Steve Austin has often described the life of a professional wrestler as deceptively complex and multifaceted. He’s cited that the fitness regimen and dieting are like that of any professional athlete. The degree to which wrestlers need to play their roles and deliver promos makes them something like actors. And then there are all of those miles logged on the road, driving between cities, states, and sometimes even countries to make their next shows, which mean that wrestlers’ lives can resemble those of truck drivers.
Indeed, the travel schedule involved in being a wrestler can compete with that of any other profession. Particularly for wrestlers who work for big national promotions like WWE, or string together work across a variety of regional promotions pro wrestlers travel constantly. To make matters worse, there’s no end to a tour or season. On the contrary wrestling runs year round. Promoters are invested in getting all they can out of a talent who draws, and wrestlers notoriously aim to work as many dates as possible to bank money, given their line of work tends to only give them so many years when they can make money.
In a business full of outlandish, often eccentric individuals, perhaps it’s not surprise then that wrestlers have developed more than their share of interesting stories about what they routinely do, or what has come up in specific cases on the road. Between tell-all books, documentaries, podcasts, and even WWE produced shows like Ride Along, wrestlers have revealed their share of confessions from the road. This article presents fifteen particularly interesting tidbits.
15. The Undertaker Rode With A Ring Announcer
WCW ring announcer Gary Michael Cappetta tends to get overlooked these days, but for a solid two decades from the mid 1970s to mid 1980s, he was steadily employed as a ring announcer. This included brief stints with the American Wrestling Association and World Wrestling Entertainment, in addition to his longest running efforts for World Class Championship Wrestling.
It was as part of WCW that Cappetta became friends with Mean Mark Callous, a green young big man. Callous was a bit of a lone wolf but struck up a friendship with the ring announcer. In particular, they got close after Cappetta talked him down from attacking a veteran wrestler who had ripped him off for a lot of money when he was getting started, training for the wrestling business.
Little could anyone have known that Callous would eventually become The Undertaker and emerge as one of the most successful wrestlers of all time, but Cappetta offered the inside scoop on him as a younger man in his book Bodyslams: Memoirs of a Wrestling Pitchman.
14. Kofi Kingston Challenged Vince McMahon To A Fight
Kofi Kingston has notoriously struggled to get ahead during his WWE career. Despite being popular and athletically gifted, he’s never done more than flirt with the upper card and has arguably peaked as part of the New Day.
In Chris Jericho’s book, The Best in the World (At What I Have No Idea) he noted a pivotal moment for Kingston when he may have saved his WWE career and earned himself what opportunities he’s had. He noted Vince McMahon poking fun at Kingston on plane, suggesting, “Maybe someday you’ll get over.” Jericho prodded Kingston that, if he were ever to win McMahon’s respect he needed to stand up for himself and dare McMahon to fight. After a lot of convincing, Kingston did go for it. McMahon ultimately backed down and laughed it off, but Jericho suggests that was the moment when Kingston first won the Chairman’s respect.
13. Bret Hart Slept With Fans
Bret Hart is known to be hyper-critical. His persistently low “out of ten” rankings when evaluating other performers and their matches have become a meme. Moreover, the guy has pulled very few punches in interviews or in his book, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling.
While Hart has been nothing if not forthcoming about colleagues who wronged him and or who abused substances he has also been open about his own vice. In his book, he openly described cheating on his first wife quite a few times. He cites it as a coping mechanism for life on the road, exacerbated by what was clearly an unhappy marriage. Hart does sound guilty about this dynamic, which seems to have involved fans and other miscellaneous women he met along his world travels.
12. The Kliq Booked The Territory
It’s not uncommon for wrestlers to talk about wrestling while they’re on the road, but it seems that The Kliq took it to an extreme. The old backstage group of Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Triple H, and Sean Waltman have all discussed their lifestyle in interviews. While some particulars vary, and they generally suggest that their reputations for partying and for politicking were both overblown, one consistent thread does emerge. The guys were all about the wrestling business, all the time.
The guys have described that they would talk about wrestling non-stop, often spending lengthy stretches on the road discussing booking ideas for how to improve the promotions they were working for. While the guys—particularly Michaels and Nash—ultimately did have substantial stroke, it seems like this was more an intellectual exercise than an actual act of planning. The guys were consumed with wrestling. This commonality bonded them as friends and Michaels had claimed it endeared them to Vince McMahon at a certain point.
11. Ric Flair Burned The Candle On Both Ends
A great deal has been said about Ric Flair’s personal life, not least of all in the new ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about him. One consistent thread: in addition to being a phenomenal professional wrestler, the guy loved to burn the candle at both ends.
Flair has made no bones about the fact that he was a partier, often leading not only the locker room but also fans in wild nights of revelry after shows. He’d run up four figure bar tabs at 1980s prices, and more than one wrestler has cited the incredible hotel room parties he’d play host to. In his book, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, Bret Hart noted a particular night during Flair’s original WWE run. He claims Flair partied like a madman and outlasted most of the roster at night. When Hart went to the hotel gym the following morning, he was shocked to find Flair already there, blazing a trail on the cardio equipment. It goes to show that Flair lived his gimmick—both as a party animal and world class athlete—all the time.
10. Edge, Christian, And Rhyno Sunk In A Frozen Lake
On their podcast, Edge and Christian have more than once conveyed pieces of a particularly wild road story involving Rhyno. While they’ve poked fun at the big guy for being a cheapskate, it’s clear there’s a lot of affection between the men. And how could their not be camaraderie after surviving some pretty absurd circumstances?
The story goes that the three were among a larger troupe of wrestlers who found themselves driving over a frozen lake in Canada to shave some time off of an incredibly long drive between shows. While there are times when a lake can be frozen enough to safely drive on, the story goes that in this case they found the ice slowly giving way beneath them, culminating in getting stuck at one point. Rhyno was reportedly especially terrified but also especially important in adding his power to get the car in motion again.
9. Rick Rude Broke A Bouncer’s Jaw
While Rick Rude tended to play a pretty boy gimmick—particularly in his best remembered late 1980s into early 1990s WWE work—he was known as a real life tough guy, with incredible physical strength. One particularly wild story that’s come out about Rude was the time when a night club bouncer questioned the toughness of pro wrestlers. The Ravishing One purportedly slapped him hard enough to break his jaw.
The kicker in this story? Rude’s dominant arm was reportedly injured, so he actually used his weaker hand to make the hit. That, paired with insane stories about how much weight Rude could support on wrist curls in the gym, tell the tale of a deceptively tough guy who no one in his right mind would want to mess with.
8. Shawn Michaels Tried To Steal Girlfriends
Shawn Michaels was one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. After his successful Rockers tag team with Marty Jannetty, he launched his singles career as a mid card heel, under the moniker the Heart Break Kid. The Boy Toy gimmick saw him play up his sex appeal and act cocky; it would seem that Michaels’s real life antics at the time weren’t so different.
Michaels and colleagues have recalled that he would often hit on women at bars, regardless of whether they were single, or even if their boyfriends might be there. With big guys like Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Triple H serving as unofficial bodyguards, Michaels was usually safe. His antics did catch up to him on occasion, though. As has been widely reported, there was a night in Syracuse, New York when he got flirty and perhaps handsy with some local women, and only had Waltman around for back up. A group of military men would give him a brutal beat down in the parking lot. Michaels would get legitimately hurt, and would later roll the incident into a concussion angle.
7. Randy Orton Ices Religiously
A pro wrestling career is incredibly hard on any in ring performer’s body, but a variety of his colleagues have suggested that Randy Orton takes incredible care of himself. The Viper has been a main roster mainstay for over 15 years, and some of his longevity and good health can be attributed to extra steps he’s taken since a relatively young age.
Orton was reportedly a pioneer the practice of chartering a private bus for himself so he can lay down and get a full night’s sleep while traveling between towns. Additionally, word is that he ices religiously coming back to immediately strap icepacks on his knees and elbows to proactively head off aches and strains down the road. Given that Orton still, in many ways, moves like a much younger man in the ring, his strategies seem to be working.
6. Mick Foley Cut Costs Everywhere He Could
Throughout his books, his one man shows, and various shoot interviews, Mick Foley has made no bones about the fact that he was cheapskate on the road. Contrary to some of his contemporaries in the 1990s who burned through money, he seems to have figured out early on that he needed to save as a younger man to have any wealth at all to fall back on when he couldn’t wrestle anymore.
Foley has discussed piling wrestlers into rental cars and packing as many bodies into a hotel room as possible to save on the price per person. Practices like this may not have been much fun at the time, but are probably the keys to why he now owns an expansive home while supporting his wife and multiple kids. Like a true hustler, Foley has found additional ways to make money since hanging up his boots, with his successful books, as well as comedy and speaking tours.
5. Owen Hart Ribbed The Boys Mercilessly
Owen Hart is remembered fondly by fans and most of his colleagues. He was a respected worker who most seem to agree had a good heart. On top of that, by a variety of accounts, he was a heck of a ribber.
Ribbing is a part of pro wrestling culture, which involves guys playing tricks on each other. Quite a few wrestlers have described it as a way of staying sane given the intensity of their jobs. If they can’t laugh at themselves once in a while, they might just lose their minds.
Hart was known for prank phone calls, manipulating hotel staff, and more generally messing with the boys to get them all worked up before realizing they’d been had. Owen’s brother Bret relayed a particularly classic example, in Owen calling their father Stu, claiming to be an old colleague who thought he could have beaten Stu in a fight. The story goes that he got his father so wound up he was ready to fight right then, even as a senior citizen, before revealing the whole thing was a gag.
4. Jim Cornette Played The Wrestler Game
Jim Cornette has been in the professional wrestling business for over 35 years. The guy was never a full time in ring talent, only getting involved as a wrestler as a special attraction and under special circumstances. As such, it was all the more important for him to keep up his knowledge of the industry, to support himself as a manager, broadcaster, and promoter.
Cornette is widely recognized for his quick wit and deep pool of knowledge, and seems to have been particularly gifted at the Wrestler Game that wrestlers have traditionally played on the road. The rules are simple, and involve naming a wrestler then naming a wrestler whose first name begins with the same letter the previous wrestler’s name ended with. On a visit to Chris Jericho’s podcast last year, Cornette recalled playing. In particular he said he got away with fudging names sometimes because he was a good liar, his knowledge was known to be encyclopedic, and in his heyday there were no smart phones to double check anyone.
3. Harvey Wippleman Always Drove—And When He Didn’t, It Turned Fatal
Most fans know Harvey Wippleman for his work as a WWE heel manager in the early to mid 1990s, and in on air stints with the company thereafter. He peaked in backing Sid Justice, and reached some comedic lows in his kayfabe relationship with Bertha Faye, wrestling Howard Finkel in Tuxedo Matches, and winning the Women’s Championship.
Many fans fail to realize that Wippleman stuck with the company in the interim as a jack of all trades behind the scenes. He discussed all of this in a visit to Chris Jericho’s podcast, and included the most harrowing night of his time in wrestling. Wippleman indicated that he always drove whatever car he was in, but one night, allowed his traveling partner Joey Marella to get behind the wheel, after he convinced Wippleman he was fine staying awake for the late night drive. There was an accident after Marella reportedly fell asleep in the driver’s seat. Wippleman got banged up but, much more sadly, the accident killed the famous referee, and son of Gorilla Monsoon.
2. DDP Slept With Cookies
In his comedy tours, Mick Foley has gotten into his share of wild stories from the road. One of the more infamous one involved frequent travel partner Diamond Dallas Page, from the time in WCW in the early 1990s.
Foley indicates that Page liked to sleep naked. One night, he was bit braggadocios about some homemade cookies a fan had brought for him, so Foley, and perhaps Steve Austin decided to rib him. They took the gooey cookies the fan had given DDP and pushed them between the sheets on Page’s bed, so that when the master of the Diamond Cutter got in, he got his whole body smeared with chocolate. According to Foley’s account, it led to Page chasing after them through the night, in a wild scene, because Page was not only naked, but covered in the cookie remains.
1. The Steiners Got Rowdy On The Highway
While some wrestlers are known for good natured ribbing, or relatively harmless pranks that may embarrass someone, but not hurt them, Rick and Scott Steiner had a rougher reputation. Given their size, strength, and legitimate amateur wrestling backgrounds, they were known to be backstage bullies. A few wrestlers have spoken up about an even more dangerous prank, though.
The story goes that Rick would drive their car and, when they passed other wrestlers’ cars on the road, he would lean out the driver’s side window and open their car doors while driving. It was a dangerous stunt that easily could have caused an accident. Little better, when wrestlers got wise to the prank and started locking their doors while driving, the Steiners are said to have thrown whatever they had handy at the car, all while driving at high speeds.
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