Kevin Nash once famously said that the line about wrestlers partying like rock stars isn’t a fair comparison. “I’ve met rock stars, trust me, they don’t party nearly as hard as wrestlers.” It wasn’t as prevalent in the 1950s or ‘60s but as the ‘70s went on, the party styles of wrestlers soon grew larger and larger. The ‘80s, a decade of indulgence, just enhanced it and it increased in the ‘90s as well. Keep in mind, the attitude in the ‘80s towards “casual” drug use was a lot different, guys treating cocaine and heroin as not much different than alcohol. It took some high-profile deaths like Gino Hernandez and others to shake things up but even then, wrestlers would still keep to some hard-partying lifestyles that could affect them in the ring.
It’s been pushed down a bit with WWE wanting a more “family friendly” image and the rise of the Internet allowing fans to know of instances that in the past could have been hushed up. You can understand why guys would go that way. When you’re on the road for the better part of 300 days a year, often dealing with injuries and the pressures of fame, you need some way to unwind and break loose and no wonder some guys let off steam in a wild way. Slews of unvarnished biographies and shoot interviews have wrestlers sharing stories of wild times on the road, some of which are more mind-boggling that what goes on in the ring. While things have become more settled in modern times, wrestling is still filled with stories of guys getting wild in parties yet able to work things out in the ring and remain stars. So here’s a rundown of the 15 most notable party animals wrestling has seen, guys who are famous for putting away the party stuff even as they can wow in the ring as well.
15. Chris Jericho
He’s a wrestler AND a rock star. That’s more than enough to earn you a major party rep and Jericho lived up to both. His books cite numerous tales of wild times on the road and he enjoys talking of partying with Cena and others and loves to tell the story of a drunk Cena managing to play marriage counselor to a couple at a bar. Jericho is smart not to get too out of control but clearly loves to go wild in both his lifestyles so no wonder hanging with Y2J promises on hell of a good time.
Hang with Ric Flair and you’re bound to gain a party image. Batista may have entered wrestling late but soon proved himself behind the scenes with some wild times. It did lead to some trouble with his ego but Batista was able to handle himself even as his “Animal” namesake seemed to point as much to his backstage stuff as in the ring. Throw in his partying as a Hollywood star and it’s obvious Big Dave is a guy folks love to hang with and have a good time, if a bit intense.
13. Hulk Hogan
Stories of his party style aren’t as common as others on this list. But come on. The man was THE star of wrestling in the ‘80s and ‘90s and a big push in Hollywood as well. There is no way you can hang at those levels at that time and not indulge in some wild party stuff. Hogan was smart not to let it affect him too much with his ring work and responsibilities as champion but guys do acknowledge he could drink and such with the best of them. As with much else, Hogan made it about himself, wanting the spotlight at parties and throwing his weight around and it just enhanced his own star power. He wasn’t as flashy about it as others but the Hulkster was as big in the scene as anyone else and still gets into it today with rumors of sex tapes among other skeletons in that big closet.
12. Terry Funk
One of the most famous wild men in wrestling, it’s no shock Funk could be that way in the party world as well. From Texas to Japan, stories are told of Funk’s ways, such as when he openly took a piss in Japan and shrugged it off as being a legend there. Put him and Dusty Rhodes together and you had antics of drunk-driving, fun with horses and cows (no, not like that), womanizing and full-scale bar brawls where Funk proved himself as dirty a fighter for real as in the ring. Throw him into ECW and you can imagine the crazy stuff that followed as even today, the Funker is able to tear a bar down in every way and show the young guys how it’s done.
11. Kerry Von Erich
A lot has been said over how Fritz Von Erich’s refusal to have his sons be seen as anything less than super-heroes contributed to the horrible family tragedies. The fact is, of all the sons, Kerry took to the super-fame of the Dallas wrestling scene more than the other brothers and paid a bigger price for it. He was infamous for drinking and drug use constantly. Ric Flair wrote in his autobiography of Kerry being so high during a match that Flair literally carried him to a decent battle. Yet Fritz refused to see his son’s issues and kept pushing him on and covering for him, which led Kerry to just try and get away with more.
That cost him in the motorcycle accident that took off a foot (which Fritz also insisted on hiding) and his WWE run was short-lived because of his antics. It also led to his sad suicide, yet another black mark for that family and why the Von Erichs are known more for their tragedies than their triumphs.
10. Road Warrior Hawk
The Road Warriors changed the wrestling game forever with their paint, their outfits, interview style and no-selling, a major shift for the entire industry. Given that it was the 1980s, it should be no surprise they indulged in the party lifestyle and Hawk could hang better than most anyone else. The Warriors could be absolute jerks with truly hard-hitting stuff on opponents and were known for real-life “competitions” of beating up guys. Hawk was fueled by hard drug use, a common thing for the Crockett era and could often hurt his judgement. It got worse as the years went on and even addressed on TV shows (in bad ways) as well as cutting short his life. Hawk was a hard rolling guy in real life as much as in the ring and a shame that had to lead to a bad end for one of the greatest teams of all time.
9. Brie Bella
You know you’re a hard partier when your personality earns you a place in the Urban Dictionary. It was already rumored for a while but “Total Divas” showed how Brie could be as crazy and wild a party girl as anyone else in WWE, male or female, as evidenced by “Brie Mode”. Her constant drinking has been touched on as she’s tried to clean up and seems to be better but can still slip into a hard drinking phase now and then that leads to slurs, stumbles and a lot of bad language. If that’s the stuff on camera, you can only imagine how bad she gets when off it.
Oddly, this actually has led to more popularity for her as some guys just can’t resist a gal who can be a truly hot mess. It seems her marriage to Daniel Bryan has toned down her partying ways, as she’s also talked about wanting to start a family soon.
8. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash
Pulled into wrestling at the height of backstage decadence, it should be no surprise Scott Hall and Kevin Nash make this list. When you hang out with mid-‘90s Shawn Michaels, you have to take part in the nightlife and these two were able to hang quite well with plenty of wild times. In shoot interviews, Nash is open about the Kliq and New World Order going on wild drinking binges, weed and more while Hall half-jokes that “Razor Ramon” wasn’t too far off the mark for his real persona. Of course, Hall has gotten the worst of the lifestyle with constant trips to rehab, his part in the infamous “Plane Ride From Hell” escapade and looking ravaged today. Nash may look a bit better but has joked that his “Magic Mike” role is played down compared to his wrestling antics. Together, these friends were quite the party pair and added to their already famous reputations of their time.
7. Gino Hernandez
One of the most underrated heels of all time, the “Handsome Half-Breed” was truly breaking out in World Class in the mid-‘80s with a great playboy style, always flashing expensive cars and clothes. He and Chris Adams were sensational as the hated Dynamic Duo and it worked as Gino’s real party lifestyle wasn’t that far off from his on-screen character. There’s indulging in some recreation and there there’s having a bowl of cocaine right in your living room to dip into at any time as even by the standards of World Class, Gino’s addictions were stunning.
It fueled (in more ways than one) Hernandez’s drive as he and Adams reached high as a team, then a brutal split. But before the feud that would elevate him more took off, Hernandez was found dead in his home in early 1986. While you can blame his addictions for sure, some do claim it was foul play thanks to his various antics. Either way, it was a sad loss for a guy who could have been a huge deal and how the party lifestyle can lead to a bitter end.
6. Jake Roberts
It’s amazing how so many wrestlers have passed on at young ages yet Jake Roberts is still with us. The man’s charisma on the mic and skill in the ring have been overshadowed by his infamous drug use and battles with sobriety, both on and off camera. Stories are told of Jake more than holding his own at various parties and making guys nervous with how much he could take (not to mention the constant keeping of a giant python in hotel rooms). It’s been said that Jake could often be one of those guys drunk or high as hell yet looked totally sober so when he acted up, you knew it was pretty bad. He’s done his best to clean up but his “Pick Your Poison” DVD showcases how easily wrestlers fall into the party lifestyle and the struggle to survive that.
5. Shawn Michaels
It’s notable that HBK himself is the first person to acknowledge what a complete a-hole he was in his prime. The Rockers got their name in the AWA not just for taking off the Rock ‘n Roll Express but also their amazing party ways. Shawn has openly stated he and Marty Jannetty should have been fired a dozen times over for the crap they pulled backstage in the WWE but saved themselves by wowing fans and fellow workers alike with their amazing ring work. It just increased as he broke out as a singles star, drinking and such with the Kliq and that just helped Shawn’s ego swell more and more.
He’s addressed his issues numerous times and how that hurt things with Bret among others and made it harder for people to work with him. He has changed his priorities and cleaned himself up but it should still be remembered that during the ‘90s, Shawn was probably the biggest party animal WWE had seen and “helped” his infamous backstage reputation a lot.
4. Brian Pillman
The common joke is that while you wondered if the letters in “Penthouse Forum” were for real, the truth was that they were all real and all written by Pillman. Even by the standards of fellow workers, Pillman’s stories of affairs on the road are legendary as well as clashes with others, with a famed story of some wrestlers trying to set him up to get beaten by a burly friend only for Pillman to pound the bigger guy into a bloody pulp and even tore out one of his eyeballs.
There was also his clash with Sid Vicious where Pillman beat him down badly and Sid responded by attacking with a squeegee. Pillman could drink anyone under the table and come back for more, a little guy but the party attitude of 10 men. Sadly, this party lifestyle would catch up to Pillman, no doubt helping fuel his mindset when he started his “Loose Cannon” act and later the car accident that hurt him just as he was signed to a big WWE contract. And obviously, it contributed to his too-early death in 1997. To this day, Pillman is considered a party animal like few others and it’s contributed to the legend that’s become his life.
3. Andre the Giant
When you’re seven feet tall and pushing 500 pounds most of the time, it’s no surprise you can hold your own at the bar. The stories of Andre’s antics are legendary; stealing a horse-ridden carriage, using a bathtub for a toilet, engaging in contests with Wilt Chamberlain where they would bench-press Arnold Schwarzenegger and so many more. He would often show up for matches completely drunk and refusing to do the work and no one could do much to sway him because of his size.
Where the Giant went, others followed but even the cast of “The Princess Bride” was hard-pressed to keep up with him as the constant hangovers on that set proved. Andre said he knew he would die at a young age and wanted to live his life to the fullest. As with all else about him, his party life was truly gigantic and one few others can possibly top.
2. The Fabulous Freebirds
Few summed up the hard and wild 1980s wrestling scene better than the Fabulous Freebirds. Together, Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts tore things up in the ring but also behind the scenes. From Texas to Georgia and back, the trio would rock bars and hotels with their style and an attitude of not caring what others thought. This was the group who would land in an airport in Israel and a drunk Roberts yelling out “You SOBs killed Jesus!” to the waiting fans. They were a true rock and roll mentality given life and Hayes himself led them, wilder and hotter than the rest. Gordy could more than match him however, the man a truly skilled worker but also able to party hard with massive drinking and drug taking in bars, often showing up wired as hell yet still able to go. Throw in tours of Japan and Gordy was well known for a hard-living lifestyle which may have contributed to the stroke in 1993 and his eventual death in 2001.
Hayes was always the leader and that was for the party stuff too, getting truly wild with womanizing and drinking. That carried over to his runs in WCW with Jimmy Garvin and he didn’t slow down much in WWE. An infamous 2003 flight had him and Scott Hall getting into a brawl in the air and he was suspended after a WrestleMania 24 party where he told Mark Henry “I’m more of a n—–er” than you.” Hayes is never repentant, never apologizing for his ways and to this day, he can still cut loose with a wild attitude like old and remind everyone why the Freebirds flew so high…in every way of the word.
1. Ric Flair
The obvious choice. Flair himself has half-joked that he’d be a lot richer today if he hadn’t been indulging in the playboy lifestyle during his prime and it shows. Jim Crockett encouraged Flair to live up his character as much as he could and Flair complied, his ultra-expensive suits and such matched by a party style that wowed everyone. He truly was “styling and profiling” with ladies, the Horsemen’s parties so huge that lower-card guys would hang around to get the women the stars passed on and the guys having chartered flights to go to party spots in Miami before wrestling later in Charlotte. Flair himself was able to drink many under the table and indulge himself wildly.
Perhaps the incredible bit is that, despite such partying, Flair was still able to keep to his hectic schedule as NWA champion. Terry Taylor likes to share the story of Flair showing up for a match hung over, stumbling out of his limo, Taylor sighing that he’d have to carry Flair to a decent 15-minute bout…and an hour later, Taylor is gasping for breath while Flair is still going strong. That amazing ability to party but still show up ready to go night after night was a key reason for wide respect for Flair. It may have taken its toll on him as life went on but one can’t argue that the man was truly his character so much as a master party man and able to go in the ring afterward, another reason he remains a legend.
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