Pro Wrestling is a sport slash form of entertainment where it provides the highest of highs and the lowest of lows; it can be brutal, especially out of the ring. There’s been a rather unfortunate trend of beloved and notable wrestlers dying relatively early deaths due to the unfortunate circumstances associated with the business. Pro Wrestlers are on the road a lot, especially in larger promotions such as the WWE. There’s also many Indy promotions where veterans and up and comers struggle and grind to make their pro wrestling dreams come true. Boiled down, being a professional wrestler ain’t easy; it’s downright life threatening. There are a plethora of pro wrestlers who go out in front of an audience, performing with injuries, sustaining injuries, taking bumps, only to be treated when they get backstage and return home. There’s also known wrestlers who dealt with what can be a harsh lifestyle by battling their “demons” which can manifest in the form of heavy amounts of drugs and alcohol. These stars entertain fans all over the world. Here are 15 pro wrestlers who should be dead but aren’t despite injuries, accidents, drugs, alcoholism, and whatever else the highly rewarding yet highly punishing world of professional wrestling has to offer.
15. Scott Hall’s Alcoholism
Scott Hall is a man who is just as known for his drug abuse and alcoholism as he is for his incredible in-ring career. Hall is a member of the infamous Kliq consisting of Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Kevin Nash, and Sean Waltman. Hall, who was one of the biggest WWE stars in the early to mid-90s as Razor Ramon, left WWE to form the iconic NWO faction in WCW with his friend Kevin Nash (and later Hulk Hogan). The move changed the business and helped to ignite the late 90s wrestling boom aka The Monday Night Wars. It’s been thought that Hall’s battles with drugs and especially alcohol have held the legend back from achieving further greatness. There are numerous stories involving hall’s struggles, including the WWE reportedly spending as much as 1 million dollars on the 5-time IC Champ’s rehab. He’s totaled cars, been in fights, been suspended, and had battled his issues for “decades.” “I was drinking myself to death,” the WWE Hall of Famer explained in a foxsports.com reports. Scott Hall was helped and pretty saved by Diamond Dallas Page, the creator of DDP Yoga, and Jake “The Snake” Roberts, another legend saved by Page.
14. Hulk Hogan Almost Takes His Life
Hulk Hogan will forever be the biggest name in the history of the business. His name is synonymous with “Pro Wrestling.” He was essentially the catalyst of two of North American pro wrestling booms as Hulk Hogan in the 1980s with the WWE and as Hollywood Hulk Hogan with WCW in the late 1990s. The late 2000s was a trying time for the Hogan Knows Best slash wrestling icon. Hogan, dealing with family issues among other things (impending divorce, his son being in jail), had reached the apex of his hellish spiral; he thought about ending it all himself. The man known for preaching “eat your vitamins, say your prayers” sat in his empty mansion with a drink mixed with Xanax and rum and a gun. Hogan held a gun to his head ready to pull the trigger. Fortunately, Laila Ali, the daughter of the late Muhammad Ali, called right as he was apparently about to shoot himself.
“…We’re worried about you. You going to be okay?” said Laila as she talked to a suicidal Hogan.
Hogan credits Laila’s call with snapping him out of his depression and putting him on the right path.
13. Mick Foley’s Bumps And Bruises
He’s called “The Hardcore Legend” for a reason. Foley, aka Mankind, aka Cactus Jack, aka Dude Love shouldn’t be deceased because of drugs and alcohol, he should be up in Hardcore Heaven because of all the insane sh*t he’s done in the ring. The former WWE champion has gotten his ear sliced off, gotten multiple concussions, and sustained plenty of other injuries as well. His most notable occurrence happened at the 1998 King of the Ring in his legendary Hell in the Cell match against The Undertaker. Foley famously took two monster bumps; one where he was thrown off the top of the cell, crashing onto an announce table then only the floor, another where he was chokeslamed by the Undertaker through the top of the cell. Foley wasn’t supposed to go through the cell but it caved in anyway. When he collided with the mat he was knocked unconscious by a chair landing directly on him, his tooth emerging through his nose. Fortunately Foley’s most famous match ended as a triumph instead of a tragedy.
12. Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts’ “Demons”
Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts is about as legendary as a WWE superstar can get. He’s primarily known for his work as a heel and his cold, callous delivery on the mic. Unfortunately, Jake ‘The Snake’ like many other pro wrestlers, dealt with drug abuse issues. Roberts’ drug issues have been well documented stemming from documentaries such as Beyond the Mat and most recently the Jake The Snake Story. It can be said that Roberts’ issues with drug abuse are just as famous as he is. Apparently, Roberts’ drug infused blissfulness was so well known that no one could even tell whether or not he was sober; he knew how to hide it. Roberts’ has even made his drug-filled struggles a part of his on-air storylines when he came back to the WWE in 1996. Roberts, like Scott Hall, would eventually sake the guidance of Diamond Dallas Page’s DDP Yoga. Roberts made a miraculous comeback via the program and looks to have not looked back since.
11. Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler Having A Heart Attack On Air
Any WWE fan who regularly watches Monday Night Raw remembers when Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler had a heart attack on air. It was a sobering moment on WWE televisions; one that will never be forgotten. The multi-world champion was actually clinically deceased for 20 minutes before eventually being revived and being put on a ventilator while at the hospital. This was a shocking occurrence to many because Jerry wasn’t known for battling “demons” as much as his peers were known for throughout his career. Lawler wasn’t particularly known for partying hard, drinking obsessive amounts of booze, or smoking. This was a pretty damn scary moment in the annals of WWE history, which unfortunately isn’t a stranger to tragedy on the air. Fortunately Jerry was able to make a full and speedy recovery. He isn’t screaming about “puppies” on the WWE’s flagship shows anymore but he can be found on WWE Network on the Raw Pre-Show where he provides analysis.
10. Edge Almost Freezing To Death
The “Rated R” superstar is one of the most decorated pro wrestlers in WWE history. However, the 10 time world champion had to grind as hard as anyone when it came to achieving his dreams. Edge and Christian went through the indie circuit during winter in Canada in what was known as the “winter death tours.” Edge and Christian were driving late at night to Winnipeg with the future WWE legend helming the wheel. They had to drive over a frozen lake to get to their destination, and Edge, tired from being on the road for hours on end, almost drove into a hole that was the size of a football field. Thus, Edge, Christian, and a ring van following behind them were on a frozen lake in the middle of the night in below zero weather. They ended up going the longer way around and everything ended up being okay. Edge has gone on to mention that no fall off a ladder in front of thousands of people could equate to the fear that he felt during that “near fall.”
9. Sabu’s Violent Matches
This shouldn’t be a surprise considering Sabu’s notable ring style. Sabu’s hardcore matches garnered him the nickname of being “The Homicidal, Suicidal, Genocidal…Death Defying Maniac.” Go ahead and watch a highlight of Sabu’s time in ECW among other promotions and you’ll see why he’s on this list. The legendary wrestler sustained a large amount of injuries, some life threatening. He landed directly on his neck, breaking it during a match against the ill-fated Chris Benoit. The wrestler also broke his neck during a match against Taz. He’s also been sliced up due to barbed-wire matches. You name the object, Sabu’s probably been hit or gone through it in some form or fashion during his career— we’re talkin’ thumbtacks, nails, fire, tables, chairs, bats, kendo sticks, etc. The fact that this hardcore icon has been able to endure for so long in spite of these injuries is a testament to how tough he is.
8. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair’s Plane Crash
WOAH! That was a close one… The Stylin’ Profilin’ Limousine ridin’, Jet flyin’, Kiss-stealin’ Wheelin’ Dealin’ son of a gun almost died in a plane crash back in 1975. It was during this time that The Nature Boy was just starting to gain traction on his iconic character and his future legendary career. All of that momentum was sidelined when Flair was traveling in the air along with David Crockett, Johnny Valentine, Bob Bruggers and “Mr. Wrestling” Tim Woods. The plane crashed in North Carolina, killing the pilot and permanently crippling Valentine. Flair broke his back in three different places and was told by doctors that he’d be lucky to walk again. Flair, who many call the greatest of all time, got help from fellow wrestler Wahoo McDaniel and underwent strenuous physical therapy; Ric was back in a mere three months. We all know what happened after that; multiple championships (Flair has won more than 16 world titles), factions, moments, catchphrases, and legendary matches later, Flair made an indelible impact on the business.
7. Jeff Hardy’s Issues With Certain Substances
Jeff Hardy is primarily known for his daredevil style, which has made for some of the more exciting moments in the history of the business. Hardy has made a career out of jumping off of ladders, crashing through tables, and tumbling onto concrete. The team extreme member and uber-fan favorite apparently lives his life outside of wrestling almost as extreme as his in ring style. Hardy’s reckless lifestyle includes well documented drug use which led to him being let go from the WWE. It also manifested itself on air during TNA’s 2011 PPV Victory Road, where he was in the main event against WWE Hall of Famer and WCW icon Sting, visibly stricken. Hardy also recently got into a motorcycle accident where his leg was shattered. These occurrences along with this high-risk ring style worry fans and make for a pretty dangerous mix. One has to wonder how long the enigmatic wrestler can defy the odds.
6. Sean Waltman’s Rumored Attempt At Taking His Life
Sean Waltman aka X-Pac, aka The 1-2-3 Kid, has definitely suffered significant injuries to his neck and legs over his career. The Kliq member also has the distinction of suffering one of the worst in-ring injuries ever; he landed on the steel cable of a turnbuckle which tore his anus in the process. X-Pac didn’t realize it and continued the match. He bled uncontrollably after returning from an after party at his hotel. Hotel security found him before he bled to death and he was rush to emergency surgery. There was a massive rumor that Waltman also attempted suicide back in 2008. His then girlfriend, Alicia Webb (Ryan Shamrock), found the D-X member hanging within his Mexico City apartment, knocking on death’s door. She got there in time and prevented the attempt. Waltman received medical help via his Kliq buddies Kevin Nash and Triple H, who ensured that the WWE was able to pay for his recovery in rehab. X-Pac denied the reports and said it was a bad mix of antidepressants and alcohol.
5. Eric Kulas’ Mass Transit Incident
Well this one is complicated. Unfortunately, Eric Kulas passed away at the young age of 22 due to complications of gastric bypass surgery. That said, it was a well-known incident at an ECW house show involving the infamous New Jack that almost took him out 5 years prior. In what is now known as the “Mass Transit Incident” Eric Kulas, under the ring name Mass Transit, faced New Jack during a tag team match. New Jack gave Kulas a bad blade job and actually severed two arteries, causing the Kulas to pass out. Kulas’ dad can be heard shouting to ring the bell and that his son was only 17 years old. Paul Heyman, owner of the company claimed that he did not know about his age and it was revealed that Eric had actually lied about his age to the company. All of this drama led to a lawsuit from the Kulas family and it is known as one of the more notorious moments in the history of the business.
4. Dynamite Kid Deteriorating
Dynamite Kid is known as one of the most talented pro wrestlers of all time. His in-ring prowess is the stuff of legend, influencing a generation of talented pro wrestlers looking to emulate his work. The other half of the 1980s WWE tag team, The British Bulldogs. Unfortunately, the talented wrestler was nearly paralyzed after injuring his neck and spinal column during a match with Don Muraco. Dynamite Kid, being the competitor and workhorse he was, came back quicker than expected but that turned out to perhaps be his downfall; he refused to let up and continued his high-flying style. This led to mounting damage on his already injury-ridden body which led to more and more drug use. Dynamite Kid, who was once praised as a high-flying ring general, is now in a wheelchair having suffered a stroke as well. The wrestling legend is still alive despite his deteriorating condition.
3. Buff Bagwell’s Life Threatening Injuries
Remember this dude? Buff Bagwell was one of the more over and stand-out mid carders in WCW. He was primarily known as one half of the tag team American Males, then went out on his own being a cocky, gloating, extremely egotistical heel by the name of Buff Bagwell. Bagwell had stints with the NWO and was a key component in WCW’s at one time stacked roster that was competing every week with the WWE. That said, he’s lucky to be alive. Whether you like the man or not, you’ve got to commend him for being able to endure what he has. Back in 1998 Bagwell took a botched Bulldog from Rick Steiner and broke his neck, forcing the WCW superstar to be sidelined in a wheelchair. He would eventually make a full recovery. In 2012 Buff suffered a seizure while driving and eventually crashed his car; he broke bones in his neck, face, and jaw. Bagwell had to be fed through a tube and had metal plates inserted into his face.
2. “Superstar” Billy Graham’s Mounting Issues
“Superstar” Billy Graham is one of the most charismatic superstars ever to grace the ring. He was colorful, had a notable promo style, and was jacked. “Superstar” Billy Graham was “The Hulkster” before “The Hulkster” became “The Hulkster.” However, there’s a reason Graham was so beefed up; ample steroid use. Graham suffered from steroid aftereffects and drug use. By 2002 he was close to the flatline, suffering from liver problems and having to get a liver transplant. Graham thus has been between multiple hospitals due to all of his ailments accumulating over time. It got so bad that the former WWE Champion announced his funeral plans due to not expected to live much longer at the time. Graham has also been diagnosed with Hepatitis C and later hospitalized with (double) pneumonia and heart failure. “Superstar” Billy Graham eventually recovered and is still around today; legendary survival for a legendary superstar.
1. “The Total Package” Lex Luger’s Substance Abuse And Subsequent Spinal Stroke
“The Total Package” Lex Luger has had one of the more storied careers in Pro Wrestling history. He was a star in both WCW and WWE (formerly WWF). Luger went through a couple of gimmick changes during his WWE run, going from The Narcissist to a red, white, and blue all-American that was supposed to be Hulk Hogan’s replacement in the early 90s. That didn’t work out the way Vince wanted; Luger eventually went back to WCW where he was one of the biggest faces on the roster. The thing is Luger, unfortunately, dealt with a fair amount of issues out of the squared circle himself. He’s faced a bunch of legal issues involving drugs— Luger was inadvertently involved in the death of Elizabeth Hulette (aka Miss Elizabeth). The iconic WWE valet overdosed and Luger was arrested for possession of a crapload of substances including steroids, Oxycontin, Alprazolam, and more. He was charged with 13 felony counts of drug possession. Luger plead guilty to all the counts and Elizabeth’s death was ruled accidental. Lex Luger later suffered a spinal stroke that briefly left him in a quadriplegic state.
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