As sad as it is, drugs and wrestling go hand in hand. Just like any other facet of the entertainment industry, pro wrestling has a lot going on behind the scenes that fans often only hear about through rumors. But these things have a way of coming out, and one thing that we’ve known about for a long time is the pitfalls of substance abuse in the industry. It’s a rabbit hole that many find themselves going down and one that some sadly don’t return from. Be it alcohol, meth, painkillers or steroids, there have been wrestlers that have fought at least one of these kinds of addictions.
But while there are some who never made it back there are those who managed to recover. We love rooting for the underdog and what’s a better underdog story than someone who’s managed to bring themselves back from the brink and recover. It hasn’t been easy for any of these wrestling stars but they’ve recovered. Maybe they’ve relapsed in the past but they’re on a better path now. They’ve all found something to hold onto and have made impressive turnarounds, some saving their careers and others salvaging their lives. Let’s take a look at 15 wrestling users who managed to get clean.
15 Buff Bagwell
As eccentric as he was ridiculous, Buff Bagwell achieved success while a member of the WCW. It might’ve been a great place for him to be professionally, but the rumored drug problems that riddled the WCW locker room couldn’t have helped with Bagwell’s own struggles with addiction. Bagwell claims to have suffered from sleep apnea, which left him lethargic throughout the day. In order to remedy this, Bagwell began self-medicating. He began popping pills before doing anything, which quickly turned from dependency to addiction. Once his condition was properly diagnosed, Bagwell received the proper medication. Since leaving the wrestling business he’s reportedly gone into the gigolo business – which seems to suit him. Say what you will about his current career path, but at least he’s clean.
14 David Sammartino
Many second generation wrestlers come into the industry with a lot of expectations. It might not seem fair, but they’re held to a certain standard that some others aren’t when they first start off. Many assumed that David Sammartino would be a big name in the WWF when he started out in the '80s. His father, Bruno, was a well known talent and many expected his son to follow suit. But it seemed that the expectations were too much for the younger Sammartino as he soon took to steroids in hopes of bettering himself as a wrestler. This damaged the relationship he had with his father, though David did eventually manage to get clean and seems as though he’s kicked the habit for good.
13 Perry Saturn
Perry Saturn seems like a pretty decent guy who got dealt a bad hand. Many know the story of Saturn’s heroics that – while admirable – ended up serving as the catalyst for his drug problem. In 2004 Saturn witnessed two men attempting to sexually assault a woman and quickly went to her aid. Though he was successful in fending off the attackers, he was shot twice, once in the neck and once in the shoulder. The pain that followed these injuries led to Saturn developing a crystal meth addiction. It ruined him and deeply affected his relationship with his family. After falling off the map, Saturn emerged clean and drug free. A good ending for an all around good guy.
12 Hardcore Holly
Bob Howard went by many names throughout his time with the WWF/E. But most remember him as Hardcore Holly. Holly wasn’t all that popular in the locker room, but he was always a bit of a throwback. No one could deny his talent either. However Holly reportedly had a bit of a temper problem and his struggles with drugs certainly didn’t help that. Like so many before him, Holly became addicted to painkillers after years of sustaining physical abuse. After his departure from the WWE in 2009, rumors started swirling around that his affinity for painkillers was at least part of the reason. But he seems ok now, and has actually released a tell-all autobiography.
11 Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle might just be one of the most popular wrestlers of his time, but his struggles with drugs and alcohol have created a dark cloud over what should have been an incredible career. After getting his start in the wrestling business in 1996, Angle soon found himself with the WWF. He left them eight years later and went on to have a memorable TNA run. Angle battled his addictions throughout most of his wrestling career, and while he’s taken control of his life, moving on as the new GM of RAW, he did admit that there was a time in his life that he was in a really bad place.
“You know, when you screw up so many times, your reputation is destroyed. It doesn’t matter how good you are or how much the fans want you back. If you’re a publicly traded company, you’re looking at Kurt Angle and saying, ‘Okay, he’s been in a lot trouble with drugs. He’s had four DUI’s. He’s out of control.”
Thankfully, Angle looks to be back on track and should have a successful career moving forward.
10 Kevin Nash
There might be some of you who are surprised to see Kevin Nash on this list, but he’s never been one to shy away from his past with drugs. While underrated as a wrestler, Nash is a former WWE Champion and a WWE Hall of Famer to boot. But sadly, he was active at a time when drugs were incredibly popular among wrestlers. Pills in particular were popular at the time. You can take this with a grain of salt, but Nash once said that he took 32 Somas at once. He also might’ve gone into the ring under the influence. Thankfully Nash has sobered up and looks pretty impressive considering his age. Goes to show how much cleaning yourself up can do for you.
9 Lex Luger
Unlike Nash, Lex Luger hasn’t aged as well over the years, and is one of those wrestlers who look nothing like they did in their prime. Once thought to be the WWF’s successor to Hulk Hogan, Lugar’s initially promising career went off the rails. He soon after left for the WCW and the drug and alcohol problem that was rumored to have been rampant throughout the organization and probably didn’t do much in helping him move past his own demons. He was eventually found guilty of 13 felony counts of drug possession. Though he’s gotten clean since then, his physical state has greatly deteriorated as a result of his prior substance abuse. Still, he’s moved on and seems to be doing better.
8 Rockin' Robin
At one point in time, Rockin’ Robin was one of the better female wrestlers out there. The half-sister of Jake Roberts, she had the talent look and attitude to be a success in the industry. Given her heritage, it’s no surprise that she was a fantastic talent – but it also explains her debilitating drug problem. Just like Jake, Robin struggled with drug and alcohol abuse for most of her life. After leaving the wrestling industry, Robin was unable to shake her demons and continued to struggle with addiction well after. Fortunately, in time she was able to confront her addiction and is currently living a clean and healthy life working as a realtor for her own real estate company based in Louisiana.
7 Jeff Hardy
A great example of how rampant drug use can derail a promising career is the case of Jeff Hardy, one of wrestling’s most passionate performers. Hardy established himself as a wild man throughout his WWE tenure and quickly became popular among fans for his antics in the ring. But it was his antics outside of the ring that got him in trouble with WWE brass. His substance abuse problems led to his release from the WWE. He’d later move on to TNA where he famously fought Sting while under the influence. Thankfully this served as a wakeup call for him and he’s since been sober. His recent return to the WWE has been long requested and will undoubtedly stimulate the fan base.
6 The Iron Sheik
The Iron Sheik is pretty well known for his love of partying, so it should be no surprise to see him pop up on this list. In his prime, he was well known for getting in trouble both with the WWF and the authorities. The root of that problem being his excessive use of both drugs and alcohol. It got considerably worse in 2003 after the death of his daughter. This loss caused him to completely shun his loved ones and turn to a multitude of different drugs ranging from marijuana to cocaine and even crack. This all changed for the better in 2013 after the Magen brothers got him clean and began handling all his bookings. He’s now back on track and looks better than ever.
5 Scott Steiner
Steroid abuse has run rampant in professional wrestling for years and has had many popular wrestlers fall to addiction. Scott Steiner is the perfect example of why steroids just aren’t worth the risk. The man was built like an ox but doesn’t look all that great nowadays. He was one of the biggest stars in the WCW for a time and had a couple very brief stints with the WWE. But his steroid abuse led to some pretty serious attitude problems throughout his career. It looks as though he’s clean but you have to wonder what long term effects all those drugs are having on him right now. Still, it seems as though he’s sobered up and regardless of what you think of the guy, it’s nice to see him back on track.
4 Randy Orton
Randy Orton has been one of the WWE’s top talents since he first hit the scene back in 2002. But while he’s incredibly popular, Orton hasn’t had a spotless career. He’s been suspended a few times and you have to wonder that anyone else would have had a much tougher time of getting back on their feet. In 2006 he was suspended for smoking marijuana backstage, then once again a year later for steroids and six years after that for a Wellness Policy violation. In 2016 Orton willingly checked himself in to rehab, and apparently impressed Vince McMahon with the move. He’s been great since and has proven to be just as good a competitor while sober.
3 Scott Hall
We’re getting to some of the really big redemption stories in wrestling. While many wrestlers have fallen victim to substance abuse, the amount who’ve managed to overcome it isn’t as high as you’d like it to be. Scott Hall luckily managed to get himself clean after years of abuse. It’s no secret that Hall was an avid user of drugs and alcohol. He’s been arrested for DUI’s in the past and has a history of painkiller use. But that all changed in 2013 when Hall’s friend Diamond Dallas Page helped him on the road to sobriety. Hall’s life reached a turning point and the drug abuse soon after stopped. He’s slipped a few times but has managed to stay sober for the most part and is in much better shape now.
2 Shawn Michaels
While we all know and love Shawn Michaels, had he not sobered up and found religion we’d be talking about him for an entirely different reason. One of the most talented wrestlers in history, Michaels had it all; skill, ability and energy. But his affinity for drugs made things difficult at times. It started to affect how he was perceived and only got worse after his back injury. Thankfully, Michaels found something to grab onto in the form of religion. Michaels was able to look himself over and prioritize what needed to be done in order to get his life back on track. His newfound resolve and perspective on life completely changed him for the better, and we’re very happy for that.
1 Jake Roberts
Of all the people on this list, Jake Roberts is the one that seemed the most far-gone. The Snake was another victim of the party atmosphere that surrounded wrestling in the 80s. While that proved to be a pretty good decade for him, things got out of hand in the 90s. Roberts’ rampant drug and alcohol abuse would severely throw his career off track and things just got worse from there. There was a point in time where he just fell off the map completely. It was in 2012 that he made a genuine attempt at bettering himself. With help from his friend Diamond Dallas Page, Roberts got sober and now enjoys a healthy and productive life.