We’ve spent enough time covering the fact wrestling is a seedy industry it shouldn’t be too surprising some people have been accused of getting their jobs, and succeeding at those jobs, for reasons completely unrelated to their wrestling ability. While the general nature of a sexist society means far too many women in wrestling have been accused of this, men haven’t been exempt, either. Some of the most successful male and female wrestlers in history have had their accomplishments put into question, with the detractors claiming they only got where they did by giving sexual favors to someone with serious power in the wrestling industry.
These rumors come from a variety of sources, including the families, friends, and fellow wrestlers who worked alongside the accused. Honestly, we feel as though the majority of these performers were definitely talented enough that their personal habits probably weren’t a huge part of their success. However, in several cases we have to admit the evidence is solid that some kind of relationship in the very least existed, whether or not it actually lead to the wrestler’s success. Read into it as much as you’d like and probably take it all with a grain of salt, but look below if you want to learn about 10 wrestlers accused of using sexual favors to earn their place in wrestling history.
10 Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake
Most people on this list were accused of giving sexual favors to the boss, or at least somebody with some kind of direct power in the company, but Brutus Beefcake and Hulk Hogan were simply accused of being more than just friends. During the well-publicized Hogan divorce trial, Hulk’s ex-wife Linda claimed she believed Hogan and Brother Bruti had been having a romantic and sexual relationship for years. She cited the closeness between the two after Hulk had back surgery as clear evidence they were engaging in sexual acts.
It’s a wide leap to say a friend helping another friend out after surgery means they’re in romantic love, but Linda also has Brutus Beefcake’s career to point to as evidence she may have been on to something. No matter how hard he tried while performing any of his 18 gimmicks, the man really named Ed Leslie had nowhere near the presence of the Hulkster. Regardless, he somehow still managed to follow Hogan to nearly every company he worked for. His gimmicks usually placed him next to or against Hogan, always to the chagrin of fans, especially when the two headlined Starrcade 1994.
Before we even get into this one, we want to make it clear these are all rumors and conjecture, and the worst of it hasn’t been in any way proven. Since she has entered the industry, Lita has been the victim of countless slut-shaming rumors circling around her alleged promiscuity. The main rumor is that she regularly traded some pretty crazy sexual favors in exchange for training while she was getting started in Mexico and ECW. El Dandy and Danny Doring are often named as the men who took the greatest advantage of her offers.
The only real justification for the rumor is that Lita hasn’t talked much about her training in Mexico aside from acknowledging she was there, and it’s assumed she didn’t have much money at the time, so how else could she pay? Of course, there’s any number of ways she actually could’ve paid, since we know virtually nothing about her family history or her life before becoming a wrestler. The rumor has persisted through the years perhaps in part due to Lita’s onscreen character, not to mention the fact elements of said character were inspired by Lita cheating on her boyfriend Matt Hardy in real life.
WWE Hall of Famer-turned-adult film star Sunny, also known as Tammy Sytch, is as well known for her beauty and exploits in the ring as she is for being one of wrestling’s biggest train wrecks outside of the ring. It isn’t entirely fair to call her that, though, since she clearly has been dealing with a great deal of substance abuse problems her entire life, and things were only made worse in 2005 after the death of her long time boyfriend Chris Candido. Still, of all the people on the list, it feels the most likely that some of the rumors about Sunny were true, for the saddest reasons possible. While the others on this list have been accused of using sex to further their careers, Sunny reportedly exchanged sexual favors for a variety of drugs.
Sabu and The Sandman have both claimed while Sunny and Candido were in ECW in the late 90s, she would perform sexual acts on them in exchange for somas. Others, including Raven and more or less the entire ECW locker room, have also been implicated. Sunny briefly broke up with Candido in the mid 90s to engage in a poorly hidden secret relationship with Shawn Michaels, and many have theorized that relationship was heavily influenced by HBK’s ability to get Sunny drugs, as with the others.
7 The Brooklyn Brawler
Most of the accusations referenced on this list either come from shoot interviews, rumors, or popular hearsay. The alleged secret relationship between The Brooklyn Brawler and Pat Patterson has all of those sources, too, but allow us to present one of the strangest sources we’ve had to cite: a weird dance pop song by Kamala. In the song, titled “Push It,” Kamala accused the WWE of racism and cheating on drug tests, before claiming he heard Brawler and Patterson having sex in a hotel room. The song includes the line “If you wanted a job, all you had to do was bring a good pair of knee pads.”
The main problem with Kamala and company's accusation is that even if it were true, The Brawler didn’t exactly use his relationship with the boss to his great advantage. It’s true he’s held a job with WWE for several decades, but his role has primarily been as a backstage road agent. Even when he was a wrestler, he never ascended above a jobber outside of a few joke segments. Patterson is openly gay, and many people have assumed the same of Lombardi despite him never commenting on the matter, but this is no reason to assume the two were ever dating, or that the relationship was the reason for Brawler’s long tenure as an employee.
6 Rosa Mendes
The Fabulous Freebirds are being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016. As the leader of the group, many people are celebrating Michael Hayes and his many accomplishments as a Freebird and a solo performer, citing his wide and varied influence on wrestling. One thing people aren’t mentioning are the persistent rumors in recent years romantically linking him with WWE Diva Rosa Mendes. The rumor began in 2011 when former WWE superstar Chris Masters tweeted that a “certain SmackDown diva” had an “oral arrangement” with the former Freebird, and it was saving her job.
A few years after that rumor, Michael Hayes was suspended for a reason that offered some insight onto the Tweet. Rosa Mendes is a recovering alcoholic, and in 2013 had just completed WWE-mandated rehab for her abuse problems. According to reports, almost immediately after she returned, Hayes was seen giving her alcohol and causing her to fall off the wagon. It’s a bit of a leap to say this proves a relationship between the two is saving Mendes her job, but the evidence is solid that the two could be more than just coworkers, or even more than just friends. Unfortunately for Mendes, in this case it would also seem like the Freebird and future Hall of Famer is a particularly bad friend.
5 Mildred Burke
For proof the history of sexism in professional wrestling pretty much extends throughout the entirety of the sport’s existence, look no further than the story of Mildred Burke. Burke was the first true superstar of women's wrestling, dominating the industry as summarily as The Fabulous Moolah, and she did so while Moolah was still in grade school. It is in no way fair to say Burke only achieved what she did through sexual favors, since her natural skills and charisma played a huge role in the creation of women’s wrestling, but it is relevant she was married to Billy Wolfe, who in no uncertain terms controlled women’s wrestling at the time.
It was well known at the time and now that Billy Wolfe was a serial womanizer, expecting sexual favors from virtually every female wrestler he worked with or managed. It’s hard to ignore this when looking at the fact Burke was Wolfe’s actual wife during her near 20-year reign as the recognized Women’s Wrestling Champion, especially considering the obvious implication of the connection. When looking at the whole picture, it looks like Burke was more of a victim of an uncaring husband than an opportunist using her sexuality to further her career, but it hasn’t stopped people from claiming her title reign only lasted as long as it did because of their relationship.
4 Triple H
It might look a little bit out of place here, but the relationship and marriage between Triple H and Stephanie McMahon is densely layered in its ramifications to the wrestling world. It feels wrong to imply the three children the loving marriage produced could be considered sexual favors, but many Triple H detractors have presented the idea the entire relationship is just a political move on his behalf as part of an effort to one day control WWE.
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon have both addressed this rumor with rolled eyes and sarcastic agreement. Whether or not it’s all some game on behalf of The Game, Stephanie by all accounts is truly in love with him, and regardless, she claims his success in WWE is unrelated to their relationship. Triple H was already on the rise before the two wed, but whether or not he would be a 14-time WWE Champion without his wife is open for debate.
3 Goldy Locks
Goldy Locks is probably the least notable performer on this list, but the way in which she was accused of using sexual favors to succeed is unique enough to give her a place on this list. Goldy Locks was one of the primary interviewers during the early days of NWA: Total Nonstop Action (back before they even had to drop the NWA). In the first year of that company’s existence, Goldy Locks was interviewing Percy Pringle when Tony Schiavone of all people interrupted to perform a worked shoot. In the shoot, he directly accused Goldy Locks of getting her job exclusively due to sexual favors, asking her whose bed she slept in.
The interview and therefore the comment took place on a recorded wrestling program, so there’s no real way to know if Schiavone was seriously accusing her or if it was part of the show. However, the point of a worked shoot interview is to make the fans believe what the performer saying ISN’T just part of the show. It’s confusing, but it’s one of those weird accepted rules within the wrestling industry, and most fans take it at its face value. Goldy Locks didn’t respond to the comment, and the segment was so poorly received in general, Schiavone only made one further TNA appearance.
2 "Wildfire" Tommy Rich
Professional wrestling has had a few “wunderkinds.” The only person to call himself that was Alex Wright, but even more so than Wright, “Wildfire” Tommy Rich in every way defined the concept of a wrestler who became absurdly successful at a very young age. In 1981, when Rich was only 24-years old, he pinned NWA World Heavyweight Champion Harley Race to win the title. Proving that ridiculous, lascivious rumors have existed in wrestling for decades, to this day there are still people who claim Rich only won the title because he performed nondescript “sexual favors” for NWA booker and promoter Jim Barnett.
The rumor itself is absurd, and the reality was that the win and loss were part of a convoluted power struggle between the main bookers of the NWA, which Barnett won by proving his territories were the most popular (because they saw so many title changes, obviously). Rich was pretty young to be world champion, especially at the time, but he was an incredibly popular star in the area he won the title, and he continued to be a huge star for a few years after the fact, proving his win was no fluke or favor. The only “evidence” that has ever been presented for the rumor is the fact Barnett was gay, but it’s pretty homophobic to assume that means any of the rest of this was true.
1 Shawn Michaels
Pick any episode of Monday Night Raw from 1995 to 1996, and you can see where this rumor started, but it's still pretty crazy. While Shawn Michaels was WWE World Champion, not to mention even for a few years before he reached that peak, Vince McMahon spent the majority of Michaels’ screen time screaming about how HBK was more or less the most amazing human ever to live, often opining that he was darned good looking, too. Most people saw this as a wrestling promoter celebrating his top star, but more cynical types have claimed this was the most open of many signs pointing to the fact Vince and Shawn were having some kind of a romantic and sexual relationship.
While it might seem like it stemmed from childish teenage insults, some major names have added fuel to the fire. WWE Hall of Famers Bret Hart and The Road Warriors have openly commented they felt Shawn was only as successful as he was because of the secret affair. Bret has since largely retracted his comments after making peace with WWE and HBK, but the Road Warriors never really backed down on the accusation. There’s almost no denying Shawn Michaels and his friends received preferential treatment in the mid to late 90s, but these rumors in particular really take it to the next level.