Wrestling storylines have traditionally involved good, decent people competing against people of lesser character who are willing to bend every rule in their favor. A righteous hero slapping down the manipulative villain is not only a successful formula but truly fantastic when embodied by talented performers. Luckily for the uninitiated, promos, the announce team and edited videos make it very clear which side of the aisle everyone falls on.
In some rare occurrences, however, the lines begin to blur a little bit; these supposed good guys step so far over the line that they became the villain of the story. At least, they should, when you consider their actual actions instead of the audience cheering them on at every turn.
We want to make it clear exactly what kind of characters you won’t find here. We’re not looking at wrestlers who seem fantastic on our televisions but whose off-screen antics tell a different story altogether. You won’t find the duplicity of Hulk Hogan championing the little guy and proclaiming his desire to do what’s right, only to later have a racist diatribe come to light.
These men at times were the true villain of the story despite what you may have heard.
10 Steve Austin
No wrestler before him or since has been as popular within the world of wrestling as Stone Cold. People loved his bada$$, no holds barred persona and the many ways he stuck it to his boss, Vince McMahon. Taking part in several matches against him, it was questionable seeing a young muscular Austin attack the much older non-wrestler, but who wouldn’t love to stick it to that jerk at work.
We’d like to think that even the most hardened of dissatisfied employees couldn’t bring themselves to hold someone hostage and scare them so much that they pee themselves. Austin was cheered for it. Pouring cement into someone else’s mint condition expensive car, destroying it in epic fashion is a pretty awful thing to do. Austin was cheered for it. Hell, considering the many more egregious actions of the Texas Rattlesnake, we have to assume he could do almost anything to his boss and be cheered for it.
9 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan's mantra of saying your prayers and taking your vitamins made him the consummate good guy but even the moment he won his first world title wasn’t so heroic. Wrestling the reviled Iron Sheik, Hogan attacked his opponent from behind while he took his robes off, which Hulk then attempted to choke him with. No wonder their match was so short - never had a hero been quite this big of a jerk.
Another watershed feud in the career of the Hulkster was the epic breakdown and eventual match between the Mega Powers. They seemed inseparable until cracks began to show due to Randy’s perception of Hulk’s feeling for his wife Elizabeth. Framed as a jealous husband, we submit that the Macho Man had pretty good reason to distrust Hulk. For instance, when he opted to abandon his partner mid match to take his wife to the back due to a minor injury, Hogan allowed Randy to be mercilessly destroyed by their opponents.
Inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015, this Samoan grappler is remembered for his many personas, running over Stone Cold for the Rock and his rather immense backside. Far more agile than a man his size has any right to be, he used that ability to defeat to many Attitude Era wrestlers but it's his famous "stinkface" maneuver that lands him here.
Not content to simply have his arm raised in triumph, he felt the need to humiliate his opponents by rubbing his butt all over their faces whenever he could. We have to ask, what the hell is wrong with this man? Disgusting on the face of it, this move adds insult to injury in a truly abhorrent way that left a large portion of the audience in stitches but should have left them appalled.
7 Rowdy Roddy Piper
Roddy Piper was renowned for his improvising skills on the mic, which resulted in frequent interviews for this talented performer. The Rowdy Scot took these segments in some pretty disturbing directions with frequent racial diatribes. Whether it was Tony Atlas’ appearance on Piper’s Pit, where he was derisively asked about eating pig’s feet, or the thinly veiled racial remarks about Mr. T, Roddy at times was quite awful. At least in those occurrences and others like Jimmy Snuka’s appearance on Piper’s Pit, the Scotsman was the bad guy.
By the 1990 Royal Rumble, he was a beloved fan favorite which is why it should have been wrong when he forced Bad News out of the match despite no longer being a part of it. A move that marks a turn to the dark side for many wrestlers, Roddy still came out smelling like roses until the resulting match at WrestleMania VI went off the rails before it even began. A feud mostly based around race, Roddy painted parts of himself black both in the build-up and during the match itself. Tackling a complicated issue with all of the tact of a fool, Roddy deserved confusion and booing for his antics.
6 John Cena
John Cena's young fans have been given a lot of reasons to love him, but adult fans have more than just his corny sense of humor to dislike him for, including some pretty dastardly deeds. Somewhere in his life, John was convinced that his immature humor is hilarious and though it can be good, even though it has resulted in some severely bullying exchanges.
Whether it is making cruel jokes about other wrestler's shortcomings, encouraging fans to chant bad words at Melina or calling Eve Torres a "Hoeski", Cena seems right at home shaming men and women alike. Vickie Guerrero has gotten the worst treatment at the hands of Cena, however. A regular woman with kids, who got into the business after her husband died, Vickie's weight was a constant focal point of Cena's so-called wit. Even after she lost a great deal of weight loss (assuredly because of the company she works for), Cena continued making fat jokes about the woman.
A ground-breaking wrestler who should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, the so-called Bizarre One has proven himself to be adept at playing good and bad guys in equal measure. The son of “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, his recent years have largely revolved around his family, including his younger half-brother. Teaming together to stand against the tyranny of The Authority, their talents and solidarity were on full display until Cody became inspired by his sibling’s persona and christened himself Stardust.
Seemingly undergoing some kind of mental schism, this intergalactic-inspired wrestler became enraged at the mere mention of his birth name. Goldie, the concerned sibling, tried to get through to his little bro backstage before beating him up in a series of matches. Eventually showing zero qualms about hurting his relative, he wrestled his messed up brother on Raw at a moment’s notice. Anyone who thinks to fight a disturbed man of any kind is ok, not to even mention their kinship, deserves to be behind bars - not cheered.
Often referred to as the franchise in WCW, Sting spent his career as one of the company’s most popular figures and as a result, fans rewarded him with their love. That is why it is so surprising that when the nWo ran roughshod over his peers by systematically attacking anyone who happened to raise their ire, he was largely absent.
When the big bad New World Order introduced their newest member, a man in face paint they claimed was the Stinger, many of his oldest allies questioned his loyalties. Sticking around long enough to put to rest any questions that his doppelganger wasn’t a fraud, he used his hurt feelings as an excuse to abandon the men who’d stood by him in the past. Sure, over time he began to descend from the rafters and eventually went to war with the faction but the many beat downs he sat idly by and watched were not becoming of a man of his stature.
3 Bully Ray
Bully Ray is best known for his time in ECW and the WWE as Bubba Ray Dudley but it is his time in TNA and the resulting singles success that earned his place on our list. A name change that may make him seem like a devious jerk, that wasn’t always true as at the end of his run, he led the fight for fans against the evil boss Dixie Carter. A middle-aged woman who used her authority to hand advantages to the wrestlers who did her bidding, she was reviled by many fans.
Bully, in his role as her chief adversary, took things farther than anyone could have expected. Breaking into her house and attacking her husband simply for attempting to protect his wife from a home invader, he was somehow still portrayed as the hero through all of it. Famous for his love of putting people through tables, he took to consistently threatening his boss that he would put her through a table both at the arena and in her everyday life. The fear he caused in her was atrocious enough but the fact that he followed through on his sickening promise to a round of applause was utterly alarming.
2 Los Guerreros
The legendary Hall of Famer who may just be the most universally beloved figure in wrestling history and his underappreciated nephew who complimented him perfectly, they are one of our favorite teams. Seemingly impossible to not love, they used their charm and especially Eddie’s sly grin to become popular despite professing that they lie, cheat and steal.
Routinely cutting corners to win matches, they were great at convincing referees that their opponent had attacked them with foreign objects when they hadn't. Incredibly creative in the craft of advantages, they were also known to loosen their boots so submissions were useless against them. Not satisfied to strictly be rogues in the ring, they took their tactics to the streets in clips that saw them stealing from babies or conning the elderly. We can’t think of any other wrestlers who wouldn’t be hated for those things but damn it, they’re just too great.
The ultimate opportunist, Edge will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. Remembered best for his run as the evil champion who cultivated a relationship with his older boss Vickie while ruling with an iron fist, his feud with Kane while the Canadian was meant to be liked is easy to forget.
Instead of doing the honourable thing and laying it all out in a match, Edge opted to kidnap his foe’s father and torture him while holding him hostage. Not allowing him to eat while pouring perfectly good food on him, not allowing him the use of a toilet and throwing things at his face were only the opening act of his plan. After hitting the overweight, wheelchair bound, older man with a steel chair, Edge set Paul Bearer up into a perverse booby trap that Kane pushed over, sending him to fall presumably to his in-character demise. What a great guy!