These days, if a wrestler is involved in a scandal, it’s, well, a scandal. Thanks to the advent of social media as well as wrestling’s growing mainstream appeal, wrestlers have to be on their best behavior, keeping their noses clean to avoid being the subject of tomorrow’s TMZ headline. However, there was a time when making the news was the least of a wrestler’s worry. In fact, back in the 80s, when WWE was in its infancy, being fronted by the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior, the world of wrestling was kind of the wild west. It’s a time known as “The Golden Era.”
Back in those days, no one worried about their sexts being leaked to the press or an affair being gossiped about amongst wrestling fans. The wrestlers were big, their characters were stereotypes and kayfabe was alive and well. It was a simpler time. A time where it wasn’t uncommon for a wrestler to be attacked and almost killed by an unruly fan as they made their way to their car after a show. Not surprisingly, this lifestyle made for some pretty fascinating stories.
The following list examines 15 of the darkest secrets revealed about wrestlers from the WWE’s Golden Era, either unearthed by the wrestlers themselves during shoot interviews or recounted from witnesses at the scene. Whether their crime is murder, assault, canicide or just all around bad taste, one thing is certain, these people have lived lives that few could ever imagine.
17 15. Hulk Hogan Ruined The Career Of Jesse Ventura
Jesse Ventura is a polarizing figure in the world of professional wrestling. His career has sparked great contractual changes to the way the WWE does business, however, it came following a massive betrayal allegedly at the hands of Hulk Hogan. In an interview with Wrestling Inc., Ventura says he was trying to start a union among professional wrestlers, an ambition that never quite got off the ground after Hogan went to Vince McMahon and ratted him out. To make matters worse, his job with WCW effectively came to an end when Hogan was signed, saying that one of the conditions of Hogan working for the promotion was Ventura no longer being there. Things didn’t turn out all bad for the wrestling icon however, Ventura would take these political ambitions, and turn them into a career, becoming the 38th Governor of Minnesota in 1999, serving until 2003.
15 14. A Legend Pulls A Gun On Hulk Hogan
While it’s hard to imagine now, given what a superpower the WWE is, there was a time when the sports entertainment giant wasn’t the number one wrestling promotion in the land. When the WWE was just starting out, the territory system was king, so CEO Vince McMahon did what any business man would do, he lured the NWA’s top talent over to his promotion instead. It’s a business tactic that Hulk Hogan revealed wrestling great Harley Race was none too pleased by, during an appearance on Ric Flair’s podcast. In fact, he was so enraged that one night, he left his own show to invade the WWE’s which was happening nearby.
After reportedly trying to light the ring on fire, Hogan says that Race set his sights on him, pulling out a 9 mm handgun tucked in the waistband of his pants and saying, “I’ll be back.” Fearing for his life, Hogan decided to hide out until the heat died down. However, it was during a most inopportune time, while relieving himself in the restroom, that Race chose to return. “I’m sitting on the toilet, going number two and Davey Boy Smith goes, Harley’s here! Harley’s here!” Hogan revealed. “He was standing right there with a gun in his hand, going, I came here to blow your damn kneecaps off, but I’d rather work with you guys. He scared the hell out of me.”
14 13. Biting Off A Man’s Nose
If you follow wrestling dirt sheets, chances are you’ve heard a story or two about wrestlers getting into real-life brawls, but this turns that way up to 100. As you can imagine, most wrestlers don’t take too kindly to people who call wrestling fake. While the outcomes are generally predetermined and many of the moves are performed to ensure they don't cause serious injury, it’s still a gruelling and punishing sport. So when some guys in a Baltimore airport bar tried to insult Haku by calling him a “fake wrestler,” he decided to show the real damage he could commit by reaching over and biting off the man’s nose.
It’s a story Haku himself has confirmed in a shoot interview. “When you walk in and tell me it’s fake, I’ll show you how fake the business is,” Haku said during an interview with World Wrestling Insanity. “Whether I take your teeth out or your eyeballs off or whatever it was in those days.”
13 12. Top Star Accused Of Killing Girlfriend
In May of 1983, just hours after completing a WWE taping in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Snuka alerted authorities that his 23 year-old girlfriend, Nancy Argentino needed medical attention. Argentino would die of traumatic brain injuries consistent with a moving head striking a stationary object. According to the Rolling Stone, Snuka told authorities that he and Argentino were “clowning around,” on the side of the road after taking a bathroom break, when Argentino slipped and hit her head on the concrete.
Snuka however, wouldn’t be charged for the crime until 30 years later, booked on the charges of third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in 2015. In an interview with CNN, Argentino’s younger sister Louise said that the evidence was always there but authorities were reluctant to charge him seeing as he was a major star at the time. The charges would later be dropped due to Snuka’s rapidly deteriorating health and the WWE legend would pass away in 2017. Still, his dark past has tarnished how many fans remember him to this day.
12 11. Top Babyface Grows Addiction To Steroids
These days, steroids are a big deal in professional wrestling with wrestlers undergoing serious testing on a monthly basis, fines and suspensions doled out to those who fail to pass. However, back in the early days of the WWE, they were about as common as the wrestlers themselves. This lea to serious substance abuse, an issue that Lex Luger battled for decades. Starting in his days as a professional football player, Luger says the spectacle of wrestling lead to him abusing the performance enhancers even more, eventually becoming addicted.
“Vince sells bigger-than-life and bigger-than-life, what does that mean? A lot of chemically enhanced heroes and villains, guys my height size or bigger. You can’t see that walking on the street everyday.” Luger said in an interview with ESPN. These days Luger is a born-again Christian and has devoted his life to becoming an advocate for substance abuse with a particular focus on steroids.
11 11. Snubbing A Make-A-Wish Kid
Today, the WWE prides itself on making kids happy. Their wrestlers do numerous meetings with the Make-A-Wish foundation and John Cena in particular meets upwards of 200 kids per year. However, in a story told in Bret Hart’s book, The Hitman recalls a time when a child from the Make-A-Wish program was invited backstage to meet the wrestlers. While almost every wrestler was happy to meet the youngster, he alleges that The Ultimate Warrior refused to leave his dressing room to meet him and someone from his team even asked the boy to move later that night so that he could make his way to the ring. The Ultimate Warrior has been a polarizing figure in professional wrestling so the story isn’t difficult to believe but it remains unconfirmed. Still, it’s an attitude we’re glad today’s WWE stars don’t carry while meeting their young fans.
10 10. Sid Vicious Takes Scissors And Stabs Arn Anderson 20 Times
This story admittedly took place while both talents were working for WCW but when it comes to one of the most brutal shoot fights in wrestling history, it’s more than worth a mention. In October of 1993, Sid Vicious and Arn Anderson were travelling together while on tour in Germany. While knocking back a few beers in a bar, trying to decompress, the two began talking about the business and why their promotion, WCW was failing to compete with the WWE. When Vicious suggested that it was because Anderson’s good friend Ric Falir wasn’t fit to lead the company, things got heated. While both men decided to return to their rooms, Vicious wasn’t keen on letting things slide and went back to Anderson’s room to confront him. However, when he did, he found Anderson with a pair of scissors in his hand ready to attack.
Vicious ended up suffering four stab wounds while Anderson was stabbed 20 times throughout the course of the brawl. After spending the night in the hospital, both were deported back to the United States where Vicious was later fired. Anderson on the other hand, was let off with a warning due to the respect he commanded from the roster.
9 9. Mr. Fuji Fed A Man His Own Dog
One of the greatest urban legends in wrestling history is that of the legendary Mr. Fuji and the cooked dog. While the great wrestling heel was known for being quite the trickster on and off camera, this is one practical joke that no one was likely laughing at. Several versions of the story have floated around over time, with some saying that the target of his brutal revenge was a rival wrestler who had taken a job from him while others say it was a man from his past who had owed him money.
Either way, one detail remains the same; Fuji’s chosen method of payback was killing the man’s dog, cooking it into a meal and feeding it to him unknowingly. It’s an act so cruel that it’s unfathomable that it’s true, it’s earliest trace dating back to a shoot interview with Rowdy Roddy Piper. However, it should be pointed out that the legend is just that and will likely never be confirmed.
8 8. The Original Screwjob
If you’re a wrestling fan, it’s safe to say you’re all too familiar with the Montreal Screwjob, aka the match that screwed Bret Hart out of the WWE Championship, changing the trajectory and, ahem, attitude of wrestling forever. It’s a well known piece of wrestling history, however, long before that, the Fabulous Moolah partook in a controversial title change of her own for a match that is largely considered to be the “original screwjob.” The match took place between The Fabulous Moolah, a calculating business woman and one the first ladies of women’s wrestling, and Wendi Richter, a young upstart that many saw as the future female answer to Hulk Hogan in terms of popularity. It’s a popularity that Richter was all-too familiar with, so when she refused to sign a contract extension unless she was paid equal to what her male competitors were, the powers that be decided it was time she drop the title.
During a match with a masked competitor known as the Spider Lady, Richter was rolled up into a small package. However, despite kicking out of the pinning combination, the referee counted to three anyways, declaring the Spider Lady, the winner. To add insult to injury, the Spider Lady would remove her mask, revealing herself to be The Fabulous Moolah, the woman who trained her. It’s said that Richter left the arena in her wrestling gear, booked a flight home and never spoke to Vince McMahon again.
7 7. The 1992 Terry Garvin Sex Scandal
In 1992, during the thick of the WWE’s turbulent steroid abuse trial, the sports entertainment company endured an even darker scandal that would leave an indelible mark on the industry. It all started when the WWE hired Terry Garvin, a close friend of wrestling legend Pat Patterson. Almost immediately there was talk of Garvin sexually harassing performers and workers with the company, reportedly using his influence to bed young male ring workers. However, when a ring worker was allegedly fired for rejecting Garvin’s advances, he went public with his story and a media firestorm ensued.
Wrestler Barry Orton (uncle of Randy Orton) would later confirm the allegations, saying that Garvin propositioned him as well while they were on the road and Garvin was terminated while Patterson resigned. Patterson would later be rehired due to the fact he was found innocent of any wrongdoing, however, it’s hard not to look back at this as an exceedingly dark time for the company.
6 6. Stealing Food From Grocery Stores
It’s not easy trying to make it as a professional wrestler. While being signed by the WWE (or WCW at one time) was the ultimate end goal for many aspiring grapplers, paying your dues meant wrestling in less than ideal venues for little to no money. It’s a struggle both Sting and The Ultimate Warrior are all too familiar with. In fact, during a sit down on the WWE Network’s Legends with JBL, Sting revealed that the two of them would often steal from grocery stores by loading a cooked chicken into their carts and eating it as they walked around the store pretending to shop. When they were finished, they’d dispose of the packages and leave. The WCW great has also said they’d often mix a can of tuna fish with orange juice in order to get their protein and vitamin C fix in the cheapest, most effective way possible. When you’re struggling to live your dreams, you got to do what you got to do.
4 5. Roddy Piper Said He Was Stabbed By A Fan
Back in the Golden Era, getting heat as a heel often came at the risk of your own life. With so many fans genuinely believing the characters were real, a good heel didn’t just drive people to boo them at a wrestling show, sometimes they drove them to murder. It’s a phenomena that Rowdy Roddy Piper is all too experienced with, having been stabbed on three separate occasions by wrestling fans. The third time, following a show in Raleigh, North Carolina, Piper was stabbed just an inch from his heart, an injury that could very well have been lethal. “You know, we were pretty serious about what we were doing back then,” Piper said in an interview with Between The Ropes. “It’s a pretty heavy-hitting crowd. Back then, they stabbed you. Today, they don’t. I think that’s the difference.”
3 4. Early In His Career, Ric Flair Survived A Plane Crash
As a 16-time World Heavyweight Champion and one of the most iconic wrestlers to have ever lived, Ric Flair has been through and survived it all. However, one traumatic event almost cut his illustrious career short before it even began. In 1975, Flair was on board a twin-engine plane carrying him and three other wrestlers as well as promoter David Crockett from Charlotte, North Carolina to a show in Wilmington when their plane ran out of gas mid-air. The plane would skid across trees and a utility pole before crashing, each of the wrestlers sustaining critical injuries but miraculously only the pilot perished in the crash.
Flair however, was given a devastating prognosis for an up-and-coming wrestler. He had broken his back in the crash and was told he would probably never wrestle again. However, after adapting his wrestling style and working hard to rehabilitate his injuries, Flair would go on to wrestle another three decades, effectively beating the odds.
2 2. Scott Hall Once Killed A Man
Scott Hall is known for a great many things in wrestling, from his Razor Ramon days in the WWE to the introduction of the NWO, one of the greatest factions in the history of the sport. However, long before then, in 1983, Hall was a 25-year-old kid working as a bartender at a strip club. One night, Hall got into a dispute with another patron over a woman and when the man suggested they take it outside, things turned deadly. As Hall tells it, he came out to find the man had smashed every window in his car so when he found him complaining to the manager of the club, Hall clocked him in the face, dropping him to the ground and revealing the handgun, tucked into the man’s pants. Both men reached for it at the same time and bang—Hall shot him in the head, ending his life in self-defense.
The four-time Intercontinental Champion was charged with second degree murder but the charges were ultimately dismissed due to insufficient evidence. “A guy pulled a gun on me and I took it away from him and shot him, point-blank with a 45-calibre. A guy’s dead and I’m the reason,” Hall said during an interview on E:60.
1 1. With Four People In A Car, Andre The Giant Flipped It
The only thing bigger than Andre The Giant himself, is the legend that precedes him. From being able to pick up Arnold Schwarzenegger like a feather to throwing back upwards of 156 beers in one sitting, Andre has certainly lived up to his larger-than-life reputation. However, one story, if proven true, is proof positive that you did not want to mess with the wrestling icon. According to former wrestling manager, Arnold Skaaland, when a group of men decided to start a fight with the giant, he made sure to end it in the most extreme way possible.
It all started when Andre was drinking at a bar by himself one night and four men began harassing him. Instead of giving them the beating he was more than capable of doling out, he decided to put a scare into the men and chased them outside. The men tried to escape into their car, locking the doors, a move that would have put an end to the dispute then and there for most men, but Andre the Giant was not most men. Not willing to let them off that easy, Andre flipped their car over with all four of them inside. While the story has never been confirmed, it certainly taught those men not to provoke a giant if true.
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