Under the flashing lights of Vince McMahon’s WWE Universe, just about anyone would look like a superstar. The higher up the card a wrestler is, the more glamorous their lives are presented as being, with many main event wrestlers boasting they make millions of dollars. In many cases, they aren’t exaggerating, as McMahon truly does remunerate his top talent rather well. The catch is that the billionaire in charge of WWE never bothers teaching his talent how to handle their finances.
For many wrestlers, this isn’t that big of a deal, as they can just as well hire their own personal accountant. Others aren’t so wise, though, blowing through their fortunes in rapid fashion no matter how vast it once was. This is especially true of retired wrestlers who no longer have the physical capability to perform at their peak level. Not that it stops them from attempting to make much-ballyhooed comebacks to the ring in an effort to rebuild their bank account, only to inevitably lose it all over again.
Typically, when a wrestler loses all of his or her own money, they have no one to blame but themselves. The most common culprits are addictions, amongst various other demons that can easily eat away at a person’s wallet. However, it also needs to be acknowledged a few wrestlers went broke through no fault of their own, solely through the bad luck of living in dangerous areas. Either way, while WWE may still acknowledge them as legends, none of these former superstars looked all that legendary at their worst. For details on who we’re talking about, keep reading to learn about 15 wrestling icons you didn’t know wound up in the poor house.
15 One Man Gang Lost It All In The Flood
Standing 6'9" and weighing 450 pounds, this former WCW United States Champion was truly a One Man Gang. Oddly, an African Dream he was not, but some fans may also recognize him as Akeem, half of the Twin Towers with Big Boss Man. That gimmick was rightly criticized, yet it also arguably bought Gang his greatest fame when the duo feuded The Mega Powers in the late '80s. Gang was already a bit of a star before that, though, and he remained one for quite some time after, allowing him to build quite a decent life for himself with the money he made. Unfortunately, Gang lost absolutely everything he owned in the 2016 Louisiana flood.
Despite FEMA declaring his neighborhood a “no flood zone,” thus convincing him not to buy flood insurance, the rainfall completely destroyed Gang’s house and all of his possessions, leaving him homeless.
Thanks to charity, Gang and his family seem to be recovering okay, but the road to completely rebuilding his life is far from over.
14 Sam Houston’s Family Got Washed Out
With all due respect, Sam Houston is easily the least famous member of his family. First up was his father, Grizzly Smith, a major performer in wrestling’s territorial days and later a backstage agent for WCW. Houston’s sister was Rockin’ Robin, who spent a solid year and a half as WWE Women’s Champion. Lastly, Houston’s half-brother beats them all, as Jake “The Snake” Roberts was one of the preeminent wrestling icons of the 1980s. While the smallest name of the bunch, Houston wasn’t without his success, working in WWE with his siblings and then on the independent scene for decades after that. Unfortunately, along with wrestling skill, destructive lifestyles ran in Houston’s family, and he lost just as much to drugs, alcohol, and various divorces as Roberts, if not more. As if that weren’t enough, Houston and his father also lost their home to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and then he lost a second home to the 2016 New Orleans floods, forcing him to move in with Roberts until he could recover his fortunes.
13 Lex Luger Was Addicted To The Total Package
It only takes one drug problem to wind up on this list. Throw in a debilitating spinal injury, and the “Total Package” Lex Luger didn’t stand a chance. In 2007, the former WCW World Champion became temporarily paralyzed due to a spinal stroke.
He remained quadriplegic for almost a full year, only slowly regaining control of his arms, legs, and other appendages.
Leading up to this incident, Luger was also addicted to painkillers and battling a number of legal issues. The most notable incident was the overdose death of Miss Elizabeth, and though Luger was not directly responsible for her passing, the pain and stress clearly weighed heavily on him, making all the other problems worse. Once Luger could walk again, he gradually started piecing things back together by touring as a motivational speaker and spreading his story. WWE has also helped the situation by hiring him as a nutritional consultant.
12 Luna Vachon’s Life Went Up In Flames
Wild, loud, and out of control, it almost seemed appropriate for the Luna Vachon character to go down in flames. Of course, that could never be said about an actual human being, which is why the fate of the real woman behind the gimmick was so tragic. For decades, Luna was known as one of the craziest female wrestlers around, with a violent growl prefacing her equally hardcore matches in WWE, ECW, and various other companies around the world.
Though she never won any major Women’s Championships, Luna’s look, gimmick, and voice nonetheless made her a memorable and unforgettable character wherever she went.
Unfortunately, she was one of many former wrestlers to get addicted to alcohol and pills during her career. On top of that, Vachon suffered a more personal tragedy a 2009 house fire took away virtually everything she owned. It only got worse from there, as Luna died from an overdose less than a year later, her life still in shambles.
11 Joey Mercury Needed Something To Fix His Face
Of the wrestlers who fell into painkiller addictions, none suffered a more visible injury than Joey Mercury. During a match at Armageddon 2005, Joey’s face was shattered when the Hardy Boyz seesawed a ladder only inches away from his head, requiring over 30 stitches. Granted, this is hardly where Mercury’s problems began, as he claimed to have already been an addict from the young age of 15. In fact, he had just returned from a stint in rehab when this accident took place, and the pain it caused lead to a powerful and immediate relapse, now with a particular penchant for painkillers.
Eventually, Vince McMahon himself needed to perform an intervention on Mercury, warning the former Tag Team Champion that WWE officials were genuinely concerned for his life.
Luckily, the words got through, and Mercury’s problem soon ended, but not until after he had already lost everything to the drugs. The only plus side is that he pieced things together and got re-hired by WWE not far down the line.
10 Rip Rogers Begged His Students For Help
How successful does a wrestler necessarily need be in order to earn distinction as a legend? Does it really matter if they were never famous in the traditional sense, so long as they were a star in their own mind? Well, probably, but that hasn’t stopped Rip Rogers from lambasting the wrestling industry for overlooking his star power while simultaneously begging it for money.
Quite frankly, it can be assumed the main reason Rogers became poor later in life is that he just wasn’t much of a star, rarely rising above the level of a regional tag team specialist.
However, Rogers did earn considerable attention as a trainer, with some of his top students including Randy Orton, Batista, Santino Marella, and John Cena. Having helped form those talents, maybe the former Convertible Blonde did deserve a little extra money when the cost of living started to be too much for him. Still, maybe he should’ve texted his wrestling connections instead of asking fans for cash on GoFundMe.
9 X-Pac Broke It All Down
Living up to his reputation as a degenerate, there was a point in X-Pac’s career when he was addicted to virtually every drug on the planet. Sadly, according to the former D-Generation X member, the problem dates back much farther than just his life in wrestling. From a young age, X-Pac’s life was filled with harrowing tales of assault and shockingly youthful drug abuse.
Somehow, Pac was able to piece things together during his celebrated careers in WWE and WCW, at least when cameras were rolling.
Once those companies were done with him, though, it didn’t even matter if X-Pac was working, he still needed his fix. This lead to a TNA match against AJ Styles while on crystal meth, and the drug abuse was even worse off-screen. X-Pac’s demons lead to numerous severe accidents and close calls, dwindling his fortunes to nothing and leaving him near broke. Only by grace of Triple H did WWE come and save the Kid with a job offer that helped him rebuild his life.
8 Daffney Got Hurt And TNA Wouldn’t Pay
Theoretically, for all the reasons a wrestler could go broke, suffering an injury inside the ring shouldn’t be one of them. Thankfully, the problem that put Daffney on this list was only temporary, but given the circumstance, it shouldn’t have happened at all. When a wrestler gets injured in the ring, the company they were working for has to pay for their medical bills. It doesn’t matter that wrestlers are “independent contractors,” as this is an on-site injury caused by the job either way. Despite this, TNA tried to get out of paying for Daffney’s bills after repeat concussions and neck injuries left her unable to wrestle.
Instead, they fired her immediately after she filed a Worker’s Compensation claim. This left her overloaded with medical bills she had no way to pay for, a situation that quickly drove the former WCW Cruiserweight Champion to financial ruin.
Mercifully, TNA realized what an awful thing they were doing at the last second and settled the case out of court, helping alleviate Daffney’s financial woes.
7 Sunny Is A Hot Mess
Truth be told, given certain men’s penchants for giving women they once found attractive money for no reason, Sunny may not necessarily belong on this list. The self-professed “first diva” and WWE Hall of Famer has certainly done some questionable things for money, though, strongly suggesting she was pretty desperate for the cash. For example, Sunny has both sold naked pictures of herself on the Internet and later, when that started getting passé, she also sold personal Skype sessions to any fan willing to pay.
This has all lead to a reputation opposite of how Sunny was viewed while still an active competitor, retaining none of her former glory or dignity as a performer.
Of course, with the shocking number of DUIs and various other crimes Sunny has committed leading to repeat arrests, she needs some way to pay all her legal fees. WWE doesn’t have much use for the poor girl anymore, so the Internet may well be her only option.
6 Ric Flair Has Too Many Ex-Wives And Even More Tabs
Next time WWE decides to reference the fact Ric Flair was a limousine riding, Learjet flying son of a gun, stop and think about just how much those amenities must have cost the guy. It’s not like Ric was exaggerating, either — for decades, it’s been well known the Nature Boy absolutely lives his gimmick, treating himself to every excess life has to offer.
More costly than even transportation or his legendary bar tabs is the fact Flair has four ex-wives, all of whom earn significant alimony payments.
The former Mrs. Flair’s aren’t even his only issues, as he’s also paying off numerous debts to former creditors and business partners, plus a hefty bill with the IRS for unpaid back taxes. Because Flair is such a legend, and his daughter Charlotte is in WWE today, the company still occasionally trots him out for a pittance of cash to help with the bills, but without their help, he’d be virtually penniless.
5 Toots Mondt Loved The Horses
If there’s any one name more important to sports entertainment than “McMahon,” it’s Joseph “Toots” Mondt. Years before Vince McMahon, Jr. even knew about his family business, Mondt was revolutionizing the nascent concept of pro wrestling with what he called the “Slam Bang Western style.” This meant quicker matches, flashier characters, and skillful promotion over pure athleticism. A former wrestler himself, Mondt used his creation to create the Capitol Wrestling Corporation with Jess McMahon, a company that gradually morphed into the World Wide Wrestling Federation after Jess’s son Vince, Sr. took over. Most fans probably already know the former WWWF is now known as WWE today, but they’re also surely aware Mondt has pretty much been written out of the story.
Of course, it’s partially his own fault, as Mondt’s role gradually diminished over the years, more interested in wasting his fortune at various racetracks than remaining successful.
Ultimately, Mondt died virtually broke, forgotten for decades until WWE finally acknowledged him in the Hall of Fame.
4 Virgil Wants Your Money
Quite frankly, Virgil isn’t necessarily poor so much as he is pathetic. Of course, a lack of financial capital has a lot to do with that, and Ted DiBiase’s former assistant wouldn’t be in the state he was had he saved some of his former boss’s millions. Let’s also not forget Virgil was a mild star himself at one point, and although his fame didn’t last, he must have made a decent amount of money when he turned on DiBiase to engage in a popular feud. Of course, the fact fans didn’t care about Virgil anymore didn’t stop him from having a job, as he remained well paid in WCW for years as a member of the nWo.
Regardless of whatever money he earned in the past, Viril apparently lost most of it, as he now resorts to traveling around the country wherever he thinks he can sell an overpriced autograph at a convention.
Virgil also once made a GoFundMe page for himself, asking for money literally just because he wanted more of it.
3 Perry Saturn Went From Hero To Zero
Being a hero isn’t always easy. In the case of Perry Saturn, that’s not even in reference to his success in the wrestling ring, where he was a champion in WCW, WWE, and ECW several times over. While Saturn’s talents in sports entertainment were noteworthy, his true heroism came in real life, when he rescued a woman being assaulted in 2004. Tragically, in the process of saving her, Saturn was shot multiple times, leading to severe chronic pain he could only quell with hard drugs. The ensuing addictions left Saturn homeless and officially missing, with even his closest friends in wrestling having no awareness of his whereabouts or how he was doing. Saturn did eventually resurface, but it wasn’t long before he was in trouble again, claiming a traumatic brain injury left him unable to work and desperately in need of cash. This time, Saturn’s wrestling friends like Chris Jericho and Raven could find and help him, but he was extremely close to homelessness yet again.
2 Gorgeous George Was Lost Without the Macho Man
Combine a rock star and a wrestling diva for one bombastic marriage, and it’s almost inevitable they’ll experience an extremely costly divorce. That was the case with Gorgeous George and Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, who met working for WCW and soon got married. The relationship didn’t last long, though, and once the couple divorced, George claimed she was left virtually penniless. Granted, it’s not like her wrestling career had exactly made her rich.
Unlike the legendary male Gorgeous George who defined what wrestling was on television in the 1950s, the blonde woman sharing his name was no more than the forgettable girlfriend of “Macho Man” Randy Savage as his career was winding down.
Without Savage, her career fell apart, and it looks like the same thing happened in regards to her life without the rocking Misfit ex. Whatever the reason, George has resorted to asking fans for money through multiple failed GoFundMe campaigns.
1 Tony Atlas Lived On A Park Bench
When a person is truly down and out, they’ll do just about anything for a chance to get back on their feet. That’s pretty much the only explanation around for why Tony Atlas accepted the Saba Simba gimmick back in the early '90s. Recognized as one of the most offensive caricatures in wrestling history, the former Black Superman was reduced to wearing traditional African headgear and dancing around the ring in shockingly racist fashion.
Not a decade earlier, Atlas was an incredibly popular name throughout many wrestling territories, with his peak arguably a reign as WWE Tag Team Champions with Rocky Johnson as the Soul Patrol.
Unfortunately, like so many others on this list, the fame and success lead to a drug addiction that left Atlas broke and homeless, living on a park bench. It was only a surprise phone call and job offer from Vince McMahon that pulled Tony back up from the bottom.