It's a problem that spans across all the sports/entertainment industry. How can people who are paid such a healthy salary so quickly find themselves in financial trouble once their careers are over? This problem is even harder to avoid in professional wrestling.
Consider that wrestlers have traditionally had to pay for their own travel expenses, and when you're on the road over 250 days a year, that's a good chunk of your salary used. The rest is up to the wrestler on how they choose to use their money. The savvy ones typically make some smart long-term investments, use their salary to start a side business or just save as much as they can. There's an old saying in wrestling, it's not what you make, it's what you save. Living a lifestyle that exceeds your income can quickly cause financial trouble, especially when the income stops flowing. That doesn't just apply to professional wrestling; that applies to everybody.
Life in wrestling isn't all doom and gloom, which has been perceived by many with films like The Wrestler or the media showing wrestling in a bad light. It is a sad truth though that many wrestlers have succumbed to financial trouble due to battling demons, such as alcohol or drug issues, or merely being too lax with their money. Here are some pro wrestlers who ran into those problems.
While he wasn't a huge star for the WWE in his heyday, Virgil still worked for the company in midst of a great boom period and you'd think it would have set him up well for life.
However, multiple stories have surfaced regarding Virgil, (Mike Jones) seeking conventions to sign and sell autographs. There's even a website which shows Virgil constantly having autograph booths set up only for them to be empty with nobody lining up to meet him.
Last year, he was even in a New York subway station trying to sell some of his memorabilia. He was mostly known as Ted DiBiase's bodyguard while in WWE, and he then joined the nWo when he was a part of WCW.
Virgil reportedly charges a lot for an autograph at a convention and sometimes is abrasive to fans. In a story on wrestlenewz.com, it was also mentioned that Virgil constantly promises that other wrestlers will join him for autograph signings, but they never do.
4 Perry Saturn
By all accounts, Perry Saturn is doing alright now, but he was in rough shape for a few years. Saturn of course, was known for his work in ECW and WCW, having some great feuds with Chris Jericho, Dean Malenko and Raven. After being told he'd never get over in WCW, he quickly began negotiating with the WWE and left WCW along with Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit in January 2000 and they debuted as The Radicalz. Eventually Saturn got the ridiculous mop infatuation gimmick. He was eventually released by the WWE while rehabbing an ACL injury.
Saturn actually performed a heroic act which caused him to retire from the ring in 2004. He came to the aid of a woman being attacked by two men who were trying to rape her. Saturn was shot in the back of the neck and behind his shoulder.
Saturn tried to return to the ring a few months later, but doctors couldn't clear him to wrestle.
He quietly disappeared from the public eye for several years. His family and friends didn't know his whereabouts and many speculated that he might be dead. Saturn eventually resurfaced in 2009 and got remarried. He revealed he had struggled with an addiction to meth and was homeless for a few years.
It's especially sad considering a lot of his problems started with a courageous act.
3 Jake 'The Snake' Roberts
The transformation of Jake Roberts in the past year has been one of the best feel-good stories in the history of wrestling. Roberts was broke, battling drug and alcohol addiction, and seemed to be near death. He even said there were days when he was begging God to take him. He was doing whatever he could to make a buck which was quickly wasted on alcohol and drugs, and he kept finding himself in a financial hole.
Roberts' good friend Diamond Dallas Page came to his aid, offering to take Roberts into his home and help him clean up his life. Page has succeeded, as his DDP Yoga program got Roberts healthy and his strict no-alcohol rule got him cleaned up. Jake the Snake's redemption came full circle when he was inducted in this year's WWE Hall of Fame and he gave perhaps the most passionate, heartfelt speech in the event's history.
Roberts was found to have muscular cancer in his knee but it was found quickly and Roberts promptly had it removed. He has now declared himself cancer free. He said back in February, "if the Devil couldn't beat me, then cancer doesn't have a chance in hell."
As far as his problems went, Roberts constantly battled addiction, going in and out of rehab and having to continue to wrestle to get his fix. Suffice to say, every wrestling fan is grateful he's alright now and in good hands with DDP. He now wrestles occasionally on the independent scene, obviously in much better shape than he was a couple of years ago.
2 Scott Hall
Scott Hall is another one of DDP's amazing transformations. Hall faced a strained relationship with his son, was battling addiction and was barely able to walk, but as we saw this year at the Hall of Fame, the bad guy is back.
Hall's wrestling popularity really took off when he went to the WWE in 1993 and pulled off the brilliant Razor Ramon character, quickly turning into a fan favourite. His success in WCW with the nWo brought his career to another level, but it soon unravelled.
Hall's drug problems are traced back as far as the late 90s when WCW even did a distasteful storyline incorporating Hall's demons. During the storyline, Hall was arrested for keying a limousine while intoxicated and was also arrested for groping a woman outside a hotel. His wife Dana divorced him, citing him as unable to control his drug issues.
Hall was in rehab several times and even had a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted in his chest as he began suffering heart problems. ESPN's E:60 even did a special on Hall, documenting his financial and addiction problems and being estranged from his family. Suffice to say, having to battle these demons affected his wallet.
DDP took Hall into his home last year, and put him through the same strict program Roberts had went through. Page even started an internet fundraiser, which raised over $110,000 from fans, to pay for hip replacement surgery and dental work for Hall. That gave Hall a head start and extra motivation to get his life on track.
Seeing Scott Hall in good shape, back to his old self at the Hall of Fame was so rewarding for every fan of his.
1 Ric Flair
Ric Flair's long, storybook career should have seen him as one of the wealthiest wrestlers alive, but Flair has constantly lived a high-octane lifestyle, causing him problems.
Flair has gone through four divorces, several legal issues and most of all, cannot seem to let go of the limelight.
He seemingly retired from wrestling after a farewell match against Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XXIV. He quickly wanted to go back to wrestling and wound up in TNA for a few years.
Flair has long been known to live extravagantly; eating at the finest restaurants, buying rounds of drinks for fans, renting out entire bars for his parties.
These activities found him in constant debt. Highspots Inc even filed a lawsuit against Flair, saying he had never paid back the $35,000 they loaned him. Flair was facing 90 days in jail if his debts weren't paid, but thankfully someone came to his aid and paid his debt.
Luckily, since then Flair found himself a gig endorsing an energy drink, Fuel in a Bottle, which helped him recover financially.
Flair is now back working with WWE, and the company seems willing to work with him as long as he stays out of trouble in his personal life. One has to wonder if Flair will ever be able to just relax and enjoy retirement or if he'll just always have to live life in the fast lane.
Maybe now that his daughter Ashley is signed by WWE, going by the in-ring name Charlotte, that'll give Flair motivation to keep his nose clean and be there for his daughter. She's showed great potential, and is now even the NXT Divas Champion, having had a phenomenal match with Natalya recently. Every wrestling fan who appreciates the history of the business has respect for what Flair has done and just wants to see him do well.
Here's to hoping that aspiring wrestlers realize that careers are limited and they have to think about financial planning and what they'll do with their money after retirement. If you look at today's wealthiest wrestlers, they're rich because they invested their money wisely, and didn't throw it away when they were living a life on the road. Many have their own side businesses and have ensured themselves financial stability in their life after the ring.