As a wrestler, the dream is usually to be signed by WWE and become a globally recognizable athlete, much like John Cena and The Rock, but while these two stars are the stand-out names in the company, there are many others who were signed by WWE but their careers were very different. Sometimes the career you thought would have becomes a dream that can slowly turn into a nightmare, and because stars have signed lengthy contracts, it means that it is much harder for them to get out of the deal that they signed.
Over the past few decades, a number of superstars have caused a whole lot of controversy by walking away from the company without WWE's permission. Sometimes this forces their officials to meet and make a decision on the future of the star in question, while other times the star is allowed to return a few years down the line. It's a bad situation to be in when a star feels that the only way out of the job that they are currently stuck in is to walk out and then allow the company to push them in whatever way they see fit. As already stated, this isn't always the case. Sometimes WWE understands the circumstance, and other cases have seen WWE dismiss even the biggest names on their roster because of this.
The following list looks at just 15 stars who felt the need to walk away from the company because they thought it was the only way to remove themselves from the predicament that they were caught up in.
15 Sgt Slaughter
Sgt Slaughter is a WWE Hall of Famer and a man who is considered to be a legend by many of the WWE Universe, but it seems that even Slaughter has had his own fair share of issues with the company over the past few years.
Following his feud with The Iron Sheik, Slaughter's career took off in a huge way, so much so that he thought that if he asked for some time away from WWE, then Vince McMahon would approve. Slaughter had been approached by Hasbro Toys and was offered the chance to be their spokesperson and even have his own figure, but McMahon wouldn't allow it and put Slaughter in a position where he was forced to choose between WWE and Hasbro. Obviously, Slaughter chose the deal and walked away from WWE. The future Hall of Famer didn't appear on WWE TV after this for six years.
14 Bret Hart
Bret Hart is one of the biggest wrestling stars in the squared circle and over the past few decades, Bret and Vince have had a number of run-ins. One of the best-known cases of this was back in 1997 following The Montreal Screwjob when Bret was screwed out of his Championship because he refused to drop the title in his home state at Survivor Series.
While Bret was already prepared to walk away from the company and join WCW after the match against Shawn Michaels that night, it seems that McMahon's actions only further cemented the fact that Bret had made the right decision to switch promotions. It was a decade later that the former World Champion was finally able to put the past behind him and return to the company that once screwed him over. It also remains one of the most famous incidents in WWE history.
13 Rick Rude
Rick Rude is perhaps best remembered for his time in WWE and his Ravishing character, but it seems that the way he left the business became one of the most memorable things about his career as well. Rude was a man who had morals and wasn't impressed about the way WWE had treated Bret Hart as part of The Montreal Screwjob.
Rude watched Bret Hart knock Vince McMahon out before he then relayed his story to Eric Bischoff and then joined their rivals. Rude decided that the final straw was The Montreal Screwjob and the way he left WWE was considered unforgivable, since he walked away from the company without telling anyone and appeared on a live episode of Monday Nitro while also appearing on a pre-taped episode of Raw, which showed that Raw was pre-taped as well as failing to tell a single person that he was jumping ship.
12 Gail Kim
Gail Kim was arguably one of the best female wrestlers in America at one point and it seemed that the only reason Kim wasn't pushed in WWE was because Vince McMahon was convinced that none of the WWE Universe would find an Asian woman attractive. Kim became a star in her own right when she walked away from WWE and joined TNA, something that she definitely doesn't regret.
The way Kim left the company was slightly hilarious as well since she was part of a women's battle royale on Live TV where she was told to be eliminated as soon as possible. Kim eliminated herself, rolled out of the ring and headed straight backstage where she told WWE officials that she was done with the company before heading towards the exit. Kim was disgusted with the way that WWE treated women and has been outspoken about it online ever since.
11 Kevin Nash
Kevin Nash and Scott Hall were the two stars that seemed to change the course of the Monday Night Wars because of their decision to leave the WWE and join WCW. At this point, both men had already told McMahon that they were happy to resign even though they wanted more money.
It seems that WCW offered them the money they desired because they then handed in their notice and jumped ship a few weeks later. Hall didn't even tell McMahon in person that he was leaving WWE. Instead, he decided to send a fax. Hall and Nash were pushed to the heights of the company in WCW and decided to depart from WWE in the best possible way with the infamous "Curtain Call" which left Triple H to be punished since WWE no longer had jurisdiction over Nash and Hall. Of course, both men have since settled their issues with McMahon and WWE having since been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
10 The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior has been seen as a hero by WWE ever since his return for his Hall of Fame induction back in 2014. Warrior has since become the face of The Warrior Award over the past few years as WWE tries to change the history of their own company when it comes to Warrior.
He was once seen as public enemy number one in WWE, which was mostly because of the fact that he was very good at playing WWE at their own game. Warrior held McMahon to ransom a number of times throughout his career, even walking out and not showing up to a number of events before McMahon was forced to fire him. WWE still welcomed Warrior back a number of times after this, but it seems that Warrior continued to play the same game with WWE until they finally gave up on him. This was until Warrior decided to sort out his issues with WWE and put the past behind him before his induction back in 2014.
9 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan is one of the biggest names that the wrestling business has ever created. He set the tone for the company back in the early 1990s before he and Vince McMahon fell out and Hogan then walked away from the company. At the time, Hogan was Champion but as soon as he dripped the belt to Yokozuna, he decided to exit WWE and was later seen on WCW TV, which probably didn't sit too well with the WWE Chairman.
Obviously, Hogan had his own fair share of issues with WCW, after Vince Russo went a step too far in the infamous Bash at the Beach promo back in 2000, which led to Hogan suing him for defamation of character. Hogan's ego has been a problem for him throughout his career but it seems his recent personal issues are the reason why he's been kept away from WWE over the past few years.
The wrestling world will always remember Madusa for her famous switch over to WCW where she took the WWE Women's Championship with her and put it in the trash on an episode of WCW. Madusa was known as Alundra Blayze throughout her time in WWE but was later informed that the company was phasing out the women's division because of budget cuts.
Blayze was obviously annoyed by this and decided to accept an offer that WCW had given to her. She switched over to the company and badmouthed WWE on live TV before her career with WCW was considered to be a huge failure. Madusa was blacklisted by WWE for more than a decade before she was welcomed back to take her place in the Hall of Fame a few years ago, so it seems that McMahon was definitely not impressed that she walked out the way that she did.
7 Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar may be the current Universal Champion on WWE's Raw brand, but during his first run with the company Brock made a number of enemies. Lesnar became the youngest ever WWE Champion back in 2002 but not long afterwards he decided that the exhausting travel schedule and the fact that he was no longer enjoying the job allowed him to make the decision to walk away.
Brock has never been a person who makes false promises and before WrestleMania 20 the former WWE Champion told the WWE locker room that he was leaving after the pay-per-view and that's exactly what he did. Brock walked away following his match with Goldberg, despite only recently signing a long-term contract with the company. He later entered a legal battle with WWE over his no-compete clause, something that he had signed so that he could leave partway through a contract.
6 Randy Savage
Randy Savage had a lot of success with WWE throughout the 1980s, so why did he walk away from the company back in 1994? It is unknown why he thought that leaving the company was his only option. It is unknown whether it was fuelled by money or a fallout with Vince McMahon because of the urban legend that states that Savage had an affair with Stephanie McMahon.
Savage was later lured over to WCW where he managed to continue his career, but McMahon has seemingly held a grudge over the past few decades because he refused to allow Savage to go into the Hall of Fame or be part of any WWE DVDs until after his death. The details behind Savage's exit may never be known since everyone surrounding Savage has remained tight-lipped over the past few years, but what is known is that there was a reason why Savage walked away more than two decades ago.
5 Nia Jax
Nia Jax has been promoted as one of the most dominant female wrestlers of the current generation and was seemingly fast-tracked to the main roster after a stint in NXT. Nia hasn't been pushed as much as she expected to be on the main roster over the past few months and after a number of losses to Sasha Banks, it seems that Nia had enough.
Nia was told that she would be losing to Sasha Banks as part of the TLC kickoff show a few months ago. Nia was apparently furious and walked out. She was then said to have talked to her cousin The Rock who told her if she was unhappy then she should leave, so she did. Nia has since returned to the company and seems to be much happier with her position, something that WWE obviously managed to sort out with the Total Divas star.
Ryback was never really taken seriously as a wrestler since the only title he ever won in WWE was the Intercontinental Championship. Ryback has always been considered to be an outspoken person and was usually in hot water on a regular basis because of his Twitter updates, but it seems that this reached a point where he could no longer take back what he had said when he walked away from the company last year.
Ryback explained in a lengthy Tumblr post that his exit was because of paycheck differences between the winner and loser of main event matches. Ryback didn't understand why he wasn't earning as much despite being part of the same match and decided that he wasn't returning to the company after he shared this post and with his contract coming to an end anyway, the former Champion forced their hand and was fired from WWE a few weeks later.
3 Stone Cold Steve Austin
Stone Cold Steve Austin is still remembered as one of the biggest stars of the Attitude Era, but unlike The Rock, Austin remained with the company until a number of years later when he was reaching the point where he was struggling with injuries and was aware that he was no longer McMahon's biggest star.
Austin reached the point back in 2002 when he was told that he was losing an unadvertised match with Brock Lesnar on an episode of Raw, which he didn't agree with, so he no-showed this episode of Raw. Vince McMahon cut a promo on Austin after he failed to show but he didn't return to the company for a number of years. It seems that he managed to push past his issues with the WWE Chairman and has since been seen hosting his podcast on the WWE Network, something that not many stars have been given the opportunity to do.
Neville has been representing the United Kingdom for the past few years, but it is only in 2017 that he has been able to become Cruiserweight Champion and the King of The Cruiserweights ever since his win at The Royal Rumble.
Neville has been the reason why 205 Live worked for a number of months, but he was forced to drop his title to Enzo Amore back at No Mercy under controversial circumstances. Neville was then screwed out of his rematch with Amore and it seems that he wasn't happy about the way this went down so he walked away from the company. Rumours have suggested that Neville could be set to quit the company for good in the coming months since he hasn't returned to the WWE since October. Neville is a former NXT Champion and was one of the stars who had the potential to make an impact on the main roster, something that WWE hasn't allowed him to do, so it seems that he is right to be annoyed.
1 CM Punk
CM Punk was one of the biggest stars in WWE and at the height of his career when he walked away back in 2014. Punk's departure came as such a shock that it was surrounded by speculation and false reports for a number of months before Punk finally came clean on his podcast with Colt Cabana.
Punk explained that WWE had overlooked the fact that he had a staph infection and that he had almost died because it had reached the point where he had to see an outside doctor. Punk was also frustrated about booking details that meant that he would be facing Triple H at WrestleMania 30 instead of main eventing the show, which was something he thought he deserved. The former WWE Champion's departure will always be one of the best known in WWE history, but over the past four years, it seems Punk has reiterated the fact that he has no desire to return to the company.