5 greatest real-life rivals in WWE history
The WWE’s history is enriched by some of the greatest rivalries of all time. Austin vs. McMahon, Hogan vs. Savage. Cena vs. Orton. While these rivalries were shaped and molded by the conflict seen on WWE television, the rivalries we will be talking about below are based on the conflict that happened behind the scenes.
Rivalries can be blended with reality. There are times when wrestlers don’t get along or we’ve seen conflicts between a Superstar and WWE management come to life on television.
Today, we look at five of the greatest real-life rivals in WWE history
#5. - Triple H and Rob Van Dam
The real-life heat between Triple H and Rob Van Dam may have started at the 2002 Survivor Series. RVD jumped off of one of the Elimination Chamber pods to deliver a 5-Star Frog Splash to “The King of Kings.” RVD’s leg landed on Triple H’s throat, causing enough swelling that he had to spend the night in a local hospital.
Triple H would later state in public that he didn’t blame RVD for what happened, but RVD felt that Hunter held a grudge against him, secretly. RVD has said on multiple occasions that Triple H and he only had one thing in common: they were both wrestlers.
RVD was interviewed on the Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling podcast, and he said the following about Triple H:
"I remember being very humbled. I think the fact, I'm winning, I'm winning, Triple H comes out, hits me with a pedigree just over and over and over. How many times do we have to tell this story that I can't beat this guy no matter what? I wasn't happy about the situation at the time. You look at it more like, 'It's not fair, just cause [Triple H is] with the boss' daughter,' you know, and really there's so many more variables to it that you just don't consider."
RVD was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame (2021). Triple H is now the WWE Chief Content Officer for the company.
#4. – Stephanie McMahon and AJ Lee
Former WWE Divas Champion AJ Lee and Stephanie McMahon didn’t see eye-to-eye. Much like their husbands, Triple H and CM Punk, they seemingly couldn’t stand each other. This started in 2015 after Stephanie sent out a tweet to Patty Arquette thanking her for standing up for women’s rights:
"Thank you Patty Arquette for having the courage to fight for Women's Rights on a such a grand platform."
AJ Lee was upset by this, as she sent a reply to Stephanie revealing how the women’s roster is paid only a small fraction compared to the men’s salary:
"Your female wrestlers have record selling merchandise & have starred in the highest rated segment of the show several times, and yet they receive a fraction of the wages & screen time of the majority of the male roster."
Stephanie replied with a sarcastic thank you:
"Thank you AJ Lee, I appreciate your opinion."
Soon after this exchange, WWE began to take the Women’s Division more seriously and gave the roster a significantly increased salary. AJ Lee retired from the wrestling business months afterward. Stephanie McMahon is currently the Co-CEO and Chairwoman of WWE.
#3. – JBL and The Blue Meanie
JBL and The Blue Meanie’s feud began during ECW’s One Night Stand pay-per-view in 2005. At the conclusion of the event, which featured a wild brawl between ECW and WWE Superstars.
Both Blue Meanie and JBL began throwing punches for real. JBL busted open Blue Meanie’s nose with his punches, leaving him battered and shaken up.
Meanie was going to press charges against JBL, but WWE reached out to him and talked him out of it. WWE would offer Blue Meanie a spot on the roster, which he accepted, and went so far as to give him a victory over JBL in a no disqualification match on SmackDown.
Blue Meanie would talk about the issues on the “Talk is Jericho” podcast giving their side of the story, starting with Blue Meanie’s version of what had happened:
"I felt this punch right on my scar [a recent injury from wrestling], and I went, ‘What the hell?’ I turned around; there was JBL. He started throwing shots. He did the hockey thing, pulling my shirt over my face [and] began throwing live rounds. He [had] a fistful of rings, so I was like, ‘I ain’t going to take this!’, so I snatched a headlock as much as I could on a 6’6" man, and I started throwing punches back. We kind of got pulled apart.
"I got to work with him at the end, and here we are, trying to give the fans a great finish [to the pay-per-view] when we begin to lock horns in the melee. But he’s basically not even acknowledging my presence. Now I might have caught him snug with a shot, but then he started throwing back heavy punches, including a body shot. So make no mistake, I club him back to make sure he knows I’m not playing, and I think I got him with a shot over the eye and one near the forehead and apparently opened him up a little. Backstage I asked him if he wanted to finish it right then and there. He told me it’s all a show and that he didn’t want to fight. And he pretty much ran off."
The two men have now patched things up and have since become good friends, proving that you can become good friends with your bitter enemies.
#2. – WWE's "Ultimate Showdown" - Hulk Hogan & The Ultimate Warrior
Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior have never seen eye-to-eye and have two completely different personalities. The feud began shortly after their WrestleMania VI encounter when Hogan made comments in the media that the Warrior would flop as a WWE World Champion. This stems from Hogan’s comments during WWE’s “Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior” biography:
"When the Ultimate Warrior won the [WrestleMania VI] match, 68,000 people watched me leave the building instead of watching the new champ in the ring, I don't want to be the one to say, 'I told you so,'" said Hogan.
Warrior would reply later with a YouTube video message for “The Hulkster,” stating:
“You know Terry, you’re a real piece of work man, just beautiful in every way," said Warrior. "Things you said in that sit-down interview… you know the dots of the statements that you made… and the silly-ass clichés that you used, they just don’t connect man. Someone’s gotta set the record straight. Someone capable. Someone wise enough to do it. And I’m going to do that. I’m going to set the record straight and paint the picture of who you truly are. Karma’s coming to collect, Terry. Karma’s coming to collect, big time.”
Both men were able to iron out their differences during the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame weekend. Sadly, The Ultimate Warrior would pass away just one day after making his final appearance on Monday Night Raw from heart failure.
#1. - Bret "Hitman" Hart & "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels
Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, much like Warrior and Hogan, just didn’t get along. They both have completely different philosophies and views on the wrestling business, let alone personalities (especially in their younger days).
The two men had some of the best matchups ever in WWE history. Most notably, their matches at the 1992 Survivor Series and the infamous 60-minute Iron Man match at WrestleMania XII (1996). Despite their in-ring chemistry, the chemistry outside the ring was on a different level.
Their rivalry led to real-life comments being aired on WWE television. Hart began ripping into Shawn Michaels over his appearance in Playgirl magazine. Michaels fired back by suggesting that Bret and Sunny had had an affair with his “Sunny Days” comment.
Both men got into a backstage brawl following the above segment, which led to Michaels threatening to walk out of the company. At the same time, Vince McMahon went back on his 20-year contract offer to Bret Hart and told “The Hitman” he should take the offer from WCW.
Hart refused to lose to Michaels at the 1997 Survivor Series. This led to the infamous Montreal Screwjob, with Bret being screwed out of the WWE Championship title by McMahon, Michaels, referee Earl Hebner, and Triple H.
Hart and Michaels maintained this bitter hatred for the next thirteen years before finally patching things up as Bret made his return to WWE in 2010. To date, both have maintained their friendship and are on much better terms.