There are many people who were shocked recently when The Rock admitted to Oprah Winfrey that he had struggled with depression. However, depression is a surprisingly common mental illness and around 350 million people worldwide suffer with it. That rounds out to about 20 million Americans who report the illness each year. While depression has no reservations about disrupting the lives of people of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, or social positions, it does seem to pop up more often in some professional fields than others.
In the field of professional wrestling, depression has made itself well known. There have been sad tragedies, including drug overdoses and suicides, which have befallen competitors over the years. The fact is that no one really knows what the correlation between pro wrestling and depression is. We only know that it is has been a major problem for some very well-known athletes.
Another thing that seems to go hand-in-hand with depression in the world of professional wrestling is substance and alcohol abuse. Wrestlers put their bodies on the line whenever they step into the ring and are bound to have injuries. In a lot of cases whre a wrestler has been injured and could not compete, they have turned to drugs to help dull both the pain of the injury and the sting of being on the shelf. This, however, only compounds the problem and feeds into the depression.
Although this common sequence of events has played out to some very tragic ends in the wrestling world that is not always the case. There are a few wrestlers who have overcome depression and still others who continue to fight it valiantly. This article highlights 15 courageous athletes who have battled with depression and are winning the fight.
15 Rick Bognar
Rick Bognar was introduced to the WWE audience in 1996 as the “Fake” Razor Ramon. He was introduced alongside Glenn Jacobs playing “Fake Diesel” and the two of them were part of a storyline intended to mock former WWE employees, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. While Jacobs would go on to become a huge success as Kane, Bognar was released from his contract shortly after the storyline failed. The ensuing depression was nearly too much to bear. However, he sought help for his depression and after finding acceptance through Eastern religious practices, Bognar is now an author and motivational speaker in his home country of Canada.
14 Tammy “Sunny” Sytch
Sunny achieved plenty during the 1990s in WWE and is acknowledged by many as the first ever WWE Diva. Even though she was released in 1998, Sunny was later brought back to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011. Just a few short years later, however, she would run into some trouble with the law and accrue a string of missed wrestling events along the way. Sunny later explained that she was suffering from depression and addiction, and that is what had triggered her unpredictable behavior. Sunny sought professional treatment and has since been diagnosed with and has beaten cancer.
13 Randy Myers
“Ravenous” Randy, as Randy Myers is better known as in the pro wrestling world, began his career in the independent circuit in 2005. During his career he has wrestled with former WWE superstars like Shannon Moore and Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake and in 2009 was signed to a developmental contract with WWE. Recently, he teamed up with film maker Derek Hird to co-write a movie called The Weirdo Hero. The movie is based on Myers’ life and details his personal struggle with depression. Myers hopes that this movie will increase awareness about depression and inspire people who are dealing with it to seek help.
Ryback debuted in the WWE in 2010 on the first season of NXT. He would go on to become the Intercontinental Champion later in his career and develop himself into a solid midcarder for the WWE. However, there were some bumps in the road for him along the way. In a recent interview with Chris Jericho, Ryback admitted that dealing with depression was a major reason for his failure during his initial run in WWE in 2007. He spent a year off work and a lot of time drinking alcohol, until he read The Secret which he credits for changing his life.
Chyna began wrestling in the WWE in the late 1990s and was billed as the “Ninth Wonder of the World.” Though her early career was extremely promising, she would run into a series of relationship troubles that would ultimately cost her job in WWE. Following her departure from WWE, she fell into a deep depression and turned to drug use as a way of coping with the pain. After an appearance on the Howard Stern show, where she was slurring her words and rambling aimlessly, Chyna realized it was time to get help. It now seems as though she has cleaned up and is currently teaching English in Japan.
10 Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle is one of the most decorated pro wrestlers in the history of the business, winning major championships in WWE and TNA. However, a lesser known fact about Angle is that he has also been arrested several times for DUI. Kurt Angle realized that he had developed a drinking problem after his last arrest in 2013 and quickly checked himself into a treatment facility. While being treated for alcohol addiction, Angle realized that he was actually suffering from depression and using the alcohol to cope with it. Fortunately, Kurt Angle made this realization before any more harm could be done to his life.
9 D'Lo Brown
D’Lo Brown is a former Intercontinental Champion who is best known for his run with WWE in the late 90s, but he's also wrestled for several other promotions during his career. In 1999, Brown accidentally botched a running powerbomb, causing a severe neck injury to fellow wrestler, Droz. Droz was left paralyzed from the neck down and the incident caused D’Lo Brown to spiral into a serious depression. He started drinking heavily and it almost cost him his relationship with his fiancé. Brown would eventually seek treatment to help his depression and currently trains new wrestlers in Las Vegas.
8 Sean “X-Pac” Waltman
Sean Waltman has worked a variety of gimmicks and won a bunch of titles while wrestling in the three major American promotions, but, like so many others, he employed the use of drugs and alcohol to deal with the stress of depression. After a failed suicide attempt in Mexico, Waltman’s friend and former stablemate, Kevin Nash, flew him to a Texas treatment facility. The time in rehab was life altering for Waltman, helping him get sober and pull his life from the grips of depression. Sean Waltman now works with WWE from time to time while making appearances on the indie circuit.
Dustin Rhodes officially debuted as Goldust in the WWE in 1995, but he had been bouncing back and forth between companies before assuming his most known character and would continue to do so afterwards. After he parted ways with WWE in 2006, the depression would begin to take over, as did the drug and alcohol abuse. Following a three-day binge that forced Goldust to call his father, the late Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes, for help, he checked himself into rehab. Goldust has since recovered from his addiction problems and made an impressive return to action in the WWE.
6 Scott Hall
Known mostly for his time in the WWE as Razor Ramon in the early 1990s and as a founding member of the nWo in WCW, Hall has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse. In fact, his adventures while intoxicated have landed him in jail several times over the years. Also, Hall has suffered from many health problems related to his drug and alcohol use, including heart disease and seizures. In an interview in 2013, Scott Hall admitted that he had previously been diagnosed with clinical depression. As recently as June of this year, Hall checked back into a detox center to once again do battle with his demons and we wish him well.
5 Bret Hart
Bret “The Hitman” Hart will forever be known as one of the best professional wrestlers of all-time. He will also always be remembered for the infamous Montreal Screwjob in 1997. That event, along with the well-publicized death of his brother, Owen, are two things that contributed greatly to Hart’s battle with depression. On top of those two difficult events, a bike accident in 2002 that caused Hart to have a stroke weighed heavily on him, causing unneeded stress. Due to all these unfortunate circumstances, Hart fell into a serious depression, but has worked hard to get himself right and heal old wounds, even accepting an apology from The Heartbreak Kid for his actions.
4 Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Jake Roberts has struggled with depression fueled by drug and alcohol abuse for a good portion of his life. In his recent documentary, The Resurrection of Jake the Snake, he recounts feeling hopeless and waiting for his life to end. Thankfully, he received some help from fellow wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, who would take him in and help him get clean. Roberts has since managed to remain sober and get healthy. Jake credits DDP with saving his life and he was inducted by him into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014.
3 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan is the most recognizable wrestling star in the world and has known unimaginable fame and fortune throughout his career. This, however, has not managed to make him immune from the terrors of depression. After Hogan’s wife, Linda, filed for a divorced, Hogan admitted to being so depressed that he even contemplated suicide at one point. Had it not been for his friend, Laila Ali, who saved him from the suicide attempt, the world may have tragically lost another wrestling hero. Hogan has since recovered from his depressive state and even got remarried.
2 Shawn Michaels
Shawn Michaels was a staple in the WWE for a decade before his first retirement in 1998 following a severe back injury. During his time outside of the ring, while he nursed his injury, Michaels became depressed and began to abuse prescription painkillers. It was only after his son noticed that Michaels was sleeping too often that he realized he had a problem. Shawn Michaels would accept God in his life and become a born again Christian. After spiritual healing helped Michaels recover, he returned to the WWE and gave us some of the best matches in the company's history.
1 The Rock
Even though it may be hard to believe that the charismatic and relentlessly upbeat Dwayne Johnson could suffer from depression, it just proves that no one is immune from it. The now highly recognizable movie star was one of the most popular wrestlers during The Attitude Era of the WWE and has been a world champion multiple times. The Rock talked candidly about his battle with depression in an interview in 2014 and recently spoke with Oprah openly about it in an interview. He said that he has had three serious rounds with depression in his life and is not immune to more. However, Johnson is the picture of a warrior and will continue his fight against depression.