Many in the WWE Universe use wrestling as a form of escapism. It is something that allows them to ignore the life we are living and for a few hours lets us live in a world of Big Dogs and Lunatic Fringes. For those few hours nothing else in the world matters. It seems that WWE fans are not the only ones who use wrestling as a way to escape, as there are a number of current and former WWE stars who used sports entertainment to escape from what would be considered to be a tragic upbringing.
In many of these cases, it was wrestling that got the stars back on track and it was wrestling that allowed them to be seen as functioning members of society again. It isn't an easy path to success as many of these stars will attest to. Most have already been through a huge amount of problems themselves before they were ever known to the WWE Universe.
The following list looks at just 15 current and former WWE superstars who have had tragic upbringings and have overcome a number of obstacles en route to the WWE.
Edge is an 11-time World Champion in WWE. He is one of the most recognizable wrestlers in WWE's history and definitely one of the most memorable. Edge was forced into retirement back in 2011 and has since managed to build a successful career as an actor and television personality instead.
Edge's fortunes could have been very different, as the Rated R Superstar was another victim of a broken family. Edge still has yet to ever meet his biological father and because his mother was a single parent she was forced to work two jobs so Edge was often left to his own devices. Edge spent a lot of time with his aunt and uncle growing up but when his uncle died in a car accident, it seems that Edge had no more male role models in his life and was forced to grow up surrounded by females.
14 CM Punk
CM Punk was the self-proclaimed "Best in the World" when it came to wrestling. He was the longest reigning WWE Champion of the modern era at 434 days. While this impressive reign certainly supports his claim, he eventually left the company in 2014 after a number of disputes about storylines.
Punk has always been a star who has told it like it is. It seems that Punk is also that kind of person in his everyday life. He didn't have a conventional upbringing since his father struggled with alcoholism. This made Punk decide to go straight edge because he never wanted to end up like his father. Punk was basically adopted by his best friend's family because his family was never really around for him. He broke into the wrestling business when he was quite young as a way to escape from it.
R-Truth may be one of the most confident WWE superstars that the company has right now and a man who is considered a veteran in the wrestling business, but Truth's life wasn't always trending toward success.
Truth was born in a very poor neighbourhood, with many of his friends and family living in poverty. The only way that the former United States Champion's family could get by was if his father sold cannabis. Truth helped his father out a number of times and even dropped out of school because he wanted to escape his downtrodden life to pursue music. This didn't work out and Truth instead had to continue dealing drugs, something that he later spent 13 months in jail for when he was arrested by police. Luckily when he was released he met Jimmy Crockett at a half way house and he helped to turn his life around.
12 Roddy Piper
The late, great Rowdy Roddy Piper could be considered to be one of the best wrestlers in the world to this day. Roddy is rightly a WWE Hall of Famer and a WWE legend who has an incredible story when it comes to his route to the top of the promotion.
Roddy and his father had an tenuous relationship to say the least. When he was expelled from school at a young age for carrying a switchblade, that was the final straw for his father and after a huge argument Roddy walked out and hit the open road. He had no idea where he was going or what to do, but evidently he managed to find his own version of success and was able to show his father that he didn't need school to be successful in life.
11 AJ Lee
AJ Lee was a woman who skipped into the lives of the WWE Universe only to skip back out and leave a gap that WWE hasn't been able to fill since. AJ was a talented performer but she was an even more talented actress.
AJ suffers from bipolar disorder, something that her mother had while she was growing up. Her mother would often lashed out at her, but the condition was not diagnosed until much later in her life. AJ's family was very poor when she was growing up. They were homeless a number of times and AJ recalled times where she lived in her car or where the family lived in a motel. AJ would even forego eating so that she could afford to try-out for WWE. Thankfully she made the cut and was able to pay her sister back the money she borrowed when she was officially signed.
10 Roderick Strong
Roderick Strong has finally made his way to WWE after years of being a stand out competitor in both Ring of Honour and on the Independent Circuit. Strong is currently making a name for himself in NXT but could make his way to the main roster in the near future.
Of course, it wasn't always this way for Strong. He grew up with parents who were addicted to drugs and had a number of problems during childhood because he was bullied for his weight. Strong managed to turn all of this around and found a way to turn the fat into muscle and become a well-known wrestler. It would definitely have felt good for Strong to return to his old neighbourhood and show the children who bullied him what he has done with his life.
Batista isn't just known as a wrestler anymore. He is also known as a movie star after landing starring roles in both James Bond's Spectre and Guardians of The Galaxy. It was wrestling that allowed Batista to become a household name and it all stemmed from him using bodybuilding as his form of escapism.
Batista's parents divorced when he was quite young. He came from a very poor neighbourhood and recalled how he had seen three people murdered in his front yard before he was nine-years-old. Batista later got in with the wrong crowd and at 13 he was stealing cars for a living. His life was turned around when he got into bodybuilding and later met "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig at a bodybuilding show and helped Batista make the switch over to wrestling.
8 Booker T
Booker T is a Legend in WWE and a superstar who has been able to successfully make the switch to being a full-time commentator on the Raw brand. Booker joins this list because much like many of the other stars here, he had a very tragic life before finding redemption in WWE.
Booker was the youngest of eight children, but by the time he was just 14, both of his parents had died and Booker was then left in a position where he fell in with the wrong crowd. Somehow they convinced Booker to carry out a number of armed robberies in Wendy's restaurants along with three of his friends, which later lead to Booker's arrest as well as being sent to prison for 19 months. Booker joined a wrestling school when he got out of prison and began working on turning his life around.
7 AJ Styles
AJ Styles is considered by many to be the best wrestler in the world right now. He has managed to prove himself in Impact Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor and now has finally made it to WWE.
AJ's upbringing was not as phenomenal as his wrestling career though. Styles grew up in a very poor household, where he was unable to watch wrestling because his parents couldn't afford cable and his alcoholic father was abusive to him from a young age. However, AJ wasn't brought down by the negative environment, as he was able to fight to get out of the poverty he was born into and become one of the most popular wrestlers in the world. AJ truly is phenomenal.
6 Ric Flair
Ric Flair is the biggest legend the WWE has ever seen. He is a record setting 16-time World Champion and the only two-time WWE Hall of Famer in history, but it seems that even the great Nature Boy had a few obstacles to overcome in his early years.
Flair was stolen from the hospital as a baby and was raised in a children's home for much of his life, something that must have been extremely tough. Flair was later adopted and became part of a loving family, but it seems that he still had a number of issues. Ric began drinking at a young age and at one point even took his parent's car without permission, which could be why they opted to send him to a boarding school to straighten him out.
5 Dean Ambrose
Dean Ambrose is a former WWE Champion and one of the original members of The Shield. He has only been in WWE for five years now but it seems he has made quite the impression. Like many other WWE stars, Dean didn't have a great childhood, and he essentially raised himself from a young age.
Ambrose's family came from a poor background and he spent most of his life in public housing. Ambrose's father was absent for his entire upbringing, and he was forced to use wrestling as a way to escape his real life. Ambrose dropped out of school at 16 when he decided that he wanted to be a wrestler and has been pursuing his dream ever since. Ambrose was able to finally move his mother out of public housing in Cincinnati a few years ago when he bought her a house of her own with the money he made from his WWE contract.
4 Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch is a member of NXT's famous Four Horsewomen, even though she is the only member who was unable to lift the NXT Women's Championship. Becky has since gone on to become the inaugural SmackDown Women's Champion, and a pivotal member of the SmackDown women's division, which seems to have silenced many of her doubters.
Becky was born in Ireland and was quite talented when it came to a number of sports. Despite this, Becky was heading down a dark path when she managed to get in with the wrong crowd and began drinking and experimenting with marijuana. Luckily Becky was able to find wrestling and put this rough patch behind her when she met Finn Balor, who helped her to become the wrestler she is today.
3 Jake 'The Snake' Roberts
Jake "The Snake" Roberts is a WWE legend and rightful WWE Hall of Famer, but while Jake has endured an incredible amount of health problems over the past few years, these don't compare to the drama that he faced while growing up.
Roberts has revealed that he was abused in a variety of ways by family members from a very young age and turned to alcohol to numb the pain when he was just 11-years-old. He was forced to move on to something much stronger when he was just 18 which included much stronger illegal drugs. Roberts has revealed that many of his promos were easy to do because he had become very good at lying from a young age it was his only defence against the abuse that he endured for a number of years.
2 Rich Swann
Rich Swann is a former Cruiserweight Champion and one of the stars who helped to light up Tuesday nights on 205 Live. Swann's story is a relatively well-known one, and the company used it a number of times while pushing him towards Championship gold.
Swann overcame a number of obstacles to make it to WWE, one of them being his own family. Swann's father was abusive from a young age and was sadly murdered by his girlfriend when Swann was still quite young. Rich's mother had a mental breakdown and Swann was sent to live with relatives who refused to allow him to watch wrestling because they thought it was too violent. Swann's mother later passed away and Rich turned to drugs to deal with her passing. It was only when his dealer died of a heart attack that Swann opened his eyes and with the help of his aunt decided to turn his life around.
X-Pac is fondly remembered from WWE's Attitude Era as a founding member of D-Generation-X, but since his WWE departure he has continued to work on the Independent Circuit all over the world and is still considered an active wrestler to this day.
X-Pac has one of the saddest stories when it comes to his upbringing, a story that he was only able to tell a few years ago since what happened to him was considered a crime. From the age of 5 to the age of 20 X-Pac was repeatedly abused and molested by both male and female authority figures in his life, one of which was a male who first introduced him to wrestling. It took the former DX member a long time to be able to share what happened with his close friends, but now he is part of organizations that help children who were in the same position as he was.