The wrestling business might be a means of entertainment for many, because watching two guys fight off against each other has been pleasing us for as long as we can remember. But there’s a lot of downsides of what these guys do in the ring day in, day out which we don’t acknowledge properly and what we don’t realize throughout this excitement is how they risk their own bodies to provide us with jaw-dropping moments. These wrestlers take dangerous bumps and shots to their heads which can have long term effects on a person and derails their life after they have retired from wrestling.
A professional wrestler’s career span is mostly around 10 years in the industry at an average, because of the hectic schedule of the work and how much it really demands from the wrestler’s body. After the introduction of more and more live events where promotions hold their wrestling events in other countries or local towns in the country it resides in has made the schedule even crazier for the professional wrestler who has to constantly travel and perform in different locations every single day. A professional wrestler has to perform more days than other sportsmen who have to perform once or twice a week, while these guys have to rough it out almost every single day of the week.
The pain and bumps they go through obviously takes a toll in the long run, as many wrestlers’ lives seem to get disrupted by addictions to drugs during and after their wrestling careers and they often succumb to some sort of sickness or death after their careers have ended. As shown in Mickey Rourke’s The Wrestler, an aging professional wrestler hardly finds work and addiction to dangerous drugs often turns their lives into a living mess, and it is extremely difficult to get them out of this wreckage they seem to entangle themselves in.
Virgil burst into the wrestling scene as the bodyguard of the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase as he carried out DiBiase’s cash and flaunted his lavishness to the crowd while also helping the man get dirty victories. He became a fan favorite after turning on DiBiase and went on to wrestle many prominent matches from there, also challenging Bret Hart for the WWE Championship at one point. Afterwards he moved to WCW, where he was the “security guy” for the NWO and often acted as a valet for the members like he had for DiBiase, before retiring in 2000. But he just couldn’t seem to leave the wrestling industry afterwards. Virgil continued to attend wrestling conventions and selling photographs in subway stations, only for no-one to recognize him. This created the “Lonely Virgil” memes because of a picture of him sitting at a convention with no-one around him. Virgil has become an attention seeker of the highest level who can’t seem to let go of his success in the 90’s and still tries to show himself as a hot-shot, even though he’s hardly recognized or appreciated by anybody.
14 Matt Osborne
Known for his infamous Doink the Clown gimmick in the 90’s, Matt Osborne had quite the topsy turvy wrestling career. He debuted in the WWE as a jobber early in his career before having a short stint at WCW before returning back to the WWE. He was repackaged as Doink the Clown, a villainous clown who would often pull tricks on superstars and fans. Doink would be quite the entertaining mid-carder for some years, before moving to ECW for another short stint (this time as Borne Again). Osborne would take semi-retirement after leaving ECW, sporadically wrestling in independent shows under his Borne Again name. He returned for some shows in the WWE as his Doink the Clown character, before bringing it back in the indy scene with some twist in 2010. He returned full-time in wrestling, working on a semi-regular basis before a shocking death in 2013. Investigations led to believe that he died because of an accidental overdose of morphine and hydrocodone, as well as suffering from a heart disease. In 2015, a wrongful death lawsuit was lodged against WWE by his ex-wife who blamed WWE for making him take continuous hard bumps to the head which led to depression and addiction and ultimately to his untimely death, as Osborne’s fall from grace was pretty depressing.
13 Mike Awesome
Probably one of the most underrated performers of his time, Mike Awesome was definitely awesome inside the ring with the adaptability to any environment and ability to put on entertaining matches everywhere. After a stint at Japan’s Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, he took a turn to professional wrestling, making a name in ECW where he had many stints with his last one being the most successful as he won the ECW World Title and ECW Tag Team Championship. Awesome would be an important mainstay in the dying years of WCW, before being signed up by WWE who used him somewhat well during the invasion angle. But he was turned into a jobber from that point and released in 2002. He would return for the ECW One Night Stand event in 2005, wrestling Masato Tanaka. After retiring from wrestling, Awesome would find a career as a real estate agent in Tampa, Florida. But a year after retiring, Awesome was shockingly found hanging inside his Tampa home. The exact reason is unknown, but it’s rumored to be because of him facing criminal charges and having lost his family before, as his story is a pretty disturbing showcase of the effects of leaving the business can have on a wrestler.
12 Tyson Tomko
The brawny monster of a man, Tyson Tomko was quite intimidating in the ring becoming famous as Christian’s bodyguard. He would accompany Christian in the WWE before they were split up and Tomko received a short monster push which ended up being broken by John Cena. He quit the WWE on good terms, going to wrestle for TNA afterwards. Tomko would yet again be reunited with Christian forming “The Christian Coalition”. Afterwards he would have stints paired with AJ Styles and Kurt Angle and would act as the enforcer for them. Tomko would never get a proper singles run which would propel him to leave the company, with a short return to WWE not proving to be any good. In 2011, Tomko was arrested on robbery charges after he had allegedly robbed 210 tablets of oxycodone. He got out with bail and was sent to a WWE sponsored rehab afterwards. Tomko has apparently been drug free since and also works some matches in the indy circuit, but this black mark on his history will haunt his working career forever.
11 Sean O’Haire
Trained under the WCW Power Plant, Sean O’Haire started tag-teaming with Chuck Palumbo in his WCW days and shifted with him to WWE during the invasion angle. The two enjoyed a good stint during their early WWE careers, winning the Tag Titles but were disbanded afterwards. O’Haire was soon given a “devil’s advocate” gimmick where he’d urge people to commit sinful acts and then another bizarre one who was obsessed with spiders. Nothing good came of this and his singles career in WWE was a complete bust. After WWE, O’Haire soon moved to compete in Mixed Martial Arts and competed in various MMA promotions in America to try his hand. He later on became a hair stylist and was arrested numerous times for assaulting women. In 2014, O’Haire was found dead hanging from a bedpost by his father. He had committed suicide the day prior. Apparently O’Haire had a bad alcohol addiction and suffered from depression and couldn’t recover in spite of getting rehab facilities sponsored by the WWE.
X-Pac is probably one of THE most entertaining members of a wrestling faction of all time, as he seemed to bring that groove and sass to which ever stable he ended up in. From D-Generation X where he was the spice and electricity of the team to later in the NWO where he brought that extra bit of coolness to the stable. In spite of being renowned as being the electricity of stables, X-Pac is actually a very good performer and gives the best to each match he wrestles. In the wrestling ring, he’s entertaining as hell, but outside it he’s a very troubled man. X-Pac has had many cases of addiction to drugs, mostly to crystal meth which got so obsessive for him that during a TNA X-Division Championship match against AJ Styles, he took meth before the match and forgot the finish of the match. He was fired by TNA and sent into rehab paid by good friend Triple H and partly by Vince McMahon. In 2004 he also made an amateur sex tape with Chyna. X-Pac would later confess of trying to commit suicide due to depression and would actually try it in 2013 where he took 40 valium pills and almost died. He was sent to a psychiatric facility by Kevin Nash and seemed to have recovered, until he turned himself for arrest for possession of drugs in 2013. He has seemingly been better since, working in indy events and also helping out Triple H with his NXT product.
9 Kerry Von Erich
Kerry Von Erich’s life story is pretty depressing, as the son of the legendary Fritz Von Erich was looking to be a hot star until an accident in 1986 nearly killed him. This accident resulted in him losing his right leg, with it having to be amputated. Von Erich would not be deterred by this, continuing to wrestle and returning to the WWE in 1990. He would go onto win the Intercontinental Championship and continued to headline some pay-per-views as the Intercontinental Champion. He would continue to be a strong mid-carder but was soon relegated to becoming a jobber and left he WWE after some house show loses. Kerry would become addicted to painkillers after his amputation and also be arrested twice because of drug problems. This and the fear of jail time is what probably propelled him to commit suicide by shooting himself to the heart. Bret Hart stated in his biography that Kerry had told him of his miseries and thought his death was inevitable, as the Von Erich family curse seemed to have continued with him.
One of the earliest face-painted superstars in wrestling, Kamala was quite the terrifying figure in the 80’s and ushered the inception of really terrifying looking heels. Kamala would be a terrorizing mid-carder for most of his life and would have a rather successful stint in the WWE and also returned many times in the last decade for sporadic matches. But his career turned upside down after his retirement, as Kamala had to have his left leg amputated below the knee in 2011 because of problems from diabetes and high blood pressure. A year later his other leg also had to be amputated below the knee and a campaign was launched to gather donations for his financial needs. He recently stated on how he relies on his disability check and sells handmade wooden checks to survive, and also published a book on his misery recently. It’s rather depressing knowing what ignorance towards one’s body can do to one, as Kamala is the perfect case of a wrestler ignoring his own pain to entertain others.
Speaking of face painted monsters, Umaga was one of the most destructive monster heels of his time as he plowed through anyone who got in his way. He received major pushes early in his WWE career, going on to defeat the likes of Triple H, John Cena and Shawn Michaels and also challenging for Cena’s WWE Title soon. Not exactly ready for the main event scene, he was pushed as a prominent mid-carder in the years to come as he won the Intercontinental Championship twice. He feuded with many faces afterwards before being let go by the WWE after violating their wellness policy and refusing rehab. Umaga had apparently taken growth hormones and his career went down after being released by the WWE, as he got more addicted to dangerous drugs afterwards. In 2009, Umaga died of a heart attack because of the combined effects of some dangerous drugs in Hydrocodone, Carisoprodol and Diazepam. His legacy in the ring is continued by nephews The Uso’s who wear his face-paint, but personally Umaga was a very broken man who succumbed to his fatal addiction.
6 Perry Saturn
Inside the ring, Perry Saturn is probably remembered for all the wrong reasons (most people probably remember him for the Mop Angle). Saturn was definitely above that, having a very good career in WCW as he’d be the enforcer of “Raven’s Nest” and also win the WCW Television Title during this. He moved to the WWE with Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko as part of “The Radicalz” and was probably the least successful of the bunch after they disbanded. Saturn was given the gimmick in which he’s infatuated with a mop after he legitimately hurt a jobber and found quite a bit of success with his bizarre gimmick, having an entertaining feud with Raven. He would be let go of after an ACL injury, and return to the indy circuit for a bit. In April 2004, Perry would stop a woman getting raped by two men who shot him twice in his back and right shoulder. Saturn remembered this as being “punched”, but the shooting haunted him for a long time. The trauma led him to being addicted to crystal meth, and ending up homeless and literally disappeared for several years. He resolved his addiction in 2009 and returned to the ring in 2011, still fighting it out in the indy circuit as his fall into addiction and recovery from it makes for quite a story.
Test was one of the intimidating enforcers of the Attitude Era as he often acted as the perfect Authority protection guy. He had the physique which Vince McMahon wanted from his superstars and was always held as a strong mid-carder who would be involved in some key story-lines. He also had an on-screen relationship with Stephanie McMahon and later with Stacy Keibler, and would win almost all the mid-card championships during his WWE career. He was let go off by the WWE in 2004 only to return for their ECW brand in 2006, where he served as a main-eventer for quite some time. He was let go of again because of violating WWE’s wellness policy, and had a short stint in TNA before retiring. Test was found dead in his apartment in 2009 and reports suggested that he died because of an accidental overdose of Oxycodone, as he had split with girlfriend Kelly Kelly some time before his death. It was also reported that Test suffered from what had forced Chris Benoit for his horrific death, which was caused by repeated concussions and shots to the head and it’s probably because of his and Benoit’s death that weapon shots to the head are now banned in the WWE.
4 Lex Luger
Lex Luger had everything that Vince McMahon wanted for in a superstar in the 90’s. He was a former football player, had the physique for a top level athlete and this convinced Vince to push him through the roof after he joined the company in 1993. He was groomed to be Hulk Hogan’s successor but his push was heavily negated by the fans who didn’t really like him and were forced to cheer for him. This stopped his rise in success, as he was slowly transitioned into a mid-carder and left the WWF to jump ship to the WCW. Luger would be the anti-NWO guy and was pushed into a main-event scene quite a lot. Luger was done for with the turn of the millennium and found himself on a dark phase personally as well. In 2003, Luger was charged with assaulting his girlfriend and later again arrested for driving without a license. His girlfriend died soon after this incident taking in too many drugs at the same time and Luger was again arrested for the possession of many kinds of drugs, including growth hormones. In 2005, he was detained for trying to illegally leave the country, and served four months in jail. Luger would get a spinal infection in 2007 and become permanently paralyzed for some time before going through surgery. He is now a born-again Christian who works with WWE in their wellness policy, preventing other wrestlers from making the same mistakes he did.
3 Mr. Perfect
"Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig would be one of the pioneers of the cocky heels in the WWE, as he would proclaim himself as being better than anyone else. He was pushed quite heavily in his earlier days, being undefeated for over a year after debuting his “Mr. Perfect” gimmick. Perfect then hired Bobby “The Brain” Heenan as his manager and won the Intercontinental Championship and was the man of the mid-card for over two years. He then got injured and served some time as a color commentator, before returning as a face. Perfect continued to put on amazing matches and compelling feuds, before he left in 1996 to join WCW. He became a part of the “Four Horsemen” to take on the NWO, but struggled to stay relevant after it. He would return to the WWE for another stint but that would be derailed with the “Plane Ride From Hell” incident where a drunk Mr. Perfect had a physical confrontation with Brock Lesnar. While working for TNA, Mr. Perfect would suddenly be found dead in a hotel room. It was reported to be because of acute cocaine intoxication, as he was a heavy drug addict who also used to take pain-killers and steroids. His Legacy is continued by son Curtis Axel, but Hennig’s personal journey is anything but “Perfect”.
2 Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Jake Roberts was one of the most unique characters in wrestling history, as he carried around a live snake with him and terrorized everyone with it. The inventor of the DDT, Jake was quite the vicious heel during his days in the late 80’s/early 90’s and often competed in the main event scene against the likes of Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant etc. Roberts would be an asset for Vince McMahon, and ended up leaving the company for a more lucrative offer from the WCW. He survived there for only a year and soon returned to the WWE, putting over Steve Austin who created his “Stone Cold” gimmick by defeating him. After being released again, Jake started to wrestle indy events and his life went sideways because of his reckless lifestyle. Things got so bad for him in 2004 that he let his snake “Damien” starve to death. In 2007, he was put into rehab by the WWE who sponsored it and with the help of good friend DDP, he has been drug free since 2012. In 2014, he had massive health problems as he was diagnosed with muscular cancer (from which he recovered) and then also got double pneumonia. His deteriorating health is mostly because of the bumps he took in his wrestling days and because of drug-addiction, but “The Snake” seems to be okay right now.
1 Scott Hall
“The Bad Guy” Razor Ramon’s personal journey throughout the years can easily tear up fans of the charismatic superstar. With his Razor Ramon gimmick through which he would become one of the cockiest, coolest heels of all time, Scott Hall elevated in the wrestling world and entranced many with his charisma and was the force of the Intercontinental championship during the mid-90’s. He had it all to be a main-event superstar but wasn’t given the opportunity and gave in to the lucrative offer to jump ship to WCW with good friend Kevin Nash. There, he would create the iconic New World Order with Nash and Hulk Hogan and they would become the best thing about wrestling for almost two years and kept WCW above WWE for quite a while. Hall would return to the WWE after WCW folded, reuniting with Nash and Hogan to create WWE’s version of the NWO and facing Stone Cold at WrestleMania X8. He would then have stints at TNA, during which his personal problems got really, really bad. Hall was first arrested in 2008 during the roast of Iron Sheik, where he was caught snorting coke. After being released by TNA in 2010, he would be sent into a WWE paid rehab. Afterwards, he was arrested twice in 3 years and was having the worst time of his life as he was in the hospital various times with seizures, pneumonia etc. In 2011, ESPN featured a documentary on Hall’s addiction issues and the difficult times he had in the past few years. Since then, with DDP and The Kliq’s help he recovered physically and is also drug free since 2013, but his self-destructing nature doesn’t ensure that he won’t try to go into that dark phase again.