Respect is one of the most important concepts in the professional wrestling business. Countless feuds have been waged due to a lack of it in kayfabe, and in the real world, wrestlers failing to show the proper respect to their peers has destroyed more careers than the average fan is likely to be aware. While it shouldn’t be surprising that what happens backstage is often far more important to wrestling than what takes place in the ring, it still may come as a shock just how badly the slightest transgressions have derailed once promising superstars' paths to fame.
More than anything else, these alleged incidents of disrespect are founded in the fact the WWE Universe is almost cult-like in the traditions and rules the so-called locker room leaders demand the rest of the roster to follow. Especially in modern times, wrestlers are expected to arrive to shows early and shake hands with absolutely all of their co-workers, with a pecking order about who’s hands are supposed to get shaken first. Most wrestlers are able to pick up on this and other weird customs pretty quick, but others have shown trouble adapting, and practically lost their jobs because of it.
On the other hand, there have been quite a few incidents where a new wrestler insulted an industry legend in a more universal way, with even fans and reporters agreeing what they did deserved some sort of punishment. The result depended on how bad the infraction was, and how a sports entertainers dealt with the disciplinary measure typically defined how their career would go from then on. For the whole story, keep reading to learn about 15 rookie wrestlers who got in trouble for disrespecting legends.
15 Matt Striker Dissed Eddie Guerrero
With his background as a well-educated teacher, one might expect Matt Striker to make himself familiar with the WWE rulebook before he entered the company. It turned out he must have skipped that class, because he found himself repeatedly in the doghouse throughout his first year working for Vince McMahon. What exactly happened between Striker and Eddie Guerrero isn’t exactly clear, except that Striker said something to Eddie that made him feel disrespected. The real story is that the Eddie thing was just the tip of the iceberg, as The Undertaker, Chris Benoit, JBL, and Hardcore Holly would all find themselves upset with Striker’s arrogant attitude by the end of the day, as well. Shortly after he dissed Eddie, someone overheard Striker telling a road agent that the Raw roster was better than SmackDown’s at the time, apparently upset he was forced to switch brands to work a dark match.
14 The Miz Dissed Chris Benoit
Hindsight can be a painful thing, especially in stories that ended in tragedies. Chris Benoit was respected like no other at the time of his life, especially amongst the others in the WWE locker room. He was viewed as a veteran on the level few others achieved, despite his terrifying temper occasionally showing itself in bizarre ways. Case in point, popular rumor has it Benoit once kicked The Miz out of the WWE locker room for six entire months for eating chicken near someone else’s bags. Given their respective places in the industry at the time, absolutely everyone took Benoit’s side and made Miz a pariah for the time he was banned. JBL also bullied Miz considerably during this time, although that seemed more based on JBL being a jerk than a matter of respect. In any event, Miz overcoming this incident, which he viewed as mere “hazing,” was ultimately what made his co-workers turn around and start respecting him. With all due respect, it doesn’t quite seem worth it to us.
13 John Morrison Dissed Trish Stratus
The vast majority of these disrespectful incidents happened backstage, which makes John Morrison publicly snubbing Trish Stratus one of the most infamous stories on this list. In all fairness, Morrison and Stratus were pretty much on the same level in terms of experience when they teamed up at WrestleMania XXVII, yet it still counts in our book considering their respective places in WWE at the time. Morrison was a young star on the rise with large amounts of potential, while Stratus was a WWE legend returning for one last match. It’s clear who the bigger star was, at least in the company’s eyes, and yet the whole issue was that Morrison didn’t want Stratus on his mixed tag team at the event. The pair united with Jersey Shore Snooki to defeat Dolph Ziggler and LayCool, but Morrison felt his real-life girlfriend and fellow WWE superstar Melina should have been in Stratus’s spot. To show his displeasure, when Trish went in for a post-match hug, he blatantly gave her the cold shoulder and left the ring.
12 The Young Bucks Dissed Booker T
When an up-and-coming wrestler gets their first tryout with WWE, it should be expected they have millions of things on their mind. As with pretty much everything else, that goes double for a tag team, with two minds to race out of control rather than one. Nick and Matt Jackson, collectively known as The Young Bucks, have been heralded as one of the most exciting teams on the independent scene for some time now, yet WWE has shown reluctance in offering them contracts. Most insiders point to an incident between the Bucks and WWE Hall of Famer Booker T during a tryout Nick and Matt received with the company in 2011. During the long and extended handshake ceremony expected of everyone in WWE, including wrestlers getting a tryout, they apparently blatantly ignored Booker T and never introduced themselves. In addition to the Bucks not being offered WWE contracts, Booker and a handful of his industry friends also went on Twitter to mock them. It all seemed to work out in 2014, when the three finally met and shook hands for a photo op at an indy show.
11 Amy Zidian Dissed Stephanie McMahon
Right about now the majority of people reading this are probably wondering who the hell Amy Zidian was. By the time this entry is over, you’ll understand why most WWE fans will never know the answer to that question. Zidian debuted during the 2006 Diva Search, and although she came in dead last, WWE hired her anyway soon after it ended. She became Jimmy Wang Yang’s onscreen girlfriend for several weeks, but it wasn’t long before even Yang was distancing himself from her due to her embarrassing behavior. Going on an absolute insult spree, Zidian managed to openly mock Layla El’s lack of a push, insult Kristall Marshall’s hair, hugely disrespect Vickie Guerrero, and then in her coup de grace, asked Stephanie McMahon who she was. That WWE could hire someone unfamiliar with the McMahon family says a lot about the flaws of the Diva Search, and it should go without saying that Zidian was gone within weeks of questioning the Billion Dollar Princess.
10 John Saxon Dissed Shelton Benjamin
Chances are most people reading this won’t know who John Saxon is, despite his status as a veteran of the independent scene. Wrestling since 1991 a former tag team partner of early TNA star Kevin Northcutt, it isn’t quite fair to say Saxon was a rookie during a late 2000’s tryout with WWE. It also isn’t entirely accurate to call Shelton Benjamin a legend, but the point remains he had far more pull with the company than someone just earning a tryout with the biggest company in the world. Benjamin was also well respected for his skills in the ring, which added to the scandal when Saxon wrestled him during the tryout, immediately heading backstage to tell everyone that Benjamin couldn’t wrestle and was doing everything wrong. While everyone performer knows what it’s like to have a bad audition, they should also be aware the worst thing you can do is blame the person who already has the job. Saxon didn’t pass the tryout, and never again got a shot with the WWE Universe.
9 Muhammad Hassan Dissed Eddie Guerrero
Thanks to the commentary of men like Eric Bischoff, Vince McMahon, Michael Cole, and Tony Schiavone, we can’t blame wrestlers or fans of the industry for not always knowing the technical proper names for wrestling moves. It can also be forgiven if not everyone knows the exact details of how these moves were made. However, if a wrestler starts using a move as their finishing maneuver, they might want to know a thing or two about it. Apparently, in addition to Muhammad Hassan’s gimmick being hugely controversial, he found himself hated by large portions of the WWE roster in part because of a misguided comment he made to Eddie Guerrero. In the tradition of Arab American wrestlers like The Sheik and The Iron Sheik, Hassan used the Camel Clutch as his finishing move. During that same era, Eddie Guerrero would also occasionally use it as a transitional move. One night after Eddie used the move, Hassan asked him to stop, and Eddie refused, citing the fact his father, Gory Guerrero, had invented it. Stories differ on whether Eddie himself was upset or if it was other wrestlers blowing it out of proportion, but things like this certainly didn’t help Hassan’s reputation.
8 Sean O’Haire and Chuck Palumbo Dissed Droz
What exactly defines a “legend” of wrestling is up for debate, and Droz might not fit all the qualifications the term implies. Though his career didn’t last long and he wasn’t a big star when it did, the circumstances that lead to his early retirement combined with his genial personality in the face of tragedy made him hugely respected within the WWE Universe. The day after Droz visited friends backstage during the Invasion, he posted to his blog on WWE.com about how great it was seeing everybody. On the downside, he also specifically called out then-WCW Tag Team Champions Palumbo and O’Haire for repeatedly snubbing him throughout the night. Though Droz was still nice enough to admit they might have not noticed him, he also found it hard not to take it somewhat personally, and assumed the industry would take care of it on his behalf. Lo and behold, O’Haire and Palumbo lost their titles and disappeared from TV not long afterwards, and never reclaimed the potential they had in WCW.
7 Sean O’Haire Dissed The Undertaker
It was bad enough when Sean O’Haire and his tag team partner missed and/or disrespected Droz during one of their initial appearances in WWE. There’s a reason Palumbo eventually recovered with a few gimmick changes, ultimately winning the WWE Tag Team Championships with Billy Gunn on two occasions, while O’Haire faded away without much second look. O’Haire apparently didn’t learn his lesson from the Droz incident, and later did basically the same thing to The Undertaker, greatly intensifying the offense because of the Dead Man’s status in the industry. Rumor has it that when O’Haire tried to make up for his mistake and introduce himself the next day, Undertaker returned the snub by refusing his handshake. Around the same time O’Haire was getting in trouble for not shaking people’s hands, he also allegedly made the mistake of sitting in The Undertaker’s chair, compounding his sins to the point WWE never tried to capitalize on his potential. O’Haire went from the 2000 Rookie of the Year to persona non grata, leaving the wrestling industry altogether in 2006.
6 Abyss Dissed Ric Flair and Mick Foley
About half of the stories on this list involve newcomers making honest mistakes and getting punished a little too harshly for it. The story Ric Flair recounted to Mick Foley during an episode of his podcast about Abyss approaching them after a match is almost the exact opposite case, with someone who has at least been in the business long enough to know better doing something almost impossible to defend. Though decently talented and popular in TNA, Abyss was never a huge star, especially not on the level of Ric Flair or Mick Foley. He did, however, introduce thumbtacks to the TNA audience, which is probably what emboldened him to tell Mick not to use them during his feud with Flair. Both Flair and Foley later claimed they weren’t even mad at first, more shocked than anything else that Abyss would dare say that to arguably the biggest legend in hardcore wrestling and one of the biggest legends in wrestling period. Eventually Flair did respond, though, fairly enough asking Abyss if he was stupid. The incident mostly blew over, although Abyss clearly never reached the level of the other two.
5 Mike Sanders Dissed Triple H
Of the many new superstars who cropped up in WCW during the promotion’s dying days, many fans felt Mike Sanders arguably had the most upward potential of all. WCW executives certainly felt that way, pushing him as the leader of the Natural Born Thrillers and putting him in feuds with top names like Ernest Miller and Kevin Nash. Calling himself “Above Average,” Sanders won the WCW Cruiserweight Champion and even became the promotion’s on-air Commissioner all within months of his debut, only to get sent to developmental when WWE purchased WCW and got his contract as part of the deal. Rumor had it Sanders continued to shine and was almost ready to get called to the main roster, even getting invited backstage to Raw in anticipation of his debut. Also at Raw that night was Triple H, on crutches due to his quadriceps injury, and Sanders either didn’t see him or was just too busy to introduce himself, leading Triple H to call him out for it in front of Raven and other superstars. Suddenly, the industry perception on Sanders completely flipped, with his potential disappearing in thin air. he basically disappeared from the industry less than two years later.
4 Jerry Lawler Dissed Jerry Jarrett
Most people reading this probably view Jerry “The King” Lawler as a bigger legend than Jerry Jarrett, and while that’s true on some levels, it certainly wasn’t the case in 1970 when Lawler’s career began. Jarrett wasn’t a huge star at the time, either, though he had a few years of experience on the soon-to-be King. On top of that, Jarrett had a huge edge up on his competition with the fact his mother Christine Jarrett co-promoted the Memphis territory along with Nick Gulas. Plus, Jarrett’s his father-in-law Eddie Marlin was a famous wrestler, and WWE’s penchant for second-generation superstars is hardly anything new. Lawler didn’t know any of this in 1970, though, let alone who young Jerry was, so he once mouthed off to him in a manner that got The King briefly kicked out of Memphis. The snub turned into a blessing in disguise, as Lawler had mostly been a jobber in Memphis until that point, and moving to other territories let him shine and become a star. After proving himself, he returned to the Jarrett’s and made up over their past issues, soon becoming business partners for decades to come.
3 Daniel Puder Dissed Kurt Angle
Professional wrestling is about more than wins and losses, and yet at the same time, it’s extremely important that when told to lose a match, wrestlers do their job and lose the match. What happened between Daniel Puder and Kurt Angle was a little different, in that Angle had challenged Puder and other Tough Enough contestants to a legitimate wrestling match on an episode of SmackDown. Legitimate or not, the contestants were all expected to lose, and trying to best a legend like Angle on television would actually hurt their careers a lot more than help. Puder must not have understood this, because he quickly placed Angle in a Kimura Lock, intending to break his arm if that was what it took to earn a tap out. Luckily, a referee stepped in and counted Puder’s shoulders to the mat, acting like Angle won by pin fall. Puder somehow won that season of Tough Enough, but his notoriety from the Angle incident left him extremely unpopular backstage. His comeuppance came at the 2005 Royal Rumble, when Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and Hardcore Holly repeatedly and legitimately chopped his chest before eliminating him in embarrassing fashion. Puder left WWE not long after that.
2 Buff Bagwell Dissed Pat Patterson
It isn’t fair to blame the flaws of the WCW/WWE Invasion storyline entirely on one performer, let alone one match, but it’s almost tempting to do so once you hear the full story on how Buff Bagwell acted shortly before his WWE debut. The idea of Bagwell wrestling Booker T on Raw for the WCW Championship was controversial from the start, and longtime WWE exec Pat Patterson wanted to warn the competitors the crowd probably wasn’t going to react to the match the way Bagwell or Booker were used to. Rather than heed this warning, Bagwell blew Patterson off and did whatever he wanted anyway, later trying to spin the incident into Patterson telling him not to wear his trademark hat. Lo and behold, Pat was correct, and the crowd hated the match so severely the Invasion was almost scrapped from the start. One thing that did get scrapped was Bagwell’s career, gone from WWE by the end of the week without any likelihood of ever returning.
1 Brock Lesnar Dissed Curt Hennig
Somewhat flipping the switch on the concept of this list, when the rookie Brock Lesnar and the legendary Curt Hennig got into a minor brawl, their respective experience levels were pretty much irrelevant. The real issue is that they were some 20,000 feet in the air at the time, and decided to work out their problem physically, in the aisle of a WWE superstar filled plane. It’s hard to explain what exactly happened, as Lesnar was too drunk and high to explain the specifics, Hennig is no longer with us, and the rest of the wrestlers in attendance were distracted by X-Pac cutting Michael Hayes hair and/or Goldust hitting on his ex-wife to pay attention. All that’s known for sure is that it was The Plane Ride From Hell, and strangely enough, the only person seriously punished was the most veteran worker of the bunch. Hennig lost his job not long after the plane landed, while Lesnar pretty much got off scot free despite upsetting him to the point of fisticuffs. In a way, the incident set a standard for a lifetime of Lesnar getting away with questionable behavior, something that persists to this day.
Sources: WWE, The Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Cageside Seats