Wrestling can be tough; it’s not all sunshine and roses, fame and fortune and what the fans see on television. Plenty happens away from the camera, away from the prying eyes of the media. Life is spent on the road for a wrestler, living out of a suitcase for the majority of the year, only seeing your family through Skype; this can break even the toughest wrestlers. Many wrestlers have been broken by it all, but have had to maintain their tough, hardcore personas for the fans.
This is actually the case in life in general as many people know that something’s not quite right in their heads, but say nothing, for fear of looking soft. But things are changing, and today more is being done to help people with mental health issues.
One of the most common mental health issues is depression. You might be thinking, what do these wrestling superstars have to be depressed about? If you’ve gone through something like this, you’ve probably been told to just snap out of it, right? But depression doesn’t work like that. It could happen as a result of something in your life or conversely you could have a "perfect life", but still be depressed. Something could trigger it, but it could also just occur without rhyme or reason. Beating it is the hard part; if you get into that downwards spiral, it can be tough to escape. These are 15 wrestlers who weren't immune to depression, and you may be surprised by some of them.
15 Joey Mercury
Adam Birch is currently signed to WWE as an agent, but he hasn’t always enjoyed a smooth period in his life. In fact, he got into the industry while battling with his drug and alcohol addiction. He’s admitted that he was using a cocktail of drugs and alcohol early on in his youth, with his addiction. It’s amazing to think that this addiction lasted for the next 15 years, during which he also became addicted to painkillers. The WWE offered to send him to rehab after suffering a major injury in the promotion, and he’s since beaten these addictions.
Sean Waltman has had a troubled life for pretty much his entire life, childhood and wrestling career. As a kid he was molested several times, dropped out of school at a young age and was left to fend for himself. When he broke into the wrestling industry he started using crystal meth, even injecting himself moments before he was due in the ring just to keep himself going. Thankfully for him, Triple H and Vince McMahon footed the bill and sent him to rehab...the first time.
Around 2008, Waltman was a moment from death, as his girlfriend at the time found him hanging in his apartment. Juventud Guerrera, who was working with him at the time, said the incident was due to severe depression.
Dustin Rhodes comes from a prominent wrestling family and is still going strong. But he hasn’t always enjoyed a great time of it. There have been instances in Dustin’s life where depression, alcohol and drug abuse have taken over. Depression began to kick in around the time his third stint with WWE came to an end. In 2006 he was released after failing to show up for an appearance. He returned to All Japan Pro Wrestling, but during this time he suffered from depression. Because of the depression, he went on a three-day drug and alcohol binge and then sought help from his dad. His “short-lived and highly volatile second marriage” also contributed to his depression, as mentioned in his book, Cross Rhodes: Goldust, Out of the Darkness.
12 Tammy Sytch
The beast that is Ryback seems like one tough guy, but he also was struck down with depression around 2007. At the time, Ryback was still making a name for himself, wrestling with WWE’s developmental territories, but was released from Ohio Valley Wrestling for a year. While away, he was dealing with depression and he blamed himself for not being able to make more headway in WWE.
10 The Rock
Amazingly, The Rock - arguably the best WWE Superstar ever, not to mention the highest paid actor in the world – suffered from depression, not just once, but on three separate occasions. This just goes to show that pretty much anyone can succumb to this mental illness, that what you see in front of the cameras isn’t necessarily what’s happening in real life. The Rock, known for the incredible energy he brings to anything he tries his hand at, suffered from depression, and at the time, suffered in silence too.
9 Kurt Angle
The star names just keep coming. Kurt Angle, one of the biggest names in wrestling history – both in sports entertainment and in Olympic wrestling – suffered from depression. He’s actually fallen in and out of depression since first admitting that he was suffering from it. Angle first had to contend with the mental demons after his Olympic triumphs, when his time as an amateur wrestler was coming to an end. He achieved so much for the U.S. at the Olympics, so his mindset was, how could anything he did afterward compare to that adrenaline high? That’s what he felt, and even WWE couldn’t stop him from becoming depressed. He eventually got used to life in wrestling, but in the 2000s he got depression again. He used alcohol as a coping mechanism to try and mask the problem, but to his credit, he recognized there was an issue, got himself some professional help and is now on his road to recovery.
8 CM Punk
Going through what CM Punk went through would make even the mentally toughest guy on the planet break down in some way shape or form. Punk’s aired a lot of his grievances about his time in the wrestling industry, particularly towards the end of his career. He was in a situation where it was either a case of letting depression get the better of him, or getting out, and that’s exactly what he did.
7 Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan is a man who once embodied an All-American Hero, but he also suffered from depression. The fame and the fortune didn’t make him immune from this mental disease – this just goes to show that depression can affect anybody.
The Hulkster and his wife Linda seemed like a solid family. We all got a taste of their family dynamic on their reality TV show – Hogan Knows Best. But a couple of years after the program first aired, Linda filed for divorce. It was a really messy divorce too, and this is what sparked Hogan’s depression. They’d been together for 25 years and had two kids together, so understandably – considering the manner it took place – Hogan was distraught. After rumors developed about his former wife dating an 18-year-old, and a sex tape featuring Hogan was leaked, the former World Champion actually contemplated suicide. Luckily he was talked out of it, and today it seems like everything is peaceful again; he’s remarried and is enjoying life with his new wife.
6 Scott Hall
The man famously known as Razor Ramon went through a number of trials and tribulations during his time in the ring as an active wrestler. A lot of these incidences were brought about by his addiction to drugs and alcohol – addictions which landed him in a lot of strife over the years with the law, wrestling promotions and of course it had a big impact on his health.
5 Eddie Guerrero
What happened to Eddie Guerrero was tragic, as the wrestling world was shocked when they heard what happened on that fateful night in November 2005. It’s said his death was due to acute heart failure, and subsequently plenty of investigations were carried out looking into drug use by the former WWE World Champion.
4 Jake Roberts
Jake The Snake Roberts’ woes over the years have been well documented. We’ve already mentioned The Resurrection of Jake the Snake when talking about Scott Hall, but Jake was the real success story of that documentary. DDP managed to help Roberts overcome his lifelong drug and alcohol addiction. He lost weight and felt and looked a whole lot better for it. Jake had a very turbulent relationship with his parents, and his childhood was stunted due to sexual abuse. Roberts turned to drugs to numb his pain, because as he put it, "I hated myself".
3 Bret Hart
Here’s another guy who’s up there in terms of being one of the best wrestlers of all time. It seems like a lot of the top guys suffered from depression and looking at Hart’s career, it’s no surprise why he felt the mental strain of it all.
Hart was forced to retire in 2000 due to post-concussion symptoms after over two decades in the wrestling industry. During this time he had to contend with being screwed in the most infamous event in wrestling history; The Montreal Screwjob. Post-wrestling, Hart suffered paralysis and a stroke as a result of a bicycle accident, and then in 2016, was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
2 Shawn Michaels
The Heartbreak Kid nearly broke the hearts of all those near and dear to him when he became addicted to painkillers. He was in a bad state in the 1990s, despite ruling the roost in WWE at the time and being the promotion’s biggest draw. Again, this just demonstrates that you could be at the peak of your fame, and those mental demons can still get the better of you. That’s what happened with Michaels.
1 Brock Lesnar
Going from a small town farm boy from South Dakota to being a prominent star, living, traveling and wrestling in the major cities, huge arenas in front of thousands of people must have been a baptism of fire for Brock Lesnar. A lot of people would love that lifestyle, but Lesnar didn’t take to it too well. While he was injured, Vicodin and Vodka became his closest friends. He was a prominent star at the time, was a champion, but there were two years of his life that were just a blur, that he just can’t remember. It wasn’t just because of his injury; he abused these substances because he was depressed, unhappy with his life and career at the time; that’s when he decided to jump ship, take a sabbatical from wrestling, and join the NFL.
Brock was torn because his no-quit attitude directly battled his hate for the professional wrestling schedule. In the end, he decided he would be happier away from wrestling and left the industry to try something else. It's obviously worked as his break from wrestling allowed him to become a UFC champion.
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