The Top 10 Superstar Collapses of the Modern Era
On TV they seem larger than life. Surrounded by pyrotechnics and thousands of roaring (or lightly applauding) fans; giant musclemen talking loudly and carrying a steel chair.
In absorbing the characters these men and women portray on TV, it's sometimes easy to forget that they are regular people with everyday lives.
Wrestlers are just ordinary people like the rest of us.
However, sometimes they are very flawed people who make horrible decisions and mistakes that they can't take back.
And sometimes those decisions ruin their careers, their lives and the lives of others.
Today, we're going to take a look at the top 10 falls from grace in the current wrestling scene.
Wrestlers who were once megastars or high on the marquee, who have fallen from dizzying highs to disastrous lows.
Some have fallen due to addiction, others have just succumbed to age and don't realize it, while others still, are just stupid to a baffling degree.
Whatever the reason, they are not the performers or people they once were.
And the world of wrestling is a sadder place because of it.
10. Gregory Helms
Gregory Helms is probably the least illustrious star who will be mentioned in this countdown.
Helms was never that big of a star while on the main stage; he was usually wrestling towards the bottom or mid-card for most of his career in WCW and the WWE.
His greatest success came as "The Hurricane," a campy knockoff of the Green Lantern character.
During his time with the WWE, Helms won the WWF European Championship, The WWF Hardcore Championship, was a two-time WWE Cruiserweight Champion and a two-time WWE Tag Team Champ with Rosey and Kane.
Gregory's star began to fade in 2008 when he returned from a severe neck injury that sidelined him for a year. He was eventually drafted to ECW to have middling feuds with the likes of Paul Burchill, before finally being released in early 2010.
Helms didn't land in TNA like most released WWE wrestlers do. Instead, he now finds himself in small independent promotions like Pro Wrestling Guerrilla and the Carolina Wrestling Federation.
Helms has since found himself in trouble with the law over a horrific accident three months ago that broke his leg, ankle, jaw and nose, and injured his girlfriend, when he was riding a motorcycle while possibly intoxicated.
Last week, Helms was arrested and processed for driving while under the influence charges in relation to that accident.
Greg Helms is close friends with Jeff and Matt Hardy, so it comes as no surprise that he'd have run-ins with the law over being intoxicated.
It's far from the most stunning or severe fall on this list, but going from beating The Rock in front of millions of people, to alternating time between small promotions and jail, is still a big fall, nonetheless.
Hopefully, The Artist Formerly Known as Hurricane will clean up his act and get his career back on the right track.
9. Kevin Nash*
*Note: Yes, I know Kevin Nash is not a "former" WWE talent, but I found the title for this article much easier to digest than: "Falls From Grace: 9 Former WWE superstars, and one who will make it 10 former WWE superstars in a few months."
Work with me, people.
In my personal opinion, Kevin Nash overachieved in this business.
He accomplished more in the world of professional wrestling than he probably should have, given the amount of talent that he actually possesses.
There are only a very few number of men who can say that they truly revolutionized the world of professional wrestling. Kevin Nash is one of them. He changed the world and made wrestling "cool" again with Scott Hall and Hulk Hogan. He was the stalwart enforcer of the world's most infamous and influential stable of all time.
Not to mention he was a six-time World Champion and 12-time World Tag Team Champion and one half of The Outsiders.
He made the best of what he had to work with.
He was not the best talker on the microphone, and he wasn't the best worker in the ring. But there wasn't a time where most felt: "He shouldn't be at the top of this business." (Except for the time he booked himself to win the WCW World Heavyweight Title by having Goldberg get hit with a cattle prod. He definitely shouldn't have done that. That was stupid, Kevin.)
But, whether he was "Big Daddy Cool" or "Big Sexy", whenever he spoke, the people listened. Whenever he wrestled, it was usually the main event.
He made for interesting television.
However, those days are decidedly done.
Since Kevin Nash has returned to the WWE, he has sucked the life out of every segment he's been in.
The magic he used to make on the microphone has been replaced with slow, plodding drudgery. He can't even get in and or out of the ring properly, anymore. He can't even throw a simple punch without looking like he's going to tear a quad again.
The man that was a premier catalyst for the world's hottest wrestling angle 15 years ago, is now the bane of the only hot angle in the WWE, period.
He was never the best entertainer in the world, but he left most entertained, nonetheless. But, that peculiar magic he had is now gone.
All that is left of one of the most dominant players in the game are the irritated catcalls of the fans, telling him to stay away from Punk and giving him deathly silence in his promos when not "What?!" chanting his every uninspiring sentence.
The game has passed Kevin Nash by.
It becomes more prevalent with the fact that he can't even pass a physical to get cleared to do some random ambling and then call it "wrestling" at Night of Champions.
Kevin's fall was a slow burn that took over a decade and went from WCW to WWE to TNA and back again.
The fall was slow but sure.
And surely, it's time for Big Kev to walk away for good.
8. Hulk Hogan
When Hulk Hogan would come out to his NWO theme music in WCW, there was a voice-over added to the intro. It would blare out: "The biggest icon in professional wrestling."
It was true to the last syllable.
Hulk Hogan is a man who transcended championships and promotions. Hulk Hogan, with a mere drop of his leg, could set the entire world on fire and kick off an era that spawned the likes of the New World Order, Degeneration-X, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Goldberg.
Hogan could slam a giant, and start a global blaze of yellow and red fever that would define the "Golden Era" of professional wrestling.
Quite simply, Hogan was the Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan of professional wrestling, combined. (But with none of the athleticism.)
It's only natural that when your legacy holds that much clout and your name contains so much power, that you would develop an ego.
It's that ego that has kept Hogan holding on to the idea that he is still the same man from the days of Hulkamania and The New World Order.
Hulk now finds himself in the fold of TNA. Toiling away to try and build the company up with old friend Eric Bischoff and President, Dixie Carter. Hogan continues to make himself the key focal point of the show, when it's just a plain fact that he is no longer a draw in 2011. TNA only gets low 1.0's in the ratings.
Currently, TNA is working towards rekindling the in-ring rivalry between Hogan and Sting.
But Hogan can barely move, let alone wrestle, due to severe back problems from years of taking bumps and working out with heavy weights. ("Heavy weights" in the previous sentence is a synonym for "Steroids".)
Not only is Hulk's professional life in TNA a problem, but his personal life is no picnic, either.
Hogan created the show "Hogan Knows Best" where the world was allowed to see the private life of Hulk Hogan and his family. It was bizarre to say the least, but popular. Though, the show was cancelled because of personal problems in Hogan's family.
Hulk divorced from his long time wife Linda Hogan in 2007, after stories emerged that he had an affair with his daughter's close friend who was 21 years his junior. His wife left him for their son's 19-year-old friend. Hogan admitted at the time that he had considered committing suicide. However, Hulk himself moved on and eventually married his current wife, Jennifer McDaniel.
The relationship is still ugly with his ex-wife, as she recently suggested that Hogan was gay and had a sexual relationship with friend, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake.
There have also been some bizarre instances with his daughter, Brooke. Such as Hogan casually exposing his genitalia to a camera while she stood next to him and he, personally, unveiling her nude PETA photo spread. Events like that have led to some lurid gossip on the web, to say the least.
It's been a wild and rocky ride both professionally and personally for Hulk in recent years. And that ride has been on a downward trajectory for a while now.
TNA is suffering from his presence, his family was broken apart, his son was nearly killed in an auto-accident, his relationship with Vince McMahon and the WWE would be described as "ice cold" at best, "Hogan Knows Best" and "Brooke Knows Best" were both cancelled.
The man who once ruled the world of professional wrestling is now a diminished older talent, consuming the mild spotlight that shines at TNA to the detriment of the young, cutting edge wrestlers that TNA possesses. The man who could chop a mountain down with the edge of his hand, now struggles to execute a believable chair shot.
But, on the bright side, he's still got $30 million in the bank with more coming in.
So, he has a big pile of money to soften that fall from the meteoric heights he used to reside in not all that long ago.
7. Brian Kendrick
Main Event level charisma?
Superb microphone skills?
Tremendous in-ring ability?
Leonardo DiCaprio type looks?
Brain the size of a retarded, dyslexic fruit fly on heroin?
Brian Kendrick should be a multiple time WWE and World Champion right now.
He should be on posters, in movies, at award shows, on talk shows, on red carpets and just...everywhere.
He should have legions of little tweenage girls shrieking at the site of him as he saunters in with the big gold belt as this generation's version of Shawn Michaels.
He should have fans debating his place in the pantheon of greats and wondering how high does he rank.
But where is this idiot?
This idiot is lost in the shuffle in TNA as the X-Division champion and is surely going to lose even that to Austin Aries at some point in the future.
And why is this moron a throwaway champion, in a division the head honchos barely care about, in an organization that doesn't know good booking from their left butt cheek?
Not cocaine, not heroin, not meth, not even prescription pain pills.
Spanky was constantly getting fined for smoking pot and violating the WWE's wellness policy. Rumor has it, he would just take and pay the fines and didn't care.
Well, the WWE cared.
So, he went from a hair's breadth of being the WWE champion, even being an interim champion at Unforgiven in 2008, to being pushed out of the title picture, to being pushed out of the tag-team title picture with Big Zeke, to being pushed out of the WWE by 2009.
And because we're talking about a short bus specialist, his response was not one of: "Man, I just got fired over pot, when less than a year ago, I was the interim WWE Champion. I screwed this one up."
No, his response was to bury the WWE as a bunch of "cowards, weak people, backstabbers and suck ups" and swear he'll never go back to the only place he could ever truly achieve global greatness in the modern wrestling landscape. (If it's so bad, why did you go do two stints there? And why were you fired? Why didn't you quit?)
And hey, I don't work for the WWE, so maybe they are filled with people like that.
Alot of people who get fired from the WWE, plus CM Punk, say that.
But, I can't tell you with 100 percent assurance that it's true.
One thing I can tell you I believe is true?
Is that if they are filled with clowns and sycophants?
Each and every one of them is still smarter than Brian Kendrick.
Seriously. Heroin fruit fly levels of stupidity.
6. Ric Flair
By now, you've probably heard about the very lengthy and detailed profile on Ric's personal life and finances from Grantland.com.
In a tell-all expose, they show how Ric Flair has lived beyond his means for almost his entire career. They detail how his wives have hit him and beat him. They tell of how Ric was beaten up by his daughter's boyfriend and how his daughter was arrested for assaulting a police officer.
They show how Flair has been ripped off and has left people he owed money to, holding the bag. They show how his wives have mismanaged funds, how he's filed for bankruptcy, how he's been in and out of court over lawsuit after lawsuit for failed investments and business endeavors.
They even talk about his Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy which is a condition that basically leads to heart failure due to consuming too much alcohol.
But, the worst part about it all is this: Ric Flair owes the U.S. government nearly a million dollars in back taxes.
Here's the thing about owing the government nearly a million dollars ($874,000) in back taxes: They will destroy you without a second thought.
They will take everything you have, your paycheck, your car, your house and if it isn't enough? Off to jail you go. And they don't care if you're a celebrity, just ask Wesley Snipes. They've already garnished Ric's WWE pay and put a lien on his home
Ric Flair has to keep wrestling. Even though he can't wrestle anymore.
He almost got evicted from his house because he can't afford the rent. TNA hasn't paid him his royalty fees since February, but he has to keep wrestling and performing for them, because he can't afford to stop.
With all the lawsuits, the money he owes to his ex-wife and the government breathing down his neck, if he stops wrestling, he's ruined.
And the sad thing is, Ric owes so much money, that even though he makes $22,000 a month with TNA, he'll probably still have to wrestle for them until he's 70 or 75 years old, just to get out from under all of this.
Ric can't wrestle at 62. How is he going to perform at 70? And if he just becomes a manager, will TNA still pay him over $250,000 a year? Will there even be a TNA when he's 70?
This really isn't a fall from grace, as much as it is the eventual outcome of living so far beyond your means, that you make NBA players look like financial gurus when they buy a $2 million engagement ring to marry a former sex tape queen. Especially when they are only a two-bit role player on the New Jersey Nets. (I'm just saying, Kris Humphries, use your brain a little.)
Ric did this to himself by trying to live the "Limo-riding, Jet-flying" life, when he was making "Toyota-driving, commercial flight-flying" money.
But to many wrestling fans, and many superstar wrestlers, when you ask: "Who is the greatest that ever laced the boots?" Ric Flair will come up in the conversation.
It's sad to see the man who was once so on top of his game, that many considered him the best ever, be forced to hop into the ring at 62 to do a program with Sting, not because he wants to, but because he has to.
And let alone the fact that age has completely deteriorated his skills, the worst thing is the fact that the man has to work in an environment as crazy as professional wrestling with a potentially fatal heart condition.
I ripped Ric in an article for still getting in the ring when he can't go anymore.
That was before the Grantland article came out.
It just goes to show that you never know what people are really going through behind closed doors.
5. Matt Hardy
Once upon a time, Matt Hardy was a tag-team legend.
A six time WWF World Tag Team Champion with his brother Jeff, Matt Hardy helped to form the nucleus of an iconic tag team division that included such icons as The Dudley Boyz, The New Age Outlawz, Edge & Christian and The Acolytes Protection Agency.
He and his brother's reckless, high-flying style, drew them legions of fans. Their matches with The Dudley Boyz and E&C were the stuff of legends. They popularized the brutal "TLC: Tables Ladders and Chairs" match.
At one point, Matt was considered the more grounded and responsible Hardy brother, in comparison to his brother's off-kilter and unpredictable ways.
My, how things have changed...
Matt's fall from grace began sharply last year, when he was sent home from a European tour the WWE was running at the time. But the writing had already been on the wall in the form of Matt's appearance. He was gaining fat at a steady pace. After being sent home from the tour, Matt began to bash the WWE online and was released from his contract.
Matt emerged on TNA television at the beginning of this year and had a lackluster run as primarily a Fourtune/Immortal lackey for a few months.
But Hardy's run wouldn't last long, as he would be suspended from TNA in June, joining his brother Jeff, who was already on suspension for his own problems.
Matt Hardy would then be fired for getting arrested while driving under the influence. This began a series of even more bizarre events, where Hardy talked about being reborn through his Youtube account.
Matt Hardy would then be hospitalized after passing out and falling down in his home.
Recently, Matt released a prank suicide note video that eventually ended up having police show up to Jeff's house to try and stop Matt from committing suicide. (Matt was not there, the police went to Jeff's house incorrectly due to fans contacting them and giving them the wrong address.)
The result of all this has turned fans against Matt for his antics and even angered Jeff Hardy's wife, because of the inconvenience of having cops at her door in the middle of the night..
Now, Matt has released another bizarre video, pictured above, talking about his metamorphosis is complete and telling fans not to be afraid.
Kurt Angle recently weighed in on Matt and confirmed that he is struggling with substance abuse problems. Jim Ross also weighed in today and slammed Hardy's suicide note hoax as an "embarrassingly bad publicity stunt."
Matt has turned off the WWE, TNA, and his own fans with his antics. It's not just the substance abuse, but it's the fact that he's made light of it through online media forums like Youtube.
The bottom line, behind all of these games and nonsense, is that Matt Hardy is someone in need of help.
Hopefully, he'll get it before it's too late.
Hopefully, he will get it before things take an even more severe turn for the worst.
4. Jeff Hardy
The good news about Jeff Hardy, is that according to Kurt Angle's recent comments about him and his brother Matt, Jeff is finally turning his life around.
He's had a child, and that child has put things into perspective for Jeff.
But that still doesn't stop Jeff Hardy from making this list. It just means he's getting back up from rock bottom.
Rock bottom was a long way down for Jeff.
Just like Matt Hardy, as one half of the Hardy Boys, Jeff defined the era for tag team wrestling in the '90s. But unlike Matt, after the Hardy's went their separate ways, Jeff made it to the top of the card. He became a two-time World Heavyweight Champion in the WWE.
However, he went from headlining WWE pay per views as the World Heavyweight Champion to being out of the WWE completely, due to accumulated injuries and wear on his spine.
He landed in TNA, where he eventually became the TNA World Heavyweight Champion twice. Though he would later lose that championship to Mr. Anderson and Sting.
Shortly after he lost the title to Sting, he was given a rematch. He was so impaired that TNA cut the match to a 90 second squash in Sting's favor and removed Jeff from the program.
He had been gone since March, but was brought back only a few days ago. (SPOILER ALERT!) Upon his return, he would admit that he hit rock bottom and asked the fans for another chance.
Surely, the fans will give him a second chance. But, Jeff's road to career recovery faces a monumental stumbling block:
In 2009, Jeff Hardy was arrested and charged with various counts ranging from trafficking in prescription pills to possession of drug paraphernalia. He was caught with Vicodin, Soma, steroids, cocaine and drug paraphernalia in his home. Jeff will plead guilty to the charges.
Hopefully, the courts will be convinced to give Jeff a second chance when his court date comes up Sept. 8, 2011 in Moore County, North Carolina.
It would be truly unfortunate if Jeff's recent turnaround was rewarded with a jail sentence.
I will encapsulate the utter demise of a once proud WWF female icon in three words:
This is not a "tasteful" (whatever that's supposed to mean) spread in Playboy. This is not her making love with her fiancee and then in a mad grab for cash, deciding to sell the tape to get a payday.
This is Chyna, Joanie Laurer, the first woman to truly compete on the same level as the men in the WWF, the first and only female WWF Intercontinental Champion, having sex with multiple men and women and doing it like a seasoned veteran. (Don't ask me how I know. Please. I was just researching people, researching.)
The surprising thing about Chyna coming to this, is that it was only a few months ago that she returned briefly to wrestling in TNA. She clearly wasn't in wrestling shape, and I guess we all know the reason for that now. She planned to taint herself in the eyes of pro wrestling companies to do hardcore porn.
But the downward spiral for Chyna started ugly, started suddenly, and never stopped.
First, Stephanie McMahon took her man away from her in Triple H.
Then, Chyna was taken off of TV and she decided to part ways with the WWF.
Then followed a drugged out stupor of events that ranged from "One Night In Chyna," domestic violence and appearances on "Celebrity Rehab," to claiming a non-existing friendship with Anna Nicole Smith, cutting herself and being rushed to the hospital for overdosing on sleeping medication.
And now she's a hardcore porn star.
It's a truly shocking downfall for the woman who was once a cornerstone of the most popular era in the history of pro-wrestling and an inspiration to women everywhere who wanted to stand at the top of the business with the men.
Here's hoping she'll get it together.
Or at least get out of this without contracting HIV.
2. Scott Hall
Amy Winehouse was one of my favorite singers when she was alive.
I would watch in disappointment with every public faux pas she made, hoping and praying that she would get off of the drugs that were destroying not just her unique voice and career, but her life and legacy.
In the end, she wasn't able to survive those demons.
Scott Hall, to me, was not just my "favorite wrestler." He was the very man who made me a fanatical pro-wrestling fan. Before Scott Hall, it was just something I watched with my older brothers. But, after the birth of the New World Order, I was hooked for life. And it was Scott Hall who was my favorite member.
Before the Rock or Kurt Angle would ever step foot in the WWF, before I ever heard about Rob Van Dam, Tazz or Bubba Ray Dudley in ECW, Scott Hall was my guy.
I would walk through the house as a teen, crouching down with my arms extended out, pretending I was coming out to the ring with Scott and the NWO. I would just randomly say "Hey Yo!" and "Survey says? One more for the good guys!".
I would mark out whenever Scott Hall grabbed the mic to cut a promo or hit somebody with the Outsiders Edge.
To me, he was the greatest thing I ever saw on a television screen. He had the charisma, he had the attitude, he had the moves and those punches he would throw were a thing of beauty.
And so, looking at that video kills me.
It's like I'm watching Amy Winehouse dying all over again. I find myself thinking: "Where the hell are his real friends? Where is Nash or X-Pac? Why is Justin Credible not dragging him out of this building and forcing him to go back to rehab?"
And then I remember when I was an addict.
And I remember my friends telling me I should stop doing drugs, I shouldn't drink so much and I should "slow down." I remember one friend I used to get high with, refusing to do drugs with me anymore, because I would go too far overboard. What did I do? I got high without him. I ignored my friends telling me to stop.
I eventually would kick the habits, but it was when I finally came to the end of the road and decided for myself to stop doing drugs and stop drinking.
And this is what Scott Hall has to do.
For me, it was finding myself living out of the back of a car when I came to myself. Hall is going to have to hit a low point and come to himself.
Or, frankly, he's going to die.
Scott Hall is one of the most influential men in the history of pro-wrestling. He changed the landscape of the entire sport with Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash, and he was the one doing it the coolest.
I would hate to see his fall from grace be completed with his death in some skeevy hotel room in God Knows Where, USA.
He's better than that, and I pray he gets a wake up call before it comes to that.
1. Chris Benoit
When you type in "Chris Benoit" into Youtube, this is the third video that comes up.
When you visit the "World title history" feature at WWE.com, the name "Chris Benoit" is given no history or bio.
When you say the name "Chris Benoit" to the average person, the first thing that comes to their mind is: "Oh yeah, wasn't he that wrestler that killed his family and then himself?"
He is perhaps the greatest technical wrestler to ever get in a ring. If he's not the absolute best, then at least, he is in the highest echelon of the category with men like Kurt Angle and Bret "The Hitman" Hart.
The undersized guy, with a missing tooth and minimal mic skills, that through sheer hard work and determination, ended up winning the wrestling world's biggest prize, on its biggest stage, when he won the World Heavyweight Championship Title at Wrestlemania XX.
The Master of the Crippler Crossface.
The man who gave so much of his body to this business that when they autopsied him, they found he had the brain of an 85 year old man with Alzheimer's and Dementia.
And for as long as the name "Chris Benoit" remains in the speech of humans, it won't be associated with his greatness in the ring, unless it's an avid Chris Benoit fan. It will forever be tainted in the global consciousness with the blood of his family.
And there is nothing Chris can do to change that, because he's no longer with us. There is no chance at redemption for Chris like there are for the others on this list. He can't wash away the stain. He can't convince anyone that he was a better man than that. He can't prove he truly belongs in the Hall, and he can't change the world's view of him that he was a villain who murdered his autistic son and strangled his defenseless wife.
With only a few that loved Benoit, will his legacy as a performer live on. But with the rest of the world, he is a murderer first, and nothing else even matters.
For such an excellent performer and a man who sacrificed so much, a man that might have been a first ballot hall of famer, and the greatest technical wrestler who ever lived?
There could be no greater fall from grace.
For a man, for a guy from Canada, who loved his wife and son and had no idea that the dream he was living would turn his mind to pulp and become the possible cause for creating the single worst nightmare in wrestling history?
There could be no greater tragedy.