In the vast sea of catchphrases floating through the WWE Universe, the most accurate phrase around may just be “don’t cross the boss.” Naturally, this is one of the many tag lines associated with the WWE CEO and owner, Vince McMahon. Why should wrestlers take heed before upsetting the man? Well, using another one of Vince’s own bon mots, he has the brass to fire their ass. Granted, the threat of termination is the same as in any other industry, and higher-performing athletes can get away with more than those at the bottom of the totem pole.
While McMahon can’t fire just anyone, he needs to punish insubordinate employees for their behavior in one way or another, lest his company wind up like WCW, where the inmates ran the asylum. WWE has dozens of guidelines for suspending wrestlers and taking certain privileges away if they act unprofessionally, and perhaps, the deadliest weapon in this arsenal is that McMahon holds the right to fine his superstars for pretty much whatever amount comes to mind if they really piss him off.
Before anyone goes and assumes this practice means Vince is even more evil than anyone could've imagined, let’s cut the man some slack and acknowledge he rarely charges wrestlers thousands of dollars for minor offenses. Usually, it's just hundreds, and sometimes, it barely breaks double digits. However, when an employee is famous and successful enough that money isn’t that big a deal, McMahon can shoot all the way into six figures when deciding how much it should cost them to misbehave. Keep reading to learn about 15 ridiculous fines you won’t believe Vince McMahon forced his employees to pay.
15 John Cena – Fined “Enough” For Saying Bad Words
Once upon a time, when two pro wrestlers were in a heated feud, they were allowed to use some occasionally PG-13 language to express the anger they felt for their enemies. When it was all said and done, they may go on to brag about having whipped the opponent’s ass, maybe even making a million-dollar catchphrase out of the affair. In today’s WWE, however, if a wrestler even refers to a butt-kicking in uncouth terms, he can receive hefty fines for doing so. No less a source than the face of WWE, John Cena, has confirmed this, admitting to having been fined by WWE for saying the word “ass” in a promo aimed at CM Punk. There’s no denying Punk and Cena’s feud was one of the most intensely personal in recent memory, and mild bad language was definitely justified by the fury they were trying to sell. That said, Cena’s goody-two-shoes character is the one person who probably shouldn’t even say 'hell' or 'damn,' so maybe he deserved it. How much was the fine? We’re not exactly sure, but Cena himself said it was “enough [he’ll] never do it again.”
14 Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton – Fined For Using A Chair
Continuing the trend that WWE’s top superstars are as culpable as anyone else when it comes to paying fines, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton have joined John Cena in getting fined for what was once commonplace in the wrestling business. Specifically, the two utilized several chair shots in both directions during a Street Fight on an episode of Raw in June 2013. Unlike some of the other issues on this list that we’ve been making fun of, it’s actually completely reasonable that Vince McMahon would fine his athletes for this purpose. Chair shots were once seen as basically harmless until it was recently discovered just how damaging they were to a performer’s long-term mental health. With what WWE knows now, chair shots are about the most dangerous thing wrestlers can do to one another, and if the wrestlers themselves are going to ignore this and put their lives at risk, it's up to McMahon to intervene for their own damn good.
13 Triple H and The Undertaker – Fined For Using A Chair
Two years before Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton were charged for doing the same, Vince McMahon sent an even clearer message to its employees that chair shots were no longer allowed on his programming. Forget about any status earned through being a top star; not even being a WWE executive nor a bona fide legend can save superstars from McMahon’s wrath. His own son-in-law, Triple H, and alleged favorite performer The Undertaker were both fined for repeated chair shots seen in their WrestleMania XXVII encounter. If anything, an executive-in-training like Triple H needs to be even more careful about setting a precedent for unsafe behavior than anyone else on the roster. The company would have definitely been called hypocritical had HHH and The Undertaker been allowed to get away with it, so one can hardly blame Mr. McMahon for enforcing big fines this time around.
12 Ric Flair and Randy Savage – Fined For Bleeding
WWE has a tendency to change major rules whenever Vince McMahon gets the whim to do so, and one area he’s never quite been able to settle on is the subject of blood and performers spilling it during the course of a match. Generally speaking, there’s nothing dangerous about a wrestler intentionally making themselves bleed to add drama to a match, although it does send a violent message McMahon sometimes doesn’t want attached to his product. McMahon initially started feeling that way in the early ‘90s, and some old pros like Ric Flair and Randy Savage weren’t entirely ready to see things his way. Choosing to make their statement at the Grandest Stage of Them All, the Nature Boy and the Macho Man decided to add some color to their WWE Championship match at WrestleMania VIII without permission and much to the boss’s chagrin. Rather than getting McMahon to understand how blood can help a match, the two future Hall of Famers made the boss furious, and he slapped both with huge fines for their disobedience.
11 Batista – Fined $100,000 For Blading
So, a couple decades passed since the early ‘90s, during which Vince McMahon kept going back and forth on the blood issue without making any definitive statements. Small fines were occasionally incurred but nothing big enough to mention on this list. Until, that is, he decided to bring down the hammer and ban the idea of blading altogether. Once again, wrestlers with an old school mentality didn’t love the idea, and this included the reigning World Heavyweight Champion Batista. On November 3, 2008, the Animal was set to defend his title against Chris Jericho in a steel cage match, and to sell the fact he was losing the gold that night, Batista thought he should bleed. Jericho had an idea his opponent was going to do this, but it could nonetheless be said Batista acted independently when finally making the decision to blade, and he earned a massive $100,000 fine for doing so. Assuming the amount would be minor, Batista claimed he was absolutely crushed to hear the amount and knew his days as a wrestler would soon be over as a result. Ever the sport, however, Batista paid not only his fine but also the smaller fees given to Jericho, the referee, and producer of the match.
10 CM Punk - $500,000 Fine For Bleeding
Ask CM Punk why he left WWE and wrestling in general, and the man will respond with a giant laundry list of grievances against his former employers Vince McMahon and Triple H. Oddly, none of these issues seem to have anything to do with an insane fine he claimed McMahon levied upon him in August 2012, smack dab in the middle of his 434-day reign as WWE Champion. During a Steel Cage match against Jerry Lawler, Punk had the audacity to bleed on live television and later took to Twitter alleging he was fined a half million dollars for doing so. To Punk, this was made all the worse by the fact his bleeding was legitimate and not the result of a blade job, though this would later get heavily disputed. In fact, the whole thing was questionable from the get go, as the Wrestling Observer previously reported Punk wasn’t punished for the offense. Chances are, the truth is somewhere in the middle, with Punk getting fined some amount -- maybe an unreasonable one -- but probably not a third of his yearly salary.
9 “Stone Cold” Steve Austin – Fined $250,000 For Walking Out On WWE
From the very beginning, there have probably been a few questions about the legality involved in Vince McMahon’s practice of fining his employees for various offenses. For the most part, it’s entirely on the up and up, as it’s more a case of money being taken out of their paychecks than an actual debt they’ve incurred. This gets a little confusing when there’s no paycheck to be had, though, as was the case when “Stone Cold” Steve Austin walked out on WWE in late 2002. It’s impossible to punish an employee for essentially quitting, and to wit, there was nothing McMahon could do about Austin leaving… until Stone Cold realized he had to come back. Upon the Texas Rattlesnake’s big return some six months later, McMahon initially wanted to fine him $650,000 for the walk-out, but Austin felt that was way too high amount and almost made it too costly for him to bother returning. Even at Austin’s pay grade, a fine that hefty would take months to pay off, basically meaning he would be working for free. Meeting Austin in the middle, Vince settled on a cool quarter million, still an insane amount of money to charge an employee he had just begged to return to work.
8 D’Lo Brown – Fined 10,000 Rand For Being 15 Minutes Late
It doesn’t matter if a WWE superstar is competing in the main event or jerking the curtain in the opening match; Vince McMahon wants them all in the building before the show even begins. This makes sense, considering how often the script to a WWE program can change, and it isn’t until everyone is present that they can start making definite last-minute decisions. The problem can be intensified if everyone is traveling to the arena via the same method, such as a bus, where one superstar being late to board can make the entire show late. D’Lo Brown caused this problem during a tour of South Africa, getting on a bus 15 minutes late and immediately incurring a fine of 10,000 Rand, the local currency. A young wrestler barely making ends meet, this sum terrified Brown for weeks until he was able to do the math and learn it was only $10 American at the time.
7 Rey Mysterio, D-Von Dudley, Others – Fined $500+ For Breaking The Dress Code
Alright, so it’s perfectly reasonable that Vince McMahon would want all of his employees getting to the show on time. However, does it really matter what they happen to be wearing when they arrive? After all, there are locker rooms in every sports arena worth its rental price, and McMahon can hardly expect his performers to walk around in their ring gear all day. No, instead, Vince would prefer each and every wrestler dress themselves like right honorable gentlemen, which is, to say, in well-fitting suits and business casual ties. Presumably, the ladies need to dress pretty nicely, as well. Countless wrestlers have run afoul of this issue, including Rey Mysterio, D-Von Dudley, and no less than five others all at once in 2004, around the same time the policy was updated to how it looks today. That doesn’t mean it was the first time wrestlers got fined for what they were wearing, though…
6 Road Warrior Animal and King Kong Bundy – Threatened With Fines For Wearing Casual Pants
To be entirely honest, aside from the suit-and-tie standard they have going today, we’re not entirely sure what the dress code for WWE used to look like. The fact it was infamously updated obviously means things were a little bit different, though a recent lawsuit filed by dozens of former WWE superstars suggests Vince McMahon’s desire to control his employee’s sartorial choices is hardly anything new. Specifically, WWE Hall of Famer Road Warrior Animal and WrestleMania 2 headliner King Kong Bundy both ran into trouble due to the pants they were wearing on long flights. Animal had jeans on, and Bundy made the scandalous decision to wear shorts, and both were threatened with hefty fines for doing so. It’s all well and good to say everyone needs to wear suits and ties today, but before a clear-cut policy was enacted, telling people they couldn’t dress comfortably was absurd.
5 Johnny The Bull – Fined $500 For Wearing A Hat
If it feels like this list is getting a little bit hung-up on the clothing thing -- don’t worry; this is the last such example. It’s also easily the most absurd, which is what justifies sticking to the subject just a little longer. To any wrestling fan that doesn’t remember Johnny “The Bull” Stamboli, the walking Italian-American stereotype was a moderate star in the dying days of WCW and then went on to become a borderline jobber for WWE after Vince McMahon purchased that company. Not to rag on the guy, but Stamboli didn’t have much to set him apart aside from his gimmick, that being a classic mobster archetype, bowler hat and all. Bizarrely, the very bowler hat that set him apart is what earned him a $500 fine when he was caught wearing it on a bus at 3:00 a.m. It doesn’t matter if the dress code prohibited hats; it was the guy’s gimmick for crying out loud! And it's clothing! What’s he going to do, carry it?
4 MVP, Brian Kendrick, Rob Van Dam, Others – Fined $2,500+ For Smoking Weed
Okay, so it’s a little silly to fine people for what they’re wearing, but getting caught using drugs that are still illegal in large parts of the world is a little more reasonable. That is, until you look at the price tag Vince is giving his employees for smoking weed, and realize it's higher than the fines levied out by some states that have decriminalized the drug. McMahon’s weed fines are also reported to increase with each passing offense, which became a huge problem for some superstars like MVP, Brian Kendrick, and Rob Van Dam, of whom only MVP was able to give up the habit. At one point, it was rumored Van Dam actually quite the company over the policy, and similar things have been said about Booker T, though neither man has confirmed nor denied the issue directly. On the other hand, most of them have confirmed paying heavily on behalf of the herb. And it used to be worse…
3 Brian Knobbs – Fined $10,000 For Smoking Weed
Getting fined four digits for partaking in a drug that’s gradually becoming legal around the country is pretty tough. However, as everyone who uses the drug is no doubt aware, it still isn’t totally legal yet, and there will be punishments incurred until it is. On the bright side, those penalties have indeed been getting lighter across the board, from a federal standpoint all the way down to the WWE Universe. According to Scott Hall, the marijuana fines given by Vince McMahon used to be up to four times as high as they are now, with The Bad Guy claiming he once witnessed Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs slammed with a $10,000 bill for getting high. The pugnacious Knobbs was naturally furious, saying his boss had no right to tell him how to relax after the show was over. As a bystander, Hall completely agreed, feeling marijuana was a safer way to calm down than alcohol or pills, which had absolutely no fines attached to them at the time. Good point.
2 Brian Knobbs – Fined $7,000 For Offending Miss Elizabeth’s Sensibilities
At this point, it may be fair to point out Vince McMahon himself has never commented on any of these fines, so all anyone has to determine whether or not they’re accurate is hearsay and the wrestler’s word. While every fine on this list (except this one) was confirmed by the person paying for them, there’s no way of knowing if they told the truth about the amount or if it was partially, or maybe even entirely kayfabe. And now, we’re left with a particularly bizarre rumor that has only been mentioned by a third party source, but he seemed pretty sure it happened, and it’s too ridiculous not to mention. Allegedly, Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs once lived up to his name by passing gas directly in the direction of Miss Elizabeth, infuriating her then-husband Randy Savage. For offending the WWE power couple, Knobbs paid a whopping $7,000, later called the most expensive fart in history. All that exists to confirm this is a shoot interview with the Honky Tonk Man, who isn’t always known for his honesty, yet we kind of want to believe him on this one anyway.
1 Titus O’Neil – Fined $5,000 For “Unprofessional Conduct”
Despite the relatively small number associated with this one, it just might be the most controversial fine Vince McMahon ever levied on an employee. Immediately following Daniel Bryan’s retirement speech, Titus O’Neil got in serious trouble for grabbing McMahon himself in a hug before Raw went off the air. Though barely caught on camera and allegedly with good intentions, McMahon was furious his subordinate would jostle him from behind and suspended Titus for 90 days because of it. When WWE fans got wind of the situation and decried McMahon for overreacting, the suspension was lowered to 60 days, as if that really made it any better. The fact remained an employee was losing out on months of work and potential money simply for moving his boss out of the way, so the man’s own daughter could leave before him. Not only that, but there was more to it than the suspension—Jim Ross later revealed O’Neil was also fined $5,000 for the ordeal, adding insult to his financial injury.
Sources: WWE, The Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Pro Wrestling Torch