Nobody wants to go broke, yet people get so used to the good life and always having money thanks to a stable source of income that they ignore any signs of uncertainty and go bankrupt anyway. During a scene in Ernest Hemingway's first novel "The Sun Also Rises" there is this exchange between two characters: "How did you go bankrupt? Two ways, gradually and then suddenly".
It's hard to find a better representation in literature or movies of the way people lose all of their money. As their resources continue to shrink there's still hope of turning things around. This hope lives on until there's nothing left in the bank account or even in the pocket. It's good to be confident, but overconfidence is a curse.
This mentality applies to all social and business levels, as everybody has hope, and some people even certainty, that this will not happen to them. Well, it will and it does. Even to strong, heroic characters like your favourite wrestlers. In the ring they are like gods - big, strong and charismatic. As long as they're in their prime, they remain paid, however, the formula eventually stops working and they either reinvent themselves or cling to that image of invincibility for way too long, and in the end have to suffer the consequences.
The athletes mentioned in this list were world class talent and they were well compensated for their abilities. However, due to circumstances beyond their control or questionable decisions they eventually fell off. Most of them are still trying to recover.
Surprise, surprise, doing questionable things on film did not help the former Degeneration-X star get set for life. He has done quite a few things that aren't very smart, including partaking in some serious substance abuse. He was athletic, explosive and unafraid of anything. The only thing that did bring him fear were his own personal demons, which fans eventually became aware of. One of the faces of the Attitude Era, X-Pac is still fondly remembered by many fans. He wasn't able to get the financial stability that his DX counterparts were able to secure though. He was lucky enough to survive his addiction and now lives a rather regular, retired life while still making appearances in the indies.
14 Lex Luger
Luger looked like a true superstar. He had a perfectly chiseled physique and the blonde hair, which made him look like an all-American hero. The Buffalo native has made quite a career for himself and his arrival from WWF to WCW was a shock for most fans of the sport. He might've looked great, but his life outside the ring was far from that. While steroids were somewhat "suspected" in his case - his muscles were too perfect - Luger also abused drugs. His girlfriend, the beautiful Miss Elizabeth, died of a drug overdose in 2003, but that didn't stop his addiction. He lived so recklessly that in 2008 he was forced to spend a whole year in a wheelchair. His health issues and addiction left him bankrupt, which makes his current occupation kind of understandable - Luger works with the WWE on its wellness policy.
13 Ric Flair
The Nature Boy is not higher on this list because his net worth is still estimated at around $5 million, even though he's no longer the stylin' n' profilin' star that he was in the 80s and 90s. The fact that he had to come back from retirement because he needed money is proof that Ric really needs it, although not as much now. TNA paid him "just" $22,000 - a far cry from what he was earning in his prime. Flair owed money to the IRS and paid for his divorce settlements. He declared bankruptcy in 2008. He's appearing anywhere he can, including sports locker rooms, where he serves as a motivator to other athletes. The image that Richard Fliehr created for himself proved way too costly for the man behind the pseudonym to uphold. Everywhere he went, the Nature Boy had to make a show of himself. This obviously meant reckless spending at every bar he frequented.
12 Nick Gage
Just like the other man operating under a very similar nickname, Nick Gage is broke. While Nicolas Coppola tries to bounce back doing actual, legal acting work, Nicholas W. Wilson decided to make things right by robbing a bank in 2010. Before this very ill-advised act he was an established (albeit not mainstream) wrestler, and was very well known to Combat Zone Wrestling fans. Unfortunately, he was also an addict with some very serious debts. The bank robbery failed and Gage got a five year prison sentence in 2011. He got out in November of 2015 and came back to wrestling. He's currently a member of Game Changer Wrestling's roster. Hopefully they pay him a little better than his last employer does.
Virgil is the poster child for broke wrestlers who don't know what else to do, as he's universally known for the things he's willing to do for money. He asks fans for it on every occasion. It's actually surprising that his handshake doesn't come with an invoice. He was never a superstar, but rather a jobber, as he was more known for showing up next to the ring than actually entering it. Virgil was the bodyguard for Ted DiBiase and later reprised that role for Hollywood Hogan. The man has been asking for handouts for so long that he eventually became a meme - Lonely Virgil. It's a bit sad to laugh at a broke guy, but then again, if he'd be willing to work for his money instead of asking for it, some fans may take him more seriously. He could also be nicer in person.
10 Perry Saturn
We're mostly talking about guys acting entitled and being reckless with their money, but Perry Saturn is an honourable exception. The man actually came from the streets and was as tough as they come. He fought for WCW for a while, and in 2000 signed with the WWE, where he lasted just two years. Out of the WWE for some time, Saturn attempted to save a woman from being assaulted and was shot multiple times. During his rehabilitation he got addicted to painkillers and went broke. He ended up where he started at, on the streets. For some time he completely disappeared from the public eye. Fortunately for him, he beat his addiction and reemerged sober and married.
The story of Kamala or Jim Harris, is another that's particularly sad, although this one comes without a happy ending. Kamala, who was presented as an African savage, despite coming from Mississippi, was never a superstar but he was solid and really a fan favourite. Since the early 90s he's been living with diabetes and with time his health worsened. Instead of getting proper treatment, Kamala focused on his wrestling career, which eventually ended due to his illness. In 2011 Harris was forced to amputate his left leg. He lost his right leg just a year later. To earn money he's arguing with the WWE and asking fans for donations. His health only continues to worsen and we can only hope he can stay strong.
8 Haiti Kid
To be honest, the Haiti Kid might as well be a missing person, although there are rumours emerging from time to time that he's still in fact making appearances out there. The last came in 2009, which is a long time ago. Fans actually found the Kid, who was presumed to have passed away, in a homeless shelter in New York. He was born in 1954, which would make him 63 now. He started his wrestling career in the 70s and was a WWE mainstay up until the 90s. Suffering from dwarfism, he was at first used as a babyface, while later on he even fought King Kong Bundy in a tag-team match. It is sad that he couldn't get his life together after a long run with the company.
7 The Dynamite Kid
Tom Billington inspired a whole generation of wrestlers with his explosive, athletic style. The Brit was one of the first mainstream high-flyers, a guy who proved that short guys also could deliver in the ring. In order to make a name for himself Billington was willing to do everything to his body, which meant putting it at risk either by reckless acrobatics or steroid injections. The crowds loved him, but he eventually had to pay the price for his eye-pleasing style: he has a paralyzed leg and heart problems. Seeing him in the wheelchair is a reminder why athletes are actually lucky to walk away from wrestling in full health and a full bank account.
6 Abdullah The Butcher
Another guy that makes it hard to feel sympathetic towards him is Abdullah the Butcher, an ECW pioneer of brutality, blood and violence. He was stabbing his opponents with a fork, which had to hurt, but simultaneously made watching his matches an experience, which was in high demand for fans of the more brutal entertainment. The problem though is that he had Hepatitis C and actually transmitted the disease to other wrestlers during his matches. He lost a couple of lawsuits and is now broke, asking his fans for money to pay his debts. Clearly they're reluctant to do so, as what he did was not very prudent. In this case he should find a new line of work to raise funds as the wrestling community may not be behind him.
5 Tony Atlas
To make things a little less depressing, here's the story of Tony Atlas, a wrestling Hall of Famer who was able to turn his life around, although recently he has fallen on hard times again. In the 1980s Atlas was not only respected as a wrestler, but also a bodybuilder. Unfortunately he got into some substance abuse and ended up living on the streets. Vince McMahon saved him and got him a job in the organization. In 2006 he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, which shows how not only the fans, but more so the McMahons, value him. It seems that he may be in need of their help yet again, as recently rumours of Atlas asking fans for money during autograph signings continue to emerge.
4 Jake "The Snake" Roberts
Thanks to Diamond Dallas Page and the WWE's rehab sponsor program, Jake Roberts isn't any longer addicted to drugs, but he's still living a modest life in comparison to the more reckless lifestyle of his prime. Always the fan favourite, Roberts was charismatic on the microphone and very skilled in the ring. He was universally beloved by fellow wrestlers as well, but didn't love himself enough to face his personal demons. He became addicted to many substances, which, along with promiscuity, destroyed his personal relationships. He even needed a go-fund-me to pay for some surgery he needed. He's now trying to help fellow wrestlers and other addicts by touring the country and speaking to his former supporters.
Another WWE name that embarked on a "career" in "film", Sunny actually has the credentials to make it big in the industry. She was involved with, among others: Shawn Michaels, British Bulldog and Dolph Ziggler. She was a big name in WCW and WWE in the 1990s, causing a lot of trouble inside and outside the ring. Unable to cope with no longer being a big name in wrestling, Sunny started drinking heavily and lost all of her money. WWE helped her with her rehab payments and thanks to that she has turned her life around. Well, that is if you can call doing "film" and giving live "sessions" on Skype to fans a turnaround. At least she's not broke, so it's somewhat of an improvement.
2 Joey Mercury
Adam Birch is another example of a wrestler who made the most of his second chance with the WWE. Mercury fought tooth and nail on his way to the top and finally got his wish once he joined the biggest wrestling organization in the world in 2004 and was willing to do everything to keep this dream alive. This meant also performing in risky matches, during one of which he suffered a very serious injury that could have taken his life. He was treated with painkillers, for which he developed a very strong affinity. Apart from abusing alcohol and less-serious drugs, it was the opioids that were his downfall. He was released by the company in 2007, after his life spiralled out of control. In 2010 he came back to the organization, sober, and has been working behind the scenes ever since.
1 Hulk Hogan
Once on top of the world with his incredible turnaround as the Hollywood Hogan - the complete opposite of what he stood for throughout his whole career - and own reality show, Terry Bollea looked like he couldn't lose, never. Eventually though things went very sour for him. His wife divorced him, his "private" tape went viral and the Hulkster himself was accused (with hard evidence) of racism. He might not be broke anymore after winning a lawsuit against Gawker, but he's no longer the superstar he was in the past. His divorce itself seriously crippled his finances and confidence, as he even considered taking his own life, which made his ferocious battle against Gawker all the more understandable.