Wrestling, by its very nature, is an over-the-top spectacle where fans have come to expect the unexpected with the presentation of the show designed to anger, excite, and keep everyone on the edge of their seat. But we all silently have a contract with the wrestlers and each other that it’s just a show. We’ll let guys prance around in their underwear pretending to hate each other as long as we all understand there’s a guy under the Boogeyman makeup and Hillbilly Jim doesn’t actually wear those overalls when he’s not in the ring. We like the escapist entertainment and until the Internet decided to pull back the curtain, fans knew very little about who these wrestlers were in real life.
But then, in the mid-90s, a pre-World Wide Web newsgroup called rec.sport.pro-wrestling was launched on a young Internet and suddenly wrestling was never seen the same way again because as it turned out, what happened behind the scenes and in the private lives of wrestlers was far more entertaining than anything the WWE was putting on our screens. The wrestling industry was not amused and started bellyaching the Internet was bad for business. We all know now they were wrong. With a heightened awareness on the business, wrestlers had to stop acting like hooligans when they left shows and started to be tested for illegal substances, so years of drug abuse started to be curtailed.
Still, there are incidents, stories or just off-the-wall situations that still stop wrestling fans dead in their tracks because shocking incidents behind the scenes are never expected like they are in the ring. Whether they make us laugh or cringe, it’s part of what makes being a wrestling fan such an interesting experience. In this list we took a list of wrestlers who are somehow tied to the 1990s. They may have retired in 1990, had their best decade, or just began training in 1999 but they were involved in wrestling during the decade. Here are 20 shocking things you didn’t know about your favorite wrestlers of the ’90s
18 Goldust Offered To Get Breast Implants
The Goldust character, as played by Dustin Runnels, is one of the longest surviving characters in WWE, behind only The Undertaker and Mark Henry as far as the active roster goes. In the beginning he was portrayed as a crazy person who loved old Hollywood, quoting films from the 1930s. It was off-the-chain weird, so they made it weirder. He dropped a lot of the Hollywood quotes, but took on real-life wife Marlena as manager and suddenly was a hyper-sexual character, sometimes kissing his male opponents or rubbing up against them suggestively. Still, the character ran its course as almost all weird characters do. Runnels, hoping to bring himself back to relevancy, went to Vince McMahon with the offer that he would get breast implants for $1 million. The story goes that McMahon briefly considered the idea, but came to the conclusion a male wrestler with female breasts might not play well to their audience.
17 Booker T Did 19 Months in Jail for Robbing Wendy’s
Yeah, we don’t like the square burgers either, but it’s no reason to steal from the fast food joint. WWE Network has a decent documentary where Booker T talks about his rough upbringing as the youngest of eight kids growing up in a single-parent home in Houston. As a teen, he got a job at Wendy’s. He learned the ins and outs of the system and began robbing restaurants in the area. He was caught in part because investigators knew it was an inside job...and because Booker T didn’t bother to take off his Wendy’s uniform when he was robbing them. Getting caught on a security came with your uniform and nametag suggests maybe a change in career is a good idea. He got lucky with 19 months because his sentence was five years for aggravated robbery. Once he got out, brother Stevie Ray pushed him toward wrestling and Booker T’s rap sheet thankfully stopped being built as he went to work on a wrestling resume instead.
16 Hardy Shows Why You Don’t Wrestle Intoxicated
Jeff and Matt Hardy were one of the premier tag teams of the late 1990s in WWE, breathing life into a tag-team division that had been dead a decade and doing things we’d never seen before. The duo eventually split with Jeff getting the bigger of the push, becoming a part of the championship picture for a stretch of time until violating the WWE Wellness Policy. With no intention of addressing his alleged painkiller usage, he was released and picked up by TNA where their chemical usage policy appears to be much more liberal. The problems, including an arrest when police found a boatload of drugs at his North Carolina home, didn’t stop TNA from putting their world championship on Hardy. That decision came back to haunt them when Hardy was scheduled to wrestle Sting in the main event of a pay-per-view. Hardy showed up at the building a mess but was still allowed to get in the ring. Sting was visibly agitated and had a roughly one-minute match before bailing. Hardy was suspended for a short time by the company and thankfully, years later, appears to have his addictions in check.
15 Sid Vicious Stabbed Arn Anderson 20 Times
It’s a freaky headline to read because you wonder how Anderson survived, but it’s also important to point out Anderson got four of his own shots in. The weapon for each men was a pair of scissors. The two were on a tour in the UK - where apparently the alcohol content in the drinks is much higher in the US since it’s where all wrestlers seem to have their drunken exploits - and a discussion turned into an argument between the two at the hotel bar. The two were separated and went to their rooms. It’s unclear who started the brawl that followed but both were rushed to the hospital with multiple puncture wounds. Vicious was scheduled for a world title run after returning from the tour but was instead released because many wrestlers who witnessed the situation said Vicious was at fault. Sid returned to WCW years later before suffering a full-time career ending injury. Check out the video on YouTube and ask yourself if you believe in karma.
14 Even Ric Flair Doesn’t Know What His Real Name Is
Ric Flair has talked a little bit about being adopted in interviews and his autobiography and one of the most interesting aspects is that although he knows he was given a name by his birth mother, he has no idea what it was. The Fliehr family adopted him and moved to Minneapolis when the newly-named Richard was just a child, but Flair was actually just as southern as any of the fans attending NWA shows in the ’80s. If you want to hear about a horror story of a child welfare system, do a little research on the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. It was supposed to help children who needed families, but investigations proved that it was allegedly involved with kidnapping children in the 1950s and finding them parents through black market adoptions. The records from Flair’s orphanage days have been destroyed, but some documents show his first name was Fred. As far as his last name, it could have been Phillips, Stewart or Demaree, but it’s unclear.
13 Shawn Michaels Posed in Playgirl
If you’re looking for the biggest personal change and growth from any person ever to step between the ropes, it’s got to be with Michael “Shawn Michaels” Hickenbottom. When he started in the mid-80s, he was like any other young, good-looking wrestler in that he was very popular with the ladies. As his star rose through the ’90s, he became a founding member of the crass Degeneration-X. Following a back injury, Michaels developed an addiction to prescription drugs. Then one day, he found God. The process of being born again is detailed in his book Wrestling For My Life but if you’re looking for the story about the time he took off all of his clothes for Playgirl magazine, you’re not going to find it. Now a devout Christian, the guy who posed nearly nude is someone the current Shawn Michaels would like to forget about.
12 The President of the United States is in the WWE Hall of Fame
Technically not a wrestler, but come on! There was a time when we just saw Donald Trump as an ego-stroking self promoter who was mildly entertaining when participating in mainstream media. We still see him the same way, but now he has nuclear weapons at his disposal. Whether you love or hate the new President, you can’t take away his accolades, most notably his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. Trump isn’t like fellow Hall-of-Famer Drew Carey who participated with the WWE once and seemed embarrassed the entire time. Trump hosted and attended two early WrestleManias at his Atlantic City hotel and casino and participated in a long storyline that saw him “purchase” Monday Night RAW. Humorously, some thought the on-air story was real and started dropping their stock. He “bought back” the company, but Trump continued to appear, culminating in a match between Bobby Lashley and Umaga. As a result of Umaga’s loss, Vince McMahon had his head shaved bald. Don’t you feel better about the fate of the free world now?
11 Kamala Was More Songwriter, Less Ugandan Headhunter
There are some wrestlers who play their character so well, you’re lead to believe it must be half-true. After all, aren’t John Cena, Bret Hart and Randy Orton just being themselves in there? From his early days in Tennessee wrestling, Kamala did the exact same thing under the exact same name his entire career with no deviation. He always had a white-masked “handler” named Kim-Chee or Friday, always painted two stars and a moon on his belly and never did more in an interview than howl like a wounded animal. Well, fast-forward to today and the world of the Internet and you can buy Kamala’s country music. The Artist Formerly Known As Kamala has produced over 100 songs since the early ’90s. Unfortunately, he also had to have both of his legs amputated because of diabetes. One of those wrestlers who never saved his money, the real-life James Harris now lives off disability checks and the occasional wrestling-related appearance.
10 Sandman Wrestled a Match Even Though He "Died" Earlier That Day
There are conflicting versions of the story that leads to this entry although everybody seems to agree on one thing: The same day that he died of a drug overdose, Sandman wrestled on an ECW show in Milwaukee. Allegedly, Rhyno comes running into the dressing room a couple of hours prior to a show and tells Tommy Dreamer that Sandman has overdosed on the pain medication Nubain and is dead in his car. Dreamer, Rhyno and Bill Alfonso rushed Sandman to a nearby hospital, dropping him off at the front door of the emergency room, saying they found a dead body and returning to the building. Doctors revived Sandman with a shot of adrenaline to the heart, Pulp Fiction-style. After being brought back to life, Sandman left the hospital, returning to the building in time for his match. What exactly happened is still up for debate, but this is allegedly how things went down. Forget The Undertaker. Sandman is the real Dead Man.
9 The WWE Roster Implodes 30,000 Feet in the Air
There are incidents in wrestling that everybody knows about by just a couple of words: “Madison Square Garden Curtain Call” or “Montreal Screwjob” are two such phrases. Another that has never had a lot of attention was “The Plane Ride from Hell” when a large number of WWE wrestlers went simultaneously crazy on a flight from the UK to the United States following a long tour. The body count was stunning: Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig goaded Brock Lesnar into a mid-flight wrestling match in the aisle, almost landing on an emergency exit door. Hennig was fired. Goldust wouldn’t stop singing to ex-wife Terri Runnels (Marlena) until Jim Ross forced him. Goldust’s contract ran out shortly thereafter and he was not resigned. JBL and Michael Hayes got into a drunken argument. Later on, Sean Waltman thought Hayes was in the wrong, so he cut off the Freebird’s trademark mullet. You also had Ric Flair parading up and down the aisles in nothing but a robe harassing flight attendants. We don’t know if it was a WWE-exclusive charter, but we would have paid more money for tickets on that flight than front row at WrestleMania.
8 George “The Animal” Steele Was A High School Teacher
George “The Animal” Steele was toward the end of his career in the early ’90s making only sporadic appearances as a giant lovable goofball, but at one point in his career he was considered a dangerous, crazy beast. Back then, he could only appear that way in the summer because the rest of the year he was a high school teacher and football coach. When he first broke into the business in the late 1960s, he wore a mask and was known as The Student both to keep his identity secret, but also as an inside joke to those who knew the man behind the mask, Jim Meyers. He eventually removed the hood, which confused many of the students he dealt with nine months of the year. He’s told the story during many interviews about how students would come up to him and say, “You look like George ‘The Animal’ Steele” and he would tell them: “You think I’m as ugly as that guy!”
7 It’s a Fine Line Between Road Rage and Roid Rage
Ric Flair’s name pops up on almost every wrestling list because he is probably the most well-rounded wrestler in the history of the sport. Old timers will point to Lou Thesz and the little kids like John Cena, but for the 1980s and 1990s, Flair was the gold standard. Since then, his life has been one marriage after another, big alimony payments, frequent financial peril and doing what he needs to do to make ends meet. Clearly, he was having a bad night in November 2005. According to police reports, Flair was among many stuck in slow moving traffic near his home in Charlotte, North Carolina. When a driver in the rear view mirror flashed his high beams, Flair simply stopped, got out of his car, walked back to the flasher and grabbed him by the neck. Flair also kicked a dent into the other driver's’ car. Flair faced a couple of misdemeanours, but came out of the situation with little more than a slap on the wrist.
5 Stone Cold Can Be Stone Cold
We all like to believe the guys (and gals) we see on television are just like how they are in real life, but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. There is the extreme example of Chris Benoit or the benign example of Hulk Hogan’s sex tape - or his lying about steroids. Somewhere in the middle lay the story of Steve Williams, better known the world as Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Texas Rattlesnake is a take-no-crap kind of guy in the ring who will take the law into his own hands. Unfortunately, he allegedly did that back in June 2002 when his then wife Debra Marshall (most notably remembered as Jeff Jarrett’s valet) contacted police from their San Antonio home claiming she had been the victim of domestic violence. Austin pled no contest and was given community service and a year’s probation. The couple divorced not long after the incident.
4 WWE Wrestlers Play American Idol Years Before the Show
As part of the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling connection the WWE spent a decade trying to create albums to mixed reviews. The most memorable is still the original Wrestling Album with the We Are the World-style video of Land of 1,000 Dances as one of the best and worst things to ever happen to wrestling. A sequel to that album came out to much fanfare, but that was largely it in the US for high profile WWE albums. Not so in the UK. WrestleMania: The Album went to No. 10 on the Billboard charts in the UK with songs Slam Jam reaching No. 4 and WrestleMania getting to No. 14 on the UK singles charts. Keep in mind, this is the country that years later would see Fandango’s theme song on the charts. So who was the genius to produce this highly successful album? It was the world’s most notorious reality talent show judge, Simon Cowell. That’s right, before spewing venom on American Idol, wishing people would watch X-Factor or redeeming himself as a national treasure on America’s Got Talent, Cowell was a mid-level record producer assigned to help WWE’s wrestlers cut tracks. Right around the time he turned wrestlers’ singing into album gold, he also worked on a record for the Teletubbies. Remember those fat ba***rds?
3 Big Boss Man, Duke “The Dumpster” Droese and Paul Bearer All Had Their Wrestling 'Jobs' in Real Life
We knew Henry Godwin wasn’t really a farmer, Bob Holly wasn’t really a race car driver, nor was Jacques Rougeau a real Canadian Mountie, but it’s surprising just how many wrestlers from the ’90s who had employment gimmicks actually were based in reality. The most famous is William Moody, better known as Paul Bearer. While he always wanted to be in wrestling, he recognized he needed a fall-back plan and so he went to mortuary school. There’s the Big Boss Man who was a prison security guard played by real-life corrections office Ray Traylor. And then you’ve got sanitation worker Duke “The Dumpster” Droese not having to work too hard on the acting side of things because he actually was a garbage man in the past. They say the best characters are those that are just extensions of one’s true character. In this case, WWE couldn't have nailed it better.
2 AA Should Have Stood for Andre (The Giant) Alcoholic
Tales of Andre the Giant’s drinking are somewhat legendary, but that doesn’t mean they don’t bear repeating. We like to sit around with friends and have a few beers and Andre was no different. With a tough schedule and life on the road, a few drinks was always a nice way to unwind. Except when you’re 7 feet tall and 500 pounds, a few drinks needs to be multiplied, in Andre’s case, by infinity. The stats out there are almost ludicrous, including stories of 120 to 160 beers in a single sitting, a case of wine in three or four hours, falling asleep drunk in a hotel lobby and being left there because nobody could move him, running up tabs over $40,000 and this just start to scratch the surface. We’re not trying to make drinking sound cool, but compared to the average mortal, Andre the Giant could put it away. Maybe he was an alcoholic or not, it’s not really our place to say, but we do know he deserves a place in more than just WWE’s Hall of Fame.
1 Scott Hall Accidentally Murdered a Guy
Most people familiar with addiction will tell you that whether it’s drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling or food, the actual addiction is usually present only to hide even deeper demons. There are few wrestling fans who don’t know the story of Scott Hall’s ongoing battle with alcoholism and he finally revealed in an ESPN documentary about five years ago where a lot of the demons originated. Back in the early 1980s, a pre-wrestling Hall was working in a strip club as a bouncer and bartender in Orlando, Florida. As would happen every once in awhile, a customer got a little too handsy and was tossed out of the club. Instead of walking away, the customer started bashing in car windows. When Hall went to the parking lot to confront him, the two ended up wrestling to the ground. The future Razor Ramon noticed the guy had a gun tucked into his pants and went to reach for it. The two were grabbing for control of the pistol when it went off and the customer was shot in the head. Hall was charged with second degree murder, but the charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence.