No one ever said that living your dream would be easy. Just like any type of dream job, professional wrestlers have had to pay their dues just to have the opportunity to compete in front of a large crowd. It’s actually a lot like the world of entertainment, where actors, comedians and musicians have to make huge sacrifices while pursuing their dream. Celebrities like Drew Carey and Steve Harvey spent time living without a home while trying to make their dreams come true. It’s the ultimate investment anyone can give, but it has worked out for a select few. Just like the folks whose names have been cemented in the sidewalks of Hollywood, many of the best professional wrestlers have also made that kind of sacrifice.
Many wrestlers invested all of their time and energy into becoming one of the best professional wrestlers. Working on the independent circuit doesn’t always cover the essential bills, like renting an apartment.
For some wrestlers, being homeless was a way of life. Like many other successful people, some wrestlers grew up with a difficult childhood. Their parents struggled to make ends meet and sometimes couldn’t even hit that mark. Additionally, there are also wrestling stars who fall on hard times and lose their homes. Maybe their personal addictions led to them not being able to afford their houses or even a hotel. Stories like theirs remind us that even the biggest names in professional wrestling, or any industry, have had humble beginnings and endings. They’re all human and there will always be a story to tell from their rise to success or their fall from grace. The following are 15 of those stories.
15 The Missing Link (Dewey Robertson)
Professional wrestling had a lot of interesting characters that were bizarre. Dewey Robertson was behind one of the more unique gimmicks during the 1980s as The Missing Link. After more than 20 years of wrestling throughout North America, Robertson shaved his head, painted his face and debuted the character in 1984. It even led to a brief stint in WWE in 1985.
14 Michael Tarver
If it weren’t for the brief time on WWE television as a member of the original Nexus faction in 2010, WWE fans might not remember Michael Tarver. He was one of the contestants competing in the first season of NXT earlier that year and was able to benefit from The Nexus having a big impact overall. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get a return to the main roster after being sent back to Florida Championship Wrestling.
13 Willie Mack
One of the more interesting talents on the independent circuit is certainly Willie Mack. He was introduced to hard times at an early age when he was placed in foster care because his mother was addicted to drugs. Professional wrestling was something he viewed as an escape from those hard times. From his debut in 2006, he worked his way up the ranks that led to some interest from WWE talent scouts.
12 Haiti Kid
Raymond Kessler might have dealt with dwarfism growing up, but he wouldn’t let that stop him from being able to compete in the WWE. He made his debut with the company back in 1971. Stints were brief during the 1970s and 1980s, which also included an appearance at WrestleMania II and III. But wrestling fans from years past may have also seen him compete for various promotions that included the American Wrestling Alliance, the National Wrestling Alliance as well as several territorial companies across the United States.
11 Rich Swann
While several professional wrestlers have come from tragic upbringings, there aren’t a lot whose upbringings were as rough as Rich Swann. Long before joining the WWE’s Cruiserweight Division, he was a teenager who lost both of his parents. While growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, his father was murdered and his mother passed away due to poor health. On his own, he unfortunately developed an addiction to cocaine.
10 T.J. Perkins
Wrestling fans are starting to learn more about T.J. Perkins, the newest WWE Cruiserweight Champion. Sure, he competed all around the world as Manik in TNA Wrestling and other promotions, but the WWE made him a big star and the rest of the world took notice of the hard times he went through to get to this point in his career. Despite having debuted at the young age of 14, he spent time in his 20s without a home.
9 AJ Lee
While she was a very petite athlete at five-foot-two and only about 110 pounds, AJ Lee was a fiery competitor in the ring throughout her wrestling career. She found a lot of success wrestling throughout the independent circuit before she was eventually signed to a WWE developmental contract in 2009. She was able to win the WWE Divas Championship three times and also become extremely popular with storylines involving Daniel Bryan and CM Punk in 2012. Lee has since married Punk and focused on a number of personal projects.
8 Perry Saturn
Perry Saturn was a recognizable name during the 1990s as he competed for Extreme Championship Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling. He would eventually go to the WWE in 2002 and spend a few years working on the independent circuit. After 2004, he went missing for several years; leaving fans to assume he may have passed away quietly, but Saturn resurfaced in 2012.
7 Tony Atlas
Professional wrestling was a different type of industry in the 1970s and 1980s when Tony Atlas was competing for various promotions like Jim Crockett’s World Championship Wrestling and the National Wrestling Alliance. Early in his wrestling career, he decided to make a move to Los Angeles, but Atlas developed a drug addiction that made things pretty hard for him financially. He admitted in an interview that he became homeless in 1989.
One of the biggest stars of the Attitude Era was Chyna. While most women were being promoted for their looks and in-ring abilities, Chyna was someone who was tough enough and willing enough to face any male on the WWE roster. She even defeated Jeff Jarrett for the Intercontinental Championship. But fans are also very aware of the issues Joanie Laurer had with drugs and alcohol in the years after being released from WWE in 2001.
5 Roddy Piper
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper was one of the greatest villains in professional wrestling during a time when WrestleMania was first developing history in the 1980s. If there was ever someone who best personified the perfect heel, Piper was that wrestler. He might have never won a single World Championship during a career that started in 1969, but Piper was the best at being the bad guy.
4 Daniel Bryan
Similar to other professional wrestlers who had to work through the independent circuits before making it to the big stage, Daniel Bryan attempted to save what he could for his career. When he first decided to become a wrestling student through Shawn Michaels’ Academy in Texas, Bryan had to make the decision to sleep in his car. There were other times he would spend the night at the wrestling school.
3 Mick Foley
Whether you know him as Mankind, Dude Love or Cactus Jack, Mick Foley was one of the toughest men in professional wrestling since his career began in 1983. The one thing many folks have noticed in recent years is how frugal he is. While he’s obviously made millions of dollars through the time he spent in WWE, he rarely invests a lot in his own clothing and how he drives around town.
2 John Cena
Each era of professional wrestling has at least one superstar who is able to transcend into popular culture and become the perfect representative for the industry. It was Hulk Hogan in the 1980s, The Rock in the 1990s and it is currently John Cena. The man seems to forget what the term “day off” means. He’s either working on WWE television or filming/promoting an upcoming movie or television show.
1 The Rock
While more people know him as Dwayne Johnson, The Rock first established himself as the most electrifying man in entertainment through professional wrestling. But like many wrestlers, his childhood was filled with a lot of struggles. When he was a teenager, he and his mom were evicted from a home they shared. They were unable to afford the $120 per week rent and came home to a padlock on their door.
The fight against homelessness was a constant battle in his childhood and it led to him finding ways to support himself and his mom. The Rock was also motivated to train for sports as a way out. Luckily, it led to him receiving a scholarship to play football for the University of Miami. Football didn’t pan out, but he found wrestling and then his new career in acting. All of his hard work did eventually pay off and he has paid it forward to his mother since then.
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