It’s no secret that the land of professional wrestling is rife with stories of substance abuse. In 2017 those problems are much scarcer than they used to be, especially with Vince McMahon’s now long-running “wellness” program in WWE and the company’s strict punishments for breaking drug-related rules. Issues do arise, however. Paige, for example, famously racked up two violations last year in a three strike system that will see her fired from WWE should she slip up again, and Jeff Hardy has been one of the most frequent offenders in the history of the business.
The abuse of drugs and alcohol have plagued the industry for as long as it has been around, and some men and women have dominated the field as poster children for how not to crash your entire personal and professional life. There have been numerous WWE Superstars who have gone on to waste it all away on their addictions and have been left with absolutely nothing, and that includes their looks. Here are fifteen men and women who were once on top of the world in the biggest wrestling organization in the world before substance abuse took it all away and left them a withered mess.
15 Shawn Michaels
When you have a discussion about the greatest professional wrestlers to have ever laced up a pair of boots and walked into WrestleMania, the conversation has to start at Shawn Michaels. There has never been a better big match performer in the history of WWE and the proof is in his accolades. The man is a multiple time WWE Champion, Intercontinental Champion, European and Tag Team Champion as well as a WWE Hall of Famer. The “Heartbreak Kid” is wrestling royalty and there is no denying it.
However, to have a look at Michaels today it is difficult to imagine how he was ever billed as a heartthrob in the 1990s. His “sexy boy” gimmick may have driven the women wild, but the years of substance abuse he engaged in before he managed to get clean have left their mark physically.
14 Jeff Hardy
The Hardy Boyz made huge names for themselves during the Attitude era by revitalizing the WWE tag team division and reinventing the ladder match to become what it is beloved for today. Matt and Jeff have had a tumultuous relationship with WWE, having been in and out of the company several times throughout the years, but after having breathed new life into their careers in Impact Wrestling they’ve returned to WWE and are the talk of the wrestling world once again.
Both brothers have had their struggles with drugs, and Jeff Hardy is particularly known for his substance abuse. Jeff was a big hit with the female audience in his younger days but the drugs have aged him incredibly quickly and these days he’s nearly unrecognizable.
Whether you know him as X-Pac or the 1-2-3 Kid, Sean Waltman is undoubtedly a future WWE Hall of Fame inductee. Waltman was the only man to have been a member of both D-Generation X and the New World Order at the height of both groups’ success, but he managed to make an impact on the wrestling business all by himself with his infectious energy and unmistakable martial arts combat style. He was a unique member of the WWE roster and for that, he’ll always be remembered.
Waltman is still somewhat in the spotlight today, running a podcast and occasionally wrestling for independent shows, but his years of drug use have caught up with him and he has changed dramatically from his days as a degenerate in the ‘90s.
12 Perry Saturn
One of the more intriguing stories related to wrestlers and drug abuse has been that of former WWE and WCW wrestler Perry Saturn. Saturn was a pretty big deal in World Championship Wrestling before coming to WWE and becoming perhaps best known for his cross-dressing and his adventures with his “girlfriend,” a mop named simply “Moppy.”
He was certainly an underrated star and was closely linked to the likes of Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, and Eddie Guerrero, but his WWE career didn’t last forever. A few years after being released he was shot, became homeless and got addicted to meth. Today he’s still struggling to keep his life together financially and, as seen in this recent photo, the drugs have taken their toll physically.
11 Marty Jannetty
The Rockers were one of the most popular tag teams in professional wrestling in the early 1990s. The team consisted of one man you certainly remember named Shawn Michaels and another you might have forgotten named Marty Jannetty. Though the team was a popular hit, they’ll always be remembered for the night Michaels turned on Jannetty, disbanding the team and kicking off an illustrious career for himself while Jannetty struggled to remain relevant.
Marty Jannetty’s relationship with the World Wrestling Federation was always a rocky one, in no small part due to his years of substance abuse. His professional bridges weren’t the only thing destroyed, either, as the physical appearance of this former WWF Intercontinental Champion has taken a pretty mean beating as well over the years.
10 Ric Flair
There are household names in professional wrestling such as Hulk Hogan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and John Cena. These are names even non-wrestling fans will know at the drop of a dime, but within the wrestling fandom there are other names considered to be royalty and of those names, there is no more powerful than the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair.
In Ric Flair’s prime, there was no one who could outclass him inside of a wrestling ring and the man continued to wrestle well beyond a reasonable retirement age. He’s still worshiped as a god among hardcore wrestling fans, but as a notorious partier, his years of substance problems have changed the appearance of this sixteen time World Champion pretty drastically.
She is often referred to as the “original Diva,” and there’s a pretty good reason for that. Tammy Sytch was one of the first sex symbols in professional wrestling when she portrayed the incredibly gorgeous and charismatic Sunny, and she frequently stole the spotlight from the wrestlers she accompanied to the ring as a manager. Her “I Know You Want Me” theme song became an iconic piece of music for the Attitude era and she was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame a few years back.
But years of substance abuse have led Sunny to many arrests and her legal woes have now far overshadowed her contributions to the professional wrestling business. She’s put on a lot of weight over the years and has aged dramatically, looking like anything but the sex symbol she was in the ‘90s.
8 Jake “The Snake” Roberts
As a sort of precursor to the young current WWE Superstar you may know as Bray Wyatt, Jake “The Snake” Roberts was pushing the envelope in the late 1980s and early ‘90s as the World Wrestling Federation’s resident creeper. Roberts spoke in mostly hushed tones and carried a python to the ring in a bag, unleashing it on his opponents when it suited him. His character had an evil nature but, much like Wyatt today, he received plenty of adoration from the live audience.
Unfortunately, The Snake’s career ended long before he had reached his potential due to having blown it on his substance abuse, of which he is now known to have a long, long history. Roberts was recently inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and seems to be doing much better, but drugs and alcohol have made him look like an entirely different man.
7 Matt Hardy
As we’ve already discussed, the contributions of the Hardy Boyz to professional wrestling are immeasurable, especially when one looks at the state of tag team wrestling today. Almost nothing would be what it is now if the Hardy brothers hadn’t come along and raised the bar for everyone, redefining the ladder match and turning the tag team division into a main event level attraction. Matt Hardy, particularly, continued to revolutionize wrestling during his time with Impact Wrestling with his “Broken” gimmick.
But although Matt is back with WWE today, his history with the company has been a rough one and a few years back his personal life wasn’t going so smoothly, either, as he was tied up in some pretty nasty drug scandals. Whether it’s the drugs or not remains to be seen, but something has aged Matt Hardy rapidly over the course of a few years.
6 Joey Mercury
One of the hottest tag team acts in the mid-2000s was MNM, a trio of stars who went by the names Joey Mercury, Johnny Nitro, and Melina. Nitro and Melina would go on to become the breakout stars of that group, but while they remained a team MNM were quite successful as WWE Tag Team Champions on the SmackDown brand. One fateful ladder match would be the beginning of the end for Joey Mercury, however, as a blow to the face with a steel ladder would severely injure him and lead him down a dark road.
Mercury, who already had a lengthy history of drug and alcohol abuse, became addicted to painkillers and this eventually led to the demise of his WWE career. He got back on his feet and works for WWE again in a backstage capacity, but the drugs aged him rapidly.
5 Lex Luger
Lex Luger was a huge star in the 1990s, working briefly for the World Wrestling Federation as “The Narcissist” and then as an American hero of sorts, but he really managed to make a name for himself with their competition, World Championship Wrestling. He was one of that company’s biggest names and saw a lot of success, but years of substance abuse would see him eventually end up in a wheelchair.
In recent times Lex Luger seems to have been clean and sober, working on special projects to help keep young people off drugs. However, there’s no denying the physical effect that years of substance abuse have taken on his body as he is now a thin shell of the man we knew in the ‘90s.
4 Tyson Tomko
There was a time during the mid card rise of former WWE Superstar and future Hall of Famer Christian that a man named Tyson Tomko seemed to be getting a free ride straight to stardom. Tomko was serving as the bodyguard and “problem solver” of Christian during the mid-2000s and with Trish Stratus at their side, the trio was briefly one of the company’s most popular heel acts. Once his time with WWE came to an end, however, he became one of those guys no one seems to remember.
Tomko remained active in wrestling, but a few years ago he got himself into some trouble by robbing a CVS Pharmacy in Florida of oxycodone and shooting up in the restroom of a nearby Chili’s restaurant. He soon checked into rehabilitation (which was sponsored by WWE), but at the time of his mugshot he was no longer looking like a “problem solver.”
3 Dynamite Kid
In the late 1980s Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid, known as the British Bulldogs, lit a fire under the World Wrestling Federation’s tag team division. Their fast pace and athletic style captivated wrestling audiences during a time when such performances weren’t all that common, but a back injury to Dynamite Kid stifled their momentum. Years later, Davey Boy Smith would go on to become a big singles star while Dynamite Kid’s career began to flounder.
Now in a wheelchair, Dynamite Kid, whose real name is Tom Billington, says that years of steroid abuse have led him to the point in his life where he is today. He’s a frail old man, especially compared to athletic beast we knew back in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
2 Scott Hall
No one is going to argue that Scott Hall is one of the most successful professional wrestling stars of the 1990s. He first erupted onto the scene as Razor Ramon, a huge hit in the World Wrestling Federation’s mid card, but then perhaps more famously jumped ship to World Championship Wrestling later that decade and became one of the original members of the most influential stable in wrestling history, the New World Order.
Along with Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan, the nWo helped WCW beat the WWF in the ratings for a long time, but a few years later substance abuse would put an end to Hall’s momentum and, essentially, his wrestling career. He’s been arrested numerous times and, though he’s been getting his act together, he is unrecognizable today.
1 Road Dogg Jesse James
As one-half of the New Age Outlaws, the Road Dogg Jesse James left a major mark on the World Wrestling Federation’s tag team division during the Attitude era. James and his partner, “Bad Ass” Billy Gunn, became one of the most popular and respected tag teams in the history of the business, often running with their larger unit, a little stable you might know as D-Generation X. Road Dogg was something of the mouthpiece for that group and as a result became one of the voices of the entire era.
He works with WWE today in a backstage capacity, but if you didn’t already know him you wouldn’t be able to pick him out of a crowd. Years of being hooked on drugs have seen to it that Jesse James doesn’t look anything like the Road Dogg these days.