One of the most unfortunate aspects of being a wrestling fan - aside from the constant ridicule from people who prefer "real" sports and individuals who wonder why anyone over the age of 14 watches something so seemingly mindless - is the frequency with which our favorite performers shuffle loose the mortal coil. We hear of a wrestler passing away something like every four months. Axl Rotten - one of the original ECW's greatest unsung heroes - died a few weeks ago, and it didn't scan as a big news story, only because such tragedies seems so common.
But for every 15 residents of Dead Wrestler Beach - there's one or two squared circle icons who miraculously make it through the years of injuries, rampant steroid abuse, heavy drug and alcohol hysteria, and getting dropped on their heads every night in once piece. And boy, are we grateful they do.
Not everyone realizes it's actually really hard to stop doing drugs and drinking when you've been doing those things every day for extensive periods of time. So can you believe Jake Roberts of all people is still alive and, as far as we know, remaining healthy? That's got to be an inspirational story for anyone struggling with a substance abuse problem, right? Same goes for Scott Hall. Saturn's another one.
While some of these survivors overcame crippling drunk and alcohol problems, others continue to endure by way of sheer dumb luck. Others wouldn't have found themselves in precarious positions in the first place without dumb luck. Life is a dice roll sometimes, don't ch'know?
Hence, what follows is a collection of pro wrestling superstars who in spite of close brushes with the ever after and/or direly bad habits, continue to walk among us. It just goes to show that just because everyone's telling you you're about to die, doesn't necessarily mean you will!
14. Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan hasn’t had significantly more health scares, or a greater history of substance abuse, than many of his still-living contemporaries. It’s just weird that when the other biggest stars of the late ‘80s - Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, even the seemingly less-'roided out Roddy Piper - have passed on, The Hulkster remains among the living.
What if every time Hogan said “Hulkamania will live forever” over the years, he meant it literally? Charismatic or not, he certainly didn’t “deserve” to become the most famous wrestler in history and one could argue that he didn’t “deserve” many of the misfortunes that befell him later in life. Did Hogan sign a contract with The Devil in the late '70s and neglect to read the fine print? Yes! Hogan is literally immortal because of evil magic.
14 The Sandman
At this point in his life, we'd have to assume that Jim “The Sandman” Fullington has no liver and ruined lungs. Doing without multiple vital organs alone would be enough to end the lives of most men, yet Fullington abides, despite those potential issues and the innumerable brutal injuries he’s endured throughout his wrestling career. How is such a thing possible? Little known fact: if a human organism quickly consumes 19 USFDA-determined servings of alcohol (equivalent to a single can of Budweiser), they become immune to falling off a ladder and through three tables (even if the tables trigger a second ladder to fall from the ceiling their head) for approximately an hour.
Of course, Sabu’s track record of rampant pill-popping is well-documented and utterly necessary. TheSportster's scientific department has determined that, unlike Sandy, Sabu should not be physically able to consume enough alcohol and painkillers to prevent his body from collapsing into shambles of bone, tendon, and slippery grey slime. Given his reckless wrestling style, the quantity of drugs and booze needed to sustain Sabu - if he is, in fact, a mortal man - would match the volume and weight of a small elephant. The fact that he’s only gotten in meaningful trouble for possessing and/or consuming controlled substances twice that we know of - once in 2006 alongside RVD during a traffic stop, and at the inaugural Extreme Rising show - is a miracle. We can only conclude that Sabu is made of inorganic matter and may be extraterrestrial in nature. Sabu is an outer space alien.
12 The Hardy Boyz
By all accounts, Matt and Jeff Hardy are abstaining from drugs and alcohol these days, which is pretty remarkable, because those guys love drugs. Absolutely love ‘em. Imagine meeting the man or woman of your dreams - the one person you know will make you happy forever - then being more-or-less forced to leave that person because they’re destroying you in ways you don’t even notice most of the time. That’s the Hardy Boyz going sober, except the perfect person they’re leaving behind is drugs.
We've recounted the Victory Road 2011 debacle many times on this site, but Jeff Hardy was getting busted for wellness policy violations all the time at WWE, long before his TNA days. The cops raided his house back in 2009 and found enough somas and painkillers to lock him up for 10 days, which is a long time for a rich white person to go to jail for any reason. Meanwhile, this mugshot of Matt Hardy and Reby Sky - the aftermath of a fight Reby obviously won - makes you wonder how Reby kept herself from beating Matt to death after the taser incident linked to above.
11 New Jack
It’s not always easy to determine to what extent New Jack’s hyper-violent reputation is a work - for instance, not everyone’s convinced that he almost killed Vic Grimes on purpose - but we know for sure he’s legitimately maimed a few other people, plus there's the legendary four justifiable from his pre-wrestling bounty hunter days. You would think someone involved in so many authentically dangerous situations would’ve found himself on the receiving end of an attempted murder sooner-or-later. Instead, he’s retired and apparently enjoying a version of life that doesn’t involve jumping off balconies or cutting people. Good for New Jack!
10 Scott Steiner
Almost no one on Earth loves anything more than The Hardy Boyz love drugs, with at least one notable exception (allegedly) - Scott Steiner, and his undying, timeless adoration of steroids (although he's claimed otherwise). Miraculously, not only has Steiner’s (alleged) steroid use caused him any lasting injuries, he survived a nasty near-death incident in 2007. A kick inadvertently caught Steiner in the throat, annihilating his trachea and seemingly guaranteeing a prompt, unexpected demise. A procedure involving a two-day coma, two weeks of fluid getting drained from his lungs, highly-invasive surgery, and Steiner’s sheer insane rage against all things, but especially the dying of the light, managed to squeeze Big Poppa Pump out of the Grim Reaper's grasp.
9 Superstar Billy Graham
Let’s think about how many wrestlers have perished under circumstances linked to steroid abuse: There’s Test, The British Bulldog, Ultimate Warrior, He Who Shall Not Be Named, and that’s just off the top of my head. So one would assume the man who invented steroids in professional wrestling would be long gone, yes? No! While Superstar Billy Graham contained the worst liver in the state of Arizona until its replacement in 2002, the 72-year-old former WWWF champion thankfully continues to walk among us. He even survived a bout of hepatitis and told everyone was certain to kill him, in 2011.
8 Sean “X-Pac” Waltman
Back in 2001, WWE had the clever idea of making Sean “X-Pac/1-2-3 Kid” Waltman head of his own stable - X-Factor. Flanked by Justin Credible and Matt Bloom (Tensai/Prince Albert), X-Pac and his new buddies had every reason to succeed as a heel faction and likely would have, had it not been for their gawd awful theme song. Penned by Uncle Kracker - objectively the worst musician of all time - the X-Factor theme not only sank the stable it was meant to hype, but hearing “Yo, you’re dealing with the X-Factor” didn't help matters.
After WWE, Waltman has dealt with serious alcohol and drug issues, even admitting that he had considered suicide in the past. Graciously, Triple H and Kevin Nash paid for Waltman’s successful rehab and X-Pac will be fine, as long as he never hears anyone say “Yo, you’re dealing with the X-Factor” ever again.
7 The Iron Sheik
According to wrestling legends, Verne Gagne proposed to pay The Iron Sheik $100,000 to break Hulk Hogan’s leg, instead of drop the WWE title to him as ordered, in the prophetic year of 1984. Known as gentle soul at that point in his life, Sheik refused and instead lost to Hogan as instructed by Vince McMahon. Over the following years, Sheik watched in horror as Hogan and McMahon turned his beloved sport into the cartoon show for idiot giant-sized Doritos-eating men-children it is today. Overwhelmed by guilt, Sheik had no choice but to turn to substance abuse to numb his regret. While Hogan was outed as a racist and booted from the WWE Hall of Fame, Sheik was able to get off drugs and get his life together, though he still considers the Hulkster a "jaboni."
6 Perry Saturn
What happens to a person when they blow through hundreds of thousands of dollars on drugs, black out decades of a successful wrestling career, rescue a stranger from a sexual assault attempt and get shot a few times by the perpetrators, wind up hopelessly addicted to crystal meth and homeless for a grand total of two and a half years, and are assumed dead by many friends and acquaintances?
In the case of Perry Saturn, it’s return from the brink, wrestle a handful more matches, get married again, and do some superb shoot interviews on YouTube. Although he’s dropped a few bad habits in recent years, fortunately, Saturn hasn’t become clean cut enough to remove his facial tattoos. Everyone who gets tattoo removal surgery is a fool.
Back in the late ‘90s, so-called “raver” culture experienced a brief explosion in popularity, only to dissipate after Raven and Saturn - both making insane sums of money under guaranteed WCW contacts at the time - purchased and consumed every ecstasy pill in the Western hemisphere. Since techno music only sounds good to listeners who are very, very high on drugs, the rave scene could not sustain itself in the absence of "E."
Though he doesn’t regret ruining The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim’s careers, Raven has been clean and sober for quite a while and has strongly discouraged drug abuse in numerous shoot interviews. We applaud him for it.
4 Ric Flair
This one almost doesn’t count, because in many respects, Ric Flair died years ago. As has been thoroughly reported, Richard Fliehr’s downfall has been believing he’s Ric Flair in the real world and spending money accordingly. In order to pay back the huge sums he owes the IRS for years of skipped payments, and the alimony cash he owes his 14 ex-wives, Fliehr literally sold his life to Vince McMahon in 2008. These days, we think we’re seeing The Nature Boy strutting beside his Diva’s champion daughter Charlotte, but in truth, it’s Flair’s reanimated corpse, puppeteered through mystic forces like the guy from Weekend at Bernie’s.
That's not even to mention the incredible plane crash he managed to survive earlier in his career.
3 Scott Hall
After decades of hard partying that led to a few arrests, a handful of embarrassing public meltdowns, and a cameo in an Insane Clown Posse movie, Scott Hall turned to DDP Yoga and successfully gave up drugs and alcohol for good.
But during a particularly optimistic phase of his recovery, being a notoriously ambitious perfectionist, Hall attempted a master-level DDP Yoga pose called "The Diamond Ring," in which the practitioner wraps their entire body around their own finger. Ignoring the protests of DDP himself, who warned that Hall was not far enough into his training to attempt the pose, Hall tried The Diamond Ring and broke every bone in his body. The former Razor Ramon survived, however his injuries left him unable to make love to a woman ever again...Unless the woman is on top, and doing most of the work. Then it's fine.
1 Jake "The Snake" Roberts
After years of existing as professional wrestling's most glaring cautionary tale, Jake Roberts got bored with getting drunk and cranked up on blow. Now he's so sober they made a movie about it. It looks like a pretty good movie! Who's to thank for this incredible life turnaround? None other than DDP and his yoga program that also helped save Scott Hall.