twice the age of the new talents and never being in any form of “good shape.” In a particularly weird related rumor, Dusty allegedly had problems with 80s valet Baby Doll. Baby Doll started as the manager of Tully Blanchard, but later turned on him to join Dusty. Dusty’s problem with her was that she married wrestler Sam Houston while managing Dusty, which offended Rhodes because he was a much bigger star than his valet’s husband. Whether true or not, the story is in line with his character, and his attempts at sabotaging other people’s careers could help explain why Baby Doll’s career didn’t last very long after her marriage began.
6. Jim Duggan
Jim Duggan doesn’t usually show up on a list like this, since he wasn’t a huge star in the tradition of some of the others. He was still a pretty huge deal in the world of wrestling, as the winner of the first Royal Rumble, and a multi-time United States and Television Champion in WCW. Alex Wright was moderately successful in WCW as well, with Cruiserweight and Television title victories in his past. Duggan still managed to pretty succinctly kill Wright’s career at Fall Brawl 1999. Wright had just undergone a completely character overhaul and was re-debuting at the event as Berlyn. Duggan ignored Wright’s offense throughout the match and basically treated him like a joke, despite the fact he was supposed to lose. Duggan was in his late 40s and had just left WCW for a year to battle cancer. While it’s commendable he was able to recover and return, the fact a weaker and older man made him look like a loser in his debut pretty much killed the Berlyn character, and Wright’s career never recovered.
5. The Fabulous Moolah
The Fabulous Moolah has been accused of some seriously horrible crimes in her day, many of which haven’t been directly proven. What has been directly proven is the fact she regularly refused her own students opportunities in the wrestling world to ensure she herself would be the only woman to achieve true success in the industry until she retired.
Moolah made sure any woman who trained with her signed a long-term contract that kept a certain percentage of any earnings those women made in Moolah’s pockets. And that’s only when Moolah would actually allow them to make money. Plenty of women have told stories of Moolah refusing to lose, and in the worst case she simply demanded she replace a student of hers who could have become the next big star of women’s wrestling. The 6-ft. tall cyberpunk Mad Maxine was slated to be a major character in Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, so Moolah had the poor woman taken off television, and started claiming Maxine wasn’t ready, so Moolah should take her spot. Maxine left the business shortly thereafter. Moolah was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.
4. Kevin Nash
The timeline on this one is a little bit fuzzy, but the main points are the important ones. Kevin Nash was booking WCW at some point in the late 90s. Amongst the top stars on the roster were Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, and Dean Malenko. They weren’t always in the main event, and in fact they almost never were, but they received huge crowd reactions for their incredible in-ring capabilities. Kevin Nash, however, openly referred to them as “Vanilla Midgets.”
When exactly that comment was made is unclear, as is what particular moment lead to Nash saying it, but what it meant was he felt they had no characters outside of their wrestling talent, and were too physically small to become big names. Eddie in particular would prove that wrong when his personality made him a megastar in WWE, and although it’s true Benoit never had much of a character, he was one of the most respected wrestlers in this business by everyone except Nash until he began committing the crimes that ultimately ended his life. Nash blocked the “midgets” from ever gaining true success in WCW, but both ultimately broke through in WWE. Of course, if Nash’s friends had anything to do with it, that might not have happened…
3. Shawn Michaels
Kevin Nash might be the most vocal member of the Kliq today, but at the group’s peak, no one was louder or more in control than Shawn Michaels. We already mentioned how Ric Flair hurt Shane Douglas’s WCW career, and Douglas feels Michaels and his friends did the same thing to him when he joined the WWE roster in 1995. Douglas was scheduled to beat Shawn for the WWE Intercontinental Title, but a series of Marines allegedly beat the hell out of HBK the night before the show, and plans were switched to Douglas losing to Razor Ramon. Shane’s friends Chris Candido and Bam Bam Bigelow echoed his sentiments, claiming the Kliq were trying to collectively destroy all of their careers. Michaels also had a famous incident with Vader at SummerSlam 1996. As explained by Jim Cornette, Vader made some minor mistake, and Shawn essentially told him his career was going to end over it. Vader ended up in tears, which might seem like a funny sight, but really just goes to show how petty and vindictive Michaels could be, since Vader clearly firmly believed he was about to get fired based on HBK’s words. He wasn’t, but he did gradually fall down the card and end up out of WWE by mid 1998.
2. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin is the biggest star in WWE history, but some other superstars aren’t completely supportive of the Texas Rattlesnake or his many accomplishments in the business. For example, there is the case of Jeff Jarrett, who not only left WWE because of Stone Cold, but also ended up making several of his own companies, just so he could keep wrestling in a world without Austin’s influence. Granted, Austin might have a better cause than most of the others on this list, but the story comes from a pretty dubious source. Vince Russo, former WWE and WCW writer, claimed Austin hated Jarrett for two reasons: first, Jarrett gave a promo calling Austin a blasphemer for his 3:16 catchphrase, and more importantly, Jarrett’s father barely paid Austin any money when he worked for the Jarretts in USWA years earlier. According to Russo, the promo set Austin off, but the pay problems years earlier were what lead to Austin demanding he would never have to work with Jarrett. While this didn’t exactly kill Jarrett’s wrestling prospects, it did make it impossible for him to advance in WWE, and the rest of the wrestling world has been seeing the consequences since.
1. Hulk Hogan
There are dozens of stories of Hulk Hogan refusing to give up the spotlight. Terry Bollea the human has a long history of being unable to separate his character from reality, and in his mind, Hulk Hogan is a hero to millions and a legend who should apparently never, ever lose. The first well-known instance of Hogan putting the kibosh on a wrestler who might surpass him came in the late 80s, when he was set to feud with Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Famously, crowds cheered Jake and booed the Hulkster, so Hogan had the whole thing scrapped.
In that instance, Jake pretty much agreed business would probably go better with Hulk as the hero. Several years later, things went the exact opposite, and Hogan’s vindictive greed not only harmed the career of another wrestler, but it was the first major incident in a string of many that ultimately costs hundreds of wrestlers their jobs when WCW went out of business. Starrcade 1997 should have been the apex of WCW—that company’s equivalent to WrestleMania III that shoots them into wrestling’s stratosphere. It was going to happen when Sting beat Hogan for the WCW World Title in the main event, but as is well known by now, the referee was supposed to make a fast count and give Hogan a tainted victory, but the fast count was actually pretty slow, and it ruined the whole thing. The referee has gone on record to explain he was confused over several bosses telling him different things, but most people interpret this to mean Hogan was the one who told him to do what he actually ended up doing. Sting eventually recovered, but WCW ultimately didn’t.
The Hulkster has also been accused of using his influence to give cushy jobs to his friends in favor of actually talented wrestlers, and has an extremely long history of having his appearances on television heavily edited to make it sound like crowds were always cheering him, even when he was being booed.