25 most controversial superstars in WWE history
WWE has been a top wrestling organization for decades. In fact, the promotion has roots dating back to the 1950s, meaning the company has been a force in the industry for around 70 years.
With such a long and storied history, many of the top acts and personalities in the company have gone on to become icons. Some of these figures are beloved, some are hated, and some are best remembered for their controversial moments.
This article will take a look at 25 of the most controversial superstars in WWE history. This may be due to their on-screen antics, troubles in their personal lives made public, legal issues, or even controversial battles against World Wrestling Entertainment itself.
Below are 25 of the most controversial superstars in WWE history.
#25. Roman Reigns wasn't fully accepted by wrestling fans
While many of the names on this list are controversial due to real-life issues such as backstage politics, substance abuse, and other disputes, Roman Reigns is controversial for his career trajectory itself.
The Undisputed WWE Universal Champion was pushed to the top of the company, but fans rejected his role as the top babyface and often rebelled against him. Despite there being a lot of backlash for his push, Roman has managed to overcome it and become arguably the greatest champion in WWE history.
#24. Triple H is the lead-man in World Wrestling Entertainment
Triple H is the lead man in WWE today. While Vince McMahon is the Chairman, Triple H is the head of creative and talent. As a result, every decision, both good & bad, falls on him. That alone makes him the subject of controversy.
The Game was also a regular competitor for years. As part of D-Generation X, Triple H helped push boundaries in exciting but controversial ways. His sophomoric antics were often deemed edgy and considered to be going too far by some fans and critics.
#23. Val Venis was a controversial gimmick
Val Venis was a popular gimmick during the Attitude Era, but it was also one that created plenty of controversy. In an era where WWE was trying to be as edgy and hip as possible, the company introduced a unique character played by Sean Morley.
That character was Val Venis, an adult film star. His over-the-top character was for mature audiences only and caused WWE to receive a lot of attention and backlash. The character was dropped and toned down at various points but remains memorable to this day.
#22. Sunny has been outspoken & faced legal troubles
Sunny was one of the most popular figures in WWE during the 1990s despite not being an in-ring superstar. The beautiful, talented, and intelligent woman took the wrestling world by storm.
Unfortunately, she has also struggled with addiction and substance abuse. This has led to numerous arrests, rehab stints, and even a fatal car crash in 2022. Sunny could face decades in prison if convicted. She is undoubtedly one of the most controversial figures in WWE history.
#21. Randy Orton took some time to mature
While Randy Orton is a beloved legend now, his time in WWE hasn't always been so rosey. Orton was young, brash, and immature, which led to many issues behind the scenes and even on-screen outbursts.
In addition to his real-life behavior, the Randy Orton character has been controversial for decades. The character has attacked legends, disrespected icons, and has even struck women. Still, he's somehow gone on to mature both on-screen and off, becoming a beloved fan favorite.
#20. John Bradshaw Layfield was a controversial character
John Bradshaw Layfield has been a controversial personality both on and off-screen. His character – essentially a rich, pompous Republican – turned heads and angered many fans throughout the 2000s, especially due to his controversial segments with Eddie Guerrero.
Off-screen, the former WWE Champion has been accused of being a bully. He also had a legendary real-life spat with The Blue Meanie that led to JBL roughing up the former ECW star live on pay-per-view. The two have since mended fences and become friends.
#19. Lita had a few major newsworthy incidents
Lita is a major star from WWE's Attitude & Ruthless Aggresson Eras. She's regarded as one of the greatest female superstars in wrestling history, but she didn't get there without a little controversy along the way.
She and Matt Hardy had a very public breakup that included an affair with Edge. She and The Rated-R Superstar then used the controversy to become bigger stars on-screen. They also had the infamous "Live S*x Celebration" segment on RAW, which was a ratings hit but further pushed boundaries.
#18. Jeff Jarrett had a handful of major disputes
Jeff Jarrett is a WWE Hall of Famer and All Elite Wrestling star, but he didn't make it to the top of pro wrestling without some very notable issues throughout his career and life.
Double J walked out of WWE in 1995 after not liking a proposed angle with The Roadie. He eventually made nice with the company and returned, only to hold Vince McMahon up for money before dropping the Intercontinental Championship to Chyna and leaving for WCW.
#17. Goldust was a controversial gimmick
Goldust was one of the most memorable gimmicks in the 1990s and beyond, but it pushed boundaries at times that landed both Dustin Rhodes and WWE in hot water with the public.
The androygynous gimmick was at times pushed in a way that upset activists, which created a stir and sometimes even meant the legendary WWE star had to be taken off of television or repackaged and toned down to avoid too much negative press.
#16. John Cena always left fans split
John Cena is one of the more controversial superstars in WWE history, but unlike many of the others on this list, it's almost entirely due to crowd reactions. While John has mostly managed to stay squeaky clean away from the ring, the audience didn't always buy into "good guy John".
The legendary champion was one of the first stars to receive massive backlash while also remaining a top babyface. The crowd's reception to him would often be split down the middle, with half vocally loving him and the other half loudly booing him.
#15. Rowdy Roddy Piper was a lightning rod for controversy
Rowdy Roddy Piper was a lightning rod for controversy in and out of WWE. The legendary Hall of Famer was known for his quick wit and big mouth, which helped propel him to superstardom.
Unfortunately, his outspoken nature often put him in the spotlight. He and WWE had a few splits over the years due to him speaking his mind, including during his comeback in the early 2000s. Piper is regarded as one of the greatest talkers of all time, even if his mouth got him in trouble both on and off-screen.
#14. Chris Benoit had a tragic ending
Chris Benoit was regarded as one of the greatest in-ring competitors in WWE history and even main-evented WrestleMania. However, many modern fans may not even know who he is as his name isn't mentioned by the company.
Benoit was part of a horrible tragedy in 2007 that led to the death of his wife, son, and himself. The double-murder suicide remains the darkest period in wrestling history.
#13. Macho Man Randy Savage was a wildcard
Macho Man Randy Savage is an iconic WWE Hall of Famer. He rose to prominence in the 1980s and dominated wrestling and even pop culture throughout both that decade and in the 1990s.
The legendary star has been subject to many rumors and possible controversies throughout his career. This includes various alleged reasons for his issues with Vince McMahon, his alleged treatment of his significant others, and his general demeanor backstage. Still, Macho Man is regarded as one of, if not the greatest wrestler of all time.
#12. Jerry "The King" Lawler has been in the news often
Jerry "The King" Lawler is an all-time great. His rise to prominence in pro wrestling is iconic and was even recently documented on the A&E Network. Still, The King had his fair share of controversies.
Lawler has had legal issues a handful of times throughout his life. He also walked out on WWE when his-then girlfriend The Kat was being released by the company. Despite the issues he's faced, Lawler has battled back and always finds his way back into the spotlight.
#11. Edge was called The Rated-R Superstar for a reason
Edge is a beloved WWE Superstar but he hasn't been without controversy both on-screen and off. His character was deemed The Ultimate Opportunist due to the underhanded tactics he'd use to get ahead.
As noted earlier in the article, Edge also had a well-publicized affair with Lita, who was dating Matt Hardy. While the real-life dispute led to a lot of emotional turmoil, it also helped him become one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling.
#10. Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka had major legal controversies
WWE fans remember Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka best for his legendary spash off the top rope, but the Hall of Famer's legacy is unfortunately tied to his behavior outside of the ring.
Snuka was involved in serious legal trouble in the 1980s that seemingly disappeared for decades but resurfaced prior to his passing in 2017. He was arrested and indicted, but the charges were dismissed while his health was on the decline.
#9. Ultimate Warrior was controversial off-screen
The Ultimate Warrior rose to fame in WWE in the 1980s and early 1990s. Despite his incredible charisma, his peers often felt he was dangerous. He and WWE had several issues in the 1990s that ultimately led to him leaving the company.
Unfortunately, Warrior was also controversial away from the ring. Some of his views offended fans and further damaged his legacy. The former world champion eventually made up with WWE and joined the Hall of Fame days before his passing.
#8. Brock Lesnar's aura is based in reality
Brock Lesnar has been a controversial figure in pro wrestling. He received a giant push in WWE immediately upon joining the company but left after just two years on the main roster. This led to an eventual legal battle over his non-compete clause.
The Beast later returned to the company, but has sparked outrage on occasion due to allegedly refusing to lose or even work with some superstars. The most recent example was when he reportedly refused to work with Bray Wyatt, although the reasoning behind the decision is purely speculation.
#7. Hulk Hogan has faced several major controversies
Hulk Hogan is one of the biggest stars in WWE history. With his massive success has come controversy. The Hulkster's political gamesmanship earned him a reputation that many were never able to look past.
In addition to his wrestling politics, Hogan had some very public scandals and controversies, which even temporarily led to him being removed from the WWE Hall of Fame. Hulk has since worked to fix his image and is still regarded as a legendary figure in pro wrestling.
#6. Sable had public spats with WWE
Sable rose to prominence in WWE during the 1990s. While she initially started as a silent valet, her popularity skyrocketed and she became a top star in the company. Sable's looks and charisma made her a major superstar, although many had issues with the mature content she was often part of.
The Attitude Era star had a very public falling-out with WWE that eventually led to a major lawsuit. The two parties ultimately made up, however, and she returned to the company for a brief run during the Ruthless Aggression Era.
#5. Jim Cornette speaks his mind freely
Jim Cornette is a legendary booker, promoter, manager, commentator, and at times, an in-ring competitor. He was part of WWE for years both on-screen and off, known for his explosive rants and lightning quick wit.
The controversial manager always created animosity between himself and the fans while he was actively involved in wrestling and he continues to do so even in retirement. Cornette's popular podcasts create outrage on a regular basis, which in turn only further popularizes the former promoter.
#4. CM Punk continues to stir up controversy
CM Punk has often sparked controversy throughout his career. He's a very confident, brash, & outspoken superstar, which has caused many issues over the past few decades, both on-screen and off.
While The Straight Edge Superstar was a major success, his inability to not speak his mind earned him enemies in the ring and behind the scenes. This has carried over into 2023 where he's still stirring up controversy by refusing to stay silent on what he thinks, having a falling-out with yet another major promotion.
#3. Shawn Michaels kept the world talking in the 1990s
Shawn Michaels isn't very controversial in 2023, but there was a time when he had the world talking regularly. The Heartbreak Kid was an admitted handful in the 1990s when he rose to prominence in the World Wrestling Federation.
The Hall of Famer had substance abuse struggles. In addition, The Kliq ran wild over the company. He also helped usher in the Attitude Era with his on-screen sophomoric antics, which propelled the company to a new stratosphere. Still, he often had fans, wrestlers, and those working backstage ready to pull their hair out - and his!
#2. Vince McMahon has been controversial for decades
Vince McMahon is the Chairman of WWE and has run the promotion for the bulk of the past 40 years. As a result, there is arguably nobody who's been deemed controversial for longer.
Be it issues with employees and pro wrestlers, going to war with other territories and pro wrestling companies, or the scandalous storylines and accusations directed towards Vince over the years, he's without a doubt a controversial figure. He remains so with his return to the company following his retirement in 2022.
#1. Ric Flair has led a crazy life
Ric Flair is an iconic pro wrestler and a two-time WWE Hall of Famer. Despite being considered one of the greatest superstars to ever do it, The Nature Boy is also one of the most controversial, both on-screen and off.
The Hall of Famer is one of the greatest villains of all time, but his persona of loving the limelight and everything that comes with it is real, thus getting him in trouble personally, professionally and legally at various points in his life. He even recently had a public spat with Dutch Mantell.
Flair's partying and womanizing is legendary. He's without a doubt a pivotal figure in pro wrestling, but he's also one of the most controversial personalities.