9 Guys Who Had it All… and Blew it
What? Two weeks in a row with no parody? Yeah well, it’s good to change things up sometimes. So we’re back with one of our infamous lists, and it’s not pretty.
WWE called their latest DVD The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior. My question is, when is WWE going to put out a DVD about their own self destruction?
The fact is, the Warrior did not self destruct. He didn’t lapse into a life of drugs and alcohol, and he’s not destitute. In fact, he pulled several fast ones on WWE, and they were too stupid to see it coming, so they’re bitter. HHH can say Warrior was unprofessional, but what was so professional about HHH doing that curtain call at MSG in ’96? What was so professional about HHH potatoing Jim Ross in his match on Raw from MSG earlier this year for no reason other than he doesn’t like him? What is so professional about his buddy Shawn Michaels being a crybaby brat every single year since he joined WWE in 1988??
Self destructing is nothing new to wrestling, but it hardly describes the Warrior. Yes, he’s a far-right radical that even Republicans are embarrassed by. But when it comes to self destructing, other names come to mind. This week we’re going to discuss nine of them.
I stole the title “Self Destruction Blues” from a Hanoi Rocks album, and it sets the tone for today’s topic. Here now are nine wrestlers, in order, who really did self destruct or are in the process of doing so.
9. Eddy Guerrero
You might be surprised Eddy made this list. After all, wasn’t he one of the lucky ones? One of the ones who beat the odds, overcame his addictions, and had a happy ending?
Yes. But it’s his stability that scares me.
I can’t say with 100% confidence that Eddy will forever be a changed man and stay clean. On the contrary, Eddy admits it’s a daily struggle for him to stay clean. If he was fired for whatever reason by WWE, there is a decent chance he would fall back to his old habits. Not a guarantee, but a decent chance. And that scares me.
The question is: why? Why would a guy who has so much talent and abilities possibly self destruct? The answer is that Eddy is a perfectionist. He strives to be the best in everything he does. He always wants to have the best match, always wants to draw a good house or rating, and always wants to stay in tip top shape. And that, my friends, is unrealistic.
Eddy has set up the game of life so that it’s impossible for him to win. Why do you think he held the title for such a short period of time? It was not because Vince loved JBL. The plan was for Eddy to have a long reign. But WWE, seeing Eddy for who he really is, wisely took the belt off him because he was starting to crack under pressure. His PPVs weren’t successful (having JBL as your opponent can’t help), and his matches with JBL were relative duds. Attendance was low. Ratings were low. Eddy felt responsible for that, when in fact it wasn’t really his fault. WWE was a cold product, and when the product is cold, NO ONE draws no matter what.
Plus, Eddy is broken down. Don’t forget this guy has been wrestling at a world class level since the late 1980s. He took bumps as a kid in his backyard, took bumps in Mexican indies, took bumps with AAA, took bumps in WCW, took bumps on U.S. indies, and took bumps in WWE. Then he had that car crash. That led to pain, and that pain led to painkillers. It’s the same exact path that killed Brian Pillman. To this day, Eddy wrestles in great pain, but grins and bears it because he’s got a good gig and doesn’t want to complain.
Along the way, Eddy suffered some losses. His best friend and tag team, Art Barr, died. His father died. He lost his wife and kids, and then later got them back. He spent a whole career being held back because of his size. He was frustrated. His friends, also talented cruisers, were frustrated. He has been injured many times. And he faces pressure every single day to maintain that ripped physique of his, when he’s closing in on 40 and can’t get those muscles naturally.
What should he do? He needs some time off badly, both to heal and reflect on his career. He won’t, obviously, because he has a big world title feud coming up against Batista. He should go easier on himself in the ring, not take so many bumps, and just accept having average matches for the sake of his health. His temper is notoriously off the charts, and he should stop fighting with catcalling fans. In the meantime, he should develop other skills or look into other career options inside or outside of wrestling so he can be prepared for when the day comes he can no longer wrestle. And I damn sure hope he’s saving his money.
Eddy is not a mess by any means. I think he’s doing all right today, despite his daily struggles with addictions. But it’s long-term stability that scares me, and that’s why he made this list. Because had he been able to handle that world title run, he could’ve really turned it into something special. Instead, we got the era of JBL.
8. Sean Waltman
The destruction of Sean Waltman is going on today, and it’s one to keep your eye on.
I’ll never understand the destruction of small guys who make it. How could Sean possibly be frustrated? Compared to normal giants in WWE, he’s tiny. And yet, he made it. He made it BIG. He was in DX, the nWo, the Clique, and had all the right friends in all the right places. Name one guy his size who achieved similar success? Scores of indie guys would kill for 1/10th that success.
Chance after chance after chance has been given to Waltman. He was red hot in WWE, and blew it. Then he got tangled in a troubled relationship with another mess, Joanie Laurer. That nearly killed him. Had HHH and Vince not stepped in recently and got him help, it is very possible that Sean would not be here today.
And then comes TNA, desperate for any and all stars with name value. And sure enough, Sean turned in some incredible performances this year on PPVs. He was almost back to his old self, the guy who revolutionized cruiserweights in Minnesota and then in WWE as the 1-2-3 Kid. All was going well.
Until… he no-showed TNA and disappeared for a week. He showed up recently at a relative’s house, and has been seen off and on again. He was backstage at the Spike tapings apologizing for the no-show. Had it been me, I’d have said, “Sorry Sean, you blew your chance.” Why would I use him again, when he’ll just no-show? Thankfully, TNA seems to agree with me.
Sean has a world of talent and a good deal of notoriety. He has enough friends that he could very well end up in WWE again (and probably will, because there’s a wrestling war going on). But he had a real chance to be a big star with TNA and shine in their X division. Instead, he blew it. Sean, I hope you get the right help.
The good news about Chyna is that she seems to be on the road to recovery. I hope that is the case, because I can see a decent career for her in that Anna Nicole Smith kind of way.
There is a lot to be said for controlled mayhem. What do I mean? Look at the extraordinary success of Motley Crue this year. What Nikki Sixx did was use the band’s strengths (notoriety and perceived in-fighting, along with their music) and market them accordingly. The press loves a good fight, so the band teased dissension and the news people ate it up with headlines that played on that dissension. This was brilliant on Nikki’s part. The band is clean (for now), but thanks to all the hype, people enjoy going to see them in large part because they think it’s very possible that one day, Vince might punch Tommy Lee on stage again. Conflict draws.
My advice to Chyna is to use that conflict in a similar manner. Get clean, and then tease the media that you’re still teetering back and forth between sobriety and drunkenness. Make them think you’re a mess, sort of like Courtney Love has done. Do things to grab headlines, but make it fabricated. Exploit the one thing you have, which is being a perceived freak of nature on the brink of self destruction. The media will eat it up, and you make a career for yourself after WWE (something no diva has been able to do).
How should she treat her depression? For one, get over HHH. Find a boyfriend who is smart, stable, driven, and who will keep her on the right track. Find religion, if that helps. Keep getting help. Stay out of Hollywood, and stay away from Sean. Stay away from VH1. Get clean NOW, get happy NOW, and then get your career back.
6. Brutus Beefcake
How do you go from being a highly-paid wrestling superstar to a guy who had to collect tolls for a living? How is that done? Where did all that money go? What happened?
Drugs, that’s what. Drugs aren’t cheap, and they’re addicting. Beefcake, who has little actual wrestling talent, made a huge career for himself in the WWF. He held the tag straps with Valentine, but then catapulted to even more success in ’87 and ’88 with the Barber gimmick. He was charismatic and the crowd loved him. Even women thought he was a hunk. He had it all.
What started it was the tragic parasailing accident that destroyed his face. It was a horrible incident, but he did make a good recovery. Once again, by having the right friends (Hogan), Beefcake was right back in the main events in 1993 with DiBiase and IRS.
When Hogan left WWE, Brutus floundered. But thanks to Hogan and WCW, Beefcake was given a new career in WCW, making a lot of money. It was a new lease on life.
So… what happened? Again, drugs. That physque of his just got more and more ripped. The stories of him being passed out at parties started making the rounds. And then WCW went belly up. Suddenly, Brutus had nowhere to go.
It’s a sad story, but it didn’t have to be that way. Had Brutus battled and overcome his addictions, he could have saved his huge money and never had to work another day in his life. Instead, he has to hold humiliating day jobs. I just don’t get it how someone can squander away all that money. I’m shaking my head as I type.
5. Barry Windham
Don’t even get me started on this guy. I was a true blue WWF fan as a 6th and 7th grader, with Randy Savage being my hero. But right there on my list at #2 was the Lonesome Wolf, Barry Windham. What was there NOT to like about this guy? He was tall, golden haired, and wore black boots, a black vest, a black hat, and black glove. He held up 4 fingers. He was a Horseman. He had the US title. He used the claw and made people bleed. He took the most awesome bumps and coolest looking moves. He could brawl, wrestle, and fly. He was a lonesome wolf. He was SO F’N COOL!!
The NWA could’ve struck it rich with Windham and his character. Instead, Barry self destructed.
What caught my attention recently was something I read in the Observer just a couple weeks ago. In the “Here and There” section, Dave Meltzer wrote something about Windham being in really bad shape these days. Then it all came back to me. After all these years, Barry STILL hasn’t gotten it together.
Go get your Ric Flair DVD. Watch the match with Windham from 1987. Has there ever been a more awesome match? It’s 40 minutes of non-stop action, non-stop excitement, and the loudest heat you’ll ever hear in your life. The crowd was just going bonkers. I mean, women loved this guy, and guys thought he was cool. What in the f*ck happened?
After he blew the NWA gig, he went to the WWF for a short-lived career as the Widowmaker. Then it was back to WCW, where he did have success. Dusty was booker again, and Barry was back in the main events, wrestling very well. When Bill Watts came back to book, we had the Barry of old. At Starrcade ’92, Windham was back to his old self. He made a very good tag team with Brian Pillman. He had a great match with 2 Cold Scorpio at the Clash of Champions when Flair returned to WCW. He was NWA champion and wrestling people like the Great Muta. He teased a feud with Flair, and later worked with him as a surprise opponent in 1994.
But during this time, the demons came back. He went back to WWE and was a mid carder during the days Raw was losing to Nitro. Then he blew that gig, and went to WCW for some memorable 1999 feuds and angles. But still, he was out of shape, past his prime, and all banged up. It was NOT the Barry of old.
Barry hasn’t been visible since, and who knows what he’s doing today. I wish him well. He was one of my favorites, and is part of a family legacy. And he not blown all those chances, he would be considered a legend today. He was that good.
4. Lex Luger
I liked Lex. I think he was just shy and quiet, and many people mistook that for arrogance. And so what if he was arrogant? If I had a body like that, I’d be arrogant too.
You hear the Chris Masters comparisons, but Masters couldn’t touch Luger in any area. Lex was Florida’s top babyface in 1986, and it led to a big contract with the NWA and a gig with the Horsemen. Lex was super smart, and made a fortune because of it. He went from one huge contract to another, making big, big money. Where did it all go?
Lex developed into a good worker in 1989 and 1990, but he was always compared to Flair, and that’s a comparison contest nobody is going to win. He flopped in WCW after Flair left, and then flopped in WWE despite an enormous push. But back in WCW during Nitro’s heyday, Luger was very over. He still sucked in the ring, but he got good reactions.
Divorces and child support payments have crippled Luger financially, and everyone knows about his recent arrests and DUIs. Who knows what the future holds for Lex, but he’s yet another major star in self destruction mode.
3. Scott Hall
What goes for Luger goes for Hall. Again, after good money years with WCW, he joined WWF and had a good run as Razor Ramon. It was a good gimmick, and he was a major star for 4 years. And when he made the jump to WCW in ’96, he made wrestling history.
From then on, Hall made close to $1million a year for nearly 5 years. No question he was worth it in the beginning, but toward the end he fell victim to alcoholism, and was on and off the payroll.
After WCW died, Hall got a 2nd chance when Vince brought back the nWo in 2002. Suddenly, he had a WrestleMania main event with Steve Austin. But once again, he lost his battle with alcohol.
TNA, ever eager for star power, employed Hall a couple times as well. In 2004, he was back on TV. But he was heavier, older, and embarrassing. He didn’t last long, and word has it he is in worse shape than ever these days.
I’m not sure how this happened, but Hall should still be a main eventer today if he had his head screwed on straight.
2. Jake Roberts
This guy’s a real mess, and everyone knows it. We’ve all seen the movie and heard the stories, and we all shake our heads. Here’s a guy with a genius understanding of the business. If I were him, I’d be making a fortune with WWE as a road agent and booker, teaching the young guys how to cut promos and control a crowd. Instead, he’s haggard, old, graying, and coarse.
If WWE wants to copy reality TV, they should make over Jake Roberts. Color his hair, moisturize it, and style it. Make him lose weight. A hair piece or wig, maybe? Wear some cooler looking clothes, and get a tan. Throw in a facelift. No more drug habits. Suddenly, you’d have a walking, talking, potent piece of the best psychology and interviews around. And the crowd still loves him.
Instead, Jake will self destruct and become another story of wasted potential. We’re seeing a pattern here.
1. Kerry Von Erich
This is the saddest story of them all. If you could look like any man, if you could have the athletic ability of any man, and choose which family to have, and select which job to have, would you honestly ask to be born as anyone other than Kerry Von Erich?
Good God, this guy was built like a Greek statue, born to grace covers of romance novels, star in action hero films, and star in daytime soaps. He could have had any woman… ANY WOMAN he wanted. He had everything the average guy wishes he could have, all handed to him. Women loved everything about him; his face, his hair, his muscles, his fame, his fortune. He had tremendous, natural athletic ability. Not too much brains, but hey, that can be learned. You can make yourself as smart as you want to be. You CANNOT make your muscles or your athletic ability as good as you want them to be. Those are gifts, and Kerry not only had those gifts, he had them in abundance.
His father was the promoter of the hottest wrestling territory around, right there in Dallas, TX. He was in his peak at the same time his territory peaked. His father pushed him to the top and the NWA committee gave him an NWA title run. He had thousands of women throwing their panties in the ring after every match, and if he wanted to, he could have boinked them all. He really was God to a generation of fans in one part of the country, and he lived it up. You couldn’t ask for a better life.
And Kerry went and squandered that life away. It’s always tough to come back down to reality after having a run like that, I suppose. The Von Erich dynasty died as part of the WWF’s expansion, just like all the territories did. Kerry stayed local, feuding with people like Jerry Lawler. It wasn’t until 1990 when he joined the WWF, far too many years after he should have.
Still, in 1990, he was able to go. His physique, always impressive, was even better. When he disrobed, women still screamed, even when he was a mid-carder. His matches weren’t great, but he had so much ability that it was enough to get by. It was his addictions, and only his addictions, that held him back.
If you put the work ethic and intelligence (that is, the brain) of someone like CM Punk or Lance Storm and put it inside Kerry’s head, you’d have the most awesome physical specimen ever. If Kerry were smart, he’d have made a huge name for himself locally (which he did), and then go to WWF as either Vince’s champ (he could’ve been chosen before Hogan was, but in 1984 the Dallas group was still on fire), or been their 2nd lead babyface. There is no reason why Kerry wasn’t in the WWF during the Hogan glory years other than he didn’t have his head on straight. Instead of Jim Hellwig (Ultimate Warrior) or Steve Borden (Sting) getting title runs in their companies, it should have been Von Erich. No one had more natural gifts, and no one blew more opportunities.
Instead, Kerry will be remembered as the Texas Tornado. The guy who was IC champ, got fired, and then took his own life. He should’ve been remembered as an all-time great babyface, hero to millions, and torch bearer of the Von Erich family dynasty.
We all know the story of the Von Erichs all too well.
Kerry Von Erich is my choice as the most self destructive wrestler ever, because he should’ve been a bigger success than anyone else on this list. He achieved great success to be sure, but it was on a local scale and it was too soon in his life. No one had all the gifts like Kerry did and let them slip away. He had it all, and could’ve had more. Rather than do that, he ended up as just another tragedy.
So there you have it. This was a frustrating article to write, because you really do want to see everyone reach the most of their abilities in life. If nothing else, I hope the stories of these men inspire others to straighten out their lives, get their acts together, and be the best they can be. The one thing we can learn from failure is lessons, and the plight of these men leaves enough lessons to fill 100 classrooms. Study them, learn from them, and make the most of them.