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During the broadcast, the two tag team champion partners walked into WWE Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis’ office, “with their suitcases in hand, placed their tag team championship belts on his desk and walked out,” WWE said in an official statement.
“They claimed they weren't respected enough as tag team champions,” the statement reads. “And even though they had eight hours to rehearse and construct their match, they claimed they were uncomfortable in the ring with two of their opponents even though they'd had matches with those individuals in the past with no consequence.”
The two were supposed to match against one another with Becky Lynch, Asuka, Doudrop and Nikki A.S.H. It was supposed to be Monday’s main event with the winner earning a spot to square off against Raw Women's Champion Bianca Belair at Hell in a Cell on June 5. The two had asked for a change in the creative storyline of this match, but their request was denied.
As news broke about Monday’s walkout, the WWE community was abuzz. Bleacher Report noted that while the walkout “has historical precedent,” it felt “different, perhaps due to the speed with which WWE released a statement and the media attention the walkout has received.”
Keith Elliot Greenberg, wrestling author and historian, told USA Insider that walking out can be looked at from two perspectives.
“There’s the Bret Hart perspective and there’s the Tito Santana perspective,” Greenberg said. “Tito Santana was a good loyal act to WWE for a very long time. He enjoyed a lot of success but Tito Santana was known to accept whatever role he was given and if that role involved him losing and building interest in somebody else, he accepted that role. And at the end of his career, he was well regarded, he became a Hall of Famer and he lives a very happy life now.”
He went on to say that Bret Hart on the other hand “was very protective of his character.”
“Bret Hart would go into Vince McMahon’s office and argue about him about where certain storylines were going. Bret Hart refused to participate in certain storylines and as a result of all of that, as a result of the so-called agitation that was connected to him, Bret Hart is a legend, unlike few others. So who was right? Maybe they both were.”
On "Smackdown" Friday, it was announced that Banks and Naomi had been suspended indefinitely and stripped of their Women's Tag Team Championship titles. As the WWE community continues to grapple with the fallout from Banks’ and Naomi’s walkout, here’s a look back at some other dramatic Superstar exits.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin
The legendary “Stone Cold” Steve Austin walked off in 2002 after he was dissatisfied with his own planned storyline. He wasn’t pleased that the WWE’s creative team booked a King of the Ring qualifying match between him and Brock Lesnar in which he would lose. He expressed that he felt they’d created a storyline that lacked anticipation, according to Bleacher Report. At the time, Vince McMahon claimed that Austin "took his ball and went home." According to Sportster, Austin later expressed regret over the walkout which caused a rift between him and WWE.
“Austin was such a big star, it was obvious from the beginning that the two sides would work things out but ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin needed to make his point," Greenberg reflected. "There was a lot of blowback as a result of it but in the end, he stood his ground, came back and is a bigger legend than he ever was.”
“Before I was a super fan just thankful to be here, thankful for my hot dog, thank you for my pizza, thank you for my time, my TV time,” she told Austin. “But there comes a point where you can be thankful, grateful and blessed, but they have to know there’s a chapter after that and that’s where I’m at, on a whole different level. I’m done with the ‘I’m thankful,’ I’m done with the pizza, I don’t eat that anymore. I eat steak like Vince McMahon, with vegetables like him. Because I can be that and that’s where I’m at.”
When Alundra Blayze abruptly left WWE (then the WWF) in 1995, she went out with a bang. Appearing on the then-rival WCW’s Monday Nitro, she tossed her WWF Women’s Championship title into a trash can, effectively poisoning the well with WWE for the next two decades. The Superstar, a trailblazer among female wrestlers, later reflected that she got upset when she received a letter that she would soon be terminated.
“I was devastated because I thought I was doing my job,” she stated in 2016.
She said she was contacted by WCW, who suggested to her that she throw the title into the trash on live TV. She did so and then began working for WCW.
The bad blood between her and WWE didn’t last forever, thankfully. She was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2015, symbolically pulling her championship belt out of a trash can.
Goldberg and Brock Lesnar
Two years after Austin’s brief walk-out, WWE would lose two of its bigger stars. Goldberg and Brock Lesnar (who had only joined WWE two years earlier) were feuding leading up to their WrestleMania match in 2004, which was to be guest-refereed by none other than Austin himself.
But both were on their way out, having given their notices ahead of the match. Like Banks and Naomi, Goldberg was not thrilled with his storylines and character treatment. Lesnar had aspirations of playing NFL football. Their expected departures leaked, however, leading to some hostility toward them from the WrestleMania crowd. (Both received Stone Cold Stunners as parting gifts.)
Macho Man Randy Savage
Macho Man Randy Savage dramatically walked out on WWE, then the WWF, on live television in 1994, leaving Vince McMahon visibly distraught.
"I'd like to announce that unfortunately, Randy Savage has been unable to sign a contract with the World Wrestling Federation or rather comes to terms with a contract with the World Wrestling Federation for a new contract but Randy, I know you're out there listening and on behalf of all of us at the World Wrestling Foundation, all of your fans and certainly me, your number one fan, thank you for all of your positive contributions."
He then went on to wish him “the best.”
In 2020, former WCW exec Eric Bischoff said on his 83 Weeks podcast that Savage exited WWE to prove he could still make it. He said that McMahon wanted him to focus solely on match commentary, but Savage still wanted to perform in the ring; he didn’t like being considered old. He then went to WCW to continue fighting until 1999.
“For anybody who really knew Randy Savage, that lit a fire under him like none other, and all he wanted to do when he got to WCW was contribute and work. He was so not concerned with politics, or creative, he just wanted to bust his balls and prove a point, not just to me or to WCW or to Turner, but I think he wanted to prove a point to Vince McMahon,” Bischoff said.
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