The world of professional wrestling doesn’t exactly seem conducive to romantic love. After all, it’s a world based on violence, full of performers with larger than life egos. It’s a business full of competitive athletes. No, I’m not referring to actual wrestling—we all understand the outcomes are predetermined—but rather the fact that professional wrestling stars vie screen time, main event spots, for the chance to move merchandise. None of these qualities of the business and its star players suggest that leads to happy couples.
On the flip side of the coin, though, pursuing a professional wrestling career is a unique enough endeavor that it does make sense two people involved in it would have a lot in common. Wrestlers share a commitment to the wrestling craft and living with the diet and fitness regimen of an athlete. Moreover, they’re used to traveling the road, and if you’re inclined toward a relationship, it makes sense that one would have a partner who can travel along with them, rather than wait at home.
So, the wrestling world has spawned quite a few love stories. Some of these stories have led to great things—long relationships, happy marriages, children, a lifetime of happiness. Others have led to pure misery for one or more of the participants in the form of infidelities, betrayals, and even those couplings that have had a negative impact on one or more wrestlers’ professional career. This article looks at 10 different real life wrestling stories with happy endings, and 10 that transformed from dream scenarios to absolute nightmares.
20. Happy Ending: Alberto Del Rio And Paige
The story of Alberto Del Rio and Paige is still underway, so it might be premature to say it had a happy ending. Just the same, despite a fifteen year age difference, and despite Del Rio leaving WWE while Paige stayed, the two appear to have remained happy together. Paige has been a presence for many of Del Rio’s appearances for smaller wrestling promotions and for his restaurant opening. Then, things got even more serious between the two when Paige got down on one knee and proposed to Del Rio in the middle of the ring at a World Wrestling Council show in Puerto Rico.
Given her engagement to Del Rio and recent Wellness Policy suspensions, one might assume Paige is on her way out of WWE, but with The Rock producing a biopic based on her, WWE seems to have recommitted to her. It will be interesting to see how her WWE career and her relationship proceed in the years ahead.
19. Nightmare: Skip And Sunny
Chris Candido brought his real-life high school sweetheart and girlfriend Tammy Sytch into the wrestling business with him when he was working for Smoky Mountain Wrestling. She came along for the ride when he moved on up to WWE, and the company packaged them as heel fitness gurus known as The Bodydonnas, Skip and Sunny (and Zip, Skip’s tag partner).
Things would take a turn for the happy couple as Sunny not only outshone and became much more of a player in WWE than the man she managed, but when she was implicated in a number of backstage affairs. Most prominently, Shawn Michaels alluded to an affair between her and Bret Hart on the air to get at The Hitman and his family; ironically, it was Michaels himself and not Hart who purportedly slept with her.
If the infidelities weren’t bad enough, in 2005, Candido tragically passed away at the age of 33. Different accounts suggest the death was a result of a blood clot or pneumonia. Regardless, it seems wrestling injuries played a part in his shocking demise that left Sunny on her own. In the aftermath of his death, Sunny spiraled out of control with a number of drug and alcohol related incidents to her name.
18. Happy Ending: John Morrison And Melina
John Morrison and Melina were a memorable on-screen pair in WWE. First they were two of the core members of the MNM unit with Joey Mercury that enjoyed great success in the tag ranks with Melina playing the manager, then with Morrison as a singles star who had Melina in his corner before she became more active as a wrestler in her own right.
Post-WWE, the two would appear in Lucha Underground together for a single, high-profile outing in which Melina made a surprise appearance to help Morrison defeat Alberto Del Rio at Ultima Lucha.
The twosome appears to be on and off when it comes to their real life romance, each noted to have dated other people over the years. Just the same, as Morrison commented in a 2013 interview, “I’ll always care about her, and she’ll always care about me.” Thus, while the two may not end up together, it seems they’ll always have a place in each other’s hearts.
17. Nightmare: Steve Austin And Miss Debra
Stone Cold Steve Austin was known as rough dude who didn’t trust anyone. While a lot of that persona was an act, there were kernels of truth to it. Austin has repeatedly noted that the best wrestling gimmicks, including his own, are based on real personalities with the volume cranked up. Sure enough, the real Austin has never claimed to be anything but a redneck, a tough guy, and a loner.
Austin’s real life marriage with fellow WWE Superstar Debra came to an unfortunate end in 2002. Austin was in a low place, having left WWE in the aftermath of WrestleMania X8 due to creative frustrations. That summer, Debra filed domestic abuse charges, citing multiple instances in which her husband had gotten physical with her, and noting his issues with steroid and alcohol use.
Fortunately, Austin was able to turn things around, cleaning up from a substance perspective and mending fences with WWE. Just the same, the relationship ended in something of a nightmare for both parties.
16. Happy Ending: Daniel Bryan And Brie Bella
From the outside looking in as fans, no one would have predicted Daniel Bryan and Brie Bella would get together. Bryan was an indie wrestler who traveled the globe to develop his skills before scratching and clawing his way to a WWE opportunity. In WWE, he promptly became a workhorse, winning over fans with his tremendous technical skill and athleticism, paired with his unconventional brand of charisma. Bella, meanwhile, was a pretty face who parlayed her modeling career into a WWE contract and was largely maligned for her limited skills as an actual wrestler.
Bryan and Bella just go to show that we fans only know so much and only have so much insight into what people are like behind the scenes. The twosome came together while working for WWE and rose up together—Bryan becoming a main event superstar while Bella evolved into a solid wrestler in her own right. While Bryan was forced into early retirement by injuries and has had his emotional struggles, well documented on the Total Divas and Total Bellas reality shows—the two are currently expecting their first child and seem to be very happily married.
15. Nightmare: Test and Kelly Kelly
While it wasn’t well publicized at the time, it came out that former WWE star Kelly Kelly was involved in a relationship with Test while the two worked for WWE’s ECW brand. Test was a strange figure on screen for getting a huge push early on as Stephanie McMahon’s kayfabe boyfriend and Shane McMahon’s rival, before largely fading to obscurity. While he’d momentarily rise back up the ranks, he always seemed to slip back down just as fast, despite his great look and improving skills.
Test tragically passed away at the age of 33, due to what was ruled as an accidental drug overdose. In the aftermath, Kelly posted an emotional message on social media recalling her special bond with him. She later spoke in interviews about their up-and-down relationship, and how sad it was for him to be gone.
14. Happy Ending: The Undertaker And Michelle McCool
The Undertaker’s on-screen character isn’t exactly a romantic one. He started as zombie-esque figure, before evolving into a dark overlord. As a biker, his wife at the time, Sara, was brought on screen and he was at his most human. Not long after, though, he returned to his Deadman persona and left his personal life off screen.
Ironically, while The Phenom has grown detached on air again, he seems to be at his happiest in his personal life, with his third marriage now reaching into its seventh year. The Undertaker found love in an unlikely form, falling for Michelle McCool. McCool was a real life middle school teacher who transitioned into the world of professional wrestling, and even used her prior career as part of her character in the early going before really hitting her stride as an arrogant heel character.
While McCool and The Undertaker might not seem like an obvious fit, in real life they seem to get along quite well and had their first child together in 2012.
13. Nightmare: Kevin Sullivan And Woman
Kevin Sullivan and Woman were a real life married couple that came together both on screen and off in the 1980s before landing in WCW. Sullivan was not only a wrestler for the company, but often worked as their booker, crafting storylines and match outcomes. One of his stories involved young wrestler Chris Benoit stealing his wife from him, and Sullivan purportedly went so far as to order Benoit and Woman to look like they were dating when they were out in public together to further the storyline.
Little could Sullivan have known, Benoit and Woman would actually fall in love, and she ended up leaving Sullivan for The Crippler. The on-air feud played out as planned over a period of months, with Woman as the central reason for the men fighting. Little did fans know how real the issue had become, and it must have torn away at Sullivan to have known that he created and had to continue working within the storyline that effectively ended his marriage.
12. Happy Ending: Booker T And Sharmell
Back in WCW, Booker T was one of the few true homegrown talents to speak of. Before our eyes, he grew from a tag team guy, to a lower-mid-card talent, to a legitimate main eventer. Meanwhile, Sharmell progressed from being a part of the Nitro Girls dancing group to playing a manager who was more involved in WCW storylines. During this time, Booker T and Sharmell struck up a personal relationship and they got married in 2005.
Since WCW, Booker T and Sharmell have appeared together in WWE and TNA. They also have a twin boy and girl together. While Sharmell has mostly walked away from the wrestling business, at least for the time being, Booker T has remained a regular figure providing color commentary and speaking on pre-show panels for WWE.
11. Nightmare: Goldust And Marlena
Dustin Rhodes and manager Alexandra York were each big parts of the WCW mid-card in the mid-1990s. When they started dating, Dustin’s father Dusty, part of WCW management and the creative team, purportedly did not approve of the relationship, accusing her of gold digging and of infidelity.
The young couple moved on to WWE, where they each completely reinvented themselves, portraying Goldust and Marlena. While they did marry, the disapproval of Dustin’s father remained a specter and a strain over the relationship, causing a dark chapter in both men’s lives. Finally, after six years together, and plenty of on screen stories as a pair, the two divorced in real life in 1999. Both seem to be doing better now, and in a 2008 interview Marlena even stated that the two of them got along much better in the years after they’d split up.
10. Happy Ending: The Miz And Maryse
When The Miz first showed his face to a national television audience, he was a wrestling obsessed jerk on MTV’s reality series The Real World. Little did any of his housemates or viewers of the show realize that he would go on to realize his wrestling dreams, becoming a WWE Superstar, a world champion, and even a WrestleMania main eventer. Little could they have guessed, either, that he’d wind up marrying one of wrestling’s most beautiful female stars—a model-turned-wrestler by the name of Maryse.
The Miz and Maryse married in 2013, and in 2016 she returned to WWE to play his manager. Rumor has it, she’ll step back in the ring next month teaming with The Miz against mutual kayfabe rivals, John Cena and Nikki Bella.
9. Nightmare: Matt Hardy And Lita
Matt Hardy and Lita looked like the perfect couple both in kayfabe and reality. They were both likeable, skilled athletes and wrestling personalities, each of whom embodied a certain alternative edge. Things took a turn, however, when Hardy was injured and off the road, and Lita spent more time with Hardy’s storyline enemy and real life close friend Edge.
Accounts vary as to what Edge and Lita actually did or did not do (for example, if they actually became physically involved with each other or just formed a close friendship). Regardless, Edge sent Lita some very intimate text messages about how much he loved her. Matt Hardy saw them, and promptly went ballistic.
What seemed like a story book love story wound up taking some crazy turns. All of a sudden, Hardy and Lita were done on screen and off. WWE released Hardy for fear he wouldn’t be safe for Edge or Lita to be around. This very real situation wound up being rolled into one great big storyline, as WWE paired Edge and Lita as a red hot heel couple, then brought back Hardy to launch a series of realistic surprise attacks before they blew off their isssues in a proper wrestling feud.
8. Happy Ending: John Cena And Nikki Bella
John Cena married his high school sweetheart, but their relationship fell apart as Cena became a full-fledged superstar. Cena was implicated in a few backstage romances, most prominently including an affair with Mickie James. But then Cena got serious with Nikki Bella.
Indeed, as Nikki and her twin sister Brie blew up as WWE stars in their own right and as featured players on the E! reality series Total Divas, Nikki got serious with Cena and their relationship became a plot point on the show. While questions will linger as to where the line exists between reality and storylines for these two, with several layers between real life, reality TV, and professional wrestling, the two have nonetheless remained a couple for several years now and are lined up to even team together in the ring for WrestleMania 33, opposite another real couple, The Miz and Maryse.
7. Nightmare: Marc Mero And Sable
Imagine you’re a professional wrestler on the rise. You get signed to a big money deal by WWE, where management sees you as a blue-chip prospect. You even score a job for your beautiful wife to play your manager.
Then things unravel.
For Marc Mero, this is reality. The guy left WCW and got signed to WCW for a big deal, making far more money than a ‘mechanic’ known as Steve Austin was signed for at around the same time. His wife debuted as Sable and was instantly over for being a beautiful woman. Over the two years to follow, Sable slowly but steadily started to overshadow her husband until WWE actively played into it, with Mero turning into an abusive heel and Sable landing in the sweet spot between damsel and distress and empowered feminist character who stood up for herself. The result was Sable becoming one of the tip-top stars in the company, while Mero faded into lower mid-card obscurity.
The real life couple split up in 2004, and Sable wound up marrying Brock Lesnar less than two years later. In a recent interview, Mero came across as both realistic and good-humored, citing that when he heard his wife had moved on to Brock Lesnar, he knew better than to try and mess with The Beast Incarnate.
6. Happy Ending: Triple H And Stephanie McMahon
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are one of those odd wrestling couples that started in storyline and evolved into the real thing. In a dramatic twist, Triple H revealed himself to have married an unconscious Stephanie in Vegas, only for the two to reveal they were in cahoots all along, and go on to preside over WWE as a heel pair. Before long, the time that the two spent together led to genuine romantic feelings behind the scenes. So, the wrestling landscape changed. Triple H married into the McMahon family and the married couple became the heirs apparent to Vince McMahon’s spot at the head of the company.
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon are two of the hardest working people in wrestling history. In addition to being regular on-air personalities and occasional wrestlers in recent years, besides intense jobs behind the scenes working with WWE creative, marketing, developmental. Just the same, they seem happy with their lives, and by all indications are committed to one another and their three daughters.
5. Nightmare: Kurt Angle And Karen Angle
Kurt Angle brought his wife along with him to TNA after he had a falling out with WWE and sought employment in Orlando. Karen appeared in TNA, first, playing the victim, suggesting Angle’s personal life was falling apart as he became abusive to her and their children. Her character evolved over time to become more manipulative and heelish in the months to follow.
While the exact timeline isn’t clear, Angle faced legal troubles from 2007 to 2011, including implications of driving under the influence, drug abuse, and domestic violence. He was cleared of some charges and pleaded guilty to others. The Angles divorced in 2008.
The divorce, in and of itself, might be read as an unhappy ending, but worse than that, Karen wound up dating one of Angle’s coworkers, Jeff Jarrett. Kurt was purportedly livid when he found out and threatened Jarrett, though cooler heads prevailed and Jarrett’s eventual marriage with Karen wound up providing fodder for a worked shoot program between the two men in her life.
4. Happy Ending: Rusev And Lana
Rusev and Lana were introduced to the WWE audience as a package deal. Rusev used his Bulgarian heritage to sell his gimmick as an evil heel foreigner in the tradition of the Koloffs or someone like The Iron Sheik. Lana channeled Ludmilla Drago from Rocky IV to play the evil Russian manager. Fans would come to learn the two were a real-life a couple.
Rumors have swirled regarding Rusev and Lana running a-foul of WWE management. Talk started when the two were split up on TV and engaged in a storyline—Rusev having moved on to Summer Rae, while Lana turned face and backed Dolph Ziggler against him. The two got engaged in real life and were very public about it on social media. While the days of protecting kayfabe are long gone, the WWE brass was nonetheless reportedly upset because the two of them getting hitched was so directly at odds with their high profile storyline.
While Rusev and Lana may or may not have taken some heat from the powers that be, the two have remained together in and out of the ring, and seem to be that rare couple making it work in the public eye, together in storylines and in their real lives.
3. Nightmare: Triple H And Chyna
The way Triple H and Shawn Michaels have told it in numerous interviews, they spotted Chyna as a bodybuilder trying to break into the wrestling business. They saw immediate potential in getting heat with the fans for pairing Helmsley with a female bodyguard. The pairing worked on screen, and before long, Triple H and Chyna were dating in real life.
While exact timeline and lines of causality are blurry, Triple H left Chyna and wound up dating the boss’s daughter, Stephanie McMahon. Chyna was reportedly heartbroken. When it came time to renew her contract, Jim Ross has reported that the company offered her a very generous deal, with the implication that they were trying to make amends for the situation. Chyna countered, demanding a truly outrageous deal that WWE couldn’t justify going for. So she left.
Triple H’s life in wrestling to follow played out like a dream—world titles and WrestleMania main events galore as a wrestler, besides moving up to a top management position in the office. For Chyna, the whole situation was a nightmare. She struggled with drug and alcohol issues and dabbled in pornography before dying of a drug overdose at the age of 46.
2. Happy Ending: Eddie Guerrero And Vickie Guerrero
This love story might seem like a strange one to say ended happily. After all, Guerrero died at 38, arguably still in the prime of his career, leaving Vickie a widow and single mom.
Just the same, Eddie’s wrestling career ended not far off from its peak. He had the chance to win a world title and defend it successfully at a WrestleMania. He was finally universally recognized as one of the best professional wrestlers in the world.
Meanwhile, Vickie had her start in wrestling, playing bit parts in some of Eddie’s late storylines—most memorably the angle in which Eddie pursued custody of Rey Mysterio’s son. After Eddie passed, WWE purportedly offered his widow a job for life.
So, after Eddie had passed, Vickie carried on his legacy. No, she’d never be a great athlete like her husband, but she did evolve into a very good wrestling personality in her own right, often an authority figure, and great at drawing heat for herself and the men around her. In short, she did her husband’s memory proud, and furthered the legendary family’s legacy in the wrestling business.
1. Nighmare: Chris Benoit And Nancy Benoit
There’s no wrestling love story turned nightmare more profound than the Benoit family tragedy. After WCW booker Kevin Sullivan put his then-wife Nancy into a storyline with Benoit, the two ended up falling in love for real and having a child together.
Nancy retired from the business while Chris rose to prominence, an eventual world champion and top tier star in WWE. Then everything fell apart. We’ll never know the full truth with absolute certainty. The prevailing theory, though, is that Chris’s head injuries and a series of sad events in his life (most notably the death of his close friend Eddie Guerrero) caused him to snap. It’s generally accepted that he murdered his wife, then killed his son more gently (though, again, nightmarishly) by choking him with a version of his signature Crippler Crossface. Finally, Chris hanged himself using his workout equipment.
The Benoit family tragedy was horrifically ugly for the parties immediately involved, and a black eye for WWE and the wrestling business on account of the role many suspected steroids might have played in his actions, before the head injury theory became more prevalent (the latter still implicated WWE). While the incident has arguably led to some positive changes in how WWE handles head injuries and looks out for its talent, the Benoit story itself remains a complete nightmare.
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