Wrestlers who’ve fought each other in real life
For the most part, wrestlers only fight each other as part of predetermined storylines on scripted wrestling shows. Backstage, meanwhile, everyone is pretty friendly with one another (or at least cordial), as they’re all there to do a job, put on a great show, and get paid. Beating each other to actual pulps would make pulling off all three of those things way harder.
That said, wrestlers are human, and occasionally tempers flare and give way to fisticuffs. There have been several occasions over the years when one wrestler would say the wrong thing to another, one wrestler would misunderstand the other, or two wrestlers would just plain get sick of each other, and the only realistic solution is to throw down and legitimately scuffle until the bad blood evaporates. Here are some stories of your favorite wrestling superstars playing for keeps with nary a thought of entertaining 80,000 people at WrestleMania with their antics.
Kofi Kingston was smart to fight Vince McMahon
When you think of wrestlers doing the unthinkable and actually fighting Vince McMahon, Kofi Kingston probably doesn’t come to mind. It’s unfathomable that a guy famous for pancakes and butt-themed cereal would legitimately throw down with his boss — even Stone Cold Steve Austin never tried that. Yet Kingston did, and his career survived and thrived.
According to Chris Jericho in his wonderfully titled book Best In The World (At What I Have No Idea), McMahon decided to pick on Kingston back before Kingston was a big deal. During a plane ride, McMahon told him, “Maybe one day you’ll get over.” (“Over” means the fans are interested in you, so McMahon was outright telling his poor employee nobody gave a rip about him.)
Jericho approached Kingston and told him he needed to fight. Kingston, after some understandable hesitation, did just that, confronting his boss and starting a jawjacking session between the two. Then McMahon went for a double-leg takedown and a real-life wrestling match was on. Thankfully no bone-crushing punches were thrown, and soon after it started McMahon picked himself up and started laughing. He wasn’t laughing at Kingston, though. He was happy that Kingston stood up for himself. While arguing with, and then fighting, his boss has clearly worked out for the New Day star, we don’t recommend you do the same. You might find the result decidedly unwelcome.
Goldberg got punked out by Chris Jericho
The real-life battle between Goldberg and Chris Jericho was years in the making, with bad blood stemming from their time in WCW. In 1998, Goldberg was a megastar, known for stoically destroying opponents in under a minute. Jericho played an arrogant, obnoxious, cowardly villain, the kind of troll fans would delight in seeing a man-tank like Goldberg obliterate. But it never happened because, as Jericho explained on Ric Flair’s podcast, Goldberg simply refused to work with him.
Jericho did a storyline where he would continually call out Goldberg knowing he wasn’t there, once even “defeating” a little person dressed as Goldberg. But no match ever happened because Goldberg apparently felt Jericho was beneath him. Finally, WCW booked Goldberg to destroy Jericho in under a minute on TV, which Jericho refused to do. He didn’t mind losing as long as he made money by losing on pay-per-view. This never happened either because Goldberg simply no-showed the event.
Years later, when both were in WWE, Goldberg confronted Jericho about rumors that Y2J had been talking trash online. Insulted by the accusation and fueled by bitterness over Goldberg big-timing him in WCW, Jericho refused to back down. As Jericho told fellow wrestler Konnan on his podcast, Goldberg tried to choke the much smaller Jericho, who grabbed him in a front-facelock and took him down. An added body-scissors kept him down, and Jericho earned himself a shockingly quick and easy real-life victory over a guy known for quick and easy scripted victories.
Tracy Smothers and Tom Prichard narrowly avoided jail
Tracy Smothers and Dr. Tom Prichard made their names in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, but they weren’t really friends. Once in the WWF in the mid-’90s, that lack of friendliness exploded into an all-out brawl that almost landed them in jail.
As Prichard explained in the WWE road-trip book Are We There Yet?, he felt Smothers kept hurting wrestlers when the whole point of wrestling is to not do that. While traveling to a show, Smothers confronted Prichard about this bad-talking, and the two began fighting right on the side of the road. Since that’s another thing you’re not supposed to do, police officers arrived to break the ruckus up. Prichard said the two were simply practicing for their upcoming wrestling match, and the cops somehow believed them and started to leave.
That would’ve been the end of it, but then Smothers opened his big mouth and told Prichard the cops had saved him from a major beating. Brawl on. Since the cops hadn’t yet left, this made them really mad, and they threatened to arrest anyone who didn’t drive away immediately. Everyone drove away immediately because jail is no fun.
Shawn Michaels fared poorly against Marty Jannetty
Before becoming one of the greatest wrestlers ever, Shawn Michaels was in a tag team with Marty Jannetty. While the Rockers were successful and popular, they didn’t always get along, and after years together, they were apparently sick enough of each other to throw down for real.
As Armpit Wrestling explains, nobody’s really sure why Michaels and Jannetty fought in the early ’90s. It’s assumed, however, that Roddy “Rowdy” Piper said something that got them super-heated. Their anger turned into a physical fight that Jannetty won quite easily. He managed to bruise and bang up Michaels because, as he explained in an interview years later, “[Shawn] can’t fight. He’s a good wrestler, but he can’t fight.”
The fight actually got bad enough that the police had to intervene. According to Jannetty, he almost got hauled off to the cooler, and he can thank “Macho Man” Randy Savage for that not happening. Savage told the cops the Rockers were simply practicing for a storyline, and the star-struck cops agreed to let Jannetty go in exchange for some Savage autographs.
Michaels reportedly quit the WWF due to his injuries, but he and Jannetty soon made up and he returned. But years later, Michaels is a legend and Jannetty is the obscure, derided “other guy.” That’s called winning the battle but losing the war.
The Nasty Boys once beat Ken Shamrock half to death
The idea that, in his youth, UFC legend Ken Shamrock could lose to anybody sounds ludicrous. But not only did he lose a fight to Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags of the Nasty Boys, he lost badly.
Long before the UFC or WWF, Shamrock and the Nasties were up-and-coming independent wrestlers. One night, while at a bar, the Nasties tried to hit on another wrestler’s girlfriend, then grabbed her breasts. Shamrock, as he explained during an interview, told them to cut it out. Knobbs apparently pushed Shamrock away, making him even angrier, though a bouncer stopped him from doing anything about it.
Later that night, Shamrock confronted the Nasties in their hotel room, and the three began to brawl. Due to it being two-on-one, the Nasties dominated the fight, battering and beating Shamrock beyond recognition. The Nasties moved on after that, but Shamrock never forgave nor forgot. Years later when he became “The World’s Most Dangerous Man,” he and other wrestlers were at an airport and saw the Nasties. He confronted them and threatened to beat them senseless, knowing this time he absolutely could.
Fisticuffs didn’t happen. Sags told Shamrock “If you hit me, it’s a felony,” which actually calmed him down. The realization that Sags wouldn’t fight him, even in front of other wrestlers, was victory enough.
Sid Vicious vs. Arn Anderson vs. scissors
Sid Vicious fighting Arn Anderson is one of the most brutal real-life fight stories in wrestling history, and it’s a wonder both men are still alive to tell it.
According to ProWrestlingStories, in 1993 a group of WCW wrestlers were meeting to figure out why WCW was losing money. Vicious opined that old guys like Anderson and his best friend, Ric Flair, were making too much money. Anderson was present at the time and, as you might expect, took exception to Sid’s statement. The two verbally went at it, though nothing happened physically, at least not then.
Later that night, Vicious found Anderson and began yelling at him again. The two went at it, brawling and rolling around in the hall of their hotel. Then Vicious grabbed a pair of scissors and began stabbing Anderson in the gut, causing blood to spill everywhere and Anderson to sputter, “Man, you’re f*cking killing me!” Vicious also suffered several stab wounds during the fight, and both needed surgery and stitches.
Thankfully, both survived and avoided long-term injuries. Anderson merely received a suspension, but since Vicious was the instigator, he was outright fired. Considering he was in a main-event feud with WCW World Champion Vader and was likely set up to win the title, bringing scissors to a fist fight was probably among the stupider decisions of the big man’s life.
Vader accidentally enraged Paul Orndorff
Sometimes, wrestlers can be so on edge that a simple misunderstanding can trigger unscripted and entirely unnecessary violence. In 1995, this happened between Vader and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff.
As told by Wrestling Inc, Vader was late to a show and Orndorff was understandably angry about it. However, Vader had a good excuse: WCW’s boss, Eric Bischoff, had set up a company photoshoot for Vader, and gave his approval for the Mastodon to be late that night. Bischoff, unfortunately, forgot one of the most important aspects of running a business — communication — and never told Orndorff about the endorsed lateness. He began yelling at Vader for his seemingly unprofessional behavior and, rather than explain himself, the temperamental Vader decided to get right in Orndorff’s face. Orndorff slapped the far larger wrestler, and the fight was on.
Vader did his best to make sure the fight wasn’t on, though. He observed the surroundings and concluded it was too dangerous to fight, and he didn’t want any risk of jail time. But after Orndorff repeatedly punched him, Vader finally had enough, grabbing him in a facelock that brought both men to the ground. After some scuffling, they were pulled apart, and the fight ended as quickly as it began. Vader was soon out of WCW; we don’t know if incidents like this played a role in his dismissal, but it’s not the craziest theory in the world.
Batista got the ego beaten out of him by Booker T
Obviously, some wrestlers are bigger stars than others. But generally if a wrestler acts like they’re bigger and better than everyone else, they’re inviting more heat and hostility from the locker room than they probably ever imagined.
Dave “Batista” Bautista learned this the hard way in 2006, according to Mandatory’s WrestleZone. He was a big star at the time, having been World Heavyweight Champion and all. Unfortunately, as Mandatory reported, he started growing full of himself, which peaked while shooting a commercial for Summerslam. He declared that Smackdown had risen in ratings lately, and his appearing on the show was the reason why. This caused Booker T, who had won six world titles and main-evented countless shows, to confront him about his stuck-up attitude. They argued back-and-forth for a few minutes, then fought for about 30 seconds.
The fight didn’t need to last any longer than that. While Booker suffered a black eye in the ruckus, Batista’s face was completely cut up, and his pride evaporated. It’s hard to act like a huge honkin’ deal while getting completely owned by someone smaller and older than you. Still, there’s a case to be made that Batista ultimately came out on top. After all, which one’s Drax the Destroyer?
Buff Bagwell was no match for Hurricane Helms
Few wrestlers have bigger egos than Marcus Alexander “Buff” Bagwell. While he may have gotten away with that in WCW, once he moved to the WWF in 2001, his pride proved his undoing. He worked maybe two matches before getting fired, but even in that brief period, he managed to get into a real-life fight.
As fellow ex-WCW wrestler Shane “Hurricane” Helms recalled during an appearance on Sam Roberts’ Wrestling Podcast, he and Bagwell went at it while both were in the WWF for the infamous “WCW invades WWF” storyline. We don’t know what triggered the fight, mostly because Helms wouldn’t say, but it started a verbal altercation that escalated into a physical one. It wasn’t much of a fight: Bagwell apparently hit Helms in the ear while attacking him from behind, and Helms responded by throwing a water bottle at him. This bottle was either frozen glass or water-filled plastic, but either way it resulted in Bagwell falling over, cracking his head on the pavement, and needing 20 stitches.
As for Helms, he earned exactly what you might not expect: total respect from his peers. As Helms said, he came to work the next day and placed his bags with the other WCW wrestlers’ stuff. Steve Austin saw this, picked up Helms’ bags, and brought them over to the WWF side. The implication was as clear as Austin was bald: The Hurricane was now one of them.
Big Show and Great Khali got into a terrible fight
You’d expect a knock-down, drag-out fight between two giants like Big Show and Great Khali to be literally Earth-shattering. Not so, according to Show, who described their backstage kerfuffle as “the worst friggin’ fight on the planet.”
While appearing on Chris Jericho’s podcast, Show recalled the fight with Khali (a story also told in Jericho’s bookBest In The World). Show had a cool signature move where he’d throw his opponent in the corner, shush the crowd, then deliver a thunderous chop to the chest that echoed throughout the arena. Khali, without Show’s approval, started doing the same thing, and Show was none too happy.
He confronted Khali about the theft backstage, but Khali was unrepentant. The two began punching and smacking each other, and no wrestler broke them up because, as Jericho put it, it was like “King Kong vs. Godzilla.” You don’t stop a fight like that unless you’re Superman. The fight, however, soon ended itself in the dumbest manner possible. Show took a swing at Khali, tripped over a chair, and fell down. Khali somehow fell, too, landing directly on top of Show. The pile of giants then called the whole thing off, ending the fight in an amusingly anticlimactic manner.
If you ask Khali, all the wrestlers took his side in the fight and he made Big Show cry. That’s almost certainly untrue, but it’s a better story than “we both fell over.”
Curt Hennig fought Brock Lesnar 35,000 feet in the air
A lot happened during the WWE’s notorious 2002 “Plane Ride From Hell,” and none of it was good. For example, Ric Flair drunkenly flashed flight attendants, but there was also an alcohol-fueled brawl between the legendary Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig and Brock Lesnar, who was still a rookie but already one of the scariest men alive.
We don’t know a lot about what transpired between Hennig and Lesnar. There are no known pictures or video, their fight was overshadowed by antics like Flair’s, and WWE doesn’t much want to talk about the Plane Ride anyway. But when Lesnar appeared on ESPN’s Highly Questionable in 2016, he did mention it. As he put it, “Being stuck on an airplane for seven hours … what else are you gonna do, besides … fall asleep or get into trouble? We did both.” Based on that, it seems very little happened to make the two angry at one another, aside from their being drunk and getting it into their heads that they had to rumble.
According to various reports, such as the one from DailyDDT, the pair very nearly hit the plane’s emergency door while rolling around. Had that opened up, it’s very possible the Plane Ride From Hell could’ve turned tragic rather than simply sad. Luckily, that never happened, but unluckily Hennig lost his job over the whole episode. Lesnar was spared punishment, presumably because he was a rookie, not to mention a guy McMahon had long-term main-event plans for already.
Awesome Kong attacked Reby Sky in front of Sky's son
On GLOW, Kia Stevens is one of the bigger, more impressive women around. Years ago, as Awesome Kong, she was even bigger and more impressive, so you can understand why few took her side when she picked a fight with a wrestler much smaller than her.
As Mandatory reported (and TNA confirmed), in 2016 Kong was changing in the locker room when fellow wrestler Reby Sky entered and attempted to change, too. The two rarely got along due to a series of Twitter beefs that started in 2013 and never really ended, but they could at least work together most days. This day was not most days. Kong was outraged that Sky would dare change near her, so she confronted Sky and kicked her out of the locker room. Sky later returned to grab her belongings, which Kong decided was unacceptable. She went after Sky, with PW Insider reporting she went so far as to grab her by the throat.
All this would’ve been bad enough for Kong, but Sky’s young son Maxel was nearby and watching, making her look even worse. Most likely due to that (and Sky’s husband, Matt Hardy, being someone TNA likely wanted to keep happy), Kong was quickly sent home and fired shortly thereafter. She’s a Netflix star now, though, so she’s clearly not sweating the pink slip.