The 1990s may very well have been the greatest time for professional wrestling. Popularity of the sport was at an all-time high. WCW and WWF were constantly out doing each other during the legendary Monday Night War. Burgeoning promotions like Philadelphia’s Extreme Championship Wrestling were on the rise and new stars were created every day. It seemed like wrestling was going to keep getting bigger and bigger with no signs of stopping.
The, ECW closed and WWE bought WCW, effectively killing all of its competition. What were once huge paydays for hardworking performers wrestling in front of thousands soon became pennies on the dollar for wrestling in VFWs for dozens. With no place to go, this left a lot of wrestlers out of work. Superstars who were once known for their incredible bodies and physiques no longer had a reason to maintain their appearances. Once musclebound wrestlers became flabby. Some wrestlers who had struggled with addiction in their past but had wrestling to keep their heads straight fell into hard times.
In this article, we’re going to examine 15 pictures of wrestlers who were once heroes to fans all over the world but have since become shells of their former selves. What got them there? What are they doing now? Some of them have been able to bounce back since these photos were snapped and now live happy lives. Others still struggle with various issues that have interfered in them reclaiming their former glory.
If you’re looking to keep this upsetting train rolling, be sure to check out 15 Sad Photos of Wrestlers After They Fell From Grace.
15 Ahmed Johnson
Wedgies, unintelligible promos, and sloppy wrestling aside, when Ahmed Johnson entered the WWF in 1995, he was a breath of fresh air. Despite his weaknesses, he had a great look, loads of charisma, and an unmatched explosive energy. Johnson made his pay-per-view debut at that year’s Survivor Series and turned a lot of heads when he bodyslammed Yokozuna. After he became WWF’s first ever African-American Intercontinental Champion, it seemed as if the company had a lot planned for the Pearl River Powerhouse. Unfortunately, Ahmed proved to be injury-prone and would constantly be out of action. A heel turn started out promising, but also ended with Johnson on the shelf. He would try his hand in WCW, but was soon released due to weight issues that saw him lose his impressive physique. His weight problems continue to this day. Johnson can be seen on the convention circuit, where his weight has ballooned, making him almost unrecognizable.
Despite being a total rip-off of the Road Warriors, Demolition will go down in history as one of the greatest tag teams of all time. Up until 2016, Ax and Smash had the record for longest reign as Tag Team Champions. Even in the late '80s and early '90s, the wrestler portraying Ax, Bill Eadie, was already getting up there in age and was contemplating retirement. By adding the hulking young brute Crush to their ranks, the duo became a trio and was able to buy themselves more time in the spotlight (and another reign as Tag Team Champions, this time under the Freebird Rule). The team disbanded in late 1991, with Crush and Smash being repackaged and Ax being shown the door. It would be 16 years before Ax and Smash would reunite, despite both of them continuing active wrestling careers. Age had gotten the best of both of them, with neither being able to maintain the muscly bodies from yesteryear. At least Ax knew the old S&M Demoltion gear wouldn’t look good on his then-50-year-old body. Too bad Smash didn’t get the memo.
13 New Jack & Terri Runnels
There have been a lot of oddball pairings in the history of professional. The current real-life couple of Bully Ray and Velvet Sky comes to mind. But here. Here’s a match made in…somewhere. Both Terri Runnels and New Jack came into prominence in the 1990s. New Jack was a hit in ECW, where he exhibited a hardcore style with little to no care for his opponent’s bodies that exhilarated the Philadelphia fans. As for Terri, although she started her career for the NWA, she would come into prominence when she managed her then-husband Goldust as the buxom, cigar smoking Marlena. A few years into the 2000s, both performers who had not spent any time together found their careers in the gutter. Somehow, the beautiful Terri began dating the former bounty hunter. the Since their breakup, New Jack has been particular vicious when it comes to talking about his experience with Terri. I’m not going to put any quotes here, but if you really need to know what’s been said, you can Google it.
12 Scott Hall
At one point in time, Scott Hall had one of the best bodies in all of professional wrestling. Looking like a jacked-up Tom Selleck, Hall had enormous muscles on an impressive frame and a mustache that would make Eli Cottonwood blush. He slimmed down a bit when he went to the WWF and wrestled as Razor Ramon, but still kept it together. Things began to go downhill after doing some time in WCW. He was in a dark place. Alcoholism was getting the best of him and the writers and producers backstage were playing Hall’s problems for laughs. HIs downward spiral would continue during his many stints in TNA. The picture above shows the Bad Guy completely out of shape, with a huge gut hanging over his trunks. His TNA runs were always cut short due to his issues with addiction. Thankfully, since being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014, and partnering with literal angel from heaven DDP, Scott has been working hard to turn his life around and stay clean and sober.
Gangrel had the greatest wrestling entrance of all time. Hands down. No questions asked. Rising through a ring of fire to some seriously awesome gothic tunes, the vampire would drink from a goblet and spit blood before entering the ring. It was awesome, novel, and shocking. What is also shocking, is the profession Gangrel chose after his WWF career ended. Bringing a new meaning to “Fangin’ and Bangin’,” the former Vampire Warrior followed up his years of sports entertainment by entering the world of adult film as a director. When asked if he ever thought about performing himself, the wise vampire responded with, “Luna (his ex-wife) would have killed me, dude.” Quite possible the biggest surprise in Gangrel’s venture is the title of his first film, Miami Rumpshakers 2. Not the kind of adult entertainment you would expect from an Anne Rice-inspired wrestler with filed fangs. But what do I know? I never even saw the first Miami Rumpshakers.
10 Doink the Clown
When The Dark Knight first came out in 2008, Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker was a revelation. It was an unseen take on one of the greatest comic book villains and breathed new life into the character. Since wrestling tends to often borrow a lot from popular culture, it made sense for a lot of Joker-inspired wrestlers to start popping up. Granted they were all bad, but it made sense for wrestlers to try. One wrestler who decided to give it a go was Matt Borne, the original Doink the Clown. Without having a big budget company like WWE behind him, it all just came across as half-assed. His jacket looked like he got it off-season at Party City, he wore an Under Armour shirt, and his make-up never seems right. Borne had a history of drug use that cost him a lot of work and eventually lead to his death from an accidental overdose in 2013. The Heath Ledger ties just makes everything extra depressing.
9 Brian Knobbs
Man, during the '80s and '90s (heck, even up until 2015) it must have been really nice to be friends with Hulk Hogan. One wrestler that benefitted greatly for this kinship was Brian Knobbs. The blonder and rounder Nasty Boy was often seen by Hogan’s side, and always seemed to pop up in whatever company the Hulkster was wrestling for. With partner Jerry Sags, Brian Knobbs was able to score tag team gold in both WCW and WWF. Even when Hogan entered the world of reality televisions, Knobbs followed. Constantly popping up in Hulk’s VH1 show, Hogan Knows Best, Nasty Knobbs was portrayed as the Hogan family’s wacky neighbor. This can be witnessed in footage from when Knobbs partied with Hulk and his daughter Brooke at a Panama City Beach nightclub. The slovenly grappler could be seen drunkenly shaking everything he’s got, wearing nothing but a small bathing suit. The video gets worse when Knobbs apparently flashes a nearby woman. It’s gross, disgusting, and downright nasty.
8 Marty Jannetty
The WWF in the 1980s was a very different time. Wrestlers were known for their hard partying antics on the road. Drug and alcohol problems ran rampant throughout the locker rooms and it wasn’t unheard of for a wrestler to perform while intoxicated. There wasn’t a wellness policy that could be violated, resulting in suspensions or firings. It was the wild west. Marty Jannetty and his partner Shawn Michaels were fired from the WWF for partying too hard. Do you understand just how hard somebody had to party at the time to actually be fired? Jannetty was given second, third, and fourth chances to get his act together, but could never get over his addiction. There are countless stories of Jannetty’s behavior at signings, conventions, and indie shows where the former Rocker was too drunk or high to even function. He was kicked out of bars during the week of WrestleMania 32 and was seen wandering through a fountain in the lobby of his Dallas hotel lobby.
7 Jake “The Snake” Roberts
This particular image comes from the impressively awful Heroes of Wrestling pay-per-view. Before Roberts wrestled in the main event, he had sloppily cut a nonsensical promo that included the now legendary line, “You want to play 21? I’ve got 22.” Roberts would then go out to the ring where he forced a woman in the front row to feel up his man-boobs and beer belly. His scheduled match against Jim Neidhart was turned into a tag match featuring King Kong Bundy and Yokozuna because Jake was so messed up on whatever his drug of choice for the day was. Thankfully, the Snake has been able to keep himself clean and thanks to the heeling powers of DDP Yoga, has also gotten himself into great shape. Today, he looks even better than he did 18 years ago in 1999.
Truth be told, this entire list could have been filled with images taken from lonelyvirgil.net (not to be confused with lonelyvirgin.net, a URL that my computer keeps autocorrecting to). It’s a treasure-trove of photos of Ted DiBiase’s manservant popping up at various wrestling conventions, flea markets, and, in this case, New York City’s Grand Central Station. Apparently, the former Million Dollar Champion had stationed himself in between subway corridors in hopes of making a quick buck from folks during rush hour who happen to remember him. I had heard stories of Virgil posting up and charging folks to pictures and autographs, and even tried to find the man, but had no such luck. Sports Illustrated picked up the story which got Virgil a lot of attention. He seemed to think it was a resurgence in his popularity and perhaps a new chapter in his career. Unfortunately, it was less of a renaissance and more of a punchline.
Here is a picture of Sabu hospitalized after getting hip surgery in 2016. Within months after an operation this intense, the Homicidal, Suicidal, Genocidal wrestler was back in the ring. The Extreme Championship Wrestling superstar was a standout in the '90s, and was known for his willingness to use his body as a weapon. He had been in some of the most insane matches ever seen, including barbed wire ropes ring of fire deathmatches. After all of the years of wear and literal tear, Sabu has become a broken husk of his former self. The saddest thing is that even after his hip replacement, Sabu still needs his shoulder replaced, and major surgery on his lower back. Since these procedures would keep him from wrestling (more importantly, stop him from earning money), the master of the Arabian Facecrusher wrestles in pain every time he steps foot in a ring.
4 Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart
Apologies to my best friend Phil for this entry, as Jim Neidhart is, for reasons I’ll never quite understand, his favorite professional wrestler of all time. During the peak of his career, Neidhart was the powerhouse of the Hart Foundation, the impressive tandem made up of himself and brother-in-law Bret Hart. Today, he is best known as Natalya’s “Daddy” and pops up every so often on Total Divas. Jim has had his issues the past, he was arrested in 2010 after breaking into a neighbors house and raiding their medicine cabinet. Worse that his mugshot from the arrest is this picture in particular. At a 2013 convention, the Anvil thought a great way to drum up interest for photos and signings would be to go topless. Unfortunately, what once was a barrel chest had turned into a keg belly. Looking bloated, exhausted, and utterly out of place, hopefully the Anvil used some of the money he earned to buy a new shirt.
3 Greg “The Hammer” Valentine & Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake
Would you believe it that at another point in time these two leathery drunken potheads were known as the Dream Team? Nowadays, the duo look more like a nightmare, but during their prime, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake were one of the top tag teams in WWF where they won the World Tag Team Championship. After disbanding in the late '80s, both Valentine and Beefcake would continue to wrestle throughout the '90s. During this time, the Hammer most notably formed a less successful paring with the Honky Tonk Man known as Rhythm and Blues. The Barber would follow around Hulk Hogan, performing as a variety of gimmicks like The Booty Man, The Zodiac, The Butcher, and The Disciple. Despite both being in their 60s, neither Valentine or Beefcake have officially retired from wrestling. However, it seems the only exercise they get are 12 oz. curls.
After his WWE career came to an end, Sean Waltman’s life was filled with tons of turmoil and hardships. He had developed a nasty meth addiction and had gone on record saying that he even wrestled while high on it in the past. Then, there was the time he and Chyna, his girlfriend at the time, filmed an amateur adult film together. Although the video was a big hit, it wasn’t the best way to get back in the good graces of WWE. Then, of course, there was the time in 2013 when Pac was wresting for an indie promotion in Minneapolis. He had performed his signature Bronco Buster onto an exposed turnbuckle. When he was back in his hotel, he noticed a tremendous amount of bleeding. The former 1-2-3 Kid required what is called a “sphincteroplasty” (you can figure out what that means on your own time). Apparently today, things are “good as new” downstairs.
1 Ric Flair & Hulk Hogan
Why? Why? Why? Why? Do you know how many World Championships there are between these two legends? 28. There was no need for these guys to be bleeding all over each other in a match in 2009. They had already given so much to the sport in their lives, this was just way too much. This was also a little over a year since Flair lost a retirement match to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania. The Mania bout was one of the greatest matches of all time, and its “I’m sorry. I love you finish” will go down in history as the most tearjerking ending ever. His four matches against the Hulkster a year later on the Hulkamania: Let the Battle Begin tour? Not so much. The Australian tour consisted of four nights of folks like Brutus Beefcake, Val Venis, Grandmaster Sexay, and Orlando Jordan duking it out before Flair and Hogan closed the show. Needless to say, four nights of nostalgia wasn’t enough to become wrestling’s next big thing, and a Chinese follow-up never happened.