The Guns N' Roses Vs. Vince Neil Feud Timeline Explained

Axl Rose, Guns N' Roses' mercurial lead singer, was itching for a fight and didn't care who knew it. "I tell ya, he's gonna get a good ass-whippin' and I'm the boy to give it to him," Rose told the British music journalist Mick Wall in 1990, per "Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About the Meaning of Life." The "he" to whom Rose was referring was Vince Neil, the brash lead vocalist for Mötley Crüe, who had been bragging in Kerrang! — the magazine Wall worked for — about punching out Izzy Stradlin, GN'Rs rhythm guitarist.

Rose raged on, standing in the living room of his West Hollywood home in a wrinkled T-shirt and jeans, while Wall took it all down. "But that's the gauntlet, and I'm throwing it down," Rose continued. "Hey, Vince, whichever way you wanna go, man: guns, knives, or fists, whatever you wanna do, I don't care." The beef began one drunken night at the Cathouse, one of a handful of Sunset Strip clubs at the center of the LA metal scene in the 1980s and early 1990s. And like Wall's interview with Rose, the inciting incident would later be clouded in controversy, with the people involved telling two very different versions of the story.

The Sunset Strip 

Several months earlier, Izzy Stradlin was at the Cathouse at the same time as Vince Neil's then-wife, Sharise Neil, a mud-wrestler and model, while her husband was on a white-water rafting trip. In her version of the story (per Louder), a drunken Stradlin was hitting on her, and when she told him to leave her alone, "He grabbed my shirt and pulled it down. I slapped him across the face, and he karate kicked me as hard as he could in the stomach." In Stradlin's version of the night's events, he blew Charise off when she tried to flirt with him.

Vince Neil took his revenge on Stradlin at the MTV Video Music Awards, held at Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles on September 6, 1989, with Arsenio Hall hosting. What no one — presumably besides Neil — knew was that he planned to confront the GN' R guitarist backstage about the alleged incident with his wife at the Cathouse.

An MTV Awards sucker punch 

That night, Mötley Crüe presented Guns N' Roses with the award for best heavy metal video for their song "Sweet Child O' Mine" from their seminal album "Appetite for Destruction." Bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Steven Adler accepted the award. They all seemed chummy on stage. But while Izzy Stradlin and Axl Rose performed "Free Falling" with Tom Petty, followed by Elvis' "Heartbreak Hotel" to close out the show, Vince Neil waited in the wings.

"When Izzy walked offstage, looking like a cross between Eric Stoltz in Mask and Neil Young, I was waiting for him," Neil recounted in Mötley Crüe's 2001 memoir, "The Dirt," per Ultimate Classic Rock. The two had words, and Neil punched Stradlin in the face. "He fell to the ground like a tipped cow," Neil remembered. Stradlin had a split lip, but not much else to show from the confrontation. One of Tom Petty's sound guys, Jim Lenahan, punched Neil in the face, and GN'R's manager at the time, Alan Niven, brought Neil to the ground before letting him go. Axl went ballistic and hunted down Mötley Crüe as the band was leaving the venue. According to Neil in "The Dirt," the GN'R vocalist "came snarling after us like an overdressed Doberman," threatening to kill them. "I twirled around. His face was sweaty and twisted." Neil was ready to fight, but Rose backed down and told him not to mess with his band members.

Axl throws a journalist under the bus 

After Axl Rose's angry ranting to Mick Wall, the journalist called him back up to make sure the singer was okay with the quotes he'd given. He said he was, and the story, which prominently featured Rose's threats to Vince Neil, appeared in the pages of Kerrang! Rose immediately denied making the statements. "When I learned that he was now all but accusing me of making up the story, I felt shattered," Wall recounted in his book, "W.A.R.: The Unauthorized Biography of William Axl Rose."

But Rose's denials didn't end the feud. Neil went on MTV and invited Rose to fight him on live television, which Rose declined. Rose sent word for Neil to meet him in the parking lot of Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard and later at the Venice boardwalk. Rose never showed up. Instead, he "chickened out about a half-dozen times," Neil recounted, per "Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me." With that, their beef quietly died out.