For several years, WWE has sponsored the Be A Star anti-bullying campaign. Given the generally violent and pugilistic nature of professional wrestling, it’s nice that the company is attempting to prevent children from imitating what they see on the screen and helping the less fortunate in their own way. However, the campaign has been regularly criticized as downright hypocritical considering some of the horror stories about the WWE locker room, and certain big name backstage bullies in particular.
These stories are mainly culled from Internet reports and ill explained news blurbs, but we did our best to stick with things that seem like they actually happened. The title says backstage, but sometimes the wrestlers didn’t really care where they were, and decided to lay into their weaker victim regardless of how many millions may have been watching on television. A few names are going to repeat throughout this list while a few others only have one particularly bad incident on record, but even appearing at all should be a mark of shame on whichever wrestler initiated the bullying. Read on to learn about 15 times wrestlers unfairly harmed another, and spoiler alert: there’s a whole lot of JBL.
15 Randy Orton Bullied Rochelle Loewen
Randy Orton has a pretty long history of doing some unscrupulous stuff in the locker room, but the worst incident of all was his bullying and harassment of Rochelle Loewen. Loewen is one of many beautiful women who didn’t have much of an interest in wrestling, but were hired by WWE anyway in the mid 2000’s. At the time, the company wanted to hire lots of women, but didn’t think too far ahead in regards to which women they hired, so they ended up with models like Loewen, who only needed a few months to decide wrestling wasn’t for them. Loewen realized the decision almost immediately: the day she met Randy Orton, she made the faux pas of asking him his name, so he smeared baby oil and various lotions all over her personal belongings. Not only is this bully behavior, it's incredibly childish behavior to boot. Worst of all, when Loewen went to complain to WWE officials, they instantly knew it was Orton, since it wasn’t his first outburst.
14 Francine Bullied Dawn Marie
This list focuses on bullying specifically within WWE, but we made an exception for this entry for two reasons—it’s one of the few woman on woman bullying instances we’re aware of in professional wrestling, and it happened in the allegedly close and friendly (albeit perpetually drugged out) ECW locker room. One seemingly consistent exception to the ECW closeness was Francine, who has been accused of living her gimmick as ECW’s biggest bitch. Dawn Marie in particular claims Francine would regularly insult her to the point of Dawn breaking down in tears, and says Francine would only refer to Dawn as “it,” even if they were in the same room together. Dawn eventually asked Joey Styles for help, and we suggest you keep that in mind as the list goes on. Francine denies most of Dawn’s claims, but that’s hardly the worse thing Dawn ever had happen to her.
13 JBL Bullied The Blue Meanie
The title of the article says backstage bullies, but about half the wrestlers on this list didn’t even give their victims the courtesy to wait until they stepped out of the ring to start unfairly harassing them. JBL didn’t take center stage when he did it, but his actual bullying of The Blue Meanie took place during a scripted segment in a wrestling show. The final moments of the first ECW revival Pay-Per-View, One Night Stand, saw a large group of ECW alumni, including the Blue Meanie, get into a show-ending beer brawl with a large group of WWE faithful, including JBL. During the brawl, JBL specifically targeted Meanie, and actually started punching him instead of pretending to, which defeats the entire purpose of wrestling. One time as a mistake would’ve been one thing, but JBL punched Meanie so hard and so often The Blue Guy was left a bloody mess during what should have been a fun night. The two have apparently since patched things up.
12 Shawn Michaels Bullied Vader
Much like JBL, Shawn Michaels didn’t wait until the cameras shut off to start his bullying either, and he didn’t even wait for a bunch of wrestlers to surround him and hide it, either. HBK was essentially the leader of the Kliq, and they were well-known for bullying just about everybody insofar as it meant getting their way, but Shawn himself has a more specific incident to bear on his own. No one will know exactly what was said by Shawn, but according to Jim Cornette, in the middle of a match at a house show, Vader made some small mistake and Shawn started screaming at him, and threatened to get him fired. You wouldn’t think it to look at him, but Vader was a sensitive person, and Shawn actually brought the Mastodon to tears due to the fear he could be out of work. Cornette says this was regular behavior for Shawn, and he was constantly doing this to Vader and others.
11 JBL and Triple H Bullied Chris Masters
It’s hard to blur the line between a wrestling character taking a jab and a human taking a jab, so we’ll draw it where the person getting insulted can’t control what they’re being mocked for, and make it a thick line if it's something that’s pretty sensitive. Chris Masters, like many wrestlers, developed an addiction to painkillers during his first run in WWE. Unlike many wrestlers, he saw that he had a problem and went to rehab. In rehab, he lost a bit of weight because of his therapy. When he came back to WWE, both Triple H and JBL mocked him for the same reason. Triple H’s comment was rude to Masters, but JBL’s comment was offensive on all sorts of levels, saying it looked like Masters escaped from a concentration camp. Even if Masters himself has laughed off these comments, there have been rumors JBL treated him horribly backstage, as well.
10 Bill DeMott Bullied NXT
There’s nothing humorous about this one. Bill DeMott, a former WCW United States Champion under the name General E. Rection who later became the Head Coach/Trainer at NXT, has been accused of some seriously bad bullying by several of his former students. One of the first to speak out was Ivelisse Vélez, who worked for NXT as Sofia Cortez. Cortez claimed coming forward about DeMott’s behavior got her fired. A few years later, a wrestler named Judas Devlin gave an interview, offering a more specific list of DeMott’s transgressions, showing a serious inclination towards homophobic and hateful language, with threats to take away people’s jobs if they dared speak out about him. DeMott denied the allegations, but eventually stepped down from his position anyway “to avoid any embarrassment or damage” to the company. Clearly, it was no laughing matter.
9 JBL Bullied Billy Silverman
Billy Silverman might not be a familiar name to WWE fans, but any WCW fans still around probably recognize it. Silverman was one of WCW’s top referees, and he very briefly made the switch to WWE in 2001 during the Invasion era. Silverman only lasted such a short time because of Bradshaw constantly bullying him and making him feel unwelcome in the locker room. There were reports of the WWE wrestlers in general not being receptive to WCW newcomers, but Silverman got Bradshaw’s wrath particularly bad, or at least he took it the worst, considering he quit the business almost right away. There were reports Charles Robinson suffered through the same treatment as Silverman, and the fact he didn’t complain while Silverman did is what earned him the respect he holds today.
8 WWE Bullied Mickie James, Molly Holly, Other Women
It's bad enough that Randy Orton is making women feel bad backstage, but WWE in general has treated their female wrestlers pretty horribly over the years. The worst two examples are probably Mickie James and Molly Holly. Mickie was the subject of an actual angle about bullying, which had the unfortunate side effect of two other wrestlers actually bullying the hell out of her every week. Michelle McCool and Layla El began referring to Mickie as “Piggy James,” mocking her for her weight (although she, like most wrestlers, was in great shape). Molly Holly suffered similarly horrible treatment years earlier, with Trish Stratus mocking her for having “a fat ass” and being a virgin. Again, we know it’s hard to draw the line, but once you start actually body shaming people and making things up about them, you stop “being a bad guy” and turn into an actual bully, especially since both women have said they had problems with the angles on a personal level.
7 JBL and Chris Benoit Bullied The Miz
JBL might try and talk his way out of some of the other stories on this list, but he openly and happily admits to the fact he hated and therefore hazed and bullied The Miz. He wasn’t alone, as the WWE wrestlers collectively kicked The Miz out of the locker room for six full months. Chris Benoit apparently led that campaign, but JBL was constantly mocking him and insulting him on camera and in person throughout the ordeal making things worse. Miz looks back on the situation with a smile and says he got through it without complaining, which earned everyone’s respect. That doesn’t exactly promote the end of bullying, but it's good he was able to get over it on a personal level.
6 Chris Benoit, Hardcore Holly, and Eddie Guerrero Bullied Daniel Puder
The bullying of Daniel Puder was pretty special for at least two reasons. First, the reason he was bullied was broadcast on national television, and most people kind of thought he was a dick for doing it in the first place. Second, the actual act of bullying took place as a scripted part of a wrestling match, but this time, people felt the so-called professionals might have gone way too far. Puder won Tough Enough in 2004, and during the competition, he nearly broke Kurt Angle’s arm and made him tap to a Kimura Lock on live television. Quick thinking by Jim Korderas invented a pinfall victory for Angle, but WWE wrestlers felt Puder insulted the business with his actions, and responded by actually beating him up during the 2005 Royal Rumble. Notoriously hard hitting wrestler Hardcore Holly, noted bully Chris Benoit, and surprise entry Eddie Guerrero gave Puder a long series of actual kicks, punches and chops to the face and chest before tossing him out of the ring. Puder left the company and the business later in the year.
5 JBL and Chris Benoit Bullied Palmer Cannon
Palmer Cannon didn’t last in WWE long, but he made a pretty big splash while he was there. He was introduced to SmackDown audiences as a network representative in late 2005, enforcing a variety of PC changes to the show. Just a few short months into 2006, Palmer abruptly quit WWE during a tour of Europe, catching a plane home and never returning to the company. He claims he quit due to incessant bullying by JBL and Chris Benoit, amongst assorted others. WWE allegedly asked Cannon to return several times, but he always declined to even speak with them, silently showing how much harm Benoit and JBL really did. Ironically enough, it wasn’t very PC of WWE to let this go down.
4 Vince McMahon Bullied Kofi Kingston
It’s fair to raise the question of what exactly constitutes bullying in wrestling, especially with real life and character work often blurring the lines and making it hard to tell if a wrestler is actually being a jerk, or just playing a jerk. We’re calling this one bullying given the respective positions of both men. Vince McMahon, the owner of a multi-million dollar company and also Kofi Kingston’s boss, once challenged Kofi Kingston to an actual fight. McMahon dismissively told Kofi “maybe one day you’ll get over,” which understandably upset the Dreadlocked Dynamo. Kofi fought back with words until Vince attacked him with a wrestling takedown, and fought Kofi for a short while before standing up and walking away laughing. Kofi himself seems to laugh this off as his boss being eccentric and crazy, and that’s partially true, but it sounds a lot like bullying to us.
3 JBL Bullied René Duprée
René Duprée has the distinction of being the only wrestler to win a WWE title while still a teenager, but he left the company while still in his early 20s, so it's unlikely that success will amount to much more. Duprée started as a member of La Resistance, teaming with Sylvain Grenier and winning the aforementioned titles. He was moved from Raw to SmackDown in 2005, at which point Duprée says his career immediately took a huge downturn and he was miserable every day for three years, and the reason was JBL. JBL allegedly called the French Canadian Duprée “French f*****” every time he saw him, along with other assorted “jokes” with the general theme of racist homophobia. Duprée never complained to management, showing it doesn’t always work out like The Miz seems to think.
2 Vince McMahon Bullied Jim Ross
There are few things long time wrestling fans find more genuinely disheartening than Vince McMahon’s treatment of his loyal and trusted employee, Jim Ross. Not only did McMahon fire Jim Ross over Ric Flair’s actions, McMahon made a point of it to mock his extremely popular play-by-play announcer at every chance he could get. Jim Ross is considered one of the greatest announcers of all time, and he suffers a disease called Bell’s palsy. The disease permanently paralyzed part of JR’s face, which is the primary target of Vince’s onscreen mockery. The worst incident saw Vince mocking Ross’s actual colon surgery by producing a video in which Ross “pulls his head out of his ass.” Fans generally reacted to the videos with disgust.
1 JBL Bullied Joey Styles
After a long and sad list of all the times JBL was a huge jerk to up and coming stars, let’s top things off with the time he finally got his comeuppance. JBL was attempting to add Joey Styles to the long list of his victims, getting extremely drunk every day during a tour of Iraq and using the alcohol to fuel his bullying antics. Things reached a breaking point, and where some men quit, and other men merely turned their heads, Joey Styles punched JBL square in the face and gave him a black eye. This is exactly what Joey told Dawn Marie to do to Francine when she was bothering her, and for Joey, it seemed to have worked. JBL is said to have spent the rest of the tour by himself in his hotel room, leaving Joey the hell alone.
Keep being a star, John.