In today’s world, people who worship celebrities are suffering from a rude awakening, realizing that the stars they idolized on the silver screen may not be quite as heroic as the characters they play. Ever since more than 70 women came forward with accusations about Hollywood big-wig Harvey Weinstein’s nonstop sexual misconduct, stories of similar abuse have been running rampant throughout the entire entertainment industry.
One area that’s been surprisingly free of scandal, however, has been the WWE Universe.— well, recently, anyway. Pro wrestling has been just as guilty of promoting and (literally) championing sexual assaulters, domestic abusers, and the general scum of the Earth as if it were no big deal. In a sick, twisted, wrestling sort of way, this almost makes sense—half of the people inside a wrestling ring are supposed to get booed, and nothing makes a crowd boo louder than real world accusations of misconduct. Then again, in many instances, the most offensively abusive wrestlers of all have been the ones we least expected to secretly be up to no good.
Just like with the scandals hitting Hollywood, the wrestling business in general doesn’t necessarily deserve the blame for letting these performers get away with what they did. The fans, on the other hand, may hold a little bit of culpability, especially when they look the other way and keep cheering on their favorite wrestlers no matter what they do in their personal lives—even when their WWE characters suggest said personal lives may be messy, to say the least. Keep reading to learn about 8 wrestling scumbags we all saw coming and 7 that totally took us by surprise.
15 Saw It Coming: Buck Zumhofe
To most wrestling fans, “Rock and Roll” Buck Zumhofe is probably only remembered for being the laughably, out-of-shape jobber who lost to Triple H during The Game’s WWE debut. Maybe they also remember when The Undertaker put him in a body bag. Only a select few remember his days in the AWA, when Zumhofe was actually a minor star, with three reigns as AWA Lightweight Champion to his name. Of course, none of this mattered at all after it came to light Zumhofe also spent 12 years sexually abusing his daughter, from 1999 to 2011. When convicted and sentenced with a hefty prison sentence, he attempted fleeing the courtroom, only to get tackled by bailiffs, as a smarter person might have expected. Why was none of this surprising? Because not once, but twice, Zumhofe’s Lightweight Championship reigns were cut short when AWA suspended him due to prison sentences for, you guessed it, sexual misconduct with a minor. The only shock involved is that he kept getting work after his release from jail.
14 Total Shock: The Fabulous Moolah
Despite being the center of scandal after scandal in the entertainment world, the very serious crimes allegedly committed by The Fabulous Moolah have largely flown under the radar. Part of the issue is her public persona as a kind, old lady, a reputation WWE intentionally created. Even when Moolah was active in the ring, she looked older, pudgier, and less graceful than her average contemporary, making it hard to imagine she was doing anything illegal that might require a criminal instinct. However, according to the family of former wrestler Sweet Georgia Brown, plus implications made by Luna Vachon, Moolah’s training academy — once the most respected for women in all of America — actually doubled as a small-scale, forced prostitution ring. Granted, no investigation has ever been made into these claims. If true, though, this would make Moolah less of a wrestling trainer and more of a human trafficker, something no one would expect from a woman who looked like their grandmother.
13 Saw It Coming: Scott Hall
At this point, Scott Hall’s constant struggles with drugs and alcohol are arguably more relevant to his career than anything he actually accomplished in the ring. Hall’s issues were so severe, ESPN created an in-depth documentary profiling them, and WCW once ran an offensive angle mocking them. Amazingly, Hall’s near-constant state of inebriation didn’t stop him from becoming a WWE Hall of Famer and wrestling icon. He achieved great fame as Razor Ramon and then co-found the New World Order under his own name, both accolades that would have made him an all-time legend. Unfortunately, that only made Hall’s demons worse, giving him the money and resources necessary to buy all the drugs and alcohol he wanted. In turn, his drug abuse lead to some predictably scummy behavior — the worst of which was a domestic disturbance incident where he allegedly choked his girlfriend. Charges were eventually dropped, but given Hall’s history, there’s not much of a question whether or not the allegations were true.
12 Total Shock: Kurt Angle
When Kurt Angle made his shocking return to WWE in 2017 so he could join the Hall of Fame, the company was quick to remind fans of his many great accomplishments inside the ring. Angle’s image was also constantly draped in the red, white, and blue of the American flag, ensuring fans would remember his past as an Olympic Gold Medalist, as well. One thing they left out is that Angle has also been charged with at least three DUIs and has been found with human-growth hormones. His second arrest also lead to his girlfriend at the time, TNA superstar Rhaka Khan, filing a restraining order against him, specifically a PFA order, meaning protection from abuse. The full story was never revealed, but it’s clear that Angle wasn’t being as American as baseball and apple pie while doing whatever he did to his family and loved ones at this point in his life.
11 Saw It Coming: Rob Black
Of all the names on this half of the list, Rob Black was the most open about being a secret scumbag all along. Truth be told, Black was barely even a wrestling personality, first and foremost serving as the owner and primary director of adult film company Extreme Associates. Even within the adult film industry, Black’s output was considered especially obscene, containing many scenes of implied pedophilia and simulated assault. Somehow, this in no way prevented him from engaging in a second career as a wrestling promoter, founding Xtreme Championship Wrestling in 1999. XPW advertised itself as a new ECW, focusing on hardcore wrestling and former ECW stars like Kronus, The Sandman, and Shane Douglas, with Black himself appearing in a major role as the on-screen authority figure and manager to most top heels. As a whole, XPW didn’t last all that long, because of Black’s shady business in that other industry. He was eventually prosecuted for distributing obscenity, mostly due to a release titled Forced Entry, which was exactly what it sounds like.
10 Total Shock: The Von Erich Family
Okay, so not every single member of the Von Erich Family was necessarily a creep or scumbag in real life. However, none of them were anything like the cliché “good old boys” they were presented as on World Class Championship Wrestling television. Sure, Kerry, Kevin, David, and Mike were all phenomenal athletes, and Chris at least tried his best. Athletic talent alone hardly means a person is going to be an upstanding citizen, though, nor does the fact they love their family and country. The reality is, just about all of them had pretty bad drug habits, which as usual, lead to them all doing some horrible things. Multiple contemporaries including The Fantastics and Jack Victory have stories about Kevin Von Erich torturing cats, while Kerry was in and out of prison so often that in a sense it killed him. While three of the five brothers committed suicide, Kerry’s came mere days before many believed he was about to receive a lengthy prison sentence, in and of itself, a surprising fact for someone presented as an all-American hero.
9 Saw It Coming: Bob Sweetan
Literally hundreds of wrestlers have utilized the sitting piledriver over the years, but only one was so connected to the move, he took it as his own second name. Bob Sweetan, also known as Mr. Piledriver, nonetheless, managed to become one of the top names in Central States Wrestling throughout the 1970s and '80s, winning dozens of regional titles throughout the NWA. Having a career plated in gold did nothing to endear him to his contemporaries, though, as just about everyone to work with Sweetan agreed, he was an awful human being. WWE Hall of Famers Jim Ross and Jim Duggan have both called the guy a “bully,” while Leo Burke said he was simply lazy. Colonel DeBeers might have put it best by simply calling him “just an asshole.” Considering how Sweetan’s coworkers remembered him, it’s no surprise he was also a true villain in his personal life, his ex-wife claiming he abused their children “emotionally, physically, sexually, and mentally.” The worst of those accusations was backed up by a conviction for child molestation.
8 Total Shock: Hardbody Harrison
Quite frankly, all Hardbody Harrison had to do to shock wrestling fans was, well, anything. Inside the ring, Harrison was the definition of a jobber, appearing in WCW for several years during the Monday Night Wars without ever winning a significant match. His lone moment of note was being the first wrestler thrown into a pool during WCW’s Spring Break Out specials. He was also infamous for earning a huge payout from WCW during a racial discrimination lawsuit, which gave him the funding to open a “wrestling school.” That phrase is in quotes because apparently, Harrison’s “school” was actually more of a forced prostitution ring with hints of human trafficking. Eventually, some of Harrison’s students/slaves escaped his grasp and ran to police, who soon arrested him leading to a conviction and life sentence in prison. Obviously, no one knew such an irrelevant wrestler was a vicious criminal mastermind all along.
7 Saw It Coming: Jimmy Snuka
Coming to fame for his wide-eyed expressions and madman personality, back in an era when fans thought wrestling was real, all prosecutors needed to convict “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka of murder was a tape showcasing his interview style. Unfortunately, it somehow took nearly 30 years after the murder of Nancy Argentino for Snuka to actually get arrested for it, and his advanced age and diminished mental capacity prevented him from truly facing his crimes. Even so, most people aware of the case have believed Snuka unofficially guilty ever since the Argentino family won a huge settlement in civil court, blaming him for her death. Backing up a bit, Snuka and Argentino were known to be dating when she was suddenly found dead, with investigators immediately suspecting domestic abuse and foul play. Snuka played aloof, however, claiming he had no involvement in what happened and was as shocked as anyone else. It should go without saying that his actual wrestling character had nothing to do with the crime, but that didn’t stop people from connecting the two and thinking it all made sense.
6 Total Shock: Jimmy Savile
For the most part, Jimmy Savile’s contributions to the world of wrestling have been entirely forgotten, and with good reason. Even well before sexual abuse allegations forced Britain to reframe the twice Knighted talk show host and charity fundraiser’s career, his time in the squared circle was secondary to appearances on shows like Jim’ll Fix It and Top of the Pops. That said, Savile was nonetheless one of the most notable celebrity wrestlers in British history, regularly entering the ring against names like “Exotic” Adrian Street. On one of his children’s shows, Savile also made a child’s wish come true by allowing him to participate in a tag team match with the iconic British wrestler Big Daddy. In that vein, most of Savile’s charity work related to allowing sick and disabled children to live their wildest dreams, albeit at a cost no one would ever willingly pay. After his death, hundreds of children who were “helped” by Savile came forward with allegations of sexual abuse, to the extent he’s now considered one of the most prolific pedophiles in British history.
5 Saw It Coming: Grizzly Smith
Truth be told, few wrestling fans probably remember the name Grizzly Smith one way or another. Some fifty odd years ago, Smith was a reasonable star for the AWA, Big Time Wrestling, and various other NWA affiliates, and he even made a few appearances for Vince McMahon, Sr.’s WWF with his partner Luke Brown as The Kentuckians. Smith later worked backstage for a number of companies including WCW, and WWE. More notable, however, is the fact he was also the father of WWE Hall of Famer Jake “The Snake” Roberts and former WWE Women’s Champion Rockin’ Robin. Both Roberts and Robin have been open with the fact their father was awful, with Jake claiming his own birth was a product of his father sexually assaulting his then 13-year-old mother. Robin suffered the abuse firsthand, claiming her father abused her from the age of 6 or 7 until her mother found out about it and took her out of his care. Due to his abuse, Smith’s children unsurprisingly experienced severe drug issues later in life, which is what clued us in that he probably did horrible things while they were growing up.
4 Total Shock: The Dynamite Kid
For whatever reason, people tend to believe that a truly revolutionary, top-tier athlete, artist, or entertainer couldn’t possibly be one of the worst people alive. Destroying that perception like a brick of explosives is Thomas Billington, better known as The Dynamite Kid. To this day, many wrestling insiders consider Billington to be the best pure wrestler ever to live — his technical precision and intensity in the ring were truly unmatched. His influence on modern performers can’t be overstated, either, as Dynamite was the first wrestler to merge British, Mexican, Canadian, Japanese, and American wrestling styles into one, and any wrestler to consider themselves an expert in one of those styles surely took a page from his book. Unfortunately, stories of Billington’s personal life truly plaint him as the scum of the Earth, forcing his own wife to live in fear every night they spent together. Through his own admission, Dynamite would regularly wake her up by pointing a gun against her head and promising “next time it’s going to be loaded.” Luckily, she divorced and ran far away from him long before it ever was.
3 Saw It Coming: The Ultimate Warrior
Give it another 10 years or so and WWE’s bizarre, retrospective whitewashing of The Ultimate Warrior’s life history might land him on the other half of this list. That said, modern-day wrestling fans still have powerful memories about the time Warrior angrily shouted out “queering don’t make the world work,” and will probably never forget it. In fairness, Warrior was never convicted of committing any particularly atrocious crimes like most others on this half of the list. He never abused his wife or loved ones, sexually assaulted anyone, and definitely wasn’t guilty of murder. On the other hand, Warrior was one of the most insane personalities ever in wrestling. Being a proud homophobic was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to making questionable statements. Of course, those who followed Warrior’s career in the ring probably weren’t too surprised utter nonsense spilled out of his mouth, as that was the man’s sole promo style from the very beginning.
2 Total Shock: Chris Benoit
Given the extreme gravity of Chris Benoit’s crimes, they would likely have come as a shock to the entire wrestling world regardless of his backstage reputation. Ask anyone in the wrestling industry for their opinion on Benoit prior to June 22, 2007, and they’ll probably say he was the kindest, softest soul in the WWE Universe, also praising his skills in the ring as being some of the best in the business. Two days later, though, and all anyone saw was a monster who murdered his wife and 7-year-old son in a fit of rage before hanging himself. No matter how vicious and violent a performer may have been in the ring, this sort of real life terror is virtually unthinkable until it actually happens, especially coming from a supposedly, kindhearted person like Benoit. On the other hand, it later came out that Benoit had violent tendencies throughout his entire life, and the wrestling industry may have simply been covering up the long simmering monster within him.
1 Saw It Coming: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Look, it isn’t the intention of this list to write out a bunch of stereotypes about Southerners or “rednecks,” and then imply they’re all definitely true about every person living below the Mason-Dixon Line. However, that’s kind of what “Stone Cold” Steve Austin did to himself for a good portion of his career, and he became outrageously popular because of it. Damn right Austin was a rebel — and proud of it too — hailing from the great state of Texas and boasting he didn’t trust anybody. He also loved country music, drinking beer, getting into big old-fashioned bar brawls with everyone around him, and he beat the heck out of his real-life wife, Debra, at least three times. Again, we’re not trying to suggest every single man down South goes home and commits spousal abuse, but the fact of the matter is, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin actually did, and it happened to be completely in line with his redneck persona.