The life of a pro wrestler can be hard. It comes with constant travel, constant physical punishment, and a litany of temptations. Many former wrestling superstars have fallen into a world of steroids, painkillers, alcohol, and/or recreational drugs. Some have thankfully recovered and are enjoying retirement. Some still battle with their issues to this day. Others, sadly, became victims of their vices and have already passed away. In no particular order, here are 17 pro wrestlers who have their lives unravel.
17. Matt Hardy
At one point, Matt Hardy was part of the hottest tag team in the business with his brother Jeff. Their high-flying style was a hit with fans and they both seem destined for greater things. Unfortunately, Matt developed an addiction to painkillers. When his girlfriend, Amy Dumas (aka WWE Diva Lita), left him for his real-life friend Edge (Adam Copeland), Matt took a turn for the worse. Multiple arrests and a trip to rehab later, Matt seems to have his life back together for now. A successful stint in TNA (now Impact Wrestling) led to a return to the WWE in 2017.
Chyna (real name Joan Laurer) was a wrestling character like no other. Instead of the standard model-esque female manager that wrestling had previously known, Chyna was a mean, muscular giant of a woman. She was a perfect heel character, and was a big part of the success of the original D-Generation X faction. After she left the WWE in 2001, she wandered around the independent wrestling circuit for a while before eventually releasing her first adult movie, 1 Night In Chyna. She would go on to appear in five more adult films and had her battle with substance abuse popularized on the reality show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. Sadly, she passed away in 2016.
15. The Ultimate Warrior
James Hellwig, better known as his gimmick The Ultimate Warrior, defined pro wrestling in the 80s. He was a concentrated ball of energy, and fans loved his wild hair, amazing physique, and mysterious promos. He partnered with — and then feuded against — the iconic Hulk Hogan. Post-wrestling career though, the Warrior kind of went crazy. He legally changed his name to ‘Warrior’. He posted weird rants on the internet and somehow became a right wing motivational speaker, coming under fire for some anti-gay comments he made in 1999. He also became estranged from the WWE itself, filing multiple lawsuits against the company. Somehow, fences were mended and he was welcomed back to the WWE to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014. He appeared on Raw shortly after Wrestlemania XXX for the first time in almost 18 years. He died the next day of a massive heart attack.
14. Mr. Perfect
Mr. Perfect is probably the greatest Intercontinental champion in the history of the WWE. He was also known as being a tremendous technical wrestler and an incredible athlete. Hulk Hogan once said that “you couldn’t out-work him, you couldn’t outshine him and you couldn’t out-perform him. He was the best of the best.”
He also had a bad habit of drinking too much, including an infamous tussle with Brock Lesnar on a plane, which lead to his release from the company in 2002. He signed with TNA shortly after, but was was found dead in early 2003 from a cocaine overdose.
13. Rey Mysterio
Probably the most well-known crusierweight in the pro wrestling world, Rey Mysterio won a litany of titles during his time in WCW and WWE, including the World Heavyweight Title three separate times. He also won the 2006 Royal Rumble. However, he was suspended by the WWE in 2009 and 2012 for violating their policy on steroid use. He left the WWE in early 2015 when his contract expired and returned to AAA, a famous lucha libre organization in Mexico. In just his second match there, an errant Mysterio dropkick accidently killed fellow wrestler El Hijo del Perro Aguayo. It was announced he would be investigated for manslaughter, but so far, no charges have been filed.
12. Bam Bam Bigelow
Best known for his huge stature and the flaming tattoos that adorned his skull, Bam Bam Bigelow lived up to his ‘Beast From the East’ moniker. He actually headlined Wrestlemania XI against legendary NFL star Lawrence Taylor. His post-wrestling life, however, would not be as memorable. He was charged with with endangering the welfare of a child through reckless driving in 2004. He crashed his motorcycle in 2005, almost killing his girlfriend, Janis Remiesiewicz, who was riding on the back. In 2007, Bigelow died of an overdose of cocaine and anti-anxiety medicine.
11. Shawn Michaels
The Heartbreak Kid was one of the greatest talents the world of professional wrestling has ever scene. For a large part of his life, he was also an insufferable egomaniac that ruined almost every relationship he had. A constant battle with drugs and alcohol fuelled his rock star lifestyle, and cost him many friends. It almost cost him his job a few times as well. In the end, Michaels found religion and a new wife — former WCW Nitro Girl Whisper (real name Rebecca Curci) — and it probably saved his life. He has returned to WWE programming from time to time and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.
Sunny was the original WWE Diva. She pushed the boundaries of sex appeal during the 90’s attitude era and was once the most downloaded celebrity on AOL. However, her post-WWE life has been a mess. Her relationship with boyfriend Chris Candido was reportedly filled with drug abuse. At one point in 2012, she was arrested five times in the span of just four weeks. She ended up serving 114 days in jail. When she was released, she tried to make money by offering private nude Skype sessions to fans. In 2015, she reportedly agreed to perform in adult films for Vivid Entertainment.
Test was an important mid-card wrestler during the late 90s and early 00s. He had runs as the Intercontinental and European champion, and even a story line where he almost married Stephanie McMahon, the boss’s daughter. Things just got worse from there. Test (real name Andrew Martin) was suspended by the WWE for violating their Wellness Program. He was released outright shortly afterwards. A brief stint in TNA followed, before he was found dead in his Florida home in 2009. His death was ruled an accidental overdose of painkillers. He was only 33-years old.
8. Jeff Hardy
When the Hardy Boyz first hit the scene as a tag team, a lot of fans compared Jeff to another high flying kid who started in a tag team — Shawn Michaels, who made a name for himself as one-half of The Rockers. Like Michaels, Jeff had a difficult time dealing with fame and fortune. He eventually turned to drugs and jumped from job to job for a while. In 2009, he was arrested after police found hundreds of prescription pills and steroids in his house. He served 10 days in jail and was fined $100,000. Jeff got his life back on track and returned to relevance as Brother Nero, part of the Hardy’s “Broken Universe” in Impact Wrestling. He returned to WWE programming in 2017 and re-gained the Tag Team Championships with his brother Matt at WrestleMania 33.
7. Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan may have been billed as the invincible All-American superstar in the ring, but outside of it he had many problems. He was investigated for steroid use early in his career. Despite earning millions of dollars, he often spent recklessly. A 2007 divorce from his wife Linda, who he had been married to for 24-years, left him almost completely broke. Shortly after, his 17-year old son went to prison for severely injuring a friend in a car crash after drinking.
Hogan would bounce back though. A stint hosting a revamped American Gladiators, writing a new book, and a return to both TNA Wrestling and the WWE had Hogan living the good life again. Until that tape leaked and massive lawsuit against Gawker media followed. The Hulkster won the lawsuit, but lost his job with the WWE in the process, as racist audio of Hogan saying some awful things leaked out during the trial.
6. Lex Luger
Lex Luger had excellent runs in both the WWE and WCW before the companies merged. After that, he found himself unemployed and his life began to spiral down. In 2003 he was arrested for domestic violence after he beat up his girlfriend Elizabeth Hulette (better known to wrestling fans as Miss Elizabeth). A few weeks later, Hulette died of an overdose in Luger’s house. He served some jail time for drug charges and probation violations.
In 2007, Luger suffered a nerve impingement in his neck that led to temporary paralysis. He has since found religion and seems to be doing better, both mentally and physically.
Also known as the 123-Kid, Syxx-Pac, or by his real name, Sean Waltman, he has had his shares of pitfalls. Like many others on this list, he has struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. A home sex-tape of him and Chyna (mentioned earlier) leaked and was part of that relationship dissolving. He attempted suicide in 2008 after punching his then-girlfriend Alicia Webb. After a four-month trip to rehab, paid for by his friends and the WWE, Waltman seems to be back on track, and even appeared on WWE television a few times in 2014 and 2015. A 2017 arrest on drug charges was later found out to be a misunderstanding, as the “drugs” in question were nothing more than pills for a yeast infection.
Jim Harris, better known as Kamala, was a popular mid-card wrestler in the 80’s. He was always a big guy, but it was part of his gimmick. He would often slap his belly, playing up his role as a “wild savage” from the jungle. His weight would catch up to him. In 2011, his left leg was amputated below the knee due to complications of high blood pressure and diabetes. His right leg was also amputated in 2012, and a GoFundMe campaign launched to help pay for his medical bills.
3. Scott Hall
Scott Hall was one of the most successful wrestlers on this list, having a great run in the WWE as Razor Ramon and then being a founding member of the n.W.o revolution in WCW. His drug problems would become legendary, in a bad way. His trips to rehab for cocaine and alcohol abuse have been like a revolving door of ins and outs. An ESPN E:60 documentary shed light on his problems, including being forced to work while clearly intoxicated. He appeared to have worked his way into a better place in 2014, and was included in the WWE’s 2014 Hall of Fame class. However, some reports seem to indicate he may have relapsed a time or two. Luckily, Diamond Dallas Page is keeping him on track with his DDP Yoga program.
2. Chris Benoit
You have certainly heard this tragic story before. Benoit had runs as champion of both WCW and WWE and was considered one of the greatest technical wrestlers of all-time. But a career filled with steroids and concussions turned his brain into mush. In the most tragic and horrific ending of any wrestler on this list, Benoit murdered his wife and son before committing suicide in 2007. The WWE quickly distanced itself from Benoit, removing all mention of him from their website and pulling any merchandise of his. The company did make the difficult decision to include footage of his matches when they launched the WWE Network, a monthly paid service offering programming from both the past and present.
1. Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts
If you’ve seen the popular wrestling documentary Beyond The Mat, you already know most of Roberts’ story. Decades of battling with a drug and alcohol addiction left Roberts broke, despite being one of the biggest stars in the WWE during the 80’s and early 90’s. He has been in and out of rehab more times than most people can count and has continued to wrestle for independent promotions well into his 50’s.
After intervention from Diamond Dallas Page, Roberts appears to have his life back on track. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and announced he had beat muscular cancer in 2014. Here’s hoping he can stay healthy and happy.