The sport of wrestling – yes, it is a sport, or at least sports entertainment – is a seriously tough business. A lot of people have the perception that it’s the easiest thing in the world, that as a wrestler, you just rock up to the event, you get given a brief, follow the instructions, and that’s that. That couldn’t be further from the case. Yes, wrestling’s scripted, but just because the outcome’s already been determined, it doesn’t mean it’s super easy, and that there aren’t any dangers involved. Events are scripted so wrestlers know what’s supposed to occur, and this minimizes any dangers. But that doesn’t mean things always go according to plan. If you’ve seen wrestling, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Tables, chairs, all sorts of weapons, have been used in the ring, and when some of this stuff’s in use, unless things are done perfectly, they could cause serious injury. Botched moves also occur, and in some cases, could cause life-threatening injuries.
It’s not all about what happens in the ring. The business as a whole is a tough one to be a part of. Just look at all those wrestlers over the years who’ve succumbed to drug and alcohol addictions . Many become hooked on such substances, as they feel it’s the only way they can cope with the lifestyle they lead. This in itself can be life-threatening.
These are 15 wrestlers who’ve been through serious turmoil and have faced some serious strife over the years, as a result of injuries, addictions, or other such problems. Because of what they’ve faced, it’s remarkable that they’re still alive and kicking today. These are 15 wrestlers we can’t believe are still alive.
Sean Waltman, aka X-Pac, has had a pretty tough life, not just as a wrestler, but life in general. As a youngster, he was basically left to fend for himself, and was molested several times. As a teenager, he developed a crystal meth habit, and this drug abuse continued throughout the years. He was in such a state, that he suffered with depression, and actually tried to commit suicide.
His girlfriend at the time walked into their apartment to find him hanging by the neck, moments away from death. He escaped death on that occasion, but subsequently developed an alcohol addiction. That’s when he tried to commit suicide – and very nearly succeeded in killing himself – a second time. In a drunk rage, he violently abused his girlfriend. Her son saw him hit her. Racked with guilt, overcome with shame, X-Pac took 40 Valium pills, drank a load of alcohol, wrote out a suicide note, and hung himself with a garden hose. Amazingly he was saved yet again, and this time around, his friend got in on the act, sent him away to a psychiatric rehab facility where he could get professional help. Needless to say, X-Pac’s a fortunate man to still be around today.
14 Scott Hall
Scott Hall, portraying his Razor Ramon gimmick, was a pretty big deal back in the day. He was an iconic character, one that people loved, and at the same time, plenty of people loved to hate. But there’s no doubting he was immensely popular, rated as one of the best wrestlers in the world in his heyday. But those days are long gone, and to be honest, it’s remarkable that he’s still here and able to tell those legendary wrestling stories today.
Scott Hall’s faced a ton of problems over the years. He’s battled drug addictions, has overdosed on all sorts of substances several times, and has had to deal with numerous health problems too, some of which have been his own doing, but others he can just attribute to downright rotten luck. His buddy, DDP, helped him turn his life around through his DDP Yoga program, and kudos to him, because today, Scott Hall’s looking a million times better than he was during those dark times.
13 Bill Alfonso
This is going back a bit now, but it’s an incident I’m sure a lot of you wrestling fans would have heard of. The guy was a beast in the ring, someone the fans loved to see, and that’s because he put his body on the line pretty much every time he made an appearance. He thought nothing of getting real, letting the situation take him to within an inch of his life, all in the name of wrestling entertainment. Entertain he sure did, for those fans who loved the blood and guts and hardcore wrestling action.
In 1997, Bill took part in a mixed tag team match against Beulah. The match wasn’t really an entertaining one, but Bill’s hardcore approach, his dedication to making wrestling as realistic as possible, certainly stuck out, and for that he gained plenty of plaudits. But he almost wasn’t around to take the plaudits. Bill bladed himself during the match, but messed up the cut. He bladed himself so deep, that blood began to pour out of it and he lost three quarters of the blood in his body. The scenes were horrific, and somehow, Bill managed to survive.
Let’s face it, Kamala has never been lean, ripped, and muscular. He’s always had a massive frame, carried around a load of timber, but that was part of his appeal in the ring. He really did cut a menacing figure, especially with that face paint – he was one of the first wrestlers who had face paint in the WWE - but, because of his weight, he has had a ton of health issues over the years.
Over the years, Kamala’s popularity decreased drastically. From being a star performer, he began wrestling only now and again, before calling it quits in 2011. Although his career was coming to an end anyway, he didn’t really have a choice but to call it a day on his career. His health problems were building, and due to high blood pressure and diabetes, he had both his legs amputated. It’s a miracle, after everything he’d gone through, that he’s still around, not in the ring – we’ve seen a lot of things in wrestling, but a double leg amputee isn’t one of them – but alive nonetheless.
11 New Jack
New Jack isn’t someone who has a lot of friends or a lot of fans, inside or outside the wrestling business. He’s one crazy dude, a seriously messed up individual, and although it sounds horrific to say, I reckon there wouldn’t have been many tears shed had he died at some point.
He’s known for legitimately beating up wrestlers, not sticking to scripts, but making things as real as possible and causing serious pain to his fellow wrestlers. He loved using weapons too, and used them excessively to inflict serious damage, taking years off the lives of a lot of his opponents. He himself, has also taken one hell of a beating. He’s got scars, cuts, and bruises all over his body and is deemed to be insane by many in the wrestling business. It’s a miracle he’s alive, not only because of the pain he’s suffered himself, but because it’s amazing no one’s put a price on his head yet. The stuff New Jack’s been involved in, you’d have thought it was only a matter of when, but he’s survived to date, and actually hasn’t yet retired – not that many people are queuing up to wrestle him.
10 Tyson Kidd
Tyson Kidd was, only a matter of years ago, one of the best wrestlers around. He was making waves in the industry with WWE and was making great strides to the top, where he and many others felt he belonged. But it was all cut short, and his life almost was too, after a terrible botched move left Tyson fighting for his life. In 2015, Tyson was involved in a dark match on Raw against Samoa Joe. During the match, Samoa executed his finishing move, but botched it, and consequently Tyson has been out of the ring ever since. He suffered neck and spinal injuries, injuries that apparently only 5% of people with them survive. Tyson was in that lucky 5%. He had screws, rods, all sorts of things inserted into his spine and neck, and it’s a miracle he’s pulled through as good as he has. His wrestling career died that day – luckily for everyone, he didn’t.
9 Ric Flair
Ric Flair is arguably the greatest wrestler of all time. Just look at his long list of achievements, and it’d be hard to disagree. The guy’s a legend, has accomplished so much for himself and the world of wrestling entertainment, but it’s scary to think it all nearly didn’t happen, that Ric was almost finished before he had even really started.
In October 1975, Ric was travelling by plane, with a number of other now-wrestling greats, David Crockett, Johnny Valentine, Bob Bruggers, and Tim Woods, when the plane crashed. They were heading to Legion Stadium, in Wilmington, North Carolina, and it was meant to be a routine flight. It was, up until the last minute or so. The plane had run out of fuel as it approached the airport. The pilot cut across trees upon approaching the runway, the plane hit a utility pole, and then it came crashing down. The pilot lost his life, Valentine was paralyzed for life, and Ric broke his back in three places. It was said he’d never walk again, but at the time, he was just happy to be alive.
8 Dan Spivey
Back in the 80s, this guy was one hell of a tag team wrestler. He had a load of memorable matches, and was beginning to establish himself as a firm fan favorite, with his massive 6 ft. 8 in, 290 lb frame, and he could wrestle too. But it’s amazing and mightily unfortunate that we only got to see 12 years of Dan in the ring doing his thing. He could have had a long and successful career, could have been one of the greats, but his career was prematurely cut short in 1995. He had a load of injuries which forced his hand. After retirement, he tried his hand at various different things, but just couldn’t get over the fact that he couldn’t wrestle any more. Depression got the better of him, and he spiralled out of control, using alcohol as a means of coping. He looked like a ghost, was all frail and pale, a shadow of his former self. Thankfully he’s beaten his addiction and is getting his life back on track.
7 Gary Wolfe
Gary Wolfe, better known as Pitbull #1, formed one half of The Pitbulls, and they were a pretty decent tag team. He’s now 50, and does the odd bit of wrestling, and he’s lucky he still can. That’s because in July 1996, he suffered a horrific injury when The Pitbulls were in a four-way elimination match for the ECW Television Title. The Pitbulls weren’t doing so well, so Gary decided to get in on the act and try and interfere. Not a wise move. Shane Douglas took him out with a single-arm DDT, Gary lay motionless on the floor, and everything just went on as before. It was impressive stuff, and the crowds just thought Gary was playing to the script. He was actually fighting for his life. He’d snapped his C1 vertebrae in half and had broken his neck. Later, in a documentary, it was revealed that there’s still plenty of bad blood between Gary and Shane about that incident. Shane got a lot of heat over it, but he claims it was Gary’s fault, that he didn’t land properly. Gary, however, when asked, didn’t comment on that, but seriously resents Shane for nearly ending his life, certainly for affecting the rest of his career.
6 Lex Luger
Lex Luger was one of the greatest, most iconic wrestlers around, particularly in the 90s. But having said that, the man tipped to be the next Hulk Hogan really didn’t go that far, and didn’t achieve what was expected of him. He certainly didn’t get the same type of fan following. That’s because he was a douchebag to a lot of people, and people in the business don’t forget that stuff easily. His antics were exacerbated due to his drug addiction. It became one hell of a serious problem, and only got worse when he began to live with Miss Elizabeth. But Miss Elizabeth died, as did Lex’s drug habit, although he very nearly ended up the same way.
Lex has also had health concerns. In the mid-2000s, he suffered a spinal stroke. This very nearly finished him off, but caused paralysis instead. It was years before he was able to walk again, although he still hasn’t made a full recovery, and quite possibly, never will.
5 Brian Lee
There’s one incident in 1996 that almost cost Brian Lee his life. It’s imaginatively known as “The High Incident” – take a wild guess as to why. Brian Lee, best known for playing the imposter version of The Phenom, The Undertaker, ended up unconscious that night, and almost died, after a spectacular fall – spectacular for the fans in attendance and all those watching, not for Lee.
It was another ECW event – that promotion certainly knew how to put on a show! For some reason, the event organizers deemed it bright to entrust Sandman to construct the stage for the night – you’ll understand why putting this responsibility on Sandman was sheer madness in a bit. The finished stage actually looked pretty good, but things weren’t secured, and it was still really dangerous; it wouldn’t have gotten the go-ahead in today’s day and age. There was a very narrow, thin piece of wood above the ring. Naturally Brian Lee, and his opponent, Tommy Dreamer, began battling it out on that wood, and what happened next was inevitable. Brian fell off the wood and crashed into the tables and chairs below him. Lee was unconscious before hitting the canvas, but he did recover down the line.
The Sandman-Sabu feud was one of the most memorable feuds in wrestling history. Firstly, let me remind you of Sandman. He was known for being one hard-as-nails dude, and gained a reputation for being a hardcore icon, not in a crazy way like New Jack, but in a manner people actually liked.
Sandman could’ve died tons of times during his ECW days. He thought nothing of putting his body on the line, and things often got very real, and pretty scary for Sandman too. One such time, was “Born to be Wired” in 1997. Basically, the ECW set had a load of razor sharp barbed wire, arranged above the ring. Of course, both Sandman and Sabu put on a show, and that meant using the wire and getting cut to shreds. But it wasn’t fake, it was their own blood, and it was actually a pretty grizzly scene. Both were cut to shreds, and at the end of it, Sandman was lying in the ring in a pool of his own blood in something that resembled a murder scene. It was a spectacle alright, and Sandman was lucky to have emerged from it alive.
If Sandman was a hardcore icon, Sabu was just on another level, considering what he was willing to do, and the mess he put his body through. That incident, “Born to be Wired” almost finished off Sabu too. He was lying in a bloodbath, looked like he’d been skinned alive. Another incident, “Stairway to Hell,” ended in pretty similar circumstances. ECW still had a thing for the use of barbed wire, and Sabu ended up being ripped to shreds, and he had his jaw broken and smashed to pieces by the end of the night’s entertainment. But there are plenty of other incidents that caused some problems for Sabu.
In 1994, during a match against Chris Benoit, Sabu was tossed in the air. But the way he landed made people recoil in their seats. He landed bang on his head, and you could hear the snap. The second his head had made contact with the canvas, it was evident that something was seriously wrong. He’d broken his neck, and Sabu instantly received medical attention. Sabu has broken pretty much every bone in his body, and has so many metal plates and screws inserted into him, that he’s probably more metal than he is human! It’s a miracle he’s still alive and that his body was able to take so much punishment over the years.
2 Perry Saturn
Perry Saturn really has had a tumultuous life. As a wrestler, he was actually pretty decent and received quite a substantial fan following. He was a star with WCW, but didn’t quite reach the same heights with WWE. Nevertheless, he was a popular performer, which is why fans were puzzled when he seemingly dropped off the face of the earth soon after his release from WWE in 2004. He vanished for around seven years; he didn’t appear in the ring with any promotion, and nobody, even family and friends, knew of his whereabouts. There was one terrifying incident, during which he was shot, and after that he became addicted to methamphetamine and was homeless, and he just disappeared. He overcame his addiction, returned to the ring, but at the moment, he can’t work because of a traumatic brain injury, one that apparently seriously limits his ability to do anything. It really is a miracle that he’s still standing.
1 Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Jake Roberts has to be up there as being one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. His dark charisma, awesome promos, and of course, the way he brought snakes into the ring, meant he was one cool cat, a much-loved figure, especially during the 80s and 90s.
Jake was also a guy who’s had a seriously tough life. These tough times started when he was just a kid. He claims he was sexually abused by his stepmom, and this led him down the path of self-destruction down the road. He developed an alcohol and drug addiction, one that very nearly took his life. WWE paid for him to go to rehab, but that didn’t work. He’d also ballooned in weight, and was having serious health problems because of the weight gain. What did work, was moving in with former wrestler and good friend Diamond Dallas Page, and participating in his yoga program. He then battled with muscular cancer, and double pneumonia, things that many people thought would finish him off. But he’s still alive, looks in great shape, and importantly, is a healthy, happy individual.