Any professional wrestler knows how hard it is to get a big break and a chance to walk out in front of thousands of fans in an arena for a live WWE event. These wrestlers know that the chances of becoming a champion within the organization are slim, but some actually make it all of the way, achieving a seemingly impossible dream.
Unfortunately, getting there is just the first step. Staying relevant in the ever-changing world of professional wrestling, avoiding long-term injuries that can kill a career, and maintaining a high level of success can be just as challenging as breaking into the business.
Champs with longevity like John Cena, Sting, and Triple H are rare in this industry, and most champions come and go within just a few years. Unfortunately, once they leave the organization, some have made some poor decisions that have sent them into a spiral to hit rock bottom.
From becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol after their reign in professional wrestling to being irresponsible with money, there are several former WWE stars who didn’t fare well after their final bell. Here, we have a list of 20 wrestlers that hit rock bottom after leaving the WWE.
20. Virgil Becomes Lonely After His WWE Stint
Not all wrestlers who hit rock bottom simply give in to addictions or go to jail. In the 1990s, a man by the name of Michael Jones was a wrestler who went by the name of Virgil and was the personal assistant to Ted DiBiase. His career in the WWE was fairly short-lived, however, and even during his stint with the organization, he never came close to winning a championship. After his run in the professional wrestling industry, Virgil began attending comic book conventions to peddle trading cards, photos, and autographs. Unfortunately, photos posted online show that not many fans were interested in purchasing his wares. Virgil has also been spotted at flea markets and boardwalks trying to peddle his autographed merchandise.
19. HBK Bottoms Out, Then Bounces Back
Shawn Michaels, known as The Heartbreak Kid, had a reputation in the WWE for being a hard partier, particularly when he was partnered with Marty Janetty. The duo became troublemakers and had a lot of negative attention, and after a barroom fight, both were fired from the WWE. After he got fired, Michaels turned to drugs and alcohol and became an addict. However, he decided that he wanted to continue pursuing his dream, and no longer known as the troublemaker, The Heartbreak Kid was born. These days, Michaels still makes WWE appearances, although a bad back prevents him from competing. He is also a born-again Christian.
18. Tyson Tomko Throws Away His Career
Tyson Tomko may only be known to the most hardcore WWE fans, but he was a staple on TNA wrestling and was once slated to be a big deal within the organization. After his character fell flat in TNA, Tomko signed a contract with WWE. However, he never made any appearances on WWE’s shows. He returned to TNA, but fans noticed he was different. The difference was that Tomko was addicted to opiates, and his addiction was so bad, he robbed a pharmacy and was arrested while shooting up drugs in the bathroom of a Chili’s restaurant. Tomko went into rehab and has been cleaning up his life. However, at this point in his life, it is unlikely that he will be able to return to his wrestling career.
17. The British Bulldog Had Troubles In and Out of the Ring
Davey Boy Smith, known by his ring name of British Bulldog, was a tough contender in the WWE ring. Unfortunately, many wrestlers who want to gain the upper hand in the industry turn to steroids, and Smith was no exception. Smith had feuds in and out of the ring, but his biggest problem was the use of drugs and steroids. He was even sent to rehab by the WWE for his abuse of these things. In 2002, at the age of 39, Smith had a heart attack that claimed his life. It was found that the use of steroids, painkillers, and the serious injuries he had incurred over the years were factors in his death.
16. Miss Elizabeth Loses Her Battle with Addictions
Inside of the ring, Elizabeth Hullette, or Miss Elizabeth to wrestling fans, was wrestling royalty. The beautiful manager was known as The First Lady of Wrestling because of her style, grace, beauty, and devotion to wrestling. She was married to Randy Savage for years, but after the two divorced, she left the WWE. Unfortunately, Elizabeth got caught up in a world of drugs and alcohol which led to her death. She was reported as unresponsive by wrestler Lex Luger in his home, and it was discovered that her death was caused by a combination of vodka and painkillers. She was only 42 years old.
15. Curt Hennig’s Life Was Anything But Perfect
Curt Hennig was the heel that everyone loved to hate in the 1990s. Known as Mr. Perfect in the ring, he was the perfect combination of charisma, charm, arrogance, and talent. However, his behavior outside of the ring ultimately led to his untimely death. It all began when he got into an altercation with Brock Lesnar on an airplane after getting drunk. This act disgraced the WWE, who removed Hennig from the roster in 2003. Just one year later, he was found dead in a hotel room. The cause of death was an overdose on cocaine. He was only 44 years old and left behind two children.
14. Buff Bagwell Chooses a Different Career Path
Buff “The Stuff” Bagwell is a wrestler that many will remember throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. He primarily wrestled with WCW and was released shortly after moving over to the WWE. After his career in wrestling, Bagwell chose a new career option: becoming a professional escort. Bagwell now moonlights as a paid gigolo, earning up to $25,000 for spending time with a lady for one full week. In interviews, Bagwell has said that he is very successful at what he does, so many may question whether or not he truly hit rock bottom. However, this is a very different career from being a professional wrestler, and many question just how successful he is. Bagwell is married, but apparently has an open marriage with his wife.
13. X-Pac Got High Before Stepping Into the Ring
Sean Waltman is a professional wrestler that most fans know as X-Pac. X-Pac was a very well-known wrestler during the 1990s Attitude Era, competing in quite a few high-profile matches and even becoming engaged to fellow wrestler Chyna. Soon, though, X-Pac found himself in the middle of controversy. His sex tape with Chyna was released to the public. The two then had a bitter fallout and broke off the engagement. X-Pac also admitted to doing crystal meth before going into WWE matches and revealed that he and Chyna did meth together frequently. Most recently, X-Pac tore his anus during a failed Bronco Buster at a wrestling event. He also made a return with the NWO to the WWE arena in early 2015.
12. Ric Flair Has Family and Financial Troubles
Ric Flair is one of the greatest icons in professional wrestling’s history. This is why it is such a head-scratcher that outside of the ring, he has a lot of issues, particularly when it comes to money. Flair has been involved in several lawsuits, and he has even been evicted from his house after the money troubles came to a head. Worse yet, he has been accused of abusing his three ex-wives. Flair has also had struggles with alcohol, like many athletes, which have only added to his problems. The Nature Boy still makes appearances at WWE events, mostly to watch his daughter, Charlotte, compete in the WWE Divas Division.
11. Lex Luger’s Life Is Turned Upside Down
Lex Luger was once a force to be reckoned with, one of the top contenders for the WWF championship before turning over to the WCW. During his time with the WCW, he did become champion. After leaving the spotlight, though, things took a dark turn for Luger, who was arrested in the early 2000s for alleged abuse against wrestling’s Miss Elizabeth. Sadly, Miss Elizabeth overdosed in Luger’s home at a later time. A string of felony charges led to Luger’s arrest and 3-month imprisonment, along with five years of probation. During that time, Luger found religion and turned his life around, proving that even wrestlers who hit rock bottom can come out on top.
10. Jake the Snake Turns to Drugs After His Run in the WWE
Jake the Snake was a colorful character, known for his penchant for bringing live snakes into WWE arenas. After leaving the industry, things didn’t go to well for Jake Roberts. Roberts turned to drugs and alcohol, something that actually led to him being fired by the organization. Over the years, Roberts continued on a downward spiral, even being caught smoking crack and talking about his sexual encounters in a video that was seen by the public. He even attended an event where he was drunk, disorderly, and reportedly pulled out a private part in front of a crowd. After talking to former wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, Roberts began doing yoga and got sober. As of 2015, he is still sober.
9. Scott Hall Hits Rock Bottom, Comes Back Again
Scott Hall was notoriously known for his bad boy image in the ring. However, he was just as well known for his antics outside of the ring as well. His drinking became part of his storylines, but eventually led to a downward spiral that included a divorce from his wife and being arrested multiple times for his behavior. He was even kicked out of various events for being drunk and disorderly. Like Jake Roberts, Diamond Dallas Page helped Hall out of his rut and helped him live a cleaner life with yoga and without booze. Hall has appeared at multiple WWE events recently, although he still appears to struggle with his sobriety.
8. Matt Hardy Struggles with Drug Addiction
During the Attitude Era of the 1990s, Matt Hardy was one-half of the Hardy Boyz, a duo of bad boys with high-flying moves that took them to the top of the wrestling game. Unfortunately, these bumps led to an addiction to painkillers, something many pro wrestlers have struggled with in the past. Hardy began acting erratically to those around him, including fans. After a significant weight gain that gave him nicknames like “Fatt Hardy” and “Matt Lardy,” he was cut from the roster. After leaving the industry, he was involved in multiple car accidents, threatened to commit suicide, and was arrested several times before finally going to rehab.
7. Eddie Fatu Loses His Life to Drugs
Eddie Fatu wrestled under the name of Umaga as part of Three Minute Warning and The Island Boyz and went head-to-head with some of the top talent in the WWE. Since at least 2007, Fatu struggled with substance abuse. After hormones were banned by the WWE, he illegally obtained some in 2007. After failing a drug test in 2009 and a refusing to go to rehab to treat his drug addiction, he was released by the company. Unfortunately, in the same year, Fatu was found dead in his home. The cause of death was said to be an overdose of a variety of different drugs, including Valium and hydrocodone.
6. Dino Bravo Turned to a Life of Crime
Dino Bravo was a tag team wrestler who was known as “The Strongest Man in the World.” He had earned two championship belts during his time in the WWE. When he chose to retire from wrestling, Bravo turned to a life of crime. It was rumored that he had ties to the mafia, and he got caught up in a cigarette smuggling scandal in Canada. Unfortunately, his choices may have led to his untimely death. At just 44, he was shot to death, found with 17 bullet wounds to his body. Friends of the late wrestler say that he was suspicious and that he knew his time to die was coming up. The murder still remains unsolved.
5. Chyna Struggles with Drugs, Alcohol, and Mental Illness
Back in the 1990s, Chyna was one of the top female contenders in the WWE, or as it was known at the time, the WWF. She was tough, beautiful, and even graced the cover of Playboy. However, after leaving the WWE in 2001, things began to go downhill for Chyna. She released several sex tapes of herself, was arrested for domestic violence, and began to exhibit strange and erratic behavior that she later blamed on a combo of drugs, alcohol, and mental illness. Chyna went into rehab and laid low for a while. However, back in early 2015, fans began questioning her mental state as she went on a rant about abuse at the hands of Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
4. Things Aren’t So Sunny for Tammy Sytch
Tammy Sytch, better known in the ring as Sunny, was once one of the most popular women in the world of professional wrestling. She was once one of the most downloaded women on the Internet, and she seemed to be an unattainable fantasy. After her release from the company in 1998, she became more accessible than many fans would have ever dreamed. She was removed from the roster due to rumored bad behavior, including drug use. After leaving the industry, she turned to pornography and more recently, has taken on a Skype endeavor where she talks, strips, and performs other acts for money through the web chat service.
3. Perry Saturn Moves from the Arena to the Streets
Perry Saturn was a popular wrestler throughout the 1990s, making appearances for ECW, WCW, and WWE. After he left the industry, he fell upon some seriously hard times. This included living out on the streets for long periods of time and becoming addicted to crystal meth. He claims that his drug addiction started when he began getting injections and pain medications during his stint in the WWE for an injury that had occurred in the ring. When he hit rock bottom, Perry attributed his change to his dog. He did not want to leave his dog behind, so he cleaned up his act and has even made multiple appearances at wrestling events in recent years.
2. Hulk Hogan’s Fall from Being a Hero
Hulk Hogan is one of the most legendary wrestlers in the industry, providing fans with decades of entertainment in and out of the ring. All seemed well with Hogan, who continued to visit WWE Pay Per View events, was inducted into the hall of fame, and was even featured with his family in the reality TV show Hogan Knows Best. However, soon things started going very poorly for Hogan. He and his wife Linda decided to get a divorce. His son, Nick, was arrested after reckless driving left his friend permanently injured. Hogan confessed to becoming addicted to alcohol and Xanax. But worst of all, a sex tape of Hogan sleeping with his friend’s wife was released to the public. If this wasn’t bad enough, the tape featured Hogan making very racist remarks. After admitting to the accusations, Hogan was fired from the WWE, his merchandise was pulled from the WWE Shop, and he was removed from the Hall of Fame.
1. Chris Benoit Commits an Unthinkable Act
Few people don’t already know the tragic story of Chris Benoit. Once one of the best wrestlers in the game, Benoit’s story ended in the worst possible way. In 2007, Benoit talked to several people and indicated he would be missing a WWE event because his wife and son were suffering from food poisoning. Those who spoke with him, including wrestler Chavo Guerrero, noticed that Benoit sounded tired and a bit off. What they didn’t know at the time was that Benoit and his family were in their home for a three-day period, during which Benoit strangled his wife, Nancy, and 7-year-old son, Daniel, and then hung himself. Many have speculated that drug abuse, combined with brain damage incurred in the ring, led to the breakdown that rocked the world of wrestling.