Professional wrestlers love a good story, and live for backstage brawls and ring-side trash talk. It’s all part of the show, as long as that show remains in the ring.
But what happens when their bombastic behavior follows them outside the ring, and into their personal lives? These entertainers are under enough pressure to perform on a nightly basis. Throw in the stresses of everyday travel, time away from family, and temptations of the business, and many wrestlers end up making some poor decisions. Whether the activity involves drugs, violence, indecent exposure, or sometimes, all three, many famous wrestlers have found themselves on the wrong side of the law for some pretty embarrassing reasons.
Sometimes, you just have to laugh at the ridiculous circumstances these guys find themselves in. Stars like Jeff Hardy, Chris Jericho, and even Ric Flair have taken hits to their ego for humiliating illegal behavior. The pettiness of some of their actions certainly doesn’t jive with the macho personas they exude in the ring.
15 Mark Henry
Famed American weightlifter and one-time World Heavyweight Champion Mark Henry earned the billing of World’s Strongest Man. The 6-foot 4, 412 pound Texas native made his WWE debut in 1996 and almost immediately became a fan favorite.
Yet, Henry didn’t exactly pick his opponent wisely while at a bar in Belfast, Ireland in 2010. Belfast resident James McClay sought Henry’s autograph for his son’s birthday card. Henry initially refused to sign the birthday card, but after some prodding, eventually gave his signature.
Reluctance to sign autographs is somewhat common among celebrities. However, what happened next was foolish. As McClay turned to leave the bar, Henry threw a drink at him from behind. McClay, his fiancée, and the birthday card itself, were all soaked.
When McClay turned around, he claimed Henry challenged him to a fight, saying “Where I'm from, you do something when someone throws a drink around you.” Police were called, Henry was arrested, and given a caution.
14 Rob Van Dam
Marijuana use has become a hot topic in the sports world. Many athletes use it to alleviate pain from injury or combat stress. However, the drug is universally banned in the sports world, so to get caught using it can land you in some hot water.
Such was the case in July 2006 with then- WWE and ECW World Heavyweight Champion Rob Van Dam. Van Dam, a mid-card wrestler, had just defeated John Cena at ECW’s One Night Stand Pay Per View, when he was arrested in Ohio on charges of marijuana after a traffic stop.
Van Dam lost both titles the following week, and was suspended for 30 days. The arrest effectively ended his hopes of progressing to stardom, as the WWE never promoted his matches with much vigor.
It’s one thing to use drugs when you’re an unknown, but to use when the spotlight is on you as WWE Champ? Come on, man.
13 Chris Jericho
As a six-time World Champion, Chris Jericho has enjoyed bragging rights on many occasions. One January night in 2010 was NOT one of them.
Jericho and fellow wrestler Gregory “Hurricane Helms” were arrested outside a Kentucky Gas Station after police received reports of two men fighting in a cab. While both men cooperated with authorities, they were formally charged with "alcohol intoxication in a public place." I guess Jericho couldn’t keep the fisticuffs in the ring. Jericho has been known to get rowdy on the road in the past, but this time he went a little too far.
Jericho and Helms were released from jail after Christian and CM Punk bailed them out. In an embarrassing twist, another warrant was issued the following month for Jericho’s arrest after he failed to show up to his court date.
I have the utmost respect for those who take their jobs seriously. Sometimes, however, employees can take their duties too seriously.
Such was the case with Leon White, better known by his stage name, Vader. White took his role a bit too far when he appeared on a morning show in Kuwait in 1997. His interview aired on Good Morning Kuwait during a promotional tour for the WWE.
White was instructed before the taping (supposedly by Gerald Brisco) to throw a fit and flip tables if the host asked whether wrestling was fake. Well, that question came up, and White acted accordingly.
The twist? The host wasn’t in on the ruse, and believed he was really being attacked. White was arrested and fined $164 for the incident.
11 Jimmy Uso
Jimmy Uso is part of the legendary Anoa’i wrestling family, the son of Rikishi, and the one half of “The Usos” tag team. Since joining the WWE circuit in 2010, The Usos, otherwise known as “The Fatu Brothers” or “The Samoan Soldiers,” have twice won the WWE Tag Team Championship.
However, Jimmy Uso’s 2011 arrest for drunk driving didn’t exactly do his family legacy any favors. Uso was arrested in Florida after a police officer spotted the wrestler driving in the wrong direction down a one-way street. Perhaps a reason for the WWE superstar’s clueless behavior was his .18 blood alcohol content – more than twice the legal limit in Florida.
Uso was lucky that he wasn’t driving along a busier thoroughfare, such as a highway, or his stupidity could’ve turned deadly. Uso was released on $500 bond.
10 Billy Joe Travis
The late Billy Joe Travis suffered a double dose of embarrassment for his 1997 arrest. Not only was the arrest for unpaid child support payments (pathetic for a pro wrestler paid as much as Travis) but it occurred on live television!
The CWA veteran was arrested while on air working an event for the USWA in Memphis, Tennessee. Apparently, he hadn’t been paying child support payments to his ex-wife for a while. Many fans might’ve thought this was a staged event, but unlike most things that occur during a wrestling show, the arrest was very, very real.
Despite his legal troubles, he did experience a rather lengthy career. Travis enjoyed notoriety as a heel character in the ‘80s, and retired in 1998, shortly after his arrest.
9 Andre Davis
This is as unique an arrest as you’ll see. Aspiring pro wrestler Andre Davis, also known as “Gangsta of Love” and “Andre Hart”, was sentenced to 32 years in prison in 2012 for having unprotected sex with multiple women and not disclosing that he was HIV positive.
Talk about a bombshell revelation.
Davis’ lawyers claimed he was a sex addict, and that his addiction worsened after he was denied employment by the WWE for a positive HIV test in 2009.
Davis was charged with 14 counts of felonious assault. While medical privacy laws prohibited the public from finding out how many of the 14 women actually contracted HIV, Davis expressed sincere regret and said he never intended to hurt anyone. He didn’t divulge his diagnosis because, according to his lawyer, he “didn’t want to hurt his family.”
8 Wade Barrett
Wade Barrett, or King Barrett, as he was later known, may have left the WWE in May 2016, but he made a name for himself in Raw as the leader of The Nexus.
Before his Raw debut, Barrett wrestled on the FCW circuit in Florida. It was during this time that he had his first run-in with police.
Barrett was arrested outside a Champs Restaurant and Bar in June 2008, and charged with felony battery on a law enforcement officer. He was also tagged with misdemeanor charge of obstructing a police officer.
Barrett was released the next day after police dropped the charges. The officers did so because they were not wearing official police uniforms. Why was this a bad look for Barrett? Well, the English wrestler claimed he wouldn't have obstructed the officers had he known they were actually police officers. Oh, okay. So just because they weren't wearing uniforms, they aren't worthy of equal respect? Not sure I believe that excuse.
7 William Regal
Airplane travel is tough, especially when travelling long distances. Sometimes, the only thing that can take the edge off on an intercontinental flight is a drink or two.
William Regal took that a bit too far in August 1997, when the WCW wrestler got inebriated on a flight from Tokyo to Detroit. Regal decided to relieve himself, but in his drunken haze, forgot to close the lavatory door. When a stewardess tapped him on the shoulder to alert him to close the door, Regal turned around mid-urination and proceeded to urinate on her as well.
To make the situation worse, Regal blacked out. In his autobiography, “Walking the Golden Mile,” Regal claimed he didn’t remember the incident, and was only made aware of the situation upon awakening in an Anchorage, Alaska jail cell.
Regal was charged with “Urinating on a Flight Attendant” (yes, that’s a thing) and was fined $2,500.
6 Scott Steiner
Scott Rechsteiner, better known as Scott Steiner, has been a magnet for controversy throughout his career. He has faced suspensions and arrests for numerous incidents.
Perhaps none was more embarrassing than a 2000 confrontation at a Nitro event in North Carolina, where Steiner assaulted an emergency medical technician. EMT Randall Mankins entered the ring at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum to tend to two wrestlers that Steiner had “injured” during a match.
Steiner wished to add to the spectacle, and proceeded to kick Mankins twice. While Mankins knew he would be tending to fake injuries, he didn’t expect Steiner to kick him. Charges were later dropped after Steiner claimed he wasn’t made aware that Mankins was an actual EMT, and not part of the script. I guess Vader can sympathize with Steiner.
5 Nick Gage
Nick Gage is a famous name in Combat Zone Wrestling, an independent wrestling promotion founded in 1999 that has since carved a niche for hardcore wrestling fans. Gage has appeared in nearly every CZW event, and was the promotion’s first-ever champion.
Unfortunately, Gage had trouble leaving the hardcore attitude in the ring when he decided to rob over $3,000 from a New Jersey bank in December 2010. Gage entered the PNC Bank, and handed the teller a note, threatening to shoot her if she didn’t hand over money.
Local wrestling fans recognized the bearded Gage on surveillance tape, thanks to the fact that he WAS NOT WEARING A MASK. I’m serious, look at the screenshot of him walking out in a blue hoodie. I obviously don’t advocate robbing banks, but Gage should know the first rule of thumb is; conceal your identity.
Gage was sentenced to five years for second degree robbery in 2011.
4 Big Show
Paul "Big Show" Wight is a household name among wrestling faithful. The seven-foot, 450 pound Wight has been in the business for over 20 years and is no doubt, a future hall of famer.
What makes Wight's arrests embarrassing is the fact that charges against him were dropped in BOTH cases.
For example, in December 1998, Wight was arrested on indecent exposure charges for exposing his genitals to a worker at a Memphis hotel. He was later released due to lack of evidence.
In March 1999, Wight was charged with assault for allegedly punching a man in the jaw at Marriot Hotel Bar in New York. After viewing surveillance tape of the incident, a judge exonerated Wight of any wrongdoing.
These arrests were embarrassing because they were ill-advised, but Wight's reputation still took a hit. We all know that in the court of public opinion, one is guilty until proven innocent. Wight was a victim of undeserved ridicule despite being cleared of both crimes.
3 Ken Patera
Most of us can probably remember a time where we had an after-hours hankering for McDonald's. Whether it’s the convenience of the drive-through or just the cheap satiety the food provides, the Golden Arches always deliver for quick, greasy satisfaction.
So, one can understand why former AWA wrestler and strongman Ken Patera grew frustrated when a McDonald’s restaurant in Wisconsin denied him service after hours. Unfortunately, McDonald’s hadn’t yet established late-night service in Patera’s 1970s-1980s heyday. Can you imagine living under such circumstances?!
However, most of us wouldn’t react violently to such a situation. Well, Patera did. He threw a large rock through the window of the McDonald's, and then proceeded to assault the police officer sent to arrest him.
I guess people really will do anything for a Big Mac.
2 Jeff Hardy
The two-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion and eight-time World tag-team Champion may have to add another job title to his resume: Drug Lord.
At least that is what one may deduce from the plethora of drugs discovered during a 2009 police raid on his North Carolina home. Police recovered 262 Vicodin pills, 180 Soma pills, 555 milliliters of anabolic steroids, a small amount of cocaine, and drug paraphernalia.
The stash’s street value was estimated at $2,500. We’re not talking “Pablo Escobar” status here, but still, Hardy was arrested on prescription drug trafficking charges and possession of anabolic steroids. He was also charged with three felonies, including one for trafficking opium.
Hardy pleaded guilty to the charges in 2011, and spent 10 days in jail. His brother (and tag-team partner) Matt Hardy, posted his $125,000 bail.
The embarrassing part of Hardy’s case is that he had plenty of money from his wrestling earnings. Plus, he didn’t even need steroids to improve his performance, given the degree of success he had enjoyed up until that point.
1 Ric Flair
Of course Rick Flair's 2005 arrest tops this list. It's not just due to his celebrity as one of the greatest, most accomplished wrestlers of all time, but also due to the nature of "The Nature Boy's" crime.
Flair reportedly attacked a 29-year-old man on Interstate 495 in Charlotte, North Carolina in an episode of road rage. Flair allegedly exited his car, grabbed the victim by his neck, and kicked the door of his Toyota.
Flair spent a week in jail on charges of injury to personal property and simple assault and battery. The arrest was such an embarrassment for a wrestler of Flair’s magnitude, that it was even ridiculed on WWE shows by other wrestlers, including Edge.
You'd think Flair, who was 57 at the time, would be better able to calm himself when not in between the ropes. His 40-plus year legacy in wrestling and reputation as a 16-time world champion and NWA Hall-of Famer make a petty crime like this all the more shameful.