Professional wrestling is a strange art that sits somewhere between sports and entertainment. It doesn’t fit into either category comfortably and has carved out its own unique moniker – “sports entertainment.” It could be argued that this could make it very easy for the performers involved to define themselves or alternatively, it provides a conundrum in which they can never truly define who they are and what they do. Or perhaps it is simply the demands of the profession itself, including being on the road for the majority of the year, that put an exorbitant amount of pressure on those involved. Whatever the reason, the art that we adore as fans has a long, murky history of unspeakable acts taking place. From an epidemic of wrestlers passing away well before their time, to allegations of systemic levels of bullying, harassment and bigotry in the industry, professional wrestling can seem like a dark underbelly of sin.
This article will examine some of the most inexplicable and heinous crimes ever committed by members of the professional wrestling fraternity. Some of the names on the list may surprise you, while others will evidently not. Professional wrestling’s long association with crime is hopefully slowing down thanks to better working conditions and the introduction of the Wellness Policy by WWE. That being said, the crimes listed below won’t simply vanish, and will forever leave a black mark on an industry that continues to try and rebuild its reputation.
15 Ric Flair - Road Rage And Legal Issues
The Nature Boy is widely considered to be the greatest professional wrestler of all time. Despite being a bona fide legend and WWE Hall of Famer, this has not stopped Flair from being subject to a number of legal issues over the years. Aside from his FOUR (!!!) divorces, Flair was arrested in 2005 after a road rage incident in Charlotte, NC.
Allegedly, Flair left his vehicle and proceeded to grab the motorist by the throat before kicking his car door clean off! He was charged with injury to personal property and assault and battery. Further to this incident, Flair was declared bankrupt in 2008 and has previously owed a lot of money to companies like Ring of Honor and Highspots Inc. For a man of his stature, Flair has faced his fair share of legal dramas.
14 Matt Hardy And Reby Sky - Domestic Dispute
Matt and Jeff Hardy have had their fair share of legal issues over the years, mainly due to their ongoing reliance on painkillers and other drugs. Both men seem to have turned a corner in recent times and this has given life to the hugely popular “Broken” gimmick and their subsequent return to WWE.
However, at the beginning of 2014, Matt was arrested along with his wife, Reby Sky, after a violent dispute between the two at a motel in Virginia. Very few details have been released about what occurred but the mugshots display various cuts and bruises on both Matt and Reby. According to the 911 call made, the operator was told that a female guest was being “beaten up.”
Despite this unsavoury incident, the couple were released on bail and have seemingly mended their relationship. In June 2015, their son Maxel was born.
13 Lex Luger - Drug Possession
Lex Luger is a cautionary tale of the dangers associated with the wrestling business. Once one of the biggest stars in the industry, Luger’s fall from grace has been nothing short of spectacular. The physical and chemical abuse he subjected himself to has left him a shell of his former self and unable to walk unassisted.
His most famous criminal involvement was his role in the death of former WWE valet, Elizabeth Hulette. The two former superstars had a tumultuous relationship that included significant drug abuse and a charge of domestic battery laid against Luger. When Elizabeth was found dead at their home in 2003 after a drug overdose, Luger was charged with 13 counts of illegal drug possession. He was fined $1,000 and sentenced to five years probation.
12 Stone Cold Steve Austin - Domestic Violence
The Rattlesnake has a very significant blot on his copybook after he was charged with domestic abuse against his former wife, Debra Marshall, in 2002. Police had been called to the couples house after it was alleged that Austin had given Debra a swollen cheek and eye in addition to bruises on her back and shoulder. After being arrested, Stone Cold pleaded no contest and was given one year of probation, a measly $1,000 fine and 80 hours of community service.
After the couple divorced in 2003, Debra told Fox News her story and alleged that the regular abuse she suffered had been covered up by WWE. She also alleged that the attacks were a result of Austin’s steroid use. Stone Cold was accused of another assault in 2004 on his then-girlfriend, Tess Broussard.
11 Booker T - Armed Robbery
The fourth WWE Hall of Famer to appear on this list is none other than Booker T. His crimes occurred prior to his time in the wrestling spotlight when he was arrested after performing armed robberies at several Wendy’s restaurants in Houston.
The robberies were undertaken by a group of criminals, all of whom had been working at Wendy’s for the previous 2 ½ years. The group of four men, including Booker, actually wore their uniforms during the hold-ups. Because of this, it didn’t take long for the police to track down the group, and Booker pleaded guilty in December 1987 to two counts of aggravated robbery and was sentenced to five years in prison.
Booker was released only nineteen months into his sentence and was placed on parole until 1992. Thankfully, he found the wrestling industry shortly after this, and turned his life around for the better.
10 New Jack - Stabbing During A Match
New Jack is known as one of the most legitimately unhinged wrestlers to have ever graced our screens. A mainstay during the height of ECW’s popularity, Jack has been involved in some of the most despicable acts seen inside a wrestling ring. Some of his best known acts of notoriety include the Mass Transit incident and his “Freefall” push on Vic Grimes.
Probably his most outrageous crime inside a wrestling ring occurred in 2004 when he was performing a match for Thunder Wrestling Federation. During his match with William Jason Lane, Jack pulled a blade out which he had been concealing. In a disgusting show of brutality, he then proceeded to stab Lane no less than nine times. He was later charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault to commit murder.
9 Verne Gagne - Homicide
The late, great Verne Gagne is one of the most iconic figures in professional wrestling and another member on this list who is part of the WWE Hall of Fame. In 2009, at the age of 83, Gagne was involved in an altercation with a fellow resident in the nursing home where both men resided.
It is alleged that Gagne picked up the 97-year-old man named Helmut Gutmann and performed a bodyslam on him, breaking Gutmann’s hip in the process. Following the incident, neither man had any recollection of it occurring and Gutmann died a few weeks later due to complications associated with his injury.
The death was officially ruled as a homicide, but Gagne escaped criminal charges due to his dementia. He died several years later in April 2015.
8 Ion Croitoru - Murder
Ion Croitoru is a Canadian pro wrestler who was known as Johnny K-9 during his time working as a jobber in the WWE during the late-'80s. His forgettable wrestling career pales in comparison to his long list of criminal charges. He was a high-ranking member of the Satan’s Choice motorcycle gang and he was charged with various crimes such as trafficking cocaine, assault and bombing a police station.
Croitoru was first linked to murders in 2005 when he was charged with the 1998 killings of Lynn and Fred Gilbank. He spent seven months in prison, but was later released on bail and was never convicted of the murders. He was, however, charged with first degree murder in 2009 for another gangland execution. Shortly after being released to a halfway house in 2016, he died at the age of 53.
7 DT Porter - Murder
DT Porter, whose real name is Brian McGhee, spent time in WWE’s former developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling. He was nicknamed “The Future” during his time there, but his own future was changed forever in 2013. McGhee was arrested for fatally stabbing a female in Tampa, Florida. The victim in question was thought to be his girlfriend, and had suffered multiple stab wounds.
After McGhee crashed his car following a police chase, he was taken to hospital and was charged with first degree murder following his release. McGhee had posted a chilling cry for help on his Facebook page following his release by WWE, where he stated that he had been “drinking every day” and kept bottles of vodka and gin in his trunk. He finished the post with the words, “Help me!”
6 Jose Gonzalez - Murder of Bruiser Brody
Jose Gonzalez fatally stabbed wrestling legend, Bruiser Brody, in July 1988 prior to an event in Puerto Rico. The murder took place in the locker room showers after Gonzalez had requested to discuss business with Brody. After a fight between the two began, two piercing screams were heard throughout the entire locker room. Tony Atlas rushed to Brody’s aid, finding him hunched over and clutching his stomach while Gonzalez held the murder weapon.
After a trial coloured by money and cover-ups, Gonzalez amazingly walked away a free man. Tony Atlas and Dutch Mantel testified during the trial, but no murder weapon was located, and due to there being no eyewitnesses, Gonzalez was able to get away with the murder of a giant of the sport.
5 Sunny - Various Arrests
During the 1990s, Sunny (real name: Tammy Lynn Sytch) revolutionized the industry by becoming the original “diva” in the WWE. Her success was so great that it earned her a spot in the Hall of Fame in 2011. Sadly for Sytch, her life took a serious downswing a year following her HOF induction.
Displaying an unprecedented lack of respect for the legal system, Sytch was arrested FIVE times in a period lasting only four weeks! Her crimes included disorderly conduct, third degree burglary and three counts of violating a protective order. She violated this protective order again in January 2013 and subsequently served 114 days in jail.
Sunny spent more time in jail at the beginning of this year after she violated parole following a DUI-related charge. Things have got so bad for Sytch that reports recently stated she was attempting to sell her Hall of Fame ring on eBay.
4 Scott Hall - Murder
The sixth member of the WWE Hall of Fame is none other than “The Bad Guy,” Scott Hall. His multiple legal issues and problems with substance abuse over the course of his career have been well documented. Many of Hall’s issues may have stemmed from an incident in 1983 that occurred well before he achieved fame and fortune.
While working as a bouncer for a nightclub in Orlando, Hall was involved in an altercation with a man outside the club. The man pulled a gun on Hall and in an act of self-defence, Hall turned the weapon on the assailant and shot him, killing him in the process. Hall was charged with second-degree murder and has often spoken of being haunted by the incident.
3 Jimmy Snuka - Murder
Our final WWE Hall of Famer to make the list is Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. The legendary grappler was constantly linked to the death of his former girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, which took place in 1983. Nancy had died after suffering severe head injuries consistent with “mate abuse” and Snuka had called the ambulance to the scene. Although Snuka was the only suspect, the case remained cold until it was turned over to a grand jury in 2014.
In 2015, over 32 years after the incident, Snuka was arrested for third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter for Nancy Argentino’s death. Due to Snuka’s deteriorating physical and mental health he was unable to formally stand trial for the offences, and he died at the age of 73 earlier this year.
2 Hardbody Harrison - Trafficking
Hardbody Harrison is one of the most despicable human beings on this list. The real-life Harrison Norris Jr was a nondescript jobber in WCW and after the company folded, so did his wrestling career. In 2007, Harrison was convicted of keeping eight different women as sex slaves in two homes he owned in Georgia. He claimed during the trial that he was helping the women quit their drug habits and training them as professional wrestlers.
Evidence pointed to the contrary as it emerged that Harrison forced the women to engage in large sex orgies and forced them to be house-bound. The women were often pimped out as prostitutes by Harrison to nightclubs, trailer parks and parties and were required to pay him money if they failed to undertake certain household chores.
1 Chris Benoit - Double Murder
The case of Chris Benoit’s double murder suicide is the most notorious and high-profile in the history of professional wrestling. The story has been told over and over again in the media of how Benoit took the life of his wife, Nancy, and their 7-year-old son, Daniel, prior to ending his own himself in 2007. Nearly a decade has passed since the incident and there are still more questions than answers.
Trying to explain the atrocious acts of Benoit seems questionable at best, but research has shown that he was suffering from significant brain trauma and was a heavy steroid user. It’s a tragedy that still confounds the professional wrestling world to this day and the WWE have distanced themselves from any association with Benoit since the event. Rumours persist that a movie biopic will be made, but again this seems like a very raw subject to be portraying on the silver screen.