With the advent of the WWE Network, WWE has seemingly taken charge in preserving and curating the history of professional wrestling for generations to come. In fact, they should probably be credited for simply acquiring as much footage as possible, and allowing it to air on the Network largely unedited, even if it somehow painted WWE itself in a less-than-heroic light. History is written by the winners, after all. But that’s not to say that WWE hasn’t occasionally omitted some of their history over the years. In some cases, entire careers have been wiped out if WWE has deemed it a good idea (although some of them have managed to work their way back into WWE’s good graces over time). Some have been for obvious PR reasons, some have been out of sheer pettiness, and a few are for reasons that nobody outside of Vince McMahon himself even knows, but whatever the case, these are just several of the wrestlers who, at one time or another, were completely erased from WWE.
14. Chris Benoit
We’ll do this one first so we can get it out of the way quickly. In 2007, on the same weekend that he was supposed to be wrestling at a WWE Pay Per View, Chris Benoit murdered his wife and child, then killed himself. It was a terrible tragedy and its after-effects continue to be felt in professional wrestling to this day. While there are potentially good arguments on both sides of this issue, it’s hard to fault WWE for immediately making Benoit a non-existent person in pro wrestling. While they do still maintain content containing Benoit in the Pay Per View and television archives of the WWE Network, his name will never be uttered on WWE TV again, and will never be a part of promotional material for any historical DVD release or nostalgic compilations (for example, while the match he participated in is on the Elimination Chamber DVD set, unlike every other entry, the participants in that specific match are not listed). Of course, this has led to one ridiculous situation, which WWE continues to perpetuate every year at the Royal Rumble with their “By The Numbers” promotional video. Despite the fact it would be easy just to not mention this fact, only two men have entered the Royal Rumble at #1 and won it, and one of them is Chris Benoit. WWE continues to include this trivia every year, but only shows footage of Shawn Michaels, who also performed that feat, which you would imagine has led to less-informed fans and younger viewers asking “Wait, who was the second guy?” Again, it’s impossible to blame WWE for removing Benoit from their history, but at the same time, they probably shouldn’t be releasing videos that only serve to bring him back to the attention of fans.
13. Bruno Sammartino
Bruno Sammartino held the WWE (then-WWWF) Championship for seven consecutive years, and his combined title reigns are the longest for a male Superstar in history. He sold out Madison Square Garden more times than any other individual, and should have been a no-doubt first ballot WWE Hall of Fame inductee. The only problem was, Bruno didn’t particularly like Vince McMahon, and after he retired, he made many public appearances, including several popular televised talk shows, where he accused WWE of all sorts of problems, including rampant drug and steroid use, and an over-reliance on adult-oriented content. Bruno wanted nothing to do with WWE, and in return, WWE basically ignored his existence, even though it had been Sammartino who had laid the groundwork for what would become the biggest wrestling organization on the planet. Somehow, in 2013, Bruno was convinced that WWE had changed for the better, and decided to accept an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame (Triple H is usually given credit for convincing Sammartino to come back into the fold).
12. Jimmy Snuka
Years ago, Jimmy Snuka was a big deal in WWE, with a bright future ahead of him. Unfortunately, one fateful night in 1983, Snuka’s girlfriend was discovered in his hotel room, dead from mysterious circumstances. Snuka was questioned, but not formally charged, with the popular rumor being that Vince McMahon had somehow influenced the authorities to drop their interest in Snuka, or at least advised Snuka to pretend he was the savage character he played on TV, and didn’t fully understand English. In 2015, new evidence came to light through an independent investigation, and Snuka was arrested and charged with having a role in his girlfriend’s death. WWE immediately distanced themselves from Snuka, suspending his Legends contract, removing his profile from their Hall of Fame website, and no longer referring to him on TV (which was made awkward due to the continued presence of Tamina Snuka, his daughter, in a featured role in the Divas’ division). Snuka was eventually deemed unable to stand trial due to mental incompetence, and then died only a few weeks after the charges were officially dropped in January of 2016, following a long battle with stomach cancer, at which point WWE did acknowledge his death and reaffirm his Hall of Fame status, but it’s unlikely his name will be brought up much in the future.
11. Jeff Jarrett
The man whom WWE portrayed for years as a fake country singer is actually a fairly powerful name in professional wrestling, thanks in part to his father, Jerry Jarrett, who ran his own territory in Texas and was considered one of the most respected men in the business. Jeff, however, bounced around between WCW and WWE during his career, and in his last run in WWE, ended up in a situation where his contract expired the day before he was scheduled to drop the Intercontinental title to Chyna on Pay Per View. Jarrett, quite rightly, demanded money for doing one last match without a contract, and allegedly ended up negotiating a fairly large chunk of change out of Vince. Obviously, for getting the better of Vince McMahon, Jarrett basically became persona non grata in WWE, and when WCW inevitably went under, he was not offered a chance to return, and was actually fired live on TV by Vince himself. Jarrett would go on to help found TNA Wrestling, which somehow managed to survive over 15 years and end up with a national television deal for most of its run, as well as the recently-formed Global Force Wrestling.
10. Sin Cara
This may come as a shock to some people, but the wrestler currently claiming to be Sin Cara in WWE is not the man who was originally brought in to play the role. The first Sin Cara was a famous luchador from Mexico who went by the ring name of Mistico, and he was one of the biggest stars in the country at the time. He was actually the first big signing by Triple H in his role as Executive Vice President of Talent Relations. Unfortunately, he was also completely unable to adapt to WWE’s style of wrestling, resulting in a string of bad matches and, even more damaging, long-term injuries. In order to keep the character on TV, WWE decided to put another wrestler underneath the mask. That man was Hunico, leading to an angle where there were two Sin Caras, with Hunico eventually unmasking and changing his character. Eventually, WWE completely gave up on the gimmick and quietly released the original wrestler. Hunico now plays the character full-time, while WWE ignores the fact that there was ever a different Sin Cara.
There’s no denying that Chyna broke a lot of gender barriers in WWE. She wrestled men, she entered the Royal Rumble twice, and she even held the Intercontinental title. But Chyna also dated Triple H, and when he publicly moved on to Stephanie McMahon, the writing was pretty much on the wall for her. Even then, there’s probably a chance that she could have survived, albeit in a much lower-profile role than before, because pro wrestling (and sports, and the entertainment business) is full of people who continued to have successful careers where they have to interact with exes, even on a daily basis. But the double whammy of losing Triple H and her job in a short period of time clearly had an effect on Chyna, who went through several public breakdowns and openly burned every bridge she could with WWE. While it’s hard to find fault in her allowing personal emotions to get involved, her actions post-WWE have put her in an unenviable position of being at odds with the two people who will almost certainly be running WWE for years to come, in Triple H and Stephanie. Thus, while she is certainly no less deserving of a Hall of Fame induction than other people who have had their own ceremonies, especially after her tragic and highly public death in 2015, the odds that Chyna’s contributions to professional wrestling will forever be downplayed are extremely high.
Well, you can hardly expect to try and choke Vince McMahon to death and not have it impact your legacy in pro wrestling will be affected. We doubt that Nailz was thinking that far ahead when he allegedly attacked the owner of WWE, though. He even used the resulting infamy to get a contract with WCW, who would pretty much do anything to stick it to Vince, but they ended up never using him. The fact that he was a moderately terrible wrestler means he probably would have faded away to obscurity without any help from WWE anyway, but he certainly did his part to make sure they scrubbed any knowledge of his time in WWE from existence. Naliz would actually re-surface as part of the McMahon steroid distribution trials, where he testified that Vince McMahon made a pass at him, and generally is given credit for helping to ruin the prosecution’s case by clearly having a vendetta against Vince. Arguably, WWE should probably build a monument to him for his role in making sure Vince walked away from that trail as nonchalantly as an action star with a huge CGI explosion happening behind him.
7. Randy Savage
The biggest unconfirmed rumor in pro wrestling is why, exactly, WWE basically wrote Randy Savage out of existence when he left for WCW in the mid-90’s. While other wrestlers would make shocking jumps from WWE to the competition, Savage’s punishment seemed incredibly disproportionate to everyone else’s. This became especially glaring when WWE began making Hall of Fame inductions are regular thing, and Savage not only kept getting passed over, but seemed like he was never even in contention, despite being arguably one of the most important wrestlers of the 80’s and 90’s. The popular story has always been something untoward involving Stephanie McMahon, the origins of which are unknown and have never been given any credence by anyone directly involved in pro wrestling, and have mostly been dismissed as a wild flight of fancy and almost certainly untrue. However, it’s still curious about how poorly Savage has been treated, with even his long-overdue Hall of Fame induction in 2015 seemingly done in a begrudging manner, given very little time or promotion, and playing second fiddle to the induction of Kevin Nash. Listen, Kevin Nash had a huge impact on professional wrestling, but it seems unlikely that anyone would rank him above the Macho Man in terms of legendary status.
6. Superstar Billy Graham
Graham has had the odd distinction of being removed from WWE history on two separate occasions. The first time occurred during the steroid trials, as Graham sued WWE, claiming that they forced him to take steroids to keep his job, and campaigned publicly against steroid use, including an infamous interview on The Phil Donahue Show, where he falsely accused WWE of covering up child abuse in an attempt to extort money from the company. Years later, Graham and WWE mended fences, with Graham receiving a career retrospective DVD and a Hall of Fame induction, where he was given credit for his character pioneering the “entertainment” side of WWE. In 2009, he left the company again, selling his Hall of Fame ring on eBay, and actively speaking out against Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign. His existence was once again buried, and in fact, he asked to be removed from the Hall of Fame. Graham would once again return to WWE in 2015, signing a new Legends contract, after his health continued to worsen.
5. Owen Hart
Hart’s lack of presence in WWE history is less the result of WWE not wanting to acknowledge him and more that his widow refuses to allow them to use his existence for their own benefit. It’s hard to be truly upset with her, after all, a terrible and avoidable tragedy took her husband away from her, it’s only natural that she would have resentment towards the company he was working for at the time. Unfortunately, this has had the side effect of punishing a large number of Owen Hart fans, who want to see him take his rightful place in WWE history for his exemplary work as a really good pro wrestler, and would love to see him get inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Even members of the Hart Family have suggested that Owen’s widow is being unreasonable by continuing to deny WWE the right to talk about Owen Hart, but at the same time, it’s very difficult to feel justified in telling a woman who lost her husband in a manner that seems both senseless and unjust that she’s not allowed to feel whatever way she want to about the situation. While fans may continue to want to see Owen memorialized (WWE has finally, at least, gotten permission to release a career retrospective DVD), the personal feelings in play here may make his absence from WWE programming a continuing situation.
4. Kurt Angle
Here’s an interesting statistic about Kurt Angle: as of 2015, he has officially been a TNA wrestler longer than he was a WWE wrestler. It’s kind of hard to believe, isn’t it? Kurt Angle is arguably one of the greatest technical wrestlers to walk the earth, and he’s somehow not one of WWE’s legendary stars. In fact, he hasn’t been a part of WWE since 2006, and since the day that he left he’s barely merited a mention. Against, he is a multiple-time WWE Champion, was one of their biggest stars, and has been involved in some of WWE’s best matches of the modern era. But you’ll never hear his name spoken on WWE TV, he doesn’t have a documentary about his incredible career, and his Hall of Fame induction, if it ever comes, is likely far in the distance. It’s all tied up in why Angle left, and why he’s basically not welcome back: due to his wrestling style and dedication to going all-out in every single match, Angle suffered many serious injuries over his career, and reportedly developed an addiction to painkillers. When WWE gave him an ultimatum about going to rehab, Angle chose to leave the company and has not returned since. During his time away, he’s also had some legal issues which made headlines in the wrestling world, and has given several interviews and made remarks on Twitter that have raised questions about his mental state. Combined with his history of injuries (including returning from injuries far too quickly, leading to more drug-related speculation), and a stated desire to remain a full-time wrestler, and he’s a clear case of WWE not wanting him to have a complete breakdown while under a contract for their organization, given the horrible PR nightmare that would ensue.
3. CM Punk
One of the things that is both loved and hated about CM Punk is that he usually says what he thinks and doesn’t care about the consequences. It made him one of the hottest Superstars in WWE in 2011, with his infamous “Pipe Bomb” promo, and it’s also part of the reason why he doesn’t work there anymore, and anyone in authority in WWE pretends they’ve never heard of him. Punk made it clear after he left that his major frustration was with WWE’s creative direction, who he saw as wasting potentially huge Superstars like Daniel Bryan. He also detailed how he was less than pleased with WWE’s medical staff, which he alleged had mis-diagnosed a potentially life-threatening staph infection (Punk was sued by WWE’s chief doctor as a result of those comments, claiming defamation and libel). As a result, Punk has become persona non grata, despite being one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling over the last decade, one of the best wrestlers on the planet, and holding the record for longest WWE World title reign of the modern era (many have speculated, with some justification, that Nikki Bella breaking AJ Lee’s record for longest reigning Divas Champion was a shot at her new husband, Punk). For Punk’s part, he seems happier and healthier in his time away, and while no door is ever truly shut in wrestling, he doesn’t look like he’s in any hurry to come crawling back to WWE.
2. Hulk Hogan
Since you’re on the Internet, you’ve probably heard about the Hulk Hogan sex tape, which was initially a minor scandal (after all, what celebrity doesn’t have a sex tape these days?) that exploded into massive controversy when the audio from the tape was released as part of the evidence in a lawsuit. On the tape, Hogan made several disparaging and racist statements about his daughter’s boyfriend, who was apparently black (well, if he wasn’t, nothing Hogan said made any sense at all). The day before the audio was expected to be released, it appears that someone tipped off WWE about the content of the tape, and they immediately took steps to erase Hogan’s presence from the company. His merchandise was removed from their online store, any photos or videos involving him were buried, and his profile was taken down. He was also removed from his position as a judge on the Tough Enough program that was airing on USA at the time, and replaced by The Miz. Basically, they fired him and took steps to make sure that they could say that they were in no way profiting off his existence. Frankly, they were a bit harsh, and it’s impossible to talk about wrestling history without mentioning Hogan (though they’re trying), but with the heavy scrutiny that comes with being a publicly-traded company comes the need to make sweeping decisions quickly in the name of good PR. However, wwith Hogan actually winning a lawsuit against Gawker Media, which posted the tape, and being awarded $140 million in damages, it’s fully expected that Hogan will start appearing in WWE again once the entire incident dies down in the public eye.
1. Steve Austin
In 2002, Steve Austin was burned out and frustrated with his position in WWE, which is incredibly strange given that he was and is one of the biggest money-making stars in the history of pro wrestling. But the evidence is undeniable: after an ill-timed heel turn and a disastrous run as head of the WCW/ECW Alliance which tanked so completely that it was mercy-killed at Survivor Series, Austin was floating around without much direction. He allegedly wasn’t thrilled that Rock received a WrestleMania match with the returning Hulk Hogan while he was stuck working with Scott Hall in a minor match further down the card (given that Hall was fired weeks afterwards for failing to stay sober, he probably wasn’t wrong in being annoyed). When the nWo angle fell apart, Austin continued to exist without a seeming purpose on Raw, stuck in a pale imitation of the original Austin-McMahon feud, this time with Ric Flair. The final straw reportedly came when he was told that he was going to lose to Brock Lesnar in an unadvertised match on Raw that was meaningless other than being a King of the Ring qualifier. Believing (again, probably correctly) that Austin-Lesnar was a match that should be heavily promoted and take place on Pay Per View where it would likely make significant dollars, Austin literally walked out of the company and went home. WWE’s response was to publicly bury Austin and label him as a “whiner”, then spend the next year telling audiences that the Monday Night Wars were won by The Rock and D-Generation X, and certainly not by anyone named “Stone Cold”. Of course, Austin and WWE mended fences fairly quickly, and he returned in 2003 (just in time to retire due to his chronic neck injury), but there was a significant period where WWE tried to ignore the existence of one of their biggest stars.