The dark truth of WWE divas
After years of promoting them mainly for their beauty and sexuality, WWE is finally taking female wrestlers seriously. They’re hiring ladies based on how well they perform in the ring, their matches are main-eventing major events, and rumors abound that women may main-event WrestleMania 35. Add the many women dominating the independent wrestling scene, and it’s clear there’s never been a better time to be a lady who can run the ropes.
That said, women wrestlers can also be just as troubled as men behind the scenes. Whether it be drugs, financial issues, dark pasts, or just plain being cruel humans, women wrestlers (or Divas, as they were officially called until 2016) often have heavier stories to tell outside the ring than they do in it. Here are some women who, either before or after their run as WWE superstars, either endured some dark clouds hanging over their heads, cast dark cloud over other people’s heads, or both.
Fabulous Moolah wasn't fabulous at all
The legendary Fabulous Moolah is one of the greatest and most successful pro wrestlers of all time. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly evident that much of Moolah’s success was due to her systematically destroying countless careers of young lady grapplers who might otherwise have upstaged her some day.
According to several accounts by women Moolah trained to wrestle (compiled by Newsweek), the Fabulous One blatantly exploited her students for decades. While every reputable wrestling school charges training fees, hers were exorbitant to the point that many women simply couldn’t pay. What’s more, she would charge rent to those who had nowhere else to go and had to sleep at the school. Then, if they actually got good enough at wrestling to get paid work, Moolah would keep a huge cut of their profits for herself.
All that would be bad enough, but Moolah made her moolah another way, too: sex trafficking. She was apparently known to pimp out many of her students to various men, and she probably wasn’t generous with that income, either.
Her behavior wasn’t widely reported for years, but then in 2018, WWE booked a women’s battle royal for WrestleMania 34. They named it after Moolah and social media went berserk, letting the world know what a horrible person she really was. WWE, realizing they just set a fire, quickly put it out by renaming the match the “WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal.” It doesn’t fix the past, but at least it doesn’t glorify it.
Asuka's Japanese career was decidedly R-rated
Asuka is one of WWE’s newer women’s superstars, and she went undefeated for over 900 days before finally losing to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 34. WWE is proud to present “The Empress” as a super-powerful warrior who will probably make you cry before punching you once, but they’d rather you not focus on her decidedly family-unfriendly pre-WWE days.
Pics and videos on the internet (helpfully compiled together by sites like TheSportster) show a very different, much edgier Asuka than the Lady Goldberg WWE pushes her as. She was known for provocative matches, sometimes against women but also against men. In one match, she beat her lady opponent and attempted to remove her clothing while licking her ear. Don’t expect that footage to show up in her next WWE hype video.
Outside of the ring, Asuka was also a model and actress. However, WWE isn’t likely to showcase her work on TV anytime soon. One photoshoot involved her wearing a revealing military uniform that looked suspiciously like a Nazi’s, while her filmography includes several “gravure” films, which don’t actually show naughty things but strongly imply them.
WWE certainly has no issue with their women being seen as beautiful, but the age of promoting sexiness over in-ring ability is long gone. And even when WWE did focus on looks over wrestling, Asuka pushed the envelope further than Vince McMahon would ever have dared.
Charlotte Flair's run-in with the police
Charlotte Flair may be Ric Flair’s daughter, but she probably would’ve become a champion and superstar even without the DNA. She’s tall, strong, athletic, and driven to succeed — unfortunately, she also has her father’s knack for getting in unnecessary real-life trouble.
As reported by ABC-11, in September 2008 a young Charlotte (then only known by her real name, Ashley) was involved in an altercation with her boyfriend, Riki Johnson, and her father. This turned into an actual fight, one that left Ric rather beaten up, but he never bothered to press charges against anyone. The cops, however, quite readily charged Charlotte with assault on a police officer after she allegedly kicked a cop. She was also charged with resisting arrest, the kind of second strike nobody wants on their record.
In January 2009, according to WRAL, Charlotte pleaded guilty to resisting arrest in exchange for having the cop-assault charge dropped. She got 45 days in jail, which the judge turned into supervised probation and a small fine. Charlotte actually married Johnson in 2010, divorcing him the next year after (according to her book,Second Nature) continuous domestic violence episodes simply became too much to bear. In the years since, Charlotte has seemingly kept the drama confined to in-ring storylines, and for her sake, let’s hope it stays that way.
Sunny hasn't seen sunny days in years
Tammy “Sunny” Sytch is one of the most famous Divas in WWF/E history. Despite never being much of a wrestler, her beauty and charisma skyrocketed her to mainstream fame and super-popularity. The problem of being so famous is that everyone sees your struggles, and Sunny’s post-WWF life has mostly been one big struggle.
As recapped by The Gossip Life, Sunny developed a severe drug and alcohol addiction while in the WWF, along with a true diva attitude (as in difficult to deal with). Thus, when Sable — a beautiful woman who was easier to work with — came along, Sunny got promoted less and less. Once her drug use and backstage attitude became too much to bear, she was let go. She bounced around smaller promotions for a while but could never kick her addictions.
By 2011, her behavior had improved enough that WWE inducted her into its Hall of Fame, but the demons soon came calling again. In 2012 she was arrested a ridiculous five times in four weeks, and after a fifth arrest in early 2013, she received 114 days in jail. Post-jail, she began making money by doing naughty things over Skype for money.
After three straight DUI arrests in 2015, Sunny graduated from adult Skype to adult movies, shooting a hardcore film titled Sunny Side Up. Only dig it up if you want to feel terrible for a woman who once had all the promise and potential in the world.
Ronda Rousey has a bad reputation
Former UFC champion Ronda Rousey immediately became one of WWE’s biggest stars upon arrival. However, if fans caught wind of Rowdy Ronda’s shady street personality, they might be less inclined to support her or the league that signed her.
For starters, there’s the alleged domestic abuse of her ex-boyfriend, which she sort of admitted to in her autobiographyMy Fight, Your Fight. According to Rousey, she discovered he was taking unsolicited nude pictures of her, which is a major no-no. But Rousey, in her own words, “punched him in the face with a straight right, then a left hook … pulled him by the neck of his hoodie, kneed him in the face … dragged him onto the sidewalk, and left him writhing there,” which toes the line between self-defense and abuse. Even as retaliation, that could be a hint she might become a temperamental problem backstage.
She also retweeted a conspiracy theory video claiming the Sandy Hook massacre was fake and that “survivors” were actors. When called out on this, Rousey doubled down rather than apologizing for spreading blatant, hateful ignorance.
She’s also made some less-than-tasteful comments about transgender women fighting in the UFC. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but Rousey didn’t express hers very respectfully, let alone intelligently. WWE will likely monitor her closely to ensure their fans don’t see too much of the real Ronda.
Chyna fell from grace hard
Once upon a time, Chyna was a huge deal. A muscle-bound woman who could wrestle (and who looked feminine enough for Vince McMahon to actually promote her), Chyna achieved mainstream fame to the point that she actually won the Intercontinental Championship. For a brief period, she was even the top contender for the WWF World Championship, though her fall from grace was, sadly, not nearly as brief.
After her release from the WWF in 2001, Chyna began abusing drugs and alcohol, which coincided with an inability to find steady acting or wrestling work. She began to look less like a wrestling star and more like a washed-up B-lister. Eventually she embraced that, appearing on shows like Celebrity Rehab, which featured an intervention from her ex-boyfriend Sean “X-Pac” Waltman and a televised admission that she might be an addict.
Speaking of X-Pac, he was a catalyst in Chyna finding a second career: adult movies. After an intimate tape of the two leaked online, Chyna parlayed it into a legitimate career in naughty pictures. She played She-Hulk in two Avengers parodies, herself in a WWE parody with a dozen guys dressed as wrestlers, and several other films whose plot could be completely summed up with “Chyna has lots of … in-ring chemistry.”
Unfortunately, this second act didn’t help Chyna clean herself up personally. She continued to drink and drug until she fatally overdosed in April 2016, at the depressingly young age of 46.
Sable and the lawsuit fable
Sable certainly wasn’t the WWF’s first beautiful woman, but she might have been the first sexy one. Her provocative antics pushed the envelope during a period when all Vince McMahon cared about was pushing the envelope, and she became a big star as a result. She was even Women’s Champion for six months despite having little to no in-ring ability — that’s how popular she was.
However, by 1999, just a couple short years after she became a big star, Sable left the WWF. Not only did she leave, she turned around and sued WWF for a whopping $110 million. What could’ve caused such an about-face? As Sable alleged in her lawsuit, the WWF was pressuring her to participate in several storylines that pushed the envelope way too far, even for her. One such storyline would have involved her exposing her breasts on live TV, which was simply too radical an idea for the superstar.
Past that, Sable’s lawsuit also alleged backstage sexual harassment, saying that “men would cut holes in the walls to watch the women dressing.” In other cases, men would reportedly walk into the ladies’ dressing room accidentally-on-purpose, or the company would hire actresses to go into the crowd and flash the fans.
The lawsuit was settled out of court, but the damage to Sable’s career was done. She floundered for a few years, returned to WWE to participate in storylines almost as adult-themed as the kind she sued over, left soon after, and is now fully immersed in her second career: being Brock Lesnar’s wife.
Sensational Sherri's demons weren't so sensational
“Sensational” Sherri Martel was one of the most notorious managers the WWF ever had. Unlike some of the more demure female personalities at the time, Sherri acted exactly like a male manager might: screaming, threatening, kicking, punching, choking, brandishing weapons, and generally doing whatever it took to get her client a win. If that meant dressing up like an evil cat-monster, so be it.
Unfortunately, Sherri is no longer with us in any form, having passed away in June 2007. It was a rather unexpected death, as Sherri had largely kept her personal life private. As it turns out, she had been battling drug-related demons for a long time. According to at least one source, Sherri had a history of drug abuse that interfered with both her career and life. In 1993, the WWF fired her after she failed three drug tests, and in 1997 rival WCW fired her for arriving at a show intoxicated.
At the time of her death, Sherri was battling major back pain, and it appears she chose to self-medicate through yet more drugs. According to Slam Sports, her autopsy report concluded she had multiple drugs in her system as she died. One of these drugs was a large amount of oxycodone, which she likely used to relieve her back pain. Unfortunately, too much relief can be fatal.
Nicole Bass's muscles couldn't save her
Fans of late ’90s WWF (and the Howard Stern Show) might remember Nicole Bass, a muscle-bound brickhouse of a woman sporting a more impressive physique than most men. Unfortunately, her wrestling and acting abilities were limited at best, and once her “big muscles” gimmick became firmly entrenched in “okay, we get it already” territory, Bass found herself working less and struggling more.
A prime example of her desperation occurred in 2015. As reported by the New York Post, Bass was caught shoplifting from a Stop n’ Shop in Queens. She didn’t just nick a protein bar, either — she stole over $1,400 in both groceries and beauty products. When asked by a reporter how much stuff one could possibly buy for that much money, Bass simply answered, “a lot.”
Luckily for Bass, prosecutors were fine with letting the case go, provided she attend an anti-shoplifting class and not do anything naughty for six months. She apparently did just that, but her struggles continued. This included health problems, which came to a terrible end in February 2017. As reported by USA Today, she was brought to the hospital for sickness and wound up brain-dead from an ensuing stroke. She was soon taken off life support and escaped her pain at the too-young age of 52.
Rockin' Robin had all the wrong people in her life
Rockin’ Robin isn’t exactly a household name today, but during this Diva’s late ’80s run in the WWF, she was a fairly big deal. She won the Women’s Championship from the legendary Sensational Sherri, after all, meaning she won more WWF titles than her famous brother, Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
Like her brother, Robin’s life has been fairly dark, though she did none of it to herself. According to wrestling promoter Howard Brody’s bookSwimming With Piranhas, Robin’s father, old-time wrestler Grizzly Smith, sexually abused her while she was growing up. Apparently he had a thing for underage girls, including his own daughter. Luckily, her mother got her away from that hell once she realized it was happening.
Then came Robin’s marriage to a man named Harvey Zitron, who wound up being a white-collar criminal. On one end, he bilked the tax man by having shell companies write checks payable to people other than Zitron. Those people would then cash the checks and give the money to Zitron, who never got around to reporting any of the cash on his tax forms. The IRS doesn’t like getting cheated, so they went after Zitron with no mercy.
On the other end, he defrauded his wife and son by opening multiple credit cards in their names and charging more than $1,000 in a year to them. He was convicted of all charges in 2013 and sentenced to a decidedly un-rockin’ 81 months in prison.