Hi folks! Considering current suspensions for wrestlers in WWE & AEW, let’s travel back in time to look at some of the most regrettable wrestling suspensions ever. I chose the specific examples because of the damage they caused to the talent and promotion they worked for, although this is subjective. If you have any, I encourage you to share your examples in the comments.
#5. Wellness Policy > Roman Reigns (2016)
We’ll talk about WWE’s Wellness Policy later, but the important thing to note is Roman Reigns was not exempt. Two days after Money in the Bank 2016 (when the 3-time WWE Champion lost his title to Seth Rollins), WWE announced they had suspended Roman Reigns for violating the Wellness Policy. They knew about his violation before this, which is why they had him lose the title. This came as a shock to the WWE Universe because the company had pushed Roman Reigns so hard that it didn’t seem possible to suspend him. Reigns responded to the suspension on Twitter.
I apologize to my family, friends and fans for my mistake in violating WWE’s wellness policy. No excuses. I own it.
— Roman Reigns (@WWERomanReigns) June 21, 2016
Reigns had long used the Wellness Fitness Nutrition company based out of Miami. The former owner claimed he had been using anabolic steroids, but this was denied. The exact details of Roman’s suspension were never told by WWE, but he hasn’t broken it since, so it’s safe to assume he stopped whatever he was doing. Still, the suspension added fuel to the many haters opposing his rise.
So, how was it disastrous? Well, out of all the talent who violated the Wellness Policy, no other superstar has done so while holding the WWE Championship. While Roman Reigns’ suspension proved that there was no preferential treatment, it also showed that the issue with drugs in wrestling remained even at the highest level. It’s not a good look for the company when the appointed top dog can’t follow the rules.
Today, Roman Reigns is enjoying his place at the top of the mountain, but he took a step down after the suspension. To show Roman what can happen, management demoted him into a mid-card feud for the United States championship with Rusev in August. He won the title and held it until January 2017, but this was seen as a demotion. He got a victory over The Undertaker at WrestleMania, but get this… Reigns did not win a top title (beating Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship at SummerSlam) until August 2018.
So, WWE kept Reigns away from a top prize for two years because of this. Two months later, he vacated the Universal title after announcing a legitimate re-diagnosis of leukemia. This 30-day suspension likely cost Reigns a lengthy run with the WWE Championship, similar to what we have now. In terms of main event stars, Reigns lost the most from this, but he has since made up for it in spades.
#4. The Great American Flop (2006)
2006 to 2007 was a terrible time for suspensions. One of the biggest incidents happened shortly before The Great American Bash. The WWE Wellness Policy was in its infancy, but its details were not made public and they handled suspensions differently. On this occasion, WWE made it known that some superstars had “Elevated Liver Enzymes”. It’s unknown what this means, but in medical terms, it could either mean 1) Hepatitis C or 2) Steroid use.
So, while several superstars still appeared on the show, WWE excluded them from working the matches they had been advertised for. This created a troublesome PPV where several matches had to be changed at the last minute, losing much of the heat WWE had built up on previous episodes of SmackDown.
Super Crazy would have challenged Gregory Helms for the cruiserweight title, but he was taken off, and Helms instead worked a singles match against Matt Hardy. Babyface Bobby Lashley had been built up to face Finlay and William Regal in a triple threat for the United States title but was excluded by Teddy Long on the show itself. Regal and Finlay worked a heel vs. heel match, which was decent, but the attending fans didn’t enjoy it much. Mr. Kennedy replaced Mark Henry, who was meant to wrestle the returning Batista. Instead of Batista getting his revenge on Henry for taking him out, he pummeled Kennedy into a bloody mess.
And then there’s the first-ever Punjabi Prison match, a gimmick designed to help The Great Khali in his feud with The Undertaker. He was excluded for attacking Undertaker backstage, so the Big Show replaced him. Yeah, so all the elevated liver enzyme talk took a show that had some minor potential and turned it into a convoluted, laughable mess. And the sad thing is that WWE could have done more to make it a worthy show, but they were keen on going ahead with much of what they had planned… with replacements.
#3. Rob Van Dam & Sabu Get Arrested (2006)
One of the most disappointing suspensions for me was Rob Van Dam & Sabu screwing up by getting arrested. Here’s what RVD had to say about it:
“There was no way that I was going to be the longest-reigning world champion in WWE (laughs). Nobody thinks that. People like to say that the plans were dropped for ECW because of that night – heck no. Most people think that was just a transitional moment anyway. From my perspective, when people say that couldn’t have happened at a worse time, I always say it couldn’t have happened at a better time. You’re never going to hear me apologize for that. The fact is if I wasn’t the WWE and ECW world champion at the time, nobody would have cared. It wouldn’t have been all over the news.
The day that Sabu and I pulled into the Philly arena and had to tell Vince, and I knew how much I had disappointed him and dropped the ball on his immediate plans, I felt bad that day. I was feeling like I let some people down. But that’s the way emotion is. Emotion takes the place of logic, and until you work things out, you’re a victim of it. Eventually, I could see the big picture, and that’s how it goes down in history, and I’m okay with that. I paid a $100 fine for possession of marijuana. However, since the WWE suspended me, it ended up costing me like $30,000 or $40,000 easily.
And you know what? I asked for more time off at the end of the 30 days. That was one of my favorite months of my contract. That’s how much I wanted out of there and how much I missed being home. I can’t imagine going back to the same schedule that I did before. Can’t imagine. Like, I would have to lose just about everything else out of the equation in my life, and then at that point, we do what he got to do, you know what I mean? That’s not in my best interests or my radar to go back to what I did before.”
Despite his nonchalant nature to the suspension, I was disappointed because I wanted to see the new ECW succeed. Rob Van Dam & Sabu were monumental in making that work, and now they would not be at the forefront. Vince McMahon had Paul Heyman turn on Rob and side with Big Show, who took the ECW title from him. I remember how much hatred there was for the direction Heyman wanted to take the new ECW because loyal fans knew it was all Vince’s doing.
But looking back, there wasn’t much he could do. Vince had built RVD to be the face of the new brand by having him go over John Cena at One Night Stand. With him gone, there were no suitable replacements. Van Dam & Sabu’s suspension considerably hurt the revived ECW brand before it could start. That’s not to say it wouldn’t still have been a cheap and nasty marketing tool to leech profits from the remains of the ECW name, but at least some of its original soul would be intact. ECW still had Tommy Dreamer and The Sandman, but that wasn’t enough to carry the show.
Kurt Angle was likely moved over because of RVD’s arrest so it had more star power, and he hated it so much he left the company. As Rob said, had he not been the WWE & ECW Champion, nobody would have cared. And that’s true, but at the time he was the #1 guy in the company, and being that unprofessional means it was wrong to give him the opportunity to begin with. There was so much riding on his momentum, and they blew it harder than their marijuana stock.
#2. Jeff Hardy Falls Off The Victory Road (2011)
I remember watching it live. Some fans want to call it “LOLTNA”, but the fact is that Jeff Hardy has, and likely always will struggle with his addiction issues. He got suspended several times in WWE. He’s currently sidelined for being arrested under the influence. Everywhere he has worked, Jeff Hardy has been suspended for his drug issues. He was a big fish working for (TNA) Impact Wrestling, and this meant he could get away with more. What were they going to do… fire him? When he brings in so much money? Yeah, right.
Was it careless to allow an intoxicated Jeff Hardy to walk out for a match in the main event of a PPV? Of course. But I think if anyone knew what was going to happen, they’d have come up with an alternative. Instead, Eric Bischoff immediately called an audible and told Sting to drop and pin Jeff the hard way. So, the TNA Victory Road 2011 main event may go down as one of the worst title matches in the history of wrestling, but at least they didn’t let Jeff work in such an obviously intoxicated condition. Sting did what he had to do, and the aftermath saw Jeff clean up an act that he kept mostly polished for years. This was a wake-up call for him.
Sadly, time can have a funny way of making people forget what’s important. It’s difficult to understand why Jeff Hardy continues to do what he does, and if it were up to me, he’d retire before he hurts himself or somebody else. There’s nothing left for him to prove, but we know that’s not in Jeff’s nature. So long as someone will book him, he will keep trying until his body is no longer capable.
#1. Acknowledging Steroids
In 2007, WWE had to come out and reveal the existence of the Wellness Policy. To date, there have been 64 suspensions, with some superstars serving more than one. The usual punishment is 30 days, but repeat offenses give 60 (or more) days or termination. I take the following from an extensive list on Fightful. Each name was suspended on August 30, 2007, because they were found guilty of taking drugs prescribed by the Signature Pharmacy.
Umaga (Somas) / William Regal (Stanozolol, somatropin, genotropin, and anastrozole) / Chris Masters / Snitsky / Chavo Guerrero / Booker T / Charlie Haas / Edge / Funaki (Somas) / Gregory Shane Helms (HGH, testosterone, nandrolone) / John Morrison (Omatropin, anastrozole, testosterone, stanozolol & HCG) / Mr. Kennedy (Anastrozole, somatropin & testosterone)
Other names who had violated the Wellness Policy in this era and/or had an association with Signature Pharmacy but were not named: Batista, Randy Orton, Santino Marella & Simon Dean.
However it is stated, WWE Superstars were using all kinds of prescribed drugs to enhance their muscle mass and/or relieve pain so they could perform better. This led to complications for some. For example, Umaga refused to enter rehab in 2009 not long before his death by a heart attack brought on by acute toxicity from substances.
For others, like Edge, Gregory Helms, and Funaki, who were sidelined with injuries when the announcement was made, technically had no repercussions because they couldn’t work, so a suspension meant nothing. Edge returned in November and was slotted right back into the main event scene. Helms, however, did not reach the same heights he had before. They pushed William Regal after this, winning the King of the Ring in 2008, but a second violation ensured he would be reduced to mid-card status for the rest of his career.
Mr. Kennedy had been gradually built up to be a main event player someday, but the violation killed his momentum and he spent the last two years as another name on the card. Booker T opposed the violation by requesting his release in October and soon debuted for TNA Wrestling for a few year run. Also, it killed (or considerably hurt) the WWE careers of Chris Masters & Snitsky. John Morrison was the only active superstar not to be affected by the suspension.
There have been many suspensions for different things over the years. I considered making entries on the underage sexual accusations & domestic abuse thrown at Jerry Lawler (1993 & 2016), and the drug arrest of The Iron Sheik and Jim Duggan in 1987. Evan Bourne screwed up his WWE career with back-to-back Wellness Policy violations, and Randy Orton is a known repeat offender. I find it interesting, however, that we have not seen any other violations since just before the pandemic in 2020.
More recently, suspensions were handed out (but mostly terminations) across the industry during the #SpeakingOut movement. Titus O’Neil was suspended for being too annoyingly playful, with his behavior with Vince McMahon on live television being the last straw. Also, Tommy Dreamer was suspended from Impact last year for being incredibly insensitive towards an air hostess who settled out of court after accusing Ric Flair of sexual abuse.
The moral of the story is that while drama happens and lives change, there’s often a way back for those who try. If the likes of Sasha Banks, Naomi, CM Punk, and The Elite have the passion for wrestling they have previously claimed to have, they will do what is necessary to mend broken relationships and win back the hearts of those feeling betrayed or disappointed. Otherwise, they can disappear into the cloud of obscurity and live life in peace away from whatever led them there. Thanks for reading!