Wrestling fans can be a hopeful, imaginative, and creative bunch, who more so than fans of almost any other medium in the world love to speculate about what their preferred entertainment is going to try next. As fantasy booking on Twitter and various wrestling Podcasts will immediately prove, fans can sometimes be unrealistic in their expectations on what might or even can happen in WWE, but three simple words justify whatever seemingly impossible scenarios fans are able to draw up: never say never.
WWE CEO Vince McMahon is a cold and calculating businessman, but he has never been one to let personal problems get in the way of making money. More than a few wrestlers have done things that seemingly would banish them from the sports entertainment industry altogether, only to turn around and be welcomed back by Vince with open arms after little more than a few years of forgiving and forgetting. Whether any of these instances were true cases of forgiveness or merely Vince realizing there was more money to be made by looking the other way is up for debate, but there’s no denying acts of contrition were made on both sides in every case. Keep reading to learn about the 15 most surprising actions for which Vince McMahon forgave his employees.
15. He Forgave Pat Patterson For The 1992 Sex Scandal
Pat Patterson is one of the most important figures in WWE history, and that has very little to do with his history defining turn as the first ever WWE Intercontinental Champion. Patterson also acted as a talent agent, booker, and creative consultant for WWE for several decades, at times serving as Vince McMahon’s right-hand man. In 1992, Patterson was accused of sexual misconduct by a number of former WWE employees, including “Superstar” Billy Graham (more on him later). Patterson was briefly fired, but he was quickly rehired and returned to his prominent position after the charges against Patterson were discovered to have been fabricated. He has since been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and though his time onscreen hasn’t always been pretty, he remains one of the most respected figures in WWE history.
14. He Forgave Bruno Sammartino For Years Of Negativity
Bruno Sammartino was the biggest star in WWE history before Vince McMahon took control of the company from his father. Sammartino attempted to work with the younger McMahon after he retired as an active wrestler, but eventually the two found they had wildly different philosophies on professional wrestling in general. With the young McMahon constantly changing to adapt to modern times, Sammartino felt he was getting vulgar and crass and dragging down the name of professional wrestling. He often appeared on major news and talk programs to voice these opinions, acting as a loud opponent to WWE during the sex scandals that nearly cost Pat Patterson his job. After decades of badmouthing the company, Sammartino finally came to terms with Vince and the two made up, with Sammartino accepting an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013. If Vince shows any resentment over the comments Sammartino made, he’s yet to show it in any way.
13. He Forgave Christian For Jumping To TNA
The war between WWE and Total Nonstop Action never came near the heights of the earlier battle between Vince McMahon and WCW, but a few shots were fired that didn’t exactly make Vince look good. Several top superstars would temporarily leave WWE for TNA, and one of the first to make the jump was Christian. Christian debuted in TNA at Genesis 2005, only a few weeks after he quit WWE over complaints about his character and feeling a general lack of respect for his talents. Despite airing his dirty laundry on air, Vince welcomed Christian back to WWE in 2009, and Christian even became World Heavyweight Champion in 2011 showing there were truly no hard feelings. Only a decade before that, things weren’t so smooth…
12. He Forgave Kevin Nash and Scott Hall For Jumping To WCW
Dozens of jumps occurred from WWE to WCW and vice versa during the Monday Night War, but one that wasn’t so much of a jump as it was a leap with seismic aftereffects was that of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in April of 1996. They subsequently debuted in WCW over the next few months, and the ensuring nWo angle with the two of them at the center nearly put Vince McMahon out of business. While Hall has since said he felt bad about the move, from a business perspective there was really no blaming them, as they made far more money in WCW with better contracts than they had in WWE. Nonetheless, after the nWo experiment went on for too long and WCW went out of business, Nash and Hall were hired back by Vince and WWE in February of 2002. And they weren’t alone…
11. He Forgave Hulk Hogan For Jumping To WCW
As of this writing, Hulk Hogan is once again on the outs with WWE for making racist comments on video a few years back, but history has proven Vince is willing to put a lot aside for one of the men who helped put his company on the map. Two years before his nWo brethren, Hogan jumped from WWE to WCW in 1994. He was by far the highest profile jump in wrestling history up to that point, and it would be the spark that ignited dozens of other wrestlers to follow him away from McMahon. After making the jump, Hogan would be one of the people who tried to put McMahon out of business when WCW was on top of the wrestling world. Regardless, once the Monday Night War was over and Vince was victorious, he welcomed Hogan back to WWE with Hall and Nash in January of 2002. They’ve continued to have minor squabbles since, but always make up in due time.
10. He Forgave Goldust For Countless Negative Comments
Dustin Rhodes has had an odd career path during his time in WWE, with plenty of gimmicks seemingly designed to embarrass and insult the son of wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes. However, Dustin is incredibly talented, so he’s always managed to turn oddball ideas like Goldust and his various identity crises into stuff of wrestling history, winning multiple tag and solo titles during his time in WWE. Still, he has come and gone from WWE on several occasions, and on most occasions when he’s away from the company he has been very open about the fact he hates Vince McMahon and thinks he’s a jerk. Nonetheless, Vince continues hiring Rhodes back, although maybe it isn’t a complete forgiveness and Vince is putting Goldust in increasingly silly gimmicks as punishment.
9. He Forgave Alundra Blayze For Trashing His Belt
While defections from one company to another made the company the wrestler was leaving look bad, the actions of Alundra Blayze took the concept to an entirely different level. Blayze was fired from WWE in late 1995 while still the WWE Women’s Champion. Although she respected the business behind the decision, she was still out of a job and vaguely hurt by the fact the WWE women’s division was essentially being shut down, so she took the title with her to WCW and literally threw it in a garbage can on Nitro. She returned to her old name as Madusa and stayed in WCW until they went out of business. Although she retired shortly thereafter, Blayze still managed to shockingly make up with Vince when he offered her an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015.
8. He Forgave Sable For Suing Him
Sunny is generally considered the first WWE diva, but there’s an argument to be made that Sable was the diva who best represented the Attitude Era. Some wrestlers argued her ego got the best of her by the end of her tenure, but she truly was a huge star, and her multiple appearances on the cover of Playboy magazine only helped bolster that reputation. Unfortunately, either due to jealousy or indeed due to an undeserved ego on her part, wrestlers including X-Pac began harassing Sable and she quit WWE in 1999. After quitting, she sued Vince McMahon for several million dollars over claims of sexual harassment. Only four years later, all was forgiven as Sable reappeared in WWE to act as Vince’s personal secretary. She retired only a few years later, but as the wife of WWE superstar Brock Lesnar, it’s assumed her relationship with the company remains strong.
7. He Forgave Alberto Del Rio For Slapping A Website Employee
Alberto Del Rio was one of the fastest rising WWE stars of the past decade, and he nearly threw it all away in a heated moment with a WWE corporate employee. Del Rio won both the WWE and World Heavyweight Champion after only slightly over a year in the company. His meteoric rise came to a crashing halt in August of 2014 when Del Rio slapped an employee of WWE.com in response to said employee making a racist joke. While many people felt Del Rio was at least justified to have done something, WWE decided to immediately fire him anyway. Del Rio made a few appearances with Ring of Honor and Lucha Underground until WWE shockingly hired him back only a little more than a year later. He won the United States Championship in his return match, proving all was truly forgiven.
6. He Forgave Jake Roberts For Drug and Personal Problems
Jake Roberts was less direct in how he hurt Vince McMahon than most of the others on this list, but his continued redemption included admitting his utter shock Vince would ever forgive him, so it deserves mention on our list nonetheless. At the start of his career, Roberts was seen as a master of ring psychology and one of the greatest talkers in wrestling history. By the end of it, he was the punch line to wrestling’s long list of alcoholic drug addicts. His problems never showed up on WWE TV, but they did embarrass the entire wrestling world at the much-maligned Heroes of Wrestling Pay-Per-View in 1999. Despite that embarrassment, Vince forgave Jake for his problems, and had him inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014.
5. He Forgave Steve Austin For Walking Out On WWE
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin is regularly celebrated as the biggest superstar in WWE history and rightfully so, but for a very brief period, he was persona non grata on WWE TV. In June of 2002, Austin was booked to lose to Brock Lesnar with no storyline or program attached to it, which he thought was stupid and refused to do. When no compromise could be reached, Austin walked out on the company, or as WWE put it in their ensueing smear campaign, “took his ball and went home.” Less than nine months later, with ratings rapidly declining, WWE begged Austin to come back and he made his return at No Way Out 2003. Unfortunately, his neck injuries had caught up with him and he only wrestled a handful of matches before retiring the next month. His relationship with Vince and WWE remains strong nonetheless.
4. He Forgave “Superstar” Billy Graham For Slander
“Superstar” Billy Graham was one of the first WWE World Champions to control the microphone on the same level he controlled his opponents in the ring. His style and charisma influenced decades of WWE wrestlers to follow, so much so that his nickname became the term of choice to describe a sports entertainer. However, his personal life has left a lot to be desired, with his low point being well documented on various news programs around the United States. During the 1992 sex scandal, Graham claimed he witnessed sexual misconduct from Pat Patterson, and that McMahon knowingly covered it up, making WWE look like a nightmare to work for. Of course, Graham later admitted the whole thing was a lie. Very shockingly, Vince seemingly forgave “Superstar” with an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004. Graham threw that apology away when he sold his Hall of Fame ring on eBay, but if Vince forgave him once, it’s possible he’ll do it again.
3. He Forgave Jerry Lawler For Suing Him
Jerry Lawler is one of the longest tenure employees in WWE today, and he’s held the extremely high profile role as the color commentator of Raw for the better part of 20 years. Clearly, Vince McMahon has an incredible amount of respect for Lawler, but amazingly their relationship started on pretty rocky grounds. In the mid 1980s, WWE was calling Harley Race the King of Wrestling, but fans in Memphis knew Jerry Lawler already laid claim to that title. Lawler sued over the trademark and won. Unlike most other instances where Vince was sued, he apparently immediately forgave Lawler and admitted he actually respected him over the ordeal.
2. He Forgave The Ultimate Warrior For Suing Him
The Ultimate Warrior was a unique and controversial wrestler inside and out of the ring, but one thing that could never be denied of him was his intensity. Warrior had an omnipresent energy that helped him connect with fans and shoot up the card regardless of what company he worked for, but his volatile personality occasionally made it hard for him to deal with the executives in charge of those companies. Warrior had several problems with Vince about his pay, demanding a huge retroactive bonus for his WrestleMania appearances in 1992. Vince seemed to acquiesce momentarily, but eventually fired Warrior. Warrior was forgiven and welcomed back in 1996, but once again left on bad terms, and for years was viewed as a joke over his actions. WWE released a DVD titled The Self-Destruction of The Ultimate Warrior, essentially a documentary style smear campaign, and fans assumed that would be what defined his legacy in wrestling. Warrior sued WWE over the DVD, and it wasn’t even the first time he took legal action against his former employer. Amazingly, Warrior and WWE made-up when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014. Warrior passed away only a few days later.
1. He Forgave Eric Bischoff For Trying To Put Him Out Of Business
With this one exception, every wrestler on this list made Vince McMahon a lot of money before they did anything to upset him. In most cases, the fact they stopped making money for him is a big part of what upset Vince and made it so shocking he forgave them. Eric Bischoff is a special case, in that he and Vince had absolutely no relationship to speak of prior to Eric deciding of his own volition to become Vince McMahon’s biggest enemy, and for a brief while, the one man who might’ve actually taken Vince down. Bischoff was the Executive Vice President of WCW during the Monday Night Wars, and his stated goal was to put WWE out of business and allow WCW to take over. He failed, but even more shocking than the fact he came close to succeeding was the fact Vince seemingly completely forgave Eric for his actions just slightly more than after a year the war was over. Bischoff debuted on Raw in July of 2002 to hug McMahon and prove once and for all those three little words: never say never.