There aren’t many careers that are more damaging to your body and mind than being a professional wrestler. And while the allure of the spotlight is something that wrestlers have chased after their whole life, the life that exists in the shadows is not one that is enviable.
Countless wrestlers have battled addictions to drugs and alcohol throughout their career. In many instances, those addictions continued to run rampant once their time in the squared circle was over.
What these once beloved wrestlers are left with is a body that doesn’t work the way it used to, a mind that is deteriorating, financial issues and in many cases, a life that ends before they turned 45. Sometimes by their own doing, sometimes because their addiction to drugs was just too dangerous of a game to continue playing around with.
Retirement can definitely be a tough transition for someone to make, but let’s hope you don’t ever end up hitting rock bottom as hard as the 15 wrestlers you’re about to read about.
It can be incredibly important to listen to your doctors when they recommend certain types of treatment. For Kamala, the doctor must have been emphatic in suggesting that he receive treatment to help combat his struggles with diabetes. Granted it must not have helped that Kamala had a profession where he needed to try and keep himself as large as he could, while still remaining mobile.
At the end of the day though, Kamala’s lack of attention to his health has caused serious complications. While he is still alive, unlike several entries on our list, Kamala has had both of his legs amputated. This has understandably had an impact on his income, and in 2014 he admitted to struggling financially.
14. Adam Rose
Raymond Leppan had the potential to turn his character in the WWE, Adam Rose, into a fan favorite that stuck around for the foreseeable future. And while charges were eventually dropped, Rose was let go from the company following an arrest for battery domestic assault, as well as tampering with a witness.
Rose’s career after that definitely went on a downhill slide and saw him wrestling (generally unsuccessfully it seems) in the independent circuit. Let’s hope Rose Leppan has discovered some of his passions outside of the ring, as he recently announced his retirement from the industry. If not, his rock bottom might start getting a lot lower.
13. Miss Elizabeth
There are several male wrestlers who had their career significantly improved by the female talent that was put by their side. There’s no arguing that while Randy Savage was outstanding, his career was definitely bolstered by the addition of Miss Elizabeth.
Their on-screen relationship turned to a short-lived marriage from 1984-1992. Following her release from the WWF who had employed her from 1985-1992, Elizabeth went to work in WCW until 2000 where she also started bumping it up with Lex Lugar.
12. Sean O’Haire
Sean O’Haire performed all around the world but perhaps is best recognized for his contributions to the WWE which lasted from 2000-2004.
But sadly for Sean O’Haire, his time in the company may have also coincided with the best times of his life. It was reported in 2014 that O’Haire had taken his own life. The WWE attempted to help him with his various addictions throughout his career, including sending him to rehab but were ultimately unsuccessful in their efforts.
11. Mike Awesome
There are many people out there who feel like Mike Awesome (real name Michael Alfonso) had the potential to be one of the most talented “big men” to ever step into the ring. At 6’6” and close to 300 pounds, his dominating force was complimented well with his athletic skill set in the ring.
But Awesome failed to ever find a solid home in the WWF (and later TNA) and spent the last 4 years of his career in the independent circuit trying to recapture his former glory.
10. Matt Osborne (Doink The Clown)
Throughout the history of the WWE, there have been several wrestlers who have stepped into the clown shoes of Doink The Clown. That doesn’t make the gimmick any better, but it does prove that Vince must have been a huge fan of it.
Sadly, Matt Osbourne, who originated the character was less happy about how his real life played out. He took the character to the ECW in 1994 but spent most of the last years of his life performing on the independent circuit.
9. Jake The Snake
Jake “The Snake” Roberts left a legacy in the wrestling ring that makes him one of the biggest legends to ever lace up a pair of boots. But Roberts life has been filled with as many lows as highs, as he has publicly battled an addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Roberts seemed to turn it around in 2008 following a stint in rehab sponsored by the WWE but had fallen off the wagon by 2012. Along with becoming heavily overweight, Roberts was re-using both drugs and alcohol.
8. Dynamite Kid
Thomas Billington, aka The Dynamite Kid, was one of the most athletic and talented wrestlers during his career that primarily lasted from the mid- to late-80s. But while he may have jumped around the ring without a care in the world, today, he isn’t jumping anywhere.
Billington has suffered from heart complications, as well as back and leg issues; the latter of which saw him lose all function in his left leg. Longtime friend of Bellington, Bruce Hart, has called out the WWE to help him out
“The wrestling businesses has got no real safety nets after you leave it. You know, there’s no pension fund — nothing. It’s kind of feast or famine. I’d certainly like to throw the gauntlet down to Vince McMahon at the WWE. It would seem to me a fitting gesture for them to do a fundraiser or cut him a cheque.”
7. Crash Holly
Crash Holly would put his body through absolute hell in order to try and win over the fans in attendance. But as damaging and painful as Holly’s career in the ring was – that saw him win the Hardcore Championship 22 times – his life outside of it was perhaps even more painful.
It was ruled a suicide when Holly was found dead in 2003 with a bottle of painkillers nearby. Adding to the morbid scene was the reports that his wife, N’keigh Wheeler, had just sent him divorce papers.
6. Tammy Sytch
Tammy Sytch was the first crush of many men who grew up watching wrestling in the 1990s. But as electric as she was on the screen, her life outside of the ring was filled with even more fireworks.
Sytch had several addictions throughout her life, including a heavy reputation for her love of booty bumping it up with fellow wrestlers. This perhaps made it less shocking that she eventually ended up making adult entertainment.
5. Curt Hennig
There were many things in Curt Hennig’s life that he did extremely well. Hell, he was nicknamed Mr.Perfect! But his life outside of the ring definitely contained several areas that he wishes he would have had a better handle on.
Such as his love of alcohol, that following a drunken confrontation with Brock Lesnar saw him released from the company in May 2002. Hennig’s life was over under a year later, as he was found deceased after suffering from an acute cocaine intoxication in February 2003. Hennig did not have reports circulate of his drug use during his time in the ring, giving the impression that life really fell apart for him after retirement.
It can’t be easy to admit that you need help. It must also not be easy to accept that help if you feel you’ve done nothing wrong. But after Edward Fatu, better known as Umaga, was accused of violating the WWE’s Wellness policy; he denied their accusations and instead of going to rehab, was released.
It didn’t help his case that this was his 2nd violation! Fatu struggled to get off the independent circuit following his release, and in 2009, passed away after suffering two heart attacks after a drug overdose. He was only 36 years old at the time of his passing.
3. Perry Saturn
Perry Saturn was just doing the right thing in April 2004 when he was driving around with his then-girlfriend and saw a woman getting raped on the side of the road.
But his decision to intervene left him with two gunshot wounds that in his own words, sent him spiralling down an addiction to drugs,
“I developed a bad drug habit. What people do when they’re down, you do stupid things to make it worse. You know? So I hated the world. You know, I was pretty screwed up from being shot, and, uh, instead of just, like, buckling down and gettin’ better, I started doing meth… I got addicted to it, and that took over my whole life.”
Saturn battled homelessness on two different occasions as a result of his addiction.
Saturn spoke out back in January 2017 where he admitted homelessness was 1-2 weeks away and he didn’t know where his next meal was coming from. Thankfully he has since started promoting his documentary titled The Rings of Saturn which is at least one positive thing he can focus on.
2. Sensational Sherri
Shawn Michaels engaged in several gimmicks throughout his time in the company. But his most popular may be his “sexy boy” persona that was brought to life in part by having Sensational Sherri as his manager.
As well as rocking out on the screen, Sherri also lent her talents to Shawn Michael’s classic theme song. Sherri ended up being released from the company in 1993 and spent several years bouncing around different companies including WCW.
Michael Jones, perhaps better recognized by his in-ring name Virgil, was influential in helping along the career of the Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase. Functioning as his bodyguard, Virgil even had a moment in the spotlight when he turned on DiBiase.
But life outside of the ring has seemingly been a struggle for Virgil who is perhaps best known by current fans for his affiliation with showing up at wrestling conventions and charging for autographs. The lack of attention he receives however led to the creation of the “Lonely Virgil” meme.
Now 55 years old, Virgil is returning to the ring again and made an appearance at a PCW event back in December. Though wrestling at 55 is probably not the sign of someone who is financially secure!
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