It is every aspiring pro wrestler's dream to be able to work in the WWE. Although such a dream could easily turn into a nightmare once reality sets in – backstage politics, poor booking, injuries, you name it – working in the 'E is a pretty good way to make a living, all things considered. But what happens when the WWE decides to wish you the best in your future endeavors? It goes without saying that those best wishes don't always result in good fortune, especially years after the WWE dream had ended with a pink slip.
Through the years, there have been so many ex-WWE wrestlers who have had a rough go at life after leaving the company. But there have also been some others who bucked the odds to become even bigger deals away from the WWE (or close to that) than they were when they were still working for Vince McMahon. Today, we shall look at ten examples of depressing post-WWE careers (including some examples of wrestlers who, due to circumstances, are unable to actually work), and five wrestlers whose lives away from Vince have been surprisingly productive and successful.
15 Perry Saturn (Depressing)
Former ECW and WCW wrestler Perry Saturn looked to be on his way to a bright future in the WWE in 2000, when he debuted alongside Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, and Dean Malenko in The Radicalz. But all that changed in 2001, when, as a punishment for legitimately attacking jobber Mike Bell in a dark match, Saturn was given the role of a concussion victim who truly believed he was in love with a mop. Fans loved it, but the gimmick limited Saturn's upside, and he was gone from the WWE while he recovered from an injury in 2002.
In the years that followed, Saturn battled drugs and homelessness, and just when fans thought he had successfully conquered his demons, he made a heartbreaking video announcement late last year, discussing how traumatic brain injuries had left him unable to work and in dire financial need, and also in danger of losing his house. Several fans and former colleagues chipped in via GoFundMe, though that doesn't change how Saturn remains an unfortunate shadow of his once-imposing self.
14 Rico (Depressing)
Fans of the late Attitude and early Ruthless Aggression Eras remember Rico Constantino mainly for his role as the flamboyant, campy stylist to Billy and Chuck. After the not-gay-after-all duo copped out of their on-air wedding and turned face after admitting they were straight (because "WWE" and "diversity" don't always mix), Rico remained a heel as he took his styling talents to 3 Minute Warning. He also competed in singles with Miss Jackie (Gayda) as his valet, maintaining his gimmick as a heel and a face until 2004, when WWE released him.
Although Rico appeared to make good for himself as a police officer after retiring from the ring, the wrestler-turned-cop's fortunes took a turn for the worse a few years ago, according to a Facebook post from manager Kenny "StarMaker" Bolin. Aside from a number of undiagnosed concussions, Rico was reportedly suffering from a collapsed lung and heart problems, with no disability or financial support for his mounting medical needs.
13 Santino Marella (Went Well)
He's been in the wrestling headlines recently due to the latest chapter of his real-life blood feud with Jim Cornette. But things have been looking up for Santino Marella since his release from the WWE in 2016. At that time, he was already technically retired due to nagging injuries, and no longer a spring chicken at 42-years-old. But some were still surprised by Santino's release, considering how he had often been an entertaining presence on WWE television, and a rare example of someone who got a lot of mileage out of being a comedy wrestler.
No longer required by his role to speak in an exaggerated, fake Italian accent, Santino now goes more often by his real name, Anthony Carelli, as he's got a couple of successful endeavors going on in his home country of Canada. He's been training aspiring pro wrestlers and mixed martial artists at Battle Arts Academy since late 2013, and has also been working since last year as an analyst for Sportsnet 360's Aftermath, where he often covers the WWE with his co-hosts.
12 Justin Gabriel (Depressing)
As you'll notice, a lot of the wrestlers in the "Depressing" category are on the older side. But one need not be on the wrong side of 40, 50, or even 60 to have a sad post-WWE career, or in some cases, lack thereof. One example is the 36-year-old Justin Gabriel, who joined the company via the first season of the NXT rookie search, yet failed to get over with fans despite his tremendous high-flying talent. Gabriel was released by the WWE early in 2015, and at that point, he was competing under a mask as fellow South African Adam Rose's Bunny.
Initially, it seemed as if Gabriel would be a better candidate for the other side of this list, as he had a productive run in Lucha Underground as PJ Black. Sadly, he got into a freak BASE jumping accident just four months ago, losing one of his fingers and breaking a hand and a leg. Obviously, those are injuries that take some time to recover from.
11 Kamala (Depressing)
Forget that ill-conceived angle where Reverend Slick took him bowling in an attempt to "civilize" him. The Ugandan Giant, Kamala, was a staple of WWE in the 1980s, mostly working as a monster heel with a number of managers and "handlers." Some may say it was a racially insensitive gimmick, but as Jim Harris, the man behind the gimmick, later admitted, he had a lot of input in its creation, teaming up with Jerry Lawler to come up with a new character for the Memphis territories.
After leaving the WWE in 1993, Kamala had a brief run in WCW, then competed sporadically in the indies, even getting to face a young Bryan Danielson (whom you all know now as Daniel Bryan) for his ROH World Championship in 2006. But recent years have revealed the sad state of his present-day life, with diabetes resulting in the amputation of both legs, and his much more meager earnings coming from his handmade chair business, a 2014 autobiography, and disability checks.
10 Derrick Bateman (Went Well)
Who's Derrick Bateman, pray tell? Naturally, most of you may know him as one of the contestants in the fourth season of NXT in its rookie search iteration, but these days, you probably know him much better as Ethan Carter III. As Derrick Bateman, the man know called EC3 was hardly utilized during his time in the WWE, and while it's not unusual for ex-WWE lower-carders (see: Drew Galloway/McIntyre) to break out in TNA/GFW/Impact, few have gone from WWE zero to Impact hero in the same fashion as Bateman/EC3 has.
Although Dixie Carter's removal from power sort-of dulled what had been EC3's main selling point (being Dixie's arrogant "one percenter" nephew), he remains a linchpin of Impact Wrestling programming, with his heel work in particular standing out. At 34, Father Time probably won't be knocking on his door and slowing him down just yet, so a WWE return isn't out of the question. The question, however, is if he'll become another Drew McIntyre...or become the next Mike (Bennett) Kanellis.
9 Alberto Del Rio (Depressing)
No, we don't think that Alberto Del Rio was a choirboy at any point during his WWE career. But it was easy to empathize with him in 2014, when the company fired him for physically attacking a social media manager who teased him with one racist joke too many. One year later, the WWE Universe was glad to see him back, but as WWE botched Del Rio's return with debacles such as Mex-America and The League of Nations, his frustration became palpable, and he left the company on acrimonious terms in September of 2016.
Since his WWE departure, Del Rio, who now goes by Alberto El Patron, has become far more notorious for his tumultuous, on-and-off relationship with Paige, with not a few people accusing him of being a bad influence to the young former Divas Champion. He has also become infamous for his drunken rants against the WWE, and due to an alleged domestic violence incident with Paige, remains on indefinite suspension from Impact Wrestling for what is now a third month running.
8 Virgil (Depressing)
He's just one of those wrestlers whom you'd instantly expect in the "depressing" section of a list like this. As we've often mentioned, Mike Jones' pro wrestling career was largely based on trolling, may it be WWE wanting to troll Dusty Rhodes by naming Ted DiBiase's manservant Virgil, or WCW wanting to troll the McMahons by naming him Vincent, and later on Shane. Throughout his career, he's played the role of the quintessential lackey. Yet it would appear that he wants to make ends meet these days by overcharging fans for his autograph.
That is, if anyone wants to get an autograph from Virgil to begin with. All too often, fans instead ask him where DiBiase is, because any '80s or '90s WWE fan in their right mind would prefer an autograph from the Million Dollar Man. As such, he's gained internet notoriety as "Lonely Virgil" – a sad example of a man who probably thinks too highly of what was essentially a lower-card career in the big leagues.
7 Cody Rhodes (Went Well)
When Cody Rhodes left the WWE in 2016, it confirmed what we had long suspected about this grandson of a plumber – after about a decade, he was tired of running in place in the mid-card, tired of putting people over, tired of cosplaying as his older brother Goldust. Granted, it was expected that he'd try his luck in the indies and do well for himself, but hardly anyone expected him to become an even bigger name, despite not being allowed to use the "Rhodes" surname, despite not having the WWE's big-time backing.
While Cody did what many ex-WWE mid-carders did and briefly competed in TNA, he has enjoyed great success in both Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling, holding the ROH World Championship and making the most out of his time as "The American Nightmare." He's just 32 and can easily make it back to the WWE, but at this point, it's way too early to mess with what turned out to be a great thing after all.
6 Sunny (Depressing)
Really, what else is there to know about Tammy Sytch's post-WWE career, and how depressing it's been for a woman once hailed as the original "Diva" of pro wrestling? Yes, Sunny was once a young and shapely woman who oozed sex appeal from every pore of her body. But even then, she was making terrible life decisions, openly cheating on boyfriend Chris Candido, and dabbling in drugs and booze. Indeed, many stories of Sunny's backstage shenanigans have spread since her mid-late '90s heyday, some of them coming from her own first-hand accounts.
While Sunny was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame for her contributions to the industry, she has also fallen repeatedly on hard times, often resorting to adult Skype chats and adult entertainment in general to make a living. Making this even sadder is the fact that she's put on a lot of pounds and aged poorly since those years when she was arguably pro wrestling's hottest sex symbol.
5 Marty Jannetty (Depressing)
Art Garfunkel and John Oates have had it much better than Marty Jannetty – at least Paul Simon and Daryl Hall never superkicked them and sent them flying through a barbershop window. At least those two "weaker half" musicians never wasted their talents on their personal demons (not that this writer knows of) like Jannetty did. And we don't need to walk you through the many times Vince McMahon gave Marty another chance to straighten his life out, only for him to blow those chances time and time again.
Now 57-years-old, Jannetty is still wrestling on occasion, and busting out his Rockers gear like a middle-aged man who still thinks he's as cool as he was when he was in his 20s. Worse, he's become notorious for his erratic social media posts, including one where he allegedly said he was free to have sex with a woman who was once mistaken to be his daughter. He later claimed that his Facebook was hacked, but isn't that the oft-mentioned excuse of many a person who's posted stupid stuff on social media?
4 Bobby Lashley (Went Well)
Some fans may still clamor for it, but there's absolutely no reason for Bobby Lashley to return to the company that first made him a star in the wrestling business. Although he had a memorable WWE run that had him mostly in the upper mid-card, with an even more memorable WrestleMania 23 where he, future President Donald Trump, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin shaved Vince McMahon bald, Lashley has enjoyed main event success for years in Impact Wrestling, with four world championships in the company as of this writing.
Currently, Lashley is off Impact Wrestling television, having quit the company in kayfabe to focus on his MMA career. But that's another thing leaving the WWE has allowed him to do in real life – a chance to compete in mixed martial arts, where he currently fights in Bellator's heavyweight division. As his name isn't Brock Lesnar, it's highly doubtful WWE would have allowed him a similar amount of freedom.
3 Damien Sandow (Depressing)
In our second example of how "depressing post-WWE career" isn't merely confined to the old and broken-down, we bring you Damien Sandow. Oh, how we remember how the Intellectual Savior was once such a bright and promising star with a great gimmick, until he inexplicably failed to cash in his Money in the Bank contract against John Cena. That sent him into a tailspin that was briefly broken by his run as Damien Mizdow, but he was gone by mid-2016, and off to TNA, where he would again fail to make an impact (pun half-intended) as Aron Rex.
When Sandow announced in April of this year that he was no longer with Impact Wrestling, his statements sounded like those coming from a man who had become greatly disillusioned with the wrestling business, even if he insisted that his situation wasn't "a bad thing." He's currently on hiatus as he tries to carve out an acting career, but if that doesn't work out, he's still young enough (35) to make an in-ring comeback.
2 Dynamite Kid (Depressing)
The old expression "karma's a b*tch" may apply in Tom "Dynamite Kid" Billington's case and then some, but that doesn't make his post-WWE story any less depressing. Before being forced to retire at a young age due to chronic injuries, Dynamite was an extraordinary talent who was well ahead of his time. And even with the injuries bogging him down, he still had a lot to show as one-half of the British Bulldogs in the WWE. Yet Dynamite was also a seriously troubled man, a bully who pulled cruel ribs on his co-workers and abused his wife, and someone whose insecurity over his lack of size turned him into a notorious steroid abuser.
Sadly, Dynamite Kid is a shadow of his old self, skin-and-bones and looking much older than his 58 years, after a stroke that kept him in the hospital for over a year. He's also lived in poverty for long stretches following his WWE career, and it's a good thing he's got the support of a loving wife, as well as his oldest child, wrestler/valet Dynamite Doll, who recently reconciled with her father after over two decades of estrangement.
1 Batista (Went Well)
His last WWE run might not have gone according to plan, but there's still great demand for Batista to have one more stint with the company for old time's sake, and to give his Hall of Fame-worthy career some closure. Sure, he wasn't always a saint in the locker room or on the road, and sure, he wasn't a technical wizard. But The Animal was a true mainstay of the Ruthless Aggression Era, and it wouldn't hurt to see him in the ring one last time, hopefully against the last man he was at odds with in storyline, Triple H.
The odds of a Batista comeback, however, are currently slim, and that's because he's now a certified crossover success as a movie star, thanks to his role as Drax the Destroyer in the Guardians of the Galaxy series. Credited as usual under his real name, Dave Bautista, he last appeared on the big screen in Blade Runner 2049, and with all the opportunities coming his way, it looks like Big Dave is perfectly happy making movies in Hollywood.