No, Thanks: Sting and 8 Other Wrestlers Who Turned Down WWE
In the United States, yesterday was a national day for giving and thanks; hence the name Thanksgiving. Millions of Americans gorged themselves on veritable feasts of turkey, sweet potatoes, green-bean casserole, and pumpkin pie, and were thankful for their family, friends, and all they have.
Thanksgiving is likely the most widely celebrated holiday in the country, as it knows no bounds for religion, race or creed. Everyone loves Turkey Day.
And like Thanksgiving is quite possibly the pinnacle of holiday celebration in the United States, the WWE is certainly the pinnacle of professional wrestling (see what I did there?). After all, it is every pro wrestler's dream to make it to the WWE, right?
Whether it be for moral, marital or contractual reasons, there are people who have turned down the potential feast offered them by WWE. Here are nine wrestlers who were given a contract by Vince McMahon only to tell him, "No, thanks."
Rebecca Reyes isn't really a "wrestler" yet, per se, but you can't Google anything about anyone turning down a WWE contract without her coming up.
Most of you probably know her as Reby Sky, unfortunate girlfriend of the even more unfortunate ex-WWE and -TNA wrestler Matt Hardy.
Reyes is a Playboy model who currently hosts Lucha Libre USA: Masked Warriors on MTV2, and also co-hosts the pro wrestling show Busted Open on Sirius Satellite Radio. She is obviously interested in wrestling, so why turn down WWE?
Last December, Reyes posted this on her Twitter account:
“Weird day. Just had to turn down WWE (per my Lucha Libre USA contract). Very weird day.”
Apparently she wouldn't have been able to continue working with LLUSA had she signed with WWE.
It is unclear what kind of contract she was offered—it was most likely either a developmental contract or a contract to appear on Tough Enough—but the fact that she turned it down to continue her training with LLUSA speaks to her desire to learn the craft, rather than just to make a bunch of money.
Perhaps we will one day see her inside a WWE ring.
Ryan O'Reilly and Krissy Vaine
This is one slide, but it accounts for two wrestlers.
In 2006, Ryan O'Reilly and Krissy Vaine were both under developmental contracts with the WWE at its Deep South Wrestling territory. O'Reilly won the DSW Heavyweight Championship on two occasions, while Vaine worked for a time as General Manager.
Vaine in particular was expected to have a bright future in wrestling, and by the fall of 2007 she had already begun an angle on SmackDown with Torrie Wilson.
But just when O'Reilly and Vaine were called up to the main roster, they both decided to walk away from pro wrestling.
In an interview with The Post and Courier, Vaine cited family health issues as one of the reasons she decided to forego the opportunity.
"I was slated to go to Europe and be away for over two weeks," she says. "I've been having some health issues within my family in North Carolina, and I was terrified to leave the country. I couldn't imagine if something would have happened while I was gone. I decided that I couldn't do that to myself or my family."
Additionally, Vaine and O'Reilly had begun a new relationship and were looking forward to starting a life together. They were all too familiar with the difficulties a pro wrestling life presents to couples, and the prospect of starting their WWE careers on separate brands left a bad taste in their mouths. Both agreed that the timing just wasn't right for them.
"I would've sold my soul, too," she says. "I was lucky, though, and I was able to realize that while WWE may be a dream job, it won't fill that void that I had been missing for so many years. I had never been in love, and my family and I weren't close. I was selfish and lonely... Success to me now is not how much fame and fortune you have in your life, but it's what you have in the end. When it's all said and done, when I go, I'll be able to say my life was filled with love and happiness. I don't need a lot other than that."
[...] O'Reilly echoed his girlfriend's sentiments.
"I feel that every person has to make a choice rather it's right or wrong in their life. People will always have opinions, people will always judge you, but it's you who has to live with your decision, not anyone else. I mean who hasn't been judged? Who hasn't been insulted? Is there a chance that I might have that opportunity again? I feel I left on good terms, and I feel and speak very highly of WWE if anyone asks me. Hopefully that door will be there when it's right."
For O'Reilly, opportunity did present itself again. He re-signed another developmental contract with WWE in 2010 and participated on two seasons of NXT under the name Conor O'Brian, although a second call up to the main roster is yet to be seen. '
Vaine returned to wrestling, as well. She is a former NWA Mid-Atlantic Women's Champion, and currently wrestles for MTV2's Lucha Libre USA as Kristin Astara.
They even are still together. Perhaps they made the right decision, after all.
The Russian Nightmare Nikita Koloff was the "nephew" of Ivan Koloff who wrestled for Jim Crockett's NWA promotions and WCW throughout the 1980's and early 90's.
He is a former NWA National Heavyweight Champion, was named the PWI Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year in 1987, and was awarded PWI Feud of the Year in 1987 for his feud with the Four Horsemen alongside Dusty Rhodes and the Road Warriors.
It's easy to see, then, why Vince McMahon would want him for WWE.
After his NWA World Title match against Ric Flair at The Great American Bash in 1985, McMahon approached the burgeoning superstar with a deal. He promised Koloff an immediate massive push, in which he would give him either the Intercontinental Title, or a main event match with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 2.
Koloff turned him down.
He believed that the push he was set to receive in the NWA would give him greater leverage for a more lucrative WWF contract in the future, and so McMahon was forced to wait.
It seemed Koloff was right. A year later he had become a megastar within the NWA, and McMahon approached him again, offering an amount of money that Jim Crockett could never match.
However, both the IC Title as well as a main event match at WrestleMania III were out of the question—he had already promised the IC Title to Ricky Steamboat, and, as we all know, Hogan was slated to main event WrestleMania III with Andre the Giant.
All he could offer was a program with Jake "The Snake" Roberts, and again Koloff declined.
Vince would never offer him another deal.
It seems hard to believe that any wrestler would have turned down a main event match with Hogan in his prime. If it was more money Koloff wanted, surely it would have come after that.
Nevertheless, Koloff became a star in his own right, and it's interesting to ponder how the course of WWE history would have changed has he accepted that first deal.
If you watch Ring of Honor, you know who Davey Richards is.
Richards is the current ROH World Champion and an IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, and was ranked #25 in PWI's top 500 singles wrestlers of 2011.
And, according to him, he turned down an offer from WWE in 2009.
Davey Richards, arguably the top independent wrestler in 2009 with a body of work that includes some of the best matches of the year in ROH and Dragon Gate USA, claims WWE approached him about signing with the company, but he turned them down.
Richards wrote an entire blog entry today explaining why he would turn down an offer from WWE - "It's not for attention I do this, it's not for money, it's not for notoriety. It's for my beliefs, my morals, my creed. I am a man who believes hard work must be rewarded and laziness must be punished. I've simply walked away from places before who I feel have not shared this moral with me."
So apparently Richards isn't so interested in playing the politics game. It's a valid reason to turn WWE down, as its backstage politics have come under fire in the past. It seems that, at least for now, his fans are just going to have to get their fill of him in Ring of Honor.
Unlike the preceding wrestlers in this slideshow, Rhino had found relative success in WWE before. He may not have won any gold within the company, but his patented Gore and time spent in the original ECW earned him an avid fanbase.
But ECW was the exact same reason he didn't want to return to WWE.
In the spring of 2006, Rhino was employed by WWE's much lesser "rival" TNA. During this time, WWE was getting ready to relaunch ECW as a third brand under its mega wrestling empire. Vince McMahon, obviously hoping to draw interest from the original ECW fans, offered Rhino a contract to wrestle for the new brand.
Rhino, however, very publicly turned him down.
At a June 9 TNA house show in Philadelphia—at the old ECW Arena, of all places—Rhino openly informed the crowd he had been offered a contract by WWE, but had turned it down out of loyalty to TNA.
He didn't stop there, though.
A little over a month later, Rhino publicly berated WWE for the direction it was taking ECW. Just to make sure everyone got his point, he dropped the ECW World Championship belt into an oil drum and sent it up in flames.
Later Rhino would admit that the burned title belt was only a replica; but he also probably burned any bridges with WWE.
Alberto Del Rio
If anything, this proves that Alberto Del Rio knows how to get what he wants.
In 2007, Alberto Del Rio was known across Mexico as the luchador Dos Caras Jr. He had been under contract with the Mexican promotion CMLL since 2005, and had just won his first CMLL World Heavyweight Championship.
That was when WWE came knocking.
WWE talent execs were desperate to find new Mexican stars to one day replace Rey Mysterio Jr., and Dos Caras Jr. was just what they were looking for. They gave him a tryout match and quickly offered him a developmental contract—which he abruptly turned down.
Caras Jr. was a veteran star in Mexico, and he didn't feel that he needed to first go through FCW to "learn how to work." So, he turned WWE down and re-signed with CMLL instead.
Well, as we all know, when Caras Jr. eventually did sign with WWE in July 2009, he was allowed to skip right past FCW and went straight to SmackDown. Now he's a two-time WWE Champion, the 2011 Royal Rumble winner, and a former Mr. Money in the Bank.
In this case, turning WWE down the first time most definitely worked in his favor.
TNA most definitely benefited from this.
In 2001, the phenomenal A.J. Styles was under contract with WCW. Under the ring name Air Styles, he and tag team partner Air Paris competed as "Air Raid" (that sounds familiar...) for the short-lived WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship. He didn't get to do much else while he was there... because WCW was bought out by the then-WWF.
The WWE powers that be decided they didn't want Styles, and so he was left without a job. He returned to where he had made his name, NWA Wildside, and even wrestled several matches for the program WWF Jakked. Finally, in April of 2002 he was offered a developmental contract; which he declined.
The contract offered $500 a week and required Styles to relocate to Cincinnati, Ohio, to train at the Heartland Wrestling Association developmental territory. Styles, a known family man, turned it down because a relocation would interfere with his wife's college plans.
A.J. Styles went on to become a cornerstone of TNA; it's difficult to imagine what the promotion would be like without him. However, it seems that he has achieved all he can there.
He is a former TNA World Heavyweight Champion and World Tag Team Champion; a six-time X Division Champion; a four-time Triple Crown Champion (and the first); and a two-time Grand Slam Champion (and the first).
Seeing all that, why not branch out to WWE now and expand his resume? In the past, Styles has stated that he's steered clear of WWE because he believes it's a company full of "backstabbers." However, with all the complaining he's been doing about TNA's direction lately, maybe he'll rethink his prospects.
What longtime wrestling fan doesn't know this story? Sting was one of the biggest, if not the biggest star in WCW history; and he's also the biggest star never to work for WWE.
He is a six-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion, a perennial main-eventer, and a literal icon—WCW's Undertaker, if you will. Of course Vince McMahon would want him in WWE.
But, to this day, it seems Sting wants nothing to do with it.
Not only did he turn down a contract back when WWE bought out WCW 2001, but he turned down what would have been a legendary main event match with The Undertaker at WrestleMania XVII. In an interview with the U.K.'s Daily Star, he explains why he's stayed away from WWE for so long.
“There are so many variables. Let’s just say that I turned it down for the same reasons I always have. Something in me never trusted what would happen up there, based entirely on the track record with other WCW guys and everything that went on after Vince bought WCW."
Yet another example of a wrestler not trusting WWE.
Nevertheless, fans still salivate at the mouth as they wait for Sting to finally make his appearance inside a WWE ring. Already there is some speculation that the mysterious "It Begins" promo could signify a run for Sting with WWE (even though I myself definitely think it's Jericho).
Who knows, perhaps one day, to the surprise and delight of us all, he'll finally ink that contract.
Yes, it is safe to say that for the majority of professional wrestlers it is the ultimate goal to one day reach World Wrestling Entertainment; but not for all.
Perhaps we will one day see some of these faces inside a WWE ring, perhaps we won't. But there's no doubt that some of these contract declinations have changed the course of pro wrestling history as we know it, and it will always be interesting to ponder, "What if?"
As always, thanks for reading and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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