Substance abuse is common place in the entertainment industry. Hollywood is full of stories about talented people being destroyed by alcohol, cocaine, and whatever else they are offered on lonely nights away from home. Professional wrestling is no different. In fact, the wrestling business may have produced more drug addicts than music, TV, and film combined.
Because wrestling is such a physical business and performers are encouraged to work while hurt, pain killers are pretty popular in the locker room. Wrestlers take high doses to deal with the pain, which increases as time passes and unresolved injuries worsen. Pro wrestling also requires performers to travel long miles in between shows, often visiting several countries in a week. This results in talent turning to various “uppers” in order to stay attentive on the road and in the ring. In their down time, many wrestlers consume large amounts of alcohol, which is a tradition as old as the pre-match test of strength. Then there is the constant looming temptation of sex, as ever-willing fans provide the perfect distraction during time away from one’s family.
Yes, there is no shortage of things for the traveling professional wrestler to become addicted to, and if history has thought us anything, it is not uncommon for a performer to risk their career, and sometimes life, to satisfy their cravings. WWE has a number of rules in place today in order to deal with former superstars who are experiencing problems with drugs, and as a result many of the worst drug addicts in the history of the company have gone on to live relatively normal lives. Others have not been so lucky and despite WWE’s intervention, still struggle to abstain from drugs and alcohol. In this article, we’re going to be examining the post-WWE lives of superstars from both categories.
Here are 15 retired WWE drug addicts and what they are doing now.
15. Buff Bagwell
Buff Bagwell achieved his greatest fame in WCW, a company which is said to have had a worse drug problem than WWE, even during the infamously sleazy Attitude Era.
Bagwell claims that he suffers from sleep apnea and has for much of his life, though he didn’t realize it during his heyday. Because the condition takes such a toll on the body, Bagwell would wake up feeling drained and have to sedate himself just to go about his day. He would self-medicate prior to going to the gym, prior to wrestling, and prior to going to bed, which caused him to develop a massive dependance on pills.
After the condition was discovered and diagnosed, Bagwell was able to ease himself off those drugs in favor of prescribed sleep apnea medication.
Since leaving the wrestling business, a rejuvenated Bagwell has achieved a degree of success as a male gigolo, which is probably the career he was meant for all along. He charges a hefty fee for his services, which includes the option of a full week with the former WCW superstar for $25K.
14. Rockin’ Robin
Rockin’ Robin was one of the finest female wrestlers of her time, which should come as no surprise considering the fact that she is the half-sister of WWE Hall of Famer Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Unfortunately, wrestling skills aren’t the only thing that run in the family. Like her brother, Rockin’ Robin has battled drug and alcohol addiction for much of her life.
When she left the wrestling business, she brought with her a dependance on drugs which she probably didn’t realize she had as substance abuse was such a run-of-the-mill issue in the industry.
Robin’s troubles worsened when her husband was sentenced to 81 months in prison for filing false tax returns. The desolation of her marriage was another in a series of personal problems for the former WWE Women’s Champion and alcohol and drugs were her only means to a moment’s freedom.
Fortunately, Robin has managed to overcome her demons and get her life back on track – or on track for the first time. Today, she owns and operates a successful real estate appraisal company in Hammond, Louisiana.
13. Duke “The Dumpster” Droese
It has been said that Vince McMahon hired Duke “The Dumpster” Droese to prove that he could make a star out of anyone. This is one of many examples of McMahon’s ego getting him into trouble. Though he failed to make Droese a bonafide star in the wrestling business, he did play a hand in turning him into a raging drug addict.
Droese competed in the then World Wrestling Federation from 1994 to 1996, at a time when there was virtually no system in place to ensure performers stayed clean and sober. While there were a couple of wellness rules, they were rarely enforced and so superstars often built up dependancies on pain killers and whatever else they could get their freakishly sized hands on.
After leaving the wrestling business, Droese began working as a special education teacher in a Tennessee elementary school. However, this fell apart in 2013, when he was arrested for selling oxycodone and buprenorphine to an undercover police officer.
12. Perry Saturn
Perry Saturn is one of the most tragic cases on this list. In 2004, while driving his girlfriend to work, Saturn witnessed two men attempting to rape a woman and decided that he could not stand by and let it happen. The former WWE superstar succeeded in fighting off the attackers, but was shot once in the neck and once in the shoulder during the altercation.
The pain from these wounds was so intense that Saturn was forced to turn to drugs for relief; and I’m not talking about pain killers. Saturn’s drug of choice was crystal meth and, like it has done to so many others, it pretty much destroyed his life. Saturn wound up losing his home and fell off the grid for a number of years, with not even his family knowing his whereabouts.
Saturn reemerged in 2010 a changed man. He had resolved his addictions and was ready to get back to work, which lead to him spending a couple of years on the indie scene. He has since stepped back from the ring due to what he described as a “traumatic brain injury,” but still appears at signings and on podcasts.
11. The Iron Sheik
The Iron Sheik is infamous for his love of partying. As far back as the 1980s, he was getting himself and others into trouble with both WWE management and law enforcement due to his affinity for drugs and alcohol.
Though Sheik’s substance abuse was always there, it spiraled out of control in 2003, after his daughter was murdered by her boyfriend. In order to ease the pain of losing his little girl, The Iron Sheik turned to alcohol, cocaine, weed, and crack, among other things. It destroyed his marriage and left his relationship with his remaining children on the edge of destruction.
In 2013, The Iron Sheik was reintroduced to the Magen brothers, who became his managers. Not only did they take control of his bookings, they dedicated themselves to pulling Sheik out of his addiction and returning him to his former glory. Thanks to the Magen bothers’ encouragement and support, The Iron Sheik has mended his relationship with his wife and children, cleaned himself up, and become one of the most beloved social media stars in the world.
10. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Like The Iron Sheik, Jake “The Snake” Roberts was a causality of the party atmosphere of 1980s professional wrestling. In the early years of his career, Roberts sought to outdo his father, Grizzly Smith, in terms of in-ring work. He also set out to embarrass his dad by drinking him under the table, which he was immensely successful in doing.
Roberts was blacklisted by pretty much every wrestling promotion in America in the 90s due to his drug and alcohol abuse. At the height of his drug use, he fell off the map, much like Perry Saturn after he stopped that rape in 2004. Roberts later started touring on the independents, but virtually every appearance he made was ruined by his dependance on alcohol and drugs.
It was not until 2012 that Roberts made a genuine attempt to clean himself up. He agreed to move into Diamond Dallas Page’s “Accountability Crib”, where DDP helped get him back on his feet with a surprisingly effective combination of emotional support and yoga. Today, Roberts is sober and enjoying a renewed relationship with his children, his fans, and life in general. He is currently back on the road with a spoken word show in which he discusses the wrestling business and his long journey to sobriety.
9. David Sammartino
Many fans of professional wrestling assumed David Sammartino was bound for great things when he began competing for the World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s. He was the son of Bruno Sammartino, a living legend and the longest reigning WWF World Champion in history, so surely he would achieve similar success. Unfortunately, David never made it out of his father’s shadow.
Despite being a talented performer inside the ring, the younger Sammartino struggled to make himself stand out from the colorful, musclebound stars of wrestling’s Golden Era. Like many at the time, he turned to steroids to make himself bigger, going against the wishes of his father, who was staunchly opposed drugs of any kind.
As David’s drug use worsened, so did his relationship with his father. In the 90s, Bruno cut off all contact with his son, whom he viewed as a drug addict and a disgrace to the family name.
Today, David Sammartino is retired from the ring, though he occasionally appears at signings and on podcasts. Naturally, his father is a frequent topic of discussion during interviews, and the younger Sammartino claims their relationship is, unfortunately, still strained.
8. Hardcore Holly
Hardcore Holly did not make a whole lot of friends during his time in WWE. Holly is infamously grumpy and was one of the final few “traditionalists” in the locker room in the years leading up to his departure. His very set idea of how things should be done created multiple problems for younger WWE superstars, and his temper was not helped by his drug use.
Holly, like many from his generation, became addicted to painkillers after years of putting his body on the line – and lord did he put his body on the line. His reliance on pain pills became so great that he would often search through gear bags and on locker room floors for pills left behind by fellow wrestlers. It is believed that his drug problem lead to his departure from WWE in 2009.
After spending 15 years in WWE, Holly didn’t have to worry much after he left the company. He had made his money and really only had to wrestle to keep his name out there. Over the past year or two, Holly has begun winding down his in-ring career. He has wrestled only a handful of dates and is enjoying some well-deserved time to himself. Much of his time is spent indulging his love of racing cars and he is an avid fan of the online racing game iRacing.
7. Joey Mercury
Joey Mercury is one of the great redemption stories in professional wrestling. Mercury had the odds stacked against him from an early age and has stated that he began using drugs at the age of 15. He would take crack and cocaine and mix it with alcohol, which left him battling serious addiction issues long before he ever stepped inside a ring.
Mercury managed to get himself clean following WWE sponsored rehab in 2006, but an infamously nasty facial injury at that year’s Armageddon pay-per-view lead to him becoming addicted to pain killers.
Again, WWE helped Mercury overcome his addictions. Though his reliance on drugs and alcohol pretty much ended his in-ring career, WWE brought him back to the company as a producer once management was satisfied that he was clean.
6. Scott Steiner
Scott Steiner is one of the finest living examples of why you shouldn’t do steroids. Steiner pumped himself full of steroids during the 1990s and became one of the biggest stars in WCW, in both senses of the word. However, the sheer volume of testosterone in his system left him constantly teetering on a violent rage. His short temper lead to him becoming one of the most feared performers both in the ring and behind the scenes and ruined his relationship with more than one co-worker.
After WCW closed its doors, Steiner returned to WWE, though that didn’t last very long at all. When asked to do a test to make sure their were no steroids in his system, he agreed to do so only if Triple H would pick him up in a limo and drive him to the test center so they could take it together.
Nowadays, Steiner’s body struggles to hold up after years of abuse and he generally looks as though he is going to crumble under the pressure of gravity at any moment. No longer competing in the ring, Steiner operates a Shoney’s restaurant out of Acworth, Georgia and is as inconspicuous as Saul Goodman operating a Cinnabon.
5. The Patriot
Del Wilkes spent the majority of his career competing under a mask as The Patriot. Most people in the know agree that Wilkes had a great move set, a great look, and a great gimmick to top it all off. He likely would have become one of WWE’s biggest stars if he had really been given a chance.
Prior to joining the wrestling business, Wilkes was heavily involved in football and started taking steroids and cocaine while still playing. He brought these addictions to the world of pro wrestling, where they were way too easy to feed. His substance abuse persisted throughout his time in wrestling and by the time he retired he was unable to function without drugs.
In 2002, Wilkes was found guilty of forging prescriptions to obtain painkillers and was sentenced to nine months behind bars. In 2007, Wilkes managed to clean himself up and quit drugs entirely. Today he lives a quiet life in South Carolina and makes an honest living as a car salesman.
It has been a long time since Sunny’s name appeared in the media for a good reason. After leaving WWE in 1998, Sunny spent time in ECW, where drug use was rampant, and her relationship with drugs and alcohol turned from a fondness to reliance.
Due to her drug use, Sunny gained a great deal of weight, losing the slim body that had made her so successful. With her only major asset gone, she was forced to do low-end shoot interviews and signings to make ends meet. In recent years, she has taken to selling “sexy” Skype sessions with fans. I put “sexy” in inverted commas as anybody who has seen the screenshots of her Skype calls has reacted like Frankenstein to fire.
Sunny has made multiple attempts to get clean in the past. She even spent 95 days in rehab, which managed to save her from a jail sentence earlier this year. However, she seems unable to stay out of trouble and is currently behind bars for violating her parole.
3. Lex Luger
Lex Luger has come a long way since Vince McMahon hand picked him to be the next face of the World Wrestling Federation after Hulk Hogan left in 1993. Unfortunately, he’s gone in the wrong direction.
After leaving WWF/E in the 90s, Luger made his way back to WCW, which, as we’ve discussed, had a massive drug problem. With steroids, alcohol, and all sorts of recreational drugs readily available, Luger began to build a reliance that would take years to recover from.
In 2003, it was suspected that Luger had been involved in the death of Miss Elizabeth, who died from a drug overdose while living with him. Though he escaped those charges, he was charged with 13 felony counts of drug possession, to which he plead guilty.
Thankfully, Luger has managed to kick his habits and is today living a relatively happy life. Although he is plagued by health issues and spends much of his time in a wheelchair, he finds fulfillment in his Christian beliefs and is heavily involved in his prayer community.
2. Tyson Tomko
Tyson Tomko has had some of the most serious issues with drugs I’ve ever heard of, and I write about pro wrestlers for a living. After a short stint in WWE, Tomko signed with TNA, the only company said to have a worse drug culture than WCW. With no real wellness policy to adhere to, Tomko and his colleagues were able to obtain and consume drugs at their leisure.
This resulted in Tomko becoming addicted to painkillers, among other drugs, and essentially ruined his career. After another brief stint in WWE and a return to TNA, Tomko hit rock bottom. In 2011, he robbed a CVS Pharmacy and made off with over 100 oxycodone pills, which he immediately crushed, melted, and injected into his bloodstream.
Tomko was arrested shortly after and WWE agreed to foot the bill for his rehabilitation, which proved successful. Today, Tomko appears sporadically on the independent circuit and owns a gym in Delray Beach, Florida.
1. Dynamite Kid
Tom Billington, who wrestled as Dynamite Kid, is considered by many to be one of the finest performers of his generation. Even Bret “The Hitman” Hart has voiced his opinion that Billington is the best of all time (with the exception of himself, of course). For that reason, Billington’s current state is all the more heartbreaking.
After moving to Canada to train with the Hart family, Billington began to abuse steroids to achieve unnatural muscle mass, and encouraged those around him to do the same. He is believed to be the guy who turned Davey Boy Smith, his cousin, onto drugs.
Billington’s drug use caused him multiple problems and ended not only his career, but his marriage. After the desolation of his relationship with Michelle Hart, Billington returned to England, where his steroid abuse really began to catch up with him.
Today, Dynamite Kid is confined to a wheelchair and is unlikely ever to walk again. His condition has been made all the worse by multiple strokes, which have left him barely able to speak. He relies on his second wife, his caretaker, to look after him and is unable to do even the most basic of tasks himself. This is a sad fate for one for the greatest in-ring workers of all time.