In recent years the world of pro wrestling has been dominated by the WWE (formally known as the WWF before those panda guys sued for exclusive rights to the name), which has risen to become a near-monolithic corporate entity with a vice-like grip on the throat of the industry. While the WWE has made a number of changes to its structures over the years to give itself a more family-friendly façade, you only have to look at the post-wrestling careers of some of the stars no longer on its roster to see that it still has a long way to go. For example, why not spare a thought for…
10. Kamala: Makes Ends Meet Singing About How the WWE Screwed Him
Chances are the younger readers have no idea who Kamala is, and it’s probably because his gimmick was so offensively racist that internet commenters would probably think it was too on the nose. For anyone unfamiliar with wrestling terminology, a “Gimmick” is something adopted by an individual wrestler to make them more interesting or differentiate them from other performers.
For example, Triple H, the current god-emperor (or Executive Vice President of Talent as he prefers to be called) used to wrestle while pretending to be a foppish, effeminate French aristocrat called Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Another example is Stone Cold Steve Austin, the Texas rattlesnake and All-American badass, who used to wrestle under the guise of a male model with flowing golden locks, called Stunning Steve. So what was Kamala’s gimmick? He was an African savage who couldn’t speak, walked around in a loincloth and tribal face paint, while sometimes wearing a scary looking voodoo-esque mask and eating live chickens. Yes, there was a time in history where the WWE (then called the WWF) gave so few craps that they convinced a black man that his best bet to endear himself to a crowd was to conform to every offensive stereotype about his race… and it worked.
Kamala was a huge draw during his career, even wrestling against the Undertaker at Summerslam 1992, earning him some $20,000. A figure that’d be impressive if the Undertaker hadn’t taken home $500,000 for that same match. Kamala actually earned so little money from his career with the WWE that he’s now forced to make money singing songs about much they screwed him over during his four decade tenure as a wrestler. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Kamala (real name James Harris) lost a leg to diabetes and is currently embroiled in a lawsuit about all the injuries he sustained in the ring dressed as, and we can’t stress this enough, a massively racist stereotype of his own race.
9. The Iron Sheik: Had to Sell his Life Story to Buy New Knees
The Iron Sheik (real name, Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri) is largely regarded as one of the greatest heels (wrestling jargon for bad guy) in pro wrestling history, largely because he spent all his time yelling about how much America sucked compared to his native Iran. Given what you learned about Kamala just now, it’s probably no surprise that the Sheik’s “Iran is number one” schtick was inspired by the Iranian hostage crisis, because there was no horse the WWE won’t beat to death with a sack of cash if they think it’ll get them viewers.
A former heavyweight champion who wrestled the likes of Hulk Hogan and, to an extent, had similar levels of fame and recognizability, it’s no surprise that in 2013 there was an effort made to crowdfund a film about his legitimately awesome life. What may be surprising is that the Sheik agreed to sell away his life story. Not for fame or a last chance to relive his former glory, but to help afford surgery to get new knees. Remember, this is a man who was, for a time, one of the biggest draws of the wrestling world. The WWE still puts this guy in their games as a “Legend”… and he had to sell the rights to his life so he can walk without his knees exploding.
8. Chyna: Her Breasts Exploded
Chyna (born Joan Marie Laurer) may not have been the first female wrestler, but she’s undeniably one of the most famous. Her towering frame, combined with her background as a bodybuilder, allowed Chyna to do something no female wrestler in the WWE had ever done before, and has struggled to do since: fight in the same matches as (and be as respected as) male wrestlers. Chyna is noted as being the first woman to take part in a Royal Rumble, and was consistently rated one of the greatest wrestlers of the Attitude era. Not that you’d know it, given that the WWE basically forgot who the hell she was until she died, at which point they suddenly decided to give her her proper dues.
You see, after leaving the WWE, Chyna appeared in a number of… ahem… “adult” movies, which sharply contradicted with the WWE’s push to be family-friendly. As a result, the company sought to distance itself from her because they were worried that acknowledging her existence would lead to kids googling her name and stumbling across her other work. To this end, they stopped her from using the name “Chyna” to promote herself, prompting her to simply legally change her name to “Chyna,” because who was going to argue with her? It was only when she passed away in 2016 that the WWE miraculously changed its tune and agreed that she’d made a tremendous sacrifice for their industry and the women working in it. Like that time her breasts exploded.
That’s not hyperbole. Chyna had breast implants nearly her entire career (largely at the WWE’s behest, since they wanted to feminize her appearance), which, due to her large frame, weren’t exactly the best fit. This led to them exploding during a match after a botched move. Chyna eventually had to have custom-made breast implants that were designed expressly for her frame, and were patented to be sold to women in the body-building industry. Just let that soak in for a second. Chyna was so tough that she continued wrestling after her breasts literally exploded, and the WWE didn’t want to be associated with someone so badass because she decided she wanted to make adult movies after leaving their employment. Speaking of sex tapes…
7. Hulk Hogan: Can’t Make Money, Lost Out on the Foreman Grill Endorsement
Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Mr America, or more simply the Hulkster, he is a giant of the wrestling world. Hulk Hogan is a man who was, for a time, one of the single most recognizable people on Earth. Something that’s arguably made easier when you’re six and half feet tall, decked head to toe in garish neon yellow, and remove your shirt by flexing until it explodes off your torso. But hey, it’s still kind of impressive.
Given his near-universal recognizability and the fact he was the biggest wrestling superstar in the entire world for several years, you’d think Hulk Hogan would be rich as hell. This, however, is not the case, mostly because the Super Destroyer (actual ring name he once had) has a habit of making, frankly, awful business decisions. Over the years Hogan has lent his name to everything from meatball makers to a web hosting service, none of which made any money, because come on… would you really trust a man who looks like Hulk Hogan with anything involving a computer?
Hogan’s biggest loss, however, is the indestructible George Foreman Grill, which he claims that he was originally approached to promote, but missed out on because his life is a never-ending series of nut-punches to the wallet. The George Foreman Grill went on to make more money for George Foreman than he’d ever made from boxing. Hogan, meanwhile, launched two competing products: a blender (hilariously called the Hogan Thunder Mixer), and a competing grill. Both failed, because of course they did.
At this point we’re guessing Hogan is happy he won that court case against Gawker.
6. Zach Gowen: Performs in Juggalo Themed Wrestling Shows
Zach Gowen probably has a number of reasons to be notable, but for the purposes of this article we can get away with saying that he’s the guy famous for wrestling with one leg. Which is probably why he wrestled under his real name, because it’s not like he was ever going to be remembered as anyone other than “That guy from the WWE with one leg.”
Gowen’s career with the WWE was an embarrassing mess from the start, and while he is undoubtedly an amazing athlete, the company simply couldn’t keep coming up with scenarios in which a guy with one leg kept, for lack of a better term, kicking the asses of their most famous stars. Which is probably why the WWE fed Gowen to Brock Lesnar to establish him as a bad guy, which he handily accomplished by breaking his leg in front of his mother, then throwing him down a flight of stairs a week later while he was in a wheelchair. Gowen was released from his contract soon afterwards.
While what Gowen did was admittedly awesome and proved that handicapped people can do amazing things, his post-WWE career doesn’t really scream “success” story given that he now wrestles in something called Juggalo Championship Wrestling. You know, those weird guys who dress like clowns and hate being made fun of even though they’re wearing dumb clown make up. Yeah, those guys.
5. Jeff Hardy: Can’t Stop Screwing Up
Jeff Hardy, better known as the more “edgy” half of the famous wrestling duo The Hardy Boys, is one of the better known wrestlers from the Attitude era of wrestling. The time in wrestling history where the WWE decided “screw this” and began including storylines about wizards and vampires and once let wrestler Brian Pillman threaten someone with a freaking gun live on air for the ratings, because the WWE apparently invented the term YOLO.
Hardy’s gimmick was that of a high-flying daredevil, which saw him leaping from twenty-foot-high ladders on a nightly basis during his tenure with the WWE. This understandably resulted in Hardy getting injured more than his fair share of times, which has in turn led to him developing problems with prescription drugs and alcohol.
Hardy’s problems with alcohol came to a head in 2011, when he was scheduled to fight wrestling legend Sting during a TNA (about the only semi-major competitor to the WWE these days) pay-per-view, and turned up to the match so drunk he could barely stand. Of course this being wrestling, Sting was forced to stay in character and had to try and end the match as quickly as possible, actually hitting Hardy for real so that he could pin him. The match was so disappointing that fans began chanting the words “bulls**t” over and over again, prompting Sting to shrug and begrudgingly (and audibly) turn to them and say “I know.”
Remember, Sting is about as professional as pro wrestlers come. And Hardy was such a drunken mess that he made a guy who has worn face paint for nearly half a century, and never publicly breaks character… break character to apologize for how bad Hardy screwed up. Which is actually… well, kind of impressive.
4. Ultimate Warrior: WWE Made a DVD Slamming Him, Just to Spite Him
The Ultimate Warrior was a wrestler so synonymous with his in-ring persona that he changed his name from the already awesome James Brian Hellwig, to simply Warrior in 1993.
It would later emerge though that Warrior’s decision to change his name was based less in capitalizing on his fame than it was about maintaining some possession of the persona he’d spent decades crafting. Like with Chyna, the WWE didn’t like Warrior using his name, gimmick, or associated paraphernalia outside of wrestling to earn money for himself, so they sued him to actively prevent him from making money using it.
So, like Chyna, he legally changed his name to “Warrior” to circumvent this. Unlike Chyna however, Warrior was able to challenge the decision in court and was granted exclusive rights to the Warrior name, likeness and mannerisms (all things he invented) to use as he saw fit. In response, the WWE released a DVD about his time with the company, in which wrestlers working for the company talked about how much he sucked.
Again, like with Chyna, when Warrior passed away in 2016 (a surprising number of famous wrestlers are dead now) the WWE nearly broke their arms patting themselves on the back about how much they’d miss him.
3. Sin Cara: Had His Entire Gimmick Stolen
Despite the undeniable impact lucha libre has had on the world of pro wrestling, the number of notable wrestlers of Mexican descent who’ve used a luchador gimmick in the WWE can be counted on one hand. One of the only notable ones is Sin Cara, a wrestler so generic they replaced the guy portraying him and nobody noticed.
Initially Sin Cara was portrayed by a guy named Luis Urive, who continually botched moves simply because no wrestler working with him knew how to wrestle in the same style he’d used in Mexico. After becoming injured, Urive was replaced by another wrestler who wore his mask and wrestled as Sin Cara in his stead. When Urive came back, he fought the new Sin Cara for the rights to use the gimmick and won. The new Sin Cara then went on to wrestler under another gimmick and name, Hunico. Following us so far?
In 2014, Urive was released from his contract. However, his character Sin Cara wasn’t retired. So how did the WWE replace him? They quietly hired Hunico to once again put on the mask. So in other words, the WWE hired a talented Mexican wrestler (he was one of the most popular wrestlers in all of Mexico at one point), refused to let him do any of the things he was famous for in Mexico, saw him get injured, replaced him, made him fight for the rights to use his own gimmick and name again, fired him, then gave his name to his rival. That’s some Inception-level screwing right there.
2. Gangrel: Directs Porn Under a Vampire Ring Name
Remember when we said that the WWE once had wrestlers who used a vampire gimmick? Yeah, we weren’t making that up, as the career of Gangrel is only too happy to demonstrate. Initially conceived because writers for the WWE “believed in the merit of a vampire gimmick,” Gangrel would slink to the ring with a goblet of “blood,” flanked by flames, and had a number of powerful but poorly defined mystical powers. The ’90s really were, quite literally, a magical time.
Unlike many of the wrestlers discussed today, Gangrel (real name: David William Heath) seems to be doing okay, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that he currently directs pornographic films under his vampire pseudonym. A fact so amazing, it almost makes up for the fact the title of his first movie is so unimaginatively derivative: Miami Rump Shakerz 2. Come on, Gangrel. You were a big deal in the wrestling world once, you shouldn’t have to lower yourself by directing sequels.
1. Virgil: The Entire Reason We Wrote This Article
Michael Jones, or Virgil as he apparently prefers to be known, had a short and lackluster career with the WWE, which saw him serve as the assistant of Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, who’d humiliate him by essentially treating him like a slave. A fact made all the more uncomfortable by the fact Jones is an African American man, and his costume made him look like a Mandingo Chippendale performer.
Since leaving the WWE, Jones has tried to capitalize on his status as a “Wrestling superstar” by proclaiming himself to be exactly that. He can often be found at wrestling shows trying to convince people to pay him for autographs. Which isn’t that unusual. What sets Jones apart, though, is his tenacity. There exist dozens of photos of him standing alone at conventions, and even sometimes on street corners or in the subway, next to a large photo of himself, seemingly daring people to make eye contact with him.
These efforts led to a meme being created about Jones describing him, rather aptly, as “Lonely Virgil.” There’s a blog featuring a disheartening amount of photos of him standing alone at various conventions.
In an effort to maintain his tenuous grasp on fame, Virgil has been observed strong arming fans talking to him into buying t-shirts or autographs. He once launched a GoFundMe campaign to make him a millionaire (which made less than $1100), and more recently has been caught booking shows for himself and Ted DiBiase, without DiBiase’s knowledge, then simply not turning up after taking the money. As if that wasn’t sad enough, Virgil has also unsuccessfully tried to invent a meme, coining the phrase “F**k money” to refer to the act of getting paid, something he’s evidently very poor at actually doing.