If you’re a long-time WWE fan (or “member of the WWE Universe”, in favor of more current terminology), then you know that Vince McMahon is a force to be reckoned with. It’s no secret that certain superstars are lucky enough to reap the many benefits of preferential treatment from "the powers that be," while others linger around mid-card Hell despite having all the talent and charisma to be bona fide megastars.
Some wrestlers have been on the negative end of Vince McMahon’s roster due to their own doing. As the old saying goes, “Don’t cross the boss.” But the 15 superstars I’ve listed below had their careers sidetracked by "The Chairman of the Board" due to reasons that are either vague, confusing, or downright baffling.
I guess we’ll never really know why Vince McMahon hated these guys. While a small percentage of them went on to do fine despite Mr. McMahon’s scorn, most of them never really peaked or are still struggling to grab that famed “brass ring” Vince is always talking about.
15 Titus O’ Neil
In one of the most bizarre cases of disciplinary action in recent memory, Titus O’ Neil found himself smacked with a 90-day suspension notice after he pulled Vince McMahon in for an awkward hug during the end of Daniel Bryan’s farewell segment on a Network-exclusive portion of Raw. Clearly Vince wasn’t having any of it, and promptly shoved Titus away, before ordering for the Prime Time Player’s suspension.
I’m fully aware that if I hugged my boss at random, I’d either be suspended, fired, or sent to the company psychiatrist, but punishing a superstar the same way Wellness Policy violators are treated on their second strike is borderline ridiculous.
14 Tyler Breeze
Ah, poor Prince Pretty. The once popular NXT talent is now just some guy with an image complex that shows up whenever WWE Main Event has an empty slot.
The story goes that Breeze went home early during a live taping because he was feeling ill, and that was all it took to irk McMahon. Within weeks, Breeze lost Summer Rae as his manager, was abruptly removed from feuds, and is now in a league so far below the midcard, that it makes the midcard look like it has the greenest grass in the world.
We hope Tyler makes it out of the doghouse soon, but if Cesaro is any indication, holding our breath may not be such a good idea.
Speaking of Cesaro…
During an episode of the Stone Cold Podcast, “Does not connect,” “lacking verbal skills,” and “doesn’t have It” are some of the reasons Vince McMahon was quoted saying when asked about Cesaro’s push of lack thereof.
These reasons are ludicrous on Vince’s part because if sheer talent and crowd response is any indication, Cesaro should have entered the upper echelon of WWE’s roster years ago.
Injuries aside, it’s still unclear as to why Vince won’t book Cesaro as a legitimate main-event superstar. Maybe it’s Cesaro’s “Indy background” or that he’s an “Internet favorite,” but not recognizing a talent like Cesaro is nothing short of a crime.
Former WWE writer Alex Greenfield stated in an interview that Vince McMahon took so much issue with Christian’s “ratty” face that he wanted to put a blue dot over it. This was later joked about by JBL on commentary during an episode of Raw. Mind you, this was during a time when Christian was extremely popular as the World Heavyweight Champion.
While it’s hard to say if Vince was joking without actually being in the room, it’s clear that Christian never really enjoyed the same treatment as other champions. His championship bouts were confined to SmackDown! and once he was sidelined due to injury, his solo career never truly recovered.
11 John Morrison
As if it wasn’t bad enough that he had to change his name several times before settling on John Morrison, the current Lucha Underground superstar would never feel the satisfaction of a complete push during his run in WWE.
Rumor has it that apart from believing Morrison “can’t kick anyone’s ass in a real fight,” Vince McMahon didn't respect Morrison as a man because he allowed his girlfriend Melina to have some naughty-naughty time with Dave Bautista (Batista). Or was it Mike Knox? The rumors vary.
Not only does this have nothing to do with business or Morrison’s professionalism, it also doesn’t explain why a person who is both talented and charismatic was never given the limelight.
10 Zack Ryder
It’s easy to joke about the “Ryder Revolution” now, but a few years ago fans were so high on Zack that they chanted his name even with The Rock in the ring! How’s that for popularity? Ryder’s YouTube show, Long Island Iced Z, was a kayfabe-blurring success, and the self-proclaimed Internet Champion had all the tools to be WWE’s next big underdog. But it never happened.
Amidst immense popularity, Vince decided to put Ryder in an angle with Kane and Eve Torres, which painted the Broski as a goofy halfwit who wasn’t charismatic enough to get a girlfriend let alone survive backstage.
The only push he’d get after that was off the Raw stage…while in a wheelchair, with Kane pushing him over.
9 Daniel Bryan
It’s a well-known fact that Vince McMahon never saw money in Daniel Bryan, which is why Daniel’s story is so inspirational. Not only was he fired after his debut as part of The Nexus, he was also given a slew of bad angles that were never wired to succeed.
He played the “virgin vegan ladies’ man,” which was (un)surprisingly popular with the fans, and then he lost the World Heavyweight Championship in 18 seconds at WrestleMania 28…which happened to be same time “Yes!” chants really took off.
Also, Batista was slated to win the main event at WrestleMania XXX, before Bryan was added to the angle due to sheer pressure by the fans, who wouldn’t stop hijacking other matches with their “Bryan” chants.
Those pesky fans, huh?
8 Paul Heyman
His name is Paul Heyman, and he is the advocate for the Beast, Brrrrrrrocccck Llllllllesnaaarrr!! But before all that, Heyman was part of the creative team for both SmackDown! and ECW, and Vince hated him for reasons no one is able to quite fathom to this day.
Not only was Heyman’s time on SmackDown! immensely profitable for WWE, his ideas for the revived ECW were also more true to the hardcore brand.
Heyman’s pitches were deliberately shut down by Vince in what seemed like territorial behavior, which led to Heyman leaving the company for years, only to come back as a performer with zero involvement in the creative process.
Vince McMahon has a thing for superstars who look like they’re in an 80s action movie that depicts a stereotypical wrestler, which is why his disdain for Goldberg is so damn baffling.
Goldberg has mentioned in numerous interviews that Vince never really warmed up to the former WCW Champion. Maybe it was Goldberg’s lack of fraternizing or that he saw his tenure in WWE as purely business, but the Jackhammer’s weak stint and failure to renegotiate a contract all but proves that Vince McMahon hated on Goldberg even though the man was a perfect fit to the “McMahon superstar template.”
6 Dolph Ziggler
You’d expect someone as talented as Dolph Ziggler to be on WWE’s A-Team with a dozen big-title wins under his belt by now. Sadly, with the exception of that one fateful night when he cashed in his MITB contract and grabbed the World Heavyweight Championship to the roar of a ruckus post-WrestleMania crowd, Ziggler has never really tasted the fame that he so truly deserves.
While Ziggler’s promo skills aren’t exactly top-notch, lesser talents have bagged more championships and headlined more WrestleManias in half the time he has been there. It’s unclear why Vince doesn’t see Ziggler as an A+ player, but here’s hoping that the boss changes his stance on Dolph and finally lets the man shine.
5 Randy “Macho Man” Savage
This one dates way back. No one is quite sure why Vince hated Randy Savage. Some rumors are innocent enough, stating that Vince had a strong bond with Savage and felt betrayed when the latter decided to sign with WCW, knowing full well the damage it would bring to WWE.
Then there’s the infamous sex scandal rumor involving Randy Savage and an underage Stephanie McMahon. Ugh, let’s not even go there. Whatever it may be, Vince’s hatred for Savage hasn’t diminished, going so far as to ask Hulk Hogan to posthumously induct the Macho Man into WWE’s Hall Of Fame.
If you’re confused as to why that’s offensive to Savage’s legacy, just YouTube “Randy Savage Hates Hulk Hogan.”
4 Alex Riley
Remember Alex Riley? His “RAGE” may be confined to sporadic appearances on NXT these days, but at one time Riley was wired to be a huge draw on the roster…and the fans had his back.
But bad luck reared its ugly head, and Riley’s push was stopped as soon as it started. Apparently John Cena went out his way to derail Riley’s career for reasons no one fully understands, which also doesn’t explain why Vince McMahon followed suit on Riley’s de-push.
After being sidelined due to injury, Riley would come back as a commentator on NXT. Needless to say, his career has yet to find its footing, and when you don’t know why the boss hates you, it’s hard to get back on his good side.
There’s a weird animosity between Vince McMahon and Dustin Rhodes aka Goldust that’s persistent to this day, yet no one knows why.
During his tenure in TNA, Dustin vented his frustrations against Vince in a ‘shoot’ interview. One particular incident revolved around Dustin’s father, Dusty Rhodes’ Hall Of Fame induction ceremony. Dustin’s brother Cody was billed as “Cody Rhodes” while Dustin was called “Dustin Runnels”, which he took as a deliberate jab by Vince.
If you think that’s too petty even for Vince McMahon, just ask CM Punk about how he received his termination papers.
While he may have been a big name during the Attitude Era, the Goldust of today suffers a lack of relevance in WWE, despite being in tremendous shape for a veteran his age.
2 Kevin Thorn / Mordecai
Kevin Thorn has always been respectfully vocal about the nature of Vince McMahon. Despite being good in the ring, Vince never found it in himself to push Kevin Thorn. Instead, he just gave Thorn conflicting pointers that ultimately stalled his WWE career.
Apparently Kevin was asked to be a vampire on the revived ECW because the show aired on SyFy. Not wanting to be an Undertaker copycat, Thorn would don brighter colors. This irked Vince, who told him to stick with black. Weeks later, Vince would tell Thorn that he looked too much like The Undertaker.
Confused much? So was Kevin. Unfortunately, things weren’t much different with Mordecai, Kevin’s religious zealot persona, who was hyped to no end on SmackDown! only to be removed from the show as soon as he made his debut.
1 The Road Warriors
Having a tag-team as legendary as Hawk and Animal on your show should make any boss feel grateful, yet for some reason Vince McMahon barely cared about the team’s extended run in WWE.
Animal even said that their second tenure was botched on purpose as a personal jab against them by good ol’ Vinnie Mac. One particular reason that keeps popping up cites the Road Warriors as being “too vocal” backstage, whatever that means.
If you’re thinking that’s how most companies work, remember that Vince is known for putting up with bad behavior as long as he likes the person. Just Google ‘Shawn Michaels back in the day’.