There are many professional wrestlers who have reached the pinnacle of the sport, look invincible both inside and outside the ring and appear as if they have always had it all together. But the road to the top is filled with pitfalls; many of the biggest, strongest and most successful figures in the sport have had to overcome adversity, have triumphed when things have looked bleak and ultimately found success against all odds.
But this article isn’t just about wrestlers who have endured and conquered hardships. It’s about those who have performed some tear-jerking gestures, gone above and beyond the call of duty to help others others and have risen to the top when circumstances were not ideal – some true feel-good stories that will hopefully serve to humanize these superstars.
Here, we showcase 15 of the most inspirational stories in wrestling – stories that focus on the values of sportsmanship and compassion. These stories focus on individuals who have overcome some of life’s most challenging obstacles and the good deeds exhibited by those from whom you would not necessarily expect.
These stories are bound to give you that compassionate kick up the backside that you’ve been needing. For others, some of the stories may cause you to think, “If they can get through that and come out the other side still standing strong, what excuse do I have?” At the very least, these stories should definitely put a smile on your face, perhaps even choke you up a little bit and inject some much-needed vigor into life. Hopefully, these stories will inspire you to approach each day with a positive new perspective as you go about trying to accomplish your goals, and perhaps motivate you to become a better person.
Grab a tissue if you must–I promise I won’t tell.
15. Triple H
During the days of D-Generation X, when Shawn Michaels and Triple H were part of what was arguably the best WWE Tag Team of all time, Triple H did something pretty incredible. After a match, Triple H began exiting the ring when he saw a young fan who had Down’s Syndrome. He immediately made a beeline towards the fan and the pair soon became immersed in conversation. D-Generation X had already won the match and had celebrated, but Triple H demanded they do so again, and this time with this young fan in tow.
What Triple H says goes, so once again the music blared, and Triple H and Michaels escorted the fan into the ring. The three of them then traded hugs and posed for the camera. A truly priceless moment for that fan, and one that he’ll certainly never forget.
14. Curt Hennig
Nicknamed Mr. Perfect, it was certainly a case of perfect timing when Hennig leapt to his friend’s rescue during a good old-fashioned hunt. Hunting with ex-baseball superstar Wade Anthony Boggs, Mr. Perfect embarked into the wilderness, but the situation soon turned grim when Boggs got entangled in a barbed wire fence. He suffered a fall, injured his collar bone and then regained consciousness to find his legs shredded and torn to ribbons by the barbed wire.
Where was Hennig during all of this? He was valiantly trying to save his friend. After cutting Boggs free, he hoisted him onto his shoulders and carried him to their truck, which was almost a mile away, before taking him to the hospital. All that wrestling strength training definitely came in handy as Boggs would have almost certainly bled to death had it not been for Hennig.
13. Darren Young
At the time, Darren Young was brave beyond belief to come out of the closet and reveal himself as being gay. In such a macho sport where being tough and hard as nails is everything, Darren opened himself up to world of possibilities, both good and bad. Being ridiculed by others in the sport and being jeered by fans was always a possibility when he made the decision, but thankfully this wasn’t the case. He received a tremendous level of support from fellow wrestlers and the WWE, and nobody has ever made it an issue…because it shouldn’t be.
12. John Cena
The Make-A-Wish-Foundation has certainly benefited from having John Cena on board. Sure, many wrestlers are contractually obligated to take part in charitable events, and many do so resentfully, only because they have to and to get publicity. But it’s pretty safe to say that John Cena would be involved in charitable work even if he wasn’t a professional wrestler. Cena supports a range of charities, but arguably his most meaningful contributions have come while helping Make-A-Wish. He has helped to make over 500 wishes come true – more than double that of any other celebrity (wrestlers and others) – on the planet. Throughout his career, Cena has been tireless in supporting charitable causes and will no doubt continue his philanthropic endeavors long into the future.
11. The Miz
Try, try, try and try again. – this is a story of perseverance and a man with a never say die mind-set. Now, you may not be a fan of The Miz, but his entire life resembles a feel-good story – one from which you’re bound to get some inspiration. Hailing from humble beginnings, The Miz always wanted to be a professional wrestler. He got his first taste of the limelight when he was a part of MTV’s The Real World and he did just enough in this show to get into Tough Enough. Despite losing, he impressed and got his contract with WWE. This wasn’t enough and he spent his days working tirelessly to get to the top, efforts that were vindicated when he became WWE Champion.
These stories of struggles and tough beginnings culminating in championship titles are bound to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, even if you don’t tune in every week to watch The Miz.
10. Dusty Rhodes
“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes enjoyed a long career in professional wrestling, but perhaps his proudest moment was seeing his two sons, Goldust and Cody Rhodes, step into the ring for the first time and begin their careers where he himself had left off. “I’m not ashamed to admit that there was a tear in my eye to see my two sons that I’d raised as wrestlers to follow in my footsteps and continue my legacy.” He lived to see them destroy opponents and achieve numerous accomplishments in the sport – a tear-jerking father/son(s) moment.
9. William Regal
The accomplishment of a prominent athlete overcoming a debilitating addiction is always going to be a feel-good story. At the peak of his powers, Regal was one of the best in the business. But addiction to painkillers in 1999 was a contributing factor to him getting fired from the WWE – a period during which he was forced to have a stint in rehab. Later, he also revealed he was battling alcohol addiction, but he overcame these issues and now has a successful career as a NXT General Manager, trainer, and talent scout.
8. Diamond Dallas Page
Diamond Dallas Page was a latecomer to the ring, having made his professional debut whilst he was in his mid-30s. His resume as a professional isn’t anything to boast about, but it’s his activities outside the ring that warrant him being mentioned in this article. Upon retiring, he created and successfully marketed DDP Yoga, designed to help people from all walks of life achieve success and peace of mind. He also started the “Accountability Crib” rehabilitation program which helps retired wrestlers overcome substance abuse problems. Jake Roberts, a former member of the program, praised DDP for saving his life.
7. The Great Khali
One of the biggest and most imposing figures to have ever stepped into the ring, Khali helped to put Punjab (India) on the wrestling map. Hailing from a small village, Khali has said he’s felt obliged to give something back to the people of his region. “Years ago, I was a nobody. Now, I am a face recognized almost across the world.” He’s used this fame to start an academy and train youngsters in freestyle wrestling in an effort to keep them off the streets and give many of these poor, underprivileged youngsters a goal in life. This superman in India is certainly making a difference.
6. Michelle McCool and Mark Calaway
Michelle McCool and The Undertaker tied the knot in 2010, against the wishes and negative comments of many people in the wrestling fraternity, friends and family. But love is love and the couple turned a blind eye to all the derogatory comments being spouted. “Hard work and resilience paid off, and we’re all the better for it,” McCool proclaimed. Well said, Michelle. Best of all, the couple has proven their solidarity by sticking together and still going strong after six years of marriage – a lifetime in the case of some celebrity couples.
5. Eddie Kingston
Now of course it’s never a good thing when a wrestler passes away, but it enables us to see other prominent figures in the sport in a new light. When Larry Sweeney committed suicide after losing his battle with depression, a heartfelt tribute was provided by Eddie Kingston just a few days later. The three-day tournament King of Trios that was due to take place, did so in Larry’s honour, and got off to a moving start when one of his closest friends, Kingston, came out to one of Larry’s favorite songs, “The Highwayman.” Kingston then went on to win the event, resulting in some moving scenes during which he was presented with the winning belt by Larry’s brother. The love, compassion and solidarity shown by the WWE when it loses a beloved figure is certainly a feeling to warm the cockles.
4. AJ Lee & Lita
Fans getting teary-eyed and overcome with emotion is not uncommon at meet-and-greet events. However, at one autograph signing, footage of which was shown in Lita’s documentary, one fan in particular stands out in the memory. At the time, she was just an ordinary fan like everybody else, meeting her hero, Lita. But nobody could have imaged that this then random young girl would go on to follow in her hero’s footsteps and become one of the most famous divas in WWE. This was the young AJ Lee. It’s sweet to see how life can end up turning out.
3. Shawn Michaels – Bret Hart
The Shawn Michaels/Bret Hart feud raged on for over 12 years – inside and outside the ring – with each accusing the other of being bitter and arrogant. Bret Hart spent a long time out of the ring and when he returned and met Shawn for the first time in over a decade, they both decided to bury the hatchet and put their differences behind them. They first met backstage where Michaels was very apologetic. This meeting then spilled over in full public view; they met in the ring, shook hands and ended up embracing – anything can happen in the WWE but it’s always better when it’s something like this.
2. Dwayne Johnson
The Rock is perhaps the most successful person to have ever come out of the WWE, but the Rock’s life wasn’t always sunshine and roses. In 1995, he had $7 in his pocket and was wrestling in flea markets for $40 a night. He started off broke and at the bottom of the wrestling food chain, but persevered and quickly rose to the top – a combination of his charisma and never say die mind-set. In his own words, “embrace the grind, lower your shoulder and keep drivin’ thru” – a way of living that’s seen him reach #25 on Fobrbes’ Top 100 Most Powerful People.
1. Bret Hart
Canadian wrestler Bret Hart, also known as the “The Hitman”, thought that not only his career, but his life was over when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in early 2016. “It was really scary for me, and the more I talked to people who had prostate cancer, it scared me more,” he said.
During this time, he’s credited the inspirational stories of others for him getting through to the other side. Although there’s still a long road to recovery, he’s now undoubtedly become an inspiration to many wrestling fans around the world.
This isn’t the first time Bret has had to persevere, as he suffered a career ending concussion in 1999, then a stroke in 2002. No matter what he’s been faced with, The Hitman has always fought his way back.
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