Wrestlers are professionally trained athletes. They work for years to become as good as they are at what they do, but none of this training prepares them for a fight that they could be having with themselves.
Many athletes pick up health problems following the end of their career, but an unlucky few have actually come down with illness while still being active on the wrestling circuit. Many wrestlers have passed away in recent years and the WWE Universe has mourned the loss to the circuit as a whole and said goodbye to some of the biggest stars of the business.
The problem with illness and wrestling is the fact that the two do not go hand in hand. It isn’t a job that anyone can perform if they are at any less than one hundred percent. Wrestling is a forgiving sport though and the WWE Universe are always behind any wrestler who is struck down with illness regardless of whether or not they are still on WWE TV on a weekly basis.
The following list of Superstars were all sadly diagnosed with cancer, one of the illnesses that almost every person in the world has been exposed to either through a family member or themselves. Cancer is something that needs to be fought in a different way than a wrestling match and sadly no one is ever prepared for that.
Luckily this is a list of stars who managed to defeat the disease much like it was just another opponent. These stars have proved that they have the strength to take on the disease and come out on top.
15. Michelle McCool
The current wife of WWE Superstar and legend The Undertaker, Michelle McCool was only diagnosed with skin cancer earlier this year. Michelle posted on Instagram that she had gone to have some routine moles removed and one of them turned out to be cancerous.
Luckily Michelle got the appropriate treatment and is now said to be cancer free. The former WWE Divas Champion has been seen out and about with her husband over the past few months looking well and preparing herself for her husband’s WrestleMania return (the yearly spectacle where her husband is the most sought after opponent). Michelle was one of SmackDown’s biggest attractions while she was still wrestling, but decided to retire after she lost the match that held that stipulation back in 2011.
14. Roddy Piper
The late, great ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper had become one of the best-known wrestlers in the world before his death last year. Piper had survived stabbings, a plane crash, and even cancer before he sadly passed away following a heart attack last year.
It was made public knowledge that Piper was battling Lymphoma back in 2006 and the entire WWE Universe backed the Legend. It was announced a few years later that Piper had beaten his cancer and even made many appearances on WWE TV following this news before he was taken suddenly in the summer of 2015. (The eerie thing about Piper’s death is that he actually predicted that he would not survive to a certain age.) Piper is considered by many to be the greatest heel in WWE history.
13. Jim Duggan
‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan has become a household name following an incredible career with WWE, but his career could have been cut much shorter than it actually was. Back in 1998 Duggan announced that he had been diagnosed with kidney cancer.
Duggan took time away from WWE so that he could recover and receive the appropriate treatment and then returned to the company when it was said that he had successfully beaten his cancer. Duggan then went on to have a lengthy career with WWE following his time away and is still a healthy WWE legend right now. Duggan was last seen as part of the GFW roster earlier this year. As we know, Duggan is currently living a healthy and happy life as a WWE legend.
12. Kris Travis
Kris Travis could be a somewhat controversial addition to this list, but the British Superstar was heading towards a career with one of the top wrestling companies until he was struck down with the disease back in October 2014.
Travis was forced to come away from the sport and drop out of TNA British Bootcamp in order to recover from the illness. Travis overcame stomach cancer following surgery and returned to wrestling in 2015 where he picked up the Tag Team Championship with his Project Ego partner Martin Kirby. Sadly his cancer returned and Travis was once again forced to walk away from wrestling. He retired in late 2015 and sadly passed away back in March.
11. Adrian Street
The ‘Exotic’ Adrian Street was an ex-miner who became a sadist in sequins during British Wrestling’s glory days. The former South Wales wrestler was talking about making a musical about his life in the good old days of the sport at 75-years-old. British Wrestling has been through so many changes since these days, and it would be interesting to see his story on the stage.
Adrian recently revealed that he had survived an incredible battle with throat cancer earlier in his career which he thought was caused by the amount of smoke he had inhaled when he was performing many years before. Street was a flamboyant character in the 1970s and one of the first of his kind of performer in the days of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks.
Shredz auditioned for WWE’s Tough Enough when it returned as a Network Exclusive show back in 2015. It was revealed that he was a cancer survivor after having a tumour ‘the size of a tennis ball’ removed eight years previous from what is believed to have been his shoulder.
Sadly he wasn’t chosen to be a part of the show but he is already an established wrestler in his own right. Shredz has made a name for himself on the Independent scene and despite already fighting and winning perhaps the biggest battle of his life, he still manages to be one of the stand-out attractions on the Big West Wrestling scene. It’s too bad that WWE didn’t see anything of worth in Shredz during his attempt at Tough Enough.
9. Barry Piotrowski
Barry Piotrowski may not be as well known on the wrestling circuit as many other names on this list, but he does have just as much right to be on here. The wrestling star managed to overcome Hodgkins Lymphoma before he made his WWE debut back in 2012.
Barry was one of two stars who was chosen to go up against Ryback in a handicap match on an episode of SmackDown. Piotrowski was unsuccessful in his match but it put him on the map following his comeback from the disease and has allowed him to move forward with his career ever since. Barry was once ranked inside PWI’s top 50o and chosen for the Super 8 Tournament but was forced to pull out because of the illness.
8. Matt Cappotelli
Matt Cappotelli is best remembered for his time in WWE’s developmental territory called OVW. He performed on the brand for three years before he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. He announced that he was to undergo surgery to remove the tumor in 2007.
The surgery was a success and the tumor was completely removed from Matt. This would then allow him to return to wrestling as a trainer for OVW back in 2013. Cappotelli is best remembered as one of the first winners of Tough Enough and was offered a contract to WWE when he along with John Hennigan won the third season of the show. Matt may have not reach top levels of WWE success but it’s nice to know that his career was worth something to the company.
7. Jason Knight
The former WWE and ECW Superstar announced via his Facebook page that he had been diagnosed with throat cancer back in 2015. The ex-wrestler appeared for both WWE and ECW between 1993 and 2009 before becoming a wrestling promoter and manager following his retirement.
He revealed that his cancer was quite advanced but he would fight it as hard as he could and it seems that the former star has now beaten the disease. Many key names in wrestling reached out to show their support for Knight and helped to give him the support he needed to come out victorious in the biggest fight of his life. In times of need, the wrestling community is just as human as any other community, despite the fact that they beat each other up for a living.
6. Jake Roberts
The legendary Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts was heartbreakingly diagnosed with cancer back in 2014. The Hall of Famer underwent surgery to remove the tumour from behind his knee and following a short battle with the disease, Roberts was said to have been well once again. Roberts has been through so many issues in his life and it was great of the WWE Universe to get behind one of WWE’s biggest legends during his time of need.
Roberts returned on an episode of ‘Old School’ Monday Night Raw to a thunderous ovation following the news that he had overcome the disease (Roberts would place his famous snake on top of Dean Ambrose in the middle of the ring) and has since been inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame. Roberts hasn’t been seen on WWE TV since 2014.
5. Zack Ryder
Former Intercontinental Champion Zack Ryder is the only Superstar currently in WWE that has battled the illness and won. Ryder was in high school when he was diagnosed with cancer. He said that there was a tumour in his foot that then spread to his lungs and forced him to undergo chemotherapy and many surgeries.
Ryder revealed his battle with the illness after his Intercontinental Championship win earlier this year and it saw many of the WWE Universe warm to the Hype Bros member. But it seems that WWE never fully picked up on the storyline that could have really kick started Ryder’s career. Ryder has more recently decided to team back up with Mojo Rawley and reunite the Hype Bros after their run in NXT.
Sunny has become a controversial presence in WWE in recent years. But many prefer to remember her as the star she was on the wrestling scene in the 1990s and the star that WWE inducted into their Hall of Fame.
Despite her recent problems, Sunny did battle with cervical cancer back in 2013 and stated that while she was in prison she was forced to undergo a hysterectomy which then cured her from the disease. Sunny may have caused many problems in recent years, but she deserves to be recognized as a cancer survivor because she managed to fight one of the biggest opponents that a wrestler will ever face. Hate on Sunny for many things but never hate on her fight and victory over this horrible disease.
3. Bret Hart
‘The Best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be,’ faced the biggest fight he had ever been a part of earlier this year when he revealed in an emotional Facebook message that he was suffering from prostate cancer.
The wrestling legend underwent surgery a few days after he revealed the diagnosis to the world and it was said to have been successful because the cancer was contained within the prostate. Hart went on to say that it was the regular check ups that have saved his life and despite the fact that he now has to have a check-up every three months, he is healthy and happy following the illness. Bret would even make an appearance beside his niece Natalya in an emotional WWE return.
2. Zack Gowen
Much like Zack Ryder, Zack Gowen suffered from the disease long before he was signed to WWE. Gowen was just eight years old when he was forced to undergo surgery that saw him have his leg amputated.
Merely weeks later, he was introduced to the world of wrestling and despite the fact that he only had one leg, he adapted his wrestling style to suit him and became a huge hit around the world. Gowen became a star in WWE back in 2003 when he was put up against the likes of Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper before he was destroyed by Brock Lesnar and released from the company not long after. Gowen was a sight to see in WWE as his handicap would not take away from the intensity of his matches.
The former WWE Diva and TNA Knockout revealed recently that she had been through her own health struggle as well. Victoria performed as Tara in TNA and is a former WWE Women’s Champion. But despite going up against the likes of Trish Stratus and Lita during her time with the company, she had a much bigger fight on her hands here.
Victoria revealed that she had been to the doctors to have some suspicious moles looked at and removed and the doctor was concerned about another one on her neck. She then had it removed as well and it turned out to be a cancerous growth. She said that she’s happy and healthy now but it is a warning to always get these things checked out.