No matter how much Vince McMahon fills wrestling with more and more aspects of sports entertainment, wrestling is still at its core about good vs.. bad. The lines might blur occasionally, but fans usually know just who to cheer and who to jeer.
The WWE has the ability to make stars. They have been making men and women seem larger than life for decades now. We’ve had heroes to look up to like Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, and Bret Hart. These competitors and others have performed feats within a 20 by 20 ring that have astounded and inspired fans. While beer baths, zip line entrances, celebratory pose downs, and running down to the ring at Mach–10 are fantastic sights from an entertainment perspective, some of these superstars are real life heroes, too.
Unlike the scripts they follow, anyone on the roster past or present can step up and become a hero. You don’t need bookers to be in your corner or fans to create grass roots campaigns for you, you just need the heart and desire of a person who wants to do real good in the world. Every so often, a superstar will be put in the position to be bigger than the star they play on TV and do something to make a difference in the real world. Here are some of the biggest.
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15 David Arquette
Bet you didn’t expect to see Arquette on any wrestling list that didn’t include the word “worst.” Clearly, the guy didn’t ask to be booked as champion and clearly it was all part of Vince Russo’s brilliant plan to hype the godawful movie, Ready to Rumble. To offset the horribleness of a non–wrestler/non–athlete winning the strap, Arquette took his payments from WCW and donated them to the families of Brian Pillman (who died of a heart condition), Owen Hart (who died because of an in ring stunt gone awry) and Darren Drozdov (who became a quadriplegic after a botched powerbomb). So while it will always be a black mark on the industry, the former WCW World Champion did a lot of good with the money he received.
14 Triple H
For almost twenty years now, there hasn’t been a better heel than The Game. However, that doesn’t mean that Triple H doesn’t know when to turn the character off. At a Monday Night Raw event, The Game was cheering on The Authority during their handicap match against John Cena, eight year old Lucian Deering’s favorite superstar. Deering began to heckle Triple H, before The Game told him: “Stop messing with me–I’m trying to do my job over here.” When the kid broke down in tears on live TV, Triple H broke character to console the him. He then brought him backstage, completing the act of kindness.
13 Justin Roberts
Connor Michalek is a young WWE fan afflicted with cancer that touched the hearts of everyone he met in the WWE. He told AJ to stop being crazy, put Daniel Bryan in the Yes Lock, and pinned The Game. According to Justin Roberts, this wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t noticed Michalek in the crowd. Roberts did all he could to make Connor the Crusher’s final days easier–he would FaceTime Connor with other superstars during chemo sessions, show him the arena during Raw and invited Connor to WrestleMania XXX. No matter what side of the 'philanthropy as marketing' debate, that Roberts was writing about, you subscribe to, he is a hero for helping this young boy.
12 CM Punk
You might know him as a part of J & J Security now, but several years ago, Joey Mercury was in a bad way. As explained in CM Punk’s DVD, Mercury had issues with drugs and alcohol, so severe that he was going to lose his home. Enter Punk, who not only asked Mercury to come back and be a part of the Straight Edge Society, which would help him stay clean, but he also would buy his house so that the former Tag Team champion would not be homeless.
11 Daniel Bryan
The past few years of Daniel Bryan’s career have been built around the fact that he doesn’t look like a typical superstar. However, that doesn’t mean that the trained shooter can’t handle his business when tasked to do so. In 2014, as the Danielsons were returning to their Phoenix home, Bryan caught a few burglars leaving their home. Once they realized who he was, the burglars dropped the stolen goods and ran, but Bryan bolted after them and caught one in a rear naked choke and held him while waiting for police to arrive. Arizona PD’s arrest and info from Brie and Daniel led to the eventual capture of the other two burglars.
10 Shawn Daivari
Shawn Daivari had a horrible Middle Eastern gimmick during his time in the WWE, but the Minnesota native is a born and bred mid-west hero. Back in 2012, Daivari became a hometown hero on his way to the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport. While on the lightrail, a fellow passenger was beyond drunk and insulting and threatening other passengers. Daivari put the passenger in a rear naked choke and, at the next stop, he and another passenger played Indiana Jones and heaved the unruly passenger off the train. Sadly, police thought he was a victim and let him go.
9 Gregory Iron / Zack Gowan
Fans might remember Zack Gowan, the one legged superstar who was with the WWE in 2003–2004, pairing up with Mr. America and feuding with Brock Lesnar. There’s also Gregory Iron, an indy wrestler, who was born premature with Cerebral Palsy and a junkie mother to boot. Luckily, his grandmother turned him onto pro wrestling and he has made a name for himself, along with inspiring everyone who lays eyes on him, including CM Punk. Together, The Handicapped Heroes won tag team gold on the indy scene. Ever think you can’t do something or felt sorry for yourself? Take a look at these two heroes and reevaluate your life.
8 Diamond Dallas Page
Several years ago, a video of a man named Arthur appeared online. A retired Gulf War vet who was disabled and gained a lot of weight was told he’d never walk again. One yoga instructor decided to believe in Arthur–Diamond Dallas Page. The vet began to believe in himself again and lost over 100 lbs and became a spokesman for DDP Yoga. On top of that, not only can he walk, but he can move better than people half his age.
Page’s unbelievable positivity didn’t stop with Arthur, as countless people have become advocates of Page’s yoga routine. Chris Jericho credits the program with helping him to continue to wrestle at 40 years old and Page has saved the lives of Jake Roberts and Scott Hall, two lifelong addicts seemingly beyond repair.
7 Bam Bam Bigelow
At almost 400 pounds, with a bald fire covered head, Bam Bam Bigelow did not look like a friendly person. Luckily for three children, that couldn’t be any farther from the truth. In 2000, he selflessly ran headfirst into a burning house near his home to save three children. For his troubles, Bigelow spent two months recovering in a hospital with 40% of his body burned. The Bammer tragically died in 2007 due to an OD and a heart problem, but those kids and wrestling fans will remember him forever.
Vince McMahon might get flack for his some of his booking decisions, but no one can question McMahon and his advisers for putting forth initiatives and partnerships that elevate the WWE’s altruistic causes. First, there’s the company’s Wellness program, which is a rehabilitation program for anyone who has ever worked for the WWE. More recently, the WWE has partnered with the Susan G. Komen foundation to spread the word about Breast Cancer awareness. The Be A Star Campaigns, WrestleMania Reading challenges, Make A Wish partnerships, and Tribute to the Troops…not bad for “just a wrestling company.”
5 Curt Hennig
Long before the famous videos of Curt Hennig calling his shot and catching his own touchdown pass, he had struck up a friendship with MLB player Wade Boggs. During a hunting trip in 2001, Hennig was given the opportunity to re-pay Boggs for guest–starring in one of those videos by saving his life. Boggs got stuck in some barbed wire and was bleeding badly. With no help in sight, simply walking to the car and coming back for his friend wasn’t good enough for the Hall of Famer. Hennig freed Boggs with his bare hands and carried him to the car before driving the baseball great to the hospital, where he was told had he’d not freed him, Boggs would have bled to death.
4 Chris Masters
Sure, WWE Superstars are known for being strong. Some of them, like Chris Masters, look as if they were chiseled out of granite. In 2013, Masters showed just what kind of strength he has when it's mixed with the adrenaline of having to save his mom. A neighbor had locked himself and Mrs. Mordetzky in her own home and when her son called the cops, the thug set fire to her home. Masters grabbed a tree, applied the Master Lock to it and uprooted it from the ground to break a window and save his mother.
3 Mick Foley
If you’ve listened to any wrestler speak about Mick Foley, it shouldn't surprise you that the Hardcore Hall of Famer is more than frugal. Besides using his funds to raise a family of four kids, Foley is a global giver, as he and his wife sponsor several children via ChildFund International. In Sierra Leone, Foley funded the construction of a school. Perhaps most important (if you can rank altruism), Foley is involved with Tori Amos’ RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), where he volunteers on their online hotline, having logged over 500 hours speaking to victims. Also for the organization, Foley has auctioned off mementos from his career and for the right price ($5,000 to RAINN), Foley would mow your lawn.
2 Perry Saturn
Before becoming a superstar, Perry Saturn was already a hero as a U.S. Army Ranger. He made his WWE career by being a weirdo who wore dresses and talked to mops, but Saturn is tougher than a two dollar steak, as J.R. might say. He is so tough that he thought a gunshot he received to his neck and shoulder was merely a punch when he stopped two men from raping a woman in 2004. Due to the pain from the gunshot wound, he unfortunately became addicted to meth and was homeless for several years without anyone knowing his whereabouts. In 2009, Saturn became a hero again, overcoming his addiction and reemerging on the wrestling scene.
1 John Cena
“Let’s Go Cena! Cena Sucks!” rings throughout the arena whenever Cena emerges during a WWE event. However, for the millions of children afflicted with fatal illnesses, they all follow Cena’s mantra of “Never Give Up.” Many of these children make one of their wishes to meet John Cena and Cena, even the briefest of moments, is able to make them feel like the superhero eh portrays on TV. Cena spends just about every waking moment eating, sleeping, and breathing WWE. When he’s not doing that, he’s the Make A Wish record holder for granting over 400 wishes. Cena Sucks? Try lacing his high tops.
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