As September draws to a close I figured I’d highlight the fact that September is National Recovery Month which raises awareness about recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Addictions that the pro wrestling industry is all too familiar with. And while wrestling fans once chugged along with their favorite beer guzzlers like “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Sandman, and rolled a fatty for 4:20 friendly wrestlers like Rob Van Dam and The Godfather, in today’s wrestling landscape that’s no longer the case. While it’s not entirely condemned, because only heels are straight edge, it’s definitely frowned upon. Pro wrestling has even tried to make public service announcements out of wrestlers’ real-life past addictions. Here’s five of them.
5. CM Punk’s Not-So Straight Edge Family
Much like CM Punk had recycled the Summer of Punk ROH storyline years later in the WWE, he did the whole “father was an alcoholic” angle he did with Raven in the WWE as well. Only this time Jericho was the one bringing all this stuff to light and adding that Punk’s sister was also a drug addict. Leading up to their title match at WrestleMania 28, Jericho revealed that the sole reason Punk became straight edge was to not end up like his alcoholic father, which is a good enough reason as any to remain sober.
Jericho’s sole purpose during this feud became less about winning the WWE Title and more about getting Punk to drink, like some peer-pressuring frat bro. He even went as far as setting up Punk to fail a sobriety test, because according to WWE policy and Eve Torres, “Any WWE Superstar is prohibited from consuming alcohol within a 12 hour period of a WWE event.” Which was clearly a newly adopted policy seeing as it didn’t apply to #4 on this list…
Ah, the Attitude Era. Where we found out as teenagers just how real shit could get. And straight-shootin’ was the norm. Hawk was no exception. His real-life alcohol problems were now on-screen for our amusement. The worst part about this storyline was Animal refusing to see this as Hawk’s cry for help and instead replacing him with a wrestler whose gimmick was throwing up on cue. At least Hawk was kind of a happy drunk.
Naturally, this all led to Hawk wanting to commit suicide by jumping off of the Titantron. Which he did with help from Droz. It was then revealed that Droz was enabling Hawk the whole time in order to kill him and take his spot in the Legion of Doom. It was at once one of the shittiest and darkest WWE angles. I can just imagine the entire WWE locker room reacting like Kyle from South Park did after finding out that Cartman killed Scott Tenorman’s parents and then fed them to him. Never piss off Droz again.
3. Born-Again Jake “The Snake” Roberts
Before Barry Blaustein could exploit the mess of a man that was once known as Jake “The Snake” Roberts on film for Beyond the Mat, the WWE decided to use Jake’s “old” drinking problem as a wasted angle against Jerry Lawler. The sad reality was that Jake’s drinking problem was probably the least of Jake’s addictions. The sadder part is that had Jake stuck around a few more years his drinking would’ve probably made him one of the Attitude Era’s top babyfaces. He would’ve at least gotten an Intercontinental Title run.
But this was 1996 and Jake was now a born-again Christian. His snake was no longer Lucifer, but Revelations, and Jake was now a Bible thumper. While the best thing to come from this second run was Stone Cold’s King of the Ring speech, the worst was probably the feud with Jerry Lawler. Lawler kept provoking Jake by bringing up his alcoholic past which all led to a big blow off match on Raw. Fake drunk Jake Roberts wrestling was clearly not as hilarious as actual drunk Jake Roberts wrestling. Despite getting a second chance, Jake being let go from the WWE is probably what sent him on an even worse downward spiral. Luckily, DDP Yoga did what no rehab center could ever do for Jake.
2. “Last Call” Scott Hall
Staying true to their reality-based storylines that had given them so much success, WCW figured it’d gain some ratings from Scott Hall’s real-life problems with drinking. Scott Hall was suddenly Julian from the Trailer Park Boys, carrying a drink with him everywhere he went, including the ring. It got to the point where it drove a wedge between him and BFF Kevin Nash. Despite the fact that they were already in separate, feuding NWO factions. Kevin Nash then did what any caring responsible friend would do. Nash powerbombed him a couple of times because interventions are for jabronies.
The best part about drunk Scott Hall was hearing Tony Schiavone doing his best concerned voice with regards to Hall needing help, yet NOTHING was done to keep Hall from physically participating in any match. I’m all for kayfabe, but if you’re going to establish some rules that govern the universe you’re creating they make a lot more sense when you play by them. If this is his job and he’s drinking on the job, why is he still being allowed to do his job? Shouldn’t his matches had been unsanctioned or at the very least backstage brawls that never made it to the ring due to his excessive drinking?
1. Demons-Having Jeff Hardy
None mightier have fallen quite like the “The Enigmatic One”. With two publicized WWE wellness violations under Hardy’s belt and WWE being quick to capitalize on real-life controversies over anything their creative team was coming up with, it didn’t take long for Hardy’s issues to make it onto TV. On every SmackDown Punk belittled Hardy for being weak and falling victim to his demons. And ultimately showed that straight edge did mean being better after driving Hardy away from the WWE in a loser leaves WWE cage match. In reality, Hardy needed the time to heal from injuries, but on TV the message was clear: there’s no hope with dope.
Sadly, the time off wasn’t enough to exorcize said demons as Hardy continued building on that reputation by having more publicized run-ins with law that linked him to different kinds of illegal substances. Still, Hardy tried to make a go of reclaiming that top spot in TNA. Where dreams and legacies go to die. Sting defeated Hardy in an improvised clusterfuck of a match at Victory Road 2011. According to reports, Hardy was in “no condition” to wrestle. In TNA’s infinite wisdom, instead of replacing Hardy with somebody sober, they simply had him wrestle one of the shortest main events for a world title on a live pay-per-view. So when you shit on Dixie Carter for whatever else she’s done creatively or is currently doing, remember that she let this happen.