You wouldn’t think that the WWE or the wrestling industry is asking all that much when it wants its wrestlers to stay clean and out of trouble. The company pays them a lot of money, and they take them around the world and make them Superstars, to which they become heroes and legends to millions of adoring fans.
There’s money and fame and all sorts of other perks that come with a job that asks its athletes to play fight for a living. What could be so hard about that?
Still, many professional wrestlers like to take all those gifts and throw them away. These wrestlers abuse drugs and alcohol, let money and status get to their heads, squabble with their significant others, and forget the art of entertaining the fans. These wrestlers simply threw away how hard they worked or the breaks they were given as they climbed the ladder to success. In the end, they made stupid decisions and threw up obstacles in their own career. Some decisions were so bad, it forced these wrestlers to kiss their careers goodbye.
This list takes a look at 20 former wrestlers who threw it all away because they couldn’t get control of their personal demons. And, we’re not just strictly talking about disasters related to substance abuse. We’re including personal demons such as boyfriends and girlfriends, greed, and self-control. Each of these wrestlers had their own form of personal demons. These stars may have passed away, they may have gotten themselves fired, or they may have done both. Who are these 20 good-to-great former wrestlers who made awful life decisions? Keep reading and let us know if we missed any.
Just for fun, we threw in a wrestler who didn’t actually do anything wrong or illegal. He simply overreached and believed that he meant more to the business than he actually did. Can you guess who this person was? I’ll give you a hint: he’s now got his own podcast!
20. Mr. Perfect
While he was seen as one of the greatest in-ring performers, Mr. Perfect’s relationship with the WWE was never the greatest. Even before 2002, when he was part of the ‘plane ride from hell’, Curt Hennig was the type of talent who had issues backstage. A real practical joker, he was often part of the hazing or bullying crew that got on the case of wrestlers who weren’t always well-liked.
Finally, after the WWE had seen enough, he was fired. Hennig went to TNA, but it was really the beginning of the end of his career as he had burned too many bridges. Tragically, on February 10, 2003, Curt Hennig was found dead in a Florida hotel room at just the age of 44. The cause of death was determined to be acute cocaine intoxication.
19. Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Hacksaw Jim Duggan may be one of the first All-American gimmicks the WWE really pushed as a potential main event character. Duggan’s never-wavering love for the U.S.A. was everywhere. He carried a 2×4 to the ring and chanted “U.S.A, U.S.A” during his entrances and matches. He won the first ever Royal Rumble, and he’ll be forever remembered as one of the most beloved characters in WWE history.
With all that momentum and the promotion the WWE was putting behind him, in 1987, Duggan and The Iron Sheik were pulled over and charged with marijuana and cocaine possession. The WWE fired both of them. Duggan later commented on the incident realizing that had he been smarter, he was “on the fast track” to greater things, maybe even being the WWE Champion.
Is there a bigger train wreck in the history of wrestling than Sunny? There are all sorts of rumors that her entire tenure in the WWE was full of promiscuity, selling herself to get her next fix, and basically acting like an idiot. In fact, if you keep an eye on the behind-the-scenes comings and goings of wrestling, you’ll see that she still pokes her nose around and says some pretty wacky things.
You can see her now on wrestling sites all over the place talking crap about other wrestlers, trying to stay in the spotlight or simply looking to make a dollar. She’s had personal feuds with other active competitors. But at the end of the day, most people tend to take the side that Sunny is not on. It’s hard to trust an attention-seeking junkie who makes up nearly half of the things she says in an effort to stay relevant. It’s a shame, too. She used to be one of the most attractive people in the entire industry.
17. Jake Roberts
Jake “The Snake” Roberts was arguably the most popular wrestler of the 1980’s and early 1990’s—perhaps even popular than Hulk Hogan. But, Jake was a party-goer. He liked to go out on the town, get wasted, behave inappropriately, and ultimately gained a ton of weight. He made terrible decisions about his career and wound up in WCW on a fraction of the salary he was making in the WWE. When his WCW career ended, he came back to the WWE but wasn’t at all the same guy.
Roberts spent years trying to get clean but he always fell off the wagon. There were actually a couple movies that centered around his struggles. When he met Diamond Dallas Page, he finally started getting his act together. By then, it was too late to save his career, but at least DDP was able to save his life. Roberts was truly on a path to death.
Known as “Caribbean Cool,” Carlito had the makings of a great mid-level to high-end heel character. He was able to get heat from the crowds, had great feuds upon his arrival, and would have had a long career if he had just stayed healthy.
At a young age, Carlito developed a bad painkiller addiction, and as he fell from grace, he also proved to be his own worst enemy when it came to solving his problems. Instead of taking the hand of the company who offered to send him to rehab, he publicly bashed them. Finally, the WWE released him after several refusals to enter rehab.
Carlito has since gone on to wrestle on the independents and internationally. He still has an opinion about pretty much everything. That said, it appears that he’s finally clean. It sounds like the WWE isn’t 100% sure, though, because despite the fact that he could be a strong personality and talent for him, the WWE doesn’t seem to want to rehire him.
15. Lex Luger
Luger was never considered the most talented wrestler in the world, but he had the million-dollar look. After Hulk Hogan left the WWE, Luger was pinned as the next big thing, but it didn’t pan out. He went to WCW at the start of the “Monday Night Wars,” and they basically used him and his popularity at the time for the WWE to earn a quick rating boost. He was never really going to be their guy.
He later got into to darker side of the industry and spent time with Miss Elizabeth who was also into using and abusing. Police were called to their home on a number of occasions. When Miss Elizabeth had passed away due to a bad mix of pills and stimulants, Luger was arrested with all sorts of recreational vices in his home, and most people viewed him as responsible for her death. He has since gotten clean and worked with the Wellness Policy of the WWE, but Luger suffered a nerve impingement in his neck that led to temporary paralysis.
Test was a Canadian-born wrestler that got discovered by happenstance. WWE officials convinced him to give wrestling a try. Thanks to his looks, he came in and had a strong mid-card career. Unfortunately, Test was also stuck in a vicious cycle.
After being released by the WWE and failing in TNA, he announced his retirement while on tour in 2009 and when he wrestled his last match in February 2009. In March of 2009, the wrestling world was shocked when it was announced that Test had been found dead in his apartment after an accidental overdose of Oxycodone.
He was a gifted performer for having not really taken the traditional route most wrestlers take to reach the WWE. But, most of his career was riddled with personal demons that ended up costing him his life.
Edward Smith Fatu, known as Umaga, was an American-Samoan wrestler who was part of the Anoa’i wrestling family. For those who don’t know, he was connected to Rikishi, The Usos, and Roman Reigns.
Fatu was released in June of 2009 from the WWE due to a violation of the Wellness Policy and refused to go into drug rehab. He had a massive substance abuse habit that wound up costing him his life. In a WWE Network short film, the Usos discussed his sudden passing with sadness because he never got to see them do their thing in a WWE ring. He was instrumental in getting them started in sports entertainment.
12. Lance Cade
Mostly known as a protege of Shawn Michaels and then tag team partner with Trevor Murdoch, Lance Cade didn’t have a very long career in the WWE. However, he was viewed as someone who had a chance to be a big deal before he was quickly released for “bad judgment.” Cade had suffered a seizure on an airplane and had to receive emergency medical treatment. The WWE wouldn’t let someone go for a seizure if the seizure wasn’t drug-related.
In 2010, Lance Cade entered a rehab facility. Later that year, he was admitted to the hospital for breathing problems. He died soon after. It was announced by a coroner that Lance had died from drug intoxication that had aggravated a weak heart (cardiomyopathy). Cade was only 29 when he died. He never fulfilled his potential as a wrestler.
11. Kerry Von Erich
If you know the von Erichs, then you know a very famous wrestling family. You also know that there’s no family more tormented by personal demons. Kerry von Erich went on to be the most celebrated of the family getting a stint in the WWE as Texas Tornado. Despite his success, he fell victim to drug abuse at an early age.
In 1984, things started to unwind. His brother, David, died a mysterious death due to stomach issues. Then, in 1986, Kerry had a motorcycle accident that nearly killed him. He badly injured his right foot, and after not giving it proper time to heal, it had to be amputated (which he kept a closely guarded secret). Kerry became addicted to cocaine, Valium, and painkillers. He was arrested for possession of cocaine and then got arrested again for trying to forge a doctor’s prescription for Valium. While dealing with his substance issues, two of his other brothers killed themselves and ultimately, haunted by his demons and loneliness, Kerry shot himself through the heart in February of 1993.
10. Miss Elizabeth
Miss Elizabeth was mentioned earlier due to her connection with pills and Lex Luger. It appears that she herself wrestled with personal demons prior to that as well. As manager of Randy “Macho Man” Savage, there were rumors that she was often mistreated and mistrusted to the point that a jealous Savage forced her to go everywhere with him. When they split, she had to maintain a storyline with Savage, and that couldn’t have been easy. When things finally ended, she moved on to Luger. Clearly, she had a habit of picking the wrong guys.
When she got too far into things with Luger, it was a downhill slide that unfortunately led to her untimely death. There were reports of physical abuse, Luger driving under the influence with Elizabeth in the car, and finally, a 911 call that Luger made saying Elizabeth wasn’t breathing. She was never revived. The cause of her death was a mix of painkillers and vodka.
Ryback simply believes that he offers something to the wrestling industry even though he clearly doesn’t. His personal demon is his desire to look at himself as something that’s irreplaceable when clearly, the WWE replaced him pretty easily. In fact, they replaced him with the real wrestler Ryback was so often accused of copying.
Ryback first made the news for being a knock-off of Bill Goldberg. Fans didn’t really buy into his whole monster baby-face gimmick. They didn’t hate Ryback, but fans had more fun chanting Goldberg’s name at events than they did cheering for a guy who looked like him. Likely bitter, Ryback began to spout off at the mouth. He kept pitching bad ideas to Vince McMahon, complained that he wasn’t being used or booked properly, and then campaigned for equal pay and benefits for talent. That was pretty much it for him, and his contract wasn’t renewed.
To this day, he still tries to get noticed by pitching terrible ideas or making statements most believe aren’t true. His latest is that he was set to wrestle the Ultimate Warrior before Warrior passed. It’s like Ryback has a little red demon on his shoulder giving him terrible advice.
8. Davey Boy Smith
Davey Boy Smith started his career in Stampede Wrestling. He and the Dynamite Kid were offered contracts to wrestle in the WWE as a tag team known as the British Bulldogs. Shortly after their arrival, their popularity shot through the roof in battles with the Hart Foundation.
In the early ’90s, Davey Boy’s use of steroids and growth hormone became an issue both publicly and behind the scenes. He was caught getting substances shipped to himself. As a result, he was removed from WWE programming. Well, it’s not as if he was the first wrestler to be taking such substances, though, as he was quickly forgiven and eventually made a number of returns. Unfortunately, a spinal infection, addiction to morphine, pain killers, sleeping tablets, and muscle relaxants saw him in and out of rehab.
7. X-Pac / Sean Waltman
Originally known as the 1-2-3 Kid, Waltman was an original member of The Kliq and later joined D-Generation X at the height of their popularity. For a guy who knew how to hitch his wagon to the right people, he also knew how to fall off the wagon time and time again.
His downfall began in the early 2000’s when, like a few members of The Kliq, Waltman got into drugs and alcohol. He couldn’t get control over his substance use. There were also rumors that he was difficult to work with and that he couldn’t stay sober. One time, he collapsed at an airport, which led to his WWE release.
He went on to try his luck in TNA, but was in and out of rehab facilities the entire time, had gotten involved with Chyna (Joanie Lauer), produced a s*x tape, and struggled to maintain sobriety. He seems to be doing better now and has appeared every so often in WWE Network original productions or at Hall of Fame ceremonies. He’s arguably in the best shape of his life but it’s too late for Waltman when it comes to his wrestling career in the WWE. The trick for him at this point is just to stay clean.
Chyna was easily one of the most dominant figures in sports entertainment during the 1990’s and early 2000’s. She was aligned with Triple H and part of D-Generation X but later stood alone, often competing with men in the ring and winning titles in the WWE.
After realizing that Triple H and Stephanie McMahon were having an affair, she went to the wrong person for an explanation. Vince McMahon didn’t care, and he certainly wasn’t going to side with Chyna. She was eventually told that her services were no longer needed and things went from bad to worse.
She was never able to get over the betrayal and in an effort to stay relevant, she posed for Playboy starred in several adult films and got hooked on different types of medication. She was in the process of filming a documentary about her comeback when she passed away.
5. Mr. Kennedy (Ken Anderson)
Ken Anderson isn’t exactly considered a junkie like some of the people who made it to this list. In fact, while he may be someone who used drugs on a regular basis, it appears that because of only one or two instances at most, he was released. That was due to an on-the-spot test administered by TNA back in March of 2016.
What qualifies him for this list is both that failed test and his inability to keep his mouth shut. He got himself in trouble with the WWE by botching a move in the ring with Randy Orton. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been fired for it and his release wasn’t his fault, but he couldn’t keep quiet. Then, he went to TNA. After being released, he told them to f*ck themselves at an independent wrestling show. It seems as though every time he lands somewhere, he has a tendency to mess it up for himself.
4. Alberto Rel Rio
Alberto Del Rio is quickly earning a reputation as the fastest growing disaster in the wrestling industry. His personal demon is that he can’t seem to stop himself from gaining all sorts of negative publicity.
First, he had a social media staffer in the WWE fired for making a derogatory remark (Del Rio struck that worker, by the way). Then, when he came back to the WWE, he was nothing but a pain to work with. He had a beef with all sorts of wrestlers, and when things weren’t to his liking, he asked for his release.
He went to TNA (now GFW) and tried to carry that company but, like he always does, got in trouble again. This time, it was more alleged abuse toward Paige (his fiancee). He was stripped of the title by GFW, and it’s fairly obvious that he will never be brought back to the WWE. He’s consistently threatening some talents over social media and has called out Triple H on numerous occasions.
3. Dynamite Kid
Dynamite Kid had concerns that he wasn’t big and strong enough when he first got started as a wrestler. Small but talented, he got into steroids and used them as a way to make his personality more believable. Unfortunately, he abused them way more than he should have. He got others into them and, with the amount that was in his system, became unpredictable and a little crazy.
He had a terrible reputation backstage. He threatened all sorts of people and years of steroid abuse mixed with a rash of injuries sustained in the ring eventually led him to be disabled. Before he knew it, paralysis already took control of his life. Today, he’s confined to a wheelchair and looks to be in worse shape than almost any other former wrestler in pro history. He’s had heart issues and suffered a stroke and, overall, just isn’t doing well.
If you’ve ever felt like someone you know can’t seem to get out of their own way, you’re probably describing Paige. People want to feel for her, but it seems like no matter what she does, she’s in the middle of a controversy and always the common denominator.
First, there she was almost losing her job in the WWE due to behavioral issues. Then, there were the nude photos and a s*x tape with Xavier Woods that leaked. This was all while dating Alberto Del Rio who, as mentioned earlier, had his own demons and a history of abuse. Paige is still technically under contract, thanks to a movie The Rock is producing about her family. But, if the WWE only could and not have it made for a bad public relations nightmare, they’ll likely release her immediately.
1. Scott Hall
It’s hard to make a list like this and not place Scott Hall at the top of it. The good news is that Hall seems to have gotten over the worst of his demons and is on the road to recovery. He’s one of the lucky ones who lived to tell his story.
To chronicle Hall’s legacy, even when it doesn’t include his substance abuse, is fascinating. From his rise in the WWE to his departure to WCW, first-ever guaranteed favored nations contract, and as a founding member of the NWO, his time in the wrestling industry has some incredibly-storied moments.
In 1983, Hall was charged with second-degree murder after shooting a man in an altercation outside a nightclub. Scott pled self-defense but later admitted to killing the man in an interview with ESPN. During the 1990’s, Hall couldn’t control his substance abuse. His wife divorced him. In 2010, Hall was arrested at a bar in Florida for being drunk and disorderly and for resisting arrest. TNA let him go after he’d run out of options.
It wasn’t until he started working with Diamond Dallas Page that he started to get things turned around.
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