Pro wrestling is a sport without regulations. Over the top personalities face off against each other and fight sans rules, governed only by the rehearsed script. Wrestlers train hard for strength and agility, but it’s all an act. Charismatic adversaries battle viciously on camera, but then hang out backstage. Like movie stuntmen, their fight scenes must be practiced. Like a circus show, the audience marvels, yet rests assured that their favorite wrestler won’t get killed, while, at the same time, moves look deadly and smack downs cause real pain. The sport evolved out of the Strongman act at old time circuses. Today, matches provide unbridled entertainment, like live-action reality TV shows.
The sport is impossible to categorize, except by its fandom. Disciplined fanatics follow each melodramatic twist and turn, then track and discuss WWE and other pro league minute on social media. The dynamic is part of the show. Colorful wrestlers keep fans addicted with high-octane performances, and by inserting extra drama into their acts, on stage and off. Wrestlers rarely break character, rambunctiously engaging with the audience whenever cameras roll their way. Once in a while, real emotions spill over and memorable and controversial fights ensue, on and off script. Let’s take a look at some.
Chris Jericho vs. Bill Goldberg
This time, Chris Jericho instigated his own fight, however, the backstage brawl was ten years in the making. There was bad blood between Chris Jericho and Bill Goldberg from the time they both wrestled for the now defunct WCW league. Years later, when Bill Goldberg joined the WWE, Chris Jericho was not pleased. Tensions worsened when Bill Goldberg greeted Chris Jericho (Y2J) with a hearty back slap on day one of entering the WWE league.
Eventually, during a RAW event, Y2J heard back about Bill Goldberg’s smack talking, criticizing his performance skills. With a chip on his shoulder and score to settle, Y2J strode into the dressing room to have a few challenging words with the much larger wrestler, Bill Goldberg. “If you have something to say to me, say it to my face,” he said. Goldberg silenced the significantly smaller Y2K, swiftly seizing him by the throat. Y2K, lit to pop with Goldberg’s hand clenched around his neck, returned the favor by taking the hulking man down and putting him in a front face lock. The two wrestlers eventually patched things up, but Y2K’s backstage rout against the massive Bill Goldberg is one for the WWE history books.
Sin Cara vs. Simon Gotch
You can call it a petty food fight. (But not to their faces!) Apparently Sin Cara and Simon Gotch were having some words while dining together. According to Simon Gotch they were exchanging some digs, and one hit a nerve. The meal ended with Sin Cara hurling an unopened can of soda at Gotch’s face.
To his credit, Simon Gotch took the hit in stride complimenting the thrower’s accuracy. It gave him a black eye. They brawled for about 20 seconds before their fight was broken up. They patched things up before leaving the dining room.
Perry Saturn vs. Mike Bell
Mike Bell botched a move and it flipped the fight from rehearsed to live. The mistake resulted in Perry Saturn landing on his neck. Clearly it was painful, because it triggered Saturn. Leaping to his feet, he attacked Bell for real. Unleashing punch after punch, pummeling Mike Bell, Saturn, in a fit of ferocious rage, grabbed Bell and threw him, head first, out of the ring. Bell, stunned and confused, luckily did not land on his head and avoided serious injury.
The WWF did not let Perry Saturn go, but his career gradually fizzled out after they punished him with a humiliating story line. Playing into the gimmick, Saturn teased mercilessly about being in love with a mop. He dropped the act after he avenged those who caused the mop named “Moppy’s” tragic fate – being fed into a wood-chipper.
Dave “Batista” Bautista vs. Booker T
This unscheduled smack down took place at a beautiful Encino mansion. It was 2006 during the SummerSlam season and a group of pro wrestler stars met at the mansion to do a promo shoot. Outside by the pool, Batista and Booker T began to air their mutual hostilities toward each other, and, of course, it came to a head. Booker T told Batista he didn’t like him. He said they’d never be friends, but that they had to work together. They didn’t. Booker T and Batista beat each other to a swollen bloody mess which took at least five hulking superstars to rip them apart.
One of those referees was superstar Fin Finlay, who told RF Video, “I don’t know what started it but they were rolling on the floor. They will say that Booker T got to Dave, but that’s not how it was. Dave was on top of Booker T, you know? Booker T had a swollen eye.” Fin Finlay went on to say that’s when they pulled the fighters apart and stood them up. The two were glad to resolve their hostilities and bury the hatchet. By now, they’re even good friends.
Brock Lesnar vs. Chris Jericho
This scuffle started at the 2016 SummerSlam event. This particular wrestling match was between Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton, but Chris Jericho (Y2K) got involved. It played out as rehearsed, except that the final blow to Randy Orton’s head drew more blood than Brock Lesnar intended. Randy Orton’s friend, Y2K, took offense. In WWE bloody wounds are staged. The showmen target the head because head wounds bleed profusely.
During the act, the wrestler hides a sharp object to initiate the dramatic effect. Sometimes bags of fake blood are used. Not so this time. Chris Jericho saw the blood, thought the wound that required ten staples to close was intentional and excessive, and he confronted Brock Lesnar about it. They got into it, nose to nose, at very close proximity, and that’s where Chris Jericho chose to leave it.
Brock Lesnar vs. Curt Hennig
Infamously known as the “plane ride from hell,” this altercation took place on a private jet returning WWE management and wrestlers to the States from their European tour. Amongst other drunk and disorderly chaos that took place on that 7-hour flight, like the sexual harassment of flight attendants and one wrestler waking up with his long, blonde ponytail chopped off by an inebriated prankster, Brock Lesner poked Curt Hennig about his amateur wrestling skills. This erupted into a playful wrestling match with the two uncontrollably rolling around the jet, at one point, nearly bouncing into the emergency escape exit door as the competition became more and more raucous.
At least this is what was said to have happened. Brock Lesnar claims he doesn’t recall the incident as he was too drunk and stoned on Vicodin to remember. Curt Hennig was fired immediately for starting the boisterous wrestling match and for past drunkenness issues. Sadly, he died a year later of an overdose.
Kurt Angle vs. Jeff Jarrett
Kurt Angle was dragged into this story line after his wife divorced him and married fellow wrestler and promoter, Jeff Jarrett. To make things worse, Jeff Jarrett was Kurt Angle’s boss at the time while he worked for TNA. His wife, also involved in wrestling productions, joined in the storyline, at one point allowing her children to refer to her new husband as “Daddy Jeff” on television.
This obviously hit a nerve with Kurt Angle, whose emotions pulled him off script. He shared a few harsh words about how no one will ever replace him as father of his kids, and made clear he’s not taking part in their act. Understandable.
Brutus Beefcake vs. Haku
This one started after Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake whined about Haku slapping him too hard during a scheduled match. Once Haku caught wind that this accusation had been filed with WWF management against him by Brutus Beefcake, he took matters into his own hands. In a fit of rage, Haku went into the locker rooms, tracked down Brutus Beefcake in the showers, and went after him. Haku grabbed his throat and lifted him off the ground.
Hulk Hogan was called in as he was the only person who could calm Haku down. The rest of the crew shuddered in fear. The ferocious Haku had a formidable reputation. Brutus Beefcake said in an interview with KC that Haku once bit someone’s nose right off his face, and then spit it back out at him. Yikes! Following the shower incident, Brutus stayed on Haku’s good side!
Randy Savage vs. Road Warrior Hawk
This clash came to a head over a woman. Road Warrior Hawk’s woman, to be specific. By the time the altercation went live, Dale was Road Warrior Hawk’s wife. They were at a show in Japan and Dale told her husband the sexually harassing comment Randy Savage propositioned her with at a restaurant two years prior, while Hawk was using the facilities. Road Warrior Hawk was ready to kill him and getting increasingly agitated. As it happened, Savage was there, backstage. When he confronted Randy Savage with what he said to his wife, Savage called Dale a liar. Hawk couldn’t be angrier. He slapped Savage powerfully, sending his glasses and hat flying off his face.
They were separated, but Savage was now fit to avenge himself. It wouldn’t happen for years, when they coincidentally met up at a rock concert. Kid Rock was on stage and the two approached each other. Road Warrior Hawk extended his hand to greet Randy Savage civilly, to amend the past and whatnot, but Savage wasn’t interested. Instead, he took Hawk down with a right hook. Next, there was a bathroom brawl with the women, a girlfriend, a sister and the wife involved, the women beating each other to a pulp. It was ugly. In some versions, urinals were ripped off the walls. By now, both men are dead; they never resolved their differences.
Kevin “Nailz” Wacholz vs. Vince McMahon
It was SummerSlam 1992 and Kevin “Nailz” Wacholz was crushing it. He clobbered Virgil at the event but was disappointed with the match payout. Nailz brought his issue to management. When Vince McMahon casually disregarded his complaint about compensation, Nailz lost it. He attacked Vince McMahon and didn’t let go of his throat until after he turned blue and four men pulled him off. Physically assaulting the boss is probably the number one way to get fired.
In an act of retribution, Nailz sued McMahon for sexual assault, for forcing him to take steroids and for wrongful termination. Nailz then showed up to Vince McMahon’s coincidental steroids trial to testify against, and hopefully convict his old boss. His testimony was a disaster, and contradictions and an uncontrollable temper led to McMahon’s acquittal instead.
Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle
These two world class athletes dominated the amateur wrestling circuit. Kurt Angle as a gold medal Olympian, and Brock Lesnar as a University of Minnesota champ, winning an NCAA championship and a two-time All-American title. They fought several times in the choreographed ring, but these two wanted a legitimate wrestling fight, especially Brock Lesnar who boasted he could easily take the Olympian.
When Kurt Angle heard Brock Lesnar say he could wipe the floor with him, he was ready to rumble. Brock Lesnar, taller and 80 pounds heavier, was a challenge, but Kurt Angle held his ground. It only lasted eight seconds before Vince McMahon told them to knock it off. The impromptu match was civilized, but without a conclusive winner.
The Nasty Boys vs. Ken Shamrock
Ken Shamrock nearly lost his life in this unscripted fight scene. Early in their careers, the three came to blows at a bar fight. Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags were an up and coming tag team duo aptly called The Nasty Boys, and Ken Shamrock was hanging out at the bar with a ring crewman and his girlfriend. Nasty Boy Brian Knobbs was schlockered and belligerent and set on sexually assaulting the girlfriend.
Ken Shamrock fumed at the attacks, jumped up, and warned Nasty Boy Knobbs, “Next time you touch her, I’m breaking your hand.” Next thing you know the bar bouncers broke up the fight, taking Ken Shamrock to the bathroom and sending The Nasty Boys to their motel room. Ken Shamrock, engulfed in rage, searched Brian Knobbs out. The bloody showdown inside the motel room would have killed Ken Shamrock if not for an ambulance ride to the hospital.
Lex Luger vs. Bruiser Brody
This was one of the stranger WWF matches, and not because it took place inside of a steel cage, that was becoming normal at the time. It was 1987 in Florida and veteran Bruiser Brody was pitted against rookie Lex Luger. A few minutes in, Lex Luger begins to appear confused and frustrated. And that's when things started.
He starts punching Bruiser Brody, takes down the referee when he pulls him off Brody, and then scales the side of the cage and leaves the arena, literally grabbing his keys and driving off without showering. The match was disqualified after Luger took down the ref.
Kevin Nash vs. Roddy Piper
This scuffle triggered inside the ring during the WCW Monday Nitro contest. Teams Kevin Nash and Scott Hall versus Ric Flair and Roddy Piper were the main event, but it didn’t go as planned. Roddy Piper veered off the script, changing up what they had rehearsed, and Kevin Nash came unglued. After the show Roddy Piper and Ric Flair were hanging out in the locker room when Kevin Nash barged in, kicking the door in, by one account. He was screaming at Roddy Piper about whether he thinks he’s in charge of things around here, and then open-hand slapped him.
Piper’s bodyguard got between the two, but Nash threatened him, and he backed off from the much larger man. The fight reignited momentarily while Piper took a dive at Nash’s knee, and then Ric Flair and Piper’s bodyguard teamed up to pull them apart. Ironing things out, Kevin Nash let go of his animosity years ago, he said, even taking Roddy Piper on an Aruba trip.
Joey Styles vs. JBL
In the wrestling world, Justin Bradshaw Layfield (JBL) is an infamous coward and bully. However, his Texan persona went over well with audiences, especially during this particular tour – based in Iraq, to entertain the servicemen and women. One evening, in full bully mode, JBL, 6’6” and massive, after verbally assaulting a man all week, poured a drink on him. He topped the act by adding rude comments about his family. The recipient, Joey Styles was obviously furious. They attacked each other.
Fists were swinging. Others in the room tried to pull them apart, but not before Styles landed a knock down punch. JBL was humiliated. His choice to pick on someone a full foot shorter than he, plus 100 pounds lighter, and mere a television announcer, put him in his place. Joey Styles became a locker room hero of sorts. Someone finally stood up to the big Texas bully.
Andre the Giant vs. Akira Maeda
In the 1980s, Andre the Giant was a formidable champion for the WWF. He was undefeated from 1973-1987. At 7’4” and 520 pounds, he was a certifiable giant. This show went down in Japan in 1986. Billed overseas, there would be no American audience. Andre the Giant’s heart was not into this match, and he showed up drunk and bored. As he wasn’t taking it seriously, Akira Maeda got angry and began to turn it into a shoot match, going completely off script and repetitively kicking the giant in the legs to little avail.
The matched ended with Andre the Giant laying himself flat on his back and taunting Akira Maeda to pin him. It was a rather anticlimactic ending until Akira Maeda called other wrestlers to the ring for a raucous melee.
Buff Bagwell vs. Hurricane Helms
Back in 2001, when Buff Bagwell and Shane “Hurricane” Helms were new to the big leagues, just joining the WWE from the WCW, Buff Bagwell was arrogant and rude, and garnered little respect in the wrestling community. One day, ridiculing Hurricane Helms for his smaller physique, and derisively chiding his chances of making it in pro wrestling, Hurricane Helms fired back with something about Buff Bagwell’s steroid habit. This earned him a powerful smack from behind. In retaliation, Hurricane Helms flung a filled water bottle and clocked Buff Bagwell in the head.
The impact caused profuse bleeding. A locker room rumbled commenced. Because Hurricane Helms stood up to Buff the bad-mouthing bully and defended himself, he gained respect in the league and went on to become a WWE great. Meanwhile, arguably, Buff Bagwell’s bad attitude lost him his career. He was let go, officially, for taking the first swing at a wrestler 50 pounds his junior.
Sid Vicious vs. Arn Anderson
This insult-slinging match started in the bar room and nearly ended with a CSI team cordoning off a bloody hallway with yellow tape. The brutal fight, live and unscripted, was one of the worst displays of wrestler animosity, and a humiliation to the business. In the heat of the melee, Sid Vicious grabbed a pair of scissors and Arn Anderson defended himself with a chair leg.
By the end of it, both stabbed each other with the scissors, and the blood-strewn hallway corridor walls and floor attested to their ruthlessness. Luckily a couple other wrestlers heard the commotion in the hallway and broke up the fight until ambulances could take them away. The reason for the fight? Stress of being on the road, drunkenness and disputes about who’s the best wrestler, apparently. Two bloated alpha-male egos and one small space.
Scott Hall and Kevin Nash vs. The Nasty Boys
This story goes back to 1996. In the ring during that televised event, a particularly hard hit to Nasty Boy Jerry Sags with a steel folding chair, all according to script, accidentally caused a lot of pain on the receiving end. The Nasty Boys threw the script out the window and started an all-out brawl.
Pre-existing tensions about pay discrepancies between the duo teams didn’t help – Nasty Boys had to take a pay cut, their adversaries didn’t. Nasty Boy Sags unleashed on Scott Hall, knocking out a few of his teeth. And it didn’t end there. In the locker room, Kevin Nash came in swinging, not fists, but a baseball bat. The off-script incident got the Nasty Boys fired.
Tom Prichard vs. Tracy Smothers
It got so heated inside the car on the way to a show, that the driver had to pull over. Real emotions erupted. Tom Prichard and Tracy Smothers made their names during the 90s Smoky Mountain wrestling circuit, but they never got along. En route to their next gig, a war of words was brewing. Tom Prichard blamed Tracy Smothers for intentionally injuring his opponents instead of following the script and respecting the no-injury clause of pro wrestler credo. Tracy Smothers fumed over the accusation until they took it outside.
Exiting the vehicle, rank words and fists flew. The two nearly ended up settling the score behind bars as blue flashing lights pulled up to their impromptu fight. Tom Prichard, quick on his feet, informed the law enforcement officer the two were only practicing wrestling moves for a show. The cop responded, “You don’t do that in my town! You got thirty seconds to get your asses out of here or I’m taking you all to jail.” They left, close call. Neither wrestler wanted to miss the show due to being arrested for disturbing the peace.
Eric Bischoff vs. Ric Flair
Not much is known about this impromptu scuffle, in large part due to the fact that Vince McMahon ordered the culprits to zip-it to avoid bad media buzz for the WWE. These days Eric Bischoff and Ric Flair are on good terms, but their past animosity led up to the legendary lore of their backstage fight, fueled by their silence about the events.
No one really knows, but what seemed to have happened is this: Ric Flair lost his cool after overhearing Eric Bischoff’s phone conversation of sexist content and he attacked him, punching Ric Flair mid-conversation causing his cell phone to go clattering to the ground. Ric Flair responded and the two tussled until Sgt. Slaughter pulled them apart. Tie!
The Dynamite Kid vs. Jacques Rougeau
This WWF match at Madison Square Garden pitted the British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid) against the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (Jacques and Raymond). It was the very first SummerSlam PPV show and the Dynamite kid and Jacques Rougeau’s rivalry was ripe. The match was uneventful, playing out as scheduled – the action took place backstage. Exasperating the situation, a locker room prank rubbed Jacques the wrong way. Dynamite’s reputation as a bully and their personal animosity had Jacques assuming the locker room gag was the work of the British Bulldogs. In reality, the prank was Curt Hennig’s work. While the Fabulous Rougeaus were in the ring with the British Bulldogs, Hennig cut their clothing into thin strips.
The Rougeau Brothers were furious when they found their clothing in shreds and went after the Dynamite Kid, yelling and threatening him, but then leaving the room. Dynamite, on the other hand, turned to and leveled Jacques, smacking him right across the ear. Raymond tried to break up the brawl, so Dynamite knocked him out as well. When Jacques recovered from the seemingly unprovoked attack, he began plotting his revenge. The act was brutal. It happened a few weeks later at a TV taping. In the backroom attack, Jacques hid a roll of quarters inside his fist and swung hard at Dynamite Kid’s face. Four teeth were shattered. To patch things up, the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers agreed to pay Dynamite Kid’s dental bill.
Shawn Michaels vs. Marty Jannetty
These two used to work together, playing an amusing tag team act, but one time, inexplicably, things came to blows. No one really knows why. The puzzling fight that found its way into the hallway of a hotel they were staying at, was broken up by police. The cops were holding Marty Jannetty under arrest.
He’s called it an accidental fight that Shawn Michaels lost. But he didn’t look like a winner being held in custody. Lucky for him, Randy Savage saved the day. When the legendary WWE personality approached the cops as they were hauling Marty Jannetty away, they were star struck. To sum it up, they traded a Randy Savage autograph for Marty Jannetty’s freedom.
June Byers vs. Mildred Burke
This contention goes way back to a 1954 “lady wrestling” contest. Then, Mildred Burke was a pioneer of the sport for women and held the NWA World Women’s Championship title, undefeated for almost 20 years. After years of her husband and promoter womanizing in front of her and flaunting his numerous affairs with other women in the business, she divorced him. His name was Billy Wolfe and he turned on her, vindictively, blackballing her from her career while she strove to hold onto her title. The legendary match between Mildred Burke and June Byers was supposed to settle this score. Byers won the first pin, but Burke prevented her from getting the second pin to win.
They fought hostilely with animosity, going after each other for over an hour until officials called the match without a winner. The press reported June Byers won, so she became the legitimate world champion. Mildred Burke didn’t concede a defeated and maintained her right to her title.
Spider Lady vs. Wendi Richter
This was a huge WWF event billed at Madison Square Gardens. It was there Wendi Richter would fight to maintain her title, having won the Women’s Championship on the first WrestleMania, when she stripped it from arch enemy Fabulous Moolah. When Richter hopped into the Madison Square Gardens ring with the masked Spider Lady, she expected an easy win. Instead, she received a legendary betrayal. Maybe it was because she asked Vince McMahon for increased compensation, or maybe her reign was up, because what happened next was unbelievable.
In the ring, dancing with Spider Lady, Wendi Richter started to get suspicious about who was behind the mask. She ripped it off and, lo and behold, it’s Moolah! Moolah pinned her and stole her title, after a ref who was paid to be in on the sabotage, hastily called the match for Moolah.
Antonio Inoki vs. Bruno Sammartino
These two wrestlers never really got along. Bruno Sammartino was World Champion in America and Antonio Inoki was Japan’s greatest wrestler. During a legendary 1970s match in Osaka they aired some of that acrimony. Antonio Inoki instigated by shooting in a few moves off script in an effort to out-wrestle Bruno “the Strongman” Sammartino.
The Strongman answered the aggression by trapping Antonio Inoki in a front face-lock, pounding him ruthlessly, and finally tossing him out of the ring. Humiliated, Inoki never entered the ring with Sammartino again.
Shawn Michaels vs. The Harris Brothers
Back in the 1990s, Shawn Michaels was an arrogant son-of-a-gun, cocky, conceited and critical. When he made fun of The Harris Brothers, calling them wimps, losers, quitters because they couldn’t afford to go on tour with the WWE, Ron Harris was not going to take it. Infuriated, he grabbed Shawn Michaels by the throat and threw him against the wall.
Kevin Nash stepped in and diffused the tangle. One version of the story says Shawn Michaels began to sob as Ron Harris slammed him against the wall. The fandom likes that version.
Koji Kitao vs. John “Earthquake” Tenta
This scheduled showdown went completely off the rails of its script, careening into a mismatch with a grandstanding Koji Kitao dissing the sport of pro wrestling to the entire audience. It was March 1991 and WWF co-sponsored the show in Japan at the Tokyo Dome. John “Earthquake” Tenta was a former sumo wrestler as was Koji Kitao. In this match Earthquake was scripted for victory and Koji Kitao wasn’t having it.
Koji Kitao kicked the ref, grabbed the mic and announced that wrestling is fake, angry that he could take Earthquake in real life and unwilling to submit to the loss, fake or real. It was one of the strangest outcomes in wrestling history.
JBL vs. Blue Meanie
Blue Meanie, either brave or crazy, decided to stand up to the infamous Texas bully, John Bradshaw Layfield. Making matters worse, JBL was drunk. The Blue Meanie was taunting him and JBL punched him in the back of the head, landing his fist exactly on a wound that took 14 staples to close up the day before. And then JBL went at him, punching the front of his face until he was bleeding from his forehead as well. It was on June of 2005, at a scheduled PPV show.
The brawl was staged with the ring crowded, rope-to-rope, with a mob of wrestlers. The brutal attacks by JBL were not staged. The Blue Meanie considered taking legal action but received a bonus instead, going on to become friends with JBL. “JBL is cool, I’m cool with him, he’s cool with me,” the Blue Meanie told Hannibal TV for Wrestling Inc.
Daniel Puder vs. Kurt Angle
The WWE reality show Tough Enough got real while taping a 2004 segment to be featured on a SmackDown! episode. Kurt Angle, the Olympic gold medalist wrestler, finished one guy off with broken ribs and looked to the crowd for the next challenger. Daniel Puder hopped in the ring with him, and he was definitely tough enough to take Angle. Angle assumed it would be an easy take-down, but Daniel Puder’s knowledge and MMA background caught him off guard.
Puder had Angle’s shoulder in a lock on the mat in a move that meant to break Angle’s arm. The referee acted quickly, counted to three and called the match. Fans were impressed with the rookie.
Vince McMahon vs. Kofi Kingston
This unscripted scuttle went down inside a private jet. Vince McMahon instigated the outside-the-ring match when he insulted Kofi Kingston with a snide jab. It came after a four-hour flight of passing the time by playing cards and drinking Jack Daniels, straight, naturally. According to Chris Jericho who witnessed the insult while disembarking the jet, Kofi Kingston was set to let the comment slide. It was his boss who hurled it, after all. But then Chris Jericho egged Kofi Kingston on, telling him he needs to defend his integrity.
“You have to go back on the plane and challenge him to a fight right now,” he said, adding, “If you go challenge him, he’ll love it and respect you for it.” Kofi Kingston was convinced. Approaching Vince McMahon, Kofi Kingston asked if he had a problem with him. “You got a problem with me?!” It escalated to challenging each other to do something about it until Vince McMahon did something about it – he double-leg grabbed Kofi Kingston. The two rolled around like a couple of puppies for a few seconds before the boss stood up chuckling. Chris Jericho said Kofi Kingston gained his respect that day, this according to Chris Jericho’s memoir, The Best in the World: At What I Have No Idea. Tragically, there is no video footage of the clash.
The Great Khali vs. Big Show
This unregulated backstage clash of the titans exploded over Khali stealing Big Show’s move. Over the years the enormous Big Show had developed this move where he would corner the opponent in the ropes, hush the crowd with his finger over his lips, and once all was silent, he’d pound the crushing blow, an overhand chop into the opponent’s chest, BOOM, the crowd loved it. On this evening, Big Show was watching the giant Khali fight. Khali stole the move, the crowd cheered. Big Show grumbled, “Khali just stole my move,” to Chris Jericho, who wrote in his memoir that he knew, at this point, there would be trouble. In the locker room backstage, Big Show confronted Khali about stealing his move.
Chris Jericho said it was like having a front row seat for King Kong versus Godzilla. The two WWE wrestlers were as big as a truck, 7-feet tall and massive. None of the other wrestlers could pull them apart. Finally, Big Show tripped over a chair and lumbered to the ground, allowing the others in the room to separate the giants. Big Show was further humbled when Vince McMahon forced him to make an apology to Khali for throwing the first blow.
Stanislaus Zbyszko vs. Wayne Munn
This is a historical match going back to 1925. Wrestling became a legitimate sport in 1905 evolving out of strongman carnival shows. This particular match, in 1925, was the first WWE-style, planned-outcome and double-cross story. Popular European wrestler, Stanislaus Zbysko, agreed to lose to World Heavyweight Champion Wayne Munn prior to the match, however, competing wrestling promoter, Tony Stecher, secretly paid Zbyszko off to win.
According to Stecher’s plan, Zbyszko was to make Munn, a 6’6” former Nebraska football player, look like a tough competitor. Zbysko had his own plan and pinned Munn again and again, going off script, until finally the referee, in on the original plan, had to call the fight for Zbyszko, giving him the championship. Interestingly, Joe Stecher, Tony’s brother, won the title from Zbyszko months later, presumably the culmination of Tony Stecher’s plan.
The Great Antonio vs. Antonio Inoki
The Great Antonio was a Croatian-Canadian strongman who made his name by dragging buses and airplanes across the tarmac, and Antonio Inoki was a proud and iconic Japanese wrestler. This match took place in Japan and it was agreed that the popular Inoki would beat the giant Westerner. During the match, The Great Antonio refused to “sell” Inoki’s fake double-legged kick into his oversized belly by falling and acting hit. This dinged Inoki’s pride, but the giant didn’t stop there, taunting the Japanese fighter until he lost it.
To his credit, he didn’t lose it until The Great Antonio began hitting him in the back, with real force. In response, he started hitting the Great Antonio, tackled him to the ground, and kicked him in the face. Walking away from the bloody-faced opponent, Inoki left the ring and declared himself the winner.
Paul Orndorff vs. Vader
Leon “Vader” White showed up to a WCW TV taping an hour and a half late prompting Paul Orndorff to make a few off the cuff remarks deriding Vader’s work ethic. The two had been cordial in the past, but Paul Orndorff’s comment sent Vader off his rocker. What his accuser did not know was that Vader had been scheduled for a photo shoot and the delay had been pre-approved by his boss. No matter. Vader flipped, threw the first punch in defense of his professional integrity, and, ironically, the scuffle cost him his contract with WCW.
The brawl was extensive; shouting, pushing, punching, kicking, slapping, and stomping each other. Eventually, in order to avoid facing charges, but not soon enough to save his job, the 400-pound Vader restrained himself against Paul Orndorff, a man almost half his size with a bum arm from a nerve injury. Vader felt remorseful about the altercation and tried to patch things up later by sending Paul Orndorff a red labrador puppy.
Sheamus vs. Yoshi Tatsu
Sheamus and Yoshi Tatsu were roommates who trained together and played together. Their relationship took a turn for the worse over a protein shake mixer. Apparently, Sheamus had a bad habit of borrowing his roommate’s protein mixer without washing it. One day, Yashi Tatsu decided to teach him a lesson.
Sheamus responded to the request to wash the mixer after using it by throwing it at Tatsu. Tatsu caught it and Sheamus, shamed, went after him. Yashi Tatsu beat Sheamus nearly to tears, as the lore goes, and the bully was put in check. It seems men with enormous egos do sometimes resolve issues with physical altercations.
Awesome Kong vs. Reby Sky
This unscripted backstage battle began in the women’s locker room and spilled over into the hallway. The two had a history of publicly exchanging smack and name calling. Apparently, in early 2016, Awesome Kong had a problem with Reby Sky utilizing the locker room and angrily tossed her bag out into the hallway.
When Reby Sky attempted to retrieve the rest of her stuff, Awesome Kong violently clutched Reby Sky by the throat, all this going down in front of Ruby Sky’s young son. At that point, security intervened and yanked Awesome Kong away. The wrestling organization released her from employment.
Steven Regal vs. Bill Goldberg
In 1998, Bill Goldberg ruled the ring and summarily took opponents down in under a minute. It became his gig. He was a former NFL player and he showcased an indomitable beast inside the ring. This match was meant to upend that story line, however, no one told him. In fact, Steven Regal was scheduled to get speared, slammed and thrown to the mat on his back in less than a minute, as per usual. Maybe he was bored with Bill Goldberg’s act, or maybe he wanted to singe his ego, because this showdown forced Goldberg to fight for a full six minutes before the final slam to the mat.
Steve Regal was an experienced wrestler, and he showed Goldberg a few moves that night. He later claimed that his agent told him to take it to a six-minute fight. Nevertheless, WCW fired him for his effort, and he moved on to the WWF.
Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart
This unscripted WWF episode went down at the 1997 Survivor Series pay-per-view (PPV) broadcast, inside the Molson Centre in Montreal, only, it was actually scripted, in secret, like a covert plot to dethrone Bret Hart. It’s one of the most controversial WWF moments ever, specially designated within the wrestling world as the “Montreal Screwjob.” It started because Bret Hart rejected the script that would have him lose his title to his long-time adversary, the cocky Shawn Michaels. What happened was so controversial, details are still trickling out 20 years on.
The betrayal occurred at the close of the match, when Shawn Michaels put Bret Hart into a submission hold. Following his script, Bret Hart thought his next move was to escape the hold and retain his belt and title. Instead, the ref called the match for Shawn Michaels, and, as it turned out, Vince McMahon had been the one who intentionally deceived him by switching up the script. Shawn Michaels, who was in-the-know about the switch up, told ESPN recently, “…that was certainly the worst day I can recall in the entire 25 years I was in the wrestling business.” The betrayal infuriated Bret Hart. Backstage in the locker room he kept it real, clocking Vince McMahon with a clean uppercut punch, knocking him out cold for his treachery.
Scott Steiner vs. Triple H
In 2003, Scott Steiner and Triple H engaged in a war of words. At the time, Triple H was World Heavyweight Champion and Scott Steiner decided to pick a fight with him by flinging verbal barbs during the Monday night WWE RAW program. This led to strength and muscle conditioning contests. At one point they sat down and arm wrestled each other.
Later, at the PPV Royal Rumble, Triple H attacked Steiner with a sledgehammer, which disqualified the match and handed Steiner the win. The next PPV match, No Way Out, went to Triple H. According to fans, the matches were pathetic. Both men’s careers tapered out from there.
Stan “The Lariat” Hansen vs. Big Van Vader
Some stories are so unbelievable they will never leave the canons of pro wrestling lore. When a fight gets real and one wrestler pops the opponent’s eyeball right out of its socket, like balling a melon, it's gonna be forever immortalized. And that’s exactly what Stan “The Lariat” Hansen did. But first, he broke Big Van Vader’s nose. The deadly Texan cowboy swung his massive cowbell rope at poor Vader as he approached the ring of the 1990 Tokyo Dome.
The blow sucked his eyeball straight from its socket. As legend has it, and according to Vader’s own testimony, he tore off his mask and clutched his loose orb, cramming it back into his head. After that, his battered eye swelled shut. But at least the ocular organ was properly situated. The match was ruled no contest and Vader required a surgically fitted metal plate to secure his eyeball. Yikes!
Rosemary vs. Sexy Star
Rosemary and Sexy Star faced off at the 2017 TripleMania XXV in Mexico City in 2017. Even before they entered the ring, some off-script locker room sparring was kindling some heat. Sexy Star, a Mexican wrestler and MMA fighter whose real name is Dulce Maria Garcia Rivas, violated the rules at the close of the match. Holly Letkeman, who goes by Rosemary, is a Canadian wrestler and actress said she suffered a triceps tear from the move. She commented on Sexy Star’s cheap shot in a statement saying that "pulling foul moves doesn’t make you tougher, instead, “you are an a**hole. And you don’t belong in this business.”
Sexy Star received no penalty or suspensions, but she lost one booking when WrestleCade canceled her gig. Around the wrestling community, Rosemary received support, like this tweet from WWE star Paige: No room for bullies in this business. The disputed move by Sexy Star won the match. She pinned Rosemary with a controversial cross armbar. When Rosemary tapped out, Sexy Star continued to hold her down. It was an illegal action that was mediated by the referee. The ref intervened, pulled Sexy Star off, and declared her the winner.
The Rock vs. Mankind
This legendary match took place at Royal Rumble in 1999 and is branded as the “I Quit” match. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson challenged Mick “Mankind” Foley for the championship title. The fight was hyped by The Rock in pre-fight verbal sparring with a lot of braying about how he was going to make Mankind scream, “I quit!” In the end, (spoiler alert) that’s exactly what happened. The ruthless battle spilled outside the ring and into the fans. With Mankind flat on his face outside the ring.
The Rock shoved the mic into the side of Mankind’s face. After a few seconds of silence, the sentence came out thrice, “I quit. I quit. I quit.” The fans recognized the audio clip from a RAW promo, as being “in the know” is part of the show. But the ref was fooled. While the audio clip was scripted, much of the match went off the rails. Mankind got five chair shots to the head while being handcuffed. While preparing to get his head stitched back up, he quipped, “I hope everyone feels like they got their money’s worth out there.”
Kane vs. Big Van Vader
At the 1998 No Way Out PPV event, things got out of hand. Kane beat Vader, and then promptly decided to smack him in the face with a wrench. After Kane finished Vader off with a tombstone piledriver into the mat, the ref counted Vader out, and Kane won. At least that's what everyone thought. After a few moments, Vader wanders off, grabs a fire extinguisher and with a brisk and strong overhead stroke, he nails Vader right between the eyes. Vader was removed from the ring on a stretcher.
As recently as 2016 Kane tweeted, “I still have headaches from the concussion I received from when Kane hit me with the wrench.” Apparently, the attack went without repercussions, until Vader brought out a wrench at their next match. . .
Titus O’Neil vs. Vince McMahon
In this case, Titus O’Neil got slapped with a suspension for nothing. The off-script event happened at a Monday Night Raw taping. The WWE network began covering former WWE champion Daniel Bryan’s retirement. From the locker room to the stage, the retiree of honor and others walked in a line toward the stage inside the ring. Vince McMahon was among the entourage. As McMahon passed by, Titus O’Neil gave him a playful grab. Bad move. It was not taken in kind, and McMahon angrily shoved Titus back.
The former football player and WWE wrestler has been with the organization since 2009. He’s known as a teammate in the Prime-Time Players duo and is respected in his community for his charity work. The popular fighter found out about his suspension when he showed up to perform in SmackDown the following night. He was reportedly suspended for “unprofessional conduct.” Don’t mess with the head honcho was the purported lesson. Titus received some support. Mick “Mankind” Foley tweeted, “Hang in there [Titus] – I feel in my heart that something good will come out of this.”
“Bodacious” Bart Gunn vs. Steve “Dr. Death” Williams
This fight did not go as scheduled, but the worst injury Steve “Dr. Death” Williams sustained went to his pride. Dr. Death, a tough, world-renowned pro wrestler and a fan favorite for his badass nature, signed up for a shoot-fighting match at the WWE’s ill-fated Brawl for All tournament in 1998. The MMA/boxing competition drew superstars such as Steve Blackman, Road Warrior Hawk, Steve Austin, and Savio Vega. Dr. Death was slated to win and become an instant WWE celeb sensation. Instead, the tough-man contest not only delivered a punch in the gut to his ego but stymied his career on top of it.
It was a short match. Bart Gunn dropped Dr. Death in the second round with a surprise knockout. The first thing that thwarted his career was a torn hamstring. He was out of competition for many months. However, his career never fully rebounded from the disgrace of being leveled so easily. The WWE Brawl for All tournament itself foundered and was eventually shelved. It became one of the biggest failures of the WWE. Sadly, Williams died of throat cancer in 2009.
Juventud Guerrera vs. WWE
Juventud Guerrera fought the law, and the law won. A favorite for his exotic appearance and flamboyant style, Guerrera went off-script one too many times. Sadly Guerrera was at the top of the game when WWE took him on when enforcing a ban on certain moves- or Guerrera moves.
Climbing onto the ropes at the corner post and doing front-flip dive was outlawed. Guerrera did it anyway. Worse yet, he botched it, causing multiple bone fractures to Paul London’s face. The fans may have loved the excitement, but WWE management decidedly did not. The 450 Splash was outlawed. Yet, in outward defiance, Guerrera pulled the move at SmackDown against Kid Kash. As a result, Juventud “Juvi” Guerrera was banished from WWE and exiled from the wrestling community. He has not seen a major U.S. booking since.
Triple H vs. Steve “Stone Cold” Austin
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Triple H met up in Germany for a WWE live event. Stone Cold won, as per the storyline. The end. Or not. That’s when a fan broke through the barricade and began throwing punches at the victor! The fan may have fared better jumping into a cage of lions. As soon as Triple H spotted the fan, he tore him off Stone Cold, threw him to the mat. After several rounds of punching, the ref jumped in too and started kicking the fan in the head area while Triple H took a break.
Once the ref had his shots, Triple H resumed his attack and continued hitting the downed fan until security came into the ring to drag him off. Apparently, the fan, who was from Germany, did not like the outcome of the fight. Both outcomes, one would imagine! The footage from the 1990s, complements of Complex, only recently surfaced. Enjoy.
Sting vs. Jeff Hardy
The matchup between WCW legend, Sting and Jeff Hardy for the TNA title was the main event at the 2011 TNA Victory Road PPV production. The audience, waiting in wild excitement for a fight that had been plugged and promoted for months, howled in protest after Sting ended it abruptly when Sting gave Hardy a crushing Scorpion Death Drop blow. Hardy just lay there. So, in less than a minute and a half, the event concluded.
The backstory: Jeff Hardy showed up intoxicated. He was stumbling and swaying and in no shape to be performing. As the match kicked off, Eric Bischoff told Sting, “Just squash him.” This would prevent any embarrassing footage of Sting’s drunken behavior televised worldwide. In retrospect, Hardy says it was an eye-opener that forced him to see his addiction issues had gotten the best of him. It made him change his ways. This, after two drug and alcohol-related arrests.
Fred “The Shockmaster” Ottman vs. The Wall
Here’s another time a pro wrestling event went so far off-script the careening disaster impaled the showman’s ego and bruised up his career. But it wasn’t on purpose. Fred Ottman, better known as Tugboat and Typhoon, two names he earned fighting for WWF from 1989 to 1993, was getting ready to premiere his new gig. He was to be “The Shockmaster.” As such, he joined the WCW to fight in a 4-man tag team.
To reveal his part in the tag-team, a major gimmick was planned. Ottman, dressed as The Shockmaster, was ready to reveal his identity. Dressed as The Shockmaster and disguised by a silver-painted stormtrooper helmet, he came barreling through the wall, right on cue. Except that he tripped and fell. The other wrestlers broke character and laughed. Long story short, not only Ottman was humiliated, so was the network. WCW cast him as a stumbling oaf until he was finally let go.
CM Punk vs. Fan
At this Monday Night RAW Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event, WWE champion CM Punk challenged Mickey Gall to an MMA battle. Losing to Gall, the defeated CM Punk got berated by Vince McMahon. He ran out into the fans to flee McMahon, but his bad guy act instigated the crowd. While he was among the swarm of fans, he ended up punching one in the head! Total chaos ensued. CM Punk said, following the fight, that it was a terrible and unfortunate situation. His statement included the following description and apology.
"I got hit in the ribs three times. I was getting shoved and I was getting punched. . . Then I started getting tagged in the back of the head. Unfortunately, I lashed out in the heat of the moment and I apologize. I’m really just glad nobody was hurt. For their part, the WWE’s response regretted that security measures failed. The fan who was hit did not press charges but filed a report and claimed his innocence. He reported that his sunglasses were broken in the altercation. All of this was definitely not part of the act!
Hulk Hogan vs. the Rock
No one got injured in this unscripted match, but the story-line got flipped on its back. The epic battle took place at WrestleMania X8 when the returning WWE great Hulk Hogan faced off against the young WWE champion The Rock. Billed as “Icon vs. Icon,” the highly anticipated clash aired on March 17, 2002, at the Toronto SkyDome. It was Hulk Hogan’s first return to the stage since 1993. And in Canada, he was a crowd favorite who they were ecstatic to welcome back.
The Rock, who was supposed to be the good guy, took the crowd’s cue and played the heel. Hogan gladly played along, flexing his guns to the thundering applause. Never in the history of WrestleMania had an audience impacted on a match that match.
Jericho vs. The Man That Gravity Forgot
The injury in this match went to Adrian “The Man That Gravity Forgot” Neville when he fought Jericho at a 2016 taping of a RAW match. Jericho however seemed to take on someone else... the referee. Jericho accidentally broke his ankle. The ref really took it like a champ and allowed the match without complaint. Until Jericho realized he was hurt.
Robinson screamed. He was so angry about the confrontation that he let the F-word drop on a live broadcast as he furiously shot back at Jericho. At the end of the day, Jericho was disqualified, and the win went to Neville. The entire match went off-script in the process. Jericho was supposed to be the champ in this one. It just proves to show, that no matter how much animosity fighters show between each other, they will always back up a colleague whether it’s in defense of a fan or a ref.
Shane McMahon vs. Kurt Angle
Shane McMahon (yes, he’s related) nearly broke his neck in a 2001 bout with Kurt Angle in King of the Ring. Dad and WWE owner, Vince McMahon, became infuriated when he found out about the exploit. The match, characterized as a street fight, played on WWE, naturally. But too many risks in the script led to serious injuries. Both men were injured; Angle with a battered tailbone, and McMahon with a concussion. The fight was scheduled to conclude with McMahon getting thrown through a plate glass window.
The problem? When Angle threw McMahon against the wall of glass, it didn’t shatter. Instead, slid down on his head and landed neck-first on the concrete floor. Part of the problem was that Angle’s sore tailbone robbed him of the strength to finish the move. So, once McMahon shook the stars out of his head, they did the stunt again. This time he went careening through the glass, as planned and landed among the shattered mess. On top of the concussion, he required many stitches that left scars.
Public Enemy vs. The Acolytes
On March 7, 1999, during Sunday Night Heat, The Acolytes confronted Public Enemy. The Acolytes team was John “Bradshaw” Layfield (JBL) and Faarooq who battled Public Enemy, consisting of Rocco Rock and Johnny Grunge. It went down as one of the most vicious matches in all pro wrestling lore. The story has lived on for 20 years in fan forums and blog posts. Just recently, the infamous JBL posted a blog about the event, admitting that his team went off-script in a big way.
The Acolytes didn’t just beat the Public Enemy with tables, they also slammed them with metal folding chairs, repeatedly, breaking the chairs over the backs of their opponents. When the ref called for the bell, the announcers expressed relief, thanking the referee for ending the fight. But it wasn’t over! The Acolytes continued, bringing out the tables. “That’s enough,” one announcer pleaded. After a few more table slams Public Enemy was utterly vanquished, effectively ending their time with the WWE.
Mass Transit vs. New Jack
It was one of the most gruesome matches to date and it happened when neither the Internet nor YouTube existed. On top of that, the match was untelevised. Thanks to an unedited video clip of an ECW’s “FanCam", this ECW Mass Transit Incident,” will live on forever in infamy. On that night of 23 November 1996, D-Von Dudley was short a partner. The other part of his tag team didn’t show. An up-and-coming wrestler who introduced himself as Mass Transit (Eric Kulas) entered the ring.
D-Von Dudley and Mass Transit were set to the team known as“Gangstas.” According to the script, New Jack was permitted to use a knife for a little bit of blood effects, (already strange) but what he did was unthinkable. New Jack ended up splaying open Mass Transit's head with a razor-sharp scalpel. Blood gushed out of Mass Transit and onto New Jack, and everywhere else. Mass Transit was rushed to the hospital. It took fifty stitches to seal up his scalp. New Jack was charged with aggravated assault. Another repercussion went to ECW who had to cancel their first PPV program.
Butterbean vs. Bart Gunn
This was, technically, a real fight. The outcome was unknown. It was a new idea that the WWE had; combine real boxing and fake wrestling. The WWE was looking to compete with the popular hardcore edge of the ECW. So, in 1998, they dubbed the new tournament, Brawl for All. It took place at WrestleMania XV. In 1998, Bart Gunn, as a strong WWF star at the top of his game with three consecutive knock-outs behind him and was about to face Eric “Butterbean” Esch.
Butterbean came to WrestleMania XV as a professional boxer and kickboxer. WWE fans hated the new set up, at one point, chanting, “We want wrestling!” The Brawl for All is considered one of the biggest mistakes of the WWE. The actual fight lasted exactly 35 seconds. Butterbean took Bart Gunn down with one strong and swift right hook. He fell like a tree in the woods. Released from WWF in no time, Gunn’s career in wrestling fizzled out fairly quickly.
Steve “Stone Cold” Austin vs. Donald Trump
It was “The Battle of the Billionaires,” Donald Trump versus Vince McMahon. They battled by betting on a fight. Trump chose “Bobby Lashley,” and McMahon picked “Umaga” as his horse. The deal they made: Whoever’s dude loses gets a shaved head. So, either McMahon or Trump was going to be shaved bald. Long story short, Bobby Lashley won and McMahon had to get his head shaved clean. Angry and squirming, McMahan sold the act with all his heart.
Steve Austin, however, who had played the referee in, had it in for Trump and gave him the“Stone Cold” Stunner - a gut-kick, headlock takedown. Trump went down. The move was not part of the script as McMahon and Austin changed things up just minutes before the match commenced. Trump’s handler tried to talk him out of it saying it’s too dangerous for someone who’s not an athlete or a stuntman to take a hit by the strapping wrestling champ Steve Austin. Later Trump bragged that ratings went through the roof due to his performance. Ratings were the same as the previous year’s WrestleMania. Trump was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.