Vincent Kennedy McMahon, the famed billionaire Chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment, really wants you to believe his company is the place to come for wholesome and athletic entertainment for the entire family. Ever since the product diverged down the path to PG television, WWE has been a soft and fluffy version of its former self, with less exposed skin, blood and cursing, but there’s no erasing the fact that this is the same company which made professional wrestling mainstream in the late 1990s with boobs, alcohol, and more sexual innuendo than even the most adult of us could handle.
There is certainly no shortage of scandals littering WWE’s lengthy and rich history. There have been plenty of romantic affairs and the like which have come to light over the decades, but the one vicious monster which seems to consistently continue to rear its ugly head is that of substance abuse. This is a problem which has been a serious thorn in the side of Vince McMahon and WWE for many years, and the company has been on the verge of total collapse on more than one occasion due to the drama that has unfolded as a result.
Earlier this year we took a look at some of professional wrestling’s most notorious drug addicts who have retired from the ring, catching up with what they’re doing now. But the wrestling world has seen so much substance abuse that we’re going to need to delve even deeper into that pit of darkness.
15 Tom Prichard
Tom Prichard is legendary in the sport of pro wrestling, though not exactly a household name. He never managed to get a ton of recognition for his work with WWE, though he and his brother Bruce Prichard, who famously portrayed the red faced villain Brother Love, certainly left their mark. For his part, Tom is remembered for his impact on tag team wrestling, particularly for being a member of the Heavenly Bodies with “Gigolo” Jimmy Del Ray, a team which also competed in Smoky Mountain Wrestling.
Tom would win tag team gold in many different wrestling promotions, though he would eventually retire from in ring action with WWE and instead work behind the scenes as a trainer for the company. His struggles with substance abuse are well known and he served a stint in rehab after his wife became concerned for his well being. Today Prichard continues to be involved with the wrestling industry and keeps his Twitter account updated in regards to his appearances.
14 “Superstar” Billy Graham
A huge star in the 1970s and ‘80s, “Superstar” Billy Graham was known for his colorful ring attire and flamboyant personality. He was a top villain and feuded with the legendary WWE Hall of Famer Bruno Sammartino, who was the longest reigning WWE World Champion of all time, and Graham actually defeated Sammartino for the title. Since his retirement from the ring, he has developed a reputation for being quite controversial and outspoken, even claiming that he wanted to be removed from the WWE Hall of Fame at one point.
But Billy Graham’s words aren’t the only thing that have made him famous outside the ring; he’s also been open about his use of performance enhancing drugs and even once attempted to blame WWE for forcing him to take them, though that was later disproven. In 2016, Graham remains active on social media. He was hospitalized earlier this year for internal bleeding, but recovered and is doing well.
13 William Regal
When you talk about well traveled performers, there are few professional wrestlers who have enjoyed as much success in as many corners of the world as Darren Matthews. Matthews was better known as Lord Steven Regal during his tenure in World Championship Wrestling in the 1990s, but during the Attitude era would join the World Wrestling Federation and wrestle under the ring name for which he would become best known, William Regal. In WWE alone, he had memorable runs with the European and Intercontinental Championships and famously teamed with Lance Storm and Japanese star Tajiri.
As respected as William Regal is in the business, he’s seen his share of controversy, related in no small part to his substance abuse. He had his run ins with steroids, but famously got himself into some hot water when he had too much to drink during a plane ride and urinated on a stewardess. He’s managed to pull himself together and now has a secure job with WWE as a trainer for younger talents and as the on-air general manager of NXT.
12 Billy Gunn
The name “Badd Ass” Billy Gunn is one to which tag team wrestling owes much of its success over the years. Billy Gunn has seen a ridiculous number of triumphs throughout his illustrious professional wrestling career and most of those have come with Billy at the side of a tag team partner. That partner was usually “Road Dogg” Jesse James and that team was known as the New Age Outlaws, one of the most influential teams in the entire industry. Gunn’s tag team stardom was not limited to the New Age Outlaws, however, as he also famously tagged with Chuck Palumbo, a partner to whom he very nearly “married” on television for a publicity stunt.
But despite all of Billy Gunn’s accolades, he still fell victim to addiction. The problem got so bad that he was involved in two car accidents within the span of a week and his wife decided to leave him. He was largely retired from the ring already when he was released in 2015 after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. He seems to be on good terms with the company, though, and still makes appearances on the independent scene.
11 Ric Flair
While Hulk Hogan can perhaps lay claim to being the most famous professional wrestler of all time, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair can likely say that he is the most respected man to ever lace up a pair of boots and compete inside a ring. Known the world over by wrestling fans as the best talker in the industry, Flair is also revered for his insane collection of absolutely classic wrestling encounters and rivalries with many of the all time greats, such as “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Ric Flair is a timeless gem whose wrestling career led him well into the twenty first century.
Though there do not seem to be any reports of drug usage in his past, Ric Flair definitely built a reputation as a drinker. His alcohol abuse has seen the birth of many wild stories about him being banned from certain establishments and he has been at the center of several controversies involving his public drunkenness. Nonetheless, Flair is doing well in 2016 and was very recently a regular on WWE television, appearing with his daughter Charlotte Flair. He currently hosts his own podcast.
10 Scott Hall
Scott Hall is a name that brings up a lot of different feelings for a lot of different people. To most, Hall is a very well respected legend in the professional wrestling industry, known for major successes in both of the biggest wrestling organizations in history, World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment. In WWE Hall first established his foothold in the annals of history as Razor Ramon, wrestling classic matches with the likes of Shawn Michaels over the Intercontinental Championship. He later defected to WCW in a surprise twist and started competing under his given name, forming the infamous New World Order with Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan.
Other things that come to mind when Hall’s name is spoken are less positive; he’s a notorious alcoholic and has been in trouble with the law more times than is reasonable to try to count. With the help of his fellow wrestling legend Diamond Dallas Page, Hall seems to have gotten his life back on track in 2016 and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014.
9 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan was the face of the World Wrestling Federation when Vince McMahon made the decision to take the company and the wrestling industry as a whole to the next level in 1985 with the inaugural WrestleMania event. Hulkamania would run wild for many years with Hogan being the main selling point for all of the WWF’s events. Hogan was an undeniable icon and perhaps the greatest and most legendary WWE World Champion in the history of the business.
But over the years his image has been heavily tarnished. All the myriad of discussions surrounding performance enhancing drugs have seen it come to light that Hogan, too, used steroids to help him find success throughout his wrestling career. In 2016, Hogan is kept far away from WWE following a scandal involving some past racist comments he made, though he stays actively in touch with his fans through social media and murmurs have begun to rise about a potential return to the company.
8 “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
There’s no denying it: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is perhaps the most instantly identifiable face and name in the history of professional wrestling with the possible exception of one Hulk Hogan. Austin was the face of the Attitude era, which turned out to be the most popular and lucrative period of time in the entire industry. His on screen wars with his boss Vince McMahon set the world on fire and exposed pro wrestling to an audience far larger than could have ever been imagined, and his accomplishments and Championship reigns cannot be discounted.
Austin’s record isn’t squeaky clean, though. Following the Chris Benoit tragedy in 2007 the wrestling world came under heavy media scrutiny and Austin’s ex-wife and former WWE Diva Debra Marshall gave a particularly damning interview where she accused him of beating her in fits of rage due to this steroid abuse. Austin has not confirmed or denied these accusations, but they don’t seem to have derailed his post wrestling career as he still makes a pretty good living hosting a TV show and a podcast.
7 Shawn Michaels
The famed wrestling stable known as D-Generation X certainly saw its fair share of members who battled substance abuse. In fact, it would seem that Triple H might be the only member who never encountered the problem. One of the founding members, WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels, famously had his own troubles throughout his initial run with the company. Michaels managed to rack up one classic match after another and several reigns as the Intercontinental and WWE World Champion; that’s not too bad considering his reported drug use at the time.
What seemed to save the “Heartbreak Kid” was his wife helping him find religion. Michaels cleaned up his act and his decorated career came to a close on a highly positive note. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame after his retirement match against the Undertaker and “Mr. WrestleMania” now has his own hunting television show.
6 “Road Dogg” Jesse James
“Road Dogg” Jesse James is a true legend in the wrestling industry. He first rose to mainstream fame as the Roadie when he was accompanying Jeff Jarrett to the ring in the mid-1990s and years later saw solo success with reigns as the Intercontinental and Hardcore Champion, but his biggest taste of stardom has always come while tagging with his infamous tag team partner “Badd Ass” Billy Gunn. Together, James and Gunn comprised the New Age Outlaws and won a slew of WWE Tag Team Championships, helping define the famed Attitude era.
The Road Dogg has admitted in interviews that he suffered from a substance abuse problem for many years and that he only recently managed to put it behind him. He has returned to working for WWE over the past few years and, though he has largely retired from the ring, he is a writer and an agent for the company.
5 Sean Waltman
Some wrestlers were simply the epitome of 1990s professional wrestling and one of those men was Sean Waltman. He’s perhaps best known as X-Pac for his time in WWE as a part of the famed D-Generation X stable, though he also saw success in his early days as the 1-2-3 Kid and as Syxx in World Championship Wrestling as one of the first members of the New World Order. Sean Waltman’s contributions to the sport of pro wrestling are enormous and span a wide range of Championship reigns and tag team partners, but he’ll likely always be remembered for his days with D-X.
His accolades are many, but so are his experiences with substance abuse. Waltman’s widely reported drug problems have been so bad that he’s been accused of beating his ex-girlfriend and fellow wrestling legend Chyna. Waltman spent time in rehabilitation with the help of WWE and seems clean and sober today. He still occasionally competes on the independent circuit but has been retired from WWE for many years despite the occasional special appearance.
4 Kurt Angle
When Kurt Angle first joined the World Wrestling Federation at the height of the Attitude era, few could see the legend he would become. He was goofy and wore ridiculous tights in red, white and blue to allude to his past as an Olympic gold medalist. Who knew this guy would go on to defeat some of the greatest stars in wrestling history? Men such as Shawn Michaels, Triple H, The Rock and the Undertaker all fell victim to the wrestling machine known as Kurt Angle, who became a huge deal in WWE in practically no time at all.
As pure as his image in WWE may have made him out to be, all was not peachy in the life of Kurt Angle. Angle has admitted to years of addiction problems, such as his overuse of alcohol and severe abuse of painkillers. This was widely reported as a reason for his release from WWE a decade ago, when it was stated that Angle had refused rehabilitation. Kurt has largely retired from the ring now, though rumors persist about a potential return to WWE to finish out his career.
3 Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart
His daughter Natalya has been schooling the women of WWE on how a female wrestler should be performing in the ring for many years now, but Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart is a legend in his own right. Though not necessarily well known as a solo act, most wrestling fans will be fondly familiar the Hart Foundation, a tag team consisting of the Anvil and the legendary WWE Hall of Famer Bret “Hitman” Hart. Neidhart’s mean mug and rough style made him something of a tag team icon and he and Hart were a part of a golden era in the tag division of WWE.
Unfortunately for the Anvil, he’s also notorious for his drug usage. He’s been on the wrong side of the law a few times and as recently as a few years ago was famously spotted at a Miami Marlins game obviously high on some sort of substance. Neidhart’s drug usage may have gotten the better of him on more than one occasion, but he’s made attempts at recovery with rehabilitation as was covered on his daughter Natalya’s reality show, Total Divas.
2 Marty Jannetty
Perhaps wrestling fans might remember a little tag team known as The Rockers. Just to give a little back story, this was the team that saw rise to one of the greatest icons in the history of the business when one of the members broke out on his own and enjoyed many years of being known as “Mr. WrestleMania.” That man’s name was Shawn Michaels, and he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011. The other man in The Rockers was named Marty Jennetty, and his story is one that is not so inspiring.
After the team split up, Marty did enjoy a certain level of success as the Intercontinental Champion, but his real life problems would see that he was constantly falling out of favor with WWE. Time and time again Jannetty was getting into legal trouble or failing drug tests, and his substance abuse has now led to a bitter relationship between himself and his former employer. Jannetty occasionally posts on social media and as recently as 2016 was very brutal in his criticism of one Stephanie McMahon after watching her performance on an episode of Raw.
1 Terry Funk
Terry Funk of the famous Funk family is one of the biggest southern wrestling stars in the history of the business. His father Dory and brother Dory, Jr. were also both pro wrestlers, but Terry in particular became a true legend for his wars with the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair among other iconic names such as “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, Jack Brisco and Pat O’Connor. Later, Funk became known for his hardcore style of wrestling and famously was what fellow wrestling legend Mick Foley referred to as the biggest influence on his career.
Terry Funk certainly made a lot of history throughout his wrestling career, but was also well known for having had a whole lot of fun. Perhaps too much according to the stories about how he would abuse alcohol and get himself into some crazy predicaments. Funk showed up on Monday Night Raw before WrestleMania 32 and suffered from some health problems later in the year, but appears to be fine and still makes wrestling appearances.
Sources: TMZ, MTV, Bleacher Report, Wrestling Inc., The Atlantic
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