Wrestlers Who Had Beef With Stephanie McMahon

As the daughter of former WWE CEO Vince McMahon and his wife Linda McMahon, Stephanie McMahon has had a ringside seat for professional wrestling's most explosive moments since she was a kid — she was still a middle schooler when she was enlisted to model WWE T-shirts in the merch catalog. Starting her WWE career as an account executive, McMahon quickly rose through the ranks and eventually became chief brand officer in 2013.

Meanwhile, she's also emerged as an on-camera personality, competing in wrestling matches while also becoming deeply involved in the soap opera-esque storylines that keep fans glued to their televisions week after week. Given her dual role straddling the boundary of running a real-life business while playing a character in the company's make-believe shenanigans, it's understandable that the nature of her numerous feuds within the WWE universe can be a bit confusing, often bleeding into that grey area that separates fact and fiction in pro wrestling. 

Sure, she's been involved with some vicious altercations with numerous wrestlers over the years, but there have also been occasions when scripted storylines reflected actual behind-the-scenes events. So what's real and what's — to use wrestling parlance — kayfabe? Read on for a rundown of some wrestlers who had beef with Stephanie McMahon.

Rob Van Dam was uncomfortable acting out a relationship with Stephanie McMahon

When Rob Van Dam entered the WWE, he certainly realized that wrestling was just one aspect of his job description. In addition to performing body slams and suplexes in the ring, he was also expected to participate in scripted feuds and conflicts intended to generate "heat" that would add drama to the actual wrestling matches. However, when he learned about a storyline in which he'd be romantically involved with Stephanie McMahon, he quickly had second thoughts. 

"I saw where the story was going and I was uncomfortable with it, because my evil ex, the most insecure woman ever, that would make my life hell at home," Van Dam explained while appearing on his "1 of a Kind with RVD" podcast. He shared his concerns with McMahon, who advised him to look at the situation as if they were both actors portraying characters. 

Speaking on his podcast, Van Dam admitted that pretending to romance the daughter of the guy who paid his salary wasn't necessarily the most comfortable situation for him. "I felt kinda dirty around her in a way that, like, I don't wanna hold a baby, you know? In a sense, I wanna wash my hands first, whatever, because I'm probably dirty or whatever," he recalled. That said, he insisted he got along well with McMahon, despite all their onscreen drama. "She was always cool," he added.

A backstage incident with Stephanie McMahon was mirrored in a WWE storyline

In 2013, a backstage incident involving Stephanie McMahon and Diva (as the female superstars were then known) wrestler Kaitlyn reportedly spilled over from real life into the fictional pro-wrestling realm. According to EWrestlingNews, the Wrestling Observer claimed that a scripted segment witnessed by viewers of "Raw" — in which Kaitlyn (whose real name is Celeste Bonin) interrupted McMahon, who angrily berated her and told her to never do it again — was based on an actual behind-the-scenes incident. According to the outlet, Kaitlyn had butted in while McMahon was engaged in a conversation with someone else, irking McMahon. As EWrestlingNews outlet pointed out, it wasn't long after that encounter that Kaitlyn lost the WWE Divas title. 

"To be so honest, it was all very confusing," Katilyn recalled during an interview with "Muscle Memory" with MuscleManMalcolm. "It was a little weird."

Ultimately, Kaitlyn's WWE career came to an end soon after. When she exited in 2014, she explained while appearing on "The Sessions with Renee Paquette," she was at a frighteningly low ebb. "I left wrestling because I thought I was gonna get fired," she said, as reported by Wrestling Inc. "I felt less and less relevant, I had so much shame. I gained all this weight and my body was giving me every signal that I was just not okay, emotionally, mentally, I just had so much hatred for myself."

Gail Kim called out Stephanie McMahon for not supporting female wrestlers

Wrestler Gail Kim spent two separate stints with WWE from 2002 until 2004 and 2008 through to 2011. Looking back on her years with the WWE while appearing on the "Cafe de Rene with Rene Dupree" podcast, Kim shared her view that while Stephanie McMahon never mistreated female wrestlers, neither did she enact any efforts to increase their salaries to the levels of their male counterparts, given that female wrestlers have traditionally encountered the same wage gap that female actors have experienced.

"Listen, Stephanie was nice, Stephanie was professional with us backstage, but in no way did I ever feel like she was fighting for us," divulged Kim. "I didn't feel like anybody was fighting for us to be honest." She also revealed that many female wrestlers at WWE were hesitant to address the issue and upset the status quo for fear that they might lose their WWE jobs. 

Besides, she added, even if McMahon had taken a stand on behalf of the Divas, it's more than likely that she would have encountered huge resistance at the top — from her father and WWE boss Vince McMahon. Kim said she assumed "it was a losing battle because Vince never liked women's wrestling. You know, that's what you chalk it up to."

Stephanie McMahon once wanted Chris Jericho fined and suspended

As WWE fans witness musclebound hulks furiously raging at each other on camera, it's not always clear how much of the animosity between wrestlers is real and how much has been ginned up for the cameras. That was certainly true of the rivalry that erupted between Chris Jericho and Stephanie McMahon back in the 2000s.

Things took an unexpected turn during a 2009 match with John Cena when Jericho pushed his "heel" role to the limit by taunting the audience so intensely that someone in the crowd threw a glowstick at him, smacking him in the eye. Suddenly, glowsticks began flying throughout the venue. When he exited the ring and went backstage, WWE management was furious with him for getting the crowd so amped up that it became hazardous. According to Jericho, Stephanie McMahon was particularly angered. 

As he recalled during an appearance on the "Busted Open Podcast," when he went backstage he was told that she wanted him fined and suspended. Jericho declared, "Well, Stephanie's not my boss, I don't give a s*** what Stephanie wants — you can tell her that." To make his point, Jericho left a voicemail for Vince McMahon, angrily telling him that his job is to generate heat in the ring — and now he was in trouble for doing his job too well? It all worked out, according to Jericho, as McMahon texted him back, "Calm down, junior," with a smiley-face emoji.

Chyna blamed Stephanie McMahon for wrecking her romance with Triple H

Wrestlers Chyna (real name: Joanie Laurer) and Triple H (Paul Levesque) were once an item and reportedly dated from 1996 until 2000. Their relationship ended abruptly and bitterly when she learned that he was having an affair with Stephanie McMahon, who would later become his wife.

Anthony Anzaldo, Chyna's former manager, told Wrestling Inc. that Chyna found a love letter McMahon had written Levesque and angrily confronted him. "When they had that encounter, let's just say it was loud, and there was issues," he recalled, explaining that Chyna immediately exited the home they were sharing, not even bothering to take any of her stuff. "She leaves, and the next day, she gets fired not over contract negotiations, nothing." That led Chyna to corner Stephanie McMahon in her father's office for an understandably tense meeting. "Didn't get physical but it was ugly," Anzaldo recalled. 

Wrestling announcer Jim Ross, however, shared a different recollection of Chyna's WWE exit. As he told B/R Magazine, despite all the drama, Vince McMahon still wanted to keep her in the fold, firmly believing that her beef with his daughter would subside. Ross claimed that WWE offered Chyna $400,000 to renew her contract; however, she demanded $1 million, and wouldn't budge. "It was an outrageous demand that wasn't even realistic," said Ross. Tragically, Chyna died in 2016 at the age of 45.

Randy 'Macho Man' Savage's WWE exit was rumored to be because of Stephanie McMahon

In the annals of wrestling lore, one longstanding rumor has it that Randy "Macho Man" Savage's 1994 exit from WWE had to do with an inappropriate romance with Stephanie McMahon when she was 17. According to former pro wrestler Dutch Mantell, the veracity of the rumor was beside the point. "It wasn't a rumor ... it was more or less accepted as fact," he said on his "Story Time with Dutch Mantell" podcast, explaining that even if it wasn't true, enough people believed it that it may as well have been. 

The way Mantell recalled the situation, Savage — who tragically died in 2011 at age 58 — had been warned to stay away from McMahon — likely not by her father, WWE CEO Vince McMahon, but by someone else within the organization. "She may have said something like she likes [Savage] and it got back to Vince," Mantell said, theorizing about how it may have started. "But I think Randy did cross the line ... and he may have dallied a little bit with Stephanie ... it was commonly accepted backstage."

However, Savage's ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Bellars (known to WCW fans as Gorgeous George), claimed that Savage had accidentally confirmed it was true while he was high. "Oh, he told me," Bellars said in a phone call to "The Hannibal TV" podcast. "I think he didn't mean to tell me that."

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Bret Hart slammed Stephanie McMahon for her lack of wrestling background

In his heyday, Bret "Hitman" Hart was one of WWE's biggest stars. Looking at the state of pro wrestling these days, Hart has demonstrated that he's not a fan of the direction WWE was going thanks to Stephanie McMahon and her husband, Triple H. "I believe Vince [McMahon] is pretty smart, I think he's handing over the reins more and more to Triple H and Stephanie, who has little or no wrestling background either," he said in a December 2023 interview with SGWA Wrestling Shoots. "The two of them are starting to show they don't know what they're doing, in my opinion."

Hart had expressed similar views when he spoke with Forbes in 2016, lambasting Stephanie McMahon for possessing little frontline knowledge of the company she's leading. "What does Stephanie McMahon know about pro wrestling? I don't know," he said, insisting she never went on the road with him and his fellow wrestlers when they went from town to town. "I don't think that she fully understands pro wrestling the way Shane does," he added, sharing his belief that her brother, Shane McMahon, actually has a better grasp on the industry than Stephanie did.

CM Punk called Stephanie McMahon 'idiotic' before his WWE exit

When it came to generating heat with outrageous behavior and on-camera insults, CM Punk was one of the greats. He made that crystal clear in 2011, when he sat cross-legged at the side of the ring, delivering a scorched-earth diatribe on the occasion of his WWE contract expiring. In what's now known as his infamous "pipe bomb" speech, he lambasted the WWE — saving an extra heaping of vitriol for Stephanie McMahon. "And I'd like to think that this company will be better after Vince McMahon's dead," he declared, "but the fact is, it's gonna get taken over by his idiotic daughter and his doofus son-in-law, and the rest of his stupid family."

During an appearance on the "SPORT1 Wrestling" podcast, the wrestler revealed that as nasty as it all was, he'd more or less had approval from the top to say what he did. In fact, he revealed that the rough details of his speech had been approved by Vince McMahon — and while he hadn't made McMahon privy to everything he was going to say, the insults aimed at Stephanie had actually come at her dad's request. "I wrote up a mock draft of it and he said, 'Yeah, this is great.' He asked me to add something making fun of Stephanie," he said, as reported by Inside Ropes. "I was like, 'Okay.' I went out there and I did it and it was good so it doesn't matter."

AJ Lee called out Stephanie McMahon for her low wages

Gail Kim wasn't the only female wrestler to call out Stephanie McMahon for a perceived lack of support for female wrestlers in the salary department. It began when actor Patricia Arquette — a member of the famed Arquette family — made an impassioned speech upon winning an Oscar at the 2015 Academy Awards. "It's our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women of the United States of America!" she said. That caught the eye of McMahon, who tweeted Arquette's comments, thanking her for using her platform to promote the issue of salary parity between men and women.

McMahon's tweet, however, fell flat with former WWE Diva AJ Lee (who, by the way, is married to the aforementioned CM Punk). The wrestler — who now goes by her real moniker, AJ Mendez, on social media — fired back at her former boss. "Your female wrestlers have record-selling merchandise & have starred in the highest-rated segment of the show several times," she replied. "And yet they receive a fraction of the wages & screen time of the majority of the male roster," she added. McMahon saw those comments but didn't appear to be impacted by them. Instead of being chastened, McMahon thanked Mendez and issued a diplomatic response. "I appreciate your opinion," she tweeted, adding the hashtag #UseYourVoice.

Dave Bautista dissed her lame finishing move

These days, Dave Bautista is a successful actor who's appeared in the "Guardians of the Galaxies" movies in addition to "Army of the Dead," the 007 flick "Spectre," and numerous others. Back in 2014, though, he was known as WWE star Batista when he became embroiled in a feud with Stephanie McMahon. During an argument in the ring, he delivered a remark that displeased her so much that she hauled off and slapped him across his face. Batista, pro that he is, sold the slap convincingly by making it appear he was struck with enough force to send his sunglasses flying. Over time, McMahon came to rely on slapping opponents in her on-camera exploits, to the point that it became her signature move.

A couple of years later, McMahon referenced that in a tweet. "It's arguable that 'the slap' is my character's finishing maneuver," she wrote, accompanying a video of herself slapping WWE star Roman Reigns. "Who do you think was hit the worst?" Bautista responded by throwing a little shade her way when he tweeted, "Plus it helps to get guys over! And it builds a great angle for when you get your receipt. It looks good. I tried."

Scott Steiner publicly bashed Stephanie McMahon

As half of a tag team alongside his brother Rick Steiner, Scott Steiner wrestled for many organizations over the years, including the WWE. During his time with the latter, however, he's made it clear that his experience with Stephanie McMahon was not a positive one. 

That's the takeaway from an interview he gave to Nick's Strength and Power. When his interviewer brought up the WWE, Steiner's response was as blunt as it gets. "F*** the WWE," said Steiner. "Just who's in charge and who runs it, you know. There ain't two bigger douchebags than Triple H and Stephanie." 

During the interview, he also discussed the statues of famous wrestlers that had been commissioned for the WWE Hall of Fame, which allowed Steiner to reference the salacious rumor about underage McMahon and Randy "Macho Man" Savage. "Have you seen that statue of The Macho Man?" Steiner asked. "That's never going to leave Stephanie's bedroom, so no, you ain't ever going to see that, no."