Like every multi-million dollar corporation, WWE has rules. The company expects all of their employees to follow these rules, otherwise they have to pay the price. While there are a number of WWE stars who obviously have been released from the company for becoming too hard to work with backstage or even for saying the wrong thing to a person in power, this isn't always the case.
Sometimes the company doesn't want to release a superstar that they know has potential, so instead, they decide that the best way to punish them is through their on-screen character. Over the past few years, it has become quite easy to spot when WWE is punishing a superstar on screen, because usually they will be buried by a star who they should have been able to overcome, or they will be defeated in a title match that they were originally supposed to be pushed towards.
The company has ways to ensure that all of their superstars remain in line, even though there are a few who have managed to become much bigger than the company itself, so they are able to avoid the same kind of treatment, but this isn't the case for every superstar on WWE's payroll. The following list looks at just 15 times that WWE and their backstage officials have deemed it appropriate to punish their superstars on screen for something that happened off screen. Even though WWE is a globally recognized franchise, it is not above being petty sometimes.
15 Dolph Ziggler
Dolph Ziggler has been a popular WWE star in the company for the past decade and it seems that when he finally won the World Heavyweight Championship back in 2013, he had the world at his feet.
Dolph had waited so long to win the Championship after becoming Mr Money in the Bank and cashing in on Alberto Del Rio, but a concussion then managed to cut his reign short and meant that WWE would no longer trust him to be a Champion moving forward because he was a health risk. This has meant that Dolph had been pushed to the bottom of the pile on WWE TV a number of times and even left on the mid-card with nothing to do throughout his career because the company knows that he is talented, but they are too scared to take a gamble and push him again because he has been labelled as injury-prone.
Emma was promoted to the main roster way too soon a number of years ago and then sent back down there to develop her gimmick so that she was able to return much fresher and as a great heel character on the raw brand.
WWE then decided to rebrand Emma as Emmalina but when they realized that she was unable to pull off the character and Emma herself then refused to continue the transformation, the company was forced to have to allow her to change back. Emma got a lot of backstage heat from this and was unable to shake it. Even though she was a talented performer, WWE refused to allow her to be part of any meaningful storylines and always forced her to be the one who was taking the pin or jobbing out to make others look better. In the end, the company gave up and released her a few weeks ago, which was when the truth behind the last few months was finally revealed.
Rusev was once an undefeated beast in WWE until he crossed the path of John Cena and this became a thing of the past. The Bulgarian Brute was then forced out of action back in February when it was revealed that he required surgery, so the company wrote him out of the storyline by having him attacked by The Big Show.
Since his return on SmackDown Live back in July, it seems that Rusev has managed to annoy someone backstage in WWE because he lost to Cena once again at Battleground in a match Rusev needed to win before he then lost to Randy Orton in a match that was less than 10 seconds long at SummerSlam. Rusev has since been paired with Aiden English as it seems that WWE has finally run out of things to do with the Bulgarian, despite the fact that he is one of the top wrestlers that the company currently has and he's one of the best to follow on Twitter.
12 Enzo Amore
Enzo Amore hasn't exactly made a lot of friends on the WWE roster ever since he was promoted and it seems that the heat that he has caused over the past few months forced WWE to move him over to the 205 Live roster.
While there, Enzo continued to rub these wrestlers the wrong way and WWE then came up with the perfect punishment. When Raw went off the air one night the company allowed every member of the 205 Live roster to deliver their finishing move on Amore in succession, something that has never been done in WWE before. It seems that the guys all managed to get their issues out of their system and have since moved on and been able to accept Enzo as Champion. Enzo, on the other hand, will never learn when to keep his mouth shut, so it's likely that this will become a regular occurrence.
Lana was signed to WWE based on her promo ability alone, and it was thanks to this that she became one of the most popular females on the Raw brand back in 2015. WWE decided to put her in a storyline along with her real-life boyfriend Rusev and Summer Rae.
The storyline seemed to be going well until it was leaked to TMZ that Lana and Rusev had become engaged in real life, which ruined everything WWE had planned since the company had only recently broken them up and aligned Rusev with Summer. Lana got a lot of heat for this and eventually, it lead to a backstage segment with The Rock where he humiliated The Ravishing Russian and essentially sl*t-shamed her in front of the world. Lana took it in her stride and to her credit, has continued to push herself back into the company's good graces over the past few years.
10 Lilian Garcia
Even though Lilian was seen as one of the WWE Divas, she managed to operate under the radar most of the time by keeping to her job as a ring announcer and not becoming involved in any storylines.
It seems that this all changed back in 2004 when Lilian was reported to have partied a little bit too hard during WWE's European Tour and this caused her to oversleep and miss her ride to the show. WWE then had to make other plans to ensure that she was in attendance and decided to punish her in one of the most unique ways. Lilian was forced to kiss Diva Search winner Christy Hemme on an episode of Monday Night Raw in what was considered a pointless lesbian angle that went absolutely nowhere. So, hopefully, Lilian learned her lesson and didn't dare to party too hard again.
9 Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose hasn't exactly had the best of years, but it seems that one of the biggest mistakes he made was when he turned up to the 2017 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony drunk and then continually harassed his wife Renee Young, who was working as a host for the event.
WWE obviously wasn't happy about this and decided that the punishment would be swift for Ambrose, who was bumped from the main WrestleMania card and moved to the kickoff show in place of the SmackDown Women's Championship match. This is the first time the Intercontinental Championship was defended as part of the kick off show at WrestleMania and it seemed that neither Ambrose or Baron Corbin were happy that they were forced to perform so early. It seems that Ambrose has learned his lesson about alcohol consumption since, so WWE obviously found an effective way to punish the Lunatic Fringe.
8 Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin made his debut on the main roster at WrestleMania 32 and incredibly managed to become the shock winner of the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royale. It was thought that the former NFL player would then go on to be pushed on the main roster and become one of the main stars on the SmackDown Live brand following the brand split.
This was the case. Baron went on to win the Money in the Bank ladder match earlier this year and was set to cash it in at SummerSlam and become the WWE Champion. This wasn't the case, though. Baron managed to annoy some backstage officials by speaking out during a concussion awareness seminar, which got him a lot of heat backstage. This, added to his Twitter spat with respected wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer, meant that Corbin had annoyed the wrong person. He was forced to cash in his case early and lost the chance to win the WWE Championship. Obviously, Corbin handled his punishment well and is currently the reigning United States Champion.
Lita had her own fair share of punishment in WWE throughout her career, but it is thought that the worst thing that WWE ever did to Lita on screen was when they turned her retirement match into a complete joke when it should have been an emotional farewell.
Many of her fans spoke out about the fact that Lita was forced to drop her Women's Championship to Mickie James before Cryme Tyme came out and had a "ho* sale." Lita was one of the best women's wrestlers in the company at the time and it was completely disrespectful, especially since Trish Stratus had been able to walk away from the company in a blaze of glory two months earlier. This was said to have been punishment for deciding to retire straight after Trish and leaving the company in a position where they had no top female wrestlers to take the women's vacant places.
6 Randy Orton
Many of the WWE Universe might have thought that given the things that Randy Orton has managed to get away with in WWE over the past few years, he could be one of the stars who were above punishment, when in fact he isn't. Well, he wasn't above punishment a little over a decade ago.
Orton had a number of issues back in 2006 which led to him once again being suspended for violating the WWE Wellness Policy. Orton was scheduled to win the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 22 when it was revealed that Kurt Angle was leaving WWE so he needed to drop the title. Orton was suspended the day after WrestleMania so the company was forced to give the title to Rey Mysterio instead. Orton's entire push was axed and it took him a long time to build his reputation back up when he returned, but luckily, he learned his lesson.
5 Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks has become a popular female wrestler on the main roster over the past few years, but it seems that her ego has got the better of her on a number of occasions. Sasha isn't a big fan of many of the women who came to WWE without any prior wrestling experience because she feels that they haven't paid their dues, which causes her to speak out when she isn't supposed to.
Most recently it has been revealed that Sasha and Alexa Bliss have a pretty intense real-life feud going on, which meant that a few months ago, Sasha decided to throw shade at Alexa on an episode of Raw Talk when she wasn't supposed to. The company reacted by having Alexa defeat Sasha for the title merely a week later so that Sasha now is the proud holder of a statistic that says that she has never been able to successfully defend the Women's Championship, despite having won it four times.
4 Mickie James
Mickie James could be considered one of the best female wrestlers of the past generation, but she is certainly one of the most decorated. James made a huge mistake back in 2008 when it was revealed that she had cheated on her fiancé Kenny Dykstra with former WWE Champion John Cena.
Cena made sure that Dykstra didn't become a problem for him and was released from the company as soon as the news became public, but Mickie remained under contract and was sent to the SmackDown brand away from Cena. It was then revealed that it was Cena who actually came up with the storyline where Mickie was bullied about her weight and dubbed "Piggie James." The company also thought that Mickie needed to lose some weight and when she refused, this was their reaction. It seems that when WWE suggests that a superstar should do something, it's actually more of an order than a request.
3 Mark Henry
Mark Henry signed a $10 million dollar contract with WWE when he first came to the company and it seems that Vince McMahon began instantly regretting this decision, despite the fact that he was The World's Strongest Man and someone that could bring in the viewers if he wanted to.
Vince spent the next few years making sure that Henry knew how annoyed he was that he couldn't fire him because it would cost him too much money, so instead, he gave him to most ridiculous storylines and characters in the hope that Henry would give up and quit. Many of these storylines involved him being called "s*xual chocolate" and impregnating Mae Young before she gave birth to a human hand. It was hard for Mark's career to come back after that, but incredibly he has still been able to still be seen as a legitimate performer over the past few years.
2 Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns may be one of the biggest faces in right now but that doesn't mean that he's above punishment. Reigns was suspended from the company for 30 days back in the summer of 2016 just days after he dropped the WWE Championship. This was because he had violated WWE's Wellness Policy and his absence affected the build-up to one of the biggest matches of his career at Battleground.
It is thought that the company knew that Reigns was about to be suspended before the Money in the Bank pay-per-view, which was why he lost his Championship in a clean pin by Seth Rollins. Reigns then went on to lose his Summer push as well, since it was rumoured that Reigns was supposed to lift the Universal Championship for the red brand. When he returned from suspension, the former Champion was forced to apologize to the entire locker room for violating the policy, something that was hoped to have taught him a lesson not to do it again.
1 Bret Hart
One of the best examples of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon punishing another superstar would have to be the Montreal Screwjob back at Survivor Series in 1997. Bret Hart had wanted to leave the company to go to WCW but he was the WWE Champion and Vince couldn't take the chance that he could leave and take the title to WCW with him, mostly because of what Madusa did with the Women's Championship.
Bret didn't refuse to drop the Championship; he just didn't want to have to drop it in his hometown. Vince was obviously worried about the bigger picture and couldn't take any chances here, so he decided to screw Bret on national TV as his way of showing him that he was now welcome to go to WCW because WWE had taken the one thing that they needed from him. That's right. WWE knows how to drop to that kind of level when they want to.