World Wrestling Entertainment is a polarizing organization. Thousands of employees have funnelled through the corporate giant over the many decades of its existence, so naturally, there would be quite a few disgruntled employees. But WWE seems to see an alarmingly high number of former wrestlers speaking out against Vince McMahon and the way he conducts business.
We frequently hear about former WWE Superstars and other wrestling personalities filing lawsuits against the company or otherwise speaking out publicly against it in some form or fashion. It is usually over issues related to something like health care costs or unpaid royalties, but also regarding a perceived lack of quality wrestling product WWE puts out to television. No matter the issue, though, there’s no denying WWE’s constant revolving door of bad press.
Fortunately for Vince McMahon and his global wrestling monster of an organization, the tower is far too sturdy to be budged and no matter how hard they’ve all tried, no one’s been able to topple it as of yet. The company’s questionable practices being exposed to the press can be just as damaging as any lawsuit, if not more so, but somehow Mr. McMahon always finds a way to remain practically untouched. If the steroid scandal of the 1990s and the Chris Benoit tragedy of the 2000s weren’t going to take him down, nothing likely will.
But that doesn’t mean many won’t try. Here are 15 former WWE employees who can’t stand the company and do not shy away from letting everyone know about it.
The man known as Raven was one of the most accomplished wrestlers to compete for Paul Heyman’s original ECW. While originally a member of WWE’s roster in the early ‘90s under the name Johnny Polo, Raven’s stint in ECW was absolutely iconic and he became perhaps the most popular ECW Champion of the era. After Vince McMahon bought ECW, Raven joined WWE as his ECW persona and became famous for being the Hardcore Champion.
But Raven left WWE after a few years and these days the two are not on the best of terms to say the least. In a 2015 interview with Chris Jericho, Raven noted that he is probably not going to be welcome in WWE anytime soon due to a lawsuit he had filed against the corporation a few years prior over issues related to health care. Raven says he doesn’t appreciate the way the company treats its wrestlers and that he’d only go back to WWE if he could show his creativity, which he says will never happen.
14. Shane Douglas
Shane Douglas is not known for his brief stint in WWE as Dean Douglas. Instead, Shane’s biggest claim to fame is his time in ECW as one of the faces of that company. In fact, Douglas was the man who helped roll in the “extreme” incarnation of ECW in the mid 1990s when he denounced ECW’s association with the National Wrestling Alliance. It is clear that Shane Douglas is revered as one of the greatest ECW performers in history.
Even though his time with Vince McMahon’s wrestling giant didn’t do much for his career, Shane did get a brief Intercontinental Championship reign out of it. That reign, however, is surrounded in drama revolving around backstage heat between Douglas and WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels, which played a role in Shane’s lack of interest in WWE. According to Douglas, Michaels was uninterested in defending the Intercontinental title against him following a backstage altercation between the two, which lead to Michaels faking an injury and forfeiting the title instead.
13. Bruno Sammartino
WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino is known for having the longest WWE Championship reign in history, clocking in at nearly eight full years as the second ever person to hold the title. He was the Hulk Hogan or John Cena of the 1960s for WWE, a beloved hero to many. He would hold the WWE Championship twice during his time with the company and would largely carry WWE on his back into the WrestleMania era.
Sammartino was finally dragged kicking and screaming into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013 and all seems peachy between the two parties on the surface, but for decades Bruno was steadfast in his disapproval of WWE’s business model. Bruno says the company was too vulgar for far too long and stated in an interview that he would be embarrassed to be in WWE’s Hall of Fame because it wasn’t a real wrestling Hall of Fame. His main complaint was that he would not want to be inducted with TV show hosts and baseball players. Funnily enough, his induction took place one year later.
12. Jesse “The Body” Ventura
In the 1970s Jesse “The Body” Ventura had a successful wrestling career, but he became a big star when he began doing commentary for WWE in the ‘80s. He and his frequent announcing partner, fellow wrestling legend Gorilla Monsoon, became one of the most popular commentary teams in the history of the industry. Ventura is also known widely for his political career, once being elected as the Governor of Minnesota.
Ventura is a very outspoken individual, still frequently speaking on political issues and even considering a run for President of the United States in 2016. But sometimes his words turn to his former place of work, WWE, and those words are not always kind. In 1991 Ventura won a lawsuit against WWE regarding royalties and he has mentioned that he will seek legal action against the company if he finds he is not being paid for his appearances on the WWE Network. Ventura also once had issues with Vince McMahon over his appearance in a movie while under contract with WWE.
11. Honky Tonk Man
The Honky Tonk Man is one of the most easily identifiable faces from pro wrestling’s past. He was a 1980s icon for WWE, playing one of the top heels of the mid card and holding the Intercontinental Championship for longer than anyone, a record no WWE Superstar has yet broken. Honky Tonk Man may also be known for being the cousin of WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler. You also will probably never forget how well he played his Elvis gimmick.
If he’s so iconic, then why is he not a member of WWE’s Hall of Fame? There’s no clear answer, but the Honky Tonk Man does not appear to be a big fan of the company in any case. He says he doesn’t watch the product because the company doesn’t know how to create good heels, among other reasons. Honky Tonk Man has also threatened to sue the company should they attempt to restrict his use of his character’s name.
10. “Superstar” Billy Graham
While the biggest star of the 1970s was easily Bruno Sammartino, one of his biggest rivals was “Superstar” Billy Graham. Graham captured the WWE Championship and was famous for his flamboyant appearance. He would have several runs with the company, but none were as successful as his original.
Graham began to have problems with WWE as early as during his WWE Championship reign in the late ‘70s when he wanted to become a babyface character, but the company wasn’t interested. Many years later after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, the Superstar began requesting his removal from the Hall of Fame because he didn’t want to share the space with Abdullah the Butcher, whom Graham severely disapproved of. Graham is now working under a Legends contract with WWE, but the bad blood still seems to boil as he recently condemned Shane McMahon’s jump from the top of Hell in a Cell at WrestleMania 32 as a “stupid wrestling stunt” for a match with a “stupid childlike stipulation.”
9. Josh Mathews
For 13 years, Josh Mathews worked with WWE in various capacities. He got his start as a competitor on the Tough Enough competition show and eventually wound up on WWE’s SmackDown commentary team. His announcing career made up the bulk of his time with WWE but he did occasionally get involved in the in-ring side of storylines.
Mathews was released from his WWE contract in 2014 but apparently went out with a bad taste in his mouth. He was soon signed by TNA to call Impact Wrestling and Mathews seemed to take well to his new wrestling home, but that didn’t stop him from throwing jabs at WWE. He called out the company for issues related to wrestler Samoa Joe, who had previously worked with TNA. Mathews took insult to the fact that WWE acknowledged the existence of Joe’s wrestling past, but not specifically TNA. Mathews was also involved in a war of words with WWE Hall of Famer Jim Ross on Twitter, during which Josh claimed that he was finally using his freedom of speech after being denied it while working for WWE for so long.
8. Paul London
In the mid 2000s Paul London was quickly on the rise in WWE. He had a reign as the Cruiserweight Champion and formed a wildly popular tag team with Brian Kendrick. London and Kendrick would win the WWE Tag Team Championship and hold the titles for nearly a year, a record that was untouched until the New Day came along. For a brief time Paul London was one of WWE’s most popular Cruiserweights.
It didn’t last though and London was released in 2008, being forced instead to stay active on the independent scene. However, he has not remained silent about his very strong feelings toward what he considers a toxic environment in WWE, calling the company a “horrible place to work.” In a 2016 interview. London says that, no matter who you are in WWE, you will eventually be treated like “garbage” and that working for the company will “numb you to life.” Looks like Paul London won’t be interested in WWE’s new Cruiserweight division.
7. Renee Dupree
One of WWE’s go-to staples when it’s in need of a bad guy or two is the anti-American shtick. It was a shtick that was in play during the early 2000s when a group known as La Resistance was all over RAW’s tag team scene. The team, which became WWE World Tag Team Champions, consisted of two Frenchmen who hated America: Renee Dupree and Sylvain Grenier. After Dupree was drafted to SmackDown, the team went on with Grenier teaming with sympathizer Rob Conway, while Dupree went on to a singles career and eventually another Tag Team Championship with wrestler Kenzo Suzuki. However, Dupree would not quite duplicate the success of La Resistance.
Since his departure from WWE in 2005, Dupree has remained active on the independent circuit, but also active in his criticisms of WWE. He has stated his dislike of Triple H as well as WWE’s lack of paying former employees royalties from the WWE Network. In fact, Dupree is suing WWE in 2016 over that very issue, claiming that his contract stated that he would receive royalties for licensed products with his likeness, including future technologies.
6. Jim Cornette
Jim Cornette is sort of a jack of all trades outside the wrestling ring. He’s been a promoter, a booker, a commentator, a manager and more across his legendary career in the wrestling industry, but in WWE he’s also known for helping create stars such as John Cena, Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton and Batista. He managed such legendary WWE Superstars as Yokozuna, Owen Hart and the “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, but he himself remains famous in the wrestling world for being so outspoken.
Cornette has had his share of problems with WWE, including an infamous situation with former WWE Superstar Santino Marella which got Jim suspended at one time before he was eventually released. But if there’s one thing that might burn all bridges with Vince McMahon it could be the harsh words Cornette has always had for Vince’s son-in-law Triple H. Cornette has gone on record in stated that Triple H is overrated, boring and that he didn’t draw any money.
5. Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner and his brother Rick, known collectively as the Steiner Brothers, were a very accomplished tag team in the early 1990s, capturing the WWE Tag Team Championship on two occasions and becoming one of the era’s most popular teams. The peak in Steiner’s career would come later with his run in WCW as their World Heavyweight Champion, although he would return to WWE in the mid 2000s for some more time in the main event scene.
However, “Big Poppa Pump” is nothing if not opinionated. He’s developed a reputation for being forceful and controversial, and he certainly hasn’t shied away from criticizing WWE. He’s stated that he finds WWE “hard to watch” and that they aren’t paying anyone but those in the McMahon family. Scott has said that he was offered a WWE Legends contract but turned it down due to the money being so poor. Additionally, Steiner was reportedly banned from attending the 2015 WWE Hall of Fame.
4. Vince Russo
The name Vince Russo is usually met with scorn, but he’s one of the most legendary professional wrestling writers in history. He was one of the biggest factors influencing the storylines throughout the famed Monday night war, having worked extensively with both WWE and WCW. His writing prowess has been overshadowed, however, by some questionable decisions in WCW such as having scripted himself to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship despite not being an actual wrestler, and doing the same for actor David Arquette. These two title reigns are seen as having irrevocably tarnished the legendary history of the WCW Championship.
Russo defends his decisions, claiming it was all about TV ratings and mainstream news coverage, which were achieved. He remains very outspoken on just about every topic related to professional wrestling, including his deep disdain for Vince McMahon and the WWE product. In 2016 he called Monday Night Raw the “worst show on television” and doesn’t seem impressed by the prospect of the brand extension, saying he has no confidence that Vince McMahon can make it work.
3. Gail Kim
The story of Gail Kim’s WWE troubles might be lesser known by the WWE Universe, but is no less interesting. Kim got her first mainstream exposure with WWE in the early 2000s during the rise of one of the all time greatest women’s wrestling eras. She was suddenly released from her contract in 2004 and was told WWE was taking their women’s division in a new direction, which we know now to be start of the era of models who weren’t really wrestlers at all. Kim went on to become one of the most accomplished women’s wrestlers in the world with TNA wrestling, where she will be inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2016.
A few years back, Kim returned to WWE briefly but found that women were so mistreated in the company that she couldn’t stay. One night she left the ring in the middle of a match and quit the company, citing WWE’s sexism. Gail has had few kind words for the company ever since.
In the 1990s WCW got a bad reputation for relying on wrestlers who had already been stars in WWE. It worked for a time, but the company’s lack of commitment to building its own original roster saw that things quickly tired out. There were only a handful of wrestlers who weren’t already WWE famous in WCW, and hands down the biggest of them was Goldberg. Without ever having stepped foot in WWE, Goldberg came to WCW and became a megastar almost overnight. He was their “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, his fame perhaps surpassing that of the New World Order.
In 2003 Goldberg finally tried his hand in WWE, but the run was lackluster. He captured the World Heavyweight Championship and feuded with some of the company’s biggest stars like The Rock and Triple H, but many felt WWE misused him and tarnished his legacy. Goldberg has been very outspoken over the last few years about his dislike of Triple H and how he believes WWE has attempted to diminish his accomplishments by having people use his signature moves and trying to imitate his famous undefeated streak.
1. CM Punk
Maybe it’s too easy to say that CM Punk is the one former WWE Superstar who hates the company with the most seething passion, but facts cannot be disputed. CM Punk is one of WWE’s biggest stars of the last fifteen years and possessed one of the longest WWE Championship reigns in history. His “pipe bomb” promo, which echoed all around the wrestling world, was an unforgettable moment and was an extension of his real life personality. He’s been gone from WWE for two and a half years now, but the nightly “CM Punk” chants remain.
Punk doesn’t talk about WWE unless asked directly, and has obviously grown tired of the questions about whether he’ll ever return. He has stated that he’ll never say “never,” but that currently he doesn’t think he ever will. Things got ugly when he left in 2014, citing the product being out of touch and eventually brought a lawsuit against WWE for using his likeness in a video game and publicaly shamed the company for negligent health practices regarding its wrestlers. Punk has been vocal of his tumultuous relationship with Triple H and unabashedly states that he thought Triple H undervalued Punk as a performer.
There’s no denying that CM Punk hates WWE with a boiling rage.