When Success Becomes Revenge: 12 Epic Examples from Iconic Figures

In a world where adversity and setbacks can often fuel the fire within, some rise above the challenges, using their success as the ultimate form of revenge. Let's dive into the inspiring journeys of 12 remarkable individuals from diverse backgrounds who turned their setbacks into stepping stones. Whether they overcame personal tragedies, societal barriers, or professional hurdles, their triumphs remind us you never know what's around the corner of rejection or failure.

1. The Beatles Were Told Musical Groups of Guitars Were “On The Way Out”

The Beatles 1967
Image Credit: Various.

There is a popular anecdote suggesting that an executive from Decca Records famously told The Beatles in 1962 that “groups of guitars are on the way out” and that guitar bands were no longer in vogue.

The rejection by Decca Records, which declined to sign The Beatles, is often cited as a significant missed opportunity by the label. However, this setback did not hinder The Beatles' rise to fame. They signed with another label, EMI's Parlophone Records, and became one of the most successful and influential bands in music history, defying the notion that guitar-based bands were fading in popularity.

2. Blockbuster Laughed Netflix Out of The Room And Ended Up Getting Shut Down by Them

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Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph recalls a poetic moment in his book about the humble beginnings of Netflix. In a particularly poetic moment, Randolph flew out to a meeting with Blockbuster to pitch a business proposal where Blockbuster could purchase Netflix for $50 million to help accelerate the company's venture into DVDs. He recalls the CEO of Blockbuster barely being able to contain his laughter.

With Netflix's visionary business plan of online streaming, Blockbuster went bankrupt. Today, there is only one left in the world.

3. Ford V Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari Matt Damon Christian Bale Jon Bernthal
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

In the 1960s, Ford's attempt to acquire Ferrari was met with rejection as Ferrari chose to be purchased by Fiat instead. This fueled Ford's determination to outperform Ferrari in the racing world. Ford developed a brand-new supercar and went on to achieve victory over Ferrari at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans race from 1966 to 1969.

This marked a significant turning point as Ferrari has not been able to win against any other car manufacturer since then. Adding to their triumph, Ford made a remarkable comeback after a 50-year hiatus from competing and emerged victorious once again in later years.

4. Shark Tank Investors Rejected Ring Cameras

Shark Tank Season 10 Episode 1
Image Credit: ABC/CNBC.

The inventor of Ring cameras, Jamie Siminoff, defied the odds after facing rejection on the popular TV show Shark Tank. Despite his groundbreaking invention and unwavering belief in its potential, Siminoff's pitch failed to impress the “Sharks,” who opted not to invest. Undeterred, he persisted in his vision and continued to refine his product.

Ring cameras, a home security system that revolutionized the industry, eventually found its way into the hands of millions of customers worldwide. In a remarkable turn of events, the company gained immense success and caught the attention of tech giant Amazon, which acquired Ring for a staggering $1 billion. It's now one of the most popular home security camera systems, and Siminoff has since returned to the show as a guest Shark.

5. Brendan Fraser Wins Best Actor Oscar After Over Decade-Long Blacklisting From Hollywood

The Whale Brendan Fraser
Image Credit: A24.

Fraser had a decade-long Hollywood blacklist resulting from his brave decision to speak out about his alleged experience with sexual assault at the hands of a former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Because of this, he found himself shut out of Hollywood. His health also took a toll. He lost his mother and suffered a terrible divorce.

However, he never stopped speaking out and continued his passion for acting. In 2023, his extraordinary talent and dedication were finally rewarded when he won the Best Actor Oscar for The Whale, cementing his triumphant return to the spotlight.

6. Michael J. Fox Sends His Revenge in The Form of Several Lunch Boxes to NBC President Brandon Tartikoff

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Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

During the casting of Family Ties in the 80s, Michael J. Fox had his eyes set on the lead role. The only problem was he lost the role to Ferris Bueller's Day Off star Matthew Broderick. When Broderick had to back out of the project, NBC President Brandon Tarkitoff knew one thing for sure – he did not want Fox to play the role of Alex P. Keaton.

A Fox fan explains that Tartikoff said, “He was too short, not cute, not heartthrob enough. You're never going to see his face on a lunch box.” However, he was cast due to the other producers' belief in him, and the show received critical acclaim and high ratings. Following his success on the show and simultaneous filming of Back to the Future, Fox cheekily sent Tartikoff a lunchbox with his face on it.

7. Jennifer Hudson Usurping The Success of American Idol Winner Fantasia Barrino

JLo with American Idol judges
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Despite finishing in 7th place on American Idol, Jennifer Hudson undoubtedly has become one of the most successful, famous singers to ever hail from the show. Shortly after her loss, she began a long string of film and television performances earning her not only worldwide recognition for her incredible vocals but also critical acclaim in the form of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards that make her one of only 17 EGOT recipients. The Idol winner that season was Fantasia Barrino, whose fame sharply declined. Today, she has little name recognition.

8. David Tepper Buys and Demolishes Former Goldman Sachs Boss' House

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Okay, this guy invented ‘petty.' American banker David Tepper got sick of being passed on for a partner at Goldman Sachs by the then-CEO Jon Corzine, so he decided to take matters into his own hands by being self-employed. Decades later, he's a billionaire who purchased his former boss' $43 million mansion from Corzine's ex-wife.

Once he acquired the property, he knocked it down to rebuild a much larger mansion, almost double the size. Ouch. Even the ex-wife participating in your enemy's revenge! Can't say this is a feel-good, ethically sound story, but it is amusing.

9. George Lucas Scored a Monumental Fortune in Star Wars Toy Rights Because People Doubted The Franchise Would Be Successful

Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

George Lucas was able to secure ownership of the toy rights to Star Wars because the toy companies did not foresee the success the franchise would achieve. When negotiating the initial deal for the original Star Wars film, many companies were hesitant to invest in merchandising rights. Consequently, Lucas negotiated to retain the rights to merchandise and toys associated with the Star Wars brand.

This turned out to be a monumental decision as Star Wars became a massive cultural phenomenon, exceeding all expectations. The toy line, in particular, was a massive success, generating substantial revenue and becoming an integral part of the franchise's popularity and longevity. By retaining the toy rights, George Lucas earned significant financial gains and maintained control over the merchandise and the creative vision of the Star Wars universe.

10. Singers Achieving World-Wide Fame and Success for Getting Their Heart Broken

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Taylor Swift, Adam Levine, and Post Malone have entered the chat. Can you imagine that one day you're living a normal life with your significant other, then something happens that causes you to split, and then suddenly your ex is catapulted into worldwide fame and success all off the back of songs they wrote about you? It's a little bizarre to think about.

There must be at least a few cases where the person who received all the fame and fortune was entirely in the wrong, yet they have their albums go #1 on Billboard and receive Grammys telling everyone what a terrible person their ex was. Yikes.

11. Adam Sandler Sings His Revenge in SNL Monologue Decades After Being Fired From The Show

Billy Madison Adam Sandler Darren McGavin Bridgette Wilson-Sampras
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

When Adam Sandler finally returned to the SNL stage more than 20 years after being fired, he sang an uproarious tongue-in-cheek song during his monologue to a crowd who cheered on his success story. Here, he got the last laugh as he told the story of how NBC let him go, and he went on to earn over $4 billion at the box office in a string of successful films in one of the biggest comedy careers in Hollywood from films like Big Daddy and 50 First Dates to Just Go With It and Billy Madison.

12. Sony Invents The Playstation to Spite Nintendo

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Did you know that the Nintendo 64 was initially supposed to be a collaboration between Nintendo and Sony? They had already announced their collaboration in combining Nintendo's gaming hardware with Sony's sound technology to make video games even more immersive with superior sound quality. However, during development and after Sony's announcement of their partnership, Nintendo abruptly pulled out of the deal.

One internet videogame historian claims this is particularly rude if you know anything about Japanese business etiquette. After pulling the plug on the deal with Sony, Nintendo opted to work with Philips to put Nintendo games on their CD-i console. As fate would have it, these Nintendo games received the worst reception. To make it even worse, Sony decided to develop the PlayStation out of spite, which became the best-selling console in gaming history, putting them on the map as a force to be reckoned with in the console industry today.

Source: Reddit.