In the sport of professional wrestling, particularly in the era prior to guaranteed contracts, wrestlers were paid based on the attendance in the arenas. A sold out show meant a great payday, but the fluctuation from one week to the next could always be a gamble. Additionally, in that period, wrestlers were faced with the very real peril that an injury would impact their ability to provide for their families. If you didn’t wrestle, you didn’t get paid.
It was in this culture of ‘life and death’ survival in the grueling sport of wrestling that many wrestlers adapted survival strategies to save their money on the road in case they should need it for a rainy day. There are many common ploys that have been openly discussed in interviews and documented in wrestler biographies about ‘heeling’ a hotel room – checking in as a single guest, then sneaking in a colleague (or more) to split the cost. But some wrestlers took saving money to a whole other level. This list explores some of the most creative and daring strategies employed by professional wrestlers to save money on the road.
15 Steve Austin - “Raw Potato Diet”
Steve Austin’s success at the height of the WWE’s “Attitude Era” as the anti-hero battling the administration cemented his legacy as one of the sport’s all time greats. However, for Austin, whose exploits since his ring career came to a close have included acting assignments as well as television and podcast projects, his wrestling income didn’t always leave him in a favorable situation.
14 Al Tomko - “Soup Of The Day”
Al Tomko is perhaps best known as a promoter, first serving as a local agent for the Minneapolis-based American Wrestling Association in Winnipeg then later buying out Sandor Kovacs to serve as the leader of the Vancouver territory for more than a decade. But Tomko was also a wrestler himself, appearing not on his own events, but grappling for Stampede Wrestling, the AWA and more.
13 Michelle Starr - “Classic Mis-Direction”
As the promoter and often headliner for his own circuit on Canada’s Pacific Coast, Michelle Starr has seen the ups and downs of the wrestling business. From selling out arenas, to trying to make payroll some nights from his own pocket, Starr cleverly assessed that the best chance of success was by reducing the overhead expenses to present a travelling wrestling show.
12 Terry Funk - “The Key To A Good Night’s Sleep”
Terry Funk is a second generation wrestler, raised by a father who first carved out his living in the sport of wrestling on the heels of the great depression. Terry often travelled with his father to various wrestling territories as a kid and no doubt received a veritable education from the school of hard knocks in the process.
11 Roddy Piper - “This Meal Is On The House”
In his book In The Pit With Piper, Roddy tells a tale of how a ring veteran showed him a method to secure a free meal in any town that a wrestler’s travels would take him. In the scenario, the elder wrestler would go into the diner first and sit down to order a meal at the counter. The younger wrestler would follow him in a short time later, sitting a few seats away ignoring his partner as if they didn’t know each other.
10 Abdullah the Butcher - “All Nighty Party”
One of the most notorious villains of his generation, Abdullah the Butcher enjoyed headline status not only in North America, but also Japan and Puerto Rico. Following his ring career, he has gone on to operate a successful restaurant in Atlanta from the spoils of his years of blood and guts between the ropes. However, Abdullah’s net profit comes as no fluke … but rather a very calculated design.
9 “The Baloney Blowout”
Despite the over-the-top grandeur of spectacles such as $10,000 Battle royals, professional wrestlers often earned very modest incomes during the territory days of professional wrestling. Particularly when a wrestler might be on t short stay in a company that was far from his home – being away from one’s wife and children required that money be sent home and any additional cash left on hand to support a second residence and basic necessities for the athlete themselves was often a sacrifice.
8 Gene Kiniski & Lord James Blears - “Fracas On The Freeway”
Canadian football player-turned wrestler Gene Kiniski was regarded as one of the top villains in California when he traded his shoulder pads for a pair of wrestling trunks. Some of his earliest success came in tag team action with his partner Lord James Blears. Travelling up and down the busy freeways of California often required the duo to put the pedal to the metal to make it to their scheduled appearances on time. Not all were impressed with their high speeds on the highway.
7 Bull Bullinski - “Manifold Pot Roast”
Frank Shields was a long haul truck driver by trade, so the transition to become a travelling professional wrestler wasn’t a hard culture shift to make. Aside from hotels, often the most costly expense on the road was meals in restaurants, which can add up quickly for those whose appetites were equalled only by the reputation in the sport.
6 Roy McClarty - “Great Deal On Carpet”
Canadian wrestling great Roy McClarty had a lengthy career in the sport, starting just after the close of the second World War and wrapping up after thirty years between the ropes. However, despite his international travels and his championship success in many places where he appeared, McClarty’s lasting legacy is as one of wrestling’s most reserved when it came to spending money.
5 Jake Roberts - “How Do Ya Like Them Apples?”
Jake “The Snake” Roberts was just reaching his stride as a headline wrestler in the late 1970s when his travels carried him to the Canadian west coast to wrestle for promoter Al Tomko. As a young guy working his way up the ladder, he soon found himself travelling with experienced journeyman Roy McClarty, himself a celebrated wrestler and now winding down his career as a referee and the ring crew foreman.
4 “What Kind of Cargo Are You Haulin’?”
Whether it was a means for the wrestlers to avoid wear and tear on their own vehicles while touring, or a strategy employed by a promoter to save on expenses, it was not an uncommon practice for the truck hauling the wrestling ring to carry more passengers than legally intended.
3 Promoter Crashes A Wedding
A common lament among professional wrestlers of any generation is that the promoters seem to have short arms and deep pockets. This was certainly the case for one Canadian wrestling tour of Saskatchewan in 1984, when after an abysmal turn out at the matches, the promoter convened all of his talent into a single hotel room and while apologizing for the disappointing turn out, assured his disgruntled wrestlers that to ease their frustration, the evening’s meal would be on him.
2 Chris Jericho - “Hands In All Supporting Documentation”
Many a wrestling promoter has lamented the price of gasoline when settling up with wrestlers imported for an event or a tour. Particularly when the distance between cities is long, sometimes the costs of transit to import the talent are so prohibitive that it dissuades event organizers from seeking out talent.
1 Three Poffos In A Station Wagon
A thousand miles away from home and on tour for an entire season, Angelo Poffo had the opportunity to teach both of his young sons an important lesson in saving money on the road. While touring for promoter Emile Dupre in the Canadian Maritimes, a schedule which featured nine events per week for the entire summer, offered a great opportunity to earn a handsome sum, but it was important to mind their money as Angelo, Randy (later Randy Savage) and Lanny were a long way from home.
To save money on accommodations, the three Poffos showered in the arenas where they appeared and lived out of their family station wagon for the entire summer. It saved them a lot of money, but one must commend their family closeness to be able to cram three full-sized wrestlers into a vehicle for an entire season – working, travelling and living together without erupting into a family feud.
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheRichest?Get Your Free Access Now!