The global expansion of sports entertainment has catapulted the WWE brand to new heights. Revenues have grown exponentially, as have the paydays of their superstars. Like most professional athletes, the body has an expiry date. While impressive fortunes can be accumulated in abbreviated amounts of time, the real fight begins only after the in-ring careers hit their expiration dates.
With great wealth comes great power, and self-owed responsibility to manage resources accordingly. However, as we will notice, this is sadly too often not the case. Extended time on the road and away from families can cause strain on personal lives, and damage marriages. Divorce is an expensive process. Several divorces are even more expensive. Long hours of travelling can also lead to solitude despite a constant entourage. Many tend to turn to illicit substances as coping measures, and develop harmful and costly addictions. Others will seek refuge in drugs and alcohol to help with the pains and bruises of being a professional wrestler. A few really just like to party.
Ex-wrestlers who suffer from post-career identity crises will often fall victim to their demons as well, and these demons have expensive taste. Any one or a combination of the habits listed above can force a pro-athlete/wrestler to burn through their funds at alarming rates. Sadly, we will notice reoccurring themes with the 12 wrestlers on this list who have filed for bankruptcy after their performing careers were over.
The Ugandan Terror was a mid card performer for most of his career. While his in-ring career has few notable highlights, he has spent much of his retirement denouncing the inequality he endured during his career. In several interviews throughout the years, Kamala has gone on record claiming how he was often grossly underpaid as opposed to his colleagues. Several health complications in relation to diabetes and high blood pressure resulted in an amputation of his left leg below the knee. This predicament initiated a campaign to help raise funds to cover his medical needs. In a 2014 interview with the Bleacher Report, Kamala described his life as he depends on disability checks to survive. He recently completed writing a book about his life in which he dives deeper into the pay disparities of wrestlers in the 90’s and his personal struggles
Virgil enjoyed a lackluster career to say the least, often as background piece to more important movements. Notably, he served as the bodyguard to the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, and an NWO jobber during his time in WCW. Not much has been documented about Virgil’s post-wrestling endeavors, though a few hints have been found on the internet that contribute to the notion that he is suffering through financial turmoil. A website full of memes has been dedicated to Lonely Virgil, which cast the former wrestler sitting idle and alone waiting to sign autographs at conventions. In 2015, he initiated his own GoFundMe page, campaigning to replenish his bank accounts in his quest to becoming a millionaire. To this date, the campaign has amassed a whopping $875. Maybe the Million Dollar man is still hiring.
10. Joey Mercury
Joey Mercury is most remembered as a 3-time Tag Team champion alongside John Morrison. He has most recently appeared on WWE television as a member of Seth Rollins‘ bodyguards as J and J Security. One can imagine how or why would Mercury accept such a diminished role within the company, and the answer is painful. Addicted to drugs since a young age to his own admission, Joey ran through much of his earnings following his first departure from the WWE in 2007. His life long struggle with addiction had taken control of his life, leaving him broke and unemployed. After what seems to be a successful stint in rehab, Mercury had quietly worked his way back on to regular programming, although hasn’t appeared since Brock Lesnar viciously assaulted him. Despite his lesser on air role, Mercury is a regular amongst backstage personnel.
9. Dynamite Kid
Another member of the extended Hart foundation to fall victim to the curse that seems to have affected almost all of their personal lives following their in-ring careers. He thrived alongside Davey Boy Smith forming the highly entertaining Tag Team dubbed The British Bulldogs. Several serious injuries would force the Kid into a battle with painkillers, amongst other drugs. The toxic mixtures would only complicate his declining health in the late 90s. Confined to a wheelchair and deprived of the feeling in his left leg today, his outrageous medical bills have left the former Tag Team star down on his luck, and deprived of funds. His physical limitations have also rendered it impossible to earn any form of sustainable income, on top of exponentially growing health problems which come with significant costs.
8. Perry Saturn
A prominent figure who made the initial jump from WCW to WWE as a member of The Radicalz alongside Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Christ Benoit, Saturn was by and large a vastly under utilized and underrated talent. When his career came to an end in 2004, Saturn’s personal life took an unexpected turn for the worse. According to a police report, he was shot in an altercation which involved him attempting to save a woman from being r*ped. His wounds would lead to an unhealthy and damaging addiction to painkillers, which robbed him of his quality of life and forcing him into homelessness. With literally no trace of his existence for several years as claimed by his family and friends, a recent video interview surfaced where Saturn confessed to recovering from his addictions privately before remarrying in 2009. In the process, he went through all his earnings, though he seems to be back on his feet today.
7. X-Pac Sean Waltman
The former DX and NWO member left the WWE in 2002. Shortly after his departure from the company, Waltman would divorce his then wife Terry, with whom he shared common addictions to methamphetamines, alcohol and other drugs. His divorce and addictions, and the consequent stints in rehab would quickly dry out the former wrestler’s funds, eventually forcing him to file for bankruptcy. He has made several attempts to stay clean, though he would often succumb to his demons and relapse. Many would argue Pac hit a low point when he commercially released a sex tape with Chyna. Needless to say, selling a homemade adult video which stars your best friend’s (Triple H) ex-girlfriend for money is a far cry from his time with two of sports entertainment’s most legendary factions.
6. Lex Luger
Luger burst onto the scene in the early 90s, boasting an immaculate physique. He rode his aesthetics to the top of the main event roster, so much so that Ted Turner offered him a ridiculous fixed contract to jump ship. In 2003, Luger’s in-ring career came to an end, and a tumultuous few years ensued. His wife, Miss Elizabeth, lost her life as a result of an overdose, which Luger has gone on record for shouldering much of the blame for her downfall. The final years of their relationship were strained and damaged, leaving Luger as one of the prime suspects surrounding her death. The legal battles in attempts to clear his name, the personal demons and the refuge sought out in substance abuse would eventually bleed out the bank accounts of the Narcissist.
5. Jimmy Snuka
Superfly was a pioneer in his own right, introducing high flying maneuvers in the 80s which influenced generations to come. His daughter Tamina Snuka, is an active Diva on today’s main roster. Snuka was recently indicted on third degree murder and involuntary man slaughter charges 32 years after the passing of his girlfriend Nancy Argentino. In the years following her death, Argentino’s family suspected that Superfly was in part, if not totally, responsible for the death of Nancy. The seemingly never ending criminal investigation hampered Snuka’s ability to find work, and had left him with outrageous legal fees that went unpaid as he fought to clear his name in a wrongful death suit filed by Argentino’s family. He will not be needing much money in jail, where he is likely to spend the rest of his days. The WWE has since removed him from the Hall of Fame.
4. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Jake “the Snake” is another legend who enjoyed a storied Hall of Fame career. He was also one of the first to enter the WWE’s sponsored rehabilitation program. Roberts is another superstar who also spent time with Diamond Dallas Page and his Yoga wellness program. The aforementioned measures were taken due to long lasting struggles with alcohol and drugs, including severe weight issues as a result of those struggles which greatly compromised the legend’s health. The Snake would be forced to contend with a cancer diagnosis found below his knee, though has since defeated it. DDP has chronicled his story on his YouTube page, showing a much healthier Snake, though the road to greater health did not come without various struggles which inevitably robbed Jake years on his life, and all of his finances.
3. Ric Flair
Much of Flair’s persona was influenced from his real life high rolling: private jets, luxury vehicles, Rolex watches, etc. His bravado was very much a product of his real life crossing over into his promos and on-screen character, “stylin’ and profilin’”. As a performer who has worked through nearly four decades, and is still on television now managing his daughter, the two-time Hall of Famer has enjoyed a legendary career. On screen, anyways. Behind the scenes, Flair has been divorced 3 times, fathered 4 children (including current Divas champion Charlotte) and has endured a very public battle with alcohol abuse. At the root of Flair’s issues have always been his struggle with liquor, which would consequently affect his career and his marriages. Mounting legal battles, foreclosure on his homes, inconsistent income, child support and credit purchases would eventually force the Nature Boy into bankruptcy on more than one occasion.
2. Scott Hall
Amongst one of the saddest stories in all of pro wrestling, Scott Hall will forever remain the founding father of the NWO, the faction that revolutionized the entire business. Outside of the ring, Hall has endured one of the most publicly troubling downfalls in history. The Bad Guy has wrestled demons his entire career. So much so, that his addictions were built into controversial storylines towards the end of WCW’s reign. After a brief return to the WWE when Vince McMahon bought WCW, Hall’s already tumultuous life only worsened. Arrested countless times for drunken and reckless behavior, resisting arrest, 2 divorces, strained relationships with his children, countless health problems related to years of drug and alcohol abuse, Hall filed for bankruptcy as well. Though, his personal health was in far greater peril than his finances. Following unsuccessful stints in rehab, some even fully paid for by the WWE, former colleague and friend Diamond Dallas Page brought in the original Outsider to live with him and help rebuild his life and his health via his renowned DDP Yoga Program in 2013. DDP also initiated a fund which raised in excess of $100, 000 to help pay for hip replacement surgery and dental work for his friend. Hall is doing better, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.
1. Hulk Hogan
Hulkamania is undoubtedly the most recognizable name in pro wrestling history with the highest branding potential known to the industry. No one’s name has generated more revenue and attention to the brand than that of Hulk Hogan. His star power has transcended into an accomplished movie career and endless endorsement deals outside of the ring, on top of being one of the highest earning stars in sports entertainment history. Nonetheless, real life tends to complicate things as it often does, and Hogan has found himself in financial disarray on more than one occasion. At the forefront of several significant lawsuits which cost the Hulkster millions, he has had to continuously battle to clear his name in several high profile suits ranging from testifying in Vince McMahon’s favor surrounding the WWE steroid scandal in 1997, and most recently his bout against rumor website Gawker which released his sex tape without his permission. In addition to a crippling and lengthy divorce trial, Hogan was practically deleted from all WWE archives in late 2015 when evidence of racially insensitive comments were made on his part. Hogan had seemingly hit rock bottom. In a turn of events, Hogan was awarded a $115 million settlement for his defamation lawsuit against Gawker, which hopefully can help rebuild the unequivocal industry icon.