Professional wrestling is a physically, mentally and emotionally challenging career. Grapplers work in excess of 300 days annually inside the squared circle and are required to appear at various promotional events throughout the year. Performers are constantly subjected to injuries and the sport’s chaotic nature and raging lifestyle has tragically overcome many within the industry. To cope with wrestling’s demanding culture, countless workers have become dependant on alcohol, cocaine, painkillers, performance-enhancing drugs and other narcotics.
Sean Waltman, a member of the New World Order in WCW and D-Generation X in WWE, struggled with substance abuse throughout his time as a rassler. Fortunately, despite erroneous allegations to the contrary, Waltman is now sober and employed with the WWE’s Legends Program.
"I was one of the worst meth-heads ever," said Waltman, who is primarily known for competing as the 1–2–3 Kid and X-Pac.
"Oh, what a mess, man. What a mess. If I was back doing that, there is no way I could have the life that I have right now. My life is amazing, this is just a hiccup in the road. I'm still clean, besides the cannabis. I don't drink, I don't do ANY drugs. My diet is probably better than just about anybody's."
In addition to sabotaging one’s health and livelihood, substance abuse can lead to a life of crime. Hence, dozens of professional wrestlers have been imprisoned for their involvement in illegal activities. With that noted, let’s review the 15 grapplers who received the longest sentences behind bars.
15 LEX LUGER - Four Months For Violating Probation
With an impeccable physique, Lex Luger headlined countless cards while employed with the WCW and WWE in the 1980s and 1990s. Sadly, the wrestling industry’s taxing environment ultimately stripped the 6-foot-6, 275-pound Luger of his build, career, health and freedom.
“If you snort it, spray it, shoot it, inject it, I did it, buddy,” said Luger, 59, born Lawrence Wendell Pfohl.
“Or I was around it. That was my life. Alcohol? I abused it all, buddy. I took a lot of pills. I was a pill popper.”
Luger’s personal nadir occurred in May 2003 when his girlfriend, Elizabeth Hulette, fatally overdosed in his Marietta, Georgia-based townhouse. “The Total Package” was charged with 13 felony counts of drug possession in the aftermath of Hulette’s death. Roughly two years later, in December 2005, Luger violated his probation and was sentenced to four months in the Cobb County Adult Detention Center.
14 JIM NEIDHART - 6 Months for Possession Of Controlled Substances, Trafficking
Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart partnered with Bret “The Hitman” Hart to comprise one of wrestling’s most revered tag teams, The Hart Foundation. The 6-foot-2, 280-pound Neidhart, who earned paychecks playing for the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys in practices and preseason games, was an utter powerhouse in the squared circle. Regrettably, “The Anvil” was also beset by a slew of serious demons. A longstanding crack smoker, Neidhart was arrested in September 2010 and charged with two counts of possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute, two counts of trafficking illegal drugs, one count of burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, and one count of third-degree grand theft for property stolen between $300 and $5,000. While receiving his sentence of five months and 29 days in jail, Neidhart went berserk in the courtroom and was held in contempt of the law.
13 BOOKER T - 19 Months For Armed Robbery
Booker T, born Robert Booker Tio Huffman in Houston, captured a total of 35 championships competing in the WWE, WCW and TNA. For his vast accomplishments, the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Booker T was enshrined into the WWE Hall of Fame in April 2013. However, Booker T’s maturation outside of the squared circle dwarfs anything he ever achieved as a grappler. A 20-year-old Booker T was a lowlife who committed several armed robberies at Wendy’s spread across Space City in the late 1980s. The muscled Houstonian and three of his accomplices were eventually nabbed for their crimes in 1987. Booker T pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated robbery and was sentenced to five years in prison.
“I just had to change,” said Booker T, 52.
“Either I was going to change or not. It was a crossroad. All the mistakes I made coming up prepared me to be the man I’ve become today. I needed those experiences to mold the person people see before them today.”
Booker T served 19 months behind bars and was placed on parole until April 1992.
12 KEN PATERA - Two Years For Vandalism, Assaulting Officers
Ken Patera was a decorated weightlifter and strongman who debuted as a professional wrestler in April 1973. The 6-foot-1, 265-pound Patera became a marquee heel in the WWE, NWA and AWA for the remainder of the 1970s. Patera entered the 1980s with tremendous momentum and seemed destined to become a primary foil for popular babyfaces. Disappointingly, everything unraveled for Patera in April 1984 when he threw a boulder through the window of a McDonald's in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and subsequently assaulted responding officers at a nearby hotel. Patera was arrested and sentenced to two years in prison for his actions.
"The whole thing was bogus," said Patera, 73, who flipped after being denied fast-food service.
"It was unnecessary. I hired another law firm for an appeal. Do you know what they said? It was a travesty of justice. There was no need for me to go to prison for this. I should have gotten a $350 fine."
Patera spent a year and a half behind bars before he was freed for good behavior.
11 BLACKJACK MULLIGAN - Two Years For Counterfeiting Money
Blackjack Mulligan, born Robert Deroy Windham in Sweetwater, Texas, was an iconic heel. The 6-foot-9, 320-pound Mulligan, a former Marine Corps general who briefly played for the New York Jets, is the father of wrestlers Barry and Kendall Windham, father-in-law of Mike Rotunda, and the maternal grandfather of Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas. Properly booked as a badass cowboy, Mulligan fought countless superstars and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame alongside his tag team partner, Jack Lanza, in April 2006. Wrestling glory notwithstanding, Mulligan and his youngest son, Kendall, were arrested by the U.S. Secret Service for counterfeiting almost $500,000 worth of phony $20 bills. Mulligan and Kendall reach a plea agreement and spent two years in jail before getting released in mid-1992. Mulligan passed away at the age of 73 in April 2016.
10 ION CROITORU - 33 Months For Bombing A Police Station
Ion Croitoru, who wrestled using the stage names Johnny K-9, Bruiser Bedlam and Taras Bulba, was a frighteningly dangerous man. The 6-foot, 300-pound Croitoru, a former president of the Hamilton, Ontario, chapter of the Satan's Choice Outlaw motorcycle club, was an unrepentant lawbreaker who dealt drugs, extorted money and bombed a police station in December 1996 (he was convicted and sentenced to 33 months in prison for this sinister act). Perhaps most infamously, while working as muscle for the Gravelle crime family, Croitoru allegedly executed criminal defense lawyer Lynn Gilbank and her husband, Fred, in November 1998. Prior to her death, Lynn had built a strong racketeering case against members of the Gravelle’s.
Approximately six years later, Croitoru was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder for slaying the Gilbank’s. Croitoru was freed in June 2006 due to a lack of sufficient evidence. Croitoru died of natural causes at the age of 53 this past February.
9 DICK SLATER - One Year House Arrest, Two Years Probation
“Dirty” Dick Slater was a legitimate bruiser and elite rassler. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound Slater, who debuted in 1972 and retired in 1996, attained fame grappling for the WWF and WCW. Conversely, Slater gained infamy for being a bloodthirsty lunatic who battled addictions to an array of painkillers. A strung-out Slater stabbed his ex-girlfriend, Theresa Halbert, with a butcher’s knife in December 2003.
“It was all drug related,” said Slater, who was sentenced to one-year of house arrest and two years of probation for the assault.
“Most of it all. I mean, I couldn’t tell you what happened. I really don’t know what actually took place, other than I woke up in Intensive Care in the hospital.”
Now apparently clean, the 66-year-old Slater lives a quiet life in Tampa, Florida.
8 SUNNY - In And Out For Five Years
Sunny, born Tammy Lynn Sytch in Matawan, New Jersey, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in April 2011 because she’s lauded as the promotion’s first Diva. Sunny, who was trained by Kevin Sullivan, Jim Cornette and her late boyfriend, Chris Candido, also worked for ECW, WCW and Ring of Honor. Once a genuine go-getter who enrolled in a pre-medical program at the University of Tennessee, Sunny was undone by her addictions to drugs and alcohol. Sunny’s dependency became scandalous and she had adult relations with dozens of wrestlers in exchange for narcotics.
“We were on the roof of a club in Miami where she was blowing Raven,” claims ECW veteran Sandman.
“She just had her hands out for pills. A bit later, [I was] walking into the boiler room to go get high and Sabu’s in there getting a b***job from Tammy. He doesn’t give her the somas until she’s done the b***job.”
The 44-year-old Sunny has been charged with fraud, burglary, three DUIs, disorderly conduct, violating a protective order, a parole violation and a handful of other offenses since 2012. Sunny, the only performer banned from the WWE's Talent Wellness Program, has been periodically incarcerated for the past five years.
7 NICK GAGE - Five Years For Bank Robbery
Nick Cage is a middling wrestling who never advanced beyond competing for the Combat Zone Wrestling promotion. Still, the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Gage managed to gain infamy as a violent evildoer. Gage, born Nick Wilson in Camden, New Jersey, was homeless in 2010 and addicted to oxycontin and other painkillers. Locally known as a petty criminal, Gage descended into a serious threat and robbed $3,000 from a PNC Bank in Collingswood, New Jersey, in December 2010. Gage was apprehended by authorities about a week later and he pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery and was sentenced to five years in prison in March 2011.
"I'm tough, that's just the way it is. I was built that way," said Wilson. "I'll be back. The king of ultraviolent wrestling will be back. I've just had some tough times in my life. Wrestling had nothing to do with it. I don't blame it for my drug use."
The 36-year-old Gage was freed earlier this month on September 6.
6 MONTEL VONTAVIOUS PORTER - 18 Years For Armed Robbery And Abduction
Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP) benefited from a major push upon premiering in the WWE in August 2006. The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Porter likely hit his apex in Vince McMahon’s company when he defeated Chris Benoit at Judgement Day in May 2007 to capture the United States belt. While MVP quickly emerged as a force, the Miamian’s voyage was a difficult one. Porter was a juvenile offender who became a hardcore criminal as an adult. MVP committed armed robbery and kidnapping felonies and was sentenced to 18 and a half years behind bars. Porter was imprisoned for nine and a half years before he was released.
"It really was Cocaine Cowboys," says Porter, 43, who studied Islam in prison and legally changed his name to Hassan Hamin Assad.
"I was surrounded by drugs and drug dealers. At 9 [years old], I knew what a Rolex Presidential was and how much it cost and knew I wanted one.”
MVP was fired by the WWE in December 2010 and he currently scraps on the independent circuit.
5 BUCK ZUMHOFE - 25 Years For Molestation
Buck Zumhofe is not a household name or even an individual who hardcore wrestling fans may recognize. Nevertheless, the 5-foot-11, 220-pound Zumhofe was a solid performer in the AWA and WCCW who participated in landmark WWE moments. Most notably, while working as a jobber, Zumhofe was the first combatant to be placed in a body bag by The Undertaker and he faced Triple H in his WWE debut. Already a twice-convicted sex offender, Zumhofe was charged with molesting his daughter between June 1999 and June 2011. Following a lengthy trial, the 66-year-old Zumhofe was found guilty on two first-degree and two third-degree counts of criminal sexual conduct in May 2014 and sentenced to a total of 310 months in prison.
"Mr. Zumhofe shows no remorse for his actions, even if he finally admitted (in the pre-sentence investigation) that they happened," said Assistant County Attorney Aaron Welch. "This is an extreme sentence, but Mr. Zumhofe's actions can be described as nothing less than extreme."
4 ANDRE DAVIS - 32 Years For Spreading STIs To Unknowing Partners
Andre Davis is essentially an unknown grappler. Still, the HIV-positive Davis is a despicable man who purposely spread the disease to more than a dozen unknowing partners. Davis, who entertained under the names Gangsta of Love and Sweet Sexy Sensation, was sentenced in Hamilton County Common Pleas on 14 counts of felonious assault in January 2012. Davis claimed that he suffers from nymphomania and couldn’t control his sexual desires.
“Drugs and alcohol are terrible, but sex is something everybody wants,” said Davis, 34, who was reportedly told by WWE officials in July 2009 that he was unemployable because he failed his physical and tested positive for HIV. “I am not a monster.”
Davis was sentenced to 32 years behind bars for his deadly deceptions in January 2012.
3 STEVE GATORWOLF - 16 Years To Life
Steve Gatorwolf was a substandard worker who mainly performed as a jobber in the WWE from 1984 through 1990. The 59-year-old Gatorwolf, who already served two years in a Utah prison for aggravated assault convictions in 2001, was charged with raping a 15-year-old girl on at least seven occasions over the course of nearly two years.
“(The girl) said she did what he said because he was a former pro wrestler and he was big,” the affidavit said, noting that Gatorwolf initially paid her $20 to fondle her breasts.
“She did not describe him threatening her if she did not comply but described him as ‘very manipulative.’ She said he would ‘not stop asking and would bribe me with money and stuff.’”
Gatorwolf was sentenced to serve 16 years to life in prison in October 2015.
2 HARDBODY HARRISON - Life Sentence For Keeping 'Slaves'
Hardbody Harrison, a Gulf War veteran and 2001 heavyweight Toughman champion, premiered in WCW as a jobber in the spring of 1995. However, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Harrison eventually received a minor push and he was booked to compete at Starrcade in 1997. Regardless, Harrison was a middling talent with few in-ring skills. A decade after tussling at WCW's flagship event, the 51-year-old Harrison was convicted of keeping eight women as sex slaves at his two homes in Cartersville, Georgia. The twisted soul was slapped with a life sentence for his heinous crimes.
"I think the jury's verdict vindicates the rights of the victims who were brave enough to come forward and confront this man who abused them," prosecutor Susan Coppedge said.
1 BRIAN MCGHEE - Life In Prison Without Parole
Brian McGhee, who was born in St. Louis and grappled in the WWE’s developmental company under the name DT Porter, was a talented wrestling prospect. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound McGhee was a standout athlete who first scrapped in May 2006. Tragically, plagued by a troubled childhood, McGhee never managed to overcome his trying past. After failing to realize his potential inside the squared circle, McGhee retired from the sport in 2013. Nearly three years after shelving his wrestling boots, McGhee stabbed his ex-girlfriend, Bianca McGauhey, to death.
"He walked up to Ms. McGauhey and immediately attacked her with a knife,” said Assistant State Attorney Ronald Gale.
"Ms. McGauhey held the phone up to Mr. McGhee and said something to the affect of, 'here there is someone who wants to talk to you.' She was in fact talking to Mr. McGhee's wife who was concerned for his safety. Mr. McGhee began attacking Ms. McGauhey without saying a word.”
McGhee received life in prison without the possibility of parole in July 2016.