Professional wrestlers are in and out of prison almost as often as they are in and out of WWE. With all the partying and traveling that come with life in the wrestling business, it’s inevitable that a certain percentage of wrestlers will end up behind bars at some point in their career. Most of these arrests are for small, trivial things such as public intoxication and the arrested performer is usually released within a couple of hours, their only concern being the damage to their public image which might have been cause, particularly if they’re signed to a WWE contract at the time.
Over the years, however, not all wrestlers have been so lucky. A surprising number of superstars have wound up in prison for extended periods of time. In some cases, wrestlers are jailed for a couple of months, which certainly isn’t fun but leaves them with plenty of time to pursue a career in the squared-circle once they are released. In other cases, the wrestler in question is not likely to see the outside world for a decade or two. Some have even been sentenced to life in prison, which takes away just slightly more of your freedom than working for WWE.
In this article, we’re going to be counting down 15 of the longest professional wrestler prison sentences in the history of the business. Let’s get started.
15 Randy Orton
Before he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and get involved in professional wrestling, “The Viper” Randy Orton tried his hand at being a marine, but he didn’t try it very hard.
Almost immediately after enlisting, Orton realized that he had made a terrible mistake. Rather than giving himself time to adapt to military life, the future world champion set about getting himself dishonorably discharged. This proved surprisingly difficult, with one attempt to go AWOL ending with a “Where the have you been?” and a slap on the wrist. Orton finally did cause enough trouble to be discharged, but not before he was court-martialed and sentenced to 38 days in a military prison.
Orton’s questionable history with the United States Marine Corps came back to haunt him in 2012, when WWE was forced to pull him from filming of The Marine 3: Home Front after a number of marines protested his involvement.
Tammy Sytch, who is best known to WWE fans as Sunny, has had her fair share of run-ins with the law. This year, she just barely managed to escape a jail sentence for multiple DUIs, with the judge taking into account time she had spent in rehab when deciding her punishment. However, Sytch has not been so lucky in the past.
In 2012, she was arrested five times in the space of four weeks for a variety of crimes, including third-degree burglary and three counts of violating a protection order. Shortly after, in January 2013, she was arrested a sixth time, again for violating a protection order.
Sytch was sentenced and ended up spending 114 days behind bars, during which time she was diagnosed with, and subsequently cured of, cervical cancer.
13 Ken Patera
Ken Patera was already a successful strongman when he decided to get involved in professional wrestling, so you can imagine how much damage he was capable of causing when angered. Actually, you don’t have to imagine at all because Patera has a notoriously bad temper and has given us plenty of examples throughout the years.
In April of 1984, Patera and a fellow wrestler visited a McDonald’s restaurant after hours and were infuriated when staff refused to serve them. Patera was so enraged, in fact, that he picked up a boulder and hurled it through a window of the McDonald’s. It’s unclear where Patera got the boulder from, but it’s possible he carried one around for just such a situation.
Ken Patera was brought to court over a year later, by which time he had signed with the WWF, and was sentenced to two years in prison. He served one and a half.
12 Mr. Saito
Remember when I said Patera had visited that unfortunate McDonald’s with a friend? Yeah, that friend was Mr. Saito.
Although it was Patera who shattered the window, Saito was not without fault on that fateful night. When Patera and Saito were confronted by officers shortly after the incident, both men were uncooperative. In fact, they even assault the officers in a fit of rage. According to the official report, Patera and Satio took turns wailing on the officers until backup arrived and finally managed to subdue the two wrestlers. The incident at McDonald’s likely would have been forgotten, with the two men at most having to pay a fine, had they not resisted arrest in such a violent manner.
Like Patera, Saito was brought to court and sentenced to two years behind bars. Also like Patera, he ended up serving eighteen months of that sentence.
11 Booker T
Given that Booker T has had such a successful career in the world of professional wrestling, it can be easy for fans to forget that he was not always as well to do as he is now.
As a youth, Booker, who is now a millionaire, was flat broke and struggling to get by. In an attempt to get some money in his pockets, the future WWE World Heavyweight Champion got together with some friends to hold up the Wendy’s in which he worked.
Because Booker T was not an experienced criminal, he made a number of errors during the robbery which easily led police to him. He was sentenced to five years in prison, though was released after serving one third of that term.
10 Buck Zumhofe
Buck Zumhofe didn’t have all that great a career in professional wrestling. He managed to score a deal with the World Wrestling Federation in the early 1990s, but was used exclusively as a jobber. He was handily defeated by The Undertaker in one of his earliest matches and faced Triple H in Hunter’s WWE debut. However, Zumhofe did manage to carve out a nice life for himself as a professional scumbag.
Zumhofe has been in trouble with the law a couple of times, with more than one incident stemming from his preference of young, unwilling girls. Toward the end of the 80s, prior to his WWF/E signing, he was arrested and charged with fourth-degree sexual conduct with a minor.
In 1989, Zumhofe was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to 36 months in prison.
9 Ion Croitoru
Ian Croitoru is another professional wrestler who failed to make any real impact on the business but proved to be a stellar breaker of laws. He performed for the WWF on a number of occasions under the name Johnny K-9, and was primarily used as an enhancement talent.
Croitoru’s history of mischief is long and varied, with numerous assaults and drug trafficking charges. However, those offenses are trivial everyday tasks for the former wrestler. One of his most notable misdeeds came during the 1990s after he and some members of his motorcycle gang were kicked out of a strip club. The gang plotted to get their revenge by bombing the club, but at some point sanity prevailed… and they decided to blow up a police station instead.
In 2013, Croitoru, who was somehow not already in jail, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to 13 years in prison, though that was eventually reduced to just under five. In 2016, he was released from prison and sent to live in a halfway house where he is forbidden from contacting any of his old law breaking chums.
8 Nick Gage
A lot of wrestlers in this modern era find performing under a mask to be gimmicky and demeaning, although former CZW Heavyweight Champion Nick Gage will likely tell you that it has its advantages. For example, had he chosen to wrestle in a mask, he wouldn’t have wound up in jail.
In 2010, Gage decided it would be a good idea to commit armed robbery, and made off with several thousand dollars from a bank in New Jersey. However, CCTV footage of the robbery allowed authorities to identify Gage, who they recognized as a professional wrestler. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
After serving the majority of his sentence, though not all of it, Gage was released from prison. However, in April 2015 the bafflingly foolish CZW star (a vague description which could apply to half of the roster) violated parole and was put back in the big house.
7 Montel Vontavious Porter
Although he has portrayed an affluent, self-absorbed sportsman for the majority of his career, Montel Vontavious Porter is no stranger to hard times (or hard time).
As a youth, MVP found himself running with a bad crowd and had a number of issues with the law. When he was just 16 years of age, he was found guilty of armed robbery and kidnapping and was sentenced to 18 and a half years in prison. While behind bars, he began to study the Quran and eventually converted to Islam, though he is not religious today.
MVP was released from prison after just under a decade and became involved in professional wrestling after a corrections officer suggested it as a way to keep out of trouble. Obviously, following that officer’s advice was the best thing MVP ever did.
6 Steve Gatorwolf
Steve Gatorwolf – real name Stephen Ketcher – had an unimpressive and unmemorable career inside the squared-circle. However, that could have been very different. He was signed by Vince McMahon in the mid-80s and was scheduled to receive a nice push. Unfortunately for Ketcher, his push was halted after he failed to adapt to the character given to him. He spent his remaining time in WWF as a jobber.
In 2014, while working as a truck driver, Ketcher was accused of sexual assault by the 15-year-old daughter of his friend. During the trial, the court heard recordings of threatening messages Ketcher had left for the girl and her family shortly after the sexual abuse was first reported to the authorities. He tried desperately to defend himself with a rambling speech in which he referred to himself in the third person, but it proved no use.
Stephen Ketcher was found guilty and sentenced to 16 years in prison.
5 Buck Zumhofe (Again)
After Buck Zumhofe was released from prison for his 1989 conviction of the sexual assault of a minor, it didn’t take very long for him to start breaking the law again.
Ten years after his conviction, Zumhofe began abusing his daughter, something which would go on for more than a decade. In 2013, his daughter found the courage to talk about the abuse and her father was arrested not long after. Zumhofe was convicted of 12 counts of sexual assault in March 2015, and attempted to flee the courthouse after the verdict was read. He was quickly captured.
On May 6, 2014, Buck Zomhofe was sentenced to a total of 25 years in prison for the abuse of his daughter and his failed attempt to escape justice. Frankly, it doesn’t seem like enough.
4 Andre Hart
This is certainly one of the most bizarre cases on this list. Andre Hart was an accomplished performer on the independent scene when WWE showed an interest in signing him. However, WWE retracted its contract offer after the usual pre-signing medical tests revealed that Hart was HIV positive.
Hart returned to the indies without informing anybody of his condition, which was incredibly irresponsible of him, especially when you consider the fact that blading is pretty common in indie matches. To make matters worse, Hart continued having sex with a multitude of women – some sources say over one hundred - and kept them all in the dark about his condition.
Hart was eventually taken to court for his failure to disclose his HIV status to his sexual partners and was sentenced to 32 years behind bars.
3 Brian McGhee
Okay, now we’re getting into the lifers. First up, former WWE superstar Brian McGhee. Don’t be surprised if you’re not familiar with this guy. Although he was signed with WWE for a period, he performed solely in FCW.
During his time in Florida Championship Wrestling, McGhee competed as DT Porter and admittedly showed a bit of promise. Despite this, he was released from his contract after two years.
In 2013, no longer under a WWE contract, McGhee stabbed his girlfriend multiple times and posted a picture of one of her bloodied limps on his Facebook page. He then went on the run but was apprehended after a high-speed car chase and charged with first-degree murder.
McGhee was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to life in prison, with the presiding judge specifically stating that in this case, life means life.
2 Hardbody Harrison
HardbodyHarrsion had a brief stint in World Championship Wrestling toward the end of the 90s but never performed inside a WWE ring, which company officials were no doubt thankful for during his much talked about 2007 trial.
Harrison was accused of the false imprisonment of nine women, with prosecutors claiming he held them in his home and used them as sex slaves for himself and others.
Hardbody, for some explicable reason, opted to defend himself. He insisted the women were in his home because they were aspiring professional wrestlers who wanted him to train them.
Although Harrison was acquitted of the charges involving the ninth woman, he was found guilty on all charges concerning the other eight and was sentenced to life behind bars.
1 Douglas Whitton
This is probably the most horrific crimes ever committed by a professional wrestler and more resembles something out of a Stephen King novel than real life.
Douglas Whitton was a struggling independent professional wrestler and recovering alcoholic when he met the Reeves family at a Christian church. The devout family took pity on Whitton, who was having trouble getting back on his feet, and agreed to let him stay in their home. This proved to be a fatal mistake.
While staying in the home, Whitton murdered the entire family, which included a 9-year-old boy. During his trial, Whitton stated that he was in a blackout state when he murdered the family and therefore was not guilty. Unsurprisingly, this defense didn’t work and he was sentenced to life in prison in February 1999.
Sources: TMZ, WWE, USA Today, Philly
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