In 2008, one of the year’s best movies was released in theaters. Nominated for countless awards and rated a 4/4 by Roger Ebert and a 98 percent by Rotten Tomatoes, The Wrestler’s pretty damn realistic portrayal of an in-ring star hit audiences harder than a steel chair to the head.
In the 1980s, fictional character Randy “The Ram” Robinson, played by Mickey Rourke, was a star wrestler known to headline main events. Twenty years later, he struggled to cope with age, drugs, drinking and an identity that began to slip away faster than his relationship with his family. All the while, his desire to get back into the ring often prevented him from repairing the life he once had.
What does “The Ram’s” story have to do with the piece you’re about to read? Many of the wrestlers presented here, especially the older performers, faced circumstances similar to what “The Ram” went through. For example, Scott Hall and Davey Boy Smith repeatedly slid back into destructive habits when it appeared they had finally fought off their demons. Other wrestlers, while not as aged as “The Ram,” certainly felt the type of pain he went through daily. Often, pain medication became a cloak to shield them from the real problems they struggled with.
“Wrestling is fake” or “WWE is fake” often becomes a phrase ignorant critics throw around because they’re more concerned with being trolls than well-informed individuals. Sure, you may already know most of the show is scripted, but you’ll soon find out the script is often written in the blood of the performers.
The following list covers a variety of “awful decisions” from popping lethal amounts of pills to destructive habits that turned deadly outside of the ring. While many of their stories are different, they all have one thing in common: These wrestlers consciously (let me repeat that–consciously) made poor decisions that affected their wrestling careers. I did not include mistakes that I felt may have been out of the wrestler’s control or were possibly the result of suspicious activity by a third party unbeknownst to the wrestler.
There was the Big Boss Man and there was the person who was going to be his nemesis, Nailz who portrayed an ex-con. However, the stint didn’t last long. In 1992, Nailz had worked WWE’s SummerSlam, which ended up holding the second largest attendance in the company’s history. Upset about his pay for wrestling in the event, Nailz stormed into Vince McMahon’s office to air out his displeasure. When McMahon shrugged him off, Nailz…well, nailed him (Couldn’t help myself). Nailz ex-con gimmic seemed to fit him too well and he was soon fired.
14. Robbie McAllister
Robbie McAllister, one part of the WWE’s former tag group called The Highlanders, had a dream opportunity to wrestle at WrestleMania 24. However, he never made it there. Fired just days before WrestleMania weekend for appearing on a live broadcast at TNA Impact, McAllister also found himself forgoing what would have been a large WresleMania paycheck.
In retrospect, McAllister calls his decision to attend TNA Impact one of the stupidest things he ever did. “It was a dumb, illogical thing,” for a contracted WWE wrestler to appear in the audience of a rival.
13. Alberto Del Rio
Back in August of 2014, Alberto Del Rio was fired from the WWE. In an interview with WrestleTalk TV, Del Rio said he was fired after he slapped a WWE employee for making a racist joke against Latins. According to him, the WWE had planned to suspend Rodriguez for only three weeks due to his negligence, but after the employee threatened to sue, so the WWE’s hand was forced. Soon after, they informed him of his release.
Sadly, in this case, although Del Rio was right to stick up for himself, he made a poor decision to strike the man, which cost him his WWE career.
12. Kurt Angle
Kurt Angle exploded onto WWE’s scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In his eight years with the company, he became a multiple time world heavyweight champion and won numerous other titles. Billing himself as an American Olympian hero, albeit an arrogant one, he put together some of the company’s most impressive feuds.
Then, in 2006, Angle unexpectedly jumped ship to TNA. Prior to the jump, according to Inquisitr, Angle had actually signed a large contract with the WWE and then curiously asked for his release. McMahon thought Angle requested out so he could rest his weary body. However, the Olympic champion had other ideas and hasn’t touched a WWE ring since.
We’d place Angle higher on this list if he had also ruined his overall wrestling career, but his recent one year TNA contract says otherwise. He’s stated he’s actually been happy with the company’s environment, benefits and workload.
11. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan
Before there was The Real Americans, a group consisting of Jack Swagger and Cesaro, there was the All-American (and real American) Hacksaw Jim Duggan. Although he rarely makes TV appearances, Duggan is still a fan favorite among diehard wrestling fanatics.
While he’s signed to a WWE legends contract, Duggan still wishes he could have done so much more. He had the chance, but in 1987, Duggan and The Iron Sheik were pulled over and charged with marijuana and cocaine possession. The WWE fired both. Duggan later responded that had the incident not taking place, he was “on the fast track” to greater things.
10. Scott Hall
Since he entered the squared circle for the first time in 1984, Hall had always been considered a hard worker. He was a wrestler who had worked his way to the top after training with wrestling legend Hiro Matsuda, then moving to promotons such as Jim Crockett Promotions, the American Wrestling Association (AWA) and others.
Eventually, he got his shot in the WWE and rose to stardom winning the vacant Intercontinental Championship from Rick Martel in 1993. As we all know, Hall, along with Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan, later formed the nWo.
So where did it all go wrong for one of the WWE’s most notorious and suave bad asses? It wasn’t his stint with WCW because the WWE has since recognized other wrestlers from that touchy era. Hall’s issues with substance abuse and the law have been well documented. Many believe his numerous stints in rehab and the thousands of the dollars the WWE spent to place him there left the company little choice but to move on from Hall.
9. Mr. Perfect
Hennig’s placement on our list will be without some controversy. He passed away in 2003—a little over a year after he was released from the WWE and in 2007, the WWE inducted him into their Hall of Fame. Despite his Hall of Fame induction, we’ll choose to believe that the only thing Hennig knew before his passing was his relationship with the WWE was likely severed for good.
Fittingly, Hennig almost had a near perfect run with both the WWE and WCW. During a fateful plane ride in 2002, that all quickly ended. Dubbed the “Plane Ride from Hell,” the flight effectively ended his time with the WWE.
The 2002 plane ride from London to the states after the WWFEs Insurrextion pay-per view was anything, but a comfortable and relaxing journey. A number of scuffles broke out, including one between Hennig and Brock Lesnar. Hennig’s actions were enough for the WWE to release him from his contract.
8. Jake “The Snake” Roberts
During the 1980s and early 1990s, Roberts. became one of the WWE’s most well respected and, at times, hated wrestlers. He became must watch TV each time he strolled to the ring with his iconic python stuffed in a burlap sack.
Roberts. made two major mistakes in his wrestling career. After wrestling with the WWE from 1986 until 1992, he left the company to wrestle for WCW and other small promotions. That was mistake number one.
He later returned to the WWE as a real life bible-preaching man (and character). That was mistake number two. After losing to Steve Austin in the 1996 King of the Ring, Austin lashed out at him during a post-match promo where he uttered his now famous statement, “[You] talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16, AUSTIN 3:16 SAYS I JUST WHIPPED YOUR ASS.” Austin quickly rose to fame and Roberts found himself out of the company’s spotlight soon after.
Waltman was an original member of the Kliq and D-Generation X, as well as a member of the nWo. He helped form wrestling’s greatest staples, but then vanished, only to reappear on screen in a disturbing sex tape with former WWE star Chyna.
So what happened to Waltman? His downfall began in the early 2000s when WCW “invaded” the WWE. While Waltman denies the following allegations, reports surfaced indicating he refused to “put over” then rising and former WCW star Booker T in a tag-team match, which X-Pac does deny. After mysteriously collapsing at an airport, the WWE released Waltman.
Since his airport collapse, Waltman’s wrestled more with personal demons and the law than in a ring, but his recent appearances on WWE programming signify his relationship with the company appears to be improving.
The WWE gave Colon every opportunity to succeed, but many felt the star never completely applied himself to his craft. He was supposed to be a top star, but always hovered at the mid-card level.
Colon actually told the MLW Konnan Show that he and John Cena once drunkenly fought each other. During the scuffle, Cena yelled at Colon for not applying himself and followed it up to say that he “should be at a higher level.” This didn’t end Colon’s time with the WWE, but it’s proof that Colon was sitting on borrowed time.
His time came to an end when he violated the WWE’s Wellness Program and refused to attend a rehabilitation facility.
5. Mr. Kennedy
From his hardcore wrestling style, eccentric personality and over-the-top introduction (microphone included), Anderson quickly rose through the WWE’s power rankings. At WrestleMania 23, he literally found his way to the top of the rankings by beating out four other superstars to win the Money in the Bank Ladder Match.
Then his problems started. The WWE suspended Anderson for violating their wellness policy soon after winning “the briefcase.” The win and subsequent suspension didn’t help the company’s already poor image. Then a series of shoulder injuries sidelined him. The book finally closed on Anderson’s storyline and career when his in-ring performances began to decline and he was deemed too stiff by John Cena and Randy Orton.
4. The Ultimate Warrior
Prior to his death, Warrior and the WWE finally made peace in 2014 when the company inducted the legend into their Hall of Fame. However, before the two sides rekindled their old love, their personal battles were on par with those fought by Hellwig in the ring.
His first stay with the WWF ended at SummerSlam in 1991 over a dispute involving Hellwig’s pay grade. Hellwig returned at WrestleMania 8, but the WWE fired him again because they believed he had attempted to beat their steroid test with HGH. In 1996, Hellwig made one final, four month appearance before another dispute over money caused a permanent break up.
As recently as 2005, the Warrior and the WWE quarreled over the release of a controversial WWE DVD called “Self Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior.”
3. Bret Hart
Hart knew only half of the story. That is, he knew why he wanted out of the WWE and when he was going to leave for WCW. However, unbeknownst to the Hitman, Vince McMahon and a group of loyal wrestlers were conspiring against him. Scared that Hart wouldn’t drop the WWE Championship belt during his last match against Shawn Michaels and instead take it to WCW, McMahon, Triple H and Michaels formed a devious plan.
Prior to the match, the three circled referee Earl Hebner and informed him of their plan to have Michaels win the match. They also threatened him not to tip off Hart who believed he’d retain the belt. During the match, McMahon inexplicably ordered the time keeper to ring the bell as Hart was locked in his own sharpshooter. The thing was, Hart never tapped.
Backstage post match, the once strong relationship between Hart and the WWE deteriorated further after Hart knocked out McMahon. Things worsened for the Hitman when he arrived in WCW and found he had little room for growth due to what he believed were strained relationships with Hulk Hogan, as well as Eric Bischoff’s poor management skills. What had seemed like a great decision—to leave WWE for WCW—was, in the long run, futile and stunted one of the greatest careers in professional wrestling.
Chyna’s push came in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a heel figure aside real-life boyfriend Triple H. As part of the WWE’s rogue group called D-Generation X and later the heel coalition called the Corporate Ministry, she became an imposing figure, even to men.
Then, her career quickly collapsed. In early 2000, she discovered a love letter from Stephanie McMahon to Triple H. The letter revealed he had been having affair with Vince’s daughter for quite some time. Laurer quickly called Vince for an explanation, but his response, according to Laurer, was basically, “Okay, well the jigs up.” Soon after, the WWE decided not to renew her contract and she found herself both on the periphery of Triple H’s life and the WWE.
From there, she took part in Playboy cover shoots and several adult entertainments movies. While she has asked to come back to WWE to “give her fan base a proper goodbye,” Triple H has always denied her request due to her involvement in adult entertainment.
1. Jeff Hardy
While he is best known for his high-flying, dare-devil style of wrestling, Hardy could have been known for so much more. With his brother Matt Hardy, the two went on to conquer the tag-team division in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Then Jeff had the opportunity to rise even higher than the 20-foot ladder he memorably catapulted himself off of at WrestleMania 23.
Later story lines included a brotherly feud with Matt, The Undertaker and rising star Brock Lesnar, which had Jeff towards the top of the card, until the WWE eventually released him in April 2003 for his drug use, erratic behavior and refusal to attend rehab. He inevitably returned, but was quickly released again from similar reasons. Hardy could’ve been one of the greats, but instead works for OMEGA wrestling at the moment.
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