We are often told “It’s okay not to like somebody, you just have to work with them.” Whoever came up with that concept didn’t have to work with big egos, and in the world of professional wrestling, a wrestler’s ego can often get the better of them. Some will voice concerns with how another wrestler works, or the value that other person brings to a feud, but ego often plays a part in a program’s success. In these specific cases, wrestlers had working relationships that either didn’t happen, or dissolved before they really got rolling. A number of wrestlers are concerned with doing business; the more successful the business the more money earned, and the more money earned the more all parties benefit. But for some perhaps it doesn’t just come down to money earned, but rather winning and losing.
Would wrestler A be willing to lose to wrestler B? If the stakes are worth it and things are framed correctly, then there isn’t a problem. But some evidently are concerned about losing to others they didn’t believe worthy of getting the “rub.” There were feuds that didn’t happen because of how one wrestler was perceived backstage, or long-standing animosity between two performers, a wrestler’s perceived carelessness in the ring, failure to reciprocate a win, or generally failing to respect one another. Here are 15 cases of Wrestlers That Refused To Work Together:
15. CM Punk and Triple H
By the end of his run with WWE, CM Punk was in need of a break. He was battered, worn down, tired, and both mentally and physically beaten up. He was also disenchanted with the direction the company was taking moving into 2014. The different storylines that had been proposed to Punk bothered him, which contributed to his departure from the company the day after Royal Rumble 2014. Punk was made aware that he was not going to be in the company’s main event at WrestleMania that year, and he had little interest in a feud that was being teased prior to the Royal Rumble. Punk’s lack of interest came to a head when he walked out of the company before any program could develop between him and Triple H.
14. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Jeff Jarrett
During their time with WWE, Jeff Jarrett and Steve Austin held different positions within the promotion. As the story goes, Jarrett was promised to be elevated up the card. When Jarrett came in, he was firmly placed in the role of mid-card talent and even held the Intercontinental title. But apparently he was promised an eventual main event run. This was something Austin wasn’t aware of, and there were apparently issues between the two during their earlier days when they crossed paths elsewhere. Apparently there were also issues between Austin and Jarrett’s father, promoter Jerry Jarrett. Despite making a promo against Austin upon his debut, Jarrett was immediately squashed by Austin, and the feud between the two never happened. It should also be noted that Debra, Austin’s girlfriend at the time, was managing Jarrett, making things very complicated.
13. Lex Luger and Ric Flair
One of the most successful wrestlers during the 1980s was “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, unquestionably the face of the NWA and WCW. However, towards the end of his run with the company in the early 1990s, he not only saw his role within the promotion change, as he was made the booker, but he was also asked to make changes to his character as well. This was a lot for him to take in, and it seems he was taking some of his frustration out on someone that had nothing to do with the change in direction. Before he left WCW, Flair was asked to drop the World championship to Lex Luger, which he refused to do. While he had no gripe with Luger necessarily, he preferred to lose the title to Sting. The title match between he and Luger never happened, indeed he never dropped the title.
12. CM Punk and Ryback
The refusal to work with one another was attributable to just one of the men mentioned rather than both of them. It stems from the feud the two were having against one another for the WWE Heavyweight Championship during Punk’s heel run. Punk had an issue with how Ryback was working during their feud; the day after Royal Rumble 2014, Punk walked out on the WWE amidst a fury of speculation. While on his friend Colt Cabana’s podcast, he shared how he had an issue with Ryback working carelessly during their feud. In fact, Ryback not only worked stiff against Punk, but also injured him. Later, WWE used footage of Punk against Ryback as support for a suit filed by their doctor, Chris Amman. This intended to prove he wasn’t working injured like he had said. Punk left no doubt that he had little interest in ever again working with Ryback again.
11. Steve Austin and Brock Lesnar
Something “Stone Cold” always advocated was to draw as much money as possible, as it would help all involved. He was never one to refuse to job to another wrestler, and in fact did such a number of times for the betterment of a storyline. However, a rough year both personally and professionally caused him to make decisions that would lead to him leaving the company for nearly a year. Presented with having to put over Brock Lesnar, Austin refused, not because of a dislike for Lesnar, but because of timing. He was scheduled to face Lesnar in a King of the Ring qualifying match, with little to no build. It was insulting to Austin, as he had earned the company a great deal of money and had been the biggest star of the previous decade. To have him lose after no build, and not even on pay per view, but on Raw, was a slap in the face.
10. Chris Jericho and Goldberg
When Chris Jericho and Bill Goldberg were in WCW, Jericho was given the freedom to develop his character as much as possible, and it opened up doors for him and created various opportunities. At the same time, Bill Goldberg was being elevated at a nearly unprecedented rate. Jericho being aware of this made several challenges toward Goldberg as part of his character. Goldberg didn’t want to be in a program with Jericho, and in fact ignored Jericho each time he was challenged. This created heat between the two, and the feud never materialized, much to the dismay of Jericho. That is, until Goldberg came to the WWE; Jericho and Goldberg had an altercation backstage, and the feud that would have been great for both didn’t happen, as bad feelings between the two got in the way of a potential program that would have earned a lot of money.
9. Steve Austin and Billy Gunn
For all the criticism directed at Shawn Michaels during his run as the champion in the mid-late 1990s, similar stories have been told about “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Austin was presented with the idea of taking part in a series of matches against Billy Gunn. At the time, Gunn was no longer a part of the New Age Outlaws, and the goal was to make him an upper-mid-card performer. As the story is told, Gunn was slated to be the driver that took out Stone Cold, but Rikishi was eventually named the culprit. The angle would have helped catapult Gunn into the upper tier, but Austin didn’t want to work with him. Some viewed Gunn as being disrespectful and guilty of bullying and hazing others. This may have contributed to him not getting the push, and his being relegated to lower card matches and tag team matches.
8. Sting and Vince McMahon
One of the greatest desires of wrestling fans was to see Sting join the WWE. It made sense professionally, but did it make sense personally? Once WCW was purchased, fans thought a Sting appearance in the WWE was all but a foregone conclusion. But the Invasion storyline was marginally successful at best, the reason for that being that the most marketable names from WCW were not a part of the angle. First, and foremost, on that list of names was Sting. While more recently Sting hasn’t said why he didn’t join other than they just couldn’t find the right fit that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to it. Some have speculated that the direction of the company, and the rather suggestive content in WWE didn’t sit well with him. Although both parties finally decided to work together, Sting’s time and relevance could have been capitalized upon years earlier.
7. Hulk Hogan and Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Two of the most popular performers in the WWF of the mid to late 1980s were Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Hulk Hogan. These two were slated to face one another in a feud for the WWE Championship. The feud was initially teased during Roberts’ interview segment titled “The Snake Pit,” when he had Hogan on as a guest. At one point during the segment, Roberts hit Hogan with the DDT, his finishing move. The problem was that a number of fans in attendance cheered, though the act was a cowardly one and really shouldn’t have been cheered. Hogan stated at the time that he thought the feud wouldn’t draw money. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and Hogan has since stated he made a mistake and major money could have been made at the time.
6. Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart
When you are one of the biggest names in wrestling history, it becomes difficult to argue with success. Hogan was always booked to not only look good, but be the conquering hero as well. At WrestleMania IX, after Yokozuna defeated Bret “Hitman” Hart to become the WWF Heavyweight Champion, Hulk Hogan came out to “console” Hart, or so we were initially led to believe. Hart lost the title after having salt throw in his eyes by Yokozuna’s manager, Mr. Fuji. When Hogan came out he was immediately challenged by Yokozuna to compete right there and then for the title. On the spot, Hogan hit his signature legdrop and won the title. Where this looks bad was that Hogan has stated that he would have dropped the title to Hart at that year’s Summer Slam, which would have been a sign of goodwill on his part. Instead, Hogan lost the title back to Yokozuna before he left the WWE for WCW.
5. Shawn Michaels and The Rock
One of the most interesting feuds that never happened failed to occur because of one star’s attitude, and a rising star not having a short memory. At the height of his success in the WWE, Shawn Michaels wasn’t thought of very highly. Whether this bad blood existed because he admonished some talents, or because he played politics, Michaels was believed to be someone who disrespected the other talent in the locker room. While The Rock’s rise took place during Michaels’ time away from the ring, they could have worked a program when he returned after a five-year absence. But they did not; Wade Keller of PWTorch.com shared comments that he claimed The Rock made about Michaels. Apparently HBK wasn’t helpful to The Rock in his early career, and in return the Great One and had no desire to work with him.
4. Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart
Although they feuded in the past, real life issues with one another led to a refusal to work together going forward. Michaels was the WWF Heavyweight Champion, but in need of time away from the ring for reasons that are muddled. This led to the infamous “lost my smile” promo, when he relinquished the WWF Championship shortly before WrestleMania 13. What is alleged to have happened was that Michaels was asked to lose to Hart, returning the favour after Hart put him over the year prior. But instead, Michaels relinquished the title and took time off. Hart has been adamant that Michaels refused to return the favour. Michaels returned soon after as though nothing had happened. Instead, WrestleMania 13 saw the double turn during a match between Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin. The animosity between Hart and Michaels were heightened after this event, and they rarely worked together again.
3. Goldberg and William “Steven” Regal
There was another instance involving Goldberg. This time he was facing off against the technically savvy Steven Regal. But the actual match was a different story. In every match there is a give and take, where moves are executed by one party and sold by the other. As Regal tells the story, he was told to have a six-minute match and by hook or by crook that is exactly what he was going to do. Goldberg on the other hand was usually booked in squash matches that lasted barely over a minute. Whether it was miscommunication or a refusal to be squashed, the match looked very disjointed. This could be due to the fact that Goldberg wasn’t conditioned to have a six-minute match, or because Regal refused to look bad in their contest. Despite speculation that Regal deliberately wanted Goldberg to look bad, he has said on more than one occasion, “I can’t wrestle myself.”
2. Shawn Michaels and Vader
As mentioned previously, during the height of his popularity in the mid-1990s, Shawn Michaels wasn’t a very nice guy and was accused of backstage politicking. The main event of SummerSlam in 1996 saw Michaels go over Vader to retain the WWF Heavyweight Championship. But that wasn’t the original plan; Vader was considered a huge addition to the WWF roster, as he was a former World Heavyweight Champion, and was built to be a main event challenger for Michaels. The plan was for Vader to defeat Michaels for the title and hold it going into Royal Rumble 1997, in Michaels’ hometown of San Antonio, Texas. The face walking away as the champion in his hometown would make for a great story. But Michaels didn’t want to lose the championship, though why he didn’t want to put Vader over has never been clear. Whether due to ego or personal dislike, he nixed the idea.
1.”Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan
After years of going head-to-head with World Championship Wrestling, WWE bought out their competitor in the middle of 2001. It was an incredible time to be a wrestling fan as the depth of the roster was greater than it had ever been. But too many, the Invasion angle and influx of talent was considered a failure. Fans believed major names would be joining the promotion to bolster their lineup, but names such as Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Hulk Hogan, Goldberg and Sting were all absent. In early 2002, WWE finally brought in the original members of the nWo, with hopes of creating interest in the product. But the addition of Hulk Hogan, a founding member of the now, didn’t sit well with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. According to Bleacher Report, the two men were not interested in working with one another as WrestleMania X8 approached. Instead, The Rock faced off against Hogan while Austin faced Scott Hall.