The McMahon family has ruled the professional wrestling industry for the better part of the past 50 years. Their influence extends another 50 years prior to that, giving them a cumulative century of significantly impacting the sports entertainment landscape. Naturally, with that kind of control, mastery, and dominance comes a long list of enemies trying to overthrow them. Whether it’s a matter of taking the McMahon’s place, getting some form of revenge, or simply taking the McMahon’s down, a great deal of former wrestlers and wrestling personalities have given their best shot at ruining the McMahon dynasty.
There are a few things to keep in mind when discussing “ruining” the McMahons. First is of course the fact none of these people could have succeeded, because the McMahons have yet to be ruined in any sense of the word. Second, there is the issue of what “ruin” means—does WWE have to die for the McMahons to be “ruined,” or do they just need to lose a lot of money? Or, worse for them, do they need to have their future earning potential compromised? There’s probably no clear answer, but we’re defining it as anybody who tried to take enough money out of Vince McMahon or his family member’s pockets that it at least ruined their day, if not their lives. That said, at least half of the people on the list really did want to flat out destroy their lives. If modern WWE has you down and you find yourself wishing the McMahons weren’t controlling wrestling anymore, read on and learn 15 wrestlers who tried to take them down.
15. Raven, Mike Sanders, and Chris Kanyon – Independent Contractors
In 2008, formers wrestlers Raven, Mike Sanders, Chris Kanyon, and undisclosed others filed a class action suit against WWE challenging their contractual status as “independent contractors” during their time with the company. In short, the lawsuit claimed that given the rigorous schedule all WWE employees must undergo, they should be considered full time employees, and thus be given certain assurances of health insurance and other benefits offered to full time employees. Had the case turned into a full-blown suit, it could have changed the landscape of professional wrestling forever. McMahon would need to pay all of his talents far more money across the board, and any controversy about the Wellness Program would start to die down, because doctors unrelated to WWE would be checking the talent on a constant basis if they had uninhibited free healthcare. Unfortunately for Raven and company, the case was dismissed due to the statute of limitations running out. They wouldn’t be the only ones to desperately attempt and revamp WWE’s health care policies…
14. CM Punk – The WWE Doctors Conspiracy
CM Punk famously left WWE and retired from wrestling shortly after he appeared in the 2014 Royal Rumble. He hasn’t exactly made a serious effort at destroying the McMahon family, but his accusations against WWE in general have been pretty pointed, and if proven entirely true he could change the wrestling world in the way Raven et al. set out to do before him. Punk has publicly alleged WWE’s doctors forced him into competition several times when he was injured, for a while doing so when he suffered a serious MRSA infection which Punk says doctors told him could have easily caused his death. Punk also attacked McMahon directly and demanded answers on how superstars would be compensated with the WWE Network changing their traditional means of exposure and marketing, but claims McMahon ignored him. Punk has moved on to MMA and says he doesn’t have any passion for wrestling anymore, but if he did and he chose to really promote and spread the accusations he’s making, he could do some serious damage to the McMahons’ reputation.
13. Barry O – Sexual Harassment
Barry O wasn’t necessarily looking to take Vince McMahon down, but he came closer than almost any other wrestler in history in doing so. Barry is semi-famous for being the brother of Bob Orton, and therefore the uncle of current WWE megastar Randy Orton. Tom Cole was a teenager who worked for WWE’s ring crew in the late 70s. Cole and Barry had extremely low status in the company, and both claimed to witness abusive sexual behavior from WWE executives, primarily Terry Garvin and Mel Phillips (Pat Patterson was also accused; more on that later). The “wrestling sex scandal” immediately made headlines, and lead to Vince McMahon appearing on an episode of Donahue with these two wrestlers and about a dozen others. Garvin and Phillips were fired, but McMahon didn’t really have anything to do with it, so ultimately he and his company were fine. The public pressure on WWE was at a peak for the first time, though, and it would hardly be the only time they faced allegations of sexual harassment…
12. Sable – Mistreatment Of Women
Sable was one of the most popular female wrestlers in WWE history during the Attitude Era, and is still somewhat fondly remembered today in large part due to the fact her husband is Brock Lesnar. The relationship between Sable and WWE was pretty terrible for a few years, though, especially in 1999 when she was first fired from the company and filed a $130 million sexual harassment suit against them. Sable eventually returned to the company only four years later, but remained critical of WWE’s treatment of women, and eventually left the company again in 2004. Sable clearly wasn’t that mad with the company since they worked things out fast enough for her to return, but anyone who files a 9-figure lawsuit is looking to do some serious damage to the person they file it against. Another former diva would have a more specific complaint, and she wouldn’t give it up…
11. Dawn Marie – Fired Over Pregnancy
Dawn Marie actually could’ve done a lot more to ruin the McMahon’s than she did if she had chosen to go public with her story, but she still caused a little bit of havoc in Vince’s life without making too much noise. In 2005, Dawn Marie was fired from WWE while pregnant, and the company made it pretty clear her pregnancy was the reason she was no longer needed. A clause in her contract stated “changes in appearance” were grounds for dismissal, but to extend that to a woman becoming pregnant is pretty damn close to illegal. In fact, it’s almost a direct violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which is still in effect today. She didn’t bring it to news reporters, but she did file a complaint with the EEOC, and with their help she filed a wrongful termination suit against the company in 2006. The full details of the suit were never made public, but it was reported they eventually reached a settlement. It’s possible if that settlement wasn’t reached, Dawn could’ve done a whole lot more to take the McMahon’s down. Some of Dawn’s former friends from ECW might’ve appreciated the favor…
10. Jesse Ventura – Forming A Union
The reason CM Punk asking about wrestlers being compensated for WWE Network can be seen in a lawsuit filed by Jesse Ventura against McMahon in 1990. Ventura felt McMahon wasn’t fairly paying him for his appearances on WWE-produced VHS tapes for Coliseum Video. Ventura still feels WWE doesn’t properly prepare its superstars for retirement, arguing they should band together and find a way to unionize and ensure themselves social security and other benefits. It seems like standard business practices for a multinational company, but WWE has resisted this for years, and if Ventura and the other wrestlers ever got their way, it could ruin his stranglehold on wrestling by allowing his workers more freedom and less fear of crossing the boss and being out of career options for life.
9. Hulk Hogan – Hulkamania Tour
Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon have a long and storied history that does a great job of blending the lines between rivalry and friendship. It makes sense Vince’s relationships with his top superstars might have some similarities with the storylines they act out in the ring, and the real life Hogan-McMahon story is so strong, it once just about main evented WrestleMania. Hogan may not have ever been trying to destroy McMahon’s livelihood or anything that severe, but he has made a series of concerted efforts to ruin the notion McMahon made wrestling what it is today on his own, or even really had anything to do with it. Hogan’s first strike against McMahon came when he joined WCW in 1994, and he again tried to prove he could rule the world of wrestling without McMahon with the Hulkamania Tour and his involvement with TNA. None of these ventures exactly worked out for Hogan, and nowadays he’s probably begging WWE to forgive him for his racist comments and let him back into the company.
8. Bruno Sammartino – Disparaging Remarks
Bruno Sammartino is a special name on this list insofar as his hatred of the McMahons spanned several generations. Most wrestlers only have a problem with Vince, Jr., but Sammartino’s issue started with Vince, Sr., who he alleged owed him hundreds of thousands of dollars when he first left WWE. Bruno eventually patched things up with Vince, sr., but turned his back on the younger McMahon as well after the wrestling world became more risqué during the Attitude Era. Bruno only really tried to take the elder McMahon down with the lawsuit, but he appeared on several news outlets during the steroid and sex scandals WWE faced during the early 90s always giving loudly disparaging words against his former employers in a manner that certainly hurt Vince’s reputation when he was already at his lowest. Bruno and WWE have since mended terms, and Bruno was finally inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014. That isn’t to say some of Bruno’s contemporaries aren’t still fighting…
7. Ivan Koloff – Filed Concussion Suit Against WWE
Ivan Koloff was a pretty big deal in wrestling for the better part of two decades, first as a hated solo star in the 1970s with WWE, and then again throughout the 1980s as a member of The Russians in the NWA. Koloff is a former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, having defeated Bruno Sammartino for the title, shockingly ending Sammartino’s record- setting 7-year reign as champion. Koloff only held the belt for a few weeks, but the accolade is still more than enough to put him into consideration for the WWE Hall of Fame. Fans shouldn’t expect that to happen anytime soon, though, because Koloff is now in his 70s, fighting mental issues, and blaming WWE for his health problems. Koloff was one of several retired wrestlers to file suits against WWE in recent years related to concussions sustained during their wrestling careers. A few other wrestlers involved in the case were pretty big names, too…
6. The Dynamite Kid – Joined Koloff’s Mission
The Dynamite Kid is generally considered one of the most talented wrestlers in history, and also one of the most blatant cautionary tales in the business. His high-flying, heavy impact style lead him to being confined to a wheelchair by the time he was 40. If you asked his family, though, they might actually tell you that was a good thing—an infamously terrifying story confirmed by both him and his wife claims he would regularly point a gun to her head and threaten to shoot her without any provocation. Dynamite, like Koloff, was one of the retired wrestlers to file concussion related lawsuits against WWE. With increased concerns about CTE spreading in the NFL and other contact sports, WWE is attempting to distance themselves from the conversation, but the health and well being of retired wrestlers keep bringing them back into it. It’s probably relevant that the same lawyer, Konstantine Kyros, represents both Koloff and Dynamite. Kyros also represents…
5. Koko B. Ware – Concussion Suit
Koko B. Ware is a WWE Hall of Famer, but he’s generally pointed to as the reason that honor doesn’t mean too much. He was a charismatic and popular performer in his day, but he never won any titles or became that big of a deal in the company. Interestingly enough, this is why it’s so important he’s another one of the wrestlers suing WWE for concussion related reasons. Koloff was a forgotten early proponent of hardcore, and Dynamite was legendary for his arguably too stiff style, but Koko was a pretty safe and relaxed worker. The fact Koko is suing WWE is what puts this above the dozens of other lawsuits past wrestlers have filed against the company and turns it into something that could have some very serious impact if Koko or any of his co-claimants win their suits, instead of having them dismissed like WWE is trying to do. If they win, the entire landscape of wrestling might have to change yet again in order to become even safer and prevent concussions, which would ultimately be great for the performers, but could come at huge costs to the McMahons.
4. “Superstar” Billy Graham – Lied About The Garvin/Phillips Incident
“Superstar” Billy Graham is a unique case in all of the wrestlers who have spoken out against Vince in a manner that could really hurt him. Everyone else was motivated by some level of hatred or a feeling of a personal slight, but the original Superstar simply wanted money and chose to be a jerk about how he was going to get it. Graham is a former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, who in the mid 1990s, joined in with Barry O, Tom Cole, and the others making accusations against Terry Garvin, Mel Phillips, and Pat Patterson. The reason we left Pat Patterson out of the discussion until now is Graham waited until after the fact to admit he completely made up Patterson’s involvement for no good reason. While it seems like this was an attempt to ruin the career and life of Patterson, Graham’s true goals were to extort money from Vince, showing he was just an all around scumbag trying to ruin the people who gave him his career once he realized he couldn’t cut it in the ring anymore. Graham eventually made nice with the company and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, but eventually changed his mind on accepting that honor, and unsuccessfully tried to have his name removed from the Hall for several years.
3. Eric Bischoff – Ratings War
Only a few of the wrestlers on this list really wanted to ruin the McMahons, and even they probably didn’t necessarily care whether or not WWE continued in some form after they got their revenge on Vince. One of the few names in wrestling history who unquestionably gave his best effort at putting Vince McMahon out of business and leaving him penniless was Eric Bischoff. Bischoff was primarily the Executive Vice President of WCW during the height of the Monday Night Wars, but he did step into the ring a few times. He defeated Ric Flair at Starrcade 1998, and a few months before that, he infamously challenged Vince McMahon himself to an actual fight at Slamboree 1998.
Vince didn’t show for the fight (not did anyone really expect him to), but that didn’t stop the two from fighting a ratings war every Monday night. Eric has denied actually trying to put Vince out of business and explained his actions with his oft-stated motto “Controversy Creates Cash,” but everybody who remembers the era well can vouch for the fact he in the very least wanted WWE to die, so he could take over. Eric wouldn’t have his wish, because Vince bought WCW in 2001.
2. Jeff Jarrett – TNA
When Vince McMahon bought WCW and started talking out loud about his plans for the company on Monday Night Raw, one of the first things he did was make sure to point out J-E-Double-F Jarrett was G-O-N-E Gone. It was a pretty great insult at the time, but it lit a fire under Jarrett that has lead to him becoming this generation’s Eric Bischoff in terms of trying his damnedest to create serious competition for WWE that could put the McMahons out of business. Jarrett hasn’t exactly done the best job of this, of course, with the problems associated with TNA extremely well known. Even after Jarrett sold most of that company to Dixie Carter and attempted to start fresh with Global Force Wrestling, things just started to look worse…but hey, he’s clearly trying. Amazingly, Jarrett’s efforts at bringing ruin to the McMahon’s aren’t even the most pathetic attempts a former wrestler has made…
Most of the wrestlers on this list attempted to cost Vince McMahon his company or a lot of his money. Some even tried to send him to jail, although usually not intentionally. We’re not sure what Nailz was trying to accomplish, but it was something else altogether. Nailz briefly wrestled for WWE in 1992 under the character of a possibly robotic ex-con. Nailz lasted less than a year before in a slightly disputed incident he was fired after attacking Vince McMahon. Bret Hart and Tito Santana were both on the scene, and claimed Nailz was choking McMahon and seemed like he was trying to kill him. According to Nailz, McMahon had just tried to molest him. Vince has been accused of plenty of unscrupulous business and bedroom behaviors, but this was immediately mocked and ridiculed as something that definitely never happened, and was a clear attempt at making McMahon look bad. It didn’t exactly work, which shows the risk people take when they try to ruin a billionaire: chances are, the billionaire is just going to ruin them.