Professional wrestlers have the capability to transcend their role as entertainers and become absolute heroes. Whether through constantly winning or downright acting like a comic book superhero, wrestlers can build a reputation comparable to idolatry. Wrestlers are athletes and actors, both jobs that most people feel are deserving of praise when performed well, and being a good wrestlers means you’re one of the best performers in those categories as well, and you’ve truly earned your legacy. Unfortunately, some of the most famous and successful wrestlers in history have chosen to shatter said legacy after attaining this status.
While they are capable of becoming heroes, wrestlers have a funny way of constantly reminding us they’re just human, and humans are anything but perfect. The following list contains some of the greatest wrestlers in history—world champions, top-level performers, and incomparable sports entertainers. However, this list also contains some of the worst people in wrestling history—murderers, racists, and if not that monstrous, just downright terrible people. Several of them aren’t even that bad, but by refusing to honor their words as performers, they’ve shattered their legacy just the same.
15. Jimmy Snuka
Jimmy Snuka’s worst actions actually occurred concurrently with his rise to fame, and many have speculated he used such fame to literally get away with murder. For whatever reason it was brushed under the rug at the time, but in 2015 Snuka was finally arrested under suspicion of the 1983 murder of Nancy Argentino. Because charges were never pressed at the time, Snuka continued to climb up the ranks of the wrestling world. During the time he was alleged to have committed the murder, Snuka was already a main event superstar for WWE, and he would hold onto that position for another decade before becoming one of the first ever ECW World Champions. Snuka continued making legacy appearances as a WWE Hall of Famer on Raw and various Pay-Per-Views until he was finally arrested in 2015.
Chyna’s legacy is slowly being restored in the wake of her recent death, and perhaps it’s fair that she’s finally getting her due considering her contributions to wrestling truly were great. Unfortunately, it’s also completely understandable why WWE were hesitant to make note of Chyna until she passed on, considering she made a great deal of questionable career choices since parting ways with the company. People always knew Chyna was battling personal problems and drug addictions throughout her life, but that doesn’t excuse her actions in the adult film industry. While no one should have denied her anything that makes her feel good about herself or her body, her 2012 video Chyna Is Queen of the Ring took things way too far, portraying her engaging in sexual relations with top WWE officials and talent. While many find it tragic it took her death for WWE to finally acknowledge her again, some people are actually surprised it was enough.
13. Matt Hardy
Matt Hardy’s career since 2005 has seemingly been a crash course on how to destroy one’s own legacy. Matt was merely a superstar on the rise at that point, having won several singles titles and the WWE World Tag Team Titles with his brother Jeff on several occasions. Hardy was released from WWE amidst real life controversy involving himself, Edge, and Lita, and though fans mostly took Matt’s side, he immediately hurt any chances of being viewed as honorable when he said he hoped Edge would die in a car accident. He’s only kept making things worse since then, especially spiraling out of control since leaving WWE in 2010. Hardy posted a fake suicide note to the Internet in 2011, and continued trying to lie to his fans by announcing a fake retirement due to injuries in April of 2016. Both subjects are extremely serious and not ones to be taken lightly, and by doing so Hardy has ruined his once incredible connection with his public.
12. Jeff Hardy
Clearly, the Hardy family problems run in the family, because Jeff isn’t much worse off than Matt. Jeff has been more public about his personal problems and struggles with addiction, but that hardly makes it any easy for fans to accept when they blow up in his face live on Pay-Per-View. Hardy earned his reputation as a highflying risk taker who never said die in WWE, and kept that reputation going in TNA after several drug arrests finally forced WWE to fire him despite clearly seeing incredible potential in his abilities. WWE writer Freddie Prinze, Jr. called Hardy’s title reign his proudest accomplishment with the company, but Hardy of course ruined that in only a few months. Hardy was arrested for drug trafficking in September of 2009. The debacle that was Victory Road 2011 followed, and Hardy has never quite been seen as a star since, despite what TNA continues to try and push him as every week on Impact.
11. Jim Cornette
Jim Cornette is a fondly viewed figure by most wrestling circles. He’s remembered as one of the greatest managers of the 80’s, and perhaps even more so as one of the greatest backstage minds of the 90’s for his work in SMW and influence in WWE. Cornette has always been loud and passionate, but it would seem he’s been veering more and more towards crazy old man territory as the years go by, and his once great mind is now being seen as somewhat of a joke. Cornette took to his podcast in late January of 2016 to rant and rave about Lucha Underground, essentially hating on the show for the fact it was well-produced, which Cornette felt took all of the believability out of wrestling as an athletic contest. Crowd and critic approval seems to firmly disagree, and making insane statements like this is only hurting Cornette’s reputation as a respected voice in wrestling.
10. Vince Russo
Some people might be shocked to find Vince Russo on this list, but that’s only a testament to just how summarily he shattered his own legacy. Russo’s brief, but very noteworthy claim to fame came during the Attitude Era, when he was the head writer of Raw and WWE Pay-Per-Views. Russo isn’t solely responsible for the success of WWE during this era by any means, but despite the many smear campaigns that have exited to essentially purge his contributions from history, he clearly had a major influence on the direction of the company during one of their most favorably looked upon era. Russo almost immediately destroyed that reputation in late 1999 when he jumped from WWE to WCW, and created a product so horrific so quickly that he was fired in only a few months. Another highly frowned upon stint in WCW followed, as well as several stints in TNA that have the same negative reputation.
9. Ed Ferrara
Ed Ferrara was Vince Russo’s writing partner in WWE and WCW. Ferrara is also a trained wrestler, and the former TV executive actually got his job in WWE when his bosses at the USA Network learned of Ferrara’s side-job on the indy circuit and got him in contact with Vince McMahon. Ferrara is responsible for the success of the Attitude Era in the same manner as Russo, insofar as he doesn’t deserve all of the credit, but his influence permeates through everything in such a way he seemingly shouldn’t have been forgotten. Of course, just like Russo, Ferrara immediately shattered his own legacy in the jump to WCW, but unlike Russo, Ferrara decided to do so on-screen. For no particular reason, Ferrara debuted in WCW as Oklahoma, a clear and offensive “parody” of Jim Ross. Ferrara has reportedly since profusely apologized, but the damage to his own personal character can’t be undone.
8. Terry Funk
Terry Funk is a WWE Hall of Famer, and one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, and nothing he has done has particularly hurt that reputation. However, Funk has earned a special place on this list because he is more or less the primary reason the word “retire” is considered a complete joke in professional wrestling. Funk started wrestling in the 1960’s and first “retired” in 1983. He has unretired, re-retired, and unretired yet again countless times since, although he seems to have finally stopped wrestling in October of 2015, now that he’s reached his 70’s.
Funk’s seeming misunderstanding of the word retire turned into a punch line, and many wrestlers followed his pattern in announcing their retirement over and over only to show up a few months later. The real problem is the alleged emotion in the retirement speeches, which at first seemed heartfelt and passionate, but in hindsight were clearly all just more lies to sell a product. Of course, that’s what all of wrestling is, but an emotional and personal performer like Funk tried to fight that reputation, which is why it’s so painful to realize he’s more responsible for it than nearly anyone else.
7. The Dynamite Kid
The Dynamite Kid is the living half of one of the greatest wrestling tag teams of all time, The British Bulldogs. While Davey Boy Smith was no slouch, Dynamite was considered the more talented wrestler of the team, and in fact he was often considered one of the most talented wrestlers in the history of the sport. His highflying techniques were decades ahead of their time, and he flawlessly blended his styles with any type of performer imaginable. He left the wrestling industry in the early 90’s due to terrible injuries, but instead of helping and supporting him the wrestling world has mostly turned their backs on him, due to his terrible reputation in his personal life. Outside of his wrestling career, Dynamite was horrifically and happily abusive to his wife and children, threatening his wife with death until she finally divorced him. Dynamite is now confined to a wheelchair and suing WWE, but few fans are on his side.
6. “Superstar” Billy Graham
“Superstar” Billy Graham is possibly the most charismatic, noteworthy, and instantly recognizable wrestling performer of his era. The former WWE World Champion was definitely one of the most influential, with his bombastic personality and interviews echoing through wrestling history to this day. Graham recently hoped to extend that influence by becoming a trainer on NXT, but apparently WWE has been ignoring his phone calls, and it’s not exactly hard to blame them. Graham openly admitted to trying to extort money from the McMahon’s during the WWE sex scandal of the early 90’s, showing that his influence was nothing in comparison to his true personality as a scumbag ready to ruin lives for his own financial gain.
5. Mick Foley
Mick Foley has always been open about the fact he idolized and worshipped Terry Funk, and thus perhaps the fact his hero appears before him on our list shouldn’t be any surprise. Indeed, Foley suffered the exact same fate as his idol, in that he didn’t know when or how to actually say goodbye to his fans. Foley’s first true retirement came in February of 2000, and was broken almost immediately the next month so he could achieve his dream of appearing in WrestleMania. Even at the time, fans were complaining, if only because of just how emotional Foley appeared when fans thought he was retiring. Mick has continued to return to wrestling on multiple occasions, always hurting that reputation as a man with an emotional connection with his fans a little bit more each time he steps in the ring. His run in TNA as a main event champion was particularly disheartening, and although it seems far behind him, it’s hard for his biggest fans to forget.
4. The Ultimate Warrior
The Ultimate Warrior is another wrestler who seems to have been completely absolved of all his sins in death, but it’s particularly confusing considering just how powerful and absurd some of those sins were. Warrior was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014, only two days before he suddenly passed away due to a heart attack, and although he is a former WWE World and Intercontinental Champion, the induction came as a huge shock to fans who followed Warrior’s life and career since leaving WWE for the last time in the mid-90’s. Warrior sued WWE a multitude of times attempting to string more money than he deserved out of Vince McMahon’s pocket, and later stopped wrestling and simply started offending people by giving allegedly motivational speeches including phrases like “queering doesn’t make the world work.” It might seem like death heals all wounds in wrestling, but as it would turn out…
3. Chris Benoit
Chris Benoit is the one wrestler on this list arguably more famous for the actions that shattered his legacy than anything that came before it. Over the span of a long weekend in June of 2007, Benoit murdered his wife and son before committing suicide. Benoit idolized The Dynamite Kid in the way Mick Foley idolized Terry Funk, and as such he was considered one of the all-around best wrestlers in the universe during his time in WWE, WCW, ECW, and various other promotions around the world. Benoit won countless world titles and seemingly had the unending respect of every person who ever laid eyes on a wrestling ring, but he took that respect away in a string of violent and senseless acts that no human can understand to this day. Medical reports indicate Benoit’s brain was in such a condition he couldn’t have been thinking clearly during the crimes, but that has in no way helped fans separate him from his heinous actions.
2. Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan loudly and proudly boasted about how he was the biggest icon in wrestling history during his nWo promos in the late 90’s, and the fact of the matter is that the Hulkster probably wasn’t lying. No other superstars have quite reached the heights of Hulkamania, and yet if you were to go to WWE.com you wouldn’t find any sign of the man who helped put the promotion on the map. Hogan is a 12-time World Champion who instantly became the top wrestler everywhere he went with his charisma and incredible connection to his fans, but he lost it all when a sex tape leaked in which he made a series of racist comments about his daughter’s potential boyfriend. In 2015, WWE responded to the racism by purging Hogan from their site and no longer making mention of them, a decision they have stood by as of May 2016.
1. Ric Flair
While most entertainers Ric Flair’s age have settled for ruining their legacy off-stage or behind-the-scenes, Flair continues to do so every week live on television as his age marches on into the late 60’s. Flair has less fake retirements on record than Foley or Funk, but that didn’t stop fans from practically begging him to do so for decades before he finally did. People were calling for Flair to retire as early as the mid 90’s, but he wouldn’t permanently hang up his wrestling boots until 2012. Even post-retirement, Flair hurts his legacy each time he ruins one of his daughter Charlotte’s often great matches with his drunken old man routine at ringside. There’s no arguing the fact Flair was one of the greatest wrestlers in the history of the game, but it’s hard to remember now that there’s arguably more footage of him being an old embarrassment than a youthful legend.
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