Professional wrestling is an occasionally dark and scary business, filled with some people who at best could be described as less than reputable. We’ve covered the biggest scumbags and most horrible people in the wrestling universe already, but this time we’re focusing in on the biggest wrestling company on the planet, World Wrestling Entertainment. Like any other wrestling company out there, WWE has seen some truly horrific people become pretty big successes in the industry. The actions of these individuals in no way reflect the nature of wrestling as a whole, but it’s impossible to separate their actions from who they were as people, and these people were WWE superstars.
The majority of these wrestlers are obvious criminals, and either served time for their crime or at least in some way faced the consequences, but that in no way forgives their actions. Others are simply very bad people, with pretty solid public records supporting the fact they were pure dirt bags, regardless of the fact it was never specifically proven in a court of law. People can disagree on specifics, but it’s hard to deny the following wrestlers were amongst the 15 most despicable people in WWE history.
15. Chris Benoit
Chris Benoit was a legendary professional wrestler who murdered his wife and 7-year-old son before committing suicide in 2007. He regularly features at the top of every list like this one, and with good reason. The only reason we’re putting him near the bottom instead of the top is post-mortem brain scans showed Benoit had suffered enough concussions and head injuries doctors said his brain looked like that of an 80-year old Alzheimer’s patient. It doesn’t in any way excuse his actions, but everyone else on this list was thinking far more clearly when they did the terrible things they did, making them ultimately worse in our book. Still, Benoit’s crimes are amongst the most horrific in wrestling history, and they will never be forgotten.
14. “Superstar” Billy Graham
“Superstar” Billy Graham is a former WWE World Heavyweight Champion and Hall of Famer, although he isn’t too pleased about that second fact. It’s surprising he even managed that accomplishment, considering he has a long history of making scandalous and damaging comments about his former employers. The most public episode came during the 1992 sex scandal, when Pat Patterson and other WWE officials were accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with young male employees. More on that later, but we bring up Patterson’s name first and foremost, because Billy Graham eventually came clean about having completely made up the primary piece of evidence against him. In no uncertain terms, Graham later admitted he was trying to extort the company that made him a star. In the process, he nearly ruined the life and career of a true WWE legend, simply because Graham knew he was gay and thought that was enough to make the story believable.
13. “Captain Redneck” Dick Murdoch
It may not come as that much of a surprise to people to learn that “Captain Redneck” was a bit of a racist. Plenty of people in wrestling have been accused of racism as this list will go on to show, but Dick Murdoch is a particularly vile case insofar as several people have claimed he was an actual member of the Ku Klux Klan. The main claimant is WWE Hall of Famer and father of The Rock, Rocky Johnson. Johnson and Murdoch feuded in the early 1980s over the WWE World Tag Team titles, which Murdoch and his partner Adrian Adonis eventually won. According to Johnson, Murdoch would work extremely stiff with him in the ring, simply because he didn’t like black people. Other wrestlers including Bad News Brown, Tito Santana, Ray Stevens, Superstar Billy Graham, and even Murdoch’s friend Dusty Rhodes, have all corroborated the fact he in the very least was a terrible bigot. Murdoch passed away in 1996.
12. The Harris Brothers
We’ve covered before how the Harris Brothers, Ron and Don, were arguably the worst wrestlers in the company everywhere they went. They stunk up the joint in ECW, WCW, WWE, TNA, and countless independent promotions throughout the 90s. Considerably worse than simply being a pretty lousy tag team, the brothers have been accused of some serious racism, one of them even allegedly having had a Nazi “SS” tattoo early in his career (in the photo above, look at the right arm of the Harris brother in the background). One of the brothers once actually wore an SS t-shirt on an early NWA: TNA broadcast, but wasn’t punished due to their friendship with Jeff Jarrett. All three of them are at least partially responsible for the public belief wrestling is still a racist industry to this day.
11. John Bradshaw Layfield
While Dick Murdoch and the Harris Twins at least kept their racism behind the scenes, JBL’s anti-Mexican sentiment has been part of his character for more than a decade. While one can argue whether or not it’s just a character, the fact racism has been a defining characteristic of that character since its inception can’t be ignored. Onscreen, JBL has literally kicked a family across the border, and has more lately derided Kalisto without provocation. There are also rumors of JBL being the worst offending locker room bully, with various urban legends about him sexually assaulting new employees as “hazing.” Rumors surrounding Duke Droese, Brian Christopher, and a WCW referee are unproven, but Joey Styles, Mark Henry, and The Blue Meanie have all told tales of definite abuse from Bradshaw, and he outright admitted to hazing The Miz. He’s not even the worst person sitting at the booth, though…
10. Jerry Lawler
Jerry Lawler has been working for WWE for two decades, primarily as a color commentator. There’s actually a whole bunch of stuff about The King of Memphis that he and Vince McMahon would probably prefer people forgot, but let’s briefly recap. Lawler has made endless racist and homophobic comments live on air, repeatedly mocked real people only days after they died, and has been accused of statutorily raping a 13-year old girl. While the rape charge was dropped, Lawler has a long history of speaking about women in an intensely misogynistic manner, and his views on humanity in general leave a great deal to be desired. Of course, the man who gave him that job might not be too upset…
9. Vince McMahon
Vince McMahon is the kingpin of WWE, so he’s had a finger pointed at him for virtually every crime we’ve mentioned on this list. WWE is McMahon World, and these events all involve WWE wrestlers, making the connection almost too easy to draw for a lazy press. Whenever WWE programming goes in a potentially racist, sexist, or otherwise simply offensive path, Vince is the person who takes the blame. Whether or not that’s entirely fair, several wrestlers including Kamala and Ahmed Johnson have blatantly accused Vince of racism. Arguably worse, at least for Linda McMahon, is Vince’s long history of cheating on his wife with possibly uninterested young women. The first female referee to work for WWE, Rita Chatteron, told Geraldo Rivera she left the company after Vince tried to rape her. McMahon sued Rivera over the interview causing it mostly to be lost to history. Far more recently, Vince was accused with sexually harassing a woman at a tanning salon in 2006. Ultimately, no files were charged, but his history of misogyny speaks for itself.
8. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin is a WWE Hall of Famer and one of the greatest and most popular wrestlers in the history of the industry. He became popular by assaulting his boss on a weekly basis and getting arrested at least once a week on Monday Night Raw. Unfortunately, Austin came close to throwing it all away in 2002, when he physically assaulted his wife Debra in real life. Like Captain Redneck before him, the Bionic Redneck proved it was more than just a name when he beat his wife on her head, back, and legs, before fleeing to temporarily evade arrest. He was eventually tried and charged with domestic abuse. According to Debra, there were several unreported incidents before this. WWE has never acknowledged Austin’s crimes on television. Debra isn’t the only wrestler’s wife to suffer an abusive husband, though…
7. The Dynamite Kid
While “Stone Cold” has one horrible spousal abuse incident on record, the Dynamite Kid had a horrific marriage constantly filled with them. Dynamite was constantly verbally abusive to his wife Michelle and their children. The worst of it saw him placing a shotgun against his sleeping wife’s head on more than one occasion. When she would wake up, Dynamite would threaten next time the gun would be loaded. Michelle was so terrified of her husband she regularly contemplated suicide, even considering killing their children as well to ensure he wouldn’t make life even worse for them. Luckily her friends talked her out of it, and the couple divorced in 1991.
6. Terry Garvin and Mel Phillips
Somehow the fact Billy Graham was lying about Pat Patterson becomes even worse when you learn the other two people involved in the scandal appeared to be guilty as hell. Terry Garvin was a longtime agent and booker for WWE, and Mel Phillips was WWE’s primary timekeeper. A former WWE ring attendant named Tom Cole claimed both men made obvious sexual advances on him when he was as young as 13-years old. The accusations turned into a major scandal, with Vince McMahon, Cole, and a variety of wrestlers and journalists appearing on Donahue to discuss the claims. Ultimately, Garvin and Phillips were fired, and were blackballed from the industry ever since. Garvin passed away in 1998.
5. Jimmy Snuka
Jimmy Snuka is a professional wrestling legend. He played a major role in the first WrestleMania, he was the first true ECW World Champion, and his feuds with people like Bob Backlund and Rowdy Roddy Piper inspired generations of future wrestlers. There is also some pretty significant evidence he murdered his girlfriend Nancy Argentino in 1983, and he nearly got away with it for over 30 years. In 2015, Snuka was finally charged in connection with the murder, and the trial is still ongoing. Only two years after the crime, Argentino’s family won a civil suit against Snuka, but authorities sat on the case for decades before finally having Snuka legally tried. Snuka was removed from the WWE Hall of Fame pending investigation.
4. Johnny K-9
Johnny K-9, also known as Bruiser Bedlam and by his real name of Ian Croitoru, only wrestled with WWE for a few years in the mid 1980s and barely made a name for himself. He became significantly more famous for living an outlandish life of crime, starting when he became President of the Ontario chapter of the Satan’s Choice motorcycle gang in the mid 1990s. Croitoru’s gang antics started with drug trafficking and bombing a police station. His criminal activities continued and he found himself under investigation for murder on a plethora of occasions, finally landing in jail for his role in the conspiracy to murder the Bacon Brothers gangsters.
3. The Fabulous Moolah
The Fabulous Moolah is considered possibly the most important female in the history of professional wrestling. The WWE Hall of Famer is recognized as being the Women’s Champion for nearly 30 years, and her mark on the industry could be seen through the abilities of nearly every woman ever to wrestle, many of whom she had a hand in training. Unfortunately, the methods under which she conducted her training sessions have been placed under question, and her booking practices have been called tantamount to conspiracy rape and prostitution.
Well-known wrestler Luna Vachon told a story about Moolah forcing her to attend a racy photoshoot that made her extremely uncomfortable when she was only 16, but the worst story comes from a little known wrestler named Sweet Georgia Brown. Brown was one of the first black female wrestlers to gain any sort of prominence, and her family alleges while Brown’s professional career was on the rise, Moolah abused her in every way imaginable. The worst part of the abuse was the men who came to Brown’s hotel rooms at night expecting sex, and although nothing was proven, Brown and her family strongly implied they believed those men were paying Moolah for the opportunity to assault her. Other wrestlers tell stories of Moolah vindictively and intentionally ruining their careers, but none come close to this level of actual abuse. Moolah passed away in 2007 still revered as an icon.
2. Buck Zumhofe
“Rock and Roll” Buck Zumhofe made most of his career in the AWA and other regional territories of the 1970s and 80s, but he’s also special for being the first opponent Triple H defeated in WWE. He has also been convicted of sexual misconduct with a minor at least three times. Little is known about his 1986 or 1989 arrests aside from the fact they occurred, but the worst and most public case was the most recent. In 2013, Zumhofe was arrested and charged with 12 counts of sexual misconduct, accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting his own daughter over a period of 12 years. He was convicted of all 12 counts less than one year later. He attempted to flee the courtroom after his conviction, only adding more time to his sentence.
1. Steve Gatorwolf
Steve Gatorwolf was a WWE jobber in the 1980s. His profile was so minor he rarely even shows up on lists like this one. According to Bret Hart, Gatorwolf was actually poised to be the next big Native American star in WWE, in the vein of “Chief” Jay Strongbow or Wahoo McDaniel, but he forgot to perform his stereotypical “war dance” at the end of a match and Vince McMahon and company lost faith in him. Decades later, society lost faith in him when he was convicted of repeatedly raping a 14-year old girl. Gatorwolf was found guilty of assault years earlier, and used memories of time in prison to manipulate his victim into silence for several years. Gatorwolf maintained his innocence throughout the trial, but ultimately was sentenced 16-years-to-life in prison.