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Top 7 Pro Wrestlers Walking Out On Their Company

June 8, 2022 | Posted by Steve Cook
CM Punk vs. Steve Austin Image Credit: WWE

You’ve probably noticed this. Most of the hottest wrestling news stories lately seem to involve wrestlers walking out on their companies. Sasha Banks & Naomi left before an episode of Raw, and created more online conversation than most recent Raw episodes. MJF teased not showing up for Double or Nothing, and turned the last week or so into a conversation about him. It’s become pretty obvious that the best way to generate conversation in 2022 is to either walk out or tease walking out.

Who did it the best? That’s what we’re here to figure out. There are so many stories about wrestlers walking out or not showing up that it’s nearly impossible to limit it to seven, but these are the ones that came to my mind…

7. Terry Funk (WWF, 1993)

The Funker appeared everywhere in the wrestling world for brief periods of time. During 1993 alone, Funk was active in ECW, SMW, FMW and all kinds of smaller promotions. He almost gave up this live to sign with the World Wrestling Federation. The idea was for Funk to come in as one of Jerry Lawler’s Knights for a match with Bret, Owen, Bruce & Keith Hart at the Survivor Series. Afterwards, Funk would assume Pat Patterson’s position as the company’s head booker. This scenario seems a bit tough to swallow…until you remember that Vince McMahon was going to be on trial in 1994 and there was a very real possibility he’d be going away for a short period of time to a long period of time. They were looking for people with wrestling experience to run that side things if Vince lost the trial, and Terry would have fit the bill.

It’s an interesting what-if to ponder. What would mid-1990s WWF have looked like with Terry Funk behind the creative? However, Funk had second thoughts after the meeting and left town the next morning. Not before leaving a note for Vince that said the following:

“My horse is sick. I think he’s dying. I’ll see you later.”

As Funk recollected in his autobiography, Vince asked him how his horse was doing the next time he worked for the WWF.

6. Jack Brisco (WWF, 1985)

Jack & his brother Jerry played an important role in the WWF’s expansion efforts in 1984. They were the ones that convinced other Georgia Championship Wrestling minority owners to sell out to Vince McMahon and put the WWF product on TBS. Jack & Jerry did the babyface tag team thing after arriving and worked across the country up until February 1985.

As Jerry explains in the above video, Jack had been getting pretty well burnt out. He felt that it was time for him to move on due to several factors. He wasn’t the wrestler he once was. Pro wrestling wasn’t going in a direction he liked. The travel schedule was fairly ridiculous. The snow in the Northeast proved to be the last straw for Jack, as he took a plane down south to his home in Florida and never wrestled again. It didn’t affect Jerry’s status, as he became a road agent for the WWF and remained employed by the company until 2020.

5. Mick Foley (WWF, 1997)

Foley’s one-day departure from the WWF was vastly different from most wrestler walk-outs for one simple reason. Most wrestlers get fed up and leave because they feel the promotion has disrespected them in some fashion. Foley left because he was unhappy with how the WWF had treated somebody else.

Like most of the WWF lockerroom, Foley was upset with the finish of the 1997 Survivor Series. Bret Hart deserved better than he got from Vince McMahon. Typically when events like that happen, wrestlers talk a lot of stuff. Threats of walking out on the company are made, but most wrestlers never actually do it. Certainly not for somebody else. Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart & Davey Boy Smith’s decision to show support for their family member wasn’t surprising. Jim & Davey would follow Bret to WCW while Owen eventually stayed due to his contract status & desire to avoid legal proceedings. Foley was the only non-Hart family member to not show up for the company’s TV taping the next day.

After thinking things over, Foley would return for the next show on Tuesday. His family needed the money. Bret appreciated the gesture, but was good with Foley going back. It didn’t hurt Foley’s status with the WWF either, it probably earned him more respect from McMahon and the rest of the higher-ups.

4. Dennis Condrey (NWA, 1987 & 89)

The Midnight Express was plugging along pretty well. They’d just had their highest profile match ever, the Night of the Sky-Walkers with the Road Warriors at Starrcade ’86. After that, they’d moved into a program with Ron Garvin & Barry Windham over the US tag title that got good reactions around the loop. The MX looked to be figured in for awhile, so it was pretty strange when Dennis Condrey went home after a show in Lincolnton, North Carolina and didn’t show up the next morning for a flight to San Francisco.

Many different reasons have been given for Condrey’s disappearing act. At one point, he’s suggested it had to do with family issues, and this seems to be the most likely answer. On other interviews, he’s suggested it had to do with Jim Cornette & Bobby Eaton not wanting to go to the WWF. Answers change over the years. In any event, Condrey would re-surface as part of the Original Midnight Express in the AWA later that year. He, Randy Rose & their manager Paul E. Dangerously would join the NWA in late 1988 & feud with Cornette, Eaton and the new member of the MX, Stan Lane.

The feud got over big time at first, but the people in charge of the promotion weren’t happy with some of the people involved. Jim Crockett Jr. was still mad at Condrey for walking out in early 1987, while booker George Scott had issues with Rose. The feud got cooled off, and a match was booked where the man taking the fall would leave the company. Obviously one of Rose or Condrey would be taking the fall while the other would be buried. Condrey decided on neither, and didn’t show up for the match. You have to be impressed when somebody can pull the ol’ disappearing act twice in such a short period of time.

3. Jim Cornette & Stan Lane (WCW, 1990)

Cornette had nearly gone insane (for the first time) trying to deal with WCW President Jim Herd as part of the booking committee. Among Herd’s maddening quirks was the fact he wanted nothing to do with the Midnight Express as a tag team, and refused to approve anything involving Stan Lane & Bobby Eaton that could have generated interest. Relations between the two sides broke down to the point where Cornette quit the booking committee & planned on leaving the company with Lane & Eaton. Herd was later talked into renewing their contracts, much to the dismay of Cornette, Lane & Eaton.

After several more months of assorted nonsense, things finally hit the fan. The MX were booked to lose four times at one TV taping, which would have been slightly less egregious if the previous night’s TV taping hadn’t featured just one Stan Lane singles loss & Bobby Eaton doing nothing. When Cornette complained to booker Ole Anderson about this and other issues, Ole suggested that Cornette could go home if he didn’t like it. Cornette thought that was a great idea and started packing up. Lane decided to go with Cornette, but they told Eaton to stay since he had a family to support.

Eaton remained with WCW until 1999 while Cornette opened Smoky Mountain Wrestling with Lane as part of his top heel tag team, the Heavenly Bodies. The Midnight Express would reunite in the mid-2000s and had a high-profile run in Southern indy promotions against the Rock ‘N’ Roll Express, the Fantastics & others.

2. CM Punk (WWE, 2014)

Punk had nearly left WWE a couple of years earlier until one thing led to another and he became one of the company’s biggest stars. Punk worked hard during his time near the top, and it took a physical & mental toll on him. He grew disillusioned with his spot in WWE, and wasn’t happy with what was planned for him heading towards WrestleMania XXX. A match with Triple H, who he’d been clashing with backstage over the past few years, wasn’t something Punk saw as a huge opportunity.

The day after the 2014 Royal Rumble, Punk decided to go home, and told Vince McMahon he wasn’t coming back. He wouldn’t be seen again on WWE-affiliated television until he became a punidt on FS1’s WWE Backstage show in 2019. Punk eventually returned to in-ring competition in late 2021 and is currently AEW Champion. Years afterward, WWE audiences would chant “CM Punk” when there was something going on that they didn’t want to see.

The best thing to come of all this was Daniel Bryan getting bumped up the card & getting his WrestleMania moment.

1. Stone Cold Steve Austin (WWE, 2002)

Austin’s dissatisfaction with WWE’s creative team had been building throughout early 2002. He wasn’t getting to do the type of stuff he had done in the late 90s & wasn’t getting big feuds to sink his teeth into. Add in the physical pain he was in due to a bad neck, along with bad knees & bad other parts of his body, and even the personal issues he was having at the time, and you see the traditional recipe for change occurring.

Austin’s displeasure had become public knowledge, as he’d done an interview on the WWF’s Byte This! Internet radio show where he talked about how he felt the creative had been “piss poor” for quite some time. Most fans were inclined to agree with Austin, as it was no secret that interest in the WWF product had died down a bit through & after the Invasion angle that received a torrent of criticism. Austin’s character was pretty cold after returning to the babyface side of things, having been relegated to wrestling in #1 contender matches and feuding with yet another authority figure. Austin’s frustration had previously led to his no-showing the 2002 Draft Lottery,

The straw that broke the camel’s back was a booking for Raw where Austin would put over a young Brock Lesnar. It wasn’t so much the idea of losing to Brock that bothered Austin as it was the idea of doing it on a random Raw episode with zero buildup. Austin vs. Lesnar could have been a big deal, like Lesnar’s first match with The Rock at that year’s SummerSlam was. Austin had had enough, and didn’t show up to that Raw episode in Atlanta. WWE responded by burying Austin on their Confidential show & having the Rock cut a promo on him the week after.

Austin would return in early 2003 and still remains one of the company’s most beloved figures here in 2022. In retrospect, the walkout was the beginning of the end for Austin’s in-ring career, and was a sign that it was time for him to move on to other things.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully you won’t walk out on me and will instead hit me up on social media! You can also chime in down in the comment section with some of your favorite wrestlers walking out stories or anything else on you mind.

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WWE, Steve Cook